Monday, April 29, 2013

Battersea Plantation: Petersburg, Virginia

Dragoon demonstration photo:  Carson[1]  Additional excellent
photography by Ms. Carson can be enjoyed at her webpage.
          From the 19th to the 21st of April, the Battersea Foundation and the 7th Virginia hosted the recreation of the 1781 Battle of Petersburg.  The historical battle pitted militia under Muhlenberg and Von Steuben against Crown forces under Phillips.  Although a loss for the Americans, the battle served as a delaying action.  Lafayette took advantage of the resulting British operational pause to fortify Richmond and prevent an assault on the capital of Virginia.

Battersea [2].
         Battersea was the home of John Banister,  and at various times during 1781 it begrudgingly played host to Cornwallis and Tarleton's Legion.

         Banister was a signer of the Articles of Confederation and owned the successful Banister Saw Mills, which was converted to gunpowder production, bakery and cooperage in support of the Commonwealth during the Revolution.

Christening the 2 pounder Battalion Gun:  "Elizabeth"

An embattled Virginia farmer [3]

Militia in open order do not stand for long... 
they don't stand long in locked formation either, for that matter.

A vedette from Tarleton's Legion.   The reason militia don't stand long.

      Having faced dragoons at Battersea, and without a bayonet, I can say that self preservation will win out when given the option to stand or run in the face of cavalry.   They look mighty big from the ground when your firelock is unloaded.  Militia interpret all orders as option, as a matter of course.
Crown Forces, note the bodies of artillery-men surrounding the gun to their rear.
      This was a great event, though small.  The battlefield sweeps in an arc around the lawn allowing not only an interesting scenario for the engaged forces (cannon and cavalry took part), but allows the spectators to veiw the entire action across about a quarter of a mile. 

      Several sutlers, joiners, acrobats and artist were on hand to support the Battersea Foundation.   Hats of to the Battersea Foundation and Mike Cecere (7th Virginia) for one of the most enjoyable events I have experienced in quite a while.

Camp of the Virginia Militia
             Please visit the Foundation's web page for more on the efforts to restore this beautiful palladian style country house.


[1] Carson, Stephanie (2013).  Retrived from

[2] ibid.

[3] ibid.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Chapbooks: For the middling and mechanicks

Newbury's Pretty Little Pocketbook (1744/1787).

               While searching for references on trap-ball, stool-ball, and rounders (predecessors of cricket and baseball) I came across a collection of chapbooks (a corruption of cheap books) at the Ball State Library. (LINK).  The chapbook spanned all sorts of topics from childrens' literature, religious and political tracts, and...the 18thc century version of the racy novel and was from 8 to 32 pages (one sheet or less).   It is well recorded that the Bible, Robinson Crusoe, Pilgrim's Progress and Foxe's Book of Martyrs were the most widely owned books in the Americas, but perhaps a trademan, soldier, or market hunter might have had one of these in his pocket.  Its very likely. 

University of Guelph, Scotland  (Link)

Nesbitt Chapbook Room, University of Pittsburgh (Link)