Finding Freedom: London - Birch Pass
In the terms of the surrender to the Americans, the British were to return all captured property—including human property. The British did not adhere to this stipulation, and instead evacuated thousands of free and formerly enslaved men and women to Canada. Birch Passes, named for British Brigadier General Samuel Birch, were given to those who could prove they sought the protection of the British forces during the war. The passes, such as this example, guaranteed a place on a departing ship. London may have received one. Cato Rammsay, an enslaved man who escaped from Norfolk, Virginia, received this Birch Pass that allowed him to go to Nova Scotia as a free person.
Passport for Cato Ramsay to emigrate to Nova Scotia, 21 April 1783; NSA, Gideon White fonds, MG 1 vol. 948 no. 196
Among His Troops: Discovery
The Museum of the American Revolution’s newly discovered watercolor of the encampment at Verplanck’s Point is one of two known panoramic views of the Continental Army in camp, both of which army engineer Captain Pierre Charles L’Enfant created in 1782. When the Museum’s curators first saw the watercolor of Verplanck’s Point for sale at auction, they immediately saw similarities to L’Enfant’s panorama of West Point owned by the Library of Congress. An investigation of other original sources—diaries, letters, army orders, and maps—helped date both scenes to a narrow time period of three months, August through October 1782. Further study of the Verplanck’s Point watercolor’s provenance and a small ink inscription on the back confirmed that L’Enfant painted it during the Revolutionary War. The Museum’s discovery provides modern audiences with a glimpse into the highest professional moment of the Continental Army, the artistry of Pierre Charles L’Enfant, and a new eyewitness view of George Washington’s war tent.
When Women Lost the Vote: A Revolutionary Story: Discovering America’s First Women Voters, 1800 - 1807
In 2018 the Museum of the American Revolution discovered polling records that document for the first time a generation of women voters in early New Jersey. To date, we have discovered 163 women voters on nine poll lists who cast ballots across the state from 1800 to 1807. These lists introduce new stories of the first women voters in the United States – stories of the forgotten women who pioneered the vote.
The poll lists suggest women’s political significance and participation in local, state, and federal elections in early New Jersey. This first in-depth analysis of these nine poll lists from New Jersey refutes any presumption that women in the Early Republic were only passive witnesses and bystanders of the political processes that shaped the new nation.
Not only has the Museum discovered evidence of women voters in early New Jersey, we have also identified the names of at least four free Black male voters on one of the poll lists. While we have yet to confirm the identity of any free Black women voters, the presence of both women and free Black voters on these poll lists reveals the inclusive nature of the electoral system in New Jersey in the first few decades following American independence.
When Women Lost the Vote: A Revolutionary Story: Anne Cowperthwaite
Finding Freedom: Andrew - Revolutionary War Pension Pay Certificate
Andrew Ferguson received veteran’s pension payments from the United States Government totaling $20 each year. Like many of his fellow veterans, Ferguson struggled with poverty as an elderly man. His pension payments helped him pay for food, clothing, and a place to live. Andrew passed away in 1855 in Indiana at about the age of 90.
National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC
When Women Lost the Vote: A Revolutionary Story: Amy Walker Cheston
Among His Troops: Washington’s Leadership
The stakes were never higher than in 1782. Washington designed the camp at Verplanck’s Point to convince the French to support a continued war effort. The Continental Congress had no power to tax and could not pay the army, but the French had good silver coin. Anger over the lack of money simmered among the American troops. Enlisted soldiers were owed back pay, and in 1779 Congress promised Continental Army officers lifetime pensions, but now declared those payments were up to the states. If someone did not figure out how to pay the soldiers, there might be a rebellion against the Revolution. Though peace negotiations were underway in Paris, the British could back out of them. The United States might need the French Navy to drive the British out of New York City. Washington needed to put on a good show for the French, and he did. The picturesque encampment impressed the allies. One eyewitness said the scene “was truly a subject worthy of the pencil of the first artist.”
When Women Lost the Vote: A Revolutionary Story: Elizabeth Louderback
Finding Freedom: Jack - Record from Trial of “Jack a Negro Man Slave”
On April 13, 1781, Jack faced charges of theft, rebellion, and attempted murder at the Botetourt County courthouse in Fincastle, Virginia. Like all enslaved people in Virginia, Jack was denied a jury trial. Instead, he was found guilty and sentenced to death by a group of justices. This written record of his case is the earliest known documentation of Jack’s activity during the Revolutionary War.
Court Order Book, Vol. 5a (pp.100-101), Botetourt County Courthouse, Virginia