Monthly Archives: October 2016

King speaks for first time since independence declared

King speaks for first time since independence declared


On this day in 1776, in his first speech before British Parliament since the leaders of the American Revolution came together to sign of the Declaration of Independence that summer, King George III acknowledges that all was not going well for Britain in the war with the United States.


In his address, the king spoke about the signing of the U.S. Declaration of Independence and the revolutionary leaders who signed it, saying, “for daring and desperate is the spirit of those leaders, whose object has always been dominion and power, that they have now openly renounced all allegiance to the crown, and all political connection with this country.” The king went on to inform Parliament of the successful British victory over General George Washington and the Continental Army at the Battle of Long Island on August 27, 1776, but warned them that, “notwithstanding the fair prospect, it was necessary to prepare for another campaign.”


Despite George III’s harsh words, General William Howe and his brother, Admiral Richard Howe, still hoped to convince the Americans to rejoin the British empire in the wake of the colonists’ humiliating defeat at the Battle of Long Island. The British could easily have prevented Washington’s retreat from Long Island and captured most of the Patriot officer corps, including the commander in chief. However, instead of forcing the former colonies into submission by executing Washington and his officers as traitors, the Howe brothers let them go with the hope of swaying Patriot opinion towards a return to the mother country.


The Howe brothers’ attempts at negotiation failed, and the War for Independence dragged on for another four years, until the formal surrender of the British to the Americans on October 19, 1781, after the Battle of Yorktown.


Jack Manning

Historian General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution  


"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

Naval committee established by Congress

Naval committee established by Congress


On this day in 1775, the Continental Congress appoints seven members to serve on an administrative naval committee tasked with the acquisition, outfitting and manning of a naval fleet to be used in defense against the British. Almost two weeks earlier, on October 13, 1775, Congress had authorized the construction and arming of vessels for the country’s first navy.


Members of the first naval committee included some of the most influential members of the Continental Congress and several “founding fathers,” including John Adams, Joseph Hewes, John Langdon, Richard Henry Lee, Silas Deane and Stephen Hopkins, the committee’s chairman.


On December 22, Esek Hopkins, Stephen’s brother, was appointed the first commander in chief of the Continental Navy. Congress also named four captains to the new service: Dudley Saltonstall, Abraham Whipple, Nicholas Biddle and John Burrows Hopkins. Their respective vessels, the 24-gun frigates Alfred and Columbus, and the14-gun brigs Andrew Doria and Cabot, as well as three schooners, the Hornet, the Wasp and the Fly, became the first ships of the Navy’s fleet. Five first lieutenants, including future American hero John Paul Jones, five second lieutenants and three third lieutenants also received their commissions.


With help from the committee, America’s first navy went from a fleet of two vessels on the day Congress established the naval committee to a fleet of more than 40 armed ships and vessels at the height of the War for Independence. The Continental Navy successfully preyed upon British merchant shipping and won several victories over British warships. This first naval force was disbanded after the war. What is now known as the United States Navy was formally established with the creation of the federal Department of the Navy in April 1798.


Jack Manning

Historian General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution  


"I shall not be deprived… of a comfort in the worst event, if I retain a consciousness of having acted to the best of my judgment."

George Washington – Letter to Col. Burwell Bassett, June 19, 1775

Congress authorizes Yorktown Victory Monument

Congress authorizes Yorktown Victory Monument


On This Day in History, October 29, 1781, the Continental Congress authorizes the Yorktown Victory Monument at York, Virginia, to remember the surrender of Lord Cornwallis and the British army, news of which had just reached the Congress in Philadelphia. The monument was not even begun for 100 years and was started during the centennial celebration of the victory in 1881.


Congress’ original resolution to erect the monument reads as follows: "That the United States in Congress assembled, will cause to be erected at York, in Virginia, a marble column, adorned with emblems of the alliance between the United States and his Most Christian Majesty; and inscribed with a succinct narrative of the surrender of earl Cornwallis to his excellency General Washington, Commander in Chief of the combined forces of America and France; to his excellency the Count de Rochambeau, commanding the auxiliary troops of his most Christian Majesty in America, and his excellency the Count de Grasse, commanding in chief the naval army of France in the Chesapeake."


The Yorktown Victory Monument was finished in 1884. The main pillar is 84 feet tall and the statue of the Lady Victory is 14 feet on top of that. The statue was replaced in 1956 after the original was damaged by lightning. Today the monument can be found on the southeast end of Main Street in Yorktown, Virginia.


