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Mercy Otis Warren is born

Mercy Otis Warren is born


On this day in history, September 14, 1728, Mercy Otis Warren is born. Mercy would be an important writer during the Revolution and an adviser to numerous political leaders of the time. She would also be the first woman to publish in the United States and would write one of the early histories of the American Revolution.


Mercy Otis was born in West Barnstable, Massachusetts in 1728, the third child in a family of 12 children. Her father, James Otis, Sr. was an influential lawyer and attorney general of Massachusetts. Otis, Sr. was a staunch anti-British patriot from early on and Mercy learned many of her political views from him as a child. Even though she had no formal education, Mercy was tutored by a local minister with her older brother James (who would become a leader of the patriot movement). She became extremely well read and knowledgeable about politics for a woman of her time.


Mercy married James Warren in 1754 and went to live with his family in Plymouth. James would eventually be elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives, where he would become the Speaker of the House. After the Revolution began, James was elected the president of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress and served as a paymaster to the Continental Army.


Having a father who was a formal attorney general, a brother (James) who earned the nickname "Father of the American Revolution," and a husband at the head of the rebel congress, Mercy was immersed in the politics of the day. She was close friends with and a writing correspondent with such people as Sam Adams, John Adams, Abigail Adams, John Hancock, George Washington, Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson. James and Mercy often hosted meetings of the rebel political leaders in their home. The Massachusetts Committee of Correspondence, which Samuel Adams said was the most important thing that took place to get the colonies working together, was formed in the Warren’s living room.


Mercy used her extensive knowledge of history and politics to become an influential writer in her own right. She published several plays before and during the war that satirized and criticized British rule and policies, although never under her own name, which would have been unusual for a woman of the time. In 1788, she published Observations on the New Constitution, which was critical of the new constitution and called for a bill of rights. Some believe this writing was instrumental in the creation and adoption of the Bill of Rights into the Constitution.


In 1790, Mercy published her first work to be published in her own name, Poems, Dramatic and Miscellaneous, which contained 18 poems and 2 plays designed to educate about the virtues necessary for the new nation to succeed. In 1805, she published her most substantial work, the 3 volume History of the Rise, Progress and Termination of the American Revolution, one of the first histories of the Revolution to be published and the only one of that era to be published by a woman. Mercy Otis Warren passed away on October 19, 1814 at 86 and is buried at Burial Hill in Plymouth, Massachusetts.


Jack Manning

Secretary General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution


“To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead.”
Thomas Paine

Brigadier General Andrew Pickens is born

Brigadier General Andrew Pickens is born


On this day in history, September 13, 1739, Brigadier General Andrew Pickens is born. Pickens was one of the great military leaders of the South during the American Revolution, who would also be elected to Congress and be famed as a negotiator with southern Indian tribes.


Andrew Pickens was born in Pennsylvania, the son of French Huguenots who had immigrated from France to Scotland to Ireland and finally to America. Pickens traveled south along the Great Wagon Road that took many Scots-Irish families south to the Carolinas and settled in the Waxhaws region of South Carolina, later moving near the Georgia border.


Pickens became a successful farmer and trader with local Indians. He gained military experience in the Cherokee Wars of the early 1760s, but was especially known for personally having good relations with the Indians.


When the American Revolution began, Pickens became a captain in the patriot militia. He served in numerous battles, such as the Siege of Ninety-Six, the Snow Campaign against Loyalist organizers, the Williamson Campaign against the Cherokee and the Battle of Kettle Creek.


Pickens surrendered after the Battle of Charleston that captured the city and agreed not to fight the British any more in order to be paroled, as many South Carolinians did. The parole did not last, however. Pickens joined the fight again after his home was wrecked by Loyalists and his family threatened. Pickens earned a ceremonial sword from Congress and a promotion to brigadier general for his role in the Battle of Cowpens. Pickens then took place in the siege that took back Augusta from the British and the last major battle in the south, the Battle of Eutaw Springs.


After the Revolution, Pickens built a home on the Keowee River called Hopewell Plantation where he lived for many years. Pickens’ reputation as a friend of the Indians only increased in the decades after the Revolution, as he was called upon time and time again to negotiate with the Chickasaws, Creeks, Cherokees, Chickamaugas and Choctaws. Pickens was so well regarded by the Indians that he earned the nickname "Skyagunsta," or "Wizard Owl." This was the name of a great Cherokee chief who died shortly before the Revolution began, who was known for being a great warrior, but also for making peace with the British.


Pickens served in the South Carolina House of Representatives from 1781-1794 and again from 1800-1812. He served at the South Carolina Constitutional Convention of 1790 and was elected to Congress for one term in 1793.


