Robert Higgins began the war in 1776 as a junior officer in Captain Abel Westfall's company of the 8th Virginia. In the spring of 1777 he was given his own company, but had a hard time recruiting because word had spread about the number of men who had died from malaria and smallpox. Then, on October 4, he was captured by the enemy at Germantown. After the war, he built a log house in Moorefield, West Virginia, which is still standing. He only lived there a few years before heading farther west to Kentucky and then founding Higginsport, Ohio.
Here is a recent photo of the House in Moorefield, which was built between 1786 and 1788. The clapboard siding is not a modern addition. Until the 20th century, log houses were routinely given siding if and when the owners could afford it. To read more about Captain Higgins, read this article at the Kentucky Society of Sons of the American Revolution website. To read more about 18th and 19th century log cabins, view this essay from the National Park Service.
The 8th Virginia's regimental standard survived the war and was in the possession of the Muhlenberg family for two centuries. After about 1850 it seems never to have been displayed in public until it was put up for auction in 2012 along with some letters and other family artifacts. The lot was sold to a single bidder for more than $600,000. The final bid for the flag alone was $422,500. During the process, the flag was displayed for the first time in memory, and quality images of it were published in the Freeman's Auction House catalogue. The identity of the purchaser remains anonymous, however, which raised fears that the flag might never been seen by the public again. Recently, however, it was displayed again at the Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library in Delaware for one day, along with two other flags. The event was coordinated with the Museum of the American Revolution. When that museum finally opens its doors in Philadelphia, perhaps we'll have more opportunities to see this very special artifact.
Here's an op ed I wrote about Major General Charles Lee, published in the Philadelphia Inquirer last year. His namesake town in New Jersey had been in the news after members of Governor Christie's staff were found to have intentionally caused bridge congestion there to settle a political score. Lee is a fascinating, important, but little known figure from the war. The 8th Virginia served directly under him during their hard service in South Carolina and Georgia in 1776. As of 1773, he was himself a resident of Berkeley County--part of the regiment's recruitment area. Nevertheless, they hated him. And they were right to.
The 8th Virginia was truly, and uniquely, the Shenandoah Valley's regiment in the Revolution. Unlike any other regiment, the 8th represented nearly the full extent of the greater Shenandoah Valley cultural region from the North Carolina (and later Tennessee) line all the way to Pittsburgh (then claimed by the Old Dominion). The only county in the valley that did not raise a company for the regiment was Botetourt County.
This vast territory can be characterized in two important ways. First, as the frontier. Second, and just as important at the time, the territory can be described as the part of Virginia populated by newcomers who were for the most part neither English nor Anglican. Unlike Pennsylvania, most of Virginia was very homogeneous. Nonconforming churches were illegal, but tolerated west of the Blue Ridge. Despite belonging to the same denomination as the last two kings of England, Peter Muhlenberg had to go to London to be ordained in the Church of England in order to preach in Woodstock as late as 1772. (Four years later he became the regiment's first colonel.) In describing the 8th Virginia as the "German Regiment," the Virginia Convention really meant the "non-English" regiment. Culturally, the Irish and German men of the regiment had more in common with Pennsylvania than with Piedmont and Tidewater Virginia.
Winchester's Daniel Morgan was a true hero of the Shenandoah Valley, and he is rightly famous. However, the units he led were not true Shenandoah Valley units the way 8th was. In 1775 he was a captain in the Virginia and Maryland Rifle Battalion; in 1776 and 1777 he was colonel of the 11th Virginia, which recruited from Frederick County but also from Prince William, Amelia, and Loudoun counties; his famous Virginia rifle battalion, formed in 1777, was built on merit, not geography.
Only the 8th Virginia truly represented the geography and the culture of the Shenandoah Valley.
is researching the history of the Revolutionary War's 8th Virginia Regiment. Its ten companies formed on the frontier, from the Cumberland Gap to Pittsburgh.
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