Monthly Archives: July 2018

Captain John Parker is born

Captain John Parker is born

 

On this day in history, July 13, 1729, Captain John Parker is born. Parker was the leader of the militiamen at Lexington, Massachusetts at the outbreak of the American Revolution. John Parker had lived in Lexington his whole life as a farmer and mechanic.

 

Parker had extensive military experience during the French and Indian War. He had served at the Siege of Louisbourg and the Battle of Quebec and may have been one of the famed Rogers’ Rangers. The men of Lexington had enough confidence in Parker’s military experience to elect him head of the local militia.

           

John Parker suffered from tuberculosis that was already in its advanced stages when the events of April 19, 1775 unfolded. After Paul Revere and others warned the countryside that a major British expedition was underway on the evening of the 18th, citizen-soldiers from all over Massachusetts began to gather their arms and head toward Concord, whose arms cache was the target of the British expedition.

 

Parker and the other local militiamen gathered on Lexington Common early on the morning of the 19th. They had already waited several hours when a scout arrived and warned that a large British force was very near. Lexington was on the road to Concord and the soldiers would be there soon. Parker instructed his men to gather on the side of the Common, but they were not blocking the road. Many of them were his own relatives. Parker was not anticipating military conflict, but he was ready for the worst.

 

When the British finally appeared around 5 am, the vanguard marched straight into Lexington. Thinking the gathered militia was much larger than it actually was and had hostile intent toward them, the British soldiers formed a battle line opposite the militia. Both Captain Parker and the British officer in charge gave orders to their men not to fire. Parker’s alleged words have been immortalized: "Stand your ground. Don’t fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here."

 

Just before the first shot was fired, Captain Parker ordered his men to disband. Some heard him, while others did not in the confusion. No one knows who fired the first shot. Most eyewitnesses believed the first shot came from somewhere away from the Common. It may have been a misfire, or a drunken militia member at nearby Buckman Tavern. Wherever the shot came from, the result was catastrophic.

 

Most of the militia scattered and had no chance to fire back. The British began full scale firing on the assembled militia. After the first volley, the British soldiers began chasing the militia through the town and killing those they came across until their officers were able to corral them. When it was all done, 8 militia were dead with another 10 wounded. Only 1 British soldier was even injured. In the course of the next day, however, the British would be confronted again at Concord and chased all the way back to Boston with more than 70 killed and 170 wounded.

 

After Lexington, Captain Parker and his militia attacked the British as they returned to Boston near Lexington in what is known as Parker’s Revenge. Lexington’s militiamen then joined the Siege of Boston. It is not known exactly when Parker returned home, but he was not present at the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17. John Parker passed away from complications due to his tuberculosis on September 17, 1775 at the age of 46.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General
National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

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

Alexander Hamilton (1775)

Admiral Howe’s fleet arrives at Staten Island

Admiral Howe’s fleet arrives at Staten Island

 

On this day in history, July 12, 1776, Admiral Howe’s fleet arrives at Staten Island. This fleet, along with other ships arriving before and after, carried the largest British expeditionary force to ever be assembled. Along with other British ships in the waters of North America, it was also the largest amphibious assault force in European history.

 

After abandoning Boston in March, 1776, the British high command set its sights on New York. Orders were sent to several fleets to converge at New York in the summer. On June 29th, the first ships arrived off Sandy Hook, New Jersey. Within 2 days, 48 ships arrived, carrying over 10,000 British troops, along with General William Howe, the general in charge of the war. New Yorkers were astonished. A larger fleet of ships had never before been seen in North America. Some reported that the ships’ masts looked like a "forest of pines" spread across the bay.

           

General Howe hoped to land his troops at Gravesend on the west end of Long Island, but, finding the Continental Army firmly ensconced there, his troops began disembarking on Staten Island. This, however, was only the beginning of the British invasion. On July 12, Admiral, Lord Richard Howe, General Howe’s brother, arrived at Staten Island with an even more massive fleet. 82 more ships arrived, carrying multiplied thousands of troops and sailors. Admiral Howe immediately started unloading his troops on Staten Island where he met with his brother to plan efforts to offer the colonists amnesty if they would renounce their rebellion.

A View of the Narrows between Long Island and Staten Island, with Our Fleet at Anchor and Lord Howe Coming In by Lieutenant Archibald Robertson

 

On August 12th, another fleet arrived, carrying hired Hessian soldiers from Germany. Yet another fleet, under the direction of Commodore, Sir Peter Parker, and carrying Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis and 3,000 more troops, arrived on August 15th. In all, 32,000 British and Hessian soldiers and 10,000 sailors had converged on Staten Island, supported by 30 warships and nearly 300 transports and supply ships.

