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Congress authorizes Yorktown Victory Monument

Congress authorizes Yorktown Victory Monument

 

On This Day in History, October 29, 1781, the Continental Congress authorizes the Yorktown Victory Monument at York, Virginia, to remember the surrender of Lord Cornwallis and the British army, news of which had just reached the Congress in Philadelphia. The monument was not even begun for 100 years and was started during the centennial celebration of the victory in 1881.

 

Congress’ original resolution to erect the monument reads as follows: "That the United States in Congress assembled, will cause to be erected at York, in Virginia, a marble column, adorned with emblems of the alliance between the United States and his Most Christian Majesty; and inscribed with a succinct narrative of the surrender of earl Cornwallis to his excellency General Washington, Commander in Chief of the combined forces of America and France; to his excellency the Count de Rochambeau, commanding the auxiliary troops of his most Christian Majesty in America, and his excellency the Count de Grasse, commanding in chief the naval army of France in the Chesapeake."

 

Notice the emphasis on French involvement during the war. If it hadn’t been for French cooperation, the war likely would have been lost, a fact not known by many Americans. The Yorktown Victory Monument was finished in 1884. The main pillar is 84 feet tall and the statue of the Lady Victory is 14 feet on top of that. The statue was replaced in 1956 after the original was damaged by lightning. Today the monument can be found on the southeast end of Main Street in Yorktown, Virginia.

 

Each of the four sides of the base of the monument contain an inscription:

Lady Victory

 

Side 1:

 

At York on Oct 19 1781 after a siege of nineteen days by 5500 American & 7000 French troops of the line 3500 Virginia Militia under command of Gen Thomas Nelson & 33 French ships of war Earl Cornwallis commander of the British forces at York & Gloucester surrendered his army 1751 officers and men 840 seamen 244 cannon and 24 standards to His Excellency George Washington Commander in Chief of the combined forces of America and France to his Excellency the Comte de Rochambeau commanding the auxiliary troops of His Most Christian Majesty in America and to His Excellency The Comte de Grasse Commanding Chief The Naval Army of France in Chesapeake

 

Side 2:

 

The provisional Articles of Peace concluded Nov 30, 1782 & the definitive treaty of peace concluded Sept 3 1783 between the U.S.A. and George III King of Great Britain & Ireland declare His Britannic Majesty acknowledges the said U.S. viz New Hampshire Massachusetts Bay Rhode Island and Providence Plantations Connecticut New York new Jersey Pennsylvania Delaware Maryland Virginia North Carolina South Carolina and Georgia to be free sovereign and independent states

 

Side 3:

 

The treaty concluded Feb 6 1778 between the U.S.A. and Louis XVI King of France declares the essential & direct end of the present defensive alliance is to maintain effectually the liberty & sovereignty & independence absolute & unlimited of the said U.S. as well in matters of government as of commerce

 

Side 4:

 

Erected in pursuance of a resolution of Congress adopted Oct 29 1781 & an act of congress approved June 7 1880 to commemorate the victory by which the independence of the U.S.A. was achieved

 

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 controls any legislative act repugnant to it.

John Marshall

Benjamin Franklin sets sail for France

Benjamin Franklin sets sail for France

 

On this day in history, October 26, 1776, Benjamin Franklin sets sail for France as ambassador from the Continental Congress. The new United States was formed on July 4th only a few months before. One of the nation’s primary goals was to obtain foreign alliances. France was considered to be the best possibility for an alliance, due to France’s continual feud with Great Britain dating back centuries.

 

When Ben Franklin arrived in France, he was already a well-known celebrity. In the 1750s, Franklin’s discoveries with electricity had made him a household name in Europe after his letters about the subject were published. Upon his arrival in France, Franklin’s fame was so great that he found his likeness on portraits, snuff boxes and busts. His celebrity status gave him exactly what he needed in Paris, status and open doors to the highest society and government officials.

 

Franklin’s chief mission in France was to secure a financial and military alliance. All of the high society citizens wanted to know the famous American and Franklin quickly became part of their inner circle. The only problem was that the French government was reluctant to publicly make an  alliance with the upstart Americans. Secretly, however, France was willing to send aid in the form of military supplies.

 

In the fall of 1777, the big break came when British general, John Burgoyne surrendered more than 6,000 men to the Americans at the Battle of Saratoga. This victory convinced France that the Americans could indeed handle a war against England. France decided to join the war and Franklin helped negotiate a treaty of alliance the next spring. Tons of military supplies, fleets of French ships and some of France’s best soldiers went to America. Franklin encouraged such soldiers as the Marquis de Lafayette, Thaddeus Kosciuszko and Casimir Pulaski to go to America and join the fight.

