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Marquis de Lafayette arranges to fight with the Americans

Marquis de Lafayette arranges to fight with the Americans

 

On this day in history, December 7, 1776, the Marquis de Lafayette arranges to fight with the Americans. Meeting with Silas Deane, one of the American ambassadors to Paris, Lafayette arranged to join the American war as a major general. Forbidden to go by King Louis XVI, Lafayette obtained a ship and, escaping the efforts of the King to detain him, set sail in April of 1777. He was only 19 years old.

 

Gilbert du Motier, the Marquis de Lafayette, was an aristocrat born in the south of France from a distinguished line, including a marshal who served in Joan of Arc’s army, a legendary ancestor who fought in the Crusades and his grandfather, the ultra-wealthy Comte de La Rivière. Lafayette was trained for the military from a young age. Due to his military and society connections, he became a member of the Freemasons where he was exposed to the ideas of the Enlightenment and political liberty. Many of these connections supported French involvement in the American Revolution against Britain and Lafayette determined to join the Americans in their fight for freedom.

 

Fearful of being arrested, Lafayette left Europe dressed as a woman to avoid detection. He arrived in South Carolina on June 13, 1777 and made his way to Philadelphia. Congress did not want to receive him at first, believing he was just another Frenchman looking to make a name for himself. Eventually, Ben Franklin persuaded George Washington to accept him as a personal aide. Washington and Lafayette grew very close, even to the point that Lafayette was almost treated as a son. He became one of Washington’s inner circle and one of his most trusted advisers during the war.

 

Lafayette went on to serve in the Battle of Brandywine, where he was injured. He served in New Jersey with General Nathanael Greene; helped expose the cabal of General Thomas Conway to replace George Washington; fought in the Battles of Barren Hill, Rhode Island and Monmouth; and was eventually sent back to France to help negotiate more substantial support for the Americans. After returning to the US, Lafayette was put in command of three regiments in Virginia where he fought against the traitor, Benedict Arnold and General Charles Cornwallis. Lafayette’s actions trapped the General at Yorktown, contributing to his surrender on October 19, 1781, where Lafayette was present at the surrender ceremony.

 

When Lafayette returned to France, he joined the French government, where he served for many years as a politician and military officer. During the French Revolution, Lafayette was branded as a traitor for helping the King and was captured while trying to escape the country. He spent the next five years in an Austrian prison. His wife narrowly escaped the country through the intervention of the American ambassador, Gouverneur Morris, but several of her family members went to the guillotine. After the Revolution, Napoleon Bonaparte negotiated Lafayette’s release and he returned to France, continuing to serve in the Chamber of Deputies.

 

In 1824-25, the Marquis de Lafayette made a grand tour of the United States at the invitation of President James Monroe. Lafayette toured all 24 states at the time and was received as a hero of the American Revolution. Lafayette visited such places as Mount Vernon, the Brandywine Battlefield, Williamsburg and the University of Virginia, meeting with such notables as President Monroe, Thomas Jefferson and the aging Dorothy Hancock, widow of John Hancock.

 

Although Washington had died more than 30 years earlier, he and Lafayette had frequent correspondence while he was still alive. When Lafayette finally died on May 20, 1834, he was buried in Paris under soil from George Washington’s grave.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org  

 

"Personal security and private property rest entirely upon the wisdom, the stability, and the integrity of the courts of justice." Joseph Story (1833)

Margaret Morris begins journaling the war in New Jersey

Margaret Morris begins journaling the war in New Jersey

 

On this day in history, December 6, 1776, Margaret Morris begins journaling about the war in New Jersey, a diary she would keep for the next seven months. Her diary is one of the best sources for information about the early part of the American Revolution and how the war affected women, families and daily life.

 

Margaret Morris was a widow with four children who had moved to Burlington, New Jersey, after the death of her husband, Philadelphia merchant William Morris, Jr. She purchased the former home of New Jersey’s Royal Governor William Franklin, son of Benjamin Franklin, on Burlington’s "Green Bank," a wealthy neighborhood surrounding a large green park area.

