Two hundred thousand fought. Twenty-five thousand died.

The War for Independence.

Although the exact number is difficult to determine, about 6,800 of the recorded deaths were from battle. The remaining 17,000 were the result of disease including 8,000 to 12,000 who died as prisoners of war from disease and starvation. Patriots wounded or disabled were an estimated 8,500 to 25,000.

These figures do not account for American colonists who fought as Loyalists.

Other estimates give the death toll upwards to 70,000. The different numbers come from the difficulty of determining the impact of disease deaths. In 1776 alone, an estimated 10,000 died from disease.
In proportion to the population of colonial America, the war was deadlier for Americans than World War I and World War II – second only to the Civil War.

The Revolutionary War has been seen as a civil war. Is it not interesting that our deadliest wars were amongst ourselves?

As we remember those who fell in battle in our two civil wars, let us find any and all paths to avoid a third.


The Frontier Riflemen

Gillespie Rifle

John has settled his affairs at home and is on his way to take up arms in the War for Independence. He has joined with his old acquaintance Captain Cresap, whose name the readers of John: The Making of a Long Hunter, and John: A Man of the Frontier will recognize. When Second Continental Congress established the Continental Army on June 14, 1775, they gave authorization to form ten companies of riflemen from Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Maryland. One of the Maryland companies was assigned to Captain Cresap.

Riflemen were an important and controversial group in the War for Independence. The men in the rifle companies were mostly men of the frontier recruited because of their superior marksmanship. Colonel Washington was familiar with the rifle and the men who used them with near mythic abilities, from his participation in the French and Indian War. He was eager to have companies of these men because he reasoned they would be a powerful addition to the newly formed continental fighting forces. The rifle was not well known in battle and both the British and New England regulars were unaware of the accuracy and effective range. Up to that point the Brown Bess musket was the weapon used by both sides. The soldiers were not schooled in marksmanship, but rather the rapid deployment of their attacks through efficient and quick reloading and firing. The intent was to throw a curtain of lead at the opponent in hopes that they would run into it. With the arrival of the riflemen, men could be picked off from a great distance with little chance of retaliation.

Cresap’s company, as well as the other nine, consisted of frontier men; independent, eccentric, courageous hunters and explorers, highly proficient with their rifles. He marched his troop of men 550 miles in 22 days to join Washington and participated in the Battle of Cambridge in August 1775 as part of Morgan’s Riflemen.

At first the rifle brigades were treated as special units, not assigned regular duties, displaying their marksmanship in exhibitions, and causing a wave of terror amongst the enemy. The fact that they were killing British soldiers at long distances affected moral. The British figured out the range of the rifles and reset their lines, but even then, the threat was always there.

The rifle may have been well suited to the changing modes of battle, but the men wielding them were ill suited to military life. Used to independence, freedom to move, and a lifestyle of little regimented discipline, they became a source of disruption in the camps. After the first excitement and success, the novelty wore off and they chafed under military discipline. When assigned latrine duty, or guard duty, they would balk or merely leave. Their drinking and lack of discipline forced Washington to assign 500 regulars to keep them in check. It came to a point that Washington reportedly said he wished they had never come.

The Rifle Brigades and companies fought throughout the war, and made their contribution. In several of the battles, but their effectiveness, as in the French and Indian War, was when engaged in guerilla-style fighting.


For an interesting description, see: Harrington, Hugh T, 2002, Patriot Riflemen During the Ammunition Crisis at the Siege of Boston in 1775.


In the process of gathering as much information about the revolutionary times within which I can place John’s story with some degree of accuracy, I came across a book by Thomas B. Allen entitled Tories: Fighting for the King in America’s First Civil War.

What? First Civil War? It was the fight for independence against the tyranny of the crown … wasn’t it? Not a civil war at all!

Is not a war where the citizens of a country fight one another over divisions in their view and desires for that country actually a civil war?  Those who were Tories, or Loyalists, joined with the forces of the King, to fight the Patriots, or Rebels. And the Patriots targeted and fought the Loyalists with as much fierceness and determination as they did British forces; in some cases, with even more rancor.  The was a war of rebellion against external control, but was also a fight between the established citizenry of different views of governance – citizens fighting citizens.

From the battle at Concord to the battle at Yorktown, Patriot troops fought armed Loyalists as well as British troops. By one tally, Loyalists fought in 576 of the war’s 772 battles and skirmishes.

