All posts by admin

Continental Navy loses the Battle of Block Island

Continental Navy loses the Battle of Block Island

 

On this day in history, April 6, 1776, the Continental Navy loses the Battle of Block Island, one of the first important naval engagements of the American Revolution. American naval commander, Commodore Esek Hopkins, had taken a fleet of ships to the Bahamas early in the year where they captured Nassau, a large supply of munitions and the Royal Governor, Montfort Browne. Hopkins sailed on the US Navy’s flagship, the Alfred, at the head of six other ships.

 

On the return voyage, the fleet sailed near Block Island, south of Newport, Rhode Island, the location of a large British fleet. On April 4 and 5, the Americans met and captured two British ships, the HMS Hawk and the HMS Bolton. The Americans then took some of their crews to man the captured ships.

           

Early on the morning of April 6, the fleet spotted the HMS Glasgow, captained by Tryingham Howe, several miles southeast of Block Island. The Glasgow was heading to Charleston, South Carolina with dispatches for another fleet that was intending to capture Charleston. When the Glasgow saw the fleet, it approached in the dark and hailed the USS Cabot, captained by Commodore Hopkins’ son, John. Just then, one of the sailors on the Cabot threw a grenade onto the deck of the Glasgow and a battle that would last for the next six hours ensued.

 

The 20 gun Glasgow was a small ship compared to other British ships, but she was still more powerful than the less well-armed American ships. In addition, the American ships were undermanned, having put crew on both of the captured ships. The American ships were also heavily weighed down with the spoils from Nassau and slow in the water, not to mention the fact that the Americans were tired after a long voyage and several days of bad weather.

The Battle of Block Island by Major Charles H. Waterhouse

 

Both the Cabot and the Alfred were soon disabled and began to drift. The USS Andrew Doria had a hard time coming to their aid because it had to avoid their unpredictable drifting. Continuous musket fire and cannon fire was exchanged between the ships, with all taking heavy damage. The fighting was so fierce that people on shore could hear the cannon fire and see the flashes on the horizon. By 6 am, the USS Providence and the USS Columbus had joined the fight and Captain Howe knew he had to break away. He broke for Newport, chased by the fleet, but Commodore Hopkins soon signaled a retreat. He couldn’t afford to meet the British fleet at Newport. In all, 10 American sailors were killed and 14 wounded, while only 1 British sailor was killed, with 3 wounded.

 

The Battle of Block Island was a PR disaster for the Continental Congress. It made the American Navy look weak. 9 ships together were not able to capture one British ship. Several of the American captains were accused of cowardice and ineptitude. Captain John Hazard of the Providence was charged with neglect of duty and fired. Captain Abraham Whipple of the USS Columbus was accused of cowardice and demanded a court-martial, which exonerated him.

 

Commodore Hopkins was censured for insubordination for going to the Bahamas in the first place (he was supposed to go to Virginia) and for delivering some of his captured cargo without orders. This was the beginning of a series of confrontations between Hopkins and Congress that led to his dismissal in 1778. British Captain Howe was awarded with command of the 32 gun HMS Thames for his actions in the battle.

 

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 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)


Virus-free. www.avg.com

Patriot rider William Dawes is born

Patriot rider William Dawes is born

 

On this day in history, April 6, 1745, Patriot rider William Dawes is born. He is known for being the "other" rider who rode with Paul Revere to warn the patriots that the British were coming. Dawes was born in Boston, the fifth generation of English immigrants who came early in the 1600s to America. He was a tanner by trade and was a member of the Old South Church in Boston.

 

Dawes married in 1768 during the height of tensions with Britain and was applauded for wearing a suit at the wedding which was made completely in America, instead of one made in Great Britain. He was involved in the militia prior to the Revolution, but was not as central a figure in the Boston patriot movement as Paul Revere, Samuel Adams or John Hancock. He was well-known enough, however, that when Dr. Joseph Warren learned of British plans to confiscate the patriots’ ammunition stores at Concord, one of the people he turned to was William Dawes.

