The Philadelphia Campaign begins

The Philadelphia Campaign begins

 

On this day in history, August 25, 1777, the Philadelphia Campaign begins when British General William Howe and his brother, Admiral Richard Howe, land 17,000 troops in an armada of 265 ships at Head of Elk, Maryland. The armada was the largest ever assembled in American waters.

 

George Washington’s Continental Army tracked Howe’s movements down the eastern seaboard until he lost track of them near the Delaware Capes. Washington camped at Wilmington, Delaware until he could determine where exactly Howe was going. Howe encountered rough weather at sea, taking six weeks to get from Sandy Hook, New Jersey to Maryland’s Elk River at the top of the Chesapeake Bay. Howe’s men were sea sick and his horses dying after running out of forage during the long and rough voyage.

 

Howe landed just below the town of Elkhorn, Maryland, and began unloading supplies and thousands of soldiers, a monumental task in a shallow and muddy river. Ships got stuck in the mud. Horses were so weak after running out of food that they couldn’t walk. Some of the largest ships couldn’t even make it all the way up river and had to be unloaded further down and their cargos transported by land.

 

Wilmington sits between Elkton and Philadelphia and Washington himself led frequent reconnoitering missions to determine what the British were doing and what their troop strength was. Howe advanced slowly. He had to wait for his horses to eat and get their strength back. Another huge storm enveloped the area, destroying ammunition for both sides.

 

Eventually Howe began advancing toward Philadelphia. For weeks, the two armies maneuvered around each other, with frequent skirmishes, but no major battles. Washington finally dug in along the Brandywine Creek near Chadds Ford about 20 miles to the southwest of Philadelphia. The two armies clashed in one of the biggest battles of the Revolution at the Battle of Brandywine on September 11th, a battle that pitted 30,000 soldiers against one another and had almost 2,000 casualties.

 

The British were the victors at the Battle of Brandywine, the first major battle of the Philadelphia Campaign. The Continental Army was nearly wiped out, and would have been if not for the last minute maneuvers of generals Nathanael Greene and William Alexander, who held off the British until the rest of the army could escape. The American defeat forced Congress to flee Philadelphia in haste and move further inland.

 

For several more days the two armies maneuvered around one another, but the British were able to march into Philadelphia on September 28th unchallenged. They would continue to occupy the city until June of 1778, when the new American commander, Henry Clinton took over from Howe and abandoned Philadelphia on orders from London. Clinton took the troops back to New York and began the new Southern Campaign to take back the southern states after their attempts in the north had failed.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Historian General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org  

 

"All men having power ought to be distrusted to a certain degree."

James Madison – Speech at the Constitutional Convention, July 11, 1787

Lochry’s Defeat

Lochry’s Defeat

 

On this day in history, August 24, 1781, Lochry’s Defeat takes place when Colonel Archibald Lochry and his Pennsylvania militia are ambushed by Mohawk chief Joseph Brant. Virginia general George Rogers Clark had tried repeatedly to take an expedition to capture Fort Detroit, the British headquarters in the Northwest Territory, but the plans always failed for lack of supplies and men.

 

The frontier was suffering from constant Indian attacks which were being supported by the British from Detroit. In late 1780, Clark traveled to see Virginia governor Thomas Jefferson to persuade him to support another expedition to take Fort Detroit. Jefferson agreed to an expedition of 2,000 men.

 

Clark went to Fort Pitt in western Pennsylvania and began recruiting for the mission. Jefferson had trouble recruiting in Virginia though. Many counties did not want to send men to fight at distant Detroit when their own homes were threatened by British General Cornwallis who was now nearby.

 

Clark found difficulty recruiting in Pennsylvania as well. The militia in Pennsylvania’s western counties did not want to leave their homes undefended from Indian attacks, leaving Clark to ask for volunteers. The staunchest supporter he found was Colonel Archibald Lochry of the Westmoreland County militia. Lochry received permission from Pennsylvania governor Joseph Reed to take 100 men on the mission.

