Tag Archives: Revolutionary War


pulaski picCASIMIR PULASKI (1747-1779) -Obviously from my last name I’m Polish-American and therefore grew up immersed in the role played by Casimir Pulaski and Tadeusz Kosciuszko in America’s War of Independence. I’m often surprised by how comparatively unknown they are to the public at large, so in keeping with Balladeer’s Blog’s theme here’s a look at Pulaski. I’ll cover Kosciuszko separately.

Casimir Pulaski began fighting against tyranny when he was 21 years old. In 1768 he served in the Bar Uprising against Russian domination of Poland. The uprising was facing overwhelming odds and was deemed hopeless, but it became a minor cause celebre around the western world as the fierce insurgents kept the war going through four long years.

statue of pulaskiThe war never became as romanticized as the later Greek War of Independence from the Ottoman Turks, but the conflict drew attention to Russian totalitarianism and to the abilities of Polish officers like Casimir Pulaski. In fact, it took an invasion by Russian-allied Austria and Prussia to help Russia put down the rebellion in 1772.

Pulaski and other Polish soldiers from the Bar Uprising flirted with an alliance with Turkey against the Russians but when the Ottomans made peace with Russia in 1774 that possibility was eliminated. By December of 1776 Casimir was living in Paris where, the following spring, he was introduced to Benjamin Franklin, one of the American Commissioners in France.

pulaski statueFranklin was impressed with what he could learn about Pulaski and sent him on to America with a letter of introduction to George Washington. Franklin described the Pole as “an officer famous throughout Europe for his bravery and conduct in defence of the liberties of his country against the three great invading powers of Russia, Austria and Prussia … may be highly useful to our service.”

Casimir told Washington “I came here, where freedom is being defended, to serve it, and to live or die for it.” During the summer of 1777 the 30-year-old Pole was made Chief of Cavalry by Congress. Continue reading


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Luke RyanThe 4th of July is fast approaching, so Balladeer’s Blog will be squeezing in a few more holiday-themed posts up til then. In the past I’ve examined Revolutionary War privateers like John Haraden and Silas Talbot. This time around I’ll take a look at the controversial Luke Ryan.

Ryan was born in 1750 in Rush, Ireland and by the late 1770s he was an established smuggler. Captaining his ship the Friendship, Luke got commissioned in February of 1778 as a privateer for the British but would later switch to the American side.

The Friendship, with its 14 cannon and 60-man crew, sailed as a privateer vessel for King George III until April of 1779. Captain Ryan couldn’t resist pulling a side hustle against his ostensible employer England by smuggling some goods from Dunkirk, France to Rush, Ireland.

ryan's shipSome of Ryan’s crew didn’t like the way the spoils were divided from this extracurricular activity and informed the authorities about Luke’s smuggling offense. The Friendship was seized and hauled to Poolbeg and all crew members on board were arrested, then thrown into Black Dog Gaol. This happened on the night of April 11th into 12th. 

Luke was not among those men on board at the time, so he organized a raid to bust his men free from Black Dog. The raid succeeded, following which the freed men and their liberators went to Poolbeg where they stole aboard the impounded Friendship and overpowered the guards.

The recovered vessel sailed to Rush before daybreak and with 18 additional men signing on, it was on to Dunkirk. Captain Ryan and his crew had committed a hanging offense by taking back the Friendship, so they decided to switch sides and become privateers for England’s enemies. Continue reading


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Balladeer’s Blog’s 2017 post about Revolutionary War Privateer Captain Jonathan Haraden has proven to be a very popular item. Here’s another neglected American Privateer cut from the same cloth. And for the Haraden post click HERE

Silas TalbotCAPTAIN SILAS TALBOT – Even if he had never gone on to a career in Privateering, Talbot would still have been a fascinating figure from Revolutionary War history. On June 28th, 1775 Silas was commissioned as a Captain in a Rhode Island regiment and served in the military operations which ended with the British surrender of Boston in March of 1776.

