Category Archives: US History

Dispatches from Off the Deaton Path: Winning the American Revolution

On the anniversary of the American victory at Yorktown, Stan looks back at how the event unfolded and the role of some notable Georgians that led to the British surrender at Yorktown 241 years ago, resulting ultimately in American independence.

 

Dispatches from Off the Deaton Path: Casimir Pulaski

On the 243rd anniversary of the Siege of Savannah, Dr. Deaton looks at Casimir Pulaski’s role in the American Revolution and legends and uncertainties over Pulaski’s death and remains.

The Freshest Advices

Hello again. It’s been 8 months since I last spoke to you directly in this space, and a lot has happened since then. A lot. War in Ukraine. A landmark court case. Historic Congressional committee hearings. Divisive legislation in state houses across the country. FBI searches. Monkey pox. The University of Georgia won the College Football National Championship. The Major League Baseball season began. Our beloved Braves are winning though still underperforming. Better Call Saul is ending. I discovered honest-to-goodness Keto bread at the Red and White.

Much has also happened at the Georgia Historical Society, and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading on this blog about some of the great scholars who have been visiting our newly renovated and expanded Research Center and the interesting projects they’re working on. We’ll continue to do that from time to time.

There’s a lot to catch up on regarding history in the public arena, and I hope to do that in this space very soon. To say that we live in interesting times would be an understatement.

For now, besides re-introducing myself here, I would be remiss if I didn’t note two recent deaths, one quite well known, the other less so but equally deserving.

Just this week, on August 7, we lost David McCullough, one of our very finest public historians, whose work in print and on television touched millions over the last 50 years. The large pile of books that he click-clacked out of his 1940 Royal manual typewriter in his small writing shed on Martha’s Vineyard were all deeply researched, beautifully written, and magisterial in scope. Two won Pulitzer Prizes. Every word was written for the public, not other scholars, and few practitioners of Clio’s craft did it as well as he. He proudly carried on the tradition of William Prescott, Francis Parkman, George Bancroft, Esther Forbes, Margaret Leech, Allan Nevins, and Bruce Catton. He will be sorely missed.

On July 29 Fred Mingledorff died, one of the last surviving combat veterans of World War II living here in Savannah (or anywhere else, for that matter). Three years ago, on the 75th anniversary of the invasion of Guam, in which he fought, I had the privilege of interviewing him for a podcast. He shared his vivid memories and nightmares about The War and his hopes and fears for the future. He had earlier donated to the Georgia Historical Society many of the artifacts he brought home as a US Marine from the Pacific, now preserved for educating future generations . It was honor to know this gentle, kind man, beloved by his family, friends, and the community that he served so long and so well. Fred Mingledorff, Marine Corps veteran, one of our last living links to the generation that saved the world in the darkest period of history, lived to be 98. Well done, sir. Semper Fi.

My long disappearance from this space may have prompted you to fear or hope that I had gone to seed somewhere, never to return, moldering blissfully away glass in hand, whiskey-sodden in a malaria-infested backwater or mountain-top aerie. No such luck for you. As this blog has attested over the previous months, work here at GHS has been busy, and summer hiatus is now over. Long-suffering readers will once again be afflicted with blogs, podcasts, videos, book and movie reviews, articles about history and sports, food, or whatever else is on my mind.

Stay tuned and stay safe, and as always, thank you for reading.

Visiting Scholars: Dr. J.E. Morgan

Off the Deaton Path would like to introduce our readers to some of the scholars researching in the Georgia Historical Society’s newly expanded and renovated Research Center. This week we’ll spotlight Dr. J.E. Morgan, an NEH-ARP Postdoctoral Fellow at the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture in Williamsburg, Virginia, and, beginning this fall, a Visiting Assistant Professor at Emory University.

Tell Us About Yourself: I’m originally from Georgia and completed a B.A. at Georgia State, an M.A. in English at the University of Missouri, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in history at Emory. This spring, I wrapped up a year of teaching at the University of Florida as a Visiting Assistant Professor, and I’m currently an NEH-ARP Postdoctoral Fellow at the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture in Williamsburg, Virginia. At Emory and UF, I’ve taught courses on U.S. history from the colonial period to Reconstruction; histories of race and gender history in the Atlantic World and Revolutionary era; and, last spring, an undergraduate research seminar on the archive of slavery. In the fall, I will return to Emory as a Visiting Assistant Professor and am looking forward to teaching a course on the era of the American Revolution and another on women’s history in the colonial era through 1800.

