The Haitian Revolution

In October of 1492, Christopher Columbus and a fleet of ships chartered from Spain landed on a small island in the Caribbean Sea. Columbus claimed the island for Spain, eventually eliminating the existing inhabitants of the island and colonizing the island repopulating it with plantation owners and slaves brought from Africa. One third of the island was ceded to France by Spain who continued to operate plantations for indigo, sugar, coffee, tobacco and cotton. The French rename the colony Saint-Domingue and continue to import slaves to do the work on the island.[1]

            Trouble was brewing in the colony for many years, four armed conspiracies against European inhabitants happened between 1679 and 1704.[2] The conspiracies were organized by slaves and focused on the plantation owners. In the 1760’s Europeans see the free mulatto population known as the Affranchis starting to gain wealth and land, European colonist become concerned with this rise in power and seek to gain control over it. This power struggle would be an early trigger point for the Haitian Revolution.

            Legislation was developed to block mulattoes from gaining power in the colony. The whites would forbid the Affranchis from holding any public office, gaining any position of station such as lawyers or doctors, Affranchis were no longer allowed to dress like whites, and they were not allowed to gather in groups after 9pm. These offenses are ruled punishable with fines, imprisonment, chain gang duty, loss of freedom, and amputation.[3] The Europeans were doing all that the could to maintain control of the colony. King Louis XV would make it worse in 1771 by stripping away many of the rights of the free mulattoes and blacks.

            “From its founding as an illegal settlement in the 1600s until the abolition of slavery in 1793, hundreds of thousands of slaves were led off slave-trading vessels onto the shores of French Saint-Domingue. According to the most exhaustive inventory of slave-trading journeys, 685,000 slaves were brought into Saint-Domingue during the eighteenth century alone. Over 100,000 slaves were reported to have died during the middle passage, and many more deaths probably went unrecorded.”[4] Considering the amount of slaves being brought to Saint-Domingue, the French landowners might have considered a less brutal relationship with the slaves, free blacks and free mulattoes that were far outnumbering the white population.

            In the fall of 1788, a petition for the “political rights of free persons of color” was submitted to the Provincial Assembly of Saint-Domingue. 1789 brought continuing instability to the colony, increasing after word of slave uprisings in the French colony of Martinique. Conditions in Saint-Domingue would become worse as a drought caused a loss crop on the island and an increase in slave runaways.[5] Revolutionary actions in France continue to have direct effects on Saint-Domingue, the French National Assembly’s “Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizens” states that rights are “granted to all men by natural justice.”[6] Later in October of 1789, the National Assembly accepts a petition form Saint-Domingue that extends those rights to “Free Citizens of Color.”

In early 1790, a decree from France gives the Provincial Assembly in Saint-Domingue full legislative powers over the colony. The Provincial Assembly begins to issue decrees against mulattoes and blacks in the colony. The Provincial Assembly calls mulattoes a “Bastard and Degenerate Race,”[7] further stating that it would never grant them political power. A new Colonial Assembly is established without voting or political power for mulattoes or free blacks. The Colonial Assembly would then separate itself from the National Assembly, though still allying itself with France, the Colonial assembly also suspended its delegates to the National Assembly.[8] In October of 1790, the National Assembly order the Colonial Governor to dissolve the Colonial Assembly. The colony was become divided between patriots loyal to the National Assembly and royalists who remained loyal to the king.

In late October 1790, a leader amongst the mulattoes arose, Jacques Vincent Oge’ was representing the colony in France, attempts to prevent Oge’ from leaving France failed. Oge’ sailed to England where he gained support from the British abolitionists and then sailed to the United States where he buys weapons. Oge’ arrived in Saint-Domingue on October 21 and went to the countryside to find friends and family. Oge’ amasses an army of 300 men made up of mulattoes and free blacks, colonists manage to disarm and capture most of those involved in the uprising. Oge’ escapes capture initially but he and supporters are captured later and put to death.[9]

By the middle of 1791, Saint-Domingue had dissolved into Chaos. Planters are preoccupied with the squabbles in the colonial government and ignoring the slaves who are organizing against them. Organized slave groups began attacking plantations throughout the colony. Plantation owners plead with Governor Blanchelande to build an army and fight the slaves to regain control of the island. The Governor in his ignorance plans his attacks publicly while building an army, the slave groups know the governors plans of attack and defeat the governor’s forces at many points. Blanchelande leaves Saint-Domingue after multiple defeats, telling the planters that they should have negotiated with the slaves in the first place.[10]

