Monthly Archives: April 2021

Thomas Jefferson is born

Thomas Jefferson is born

 

On this day in history, April 13, 1743, Thomas Jefferson is born. He would write the Declaration of Independence, be America’s Ambassador to France, be the first Secretary of State and the 3rd President of the United States.

 

Jefferson was born to a plantation owning family. He inherited a large amount of land and slaves when his father died when he was only 14 years old. He was educated by private tutors until he began attending the College of William and Mary where he met eminent lawyer George Wythe. Jefferson became a protégé of Wythe, who trained him to become a lawyer. Over the years, Jefferson learned 5 languages, studied architecture, religion and science and learned to play the violin.    

 

Jefferson first became involved in politics when he was elected to Virginia’s House of Burgesses in 1769. As tensions increased with Great Britain, he wrote A Summary View of the Rights of British America, which detailed the grievances against England and the rights of the colonists, in 1774. Jefferson was sent to the Continental Congress from Virginia in 1775. When the time came to declare independence from Great Britain, the other members of Congress, who were impressed with A Summary View, asked Jefferson to write the first draft of the Declaration of Independence. Congress reworded portions of it, but the language is largely Jefferson’s.

 

During the war, Jefferson continued to serve in the Virginia legislature and as governor from 1779-1781. While governor, he was nearly captured by British Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton at Monticello. After the war, Jefferson served for a time in the Confederation Congress and was appointed Minister to France from 1785 to 1789. When the new US Constitution was adopted, Jefferson returned to the United States and accepted an appointment from George Washington as his first Secretary of State. He soon became aligned with James Madison and they formed the Democratic-Republican party to oppose Washington and the Federalist Party.

 

In 1796, Jefferson received the second highest number of votes for President and thus became Vice-President under John Adams, whom he opposed in most matters. In 1800, the unpopular Adams was not re-elected and Jefferson won the presidency, which he would hold for two terms. During his first term, Jefferson attempted to reduce tensions with the Barbary states of North Africa and made the famous Louisiana Purchase from Napoleon, which doubled the size of the United States. In 1804, he sent the famed Lewis & Clark Expedition to explore the new lands and find a path to the Pacific. During his second term, tensions increased with Great Britain, later breaking out into the War of 1812.

 

In his retirement, Jefferson founded the University of Virginia, which he had been planning for years. Though he inherited slaves when he was young, he was not able to release them by law. Jefferson advocated the abolition of slavery his entire life and was known to treat his slaves well. Jefferson wrote his own epitaph, which points out the three accomplishments he was most proud of: HERE WAS BURIED THOMAS JEFFERSON, AUTHOR OF THE DECLARATION OF AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE, OF THE STATUTE OF VIRGINIA FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM AND FATHER OF THE UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA.

 

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Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"We must make our election between economy and Liberty, or profusion and servitude." Thomas Jefferson (1816)


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North Carolina is the first state to call for independence

North Carolina is the first state to call for independence

 

On this day in history, April 12, 1776, North Carolina is the first state to call for independence from Great Britain. Her Provincial Congress, meeting at Halifax, North Carolina, passed a resolution that has come to be known as the Halifax Resolves. In the document, the Congress instructs its representatives to the Continental Congress to vote for independence if the other colonies agree to do so. The resolution does not instruct them to introduce a resolution for independence to the Congress, but to vote in the affirmative if the other colonies agree to it.

 

North Carolina was a hotbed of rebellion against royal authority from the beginning of tensions with England. North Carolina was the site of the "War of the Regulation," a conflict that lasted from 1760 to 1771. This "war" was an effort of poor western farmers to remove corrupt officials in the more prosperous east who were oppressing them with high taxes. The movement was finally defeated at the Battle of Alamance in 1771.

 

After the Boston Tea Party, the women of Edenton, North Carolina joined in a compact to boycott tea, the first political resistance organized by women in the colonies. The first North Carolina Provincial Congress met in 1774 and elected members to attend the Continental Congress. The second Provincial Congress met the next year, causing Royal Governor Josiah Martin to dissolve the official assembly.

