Williamsport's founder, Otho Williams played key role in Revolutionary War

July 14, 2008|By JULIE E. GREENE

When he was researching Williamsport founder Otho Holland Williams for his new book, the thing that struck S. Roger Keller the most was that Williams saved the American army in 1781.

After Colonial Gen. Daniel Morgan routed the British army at Cowpens, a well-known crossroads in South Carolina, he met up with Gen. Nathanael Greene at Guilford Courthouse, N.C. Morgan's men were short of food, clothing and ammunition.

As Greene moved north to replenish the Colonial army's men and supplies, American forces were just 25 miles away from British Gen. Sir Charles Cornwallis' forces.

Morgan was too ill to lead a decoy unit, so he suggested Greene order Williams to distract Cornwallis' forces while Greene led the weary troops north to get more supplies.


Williams did just that, with 700 men and cavalry.

"He dragged Cornwallis all over the Carolina borders up there. He kept them away from the (Colonial) army until the army got up the river in Virginia," Keller said.

"He saved the army," Keller said. During Williams' decoy efforts, Cornwallis was so frustrated trying to catch up to Williams that he ordered his men to ditch tents and other gear to lighten their load, Keller said.

Keller, 76, who lives east of Hagerstown, self-published "General Otho Holland Williams, Founder of Williamsport, Maryland: Hero of the American Revolution" this summer. Keller used an unusual format: pages of text saved on a CD. It was more affordable for him to create the book on CDs, Keller said, because he could copy them at home. He hopes to have a print version, printed from computer, out this summer.

While reading a text CD isn't as convenient as a book, there are advantages to the format. Readers who prefer big print can select and enlarge the font size to make it easier to read. They also can search for keywords within each chapter.

The text format is Microsoft Word. The text can be read on Macs using basic TextEdit software, though a test of the book on Herald-Mail Macs did not open the book's photo of Williams.

Keller has added some photos to the book, which he said he will send to books already purchased. Readers can call him at 301-733-1970 to get the new files.

In addition to Williams' biography, Keller's CD includes several miscellaneous tidbits such as a list of Revolutionary War patriots with local ties, horrors of British prisons and prison ships, the journal of Capt. William Beatty of Washington County, women in war, and how the character of Figaro in operas by Gioacchino Rossini and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is connected to the American War of Independence.

This is Keller's sixth book. His previous books include four about the Civil War and one about Isaac Shelby from the Revolutionary War.

Keller works part time at the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau's downtown Hagerstown Visitors Welcome Center as the bureau's official historian.

"Hero of the American Revolution" is available at the Town Museum of Williamsport for $20; $10 from each book purchase is donated to the museum. The CD also will be available soon for $15 at the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau's Visitors Welcome Center at 6 N. Potomac St. in downtown Hagerstown.

Keller will sign his book on CD and give a presentation about Williams at Discovery Station in downtown Hagerstown at 2 p.m. Saturday, July 26.

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