Monthly Archives: September 2017

Samuel Adams is born

Samuel Adams is born


On this day in history, September 16, 1722, Samuel Adams is born. He would be a pre-eminent leader of the Boston revolutionaries, sign the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation and be called the "Firebrand of the American Revolution."


Samuel Adams was born into a wealthy Puritan Boston family. He was educated at Harvard and went into business after graduating. After several attempts at business failed, Adams found his real success in politics. In 1747, he was elected to his first political office as a clerk for Boston Market. He later served as a tax collector for the Boston Town Meeting. The town meeting asked him to write their instructions to their members of the House of Representatives in 1764. This writing proved to be the first instance of a public body claiming that Parliament had no authority to tax the colonies.


In the decade leading up to the Revolution, Adams was a member of the House of Representatives and served as that body’s clerk, giving him a great deal of influence. Adams became one of the leading voices against Parliamentary overreach in Boston and was closely associated with other patriotic figures such as James Otis, John Hancock and his second-cousin, John Adams.


Adams wrote the "Massachusetts Circular Letter" in response to the Townshend Acts, which placed taxes on various items, in 1768. The letter was sent by the House of Representatives to the other colonies, asking them to join in challenging the Townshend Acts. The British responded by dissolving the legislatures of Massachusetts and any other colonies that supported the letter.


Bostonians resisted the taxes of the Townshend Acts and Parliament occupied the city with soldiers, leading to the Boston Massacre. Adams published numerous letters and articles denouncing British policies and called for the mass meeting of citizens that led to the Boston Tea Party. Adams helped organize the boycott of British goods and helped create the Committees of Correspondence which kept the colonies in contact with one another.


In 1774, Adams was sent to the Continental Congress, where he served continually for the next 7 years. While in Congress, Adams was a leading advocate of American independence from early on. He served on numerous committees, especially those dealing with military matters. He signed the Declaration of Independence and served on the committee that wrote the Articles of Confederation, America’s first governing document.


In 1779, Adams helped write the Massachusetts Constitution with John Adams and James Bowdoin. He returned to Massachusetts politics for good in 1781 and served often as the moderator of the Boston Town Meeting. He served in the state Senate and helped promote public schools in Boston, even for girls. Adams was originally against the US Constitution, thinking it gave too much power to the federal government, but he supported it after the promise was made to include a bill of rights. He voted to support the Constitution at the Massachusetts ratifying convention in 1788.


Adams was elected lieutenant-governor of Massachusetts in 1789 and served in this position until the death of Governor John Hancock in 1793. Adams was then elected to the governorship annually for the next 4 years, after which he retired from public life. Samuel Adams died on October 2, 1803 and was buried in the Granary Burying Ground in Boston.


Jack Manning

Treasurer General
National Society Sons of the American Revolution


And that the said Constitution be never construed to authorize Congress to infringe the just liberty of the press, or the rights of conscience; or to prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms; or to raise standing armies, unless necessary for the defense of the United States, or of some one or more of them; or to prevent the people from petitioning, in a peaceable and orderly manner, the federal legislature, for a redress of grievances; or to subject the people to unreasonable searches and seizures of their persons, papers or possessions.

Samuel Adams, Debates of the Massachusetts Convention of 1788

The British Landing at Kip’s Bay

The British landing at Kip’s Bay


On this day in history, September 15, 1776, the British landing at Kip’s Bay opens the way for the British capture of New York City unopposed during the American Revolution. After the lost Battle of Long Island on August 29, the Continental Army escaped during the night to Manhattan, which was then called York Island.


George Washington was placed in the dilemma of having to choose what to do with New York City. Should he spend tons of blood and treasure defending the city, or should he abandon it? Most of Washington’s generals believed the city was strategically unimportant. Washington did not, however, want to abandon the city to the British, who could make the city a base of operations. For this reason, Washington considered burning the city to the ground.


Until he heard from Congress, Washington resolved to defend the island. Washington split his 19,000 troops into three groups, the first, under General Israel Putnam, to defend New York City, the second, under General Nathanael Greene, stretched across the middle of Manhattan and the third, under General William Heath, to defend Harlem Heights and the King’s Bridge, the only escape by land available to the Continental Army, at the north end of the island.


