Wednesday, September 11, 2013


The Price of Rebellion

By Christopher F. Minty, Guest Blogger

 Christopher Forbes Minty was in residence this summer as a David Library Fellow from the University of Sterling in Scotland.
       When the War of American Independence officially began on 19 April 1775, the impact it would have soon reverberated around the world. As blood was spilt in Massachusetts, the battle lines were officially drawn and support for the colonial movement against the British gained tremendous support throughout the colonies. Indeed, when news of Lexington and Concord arrived in New York, Lieutenant Governor Cadwallader Colden, an elderly Scotsman who had been in the colonies for two generations, reluctantly informed the earl of Dartmouth that he would continue to give him “the most material Transaction of the People.” Writing on 3 May, he realised the news would not be well received, noting that it would “almost entirely destroy the Expectations you have had reason to entertain of the Conduct which this Province would pursue”. Despite this, Colden lamented that “[e]very species of public and private Resentment was threatened, to terrify the Inhabitants of the Province, if they continued disunited from the others” and “[t]he Minds of the People in the City were kept in constant agitation, by Riots and Attempts to prevent the Transports from loading Here, with Stores, Provisions &c. for the Army.”[1]

            As similar reports began to filter into Parliament, coffeehouses, and taverns, Americans in Britain quickly understood that conflict between British and American troops could destroy their lives. With the unpredictability of war and the customary delay in the diffusion of knowledge from the colonies, British statesmen were left frustratingly unaware over the American Revolution on the most local level. For Americans living in Glasgow, Bristol, or London, they could not have been aware of the fates and safety of their friends and family. Across the water, “good Accounts,” as John Adams admitted, soon began to circulate regarding the colonial effort. In fact, Adams believed that accounts he had received from New York and North Carolina were “very good,” and he had “no Doubts…of the Union” of the colonies.[2] This was not the type of information the American MP Henry Cruger would want to hear. Having been elected in 1774 alongside Edmund Burke for Bristol, Henry Cruger became one of a handful of MPs born in the American colonies. He came from a wealthy mercantile family in New York and left behind numerous relatives who were still immersed in the Atlantic trade with Britain at the start of the Revolution. In one letter in particular, written to John Harris Cruger, and available at the David Library, he outlined his anxieties and fears with such histrionic flair that he comes across as almost nonsensical.

Writing on 5 July 1775 shortly after news of Lexington and Concord arrived in London, Cruger noted how he had just arrived in town from Bristol. As he rushed into his accommodation and scrambled his quill pen, he desperately sought to let his family know “how and where I am”. Unfortunately for the Crugers still in New York, Henry informed them that as his “[h]eart is almost broke” because the British ministry, led by Lord North, were “finding every Thing in this Country go to their Liking, are bent upon carrying Matters to the utmost Extremities”. More troops were being dispatched across the Atlantic and more were being mustered. “Poor America,” he opined, “will be utterly undone”. According to the MP, there was, however, a glimmer of hope. In order to alleviate America’s ultimate capitulation and ruin, Cruger suggested that “some Concession[s]” must be “speedily made” and if they did this, he alleged, it would be “speedily grasped at here”. Indeed, according to Cruger “all good Men wish for a Reconciliation.” But Cruger’s wish for reconciliation between Britain and its American colonies was not solely predicated upon his desire to protect the colonies. Instead, as he noted to John Harris, he alleged that he had “£50,000 or £60,000 Sterling in America,” and with the onset of hostilities the chances of recovering any of this became increasingly unlikely. To give some degree of context, these figures equate to roughly $7,606,380 or $9,127,656.44 in modern terms. Needless to say, Cruger was clearly a wealthy man, and the thought of losing this infatuated him. He could see “[n]othing but certain Ruin” unless conflict stopped. He knew he could not travel to America; opponents of the Revolutionary movement, Loyalists, were being forcibly driven out of New York. Months before Cruger was even aware of Lexington and Concord, John Adams wrote how notable New York Patriots such as Isaac Sears and Alexander McDougall had “siezed the City Arms and Ammunition, out of the Hands of the Mayor,” with the assistance of “the Friends of Liberty” in New Jersey, and consequently “[t]he Tories there, durst not shew their Heads.”[3] Cruger could not return to this; instead, he anxiously waited on news. “Oh Johny!,” he exclaimed, “one Thing or other deprives me of my rational Faculties – drives me almost to Madness and Desperation.” Despite his self-proclaimed temporary loss of reason, Cruger still had to perform his duties as a MP, which were being increasingly drawn towards American affairs. This, he alleged, “afflict[ed]” him more than his private concerns and it was because of this he declared that “Oh that my Head was Water, and my Eyes a Fountain of Tears that I might weep Day & Night for the Distress of my Native Country.”[4] Although the War of American Independence had only just begun, its impact had already touched one American in Britain, Henry Cruger.