 

North Carolina was the site of an early invasion attempt by the British in 1776, but the attempt failed when a large group of Loyalists were defeated at the Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge. The Halifax Resolves were adopted less than a month later on April 12. In July, after Richard Henry Lee of Virginia proposed a formal vote for independence to the Continental Congress, North Carolina’s representatives, Joseph Hewes, William Hooper and Lyman Hall, voted for independence in accordance with their instructions in the Resolves. In the same month, Governor Martin fled with the attempted British invasion fleet, bringing royal rule to an end in North Carolina.

 

North Carolina remained free from fighting with the British for the next several years as the fighting was concentrated in the north. During this time, however, she was involved in numerous battles with Indian tribes allied with the British to the west. In the latter half of the war, the fighting moved south and North Carolina saw some of the fiercest fighting of the war. After the crucial Battle of Guilford Courthouse, British General Charles Cornwallis wrote, "I never saw such fighting… the Americans fought like demons."

 

Though the battle was won by the British, Cornwallis’ troops were worn out and ill-supplied after a year of chasing the Continental Army through the state. The Battle of Guilford Courthouse finally broke his strength and Cornwallis was forced to flee to the coast for reinforcements, where he was trapped at Yorktown, Virginia and forced to surrender, bringing about the end of the American Revolution.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

"Nothing is more essential to the establishment of manners in a state than that all persons employed in places of power and trust must be men of unexceptionable characters."
Samuel Adams (1775)


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Congress declares a permanent ceasefire

Congress declares a permanent ceasefire

 

On this day in history, April 11, 1783, Congress declares a permanent ceasefire with Great Britain, bringing the hostilities of the American Revolution to an end. The American Revolution began as a result of increasing efforts of Parliament to control her American colonies. After the French and Indian War ended in 1763, Parliament attempted to extract more taxes from the colonists in order to make up the heavy debt incurred during the war and to pay for soldiers stationed in the colonies to police the territory gained in the war.

 

The colonists rejected the taxes primarily because they had no representation in Parliament and they believed this "taxation without representation" was unfair. They believed governments should govern "with the consent of the governed." Parliament continued with various schemes of taxation over the next decade and the colonists became increasingly rebellious.

 

Britain eventually occupied Boston, which was viewed as the center of the resistance. After the war broke out on April 19, 1775 at Lexington, the Americans soon surrounded Boston and forced the British to leave the city. This illustrates the problem Britain had for the entire war. She was able to control the cities with an occupying army, but controlling the entire countryside was impossible. The territory was simply too large to control, even for the largest army in the world.

 

After France, Spain and Holland joined the war on the American side, Britain was faced with a world war, with theatres from the Caribbean to the Mediterranean to India. She was actually forced to withdraw soldiers from North America to defend other areas and create a new American strategy. This resulted in the Southern Strategy in which Britain withdrew from the north and tried to capture the southern colonies. Again, the large cities were easy to take, but the countryside was impossible.

 

Southern commanders such as Nathanael Greene were able to wear out the army of British General Charles Cornwallis by drawing them into long marches inland. Eventually, Cornwallis was forced to flee to the coast, hoping for reinforcements. A large French fleet blocked the reinforcements from landing at Yorktown, Virginia and George Washington was able to trap Cornwallis and force his surrender.

 

The surrender of Cornwallis’ army disheartened Parliament enough that it was ready to concede the war. Peace negotiations began and the preliminary Treaty of Paris was signed on November 30, 1782. Parliament ratified the preliminary treaty on January 20, 1783 and declared a ceasefire on February 4. Congress declared a ceasefire on April 11, 1783 and ratified the treaty on April 15. After more negotiations, the final Treaty of Paris was agreed to by Congress on January 14, 1784 and by Parliament on April 9, 1784, with final copies of the document exchanged in Paris on May 12, 1784.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"The Constitution be never construed to authorize Congress to infringe the just liberty of the press, or the rights of conscience; or to prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms."
Samuel Adams


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General Horatio Gates dies

General Horatio Gates dies

 

On this day in history, April 10, 1806, General Horatio Gates dies. Gates was one of the most controversial military figures of the American Revolution due to his constant desire for promotion, his jealousy of George Washington and his tendency to be too cautious.