 

After several failed peace overtures, the anticipated British attack came at Long Island in August. The Americans lost the Battle of Long Island on the 27th and were driven back to Manhattan. New York City was captured on September 15th and the Continental Army was completely driven off Manhattan on November 15th after the Battle of Fort Washington.

 

The Continental Army fled across New Jersey from the pursuing British until it crossed the Delaware River into Pennsylvania. By carefully confiscating all the boats for 70 miles up and down the river, George Washington was able to stop the British from following them into Pennsylvania. In December, Washington would turn the tables on the British with his victory at Trenton and in Princeton a few days later. These victories gave much needed encouragement to the American soldiers who had suffered such a string of defeats. They would need it for the war which was to come, a war which would stretch on for another six years.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General
National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

"Among the natural rights of the colonists are these: First a right to life, secondly to liberty, and thirdly to property; together with the right to defend them in the best manner they can."
Samuel Adams

The British evacuate Savannah, Georgia

The British evacuate Savannah, Georgia

 

On this day in history, July 11, 1782, the British evacuate Savannah, Georgia as the American Revolution comes to a close. Georgia was the site of many bloody battles during the war, many between patriots and Loyalists who were their neighbors or brothers.

 

Georgia saw its first British troops in early 1776 when a fleet of British ships arrived at the mouth of the Savannah River to buy rice for the British troops which were then blockaded in Boston. Georgia patriots resisted the efforts to buy rice and the Battle of the Riceboats ensued. During the affair, Georgia’s Royal Governor, James Wright, was taken captive. Wright eventually escaped and fled the colony with the British and their confiscated rice.

           

For the next two years, Georgia remained relatively peaceful and a provincial government developed. The entrance of France into the war in 1778 changed things for Georgia, however. England was forced to remove some troops from the northern colonies to send to defend British possessions in the West Indies. A new strategy was developed to take back the southern colonies based on the belief that there were large numbers of Loyalists in the south who would support the effort. Savannah was the first target and it was easily captured on December 29, 1778 by British Lieutenant Colonel Archibald Campbell.

 

The rest of the colony fell quickly, though the militia continually gave the British trouble. Governor Wright returned in July of 1779 and re-established the royal government, the only colony to have lost its royal government and then re-establish it. In September of 1779, a joint American/French attempt to retake Savannah failed with massive casualties to the French and Americans.

 

In December of 1780, after several large defeats in the south, the Continental Congress appointed General Nathanael Greene the new head over the Continental Army’s southern department. Greene’s leadership and skill quickly subdued the south. By the summer of 1782, the British had abandoned all of Georgia except for Savannah.

 

The surrender of General Charles Cornwallis at Yorktown finally persuaded Parliament to end the war. As peace negotiations proceeded, the British began evacuating troops from the colonies. Orders arrived from New York on June 14 to abandon Georgia for good. Governor Wright was furious as General Alured Clarke made preparations to evacuate Savannah. Troops began leaving the city on July 11, headed to New York, St. Augustine and the West Indies. Governor Wright and other officials fled to Charleston.

 

Later that evening, Lieutenant Colonel James Jackson of the Georgia Legion marched into Savannah to reclaim their capital city. The Georgia House of Assembly met in Savannah on the 13th and took control of Georgia once and for all.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General
National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"There is but one straight course, and that is to seek truth and pursue it steadily." George Washington (1795)

 

 

George Washington picnics at Great Falls

George Washington picnics at Great Falls

 

On this day in history, July 10, 1778, George Washington picnics at Great Falls with the Marquis de Lafayette and aides Alexander Hamilton and James McHenry. The Great Falls, on New Jersey’s Passaic River, is the second largest waterfall by volume in the United States east of the Mississippi River. It sits approximately 20 miles northwest of New York City. Washington and his entourage dined in the shadow of the falls shortly after their victory at the Battle of Monmouth, on their way to the north of New York City where they intended to monitor the British army.

 

James McHenry was originally a surgeon in the Continental Army, but was asked to join Washington’s personal staff at Valley Forge. He later became the 3rd Secretary of War under President Washington. McHenry wrote of the meal at Great Falls:

           

"After viewing these falls we seated ourselves round the General under a large spreading oak within view of the spray and in hearing of the noise. A fine cool spring bubbled out most charmingly from the bottom of the tree. The travelling canteens were immediately emptied and a modest repast spread before us, of cold ham, tongue and some biscuit. With the assistance of a little spirit we composed some excellent grog. Then we chatted away a very cheerful half hour — and then took our leave of the friendly oak — it’s refreshing spring."

 

Alexander Hamilton took note of the power of the falls. Years later, as Washington’s first Secretary of the Treasury, he developed a plan to harness the falls’ power to kick-start an industrial revolution in the new United States. Hamilton’s plan became the Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures, a state sponsored corporation that developed the falls into an industrial powerhouse.

