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Commentary Historic America

Stories in Stone: Maj. Gen. William Phillips

Monument to British Maj. Gen. William Phillips (1731-1781) in Blandford Cemetery, 319 South Crater Road in Petersburg, Virginia. Phillips was an officer in the Royal Artillery and fought in the Seven Years’ War, and later in the American Revolutionary War on the British side. During the recapture of Fort Ticonderoga in Upstate New York, when his peers objected to hauling artillery up the nearby mountain, he famously replied: “Where a goat can go, a man can go. And where a man can go, he can drag a gun.” Thomas Jefferson called him “the proudest man of the proudest nation on earth.” He contracted typhus or malaria after the Battle of Blandford and died in Petersburg. He is buried somewhere in the Blandford Churchyard.

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Historic America Photography

Trenton Battle Monument

The Battle of Trenton was fought on December 26, 1776 between American forces commanded by General George Washington and British forces commanded by Col. Johann Rahl in Trenton, New Jersey during the American Revolutionary War. The battle was an American victory and a much-needed boost to Patriot morale. In 1893, a 150-foot Beaux-Arts style monument was erected on a high point where George Washington stationed his artillery. The Trenton Battle Monument is located at the intersection of Warren and Broad streets and Pennington and Brunswick avenues. The interior of the monument has been closed for years due to its elevator being inoperable.

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Historic America Photography

Stories in Stone: Joseph Warren

Statue over the grave of Maj. Gen. Joseph Warren (1741-1775) in Forest Hills Cemetery, at 95 Forest Hills Avenue in Boston, Massachusetts. Joseph Warren was a physician, Free Mason, and Patriot who served as President of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress prior to the Revolutionary War. He dispatched Paul Revere and William Dawes to warn of the British approach, and he died fighting as a private soldier at the Battle of Bunker Hill.

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Roadside America

Catoctin Iron Furnace in Frederick County, Maryland

For over a century, the Catoctin Iron Furnace smelted iron, its forges spewing smoke and burning red hot. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it fueled the machines of war. Much of this backbreaking work was done by slaves.

Catoctin Iron Furnace is a historic iron forge along U.S. Route 15 from Frederick to Thurmont in Frederick County, Maryland. Though forges were present when the ironworks were operational, there is currently no forge at the site. But you can still tour the grounds and the ruins of the “Isabella forge” casting shed and the owner’s mansion.

In 1774, four brothers: Thomas, Baker, Roger, and James Johnson, built Catoctin Furnace to manufacture pig iron from locally-mined hematite. The oven produced cannonballs for the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, including shells fired during Yorktown’s siege. Some claim it also provided cannon and produced plates for the USS Monitor during the Civil War, but researchers consider that improbable.

On the eve of the American Revolution, the Johnson brothers eyed the Monocacy River Valley’s industrial potential. They acquired land under Catoctin Ridge and erected an iron furnace. The original Johnson Oven burned until 1776, producing useful tools and household products including the famous “Catoctin Stove,” also called the “Ten Plate Stove” and the “Franklin Stove”.

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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.

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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.

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Historic America Photography

Wilmington and Brandywine Cemetery in Wilmington, Delaware

Visit the final resting place of two Continental Congressmen, Civil War generals, and even a Cherokee chief.

Wilmington and Brandywine Cemetery, 701 Delaware Avenue in Wilmington, New Castle County, Delaware, is a small rural cemetery established in 1843. It encompasses a rectangular area of 25 acres, relatively flat on its western side with a steep eastern descent toward Brandywine Creek. It is the final resting place for over 21,000 former residents, including Richard Bassett, a signer of the U.S. Constitution, governors, congressmen, and even a Cherokee chief.

Gunning Bedford, Jr. (1747-1812)

Gunning Bedford, Jr. (1747-1812) was a member of the Continental Congress, Delaware’s State Attorney General, and a signer of the U.S. Constitution. Bedford was born and raised in Philadelphia, then attended the College of New Jersey (aka Princeton University). He briefly served as an aid to George Washington during the Revolutionary War.

John McKinly (1721-1796)