Henry Cruger to John Harris Cruger, Dartmouth Papers, 1765–1782, D(W) 1778/I ii/983/I #1144, Staffordshire Record Office, United Kingdom

            I am just arrived here from Bristol, where I left your Father well, and in tolerable Spirits, the Want of which myself, and some important Business brought me hither. In the midst of my Hurry and Confusion I sit down to write a few Lines that you and all our Family may know where and how I am – By one Thing or other my Heart is almost broke: Administration finding every Thing in this Country go to their Liking, are bent upon carrying Matters to the utmost Extremities – many more Troops are going out and more recruiting – Poor America will be utterly undone, unless some Concession on their Part is speedily made, which I am persuaded will be as speedily grasped at here; for all good Men wish for a Reconciliation.

            I have now £50,000 or £60,000 Sterling in America, and can see Nothing but certain Ruin. Thank God I have but a slender Family to participate in my approaching Distresses. – This Appearance of Bankruptcy, I assure you Johny, does not annoy me equal to the Letters I have lately received from New York, in which I am suspected of Want of Honor in my Treaty of Marriage with my dear Miss John —; Heavens! One would imagine that Reason and Reflection had lately totally forsaken Mankind – These are the Days in which – “many that are married should wish they were not” – And my Brother, in Spite of all that I feel, or Calumny can say – there is still a Consolation in reflecting that if the impending Storm overwhelms me, I shall sink singly.    It is impossible for me to come to America – The Idea savours of Madness Neither Constituents, Creditors nor Reason will hear of it. Oh Johny! one Thing or other deprives me of my rational Faculties – drives me almost to Madness and Desperation. I am indeed but illy calculated just now for a Husband – I wish my adorable Betsey a much better [one]. My private concerns afflict me much, but those of the Publick, in which I am deeply involved, afflict me more, and make me exclaim – Oh that my Head was Water, and my Eyes a Fountain of Tears that I might weep Day & Night for the Distress of my Native Country.

            The Mail is just closing, and I have neither Time nor Spirits to add more. I hope soon to be composed and will write to you again, and to all my Female Friends in a free, full and honest Manner. In the interim, give to them and all Friends the dearest–tenderest Love, of your distracted and unhappy Brother.


[1] Cadwallader Colden to the earl of Dartmouth, 3 May 1775, CO 5/1106, ff. 171–173, The National Archives, Kew
[2] John Adams to Abigail Adams, 30 April 1775, in The Adams Papers, Adams Family Correspondence, vol. 1, December 1761May 1776, ed. Lyman H. Butterfield (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1963), 188–189.
[3] Ibid.
[4] All quotes from Henry Cruger taken from Henry Cruger to John Harris Cruger, 5 July 1775, Dartmouth Papers, 1765–1782, D(W) 1778/I ii/983/I #1144, Staffordshire Record Office, United Kingdom.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Intern's Corner


Kyle Stenger joined us this summer as an intern from Rider University. He has recently returned to his classes at Rider for his senior year.  The following are his thoughts on his summer internship.

Being an historian is no easy thing. Not everyone has what it takes to handle the strenuous and relentless tasks that are thrown in the way of those who search through the past. This is what I have learned throughout my academic career and it was justified in my time as intern at the David Library of the American Revolution. However, anyone from the most distinguished in academia to the most casual common-man can enter the David Library and feel at ease with the most knowledgeable staff—a team that I feel lucky to have been a part of this summer. Being here has really shown me what it takes to do in reality what I have been practicing in school as a student of history: researching the past and making my findings accessible.  
       
