Patriots lose the Battle of Bunker Hill

Patriots lose the Battle of Bunker Hill

 

On this day in history, June 17, 1775, patriots lose the Battle of Bunker Hill, the first major battle of the American Revolution and the bloodiest of the entire war. The Battle of Bunker Hill began when patriots surrounding Boston learned that British commanders were planning to break out and take the hills around the city. The very green and untrained militia was surrounding the city after chasing the British back to Boston after the opening shots of the war at the Battles of Lexington and Concord.

 

The British were planning to break out of the town on June 18, but a businessman from New Hampshire visiting the city alerted the patriots after overhearing the plan. At this time, the militia was under the command of Massachusetts General Artemas Ward. The Continental Army was only authorized in Philadelphia on the 14th and George Washington appointed its leader on the 15th. The events that unfolded on Bunker Hill and Breed’s Hill occurred several weeks before Washington arrived and took over.

           

On the night of June 16, 1200 soldiers entered the Charlestown Peninsula north of Boston under Colonel William Prescott. Prescott’s orders were to build fortifications atop Bunker Hill on the northwest part of the peninsula. Prescott disobeyed the orders and built atop Breed’s Hill instead, which was further south and closer to Boston. This defiance of orders was typical of American movements at the time since the militia was made up of units from different counties and cities with no established chain of command.

 

Across the water in Boston, British General Thomas Gage was informed of the American movements early on the 17th. He began preparing an assault on the peninsula, but the soldiers took their time and didn’t begin landing until late in the afternoon. By 3:00 the British began their first assault. American commanders had ordered their soldiers not to fire until the British were within close range in order to assure that every bullet would count since they were very low on ammunition.

 

The first British assault turned into a massacre as the Americans fired on them as they marched up the hill on Prescott’s position. Colonel John Stark repelled another attack on the left flank by British Major General William Howe. Dozens and dozens of British soldiers fell and the survivors were forced to retreat. A second assault had the same results. The British regrouped once again for a third assault, but this time the Americans on Breed’s Hill ran out of ammunition. British soldiers crawled over their own dead comrades to get to the top of the hill where hand to hand combat began. The British, who were better equipped with bayonets, finally drove the Americans back across Bunker Hill and across the Charlestown Neck.

 

The Battle of Bunker Hill was a victory for the British since they took the peninsula, but at an enormous cost, suffering over 1,000 casualties! 226 were killed and over 800 injured. A large chunk of Britain’s officer corps in North America was killed or wounded, including the entire field staff of General Howe. The Americans lost 115 killed and 300 wounded, including the President of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, Dr. Joseph Warren.

 

News of the battle shocked London to its core. It finally realized that the Americans were not the "rabble" they were thought to be, but a formidable fighting force. The battle also hardened Americans and persuaded many to join the revolutionary cause. The battle was a strategic stalemate, having no real value to either side, but to strengthen their resolve. George Washington would arrive in July and begin the task of forming the militia into an orderly and effective army. They would finally force the British to abandon Boston the following year.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Secretary General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

Don’t one of you fire until you see the whites of their eyes.
Colonel William Prescott

Mary Katherine Goddard is born

Mary Katherine Goddard is born

 

On this day in history, June 16, 1738, Mary Katherine Goddard is born. Mary would become one of the most prominent printers of the American Revolution and would print the first copies of the Declaration of Independence that contained the names of all 56 singers.

 

Mary Katherine was born in New London, Connecticut to a wealthy doctor and postmaster. When her father died, Mary’s mother moved the family to Providence, Rhode Island and lent her younger son, William, the money to open the Providence Gazette, the city’s first newspaper, in 1762. As the business grew, William traveled a lot, leaving Mary Katherine and their mother to run the paper.

           

In 1767, William founded the Pennsylvania Chronicle in Philadelphia with several partners, including Benjamin Franklin. When the elder Mrs. Goddard died in 1770, Mary Katherine moved to Philadelphia and took over the publishing of the Chronicle. Mary moved again, this time to Baltimore, when William started the Maryland Journal in 1772.

