Sybil Ludington, the female Paul Revere, dies

Sybil Ludington, the female Paul Revere, dies

 

On this day in history, February 26, 1839, Sybil Ludington, the female Paul Revere, dies. Sybil Ludington is famed for a midnight ride just like Revere’s when she was only 16 to raise the New York militia when the British raided Danbury, Connecticut.

 

Sybil was the eldest daughter of Colonel Henry Ludington, a New York militia leader, member of the Committee of Safety and organizer of a local spy ring, whose home was near present day Paterson, New York. On April 25, 1777, British General and Governor of New York William Tryon landed a raiding expedition on the shores of Fairfield, Connecticut and marched to Danbury the following day. Danbury was a major supply center of the Hudson River Valley based Continental Army, with thousands of barrels of pork, flour, molasses, rice and rum, and other important supplies such as cots, tents and shoes.

 

When the soldiers arrived in Danbury, they drove off the small militia force guarding the supplies and began to destroy the storehouses and supplies. Soon, the soldiers found the rum and, instead of destroying it, consumed it and promptly lost all control. They went on a rampage through the town, burning homes and businesses. There was nothing the commanding officers could do to stop them.

 

Around 4pm, messengers were sent in several directions to rouse the local militia to come to Danbury’s aide. One messenger reached Colonel Ludington’s home around 9 in the evening. Ludington was the commander of 400 New York militia, but they were scattered around the area and it was late. The messenger and his horse were exhausted and Ludington himself had only just arrived home from a long stint with the army on the Hudson River.

 

16 year old Sybil either volunteered or was asked by her father to round up the local troops. Sybil got on her own horse which she had recently broken and traveled more than 40 miles round trip, through the towns of Carmel, Mahopac, Kent Cliffs, Stormville and Pecksville. The journey was especially dangerous because the area was filled with soldiers, Loyalists, "Skinners" (outlaws) and runaway troops. At every farmhouse along the way, Sybil told the Minutemen that Danbury was under siege and that the militia was gathering at Ludington’s. She drove her horse on with a stick, while the orange glow from the burning Danbury, which was 25 miles away, could be seen in the distance.

 

By the time Sybil reached home early in the morning of the 27th, most of the militia had gathered there. They were too late to help Danbury, but they aided Generals David Wooster and Benedict Arnold in chasing the British back to the coast, fighting in the Battle of Ridgefield, and along the roads in engagements very similar to the Minutemen chasing the British back to Boston after Lexington and Concord.

 

In 1784, Sybil would marry a Revolutionary War soldier named Edmund Ogden who had served with Captain John Paul Jones on the Bonhomme Richard. Edmund was a farmer and innkeeper in Catskill, New York. Sybil ran the inn herself after Edmund’s death in 1799. In 1811, she moved to Unadilla, New York, to live with her only son, Henry, who was a lawyer. She passed away there on February 26, 1839. Ironically, Sybil’s story was little known until it was published by her great-nephew, Louis S. Patrick, in 1907.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Historian General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org  

 

"National defense is one of the cardinal duties of a statesman."
John Adams (1815)

February 25 1799: William Dawes Dies

February 25 1799: William Dawes Dies

 

On This Day…

 

      …in 1799, William Dawes died. The first man to be dispatched on the night of April 18, 1775, Dawes carried the same message as Paul Revere, but while Revere rowed across the harbor and mounted a horse in Charlestown, Dawes went overland, galloping through Roxbury and Watertown. Both men managed to deliver the warning to Samuel Adams and John Hancock in Lexington. They set off together for Concord, but were stopped by a British army patrol. Revere was arrested. Dawes staged a ruse and escaped. The poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow later immortalized Paul Revere and his midnight ride. William Dawes, the other hero of that night, died unheralded.

 

Background

 

On the night of April 18, 1775, Dr. Joseph Warren, one of the Patriot leaders still in Boston, received intelligence that British soldiers were about to launch a surprise raid on Lexington and Concord. Munitions had been stockpiled in Concord, and Samuel Adams and John Hancock were in residence in Lexington.

 

Warren tapped two men to ride out and warn the countryside. Thanks to Longfellow’s famous poem, every school child knows that one rider was Paul Revere. But the other man, William Dawes, also accomplished his dangerous mission that night.