 So what exactly did I do here at the David Library? I took on many projects; some pertain to the practice of history and some deal with the general operations of a library. I have cleaned and dusted bookshelves and re-shelved books used by patrons. That is the dull stuff, yes, but it is necessary to run the library. Occasionally our librarian, Ms. Katherine Ludwig, will charge me with the challenge of answering a research question sent in by a patron located too far from the library to make a visit. Almost always these questions relate to genealogical affairs and require a good amount of time and patience.

In most cases I go straight to the Revolutionary War Pension Records. Other times I pick up the Pennsylvania Archives or scroll through the New Jersey Archives on microfilm; however, for a lot of our microfilm collections we hold film guides to make it easier accessing the materials. Every once in a while an answer will not be available, meaning either there were not many records kept about the topic in question or, in a rare instance, the David Library does not carry the necessary materials.

Besides the normal parts of the job, which I have just described, I have worked on two big projects throughout the summer. One came about because of a need for space. The library is running out of shelf room and the idea came up to go through our entire journal collection and make a catalogue of specific articles in each journal that actually concerns our era and topic; that is, the years 1750-1800 and the American Revolution, respectively. Bear in mind that the subject matter for the American Revolution branches out a great distance.

The journal collection consists of many academic monthlies, quarterlies, and annuals. We have received issues from journals such as the Journal of American History, the Journal of Southern History, the American Neptune (a journal of maritime history), and the Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research (a British military history journal). There is a great deal more (I have conquered barely half of the collection this summer), and we include even the most minute issues from local historical societies and even Bicentennial special programs. Going through these journals, I have expanded the boundaries of my horizons immeasurably; so much more has been researched and written about than I had previously even thought of.

By far the most gigantic project I have ever been apart of is the British General Courts Martial records. It is an occupation in and of itself. Interns have been working on it for the past few years and they will continue to work on it even when I start my own career.

Around 2011, the historian who was employed here traveled to London and visited the British National Archives. He returned with photographs of Court Martial records: 15 large books with around 400-500 handwritten pages each documenting court martial trials which had taken place all over the world (from Gibraltar to New York to Nova Scotia to army camps in India) and occurred from the 1730’s to the 1770’s.  

My job, as was and is and will be other intern’s job, is to transcribe these records and enter all pertinent information into a database, which is an Excel spreadsheet as of now. It is very tedious and time-consuming work, and one may go so far as to call it “boring” work. However, that person would be one who had not experienced this work. It is tiring, yes, but also exciting. I have read glimpses of people’s lives from close to 250 years ago. I have found out why certain, supposedly unimportant, people died so long ago. I have gone through such cases as desertion, theft, drunkenness, mutiny, rape, and even murder, and have experienced some of these people’s best and worst times.

I have gone through pages which have not been seen by many eyes since they were first written in the 18th Century.

I have studied families who are not famous but common.

I have followed the most plain soldier from town to town during his time in the War of the Revolution.

 I have done seemingly the most unimportant and nonchalant work there is to do in a library. 

And it has been quite the pleasure. I have learned and enjoyed so much here at the David Library that I do not regret taking an unpaid internship and not making nearly as much money as I could have this summer.  The people that I have met and worked with, the patrons that have come in, the conversations I have had, has all been worth it.

Kyle Stenger, 20 August 2013

Friday, August 23, 2013

Intern's Corner


We were very pleased to have Tegan Rice join us as a residential intern this summer. Tegan is a student at Northern Illinois University, where she is working towards her M.A. in history.

My Month at the David Library
By Tegan Rice
Tegan introducing a movie at DLAR.
For the short month that I was able to intern at the David Library, I had many tasks given to me.  Nothing more than I could handle, mind, but more than enough to keep me busy and introduce me to the variety of needs a special collections library has (far more than anyone who has never worked in one could guess).  My main task, or what I refer to as my main task as it was finish-able as opposed to ongoing, was to go through the vault which contained the rare and old books and pamphlets in the library’s collection and make sure the catalogue record accurately reflected the items.  
Of course this is valuable work as it teaches how libraries catalogue their items and what information is important and so on and so forth, but the IMPORTANT part was that I handled books and pamphlets that were hundreds of years old.  I got to touch several editions of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, I fan-girled out on a book signed in ink by John Hancock, and I felt an amazing rush of discovery when I found a series of books each signed by John Adams (these may or may not be the John Adams, but I like to hope).  Looking at the original Declaration of Independence somehow does not compare to being able to leaf through one of the hundreds of reprints from the same century with my own hands. 
I finished the task over the month of my internship.  The vault is now accurately catalogued, slightly re-organized and cleaned, and several items put in proper boxes that needed it, and those boxes itemized.  This is all wonderful, and comes with a great sense of accomplishment, but John Hancock’s signature and Thomas Paine’s many, many works overshadow that sense with blissful bragging rights. Sadly, not enough people will understand why my bragging about holding a book signed by John Hancock is more valid than them bragging about their random piece of paper signed by [insert any modern celebrity here].