 

By this time, William was heavily involved in politics. His pro-revolutionary and anti-Crown opinions drew the scrutiny of the Royal government. He even spent some time in jail for his incendiary opinions. Mary kept the papers going all the while. She, however, rarely printed her own opinions.

 

By 1773, the authorities were censoring the mail heavily. Some postal lines were completely blocked to prevent communication between the colonies. The mail difficulties eventually forced the Goddards to shut down the Pennsylvania Chronicle. This prompted William to create his own postal system with the advice and help of Ben Franklin, who had been the Crown’s chief Postmaster for North America. William’s system was eventually adopted and became the US Postal Service.

 

Mary Katherine became the new postmaster of Baltimore in 1775. She would continue publishing the newspaper, serve as postmaster, bind books, print almanacs and other books, and open a bookstore in the coming years. Her most famous claim to fame was printing the Declaration of Independence with the names of all 56 signers in January, 1777. Congress was meeting in Baltimore at the time because the British army was near Philadelphia. The original Declaration was printed by John Dunlap in Philadelphia with no signatures. The signatures were written on a copy in August of 1776 and it was this document that Mary Katherine reproduced with the typeset names, putting her own life at risk.

 

After the war, Mary Katherine and William had a falling out and she was forced out of the paper for reasons which are unclear. She continued selling books and dry goods for years and as postmaster until 1789 when she was forced out of this position as well.

 

When the new US government created its official post office in August of 1789, the first postmaster general appointed by George Washington, Samuel Osgood, immediately fired Mary and put a political ally in her place. Mary was told the position would require a lot of travel and since she was a woman she would not be able to handle it. Mary had been running the busiest post office in the country for years, but this didn’t matter to Osgood. The protests of hundreds of businessmen in Baltimore fell on deaf ears as well and Mary’s contribution to the post office came to an end. Mary Katherine Goddard remained in business until the early 1800s and passed away at the age of 78 in 1816, having made her mark in the printing industry and on the post office.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Secretary General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclination, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence."

John Adams (1770)

George Washington appointed head of the Continental Army

George Washington appointed head of the Continental Army

 

On this day in history, June 15, 1775, George Washington is appointed head of the new Continental Army. Congress created the Continental Army on June 14 and began discussing who should be appointed as Commander-in-Chief. John Hancock hoped for the position, but the more experienced Washington was elected unanimously the following day.

 

John Adams pressed for Washington as the Commander, partly because he believed someone from Virginia should hold the position. Virginia was the most populous colony and the southern colonies would be more likely to support a Virginian. In addition, Washington’s military experience from the French and Indian War was a decisive factor.

           

On June 16, Washington gave a short acceptance speech to Congress in which he expressed his grave reserves about his own qualifications for the position, but he accepted nonetheless and expressed his thanks for their trust in him. Washington then told them he would not take any salary during his time as Commander-in-Chief, but would only accept reimbursement for expenses. Washington then received his official commission on the 17th.

 

On the 18th, from Philadelphia, he wrote a letter to his wife Martha, informing her of his appointment and that he must leave for Boston immediately. He told her that he had not sought the position and had actually tried to avoid it, but that he felt duty bound to serve at the request of his countrymen. He also told Martha that he had updated his will and hoped to be home by the end of the year.

 

The following week, Washington left for Boston where New England militia were laying siege to the city. 6,000 British soldiers were trapped inside the city, while 10,000-15,000 militia, under the command of Massachusetts General Artemas Ward, surrounded the city. The militia was made up mostly of untrained farmers, merchants and artisans. They were underequipped and ill fed. Disease ran rampantly through their camps. Washington faced a formidable job of turning these regular citizens into an army that could defeat the vastly superior British army.

 

Much of these original militia members were absorbed into the Continental Army. They came from Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New Hampshire. As the war progressed they would be joined by their brethren from the rest of the colonies and develop into a formidable force in their own right. One of Washington’s greatest triumphs of the American Revolution was the turning of this ragtag bunch into a real army. Washington’s reputation as a commander and leader of men in the army eventually led to his being elected the first President of the United States.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Secretary General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"If we are to guard against ignorance and remain free, it is the responsibility of every American to be informed."