 

France’s involvement in the American Revolution turned out to be one of the keys to the eventual American victory. France’s involvement, along with Spain, which joined the war as well, made the American Revolution a world war. Fighting erupted between France and England all over the globe, in such disparate places as the Mediterranean, Africa, India and the West Indies. England was forced to spread its resources to these far flung places and even remove troops from America to defend its interests elsewhere. England couldn’t sustain such a vast war and was eventually forced to capitulate in the American colonies where the war began.

 

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

 

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)

 

 

 

John and Abigail Adams are married

John and Abigail Adams are married

 

On this day in history, October 25, 1764, John and Abigail Adams are married. They would become one of the most recognizable couples in American history, not only for their time in the White House when John was the 2nd President of the United States, but also because of the more than 1200 letters between them that have survived.

 

John Adams and Abigail Smith were third cousins who knew one another from a young age. Both of them grew up in Christian households, John’s father being a deacon and Abigail’s a minister. John grew up on a farm and became a lawyer, while Abigail was educated at home, as was the custom for many women of the day. Abigail’s education was far more extensive than most women of the day, however. She became quite versed in politics, philosophy, poetry and other subjects, due to access to the libraries of her father and grandfather.

 

When the two married in 1764, John was 28 and Abigail was 19. They lived at the farm John’s father had left him in Quincy, Massachusetts, a few miles from Boston. Their first child, Abigail, also known as Nabby, was born in 1765. The Adams’ had 5 more children over the years, one of whom, John Quincy, became the 6th President of the United States.

 

As John’s law practice grew, the couple moved to Boston where they became intimately involved in revolutionary politics. John became involved in local politics and was eventually elected to attend the Continental Congress where he was a strong advocate of independence from Great Britain. During John’s long absences to Congress, he and Abigail kept up a vigorous letter writing habit that has provided subsequent generations a unique window into typical family life during the Revolution. Abigail was forced to raise their youngest children on her own and manage the farm as well.

 

John and Abigail often discussed political matters in their letters and her views were always taken to heart by Adams. Both of them were strong advocates of American independence and the abolition of slaves. She was also a strong proponent of women’s rights.

 

In the 1780s, John spent several years as the American ambassador to the Netherlands and Great Britain. In 1784, Abigail went to join him and the two spent several years in Paris and London. Neither of them particularly liked the social life of Europe.

 

 

John Adams was elected Vice-President with George Washington and subsequently became the 2nd President of the United States. The Adams’ came under great scrutiny and criticism while he was president and both had their feelings hurt from the criticisms and the lost election for a second term in the White House. After returning to Quincy from the capital, the two lived at their home called Peacefield. Abigail passed away in 1818 and John finished his memoirs. He passed away on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of American Independence.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

“Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, an murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.”
John Adams

New Jersey patriot Elias Boudinot dies

New Jersey patriot Elias Boudinot dies

 

On this day in history, October 24, 1821, New Jersey patriot Elias Boudinot dies. Boudinot would serve as President of the Continental Congress, director of the United States Mint and President of the American Bible Society.

 

Elias Boudinot was born in 1740 in Philadelphia. He attended college in Princeton at the College of New Jersey (now Princeton). He served as an apprentice with lawyer and future signer of the Declaration of Independence, Richard Stockton. Stockton married Boudinot’s older sister, Annis, while Boudinot married Stockton’s younger sister, Hannah. Elias started his own successful law practice in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and became involved in politics.

 

During the American Revolution, Boudinot served on New Jersey’s Committee of Safety and helped manage the activities of spies in the New York City area. George Washington asked Boudinot to become the Continental Army’s commissary general of prisoners in 1777, a position in which he had the responsibility of caring for British prisoners held by the Americans and for American prisoners held by the British.

 

In 1778, Boudinot was elected to Congress. From 1782-1783, he served as President of the Continental Congress, during which time he had the unique responsibility of signing the preliminary peace treaty with Britain in 1783. After the war, Boudinot was elected to the House of Representatives for the first 3 congresses of the new US government from New Jersey. Boudinot decided not to run again in 1794, but the following year, President Washington asked him to become the Director of the US Mint, a position he held until 1805.

