Monthly Archives: January 2021

Gouverneur Morris, Penman of the US Constitution, is born

Gouverneur Morris, Penman of the US Constitution, is born

 

On this day in history, January 31, 1752, Gouverneur Morris, the "Penman of the US Constitution," is born into the wealthy Morris clan of New York, a family which produced generations of prominent leaders, including a signer of the Declaration of Independence, Gouverneur’s half-brother, Lewis Morris.

 

Gouverneur was first elected to the rebel New York Assembly in 1775. He became a liaison between the Assembly and the Continental Army, starting a long period of advocacy for George Washington. When the British invaded New York, the family manor, called Morrisania, was overrun. Morris’ mother, and many of his aristocratic friends remained loyal to Britain, and he would be exiled for the next 7 years.

 

In 1777, Morris was elected to attend the Continental Congress as a New York delegate. He was immediately placed on a committee to improve the military and was sent to Valley Forge where he saw the deplorable conditions the army was living in. He said it was "an army of skeletons… naked, starved, sick, discouraged" and he became a chief advocate of military reforms. Morris signed the Articles of Confederation during this period and also suffered an unfortunate carriage accident that shattered his left leg, forcing him to walk on a peg-leg for the rest of his life.

 

At this early state, Morris became a strong advocate for an even stronger national government. This view was at odds with many in New York and he was not re-elected to Congress. Instead, he moved to Philadelphia and became acquainted with wealthy businessman, Robert Morris (no relation). When Robert Morris was elected Minister of Finance by Congress, Gouverneur became his assistant and the two organized Congress’ financial dealings for several years. In 1782, Gouverneur introduced the decimal based coin system that has been used in the US ever since and "coined" the word "cent."

 

After the Revolution, Morris was sent to the Constitutional Convention by Pennsylvania, where he played a pivotal role by speaking an astonishing 173 times, more than any other delegate. Morris stood staunchly against slavery and promoted religious liberty at the Convention. His fluency earned him a spot on the committee to actually draft the US Constitution and much of its language is his own, including its familiar opening phrase, "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union…"

 

Morris went to Europe in 1789 and stayed there for the next ten years. In 1792, he was appointed the US Ambassador to France, during the height of the Reign of Terror. He was deeply involved with helping aristocrats escape, even conducting a failed attempt to help Louis XVI escape. He was the only diplomat to stay in Paris during this time, at great risk to his life. He was instrumental in getting the wife of the Marquis de Lafayette out of France, while many of her relatives were beheaded. Morris’ diary of his time in France has been invaluable to historians of the French Revolution.

 

When he returned to the United States, Morris served one term as a US Senator from New York and retired to his ancestral estate at Morrisania. He was an instrumental player in the building of the Erie Canal that helped transform New York City into a commercial powerhouse. He died at Morrisania on November 6, 1816.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"A right to property is founded in our natural wants, in the means with which we are endowed to satisfy these wants, and the right to what we acquire by those means without violating the similar rights of other sensible beings."
Thomas Jefferson


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Revolutionary War General John Glover dies

Revolutionary War General John Glover dies

 

On This Day in History, January 30, 1797, Revolutionary War General John Glover dies. Glover was born in Salem, Massachusetts and lived most of his life in Marblehead. John originally trained to be a cordwainer, or a maker of fine leather shoes, but later he became a sailor and eventually bought his own fishing boat. In time, he owned several fishing schooners and became fairly wealthy.

 

John first joined the militia in 1759. In 1775, he became lieutenant colonel of a Marblehead regiment. Glover took the regiment to the Siege of Boston where he met George Washington. Washington was impressed with the discipline of the Marblehead Regiment and made some of them his own personal guard. Glover’s own ship, the Hannah, was recruited by Washington as the first of his fleet of schooners used to harass British shipping and is sometimes called the first ship of the US Navy.