The National Assembly in France revokes rules that gave rights to free blacks and mulattoes and sends three commissioners to restore order in Saint-Domingue. Rebels seize the capital, Port-au-Prince as well as Le Cap, which they burn. The rebels begin to trade with the Spanish for weaponry. In January 1792, Blanchelande returns to the colony leading troops and marches against the rebels at Platons, the rebels are overwhelmed and escape into the mountains leaving women and children behind. French troops slaughter 3,000 women and children that were left behind. In June of 1792, slave groups begin to ally with the British. French Colonists begin to understand that hey need the slaves to maintain control of Saint- Domingue and begin to negotiate, Civil Commissioners issue a proclamation guaranteeing full rights and French citizenship to all slaves that join the French side.[11]

While France, Spain and Great Britain continue to try to gain the support of the rebels, new rebel leaders arise to lead the rebel movement eventually dropping alliances with Britain and Spain and returning to the French side. The French were the only group that would agree to the abolition of slavery in the colony. In July of 1795, the French and Spanish sign a peace treaty, giving Saint-Domingue back to France. French forces led by Loverture and Rigaud effectively end the British claims to Saint-Domingue.[12]

Loverture would remain loyal to France and work to eliminate slavery in the Spanish Territory of Santo Domingo as well. Loverture attempted to negotiate with the governor of Santo Domingo, talks broke down and Loverture returned to Saint- Domingue, however while Loverture was in the Spanish Territory, support arose among slaves in the Spanish territory. In January 1801, the Spanish give control of the entire island to Loverture.[13] In July of 1801, Loverature appoints himself Governor-General for Life and introduces a new constitution which usurps French power and established mandatory work regulations for citizens. In late 1801, rebellions break out against Loverture.

From 1802 to 1804, fighting and revolts continue as France tries to regain control of the colony. Loverture is continues to fight against an overwhelming French Army led by General LeClerc. LeClerc makes an offer to Loverture that he may retire with his staff and army to the place of his choosing. After Loverture’s surrender LeClerc withdraws the deal and imprisons Loverture. Upon hearing that the French leadership plan to return to slavery in the colony, black and mulatto soldiers defect to the rebel armies and begin to fight the French occupation.  1n May of 1803, French soldiers launch their final effort to end the rebellion, the French troops have not received supplies including food and many are suffering from Yellow Fever. The final French push fails. Dessalines will arise as the new leader of Haiti, he removes the white section of the French tri-color and declares the red and blue the flag of Haiti, the color representing the blacks and mulattoes coming together to defeat the whites. [14] Desalines declares that Saint-Domingue is gone, and establishes the new republic under the Taino name Haiti.

Bibliography:

“The History of Haiti: 1492-1805.” The Haitian Revolution, October 27, 2015. https://library.brown.edu/haitihistory/index.html.

Laurent DUBOIS. 2004. Avengers of the New World. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.


[1] “Spanish Rule 1492 – 1697,” The History of Haiti 1492-1805 (Brown University).

[2] “Spanish Rule 1492 – 1697,” The History of Haiti 1492-1805 (Brown University).

[3] “Spanish Rule 1492 – 1697,” The History of Haiti 1492-1805 (Brown University).

[4] Laurent Dubois. 2004. Avengers of the New World. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press. Page 39

[5] “The French Revolution Begins,” The History of Haiti 1492-1805 (Brown University).

[6] “The French Revolution Begins,” The History of Haiti 1492-1805 (Brown University).

[7] “The French Revolution Begins,” The History of Haiti 1492-1805 (Brown University).

[8] “The French Revolution Begins,” The History of Haiti 1492-1805 (Brown University).

[9] “Slave Resistance Gains Momentum,” The History of Haiti 1492-1805 (Brown University).

[10] “Slave Resistance Gains Momentum,” The History of Haiti 1492-1805 (Brown University).

[11] “The Revolution Builds,” The History of Haiti 1492-1805 (Brown University).

[12] “Toissant Loverture in Power,” The History of Haiti 1492-1805 (Brown University).

[13] “Toissant Loverture in Power,” The History of Haiti 1492-1805 (Brown University).

[14] “The Final Years of the Revolution,” The History of Haiti 1492-1805 (Brown University).

The French Revolution and Louis XVI

King Louis XVI was crowned king at Reims on the 20th of June 1775. Gazette de France stated, “the King entered Reims escorted by the troops of the royal household and made his way through a People intoxicated with joy—which did not decrease but rather intensified as the procession moved along.”[1] At his coronation, King Louis was loved and admired by the populace of France. Over the next fourteen years, France would change dramatically and for several years following the leadership of the country would change several times and a great number of the former leaders would be dead.