 

Boudinot continued his successful law practice and was involved in numerous other civil duties. He was a member of the Board of Trustees of the College of New Jersey for nearly 50 years. Boudinot was a devout Presbyterian and, in 1816, he was elected President of the American Bible Society. He also became an advocate for blacks and American Indians. One young Cherokee student whom Boudinot befriended took Boudinot’s name and became the publisher of the first newspaper in the Cherokee language. Boudinot passed away on October 24, 1821 at his home in Burlington, New Jersey.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

Good government generally begins in the family, and if the moral character of a people once degenerate, their political character must soon follow.
Elias Boudinot

British fleet defeated on the Delaware River

British fleet defeated on the Delaware River

 

On this day in history, October 23, 1777, a British fleet on the Delaware River is defeated by patriot defenders from Fort Mifflin and the Pennsylvania State Navy. Forts Mifflin and Mercer were built on the Delaware River just south of Philadelphia in order to prevent a British invasion of the city. Fort Mifflin sat on Mudd Island on the Pennsylvania side and Fort Mercer was at Red Bank, New Jersey, across the river.

 

The Pennsylvania State Navy and the Continental Navy provided ships to monitor the river, all under the command of Pennsylvania Commodore John Hazelwood. The navy constructed a series of formidable chevaux de frise in the river between the forts. These were a series of spikes placed under the water that could penetrate the hull of passing ships.

 

In the fall of 1777, British General William Howe set about capturing Philadelphia. Partly due to the defenses on the Delaware, Clinton landed a massive army of 17,000 soldiers at Head of Elk, Maryland, on the north end of the Chesapeake Bay, instead. The troops marched overland to Philadelphia, undeterred by the Continental Army at the Battle of Brandywine, and took the city on September 26.

 

Forts Mifflin and Mercer still had their value though. The main way of supplying Philadelphia was by the Delaware River and this still lay in the control of the Americans. Any ships trying to sail up the river would be caught in the cannon fire between the two forts. General Howe knew he had to get control of the river or he would have a hard time feeding and supplying his troops. George Washington knew this as well, so he hoped to maintain control of the forts in order to force Howe to abandon the city.

 

On October 22, a Hessian regiment of 1200 soldiers attacked Fort Mercer. Colonel Carl von Donop led the failed attempt, which saw a fourth of his troops killed or wounded. The following day, on October 23rd, a small fleet of British ships tried to navigate the chevaux de frise and get past the forts. The fleet was led by the 64 gun HMS Augusta. Cannon fire from Fort Mifflin rained down on the ships.

 

Both the Augusta and the 20 gun HMS Merlin took direct hits and may have been damaged by the chevaux de frise as well. Both ships ran aground. The Augusta caught fire from the cannonade and the ship’s magazine was breached. The explosion killed over 60 crewmen. The sailors on board the Merlin set fire to the ship and abandoned her in order to prevent her being salvaged by the rebels. The mission was a failure.

 

The victories of the 22nd and 23rd were a great encouragement to the Americans, but General Howe became determined that he must take the river. A massive five day artillery bombardment of Fort Mifflin commenced on November 10, aided by ships from the river. The fort was abandoned in the night on November 15. In addition, 5,000 men were landed on the New Jersey side to deal with Fort Mercer. This fort was abandoned on November 20 as the British troops approached.

 

Forts Mifflin and Mercer eventually fell, but their brave actions helped delay General Howe from his primary mission of decimating the main body of the Continental Army north of Philadelphia for more than a month. The delay forced Howe to wait through the winter for a more opportune moment in the spring.

 

George Washington camped at Valley Forge during the winter, but by spring, Burgoyne had surrendered his army in New York, the French had joined the war, Howe resigned in disgrace and his replacement, General Henry Clinton, was ordered to abandon Philadelphia and return to New York. The survival of the Continental Army was largely due to the brave souls who fought at Forts Mifflin and Mercer.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

"It is in the interest of tyrants to reduce the people to ignorance and vice. For they cannot live in any country where virtue and knowledge prevail."
Samuel Adams

Esther de Berdt Reed is born

Esther de Berdt Reed is born

 

On this day in history, October 22, 1746, Esther de Berdt Reed is born. She would lead the largest women’s group providing supplies for the Continental Army during the American Revolution.

 

Esther was born in London to Dennis de Berdt, who was Massachusetts’ representative to the Crown in the 1760s. In 1763, young lawyer Joseph Reed came from Philadelphia to study in London and stayed with the De Berdt family. The two fell in love and became tentatively engaged, though her father was against the marriage because he knew Joseph planned to return to America.

 

Joseph did return to Philadelphia and the two corresponded for 5 years. In the meantime, Esther’s father and Joseph’s parents passed away and Joseph returned to London where the two were married in 1770. The couple and Esther’s mother then moved back to Philadelphia where Joseph had a successful law firm.

 

As the American Revolution broke out, Joseph and Esther were solidly on the patriot side, despite Esther’s birth in London. In 1775, Reed was elected to Congress and George Washington personally asked him to leave his law firm to be his personal aide when Washington took over the Continental Army at Boston in 1775. Reed served in the army for several years and in 1778 he became Governor of Pennsylvania.

