J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Persons of Bronze

Michael Aubrecht at Blog, or Die just posted information about the choice of a design for the Battle of Pines Bridge Monument in Virginia. That model, by Jay Warren, is striking, to be sure.

The Pines Bridge Monument Committee explains its subject this way:
On May 14, 1781, just after sunrise there was a surprise attack on the first Rhode Island Regiment headquartered at the Davenport House in Croton Heights. This regiment was comprised of African American, Native American and European American soldiers under the command of Colonel Christopher Greene.
Earlier in the war, the First Rhode Island was known for being mostly composed of soldiers of color. Other regiments of the Continental Army had some black and Native soldiers, but they were interspersed among a larger number of whites. That made the First Rhode Island a source of pride for some Americans, but not to others.

On 29 June 1780, Gen. George Washington responded to news of its recruiting difficulties by telling Gen. William Heath, “The objection to joining Greenes Regiment may be removed by dividing the Blacks in such a manner between the two [regiments], as to abolish the name and appearance of a Black Corps.” After that the First Rhode Island’s enlisted ranks were racially integrated like other Continental regiments. Of course, it still had a disproportionately large number of veteran soldiers with African and Native American ancestry.

Coincidentally, at the David Library of the American Revolution’s blog, Judith Van Buskirk just shared thoughts on the challenge of researching the individual men of that regiment.

And I might as well mention that on Saturday, 3 March, I’ll have a public conversation with Marty Blatt, historian of Boston National Historical Park, about Washington’s changing thoughts on black soldiers while he was in Massachusetts in 1775-76. That will take place at noon in the National Park Service visitor center at 15 State Street.


Chaucerian said...

There is probably some reason why everyone looks remarkably handsome in a twentieth-century film star Clark Gable-ish way -- good nutrition?

J. L. Bell said...

They do give off a remarkably healthy glow, don't they?