Louis XVI (Chateau de Versailles)

Dissent among the People

When Louis XVI was made king, France was having significant financial and trade issues. Decades of seemingly endless war with Great Britain had overstretched their finances. France had lost their colony in Canada and the valuable fur trade. British colonization and naval power had effectively locked the French out of India, China, and strangled the French colonies from transporting items back to France and elsewhere. [2] With the outbreak of the American Revolution, Louis XVI saw an opportunity to reduce the British stronghold in the Caribbean and produce a new trade partner in the former British colonies. Supporting a war across the ocean may cost men and ships, and it would cost more money. When the American Revolution ended in 1783, the fledgling United States showed no intent to start a trade relationship with France. The only thing that France had truly gained from the American Revolution was more debt and a new friendly nation who would be paying back some of that debt to France slowly.

The French Royalty had isolated themselves from the people, very rarely visiting Paris. The isolation policy began under Louis XIV after an uprising of the Fronde which occurred 1648-53, this caused the royals to avoid the capital and stay at their estates in Versailles, Fontainebleau, or Compiègne.[3] The king tended to trust only the nobility and his executive agents who worked as a cabinet and governors for the king himself, these intendents were divided amongst thirty-six generalities that the King had divided France into.[4]  Many of these appointees were authoritarians who instead of getting approval from the Estates- General would borrow money in the name of the king, bypassing the taxation rules. These appointees had the confidence of the King and were using that power to bypass legal means [5][6] “Since the sixteenth century kings had systematically sold public offices, along with hereditary tenure or free disposal, as a way of borrowing for little outlay.”[7] Government offices were for sale to those who had the money, the nobility protected each other in these offices, and the Catholic Church and its clergy were often related to these families and tended to side with the nobility in matters.

The Estates General

The social inequality of French society began to be viewed more publicly. French law benefited the Clergy and Nobility, most of the French people could not hold positions of power. Under the Estates General, the populace of France was divided into three Estates. The First Estate, the Catholic Church, paid no taxes owned land and were well respected by the Crown. The Second Estate, the nobility, held the offices in the French government, paid no tax, owned larger amounts of land, and collected feudal fees from common landowners. The Third Estate, owned much of the land in France, paid all the taxes plus feudal fees, tithes to the church, and held no power within the government. Within the Estates-General, The First Estate which was 0.5% of the population of France had one vote, The Second Estate, 1.5% of the population had one vote, and the Third Estate which had 98% of the population had one vote.[8]

The Estates General (Chateau de Versailles)

At the beginning of 1789, Louis XVI summoned the Estates General for a meeting, this is the first time the Estates General had been called forth since 1614. On May 5th of 1789, the meeting began. “from the start the third-estate deputies made clear that they would transact no business as a separate order. Their calls to the nobility and clergy to unite with them, however, fell on deaf ears. Even the small number of noble deputies who favoured deliberation and voting in common refused to break ranks. The stalemate continued for six weeks, during which bread prices continued to rise, public order began to break down in many districts, and the widespread hopes of the spring began to turn sour.[9]

The National Assembly

On June 10th, 1789, the Third Estate decided that they would negotiate separately from the others, their break away was followed by several members of the clergy mainly local parish priests began to join the Third Estate. On June 17th the group declared themselves the National assembly. Immediately afterwards it decreed the cancellation and then re-authorization of all taxes. The implication was clear. This assembly had seized sovereign power in the name of the French Nation.[10] On June 20th, The National Assembly met in the tennis courts at the Palace of Versailles after being locked out of other assembly areas, the assembly took an oath to separate until the assembly had established a constitution. The National Assembly had declared themselves a sovereign power and no longer recognized the power of Louis XVI.

Unrest began to grow in Paris, after some attempts to control the crowd by German Mercenaries in Paris failed, Paris based French Army soldiers began to desert. Parisians began searching the city for weapons, powder and flour. With the help of some of the army deserters, the people stormed the Bastille, the state prison in Paris, taking control of the city. The Rebel Parisians were now in control of Paris.[11] French Commanders could not guarantee that soldiers would fire upon the French people, the army withdrew. The National Assembly began to work on the Constitution for the People of France. In August, the clergy and nobles were stripped of their feudal powers, they could no longer collect tithes of feudal land fees. On August 26th the Declaration of the Rights of Man were published by the National Assembly.  In October, many of the people in Paris were still unable to get the bread and other food that was needed for meals, the women of Paris marched on Versailles where the King and Queen were in residence, after some of the crowd had invaded the Queen’s residence, Louis XVI spoke to them from the balcony, agreed to distribute all the bread that was at Versailles and stated that the king and his family would return to Paris with them.

