First Virginia

Fort Frederick, the Maryland Rifle Regiment, and Joseph Neale

Fort Frederick, the Maryland Rifle Regiment, and Joseph Neale: A Personal Reflection

 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.

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The Regiment

The Regiment

by Joe Wagner

Often discussion with a visiting tourist in the reenactor camp will result in the question – what is the meaning of the term “regiment” as it is applied to the 18th century military?  The following information is taken from various reliable sources related to the hobby.  Keep in mind that as the war years went on, such military structures, particularly on the American side, were continually adjusted as to numbers and organization.

Like most everything else in colonial America, the regiment was adopted in form and purpose from our British masters.  The regiment is an administrative entity within the military bureaucracy – a book-keeping and management entity that oversees the primary building block of a standing army.  The fighting element of the regiment – the tactical maneuver unit – is the battalion. Luckily, just to keep it simple for us reenactors, during the Revolutionary War both an American and British regiment, as fielded, consisted of a single battalion.  So we can think of them as one and the same.

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The Unknown Revolutionary Soldier of Alexandria, Virginia

The Unknown Revolutionary Soldier of Alexandria

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.

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If You Ever go to Louisville

If You Ever go to Louisville

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.

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