Friday, August 24, 2012

Intern's Corner: Courts Martial

Trial of Evan Morgan
By Mark Relation, DLAR Intern

               This is my last week with the David Library, and so this will be my final post.  For my final entry, I have chosen to write about one of the other projects that I have been working on this summer: reading and indexing British courts martial from the mid 1700’s.  This is particularly interesting work, as many of the soldiers on trial get themselves into downright humorous situations that could rival any that appear on courtroom TV shows.  Below is a summary of the trial of Private Evan Morgan, one of my personal favorite cases that I read this summer.
               On October 13, 1748, a general court martial was held in Berwick to hear the case of Pvt. Morgan, accused of desertion and joining the enemy.  A few witnesses were called testifying that he had in fact left the unit and was not seen again by them until the trial.  Morgan then got the chance to give his version of events.
               In August, 1745, Morgan’s unit was travelling in a bilander (merchant ship with two masts), which had stopped for a time.  Several men, Morgan included, left the ship to go to a pub and have a few drinks before the ship moved on again.  However, the pub was very crowded and Morgan was unable to get himself a drink before the ship was preparing to leave.  His companions told him it was time to leave, but Morgan elected to stay and have his drink and spent the night at the pub instead of the crowed vessel.
              After a presumably eventful night (he only reported getting a half hour of sleep at the pub), Morgan awoke to find that the bilander had already moved on without him.  Morgan set out after his unit, but was apprehended by four Dutch-speaking men who took his hat and coat and took him back to their guard house.  They placed him before an officer who tried to recruit him for service in France.  Not wanting to enlist for foreign service, Morgan proceeded to talk and connive his way out and return to his home unit.
               Morgan was able to get the commanding officer drunk and then convinced the others that he had enlisted without actually doing so.  He joined a different unit, and marched with them to winter quarters, where he and four other men plotted to make their escape.  This did not go as planned, however, as when the group was escaping, they made it to a river only to remember that two of them could not swim, Morgan included.  Morgan was recaptured, and sent to prison on and off until his trial in 1748, three years after the fateful night at the pub.
               Morgan was found guilty of desertion and joining the enemy under the 10th Article of War and sentenced to receive 1,000 lashes (not uncommon for desertion charges).  When the case was later sent to the king for confirmation, Morgan was pardoned, and continued to serve with the British military.

WO71/39 p. 20-25

I hope you have enjoyed following the blog this summer.  For more information about every topic covered here and more, please feel free to come to the David Library of the American Revolution.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Intern's Corner: August in the Revolution

