--Detail from 'View from
Misses Masters School' by J. C. Cropsey, c.1890
The farther backward you can look,
the farther forward you are likely to see.
Winston S. Churchill
History is philosophy, teaching by examples. Thucydides
I view it as a noble undertaking to rescue from oblivion those who deserve to be eternally remembered. Pliny
BASIC PRINCIPLE: Historical conclusions must be based on historical
evidence and primary source documentation.
7 POWER POINT SLIDES: THE
These 7 Power Point slides (in pdf format) highlight the primary sources and the statements of David Hackett Fischer and Thomas Fleming.
1. What information about Dobbs Ferry’s role on the Washington-Rochambeau National Historic Trail should be included in National Park Service educational material and on National Park Service maps?
a. Dobbs Ferry was the starting point, on Sunday, Aug 19, 1781, of Washington's march from New York to Virginia; the American army was ‘paraded’ (assembled) for the march at the main intersection of Dobbs Ferry before setting out as a unified body for Virginia, with Col. Alexander’s Scammel’s light infantry in the van; and because
b. Dobbs Ferry and neighboring localities were the sites of the 1781 summer encampment of the allied American and French armies where the winning strategy for the Revolutionary War was adopted; and because
c. Elite military units were deployed in Dobbs Ferry during the 45 days of the encampment (Col. Alexander Scammel's light infantry, a special forces unit, and Col. Elisha Sheldon's dragoons, the first cavalry of the United States); and because
d. A large redoubt, overlooking the Hudson River, was constructed at Dobbs Ferry by Sheldon's troops, and remnants of that redoubt are still in evidence today; and because
e. Dobbs Ferry received cannon fire from British ships on the Hudson River on at least three occasions during the summer encampment of 1781, and fire was returned by the troops in the redoubt, causing considerable damage on one occasion to the HMS Savage, a British ship-of war; the damage to the HMS Savage allowed an American prisoner of war on board to escape; and because
f. General Washington put the name, "Dobbs Ferry" or "Dobbs's Ferry" or "near Dobbs Ferry" at the top of more than 100 letters which he sent from the encampment, indicating that these were his preferred names for the location of the encampment.
2. What historic resources in Dobbs Ferry relate to the Washington-Rochambeau National Historic Trail?
Col. Alexander Scammel's light infantry, a special forces unit, was camped on “Echo Hills,” in the eastern part of Dobbs Ferry, the location of Children’s Village today.
Col. Elisha Sheldon's dragoons, the first cavalry of the United States, was camped (i) on Villard Hill in the western part of Dobbs Ferry, (ii) at the Dobbs Ferry Redoubt on the heights overlooking the Hudson, and (iii) just north of the main intersection of Dobbs Ferry (present-day Ashford Avenue-Broadway intersection).
b. The remnants of the redoubt at Dobbs Ferry constitute an important historic resource. The redoubt was built at the direction of General Washington in the early days of the summer encampment of 1781. French military engineer, Louis Lebègue Duportail, supervised the construction of the redoubt.
Historic road segments
After the units were paraded for the march, Dr. James Thacher** indicates that the men expected to be ordered to turn left and march south along Broadway in the direction of King’s Bridge (Manhattan) and were surprised by the orders they actually received, to turn right and march north along Broadway, to the Hudson River crossing at “King’s ferry” (present-day Verplanck).
*A ‘parade’, in the sense of assemblage, occurred before any major movement of the army.
Please see American Revolution: the decision which won the war--David Hackett Fischer (starting from 5:20 on video)
d. Historic landscape
Please see American Revolution: the decision which won the war--David Hackett Fischer (starting from 1:20 on video)
ANSWER: Yes, and the French contribution, which was indispensable to victory, should be emphasized.
4. Did the French army also march from Dobbs Ferry?
ANSWER: No. The starting point of the march for the French army was a few miles east of Dobbs Ferry.
5. What about neighboring localities, such as Ardsley, Hartsdale, Edgemont and
ANSWER: They were very important. We fully support historically accurate National Park Service recognition for those communities also. Most units of the French army were encamped in the Hartsdale-Edgemont area. One French unit, however, the elite Legion de Lauzun, was encamped in
The building that served as
U. S. Senate testimony
given by Linda Borkow, spokesperson for the Dobbs Ferry Historical Society, before the Subcommittee on National Parks, April 26, 2007
Senate testimony information packet, including maps, Washington's correspondence from "Head Quarters Dobbs's Ferry" and the 14-page document of the Dobbs Ferry Historical Society (The Dobbs Ferry Historical Society 14-page document was submitted to the National Park Service on Dec 2, 2006, during the "public comment period.") pdf format: 9,979KB
We are very appreciative that two of the most renowned historians in the United States, David Hackett Fischer, University Professor and Warren Professor of History at Brandeis University, and Thomas Fleming, past President of the Society of American Historians (2007-2008), have taken the time to look through our historical material and have kindly expressed a willingness to be of assistance.
Statement of support written by Thomas Fleming
Mr. Fleming is a distinguished author, one of the most highly regarded historians in the United States and President of the Society of American Historians. On Jan 6, 2008, Mr. Fleming e-mailed this letter to 15 staff professionals in the offices of Senators and Congressmen involved with the W-R National Historic Trail legislation:
The Dobbs Ferry Historical Society submitted a 14 page comment to the NPS on December 2, 2006, with ample evidence that the town was the actual starting point for the march. My investigation confirms the validity of their maps and citations. This evidence was also submitted to the Senate committee overseeing the matter, the Subcommittee on National Parks. This bill, S 686, has been reported out of committee. The House bill, HR 1286, is still under consideration by the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands.
To give you just one piece of this voluminous evidence, General Washington placed the name “Dobbs Ferry” or “near Dobbs Ferry” on no less than 100 letters he sent from his encampment, before the march began.
Dr. Fischer, a
distinguished scholar who has written acclaimed books about the
Revolutionary War, and who won the Pulitzer Prize for his 2003 work,
advised me to emphasize the convergence of Continental troop
movements in Dobbs Ferry on
* Historian Benson Bobrick
* Historian Benson Bobrick