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The Battle of Fallen Timbers

The Battle of Fallen Timbers

 

On this day in history, August 20, 1794, the Battle of Fallen Timbers ends the Northwest Indian War and opens the Ohio territory to American settlement. At the end of the American Revolution, the Treaty of Paris stipulated that the British must abandon their forts north of the Ohio River and below the Great Lakes west to the Mississippi, turning this area over to the United States. This area was called the Northwest Territory.

 

The Indian tribes located in this area had no representatives during the negotiations in Paris and did not recognize the treaty. The American government considered the land to be fairly conquered territory in war. The American reasoning was that since these Indians were allied with the British during the Revolution, their claim to the land had been forfeited by losing the war.

 

American settlers began spilling across the Ohio River from Kentucky and other places after the Revolution. The Indians, which had already been driven back from their traditional hunting grounds in Kentucky, formed a confederation of tribes to resist the white settlement of Ohio, under Shawnee Chief Blue Jacket, Delaware Chief Buckongahelas and Miami Chief Little Turtle.

 

As attacks on white settlers increased, the American government tried to deal with the Indians by sending several expeditions into the area. In 1790 and 1791, two American expeditions suffered over 1,000 casualties at the hands of the Indians. In response, President George Washington and Secretary of War Henry Knox formed the Legion of the United States, a special division of the United States Army to deal specifically with the northwest Indian threat.

 

Major General "Mad" Anthony Wayne, a Revolutionary War hero, was given command of the Legion, which began forming at Pittsburgh in the fall of 1792. In 1793, Wayne and the Legion began marching north from Fort Washington (Cincinnati), constructing a string of forts along the way to supply the troops.

 

The decisive battle finally came when the Legion met Chief Blue Jacket on the Maumee River in northwest Ohio near present day Toledo. The Indians chose to make a stand in an area that had recently been hit by a tornado. All the trees were fallen, hence the name of the battle, and provided natural roadblocks to Wayne’s advancing troops.

 

Wayne had twice as many troops as the Indians, 3,000 to 1,500, and the Legion was quickly able to overcome them. The fleeing Indians fled to the nearby British Fort Miami, but Major William Campbell would not open the fort to the Indians, not wishing to start a conflict with the Americans. As the Indians scattered, Wayne’s troops destroyed villages in the area and finally returned home.

 

The Battle of Fallen Timbers turned out to be the last major battle of the Northwest Indian War. The loss pushed the Indians to the negotiating table and most of present day Ohio was ceded to the Americans by the Treaty of Greenville on August 3, 1795.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Secretary General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

“The powers of Congress are totally inadequate to preserve the balance between the respective States, and oblige them to do those things which are essential for their own welfare or for the general good.”
Henry Knox

Major Henry Lee wins the Battle of Paulus Hook

Major Henry Lee wins the Battle of Paulus Hook

 

On this day in history, August 19, 1779, Major Henry Lee wins the Battle of Paulus Hook, New Jersey, during the American Revolution. Paulus Hook was a strategically located piece of land across the Hudson River from the tip of Manhattan Island. George Washington had realized the strategic importance of the ground and ordered a fort built there before the arrival of the British, but it was abandoned when the massive British force of over 40,000 soldiers took over the area in September of 1776.

 

In July, Brigadier General Anthony Wayne had captured Stony Point, a strategic prominence on the Hudson River below West Point, in a daring nighttime raid, capturing hundreds of British soldiers in the process. Major Henry "Lighthorse Harry" Lee, who had been involved in the reconnaissance at Stony Point, was inspired by the victory to propose a similar excursion to capture Paulus Hook.

           

George Washington turned down Lee’s proposal at first, but when Lee added boats for a quick escape, Washington changed his mind and authorized the mission. Lee gathered about 350 troops together at New Bridge, New Jersey on the evening of August 18th to march to Paulus Hook. The plan was to attack around midnight. Unbeknownst to Lee, Colonel Abraham Van Buskirk left Paulus Hook that same day with 130 Loyalists to track down patriot rebels in the area. Only around 250 soldiers were left to guard the fort.

