Monthly Archives: October 2019

The Affair at Little Egg Harbor

The Affair at Little Egg Harbor

 

On this day in history, October 15, 1778, the Affair at Little Egg Harbor is part of the only British attack on the shore of New Jersey south of the New York area during the American Revolution. Little Egg Harbor was a focal point of American privateering during the war. American ships would scour the coast, capturing British mercantile and military ships. The captured ships were taken to ports where a court would distribute the goods and auction off the ship.

 

The small village of Chestnut Neck on the Little Egg Harbor River, and a small village called "The Forks," further up the river, were two such towns that handled confiscated ships. When captured ships were brought to these towns, the goods were shipped overland to George Washington at Valley Forge and the ships were added to the privateering fleet.

 

British General Henry Clinton was continually frustrated with the numbers of British ships being captured by the privateers. Between June and September of 1778 alone, 18 ships were captured by the privateers of Little Egg Harbor. Clinton decided to launch an expedition to "clean out that nest of Rebel Pirates." 15 ships carrying hundreds of sailors and soldiers left New York in late September and arrived at Little Egg Harbor on October 5.

 

The residents of the area were warned of the coming attack. Most of the residents of Chestnut Neck moved inland, carrying their personal household items and warehouses full of confiscated goods with them. When the attack came on October 7, the British burned homes, destroyed 10 captured ships in the river and destroyed whatever confiscated goods they could not carry off. By the next morning, the British were forced to leave after hearing that Count Casimir Pulaski and 250 men would soon arrive.

 

Pulaski’s men camped at Tuckerton where they had a view of the British ships in the harbor and for a week the two sides faced one another. After a deserter informed British Captain Patrick Ferguson where the patriots were camped and told him they would not allow anyone they captured to live, an incensed Ferguson ordered an attack.

 

Early on the morning of October 15, 400 British soldiers stormed the beach and came across an outpost of 50 men. Ferguson’s men attacked the outpost as they slept, killing nearly everyone with bayonets before withdrawing as Pulaski’s main force was aroused.

 

The affair was called the Little Egg Harbor Massacre by the Americans because of the British brutality. The expedition was called back to New York, having failed to stop the privateering and failing to destroy certain targets in the area. The residents of Chestnut Neck never rebuilt, most moving to nearby Port Republic. Casimir Pulaski would be killed later in the war during the Siege of Savannah and Captain Ferguson would be killed at the Battle of Kings Mountain.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President 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 Battle of Shallow Ford

The Battle of Shallow Ford

 

On this day in history, October 14, 1780, the Battle of Shallow Ford helps convince British General Charles Cornwallis to abandon his attempts to conquer North Carolina for the year. The battle that saw a large band of Loyalists defeated along the Yadkin River is often overlooked by historians due to the Battle of Kings Mountain that happened only a week before.

 

In the fall of 1780, General Cornwallis entered North Carolina after successfully conquering most of Georgia and South Carolina. North Carolina militia members gathered from around the state and converged on Charlotte where Cornwallis was headquartered. The absence of local patriot militia groups left a vacuum for Loyalists to rise up and wreak havoc in their prospective counties.

 

In Surry County, local Loyalist brothers Gideon and Hezekiah Wright rallied hundreds of Tories who began exacting revenge on the properties of absent patriots and killing those who opposed them. When news spread of the Loyalist uprising, patriots from nearby areas began to mobilize to stop them.

 

General William Lee Davidson sent 50 soldiers from Charlotte. Two companies of militia from Salisbury and 160 men from Montgomery County, Virginia, converged on the area, along with other local patriots who hadn’t gone to confront Cornwallis. The Virginia militia, under Major Joseph Cloyd, had come to confront British Colonel Patrick Ferguson’s activities in western North Carolina, but when they learned of Ferguson’s defeat at the Battle of Kings Mountain, they were diverted to helping stop the Loyalist uprising in Surry County. All of the converging patriots came under the leadership of Major Cloyd.

