Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A Defeat at Camden, A Victory at Bennington

The Defeat

After the defeat in Charleston, the Congress appointed General Gates to be the new commander of the American Southern District. Gates was impatient to strike back at the British. He believed the British troops at Camden, North Carolina were vulnerable. Camden was also an advanced munitions depot, so it made a tempting target.

On July 27th 1780, Gates set off for Camden with over 3,000 regular and militia troops. Gates headed directly towards Camden, despite the difficulty in obtaining supplies on the route. Gates arrived near Camden on August 14th, with his 3,000 men, believing that this would give him overwhelming numerical superiority over the forces of British Colonel Radwon, whom he believed were in Camden. Little did he know that British General Cornwallis had learned of Gates' advance and hurried to Camden with reinforcements.

Gates' forces still outnumbered the British forces. However, the British forces were better equipped and included cavalry as well as more extensive artillery. 

On the night of the 15th, Gates learned of the arrival of the British forces, when his forces approached Camden at night; only to run into a British force. Neither force wanted to fight at night, so they both retreated. The Americans took some soldiers prisoner and learned of the existence of Cornwallis' troops. Gates realized he faced a difficult predicament. Capturing Camden seemed nearly impossible, while a withdrawal with a large number of British cavalry forces present would be nearly impossible. He decided to stand and fight.

Gates arranged his forces in a defensive position, a strategy that had served him well at the Battle of Saratoga. Despite his knowledge of the British position, Gates arranged his forces in a disastrous deployment. He placed the militia opposite the British dragoons and Hessian soldiers, while placing his better trained Continentals opposite the Loyalist militia that Cornwallis lead. Gates' final error of the day was to order the militia forward to attack.

The American line broke at the site of the British regulars advancing. Most militia ran without firing a shot. Gates tried to staunch the retreat, but it was hopeless. The Americans began a full retreat from the battlefield, losing over 600 soldiers in the process. The Battle of Camden was a complete American defeat. It marked a low in the war for the Americans.

The Victory

Battle of Bennington, by Frederick Yohn

August 16, 1777, the Battle of Bennington was a battle of the American Revolutionary War in Walloomsac, New York, about 10 miles from its namesake Bennington, Vermont. A rebel force of 2,000 men, primarily composed of militiamen, led by General John Stark, and reinforced by Vermont militiamen led by Colonel Seth Warner and members of the Green Mountain Boys, decisively defeated a detachment of General John Burgoyne's army of led by Lieutenant Colonel Friedrich Baum, with support of Hessians under Lieutenant Colonel Heinrich von Breymann.
He was sent by Burgoyne to raid Bennington New Hampshire for horses, draft animals, and other supplies. Believing the town to be only lightly defended, Baum was unaware that Stark and 1,500 militiamen were stationed there. After a rain-caused standoff, Stark's men enveloped Baum's position, taking many prisoners, and killing Baum. Reinforcements for both sides arrived as Stark and his men were mopping up, and the battle restarted, with Warner and Stark driving away von Breymann’ Hessian reinforcements with heavy casualties.

The battle was a decisive victory for the rebel cause, as it reduced Burgoyne's army in size by almost 1,000 men, led his Indian support to largely abandon him, and deprived him of needed supplies such as cavalry and draft horses and food, all factors that contributed to Burgoyne's eventual surrender at Saratoga.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Most blunderbuss were used by European navies or to protect coaches, but "thunder guns" were also used by civilians for defending their homes, businesses, carriages, and boats.

Those with brass barrels were especially suited for the high seas since they are resistant to salt water corrosion.

British blunderbusses were also issued to the Royal Mail coaches to defend against highwaymen.

Their flared muzzles acted as a funnel and made reloading much easier while bumping along in a coach or on the rolling seas.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Battle of Monguagon

On August 9, 1812, American Lieutenant-Colonel James Miller’s command, comprised of 280 regulars and more than 330 Ohio Volunteer troops, was sent to escort a supply train to Detroit.

Image result for Battle of Maguaga
Battle of Monguagon by J.C.H. Forster
At Monguagon (Trenton, MI), Miller came upon British Captain Adam Muir, with 205 British regulars, Canadian militia and Native American. As the Americans advanced a skirmish broke out and things started to go wrong for the British.
Noticing some men creeping through the woods on their right, some of the British thought it was the enemy trying to outflank them and opened fire on them. The "enemy" turned out to be allied Potawatomi warriors, who immediately thought that the people firing at them must be Americans. Both returned fire until the Potawatomi realized that they were fighting their own side and withdrew into the woods to the rear.
At about that same time, seeing the American advance waiver, Muir ordered the bugler of the light infantry company to sound the charge.
In the British Army, only the light infantry used the bugle; the rest of the infantry communicated using drumbeats. The officer commanding one of the other companies thought that the bugle was sounding the "recall" and ordered his men to fall back.
Before Muir knew what was happening, his whole force was streaming off to the rear.
The Americans, who thought that the British were running from them, took heart and advanced over Muir's vacated position in pursuit of an enemy they thought they had routed. Miller advanced a good distance only to find that Muir had regrouped and was standing, awaiting Miller to attack. Miller, satisfied with his "victory", decided not to renew his assault and withdrew.

Lieutenant-Colonel James Miller

Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Battle of Oriskany, is considered to be a significant turning point in the War of Independence as well as described as one of the bloodiest battles of the war.

The battle took place August 6, 1777,  Oriskany, New York. 