Storming of the Bastille

The revolution progressed slowly over the next two years. The National Assembly abolished the nobility in 1790. The clergy developed a Civil Constitution and were directed to swear allegiance to France, a position that was denounced by Pope Pius VI in 1791.  In June 1791, King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette attempt to escape France but are captured at Varennes. In September, the National Assembly ratify the constitution with the support of King Louis XVI. In 1792, dramatic changes begin to happen. After Austria and Prussia extend support for King Louis in late 1791, France declares war against Austria in April of 1792, later that year Prussia would declare war on France.  During 1792, it is found that many of the people of France felt that their grievances with the royal family were not addressed and they were unhappy with the Constitutional Monarchy that had been established. In August of 1792, a group of Jacobins, called Sans-Culottes arrested Louis XVI for treason. [12]

The French Republic

In September of 1792, France declares themselves a Republic now free of the King. In January 1793 Louis Capet (Louis XVI) is executed. In April of 1793, the Committee of Public Safety is founded with Robespierre being the leader. Robespierre quickly used his power against political enemies’, the Committee of Public Safety began executing political rivals. Members of the committee then saw Robespierre as an enemy, he was removed and put to death. It the Thermodian Period, the republic worked to reorganize into a group called the Directory, establishing a collective executive power. The Directory would push the governing to return to the Declaration of the Rights of Man. [13]

The Rise of Napoleon

Napoleon Bonaparte graduated from the French Military Academy in 1785. He was a skilled leader and developed a keen sense for the use of artillery in warfare. He rose quickly through the ranks of the French Army during the conflicts with Austria and Prussia during the French Revolution. Napoleon eventually gained the rank of Brigadier General. Napoleon gained confidence from the Directory who had asked him to invade Great Britain, Napoleon advised against this invasion due to the naval power of Great Britain. In 1799, Napoleon saw the weakness an instability in the French Government, he planned and executed a military coup, overthrowing the Directory. Napoleon then established a three-person Consulate to manage France. In 1802. Napoleon was named Consul for Life, and in 1804, Napoleon named himself Emperor of France.

The French Revolution went through a great many changes, from the elimination of a king and royal family, to a constitutional monarchy, to a republic and eventually back to what was essentially a dictatorship. The writings of the Age of Enlightenment and the American Revolution had a great deal to do with the initial changes that happened in France. The thoughts of Enlightenment philosophies helped the people gain insight into ideals beyond royalty and feudal life, however without the organization that existed in the United States, the revolution broke into separate groups that detracted from the goals of the many.

Bibliography:

“The Coronation of Louis XVI from the Gazette of France (1775),” in World History Commons, https://worldhistorycommons.org/coronation-louis-xvi-gazette-france-1775

Doyle, William. 2001. The French Revolution: A Very Short Introduction. Very Short Introductions. Oxford: OUP Oxford.

Spievogel, Jackson J. World History. Glencoe/McGraw Hill 2003.


[1] “The Coronation of Louis XVI from the Gazette of France (1775),” in World History Commons, https://worldhistorycommons.org/coronation-louis-xvi-gazette-france-1775

[2] Doyle, William. 2001. The French Revolution: A Very Short Introduction. Very Short Introductions. Oxford: OUP Oxford. Page 19

[3] Doyle, William. 2001. The French Revolution: A Very Short Introduction. Very Short Introductions. Oxford: OUP Oxford. Page 21

[4] Doyle, William. 2001. The French Revolution: A Very Short Introduction. Very Short Introductions. Oxford: OUP Oxford. Page 22

[5] Doyle, William. 2001. The French Revolution: A Very Short Introduction. Very Short Introductions. Oxford: OUP Oxford. Page 22

[6] Doyle, William. 2001. The French Revolution: A Very Short Introduction. Very Short Introductions. Oxford: OUP Oxford. Page 22-23

[7] Doyle, William. The French Revolution: A Very Short Introduction. Very Short Introductions. Oxford: OUP Oxford, 2001. Page 23

[8] Spievogel, Jackson J. World History. Glencoe/McGraw Hill 2003.

[9] Doyle, William. 2001. The French Revolution: A Very Short Introduction. Very Short Introductions. Oxford: OUP Oxford. Page 40

[10] Doyle, William. 2001. The French Revolution: A Very Short Introduction. Very Short Introductions. Oxford: OUP Oxford.

[11] Doyle, William. 2001. The French Revolution: A Very Short Introduction. Very Short Introductions. Oxford: OUP Oxford. Page 42

[12] Doyle, William. 2001. The French Revolution: A Very Short Introduction. Very Short Introductions. Oxford: OUP Oxford.

