Chief Justice John Marshall is born

Chief Justice John Marshall is born

 

On this day in history, September 24, 1755, Chief Justice John Marshall is born, the longest serving Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court in history. Appointed by President John Adams, Marshall was one of the last surviving members of the founding generation when he died in 1835. He was particularly known for making the Supreme Court a co-equal branch of government with the Presidency and with Congress and establishing the principle that the Court has the final say on what is "Constitutional."

 

John Marshall was born in rural western Virginia to a father who worked as a surveyor for Lord Fairfax. Marshall’s father saw that his children were well-educated, often using books from Lord Fairfax’s library to teach them. As a young man, Marshall joined the Culpeper Minutemen of Culpeper County, Virginia and fought in the American Revolution. He later served in the 11th Virginia Regiment of the Continental Army.

           

After his service in the army, Marshall studied law with George Wythe and became a lawyer in 1780. In 1782, he was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates, where he served for 9 of the next 14 years, during which time his reputation as a lawyer continued to grow. In 1788, he helped lead the Federalists in securing the vote to accept the US Constitution at the Virginia Ratification Convention. In the late 1780s, he spoke in several prominent cases before both the Virginia and US Supreme Courts.

 

Marshall turned down appointments from George Washington to be the US Attorney General and the Ambassador to France. President John Adams, however, was successful in appointing Marshall as one of the commissioners to France. That mission ended in the scandal known as the XYZ Affair, during which the commissioners were asked to pay bribes to deal with French officials, but refused. The affair made Marshall quite popular at home.

 

In 1799, Marshall was elected a member of the House of Representatives from Richmond, Virginia. The next year, President Adams successfully appointed Marshall his Secretary of State. When Adams lost the 1800 election, he chose Marshall in a last minute flurry of appointments to be the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. John Adams later said that was the best decision of his entire life.

 

Marshall served as Chief Justice for 34 years, the longest service of any chief justice. Marshall used his position of influence to cement Federalist policies into law, which supported a powerful central government. He was often at odds with President Thomas Jefferson and his Democrat-Republican party, which favored states’ rights and small government.

 

Marshall’s policies helped establish the Supreme Court as an equal branch of the federal government, giving it authority to review the actions and laws of the President and Congress and deem them "unconstitutional." The Marshall Court helped establish that the government must obey the Constitution and that federal law supersedes state law. His Court gave Congress large leeway in deciding what was “necessary and proper” to do its duties; helped define Congress’ role in regulating interstate commerce; established the idea that corporations have the same rights as individuals; and ruled that the Bill of Rights was only intended as a restriction against the federal government.

 

Marshall served on the Supreme Court right up to his death on July 6, 1835. His other accomplishments include writing and publishing a 5 volume biography of George Washington; serving as the first president of the American Colonization Society, which settled freed American slaves in Liberia; and serving at the 1829 Virginia Constitutional Convention. When he died in 1835, he was one of the last surviving leaders of the founding generation.

 

http://www.revolutionary-war-and-beyond.com

 

Jack Manning

Historian General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org  

 

"Encroachments of the States on the general authority, sacrifices of national to local interests, interferences of the measures of different States, form a great part of the history of our political system."

James Madison – Letter to Thomas Jefferson, October 24, 1787

Benedict Arnold’s treason is discovered

Benedict Arnold’s treason is discovered

 

On this day in history, September 23, 1780, Benedict Arnold’s treason is discovered by 3 young patriots who grew suspicious of a passerby who turned out to be British spy, John Andre. The discovery led to the three men’s entry into the hall of fame of American heroes from the Revolution.

 

Benedict Arnold was a hero of the American invasion of Canada and the Battle of Saratoga. He was once viewed as one of the Continental Army’s best and brightest and had the personal favor of George Washington. The reason for Arnold’s turning is uncertain, but he was known for having frequent disputes with his superiors and was overlooked for promotion several times. This may have been the source of his disgruntlement.

           

Arnold began corresponding with British General, Sir Henry Clinton in New York the year before and proposed the exchanging of information for certain favors. Arnold used his influence with George Washington to have himself placed in command of West Point, the most strategically important place on the Hudson River preventing a British invasion to the north.

