November 16, 2019 in Fairfax, Virginia
On the campus of George Mason University.
The Johnson Center — 3rd floor
Parking garage: Mason Pond Deck at 4371 Mason Pond Dr.
↣ Scroll down to register or sign up for updates.
History Camp brings together people from all walks of life who are passionate about history.
Here’s what one participant said:
“I’ve been to dozens of official academic conferences with big names where all submissions are thoroughly vetted by panels of experts, and none of those conferences were as fun and informative as History Camp. It really was the best set of speakers I’ve seen at a conference: relaxed and informed and direct.”
This is a good overview, and especially helpful if you are curious about what makes History Camp different than any other conference or gathering you’ve ever attended.
If you love history, History Camp is for you.
We’ve already had people from Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maryland, North Carolina, and South Carolina register, in addition to folks from Virginia. Scroll to the bottom to register now.
One of the things that makes History Camp unique is that we welcome any presenter who wishes to share their love of history. You might be an author, Park Ranger, armchair historian, volunteer, reenactor, retired public health nurse, student, executive director, tour guide . . . In fact, we’ve had folks with those backgrounds and many more present.
Your topic must relate to history. You might cover historical people and events, historical research and methods, managing a historic site or history organization, careers for people who love history, teaching history, or other topics related to history.
And unlike other conferences, you don’t have make your presentation conform to a theme, geography, or narrow subject area.
There are two things to steer clear of: Product pitches and current or recent politics.
We all chip in to cover the cost of History Camp, so speakers register, just like everyone else.
And because sharing information as broadly as possible is one of the fundamental principles of History Camp, many sessions are recorded and all presenters are asked to post their slides. If you have things that you don’t want to appear online (on YouTube or elsewhere), don’t include them in your slides or consider a different presentation.
If you’re interested in presenting, please sign up here.
Would your organization like to offer a special program or tour Sunday or discounted admission to your site? Please send us a description with details about your offer and I will add it below, include it in the session guide, and announce it at the beginning and end of History Camp.
Sessions are added as they come in. We expect that there will be more than 40 sessions, with four or five to choose from in each time slot.
Indian Trade in the Southern Colonies
William Beau Robbins, living history interpreter, speaker, consultant, and model for historical artists
Commerce between the British and indigenous peoples facilitated politically essential alliances, created a consumer base for European manufactured goods, sourced raw materials for the emerging European manufacturing core, and provided auxiliary military forces for the colony. It also brought great societal change and transformation to these indigenous cultures by quickly shifting them from an agrarian subsistence economy to a global export economy.
With an emphasis on Virginia’s role and the Virginia frontier, this session will provide an opportunity to handle actual trade goods from the 18thcentury and learn eye-opening information that will help to deflate anachronistic archetypes surrounding Native American history.
Revolutionary Myths: The Importance of Reliable Primary Sources
In the decades following the American Revolution, attempts to preserve the Revolutionary generation led to a series of fantastic stories by such men as Mason Locke “Parson” Weems. These myths, combined with numerous sourceless publications and the natural progression of time, have resulted in revolutionary myth becoming “fact” to intervening generations. This is especially visible in today’s world of social media, which the largely uninformed public then accepts as fact. Educating modern people about the American Revolution has been a lifelong desire only recently put into effect. In this session, I will explore common myths and accounts, present reliable primary sources that dispel or support these accounts, expound on their origins where possible, and urge listeners to join me in the quest for accuracy.
Through Jefferson’s Eyes – Reflections on Thomas Jefferson and the Enlightenment
Dave Dietrich, a former Director of the Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society
Thomas Jefferson has had an immense impact on the development of the United States. His ideas have transcended the ages and withstood the test of time. Reflecting upon Thomas Jefferson and his association with the Enlightenment is critical to understanding more fully the nature and influence of his ideas on modern America.
Dr. Joseph Warren and the Start of the American Revolution
Dr. Sam Forman, Historian and Author of Dr. Joseph Warren: The Boston Tea Party, Bunker Hill, and the Birth of American Liberty (Pelican, 2012)
Warren was a dynamic Boston Patriot leader early in the American Revolution. Lionized in his day as a politician, public speaker, physician, Mason, soldier, and ladies’ man, his legacy has been experiencing a resurgence in recent years. Join Dr. Warren’s biographer in revisiting a dynamic life from the Founding era.
