Details for History Buffs
I am a lifelong history buff, and do not claim to be an historian. However, I am a veteran researcher and former newspaper editor with a master’s degree from a top-ranked journalism school, the University of Missouri-Columbia, and I used those skills to create this site. I tried to stick to secondary Web, book, academic and periodical sources. But I often had to dive into primary sources when the others did not provide sufficient details, or contradicted each other.
Some types of evidence are more reliable than others, of course. I followed a strict hierarchy of evidence to mitigate the effects of memory loss and cognitive bias among veterans and their storytellers, including mine. In other words, if two sources differed, I went with the higher-ranked type:
- Wartime documents (orders, letters, newspapers) and modern archaeological studies.
- Veteran’s memoirs and pension applications.
- Modern academic studies, local historians, etc., who cite the above.
- Secondhand reports from the 19th-Century based on named eyewitnesses (e.g., works like Caruthers’ shown on this page).
- Expert consensus regarding typical military and lifestyle practices of the day.
- Local oral traditions, which often (but not always) proved wrong.
As a former reporter, I tried to find at least two, and preferably three independent sources from types 1 through 3 before stating something as a fact. Unfortunately, many type 3 and 4 sources draw from the same one or two older sources, and thus were not deemed “independent.” Where I could not corroborate a fact, I footnote the single source and often use qualifying language like “probably” or “tradition claims…” The sources for a particular “Sight” are listed on its page, with links provided to websites so you can get more details.
For the shorter “Stop” pages, I sometimes do not list sources because the lists would be highly repetitive! Many started with the appropriate one of two guidebooks described below (Barefoot or Rozema), with details added from NCpedia, the NC Historical Marker Program, and sources already listed for relevant Sights. (For example, sources for the Battle of Guilford Court House contributed to Stops at campsites of the two armies.) Again I footnote single sources.
There are also cases where I made a judgment call that experts might question, often using my knowledge of military strategy and tactics. For sake of narrative flow, I do not always point that out, but again I use qualifiers like “likely.” Where I realize my conclusion may be controversial, I footnote both my evidence and my reasoning.
If you question something I conclude, I refer you to the original sources to make your own decision! I also welcome suggested changes, but please cite evidence of types 1–3 above. I am happy to be proven wrong, because that’s the only way to learn something!
I am particularly indebted to J.D. Lewis of South Carolina. His Carolana site—the first name applied to this region by the English—seems like a similar passion project and was my starting place for most Sights. Though he does not footnote, and unfortunately long-quotes without attribution in many places, he also compiled several magnificent volumes of eyewitness accounts based on memoirs and pension applications by Revolutionary War veterans. His original work usually proved accurate in substance when compared against other evidence.
A book titled Touring North Carolina’s Revolutionary War Sites was the most recent attempt at a tour guide, published in 1998. Author Daniel Barefoot’s effort is impressive and comprehensive, though aimed at more breadth than depth and somewhat accepting of questionable stories. It filled in gaps in my knowledge both of the war here in general and of specific events, and was invaluable in specifying exact locations. Though out of print, many used copies remain available online as of this writing. I strongly recommend it for those inspired by this site to explore in greater detail, especially people more interested in the personalities of the war or in visiting home- and gravesites. AmRevNC only covers those when convenient to tour routes.
All of that description is true of a similar book from the same publisher used for the Cherokee Tour sights, 2007’s Footsteps of the Cherokees by Vicki Rozema.
Also critical was an astonishing interactive map, American Revolution Sites, Events, and Troop Movements. I am proud to say the creator is my authoritative first cousin, William Anderson of Charlotte. With thousands of data points, it allows you to see the approximate location of every unit above a certain size anywhere in the United States throughout the war, searchable by date, commander, and other criteria. It was instrumental for confirming locations and dates throughout this project.
Other research-based local historians, librarians, and employees of the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources and U.S. National Park Service, were indispensable to nailing down places and busting 250-year-old myths. They are cited by name on the related pages unless they requested otherwise. I am deeply grateful to all.
Finally, though it was not used as a source, my interest in finding these locations was sparked by rereading The Ragged Ones, a 1951 novel by historian Burke Davis (Rinehart & Co., New York). I inherited it from my grandfather, noted Charlotte architect Martin E. Boyer. A key player in creation of the original Mint Museum, Martin also designed the brick enclosure of the Waxhaws, S.C., cemetery containing Col. William Davie’s grave. Though dated both culturally and in light of newer research, the book provides a vivid account of events from the pivotal Battle of Cowpens (S.C.) through Guilford Court House. It led me to visit what markers said was the location of Pyle’s Defeat (but wasn’t). That in turn inspired my curiosity to stand in the exact locations now described on this website, because there was no online resource at the time.
Content Researcher/Writer, AmRevNC.com
Durham, N.C., USA