 

On October 14, a band of 600 Loyalists crossed the Yadkin River, apparently on their way to join General Cornwallis in Charlotte. Cloyd’s patriot force, numbering around 350 by this time, located the Loyalists a mile west of Shallow Ford and attacked them, even though they were nearly outnumbered 2 to 1. Colonel Samuel Bryan, who led the Loyalists, was killed early in the fight, causing the rest of his troops to scatter.

 

14 Loyalists were killed at the Battle of Shallow Ford, while only one patriot was killed, Captain Henry Francis of Virginia. The loss of this large Loyalist force at the Battle of Shallow Ford was one more nail in the coffin of Cornwallis’ hopes to conquer North Carolina in 1780. The Battle of Kings Mountain had been the first.

 

The Loyalists in this area were never able to gather such a force again. Cornwallis was forced to withdraw into South Carolina for the winter due to the strong uprising of North Carolina patriots, He tried again the following year, during which his entire army was defeated at Yorktown after withdrawing from North Carolina yet again into Virginia.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"No country upon earth ever had it more in its power to attain these blessings than United America. Wondrously strange, then, and much to be regretted indeed would it be, were we to neglect the means and to depart from the road which Providence has pointed us to so plainly."
George Washington (1788)

George Washington lays the cornerstone of the White House

George Washington lays the cornerstone of the White House

 

On this day in history, October 13, 1792, George Washington lays the cornerstone of the White House. President John Adams would be the first American president to live in the presidential mansion in Washington DC. Today’s White House, however, looks very different than the building that was originally constructed.

 

After Congress decided to locate the federal capital along the Potomac River in 1790, Pierre Charles L’Enfant was chosen to design a plan for the federal city. Part of the plan included space for a massive mansion, five times the size of the house that was eventually rebuilt.

 

In 1791, a public request was put out by President George Washington for potential designs for the president’s mansion. Irish architect James Hoban’s design was eventually chosen. Hoban had designed the Charleston County Courthouse in Charleston, South Carolina, a building Washington had seen when he visited there. Washington liked the courthouse’s design and Hoban’s plans for the presidential house looked very similar.

 

On October 13, 1792, Washington laid the cornerstone for the White House. The original home did not have the circular south portico or the northern drive under portico that Americans recognize today. Instead, both the north and south sides of the White House had only a series of eleven windows on 2 floors.

 

After the White House was burned in 1814 by the British, the building was mostly reconstructed. The familiar rounded south portico was added in 1824 and the north portico in 1830. The White House’s West Wing was not added until 1901 by President Teddy Roosevelt for more office space. President William Howard Taft built the first Oval Office there in 1909. The East Wing was first added by President Roosevelt, but has gone through several iterations, including time as a greenhouse and a cloakroom.

 

The White House was entirely gutted during the administration of President Harry Truman. A steel frame was placed inside the outer walls and all the inner walls were replaced. Today, the White House has six stories, 2 under ground, a ground floor, the State Floor, Second Floor and Third Floor. The entire White House complex also has the East and West Wings for offices, the Blair House for guests and the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which houses more presidential offices.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

“If the Freedom of Speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”
George Washington

British troops sail up the East River

British troops sail up the East River

 

On this day in history, October 12, 1776, British troops sail up the East River east of Manhattan and land at Throgg’s Neck. After successfully driving the Continental Army off Long Island in late August and occupying New York City in September of 1776, British General William Howe hoped to trap George Washington’s army at Harlem Heights in the north of Manhattan.

 

On October 12, 90 flatboats sailed up the East River with more than 4,000 British soldiers. They landed at Throgg’s Neck, a peninsula on Long Island Sound. The neighborhood in this part of the Bronx still bears the name Throg’s Neck today. Howe’s plan was to march across to Manhattan and trap the Continental Army between his troops and the other British troops at the southern end of Manhattan, with the Hudson River at Washington’s back.

