Houdon's Washington

The most valuable piece of marble in the United States is said to rest in the rotunda of the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, Va.

Jean-Antoine Houdon’s sculpture of George Washington, completed in the early 1790s, is insured for $50 million.

Carved from Carrara marble, it depicts a life-sized Washington. Standing 6-foot-2-1/2 inches, Washington’s right hand is on a cane while his left arm rests on a fasces, on which is slung his cape and sword. At Washington’s back is a plow.

He is shown wearing his military uniform; Washington wished to be depicted in contemporary attire, rather than that of antiquity popular in Neo-classical sculpture.

Chief Justice John Marshall, a contemporary of Washington, said of Houdon’s work, “Nothing in bronze or stone could be a more perfect image than this statue of the living Washington.”

The statue is so realistic that Washington’s uniform is shown missing a button toward the bottom of his waistcoat, just as his real-life uniform appeared at the time.

“Houdon’s statue alludes to the similarities between Washington and the ancient Roman General Cincinnatus who, when Rome no longer needed him, gave up his military power and returned to the simple life of a farmer,” according to the website of Virginia General Assembly. “The artist carefully balanced the military and civilian elements of Washington’s career: his sword is by his side, and he rests his left hand on a fasces (a bundle of rods, which was a Roman symbol of power), but he carries a civilian walking cane and stands next to a plow.

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Cedar Creek Methodist Church 006

In the woods 18 miles north of Columbia, SC, sits an aging church, reported to have a congregation of but a single individual. Thieves have stolen the copper tubing from its air conditioning unit, making services throughout a good part of the year quite uncomfortable.

Yet, Cedar Creek Methodist Church, metaphorically speaking, soldiers on.

The church dates back to 1743, when it began as a German Reformed branch of Presbyterianism called the German Protestant Church of Appii Forum, and was one of 15 German churches in interior South Carolina.

The congregation met in a 16-foot-by-20-foot structure constructed of logs with a dirt floor.

The congregation is said to have been converted to Methodism in a single day by famed Methodist Bishop Francis Asbury shortly after the end of the American Revolution.

Asbury was one of the first two bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the US. A native of England, he was appointed a traveling preacher by none other than John Wesley at age 22.

In 1771 Asbury volunteered to travel to America. When the American Revolution began in 1775, Asbury was the only Methodist minister to remain in America.

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tryon palace

Great Britain had notable penchant for installing pompous, condescending asses as governors of their colonial possessions, and Josiah Martin, the last royal governor of North Carolina and the man who finished his term while ruling from a ship off the NC coast, appears to have been no exception.

Born in Dublin in 1737, he spent his early years in England and Ireland before traveling with his tutor to the West Indies in 1752 at age 15.

However, Martin did not care for the tropical climate in Antigua, and within a short time had made his way to London to study law, according to NCpedia, an online encyclopedia devoted to North Carolina.

In London, Martin benefitted from the influence of his older half-brother, Samuel, a member of Parliament, to gain favorable positions, and dropped a career in law for the military.

The nepotism paid off when Lord Hillsborough, the secretary of the colonies, was shuffling leadership posts in 1770, according to NCpedia.

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John Jay Court

John Marshall became chief justice of the United States on this date in 1801. Marshall would sit on the high court until 1835, and his opinions laid the basis for American constitutional law and made the US Supreme Court a co-equal branch of government, along with the legislative and executive branches.

But what of Marshall’s predecessors?

The best known of the three men to lead the Supreme Court before Marshall was John Jay, who, among other things, helped write the Federalist Papers with Alexander Hamilton and James Madison.

During Jay’s nearly six years as chief justice (1789-1795), the high court ruled on just four cases, rather remarkable considering today the court receives petitions to hear some 7,000 cases annually.

Jay resigned as chief justice in June 1795 after being elected governor of New York. President George Washington named John Rutledge of South Carolina, an original high court associate justice who had resigned in 1791 to become chief justice of the South Carolina Court of Common Pleas and Sessions, to replace Jay.

Washington’s appointment took effect immediately as the US Senate was not in session.

However, Rutledge’s time on the court proved one of the shortest in the history of the nation. He was a vocal opponent to the Jay Treaty of 1794, which resolved issues remaining from the Revolutionary War but left many Americans unhappy.

His opposition cost him support in the administration and the senate. In addition, questions about his mental stability, driven at least partly by partisanship, were making the rounds.

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central park cannon

A cannon that sat in New York’s Central Park for nearly 150 years was discovered last week to have been loaded with a cannonball and black powder the entire time, it was announced last week.

Parks workers came upon a live cannonball, loaded in a Revolutionary War-era cannon currently being refurbished, New York television station CBS 2 reported. The artillery piece was one of two British cannon being stored at a Central Park shed near the 79th Street transverse, according to the station.

Preservation workers for the Central Park Conservancy called police last Friday after opening up the capped artillery piece for cleaning and finding the cannonball, cotton wadding and 28 ounces of black powder wrapped in wool, still capable of firing, according to the New York Times.