 

Esther was forced to raise her children alone during Reed’s long absences and even took them out of the city several times to escape the British. George Washington was constantly begging Congress for more supplies, ammunition and clothing for the soldiers at this time. When Joseph became governor, Esther took advantage of her position to do something about the needs of the soldiers. She wrote an article in the newspaper explaining that women could be just as patriotic as men and detailed a plan for women to raise money that would be given to the soldiers to help them with their personal expenses.

 

Women around Philadelphia and Pennsylvania began sending their money in and more than 300,000 Continental dollars were raised. Esther wrote to Washington of her plan to distribute the money to every soldier. Washington wrote her back with his thanks, but suggested the money would be better used for clothing, which was in short supply. He was also concerned that many of the soldiers would use the money to buy alcohol, but he left the final decision to Esther.

 

Esther took Washington’s advice and she purchased tons of fabric and made over 2,000 shirts for the soldiers. Tragically, Esther became ill and died in September of 1780 and never saw the full fruits of her efforts. After her death, Sarah Franklin Bache, the daughter of Benjamin Franklin, took over the leadership of the organization. Women’s groups formed in several other colonies and followed Esther’s example, but Esther’s organization was the largest and most productive. Her accomplishments were unique for a woman in the colonial era and proved that women could be just as patriotic, self-sacrificing and politically minded as men.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

“The public cannot be too curious concerning the characters of public men.”
Samuel Adams (1775)

The USS Constitution is Launched

The USS Constitution is Launched

 

On this day in history, October 21, 1797, the USS Constitution is launched in Boston Harbor. The Constitution is the world’s oldest commissioned naval ship still sailing. It was one of six ships built by the US Congress in 1797 to deal with the Barbary pirates of North Africa.

 

After the close of the American Revolution, the Continental Navy was shut down. In the 1790s, increasing pirate activity of the North African states of Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and Libya, threatened American shipping in the Mediterranean, leading Congress to create a small navy to deal with the pirates.

 

George Washington named the USS Constitution, which was launched on October 21, 1797. The ships were larger and stronger than typical naval ships of the era because the United States could not afford to build a very large fleet. Instead, Congress decided to make a few ships and make them extremely powerful.

 

The Constitution served in the Quasi-War against France in the late 1790s, capturing French ships in the Americas and the West Indies. During the First Barbary War, the Constitution served as the flagship of Captain Edward Preble, who forced the Barbary states into submission. These battles are the subject of the line, "From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli," in the United States Marine Corps hymn.

 

The Constitution earned its reputation mostly from the War of 1812, during which she made numerous captures of British ships. The Constitution successfully outran 5 British ships in July of 1812. She captured and destroyed HMS Guerriere in August of that year in Nova Scotia. This battle was the source of the Constitution’s nickname, "Old Ironsides," when British cannonballs were seen to bounce off her sides. The Constitution was involved in the last fighting between British and American subjects during a battle with HMS Cyane and HMS Levant on February 20, 1815, a battle which the Constitution won.

 

After the War of 1812, the Constitution served for years on patrol missions and diplomatic missions in places as far as Africa, Brazil and the Mediterranean. She received such dignitaries as Emperor Pedro II of Brazil, King Ferdinand II of Italy and Pope Pius IX. After significant renovations, the Constitution was recommissioned and sailed around the world in the 1840s, docking in such places as Madagascar, Zanzibar, Singapore, Vietnam, China and Hawaii. As the ship aged and became less seaworthy, she spent years as a training vessel, a classroom and even a dormitory, in such places as Annapolis, Philadelphia and Norfolk.

 

In 1931, restoration efforts to make the Constitution seaworthy culminated in a 90 city tour of American ports. The Constitution traveled all the way from Bar Harbor, Maine, through the Panama Canal and north to Bellingham, Washington, though not under her own power. Instead, the ship was towed. After the tour, the Constitution sat in Boston Harbor, serving as a museum, a brig for those awaiting court-martial and a training vessel.

 

After more extensive restoration, the Constitution set sail under her own power in 1997, her first sailing under her own power in 116 years. The USS Constitution still sets in Boston Harbor today, serving as a museum and educational facility to teach about the US Navy. It is manned by 60 officers and sailors who are active duty United States Navy personnel and is open year round for tours.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

“Let each citizen remember at the moment he is offering his vote that he is not making a present or a compliment to please an individual — or at least that he ought not so to do; but that he is executing one of the most solemn trusts in human society for which he is accountable to God and his country.”
Samuel Adams (1781)