by Joe Wagner
The town of Niagara on the Lake, in Canada, just across the Niagara River from Fort Niagara (NOTL for short) was a hotbed of English loyalist sentiments (it was home to Col. John “Beast” Butler and Col. John Graves Simcoe), and finding myself there as part of a First Virginia Regiment event, I visited several museums in the town (including Butler Barracks and Fort George) which highlighted British Revolutionary War experiences. A third museum that might have been missed by many was the Niagara Historical Museum. This is the local town historical center, and in it, I found a piece of very interesting history – with ties to another reenactment held in recent years, that of Oriskany, NY.
I went to the museum because I saw an ad for a War of 1812 military display, which would last only through the summer. Sure enough, they had half-dozen original British uniforms and some weapons from the War. But on the way to the 1812 room, I passed another uniform display that brought me to a stop. It was not 1812, but clearly (to a reenactor anyway) a uniform coat from the Rev War period.
Many members of the Regiment, interested in the clothing and equipment of our period, are always looking for original garments that provide a glimpse into the styles, materials and sewing techniques of the Revolutionary period that we try to emulate. As most of us know, there are not many original garments around to look at or examine. You can imagine my great surprise when I saw this coat in absolutely wonderful condition.
By Joe Wagner
There are three stories to be told here I suppose. It started out to be a history of Fort Frederick Maryland during its early days in the French & Indian War. But this historic site ties in closely with two other subjects worthy of being passed along – the Maryland Rifle Regiment and my great (five times) grandfather Joseph Neale.
The reenacting community and 18th century aficionados generally have been going to Ft. Frederick for decades. Over the years, the activities held there have changed but it is the perfect venue for doing so many things. They hold an annual 18th century trade fair and for many years they have allowed reenactors to stay in their recreated barracks and conduct live fire on their ranges, including cannon. However, an interest in the history of the Fort presents some problems. The Maryland Park Rangers will tell you parts of the story, and there are things to learn in the Welcome Center and from the Civilian Conservation Corps museum located in front of the Fort. But if you are looking for a comprehensive narrative that begins in 1755, when construction began, and carries through at least the Revolutionary War, you need to do a lot of literary digging. There is no complete narrative that I am aware of, but research in the Maryland Archives Online, among other sources, has produced a general outline of the Fort Frederick story for its first 25 years.
The second and third stories to be told here concern the fact that Fort Frederick was once home to the Maryland & Virginia Rifle Regiment, better known in its later incarnation as the Maryland Rifle Corps., and the fact that my 5th generation grandfather, Joseph Neale, was recruited into that unit while it was based at the Fort in 1778.
by Joe Wagner
The following article is based on information contained in the November 6, 1998, issue of the Pentagon newspaper, the “Pentagram”, written by James Darcy.
Each February, before participating in Alexandria’s Washington Birthday parade, the members of the recreated First Virginia Regiment gather at the Presbyterian Meeting House on South Fairfax Street to pay honor to the Revolutionary War Unknown Soldier buried there. We have given this individual a special role in our annual activities, as a focal point for our remembrances of the people we try to represent. Here is what we really know about this individual, what might be surmised, and how we came to honor him in this place.
The Presbyterian Meeting House in the 300 block of South Fairfax St. opened in 1775, and through the years, its attendant graveyard expanded over an area larger than the current confines directly behind the building. Early in the 19th century, a Catholic Church, St. Mary’s, was built on the other side of the block, backing up to the Presbyterian property, and in 1826, the Catholic Church expanded their building towards the rear, into the grounds of the Presbyterian cemetery. The excavation for the Catholic Church foundation uncovered what is described in contemporary records as “an old ammunition box”, in which were found human remains, along with buttons of a Continental Army uniform.
By Joe Wagner
Behind a bustling shopping mall on the east side of Louisville, Kentucky, right next to the parking lot, is an old family cemetery. Surrounded by a stone wall, it contains a few dozen graves – the last resting place of the family who once owned the land on which the shopping center sits. The shopping center is named Oxmoor Mall, and the land it sits on is part of the original Oxmoor plantation – the ancestral home of the Bullitt family.
The founder of Oxmoor in 1785 was young Alexander Scott Bullitt, of Prince William County, Virginia. Alexander’s new 15 year old wife was Priscilla, whose maiden name was Christian. She was the eldest daughter of William Christian, of Augusta County Virginia, who had given her and her new husband the land from which Oxmoor would emerge. William Christian had come to Louisville, then a part of western Virginia, about 1784 to settle on lands he obtained in Kentucky after many years of military and political service, both to his state and to his brother-in-law, a gentleman by the name of Patrick Henry.
William Christian’s links to colonial Virginia and its military history are many and interesting, but for purposes of this story, you should know that if you do drive around to the back of Oxmoor Mall on the Shelbyville Road just east of Louisville, you’ll have the opportunity to pause at the gravesite of Colonel William Christian, the first Executive Officer and second Commander of the First Virginia Regiment of the Continental Line.