All posts by admin

General William Alexander, Lord Stirling, dies

General William Alexander, Lord Stirling, dies

 

On this day in history, January 15, 1783, General William Alexander, Lord Stirling, dies at Albany, New York. William Alexander was born in New York in 1726 to a wealthy family involved in provisioning the British army. Due to his experience in provisioning, Alexander joined the army’s commissariat during the French and Indian War and eventually became chief aide to Commander-in-Chief William Shirley. During this time, Alexander first met and became friends with Colonel George Washington.

 

In 1756, while on a trip to London, Alexander learned that he may be the oldest male heir to a vacant title, the "Earl of Stirling," a position that carried with it a vast land claim, including parts of Nova Scotia and the entire St. Lawrence River Valley. He made an appeal to Parliament which granted his claim. However, in 1762, the House of Lords decided he had not adequately proven his pedigree and removed the title. Alexander had already returned to America by this time though and adopted the title Lord Stirling, which he would carry for the rest of his life.

 

When the America Revolution began, Stirling became a colonel of the New Jersey militia and was celebrated for capturing a British transport at Sandy Hook. He was promoted to Brigadier General and given control of the defenses of New York, where he built Forts Washington, Lee and Stirling. He also recommended to General Washington that a redoubt be built at West Point, the foundation for the fort and later military academy there.

 

When the British invaded Long Island, Alexander led a battalion of 300 men that held off the entire British army for several hours. Alexander’s men were finally overwhelmed and he was captured, but the rest of the army was able to escape and Alexander was celebrated as a hero. After a few months in prison, he was traded in a prisoner exchange for Governor Montfort Browne, the Governor of the Bahamas. Alexander returned in time to fight at the Battle of Trenton where a Hessian brigade surrendered to him.

 

Alexander was promoted to Major General and became one of George Washington’s most trusted subordinates. He was third or fourth in command of the entire army for the rest of the war. He participated in the battles of Brandywine, Germantown and Monmouth. He presided over the court-martial of General Charles Lee and was a member of the military court that sentenced British spy John Andre to death for helping Benedict Arnold. Alexander played a key role in exposing the "Conway Cabal," a group of officers that plotted to have Washington replaced by General Horatio Gates.

 

When the war moved to the south, General Alexander was given command of the army’s Northern Department in case of a new British invasion from Canada, making his headquarters at Albany. Alexander had many health problems and was a heavy drinker. In January, 1783, while at Albany, he had a severe attack of gout (severe arthritis) and passed away on January 15 at the age of 56, only three months before the preliminary peace treaty with Britain was signed by Congress.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"There is but one straight course, and that is to seek truth and pursue it steadily." George Washington (1795)

The Treaty of Paris Brings the American Revolution to a Close

The Treaty of Paris brings the American Revolution to a close

 

On this day in history, January 14, 1784, the Treaty of Paris brings the American Revolution to a formal close. After the surrender of Lord Cornwallis' army at Yorktown, Virginia in October, 1781, the British Parliament began to lose its will to fight the war. In April of 1782, the House of Commons decided to bring the war to and end and peace negotiations began in Paris.

 

The Americans were represented by John Jay, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, while Richard Oswald was the British negotiator. A preliminary peace treaty was signed on November 30, 1782, ratified by Parliament on January 20, 1783 and by Congress on April 15, 1783.

Treaty of Paris signature page

 

Final terms still had to be reached however. Skirmishes between both sides still took place here and there and George Washington kept the Continental Army together at Newburgh, New York in case hostilities broke out again.

 

The final Treaty was signed between the negotiators on September 3, 1783. The signatures of Jay, Adams and Franklin appear on the last page of the document, as well as that of David Hartley, who had replaced Richard Oswald. The American Congress ratified the document on January 14, 1784 at the Maryland State House in Annapolis, Maryland, where Congress was temporarily meeting at the time. Great Britain ratified the document on April 9 and the two sides exchanged copies in Paris on May 12.

 

The Treaty of Paris has ten articles. The main points of the articles include: Great Britain acknowledges the sovereignty of the United States; the boundaries of the United States are set at (roughly) the Mississippi River in the west, the Great Lakes in the north, the northern border of Florida in the south and the Atlantic Ocean in the east; citizens of the United States may still fish off the coast of Newfoundland, even though it was British territory; legally contracted debts from before the war must be honored by both sides; Congress must "encourage" the states to protect the property of British Loyalists from confiscation and to return any property that was confiscated; all prisoners on both sides must be released; the British army must evacuate the United States and not take any American property, arms or slaves with them; both countries were given access to the Mississippi River; any territory conquered by either side after the treaty was signed had to be returned; and both countries must ratify the document within six months of the signing.

