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Marquis de Lafayette lays cornerstone for Nathanael Greene Memorial

Marquis de Lafayette lays cornerstone for Nathanael Greene Memorial

 

On this day in history, March 21, 1825, the Marquis de Lafayette lays the cornerstone for the General Nathanael Greene memorial in Savannah, Georgia during his tour of the United States. The Marquis de Lafayette was the last living French general who served in the American Revolution. He fought valiantly beside George Washington, serving in several key battles, including the Siege of Yorktown and the Battle of Brandywine, where he was wounded in the leg.

 

President James Monroe invited Lafayette to come to America in 1824 to help celebrate America’s 50th anniversary and instill a sense of patriotism in a new generation. Lafayette arrived at Staten Island on July 13, 1824 and toured all 24 states of the union over the next year. He visited New York City, Rochester, Boston, Providence, Raleigh, Savannah, New Orleans, Nashville, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington DC and numerous points in between.

 

Lafayette dined with President James Monroe and President John Quincy Adams, met with Thomas Jefferson at Monticello, visited Washington’s family at Mount Vernon, visited Yorktown on the 43rd anniversary of that battle, Brandywine on the 47th anniversary of that battle and spoke to Congress twice during his visit.

 

Lafayette’s travels through the south began in March, 1825. He arrived in Savannah on March 19 and on the 21st, he laid the cornerstone for a memorial to General Nathanael Greene in Johnson Square. During the Revolution, Greene was second in command only to George Washington. Greene was noted for his battlefield prowess in the north, but was especially celebrated for turning around American fortunes in the south and driving the British to defeat.

 

After the war, the State of Georgia awarded General Greene a rice plantation called Mulberry Grove near Savannah where he lived until his death in 1786. Greene’s wife, Catherine Littlefield Greene continued living there after his death. George Washington visited her and dined at Mulberry Grove in 1791 during his grand tour of the United States. Around the same time, Mrs. Greene became acquainted with a young man named Eli Whitney who was a tutor for her neighbors. She invited Whitney to live on her plantation to continue working on his inventions. It was here that he first developed the cotton gin within the year, which would revolutionize the south and help bring about the end of slavery.

 

After the Civil War, Mulberry Grove was gradually broken apart and not a trace of it exists today as it once did. General Greene and his son were exhumed in 1901 from the Colonial Cemetery in Savannah and reinterred underneath the monument on Johnson Square in 1902. The Marquis de Lafayette closed his journey in Washington DC on September 6, 1825, his 68th birthday, with a meeting with President Adams at the White House and an address to a joint session of Congress. He left for France the following day on the frigate USS Brandywine, newly built and named in honor of the battle in which he shed his blood for America’s freedom.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

“Our Constitution is an instrument for the people to restrain the government.”

Patrick Henry

The Anti-American British government falls

The Anti-American British government falls

 

On this day in history, March 20, 1782, the Anti-American British government falls with the resignation of Prime Minister Frederick North. When General Lord Charles Cornwallis surrendered his army to George Washington at Yorktown, Virginia, the desire to bring the war to an end in England reached a fever pitch.

 

Debates raged in Parliament through January and February and finally, on February 27, the House of Commons passed a vote to end the war. On March 5, Parliament gives King George III the authority to negotiate peace with the Americans. Prime Minister North, however, is unpopular and the opposition tries to pass through several votes of no confidence in order to oust him.

           

Lord North had been Prime Minister since 1770 and was in charge of the British government during the entire American Revolution. The war had gone badly for England nearly from the beginning. They were never able to consolidate control beyond the major cities that were captured.

 

North had tried to resign several times during the war, thinking himself unable to handle a war, including right after the Battles of Lexington and Concord and after the defeat of General Burgoyne at Saratoga and the entrance of France in to the war. Each time, however, King George refused to accept his resignation and asked North to stay on.

 

With the defeat of Cornwallis, North again handed in his resignation and again, the King refused to accept it. This time, however, Parliament had had enough of war and momentum was swinging against North. After the vote to end the war on the 27th, a vote of no confidence was held which North narrowly survived. Only a few days later, however, another vote was held, which he failed.

 

On March 20, Parliament was scheduled to hold debates on North. North knew he was about to be sacked and before anyone could him further, he stood up to be recognized in the chamber. North publicly resigned, the first Prime Minister to be forced from office.

 

Two days later, King George III appointed Charles Watson-Wentworth, the Marquess of Rockingham, to be Prime Minister. Lord Rockingham set about immediately negotiating with the American peace commissioners in Paris. By November, a preliminary peace treaty was signed. It is agreed to by Parliament the following January and by Congress in April, 1783.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

“Sad will be the day when the American people forget their traditions and their history, and no longer remember that the country they love, the institutions they cherish, and the freedom they hope to preserve, were born from the throes of armed resistance to tyranny, and nursed in the rugged arms of fearless men.”