This is a reprise of a popular talk from HistoryCamp’s first year.
A Documentary in the Making: Campaign 1777: The Year of the Hangman
C. Gerard Frankson, Documentary filmmaker, “Campaign 1777: The Year of the Hangman”
Join us for a sneak peek at the upcoming documentary “Campaign 1777: The Year of the Hangman” by Heartbeat in History, followed by a short Q&A session with the filmmaker.
Ill-Fated Frontier: An Epic Pioneer Adventure across Racial and Geographic Frontiers of the American Revolutionary Era
Dr. Sam Forman, Historian and Author of the new book, Ill-Fated Frontier: Peril and Possibilities in the Early American West (Lyons Press, 2020)
In this true American origin tale, North becomes South, by choice of some, compulsion of others, over fierce Indian resistance, and with Spanish encouragement. It is 1789. General “Black David” Forman, terror to the Tories and George Washington’s prickly eyes, ears, and bullying strong arm in the Northern New Jersey guerilla war, becomes disenchanted with his prospects in the post-Revolutionary War United States. He determines to dispatch his brother and sixty Afro-American slaves to claim a land grant in West Florida from America’s frenemy and erstwhile ally Spain. It is during the Northwest Indian War, when Natives have the upper hand. Will the Natives attack the pioneers? Will the enslaved revolten route? Are the Spanish colonials effective and have their own agenda? Suffice it to say that complications ensue.
Susanna Bolling: The Girl Who Won the Revolutionary War
Libby McNamee, author, lawyer, and historian, Susanna’s Midnight Ride: The Girl Who Won the Revolutionary War (Sagebrush Publishing, 2012)
Almost five years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the American Revolution hung in the balance. In late May 1781, General Cornwallis invaded City Point, Virginia, and quartered his army there. As 16-year-old Susanna Bolling served the British general and his officers dinner, she overheard their plans to capture General Lafayette and crush the American rebellion. Under the cover of darkness, she snuck out of her house and canoed downriver. Then she grabbed a neighbor’s horse and rode ten miles to warn Lafayette. But would she make it undetected? “Susanna’s Midnight Ride: The Girl Who Won the Revolutionary War” is an upper middle grade historical novel based on the TRUE story of this Virginia heroine, whose story is just becoming known to America, and the world.
Join this session as Libby shares Susanna’s story as well as the role of the Petticoat Patriots during the Revolutionary War. The session will include her research materials and a variety of photos.
First in war and first in the hearts of his countrymen: The rise and fall of the revolutionary, Dr. Joseph Warren
Christian Di Spigna, Historian and author, Founding Marty: The Live and Death of Dr. Joseph Warren, the American Revolution’s Lost Hero (Crown, 2018)
The talk will focus on all the new research discoveries about Warren including material culture pieces, artifacts and primary source documents. We will deconstruct the many Warren legends and myths and explore his resistance activities between 1765-1775 as he rose to the heights of power, demonstrating that Warren was a founding grandfather before most of the founding fathers had even joined the rebellion.
Carrying the Declaration of Independence
Karen A Chase, Author, Carrying Independence—A Founding-Documents Novel (2019)
Why was there just one “copy” of the Declaration with the signatures? Which Continental Congress delegates did not attend the formal signing on August 2, 1776? How were those signatures acquired? Once it was signed, where was the Declaration kept? Learn the history of the Declaration of Independence from 1776 until now, as discovered by Virginia Humanities 2019-2020 fellow and author of the Founding-Documents novel, Carrying Independence.
Abandoned History; Disappearing Historic and Cultural Sites of the East Coast
Ben Swenson, educator and journalist, AbandonedCountry.com
Many sites that played an important role in the history of the United States get the attention and respect they deserve, but not all of them do. A project by journalist Ben Swenson has set out to document and tell the stories of the East Coast’s disappearing history, and how these sites became neglected. Follow Ben as he explores places such as a highway median where the most famous manhunt in U.S. history came to a close, and a run-down estate that includes the last building of its kind for hundreds of miles around.