 

On the evening of September 21, 1780, Arnold met with British Major John Andre at the home of Joshua Hett Smith, a patriot who was unaware of Arnold’s true intent, at Haverstraw, New York. Arnold turned over the plans of West Point to Andre and was to receive 20,000 pounds and be made a general in the British army in return. The following morning, Andre began the trek back to New York in disguise, carrying a pass signed by Arnold that would let him through American lines. He carried the secret plans of West Point in his shoes.

 

After crossing the Croton River, Andre believed he would be in safe territory as Arnold had told him only British patrols would be found beyond that point. When he crossed the river, however, he was stopped by a patrol made up of three young patriots, 25 year old David Williams, 22 year old John Paulding and 20 year old Isaac Van Wert. The three belonged to the New York militia and were in the area searching for cattle stolen by the British.

 

Young John Paulding wore a worn out Hessian military jacket and this jacket apparently deceived Andre into believing they were British. Andre exclaimed he was glad to meet some friendly soldiers and that he was on important business. The three boys took him into custody instantly and told him they were patriots. When Andre changed his story and produced the signed pass from Arnold, they became more suspicious. They stripped him and found the documents from West Point.

 

At this point, the three soldiers took Andre to a nearby Continental Army outpost. Lt. Col. John Jameson listened to the story and quickly sent off letters to George Washington and Benedict Arnold (it wasn’t yet clear that Arnold was guilty of any wrongdoing). Arnold quickly escaped to a British ship and made his way to safety. George Washington was furious when he arrived at West Point only a few hours after Arnold’s departure and the truth was revealed.

 

Arnold escaped to New York and, as promised, was made a general in the British army. He led attacks in Virginia and Connecticut and later moved to London. John Andre, the captured British spy, was hanged for his role in the affair on October 2. The three boys who captured Andre became heroes, with poems and songs, books and plays written about them. They were well-known figures to Americans for over a hundred years because of all the publicity, but their names have faded in recent times, which is truly a loss to modern day Americans.

 

http://www.revolutionary-war-and-beyond.com

 

Jack Manning

Historian General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org  

 

"We have, as you very justly observe, abundant reason to thank Providence for its many favorable interpositions in our behalf. It has at times been my only dependence, for all other resources seemed to have failed us."

George Washington – Letter to William Gordon, March, 1781

Nathan Hale is hanged

Nathan Hale is hanged

 

On this day in history, September 22, 1776, Nathan Hale is hanged for spying against the British on Long Island. Hale was born in Coventry, Connecticut in 1755. He went to Yale and became a school teacher in New London, Connecticut. When the Revolution broke out, Hale joined Connecticut’s 7th Regiment as a lieutenant and marched to Boston to participate in the siege of that city.

 

Hale was disappointed that he saw no military action at Boston before the British abandoned the city. Afterwards, the Continental Army moved to defend New York. Hale was disappointed once again when his unit saw no action at the Battle of Long Island on August 27, 1776.

           

After losing the battle, George Washington knew the British would attempt to invade Manhattan and devised a plan to place a spy into the British ranks on Long Island to learn where the invasion would begin. The 21 year old Hale volunteered for the mission, probably because he was tired of being overlooked and out of harm’s way.

 

Hale sailed from Norwalk, Connecticut across Long Island Sound on September 12th. He landed at Huntington and made his way west where he posed as a teacher of Dutch descent looking for a job. Hale spent several days trying to gather information, especially about the planned invasion of Manhattan. Unbeknownst to Hale, the British invaded the island at Kip’s Bay on the 15th, forced the Continental Army to withdraw to the north of the island and captured New York City all on the same day.

Nathan Hale – September 22, 1776 by Don Troiani

Click to enlarge

Nathan Hale – September 22, 1776

by Don Troiani

 

Hale continued with his mission, not realizing that it had already failed. On the evening of September 21st, a large fire started in New York City that burned down a quarter of the town. In the hysteria of the event, some 200 patriot sympathizers were rounded up on suspicion that they had set the fire to prevent the British from using the city as a base of operations.

 

Hale by this time had already begun to make his way back to Huntington to cross back to safe territory and report back to Washington, so he had nothing to do with the fire. During his escape from Long Island, Hale was tricked into disclosing his mission to a British officer who had been tipped off to Hale’s mission. He was taken into custody and sent to General William Howe in New York. Some have speculated that Hale was caught as a result of the frenzy to take patriots into custody after the fire, but there is no evidence to support this claim.