 

Gates joined the army and served in Germany and Nova Scotia. He was injured at the Battle of the Monongahela during the French and Indian War, the same battle from which a young Colonel George Washington led the survivors of Braddock’s Expedition to safety. After this, Gates, who was a strongly gifted administrator, became the chief of staff at Fort Pitt.

           

After the end of the French and Indian War, the army was downsized and Gates’ career stalled. He left the army and purchased a small plantation in Virginia. He re-established his friendship with George Washington and, when the American Revolution broke out, quickly volunteered his services.

 

When Washington was made Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, Gates was jealous, believing he should have received the position. Washington recommended Gates be made Adjutant General of the army, or chief administrative officer. Congress agreed and also made him a Brigadier General. Gates’ organizational skills were critical in the opening days of the conflict as he organized the army, set up a system of records and helped streamline the colonial forces.

 

Gates pressed Congress for a field position and soon found himself under Major General Philip Schuyler in New York, where he was credited with turning back a British invasion on Lake Champlain. He took forces to assist Washington in New Jersey and discouraged him from attacking the British at Trenton and Princeton. Instead of participating in these fights, Gates went to Baltimore to persuade Congress to give him Washington’s position, but this was denied after the victories at Trenton and Princeton.

 

In 1777, Gates replaced General Schuyler and subsequently led the army at the Battles of Saratoga when British General Burgoyne surrendered to the Americans. Gates received the credit, but most historians agree the victory was due to the actions of his subordinates. Shortly after this, Gates again pressed Congress to be made Commander-in-Chief. Some of his personal letters, in which he was critical of Washington, were exposed during an incident called the Conway Cabal, in which General Thomas Conway and others actively tried to replace Washington with Gates. Gates was embarrassed by the situation and forced to apologize.

 

After the loss of General Benjamin Lincoln’s 5,000 men at the Siege of Charleston, South Carolina, Gates was given command of the Southern Department. He foolishly led an ill-prepared and hungry army to a direct attack at the Battle of Camden in which nearly 2,000 men were killed or captured, effectively ending his military career. He was nearly court-martialed for the failure, but his supporters defeated it.

 

When the war was over, he returned to Virginia and married a wealthy widow. They moved to New York where he lived the rest of his life. He served one term in the New York legislature in 1800 and passed away in 1806 and was buried at Trinity Church on Wall Street.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

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)


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The Battle of the Saintes begins

The Battle of the Saintes begins

 

On this day in history, April 9, 1782, the Battle of the Saintes begins, a battle in which the same French fleet that helped defeat the British at Yorktown was defeated by another British fleet. Admiral Francois Joseph Paul, Comte de Grasse, had brought 3,000 troops to Yorktown and prevented a British fleet from landing with reinforcements.

 

After this victory, de Grasse sailed for the Caribbean and helped capture several British islands, leaving the British in possession of only Jamaica, Antigua, St. Lucia and Barbados. Spain and France together then developed a plan to capture Jamaica. On April 7, Admiral de Grasse left Martinique with 35 war ships and over 100 merchant ships bound for France. They were to meet a Spanish fleet with 15,000 soldiers and together they would invade Jamaica.

           

British Admiral, Sir George Rodney immediately followed with 36 war ships. On April 9, de Grasse saw the British fleet and sent the merchant ships into Guadeloupe, just as the British fleet was reaching the tail of de Grasse’s near the Islands of the Saintes, a small chain just south of Guadeloupe. Several British ships were badly damaged and the fleet pulled away to repair and regroup.