           

Dr. Warren was the head of the patriot movement in Boston and had been aware for some weeks that the British were planning a major move. When he learned from his source inside British General Thomas Gage’s inner circle (thought to be Gage’s wife) that the action would take place on April 19, 1775, he acquired the services of Paul Revere and William Dawes to send a message to Samuel Adams and John Hancock in Lexington. Paul Revere was to cross the Charles River and ride west, while Dawes was to ride south across Boston Neck, the narrow isthmus connecting the island of Boston to the mainland.

 

Dawes’ first obstacle was getting past the British sentries on the very narrow Boston Neck. He had used his frequent travels out of Boston to befriend many of the British soldiers and it is believed he persuaded one of his "friends" to let him through. Dawes then rode through the towns of Roxbury, Brookline, Brighton, Cambridge and Menotomy. He did not warn others along the way as Revere did, probably because he did not know the local patriot leaders as well as Revere.

 

Dawes arrived in Lexington at 12:30 am on April 19, a half hour after Revere. After a short rest, the two rode west to Concord and met Dr. Samuel Prescott along the way. A British patrol spotted them and gave chase. The three broke up and Revere was captured. Prescott escaped to warn Concord of the oncoming British. Dawes was chased by two British soldiers into a local farm where he used a ruse to trick them into leaving. He yelled out, "We’ve got two of them! Surround them boys!" This tricked the soldiers into thinking there were more colonists waiting for them so they sped off. Dawes was then thrown from his horse, which ran off, and he walked back to Lexington.

 

Dawes joined the Siege of Boston and fought in the Battle of Bunker Hill. He received a contract to provide supplies for the Continental Army and served as a quartermaster for the army in Massachusetts, meaning he was responsible for procuring supplies.

 

Little is known about Dawes’ life after the Revolution. He had seven children and ran a grocery business. He died in 1799 at the age of 53. For more than 200 years it was believed that William Dawes was buried in the Dawes’ ancestral plot in the King’s Chapel Burial Ground in Boston, but in 2007, historian Al Maze discovered documents proving Dawes was originally buried with his first wife’s family in Boston’s Central Burying Ground and later moved to Forest Hills Cemetery.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

“It was by one Union that we achieved our independence and liberties, and by it alone can they be maintained.”
James Monroe


Virus-free. www.avg.com

Dr. John Warren, Continental Army surgeon dies

Dr. John Warren, Continental Army surgeon dies

 

On this day in history, April 4, 1818, Dr. John Warren, Continental Army surgeon dies. Warren was the founder of Harvard Medical School and the younger brother of Boston patriot Dr. Joseph Warren. John Warren was born in Roxbury, Massachusetts and attended Harvard College at the age of 14. He graduated in 1771 and went into practice with his older brother, Dr. Joseph Warren, as an apprentice and assistant. After his apprenticeship, John stepped out and opened his own practice in Salem.

 

Before the Revolution began, Warren joined the Roxbury militia under Colonel John Pickering. After the war broke out in Lexington, this regiment marched to Cambridge where Warren served in the military hospital. On June 17, the younger Warren worried about his brother Joseph as the cannon fire rang out from the Battle of Bunker Hill.

           

Once the battle was over, Joseph was missing and John set about asking everyone he could if they knew what had happened to him. At one point, John attempted to enter the battlefield at Charlestown. A British sentry would not let him pass into the area and stabbed him with his bayonet when John would not give up. He bore the scar for the rest of his life. It was several days before John learned for certain that Joseph was killed at the battle.

 

After this, John was appointed the senior surgeon in the Continental Army hospital at Cambridge. He was only 22 years old. When the British finally evacuated Boston the following year. John marched with General George Washington to New York to assist in the defenses there. During this period, Warren was heavily involved with small-pox inoculations of civilians and troops and became particularly known for success with this vaccination.