 

Clark finally left Fort Pitt with only 400 men, intending to rendezvous with Lochry at Fort Henry. Clark waited for several days at Fort Henry, but finally sailed down the Ohio without Lochry since his men were starting to desert. Lochry followed a few days behind and they stayed in constant contact through messengers.

 

Meanwhile, the British and their Indian allies learned of the expedition and put together their own force to stop them. On the night of August 18th, Clark floated past the mouth of the Great Miami River as they sailed downriver. Joseph Brant, a Mohawk warrior and one of Britain’s chief Indian allies, was hiding on the bank nearby, but he had too few men to attack. Instead, he decided to wait for reinforcements.

 

3 days later, Brant captured some of Clark’s messengers and learned that Lochry was coming behind with only 100 men. On the morning of the 24th, Lochry came ashore to feed his men and horses. Brant was watching and took advantage of the situation. He and his own force, which numbered nearly the same as Lochry’s force, jumped out of the woods and quickly overtook Lochry’s stunned men. 37 were killed and the rest captured. The Indians didn’t even have a single man injured.

 

Lochry’s Defeat, or Lochry’s Massacre, as it came to be called, was the death knell for General Clark’s expedition to Detroit. He continued with some raids on Indian villages, but never was able to take the fight directly to Detroit. Of Lochry’s 100 Westmoreland County militia, some were killed, including Lochry, who was killed with a tomahawk blow to the head after surrendering; others were adopted into Indian tribes and the rest were sold to the British at Detroit and kept in prison until the end of the war. Fewer than half ever made it home. The loss deeply affected their home county, where nearly every person lost someone they knew or loved.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Historian General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org  

 

"Excessive taxation will carry reason & reflection to every man’s door, and particularly in the hour of election."

Thomas Jefferson – Letter to John Taylor, November 26, 1798

George Washington moves into Rockingham House

George Washington moves into Rockingham House

 

On this day in history, August 23, 1783, George Washington moves into Rockingham House near Rocky Hill, New Jersey, which would serve as his last wartime headquarters of the American Revolution. In the summer of 1783, Congress was waiting to receive word from Europe of the final signed peace treaty ending the American Revolution.

 

Congress wrote to Washington asking him to come to where it was meeting at Princeton, New Jersey in anticipation of word of the signed treaty. Congress was in Princeton after hastily leaving Philadelphia when a threatened rebellion of Continental Army soldiers over unpaid salaries drove them from the city.

 

As Washington was on his way to Princeton, Congress looked for a suitable residence for he and his staff during his time there. Almost all the homes and inns in Princeton were filled because Congress was in town. They finally located an empty home called Rockingham House, about 5 miles outside of town, owned by Margaret Berrien. Her husband, John, had died a few years earlier and left her the property, but she was now living in Princeton and trying to sell the property.

 

Washington moved into Rockingham House on August 23rd with Martha and a few dozen aides, guards and servants. During his time at Rockingham, Washington entertained such people as James Madison, Elias Boudinot, who was then the President of Congress and General Nathanael Greene. Martha stayed until early October, but then returned to Mount Vernon as winter came on.

 

In late October, at Rockingham House, Washington penned his Farewell Orders to the Armies of the United States, which was read to the troops at West Point on the 30th. On the 31st, word arrived of the signed peace treaty and the American Revolution came to a final close. Washington left Princeton and Rockingham House on November 10th to return to Newburgh where he oversaw the disbanding of the army. On November 25th, he marched into New York City after the last British troops left.

 

Washington said goodbye to his troops in New York on December 4 and resigned his commission on December 23 and returned to Mount Vernon, believing that he was retiring from public life for good. Little did he know that only a few years later he would be called on to fill his most important public role yet, that of the first President of the United States.