The Battle of Bennington August 16, 1777
By Mark Relation, DLAR Intern

               The campaigning season of 1777 looked especially bleak to the Americans.  General Burgoyne’s army had marched down from Canada and had come dangerously close to capturing the whole Lake Champlain-Hudson River waterway, which would have divided the colonies and dealt a crippling blow to the American cause.  Burgoyne had already won at Hubbardton and captured Ft. Ticonderoga, and the Patriots desperately needed a victory to both save the campaign and the whole Revolution. 
               However, the situation was not set entirely against the Americans.  The British were facing a serious problem of supply.  Though ostensibly supplied by their base in Canada, the slow trickle of provisions that reached Burgoyne was not sufficient to keep his army moving.  General Sir Guy Carleton, commander in Canada, was resentful of Burgoyne’s power and popularity and did not put forth every effort to support his rival.  The British supply problem was also exacerbated by the scorched earth policy of American General Philip Schuyler, who convinced the majority of the locals to flee with their crops and livestock, further starving the British forces.
               In order to secure food and draft animals for his army, Burgoyne dispatched Lt. Col. Friedrich Baum with 800 Brunswick, Canadians, Tories, and Indians into Vermont to raid the American supply base at Bennington.  Although this was intended to be a surprise move against unsuspecting and undefended farmers, all did not go according to plan.  Baum did not speak a word of English, and grossly underestimated his opposition.  Baum moved his troops slowly and stopped frequently to redress formations, giving the Americans the initiative and plenty of time to organize resistance.  Colonel John Stark, promoted to Brigadier General of Vermont Militia, and General Benjamin Lincoln gathered nearly 1,500 men together to oppose Baum’s men. 
               After some initial skirmishes with Stark’s men, Baum sent for reinforcements, but Burgoyne misunderstood the gravity of the local resistance and so sent only 640 men under Lt. Col. Heinrich Breymann on August 15th.   When the opposing armies came within sight of each other, Baum set up a defensive position on what later became known as Hessian Hill to wait for reinforcement.  A number of local patriots, mistaken for loyalists by Baum, were able to infiltrate the German camp and give detailed information on its defenses to Stark, and were later credited with hitting the Germans in the rear while Stark attacked from the front.  Based on this intelligence, Stark was able to easily surround the German position and set up his attack for 3 PM August 16, 1777.  After two hours of fighting, the Americans had won a decisive victory.  One by one, every single German position was captured or destroyed.  But this was not the end of the battle; around 5 PM, Lt. Col. Breymann arrived on the scene.
               Breymann arrived and began pushing the American line, attempting to hit their flanks with his light infantry.  However, the Americans were able to steadily retreat in order and delay the German advance until more American forces arrived on the scene.  Seeking revenge for their defeat at Hubbardton, Warner’s men arrived on the battlefield at precisely the right time and place to hit both of Breymann’s flanks and rout the German force. 
               All told, the day ended in a decisive victory for the Americans.  During the fighting, nearly 700 Germans were taken prisoner and 200 dead, compared to only 100 American casualties.  Stark was proclaimed an American hero and given full commission by Congress.  Burgoyne also lost most of his light infantry, and so would later have to fight Gates’ troops without good scouts, putting him at a serious disadvantage.  More immediately, the Battle of Bennington changed the progress of the campaign.  Previously, Burgoyne was supremely confident that his forces would reach Albany and link up with St. Leger, but the battle revised Burgoyne’s attitudes and priorities.  Survival became a goal, and the loss of supply made Burgoyne much more willing to gamble it all rather than retreat in the face of earlier successes.  It was this attitude that persuaded Burgoyne to give a last ditch effort to reach Albany that set the stage for the crushing American victory at Saratoga that changed the whole War.
Blanco, Richard L., and Paul J. Sanborn. The American Revolution: 1775-1783 : An Encyclopedia. New York: Garland, 1993. Print. p. 108-115.


Unknown, Portrait of John Stark.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Intern's Corner: August in the Revolution

The Siege of Newport, Rhode Island 1778
By Mark Relation, DLAR Intern

After the signing of the Franco-American Alliance, the Comte d’Estaing sailed from Toulon in April 1778 with nearly 4,000 infantry and several naval vessels to aid in the struggle for American Independence.  However, the debacle that followed convinced many Americans, General Sullivan in particular, that they were better off without their new allies.  Initially, Washington intended the French contingent to join an assault on New York to regain what was lost in the Battle of Long Island two years prior.  Due to the much more able defense put up by the British than by Washington previously and to local sandbars blocking the French ships, however, this was deemed impossible and the attack abandoned.  On July 29th, the French arrived at Newport, Rhode Island, to meet up with Sullivan’s troops and attack there instead. 
From the start, the siege did not go well.  D’Estaing’s troops, after being at sea for the better part of four months, were low on provisions and plagued by scurvy, and were eager to attack as soon as possible to procure supplies.  Sullivan expressly did not want to rush into battle, both because his forces were still gathering and, after suffering defeats at Staten Island, Brandywine, and Germantown, did not want to engage the enemy until he was sure he held the advantage.  The British also kept up a substantial garrison at Newport of some 6,000 men.  Further exacerbating the problem was the distrust and contempt that each of the commanders held for each other, the perceived French arrogance and American incompetence put the two generals at odds every time they attempted to coordinate an attack. 
This conflict between the two allies came to a head in mid August.  On August 9th, Sullivan launched an assault while the French were still landing their men, and the French similarly abandoned their allies in the afternoon when a British fleet appeared under Admiral Howe.  The next day, the French set sail to engage the British at sea and were battered so heavily by a storm that d’Estaing decided to withdraw to Boston for repairs.  On the 12th and 13th, that same storm hit the unsheltered American forces and devastated their supplies.  When word reached Sullivan that d’Estaing was retreating, he sent a protest of his conduct to Boston, and by the 30th was forced to abandon the siege. 
This first action of the joint French-American forces was just short of a disaster.  Despite the best efforts of Congress and the Rhode Island legislature, public opinion regarded the French conduct of nothing less than a betrayal.  Riots broke out and a few French officers were harmed, but the conflict soon simmered down and relations were repaired between the newfound allies.  Despite this rocky start to Franco-American cooperation, the two nations would eventually come together for the decisive victory of the Yorktown campaign and win the war as allies. 