 

Margaret was a faithful Quaker, as many in Burlington were, and she was strictly against the war. She began writing in a journal on December 6, 1776, when she first heard that the British fleet was approaching Philadelphia. "People there were in great Commotion… the English fleet was in the River & hourly expected to sail up to the City… the inhabitants were removing into the Country… &… several persons of considerable repute had been discovered to have formed a design of setting fire to the City… When I heard the above report my heart almost died within me, & I cried surely the Lord will not punish the innocent with the guilty…"

 

Burlington was right in the crossroads of troop movements in New Jersey, being just 15 miles south of Trenton and 20 miles from Philadelphia. The Battle of Mount Holly was fought six miles from Margaret’s door. She writes of hiding in the cellar when Burlington was fired on from the Delaware River by "Gondola-men," local militia patrolling the Delaware River, when they heard Hessian soldiers were staying in the town.

 

As a Quaker and a pacifist, Margaret didn’t favor either side in the war, but she was an amateur doctor and helped those in need on both sides. She writes of hiding a Tory supporter in her house who was being chased by the militia, and comforting and feeding American soldiers in the empty house next door. She wrote of the Hessians coming through town and the Continental Army staying in local homes. She wrote of her son nearly being killed by American troops when he was looking at them through a "spyglass" and was mistaken for a Loyalist supporter. She told of the fear that struck her every time soldiers came through town. Sometimes they would ransack local houses. Fortunately hers was spared.

 

Margaret wrote of hearing of Washington capturing the Hessians at the Battle of Trenton and speculating that their drunkenness was their downfall. She also writes of hearing the cannon fire from the Second Battle of Trenton a few days into the New Year. The soldiers staying next door turned out to be young Americans who had deserted because of the terrific battle.

 

Margaret also wrote of her deep faith in God through the war. She decided to stay at home, instead of fleeing as many in the area did. She frequently credited that "Guardian of the Widow & the Orphan," with protecting her through each harrowing circumstance she faced.

 

Margaret Morris’ journal was preserved by family members and is a valuable source of information to historians. She later went on to write about the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1793 in Philadelphia and passed away in 1816 at the age of 79.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org  

 

"In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution."
Thomas Jefferson (1798)

Battle of White Marsh begins

Battle of White Marsh begins

 

On this day in history, December 5, 1777, the Battle of White Marsh begins. Also known as the Battle of Edge Hill, this was the last battle of 1777 between George Washington’s forces and the British army occupying Philadelphia. The battle ensured the British would remain in Philadelphia throughout the winter of 1777-1778, while Washington’s army moved to Valley Forge, where it took up winter quarters.

 

The British began what is known as the Philadelphia Campaign by landing 15,000 troops at the northern end of the Chesapeake Bay near Elkton, Maryland, about 55 miles from Philadelphia. British General Sir William Howe chose this location because the approach to Philadelphia from the Delaware River, which went straight into the town, was nearly impregnable, being guarded by Forts Mifflin and Mercer and a series of spikes in the river that could impale ships just south of the city.

 

Washington’s forces were badly defeated at the Battle of Brandywine, the first major engagement of the campaign. After this, Howe was able to march straight into Philadelphia, causing Congress to flee inland to York. Part of Howe’s forces occupied Philadelphia, while the main body camped at Germantown, 5 miles north of the city. Washington attacked the British at Germantown in a battle that highly impressed the courts of Europe, even though he lost this engagement as well. General Howe then moved all his forces to Philadelphia to concentrate on the city’s defense in October, while Washington set up a formidable system of defensive works just south of the town of White Marsh, 13 miles northwest of Philadelphia.

 

The deep of winter was fast approaching and both sides wanted to make a last effort to attack the other side decisively before they had to take up winter quarters. Very late on December 4, Howe marched 10,000 men north out of Philadelphia. A series of skirmishes took place beginning on December 5 that lasted for the next four days. Howe’s different battalions tried to find a way to flank or penetrate Washington’s defenses, but were unable. Skirmishes took place around the southern edge of White Marsh on Edge Hill, Chestnut Hill, around Wissahickon Creek and near places with names such as Tyson’s Tavern, Sandy Run and Three Mile Run.