 

Rockingham House was moved several times over the years to keep it safe from an approaching quarry site. It sits today along the Delaware and Raritan Canal about a mile from its original location and is operated by the New Jersey Division of Parks & Forestry. The home is open for tours and various activities demonstrating the home’s history and colonial life take place each year. The house features a large colonial garden as well as authentic and replica George Washington artifacts.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Historian General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org  

 

"I accept, with much pleasure your kind Congratulations on the happy Event of Peace, with the Establishment of our Liberties and Independence. Glorious indeed has been our Contest: glorious in its Issue; but in the midst of our Joys, I hope we shall not forget that, to divine providence is to be ascribed the glory and the Praise."

George Washington – Letter to Rev. John Rodgers, June 11, 1783

The Battle of Staten Island

The Battle of Staten Island

 

On this day in history, August 21, 1777, the Battle of Staten Island is lost by Major General John Sullivan. Staten Island was a major British outpost for the entire Revolutionary War. It was the first place in the New York area where British troops landed when the invasion of the area began in July of 1776.

 

A year later, and with the New York City area firmly in British control, General William Howe sent off thousands of troops from Staten Island by ship to take Philadelphia. This left Staten Island vulnerable and American Major General John Sullivan decided to use the vulnerability to stage an attack.

 

Sullivan learned that the British regulars were concentrated on the north of the island, but only around 700 New Jersey Loyalists were guarding the western side of the island. Sullivan decided to attack here, take as many prisoners as possible and destroy whatever British supplies and provisions he could.

 

On August 21, Sullivan gathered 1,000 troops from Maryland, New Jersey and Canada together. They marched to Elizabethtown and began crossing over to Staten Island in the morning. The force broke into several smaller groups with differing objectives. Colonel Matthias Ogden quickly conquered his assigned outpost, but met stiff resistance at the second, causing him to retreat to the Old Blazing Star crossing with dozens of prisoners and cross back to New Jersey.

 

General Sullivan himself led a successful attack that captured several prisoners, but was repelled when he tried to take the Loyalist headquarters. Brigadier General William Smallwood’s column drove off a Loyalist battalion and destroyed a trove of British supplies before the British regrouped and forced him to retreat.

 

Sullivan and Smallwood met and retreated to the Old Blazing Star where they had only three boats to cross back to New Jersey. 80 brave men held off the Loyalist attackers while the rest crossed back to New Jersey. Several of these defenders were killed and many were captured when they ran out of ammunition, but the rest of the American troops successfully evacuated back to safety.

 

The Battle of Staten Island turned out to be quite a mishap. The Loyalists had only 5 killed and 7 wounded, but captured between 150-250 patriots. The patriots, on the other hand, had 10 killed and 20 wounded, while capturing 84 Loyalists.

 

After the battle, Sullivan led his men to join the Continental Army amassing for the defense of Philadelphia, where they participated in the Battle of Brandywine in September. For his role in the debacle at Staten Island, Major General Sullivan was court-martialed for managing the affair so poorly, but he managed to beat all the charges.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Historian General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org  

 

"And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever."

Thomas Jefferson – Notes on the State of Virginia, Query 18, 1781

 

Banastre Tarleton is born

Banastre Tarleton is born

 

On this day in history, August 21, 1754, Banastre Tarleton is born. Tarleton is one of the more well-known British officers who served in the American Revolution due to his reputation as a brutal and heartless commander.

 

Banastre Tarleton (whose first name is pronounced "bannister") was born to the mayor of Liverpool in 1754. He went to Oxford where he was trained to be a lawyer. When his father died in 1773, the 19 year old received £5,000, which he quickly squandered on drinking and women. Tarleton then purchased a cavalry officer’s commission in the King’s 1st Dragoon Guards. Tarleton quickly proved his excellent horsemanship and leadership skills and was on his way to a successful military career.

 

In 1775, Tarleton volunteered to go to America with Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis on a voyage intended to capture Charleston, South Carolina. When the expedition failed, Tarleton went to New York and distinguished himself in battle. In December, 1776, Tarleton captured American General Charles Lee at Basking Ridge, New Jersey. He was soon given command of the British Legion, an American force made up of cavalry and light infantry. They became known as Tarleton’s Raiders.

