Needlework, Finishing, Designing, Quilting, Some Discoveries and Adventures in Stitching from Windy Ridge Designs

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Essay That Accompanied My Entry - Bee Line March Box

This is the exact wording of the "paragraph" that was typed on the back of my entry form.  Much of this was already stated in different language in a previous post.  However, this is what the judges saw, along with my pictures that got me through State and East Central Division.

Living as I do in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia, colonial history is all around me.  Historic sites and tales of the past abound.  One such story is of the Virginia Riflemen, men who left their homes on the eve of the American Revolution to aid their country in a time of crisis.  On the recommendation by none other than George Washington, Congress selected Hugh Stephenson, a farmer of middle years with some previous military experience, to lead a company of 100 men in June 1775.  Captain Stephenson was ordered to assemble his men and set off to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where the Continental Army and local militia needed their reinforcement during the siege of Boston.  John Adams wrote in a letter to James Warren that the Virginia Riflemen, who were “men who can kill with great exactness,” were on their way.  These men of the rough, wild lands assembled at Morgan’s Spring near Shepherdstown and crossed the Pack Horse Ford of the Potomac River.  Incredibly, they covered 600 miles of woodland, field and swamp in only 24 days and reported to General Washington on August 11, 1775.  Their hard life in the backwoods had prepared them for this.  Their feat, which became known as the Bee Line March, was accomplished at a time when most horses traveled only 15 to 20 miles on a good day.  Upon arrival in Cambridge and even before, crowds could not quite take in the appearance of the Virginians in their animal skin and roughly woven clothing.  It is said that General Washington wept at the sight of their arrival.  Unfortunately, many of the men from the company did not return home.  Cambridge was just a staging ground.  They were sent where they were most needed throughout the Northeast; many were captured by the British and died in captivity or of wounds.

The cross stitch I have designed is intended to give the feelings of haste, swiftness and urgency, descriptions of the feelings I am sure the Virginia Riflemen had in the days leading up to and during the Bee Line March.  The front panel on the box depicts Captain Stephenson leading his men out of Shepherdstown to cross the Potomac River where a scout (right side panel) has already been sent ahead.  Their clothing is comprised of “hunting shirts and pantaloons, fringed on every edge” and animal skin hats.  They carry their knapsacks, powder horns, shot pouches and tomahawks as well as their rifles.  The closure button I made from a piece of deer antler; the riflemen would have had something similar on their clothing.  The back panel shows the long rifle that many, if not most, of the men would have carried.  It was the quintessential hunting rifle of the Alleghenies.  My research did not indicate that the men carried a banner of any sort.  I feel, if they had, it would have been a variation of the Culpeper flag (left side panel), because of Stephenson’s association with Dunmore’s War.  The inside of the box, which is lined with silk, contains a list of the men’s names, according to Dandridge in Historic Shepherdstown.  The stitching is done on 32 count linen using sumptuous silk floss manufactured by Kreinik – a West Virginia company.  

We remember Captain Stephenson’s company of Virginia Riflemen here in the Panhandle with a marker in downtown Martinsburg, a monument near Shepherdstown, historic trails throughout Jefferson County, several NSDAR chapters – most notably Pack Horse Ford and Bee Line – and now in my Bee Line March box.  West Virginians can proudly say that the Virginia Riflemen answered the call to duty and are our American Heritage Remembered.

Sources: Historic Shepherdstown, Danske Dandridge, 1910; A History of Jefferson County, West Virginia, Millard Bushong, 1941; The Warren-Adams Letters, Massachusetts Historical Society, 1917; Google, Flags of the Revolution; Rootsweb, Lasfargues and Diffendorfer Family History, Hugh Stephenson, ID I8572.

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