 

The Treaty of Paris formally brought the Revolution to a close. Conflict continued, however, due to several factors, including the British failure to leave all its forts on the western frontier; the British continuing to encourage Native Americans against the United States; British confiscation of American ships in French waters and impressment of American sailors into the British navy due to a trade war between France and Britain. Some of these issues were ironed out in the Jay Treaty of 1794, negotiated by John Jay in London. However, some issues remained and war broke out again between Great Britain and the United States in 1812.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

“We are soldiers who devote ourselves to arms not for the invasion of other countries, but for the defense of our own, not for the gratification of our private interests but for public security.”
Nathanael Greene

The Newburgh Conspiracy brings its demands to Philadelphia

The Newburgh Conspiracy brings its demands to Philadelphia

 

On this day in history, January 13, 1783, the Newburgh Conspiracy brings its demands to Philadelphia. In late 1782, negotiators in France were near to signing a peace treaty to end the hostilities of the American Revolution, alarming many officers in the Continental Army who had gone for several years without pay from the Continental Congress which was perpetually out of money.

 

After the defeat of General Cornwallis at Yorktown, most of the army had taken up quarters at Newburgh, New York. Officers had been promised a pension of half pay for the rest of their lives, but if the war came to an end and the army was disbanded, they feared they would never receive the pay that was due them.

 

A secret movement began amongst the officers that was loosely led by General Horatio Gates and his chief aid, John Armstrong. Rumors and whispers swirled that they should march on Philadelphia or replace Washington with General Gates and usurp the power of Congress.

 

General Henry Knox organized the officers and sent a delegation to Congress in Philadelphia with three demands: they wanted their back pay, their pensions and the option to have their pensions paid to them in a lump sum. On January 13, 1783, the delegation met with James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, Robert Morris, Gouverneur Morris and other representatives of Congress who assured the officers they would receive their pay. They also hoped to use the situation to promote a stronger Congress that would have the ability to tax and pay its own bills, rather than rely on handouts from the states.

 

The Congressmen, however, also sensed that the officers’ discontent could grow into a larger rebellion. Hamilton wrote to George Washington explaining the seriousness of the situation. Washington’s response was to call a meeting of his senior officers. He commended them for their valorous service during the recently ended war. He assured them that, as a soldier himself, he would do everything he could to make sure they received the money owed them. He also urged them to allow the civilian leadership in Congress to be supreme and to squash any attempts to make a military dictatorship.

 

After his own speech, Washington pulled a letter from Congressman Joseph Jones from his pocket. Finding the print too small to read, Washington pulled a pair of glasses from his pocket and said, "Gentleman, you must pardon me. I have grown gray in your service and now find myself growing blind."

 

This lighthearted moment seemed to break the ice and soften the officers’ attitudes toward Washington. Many realized that he had given up as much as they had during the war and that he would not fail to support them. When Washington left the meeting, many of the officers made a new pledge of loyalty to Washington and Congress, bringing an end to the Newburgh Conspiracy. In the end, Congress was able to pay the officers an amount equal to five years of service in place of the lifetime pensions.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

“Let me entreat you, gentlemen, on your part, not to take any measures, which viewed in the calm light of reason, will lessen the dignity, and sully the glory you have hitherto maintained; let me request you to rely on the plighted faith of your country, and place a full confidence in the purity of the intentions of Congress.”

General George Washington’s response at Newburg Conspiracy.

 

 

General Hugh Mercer dies

General Hugh Mercer dies

 

On this day in history, January 12, 1777, General Hugh Mercer dies from wounds received at the Battle of Princeton. General Mercer was born in Scotland in 1726 and trained as a doctor. He served as a surgeon in the army of Bonnie Prince Charlie and was present at the defeat of his army at the Battle of Culloden, an army which was raised to put a Stuart King back on the throne of England.

 

This army was destroyed by the forces of Hanover King George II at the Battle of Culloden, Scotland on April 16, 1746. George’s forces massacred as many survivors as they could find, forcing Mercer into exile as a result. He eventually made his way to the colony of Pennsylvania where he settled and resumed his medical practice.

 

When the Braddock Expedition was massacred in 1755, Mercer came to the aid of some of the wounded soldiers and was moved by the experience because it reminded him of the massacre of his countrymen at the Battle of Culloden. This caused him to join the British army, which he had once fought against, to fight the Indians during the French and Indian War.

 

He became a captain of Pennsylvania militia in 1756 and was severely wounded during a raid on an Indian village that year. He was separated from his troops and marched across the wilderness for 100 miles alone to get back to his fort, after which he was promoted to colonel. During the French and Indian War, Mercer became friends with George Washington, who was also a colonel at the same time. They were such good friends that Mercer moved to Virginia after the war and settled in Fredericksburg, resuming his medical practice.