 

During the trek, Lee’s guide led them rough terrain and his forces were separated. He lost track of about 200 Virginia soldiers and was forced to replan his attack. Paulus Hook was surrounded on two sides by water and by marshland on the rest. A single causeway crossed the marsh, which flooded with high tide. Once they arrived at the marsh, and already delayed by the guide’s route, it was nearly 3 am and the tide was rising. The soldiers were forced to wade in marshland in water up to their chests in some places, ruining their ammunition. When the time for the attack came, Lee ordered everyone to draw their bayonets instead.

 

When the attack began, the patriots quickly overtook the outer defenses of the fort, forcing some of the soldiers to retreat into a redoubt. Sleeping quarters were quickly surrounded and many were taken captive. Within half an hour, 159 prisoners were taken and 50 more British soldiers were killed or wounded, while only 5 patriots were killed or injured.

 

Unable to take a redoubt where several Hessian soldiers were barricaded and unable to break into its powder magazine, Lee ordered a retreat before reinforcements from New York City arrived. When they arrived at the designated location where the boats were supposed to pick them up, they found no one. The officer in charge had sent the boats back, thinking the mission had been called off due to the late hour. Instead, Lee was forced to march his men back to New Bridge, with British soldiers in pursuit. Eventually, he was reinforced by some of the Virginia soldiers he lost track of earlier and by another large force sent by General Stirling.

 

For his bravery at the Battle of Paulus Hook, Major Lee was commended by Congress and awarded a gold medal, the only such award given by Congress during the war to anyone with a rank lower than general. Later, Paulus Hook would be the last outpost in New Jersey to be abandoned by the British at the end of the war.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Secretary General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"Let us recollect that peace or war will not always be left to our option; that however moderate or unambitious we may be, we cannot count upon the moderation, or hope to extinguish the ambition of others."
Alexander Hamilton (1788)

Thomas Sumter is routed at the Battle of Fishing Creek

Thomas Sumter is routed at the Battle of Fishing Creek

 

On this day in history, August 18, 1780, Brigadier General Thomas Sumter is routed at the Battle of Fishing Creek. Sumter had been engaged in harassing British supply lines in early August while British Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis and American Major General Horatio Gates maneuvered their armies toward Camden, South Carolina.

 

When Gates was completely routed at Camden, he sent messengers to Sumter who was approximately 40 miles east, to rendezvous in Charlotte, North Carolina. Sumter turned his army around and started heading north up the Wateree River, but the going was slow because he was transporting dozens of captured British supply wagons, hundreds of horses and over 100 prisoners.

           

When General Cornwallis learned of Sumter’s movements, he immediately dispatched Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton with 350 soldiers to capture him. Sumter and Tarleton, who had burned Sumter’s house to the ground earlier in the summer, were archrivals.

 

While pursuing Sumter, Tarleton characteristically drove his men to the point of exhaustion and had to leave more than half of them behind when he arrived at Sumter’s still smoldering camp at Rocky Mount on the 17th. He took 160 of the most capable men, most on horseback, and continued the pursuit.

 

Sumter did not receive any intelligence regarding Tarleton’s location on the morning of the 18th and inexplicably called a halt so his men could rest, placing only two sentries in the direction he last knew Tarleton to be. When Tarleton’s band surprised the sentries they were both killed and unable to warn Sumter’s camp.

 

Tarleton came upon Sumter’s camp to the northwest of the confluence of Fishing Creek and the Catawba River, hence the name, the Battle of Fishing Creek, also sometimes called the Battle of Catawba River. It was around noon and most of Sumter’s men were sleeping or cooking. Some had gone off to a nearby plantation. Their guns lay in a huge pile in the middle of the camp. Sumter was napping underneath a wagon.

