Minutemen defeated at the Battle of Minisink

Minutemen defeated at the Battle of Minisink

 

On this day in history, July 22, 1779, the Minutemen are defeated at the Battle of Minisink, one of the bloodiest battles per capita of the American Revolution. 1779 saw the launching of the Sullivan Expedition, an expedition led by General John Sullivan to defeat Loyalists and allied Iroquois Indians in western New York.

 

To try to stop the expedition, the British sent Joseph Brant, an English educated Iroquois, into the upper Delaware River valley. Brant’s mission was to gather supplies for the British army and discourage the gathering Sullivan Expedition if possible. Joseph Brant was a Mohawk leader allied with the British who has been called one of the greatest generals on the British side during the war.

 

The upper Delaware River valley was a sparsely populated area consisting of southeastern New York and stretching down the border between New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The area was heavy in farming and grazing and was a chief place for raising supplies for the war. It was also the frontier of English settlement at the time. Most of the interior beyond this area was Iroquois territory.

 

On July 19, Brant and around 90 Indians and Loyalists began terrorizing the Neversink River valley. The Neversink is the main tributary into the Delaware River. They burned homes, a church and a school, and destroyed the towns of Peenpack and Mahackamack, which are now the city of Port Jervis, New York, along with Fort Decker.

 

Survivors fled to nearby towns and the militia quickly gathered in Goshen. Citizens wished to pursue Brant immediately, but the cautious Lieutenant Colonel, Benjamin Tusten, advised against it, thinking they were outnumbered by the Indians. The citizens, however, overruled him. Tusten marched out and met together with militia from other local counties. About 120 minutemen chased Brant up the Delaware until they arrived at Minisink Ford on the 22nd.

 

Brant’s force was crossing the ford and the minutemen hoped to ambush him. When a soldier shot at an Indian scout, the surprise was ruined, however, and Brant quickly outflanked the minutemen. When the Indians attacked, many of the minutemen fled, while about 50, including Lt. Col. Tusten, rushed up a hill to get on better ground. The 50 men on the hill were quickly surrounded, but they held off their attackers for several hours. Eventually, the battle devolved into hand-to-hand combat and the outnumbered patriots were massacred. Only a handful escaped alive. Among the dead was the wary Lt. Col. Tusten. 48 patriots were killed out of 120, a 40% death rate, while the Indians lost less than 5 men.

 

In spite of the overwhelming Indian and British victory at the Battle of Minisink, the victory had little effect on the upcoming Sullivan Expedition. The expedition raised dozens of Iroquois villages loyal to the British and broke the back of Iroquois authority in the area once and for all. Many Iroquois starved or froze to death during the upcoming winter. When the American Revolution was finally won, many of the survivors fled the United States for British Canada, where their descendants live on reservations to this day.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org  

 

"It is a misfortune, inseparable from human affairs, that public measures are rarely investigated with that spirit of moderation which is essential to a just estimate of their real tendency to advance or obstruct the public good; and that this spirit is more apt to be diminished than prompted, by those occasions which require an unusual exercise of it."

James Madison (1788)

General Wayne loses the Battle of Bull’s Ferry

General Wayne loses the Battle of Bull’s Ferry

 

On this day in history, July 21, 1780, General Wayne loses the Battle of Bull’s Ferry. Bull’s Ferry was a ferry on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River in the vicinity of modern day West New York and North Bergen. The ferry was operated by the Bull family who had settled in the area much earlier.

 

During the American Revolution, the British operated a blockhouse in the area, which was then called Block House Point. This was a strategic location as it was located just across from the British main base in New York City. The area was used to raise cattle and gather firewood for the British army and the blockhouse housed approximately 70 Loyalist troops who guarded the cattle, chopped wood and watched out for patriot infiltrators.

 

By 1780, the focus of the war had shifted to the south and no more major battles were fought in the north, but smaller skirmishes were frequent, especially around New York City. The British had their main army holed up in New York and George Washington constantly shifted the Continental Army around the area to keep watch on them.

 

On July 20, Washington ordered General "Mad" Anthony Wayne to attack the blockhouse at Bull’s Ferry and capture the cattle if possible. On the morning of the 21st, Wayne sent the dragoons (soldiers on horseback) under Henry "Lighthorse Harry" Lee to capture the cattle, while Wayne led an attack on the blockhouse itself.