 

When the Siege of Boston lifted, Glover’s regiment went to New York where they participated in one of the war’s most famous moments. Washington’s forces were being overwhelmed on Long Island. Since most of the Marblehead Regiment were sailors, he turned to Glover to evacuate the army from Brooklyn across the East River to Manhattan in the middle of the night, a mission they accomplished successfully. Just six weeks later, Glover’s regiment played a key role in allowing Washington’s army to escape to the north by blocking a British landing force of 4,000 men at the Battle of Pell’s Point.

 

Washington’s army was finally driven out of New York and retreated across New Jersey and into Pennsylvania. Many soldiers thought the war was already lost by this point and Washington came up with the plan to take the Hessian garrison at Trenton to try to turn things around. Once again, he turned to John Glover and the Marblehead Regiment to help ferry 1,700 soldiers and their equipment across the Delaware River in the middle of the night on December 25th, 1776. The river was filled with dangerous chunks of ice and a snowstorm blinded visibility, but the crossing was a success and the victory at Trenton helped turn the tide of the war.

 

After this, Glover returned home to attend to family business. In February, 1777, he turned down a promotion to brigadier general from Congress, thinking he was not adequate for the job, but relented after George Washington personally asked him to reconsider. Glover was then involved in the Saratoga Campaign and supervised the transport of 5,000 captured British, Hessian and Canadian prisoners to Boston. He was also part of the failed attempt to retake Newport, Rhode Island from the British.

 

Glover was finally posted to New York for the rest of the war, but saw no more major military action. He served on the board that convicted and sentenced British spy John André to death and was the officer of the day on the day André was executed, meaning he was the officer in charge of operations at the post that day.

 

At the end of the war, John Glover received an honorary promotion to Major General. He died at his home in 1797, which still stands in Marblehead today.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"Aware of the tendency of power to degenerate into abuse, the worthies of our country have secured its independence by the establishment of a Constitution and form of government for our nation, calculated to prevent as well as to correct abuse."
Thomas Jefferson to Washington Tammany Society, 1809


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Secretary of State Timothy Pickering dies

Secretary of State Timothy Pickering dies

 

On this day in history, January 29, 1829, Secretary of State Timothy Pickering dies. Pickering was born in Salem, Massachusetts, graduated from Harvard and became a lawyer in 1768. He joined the Essex County militia in 1766. In 1769, he was promoted to captain and published a small book about training and drilling the militia. This book was published in 1775 as "An Easy Plan for a Militia" and was used as the training manual for the Continental Army until it was replaced by Baron von Steuben’s new regulations in 1779.  (Pickering’s letter to General Washington that accompanied delivery of this book.)

 

Pickering served on the Massachusetts Committee of Safety in 1774 and 1775 and was elected to the rebel legislature in 1776. Appointed a colonel in the Continental Army, his men were part of the Siege of Boston and then went with the Army to New York where his well-trained forces came to General George Washington’s attention. Washington made Pickering his adjutant general, meaning he was the army’s chief administrative officer. In this position, Pickering oversaw the creation of the Great Chain, which was a gigantic iron chain strung across the Hudson River at West Point to prevent British ships from going upriver. The chain succeeded in its purpose for the entire war.

 

In 1777, Congress placed Pickering on its powerful Board of War and in 1780 he was made Quartermaster General of the Army, meaning he was in charge of all supplies and the logistics of moving the army, a position he filled until the end of the war.

 

After the war, Pickering moved to Wyoming County, Pennsylvania. He served at the Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention that ratified the US Constitution. He entered into two successful land speculation deals that involved negotiations with northeastern Indian tribes and this again brought him to George Washington’s attention. Washington appointed him an ambassador to the Iroquois Indians and he negotiated the Treaty of Canandaigua, which established peace with the Six Tribes of the Iroquois confederacy, a treaty which is still in effect today.