During the New York campaign Talbot and a picked crew sailed a Fire Ship into the 64-gun British ship Asia. Under heavy fire from the Asia and with his own craft already burning, Silas was the last man overboard, suffering severe burns which left him temporarily blinded. Talbot was promoted to Major upon recovering and rejoining his unit. Continue reading

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Balladeer’s Blog as usual will be marking the USA’s upcoming birthday with a series of holiday-themed posts. Since we get overexposed to the Battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775 and the actual signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 I will instead stay true to my blog’s theme and focus on the action in between April 19th, 1775 and early July 1776.

May 10th, 1775 – The British Fort Ticonderoga in New York is seized in what would today be called a Special Forces raid by Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys, who beat other American forces to the valuable military prize. Allen and his men had the advantage of being an organized body under arms for quite a long time because they were originally formed to fight for the independence of what is now the state of Vermont (“Green Mountain”).

They had been an active guerilla force fighting for Vermont’s right to be an independent entity rather than part of the Hampshire Grants being fought over by New York and New Hampshire. Their secret headquarters was the Catamount Tavern which is why the University of Vermont’s sports teams are called the Catamounts. 

May 12th, 1775 – Crown Point, NY is taken by American forces in another early but forgotten action. 

May 16th – Benedict Arnold’s ultimately ill-fated invasion of Canada sees its first action as his forces besiege St John. Among Arnold’s troops are Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys and Daniel Morgan’s Kentucky Rifles, a unit that will see impressive action throughout the entire war, from Canada to the Deep South.   Continue reading


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American flagBalladeer’s Blog wishes a happy birthday to the USA! What happened in early July of 1776 certainly needs no rehashing so in keeping with my blog’s theme of addressing more out of the way subjects this post will examine various events that took place on other July 4ths throughout American history.

JULY 4TH, 1778 – George Rogers Clark led his rebel forces in taking the British stronghold of Kaskaskia, near the confluence of the Mississippi and Kaskaskia Rivers. Clark and his Rangers were on a mission for then-Virginia Governor Patrick Henry.

JULY 4TH, 1783 – The Massachusetts Supreme Court is finalizing its written decision holding that slavery has been illegal in the state since adoption of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights in 1780. Continue reading


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1776-musical-movieIt may be my fondness for mythology that makes me love to watch particular movies around particular holidays.  I say that because many of the well- known myths were recited on ancient holidays when their subject matter was relevant to those holidays. The stories helped accentuate the meaning of the special events and that’s the way I use various movies.

At Christmas I watch countless variations of A Christmas Carol, around Labor Day I watch Matewan and Eight Men Out, at Halloween, naturally, horror films like the original  Nightmare On Elm Street, Thanksgiving Eve I do Oliver! and for Frontierado (which is just a month away now) I do Silverado.

Since the actual 4th of July is loaded with activity I always show 1776 on the night before. It’s a great way to get in the mood for Independence Day. It’s a musical but with brilliant dialogue portions and the story involves the political maneuvering  surrounding the Original Thirteen Colonies at last announcing their independence from Great Britain, more than a year after  the shots fired at Lexington and Concord started the war.

The story is excellently conveyed and is moving, comical, invigorating and poignant all at once. As long as you know which parts of the tale are depicted accurately and which are complete b.s. it’s a terrific way to spend each 3rd of July evening. Continue reading


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american flag revo warThe 4th of July is coming up soon so why not do another seasonal post? The format of my recent look at some overlooked American victories from the Revolutionary War was pretty popular with readers, so in that same format here’s a look at some victories AND defeats from 1778.

george rogers clarkMAY 15th, 1778 – George Rogers Clark and his troops seize the British base at Cahokia on the Mississippi River near what is now East Saint Louis, IL. This officially kicks off Clark’s campaign to take control of America’s northwest frontier (of the time) away from the British. The campaign was begun at the behest of Virginia’s Governor Patrick Henry.

MAY 30th, 1778 – British-educated Mohawk Chief Joseph Brant leads a combined force of 300 Iroquois and British Loyalists against 60 militiamen and Continental Soldiers who were defending Cobleskill, NY. Brant’s army wins, resulting in the looting and burning of Cobleskill.