Roger Sherman

 

 

The Battle of Quinton’s Bridge

The Battle of Quinton’s Bridge

 

On this day in history, March 18, 1778, the Battle of Quinton’s Bridge is fought by New Jersey militia near Salem, New Jersey. British General William Howe occupied Philadelphia in September of 1777. The following winter, George Washington and the Continental Army were encamped at Valley Forge. Both sides camped for the winter with no major battles, but numerous skirmishes took place between them as soldiers foraged through the countryside for food and supplies.

 

In February, 1778, Brigadier General Anthony Wayne took a large force on a foraging mission through southern New Jersey. In March, General Howe sent Lt. Col. Charles Mawhood after Wayne, hoping to provoke a fight. On the 17th, Mawhood crossed into Salem County, while Wayne was at Burlington and ready to return to Valley Forge.

 

Salem County militia learned of Mawhood’s movements and quickly moved to block his advance by establishing positions at Quinton’s Bridge and Hancock’s Bridge on Alloway Creek. They deplanked the bridges and took up positions on the side opposite the British advance. On the morning of the 18th, Mawhood sent troops to Quinton’s Bridge, opposite the 300 soldiers on the other side. After a while, the British troops began a retreat, but this was actually a ruse to trick the militia into following them.

 

Captain William Smith quickly replaced the bridge planks and followed the British with 200 men. The bulk of Mawhood’s men were hiding at a nearby farm and they quickly moved to come up behind the militiamen to prevent them from returning to the bridge. Smith’s force tried to cross the creek anyway and several dozen drowned.

 

Mawhood’s men tried to cross Quinton’s Bridge, but they were stopped by the arrival of Colonel Elijah Hand with more militia. Hand prevented the British from crossing the bridge, stopped the slaughter of Smith’s men and forced the British to retreat. Captain Smith made it to safety on a horse that had been shot twice and with a bullet wound that had grazed his head.

 

Mawhood tried to get Colonel Hand to surrender, threatening to kill all his men, destroy their properties and force their families into destitution. Hand refused and responded that he considered the request a "cruel order by a barbarous Attila and not of a gentleman, brave, generous and polished with a genteel European education," saying that if his men were killed it would only inspire more to join the militia.

 

Two days later, Mawhood sent a force to take Hancock’s Bridge instead with orders to spare no one. On the 21st, the British surprised 20-30 militia at the home of Judge William Hancock, bayoneting everyone in the home, including Judge Hancock.

 

The Battle of Quinton’s Bridge was an American victory because the British finally retreated, but at a heavy cost of 30-40 dead, plus another 30 at Hancock’s home 3 days later. Humiliated by being beaten by a bunch of farmers and unable to cross Alloway’s Creek, Mawhood returned to Philadelphia. The British never again returned to Salem County.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

The question is, not what rights naturally belong to man, but how they may be most equally and effectually guarded in society.
Roger Sherman

The British Army abandons Boston

The British Army abandons Boston

 

On this day in history, March 17, 1776, the British army abandons Boston. When the American Revolution broke out on April 19, 1775 at the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the American minuteman chased the British soldiers back to Boston and surrounded the city. Over the next few days, more militia from all over Massachusetts and the other colonies arrived to help.

 

The Siege of Boston continued for weeks with only minor skirmishes, but on June 17, British Commander-in-Chief Thomas Gage took Bunker and Breeds Hills north of town, but in a bloody and very costly maneuver. Indeed, a quarter of Gage’s troops were injured or killed, forcing him to give up further operations.

 

George Washington arrived on July 3 to command the newly created Continental Army. Most of the militia was absorbed into this army. Washington set about training the militia how to operate as a cohesive army and began strengthening the fortifications around the city.

 

Food and supplies were short in Boston, where the only access was from British ships by way of the sea. Soldiers were forced to cut down trees in the town and tear down buildings for firewood. Ammunition and guns were in short supply for the colonists. A stalemate ensued between the two sides for months.

 

The tide turned after Washington sent the young Colonel Henry Knox to bring tons of cannons to Boston that were captured by Benedict Arnold and Ethan Allen at Fort Ticonderoga in New York back in May. Knox hauled 60 tons of cannons over snow covered mountains on ox carts. It took him three months to get the cannons back to Boston.