 

In 1780, Tarleton’s Raiders were sent south to join in another attempt to capture Charleston and all of the southern colonies. Tarleton distinguished himself again and was involved in many important battles in the Carolinas.

 

Tarleton earned the reputation of being a bloody and ruthless butcher, an image based partly in fact, but partly false as well. The action that earned him the nicknames "Bloody Ban" and "The Butcher," was the Battle of the Waxhaws. Apparently the American militia was trying to surrender when Tarleton’s horse was shot from under him. The other British soldiers thought Tarleton was dead and began ruthlessly killing the surrendering Americans.

 

The way the story was told, however, was that Tarleton had ordered the killing, earning him the reputation as a butcher, but this was not what actually happened. Tarleton quickly became a villain in the eyes of southerners. There are other accounts of Tarleton’s brutality, burning homes, destroying crops and so forth, but some of the legend surrounding Tarleton was also created by American writers such as Washington Irving.

 

Tarleton suffered a major defeat at the Battle of Cowpens when many of his dragoons were drawn into a trap. Tarleton barely escaped, but the incident ruined his reputation with Cornwallis. Tarleton later led a failed attempt to capture Thomas Jefferson in Virginia and was in command of Gloucester Point near Yorktown when Cornwallis surrendered.

 

After the war, Tarleton continued in the army and served in Portugal and Ireland. He also served as an MP representing Liverpool in the House of Commons for 21 years. He was a staunch advocate of slavery because this was one of Liverpool’s chief industries. Tarleton carried on an affair with British actress Mary Robinson for many years, but he eventually married Susan Priscilla Bertie. He had no children with either of them. Tarleton rose to the rank of general by 1812 and became a baronet in 1815. Tarleton is most remembered today for being a villain in the American Revolution, even though the caricature is largely untrue.

 

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

The Battle of Fallen Timbers

The Battle of Fallen Timbers

 

On this day in history, August 20, 1794, the Battle of Fallen Timbers ends the Northwest Indian War and opens the Ohio territory to American settlement. At the end of the American Revolution, the Treaty of Paris stipulated that the British must abandon their forts north of the Ohio River and below the Great Lakes west to the Mississippi, turning this area over to the United States. This area was called the Northwest Territory.

 

The Indian tribes located in this area had no representatives during the negotiations in Paris and did not recognize the treaty. The American government considered the land to be fairly conquered territory in war. The American reasoning was that since these Indians were allied with the British during the Revolution, their claim to the land had been forfeited by losing the war.

           

American settlers began spilling across the Ohio River from Kentucky and other places after the Revolution. The Indians, which had already been driven back from their traditional hunting grounds in Kentucky, formed a confederation of tribes to resist the white settlement of Ohio, under Shawnee Chief Blue Jacket, Delaware Chief Buckongahelas and Miami Chief Little Turtle.

 

As attacks on white settlers increased, the American government tried to deal with the Indians by sending several expeditions into the area. In 1790 and 1791, two American expeditions suffered over 1,000 casualties at the hands of the Indians. In response, President George Washington and Secretary of War Henry Knox formed the Legion of the United States, a special division of the United States Army to deal specifically with the northwest Indian threat.

 

Major General "Mad" Anthony Wayne, a Revolutionary War hero, was given command of the Legion, which began forming at Pittsburgh in the fall of 1792. In 1793, Wayne and the Legion began marching north from Fort Washington (Cincinnati), constructing a string of forts along the way to supply the troops.

 

The decisive battle finally came when the Legion met Chief Blue Jacket on the Maumee River in northwest Ohio near present day Toledo. The Indians chose to make a stand in an area that had recently been hit by a tornado. All the trees were fallen, hence the name of the battle, and provided natural roadblocks to Wayne’s advancing troops.