[13] Doyle, William. 2001. The French Revolution: A Very Short Introduction. Very Short Introductions. Oxford: OUP Oxford.

Living Historically

Many people are seeking new ways to live a more historical life. Whether this is a hobby for you, or a direction to live in a more sustainable way, there are so many options for learning new things about old ways. If you want to build a historic hunting camp to use in the woods, there are places to learn these skills. If you would like to learn to cook meals over the fire, or food that our ancestors ate, there are cooks from around the world to teach you. If there is something that you want to learn that people did in the past, there are people in the modern world that do it. In this article, Living History and Re-enactment will be explained and directions to find others who create and recreate pieces of history, that test and use those pieces of history will be shown. Links to social media sites and videos will also be shared so that you can seek out the people who are doing the things you are interested in doing.

Experimental Archeology

Experimental archaeology is one of the very practical methods of archaeological interpretation. It is a living analytical process used to re-create aspects in part or in whole, of ancient societies in order to test hypotheses or proposed interpretations and assumptions about that society. (1) So you are building a tool or implement that you believe through study was used in a certain way based on research and then you use it in the way that you studied.

Experimental archaeology has two distinct variants. The first is called historical re-enactment and it is an artificial re-creation of a past culture (or part of it) and the testing of all of the many theories about building construction, transport systems, weapons, metals, ceramics, use of fire and so on.

The second variant is known as living history, and it requires archaeologists, usually coupled with anthropologists, to find a similar modern group of people living in and under the same types of conditions of the ancient target group, and to live with, or at the very least, to observe and study that group in order to determine the hows, whats and whys that are unstated in the archaeological record.

Historical re-enactment is the most common form of experimental archaeology and by far the most profitable for researchers as tests can be repeated and small adjustments made in a suitably controlled manner to yield scientifically valid results.(2)

1570’s Monongahela Cultural Village (Meadowcroft Historic Village, Avella, PA)

The topics that are covered on the internet range from the prehistoric through the 19th century, from stone tools to steam engines. If you do some digging and rabbit hole searches you are likely to find your interest out there.

Here are some great links where you can find ways to start your rabbit hole searches, they are broken into categories to make searching a little easier and descriptions have been added.

Tools

Vasile Diaconu is an archaeologist who specializes in prehistoric tools and metallurgy. His channel is relatively new, and some of the videos are not in English. Vasile Diaconu – Archaeologist

Hunt Primitive is a channel that looks into primitive hunting and discusses the making of prehistoric hunting tools. As a warning some of the videos show the actual hunting of animals with primitive methods. Hunt Primitive

Archaeology for Communities in the Highlands (ARCH) is a program that brings Archaeology to schools and libraries throughout the Scottish Highlands. Included are their direct website and YouTube channel. ARCH Website ARCH YouTube

Food

There are any number of websites out there that will give you information about food history from nearly every culture on the planet. A few of them are included below.

ALHFAM Historic Foodways focuses on historic foods and cooking. ALHFAM is the Association for Living History, Farms and Agricultural Museums. ALHFAM Historic Foodways

Tasting History is a YouTube channel that focuses on a variety of cultural food history. The channel releases a new video every Tuesday. Tasting History

Building

Building Primitive structures, and other historic construction has become somewhat of a trend recently. Below are just a few of the sites that can be found.

TA Outdoors is essentially an outdoors page, based in Britain, the men who put the page together also have some associated pages that focus on different types of Bushcraft. These guys have built a number of buildings from the medieval period. TA Outdoors

Primitive Life is another page that uses primitive tools to create a variety of different structures. Primitive Life

Historic Life

The links below include channels and groups that give a wide variety of options for living historically.

Townsends is a manufacturer of historic clothing, the company owner and staff are incredibly knowledgeable when it comes to historic living. Townsends makes a number of historic life videos from cooking to building. Townsends

UCD Centre for Experimental Archaeology and Material Culture is dedicated to experimental archaeology and shows a wide variety of videos and training. UCD

Northmen primarily focuses on Norse Culture, but also shows a variety of historic living in other cultures. Northmen

Fandabi Dozi is a channel that is focused on Bushcraft and the Scottish Highlands, the channel will show you everything from wrapping a great kilt, to making shoes from deerskin. Fandabi Dozi

The George Washington Foundation runs Historic Kenmore, and George Washington’s Ferry Farm in Fredericksburg, VA. They post videos on farm life, living history and archaeology. GW Foundation

George Washington’s Mount Vernon was George Washington’s home. The museum and staff offer a great number of videos and live video forums about life at Mount Vernon and cover everything from food to farming, to the plight of enslaved people at Mount Vernon. GW Mount Vernon

The Society for Creative Anachronism is a living history organization based in the world from the rise of Rome until 1600. The organization is broken into kingdoms that exist in much of the world. The members research and teach classes and demonstrations on subjects including; Fencing, Armored Combat, Archery, Thrown Weapons, Calligraphy, Illumination, Cooking, Heraldry and just about any medieval subject. SCA

Enjoy these links and find your way to new historical living adventures.

