Monthly Archives: March 2018

The Toms River Blockhouse Fight

The Toms River Blockhouse Fight

 

On this day in history, March 24, 1782, the Toms River Blockhouse Fight leads to the capture of Captain Joshua Huddy, which brings the peace negotiations with Great Britain to a standstill. Toms River, New Jersey was a notorious privateering headquarters during the American Revolution. On March 16, patriot privateers from Toms River captured a boat belonging to Loyalist William Dillon.

 

Dillon complained to the Associated Board of Loyalists in New York City, which was under the direction of former New Jersey Royal Governor, William Franklin. The Board organized a retaliatory strike against Toms River, which was important not only for its privateering , but also for its salt works. Salt was a valuable commodity to both sides because it was used to preserve meat. The patriots had built a small fort (also called a blockhouse) at Toms River to guard the nearby salt works.

 

The Toms River blockhouse was square and made of logs stuck into the ground with points at the top. It had no door. The only way in was by climbing over the top with a ladder. Captain Joshua Huddy was appointed to lead the small garrison at the fort in February, 1782. Huddy was well known for his exploits during the war, including an escape from the British after being captured in 1780. When the raiding party arrived at Toms River on the morning of the 24th, a two hour gun battle ensued. Only 25 men defended the fort, while the Loyalist attackers had 4 times as many.

 

Many of the men in the fort died the Toms River Blockhouse Fight and the Loyalists burned nearly the entire town to the ground. Huddy was captured and taken to New York. Three weeks later, Governor Franklin turned him over to Captain Richard Lippincott who transported him to near Sandy Hook where he was hung on the beach. This hanging sparked an international incident known as the "Asgill Affair."

 

The Americans were outraged because Huddy had committed no crimes and didn’t even receive a trial. Under pressure from the citizens, George Washington chose a British prisoner by lot who was to be executed in the same fashion as Huddy, unless Captain Lippincott was turned over to them for trial for Huddy’s murder. The soldier chosen by lot was Charles Asgill, who was from among the British prisoners who surrendered at Yorktown.

 

The British were outraged at the planned execution because the Yorktown terms of surrender forbade such treatment of prisoners. The peace negotiations in Paris came to a stop. Asgill’s mother pleaded with King George III and King Louis XVI in France. Letters came from the government of Holland and the French foreign minister asked Washington to free Asgill.

 

The British delayed the execution by trying Lippincott themselves, but he was found innocent for obeying orders. British Commander-in-Chief, Sir Guy Carleton promised to investigate to determine who else was involved if Congress would free Asgill. Eventually, Congress succumbed to the pressure from Europe and granted Asgill his freedom on November 7, 1782. Washington pressed Carleton on the matter of further inquiries into who was involved, but the whole affair was forgotten when the preliminary peace treaty was signed only 3 weeks later.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

"In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution."
Thomas Jefferson (1798)

Patrick Henry gives his "Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death" speech

Patrick Henry gives his "Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death" speech

 

On this day in history, March 23, 1775, Patrick Henry delivers his “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” speech. Henry was already well known for proposing the Virginia Resolves during the Stamp Act crisis, which challenged Parliament’s authority to tax the colonists. By the time the American Revolution broke out, Henry was already a leading proponent of independence from Britain.

 

The First Virginia Convention met in 1774 and sent representatives  to the First Continental Congress, one of whom was Patrick Henry. At the Second Convention, which met at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia, Henry proposed forming militia companies from every county to be called up at a moment’s notice in case of British aggression. The war would break out in Massachusetts only four weeks later. Henry’s actual words were not transcribed at the time, but they were pieced together by his biographer years later.

           

Henry stood to address the convention and first made it clear that he respected everyone’s opinion, but he felt that many were being overly optimistic and hopeful that Parliament would somehow miraculously change the course it had been following for the previous ten years. He told them the colonists had continually shown willingness to negotiate and settle differences amicably, while the British response was to ignore colonial proposals and inquiries, to prorogue colonial elected bodies and to build up a massive war machine amongst them. What else could the purpose of the war machine be but to subject the colonists to slavery?

 

In Henry’s own words, "They are meant for us; they can be meant for no other. They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British ministry have been so long forging."

St. John’s Episcopal Church Richmond, Virginia

 

Henry then addressed the fact that many in the colonies believed they were too weak to face the British war machine and that the only choice was to submit, no matter how unpleasant the consequences.  Henry said, "They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance, by lying supinely on our backs, and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot?"