First Four Surveys of the 36º 30′ Line of North Latitude and One Site Survey
Lorna Hainesworth, Ambassador and National Traveler
First Four Surveys of the 36º 30′ Line of North Latitude and One Site Survey: Dividing Line between Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky and Tennessee: How was the dividing line between these four states created? Why is the line between these four states so crooked? Where was the line supposed to be? What are the reasons for so many anomalies? Who is responsible for the dividing line? When did all this happen? Were there controversies or problems with the location of the line? If so, what resolutions were enacted? Given the technology we have today, why haven’t steps been taken to straighten the line? This session will present a talk on the dividing line between Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky and Tennessee, which will describe all the relevant issues, sketch the historic figures who played a part in the surveys and the answer the above questions plus describe a little known survey conducted by Meriwether Lewis at the dividing line in November 1806 near present-day Cumberland Gap.
America’s First School for the Deaf: Facts and Myths
Kathleen L. Brockway, Deaf National Researcher, Presenter and author, Baltimore’s Deaf Heritage and Detroit’s Deaf Heritage
America’s first school for the deaf was established near Petersburg, Virginia. We’ll discuss the fascinating stories of what happened to the deaf students from the school as well as some surprising links to prominent Americans.
The Panama Canal: How the US Got It, and How the US Got Rid of It
Brian Moran, Amateur historian
This session will focus on the roughly 100-year span between the 1870’s and 1970’s during which the Panama Canal was planned, built, managed, and renegotiated. It will delve into historic ironies of how US and Panamanian leaders forged a quasi-colonial partnership that contributed significantly to the overall complexity of US-Latin American relations.
From Student to Warrior: A military history of the College of William and Mary
Wilford Kale, Author and Managing Editor at Botetourt Press
This is the only known military history of a “liberal arts” college or university in the U.S. It covers the school from its earliest student to the present-day ROTC program and military veterans at the institution. Two battles of two wars—Revolutionary and Civil—have been fought on or around the campus with other wars nearly closing the school when young men went off to fight. Also alumni have contributed significantly to U.S. war efforts from World War II to the Iraq invasion are included as vignettes.
The Politics of Independence
Michael Troy, Host of American Revolution Podcast
When war began in 1775, few people thought independence was practical, or even a sane option. A little over a year later, all thirteen colonies declared their independence from Britain. We will examine how and why both the population and the political leaders came to advocate for independence from the powerful British Empire. Events, essays, and political strategy all played a role in the process.
Balls Bluff, 1861: Big Lessons From a Relatively Small Battle
Brian Moran, Amateur historian
This session considers a lesser-known Civil War engagement in October 1861 at a cliff site called Balls Bluff, overlooking the Potomac River outside of Leesburg, Virginia. The battle of Balls Bluff is particularly poignant as a study in bad intelligence, flawed leadership, and unique terrain. The aftermath of the battle early in the war produced outsized repercussions in political Washington.
Large Armies of foreign Mercenaries – Dispelling this myth for 45 Years
Ross Harold Schwalm, Historian, President, The Johannes Schwalm Historical Association
Although the leaders of the Continental Congress had good intelligence of what forces King George III was sending to America to fight the Continental Army, they did not understand that these “armies” were professional soldiers in disciplined units that were fulfilling longstanding treaty alliances. The Continentals got a rude awakening on Long Island in August 1776 by the Hessian professional army. The Johannes Schwalm Historical Association has been publishing history on the Hessian armies for 45 years to help correct the “Mercenaries” myth.
Operation Skywatch – The Ground Observer Corps and How Americans Went on Watch for Enemy Planes, Downed Aircraft, and UFOs
Deb Fuller, Educator and Historian, Website: Groundobservercorps.home.blog
From 1951-1958, hundreds of thousands of Americans answered the call to Wake Up! Sign Up! Look Up! with the Ground Observer Corps (GOC). Like the Aircraft Warning Service (AWS) of World War II, the GOC was a civilian unit under the direction of the US Air Force. Observers as young as 7 years old and observers well into the 80s were part of the program as well as at least one pet dog and a goose. Volunteer observers manned local observation posts to spot enemy planes that might have slipped through the gaps of the national radar defense system. By 1955, there were over 19,000 observation posts and 73 filter centers that helped coordinate their efforts. While the GOC were not that effective as plane spotters, they were a central part of their communities and helped foster a sense of preparedness and local pride.