 

Washington’s scouts observed the landing at Throgg’s Neck and were ordered to destroy a bridge leading from the peninsula to the mainland. Once this was complete, Howe’s troops were trapped on the island. It took them six days before they were able to reload on the flatboats and sail further up the coast.

 

After stalling the British on Throgg’s Neck, Washington decided to evacuate his army to the north as quickly as possible. The army began marching north toward White Plains. On the 18th, the British troops landed at Pell’s Point, 3 miles above Throgg’s Neck. This time, the brigade of Colonel John Glover was waiting for them and delayed them by attacking from a stone wall. When the British advanced, Glover’s troops retreated to another wall and fired on them again. This happened 3 times before the British finally stopped their advance and Glover’s men got away.

 

The distraction at Pell’s Point allowed the remaining part of the Continentals to get north and away from the possibility of being trapped against the Hudson. For ten days, the two armies maneuvered around each other and finally met on the battlefield at White Plains on the 28th, where 13,000 men on each side faced each other. The Battle of White Plains had roughly equal casualties on both sides, but Washington chose to retreat after losing the high ground at White Plains.

 

Pursued by Howe across New Jersey and into Pennsylvania, Washington was finally able to stop Howe by confiscating all the boats up and down the Delaware River, denying Howe a way across. The Continental Army sat in Pennsylvania and the British sat on the opposite side of the Delaware in New Jersey. Washington finally turned the tables with two surprise night time attacks on Trenton and Princeton, attacks which finally made the British realize the Americans were not going to be conquered as easily as they had thought.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"It is very imprudent to deprive America of any of her privileges. If her commerce and friendship are of any importance to you, they are to be had on no other terms than leaving her in the full enjoyment of her rights."

Benjamin Franklin

The Battle of Valcour Island begins

The Battle of Valcour Island begins

 

On this day in history, October 11, 1776, the Battle of Valcour Island begins. This was one of the first important naval engagements of the American Revolution, pitting American Brigadier General Benedict Arnold against British Captain Thomas Pringle.

 

The American campaign to capture Quebec in the fall of 1775 had gone disastrously. General Richard Montgomery was killed at the Battle of Quebec, while his second in command, Benedict Arnold, was seriously injured. Arnold continued a siege of Quebec City after the battle, but the Americans were eventually forced to withdraw. Arnold brought up the rear of the American forces, making a last stand at Fort St. Jean’s, where he burned the fort and any ships he could not use, in order to deny the British from using them. Arnold then sailed down Lake Champlain to Fort Crown Point where the Americans were preparing for a British invasion.

 

Back at Fort St. Jean’s, Canadian Governor and General Guy Carleton had no way of getting his troops further south since Arnold had destroyed all the ships. He was forced to build a fleet over the summer, many of which were made from pre-fabricated parts imported from Europe. Meanwhile, the Americans began enhancing their own fleet, bringing in hundreds of shipbuilders to Skenesboro since there weren’t many shipbuilders in upper New York.

 

Benedict Arnold oversaw the construction of several ships that brought the entire fleet to 15. Arnold sailed north to reconnoiter British activities in September, coming close enough to St. Jean’s to be fired upon. By the end of September, Arnold knew the British would be launching soon, so he headed south to Valcour Island, an ideal spot to engage the British.

 

The island had a narrow channel between itself and the mainland that would prevent the British from fully engaging the American fleet, which was significantly outnumbered and outgunned. On the morning of October 11th, the British passed Valcour Island, not realizing the fleet was hiding behind it. Two American ships came out, gave fight and lured the British ships back toward the rest of the fleet.

 

In fighting that lasted all day, most of the American ships were damaged and the gunboat Philadelphia sank. One American ship was beached on the island and boarded. During the night, Arnold managed to sail the fleet south in the dark and head for refuge. Captain Pringle was furious that his enemy had escaped and began a search. Over the next two days, the damaged fleet headed south, losing most of the remaining ships along the way. Some sunk, one was captured and several were scuttled to prevent the British from capturing them. Only 4 of the original 15 ships made it back to Crown Point.