 

After 4 days of unsuccessfully trying to find a way to penetrate Washington’s line, Howe decided to turn back. His troops were running low on supplies and it was extremely cold at night. His men had not brought overnight gear such as tents, so they were sleeping in the open air. With that, Howe withdrew to Philadelphia where his men made winter quarters.

 

The British had lost 120 men killed, wounded or missing and suffered over 200 deserters at the Battle of White Marsh. The Americans lost 200 men. George Washington was disappointed that he had not been able to draw Howe into a larger battle at White Marsh, but he also conceded that it was time to winter. On December 11, 10,000 troops began to march to Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, where they would spend the brutal winter of 1777-1778.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org  

 

"If duties are too high, they lessen the consumption; the collection is eluded; and the product to the treasury is not so great as when they are confined within proper and moderate bounds. This forms a complete barrier against any material oppression of the citizens by taxes of this class, and is itself a natural limitation of the power of imposing them."
Alexander Hamilton (1787)

News of the Victory at Saratoga reaches Paris

News of the Victory at Saratoga reaches Paris

 

On this day in history, December 4, 1777, news of the victory at Saratoga reaches Paris, paving the way for French involvement in the American Revolution. Earlier in 1777, British General John Burgoyne had embarked on a strategy to split the American colonies in two by invading from Canada. The plan was to capture Lake Champlain, Lake George and nearby American forts, including Ticonderoga, Stanwix and Anne and to arrive at Albany, where he would meet up with General William Howe’s forces, who would move up the Hudson River Valley from New York City. British control of the Hudson Valley up through Lake Champlain would effectively cut off New England from the rest of the colonies.

 

The plan worked fine at first, the British forces and their Indian allies easily took Lake Champlain, Fort Crown Point and Fort Ticonderoga, but then, the American resistance began to mount effective resistance in various skirmishes at places such as Hubbardton, Bennington and Fort Stanwix. The American forces began to swell as Indians allied with the British began to attack civilian settlers and the fall of Ticonderoga stirred up American resolve.

 

General Burgoyne’s strategy began to be plagued by desertion from his Indian allies, news that General Howe would take his main force to Philadelphia instead of sending them to Albany; and the loss of 1,000 men at the Battle of Bennington. Meanwhile, the American troops swelled to nearly 15,000 men as militia and Continental troops arrived from all over New England. Burgoyne had only half this number.

 

Two main battles, which together are generally called the Battles of Saratoga, took place. One at Freeman’s Farm on September 19 and the second at Bemis Heights on October 7. Over 1,000 British soldiers were killed or captured in the battles, while the Americans lost only a third of this number. General Burgoyne was forced to draw back to Saratoga where his troops were quickly surrounded. On October 17, he surrendered his army of over 6,000 men.

 

While Americans celebrated and London scrambled to reassess its strategy, word of the victory arrived in Paris on December 4, 1777. Benjamin Franklin received the news from the Continental Congress and went immediately to the French government. France desperately wanted to enter the war against its archrival, Britain, but believed it should wait until the American colonists first proved they could resist or even defeat the British without outside assistance. The victory at Saratoga gave the world proof that the Americans had the tenacity and resolve to stand up to Great Britain and two days after the word arrived in Paris, King Louis XVI announced his intention to join the war on the side of the Americans. Over the next several years, France contributed large sums of money, troops, ships and supplies without which the Americans may never have won the war.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org  

 

"The principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale."

Thomas Jefferson (1816)

General Nathanael Greene takes over the Southern Department

General Nathanael Greene takes over the Southern Department

 

On this day in history, December 3, 1780, General Nathanael Greene takes over the Southern Department of the Continental Army after the Americans suffered a string of defeats in the southern states. General Robert Howe lost the city of Savannah, Georgia; General Benjamin Lincoln lost the city of Charleston, South Carolina with over 5,000 soldiers; and in August, 1780, General Horatio Gates’ army was destroyed at Camden, South Carolina with almost 2,000 men killed or captured. These losses left South Carolina and Georgia completely in British hands. British General Charles Cornwallis then turned his sights on North Carolina and his ultimate goal, Virginia. After these defeats, morale was at an all-time low in the southern colonies. There was virtually no army remaining. Congress needed to turn something around before the South was completely lost.