Kip’s Bay was a cove that sat roughly where E. 32nd Street to E. 38th Street in New York City lie today. It has since been filled in so is not visible today. The cove was a good place for a naval landing because it had deep water close to the shore. 500 Connecticut militia under Colonel William Douglas were stationed at Kip’s Bay and had built a flimsy breastwork there from which to fire. 


On September 7, Washington received a letter from John Hancock stating that Congress did not wish New York City to be burned, but that Washington was not required to defend it either. British General William Howe was slow to invade Manhattan, however, waiting until a meeting on September 11th with Ben Franklin, John Adams and Edward Rutledge, which he hoped would produce some kind of peace. When the meeting failed, Howe set about his invasion plans.


On the morning of September 15th, 5 British warships sailed up the East River, firing their guns as they went. When they arrived at Kip’s Bay, they began bombarding the shore and the weak defenses. 80 cannons fired on the green militia, most of whom were armed with pikes made from scythes. The militia quickly scattered, while a flotilla of flat-boats began landing 4,000 British troops on the shore.


Washington came from Harlem Heights as soon as he heard the bombardment begin and watched from a nearby hill. He was horrified as he watched the militia retreat, riding onto the field himself in hopes of rallying them. As the soldiers continued to stream past him, he became angry and began cursing and striking the men with the flat of his sword, in one of the few instances he was known to have lost his temper. Washington came within 80 yards of the British soldiers before his aides were able to pull him off the battlefield.


As Howe’s men marched after the retreating soldiers, General Putnam scrambled to get his soldiers in New York City north of the British line before they trapped him in the south of the island. Fortunately, Howe ordered his troops to stop and wait for reinforcements, allowing the rest of the Continentals to escape to Harlem and regroup. This left New York City abandoned by the patriots and the British walked into the city unopposed.


The Battle of Kip’s Bay was a clear British victory. About 50 Americans were killed and 320 captured, while only a dozen British soldiers were killed or wounded. George Washington was ashamed and angry at the cowardly behavior of the troops. The following day, however, Washington would be encouraged when his troops won the Battle of Harlem Heights, even though they were outnumbered nearly 3 to 1, in Washington’s first battlefield victory of the war.


Jack Manning

Treasurer General

Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote!”

Benjamin Franklin

Mercy Otis Warren is Born

Mercy Otis Warren is born


On this day in history, September 14, 1728, Mercy Otis Warren is born. Mercy would be an important writer during the Revolution and an adviser to numerous political leaders of the time. She would also be the first woman to publish in the United States and would write one of the early histories of the American Revolution.


Mercy Otis was born in West Barnstable, Massachusetts in 1728, the third child in a family of 12 children. Her father, James Otis, Sr. was an influential lawyer and attorney general of Massachusetts. Otis, Sr. was a staunch anti-British patriot from early on and Mercy learned many of her political views from him as a child. Even though she had no formal education, Mercy was tutored by a local minister with her older brother James (who would become a leader of the patriot movement). She became extremely well read and knowledgeable about politics for a woman of her time.


Mercy married James Warren in 1754 and went to live with his family in Plymouth. James would eventually be elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives, where he would become the Speaker of the House. After the Revolution began, James was elected the president of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress and served as a paymaster to the Continental Army.


Having a father who was a formal attorney general, a brother (James) who earned the nickname “Father of the American Revolution,” and a husband at the head of the rebel congress, Mercy was immersed in the politics of the day. She was close friends with and a writing correspondent with such people as Sam Adams, John Adams, Abigail Adams, John Hancock, George Washington, Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson. James and Mercy often hosted meetings of the rebel political leaders in their home. The Massachusetts Committee of Correspondence, which Samuel Adams said was the most important thing that took place to get the colonies working together, was formed in the Warren’s living room.