 

Washington appointed Pickering Postmaster General from 1791-1795. In 1795, he became Washington’s Secretary of War for a brief time and then Secretary of State, a position he held through John Adams’ term as President. Pickering was a staunch supporter of England over France and this sometimes brought him into conflict with President Adams. Pickering supported going to war with France during the crisis of the late 1790s, while Adams did everything he could to prevent war. Pickering said some ugly things about Adams publicly and was involved in some behind the scenes manipulations trying to foment the war. For all this, Adams finally fired him on May 12, 1800.

 

After his time in the Cabinet, Pickering spent 8 years as a United States Senator from Pennsylvania and another 5 years as a member of the House of Representatives. During his time in Congress, Pickering was highly involved in the movement to secede New England from the United States, a dispute which arose because of differences between Pickering’s minority Federalist Party and the ruling Jeffersonian Democratic-Republicans. Pickering returned to Salem after retiring and lived on his farm until his death in 1829.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"If we are to guard against ignorance and remain free, it is the responsibility of every American to be informed."
George Washington


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Fort Nashborough, now called Nashville, is founded

Fort Nashborough, now called Nashville, is founded

 

On this day in history, January 28, 1779, Fort Nashborough, now called Nashville, is founded during the American Revolution in response to Indian attacks on settlers in the area. After the Revolution began, many Cherokee and other tribes in the southeast joined the British against the Americans. Their motivation was to stop the American settlers’ encroachment on their land.

 

The Cherokee, especially, played a huge role in the Revolution, particularly in Georgia and South Carolina. Not all Cherokee sided with the British, however. Many remained neutral and some were on the side of the Americans. Chief Dragging Canoe was the principal anti-American and anti-settler chief in the region.

 

Dragging Canoe led numerous attacks on settlements throughout what is now Tennessee and Kentucky, Virginia, Georgia and North and South Carolina. This conflict between American settlers and Chief Dragging Canoe and his allies stretched from 1776 when the Revolution began, to 1794 when peace was finally reached between the two sides. The whole time period is called the "Chickamauga Wars" and is named after the Chickamauga River where Dragging Canoe settled and had his base of operations.

 

What is now known as Tennessee was part of North Carolina at the outbreak of the Revolution. The mid-section of modern Tennessee had no permanent white settlements up to this point, although the region had been traveled thoroughly by traders and explorers. In 1775, Judge Richard Henderson of North Carolina purchased about two million acres of land from the Cherokee in what is now Kentucky and Tennessee, including the Nashville area. Dragging Canoe was firmly against the sale and mounted attacks on settlers coming into the area. Henderson’s original plan was to create a 14th state known as Transylvania in the region, but the plan fell apart when Congress and the state of Virginia did not recognize the claim.

 

In early 1779, James Robertson and John Donelson brought the first white settlers to an area on the Cumberland River known as "French Lick." The name came from a previous French trading post nearby and from naturally occurring salt in the ground that animals would "lick," called a "salt lick." On January 28, 1779, the settlers built a 2 acre fort called Fort Nashborough, named after General Francis Nash, a North Carolina General who died at the Battle of Germantown.

 

Fort Nashborough would be renamed Nashville within a few years (to get rid of the British sounding "borough") and would suffer numerous Indian attacks for the next decade and a half until Dragging Canoe died in 1792. After this, his Indian coalition fell apart, a peace treaty was signed with the Cherokee and much of the remaining resistance was put down by the American army.

 

A reconstructed Fort Nashborough was built in downtown Nashville in 1930 by the Daughters of the American Revolution. The fort still stands today and has buildings constructed in the same way they were in the original fort. The fort is open for self-guided tours year round and has period actors appearing there at certain times to teach about frontier life.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

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)


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James McHenry becomes Washington’s Secretary of War

James McHenry becomes Washington’s Secretary of War

 

On this day in history, January 27, 1796, James McHenry becomes Washington’s Secretary of War. McHenry was an Irish immigrant who came to America in 1771 at the age of 22. His family started an importing business in Baltimore, but James studied medicine in Philadelphia with Dr. Benjamin Rush, one of Pennsylvania’s most ardent patriots. Rush would teach McHenry medicine, but would also shape his political views.