 

Congress had bypassed George Washington’s authority by appointing all three failed generals in the South. This time, they deferred to Washington’s judgment as Commander-in-Chief, who immediately selected General Nathanael Greene to take over. Greene had already proved himself in battles at Trenton, Brandywine, Germantown, Monmouth and Newport and had shown an enormous talent for organizing and logistics as Quartermaster General at Valley Forge. Nathanael Greene was the owner of a foundry in Coventry, Rhode Island and had trained himself in the art of war through books. He was appointed a Major General in Rhode Island at the outbreak of the war and soon became a Brigadier General in the Continental Army, becoming one of Washington’s most trusted advisers.

 

Greene took charge of the Southern Department at Charlotte, North Carolina on December 3, 1780 and things immediately began to turn around. Greene first concentrated on rebuilding the forces with the help of his legendary organizational skills and ability to procure supplies and garner local support. He began making strikes against Cornwallis, but would pull back and outrun the British pursuers, often using swollen rivers to keep distance between them. Cornwallis’ army began to wear out as Greene drew them further inland, away from their supply depots on the coast. Greene gathered all the forces he could to Guilford Courthouse in Greensboro, North Carolina and fought a battle there that was extremely costly to the British, who were forced to return to their base at Wilmington on the sea. Cornwallis decided to abandon his attempt to conquer North Carolina and he turned north to Virginia instead, setting up the surrender at Yorktown less than one year later.

 

Rather than follow Cornwallis into Virginia, General Greene turned south and aided the local militias in driving the British back from the interior toward the sea. By the time the Treaty of Paris was signed to end the war, only a few southern coastal cities remained in British hands. The remainder of their territory was securely in American hands.

 

General Nathanael Greene is usually regarded as the most talented military mind of the American Revolution after George Washington, even though he never won a single decisive victory. All the major battles he fought in the South were draws. However, his strategy of dividing and weakening the British lines, separating them from their supply lines and forcing them to a chase on long marches eventually wore them out and returned the South safely into American hands. Nathanael Greene is truly one of the great geniuses and heroes of the American Revolution and deserves all the praise he usually receives.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org  

 

"Our unalterable resolution would be to be free. They have attempted to subdue us by force, but God be praised! in vain. Their arts may be more dangerous than their arms. Let us then renounce all treaty with them upon any score but that of total separation, and under God trust our cause to our swords."

Samuel Adams (1776)

General Richard Montgomery is born

General Richard Montgomery is born

 

On this day in history, December 2, 1738, General Richard Montgomery is born. Montgomery is best known for his failed attempt to capture the city of Quebec during the American Revolution and for his death during the battle.

 

Richard Montgomery was born and raised in Dublin, Ireland. He joined the British army in 1756 during the French and Indian War and saw extensive military service, including the surrender of Fort Louisbourg, the capture of Fort Carillon and the taking of Montreal. After Montreal, Montgomery’s regiment went to the West Indies where he participated in the capturing of the French island of Martinique and the Spanish Havana. He was then promoted to captain and sent to the Great Lakes to deal with Pontiac’s rebellion.

 

When that crisis began to subside, Captain Montgomery returned to England where he became associated with several Whigs who were friendly to the Americans and began to have doubts about British treatment of the colonists. In 1771, Montgomery sold his army commission for £1500 pounds and moved to America, intending to become a farmer.

 

Montgomery purchased a farm at King’s Bridge north of New York City and soon married Janet Livingston, whom he had met during his earlier travels. She was part of the powerful Livingston political dynasty that included Philip Livingston, who signed the Declaration of Independence and William Livingston who signed the US Constitution and later notables such both Presidents Bush, Eleanor Roosevelt and actress Jane Wyatt.