 

The State of New Jersey founded the corporation, along with the city of Paterson, New Jersey, adjacent to the falls, in 1791. Pierre Charles L’Enfant, the designer of Washington DC, was recruited to develop a system of raceways to harness the power of the falls for watermills to be built in the town. Raceways are canals used to carry water back and forth between the mills. By 1815, thirteen new mills were built in the town, employing over 2,000 people. For decades, Paterson was the center of cloth manufacturing in the United States.

 

By the 1830s, cloth manufacturing in the US was in decline and the Great Falls area shifted to producing locomotives and other steel products. This industry thrived for several decades, until the silk industry supplanted it in the 1880s, earning Paterson the name "Silk City."

 

The Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures played a large part in America’s Industrial Revolution. It became a model for future public/private partnerships in the United States. Unfortunately, in recent decades, as manufacturing shifted overseas, Paterson’s industry saw great decline and urban decay. Today, the city of Paterson, the State of New Jersey and the federal government are making strides to see the former industrial area surrounding the Great Falls refurbished into parks, apartments and retail establishments.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

"There is a certain enthusiasm in liberty that makes human nature rise above itself, in acts of bravery and heroism."
Alexander Hamilton (1775)

The Declaration of Independence is read to troops in New York City

The Declaration of Independence is read to troops in New York City

 

On this day in history, July 9, 1776, the Declaration of Independence is read to the troops in New York City. After voting for independence on July 2nd and voting on the language for their public declaration on July 4th, the Continental Congress ordered that copies of the document be printed and sent to provincial and military leaders around the colonies.

 

John Hancock, who was then the President of Congress, had one copy of the Declaration of Independence mailed to George Washington with instructions to have it read to his troops however he saw fit. Washington was then in New York City preparing for battle with the British. 10,000 British soldiers had already landed on Staten Island in preparation for invading New York and many more would soon arrive. Nearly 30,000 colonial soldiers had assembled in the area.

           

Washington and many others had been waiting for a declaration of independence for some time, while efforts at reconciliation were made by those reluctant to rebel against the Crown. While some waited for peace commissioners to arrive from England, Washington famously stated that the only people coming from Europe were Hessian soldiers.

 

Washington was elated upon receiving the Declaration of Independence. He immediately sent out orders that all the troops should be assembled on their parade grounds at 6pm on July 9th. The parade grounds were on New York’s Commons, which is very near today’s City Hall.

 

Washington’s order explaining the purpose for the gathering was read first… "The Continental Congress, impelled by the dictates of duty, policy and necessity, [have] been pleased… to declare the United Colonies of North America, free and independent States." Afterwards, the Declaration was read to each regiment by their generals or other officers.

 

Numerous citizens came out for the reading as well, which sparked a celebration through the streets. Led by Isaac Sears, one of New York’s leading patriots, the crowd, including many soldiers, rushed to the Bowling Green where a large equestrian statue of King George III stood. The 4,000 pound lead statue was torn down and the head cut off. The iron fence surrounding the Green had posts topped with little crowns, all of which were sawed off as well. The horse statue was cut in pieces and shipped to Connecticut to get it away from the British, who could melt it down for bullets.

 

The statue ended up at the home of General Oliver Wolcott, where it was melted down and cast into 42,088 bullets. Curiously though, this amount of metal should have produced twice as many bullets. For many years, the reason for so few bullets was not known, but over the decades, pieces of the statue began to appear, especially buried in the yards of homes owned by Tories during the war and near to General Wolcott’s home. It is believed that Tories were spiriting off bits of the statue as they could to prevent them from being cast into bullets to be used against the British.

 

The head of the statue was allegedly taken by Tories on the night of July 9th and made its way to England where Thomas Hutchinson confirmed that he saw it in the home of Lord Charles Townshend. George Washington, by the way, expressed displeasure at the destruction of property, writing in his diary the next day he hoped in the future people would leave this sort of thing "to the proper authorities."

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

"Arbitrary power is most easily established on the ruins of liberty abused to licentiousness."
George Washington (1783)

George Washington makes his headquarters at West Point

George Washington makes his headquarters at West Point

 

On this day in history, July 8, 1779, George Washington makes his headquarters at West Point, New York, a strategic location on the Hudson River about 50 miles north of New York City. West Point is situated on high ground on the west side of the river where a unique S curve bends the waterway, giving the location command over the entire river for the entire curve.

 

Throughout the American Revolution, it was the desire of the British to cut New England off from the middle states by controlling the entire Hudson River valley. Gaining command of West Point was crucial to this objective, but if the Americans could stop them at West Point, the British would never be able to get further upriver.

           

The Americans began a string of defenses in the area as early as 1775. George Washington ordered a fort to be built on Constitution Island across the river from West Point and several batteries were located in the area. Fort Constitution was begun on the island, but these defenses were destroyed in 1777 when a British army came through and occupied the area. They remained only a few weeks, however.