The Oneidas at the Battle of Oriskany - August 6, 1777 by Don Troiani

During the British siege of Fort Stanwix, occupied by Continental Army forces, Brigadier General Nicholas Herkimer assembled 800 militiamen, supported by 60 allied Oneida warriors, and marched from Fort Dayton to aid against the siege. Upon hearing of Herkimer's advance, British and Loyalist troops under Sir John Johnson and Col. John Butler, and Indian forces led by Mohawk Joseph Brant, set a trap in a boggy ravine west of Oriskany Creek. As the unsuspecting American troops crossed the swampy bottom and marched up the ravine, the British attacked. The patriots fought in brutal hand-to-hand combat, and in spite of heavy losses, caused the Seneca and the Mohawks, followed by the British and Loyalists to retreat.

It was in this battle that General Herkimer received the wound to his leg which led to his death ten days later. 

The battle cost the Patriots approximately 450 casualties, while the Loyalists and Indians lost approximately 150 dead and wounded. The result of the battle remains ambiguous because the apparent Loyalist victory was significantly affected by a sortie from Fort Stanwix in which the Loyalist camps were sacked, spoiling morale among the allied Indians.
For the Iroquois, the battle marked the beginning of a civil war, as it pitted Oneida warriors against Mohawk and Seneca, all members of the Iroquois nations. There were also internal divisions among the Oneida, some of whom went to Canada as allies of the British.

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Saturday, August 5, 2017

On this date in 1763, the Battle of Bushy Run, it would be the critical turning point in Pontiac’s War. It also became one of the most memorable moments in North American Military history.

Pontiac by Robert Griffing

With the outbreak of Pontiac's War in the spring of 1763, Native American warriors placed Fort Pitt under siege and began raiding British settlements to the east around Fort Bedford and Raystown, Pennsylvania.
On July 18th Colonel Henry Bouquet departed Carlisle, with a relief column for Fort Pitt. His column numbered around 460 men and included elements of the 60th Royal Americans and the 42nd and 77th Highlanders.
Though he had no firm intelligence regarding the siege, he felt an urge to increase the speed of the advance. As a result, he left his ammunition and wagon trains at Fort Ligonier and pressed on with around 300 men and 340 horses loaded with provisions.
Bouquet's instincts proved correct as the Native Americans had already attempted to storm the fort. Learning of the Bouquet's advance, the Native Americans broke off the siege of Fort Pitt and moved east to lay an ambush for Bouquet's column near Bushy Run.

On August 4, the lead elements of Bouquet's force were attacked by Delaware and Shawnee warriors. Believing the attack to be more than a small skirmish, Bouquet ordered his entire command to assume a circular defensive position on nearby Edge Hill. Using bags of flour, from the provisions, to help fortify their position, the British dug in for the night. In the morning, the Native Americans renewed their assault against Bouquet's men.
With the battle raging, Bouquet planned a trap for the attackers. With the enemy pushing closer, he ordered two companies of light infantry to fall back from their position along the perimeter as though a retreat had begun. Believing the British were retreating, the Native Americans charged into the gap. Here they quickly came under fire from two sides. Taking heavy losses, they were then assaulted by a bayonet charge from the Highlanders. Stunned, the survivors began fleeing the battlefield, leaving Bouquet in command of the field.
Colonel Henry Bouquet’s resolute Highlanders turned calamity into victory through sheer bravery and the wielding of cold steel.
Recovering his wounded, Bouquet resumed his advance and reached Fort Pitt five days later. The destruction of the Native American force at Bushy Run, along with the arrival of supplies and reinforcements ensured that the Fort Pitt remained in British hands for the remainder of the conflict.

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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Battle of Fort Stephenson

Shortly after the War of 1812 began, twenty two year old Major George Croghan became commander of Fort Stephenson, Located on the Sandusky River. (Fremont, Ohio)

Major George Croghan

The fort consisted of three blockhouses inside a rectangular stockade. Croghan worked hard to increase the fort's defensive capabilities. General William Henry Harrison believed that the fort was located at a difficult place to defend and ordered Croghan to abandon it. But Croghan argued that, if his forces withdrew, American Indians would cut his men off from the rest of the army. Before the two men could resolve their differences, the British troops arrived at the fort.
Major General Henry Proctor with 1,000 British regulars and Indians attacked the fort on August 2, 1813. Procter ordered a frontal infantry assault. Croghan had only 160 troops under his command and ordered the defenders to hold fire until the attackers were within close range. Once within range, the garrison opened fired along with the fort's artillery. The attack fell back, Procter tried and failed several times. Finally realizing that the attackers could do very little against the fort, Procter called off the attack. Croghan's men were so successful that they crippled the British forces -- not one officer was left standing, and one-fifth of the British force was either killed, wounded, or missing in action. The Americans forced the enemy to withdraw from the area.

“Men of the 41st falling at Fort Stephenson”
The uniforms of the 41st as depicted are slightly inaccurate.

The victory at Fort Stephenson came at an important time during the war, as the United States had few military successes.

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Sunday, July 30, 2017

Simon Lauck

Simon Lauck (1760-1815) worked as a gunsmith in Winchester, Virginia and was reportedly trained by John Philip Beck of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. 

Simon Lauck, Jr. (1784-1864) also worked as a gunsmith circa 1805-1815 in Winchester prior to becoming a minister and heading further west. 

The rifle is signed "S. Lauck" on the silver inlay on the top of the barrel. 
Additional silver inlays, attractive carving, brass furniture, and a gorgeous engraved patchbox all attest to Lauck's craftmanship. The lock has unclear markings and was likely purchased from an outside lock maker or importer as was common in the period.

As a side note;
Simon along with his brother Peter (1753-1839) served with the Daniel Morgan's famous riflemen in the American Revolution. Morgan's riflemen are well known for striking down British officers from long ranges, devastating enemy morale, and were integral to the victory in the Battle of Cowpens. 

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