Allen, Thomas B.. Tories: Fighting for the King in America’s First Civil War. HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. p. xi


When I observe the current state of affairs in the United States, I wonder if we are not in the nascent formation of the sides of our third Civil War. I read posts from both sides of the argument that are vicious, condescending, inaccurate, inflammatory, hate-filled, filled with religious bigotry and intolerance. Fueled by the impersonality of social media, the sides fling insults and invective at each other with ferocity and disregard that they would never do in person.

The new president models a scorched earth style that leaves little room for reconciliation, only bombast. Individuals who are friends of mine have adopted the rhetoric of the president in that anyone who does not agree with them are “whiners” and “losers” and “idiots.” From the other side the slings and arrows of “ignorant”, “stupid”, and “haters”, and “liars” fly with gleeful abandon. In person, with those who you count as friends, or who count you as a friend, the division would be there, but the insulting, inflammatory rhetoric would not come so easily. After all, the person looking in your eyes is your friend. You know that you can count on that person if you have a need, you know that you have that persons back if they run into problems; you support that person in their business, family life, dreams, passions. You know the person is a friend – white, black, Mexican, Korean, Arabic, Native American.  No matter if the friend is Nigerian, Japanese, British, French, Canadian, Italian, Syrian, or Sioux – he or she is a friend.

In revolutionary America, Germans, Scots, Irish, British, Native American counted each other as friends.  It was much like when I moved from the northeast to the south, I noticed people were rejected by group, but befriended individually. So it was in the new colonies where friendship developed even amongst those who held different views of religion, heritage, and language.

We are in a pivotal time. We are a divided nation, at best a 50/50 split of political views, but that is also a false view.  Of eligible voters, 57.9% voted – the popular vote was essentially split in half.  So, the winner of the election was chosen by approximately 25% of the eligible voters.  Records show that over 92 million eligible voters did not vote. Of course, we do not have any idea what the split would be, but we can say there are over 92 million people who did not voice an opinion.

When Brig. Gen. Nathanael Greene took command of the Continental Army of the South in 1781, he wrote to Col. Alexander Hamilton: “The division among the people is much greater than I imagined and the Whigs and Tories persecute each other, with little less than savage fury. There is nothing but murders and devastation in every quarter.”

Allen, Thomas B.. Tories: Fighting for the King in America’s First Civil War. HarperCollins. Kindle Edition p. iii


I hope the increased rancor, suspicion, and disenfranchisement do not create a snowball effect that drives us into a level of contempt and paranoia that triggers persecution with little less than savage fury.


The Golden Plough Tavern

On the way home,  John finds it necessary to stop for the night twice. After leaving Tillman and Angus, he resumes his travels along lesser paths until he intersects the Great Wagon Road, or the Great Philadelphia Wagon Road as it was also known.  It was the first major thoroughfare of the colonies and responsible for the migration of many who settled toward the south. The road provided relatively clear passage for the pioneers of the time from Philadelphia to Augusta. The original followed the traditional Appalachian Warriors’ Path the historic passage used by the eastern Indians to trade and visit war upon each other.

His first stop is at the crossroads of the Shippensburgh-Baltimore road, and the Pittsburgh-Philadelphia Road. At that juncture, Samuel Gettys’ tavern served the growing settlement.  The settlement became Gettysburg in 1786, taking the name of the Gettys family.

He stops the following night at the Golden Plough Tavern in the YorkTown settlement. The Golden Plough still stands in York Pennsylvania.  Perhaps it would be an interesting place to visit. Plough Tavern Facebook Page




The Good Old Days

John’s return after fighting in Dunmore’s War takes him across what is now West Virginia and into Maryland.  He stops in Frederick enjoying a respite on the journey that will eventually take him back to his home and family in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  During his stay, he and Isaac reunite with Fred Martin in his alehouse and partake of his excellent potted meat and cider.  They also run into Tillman Ingersoll, the current constable of the town.  During my few hours writing this chapter, I remain ensconced in the political climate of the time, and the concept of crime and punishment in Colonial America. Naturally, I draw comparisons to our own recent contentious political climate, the struggle between conservative and liberal views, and the desire to return to the halcyon days we think we had before.

The past months, due in great part to the lack of decorum promoted by the anonymity of social media, our country is lumped into two great opposing camps: Conservative and Liberal. Conservative includes Republican and Libertarian, and the Liberal includes the Green Party.   Each also drew in respective subsets: Conservatives drew the Alt-Right, White Supremacists, and Fundamental Christians; Liberals drew conservationists, Black Lives Matter, Socialists, and non-fundamentalist Christians.  Social media conversations, through the in-your-face style that has metastasized over time, tend to lump all Conservatives together and all Liberals together.  Posting of the now infamous “fake news” was, and still is a very real problem.  Conversations between “friends” were insulting, demeaning, and not in any way true to how those individuals would talk to each other in person.  Some moaned about political correctness and corruption. Others moaned about rights, and justice and chicanery. There was a theme that played underneath that was a tempting mantra. “Why can’t we go back to the good times, the times when we were more free, the times with less government interference in our lives, to the time when one did not have to worry about being politically correct? We wished to put God back in schools, we wanted everyone to go to church (if church equals Christian).