 

When the British overran Long Island and Manhattan, Warren traveled with the Continental Army in its retreat across New Jersey, staying with them through the Battles of Trenton and Princeton and through the winter of 1776-77. During this time, Warren honed his surgery skills. By July of 1777, the young Dr. Warren had been transferred back to Boston to oversee the military hospital there. Warren became known for his teaching skills at the hospital as he taught other surgeons. This eventually led to him teaching medicine at Harvard and the founding of Harvard Medical School.

 

Warren achieved several major accomplishments, such as performing the first abdominal surgery in America, teaching anatomy and surgery at Harvard for 30 years and founding the medical school in 1782. Dr. John Warren passed away on April 4, 1815 from heart and lung disease. His son, John Collins Warren, followed his father’s footsteps and became one of the most famed surgeons of the 1800s. He performed the first surgery using anesthesia in history, helped found Massachusetts General Hospital, was a president of the American Medical Association and served as Harvard’s first Dean of the Medical School.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"The aim of every political constitution is, or ought to be, first to obtain for rulers men who possess most wisdom to discern, and most virtue to pursue, the common good of the society."
James Madison (1788)

 


Virus-free. www.avg.com

Congress authorizes privateers to capture British ships

Congress authorizes privateers to capture British ships

 

On this day in history, April 3, 1776, Congress authorizes privateering vessels to capture British ships during the American Revolution. Because of the heavy dependence on shipping in the 18th century, it was immediately necessary for Congress to create its own navy after the Revolution began. Congress created the Continental Navy in the fall of 1775. Several states created their own navies as well, but these small navies were no match for the gigantic British Royal Navy which had the largest naval force in the world.

 

To help in the fight against the British Navy, Congress and several states authorized privately owned merchant vessels to combat and capture British owned naval or merchant vessels. This practice was called "privateering" because the vessels were privately owned. Privateering was essentially the same as piracy, but privateers were not considered pirates by the authorizing nation. Privateering vessels would be outfitted with guns and cannons by their owners and could capture vessels flying an enemy flag.

           

Privateers were issued a "Letter of Marque and Reprisal" which authorized them to engage in privateering. After an enemy vessel was captured, the vessel was brought to an American port and presented to a judge who would look over the Letter and see that the capture had been handled according to the law. If all was well, the spoils captured on the ship were sold and the proceeds split between the ship’s owners and crew, with a small percentage going to the American government as well. The splitting of the spoils in such a capture made privateering quite lucrative, so lucrative in fact that sailors were much more likely to want to serve on a privateer than on a ship run by the Continental Navy.

 

The contribution of privateers during the American Revolution cannot be overestimated. While the Continental Navy had about 60 ships with 3,000 soldiers during the course of the war, there were two to three thousand privateers with more than 70,000 sailors aboard! Continental Navy vessels carried around 2,800 guns on board, while privateers carried more than 20,000 guns!

 

With this massive firepower, privateers captured over 3,000 British vessels during the war, while the Continental Navy captured around 200. In addition to the captured vessels and their cargoes, privateers captured more than 10,000 British sailors. Primary locations for privateering included Long Island Sound, the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the coasts of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, the Caribbean and even British waters off the coasts of England and Ireland.

 

How lucrative was privateering? Some estimates put the spoils of American privateers during the Revolution at around $300 million dollars. Clearly, many fortunes were made from the practice. Britain estimated that 10% of all the cargoes it shipped to America were captured by the privateers, earning the privateers the honor of being one of the most influential forces giving America it’s victory in the Revolutionary War.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

“The wise and the good never form the majority of any large society and it seldom happens that their measures are uniformly adopted…. [All that wise and good men can do is] to persevere in doing their duty to their country and leave the consequences to him who made men only; neither elated by success, however great, nor discouraged by disappointments however frequent or mortifying.”
John Jay


Virus-free. www.avg.com

Congress creates the first United States Mint

Congress creates the first United States Mint

 

On this day in history, April 2, 1792, Congress creates the first United States Mint. Creating a coinage system unique to the new United States was seen as a priority to the Founding Fathers because it would help establish the identity of the young nation, as well as encourage commerce. The full name of the act was An act establishing a mint, and regulating the Coins of the United States and it directed that a mint should be built in Philadelphia, which was then the capital of the United States.