 

In April 1775, William Dawes had just turned 30. He lived in the North End with his wife and growing family. Historians aren’t sure how Dawes came to the attention of Dr. Warren, but he was a good choice.

 

Although he had no love for the British authorities, he had not been visibly active in the struggle against the Crown. This meant that, unlike Paul Revere, he was not a marked man. In fact, his frequent contact with Regular soldiers was an advantage. He was tanner, and his business often took him out of Boston. Redcoats on guard duty were unlikely to stop him leaving town. He was also something of a "ham" and could do an excellent imitation of a drunken farmer if he needed to.

 

Warren summoned Dawes at 9:00 pm on April 18th and gave him a written message for Adams and Hancock. Later, he would give an identical message to Revere, in the hope that one of the two riders would make it to their destination. The terse warning said simply, "A large body of the King’s troops (supposed to be a brigade of about 12 or 1500) were embarked in boats from Boston and gone to land at Lechmere’s point."

 

Dawes set out immediately "mounted on a slow-jogging horse, with saddle-bags behind him, and a large flapped hat upon his head to resemble a countryman on a journey."

 

There were only two possible routes out of Boston that night. One could cross the narrow strip of land called the Neck that connected Boston to Roxbury or row across the harbor to Charlestown. The Redcoats had both ways carefully guarded, but Dawes somehow managed to elude — or deceive — the guards. Luck was on his side; a few moments after he slipped past the sentries, they received an order that no one was to be allowed out of town.

 

Once Dawes was on his way, Warren directed Paul Revere to row across the Charles River under the shadow of the King’s ships anchored there. Both Dawes and Revere faced danger and long odds, but with the men taking different routes, there was a chance that at least one of them might succeed.

 

While Revere rowed towards the mount awaiting him in Charlestown, William Dawes was riding through Roxbury, Brookline, Watertown, and Waltham. He had to proceed cautiously. The British had stationed patrols along the major road out of the city. Dawes apparently moved silently through the towns on his way to Lexington. Whether by design or because the people living along his route were strangers to him, he spoke to no one between Boston and Lexington. He successfully evaded the British Regulars, which was a good thing. Had he been caught, his mission would have been considered treasonous; he could well have been hanged for it.

 

Amazingly, both men reached Lexington that night. Revere arrived first, around midnight. Dawes’s route was several miles longer than Revere’s and his horse slower, so he arrived a half-hour later. Each man delivered Dr. Warren’s message to Hancock and Adams, who were staying with the town’s minister.

 

After a brief rest and some refreshment, Revere and Dawes set out together to rouse Concord. They were joined by a local Patriot, Dr. Samuel Prescott. The three stopped at houses along the way, spreading the word. About halfway to Concord, with Revere riding somewhat ahead, they ran into a British army patrol. Revere was taken prisoner. Prescott escaped and rode off to warn Concord.

 

With two Redcoats in pursuit, the quick-witted Dawes decided to try a ruse. He galloped up to a vacant farmhouse, stopping his horse so quickly that he was thrown to the ground. He jumped up and yelled as if to sympathizers in the house, "Halloo, boys, I’ve got two of ’em!" Fearing that they were about to confront a large number of angry colonials, the soldiers galloped away. The trick worked. Dawes, whose horse had run off, limped back to Lexington. According to family lore, he retraced his steps several days later to recover the watch he had lost in the spill.

 

Although William Dawes never acquired the fame of Paul Revere, his achievement was not entirely forgotten. Another family tradition has it that when General Washington visited Boston in 1789, he danced a minuet with one of Dawes’s daughters. Washington, it is said, expressed admiration for her father’s courageous deed.

Sources

 

Dictionary of American Biography

 

Paul Revere and the World He Lived In, by Esther Forbes (Houghton Mifflin, 1942).

 

Paul Revere’s Ride, by David Hackett Fischer (Oxford University Press, 1994).

 

The Siege of Boston, by Donald Barr Chidsey (Crown Publishers, 1966).

 

William Dawes and his Ride with Paul Revere, by H.W. Holland (Privately printed, 1878).