 

Tarleton ordered an immediate charge. His cavalry was into the middle of the camp and in control of all the weapons before the Americans hardly knew what was happening. Many were cut down as they stood up to defend themselves. The rest scattered and a brawl began. Over 300 Americans were captured and 150 were killed. All the British prisoners were released and the captured supply wagons and horses secured. Sumter escaped on a horse with no saddle and rode all the way to Charlotte where he arrived alone.

 

The rout at the Battle of Fishing Creek was one of the worst of the war. Sumter was able to get a measure of revenge on Tarleton, however, the following November, when he inflicted Tarleton’s first major defeat of the war at the Battle of Blackstock’s Farm, even though Sumter was severely wounded in the battle. Sumter, though he had his faults, would be one of the primary people responsible for recapturing the south from the British and forcing Cornwallis to his retreat and surrender at Yorktown the following year.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Secretary General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

“No power was given to Congress to infringe on any one of the natural rights of the people.”
Theophilus Parsons,
Massachusetts Convention on the ratification of the Constitution, January 23, 1788

 

 

Newport Jewish Congregation Addresses George Washington

Newport Jewish congregation addresses George Washington

 

On this day in history, August 17, 1790, the Newport Jewish congregation addresses George Washington. Washington traveled to all 13 states during his years as President, but he had deliberately skipped Rhode Island when he toured New England because Rhode Island had not yet adopted the US Constitution and, therefore, was not part of the United States. Once Rhode Island finally ratified in May of 1790, Washington immediately planned a trip to visit the state.

 

Newport, Rhode Island saw much destruction as a result of the Revolutionary War. When the town was occupied by the British, patriots were forced to flee their homes, which were then occupied and wrecked by British soldiers. Later, after the war was won, Loyalist citizens were forced to flee and leave their property. Newport never really recovered its glory days as one of North America's leading cities of commerce.

            

The first Jewish congregation was founded in Newport in 1658, when 15 Spanish and Portuguese Jewish families arrived from the West Indies. Congregation Yeshuat Israel met in the homes of its members for over a century before building a synagogue in 1763. When Washington arrived in Newport on August 17, he was received by a large throng of people and addresses to him representing several groups were read in a public ceremony.

 

The warden (a sort of lay leader) of Congregation Yeshuat Israel, Moses Seixas, represented the Jewish congregation at the ceremony and read an address that praised Washington and gave God thanks for protecting him during the war. The letter expressed the congregation's gratefulness for civil and religious liberties in the new United States, precious gifts that Jews in other nations did not enjoy.

 

Washington's response to the congregation's address has come down as one of the great expressions of religious liberty of the Founding Fathers. Washington wrote a reply a few days later in which he expressed thanks for the good wishes from the congregation. He expressed how the government of the United States gave everyone freedom of conscience, as long as they conducted themselves as good citizens. He then affirmed that the Jews had every right to dwell safely in the United States.

 

The Hebrew congregation's original copy of the address was given to Washington and now resides in the Library of Congress. Washington's original reply, written in the hand of his secretary Tobias Lear, resides in the B'nai B'rith headquarters in Washington DC.

 

Congregation Yeshuat Israel still meets in the same synagogue in Newport today. Touro Synagogue, as it is called, is the oldest still standing synagogue building in the United States. Every year, Seixas' and Washington's letters are read in a ceremony celebrating religious toleration at the synagogue.

 

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)

The Battle of Camden

The Battle of Camden

 

On this day in history, August 16, 1780, the Battle of Camden is the worst American tactical loss of the Revolutionary War. In the battle, Major General Horatio Gates loses nearly 2,000 men to the British and has his commission taken away as a result.

 

Horatio Gates was the victor at the Battle of Saratoga, one of the pivotal battles of the American Revolution. Gates forced British General Richard Burgoyne to surrender his entire army at Saratoga, a victory that led France to join the Americans who proved they could take the fight to the British.

 

When the British took the battle to the south by capturing Savannah in December, 1778, and Charleston in January, 1780, the Continental Congress put Gates in command of the Southern branch of the Continental Army, hoping he could stem the growing British occupation, which, by May of 1780, had engulfed all of South Carolina and Georgia.

