Friday, July 26, 2013

The "First" First Battle

     I was recently in North Carolina and visited the battlefield at Alamance.  The generally accepted first battle of the Revolution was the encounter at Lexington, and later that day, where the "shot heard round the world" was fired, at Concord.  In North Carolina, however, a plaque on the statue of James Hunter on the Alamance battlefield proclaims "The Battle of the Alamance: The first battle of the Revolutionary War was fought in Orange County, North Carolina, May 16, 1771."

     There still appears some debate over the classification of Alamance as a Revolutionary War battle or not.  On the one hand, there were similarities between the Regulators' objections to a lack of representation and certain taxation.  And although some claim that they were simply seeking reform, and not independence, there were many at the time of Lexington and Concord who also were fighting to establish and uphold their rights, rather than create a new country.  On the other hand, this was not an action directed at the King or Parliament, but the local provincial government, and they were not facing off against what was, essentially in 1775, an occupying force.  

     Whatever.  The ghosts of the era wander here still.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Petersburg, Revolutionary War Sites and Vandalism

     Take a look at this.

     This is a plaque in Petersburg, Virginia, titled "The Battle at the Bridge." On April 25, 1781, British forces under joint command of William Phillips and the now-British general Benedict Arnold defeated the outnumbered American militia.  A delaying action was fought here at the Pocahontas Bridge while the Americans crossed the Appomattox River.  More about this battle in later posts.

     But one vandal, or perhaps a small group of vandals, thought it would be worthwhile to deface this marker.  About a tenth of a mile away is another marker, but all that remains of that is the rusted metal stand.      In New Jersey, another such marker--an older one--was long ago removed from its boulder for the metal.  There used to be four explanatory plaques like this at Ash Swamp in New Jersey noting the battle of Short Hills; those are gone as well.  While the information can be retrieved at (historical marker data base dot com), the nice thing about these markers is you can stand in the place, gain some insight, look around, and realize you are there.  It takes one person to do this, and what government official wants to spend money to fix it, knowing it will only be destroyed again?

     I suppose one could argue this is also a learning experience, that there were destructive elements at the time (this is nothing next to the tarring and feathering that went on), but one has to wonder what was gained by this? It's a small thing, perhaps--it's just a plaque.  Who cares? Well, someone took the time to design it, write it, and install it.  Someone thought it important.  It may take a village to raise a child, but it only takes one person to ruin a city's cultural and historical experience.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Pulaski, Kosciuszko and Memorials

     Casimir Pulaski, like his Polish compatriot Tadeusz Kościuszko, not only achieved renown in fighting on the American side in the Revolutionary War, but both also have bridges named for them.  Kościuszko survived the war to carry his fight back to Europe for Poland.  Pulaski died as a result of wounds at Savannah, Georgia.  Kościuszko actually has 2 bridges named for him-a truss bridge spanning Newtown Creek between Queens and Brooklyn, and one across the Mohawk River carrying I-87 connecting Albany and Saratoga counties in New York.  But Pulaski has the pair of cantilever bridges connecting Newark to Jersey City.

     I was in DC on business and leaving the DC government building saw the statue.  I was surprised to see Egg Harbor listed in the base of the statue together with Brandywine and Valley Forge; on the other side of the base are listed Charleston, Germantown and Savannah.  Egg Harbor, which engagement is also known as Chestnut Neck, is marked by obscure memorials to both the engagement and Pulaski.  But the Pulaski Skyway-an elegant feat of engineering-is an iconic part of the New Jersey urban landscape.  Never married, dead in his early 30s, but his name persists in the Meadowlands of New Jersey.