In his later years, Pickens built a home near the site of a Cherokee village called Tamassee, near the location of a famous battle Pickens won early in the Revolution, called the "Ring Fight." Pickens won the fight by ordering his men, who were outnumbered 7 to 1, to stand in a circle and fire their guns outward at any attackers. Pickens lived at Tamassee in his "Red House," until his death in 1817.


Jack Manning

Secretary General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution


"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

Congress Authorizes the First Printing of the Bible

Congress authorizes the first printing of the Bible


On this day in history, September 12, 1782, Congress authorizes the first printing of the Bible in North America by Philadelphia publisher, Robert Aitken. This Bible has been called the "Bible of the Revolution." But why would Congress "authorize" the publishing of a Bible?


In Europe, it was traditional for the Christian governments to authorize or license Bible publishers for accuracy. It was believed that if any old person could publish the Bible, inaccuracies could creep into the text, creating confusion amongst the populace about what was proper Christian doctrine.


After the boycotts of British goods began during the Revolution, there was a shortage of Bibles in the American colonies because Bibles were previously imported from Britain. As early as 1777, Congress discussed importing Bibles from Scotland or Holland, but these plans were never completed.


On January 21, 1781, Robert Aitken addressed a letter to Congress requesting them to review and authorize a printing of the Bible he was currently working on. Aitken stated that he knew Congress would "not neglect spiritual security, while they are virtuously contending for temporal blessings." He also said the Bible would be used in schools and requests that Congress review it for accuracy. He asks them to appoint and authorize him to print as many as were necessary to meet the needs of the American people.


Congress obliged Aitken's request by appointing a committee for the review, consisting of James Duane, Thomas McKean and the Rev. John Witherspoon. The committee referred the Aitken Bible to Congress' two congressional chaplains, the Rev. William White of Christ Church, Philadelphia, and the Rev. George Duffield of the Third Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia.


On September 1, the chaplains reported back that they believed Aitken's printing was indeed accurate and indicated it would provide them great personal joy that a new supply of Bibles would finally be available in America once again.


On September 12, Congress took up the recommendation based on the chaplains' review and passed the following resolution, which was printed in the front of the Aitken Bible: "RESOLVED, THAT the United States in Congress assembled highly approve the pious and laudable undertaking of Mr. Aitken, as subservient to the interest of religion, as well as an instance of the progress of arts in this country, and being satisfied from the above report of his care and accuracy in the execution of the work, they recommend this edition of the Bible to the inhabitants of the United States, and hereby authorize him to publish this Recommendation in the manner he shall think proper."


Aitken printed 10,000 copies of his Bible, only 30-40 of which still exist today. Ironically, Aitken's sister, Jane, later became the first woman to print a Bible in world history, also on September 12, when she printed a Bible containing Charles Thomson's translation of the New Testament in 1808. Thomson was the long time Secretary of Congress and an accomplished theologian. His translation of the Septuagint, the Greek New Testament, was the first translation of the New Testament directly from the Greek into English ever written. All previous English New Testaments were translated from the Latin.


Jack Manning

Secretary General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

"Religion and virtue are the only foundations, not of republicanism and of all free government, but of social felicity under all government and in all the combinations of human society." 
John Adams (1811)

American Loss at the Battle of Brandywine

American loss at the Battle of Brandywine


On this day in history, September 11, 1777, the American loss at the Battle of Brandywine opens the door for the British to take the American capital, Philadelphia. British General William Howe landed 17,000 troops at Head of Elk, Maryland in late August to capture Philadelphia.


George Washington and the Continental Army were camped between the British and Philadelphia. For two weeks, the two armies maneuvered around one another, with only minor skirmishes taking place. As the British army began moving north, Washington made his stand at Chadd's Ford over the Brandywine Creek on the "Great Road" from Baltimore to Philadelphia.


Washington placed troops at all the fords from Pyle's Ford below Chadd's Ford, to Wistar's Ford north of Chadd's Ford. Washington had covered all the main crossings for several miles up and down the creek and believed this would force the British to cross at Chadd's Ford, which was the best defensible position. Unfortunately, Washington's intelligence of the area was not as good as Howe's.


General Howe's troops gathered at Kennett Square and, early on the morning of September 11th, rather than sending his entire force to fight the Continentals at Chadd's Ford, he split his army in two and sent only 5,000 men to the ford. The rest of Howe's army marched north under Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis and crossed further up the creek at fords Washington was unaware of, then marched south upon Washington's right flank.


The fighting began on the approach to Chadd's Ford when the Americans opened fire on the British. The British soldiers took cover on the grounds of a Quaker meetinghouse, while a church service was underway inside.  The fighting began mid-morning and the British eventually pushed the Americans back beyond the ford.


The great surprise took place, however, when Cornwallis' army fell on the right flank at about 2pm. The Americans were completely surprised and quickly took many casualties. Generals John Sullivan, Adam Stephens and William Alexander quickly repositioned their troops and held off the British for a few hours, while the rest of the army began a retreat. By 4pm, Washington and General Nathanael Greene arrived with reinforcements.