 

Gates arrived in North Carolina in July and began gathering a new army, more than half of whom were untried militia. Gates’ army marched into South Carolina through heavily Loyalist territory toward Camden. On August 16, an army of 2,100 British soldiers under Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis arrived at Camden to meet Gates’ 3,700 men.

 

Gates inexplicably placed his least trained men, 2,500 North Carolina militia, against the best trained British officers, while placing his best trained Continental soldiers against the weakest part of Cornwallis’ army. The armies faced off early in the morning and the British were the first to fire upon the green militia troops. When scores of their brothers fell all around them, the militia immediately scattered. General Gates, who had been waiting with the reserve troops in the rear, fled as well when he saw the militia run.

 

The Continental troops on the right flank put up a stiff fight and nearly broke the British lines, but they were eventually overpowered by the overwhelming British numbers and a cavalry charge. Johann de Kalb, a German born officer who was serving as a Major General in the Continental Army, received a mortal wound in the battle. In only one hour of fighting, the Americans lost 2,000 soldiers. Over 1,000 were captured and over 900 were killed or wounded. The British had only 69 killed with 245 wounded.

 

The Battle of Camden is typically viewed as the worst tactical loss to the Americans in the Revolution. Gates seemed to be overconfident from his victory at Saratoga. He was in heavily Loyalist territory far from adequate supply lines; his misplacement of troops on the front lines led to a rout; and he severely underestimated the strategic skills of General Cornwallis.

 

After the battle, General Gates ran for three straight days north into Virginia. For his role in the debacle, Congress stripped him of his command and began procedures to court-martial him. The Southern command was given over to General Nathanael Greene. Gates never received another field command during the war, but he was able to escape an actual court-martial after some of his defenders in Congress stood up for him. Fortunately, the very able Nathanael Greene was able to take the abysmal situation in the south and turn it around quickly. In less than a year, Greene was able to reconquer South Carolina and Georgia and trap General Cornwallis in Virginia, the victory that secured the end of the American Revolution.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Secretary General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"A good moral character is the first essential in a man, and that the habits contracted at your age are generally indelible, and your conduct here may stamp your character through life. It is therefore highly important that you should endeavor not only to be learned but virtuous."
George Washington (1790)

The Siege of Bryan’s Station begins

The Siege of Bryan’s Station begins

 

On this day in history, August 15, 1782, the Siege of Bryan’s Station begins. Bryan’s Station was a fort at the top of a hill with about 40 homes insides its walls near Lexington, Kentucky. Down the hill was Elkhorn Creek with a nearby spring the settlers used for water. In August of 1782, 500 Indians and British soldiers marched into Kentucky, planning to capture Bryan’s Station and others.

 

The Indians snuck up to the fort unnoticed on the evening of August 15th and hid in the brush near the spring. Historians are uncertain how, but the settlers figured out the Indians were there. They went about their business as usual though to prevent the attackers from knowing they were discovered.

 

The Indians, believing they were concealed, allowed the few settlers outside the fort to continue their business so as not to expose themselves. Two riders were sent out from the fort for reinforcements, but the Indians let them go. Night fell and the terrified settlers thought it might be their last when they realized they had no water. Water was not only crucial for drinking, but also for putting out fires if the Indians set fire to the fort.

 

In the morning, a plan was devised to send out the women to gather water at the spring, just like they did every morning. The Indians would not attack because they didn’t want to expose themselves by attacking the women only. The brave women marched to the spring and pretended that everything was as usual. As they filled their vessels, they stood within a few feet of hundreds of hiding Indians. After they safely returned to the fort, everyone celebrated, but the Siege of Bryan’s Station was not over.

 

The Indians sent a small group to fire on the opposite side of the fort, hoping to lure the men out. The settlers understood the ruse and sent several men out to pretend to go after the small band, but as soon as shots were fired, they turned around and quickly ran back inside. As soon as the hiding Indians heard the shots, they came running from their hiding places. When they were in the open, a massive volley of shots rang out from the fort and many were killed. The Indians scattered and ran back to the woods. A few reached the still open gates of the fort, however, and set fire to some of the buildings. The settlers raced to put the fires out and a providential wind came that blew the smoking embers away from the fort.

