Contributor Close-up: Wayne Lynch


May 18, 2015
by Editors Also by this Author


Journal of the American Revolution is the leading source of knowledge about the American Revolution and Founding Era. We feature smart, groundbreaking research and well-written narratives from expert writers. Our work has been featured by the New York Times, TIME magazine, History Channel, Discovery Channel, Smithsonian, Mental Floss, NPR, and more. Journal of the American Revolution also produces annual hardcover volumes, a branded book series, and the podcast, Dispatches

About Wayne Lynch:

Wayne Lynch is an independent researcher and frequent writer of American history. Since 2010, he has been researching and writing a book about the Southern Campaigns of the American Revolution. With several ancestors who were active on both sides of Revolutionary fighting in the south, Wayne has enjoyed a lifelong attachment to American history with a specialization on the American Revolution. He is a certified public accountant and tax attorney in Galveston, Texas.

What inspired you to start researching and writing about the Revolution?

I have always enjoyed history but really got into it around 2001 when my mother died. At that point I inherited her 35 years of genealogical research in which she had taken both sides of my family back to old Virginia. Working without the aid of computers or the internet, she traveled to courthouses and wrote letters in a similar fashion to that of Lyman Draper in the 19th century. The sheer volume of what she had collected took me months to assemble which then led me to a desire to place all these wonderful people and stories into historical context.

So, why the revolution and the southern campaigns?

It took a couple of years to work my way from Jamestown to the Revolution. Apparently, I have ancestors in Bacon’s Rebellion and the French & Indian War who deserved some attention before arriving at the Stamp Act and revolutionary period. However, once I arrived at the revolution things got serious and I was stuck. First I studied the founders and the causes/events before the war. I couldn’t help but notice the historical bias toward events in Boston and New England because all of my ancestors lived in the southern colonies. So I started soaking up what I could and discovered family on both sides of the war in the south. If that weren’t enough to get my enthusiasm going, it appeared that most historians sort of throw up their hands and declare the whole story of the southern campaign to be something of a mess. Well, I am a CPA and Tax Attorney experienced with forensic projects and expert witness testimony on damage reconstructions, sometimes looking back several decades to rebuild tax return, etc. I took it as a personal challenge and determined that not only would I understand the southern campaigns but I would someday write about them and shed light on people who might otherwise remain in the dim shadows of history.  That a few of those people are my ancestors, well, gravy.

What historians or books have most influenced your work? Why?

There is little doubt that John Buchanan’s work, The Road to Guilford Courthouse went a long way toward pulling me into the southern campaigns. Not only did he tell the central story of Greene v Cornwallis well but the short biographical stuff on various partisans really hooked me. At that point I remembered an old Robert Bass book on Thomas Sumter called Gamecock. In reading the book I couldn’t help but notice the events central to Bass’s understanding of the war in the south differed from Buchanan who, like many historians, chose to focus primarily on battles involving the Continental Army.   I moved on to another Bass work called, Ninety-Six, which opened up yet another set of events and mix of participants. I became totally intrigued and started what has become a decade long (so far) search for all the primary sources and details regarding each of the major groups or partisans in the south. Many of the South’s major players aren’t even honored with mention in the encyclopedias that I commonly use (Boatner and also the multi-volume set of Fremont – Barnes and Ryerson).

So, what have become your ‘go to’ resources?

I have a number of primary source sets that I use on a regular basis. The Cornwallis Papers by Ian Saberton probably tops my list but there are other very excellent sources. The Papers of General Nathaniel Greene are a must for any research done for 1781 and beyond.   However, the year 1780 is more challenging for the Patriot side of things. For that period, I like to use individual narratives from the Draper Manuscript collection (some of which are published separately or in the pension files) for operations involving the militia.   Some notable examples come from Col. William Hill, Col. Richard Winn, Samuel Hammond, and Joseph McJunkin but there are a number of others available. One excellent source for information on back country residents is Joseph Johnson’s Traditions and Reminiscences chiefly of the American Revolution in the South. Johnson was an 19th century writer whose work came out just as the last of the old veterans were disappearing.

Which of your own JAR articles is your favorite or most rewarding? Why?

Last summer I started in on a new project documenting (as much as possible) all the primary sources that mention the back country partisans. My first subject was Elijah Clarke, who happens to be a long standing personal favorite among those who refused subjugation in June of 1780. Wounded in every engagement yet still charging on like a bull, Clarke truly deserved the adjective, ‘indomitable’. However, even with his incredible activity, Clarke remains a little known character whose exploits are very deserving of attention. I enjoyed the series and am absolutely delighted that all three parts made the annual JAR volume coming out in May.

Other than your own contributions, what are some of your favorite JAR articles?