 

http://www.massmoments.org/moment.cfm?mid=63

 

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, Rights of Man, 1791

Pyle’s Massacre takes place in North Carolina

Pyle’s Massacre takes place in North Carolina

 

On this day in history, February 24, 1781, Pyle’s Massacre takes place in North Carolina. The Patriot army had retreated into Virginia after the Battle of Cowpens in January. British General Lord Charles Cornwallis was camped at Hillsboro, North Carolina, recruiting local Loyalists to join his army. By mid-February, Colonel Henry "Light-horse Harry" Lee and Colonel Andrew Pickens were sent back into North Carolina to scout out British movements.

 

Colonel and Dr. John Pyle of Chatham County raised 400 Loyalists to join Cornwallis. Pyle requested a military escort for his men and Cornwallis agreed to this, dispatching Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton and his dragoons (soldiers on horseback) to bring Pyle to Hillsboro. Against orders, Pyle’s men took the time to visit with friends and family while they waited for Tarleton’s arrival.

 

Meanwhile, Colonels Lee and Pickens heard of Tarleton’s movements and set off to find him. A planned attack was suddenly called off when Tarleton’s camp moved again. Tarleton had arrived at the designated place to meet Pyle’s men, but since they had taken so long, they didn’t arrive on time and Tarleton was trying to find them.

 

On the morning of the 24th, the Americans captured two British soldiers and learned that Tarleton was only a few miles away at the O’Neal Plantation. As the Patriots marched down the road, they met two farmers who had been sent ahead of Pyle’s 400 men, who were now on their way to meet Tarleton. In a stroke of luck, the farmers mistook the Americans for Tarleton and his soldiers because both groups wore similar green jackets and plumes. Lee took advantage of the mistake and sent the farmers back to Pyle with orders to wait by the side of the road to allow Tarleton’s cavalry to pass.

 

As soon as the farmers left, Lee split up the men into several groups to surround the Loyalists. His own group kept straight on the road and found the Loyalists standing in formation on the side of the road just as they had been told. The other Patriots snuck through the woods and surrounded them on all sides.

 

Colonel Lee approached Colonel Pyle and said some pleasantries, but when they reached out their hands to greet one another, a few Loyalists noticed the Patriots sneaking up in the woods and began firing on them. The Patriots began firing in unison on the Loyalists. The Loyalists, however, for the most part, were still confused and didn’t realize they were rebels. Pyle, still thinking Lee was Tarleton, yelled out, "Stop! You’re firing on your own men!" Others pleaded with the rebels, "Stop! We’re loyal to the King!"

 

93 of the Loyalists were killed and dozens wounded in just ten minutes, but not a single patriot, hence the name Pyle’s Massacre. Pyle himself was severely wounded and hid in a pond until he could get away. (Later on he would switch sides and bring valuable intelligence to George Washington that helped defeat Cornwallis at Yorktown.) Pyle’s Massacre served to dampen British efforts to recruit Loyalists and only a few weeks later, the Battle of Guilford Courthouse would severely cripple Cornwallis’ army, leading to his surrender at Yorktown in October.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Historian General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org  

 

"Public virtue cannot exist in a nation without private, and public virtue is the only foundation of republics." —John Adams (1776)

Baron von Steuben arrives at Valley Forge

Baron von Steuben arrives at Valley Forge

 

On this day in history, February 23, 1778, Baron von Steuben arrives at Valley Forge. Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben was born in Prussia. He joined the army at 17 and saw extensive service during the Seven Years War in battles with Russia and Austria, during which he rose to captain and was made a personal aide to Frederick the Great.

 

When this war ended, the military was downsized and Von Steuben was let go. He took a job overseeing the household of the Prince of Hohenzollern-Hechingen, but continued to look for employment with foreign armies. He eventually became acquainted with the French Minister of War, who, in the 1770s was involved with France’s secret funding of the American Revolution.

 

The minister realized Von Steuben’s extensive knowledge of Prussian military techniques could be of great help to the Americans, so he recommended him to Ben Franklin and Silas Deane, the American ambassadors in Paris, who then recommended him to George Washington.

 

Baron von Steuben arrived in America in late 1777 and offered to serve in the army free of pay. By February, 1778, Congress sent word that he should join Washington at Valley Forge and he arrived there on the 23rd. George Washington was impressed with Von Steuben’s experience and knowledge and made him acting inspector-general. Von Steuben was horrified at the unsanitary conditions of the camp and immediately re-organized it with kitchens and latrines far from each other and with latrines on downhill slopes. He also introduced a thorough inventory system that reduced waste and fraud.