As darkness approached, Greene placed the troops of General George Weedon at Dilworth to block the British from advancing. This allowed the rest of the army to retreat to safety, most of whom arrived at Chester by midnight.


The Battle of Brandywine was a great loss for the Americans, but the Continental Army soldiers were not discouraged after the battle, even though they suffered more than 1,000 dead and wounded. Washington wrote to Congress that his army had survived to fight another day. For the next two weeks the armies continued to maneuver around one another, but on September 26, General Howe marched into Philadelphia unopposed. Congress had fled to York and Philadelphia would be occupied for the next 9 months.


Jack Manning

Secretary General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

"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)

Captain Nicholas Biddle is born

Captain Nicholas Biddle is born


On this day in history, September 10, 1750, Captain Nicholas Biddle is born in Philadelphia. Biddle was one of the first naval captains appointed by the Continental Congress. As a young teenager, Biddle became a sailor and voyaged to the Caribbean where he was stranded for several months on an island. He served in the Royal Navy in 1770 for a few years and then traveled as a sailor on a voyage to the Arctic.


When he returned to America, the American Revolution was just breaking out. The State of Pennsylvania gave Biddle charge of the galley Franklin to patrol the Delaware River, which was the approach to Philadelphia. On August 1, 1775, Biddle received one of the Continental Navy’s first five commissions. His commission gave him command of the 14 gun Andrew Doria.


Biddle traveled in the Andrew Doria with Commodore Esek Hopkins’ fleet on a voyage to the Bahamas, where they captured supplies and the Royal Governor, Montfort Browne. The Andrew Doria successfully captured several armed British ships during the expedition. On the return voyage, Biddle took part in the April 6 fight with HMS Glasgow, which successfully escaped. Biddle was highly critical of Commodore Hopkins’ leadership in the incident, which led to Hopkins’ censure by Congress.


Biddle was highly commended for his role in a mission to Newfoundland that captured numerous British ships. Every time a ship was captured, Biddle took some of his own crew to man the captured vessels. By the time he returned, he had only 5 sailors remaining on own his ship!


In June of 1776, Biddle received what would be his final commission from Congress when he was given command of the USS Randolph, which was then under construction. Biddle first sailed on the Randolph in early 1777 and shortly afterwards suppressed a mutiny of former British prisoners of war serving as sailors. On March 7, 1778, the Randolph sighted the 64 gun HMS Yarmouth off Barbados. Biddle decided to fight the Yarmouth, rather than try to outrun her, even though the Randolph was severely outgunned.


Eyewitness accounts say the Randolph gave a brave fight, tearing up the Yarmouth’s rigging and firing five broadsides into the Yarmouth, while the Yarmouth was able to get off only one broadside into the Randolph. Biddle himself was wounded during the battle. Despite the bravery and aggression of Biddle’s troops, shortly after Biddle was wounded, the Randolph’s ammunition magazine was hit and the entire ship exploded and sank, killing 301 of the 305 aboard, including Biddle, who was only 27 years old.


Biddle’s death and the loss of the Andrew Doria was a huge loss to the young Continental Navy. A year and a half before his death, Biddle wrote to his brother Charles, "I am much more afraid of doing a foolish action than of losing my life. I aim for a character of conduct, as well as courage, and hope never to throw away a vessel and crew merely to convince the world I have courage. No one has dared to impeach it yet. If any should, I will not leave them a moment of doubt."


Jack Manning

Secretary General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution


“The greatest danger to American freedom is a government that ignores the Constitution.”
Thomas Jefferson

New Jersey Patriot William Paterson Dies

New Jersey patriot William Paterson dies


On this day in history, September 9, 1806, New Jersey patriot William Paterson dies. Paterson was a leading figure of the American Revolution in New Jersey. He helped write the US Constitution, the laws of the State of New Jersey and served as an Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court.


William Paterson was born in Ireland and immigrated to America as a child. He was enrolled at Princeton, where he graduated with a BA in 1763, delivering his class' commencement address on the subject of patriotism. Paterson then studied law with Richard Stockton, a future signer of the Declaration of Independence.


Paterson began a law career and settled near New Brunswick, New Jersey. When the American Revolution began, Paterson became a leading figure of the revolt in New Jersey. He served several terms in the rebel New Jersey Provincial Congress, on the Council of Safety and at the New Jersey Constitutional Convention. In 1776, he was appointed New Jersey's Attorney General, a position he held until the war was over, even turning down election to the Continental Congress to perform his duties. Paterson received a military commission from Somerset County, but never saw active duty.