 

The closing of Henry’s speech has been immortalized and taught to every school child for generations. In it, he made a call to action. It was time to resist Britain. If the result was death by war, then so be it, but he would not submit to the unjust commands of tyrants. "Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace, but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!"

 

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

 

 

 

 

Captain James Estill killed at the Battle of Little Mountain

Captain James Estill killed at the Battle of Little Mountain

 

On this day in history, March 22, 1782, Captain James Estill is killed at the Battle of Little Mountain. James Estill had moved to Boonesborough, Kentucky in 1778 at the age of 28 with his brother and his slave Monk, an imposing, but smart man. Estill quickly became a militia captain and built an outpost called Estill’s Station north of Boonesborough where he moved with Monk.

 

1782 was called "The Year of Blood" by Kentucky settlers due to escalated attacks from Indians allied with the British at Fort Detroit. In March, Estill received an order to assemble a search party after signs of a Wyandot war party were noticed near Boonesborough. Estill quickly gathered 40 men who galloped off to search for the Indians, leaving Estill’s Station completely unguarded and full of women, children and a few slaves. Estill was still nursing a wounded arm shot by an Indian bullet the year before, a fact that would be crucial in the battle to come.

           

That same night, 14 year old Jenny Gass had a dream of climbing a ladder to heaven, which she shared with the other settlers. They were all Christians and took the message as a blessing from heaven. Meanwhile, the Wyandot war party surrounded the station in the night. In the morning, Monk went out to gather firewood, while Jenny and her father’s slave, Dick, went out to gather syrup from maple trees.

 

The Wyandots quickly captured them. Monk persuaded them not to attack the fort, telling them it was fully guarded. Dick managed to escape back to the fort, but Jenny was scalped and killed in full view of the fort, while her horrified mother watched from the ramparts.

 

The Wyandots left the fort and two boys were sent to tell Estill what happened. When they found him, several men were sent back to guard the fort, while the rest pursued the Indians. On the morning of the 22nd, Estill located and attacked the Indians as they were crossing Little Mountain Creek, near present day Mount Sterling, Kentucky. The two sides began fighting one on one through the woods.

 

The Wyandot leader was quickly killed, but his men pressed forward. Estill divided his men into three groups and put the left flank under Lt. William Miller. Miller and his men, however, fled when his gun was damaged by an Indian bullet. The loss of the flank exposed the center, which was quickly overcome. Estill ordered a retreat, but was soon attacked by a Wyandot warrior. They fought hand to hand, the Indian trying to stab Estill with his knife. Estill’s damaged arm soon gave out and the knife plunged into his chest. As soon as he was dead, Joseph Proctor shot the Indian dead.

 

7 settlers were killed and approximately 20 Indians. Estill’s slave, Monk, escaped during the fray and carried a wounded man 25 miles to safety. He was later rewarded his freedom for his bravery in the battle, becoming the first freed slave in Kentucky. The losses at the Battle of Little Mountain, sometimes called Estill’s Defeat, were blamed on William Miller by most for abandoning his post. His life was threatened for years by survivors of the battle. He lived to be 95 years old, while James Estill and six others died, partly due to his cowardice.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

"Religion and virtue are the only foundations, not of republicanism and of all free government, but of social felicity under all government and in all the combinations of human society."
John Adams (1811)

Marquis de Lafayette lays cornerstone for Nathanael Greene Memorial

Marquis de Lafayette lays cornerstone for Nathanael Greene Memorial

 

On this day in history, March 21, 1825, the Marquis de Lafayette lays the cornerstone for the General Nathanael Greene memorial in Savannah, Georgia during his tour of the United States. The Marquis de Lafayette was the last living French general who served in the American Revolution. He fought valiantly beside George Washington, serving in several key battles, including the Siege of Yorktown and the Battle of Brandywine, where he was wounded in the leg.

 

President James Monroe invited Lafayette to come to America in 1824 to help celebrate America’s 50th anniversary and instill a sense of patriotism in a new generation. Lafayette arrived at Staten Island on July 13, 1824 and toured all 24 states of the union over the next year. He visited New York City, Rochester, Boston, Providence, Raleigh, Savannah, New Orleans, Nashville, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington DC and numerous points in between.

           

Lafayette dined with President James Monroe and President John Quincy Adams, met with Thomas Jefferson at Monticello, visited Washington’s family at Mount Vernon, visited Yorktown on the 43rd anniversary of that battle, Brandywine on the 47th anniversary of that battle and spoke to Congress twice during his visit.