Each of the four sides of the base of the monument contain an inscription:

Lady Victory atop Yorktown Victory Monument


Side 1:


At York on Oct 19 1781 after a siege of nineteen days by 5500 American & 7000 French troops of the line 3500 Virginia Militia under command of Gen Thomas Nelson & 33 French ships of war Earl Cornwallis commander of the British forces at York & Gloucester surrendered his army 1751 officers and men 840 seamen 244 cannon and 24 standards to His Excellency George Washington Commander in Chief of the combined forces of America and France to his Excellency the Comte de Rochambeau commanding the auxiliary troops of His Most Christian Majesty in America and to His Excellency The Comte de Grasse Commanding Chief The Naval Army of France in Chesapeake


Side 2:


The provisional Articles of Peace concluded Nov 30, 1782 & the definitive treaty of peace concluded Sept 3 1783 between the U.S.A. and George III King of Great Britain & Ireland declare His Britannic Majesty acknowledges the said U.S. viz New Hampshire Massachusetts Bay Rhode Island and Providence Plantations Connecticut New York new Jersey Pennsylvania Delaware Maryland Virginia North Carolina South Carolina and Georgia to be free sovereign and independent states


Side 3:


The treaty concluded Feb 6 1778 between the U.S.A. and Louis XVI King of France declares the essential & direct end of the present defensive alliance is to maintain effectually the liberty & sovereignty & independence absolute & unlimited of the said U.S. as well in matters of government as of commerce


Side 4:


Erected in pursuance of a resolution of Congress adopted Oct 29 1781 & an act of congress approved June 7 1880 to commemorate the victory by which the independence of the U.S.A. was achieved


Jack Manning

Historian General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution


"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

Revolutionary War Commander Artemas Ward Dies

October 28 1800: Revolutionary War Commander Artemas Ward Dies


On This Day…


      …in 1800, the man who commanded the ragtag American force that chased the British Regulars back to Boston following the battles of Lexington and Concord died at home in Shrewsbury. Trusted and admired by the volunteer militiamen who made up the first American army, General Artemas Ward was severely criticized by George Washington, who assumed command of the Continental Army in July 1775. Accustomed to serving with professional officers, Washington and his fellow Virginians dismissed Ward as "a fat old church warden." Washington was also appalled by the lax discipline among Ward’s New England soldiers. After two years, Artemas Ward resigned and returned home to Shrewsbury. The Massachusetts general faded from national memory and from the history books.




Artemas Ward at mid-life was not an impressive looking fellow; his biographer described him as "a man of medium height; . . . too stout for his forty-seven years, and . . . showing the effects of . . . illness." He had neither great wealth nor high social position. But in the spring of 1775, as crisis loomed in Massachusetts, the colony’s Committee of Safety chose Ward to be the Commander-in-Chief of the "Grand American Army," as the newspapers referred to the collection of local militia units that were preparing for war.


The revolutionary leaders trusted Ward’s judgment. He was a Puritan, a patriot, and a man "fully convinced that ‘those of Massachusetts were the Chosen People.’" He had proved his mettle through 24 years of public and military service. More important, Ward had the trust, respect, and affection of the militiamen, and they were willing to follow him. In the spring and summer of 1775, Ward’s ability to command their loyalty would prove critical.


Artemas Ward was born and grew up in the Worcester County town of Shrewsbury, which his parents, both of old Puritan stock, had helped found. In 1748, at the age of 20, he graduated from Harvard and took a position teaching school in Groton. There he met his future wife, Sarah Trowbridge. After their marriage in 1750, the couple settled in Shrewsbury. While his wife bore eight children, Ward kept a farm and a busy general store. He was elected to numerous offices, including representative to the General Court in Boston.


In 1758 Ward was commissioned as a major in a provincial regiment raised for the French and Indian War. Meritorious service earned him promotion to lieutenant-colonel, but the difficult campaign in the Adirondacks ruined his health. He never fully regained his strength.


His reputation, however, did not suffer. On his return to Shrewsbury, he was appointed colonel of his militia regiment, and in 1762, a judge of the Court of Common Pleas. For the next decade, he distinguished himself with his dogged opposition to royal authority, drawing the wrath of crown officials and the admiration of patriots.


In the fall of 1774, as British troops occupied Boston and the sense of impending hostilities grew, the Massachusetts Provincial Congress ordered each town to train a militia. By February of 1775, as tensions increased, it was clear that the local militia units could no longer report only to their own officers. They would need a general commander. Artemas Ward got the job.


When fighting broke out on April 19th, Ward lay sick at home in Shrewsbury with a painful attack of "bladder stones." The next morning, despite his condition, he rode 35 miles to Cambridge to take command of the various militia that had chased the British Regulars back to Boston. Ward maintained the siege of Boston in its initial months and fortified the patriot position by taking the strategic high point of Bunker Hill.


Ward faced formidable challenges. Not only was he confronting the world’s most powerful army, but he was doing so with a force of volunteers who had agreed only to turn out for a single battle. Once the British had been driven back to Boston, many militiamen wanted to return to their farms. They had not enlisted, and had little enthusiasm for camp life, especially given the rough and unhygienic conditions of their impromptu camp at Cambridge. Ward had the daunting task of creating an army.