 

The Mint Act or the Coinage Act, as it was informally known, created five officer positions to oversee the direction of the mint and the creation of the coinage. The Act directed that the new coins would be based on the decimal system, with the dollar being the chief means of exchange. 10 types of coins were created with the Act: Eagles ($10), Half Eagles ($5), Quarter Eagles ($2.50), Dollars ($1), Half Dollars ($.50), Quarter Dollars ($.25), Dimes ($.10), Half Dimes ($.05), Cents ($.01) and Half Cents ($.005).

           

Eagles were made of gold, dollars and dimes were made of silver and cents were made of copper. Each coin was to have an image symbolizing “Liberty” on one side. The back of the gold and silver coins was to have an image representing “Liberty” on it, while the back of the cents was to have the coins’ denomination.

 

Any person could bring in gold or silver bullion and have it minted into coins for free. The Act specified the purity of each type of metal for the coins and created a strict testing system to make sure the coins met the guidelines. Employees of the mint could receive the death penalty for stealing or tampering with the coins.

 

David Rittenhouse, a renowned scientist, mathematician and astronomer was appointed by George Washington as the first director of the Mint. Rittenhouse had served as Pennsylvania’s treasurer from 1777 to 1789, giving him much experience dealing with currency. Rittenhouse’s first job was to actually build the Mint. He purchased two lots in Philadelphia on July 18, 1792 and construction began immediately.

 

The first building was the smelting building where the metal ores were melted and separated. The second building contained offices, vaults, weighing rooms and the presses for striking the coins. A third building contained a horse-powered mill where the metal was rolled into sheets. The first coins minted were made from silver flatware donated by George Washington himself. Rittenhouse struck the coins himself to test the new equipment and delivered the coins to Washington.

 

The smelting and mill buildings were destroyed by fire in 1816 and these functions were moved elsewhere. The main office building, however, with “Ye Olde Mint” painted on its side, remained as the United States Mint until 1833 when a larger facility was built. This original Mint building stood until the early 1900s. It was the first building constructed by the US government after the ratification of the US Constitution.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

“Liberty must at all hazards be supposed. We have a right to it, derived from our Maker. But if we had not, our fathers have earned and bought it for us, at the expense of their ease, their estates, their pleasure and their blood.”
John Adams


Virus-free. www.avg.com

Frederick Muhlenberg elected first Speaker of the House

Frederick Muhlenberg elected first Speaker of the House

 

On this day in history, April 1, 1789, Frederick Muhlenberg is elected the first Speaker of the House of Representatives by the First Congress meeting in New York City. After the Constitution was ratified, the federal government of the United States made its first home in New York City. On April 1, 1789, the House of Representatives had enough members present to begin and elected its first officers. Frederick Augustus Conrad Muhlenberg, a Lutheran minister, businessman and politician from Pennsylvania, was chosen as the first Speaker of the House.

 

Frederick Muhlenberg was born in Trappe, Pennsylvania, a son of Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, a Lutheran minister and the founder of the Lutheran church in America. Frederick studied in Germany with his brothers and returned to Pennsylvania in 1770, where he preached in Stouchsburg and Lebanon until 1774. In 1774, Muhlenberg moved to New York City to take a church there. When the American Revolution broke out, however, he returned to Pennsylvania for fear the British would take the city and his family would be in danger.

 

Back in Pennsylvania without a church to preach in, Muhlenberg entered politics and became a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1779. He became a representative to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 1780 and served as its Speaker for three years. In 1781, Muhlenberg purchased a home in Trappe and built a general store onto the side of the house where he lived for the next ten years. In 1787, he served as the president of the Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention that ratified the US Constitution.