 

Lafayette’s travels through the south began in March, 1825. He arrived in Savannah on March 19 and on the 21st, he laid the cornerstone for a memorial to General Nathanael Greene in Johnson Square. During the Revolution, Greene was second in command only to George Washington. Greene was noted for his battlefield prowess in the north, but was especially celebrated for turning around American fortunes in the south and driving the British to defeat.

 

After the war, the State of Georgia awarded General Greene a rice plantation called Mulberry Grove near Savannah where he lived until his death in 1786. Greene’s wife, Catherine Littlefield Greene continued living there after his death. George Washington visited her and dined at Mulberry Grove in 1791 during his grand tour of the United States. Around the same time, Mrs. Greene became acquainted with a young man named Eli Whitney who was a tutor for her neighbors. She invited Whitney to live on her plantation to continue working on his inventions. It was here that he first developed the cotton gin within the year, which would revolutionize the south and help bring about the end of slavery.

 

After the Civil War, Mulberry Grove was gradually broken apart and not a trace of it exists today as it once did. General Greene and his son were exhumed in 1901 from the Colonial Cemetery in Savannah and reinterred underneath the monument on Johnson Square in 1902. The Marquis de Lafayette closed his journey in Washington DC on September 6, 1825, his 68th birthday, with a meeting with President Adams at the White House and an address to a joint session of Congress. He left for France the following day on the frigate USS Brandywine, newly built and named in honor of the battle in which he shed his blood for America’s freedom.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

“Permit me then to recommend from the sincerity of my heart, ready at all times to bleed in my country’s cause, a Declaration of Independence, and call upon the world and the Great God who governs it to witness the necessity, propriety and rectitude thereof.”
Nathanael Greene

The Anti-American British Government Fails

The Anti-American British government falls

 

On this day in history, March 20, 1782, the Anti-American British government falls with the resignation of Prime Minister Frederick North. When General Lord Charles Cornwallis surrendered his army to George Washington at Yorktown, Virginia, the desire to bring the war to an end in England reached a fever pitch.

 

Debates raged in Parliament through January and February and finally, on February 27, the House of Commons passed a vote to end the war. On March 5, Parliament gives King George III the authority to negotiate peace with the Americans. Prime Minister North, however, is unpopular and the opposition tries to pass through several votes of no confidence in order to oust him.

            

Lord North had been Prime Minister since 1770 and was in charge of the British government during the entire American Revolution. The war had gone badly for England nearly from the beginning. They were never able to consolidate control beyond the major cities that were captured.

 

North had tried to resign several times during the war, thinking himself unable to handle a war, including right after the Battles of Lexington and Concord and after the defeat of General Burgoyne at Saratoga and the entrance of France in to the war. Each time, however, King George refused to accept his resignation and asked North to stay on.

 

With the defeat of Cornwallis, North again handed in his resignation and again, the King refused to accept it. This time, however, Parliament had had enough of war and momentum was swinging against North. After the vote to end the war on the 27th, a vote of no confidence was held which North narrowly survived. Only a few days later, however, another vote was held, which he failed.

 

On March 20, Parliament was scheduled to hold debates on North. North knew he was about to be sacked and before anyone could him further, he stood up to be recognized in the chamber. North publicly resigned, the first Prime Minister to be forced from office.

 

Two days later, King George III appointed Charles Watson-Wentworth, the Marquess of Rockingham, to be Prime Minister. Lord Rockingham set about immediately negotiating with the American peace commissioners in Paris. By November, a preliminary peace treaty was signed. It is agreed to by Parliament the following January and by Congress in April, 1783.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

"They define a republic to be a government of laws, and not of men." 
John Adams (1775)

Thomas McKean is born

Thomas McKean is born

 

On this day in history, March 19, 1734, Thomas McKean is born. He would be one of the most politically active of the Founding Fathers, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, President of Delaware, Chief Justice of Pennsylvania and Governor of Pennsylvania.

 

Thomas McKean was born in Chester County, Pennsylvania to Irish immigrants of Scottish decent. He became a lawyer in the 1750s. Delaware at that time was technically a part of Pennsylvania, but had its own General Assembly. McKean had homes in Philadelphia and in Delaware and was politically active in both.