Blanco, Richard L., and Paul J. Sanborn. The American Revolution: 1775-1783 : An Encyclopedia. New York: Garland, 1993. Print. p. 1218-1219.


American Revolutionary War General John Sullivan.  By A. Tenney, 1873.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Intern's Coner: August in the Revolution

The Battle of Long Island, August 27th, 1776
By Mark Relation, DLAR Intern


          The largest battle of the war, the Battle of Long Island was the first battle in U.S. History, just eight weeks after the Declaration of Independence, and very nearly the last.  Overconfident from their victories at Breed’s Hill, Boston, and Sullivan’s Island, Washington’s fledgling army of 20,000 men occupied New York, a vital tactical position on the mouth of the Hudson as well as a psychological and political symbol of the Revolution.  However, the Patriots took up an untenable position.  Washington split his troops, stationing half on Manhattan and the other half on the butt end of Long Island, which given the British naval superiority, left them completely exposed.  From their base on Staten Island, and with uncontested mastery of the seas, the British could attack the Patriots from any direction. 

          On August 21st and 22nd, 20,000 British and Hessian troops began landing on Long Island to face some 9,000 Americans under the command of General John Sullivan.  Early on, Washington suspected this move to be a feint, as the wind impeded and slowed the British movements by forcing their ships out of the East River.  Washington initially believed the real attack to come at Manhattan, and so did not substantially reinforce Sullivan until the 25th, when he himself arrived with more men.  While the British in retrospect perhaps should have moved on Manhattan as they could have seized the bridges and cut off Washington’s troops, the British did not want to repeat the evacuation of Boston, where strong American artillery positions much like those on Brooklyn Heights forced their withdrawal.  Regardless, Long Island was where both sides had committed their forces, and where the fighting would be decided. 

          Adopting a daring night march, around 4,000 British soldiers led by Generals Clinton and Cornwallis moved through the largely undefended Jamaica pass on the exposed American left on the night of the 26th, an were quickly reinforced by another 6,000 along with General Howe.  On the opposite side of the battlefield, British General Grant moved against the Americans there, drawing attention away from Clinton and Cornwallis.  While the American attention was diverted, Clinton and Howe rolled up the American left, and the American positions off of Brooklyn Heights were enveloped and destroyed.  During the battle, the Patriots suffered 200 men killed and 900 prisoners, including Generals Sullivan and Stirling. 

          However, the British decided not to press their victory.  Howe held his men back, giving up what may have been Britain’s best chance of winning the war in a single stroke.  Instead, he hunkered down for a drawn out siege of the American fortified positions, giving Washington time to execute his famous retreat to Manhattan.  Washington and the Continental army, though badly beaten and greatly demoralized, were able to escape and carry on the fight until their eventual victory eight years later.

Blanco, Richard L., and Paul J. Sanborn. The American Revolution, 1775-1783: An Encyclopedia. New York: Garland Pub., 1993. Print.  p. 956-959.
Selesky, Harold E. Encyclopedia of the American Revolution. Detroit: Scribner, Thomson Gale, 2006. Print.  p. 646-655.

The Battle of Long Island.  As taken from http://www.britishbattles.com/long-island.htm.