The loaded cannon was on public display from the 1860s until 1996, when the Central Park Conservancy decided to bring it indoors to protect it from vandalism. It was donated to the park around the time of the War Between the States.

The cannon, believed to be more than 220 years old, was apparently donated after it is believed to have been salvaged from the HMS Hussar, a British frigate that sank in the East River around 1780 during the American Revolution, according to the Associated Press.

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What may be the last remaining Revolutionary War flag in private hands will be put up for sale by a Philadelphia auction house this fall. 

Freeman’s Auctioneers and Appraisers will offer the battle flag of the 8th Virginia Regiment during its “Pennsylvania Sale,” scheduled for Nov. 14. 

The 8th Virginia was under the command of Peter Muhlenberg, known as “the Fighting Parson,” and saw significant action during the American Revolution.

The 41-inch-by-45-inch banner is expected to fetch between $400,000 and $600,000. 

Dating from the Revolutionary War, the “Grand Division” color is painted with a scrolling white ribbon and inscribed, “VIII Virg. Regt,” according to Freeman’s.

The silk flag has faded from its original salmon-red color to a golden hue as the flag descended in the Muhlenberg family line for more than 200 years, the auction house added.

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In August 1776 Continental troops fought off British forces at the Battle of Long Island in one of the first major actions of the American Revolution. 

More than 250 colonial soldiers were killed during the battle and their bodies dumped near the Gowanus Canal. To this day, their exact burial site remains a mystery. 

The Battle of Long Island, also known as the Battle of Brooklyn or the Battle of Brooklyn Heights, was significant for a number of reasons.

Fought on Aug. 27, 1776, it was the first major battle in the Revolutionary War following the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the largest battle of the entire conflict and the first battle in which an army of the United States engaged, having declared itself a nation only the month before.

Now, Brooklyn civic groups are leading a charge to discover the location of these patriots, according to the New York Post

“These are the men who allowed America to come into existence — it’s a question that needs to be resolved,” said Marlene Donnelly, a member of the Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus, which is working with archeologists to re-examine the region and urge action.

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A descendant of a chieftain’s son kidnapped from Africa and sold into slavery in Massachusetts more than 250 years ago will become the first black member inducted into a North Carolina chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution this weekend.

Chaz Moore, 30, is a descendant of Toby Gilmore, the son of a chieftain in coastal West Africa who was kidnapped at 16 and sold into slavery in Massachusetts. He gained his freedom after fighting for American independence against the British.

Moore, a native of Worcester, Mass., only recently learned he had an ancestor who had joined the Colonists’ side during the Revolutionary War.

“Growing up, I wasn’t even certain that African-Americans even fought in the Revolutionary War,” Moore said. “It’s not something that’s talked about. Then to say, ‘Well, yeah, they did, and you’re a direct descendant of one’ was unbelievable, humbling. I had to redefine patriotism for myself.”

Moore has been a Raleigh firefighter for about five years. On Saturday, he’ll become the first black inducted into the North Carolina chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution in a ceremony at the state Museum of History, according to The Associated Press.

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The oldest-known signature of James Monroe, a Revolutionary War furlough signed by the future president while he was serving at Valley Forge, has been acquired by the museum that honors the Virginia native.

Monroe issued the pass, acquired by the James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library in Fredericksburg, Va., to 2nd Lt. John Wallace Jr. of the 6th Pennsylvania Regiment on Feb. 23, 1778, as Gen. George Washington’s Continental Army suffered through the traumatic winter at Valley Forge.

Negotiations for the document, which had been in the hands of the same collector for decades, took several weeks, said Scott Harris, director of the James Monroe Museum.

The furlough is believed to be the earliest-known official document bearing Monroe’s signature, according to the museum.

Support from the 180-member Friends of the James Monroe Museum was crucial for the institution, which is administered by the University of Mary Washington, to be able to purchase the furlough from a nationally recognized documents dealer, he told the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star.

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The discovery of a Revolutionary War-era tinsmith shop in Williamsburg, Va., has been confirmed by archaeologists reconstructing a site in the historic Virginia locale.

The find at the James Anderson Armoury project has led Forrest Mars Jr. to provide an additional $500,000 for reconstruction and endowment of the tinsmith operation.

When complete, the Tin Shop will be the only working 18th-century tinsmith operation in the US, according to the Virginia Gazette. Historic trades artisans will demonstrate tinsmithing as practiced during the American Revolution once the site is restored.

“The work will complete the most important Revolutionary-era military site in Williamsburg, offering guests an entirely different perspective on the role of the capital during a critical moment in the history of the Commonwealth and the nation,” said James Horn, Colonial Williamsburg’s vice president for research and historical interpretation.

The tin produced at the site was actually tinplate, a thin sheet of iron coated with tin, according to the Colonial Williamsburg website.

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