 

When the American Revolution began, Mercer was appointed a Brigadier General in the Continental Army by the Continental Congress. He directed the building of Fort Lee on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River to impede British access up the river.

 

After the Continental Army was driven from New York and across New Jersey in the fall of 1776, they stopped their retreat on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River. Mercer is sometimes credited with coming up with the plan to attack the Hessian outpost at Trenton, which helped stem the discouraging tide of American losses. Washington’s forces ferried across the river in the middle of the night on Christmas Day and captured 1,000 Hessians at the outpost.

 

This led to another victory a week later when Washington repulsed a counterattack from Lt. General Charles Cornwallis at Trenton again. After that victory, Washington’s men marched through the night toward Princeton to capture the British outpost there and continue its string of victories.

 

Hugh Mercer led an advance party of 1200 men that ran into a large British force at an orchard along the way and fighting began. The British force quickly defeated the green American militia units and General Mercer was surrounded by British troops who mistook him for George Washington and demanded that he surrender. Mercer fiercely attacked his antagonizers, but was struck to the ground, bayoneted seven times and left for dead. He was attended by Declaration of Independence signer Doctor Benjamin Rush, but he died nine days later on January 12, 1777. He was buried at Christ Church in Philadelphia originally, but his body was reinterred at Laurel Hill Cemetery in 1840.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

“If the Freedom of Speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”
George Washington

Alexander Hamilton is born

Alexander Hamilton is born

 

On this day in history, January 11, 1755, Alexander Hamilton is born in the British West Indies. Hamilton was orphaned as a young boy and later attended King’s College in New York (now Columbia). Hamilton joined the New York militia when the Revolution began and raised a company of artillery soldiers which took part in the Battle of White Plains and the Battle of Trenton.

 

Hamilton’s intellect brought him to the attention of George Washington who made him his chief aide for four years. In this position, Hamilton dealt with the highest ranking generals, governors and members of Congress and often negotiated on Washington’s behalf. Toward the end of the Revolution, Hamilton led a battalion of men that took Redoubt No. 10 at Yorktown, one of the crucial actions that forced Cornwallis to surrender his army and bring the war to a close.

 

Hamilton was then elected to Congress from New York and became a strong advocate of a new Constitution with a stronger central government. He served as a delegate at the Constitutional Convention and was the only signer of the document from New York. During the ratification process, he authored 51 of the 85 essays now known as the Federalist Papers, co-authored with John Jay and James Madison. The Federalist Papers, even today, are the most frequently cited texts dealing with understanding the proper interpretation of the Constitution.

 

Hamilton became George Washington’s first Secretary of the Treasury and largely shaped Washington’s policies. Under his leadership, the federal government assumed all state debts incurred during the war, established a national bank, the US Mint, the US Coast Guard and America’s first taxes.

 

During this time, he also became the leader of the Federalist Party. His leadership helped prevent John Adams from winning a second term, nearly caused a war with France, passed the Alien and Sedition Acts and broke the deadlocked vote that gave Thomas Jefferson the presidency instead of Aaron Burr.

 

In 1804, Burr ran for governor of New York and Hamilton used his influence to help get him defeated. During the process, ugly words were spoken by both sides. Burr felt that his honor had been offended and challenged Hamilton to a duel. On July 11, 1804, the two met at Weehauken, New Jersey, in the same spot Hamilton’s oldest son had been killed in a duel 3 years earlier. As the two fired, Burr’s shot went through Hamilton’s abdomen, doing a great deal of damage. He died the next morning at the age of 49.

 

Some historians consider Alexander Hamilton to be one of the most important Founding Fathers for his role in shaping the American government. His interpretation of the "Necessary and Proper Clause" forms the basis for much of our modern legal system and he is considered to be the architect of our modern capitalist financial system.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

"Arbitrary power is most easily established on the ruins of liberty abused to licentiousness."
George Washington (1783)

John Paul Jones takes command of the Bonhomme Richard

John Paul Jones takes command of the Bonhomme Richard

 

On this day in history, January 10, 1779, John Paul Jones takes command of the Bonhomme Richard. John Paul Jones was born in Scotland and became a sailor at the age of thirteen. He eventually moved to Virginia and volunteered his services to the Continental Congress in the fall of 1775.

 

After a series of successful missions in American waters, Jones sailed for France on the USS Ranger to meet with America’s diplomats there, Ben Franklin, John Adams and Arthur Lee. Jones shared with them his plan to harass British ships in British waters and they gave him permission to proceed. The Ranger made some attacks on the British coast and captured a British warship, having an enormous psychological impact on the British people, making the people realize they were not safe even in their homeland.