 

His first public office was Attorney General for Sussex County, Delaware. He became a judge of the Court of Common Pleas in 1765 and was sent to the Stamp Act Congress from Delaware to coordinate resistance with the other colonies against the Stamp Act. From 1762 to 1776, he was a member of the General Assembly in Delaware and served as its Speaker of the House in 1772.

 

McKean was chosen as a member of Delaware’s delegation to both the First and Second Continental Congresses. He was a prominent advocate of independence from Great Britain and voted for the Declaration of Independence on July 2, 1776. McKean helped write the Articles of Confederation and served as the President of Congress for a few months in 1781, during which time Lord Charles Cornwallis surrendered his army at Yorktown, the event that eventually brought the Revolutionary War to an end.

 

During the war, McKean participated in the defense of New York City. He also attended Delaware’s convention to write its own state constitution. He wrote virtually the entire constitution in one night and, when it was ratified on September 20, 1776, it became the first state constitution to be adopted after the colonies declared their independence. McKean then served as President of Delaware for a short time when the then current president, John McKinly, was captured by the British.

 

McKean was elected Pennsylvania’s Chief Justice from 1777 to 1799. In this position, he became one of the most prominent shapers of the American legal system, some scholars believe even more so than the long serving Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, John Marshall. McKean served at the Pennsylvania Convention which ratified the US Constitution and at the convention which adopted a state constitution for Pennsylvania.

 

Thomas McKean was then elected governor of Pennsylvania for 3 terms from 1799 to 1808. He led the way in preparing Philadelphia’s defenses during the War of 1812, at the age of 80 years old. He finally passed away at the age of 83. His grave is at Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"The boisterous sea of liberty is never without a wave." —Thomas Jefferson (1820)

The Battle of Quinton’s Bridge

The Battle of Quinton’s Bridge

 

On this day in history, March 18, 1778, the Battle of Quinton’s Bridge is fought by New Jersey militia near Salem, New Jersey. British General William Howe occupied Philadelphia in September of 1777. The following winter, George Washington and the Continental Army were encamped at Valley Forge. Both sides camped for the winter with no major battles, but numerous skirmishes took place between them as soldiers foraged through the countryside for food and supplies.

 

In February, 1778, Brigadier General Anthony Wayne took a large force on a foraging mission through southern New Jersey. In March, General Howe sent Lt. Col. Charles Mawhood after Wayne, hoping to provoke a fight. On the 17th, Mawhood crossed into Salem County, while Wayne was at Burlington and ready to return to Valley Forge.

 

Salem County militia learned of Mawhood’s movements and quickly moved to block his advance by establishing positions at Quinton’s Bridge and Hancock’s Bridge on Alloway Creek. They deplanked the bridges and took up positions on the side opposite the British advance. On the morning of the 18th, Mawhood sent troops to Quinton’s Bridge, opposite the 300 soldiers on the other side. After a while, the British troops began a retreat, but this was actually a ruse to trick the militia into following them.

 

Captain William Smith quickly replaced the bridge planks and followed the British with 200 men. The bulk of Mawhood’s men were hiding at a nearby farm and they quickly moved to come up behind the militiamen to prevent them from returning to the bridge. Smith’s force tried to cross the creek anyway and several dozen drowned.

 

Mawhood’s men tried to cross Quinton’s Bridge, but they were stopped by the arrival of Colonel Elijah Hand with more militia. Hand prevented the British from crossing the bridge, stopped the slaughter of Smith’s men and forced the British to retreat. Captain Smith made it to safety on a horse that had been shot twice and with a bullet wound that had grazed his head.

 

Mawhood tried to get Colonel Hand to surrender, threatening to kill all his men, destroy their properties and force their families into destitution. Hand refused and responded that he considered the request a "cruel order by a barbarous Attila and not of a gentleman, brave, generous and polished with a genteel European education," saying that if his men were killed it would only inspire more to join the militia.

 

Two days later, Mawhood sent a force to take Hancock’s Bridge instead with orders to spare no one. On the 21st, the British surprised 20-30 militia at the home of Judge William Hancock, bayoneting everyone in the home, including Judge Hancock.

 

The Battle of Quinton’s Bridge was an American victory because the British finally retreated, but at a heavy cost of 30-40 dead, plus another 30 at Hancock’s home 3 days later. Humiliated by being beaten by a bunch of farmers and unable to cross Alloway’s Creek, Mawhood returned to Philadelphia. The British never again returned to Salem County.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

"An honest man can feel no pleasure in the exercise of power over his fellow citizens." Thomas Jefferson (1813)