This presentation will look at the history of the GOC and how it fit into the Civil Defense activities of the 1950s. It will also contrast the role of Civil Defense in the 1950s with later years and how advertising and other promotional activities by the GOC helped to create a sense of community and preparedness.
Model Company: A new look at the common Civil War soldier
Ben Myers, Author, American Citizen: The Civil War writings of Captain George A. Brooks. 46th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry (Sunbury Press, 2019)
Who was the common Civil War soldier? What did he look like? What did he do for a living before the war? How likely was he to be a casualty? Using recently discovered documents, we’ll take a unique look at Company D of the 46th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry to help us answer these questions and more.
1619-2019 the 400th Commemoration: The Arrival of the First Documented Africans in English North America
Ric Murphy, National Vice President for History, the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society and Author, Rear Admiral Larry Chambers, USN: First African American to Command an Aircraft Carrier (McFarland, 2018)
In 2019, all Americans will celebrate an important milestone in American history, the commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the first recorded Africans in English North America. Award winning author Ric Murphy, in his upcoming book, 1619: The Story of America’s First Africans will explain the historical context and significance of this occasion by looking back at the history and critical events that illuminate the perseverance and ingenuity of the extraordinary men, women and children. Murphy’s extensive research documents the enduring legacy, a fascinating story of international colonialism, piracy, enslavement, the law of English headrights and colonial indentureship. In his presentation he will explain where the original “20 and Odd Africans” came from and how we know it; document the how and why they came to English North America; and prove that the original Africans were not enslaved people, and why that is important historically. He will weave together the misconceptions of our past and how it impacts our present day understanding of African and expanded American history. As the field of African American history has evolved over the past 50 years, so too has the body of knowledge for the life and times of African Americans during the colonial period. Murphy will explain why many present day African Americans are learning for the first time that they may be descended from these first Africans and/or those who arrived in English North America between 1619 and 1700.
Get the Word Out: Embracing Digital Media to Grow in the History Field
John R. Heckman, The Tattooed Historian, www.facebook.com/thetattooedhistorian
In the era of online apps and platforms, history-based entities and historians as a whole can create new content to reach broader audiences. Want to learn how to increase the awareness of your mission to social media audiences? This is the talk for you!
Founding Virginia Beach: A New Look at Adam Thorowgood, His Lands, Legends, and Legacies
Janet Cummings, Independent researcher, professional guide, and blog author at Thorowgood World
In the 1950s, the “Adam Thoroughgood House” was believed to be the oldest house in Virginia and possibly in America. What is the real story of this founder of Virginia Beach who arrived at Jamestown in 1621? Did he actually build or live in the preserved brick house that bears his initials? Were buried treasure and smuggling tunnels found on his property? Explore how assumptions became “history” and impeded exploration of other important sites which remain unprotected. Learn how the latest findings have expanded our understanding of early Virginia Beach (Lower Norfolk) settlement.
John Jay, Unsung Nation Builder: 1774 to 1789
Phil Webster, John Jay Re-enactor, www.1776Faith.com
John Jay is often overlooked as a Founding Father, but this talented man played a crucial role in the creation of the Nation. In this session, John Jay, as portrayed by Phil Webster, will discuss his fascinating life between 1774 to 1789.
Jay was an ardent supporter of General Washington at multiple critical moments during the Revolutionary war. He served as president of the Continental Congress and later as Minister Plenipotentiary to Spain. Jay worked with Franklin and Adams to negotiate a peace treaty with Great Britain to end the war.
After peace was ensured, Jay served his new country as Secretary of Foreign Affairs and filled in as Secretary of State for the year it took Jefferson to return from Paris. He was appointed by Washington as the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
Spreading the Love of History Through Games
Alan Fishel, Creator of GeoPlunge and HistoryPlunge games, Founder & President of LearningPlunge. Website: www.learningplunge.org
What started out as a hobby to create games 15 years ago has turned into a fun and engaging way to educate students about U.S. history and geography. When we took our first game GeoPlunge into a Washington, D.C. classroom 15 years ago, nobody in the entire 6th grade class had heard of the neighboring state of Maryland. This was not entirely surprising given the finding by the National Assessment of Educational Progress that only 27% of 8th graders are proficient in U.S. geography and even worse only 18% are proficient in U.S. history. Fast forward just a couple of months, and these same students were rattling off the states, capitals, rankings in terms of order they came into the Union, size, population and more. After seeing this play out, we collaborated with the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery to use this same model to create a U.S. history game covering 1492 – present. Through a variety of race, strategy, and trivia games, students learn about the Presidents and what occurred during each administration, dates of important events, and over 4,000 facts about U.S. history. Join us as we discuss what we have learned about engaging students at all levels, from gifted to those performing below milestones in the classroom, through interactive games and a tournament structure and how using some of these strategies can help spread the love of U.S. history.