 

General Howe interrogated Hale at the Beekman Mansion outside the city and sentenced him to hanging for treason. That night, Hale was held in the greenhouse on the Beekman estate, where he was denied his request to have a Bible or see a clergy member. British officer John Montresor reported the young man conducted himself with great composure as he marched to the gallows on September 22.

 

Before his death, Nathan Hale made one of the most memorable statements of the Revolution, when he allegedly said, "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country." Hale apparently made much more lengthy comments in which he condemned the British and made it clear that he was proud of his role in the rebellion.

 

No grave has ever been discovered for Hale, but numerous statues of the blond haired, blue eyed spy from Connecticut have been erected in his honor. Numerous schools, buildings, army installations and a US submarine have been named for this 21 year old hero of the American Revolution as well.

 

http://www.revolutionary-war-and-beyond.com

 

Jack Manning

Historian General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org  

 

"Strive to be the greatest man in your country, and you may be disappointed. Strive to be the best and you may succeed: he may well win the race that runs by himself." Benjamin Franklin – Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1747

Esther de Berdt Reed is born

Esther de Berdt Reed is born

 

On this day in history, October 22, 1746, Esther de Berdt Reed is born. She would lead the largest women’s group providing supplies for the Continental Army during the American Revolution.

 

Esther was born in London to Dennis de Berdt, who was Massachusetts’ representative to the Crown in the 1760s. In 1763, young lawyer Joseph Reed came from Philadelphia to study in London and stayed with the De Berdt family. The two fell in love and became tentatively engaged, though her father was against the marriage because he knew Joseph planned to return to America.

           

Joseph did return to Philadelphia and the two corresponded for 5 years. In the meantime, Esther’s father and Joseph’s parents passed away and Joseph returned to London where the two were married in 1770. The couple and Esther’s mother then moved back to Philadelphia where Joseph had a successful law firm.

 

As the American Revolution broke out, Joseph and Esther were solidly on the patriot side, despite Esther’s birth in London. In 1775, Reed was elected to Congress and George Washington personally asked him to leave his law firm to be his personal aide when Washington took over the Continental Army at Boston in 1775. Reed served in the army for several years and in 1778 he became Governor of Pennsylvania.

 

Esther was forced to raise her children alone during Reed’s long absences and even took them out of the city several times to escape the British. George Washington was constantly begging Congress for more supplies, ammunition and clothing for the soldiers at this time. When Joseph became governor, Esther took advantage of her position to do something about the needs of the soldiers. She wrote an article in the newspaper explaining that women could be just as patriotic as men and detailed a plan for women to raise money that would be given to the soldiers to help them with their personal expenses.

 

Women around Philadelphia and Pennsylvania began sending their money in and more than 300,000 Continental dollars were raised. Esther wrote to Washington of her plan to distribute the money to every soldier. Washington wrote her back with his thanks, but suggested the money would be better used for clothing, which was in short supply. He was also concerned that many of the soldiers would use the money to buy alcohol, but he left the final decision to Esther.

 

Esther took Washington’s advice and she purchased tons of fabric and made over 2,000 shirts for the soldiers. Tragically, Esther became ill and died in September of 1780 and never saw the full fruits of her efforts. After her death, Sarah Franklin Bache, the daughter of Benjamin Franklin, took over the leadership of the organization. Women’s groups formed in several other colonies and followed Esther’s example, but Esther’s organization was the largest and most productive. Her accomplishments were unique for a woman in the colonial era and proved that women could be just as patriotic, self-sacrificing and politically minded as men.

 

http://www.revolutionary-war-and-beyond.com

 

Jack Manning

Historian General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org  

 

"Objects of the most stupendous magnitude, and measure in which the lives and liberties of millions yet unborn are intimately interested, are now before us. We are in the very midst of a revolution the most complete, unexpected and remarkable of any in the history of nations."

John Adams – Letter to William Cushing, June 9, 1776

The Great Fire of New York of 1776

The Great Fire of New York of 1776

 

On this day in history, September 21, 1776, the Great Fire of New York of 1776 burns down much of the city, less than a week after it was occupied by the army of British General William Howe. Howe marched into the city on September 15 unopposed. George Washington and the Continental Army had been in the city, but realized it was indefensible and retreated to the north of the island a few days before.