Ch… ch… ch… Changes

Greetings!

Over the next few weeks, you will see some changes in the blog and the Facebook page. In June, I started graduate school and maintaining the Blog and Facebook page has been difficult. Moving forward, I will be inviting some new writers and content producers to help me continue to bring articles and content about history to you. I am hoping these changes will give you all more reading material and allow you to make new discoveries about history. As I continue a great deal of writing for my Master’s Degree in American History, I will be sharing some of my school writing on the blog as well.

Thank you all for subscribing and I look forward to starting this new stage of the blog!

King Philip’s War

Over 100 years before the American Revolution and nearly 80 years before the French and Indian War (Seven Years War) English Settlers and Native forces clashed over the English expansion of the colonies in what is now Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The war itself was the local native groups last-ditch effort to avoid recognizing English authority and stop English settlement on their native lands. The war is named after the Wampanoag chief Metacom, later known as Philip or King Philip, who led the fourteen-month bloody rebellion. Metacom was a Wampanoag Sachem who had been educated by English Settlers at Harvard, with his education came a better understanding of the English and their plans for expansion throughout the region. King Philip (Metacom) led his tribe and a coalition of the Nipmuck, Pocumtuck and Narraganset tribes in an uprising against the colonists and their allies, the Mohegans and the Mohawks, that lasted 14 months. The following videos offer a succinct explanation of the war in which the English settlers lost nearly every single battle but came to victory due to disease and starvation of the native groups. The videos are by Atun-Shei Films whose owner is dedicated to researching the history of King Philip’s War and other historical events.

King Philip, illustration published in the Pictorial History of King Philip’s War, circa 1851

Slavery in Living History

As I have noted in many prior articles on my blog, living history bring a nuance to understanding parts of history. Living historians play a role of someone living in the time period in which the persona would have lived. Many of these living historians take on personas that are difficult, imagine if you will being an African-American and willingly working or portraying a slave persona. You are knowingly researching the living hell that your ancestors went through so that you can portray what life was like as a slave in the colonial period and early United States. I have attached several videos below of African-American living historians. These living historian work at George Washington’s Mount Vernon, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and other historic sites to help people better understand slavery in America.

This first segment is from George Washington’s Mount Vernon, it is a panel discussion with Living Historians from several sites.

Hear My Story: The Enslaved Community at Mount Vernon

The next segment is from Townsends & Sons who do regular work with portraying living history on their YouTube channel, this segment is an interview with Brenda Parker who portrays a slave at Mount Vernon, Washington’s Estate. Brenda gets rather emotional during this segment.

Portraying the Enslaved Woman – Townsends

This is also Brenda Parker, interviewed by the staff at Mount Vernon and school students.

An Update

Greetings Friends,

The world has been interesting over the last several weeks, and while I love to bring you regular stories about history, my current full-time job is in the emergency medical services. While the EMS service that I work for in Western Pennsylvania has not been particularly busy during the pandemic it is a difficult time and frankly the limited social interaction myself and my coworkers get right now is at work. Often our days include conference calls with updates from the state, local hospital systems and our local government.

I am currently doing some research on the Battle of Bushy Run, during Pontiac’s Rebellion and as soon as I get finished with it, I will get it posted. I have been a little more active on the Magical History Tour Facebook page sharing fun and informative videos and recent history related articles. When life returns to normal I look forward to sharing more adventures and history with you!

Finally, I ask you to support your local EMS and healthcare workers, while they are dealing with the stress of work, they are also dealing with the stress that the rest of you are dealing with. Add into that the fear of bring the virus home to their families. It is and will be a very stressful time for healthcare workers for a while.

Thank you all again, Stay Safe!

Shawn

Joseph Plumb Martin – Quarantined in the 18th Century

Below is a video from Townsends about the memoir of Joseph Plumb Martin, who was a revolutionary war soldier, in his memoir, he writes about being quarantined with many other soldiers so that they could receive the Smallpox inoculation. The video uses some outtakes from the book, and I have also supplied a link to the book for your reading pleasure.