 

Lee easily rounded up large numbers of cattle and drove them back for use of the Continental Army. Wayne, however, didn’t fare so well. He started a cannon bombardment of the blockhouse that had little effect. The impatient soldiers under his command rushed on the blockhouse, but were unable to penetrate it, taking heavy casualties. Wayne eventually called the attack off, having suffered 15 dead and 49 wounded out of almost 2,000 soldiers. The British had only 70 men defending the blockhouse, but they held off the attackers, with only 5 killed and 16 wounded.

 

The Battle of Bull’s Ferry became the subject of a satirical poem by British Major John Andre, the soldier who would later be executed for his role in the Benedict Arnold treason affair. Andre was a musician, poet and artist and he wrote a poem making fun of General Wayne for capturing a bunch of cows, but failing to capture the blockhouse, even though he had such superior numbers. The poem was called, "The Cow Chace," and mentioned by name many of the American players at the battle, including General Wayne, Colonel Lee, Brigadier General William Irvine, Wayne’s subordinate and Colonel Thomas Proctor, the artillery commander.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org  

 

"We should be unfaithful to ourselves if we should ever lose sight of the danger to our liberties if anything partial or extraneous should infect the purity of our free, fair, virtuous, and independent elections."

John Adams (1797)

Patriots destroy the Boston Lighthouse

Patriots destroy the Boston Lighthouse

 

On this day in history, July 20, 1775, patriots destroy the Boston Lighthouse. Boston’s lighthouse, also called Boston Light, is a still standing structure that was the first lighthouse ever built in what would become the United States.

 

Boston Light was built on Little Brewster Island in Boston Harbor in 1716. When the American Revolution came, the islands in Boston’s harbor were the site of several skirmishes between patriots and British soldiers and sailors. The British took over Boston Light in 1774.

 

Throughout the British occupation of Boston, the harbor was in British control. In July of 1775, local Massachusetts patriots decided to destroy the lighthouse to prevent the British from benefitting from its use. On July 20, Major Joseph Vose led a raid on the island with a small group of soldiers. Only a small British contingent guarded the lighthouse and they were quickly overrun. Vose burned the wooden parts of the lighthouse and captured the island’s provisions. Only two Americans were injured in the skirmish.

 

The British rebuilt the lighthouse within a matter of days and it was operational again by the 29th. George Washington issued orders for another attack on the lighthouse, which commenced on the morning of July 31st. Again, the small British guard was overtaken and the lighthouse burned to the ground. As the patriots escaped, they were attacked by British ships and a firefight began. One lucky hit on a British boat killed several sailors, raising the number of British casualties in the fight to 12. Only one American was killed in the fight.

 

The British abandoned Boston in March, 1776, when Washington fortified Dorchester Heights above the city with captured cannons brought from Fort Ticonderoga. After the evacuation, several British ships remained in the harbor for some time. On June 13, American patriots began firing on the remaining ships. As they left the harbor for good, the British set a timed charge in Boston Light, blowing up the lighthouse for good.

 

Boston Light was rebuilt in 1783 by order of the Massachusetts Legislature to its original height of 75 feet. This lighthouse is still standing today, although its height was raised to 98 feet in 1856. Boston Light was taken over by the federal government in 1790. The lighthouse was fully automated in 1998, but still has watchkeepers that man the site as tour guides. As such, it is the only manned lighthouse in the US under direction of the US Coast Guard.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"An ELECTIVE DESPOTISM was not the government we fought for; but one which should not only be founded on free principles, but in which the powers of government should be so divided and balanced among several bodies of magistracy, as that no one could transcend their legal limits, without being effectually checked and restrained by the others."
James Madison- Federalist No. 48, February 1, 1788

 

 

Massachusetts Begins Ill-Fated Penobscot Expedition

JULY 19, 1779 : Massachusetts Begins Ill-Fated Penobscot Expedition

 

On this day in 1779, Massachusetts, without consulting either Continental political or military authorities, launches a 4,000-man naval expedition commanded by Commodore Dudley Saltonstall, Adjutant General Peleg Wadsworth, Brigadier General Solomon Lovell and Lieutenant Colonel Paul Revere. The expedition consisted of 19 warships, 24 transport ships and more than 1,000 militiamen. Their objective was to capture a 750-man British garrison at Castine on the Penobscot Peninsula, in what would later become Maine.

 

The expedition arrived on July 25 and proceeded to launch a series of inconclusive land attacks, leaving Patriot naval forces underutilized and allowing the British plenty of time to send for reinforcements. The land commander, Brig. Gen. Lovell, began to retreat at the arrival of Sir George Collier’s seven British warships, expecting Saltonstall to engage in a naval battle. Saltonstall, however, did not fight for long: the naval engagement concluded in total disaster on August 14, when Saltonstall surprised both Patriot and British commanders by fleeing upriver and burning his own ships. The Patriots lost in excess of 470 men, as well as numerous Continental Navy and Massachusetts ships that were burned during the retreat. The British achieved their victory at a cost of only 13 men.