Let us turn the clock back!

How far? 1954? 1973? 1968? 1857? 1920? 1877-1950? 1863? 1770? 1776? 1976/2010?

Before 1965? There were no African Americans voting for Democrats – they couldn’t vote, remember? Before 1954, schools were segregated and not at all “separate but equal.”  Maybe we should go back prior to 1863. Then we wouldn’t have to provide any rights to African Americans.  Between 1877 and 1950, records find that upwards to 3,959 African Americans were lynched in a dozen Southern states.

How about prior to 1920? No women could vote. And prior to 1973, were restricted in decisions about their own bodies. We could go back to 1770 when a woman who had a child out of wedlock could be flogged, shamed, even hung.  Ducking chairs were used for half drowning scolds, quarrelsome married couples (tied back to back), slanderers, brawlers, “women of light carriage,” brewers of bad beer, and bakers of bad bread.

There were pillories, where people were stood tall with head and hands in a stock. Uncomfortable enough, but then ears were nailed to the wood at times-three nails in each ear, then the nails slit out. Other times ears were cropped, and some offenders pelted by anything at hand.  Some died because people threw rocks.

Each county in Maryland had branding irons which the applied liberally for various crimes.  B was for burglary and was burned into the right hand – a second offense earned a brand in the left. If it occurred on the Lord’s Day, the B was burned into the forehead. Other brands were SL for seditious libel burned on the cheeks, M was for manslaughter, T for thief, R for rogue, F for forgery.

For slanderers, gossips, and nags, there was a cage that covered the head and clamped the tongue to a flat piece of metal, sometimes with spikes.  Churches employed spies to inform on those who did not attend church so that they could be publicly humiliated, pilloried, fined, and whipped. All in love, of course.  The First Amendment protects against these abuses, but the vestiges remain.

God was never taken out of the schools. Students can still pray, read religious materials, and hold their own beliefs.  We have eliminated school sponsored religious activities. The public school is a state entity, the employees are agents of the state. Separation of church and state, that pesky provision of the First Amendment gives you permission to worship as you will, or won’t for that matter, without interference from the state, but does not give you permission to foist your beliefs or non-beliefs on others.  In Colonial times, every Virginia minister had to read the “Articles, Lawes, and Orders” every Sunday to the congregation. Failure to attend church twice each day was punishable by a loss of a day’s food. The second offense earned a flogging on the whipping post near the church. If you just couldn’t make it a third time, it was off with you to the colonial galleys for six months of rowing.  Not sure wishing for a theocracy is what we need.

When I sent a new batch of Student Teachers out into the world, I would gather them for an orientation meeting.  I started by saying, “l like to kick the sessions off with a prayer.” They would straighten, bow their heads, and become reverential.  I continued, telling them, “I like to pray to Buddha.”  Heads shot up, expressions changed, and they became uncomfortable.  “Now you understand the establishment clause,” I would finish.  As southern, very religious Christians, they saw immediately what it would be like to be a non-Christian while morning prayer intoned over the PA.

There have been many changes throughout our history concerning the rights and responsibilities that we each have.

Turn back the clock?   I would like to go back to the cowboy days of 1870’s.

Well, except for indoor plumbing and medicine….

Survived a War

Well, John seems to have survived the set-to that came to be known as Dunmore’s War.  Pretty interesting piece of history considered by some to be the first war of the Revolution.  At Point Pleasant, the Indian nations of the Ohio Valley – a confederation of Indian nations of Shawnee, Mingo, Miamis, Ottowas, Delewares, and Wyandots – led by the Shawnee chief Cornstalk, fielded well over 1000 warriors to confront approximately the same number of troops led by Colonel Andrew Lewis.

There are conflicting reports on the actions of Dunmore during the battle of Point Pleasant.  There is an interesting body of writings that either transversly or overtly accuse Dunmore of manipulating Lewis’s Southern Regiment for annihilation by Cornstalk, presumably as a measure to ensure the Indians’ cooperation in gaining territory and land for Dunmore.  There are other documents that avow Dunmore’s action as a brave and necessary maneuver to protect the frontier.