Mercy used her extensive knowledge of history and politics to become an influential writer in her own right. She published several plays before and during the war that satirized and criticized British rule and policies, although never under her own name, which would have been unusual for a woman of the time. In 1788, she published Observations on the New Constitution, which was critical of the new constitution and called for a bill of rights. Some believe this writing was instrumental in the creation and adoption of the Bill of Rights into the Constitution.


In 1790, Mercy published her first work to be published in her own name, Poems, Dramatic and Miscellaneous, which contained 18 poems and 2 plays designed to educate about the virtues necessary for the new nation to succeed. In 1805, she published her most substantial work, the 3 volume History of the Rise, Progress and Termination of the American Revolution, one of the first histories of the Revolution to be published and the only one of that era to be published by a woman. Mercy Otis Warren passed away on October 19, 1814 at 86 and is buried at Burial Hill in Plymouth, Massachusetts.


Jack Manning

Treasurer General
National Society Sons of the American Revolution


“All the powers of government, legislative, executive, and judiciary, result to the legislative body. The concentrating these in the same hands is precisely the definition of despotic government.” 

Thomas Jefferson, 1781- Notes on the State of Virginia, Query XIII

Brigadier General Andrew Pickens is born

Brigadier General Andrew Pickens is born


On this day in history, September 13, 1739, Brigadier General Andrew Pickens is born. Pickens was one of the great military leaders of the South during the American Revolution, who would also be elected to Congress and be famed as a negotiator with southern Indian tribes.


Andrew Pickens was born in Pennsylvania, the son of French Huguenots who had immigrated from France to Scotland to Ireland and finally to America. Pickens traveled south along the Great Wagon Road that took many Scots-Irish families south to the Carolinas and settled in the Waxhaws region of South Carolina, later moving near the Georgia border.


Pickens became a successful farmer and trader with local Indians. He gained military experience in the Cherokee Wars of the early 1760s, but was especially known for personally having good relations with the Indians.


When the American Revolution began, Pickens became a captain in the patriot militia. He served in numerous battles, such as the Siege of Ninety-Six, the Snow Campaign against Loyalist organizers, the Williamson Campaign against the Cherokee and the Battle of Kettle Creek.


Pickens surrendered after the Battle of Charleston that captured the city and agreed not to fight the British any more in order to be paroled, as many South Carolinians did. The parole did not last, however. Pickens joined the fight again after his home was wrecked by Loyalists and his family threatened. Pickens earned a ceremonial sword from Congress and a promotion to brigadier general for his role in the Battle of Cowpens. Pickens then took place in the siege that took back Augusta from the British and the last major battle in the south, the Battle of Eutaw Springs.


After the Revolution, Pickens built a home on the Keowee River called Hopewell Plantation where he lived for many years. Pickens’ reputation as a friend of the Indians only increased in the decades after the Revolution, as he was called upon time and time again to negotiate with the Chickasaws, Creeks, Cherokees, Chickamaugas and Choctaws. Pickens was so well regarded by the Indians that he earned the nickname “Skyagunsta,” or “Wizard Owl.” This was the name of a great Cherokee chief who died shortly before the Revolution began, who was known for being a great warrior, but also for making peace with the British.


Pickens served in the South Carolina House of Representatives from 1781-1794 and again from 1800-1812. He served at the South Carolina Constitutional Convention of 1790 and was elected to Congress for one term in 1793.


In his later years, Pickens built a home near the site of a Cherokee village called Tamassee, near the location of a famous battle Pickens won early in the Revolution, called the “Ring Fight.” Pickens won the fight by ordering his men, who were outnumbered 7 to 1, to stand in a circle and fire their guns outward at any attackers. Pickens lived at Tamassee in his “Red House,” until his death in 1718.


Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution  


“Democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their death.”

James Madison

Congress authorizes the first printing of the Bible

Congress authorizes the first printing of the Bible


On this day in history, September 12, 1782, Congress authorizes the first printing of the Bible in North America by Philadelphia publisher, Robert Aitken. This Bible has been called the "Bible of the Revolution." But why would Congress "authorize" the publishing of a Bible?