 

Arnold’s remaining soldiers made their way overland to Crown Point, where Arnold burned the fort down and retreated to Fort Ticonderoga. The British landed there on the 14th, but within a few weeks withdrew back to Canada because of the onset of winter.

 

Though the Battle of Valcour Island was lost, Arnold is usually credited with preventing a successful invasion from the north during 1776. The British troops knew that keeping supply lines open back to Quebec would be very difficult in the harsh New York winter, so they withdrew to try again the following year. When British General John Burgoyne brought the invasion the next year, it failed because the Americans had the entire winter and spring to gather masses of troops and supplies in preparation. When Burgoyne surrendered his army at Saratoga the next year, it was a major turning point in the war and the victory extended all the way back to the loss at the Battle of Valcour Island.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"The same prudence which in private life would forbid our paying our own money for unexplained projects, forbids it in the dispensation of the public moneys."

Thomas Jefferson (1808)

 

 

General William Howe replaces Lt. General Thomas Gage

General William Howe replaces Lt. General Thomas Gage

 

On this day in history, October 10, 1775, General William Howe replaces Lt. General Thomas Gage as Commander-in-Chief of British forces in North America. Gage and Howe were the first two generals in charge of British forces during the American Revolution. A third, General Henry Clinton, would replace Howe in 1778.

 

Thomas Gage made a name for himself during the French and Indian War. He was part of General Edward Braddock’s Expeditionary Force sent to drive the French out of the Ohio Valley in 1755. General Braddock was killed at the Battle of the Monongahela and Gage was injured. This battle also made George Washington famous for his organization of a successful retreat.

 

Gage went on to serve in several battles of the French and Indian War and eventually was made the military governor of the newly conquered Montreal, where Gage proved himself a smart administrator. He was soon appointed interim Commander-in-Chief of British forces in North America. When the previous commander decided not to return, Gage was given the position permanently.

 

The American rebellion rose during his tenure and Gage’s understanding of the Americans led to many of the British policies that only made things worse. Gage sent troops to Boston in 1768 to enforce the Townshend Acts, resulting in the Boston Massacre in 1770. After the Boston Tea Party, Gage recommended the suspension of democratic town meetings in Massachusetts and the closure of its legislature. Gage was made military governor of Massachusetts in 1774. He confiscated military supplies at Somerville that fall which nearly ignited the war. The following April, Gage sent troops to confiscate the rebel munitions at Concord. The war began as colonists came out to defend themselves.

 

After the battles of Lexington and Concord in April 1775, more troops were sent to Boston, along with Generals William Howe, Henry Clinton and John Burgoyne. Boston was surrounded and the generals planned to break out of the city by attacking several points, including Bunker Hill on the nearby Charlestown Peninsula. When the rebels learned of the plan, they fortified the peninsula and fought the British for it on June 17. The British won the Battle of Bunker Hill, but lost 1,000 men in the process.

 

After receiving news of the horrible "victory," Lord Dartmouth, the British Secretary of State for the Colonies, called for Gage’s termination. General William Howe was named as Gage’s replacement and the transfer of power took place on October 10, with Gage departing for England the next day.

 

General Howe did not fare much better than Gage against the Americans. After being driven from Boston when George Washington fortified Dorchester Heights with cannons from Fort Ticonderoga, Howe successfully invaded New York and defeated the Continental Army at the Battle of Long Island. Howe then drove Washington across New Jersey and into Pennsylvania. Washington successfully struck back though at the Christmastime battles of Trenton and Princeton.