Quarantined in the 18th Century Video

Memoir of a Revolutionary Soldier – Joseph Plumm Martin

The topic of quarantine and social distancing is not new to United States history, or history in general. It is a part of our history and the current pandemic will also be an important part to history that will be shared in history classes in our future. Everyday something historic happens, the current nCovid-19 outbreak will be an important topic in the future as it is a news story today. While I continue to work my regular job as an EMT, I will continue to write articles he on the blog and be posting historic videos and fun history videos on my Facebook page.

I hope you all are taking care of yourselves and your family, friends and neighbors and that you all stay healthy.

Flags of the American Revolution

The television show “The Big Bang Theory” and Dr. Sheldon Cooper’s “Fun with Flags” vlog is sort of my inspiration for this post. I have always been very interested in the various flags I have seen from the American Revolution on the continental side. It is also interesting to see how those flags have developed into the flags that the people of the United States continue to use today.

British Red Ensign – www.revolutionary-war-and-beyond.com

The British Red Ensign was approved and adopted by Queen Anne in 1707, though it was largely used as a naval ensign it became the flag for Great Britain and the colonies. When General Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown, this is the flag he surrendered to Washington. In Washington’s surrender to the French at Fort Necessity, the French allowed washington and his forces to leave with the Red Ensign flying.

The flag below is known as the Bedford Flag, the picture on the left is the original flag, known to be the oldest complete flag known to exist in the United States. The photo on the right is a flag carried by the Massachusetts Bay Colony Militia during the French and Indian War. It was also carried by the Bedford Minutemen in the Battle of Concord Bridge on April 19, 1775. The inscription “Vince Aut Morire” means Conquer or Die.

As the sentiment against the british taxes on the colonies began to grow, a Liberty Pole was raised in Schenectady NY, on that pole was a blue silk 44×44 inch flag with the word “Liberty” sewn into it. This Liberty Flag quickly became a symbol for those opposed to British taxation and acts against the colonies. This same flag was reportedly carried into battle by the First New York Line Regiment, the unit was largely from Schenectady. The Liberty Flag is the first known Revolutionary flag.

First Flag of New England – https://revolutionarywar.us/flags/

The First Flag of New England, shown above, shows the pine tree in the upper left left hand corner becomes a common theme in flags in the rebelling colonies. The pine tree symbolism comes from the Penacook Native American tribe that lived along the coast of the areas that are now Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Southern Maine. The Penacook were credited with the survival of the Mayflower colonists in the first Thanksgiving story. The Penacook name comes from Algonquin meaning, children of the pine. This flag, and many like it were carried into battle during the revolution by some rebel units, and was made into several other variants that you will see below.

Very similar to the Flag of New England above is the Continental Flag was also called the Trumbull Flag. A flag carried at the Battle of Breed’s Hill (Bunker Hill), The British soldiers only recalled seeing a red flag flown, but recollections from the rebel side account the pine tree on the Continental flag. The reason this flag is also called the Trumbull flag is because it appears in a painting by John Trumbull who fought one the rebel side at the Battle of Breed’s Hill. The painting, called “The death of General Warren” shown below has caused some confusion over the years, as the painting has aged, the flag appears to be blue with the pine tree in the corner, The British Ensign is also discolored and appears green. This confusion caused later production of the Continental Flag to be made of blue cloth with the pine tree in the upper left corner.

Other flags with the Pine Tree portrayal range from several different areas. In 1775, George Washington outfitted six schooners to patrol along the coast, these ships were called Washington’s Cruisers, They were armed with a single cannon (likely a 3 pounder) and small arms, these ships were meant to harass and evade, drawing fire away from land attacks by the British naval vessels. The Cruisers flew a simple flag, a Pine Tree on a white background with “Appeal to Heaven” in black letters. Massachusetts also used the Pine tree as the ensign for its own Naval Militia.

Why the Pine Tree? In 1722, the British had depleted healthy forests with thick mast trees for their navy, so a proclamation was listed that any white pine tree measuring 24 inches in diameter was now the property of the Crown and furthermore, any White Pine measuring 12 inches in diameter could not cut down. Colonists were also forbidden from selling these “Mast Trees” to anyone else, including colonial shipbuilders. While this order from the Crown did not have much descent at the time, in 1772, with other taxation orders like the Stamp Act and the Tea Tax, the Mast Preservation Clause became yet another reason to fight the power of Britain. Sawyers and Millners began to refuse to cut the trees for British ships leading to the Pine Tree Riots (future article teaser) and making the Pine Tree a symbol of liberty.