 

Muhlenberg’s election as the first Speaker of the House of Representatives gave him a great deal of power in shaping the new government. The First Congress, under his leadership, established many of the key departments of the United States government, such as the State Department, the US Treasury and the Department of War. The First Congress passed the first Naturalization Act, Patent Act and Copyright Act, set in place the plan to move the seat of government to Washington DC, built the First Bank of the United States and passed the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the US Constitution. Frederick Muhlenberg was the first person to sign the Bill of Rights upon its acceptance. Muhlenberg was elected to the House for the first four consecutive Congresses and served as the Speaker of the House for the First and Third Congresses.

 

Muhlenberg was not re-elected to the House in 1797 due to his vote for the Jay Treaty, a treaty intended to reduce tensions with England after the war. The vote was unpopular with many people who thought it was too favorable to England. After leaving Congress, he returned to Pennsylvania and held some minor political offices until his death on June 4, 1801 at the age of 51. He was buried in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, which was then the state capital.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

"They define a republic to be a government of laws, and not of men."
John Adams (1775)


AVG logo

This email has been checked for viruses by AVG antivirus software.
www.avg.com

Eleanor Parke Custis Lewis is born

Eleanor Parke Custis Lewis is born

 

On this day in history, March 31, 1779, Eleanor Parke Custis Lewis is born. Known as Nelly, she is the granddaughter of Martha Washington and step-granddaughter of George Washington. Nelly was the daughter of John Parke Custis, Martha’s son from her first marriage. Martha had two children with her first husband Daniel Parke Custis, who died in 1757. John Parke Custis and his sister, Martha Parke Custis, were then raised by Martha and George Washington when they married in 1759. John was called "Jacky" and Martha was called "Patsy."

 

Both John and Martha died young, Martha from a seizure at the age of 17. John married young at the age of 18 and had four children, the youngest of whom was Eleanor Parke Custis, born on March 31, 1779, during the midst of the Revolutionary War. John served as an aide to George Washington at the Battle of Yorktown where he contracted "camp fever" and died at the age of 28. John’s wife could not raise four children by herself, so the younger two, Eleanor and her younger brother, George Washington Parke Custis, went to live with George and Martha at Mount Vernon and were raised by them for the rest of their youths.

           

Eleanor, who was known as "Nelly" in the Washington household, was ten years old when Washington became the first President of the United  States. Nelly and her brother went with the Washingtons to New York and Philadelphia and lived in the presidential mansions there. Nelly spent her teenage years as the daughter of a President and was known for entertaining the dignitaries and guests that came to visit President Washington.

 

Nelly returned to Mount Vernon with George and Martha after the presidency. In 1799, she married Lawrence Lewis, Washington’s personal secretary. Lewis was also a nephew of George Washington and became the executor of Washington’s will upon the President’s death only a few months after they were married.

 

Nelly and Lawrence received a gift of 2,000 acres next to Mount Vernon from the Washingtons upon their marriage. There they built a plantation and estate called Woodlawn Plantation, where they lived for the next 30 years. In 1830, they moved to a new estate called Audley, which Lawrence built on land he had purchased from Washington’s estate in Clarke County, Virginia. Nelly continued to live here until her death in 1852. She and Lawrence had 3 children that survived to adulthood. Nelly is buried at Mount Vernon near the tombs of George and Martha Washington.

 

Nelly was the author of a frequently referred to letter that answers the question, "Was George Washington a Christian?" Nelly was asked the question in 1833 by historian Jared Sparks. Nelly responded with a letter detailing Washington’s frequent church attendance and devotional habits and stated that questioning Washington’s Christianity was the equivalent of questioning his patriotism. The letter is usually viewed as quite authoritative on the subject because she lived with Washington for 20 years.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"Wisdom, and good examples are necessary at this time to rescue the political machine from the impending storm."
George Washington


AVG logo

This email has been checked for viruses by AVG antivirus software.
www.avg.com