 

Wayne had twice as many troops as the Indians, 3,000 to 1,500, and the Legion was quickly able to overcome them. The fleeing Indians fled to the nearby British Fort Miami, but Major William Campbell would not open the fort to the Indians, not wishing to start a conflict with the Americans. As the Indians scattered, Wayne’s troops destroyed villages in the area and finally returned home.

 

The Battle of Fallen Timbers turned out to be the last major battle of the Northwest Indian War. The loss pushed the Indians to the negotiating table and most of present day Ohio was ceded to the Americans by the Treaty of Greenville on August 3, 1795.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Historian General
National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"Neither the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt."

Samuel Adams – Essay in the Public Advertiser, 1749

Major Henry Lee wins the Battle of Paulus Hook

Major Henry Lee wins the Battle of Paulus Hook

 

On this day in history, August 19, 1779, Major Henry Lee wins the Battle of Paulus Hook, New Jersey, during the American Revolution. Paulus Hook was a strategically located piece of land across the Hudson River from the tip of Manhattan Island. George Washington had realized the strategic importance of the ground and ordered a fort built there before the arrival of the British, but it was abandoned when the massive British force of over 40,000 soldiers took over the area in September of 1776.

 

In July, Brigadier General Anthony Wayne had captured Stony Point, a strategic prominence on the Hudson River below West Point, in a daring nighttime raid, capturing hundreds of British soldiers in the process. Major Henry "Lighthorse Harry" Lee, who had been involved in the reconnaissance at Stony Point, was inspired by the victory to propose a similar excursion to capture Paulus Hook.

           

George Washington turned down Lee’s proposal at first, but when Lee added boats for a quick escape, Washington changed his mind and authorized the mission. Lee gathered about 350 troops together at New Bridge, New Jersey on the evening of August 18th to march to Paulus Hook. The plan was to attack around midnight. Unbeknownst to Lee, Colonel Abraham Van Buskirk left Paulus Hook that same day with 130 Loyalists to track down patriot rebels in the area. Only around 250 soldiers were left to guard the fort.

 

During the trek, Lee’s guide led them rough terrain and his forces were separated. He lost track of about 200 Virginia soldiers and was forced to replan his attack. Paulus Hook was surrounded on two sides by water and by marshland on the rest. A single causeway crossed the marsh, which flooded with high tide. Once they arrived at the marsh, and already delayed by the guide’s route, it was nearly 3 am and the tide was rising. The soldiers were forced to wade in marshland in water up to their chests in some places, ruining their ammunition. When the time for the attack came, Lee ordered everyone to draw their bayonets instead.

 

When the attack began, the patriots quickly overtook the outer defenses of the fort, forcing some of the soldiers to retreat into a redoubt. Sleeping quarters were quickly surrounded and many were taken captive. Within half an hour, 159 prisoners were taken and 50 more British soldiers were killed or wounded, while only 5 patriots were killed or injured.

 

Unable to take a redoubt where several Hessian soldiers were barricaded and unable to break into its powder magazine, Lee ordered a retreat before reinforcements from New York City arrived. When they arrived at the designated location where the boats were supposed to pick them up, they found no one. The officer in charge had sent the boats back, thinking the mission had been called off due to the late hour. Instead, Lee was forced to march his men back to New Bridge, with British soldiers in pursuit. Eventually, he was reinforced by some of the Virginia soldiers he lost track of earlier and by another large force sent by General Stirling.

 

For his bravery at the Battle of Paulus Hook, Major Lee was commended by Congress and awarded a gold medal, the only such award given by Congress during the war to anyone with a rank lower than general. Later, Paulus Hook would be the last outpost in New Jersey to be abandoned by the British at the end of the war.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Historian General
National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"It is impossible for the man of pious reflection not to perceive in it [the Constitution] a finger of that Almighty hand which has been so frequently and signally extended to our relief in the critical stages of the revolution."

James Madison – Federalist Papers, No. 37, January 11, 1788