 

George Washington believed West Point was the single most important strategic location in all of the colonies. In January of 1778, he sent Polish engineer Thaddeus Kosciuszko to build another fort on the west side of the river. Kosciuszko began construction of a new fort called Fort Arnold and eventually a string of forts, redoubts and batteries crisscrossed the river through the S curve.

 

In addition, Kosciuszko constructed the Great Chain, a 150 ton chain of 2 inch thick iron links that stretched across the river from West Point to Constitution Island. The Great Chain was so formidable that the British never even attempted to cross it.

 

After the British evacuation of Philadelphia, Washington wanted to keep a close eye on British headquarters in New York City, in case they tried another highly probably strike to the north. After moving around New Jersey and New York for a year, Washington established his headquarters at West Point on July 8, 1779 for four months.

 

Benedict Arnold was placed in command of West Point in August of 1780. He intended to give the strategic fort to the British in exchange for a large sum of money and a commission in the British army. His plot was exposed the following month, however. Despite Arnold’s treachery, the British were never able to conquer the West Point complex or sail upriver. After Arnold’s treason, the name of the main fort at West Point was changed to Fort Clinton, in honor of General Henry Clinton.

 

After the Revolution, West Point became a training place for soldiers. It became the United States Military Academy in 1802 by order of President Thomas Jefferson. Generations of engineers and military officers graduated from West Point, including such famous names as Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, Dwight Eisenhower, John Pershing, Douglas MacArthur, George S. Patton, Norman Schwarzkopf and David Petraeus. West Point is the oldest US military installation still in use. Remains of some of the original Revolutionary War era defenses can still be seen on tours there today.

 

The Quasi-War with France Begins

The Quasi-War with France begins

 

On this day in history, July 7, 1798, the Quasi-War with France begins. This was an undeclared naval war between the United States and France extending out of continued war between Britain and France after the French Revolution.

 

A state of war existed between the British monarchy and revolutionary France in the 1790s. Both sides wished to prevent the Americans from joining the other side, while the Americans hoped to remain neutral. The British policy at the time was basically, if you help my enemy then YOU are my enemy. This caused the British confiscation of American ships trying to trade with France or with French possessions in the Caribbean.

            

The Jay Treaty of 1796 resolved this and many other issues remaining with Britain after the Revolution, but the agreement angered the French Directorate, a five man committee then leading France. In response, France used the same British policy against America and began confiscating ships and impressing soldiers on American vessels trading with Britain.

 

President John Adams tried to use diplomatic channels to resolve the crisis, but in March of 1797, the French refused to meet with new American ambassador, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney. By June 1797, over 300 American ships had been taken by French vessels. Insurance costs skyrocketed. Congress met and reauthorized the creation of a US Navy and the commissioning of 12 naval vessels. It authorized the resurgence of the US Army and George Washington was asked to come out of retirement to lead it in case of war with France.

 

By the fall, Pinckney was joined by Elbridge Gerry and John Marshall, but French Foreign Minister, Charles Talleyrand, would not meet formally with the American commission. Instead, he sent a series of unofficial representatives who asked for financial bribes in order for Talleyrand to meet with them. These clandestine meetings lasted for several months until the commissioners finally refused any more dealings with the unofficial representatives and returned home.

 

Back in the US, the dealings in France were shared with Congress by President Adams. The whole affair became as known as the "XYZ Affair," X, Y and Z being used as substitutes for the names of the French intermediaries. The predictable response in the US was outrage. On July 7, 1798, Congress revoked its Treaty of Alliance with France that had existed since the American Revolution. This date is normally considered to be the beginning of the "Quasi-War" with France. It is called the Quasi-War because a formal declaration of war was never issued by either side, although both sides authorized military force against naval ships.

 

2 days after revoking the treaty, Congress authorized the attacking of French war vessels. American naval ships began seizing French vessels and the war machine in the US continued to grow. By the fall of 1800, hundreds of American ships had been seized, while the Americans had captured dozens of French vessels.

 

In spite of his party's wish for war with France, John Adams continued to pursue diplomatic means to peace behind the scenes. A change finally occurred when the Directorate was overthrown by Napoleon Bonaparte who had a more favorable attitude toward the United States. The Treaty of Mortefontaine, also called the Convention of 1800, brought the hostilities to an end when it was signed on September 30, 1800. The treaty confirmed an end to hostilities and guaranteed trade and perpetual peace between the two nations.

 

President Adams is generally considered to have singlehandedly prevented further war with France. The events of the Quasi-War helped reaffirm the supremacy of Congressional statutes over Presidential orders, as well as the policy of American neutrality in foreign affairs.


Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org