After the Revolution, Paterson continued his legal career, but was appointed to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, where he made a national name for himself by promoting the "New Jersey" or "Paterson" plan, which advocated a legislative body based on equal representation for each state. The plan created much debate, but was eventually scrapped for the current one with a Senate based on equal representation and a House based on representation by population.


In 1789, Paterson became one of New Jersey's first US Senators and helped write the Judicial Act of 1789, which created the federal court system. In 1790, Paterson resigned his Senate seat to become governor of New Jersey, where he codified New Jersey's laws and revised its court system.


On February 27, 1793, George Washington nominated Paterson to the US Supreme Court, but the next day he had to rescind the nomination. Since Paterson had helped create the Judicial Act of 1789 as a Senator, his appointment to the Court would have violated Article 1, Section 6 of the Constitution, which forbids members of Congress from being appointed to a position created while they are in Congress until their term has run out. Even though Paterson had resigned his Senate seat, his term had not yet ended. A few days, later, on March 4, 1793, Washington re-nominated him and Paterson was confirmed to the Court by the Senate.


As an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, Paterson traveled in a circuit of federal courts. His most well-known cases had to do with the trying of participants engaged in the Whiskey Rebellion of the early 1790s. Paterson was known for being a strong defender of states' rights and the rule of law.


Paterson died on September 9, 1806 at the age of 60 on his way to Ballston Springs, New York, where he hoped to partake of the alleged healing powers of the area's natural springs for ailments related to a coach accident in 1803. Paterson was at the home of his daughter in Albany when he passed away.


Cornelia had married Stephen Van Rensselaer in 1802. Van Rensselaer was the inheritor of a vast estate that made him the 10th most wealthy man in US history, and the 22nd most wealthy man in world history, with an estimated worth in today's dollars of $68 billion! Paterson was buried at the Van Renssalaer estate and many years later was moved to the Albany Rural Cemetery.


Jack Manning

Secretary General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

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

Brigadier General Enoch Poor Dies

Brigadier General Enoch Poor dies


On this day in history, September 8, 1780, Brigadier General Enoch Poor dies in what would be one of the great mysteries of the American Revolution. Did Poor die of typhus, or did he die in a secret duel  that was covered up by George Washington?


Enoch Poor was born in Andover, Massachusetts in 1736. As a young man he fought in the French and Indian War. He moved to Exeter, New Hampshire and became a shipbuilder. When the Stamp Act came along in 1765, Poor was at the lead of the opposition, being appointed one of the enforcers of the boycott on the sale of British goods.


Poor was again appointed to a committee to enforce a ban on British goods in 1770 and again in 1774. He served in the New Hampshire Provincial Congress and, after the Battle of Lexington, became the colonel of one of three New Hampshire regiments. Poor's regiment was moved to Boston from Portsmouth after the Battle of Bunker Hill and he participated in the Siege of Boston.


Poor's regiment was absorbed by the Continental Army in 1775 and sent to join the invasion of Canada under General Richard Montgomery. The invasion failed and Poor's unit eventually joined the Continental Army in New Jersey, where he was promoted to brigadier general. In 1777, Poor was involved in the Battles of Saratoga, where his heroism helped win one of the most significant battles of the Revolution. Poor spent the winter of 1778 at Valley Forge and he helped direct the retreat after the Battle of Monmouth. In 1779, Poor helped lead the Sullivan Expedition which wreaked havoc on the Iroquois villages of New York.


In 1780, Poor became part of the Marquis de Lafayette's command. The Marquis had great respect for Poor and put him in charge of training a new light infantry corps. Poor was then given command of one of the new brigades, but he didn't serve in this position long before his death, which would become one of the great controversies of the American Revolution.


According to the army surgeon, Poor came down with typhus on September 6 and died on September 8. But many historians doubt this official story, instead believing that Poor died as a result of a duel with a subordinate officer who challenged Poor's decision to make a forced march when his officers were too tired to go any further. After several attempts to get him to stop, the officer told Poor he would have challenged him to a duel if he were not his superior. Poor took up the challenge, the two fought and Poor was mortally wounded.


But why would the incident have been covered up? First, dueling was illegal in the Continental Army. It would have been an embarrassment if the public found out that one of the army's top generals was involved in a duel. Second, it would have been embarrassing if the British found out that one of the Americans' top generals died in a duel with a subordinate. For this reason, some historians believe George Washington had the incident covered up and the typhus cover story was invented. There are family records that verify the duel story, but historians are divided about evenly about whether the event actually occurred.


Upon Poor's death, George Washington wrote, "He was an officer of distinguished merit, one who as a citizen and soldier had every claim to the esteem and regard of his country." Both Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette attended the funeral in Hackensack, New Jersey, where Poor was buried. During the Marquis' famed return to the United States in 1824, the Marquis visited Poor's grave and, apparently moved with emotion, proclaimed, "Ah, that was one of my generals."


Jack Manning

Secretary General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

"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)