 

After returning to France, Jones was given command of the Duc de Duras, a French merchant ship given to the Americans by King Louis XVI. Jones renamed it the Bonhomme Richard in honor of Ben Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanack character, Richard Saunders (the French version was called Les Maximes du Bonhomme Richard). Jones had the ship outfitted for war and left at the head of a 5 ship convoy in August for another raid along the east side of Britain, spreading fear up and down the British coast.

 

On September 23, the fleet met a convoy of 41 merchant ships off Flamborough Head, escorted by the 50 gun HMS Serapis. An engagement began in which the Bonhomme Richard was severely damaged. Jones knew he could not compete against the greater firepower of the Serapis and succeeded in maneuvering close enough to tie the two vessels together. Both crews tried to board the other ship unsuccessfully and nearly half the crews of each died in the battle. When another ship in Jones’ convoy finally came to the Bonhomme Richard’s aid, the captain of the Serapis knew he could not win against both ships and finally surrendered.

 

Jones’ crew took over the Serapis and tried in vain to repair the Bonhomme Richard, which by this time had gaping holes through her body so large that you could see all the way through the ship. She was badly leaking water and sunk about 36 hours later. Jones took command of the Serapis and sailed her to the Netherlands where the British attempted to get him charged as a pirate. The attempt failed however when a flag, allegedly designed by Ben Franklin from a description he just received of the newly approved American flag, was raised over the vessel. This flag made the vessel a vessel of war and not a pirate ship and Jones escaped further trouble. The flag became known as the Serapis Flag, but is sometimes called the John Paul Jones flag as well.

 

After the war Jones served in the Russian Navy for a time, but retired to Paris where he died in 1792. He is considered America’s first naval hero for his actions in the war. His body was moved from France to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland in 1906 and the burial service was presided over by President Theodore Roosevelt.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

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

James Armistead, America’s slave spy gets his freedom

James Armistead, America’s slave spy gets his freedom

 

On this day in history, January 9, 1787, James Armistead, America’s slave spy gets his freedom from the Virginia legislature. Armistead was born into slavery in New Kent County, Virginia in 1748 in the household of William Armistead.

 

After Benedict Arnold’s treason, he was sent with 1,600 troops to Virginia in early 1781 to aid in Lord Cornwallis’ attempt to take over the southern states. Arnold’s troops burned Richmond and were performing raids across the colony. At this time, Armistead, at the age of 33, asked his owner if he could join the Continental Army. His owner agreed and James was assigned to the forces of the Marquis de Lafayette who devised a plan to put James in Arnold’s camp as a spy.

 

James posed as a runaway slave and gained Arnold’s trust. Since James knew the local area, Arnold put him in charge of guiding British troops through the local terrain. James used this close proximity to many British troops to listen to their conversation and gain intelligence about their movements, supplies, armaments and plans. James would write down the information in detailed reports and pass it on to other spies who would get the information to Lafayette.

 

After Arnold returned to New York, James moved on to the camp of General Cornwallis and performed the same actions. While in Cornwallis’ camp, James posed as a British spy, serving in the American camp and bringing back just enough intelligence to Cornwallis to earn his trust. This allowed him to travel back and forth easily between both sides and to report any information he found to Lafayette. Sometimes he would carry messages from Lafayette to other spies within the British camp as well.

 

In the fall of 1781, it was Armistead who found out that 10,000 soldiers were being ferried from New York to meet Cornwallis at Yorktown. Armistead’s intelligence was given to George Washington who was able to maneuver the French fleet into the harbor to prevent the reinforcements from landing, forcing them to turn around and return to New York. This gave Washington the advantage and opportunity to attack Cornwallis in Yorktown and bring the war to an end. If it hadn’t been for Armistead’s intelligence, the war may have turned out very differently.

 

After the war, most Virginia slaves who had served in the Continental Army were given their freedom, but the law was specific that the slaves must have served as soldiers. Since Armistead did not serve as a soldier, but as a spy, the law didn’t apply to him and he returned to slavery.

 

In 1784, the Marquis de Lafayette learned that Armistead was still in slavery and personally wrote a letter of commendation for Armistead. This letter was presented by Armistead with a petition to the Virginia Assembly in 1786 asking for his manumission (freedom from slavery). For his valuable service, Armistead was granted his freedom by the State of Virginia on January 9, 1787.

 

After gaining his freedom, James took on the name Lafayette and went by James Armistead Lafayette thereafter. He married and eventually purchased 40 acres of land which he farmed and lived on until his death in 1830.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President 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