 

In the fall of 1777, Howe captured Philadelphia, defeating the Continentals in two decisive battles at Brandywine and Germantown. The victory, however, was bittersweet. Howe had chosen to go to Philadelphia instead of helping General Burgoyne in New York. Burgoyne was forced into surrendering an army of 7,000 men at the Battle of Saratoga. Many scholars believe Howe hoped to receive the glory of conquering Philadelphia and was afraid that Burgoyne would upstage him if he won a battle in New York.

 

Knowing he would be blamed for Burgoyne’s surrender, Howe sent a letter of resignation to London in October. He received notice in April, 1778, that General Clinton would replace him. Howe’s soldiers threw him a grand festival called the "Mischianza" before he left because he was so well liked. General Clinton took over on May 24, the same day Howe sailed for England. Clinton would serve as Commander-in-Chief through the rest of the war, right up to the British defeat at the end.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"All men having power ought to be distrusted to a certain degree."
James Madison (1787)

The Bombardment of Yorktown begins

The Bombardment of Yorktown begins

 

On this day in history, October 9, 1781, the bombardment of Yorktown begins, when American and French forces begin raining bombs down on the army of British General Charles Cornwallis in this small town on the Virginia coast. The bombardment of Yorktown would be the beginning of the end for Cornwallis’ army and for the entire American Revolution. Cornwallis was forced to surrender his 7,000 man army less than a week later.

 

George Washington and French General, the Comte de Rochambeau had marched south from New York over the summer to rendezvous with French Admiral, the Comte de Grasse, at Yorktown. The plan was to encircle Cornwallis in Yorktown with the French and American armies on land and Admiral de Grasse’s fleet on the sea.

 

After de Grasse drove off a small British fleet sent to bring aid to Cornwallis in early September, Cornwallis had no hope of reinforcements or escape. Washington led the combined allied forces of 17,000 men from Williamsburg on September 28 toward Yorktown. Over the next week, the allies moved closer and closer to the city, while Cornwallis strengthened his defenses. As Cornwallis’ position became more tenuous, he ordered the outermost defenses abandoned in order to consolidate his men, still holding out hope for another fleet of reinforcements from New York.

 

In the dark of night on October 6, the allies began digging a siege trench about a half mile from the British defenses. George Washington himself ceremoniously struck the ground with a pick axe to begin the digging. A 2,000 yard trench was dug extending all the way to the York River. The digging occurred on a moonless night. When the British awoke in the morning, they were astonished to see the trench. Over the next two days, thousands of trees were felled to reinforce the walls of the trench.

 

Dozens of cannons, howitzers and mortars began firing on the British positions during the afternoon of October 9, with George Washington firing the first American cannon. Many of the British positions were obliterated. British ships in the harbor were damaged. British soldiers hid in trenches and even set up their tents in the trenches for days as the fire continued to rain down. For almost a week the rain of fire did not stop.

 

On October 11, George Washington ordered the digging of a second trench, this one 400 yards closer to the town. The trench was largely finished the next day, but the end closest to the river was blocked by two British redoubts called Redoubt 9 and Redoubt 10. Both redoubts were overrun by the Americans and French on the 14th, removing the last defenses of the city. The next day, Cornwallis attempted to storm the allied positions, but this maneuver failed. The following day, he attempted to evacuate his troops across the river to escape, but this failed when a storm arose and scattered his ships.

 

After nearly a week of bombardment, Cornwallis met with his generals on October 17 and they decided to surrender. Negotiations took place for two days and on October 19th, the official surrender began. British troops marched out of the city to surrender and Cornwallis’ second in command surrendered Cornwallis’ sword to Washington’s second, General Benjamin Lincoln. General Cornwallis refused to attend the ceremony, feigning sickness. The surrender at Yorktown finally broke the back of the British will in Parliament and negotiations to end the war began in the spring.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"There can be no prescription old enough to supersede the Law of Nature and the grant of God Almighty, who has given to all men a natural right to be free, and they have it ordinarily in their power to make themselves so, if they please."
James Otis