 

His most important contribution though, was in training the soldiers in proper battle techniques. He started with a group of 100 men and trained them efficiently how to march in tandem, fire effectively, reload their weapons more quickly and use the bayonet efficiently, training them over and over in military drills that started early in the morning. After the first 100 men were trained, they trained others who then trained others. Within weeks, the Continental Army was transformed from a group of farmers with varying levels of skills and training, into a formidable fighting force.

 

Washington was so impressed with the change in the troops that he made Von Steuben the permanent Inspector-General with a rank of Major-General. During the Battle of Monmouth, which was the first major battle after the winter at Valley Forge, Von Steuben’s techniques were proved when the army successfully fought the British toe to toe.

 

Von Steuben then prepared Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States, a training and organizational guide which was used by the US army until the War of 1812. Von Steuben became one of Washington’s top aides and was finally given his own troops to command. He was sent to the southern theatre to assist General Nathanael Greene and was present at the surrender of General Cornwallis at Yorktown. For his contributions, Baron von Steuben was considered a military hero and was awarded with some large tracts of land and homes in several states. He died at his home in upstate New York in 1794.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Historian General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org  

 

"A nation without its history is like a person without their memory…"

Arthur Schlesinger

Christopher Seider, first casualty of the American Revolution

Christopher Seider, first casualty of the American Revolution

 

On this day in history, February 22, 1770, 11 year old Christopher Seider is the first casualty of the American Revolution. By 1770, the American colonists were in the midst of a boycott of British goods to protest the Townshend Acts, which taxed common items, such as tea, and increased the penalties for avoiding the customs duties.

 

Loyalists would often disregard the boycott of British goods and attempt to capitalize on the lack of goods for sale by continuing to import and sell them. One such Loyalist was Theophilus Lillie of Boston, the owner of a grocery store. Lillie was a known breaker of the boycott and on this particular date, patriotic citizens staged a protest outside his shop, hoping to shame he and his customers for supporting the tyrannical Parliament.

 

Just then, Ebenezer Richardson, an employee of the customs office came by and attempted to break up the rioters, who were throwing stones at Lillie’s store and carrying protest signs. Richardson was a hated figure himself for informing the Attorney General on the activities of the rebel patriots. When Richardson tried to tear down one of the protest signs, the crowd turned on him and began pelting him with rocks, at least one of which hit him in the head. Richardson ran off toward his house with the crowd chasing him.

 

Arriving at home, Richardson hid inside while the crowd pelted his house with rocks. Sometime in the fray, a young German immigrant boy joined in the crowd. Christopher Seider was from a poor family, but he lived in the home of and worked for Grizzell Apthorp, a wealthy widow. Most traditional sources say that Christopher was 11 years old, but new sources indicate he may have been only ten years old.

 

Christopher was on the way home from school when he joined the rioting citizens at Richardson’s house. At some point, rocks broke through the windows and Richardson’s wife was struck. Richardson panicked and, fearing for their lives, pulled the trigger on his gun and began firing into the crowd. Young Christopher was shot twice, in the chest and in the arm, and died that evening.

 

2,000 people attended Christopher Seider’s funeral , which was arranged by Sam Adams. The incident served to stir up Boston so much that the Boston Massacre would occur only 11 days later, when angry citizens harassing a group of soldiers were fired upon with 5 more casualties. Ebenezer Richardson was charged with murder for Seider’s death, but found innocent on grounds of self-protection. He was also given a promotion in the customs service. Seider is often considered to be the very first casualty of the American Revolution, five years and two months before the Battles of Lexington and Concord.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Historian General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org  

 

"Foreign influence is truly the Grecian horse to a republic. We cannot be too careful to exclude its influence."

Alexander Hamilton (1793)

Confederation Congress approves a new Constitutional Convention

Confederation Congress approves a new Constitutional Convention

 

On this day in history, February 21, 1787, the Confederation Congress approves a new Constitutional Convention to be held at Philadelphia beginning on May 14, 1787. The Articles of Confederation, which was the first governing document of the United States, had proved to be too weak for the government to function effectively.

 

Some of its weaknesses included that each state had one vote, regardless of size, giving disproportionate power to small states; Congress could not regulate interstate and foreign commerce, making it easy for states to undercut each other on import/export prices; there were no federal courts and no president; to pass a law, there had to be a 2/3 vote of the states; changes to the Articles required a unanimous vote; and Congress had no power to tax or raise money. It could only ask the states for money, and they usually didn’t pay.