He appealed for volunteers to become the first enlistees. Men from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Rhode Island began to fill the ranks. Critics complained that Ward was a lax disciplinarian and that his "Grand American Army" was anything but grand. But Artemas Ward understood his volunteer Yankee soldiers. He knew that they would not tolerate, and that he had no legal authority to impose, strict discipline. He had to lead by consensus and mutual respect, for, as one patriot wrote to Samuel Adams, "our soldiers will not be brought to obey any person of whom they do not themselves entertain a high opinion." Ward’s deft management helped his raw recruits hold the siege.


On June 17th, the Continental Congress in Philadelphia debated who should be appointed supreme commander of the American forces. John Adams reported that "the greatest number" wanted the job to go to Ward. However, an overriding concern was to persuade delegates from the South that this was not just New England’s war. The Congress chose George Washington of Virginia and made Ward his second in command.


Two weeks later, Washington arrived in Cambridge; he immediately began criticizing Ward publicly and in writing. Artemas Ward was deeply offended, and relations between the two men never improved. Two years later, suffering from ill health, Ward resigned his position and returned to Shrewsbury. He served for the next 20 years as representative to the Continental, First, and Second Congresses.


After his death in 1800, Ward faded into obscurity. Historians remembered him mostly as the inept commander portrayed by Washington or not at all. Even the central Massachusetts town named in his honor eventually changed its name to "Auburn." A great-grandson donated Ward’s Shrewsbury home and $5,000,000 to Harvard University on the condition that the university work to restore the general’s reputation. Recently, graduate students have begun to use the home and its collections as a scholarly resource to learn more about the life and times of the nation’s first military commander-in-chief.



Shrewsbury Historical Society


If You Go


The Artemas Ward House in Shrewsbury is open to the public on a limited basis.




The Life of Artemas Ward, by Charles Martyn (1921; reprinted Kennikat Press, 1970).


Dictionary of American Biography, Vol. X.


The Auburn Eagle, April 24, 2003.


Harvard University Gazette, May 22, 2003.


Online at:


Jack Manning

Historian General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution  


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

Arthur Schlesinger

First of the Federalist Papers is published

First of the Federalist Papers is published


On this day in history, October 27, 1787, the first of the Federalist Papers is published. The Federalist, as it was originally called, was a series of articles written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay, to explain and justify the need for the newly proposed United States Constitution.


The United States Constitution was written by the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787 to replace the failing Articles of Confederation, America’s first governing document. The Confederation Congress sent a copy of the new Constitution to each state at the end of September, 1787, for each state to debate and make its own vote for or against ratification. Within days of its arrival, the first criticisms of the document began to appear in newspapers.


In New York, one of the states whose ratification of the Constitution was deemed critical to its success because of its large population, a very strong anti-Constitution coalition arose. Articles published under pseudonyms such as Brutus, Cato and the Federal Farmer began to appear, by people such as George Clinton, Robert Yates and Melancton Smith. To counter these arguments, Alexander Hamilton masterminded a plan to write a series of articles to refute the arguments and provide solid reasons why the Constitution should be adopted.


The first of the articles, which was written by Hamilton, appeared on October 27, 1787. Hamilton recruited fellow Federalist John Jay to write more articles, but after writing only 4 articles, Jay became ill and James Madison was recruited to the effort. Hamilton and Madison wrote the remainder of the 85 articles with the exception of one more written by Jay. In all, Hamilton wrote 51 articles, Madison 26 and Jay 5, all of which were written using the pseudonym, Publius.


According to The Federalist No. 1, the purpose of the articles was to explain how the Constitution would benefit the individual American citizen; why the current Confederation was not working; and the benefits of each provision in the Constitution. For example, Federalist Nos. 6-9 explain the benefits of a federal union; Federalist Nos. 24-29 discuss the need for common defense; Federalist No. 45 discusses alleged dangers to the authority of the states from the federal government; and Federalist Nos. 52-56 discuss the proposed House of Representatives.


The articles were published from October, 1787, to August, 1788, in several New York papers. Some of the articles were printed elsewhere, but they were primarily read in New York. By March of 1788, the articles had become so popular that a bound edition of the first 36 articles was printed under the title of The Federalist. Eventually all the other articles were printed together as well.


Scholars debate how much the Federalist Papers actually influenced the New York ratification vote. The required 9 states for the Constitution to be established had already been achieved with New Hampshire’s vote for ratification on June 21, 1788. Virginia was the tenth state to ratify on June 25. New York finally voted for ratification on July 26 in a 30-27 vote.


In later times, The Federalist Papers have come to be regarded as a unique window into the intentions of the Founders. They are studied by law students and Constitutional scholars and are often referred to in Supreme Court decisions, perhaps taking on an even greater role today than they held at the time they were written.