Mr. Schellhammer’s article on the Mutiny of the Pennsylvania Line stands out in my memory as an example of incredibly interesting writing combined with a good subject matter. The result was a very gripping story that left the reader wanting more. If only my own prose flowed so well.

Also, I enjoyed Prof. Piecuch’s piece on Richard Pearis. Pearis is a southern campaign participant whose loyalty seems a bit vague, to say the least. I knew little of the man prior to the article and since my particular passion is the study of these partisan individuals (both sides), the article struck right at home for me.

What new research/writing projects are you currently working on?

Over the past couple of months I have played with some ideas for turning my writings into a book. While true that I have a collection of research notes to cover a number of subjects, I suffer greatly from what I like to call the Tom Sawyer Syndrome.   In other words, once the writing projects turn into work instead of play I find myself dawdling about the house, cleaning out closets, playing with the cat, basically anything other than work. A major influence on me recently suggested I need an editor/co-author who also knows the subject matter to keep me focused and on track. Probably just what I need.

Why is Journal of the American Revolution important to you?

The JAR has provided me with an outlet for my writings. Not only does it represent a quality presentation for the articles but also a wonderful association with others who study the Revolution. I cannot say enough about how hard Todd, Hugh, and Don work to provide the format and the necessary editorial work. They are amazing.

What additions would you like to see in the JAR format?

I like debates, not arguments, that offer differing opinions on like subject matter. For instance, I would really like to see a series of 4 or 5 articles come out in succession (or within a couple of weeks) advocating the author’s position on whether the Continental Army or the Militia forces deserve the lion’s share of credit for winning the American Revolution. Or perhaps on whether or not Banastre Tarleton is deserving of his proper place as a villain of the war.

Another good use of a series of differing points of view on a single subject might be coverage of larger events. At the JAR they do a wonderful job covering trivia and small details of the war but large battles and campaigns are difficult due to format and length restrictions. It would be great to have five authors tell a story from differing points of view, and, hopefully, with an emphasis on different actors within the action. For example: Morgan at the Cowpens, Militia operations at the Cowpens, The British Legion fails to charge at the Cowpens, and Cavalry operations at the battle of Cowpens.


  • Wayne
    I always look forward to your articles. Your research into primary sources is exciting. I am eager for your book to appear – and, I have faith that since Huck Finn could write a book….you can, too.

  • I enjoyed this mini-bio. And a topic you mentioned has always intrigued me. You said, “Or perhaps on whether or not Banastre Tarleton is deserving of his proper place as a villain of the war.” The Continentals captured Tarleton at Yorktown in the Glouchester Point position, correct? If so, why was he not charged and put on trial by General Washington? The Patriots certainly had the opportunity then.

    1. Could Tarleton be tried by the Americans after being taken prisoner? Excellent question and, while I have not done any in depth research, would not necessarily preclude that possibility.

      De Vattel’s highly esteemed 1758 Law of Nations proscribed many remedies for those taken as prisoners of war (see my recent article concerning POWs: and he does not exclude the possibility of their being tried for their actions outside the scope of permissible warfare.

      In section 150, “How prisoners of war are to be treated,” de Vattel writes that “they are not to be treated harshly, unless personally guilty of some crime against him who has them in his power.” This would indicate that resorting to a trial in some fashion would not be unreasonable if it could be determined that Tarleton had committed a crime against the Americans; however, a question arises of whether this is something that had to occur during battle or, perhaps, some infraction in a civil context by an officer on parole.

      Assuming it would apply in instances of battle, then what took place at Waxhaws becomes relevant and Tarleton’s personal conduct could open him up to charges of failing to allow quarter to surrendering Americans; again, de Vattel in section 140: “On an enemy’s submitting and laying down his arms, we cannot with justice take away his life. Thus, in battle, quarter is to be given to those who lay down their arms.”

      However, a question arises concerning his personal responsibility for the actions of subordinates that might not have ceased the slaughter on his command, assuming he actually made such an order. It is also possible that Tarleton could resort to de Vattels’ instruction that refusing to give quarter is permissible as a punishment to those who break the law (i.e., rebelling Americans).

      Finally, what of the British actions at Paoli and the Americans at Stony Point? Each of those instances involved the infliction of harm on soldiers trying to surrender and one has to ask where would the recriminations ever end if we tried to go down this route of punishing our adversaries for they would also insist on the right to try Americans for their similar conduct?

      Regardless, it is an interesting thing to consider.

    2. At the same end, you’d have to try Major General Edward Grey for his actions at Paoli and the Baylor “Massacre” in Old Tappan. On the American side, you could (if he had been captured) even stretch that the British may have wanted to try George Rogers Clark for butchering British allied natives in full view of Vincennes. Im sure there are better examples on the American end. Sherman said it best- war is hell.

