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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Earthworks

This month is the 240th anniversary of the Battle of Moore's Creek, fought February 27, 1776. British strategy in late 1775 and early 1776 focused on the Southern theater, and representations like those from the bizarre and somewhat delusional Loyalist Governor Josiah Martin fed the British illusion that the populace would rise up and oppose the "rebels." Martin assembled a force of Regulators (a group that during the 1760s had risen up against corrupt local officials, but had deteriorated into a kind of vigilante group), as well as Loyalists and British soldiers.  He sought and obtained permission to place the Scotsman Donald McDonald in charge, with a commission as Brigadier-General.

General James Moore, in command of the 1st North Carolina Regiment,had fought for the Royalist government against the Regulators.  Reinforcements under Colonel Alexander Lillington and others joined him.  Moore's back was to the river, and McDonald saw strategic advantage to attacking him in that position.  Following some maneuvering, by February 26, 1776, the forces found themselves on opposite sides of the Moore's Creek Bridge.  Lillington established earthwork defenses, set up two pieces of artillery and removed a plank from the bridge.  Colonel Richard Caswell reinforced Lillington.

The earthworks formed a semicircle around the bridge on the American side of Moore's Creek and are shown here:



There are various battlefield sites that still have the earthworks preserved. This is remarkable, given the inevitable effect of weather, animals, natural erosion and human traffic in these areas. We are one step removed from those who built these parapets and ditches: their hands on tools, their feet on this ground, their eyes looking over the same defenses we look over. So far in our travels we have not quite encountered this. But as we walk around, and take in the swamp, the woods, the bridge, and as we stand in the same defensive posture as the Americans or come across the bridge as the Loyalists, we can begin to comprehend the courage of those who fought in this war--on both sides.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Edgar Allan Poe and the Revolution

On a recent excursion to Baltimore and visit to Edgar Allan Poe's grave at Westminster Hall and Burial Ground, I noticed that his grandfather, David Poe, Sr., was also buried there.  Nearby was the original burial spot of his grandson, Edgar Allan Poe.


The senior Poe was born in 1743 in Londonderry, Northern Ireland.  He served as a major in the Continental Army and was Assistant Deputy-Quartermaster general for Baltimore (though at least one source calls this an honorary position).  Sources also claim he donated $40,000 of his own money to the cause.  Lafayette knew David Poe (they are reported to have fought together) and visited his grave on a visit to Baltimore.  In his early biography of Edgar Allan Poe, James Albert Harrison refers to David Poe as a general (possibly because of the quartermaster role) and "devoted friend of Lafayette).  Edgar Allan Poe also met Lafayette.  As for his own military record, Edgar Allan Poe attended West Point but was court-martialed and was dismissed in 1831.  Still, the connection to Lafayette brings Edgar Allan Poe to within one degree of separation to George Washington.