 

Washington then placed the cannons on Dorchester Heights south of Boston in a secret overnight action. In the morning, when General Gage awoke, he learned that the high ground on Dorchester Heights had been fortified by the rebels. This land was a high outcropping that overlooked the town and the harbor. This move put any British ships attempting to resupply the town in danger. Vice-Admiral Samuel Graves and General William Howe, who had replaced Gage as the British commander, knew the city was not defensible in this position. A decision was made to abandon the town and almost 10,000 troops embarked for Nova Scotia on March 17.

 

British strength was now broken in Massachusetts and Boston would not be targeted by the British again for the rest of the war. Washington took his army south to defend New York City, the next most logical place of attack for Howe. Howe sailed for Nova Scotia, delivering hundreds of Loyalist refugees there. Howe then sailed with a massive fleet to New York, arriving in July to begin the conquest of New York and hopefully, the rest of the middle colonies.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

"As neither reason requires, nor religion permits the contrary, every man living in or out of a state of civil society, has a right peaceably and quietly to worship God according to the dictates of his conscience."
Samuel Adams, A State of the Rights of the Colonists, 1772

James Madison is Born

James Madison is born

 

On this day in history, March 16, 1751, James Madison is born. He would become one of the most influential of the Founding Fathers, the 4th US President and most importantly, the "Father of the US Constitution."

 

James Madison was born in Port Conway, Virginia. He was well educated as a boy and attended the College of New Jersey (now Princeton), where he studied under college president John Witherspoon, who would become a signer of the Declaration of Independence. When the American Revolution broke out, Madison was elected a member of the Virginia legislature as a young man. During this time, he became good friends with and was deeply influenced by Thomas Jefferson.

 

During the last half of the Revolution, he served in the Confederation Congress, where he was known for his hard work and brilliant mind. He served again in the Virginia legislature after the war and became increasingly concerned with the federal government's inability to function. During his time as ambassador to France, Jefferson sent Madison dozens of books, many dealing with government, which Madison studied, making him an expert in matters of law and government.

 

Madison was one of the lead voices proposing a new constitution and was elected to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787. Arriving earlier that most delegates, Madison put together a plan for a new government, which became the basis of the Convention's discussions. The final product was largely a revision of his original plan and, for this reason, he is known as the "Father of the US Constitution."

 

Madison served at the Virginia ratification convention. He also helped get the Constitution passed in New York by writing the Federalist Papers, which described the purpose and intent of each part of the Constitution, along with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay.

 

Madison was elected to the First Congress from Virginia and helped establish the new government and pass the Bill of Rights, which he also authored. While serving in Congress, Madison married Dolly Payne Todd. He was 43 and 17 years older than she. They had no children of their own, but raised Dolly’s son from a previous marriage.

 

Madison served as Secretary of State under Thomas Jefferson and helped oversee the Louisiana Purchase. After Jefferson, Madison rose to the presidency and served two terms, during which war broke out with Great Britain. The War of 1812 happened as a result of trade conflicts due to Britain's war with France, the impressment of American sailors by the British navy and British arming of American Indians in the Northwest Territory. During the war, Washington DC was occupied and much of it destroyed, including the White House. After the war, however, American sovereignty and independence was affirmed and Madison remained popular.

 

Madison retired to his plantation, Montpelier, in Virginia in 1817. During his years of government service, his finances had suffered and he was in financial distress for the rest of his life. After Madison passed away in 1836, Dolly was forced to sell Montpelier within a few years.

 

Madison's role in the founding era is probably not as well-known as that of Washington, Franklin, Adams or Jefferson, but he was truly one of the most important shapers of the American republic that we know today.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

“Let justice be done though the heavens should fall.” 
John Adams (1777)

The Battle of Guilford Courthouse is the Beginning of the End

The Battle of Guilford Courthouse is the beginning of the end

 

On this day in history, March 15, 1781, the Battle of Guilford Courthouse is the beginning of the end of the Revolutionary War. American General Nathanael Greene met Major General Charles Cornwallis in the woods around the small town of Guilford, North Carolina. In the previous two years, the British army had secured much of Georgia and South Carolina and set their sights on North Carolina.

 

The Americans on the other hand, had suffered a string of defeats, losing the two southernmost states and an army of 4,000 men at the disastrous Battle of Camden in August, 1780. General Nathanael Greene was sent south to take over the southern Continental Army in place of disgraced General Horatio Gates. Greene's natural skill and wisdom quickly turned things around in the south.

 

Following two significant American victories at the Battles of King's Mountain and Cowpens, General Cornwallis was determined to destroy Greene's army which was retreating through North Carolina. Greene escaped across the Dan River into Virginia and the two sides retrenched and resupplied for several weeks. General Greene had already been at the area surrounding Guilford, determined that it was an ideal place to face Cornwallis and hoped to entice him to battle there.