 

On the 11th, they proceeded and the epic battle began on the morning of the 12th. A fleet of this size had tens of thousands of sailors and soldiers on board. None of the ships had less than 64 cannons. Many had 74, 80… up to 98 cannons! The massive flagship for Admiral de Grasse, the Ville de Paris, was a triple decker with 104 guns. A ship this size would have a few thousand soldiers and sailors on board.

Battle of the Saintes by Thomas Whitcombe, 1783

 

During the previous night, the French Zele had become disabled and began to straggle. Early in the morning, the British reached the Zele and began to bombard her, causing de Grasse to turn the fleet around to rescue her. This resulted in a line to line battle in which each side formed a single line of ships following the ship ahead of it. As the two lines passed each other, they fired on the other side continually.

 

Eventually, the winds shifted and it became difficult to see in the smoke from all the cannon fire. Several gaps opened in the French line and the British began to cross through the openings at 90-degree angles. This allowed the British to fire on the French ships, but the French ships were at the wrong angle to fire back. Several French ships were decimated during this maneuver. Both lines fell into disarray at this point and mini-battles took place all over the battlefield.

 

Some of the French ships were completely dismasted. Others sailed away. The Ville de Paris was surrounded. Admiral de Grasse fought until his last cannonball was used and forced to surrender. In all, 5 French ships were captured, with over 5,000 soldiers and sailors. 2,000 were injured or killed. Over 400 were killed and 700 wounded on the Ville de Paris alone. The powder magazine exploded on the captured Cesar, killing 400 French and 50 British sailors. In all, the British had 243 killed and over 800 wounded.

 

The massive Battle of the Saintes helped restore British morale after losing the Battle of Yorktown and decimated French hopes to take all of the West Indies. Admiral de Grasse was taken prisoner to London, but released on parole. Admiral Rodney was awarded a peerage for the victory and given an annual pension of 2,000 pounds!

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

"Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence, (I conjure you to believe me fellow citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake; since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of Republican Government."
George Washington (1796)


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Captain Joshua Barney wins the Battle of Delaware Bay

 

Captain Joshua Barney wins the Battle of Delaware Bay

 

On this day in history, April 8, 1782, Lieutenant Joshua Barney wins the Battle of Delaware Bay. Barney was only 23 years old in 1782 and had already been captured 5 times by the British, even once escaping from the notorious Old Mill Prison in Plymouth. Upon returning to America, he was given command of a small fleet of privateers which were to escort several merchant ships into the Delaware Bay.

 

Barney commanded the Hyder Ally, the most powerful of the ships, with 16 6-pound cannons (meaning they shot six-pound cannonballs). On April 7, low winds forced the fleet to drop its anchors just inside Cape May. During the night, the 32-gun HMS Quebec and the 24-fun HMS General Monk spotted the fleet and prepared to attack in the morning.

 

In the morning, the British were joined by the privateer Fair American for the attack. Around 10 am, the Americans noticed the British and Lieutenant Barney ordered the merchant ships up the bay. He ordered the Charming Sally and General Greene to follow close by the shoreline to prevent the heavier British ships from catching them.

 

The General Greene disobeyed and came to engage in the battle. The Charming Sally began up the bay, but soon grounded on a shoal and was abandoned and captured. Meanwhile, the Hyder Ally and the General Greene turned as if to flee, hoping to draw the British into a fight. The Fair American broke off to chase the General Greene, but soon grounded and was out of commission.

 

The General Monk chased the Hyder Ally and gunfire was exchanged. The General Monk’s crew had recently modified its 6-pound cannons to fire 9-pound balls, but when they shot them off the first time, the cannons ripped from their moorings and fell to the floor. In the confusion, several sailors were burned trying to right the cannons and the Hyder Ally came close enough to lash the two ships together. As soon as they were secured, Barney fired his cannons broadside into the General Monk, killing numerous sailors. The Hyder Ally’s crew hung from the riggings and fired down on the General Monk’s deck. In less than half an hour, the General Monk’s captain was injured and all but one of her officers dead and the ship was taken. More than 50 British sailors were dead or injured, while the Americans lost only 15. The last remaining ship, the HMS Quebec, fled when the General Monk was captured.

