Categories
Historic America

Thunder on the Hudson

During the Revolutionary War, New York’s Hudson River Valley was the scene of numerous battles as both sides sought to control this vital waterway.

Before automobiles and paved roads, rivers were the highways of their day. Whoever controlled a major river could ferry troops and supplies back and forth over hundreds of miles. Control of the Hudson River in eastern New York was critical to British plans early in the Revolutionary War, but Patriots blocked passage by spanning the river with large iron chains at a narrow point near Bear Mountain.

After being pushed out of New York City in 1776, Gen. George Washington established his headquarters in Peekskill along the Hudson River. He considered the area critical for keeping the Continental Army supplied. Numerous battles and skirmishes were fought for control over this vital waterway.

Battle of White Plains

The Battle of White Plains was fought on October 28, 1776 during George Washington’s retreat from New York City. Washington positioned his depleted Continental Army on hills near White Plains, New York, east of the Hudson River. He established 3-mile long defensive positions, including two lines of earthworks, anchored by swampy land near the Bronx River on one flank and Chatterton’s Hill on the other.

Categories
Historic America Photography

Stories in Stone: Sir John Dill

Equestrian monument to British Field Marshal Sir John Greer Dill (1881-1944) in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. Sir John Dill fought in the First World War and was promoted field marshal in 1941. However, he did not get along well with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who sent him to Washington, DC as his military representative. This turned out to be a blessing for all involved, as Dill was enormously influential in fostering cooperation between the British and American armed forces in World War Two. He died in November 1944 never witnessing an end to that conflict. The American Joint Chiefs of Staff wrote:

“His character and wisdom, his selfless devotion to the allied cause, made his contribution to the combined British-American war effort of outstanding importance.”

Categories
Historic America Photography

Worthington Farmhouse

The Worthington Farmhouse on Monocacy National Battlefield, 4632 Araby Church Road (Visitor Center) outside Frederick, Maryland. On July 9, 1864, Confederate forces under Brig. Gen. John McCausland crossed the Monocacy River and clashed with Union Brig. Gen. James B. Ricketts’ brigade on the farm of John T. Worthington while Worthington and his frightened family huddled inside their home.

Categories
Historic America Photography

Stories in Stone: CPL Lewis W. Carlisle

Monument to CPL Lewis W. Carlisle (1878-1898) in Brookside Cemetery, at Watertown Center Loop and Brookside Drive, Watertown, Jefferson County, New York. From July 1 to Jul 3, 1898, during the Spanish-American War, American troops stormed the fortified village of El Caney, Cuba and overran San Juan Ridge, while the U.S. Navy blockaded Santiago harbor. Although the 71st NY was held in reserve and many of its soldiers were sick with malaria and yellow fever, it came under enemy fire. CPL Carlisle, in Company M, was wounded on July 2 and died 26 days later of typhoid fever. His epitaph reads:

He died for the cause of humanity.

Categories
Historic America

Williamsburg Gunpowder Incident: The Spark that (Almost) Ignited the Revolution

In 1775, the ‘shot heard ’round the world’ almost occurred in Williamsburg, Virginia and not Lexington and Concord. Cooler heads prevailed.

Most people are familiar with the outbreak of the Revolutionary War on April 19, 1775, with the Battles of Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts. However, seemingly few people are familiar with the Gunpowder Affair: a near simultaneous outbreak on a second front in Virginia the very next day. Today, you can visit a reconstruction of the magazine where it all happened.

By April of 1775, tensions were high. The Intolerable Acts, a series of laws that closed the Boston port, transferred greater control to Royal governors, and allowed quartering of British troops among other things, had drawn ire throughout the colonies. Meanwhile, word had spread at the First Continental Congress of General Thomas Gage’s removal of gunpowder from an installation near Boston, further exacerbating tensions.

In Virginia, opposition to British rule was hitting a fervor. Patrick Henry’s famous “give me liberty or give me death” speech in March of 1775 led Virginia Royal Governor Lord Dunmore to grow weary of the presence of militias. He hatched a plan to remove gunpowder from a magazine in Williamsburg under the shadow of nightfall.

Categories
Historic America Photography

Stories in Stone: Charles J. Hull

Wealthy real estate developer Charles Jerold Hull (1820-1889) was best known for donating his house at 800 S. Halsted Street in Chicago, Illinois to aid newly arrived immigrants. Social reformer Jane Addams leased his home and operated it as Hull House from 1889 to the 1960s. Hull died in 1889 of Bright’s Disease. His monument in Rosehill Cemetery, 5800 N. Ravenswood Avenue in Chicago, Illinois, was designed by Richard Henry Park in 1891.

Categories
Historic America

Second Winchester Battlefield in Frederick County, Virginia

In the first major infantry battle of the Gettysburg Campaign, Confederate forces dealt a crushing blow to Union designs in the Shenandoah. Today you can visit the remains of a fort where they fought.

The battles of Second Winchester and Stephenson’s Depot were fought from June 13 to 15, 1863 between Union forces commanded by Maj. Gen. Robert H. Milroy and Confederate forces commanded by Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell in Frederick County, Virginia during the American Civil War. These dramatic Confederate victories in the Gettysburg Campaign’s opening phase cleared a path through the Shenandoah Valley for Gen. Robert E. Lee’s army, allowing it to invade Maryland and Pennsylvania. Taken together, the battles were among the most lopsided of the war, with 4,747 total casualties, mostly Union prisoners.

On June 1, 1863, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia slipped away from the Union Army of the Potomac, commanded by Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker, and headed north to invade Pennsylvania. Gen. Robert E. Lee intended to use the Shenandoah Valley as a corridor to invade the north, with the Blue Ridge Mountains hiding his movements from the enemy. To do so, he first needed to clear the 8,324-man Federal garrison commanded by Maj. Gen. Robert H. Milroy at Winchester, Virginia. He entrusted his Second Corps commander Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell with the task.

Milroy had occupied the area around Winchester since late December 1862, digging fortifications to protect his supply depot as well as the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad farther north. On June 12, Ewell took his three divisions and one cavalry brigade, for a total of 19,000 men, through Chester’s Gap into the Shenandoah Valley. He sent one division under Maj. Gen. Robert E. Rodes northeast to cut off the Federal retreat and his other two divisions under Maj. Gen. Jubal A. Early and Maj. Gen. Edward “Allegheny” Johnson to directly attack Milroy at Winchester.