Top Secret: The Story of Vint Hill Farms Station and the Cold War Museum
Did you know that you are close to one of the four best places in the world to listen to radio signals? That you can visit a former Top Secret Army signals intelligence base that provided critical intelligence during WWII, including the key intercept that made possible the famous Ghost Army deception? And was the birthplace of the National Security Agency (NSA) during the Cold War? Cold War Museum Executive Director Jason Hall will provide a brief history of Vint Hill from the time it opened as a Top Secret base in 1942 until it closed as a base in 1997, then describe, with photos, some of the key artifacts of the Cold War Museum at Vint Hill.
“Dinner in Camelot”: The Night America’s Greatest Scientists, Writers, and Scholars Partied at the Kennedy White House
Joseph Esposito, Historian, Educator and Writer, Dinner in Camelot: The Night America’s Greatest Scientists, Writers, and Scholars Partied at the Kennedy White House (ForeEdge, 2018), Website: www.josephaesposito.com
In April 1962, President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy hosted forty-nine Nobel Prize winners―along with many other prominent scientists, artists, and writers―at a famed White House dinner. Among the guests were J. Robert Oppenheimer, who was officially welcomed back to Washington after a stint in the political wilderness; Linus Pauling, who had picketed the White House that very afternoon; William and Rose Styron, who began a fifty-year friendship with the Kennedy family that night; James Baldwin, who would later discuss civil rights with Attorney General Robert Kennedy; Mary Welsh Hemingway, Ernest Hemingway’s widow, who sat next to the president and grilled him on Cuba policy; John Glenn, who had recently orbited the earth aboard Friendship 7; historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., who argued with Ava Pauling at dinner; and many others. Actor Fredric March gave a public recitation after the meal, including some unpublished work of Hemingway’s that later became part of Islands in the Stream. Held at the height of the Cold War, the dinner symbolizes a time when intellectuals were esteemed, divergent viewpoints could be respectfully discussed at the highest level, and the great minds of an age might all dine together in the rarefied glamour of “the people’s house.”
Songs and Stories of Freedom Seekers from the Washington, NC Underground Railroad
Leesa Jones, Founder and Executive Director of the Washington Waterfront Underground Railroad Museum, Website: www.whda.org
The session will highlight the many ways Freedom Seekers used songs, dances, clothing, food and other ‘coded’ or ‘veiled’ communication to help plan or execute escapes to freedom from the Washington waterfront and other underground railroad routes in the greater Washington, NC area.
Whale Tales: Matthew Fontaine Maury and the American Quest for the Northwest Passage
John Grady, Journalist and Author, Matthew Fontaine Maury, Father of Oceanography: A Biography 1806-1873 (McFarland & Company, 2015), Website: JohnGradynowandthen.com
From the end of the Mexican War until 1861, Lieutenant Matthew Fontaine Maury used his international reputation in maritime affairs as superintendent of the National Observatory to shepherd the Navy into a grand age of exploration. From his office in Washington, Maury headed up an effort to explore the Arctic and find the remains of the British explorers, led by Sir John Franklin, who had mysteriously disappeared while searching for the Northwest Passage.
Maury’s cohorts were also racing to find the Northwest Passage, before the British, and employed the observations and data of whalemen to do so. Under Maury’s leadership, a series of track charts, including The Whaling Chart, were created.
Maury came up against derision and contempt by many land-based scientists, including the Royal Navy and Sir John Barrow who led the way in slamming the door on the only mariners who routinely ventured into the waters. However, Maury also had wealthy and powerful friends, including members of the American Geographical and Statistical Society, who backed his efforts and ultimately provided him with the means to best the Royal Navy on the top of the world.
Parking: Mason Pond Deck parking garage, 4371 Mason Pond Dr.