Monthly Archives: March 2019

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

Secretary General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined."

Patrick Henry (1778)

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

Secretary General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"Let us animate and encourage each other. … A Freeman contending for Liberty on his own ground is superior to any slavish mercenary on earth." 
George Washington (1776)

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

Secretary General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

“Learning is not virtue but the means to bring us an acquaintance with it. Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful. Let these be your motives to action through life, the relief of the distressed, the detection of frauds, the defeat of oppression, and diffusion of happiness.”

Nathanael Greene

 

The Anti-American British government falls

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

Secretary General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"The liberties of our country, the freedoms of our civil Constitution are worth defending at all hazards; it is our duty to defend them against all attacks. We have received them as a fair inheritance from our worthy ancestors. They purchased them for us with toil and danger and expense of treasure and blood. It will bring a mark of everlasting infamy on the present generation – enlightened as it is – if we should suffer them to be wrested from us by violence without a struggle, or to be cheated out of them by the artifices of designing men."

Samuel Adams

 

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

Secretary 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)

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

Secretary General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"There is in the nature of sovereign power an impatience of control, which disposes those who are invested with the exercise of it, to look with an evil eye upon all external attempts to restrain or direct its operations."

Alexander Hamilton (1787)

 

 

The British Army abandons Boston

The British Army abandons Boston

 

On this day in history, March 17, 1776, the British army abandons Boston. When the American Revolution broke out on April 19, 1775 at the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the American minuteman chased the British soldiers back to Boston and surrounded the city. Over the next few days, more militia from all over Massachusetts and the other colonies arrived to help.

 

The Siege of Boston continued for weeks with only minor skirmishes, but on June 17, British Commander-in-Chief Thomas Gage took Bunker and Breeds Hills north of town, but in a bloody and very costly maneuver. Indeed, a quarter of Gage’s troops were injured or killed, forcing him to give up further operations.

 

George Washington arrived on July 3 to command the newly created Continental Army. Most of the militia was absorbed into this army. Washington set about training the militia how to operate as a cohesive army and began strengthening the fortifications around the city.

 

Food and supplies were short in Boston, where the only access was from British ships by way of the sea. Soldiers were forced to cut down trees in the town and tear down buildings for firewood. Ammunition and guns were in short supply for the colonists. A stalemate ensued between the two sides for months.

 

The tide turned after Washington sent the young Colonel Henry Knox to bring tons of cannons to Boston that were captured by Benedict Arnold and Ethan Allen at Fort Ticonderoga in New York back in May. Knox hauled 60 tons of cannons over snow covered mountains on ox carts. It took him three months to get the cannons back to Boston.

 

Washington then placed the cannons on Dorchester Heights south of Boston in a secret overnight action. In the morning, when General Gage awoke, he learned that the high ground on Dorchester Heights had been fortified by the rebels. This land was a high outcropping that overlooked the town and the harbor. This move put any British ships attempting to resupply the town in danger. Vice-Admiral Samuel Graves and General William Howe, who had replaced Gage as the British commander, knew the city was not defensible in this position. A decision was made to abandon the town and almost 10,000 troops embarked for Nova Scotia on March 17.

 

British strength was now broken in Massachusetts and Boston would not be targeted by the British again for the rest of the war. Washington took his army south to defend New York City, the next most logical place of attack for Howe. Howe sailed for Nova Scotia, delivering hundreds of Loyalist refugees there. Howe then sailed with a massive fleet to New York, arriving in July to begin the conquest of New York and hopefully, the rest of the middle colonies.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Secretary 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)