 

Calls for changes to the system were made for years, but early in 1786, the state of Virginia requested that all the states get together at Annapolis, Maryland to come up with suggestions for changes to the Articles regarding matters of trade and commerce. The Annapolis Convention met from September 11 to 14, but with delegates present from only five states, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Four other states had appointed delegates, but they failed to arrive on time, while four others didn’t even appoint delegates.

 

The delegates, including Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Dickinson, all agreed that major changes were necessary to the Articles regarding trade, but there were so few representatives present that they didn’t feel they had the authority to act. Instead, they put together a proposal to Congress and the states that all thirteen states should meet the following May to make serious amendments to the Articles of Confederation that would permanently remedy its weaknesses.

 

Congress received the proposal and, though there were great differences between the members about how far the changes should go, they passed a resolution on February 21, 1787 that stated, "It is expedient that on the second Monday in May next a Convention of delegates who shall have been appointed by the several States be held at Philadelphia for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation."

 

The Convention met in May and, rather than modifying the Articles of Confederation, came up with an entirely new governing document – the Constitution of the United States, which took effect on March 4, 1789.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Historian General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org  

 

"A universal peace, it is to be feared, is in the catalogue of events, which will never exist but in the imaginations of visionary philosophers, or in the breasts of benevolent enthusiasts."
James Madison, essay in the National Gazette, 1792

Colonel William Prescott is born

Colonel William Prescott is born

 

On this day in history, February 20, 1726, Colonel William Prescott is born. Prescott led the American troops at the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775.

 

Prescott made his home in Pepperell in northern Massachusetts. He served in King George’s War and in the French and Indian War in the provincial militia, after which he was offered a position in the Royal Army, which he declined. When the American Revolution drew near, Prescott was made a colonel over the town of Pepperell.

 

Word of the Battles of Lexington and Concord reached Pepperell on the morning of April 19, 1775. Prescott rounded up his men, but they arrived too late to join in the fighting. They joined the growing numbers of militia members that surrounded the British in Boston.

 

On the evening of June 16, Prescott was given the task of building defensive works on Bunker Hill in Charlestown, across the river from Boston, due to an impending British takeover of this high ground. Prescott took 1,200 men who worked through the night, building defensive works on the adjacent Breed’s Hill instead because it was a better position.

 

Early on the 17th, British warships began bombarding their position. During the early stages of the bombardment, Prescott walked boldly on top of the defensive works, encouraging his men. British General Thomas Gage observed him through a telescope and asked who it was. An aide (who had once been married to Prescott’s sister) told him it was William Prescott. "Will he fight?" Gage asked. The aide replied, "Yes, sir; he is an old soldier, and will fight as long as a drop of blood remains in his veins." Later in the day, the British ground attack began.

 

It was at this time that Colonel Prescott made the famous statement, "Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes," hoping to preserve his precious ammunition. Three assaults were made by the Royal Army, resulting in a great slaughter of the British troops, half of whom were killed or wounded.

 

Prescott finally ordered a retreat when American position was overwhelmed. He was one of the last to leave and he and his remaining men were forced into hand to hand combat as they retreated. The Battle of Bunker Hill was technically a British victory because the Americans withdrew, but the victory was so costly to the British that they never recovered and eventually abandoned Boston.

 

Prescott was appointed a colonel in the new Continental Army. In early 1776, he was made a brigadier-general of the Middlesex County militia and became a member of the Massachusetts Board of War. He saw action during the campaign to defend New York City and in the 1777 Saratoga campaign, after which he returned to Massachusetts, where he was made a major-general of the Massachusetts militia.

 

In later years, Prescott served for several years in the Massachusetts Legislature. Both he and his brother served in the 1786 effort to suppress Shay’s rebellion. William Prescott died in Pepperell in 1795 at the age of 69.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Historian General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org  

 

"It is of great importance to set a resolution, not to be shaken, never to tell an untruth. There is no vice so mean, so pitiful, so contemptible; and he who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and a third time, till at length it becomes habitual; he tells lies without attending to it, and truths without the world’s believing him. This falsehood of the tongue leads to that of the heart, and in time depraves all its good disposition."
Thomas Jefferson (1785)