  • Charge and try Tarleton for what? He was a commissioned officer in the British army, just one of several hundred British officers captured at Yorktown. None had committed crimes per se; they had been engaged in fighting a war. American officers captured by the British at Charleston the year before were not charged and tried either. There was no basis for such a thing.

    1. Don, I was interested in Wayne’s motivation for the Tarleton comment. Obviously, the reputation of Tarleton is based on Waxhaws. Had it been considered a massacre of 113 patriots, would the Continental Army forgotten about it by 1781?

      JAR had an interesting debate on the issue that I read with interest. I think the evidence suggests that the blame falls on the incompetent patriot command.

      1. Darrell,
        I find Tarleton’s villainy something found in the totality of his actions rather than a single incident. That said, the defeat at the Waxhaws might be largely Buford’s fault in not readying his men (or maybe he trued but really didn’t know how to handle the situation) but that doesn’t clean up the subsequent slaughter of surrendering men with bayonets.

        As to whether or not it was forgotten in 1781, I doubt that it was in Virginia where Buford and his men were from. However, there is little reason to think Washington or any of his officers felt particularly harsh toward the Waxhaws Massacre. They had witnessed a number of situations where the term ‘massacre’ had been thrown around.

    2. Thanks for the comment and question Darrell. To be honest with you, I have no idea if the terms of surrender in the 18th century would ever speak to war crimes or tribunals. That said, I think Washington really wanted the surrender at Yorktown and trying to charge individual officers with crimes would not have facilitated his goal. The idea of Cornwallis making a desperate attempt at escape was not unthinkable.

      However, in spite of Don’s noble protests, I think there were definitely threats of prosecution against colonists on both sides during the war.

      I believe some of Simcoe’s men, the Queen’s Rangers, may have been allowed out of Yorktown on a special ship (agreement called for no search of that one vessel) in order to prevent their prosecution as traitors. The problem being that they were Loyalists, some of whom may have previously served in the Continental army (or militia). Threat of prosecution (or simple execution) was a particular problem in the south. Our beloved Tarleton whose name began the discussion was known for hanging a Whig or two rather than bother with taking them as prisoners. At one point I noticed a pattern of Tarleton hanging the first Whig unfortunate enough to cross his path each time a situation went badly for him.

  • Wayne Lynch says: “I couldn’t help but notice the historical bias toward events in Boston and New England because all of my ancestors lived in the southern colonies.” Huzza! Huzza! In the JAR piece on the Tryon County “Association” last year I singled out one Northern historian, Gordon S. Wood, for ignoring North Carolina in his book on the Revolution. Here is an example of how the prejudice against the South affects even highly politicized but not historically informed Northerners. The Bostonian David Dellinger, the “Chicago Seven” man, the self-described “moral dissenter” [FROM YALE TO JAIL: THE LIFE STORY OF A MORAL DISSENTER], was a cousin of mine. His mother’s mother “was a leader in the Daughters of the American Revolution,” he said, and continued: “My father’s ancestors were also pre-Revolutionary Americans, but they lived in the mountains of North Carolina instead of in a suburb of Boston. Boston was the Fountainhead of the American Revolution and the Center of Modern Enlightenment. The leading Boston paper called it the ‘Athens of America’ and the ‘Hub of the Universe.'” David Dellinger had no idea that two of his and my North Carolina Dellingers manifested an extraordinary capacity for “moral dissent” when they signed the Tryon County “Association”! Taking enormous risks themselves, they and the other signers manifested a heartfelt concern for their “Brethren near Boston”! Cousin David ought to have learned about these pre-Revolutionary Dellingers, for he might have seen his best self in them! Huzza, Wayne Lynch, for assembling and working your way through such an array of basic texts on southern Revolutionary history, and writing about what you learn.

  • Wayne – congratulations on your Close-Up article! I found your interest points very enlightening and like your extended series discussion concept.

    Your “Tom Sawyer Syndrome” description is so perfect and will be very recognizable by any writer. I’d like to continue this note, but have to go check my local weather TV channel and feed the cats.

  • Wayne, Thank you for the research tips and your ideas on primary sources. They have served you well in preparing JAR articles and I will check them out.

    I am intrigued with your idea of a series of articles with a common theme. In particular, asking multiple authors to describe a major battle, campaign or other event from different perspectives would be interesting. For example, describing battles from the viewpoints of British, Hessian, Patriot, Loyalist, Native American, French, Canadian and probably other perspectives that I omitted. I find contemporary research too often focused on one perspective while ignoring the views of other participants.

  • Wayne – great thoughts and an inspiration for further work. I am honored that you enjoyed my Pennsylvania Mutiny piece. Hey who’s the guy on the motorcycle? Mike

    1. Thanks for the kind comments everyone. It is certainly a pleasure to be a part of this site!

      The guy on the motorcycle is a much younger version of myself, circa 1981, West Germany. Just doing my part to keep the ‘Bear in the woods’. 🙂

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