 

In the afternoon, reinforcements arrived. 16 brave horsemen galloped through a barrage of Indian fire right to the gates of the fort with not a single man injured. 30 more men on foot got trapped in the cornfield and were forced to scatter.

 

That evening, the Indians met and decided the fort was impregnable without artillery to breach the walls. On the morning of the 17th, when the settlers arose, the Indians had abandoned their camp. More militia arrived at Bryan’s Station to defend the fort over the next few days and a large party went after the Indians. Unfortunately, the Indians ambushed them at Blue Licks, in the worst defeat on the western frontier during the American Revolution, before returning to their homes in the Ohio country. The massive force that laid siege to Bryan’s Station and inflicted the devastating defeat at Blue Licks proved to be the last major Indian invasion into Kentucky. Individual settlers suffered at the hands of Indians for years to come, but the largest Indian battles in the Kentucky territory were now in the past.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Secretary General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"No man in his senses can hesitate in choosing to be free, rather than a slave."
Alexander Hamilton (1774)

The Bermuda Gunpowder Plot

The Bermuda Gunpowder Plot

 

On this day in history, August 14, 1775, the Bermuda Gunpowder Plot secures Bermuda’s store of gunpowder for the American patriots when sympathetic Bermudians cooperate with the Continental Congress to deliver the gunpowder to them.

 

The Continental Congress voted early on in the war to ban all trade with British colonies that remained loyal to Great Britain. This put Bermuda in a unique bind. Bermuda’s economy was entirely based on shipping. It had maritime interests in all the major ports of America and the other British colonies. Tiny Bermuda had no agricultural production of its own and was entirely dependent on imports for food.

 

Colonel Henry Tucker was one of Bermuda’s most influential merchants. In 1775, he was a former President of the Governor’s Council and his son was the current president, as well as Royal Governor George Breure’s son-in-law. Tucker traveled to Philadelphia to meet with the Continental Congress, where he met with Ben Franklin and Robert Morris.

 

Tucker offered to trade salt (one of Bermuda’s chief industries and much needed by the Americans) in exchange for food. Instead, Franklin and Morris wanted Bermuda’s gunpowder, approximately 100 barrels of which sat in the magazine at St. George’s, Bermuda’s capital. The Continental Congress agreed to exempt Bermuda from the trade embargo on July 15th, in exchange for the gunpowder, and the Bermuda Gunpowder Plot was hatched.

 

On the evening of August 14th, the Lady Catharine and the Charles Town and Savannah Packet arrived from America off the Bermuda coast near Tobacco Bay. Locals who were sympathetic to the American cause met some American sailors and took them to St. George’s magazine, where they quickly overcame the single sentry. From the building’s roof, one of the sailors was let down through the air vent to unlock the door from the inside, where he had to be careful not to make any spark that would set the gunpowder on fire.

 

The citizens then rolled around 100 barrels of gunpowder to the shore where it was put on whaling boats and transported to the American ships. St. George Tucker, one of Colonel Tucker’s sons, was 22 at the time and later told how he helped role the gunpowder to the shore. He would later become an influential judge and author in Virginia.

 

The following morning, when the theft of the gunpowder was discovered by Governor Breure, he sent a customs ship after the fleeing ships, which were seen on the horizon. The ship was severely outgunned though and returned empty handed. Half of the gunpowder was delivered to Charlestown, while the other half went to Philadelphia.

 

Only a few weeks later, George Washington would dispatch ships to confiscate the same gunpowder, not realizing it had already been captured. Bermudians, who were naturally predisposed to side with the American patriots, eventually sided with Great Britain in the war when Congress reinstated its trade embargo and the island was left without food. The Bermudian shipping industry turned to privateering for supplies and wreaked havoc on American shipping throughout the rest of the war.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Secretary General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"Democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their death."

James Madison