 

When the American Revolution began, McHenry volunteered and quickly found himself at the Siege of Boston where he worked as a surgeon in the military hospital at Cambridge. This led to his appointment as a surgeon in upstate New York to care for soldiers wounded during the American invasion of Canada. Before he could take the position, however, McHenry was chosen to serve in the newly raised 5th Pennsylvania Battalion and was sent to Fort Washington in New York. The Fort was captured by the British on November 16, 1776 and McHenry, along with 2,000 others, was taken captive.

 

After his release in March, 1778, McHenry joined the Continental Army at Valley Forge as part of the army’s "Flying Hospital," a hospital unit attached to a battalion. At Valley Forge, McHenry became personally acquainted with George Washington and was soon asked to be one of his personal aides, a position he held for the next two and a half years. During this time, McHenry saw action at the Battles of Monmouth and Springfield.

 

In 1780, McHenry was transferred to the staff of the Marquis de Lafayette in Virginia. McHenry and Lafayette became lifelong friends and McHenry served at the Marquis’ side during the climactic Battle of Yorktown.

 

After the war, McHenry became involved in politics in his home state of Maryland. He served in the Maryland legislature for thirteen years and in the Continental Congress from 1783-86. As a delegate to the Constitutional Convention from Maryland, McHenry signed the US Constitution. His detailed notes from the proceedings have been of great importance to historians.

 

On January 27, 1796, President George Washington appointed McHenry his third Secretary of War. McHenry’s chief responsibility was to oversee the transformation of forts abandoned by the British on the western frontier in accordance with the Jay Treaty.

 

McHenry is credited with transitioning the forts into an efficient protection against Indian raids on the frontier, streamlining and organizing the military, codifying military rules, emphasizing civilian control over the military, overseeing the creation of 12 new regiments when war nearly broke out with France in 1798 and establishing the Department of the Navy.

 

McHenry remained as Secretary of War under President John Adams, but resigned in 1800 when he and Adams had disagreements. After his resignation, McHenry retired to his estate, named "Fayetteville" in honor of the Marquis, where he died in 1816. Baltimore’s Fort McHenry, where the battle that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the Star Spangled Banner occurred during the War of 1812, was named after James McHenry.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

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)


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Georgia patriots make a stand at Burke County Jail

Georgia patriots make a stand at Burke County Jail

 

On this day in history, January 26, 1779, Georgia patriots make a stand at Burke County Jail. In December of 1778, the British began their new Southern strategy with the attack and capture of Savannah, Georgia. The British were forced to reassess their strategy when France entered the war because the theater of war suddenly stretched around the world. Troops had to be taken from America and sent to other regions, such as the Mediterranean and the West Indies, to defend British interests there.

 

The Southern strategy took the focus away from the northern colonies and focused on retaking the south, where it was believed there was a much larger loyalist population that would support the invading British troops.

 

After Savannah was captured, British Major James Prevost issued an amnesty proclamation. If the citizens of Georgia would pledge their allegiance to the King, their previous rebel activity would be overlooked. About ten percent of the population took the oath, alarming Georgia’s patriot leaders.

 

Patriot leaders James Ingram, Francis Pugh, John Twiggs, Benjamin Few and William Few (who would go on to sign the US Constitution) convened a meeting on January 14, 1779 at the Burke County Jail to decide what to do. Meanwhile, Major Prevost sent a brigade of 3,000 men to take Augusta. The Burke County Jail sat 20 miles southeast of Augusta and the patriot leaders knew the jail would be a likely British target.

 

The Burke County Jail was built in 1778 by patriot John Sharpe and was used to house captured loyalists. The jail had quickly become a central meeting place for patriots in Burke County. At the gathering, the patriots quickly put out their own proclamation urging citizens to declare allegiance to the patriot cause and to gather with them at the jail within three days. They also published a list of Tory leaders they vowed to arrest. When Major Prevost heard of all this, he ordered Lt. Col. Archibald Campbell, in charge of the troops on the way to Augusta, to send off a detachment to take the patriots gathered at the jail.