George Washington

First American Flag is officially adopted

First American Flag is officially adopted

 

On this day in history, June 14, 1777, the first American flag is officially adopted by Congress. The Flag Act of 1777 specified that the new American flag would have "thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation."

 

There is much controversy about who actually designed the flag. The two main candidates are Francis Hopkinson, a New Jersey signer of the Declaration of Independence, who was on the Naval Board at the time, and Betsy Ross. Both stories are unconfirmed though and have points that speak for their truth and against them.

 

Hopkinson submitted a bill to Congress for "creating the new US flag." The bill, however, was denied by Congress. Later Hopkinson changed the bill and asked for payment for creating the new US Navy flag. Were there two separate flags, one for the Navy and one for the Army? Some evidence suggests this. Hopkinson was also an artist and an expert in heraldry (flag design). In spite of this, there is no evidence of any drawings Hopkinson submitted to Congress.

 

The Betsy Ross flag story is more well-known. Again, though, there is no contemporary evidence for the story. The story comes entirely from Betsy’s grandson William Canby, and a few other relatives, all of whom stated many years after her death that they heard Betsy tell the story from her own mouth.

 

This legend goes that George Washington, George Ross (Betsy’s late husband’s uncle) and Robert Morris approached her secretly in May or June of 1776 and asked her to make the flag. Circumstantial evidence supports the story. Betsy and George Washington sat in pews next to each other at church and Washington was known to visit Betsy socially and professionally, using her tailoring services. George Ross was a family member who had been in Congress. Due to lack of concrete evidence, however, we will never know for sure who designed the first American flag.

 

The Flag Act of 1777 did not specify the pattern for the stars, the number of points on the stars, the width of the stripes or the canton (the blue field) or whether a white or red stripe should be first. This caused a proliferation of flag designs with the stars especially being in many different patterns.

 

The Flag Act of 1794 added two stars and stripes for the new states of Vermont and Kentucky. This was the only official United States flag to ever have 15 stripes. The Star Spangled Banner Flag of Francis Scott Key fame was made in this design, but again, the 1794 act did not specify the pattern of the stars.

 

The Flag Act of 1818 finally determined that the stripes would remain at 13 for the original colonies. It also added five stars, bringing them to 20, for recently inducted states. This act also set the rule that a new star would be added for each new state to be added. The new star would be added on the July 4th after the state was added to the Union. The last time the US Flag was changed was with the addition of Alaska, the 50th state, in 1960. June 14 is celebrated across America as Flag Day in honor of the adoption of the first official US Flag.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Secretary General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"I often note with equal pleasure that God gave this one connected country to one united people — a people descended from the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in manners and customs, who by their joint counsels, arms, and efforts, fighting side by side through a long bloody war, have nobly established general liberty and independence."

John Jay (1787)

The 1st Rhode Island Regiment is disbanded

The 1st Rhode Island Regiment is disbanded

 

On this day in history, June 13, 1783, the 1st Rhode Island Regiment is disbanded. The 1st Rhode Island Regiment was the Revolution’s only regiment to have units made up entirely of African Americans. The regiment was not all black, but was at one point at least ¾ black. The regiment had white officers and other white, Indian and mulatto members, but it was unique in that it had entire units made up of former slaves, while other regiments with blacks were more integrated.

 

The use of slaves or former slaves in the American Revolution was controversial. Many whites did not like the idea of arming slaves because they thought it might encourage a rebellion. Under direction of the Continental Congress, George Washington issued an order early on forbidding the service of blacks in the Continental Army.

           

Nearly simultaneously, Governor Murray of Virginia issued an order granting freedom to any slaves that would leave their masters and join the Royal Army. As the war progressed and the states found it hard to fill their quotas of soldiers, voices began to rise advocating the use of slaves and free blacks. By early 1776, Washington had changed the order to allow free blacks with former military experience. The following year he allowed all free blacks.