 

Joshua Barney was awarded command of the General Monk for his bravery and sent with dispatches for Ben Franklin in France. After the war, he became a privateer for the French Navy. Later, during the War of 1812, Barney was granted a letter-of-marque to operate a privateer against the British Navy. When the British blockaded the Chesapeake in 1814, Barney was given command of the Chesapeake Flotilla of small boats and barges to protect Baltimore and the capital. When the fleet was overrun, Barney sank the boats and took the cannons overland to join in the defense of Washington DC. The poorly prepared Americans quickly fled the capital, except for Barney and his men. They inflicted heavy damage on the approaching British before their final retreat, leaving the way open for the British to invade and destroy much of the city.

 

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Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"It is the manners and spirit of a people, which preserve a republic in vigor. A degeneracy in these is a canker which soon eats to the heart of its laws and constitution." Thomas Jefferson (1787)


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Jewish financier Haym Solomon is born

Jewish financier Haym Solomon is born

 

On this day in history, April 7, 1740, Jewish financier Haym Solomon is born. Solomon was a Portuguese Jew born in Poland. He traveled throughout Europe as a young man, learned to speak multiple languages and learned the trade of finance.

 

Solomon emigrated to America in the early 1770s and started a financial brokerage in New York City, where he acted as the middleman between merchants and their overseas trading partners, in much the same way a house is purchased by using an escrow agent today. In such a transaction, the money from the purchaser and the deed from the seller are given to the escrow agent who verifies that both are good and then delivers them to the appropriate party. Solomon performed a similar service for merchants who took the risk of dealing with overseas partners.

           

In the years leading up to the American Revolution, Solomon became a close friend of Alexander McDougall, one of the leading members of the Sons of Liberty in New York City, putting him squarely in the middle of the growing anti-British sentiment. When New York was invaded, Solomon was arrested for spying. He spent 18 months in squalid British prison facilities but was eventually released on the condition that he act as a translator for the hired Hessian troops working for the British.

 

Solomon agreed to this but used the position to arrange the escapes of American prisoners and to encourage as many Hessians as he could to switch sides. In 1778, Solomon was arrested again and sentenced to death, but this time he escaped, possibly with the help of McDougall and the Sons of Liberty.

 

He made his way to Philadelphia and re-established himself in business. He soon became the paymaster for French troops in America (meaning he acted as the agent of exchange between the French government and the Americans). While in Philadelphia, Solomon became a business associate of Robert Morris, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and member of the Continental Congress.

 

In 1781, with Congress out of money and the Continental Army about to break apart for lack of funds, Morris was appointed Superintendent of Finances for Congress. His job was to raise money and oversee the expenditures. Morris turned to Haym Solomon who acted as an agent for Congress by selling bonds to buyers and quickly raised $20,000. This money was then used to fund the Yorktown campaign which ended the war. Solomon continued in this role for several years and raised over $600,000 for Congress, keeping the government afloat and earning Solomon the title "Financier of the Revolution."

 

Although Solomon’s role has been somewhat exaggerated, he was nonetheless a critical person in keeping Congress in business during a pivotal period. He personally made loans to leading members of Congress at low rates of interest and never asked for money that was owed to him by Congress. Solomon continued successfully in business after the war, but by the time he died at the age of 45 in 1785, he left his family deeply in debt. His son tried to get Congress to pay the family money owed to Solomon but was never successful.

 

Solomon became active in the Jewish community in Philadelphia and became known nationally for defending Jews from the typical anti-Semitic slanders of the day. He also helped reverse a Pennsylvania law that forbade non-Christians from serving in public office. Solomon’s role in the Revolution has taken on an almost mythic status partly because he was one of the few Jews in America at the time and later American Jews placed particular focus on him in order to have a Jewish hero from the Revolution.

 

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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