 

Due to his political ties with the Livingston family, Richard was elected to the New York Provincial Congress in 1775 where he was asked to help prepare the defenses of New York and organize its militia. Soon after, he was appointed a brigadier general in the Continental Army. Shortly afterwards, George Washington announced plans to invade Canada. General Philip Schuyler, who was the senior general, became ill shortly before the invasion and Montgomery took charge in his place. Montgomery captured Fort St. Jean and marched without opposition into Montreal, capturing the first British regimental flag of the war in the process, for which he received a commendation from George Washington.

 

Unaware that he had received a promotion to Major General on December 9th, Montgomery marched on to Quebec where he joined the forces of Colonel Benedict Arnold who had just traipsed across the wilderness of Maine to join him. Montgomery continued the Siege of Quebec for several weeks with little success. On the morning of December 31st, 1775, General Montgomery led a courageous assault on the city and was killed by grapeshot from defending Canadian militia.

 

General Richard Montgomery was buried in Quebec on January 4, 1776. His remains were moved to St. Paul’s Chapel on Manhattan Island in 1818. He is considered one of the first heroes of the American Revolution.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

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

Continental Army winters at Morristown, New Jersey

Continental Army winters at Morristown, New Jersey

 

On this day in history, December 1, 1779, the Continental Army establishes winter headquarters at Morristown, New Jersey. George Washington’s army had suffered some serious defeats in the month’s leading up to what would turn out to be the harshest winter of the 18th century, even worse than the winter at Valley Forge in 1777-1778. In June, the disastrous Penobscot Expedition in Maine had resulted in the loss of 43 American ships and nearly 500 men killed, wounded or captured. Lieutenant Colonel Paul Revere, who was an officer in the Massachusetts militia, lost his appointment over his role in the failed mission. In October, the Americans had failed to retake the city of Savannah. Washington’s army had failed to make any serious headway against the British since the victory at Saratoga in 1777.

 

George Washington made his headquarters at the home of Theodosia Ford, a wealthy widow with four children. Theodosia’s husband, Colonel Jacob Ford, Jr. had died shortly after contracting pneumonia at the Battle of Princeton. Jacob and his father owned extensive iron mines and foundries and other businesses. George Washington, with his wife Martha, and several aides and servants stayed at the home. Visitors to the house included the Marquis de Lafayette, Benedict Arnold, French Ambassador the Chevalier de la Lucerne and Generals John Stark, Henry Knox, Israel Putnam and Anthony Wayne. The Ford home is still standing today and is part of the National Park Service’s Morristown National Historical Park.

 

The Continental Army troops stayed in Jockey Hollow nearby the Ford mansion. The encampment sat on a high point, 31 miles west of New York City, where the British army was located. The elevation made it easy to detect any movements of the redcoats. Abundant forests provided logs with which 1,000 log cabins were built for 10,000-13,000 soldiers. As many as twelve soldiers were crowded in each cabin, which had dirt floors. Soldiers made their own beds, chairs and tables. Nearly 600 acres of timber were cut down to make the cabins and provide wood for furniture.

 

The winter turned out to be the worst of the century. George Washington wrote that, "The oldest people now living in this Country do not remember so hard a Winter as the one we are now emerging from. In a word, the severity of the frost exceeded anything of the kind that had ever been experienced in this climate before." Snow began falling in October, but the bitter cold was the worst part. It was so cold that countless animals froze to death. Indians and soldiers alike avoided the area in the spring because of the smell of rotting flesh everywhere. Disease and food shortages were rampant. Many soldiers deserted.

 

George Washington’s true genius is shown in circumstances like these. Many leaders would not have been able to hold the army together, but Washington encouraged the troops to stay on and fight for freedom. The revealing part… is that they followed him. The war would rage on for another two years.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org  

 

"We should be unfaithful to ourselves if we should ever lose sight of the danger to our liberties if anything partial or extraneous should infect the purity of our free, fair, virtuous, and independent elections."

John Adams (1797)