 

Upon leaving the city, Washington was encouraged to burn New York to the ground to prevent the British from using it as a base of operations. Such prominent people as Nathanael Greene and John Jay advocated the burning of the city. Washington, however, wrote to Congress and asked their wishes. Congress told him that abandoning the city was reasonable, but not to burn it.

           

New York at this time was only a city of 25,000 people, confined to the lower tip of Manhattan. On the evening of September 21st, a fire started at the Fighting Cock’s Tavern in Whitehall. The fire quickly spread to neighboring buildings by embers carried on the wind. Within hours, businesses, homes, churches and schools were burning. The panicked citizens fled into the streets carrying whatever belongings they could. By the time the fire burned itself out, somewhere between 10% and 25% of the city had burned to the ground and many of the remaining structures had been looted.

 

British General Howe suspected the rebel patriots of setting the fire and arrested more than 200 patriot sympathizers. Many patriots had fled the city, though, when the British occupation began. This led some to suspect it was started by the British as an act of revenge against the colonists. Others speculated the fire was begun to provide cover for thieves to loot the city.

 

Historians have never been able to determine who started the Great Fire of New York of 1776. There was evidence of arson. Alarm bells were mysteriously missing; fire-fighting equipment was found damaged and useless and many of the city’s public watering cisterns were mysteriously dry.

 

George Washington wrote to John Hancock, then the President of Congress, that he had instructed no one to set the fire, but that "Providence—or some good honest Fellow, has done more for us than we were disposed to do for ourselves."

 

After the fire, refugees from the burned areas set up tent cities and lived in squalor. Thousands of Loyalist refugees from other areas flooded into the city as well, putting even more pressure on the damaged infrastructure of the city. New York would remain in this condition, with much of the city lying in ruins for years to come.

 

The British did not leave New York City until the very end of the Revolution in November, 1783, the last city in the former colonies to be abandoned by its British oppressors. George Washington marched triumphantly into the city on November 25, 1783, and the city was able to rebuild freely in the hands of the victorious patriots.

 

http://www.revolutionary-war-and-beyond.com

 

Jack Manning

Historian General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org  

 

"Freedom had been hunted round the globe; reason was considered as rebellion; and the slavery of fear had made men afraid to think. But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks, and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing."

Thomas Paine – The Rights of Man, Part 2, 1791

The Battle of Paoli

The Battle of Paoli

 

On this day in history, September 20, 1777, the Battle of Paoli seals the fate of Philadelphia, allowing the British to take the city unopposed. British General William Howe had landed 17,000 troops in Maryland on August 25 and begun marching the 60 miles to capture the American capital.

 

George Washington’s Continental Army had put up a fight at the Battle of Brandywine, but was driven back by the superior British forces. Washington retreated beyond the Schuylkill River, but then crossed back over to fight near present day Malvern. This battle was averted, however, when both sides were forced to abort because of a severe storm. The battle became known as the Battle of the Clouds.

           

Following the storm, Washington withdrew to the west to get dry ammunition and supplies from Reading, Pennsylvania, while General Howe’s army remained stationary due to the wet and rutted roads. Washington sent Brigadier General Anthony Wayne with 1,500 men to pursue and harass Howe’s rear. Major General William Smallwood was sent to assist him with 1,000 Pennsylvania militia.

 

On the evening of the 19th, Wayne camped near the Paoli Tavern, which is near modern day Malvern, while Smallwood camped two miles to the west near White Horse Tavern. Wayne believed his presence was unknown to General Howe, but Howe had learned of Wayne’s mission from spies and local Loyalists.

 

On the evening of September 20, Major General Charles Grey left the British camp with 1,800 soldiers. As they approached Wayne’s camp late that night, Wayne’s sentries fired on the British and alerted the camp. Three waves of British soldiers carrying bayonets rushed through the camp. The Americans, surprised and with few bayonets, were quickly overcome. They began to scatter and many ran toward General Smallwood’s camp hoping for reinforcement. As the British pursued and ran into Smallwood’s force coming to the rescue, Smallwood’s men were routed as well.

