Today I gave a plenary address at the Ft. Ticonderoga Revolutionary War seminar to a very knowledgeable group of history buffs. My talk was entitled: “A Presbyterian Rebellion: Christianity and the American Revolution.” While many in the audience weres students of military history, there was a small group of people who seemed to be interested in religion. I always learn something from the audience during these kinds of talks. In this case, I left with a lot of good research leads based upon conversations with some of the conference attendees.
I used my time to argue that Presbyterians drove the American Revolution in the mid-Atlantic. I discussed the way in which Presbyterians moved from a divided denomination in the wake of the First Great Awakening to a potent political force by the 1760s, focusing specifically on the emergence of “Presbyterian Parties” in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. I concluded the talk with short vignettes of two revolutionary-era Presbyterians: John Witherspoon and Philip Vickers Fithian.
The folks at Ft. Ticonderoga, especially Rich Strum, were welcoming and hospitable. After lunch we had a book signing in the fort’s museum store and I sold a good number of copies of The Way of Improvement Leads Home. Tonight they took all of the speakers out to a very good dinner at a local Ticonderoga eatery.
I also got a chance to meet three historians whose work I have long admired–James Kirby Martin of the University of Houston and Douglas Egerton of LeMoyne College delivered talks. Martin has recently published a book on the Oneida Indians and the American Revolution and Egerton’s new work is on African-Americans and the American Revolution. I also had a nice chat with Alison Games, a historian at Georgetown who has written two very smart books on the Atlantic World.
One of the highlights of the morning was spending time catching up with a former student–Susanna Carey–who drove down to Ft. Ticonderoga for my talk. Thanks, Susanna!
It was a great weekend in upstate New York. I hope to visit Ft. Ticonderoga again soon.