 

In 1778, Rhode Island’s capital Newport was occupied by the British. The rebel legislature could not fill its quota of soldiers asked for by Congress. Rhode Island Brigadier General James Mitchell Varnum recommended to General Washington that slaves be taken into the ranks. Washington sent the request to Governor Nicholas Cooke. In February, the Rhode Island Assembly voted to allow all slaves to join the 1st Rhode Island Regiment. They were to be granted their freedom for their service and their owners would be compensated by the government.

 

Around 200 blacks eventually joined the Regiment, which saw its first celebrated action at the Battle of Rhode Island in August. The green African American regiment fought valiantly in an effort that allowed the besieged American troops to retreat with few casualties, while inflicting serious casualties on their attackers.

 

The "Black Regiment," as it was called, was commanded by Colonel Christopher Greene, a cousin of General Nathanael Greene. Colonel Greene and many of his black soldiers were killed by Loyalists near Groton, New York in 1781. The Regiment did not see a lot of action since the main theater of the war shifted to the south, but they did play a role in the Battle of Yorktown. The regiment was disbanded at Saratoga on June 13, 1783, having served for five years of the war.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Secretary General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

But what do we mean by the American Revolution? Do we mean the American war? The Revolution was affected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments, of their duties and obligations. … This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people was the real American Revolution."

John Adams (1818)

The Battle of Machias is the First Naval Battle of the Revolution

The Battle of Machias is the first naval battle of the Revolution

 

On this day in history, June 12, 1775, the Battle of Machias is the first naval battle of the American Revolution. Citizens of Machias, Maine (then part of Massachusetts) captured the armed British schooner HMS Margaretta when it threatened their town.

 

After the opening shots of the Revolution at the Battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775, American militia laid siege to the city of Boston, trapping the British army inside the city. British General Thomas Gage was forced to import supplies by sea since all land access was cut off. Loyalist merchant Ichabod Jones made a deal with Gage to sail to Machias, on the far northeastern part of present day Maine, to bring back a load of lumber to Gage, who needed it to build barracks for arriving troops.

            

Jones' ships Polly and Unity left Boston, accompanied by the HMS Margaretta for security, arriving at Machias on June 2. The Polly and Unity went straight up the bay to Machias, while the Margaretta, under command of Midshipman James Moore, stopped to retrieve the guns from the wreck of the HMS Halifax, which had run aground in the bay earlier in the year.

 

When Jones arrived in the town, he explained to the citizens that he wanted to exchange his load of flour and other goods for a shipment of lumber. The citizens met on the 6th and voted against the transaction, not wanting to aid the British. Jones then called on Moore who brought the Margaretta within firing distance of the town. This caused alarm in the town and they voted again, this time to acquiesce in the transaction with Jones.

 

Jones, however, refused to do business with anyone who had previously voted against the deal, which made many citizens angry. Colonel Benjamin Foster, leader of the local militia, took matters into his own hands. On June 11, the militia attempted to capture Jones and Moore while they attended church. Moore got away to the Margaretta, but Jones ran into the woods where he hid for two days.

 

Meanwhile, Foster and the militia boarded the Unity and the Polly and demanded that Moore surrender the Margaretta. After some brief gunfire exchange, Moore sailed downriver and tried to get away. While running, his main boom and gaff were broken in high winds removing his ability to navigate. At this point, he commandeered another ship and took its boom and mast to replace his own, and also took the ship's captain, Robert Avery, of Norwich, Connecticut, captive.

 

Back in Machias, the Unity was equipped for battle, along with another ship, the Falmouth Packet and the two ships set out after the Margaretta, under command of Jeremiah O'Brien, a local captain. On June 12th, the much faster Unity overtook the Margaretta and after several attempts, her crew was able to tie the two ships together. Shots were fired and several on both sides were killed, including the captive captain from Norwich. When Moore, captain of the Margaretta, threw several grenades onto the Unity, he was shot in the chest by Samuel Watts. Moore died a few days later from his wounds.