Dunmore was in an action to slice off the southwestern area of Pennsylvania and claim it for Virginia.  He gained control of Ft Pitt, and pushed through an existing border dispute in his favor. He also gained a good deal of land for his own holdings.  The observations in letters and articles run the gamut from reports of Lewis having to restrain his troops from killing Dunmore after the battle, to a syrupy description of Dunmore:

 As the head official of that army and as the presiding officer of that convention, there sat a royal Colonial Governor, Lord, Peer of Great Britain, who had sat for ten years in the House of Lords, and had now walked on foot from the Shenandoah Valley to the banks of the Scioto.

The battle is won, the draft of the treaty of Camp Charlotte secure in Dunmore’s hand, and now John is returning to his Pennsylvania home – battered, scarred, exhausted – to the life of husband, father, and doing whatever work there is to be done with Uncle Valentine.



Long Overdue Update

Today I am going to re-enter the blog world with this update.  I have not posted since February and it has been a very eventful, and not wholly comfortable few months.

In my last post, I explained that I was in a physical rehab facility after a fairly traumatic injury. I apologized for uploading my manuscript under the influence of pain meds and leaving a few things out.  That was corrected and my energy was engaged in healing.  Here is the story of the past year:

A friend from my high-school days some 50 years past, was attempting to sell her house in Sacramento CA.  She was running into problems with realtors, and with a beautiful deck that had become a liability. People seeing the house loved it, but it was in need of repair that they did not want to assume.  During a conversation, I said, “I can do slow sloppy work. How about if I come tear down the deck and build a smaller replacement?”  After many tries, she agreed to accept my help.  I figured it would take a few days to tear down, then another week to build the new structure, so I piled tools in my Mustang (try doing that sometime) and headed south.

The first day, we tore the walls out of a 30×8 ft shed that had seen better days.  The wood was dry rotted and, to my surprise, the shed contained a population of Black Widow spiders. We eliminated about a dozen or more of the little beggars.  On day two, we brought down the roof structure, that consisted of full framing, 2×4 construction, double OSB sheathing, and asphalt shingles – no little tin roof there.  I managed to drop the entire 30×8 structure on my shoulders and back, pinning me to a metal-and-wood kindling box about 2×3 and 2 ft high.  I was compressed in that 2 ft area, resulting in two breaks in my sternum and a very dislocated hip.  My friend was strong enough to grab that 800 lbs of roof and keep enough pressure off me so I could breathe. Without her strength, I would not have lived through it.

After about nine hours… OK, 15 minutes, someone finally came over to see what the yelling was about and called 911.  A trip to the Trauma Center, x-rays, a procedure to un-dislocate the hip, and I was trundled up to a room in the hospital.  My right leg was dead to the world, and we figured that I would need some time in a rehab center.  After three weeks, I could get around with a walker, but the sciatic nerve was damaged to the extent that I had no feeling or movement from the knee down. Without the muscle tension, I had drop foot, meaning as soon as I lifted my leg, the foot pointed straight down and I would trip on it.

After the three week stay, I migrated back to my friend’s house where we set up a hospital-type room in her living room.  Remember now, she is trying to sell the house! Great addition facing anyone who came to view the house.  I was able to walk with the walker a few yards at first, then I got so I could walk up to about 50 yards. I was not able to drive because the right foot was uncontrollable.

Skip ahead awhile: I gained strength and then found a very nifty device that allowed me to drive just using my left foot. I learned how to use that pretty quickly, felling much more human.  Then came the day when she closed on her house – finally!  Same day she was diagnosed with cancer.

The next week, she went through surgery, and two days later we drove to Oregon to see the condo she had put earnest money on, so she could see if it suited her needs.  Two weeks later, we moved her to Oregon.

By now it was February, and I had not been to my house in Idaho since November.  I suggested that we take a break from all the stress and go spend a few days or a week in the “mountain house” that sits at the base of the Clearwater mountains.  We arrived on a Saturday about 7:30 in the evening, opened the door, and water poured out.  The faucet behind the washing machine had split in two and shot water into the house for weeks – must have been that since my water bill was close to $3000.  We got the abatement team started, and the process of sucking out the water, and removing all the possessions began. While opening the walls to dry out, vermiculite oozed out of the wall – asbestos.

So, the house remains gutted, contractor is about ready to start renovations, and snow is in the forecast.  Still have the drop foot, unable to feel bottom of it, and prognosis is – another year… if I’m lucky.

I have not written much on the third John book. Concentration has been worthless and sitting at computer very uncomfortable.  BUT – I am back writing, cranking out 1000-4000 words per day. I am closing in on 20% of the rough draft completed. Things are looking up.

So, how has your year been?