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Saturday, March 21, 2015

Havre de Grace and Yorktown

Havre de Grace, Maryland, boasts the "Lafayette Trail," but the oldest standing  buildings post-date the Revolution.  Nonetheless, Rochambeau and Washington passed through there on the way to Yorktown.  The sign notes that the plaza is "named for the French General whose troops passed through here in 1781 en route to Yorktown. Records of the French Army noted plans were underway for a town at this place when the troops returned from Yorktown in 1782."

Not far away is another plaque noting that "Count Rochambeau’s troops camped here September 9, 1781 after having crossed the Susquehanna River on their way to the siege of Yorktown, Va." During the Revolution the site was called Susquehanna Lower Ferry.  Reportedly, Lafayette wrote to Washington suggesting it be called Havre de Grace after its French namesake.

It is sited where the Susquehanna River meets the Chesapeake Bay, and the beauty of the place must be as it was some 230 years ago:

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The War in the Caribbean

I have commented previously on the Battle of Nassau in the Bahamas as part of the war in the Caribbean.  It must be remembered that the Revolutionary War involved more than the British, French and Americans; Spain was also an ally of the Americans and opposed to the British.  The  Castillo De Los Tres Reyes Del Morro (Morro Castle), was designed and built in the 16th century, and saw action during the French and Indian War.  On August 13, 1762, following a 42 day seige, 14,000 British soldiers successfully attacked the fort and Havana.  It was returned to the Spanish after the war.

The American ship, Alliance, commanded by John Barry, sailed past Morro Castle in January 1783.  His orders were to pick up gold and transport it to Philadelphia.  He made Havana on January 31, 1783, finding another American ship, Duc de Lauzun, in Havana harbor with the same orders, and already in possession of the gold.  They left the port--sailing these waters in the image--and ended up in battle with the British off what is now Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Mills of the Revolution

There is no real agreement on the number of "battles" during the Revolutionary War.  Some, such as the First Battle of Trenton, might otherwise have counted as a small skirmish were it  not for the momentous political significance of it.  Other "smaller" skirmishes often produced higher casualties than some more well known encounters.

Here in Plainsboro, New Jersey, a small plaque set in a boulder tells us that within 500 feet was the Scudders Mill, that functioned as a grist, saw and fulling mill from 1737 until destroyed by British troops in December 1776.

The plaque also notes that the son of the original mill owner, Colonel William Scudder, fought in the war.  One source attributes the British action in destroying his mill as a personal act of vengeance in retaliation for his exploits in the war.  See Hageman, John Frelinghuysen, History of Princeton and Its Institutions (Vol. 1 1879).

The site is a reminder that the Revolutionary War in large part was a war of attrition.  The Forage Wars emphasized the bitter battle for food and supplies by both sides.  This episode, if Hageman's comment is correct, also reinforces the personal nature of this war.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Miscellaneous Reflections from Washington's Crossing March 2015

The Mid-Atlantic region was hit with another severe snowstorm this week, leaving at least a foot of snow in large parts of central New Jersey.  I wandered over to Washington's Crossing.  The Delaware River was mostly frozen over and snow-covered.

Here is the marker on the New Jersey side, looking across to Pennsylvania.  On the Pennsylvania side, here is McKonkey's Ferryhouse:

In the world today, virtually the entirety of the domestic press seems obsessed with cults of personality, as political decimation passes for political discussion.  There are no big ideas being discussed, not really.  As a president tells us the flat-out falsehood that things in the world are not that bad, we are in the midst of a 21st century holocaust in the Middle East.  Ancient archaeological sites are being destroyed.  Independent nations int he Baltics are in imminent danger of aggrandizement. We said "never again" in 1945, and yet "again" has happened in Rwanda, Cambodia, the Balkans and now across the Middle East.  Gone are the plain words of a Thomas Paine.  Instead we have the smug rallying cries of self-absorbed columnists and pundits, regardless of reason or fact.  

Here at Washington's Crossing, we are in the presence of ghosts who held big ideas.  Ghosts who quite literally put their blood into their beliefs.  As Americans today agonize over the most minute of slights and are obsessed with "political correctness," we have forgotten completely how to maintain perspective, to evaluate and reason.  We have forgotten how to be a nation and a people.  We have become siloed, lost in our own selfish pursuits.  America is now us versus us.  We have displaced a healthy individualism and diversity with reflex attack solely for the purpose of destruction, a blue team versus red team mindset, that knows no value other that victory for its own sake.  Meanwhile, the world disintegrates.