 

On March 14, Cornwallis learned that Greene's army was near Guilford Courthouse and decided to strike. Greene had nearly 5,000 men, while Cornwallis had only 1,900, putting him at a severe disadvantage. More than half of Greene's men were untrained Virginia militia, however, while all of Cornwallis' men were battle-ready troops.

 

Cornwallis' men first engaged Green's around noon on the 15th. Greene's men were arrayed in three lines several hundred feet apart, through mostly wooded terrain that was very difficult to get through. The British were able to cut through the first two lines, but with significant casualties. Many of the green American militia members fled at the first hint of danger. After a few hours of fighting, Greene finally ordered a retreat in order to prevent the loss of his army as had happened to General Gates at Camden.

 

Due to the American withdrawal, the British technically won the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, but at a huge cost. Cornwallis lost more than 25% of his force to death, injury or desertion, while the Americans lost only around 6%. Greene had preserved his army to fight another day, while Cornwallis was now forced to march back to the coast to recruit and resupply.

 

Camped at Wilmington and unable to recruit a large following of Loyalist supporters as he had hoped, Cornwallis finally decided to march north to Virginia to meet with another British army holding the Virginia coast under the direction of Major General William Phillips and the traitor, Benedict Arnold. It was at this time that the combined forces made their headquarters at Yorktown and were soon surrounded by the joint American and French forces of George Washington and the Comte de Rochambeau, leading to Cornwallis' surrender and the end of major hostilities in the war.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

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

John Barry commissioned by the Continental Navy

John Barry commissioned by the Continental Navy

 

On this day in history, March 14, 1776, John Barry is commissioned by the Continental Navy. He would become known as the "Father of the American Navy." Barry was born in Wexford, Ireland. His family was driven from Wexford by the English and he learned a hatred of oppressing invaders when 3,000 Wexfordians were killed by an English army.

 

Barry began sailing as a boy with his uncle and settled in Philadelphia. He worked for several Philadelphia merchants, captaining their cargo ships to the West Indies. Just before the American Revolution broke out, Barry began working for the firm of Willing, Morris and Cadwalader, who assigned him to their 200 ton ship, the Black Prince. Barry sailed the Black Prince to London and on the return voyage set a record for the longest distance sailed in one day in the entire 18th century, traveling 237 miles in 24 hours. Upon arriving back in Philadelphia, Barry found out the war had begun. Congress apparently first employed Barry in October, 1775 and he assisted in the efforts to outfit and supply Congress' first fleet of ships.

 

On March 14, 1776, Barry received a captain's commission, signed by John Hancock, and was assigned the 14 gun USS Lexington. Barry sailed from Philadelphia on March 31 and engaged his first British ship on April 7, capturing the first ship by a Continental vessel in the war. On June 28, he helped defend a Pennsylvania ship carrying gunpowder and other supplies when it ran aground after being chased by British ships. Barry organized the removal of the supplies and the defense of the ship.

 

When there were only 100 barrels of powder left, he had the main sail taken down and wrapped around the gunpowder. When they abandoned the ship, he lit the end of the sail, draped over the side of the ship, on fire. By the time a British boarding party arrived, the flames reached the gunpowder and blew the ship sky high, killing several dozen British soldiers, in a blast that was heard for miles.

 

During the Revolution, John Barry captured at least 20 British vessels. He fought as a soldier at the Battles of Princeton and Trenton and during the occupation of Philadelphia. He was severely wounded in a fierce battle off Newfoundland, during which, after losing consciousness, he got up and rallied his crew until they captured the two British vessels that were attacking them. He fought the last naval battle of the war off Cape Canaveral, while delivering a shipload of Spanish coins to the Continental Congress.

 

After the Revolution, Barry got back into mercantile shipping and made several voyages to the Orient. When George Washington re-established the Navy in the 1790s, Barry was made Commodore of the United States Navy, receiving Commission Number One, dated June 4, 1794. He oversaw the building of the Continental Fleet and captured several French vessels during the Quasi-War. He finally retired on March 6, 1801 after bringing the USS United States back to Philadelphia from the West Indies. Barry trained numerous sailors who went on to be naval leaders of the War of 1812 and is often called the "Father of the American Navy." He passed away in 1803 at his home near Philadelphia.

 

*Note that some sources say Barry received his captain's commission on December 7, 1775, when the Lexington was purchased by Congress. The Lexington was apparently not received until March, 1776, however and later sources indicate he received the captain's commission at this time.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

"National defense is one of the cardinal duties of a statesman." 
John Adams (1815)