Jack Manning

Historian General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution  


"The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite."

James Madison – Federalist Papers, No. 45, January 26, 1788

Benjamin Franklin sets sail for France

Benjamin Franklin sets sail for France


On this day in history, October 26, 1776, Benjamin Franklin sets sail for France as ambassador from the Continental Congress. The new United States was formed on July 4th only a few months before. One of the nation’s primary goals was to obtain foreign alliances. France was considered to be the best possibility for an alliance, due to France’s continual feud with Great Britain dating back centuries.


When Ben Franklin arrived in France, he was already a well-known celebrity. In the 1750s, Franklin’s discoveries with electricity had made him a household name in Europe after his letters about the subject were published. Upon his arrival in France, Franklin’s fame was so great that he found his likeness on portraits, snuff boxes and busts. His celebrity status gave him exactly what he needed in Paris, status and open doors to the highest society and government officials.


Franklin’s chief mission in France was to secure a financial and military alliance. All of the high society citizens wanted to know the famous American and Franklin quickly became part of their inner circle. The only problem was that the French government was reluctant to publicly make an  alliance with the upstart Americans. Secretly, however, France was willing to send aid in the form of military supplies.


In the fall of 1777, the big break came when British general, John Burgoyne surrendered more than 6,000 men to the Americans at the Battle of Saratoga. This victory convinced France that the Americans could indeed handle a war against England. France decided to join the war and Franklin helped negotiate a treaty of alliance the next spring. Tons of military supplies, fleets of French ships and some of France’s best soldiers went to America. Franklin encouraged such soldiers as the Marquis de Lafayette, Thaddeus Kosciuszko and Casimir Pulaski to go to America and join the fight.


France’s involvement in the American Revolution turned out to be one of the keys to the eventual American victory. France’s involvement, along with Spain, which joined the war as well, made the American Revolution a world war. Fighting erupted between France and England all over the globe, in such disparate places as the Mediterranean, Africa, India and the West Indies. England was forced to spread its resources to these far flung places and even remove troops from America to defend its interests elsewhere. England couldn’t sustain such a vast war and was eventually forced to capitulate in the American colonies where the war began.


Jack Manning

Historian General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution  


"How many observe Christ’s birth-day! How few, his precepts! O! ’tis easier to keep Holidays than Commandments."

Benjamin Franklin – Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1743


John and Abigail Adams are married

John and Abigail Adams are married


On this day in history, October 25, 1764, John and Abigail Adams are married. They would become one of the most recognizable couples in American history, not only for their time in the White House when John was the 2nd President of the United States, but also because of the more than 1200 letters between them that have survived.


John Adams and Abigail Smith were third cousins who knew one another from a young age. Both of them grew up in Christian households, John’s father being a deacon and Abigail’s a minister. John grew up on a farm and became a lawyer, while Abigail was educated at home, as was the custom for many women of the day. Abigail’s education was far more extensive than most women of the day, however. She became quite versed in politics, philosophy, poetry and other subjects, due to access to the libraries of her father and grandfather.


When the two married in 1764, John was 28 and Abigail was 19. They lived at the farm John’s father had left him in Quincy, Massachusetts, a few miles from Boston. Their first child, Abigail, also known as Nabby, was born in 1765. The Adams’ had 5 more children over the years, one of whom, John Quincy, became the 6th President of the United States.


As John’s law practice grew, the couple moved to Boston where they became intimately involved in revolutionary politics. John became involved in local politics and was eventually elected to attend the Continental Congress where he was a strong advocate of independence from Great Britain. During John’s long absences to Congress, he and Abigail kept up a vigorous letter writing habit that has provided subsequent generations a unique window into typical family life during the Revolution. Abigail was forced to raise their youngest children on her own and manage the farm as well.


John and Abigail often discussed political matters in their letters and her views were always taken to heart by Adams. Both of them were strong advocates of American independence and the abolition of slaves. She was also a strong proponent of women’s rights.


In the 1780s, John spent several years as the American ambassador to the Netherlands and Great Britain. In 1784, Abigail went to join him and the two spent several years in Paris and London. Neither of them particularly liked the social life of Europe.


John Adams was elected Vice-President with George Washington and subsequently became the 2nd President of the United States. The Adams’ came under great scrutiny and criticism while he was president and both had their feelings hurt from the criticisms and the lost election for a second term in the White House. After returning to Quincy from the capital, the two lived at their home called Peacefield. Abigail passed away in 1818 and John finished his memoirs. He passed away on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of American Independence.


Jack Manning

Historian General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution  


"I have accepted a seat in the [Massachusetts] House of Representatives, and thereby have consented to my own ruin, to your ruin, and the ruin of our children. I give you this warning, that you may prepare your mind for your fate."

John Adams – Letter to Abigail Adams, May, 1770