In Europe, it was traditional for the Christian governments to authorize or license Bible publishers for accuracy. It was believed that if any old person could publish the Bible, inaccuracies could creep into the text, creating confusion amongst the populace about what was proper Christian doctrine.


After the boycotts of British goods began during the Revolution, there was a shortage of Bibles in the American colonies because Bibles were previously imported from Britain. As early as 1777, Congress discussed importing Bibles from Scotland or Holland, but these plans were never completed.


On January 21, 1781, Robert Aitken addressed a letter to Congress requesting them to review and authorize a printing of the Bible he was currently working on. Aitken stated that he knew Congress would "not neglect spiritual security, while they are virtuously contending for temporal blessings." He also said the Bible would be used in schools and requests that Congress review it for accuracy. He asks them to appoint and authorize him to print as many as were necessary to meet the needs of the American people.


Congress obliged Aitken’s request by appointing a committee for the review, consisting of James Duane, Thomas McKean and the Rev. John Witherspoon. The committee referred the Aitken Bible to Congress’ two congressional chaplains, the Rev. William White of Christ Church, Philadelphia, and the Rev. George Duffield of the Third Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia.


On September 1, the chaplains reported back that they believed Aitken’s printing was indeed accurate and indicated it would provide them great personal joy that a new supply of Bibles would finally be available in America once again.


On September 12, Congress took up the recommendation based on the chaplains’ review and passed the following resolution, which was printed in the front of the Aitken Bible: "RESOLVED, THAT the United States in Congress assembled highly approve the pious and laudable undertaking of Mr. Aitken, as subservient to the interest of religion, as well as an instance of the progress of arts in this country, and being satisfied from the above report of his care and accuracy in the execution of the work, they recommend this edition of the Bible to the inhabitants of the United States, and hereby authorize him to publish this Recommendation in the manner he shall think proper."


Aitken printed 10,000 copies of his Bible, only 30-40 of which still exist today. Ironically, Aitken’s sister, Jane, later became the first woman to print a Bible in world history, also on September 12, when she printed a Bible containing Charles Thomson’s translation of the New Testament in 1808. Thomson was the long time Secretary of Congress and an accomplished theologian. His translation of the Septuagint, the Greek New Testament, was the first translation of the New Testament directly from the Greek into English ever written. All previous English New Testaments were translated from the Latin.


Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution  


"We are either a United people, or we are not. If the former, let us, in all matters of general concern act as a nation, which have national objects to promote, and a national character to support. If we are not, let us no longer act a farce by pretending to it." George Washington (1785)

American loss at the Battle of Brandywine

American loss at the Battle of Brandywine


On this day in history, September 11, 1777, the American loss at the Battle of Brandywine opens the door for the British to take the American capital, Philadelphia. British General William Howe landed 17,000 troops at Head of Elk, Maryland in late August to capture Philadelphia.


George Washington and the Continental Army were camped between the British and Philadelphia. For two weeks, the two armies maneuvered around one another, with only minor skirmishes taking place. As the British army began moving north, Washington made his stand at Chadd’s Ford over the Brandywine Creek on the "Great Road" from Baltimore to Philadelphia.


Washington placed troops at all the fords from Pyle’s Ford below Chadd’s Ford, to Wistar’s Ford north of Chadd’s Ford. Washington had covered all the main crossings for several miles up and down the creek and believed this would force the British to cross at Chadd’s Ford, which was the best defensible position. Unfortunately, Washington’s intelligence of the area was not as good as Howe’s.


General Howe’s troops gathered at Kennett Square and, early on the morning of September 11th, rather than sending his entire force to fight the Continentals at Chadd’s Ford, he split his army in two and sent only 5,000 men to the ford. The rest of Howe’s army marched north under Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis and crossed further up the creek at fords Washington was unaware of, then marched south upon Washington’s right flank.


The fighting began on the approach to Chadd’s Ford when the Americans opened fire on the British. The British soldiers took cover on the grounds of a Quaker meetinghouse, while a church service was underway inside.  The fighting began mid-morning and the British eventually pushed the Americans back beyond the ford.