 

Saltonstall and Paul Revere later faced court martial because of the fiasco. Saltonstall lost his commission, but Revere won acquittal. By contrast, Peleg Wadsworth, who served as Revere’s second-in-command, won acclaim for his performance in the engagement. He had organized the retreat, which was the only well-executed aspect of the mission. Wadsworth’s family continued to play a celebrated role in American history: his grandson was the famed poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The failed Penobscot expedition was considered the worst naval disaster in American history until the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, more than 160 years later.

 

www.history.net

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer 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

 

 

Captain John Paul Jones dies

Captain John Paul Jones dies

 

On this day in history, July 18, 1792, Captain John Paul Jones dies. John Paul Jones was America’s first naval hero for his exploits during the American Revolution. He was born in Scotland and began working as a sailor at the age of 13. Jones was soon serving on merchant and slave ships bound for America and the West Indies.

 

At the age of 20, Jones was on a voyage when the captain and first mate died during a yellow fever outbreak. After successfully leading the ship into harbor, the ship’s owners were so grateful that they made him the captain. He made two successful voyages as captain before his career took a turn.

 

Jones had a sailor flogged for insubordination who died a few weeks later. He was arrested for the man’s death and imprisoned for a time, having his reputation permanently tarnished. Sometime later, Jones killed a sailor involved in a mutiny on his ship. He refused to sit for a court martial and fled Scotland for America.

 

Jones had a brother living in Virginia who died around this time and Jones took over his brothers’ affairs. After meeting several local politicians, Jones went to Philadelphia where the new United States Navy was just being formed. Jones was appointed first lieutenant of the Navy’s flagship, USS Alfred.

 

After Alfred’s initial voyage to the Bahamas, Jones was given command of the USS Providence. In six weeks, he captured 16 British ships. He went on to command a series of ships, wreaking havoc on the coast of British Nova Scotia and on British shipping.

 

In 1777, Jones was sent to France to assist the American commissioners there, Ben Franklin, John Adams and Arthur Lee. Jones became endeared to France and eventually set sail for England itself. Jones captured a number of British merchant ships, made the only American land attack on England in the war, captured the HMS Drake and tried to kidnap the Earl of Selkirk.

 

Jones terrorized the English coast and earned the reputation of a "pirate" in England. In 1779, he engaged the HMS Serapis in battle. Both ships were severely damaged. The Serapis surrendered, but Jones’ own ship, the Bonhomme Richard, sank a few days later. Jones then sailed the captured Serapis into port.

 

As the American Revolution came to a close, but with his reputation tarnished from friction with America’s political leaders, including John Adams, Jones looked for employment elsewhere. He served for a time in the navy of Empress Catherine II of Russia, fighting in their war against the Ottoman Turks in the Black Sea. Once again, though, disagreements and accusations stopped his advancement and Jones retired to France.

 

John Paul Jones lived in France for the rest of his life after 1790. He tried to regain employment in Russia and also with Sweden, but this never succeeded. In 1792, Jones was appointed US Consul to the Dey of Algiers, but he never fulfilled his mission. Jones passed away on July 18, 1792 in Paris. Jones’ body was removed to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis in 1913. He is considered America’s first great naval hero and is often called the "Father of the US Navy."

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General
National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority. It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters."

Daniel Webster

The Battle of Quinby Bridge and Shubrick’s Plantation

The Battle of Quinby Bridge and Shubrick’s Plantation

 

On this day in history, July 17, 1781, the Battle of Quinby Bridge and Shubrick’s Plantation gives the British temporary relief as they fall back to Charleston  after losing control of the interior of South Carolina and Georgia.

 

In the summer of 1781, American General Nathanael Greene began systematically taking back the south from British armies. After losing control of much of the interior, British forces began moving back to Charleston in an ever shrinking ring around the city. One such place that served as a major supply depot was Monck’s Corner, about 30 miles north of Charleston.

 

In mid-July, British Lt. Col. James Coates learned that a large force of 600-700 men, under American Brigadier General Thomas Sumter, was descending on Monck’s Corner. Coates was in charge of protecting provisions and supplies at Monck’s Corner. He quickly decided to get the supplies out before the Americans could capture them.

 

While skirmishes took place between various roaming groups of Americans and British soldiers, Coates moved out with about 600 men, first transporting all the supplies to Biggin Church. Coates, however, began to see that his position was untenable and moved out yet again on the evening of July 16th, setting the church and everything in it on fire to prevent it falling into American hands.