JULY 3rd, 1778 – At what became called the Wyoming Valley Massacre in Northern Pennsylvania, British Loyalist Colonel John Butler leads 574 combined British Loyalists and Mohawk Indians against 360 Americans under Colonel Zebulon Butler. The Americans lose and the British Loyalists allow the Mohawks to torture to death surviving Americans who could not avoid capture. Roughly 340 of the original 360 men were killed, either in battle or by slow torture.   

JULY 4th, 1778 – George Rogers Clark and his American army attack and capture the British post at Kaskaskia, IL at the confluence of the Kaskaskia and Mississippi Rivers. Continue reading


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american rebelsWith the 4th of July holiday fast approaching, here’s another seasonal post from Balladeer’s Blog. Since too many documentaries and books on the Revolutionary War focus on what seems like the same handful of battles I like focusing on a lot of the overlooked military clashes. This is another go-round.

NOVEMBER 19th, 1775 – Days earlier, British Loyalists in South Carolina seized large stores of gunpowder from the American Rebel forces. Starting a campaign to recover the gunpowder, roughly 560 men under Andrew Williamson established a fort at Savage’s Old Fields, near Ninety-Six, SC. The fort was surrounded by 1,900 British Loyalists under Patrick Cuningham and Joseph Robinson. A siege began.

NOVEMBER 21st, 1775 – After two days of fighting, the Loyalists agreed to withdraw from the area. The action of the 19th to 21st is known as the Siege of Savage’s Old Field or the First Siege of Ninety-Six.   

DECEMBER 22nd, 1775 – A combined force of 1,300 South Carolina and North Carolina troops attacked over 500 British Loyalists at the Reedy River in the Battle of Great Cane Brake. The American Rebels won and, among other spoils, recovered the stolen gunpowder before the Loyalists could pass it along to Great Britain’s Cherokee allies.   Continue reading


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crossed sabresWith the Fourth of July holiday rapidly approaching here is another seasonal post. Previously, Balladeer’s Blog has looked at the swashbuckling actions of some American privateers from the Revolutionary War. This time here’s a look at one of the most successful months for our privateers – September of 1778.

crossed swords picSEPTEMBER 1st-5th – The American privateer ship the Active seized multiple prizes and took aboard several British Prisoners of War. Unfortunately, the Captain of the Active had stretched his crew too thin. The captive Brits gleaned the vulnerable position of their captors and rose up to seize control of the ship and were determined to link up with the first British vessel they could find to help take in the seized U.S. ship and consummate their freedom.

SEPTEMBER 6th – The 10-cannon brig the Gerard, an American privateer, under Pennsylvania’s J. Josiah, came upon the seized Active and, after a long chase, compelled the ship to surrender. Captain Josiah and his men learned they had just saved the American privateer crew and had recaptured the British POWs. The Gerard escorted the Active back to its Philadelphia port in case the POWs grew frisky again.

SEPTEMBER 17th – The 18-cannon privateer ship Vengeance, under one Captain Newman of Massachusetts, chased the British packet ship Harriet (16 cannon) for at least 6 hours before engaging it in battle. The Americans won and the Harriet surrendered.        Continue reading


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truro-massTwo thousand fishermen from Cape Cod had gone off to enlist in the Continental Army, and in their absence the British had repeatedly landed raiding parties to harass the citizens.

Every man, woman and child on the Cape hated the soldiers and sailors of King George and would do anything to work them harm. When the Somerset was wrecked off Truro in 1778 the crew were helped ashore, but they were immediately marched to prison.

It was November – the night before Thanksgiving Day in fact – and ugly weather caused a British three-decker warship to yaw wildly and drift toward land with a broken tiller. No warning signal was raised on the bluffs; not a hand was stirred to rescue. The New Englanders who saw the accident watched with sullen satisfaction.

Ezekiel and Josiah Breeze – father and son – stood at the door of their cottage and watched the warship’s peril until three lights twinkling faintly through the gray of driving snow were all that showed where the enemy lay, straining at her cables and tossing on a wrathful sea.

They stood long in silence, but at last the boy Josiah said “I’m going to help the ship.”

“If you stir from here to help King George’s men, you’re no son of mine,” said Ezekiel. Continue reading


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