 

The Battle of Paoli, which has also been called the Paoli Massacre, was a stunning defeat to the Continental Army and the Pennsylvania militia. 53 Americans were killed, 113 were wounded and 71 were captured. The British suffered less than a dozen casualties. The outsized British victory was soon called a "massacre" by American patriots because of the high rate of American casualties. Rumors even spread that the British had bayoneted wounded survivors and surrendering men, but there is no evidence that has proved this accusation.

 

General Wayne was accused of poor decision making leading to the rout, which angered him and led him to demand a full court-martial. The court-martial later found him innocent of any wrong doing or guilt in the loss.

 

After the battle, General Howe’s rear was clear of any American interference and he continued the march to Philadelphia. Washington and Howe maneuvered on opposite sides of the Schuylkill for a few days, but Howe was able to find an unprotected ford on the river and marched unopposed into the city on the 26th. Philadelphia would be occupied for the next 9 months.

 

http://www.revolutionary-war-and-beyond.com

 

Jack Manning

Historian General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org  

 

"Whenever the people are well informed, they can be trusted with their own government; that whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights."

Thomas Jefferson – Letter to Richard Price, January 8, 1789

The Battle of Freeman’s Farm

The Battle of Freeman’s Farm

 

On this day in history, September 19, 1777, the Battle of Freeman’s Farm is the first of the Battles of Saratoga which culminated in the surrender of British General John Burgoyne’s army. The battles were a major turning point in the American Revolution that encouraged France and Spain to join the war on the American side.

 

In 1777, the British began an effort to divide New England from the middle and southern colonies. The plan was to send General Burgoyne down Lake Champlain from Quebec; Brigadier General Barry St. Leger would cut across New York from the west; and General William Howe would come from New York City up the Hudson River. The three groups would meet at Albany.

           

General Burgoyne left Quebec in June and reached Saratoga by mid-September, but St. Leger’s force was stopped at Fort Stanwix and turned back by Benedict Arnold. General Howe took the bulk of his forces to capture Philadelphia, instead of going to meet Burgoyne, leaving Burgoyne isolated. In addition, Burgoyne lost 1,000 men at the Battle of Bennington who were supposed to bring him support. Burgoyne had trouble getting supplies and communications across the vast wilderness and most of his Indian allies abandoned him after the loss at Bennington.

 

The American army under General Horatio Gates had dug in at Bemis Heights, about ten miles south of Saratoga. On the morning of September 19, Burgoyne decided to attack. Benedict Arnold understood that Burgoyne would attack the American left flank and ordered his men through the wilderness to meet him.

 

Colonel Daniel Morgan’s sharpshooters met the British near Loyalist John Freeman’s farm and the battle began. Morgan’s sharpshooters picked off nearly every British officer in the British vanguard, driving them back into the main British army, which began firing on their own men.

 

Fighting took place all day around the farm, with both sides variously winning or losing the battle. The battle finally went to the British when German Baron, Friedrich Adolf Riedesel attacked the American right flank. Darkness began to fall and the Americans retreated to their defenses at Bemis Heights.

 

Burgoyne won the first of the Battles of Saratoga, although it cost him 600 men, which he could not afford to lose, including most of his artillery soldiers. The Americans lost half that number. Following the Battle of Freeman’s Farm, Burgoyne was faced with a perplexing decision. Should he continue the battle, or wait for reinforcements? He quickly sent word to General Henry Clinton in New York, who had been left in command there with a small force to guard the city after General Howe left for Philadelphia.

 

Clinton quickly sent troops up the Hudson to distract Gates and hopefully pull him away from Burgoyne. Clinton’s help finally came too late though. Burgoyne went to battle again on October 7 and this time Gates’ army was victorious. Burgoyne was forced into retreat and surrendered his entire army on October 17th at Saratoga.

 

The victory caused celebration throughout the colonies, which were especially despondent after the capture of Philadelphia in September. France and Spain joined the war officially upon seeing that the Americans could truly stand up against the British army. Their involvement forced Britain into a worldwide war that reduced British numbers in America and eventually led to their defeat at Yorktown.

 

http://www.revolutionary-war-and-beyond.com

 

Jack Manning

Historian General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org  

 

"The commander-in-chief earnestly recommends that the troops not on duty should universally attend with that seriousness of deportment and gratitude of heart which the recognition of such reiterated and astonishing interposition of Providence demands of us."

George Washington – General Orders, after British surrender at Yorktown, October 19, 1781