A Revolutionary Presence

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By Dan Verner

Paul Chase and other members of the Sons of the American Revolution

Most residents and visitors to this area know that Civil War sites, battlefields and buildings abound. Colonial and Revolutionary periods, not as well represented, are less well known.

Haymarket resident Paul Chase is changing that. A member of the Prince William County area Virginia Society Sons of the American Revolution (SAR), Colonel William Grayson Chapter, in 2017 Chase wore his Continental Army uniform to 33 events in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and to the National Society SAR Congress in Tennessee.

Reenactors Provide a Glimpse into History
Tailors, or “sutlers” as they’re called by reenactors, custom-made the $1,000 uniform he wears. His sword runs to $250. “It takes six months to complete a uniform,” Chase said, but the result is eye-catching.

“I participated in a Continental uniform for the first time for a Battle of Cowpens [reenactment]in the outback of South Carolina,” he said. “We formed up and marched along a path through trees to the battle site, accompanied by drummers and fifers, with some carrying beautiful flags and banners. Smoke from fires reenactors had built nearby hung low in the trees to the point that we wanted to duck to avoid it. We could smell bacon cooking, which added to the experience. It was awesome.”

He added, “The Battle of Cowpens was memorable because, unlike most battles, it took place in an area probably no bigger than a football field. In addition, a patriot stood there with an oversized sword, counting cadence during the march through the woods. That also added to the effect.”

He continued, “An annual February SAR event honors the Tomb of the Unknown Revolutionary War Soldier in the courtyard of the Old Presbyterian Meeting House in Alexandria, where George Washington once worshiped. This popular ceremony includes Ladies of the DAR and Children of the Revolution, both in full dress or uniform.”

Spreading Enthusiasm about American History
Chase’s enthusiasm about his subject means he tells anyone who will listen about the history he knows so well. He hands out Liberty Sprigs at various events, explaining that these small branches from an evergreen tree were placed on soldiers’ hats or uniforms to help them tell friend from foe. He also
actively recruits for both the SAR and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. “In fact,” he said, “I recruited my new dentist for the SAR while sitting in the dentist’s chair.” As part of his SAR chapter’s speakers bureau, he can speak about a wide variety of Revolutionary War topics.

However, Paul Chase is more than a re-enactor in a uniform: “After learning my grandparents had been members of both the Daughters of the American Revolution and Sons of the American Revolution just as I retired in 2010, I began a serious reading effort on the Revolution.”

Writing His Book—Finally
Drawing on his undergraduate and graduate degrees in history, Chase began taking notes on over 200 books:

“I had no intention of writing a book, but I kept voluminous notes about little-known terms and subjects that are not covered well in beginning-to-end histories of the Revolution. I put my notes into narratives about little-reported items, such as venereal disease, the discipline of soldiers, abuse of alcohol, medical
care, recruiting, and so forth, ending up with forty or more subjects. I also defined over 200 arcane terms from the period.

“When I showed my notes to a Revolutionary War author, he repeatedly urged me to publish. I finally caved, and Outskirts Press published the book last year as ‘The American Revolution: A Compendium of Terms and Topics’.”

For the first time, the book addresses arcane terms used by soldiers such as “Spider Catcher” (a small privateer raiding boat), “mushroom gentlemen” (war profiteeers), “barrel fever” (a hangover), among others. The book describes how American military units and privateers used the geography of the eastern United States to their advantage. Chase also writes that the lack of gold and silver deposits in the Thirteen Colonies made it impossible for the Americans to mine and produce their own specie. This enabled the British to substantially devalue American paper Continental currency which seriously hindered the Revolutionary War effort.

Chase, a retired United States Air Force Lieutenant Colonel with service in Vietnam, belongs to and is a 30-year life member of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7589 of Manassas.

Recently, the local SAR established the Paul Alan Chase Scholarship fund for high school seniors in Prince William County, using the proceeds from Chase’s book and money awarded to the chapter from Virginia SAR for meeting defined membership growth targets. The chapter will supplement the scholarship fund with member donations and, if needed, contributions from the general operating budget. The scholarship will be $1,000 for the winner and $250 for the runner-up. Chase will help establish the criteria for the scholarship, which will involve an application, an essay and an interview. The first
scholarship should be awarded before graduation in May or June 2018.

He concluded, “I like to think my book and presentations help ‘fill the gaps’ in information about the Revolution. I also hope I might give others the confidence to read about and to publish about the War.

“Regrettably, revolutions and civil wars are all too common in these times. They rarely seem to have good outcomes. Civilians are slaughtered, tyrants take control, and human rights are ignored. The American Revolution, as ugly and long as it was, despite the desperate odds against its success, shows that good can come when men and women of courage and principle rise up and are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to achieve their goals. We need to continue to study and learn about the Revolution so that more people know about the achievements of our patriot ancestors.”

In an area where so much history has been lost forever to development, Paul Chase has put feet to his passion and is in the community, keeping the War and the people who fought it alive, now and for future generations. Chase’s book is available on Amazon.com and from Barnes & Noble.

For more information about the Colonel William Grayson Chapter, go to their Facebook page (facebook.com/cwgcsar/) or their website (colonelwilliamgrayson.virginia-sar.org/index.html).

Dan Verner (dverner@princewilliamliving.com) is the author of several books (danverner.com) and was named “Best Writer in Prince William County (Virginia)” for 2014 and 2015 by readers in a “Best of Prince William” poll taken by Prince William Today.

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