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Tag Archives: Kentucky

- A Virginian, a Tomahawk, & the American Revolution in the Old West

Editor’s Note: The Library of Virginia, in partnership with Virginia Humanities, sponsors residential fellows during the academic year to conduct in-depth research in the Library’s collections. Gregory D. Smithers, Professor of History and Eminent Scholar (2019–2024) in the College of Humanities and Sciences, Virginia Commonwealth University, spent the spring researching and writing for a book project entitled The Riverkeepers: The Cherokees, Their Neighbors, and the Rivers that Made America. 

 


Print showing Linn brothers in hand-to-hand combat in a Native American village, Kentucky, ca. 1785. Illustration from Augustus Lynch Mason, The Romance and Tragedy of Pioneer Life, 1883, p. 413. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Like many eighteenth-century militiamen, Joseph Bowman was interested in more than warfare. Bowman’s enlistment in Virginia’s militia during the Revolutionary War also served the modus operandi for thousands of colonial Americans by the latter half of the century: the business of doing business. In a letter dated 14 June 1779, Bowman provided a rich description of the economic opportunities available to Virginians who were willing to try their luck throughout Anglo-America’s western frontiers. From New Orleans to the Ohio Valley, Bowman surveyed a diverse land rich in financial possibilities.

Joseph Bowman was born in Frederick County, Virginia, on 8 March 1752. The grandson of German immigrants, the family made the decision at some point during the eighteenth century to anglicize their surname name from “Baumann” to “Bowman.” Bowman’s forebears saw the western frontiers of Virginia as a space where they might prosper. As such, the family joined the first Europeans to settle in … read more »

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