 

Around 3 am, American scouts noticed the fire and informed General Sumter, who immediately took off after Coates. Coates’ group split in two, as did the Americans to follow them. The main body of soldiers crossed Quinby Creek at Quinby Bridge near the Cooper River. Upon crossing the bridge, Coates’ men began tearing up the planking, but the Americans charged the bridge on horseback, driving the British back. Much of the planking fell from the bridge and some of the horses jumped the gap, while other soldiers began walking across on the narrow support beams.

 

The British scattered on the other side, but soon regrouped and those Americans which had already crossed retreated to the woods. Coates then took over the Shubrick Plantation, placing his men strategically in the main house and outbuildings. General Francis Marion and Lt. Col. Henry Lee, who were leading the pursuit, stopped when they saw what a strong position the British had at the plantation and waited for General Sumter to arrive.

 

When Sumter arrived, he ordered an immediate attack, which Marion and Lee strongly advised against. Sumter overrode their wishes, however, and ordered an assault. The attackers had little cover approaching the house, and dozens were killed. Sumter finally called the assault off, hoping to renew it in the morning when his only cannon arrived.

 

Marion, Lee and others were furious at the needless loss of life. Nearly every commander abandoned Sumter in the night or in the morning, forcing him to call off a further attack. The Battle of Quinby Bridge cemented Sumter’s poor reputation and was the last time many of these soldiers worked with him. The battle gave the British somewhat of a reprieve on their retreat to Charleston, but the American noose was tightening and the British would soon be confined to Charleston until the end of the war.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General
National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"All men are created equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights, of which they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; among which are the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing the obtaining of happiness and safety."

George Mason

 

Maryland has its largest battle of the Revolution

Maryland has its largest battle of the Revolution

 

On this day in history, July 16, 1776, Maryland has its largest battle of the Revolution, the Battle of St. George’s Island, when a fleet of British ships attempts to make a landing on St. George’s Island, a narrow isle between St. George’s Creek and the Potomac River in southern Maryland.

 

St. George’s Island is in St. Mary’s County, Maryland, which was Maryland’s first settlement. During the American Revolution, St. Mary’s County, and indeed, all of Maryland, supplied a large number of soldiers to the Continental Army, in spite of the fact that no major battles were fought in Maryland. St. Mary’s County, in fact, lost over 2,000 men to the war.

 

Even though no major battles were fought in Maryland during the war, there were numerous skirmishes and "actions," especially along the coast. One such major event occurred in July of 1776. John Murray, the Earl of Dunmore, was the Royal Governor of Virginia. He was driven out of Virginia by the colonists in January after burning Norfolk to the ground. Dunmore had already been living on a ship for months for his own protection. After Norfolk, Dummore continued to try to re-establish Royal authority in Virginia, making frequent raids on coastal towns up and down the Chesapeake Bay for supplies.

 

By July, Dunmore was sailing with a fleet of more than 70 ships and they were in desperate need of supplies. Maryland troops were amassing in Annapolis to leave for New York, where the next anticipated British strike would come. On July 12, warnings began to come in that a British fleet was spotted near Point Lookout, the  southernmost tip of Maryland’s western peninsula.

 

Calls were sent to Annapolis to quickly send back some of the soldiers to St. Mary’s County to stop the fleet from landing. Meanwhile, ten boats full of British soldiers landed on St. George’s Island on the 15th. They began foraging for water and food and dumping off the dead bodies of those who had died from smallpox on the ships.

 

The following day, the soldiers came back, but this time 100 of the local militia, under Captain Rezin Beall, held the landing party off. The militia lined up in bushes along the shore and fired on the landing boats when they came within range. They successfully kept the British from landing. By July 19th, more than 400 militia were on the island and Lord Dunmore was forced to abandon the idea of establishing any kind of base on St. George’s Island.

 

The Battle of St. George’s Island was one of the larger skirmishes in Maryland during the Revolution, but coastal areas and plantations were under constant threat of plundering. The locals even resorted to using "fire ships" against the British, lighting ships aflame and sailing them into British ships at night. Maryland’s soldiers would go on to become some of the most celebrated of the entire war. In fact, Maryland got its official motto, "The Old Line State," because George Washington called the Maryland soldiers the "Old Line," because the original line of Maryland soldiers lasted so long in the war.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General
National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"There is a certain enthusiasm in liberty, that makes human nature rise above itself, in acts of bravery and heroism."

Alexander Hamilton (1775)