The great surprise took place, however, when Cornwallis’ army fell on the right flank at about 2pm. The Americans were completely surprised and quickly took many casualties. Generals John Sullivan, Adam Stephens and William Alexander quickly repositioned their troops and held off the British for a few hours, while the rest of the army began a retreat. By 4pm, Washington and General Nathanael Greene arrived with reinforcements.


As darkness approached, Greene placed the troops of General George Weedon at Dilworth to block the British from advancing. This allowed the rest of the army to retreat to safety, most of whom arrived at Chester by midnight.


The Battle of Brandywine was a great loss for the Americans, but the Continental Army soldiers were not discouraged after the battle, even though they suffered more than 1,000 dead and wounded. Washington wrote to Congress that his army had survived to fight another day. For the next two weeks the armies continued to maneuver around one another, but on September 26, General Howe marched into Philadelphia unopposed. Congress had fled to York and Philadelphia would be occupied for the next 9 months.


Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution  


"National defense is one of the cardinal duties of a statesman."

John Adams (1815)

Captain Nicholas Biddle is Born

Captain Nicholas Biddle is born


On this day in history, September 10, 1750, Captain Nicholas Biddle is born in Philadelphia. Biddle was one of the first naval captains appointed by the Continental Congress. As a young teenager, Biddle became a sailor and voyaged to the Caribbean where he was stranded for several months on an island. He served in the Royal Navy in 1770 for a few years and then traveled as a sailor on a voyage to the Arctic.


When he returned to America, the American Revolution was just breaking out. The State of Pennsylvania gave Biddle charge of the galley Franklin to patrol the Delaware River, which was the approach to Philadelphia. On August 1, 1775, Biddle received one of the Continental Navy’s first five commissions. His commission gave him command of the 14 gun Andrew Doria.


Biddle traveled in the Andrew Doria with Commodore Esek Hopkins’ fleet on a voyage to the Bahamas, where they captured supplies and the Royal Governor, Montfort Browne. The Andrew Doria successfully captured several armed British ships during the expedition. On the return voyage, Biddle took part in the April 6 fight with HMS Glasgow, which successfully escaped. Biddle was highly critical of Commodore Hopkins’ leadership in the incident, which led to Hopkins’ censure by Congress.


Biddle was highly commended for his role in a mission to Newfoundland that captured numerous British ships. Every time a ship was captured, Biddle took some of his own crew to man the captured vessels. By the time he returned, he had only 5 sailors remaining on own his ship!


In June of 1776, Biddle received what would be his final commission from Congress when he was given command of the USS Randolph, which was then under construction. Biddle first sailed on the Randolph in early 1777 and shortly afterwards suppressed a mutiny of former British prisoners of war serving as sailors. On March 7, 1778, the Randolph sighted the 64 gun HMS Yarmouth off Barbados. Biddle decided to fight the Yarmouth, rather than try to outrun her, even though the Randolph was severely outgunned.


Eyewitness accounts say the Randolph gave a brave fight, tearing up the Yarmouth’s rigging and firing five broadsides into the Yarmouth, while the Yarmouth was able to get off only one broadside into the Randolph. Biddle himself was wounded during the battle. Despite the bravery and aggression of Biddle’s troops, shortly after Biddle was wounded, the Randolph’s ammunition magazine was hit and the entire ship exploded and sank, killing 301 of the 305 aboard, including Biddle, who was only 27 years old.


Biddle’s death and the loss of the Andrew Doria was a huge loss to the young Continental Navy. A year and a half before his death, Biddle wrote to his brother Charles, “I am much more afraid of doing a foolish action than of losing my life. I aim for a character of conduct, as well as courage, and hope never to throw away a vessel and crew merely to convince the world I have courage. No one has dared to impeach it yet. If any should, I will not leave them a moment of doubt.”


Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution   


“Wisely, therefore, do they consider union and a good national government as necessary to put and keep them in such a situation as, instead of inviting war, will tend to repress and discourage it. That situation consists in the best possible state of defense, and necessarily depends on the government, the arms, and the resources of the country.” 

John Jay, Federalist No. 4, 1787