The next group we’ll call “The Snake Flags,” flags developed very likely from the “Unite or Die” political cartoon that was published in the Pennsylvania Gazette, to get the colonies to unite against the French during the Seven Years War ( French and Indian War). The Snake became a symbol of unity an the onset of disagreements with the British government. The Culpeper Flag was carried into battle in Colonel Patrick Henry’s unit, the Culpeper Minutemen. The Culpeper flag feature a coiled snake with a bannerline “The Culpeper MinuteMen” and also “Liberty or Death” and “Don’t Tread on Me” in letters around the coiled snake. The flag the gets a little more notoriety is the Gadsden Flag, the Gadsden Flag was made as a naval ensign for the new United States Navy designed by South Carolina Congressman Christopher Gadsden. The design featured a yellow flag with a coiled snake on grass and the words “Don’t Tread on Me” along the bottom. The Navy Jack soon became a standard on U.S. naval vessels, it featured an uncoiled snake across thirteen red and white stripes and the words “Don’t Tread on Me” on the lowest white stripe.

The next group we’ll call the Stars and Stripes group, these flags were largely what inspired the modern U.S. flag. The first of these would be the Sons of Liberty flag, the Sons of Liberty were a rebel group initially based on Boston. The Sons of Liberty were known to gather under a tree that was called the Liberty Tree in Boston, when the British found out about the Liberty Tree, they had it cut down. The Sons of Liberty placed a pole at the site of the tree which would then be called the Liberty Pole at the top of that pole flew a flag of thirteen simple red and white stripes, this flag became the flag of the Sons of Liberty. The Grand Union Flag was the original United States Flag kept the British Union Jack in the upper left hand corner and the stripes of the colonies throughout the rest of the flag, some historians believe that it was a way to show respect to the Crown and hope for a peaceful ending and a reasonable outcome with self rule and remaining British Subjects. The Grand Union Flag was replaced on June 14, 1777 (which became Flag Day). Legend says that George Washington, Robert Morris and George Ross took a drawing to Betsy Ross, asking her if she could create a flag from a paper drawing. The Betsy Ross Flag followed with thirteen horizontal red and white stripes and a blue field with thirteen five pointed stars in a circle. The Betsy Ross Flag would be the model for all future U.S. Flags.

The Thirteen Star Flag is the flag that was actually approved by the Continental Congress on June 14, 1777 as the United States Flag, the Congress however never specified the layout of the stars in the blue field. The Green Mountain boys flag had a simple layout, a green flag (the shade of green varied a bit based on who made the flag) and in the upper left corner a blue field of thirteen, five pointed stars. The Green Mountain Boys were the New Hampshire Militia led by Ethan Allen and Seth Warner who took Fort Ticonderoga and Fort Crown Point during the revolution. The Bennington Flag was carried into the battle of Bennington by Nathaniel Fillmore. The flag has the usual 13 stars and stripes, but is unique because the stars have seven points and the stripes are white on the outer edges instead of the familiar red, and also displays the number “76” for the year of the Declaration of Independence. The Guilford Courthouse Flag was carried into the Battle of Guilford Courthouse as a member of the Granville County, North Carolina militia. The Flag had thirteen eight pointed blue stars on a white field and thirteen red and blue stripes. The Serapis Flag was made out of necessity, when John Paul Jones captured the HMS Serapis in a sea battle, he lost his flag the USS Bonhomme went down sank during the same battle. Jones sailed the Serapis into the dutch port of Texel, the British immediately wanted the ship returned to British custody and jones hanged as a pirate. Benjamin Franking who was serving as the U.S. Ambassador to France sent a Crude description of the new U.S. flag via courier the Serapis Flag was quickly made and raised on the now U.S.S Serapis was able to leave the Port of Texel.

This is not the only flags that existed in the development of the United States during the revolution. It shows the individuality of the flags and an idea of their history and a new avenue to explore.

Sources:

National Park Service – Articles of Capitulation Fort Necessity: https://www.nps.gov/fone/learn/historyculture/capitulation.htm

Revolutionary War and Beyond – Revolutionary War Flags: https://www.revolutionary-war-and-beyond.com/american-revolution-flags.html

National Flag Foundation – https://nationalflagfoundation.org/where-to-see-famous-american-flags/

History Camp – Philadelphia

On May 2nd, 2020, I will be presenting at History Camp – Philadelphia. My topic will be “Slavery, Abolition and Seeking Freedom in Pittsburgh.” The Pittsburgh area has an interesting history in regards to Slavery and Abolition, and while it wasn’t a major place of Underground Railroad activity, there are some important figures from the Pittsburgh Area.

History Camp began in Boston in 2014 and over the past several years has expanded into a non-profit organization called, The Pursuit of History. With the founding of the non-profit and the expansion of History Camps to several places throughout the United States, The Pursuit of History is attracting adults to learn, think and connect more to history.

Please check out History Camp – Philadelphia and hopefully, we will see you there!