Tell Us About Your Current Project: Currently, I’m working on my manuscript, entitled American Concubines: Gender, Race, Law, and Power. This project examines the shaping of southern society and culture around a practice that has long been called “concubinage.” This term shows up in manuscripts and print materials from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, in historiographical sources, and in many other sources on slavery in the Atlantic world. Because this term appears in so many contexts and can be ambiguous in terms of its usage, an important part of my project is investigating the definitions of “concubinage.” I also examine the development of concubinage as a practice stemming from and reinforcing the power imbalance that informed sexual relations between White men and enslaved women in British slave societies. Many sources reveal that enslaved women often contested this imbalance in various ways and that it was occasionally upset by their actions. Conversely, enslavers used instances of contestation to strengthen their power over enslaved people and impose more stringent measures to ensure that enslaved women and their children by White men would be excluded from protections granted to White women and their children.

What Are you Finding at GHS? I’ve been researching at GHS since beginning my doctoral work, and it has been great to return year after year to work in the archive. During this time, I have collected information from documents connecting the development of slavery in Georgia to slavery in earlier British colonies. These include legal and state documents relating to slavery in early Georgia and family papers that include personal letters, diaries, and financial records that trace the development of a system of slavery in Georgia that drew upon plantation slavery in Carolina and the British Caribbean. Also valuable in many of these collections are correspondence and other materials that reveal specific cultural attitudes of eighteenth-century British Caribbean colonies regarding race and gender that influenced the development of laws regarding slavery in early Georgia. Some of these collections include Georgia and South Carolina Court Declarations; judicial records of various Georgia counties just after the American Revolution; and individual and family papers such as the Stanford Brown Collection (GHS 2564); the Joseph Vallence Bevan Papers (GHS 0071); the Couper and Wylly family papers (GHS 1872), the Jones family papers (GHS 0440), and the Sheftall family collection (GHS 1414).

Together, these kinds of sources can show us how laws were being written and interpreted in ways that both reflected and shaped the culture of early Georgia. They reveal the development of a system of slavery that drew upon those of Jamaica, Barbados, and Carolina. They also complicate understandings of how enslaved women in particular navigated their precarious positions within such brutal systems where security and safety were as elusive as freedom itself.

I’m grateful to everyone at the Research Center during my time there and look forward to future research trips!

Visiting Scholars: Dr. Carl Herzog

Off the Deaton Path would like to introduce our readers to some of the scholars researching in the Georgia Historical Society’s newly expanded and renovated Research Center. This week we’ll spotlight Dr. Carl Herzog, Public Historian at the USS Constitution Museum in Boston, Massachusetts.

Tell Us About Yourself: I came to a career in history a little later in life, so my career path has been a bit different. I’m originally from South Florida, did my undergraduate in journalism at the University of Florida, and started life as a newspaper reporter. Then I ran away to sea on a tall ship. I ended up spending a long career working as an instructor and deck officer on traditional sailing ships conducting college semesters-at-sea and other educational programs. I taught traditional seamanship, celestial navigation, and maritime history. I really enjoyed the history aspects of that work and eventually decided to go back to school. I earned a master’s from the University of Rhode Island and a doctorate from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. For the last five years, I’ve been the public historian for the USS Constitution Museum in Boston, a position that combines a lot of my previous sailing-ship knowledge and skills with public history and historical research.

Tell Us About Your Current Project: USS Constitution’s framing is made of southern live oak timbers that originally came from St. Simons Island. To supplement the workforce of New England timbermen, the Navy initially hired enslaved people from the plantation owners whose property the trees were coming from. So, some of the timbers that still make up the ship today were made possible by enslaved people. One of the missions of the USS Constitution Museum is using the ship as a lens to explore broader topics of maritime history and the American experience. We wanted to explore this story in more detail, learning what life on the coastal islands was like for enslaved people at the time, and learn more about the property owners who provided this enslaved labor as well as the trees to the fledgling U.S. Navy. A grant from the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities funded my travel to come to Savannah and a couple other archives as well as visiting the St. Simons properties where the timber was cut. The immediate result of this round of research will be a report that helps inform our future programming and exhibits on this topic.

What Are you Finding at GHS? GHS is home to a diverse range of collections and assets that have been profoundly helpful with this work. The collections of St Simons property owners, Leake, Hamilton, and Couper have all provided insight into the nature of life during a pivotal time of transition on St Simons Island. The property owners were eager to clear live oaks off their land in order to begin planting sea island cotton, a cash crop that quickly came to dominate the island and led to a boom in its enslaved population for the first half of the 19th century. The plantation journal of Richard Leake (MS 0485), in particular, helped me confirm his personal engagement with the Navy captains sent to Georgia to oversee the timber work. In addition, a number of early secondary sources and GHS’s collections of research papers of those authors have provided context and details on others involved in the Navy’s work. It also provided an interesting window into the growth of local pride and legends surrounding the region’s role in contributing to the construction of Constitution. As a result, my work at GHS has been able to greatly inform my visits to St Simons as well as initiating new threads of ongoing research at the National Archives.