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Dr. Phil Williams participates at the anniversary commemoration of The Crossing of the Dan during the American Revolution

Dr. Henry P. Williams
IWP professor Dr. Henry “Phil” Williams looks on as Ann Raab, regent of the Berryman Green Chapter, Virginia DAR, introduces an event in honor of the Crossing of the Dan in Halifax County, Virginia. Photo by Joe Chandler.

IWP Professor Henry (Phil) Williams gave remarks on the commemoration of The Crossing of the Dan during the American Revolution, which took place on February 14, 1781. Members of the Virginia Society Sons of the American Revolution, Daughters of the American Revolution, and other American history enthusiasts paraded from The Prizery to Constitution Square in South Boston, Virginia, while wearing 18th century-era attire. The anniversary was commemorated with the firing of muskets and a cannon to honor the role Halifax County played in the American Revolution.

Dr. Williams, master of the ceremony, explained the importance of remembering the Crossing of the Dan, which marks when Gen. Nathanael Greene stranded the British army on the other side of the Dan River with his strategic crossing. The commemoration also showcased a 35-foot-long bateau, replicating the ferries used to carry cannons, horses, and soldiers across the Dan.

Crossing of the Dan
Photo by Joe Chandler

Dr. Williams recounted the great moment in American history by stating that:

“There was snow all over the ground. We had soldiers retreating to the Dan with no shoes. There was blood in the snow. How they managed to get across and secure ropes in trees and bring the bateau across…it boggles the mind. They did it in the evening and the fog rolled in, and by the time the British arrived the next morning they looked across the water, and there was Clint Eastwood (in the form of Nathanael Greene), saying, ‘Make my day!’”

This is Dr. Williams’ eighth year in a row attending the ceremony, expressing that “the event is very near and dear to my heart.” In 2012-13, Dr. Williams was the state president of the Virginia Society SAR (Sons of the American Revolution). In this capacity, he led a successful effort to gain national recognition for this event from the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution.

Dr. Williams’ uniform is a “Williamsburg-quality” reproduction of that of his ancestor, Captain Joseph Christopher Delezenne, New York Continental Line, Engineers and Sappers. He fought the duration of the war, from Ft. Ticonderoga (1775) to the disbanding of the army by George Washington at West Point in 1783. He fought in the North and in the Southern Campaign near the end of the war (1781). He was second in command serving under General Tadeusz Kościuszko for the Engineers in the Southern Campaign.

Dr. Henry Williams, a former Wall Street investment banker and current adjunct faculty member at IWP, lectures on several topics, ranging from American History to Middle Eastern policy. He currently teaches The Turks and MENA in History and Today (IWP 685). He has also published an article on The Daily Progress, reporting on how proxy wars in the East Mediterranean presents challenges to the U.S. and has been featured on National Public Radio.

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Crossing of the Dan
Photo by Joe Chandler