 

Campbell sent 230 men, among them some of Georgia’s most prominent Tories, to take the jail. By the time Campbell’s men arrived, however, many of the patriots had already dispersed to arrest local Tories. Only 120 remained in the jail on the morning of January 26th. Here, the details get a bit foggy as different sources give different accounts. Some sources have nearly half the patriots dying and most of the rest captured or fleeing. Other sources say the Americans suffered 9 deaths, while the British had 5. These (more numerous) sources have the British finally being driven back and giving up after a whole day of fighting. In the end, the Battle of Burke County Jail appears to have been a draw.

 

Campbell’s forces went on to capture Augusta on January 31, but remained there only a few weeks due to gathering patriot forces in nearby South Carolina. Savannah, however, would be held by the British until the end of the war.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"Aware of the tendency of power to degenerate into abuse, the worthies of our country have secured its independence by the establishment of a Constitution and form of government for our nation, calculated to prevent as well as to correct abuse."
Thomas Jefferson to Washington Tammany Society, 1809


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Presbyterian Church burned at Elizabethtown, New Jersey

Presbyterian Church burned at Elizabethtown, New Jersey

 

On this day in history, January 25, 1780, the Courthouse and Presbyterian Church are burned in Elizabethtown, New Jersey by the British. Due to its proximity to New York City and Staten Island, the city was the site of numerous skirmishes and events of significance during the war. Elizabethtown sat just across Newark Bay from Staten Island and is just south of Newark, New Jersey. At the time of the Revolution, Elizabethtown was the largest city in New Jersey and its county, Union County, the largest county.

 

Elizabethtown (now Elizabeth) was a hotbed of patriot activity during the American Revolution. Abraham Clark, a signer of the Declaration of Independence was from Elizabethtown. Elias Boudinot, who was a President of the Continental Congress was also from Elizabethtown. William Livingston was a New Jersey delegate to the Continental Congress, a brigadier general in the New Jersey militia, New Jersey’s first governor and a signer of the US Constitution. William Burnet, John De Hart and Elias Dayton, all members of the Continental Congress, were also from Elizabethtown.

 

Staten Island was a primary base of operation for the British army for the entire American Revolution. Many British missions originated from here and it was a primary target for rebel activity. On January 14 and 15, 1780, New Jersey militia had conducted a raid in Staten Island that went bad because the soldiers, who had been instructed to confiscate livestock and military supplies, went on a wild scavenging mission and stole anything of value they could get their hands on. Sixty soldiers from Elizabethtown were captured during the raid.

 

In response, the British sent a raiding mission into Elizabethtown on January 25th. During the raid, the Presbyterian Church and the Courthouse were destroyed, as well as several private homes. You may wonder why a church was a target for the British. This particular church was pastored by the Rev. James Caldwell, known for his incendiary sermons against the British. 36 officers and numerous non-commissioned officers and privates in the Continental Army came from this church.

 

Caldwell is the pastor known for yelling out, "Give ’em Watts, boys! Give ’em Watts!," during the Battle of Springfield, in which the soldiers ran out of wadding for their guns. In response, he gave them a load of hymnals by the famous songwriter Isaac Watts and tore out the pages for wadding. He also served as a chaplain in the Continental Army. Caldwell was so hated by the British that his parsonage was burned down in a raid the year before. His wife, Hannah was killed, some say assassinated, only two weeks before at the Battle of Connecticut Farms while she sat in her house. Caldwell himself was assassinated by the end of 1781.

 

After the raid in Elizabethtown, the British soldiers went on to Newark, New Jersey where they burned down another patriot filled Presbyterian church, pastored by the Rev. Alexander McWhorter, and McWhorter’s school, Newark Academy.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"But the fact being once established, that the press is impotent when it abandons itself to falsehood, I leave to others to restore it to its strength, by recalling it within the pale of truth."
Thomas Jefferson (1805)


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