 

With their captain down, the crew of the Margaretta quickly surrendered. They were later turned over to the Massachusetts Provincial Congress. Machias patriots went on to capture numerous British vessels during the war and many became part of the Continental Navy. Captain Jeremiah O'Brien served with distinction and has had five US Navy vessels named after him since. The Battle of Machias has the distinction of being the first naval battle of the American Revolution. Machias was later targeted for invasion in 1777, but the mission was a failure and the British failed to take the town.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Secretary General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"The eyes of the world being thus on our Country, it is put the more on its good behavior, and under the greater obligation also, to do justice to the Tree of Liberty by an exhibition of the fine fruits we gather from it." 
James Madison (1824)

Doctor Joseph Warren is Born

Doctor Joseph Warren is born

 

On this day in history, June 11, 1741, Doctor Joseph Warren is born. Warren was one of the key patriot leaders in Boston leading up to the American Revolution. Unfortunately, he was killed early on at the Battle of Bunker Hill, becoming a martyr for the American cause.

 

Joseph Warren was born in Roxbury, Massachusetts in 1741 to a farmer who died when Joseph was only 14 when he fell off a ladder while picking fruit from his orchard. Joseph attended Roxbury Latin School and Harvard College. After graduating, he taught school for a year and began studying medicine. Joseph eventually opened a medical practice in Boston and became involved in local politics. He became an intimate acquaintance of such other patriot leaders as John Hancock, Samuel Adams, Paul Revere and Dr. Benjamin Church.

            

Warren was closely involved with several key events that led to the Revolution, including performing the autopsy on 11 year old Christopher Seider, who was killed during a riot a few days before the Boston Massacre. Warren participated on a committee that gathered depositions and put out a public report on the Boston Massacre itself. He was also the author of political articles and even wrote a patriotic song. Warren wrote the Suffolk Resolves, which encouraged the colonies to resist the Coercive Acts. He eventually became the President of the rebel Massachusetts Provincial Congress and a major general of the Massachusetts militia.

 

By mid-April 1775, the Massachusetts patriots were aware that General Gage was about to embark on a major mission to put down the growing rebellion, but they did not know the target of the mission. On the evening of April 18th, Warren received word from his inside spy, thought to be General Gage's wife, that the intended target was the arms supply at Concord.

 

Warren quickly dispatched Paul Revere and William Dawes to warn Concord. The following morning, after the first shots rang out and the British soldiers began their perilous march back to Boston, Warren joined in the fight and was nearly killed when a bullet flew through his wig. He then helped coordinate the Siege of Boston and participated in negotiating with General Gage.

 

By June, the patriots learned the British were going to send out troops to take the hills around Boston. On June 16, Colonel William Prescott and 1200 men took Breed's Hill and Bunker Hill on the Charlestown peninsula north of Boston to prevent the British from taking it. Now Major General Warren joined the men as a common soldier and helped prepare the defenses. On the 17th, the British began a major attack and on the third assault, General Warren was killed with a musket ball through the head. He was bayoneted numerous times, stripped bare and thrown in an unmarked grave.

 

Nearly a year later, the body was dug up by Warren's brothers and identified by Paul Revere who had given Warren a false tooth. Warren became an instant hero and martyr for the Revolutionary cause. He has been celebrated as one of the first to give his life in the fight for American freedom. Paintings and statues were created in his honor and numerous places are named for him.

 

Warren had four children when he died who were then raised by his fiancée Mercy Scollay. Warren's younger brother and apprentice, Dr. John Warren, went on to serve as a medic in the Continental Army and later founded the Harvard Medical School.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Secretary General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

“Stain not the glory of your worthy ancestors, but like them resolve never to part with your birthright; be wise in your deliberations and determined in your exertions for the preservation of your liberties. Follow not the dictates of passion, but enlist yourselves under the sacred banner of reason; use every method in your power to secure your rights.” 

Joseph Warren