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American victory at the Battle of Princeton

American victory at the Battle of Princeton

 

On this day in history, January 3, 1777, the American victory at the Battle of Princeton causes the British to withdraw from most of New Jersey, after this third decisive victory in ten days. George Washington surprised the Hessian garrison at Trenton on December 26 and took 1,000 captives. This was followed up on January 2 with a victory at the Battle of Assunpink Creek, where Washington was able to drive back three assaults from General Charles Cornwallis.

 

After this failure, Cornwallis decided to call off the attack until morning, even though some of his officers believed Washington would try to escape in the night. Washington took advantage of the decision, but rather than running, he decided to attack the British rear guard left at Princeton. He took his army east and then to the north in utter silence during the night, approaching Princeton at dawn.

 

In the morning, Washington dispatched Brigadier General Hugh Mercer to destroy a bridge on the post road between Trenton and Princeton to delay Cornwallis’ pursuit. When General Mercer arrived at the post road, he ran straight into 800 men under the command of Lt. Col. Charles Mawhood, marching south from Princeton. Mawhood ordered a charge on the rebels, who were mostly equipped with rifles and no bayonets. Unable to defend themselves against a bayonet charge, they were quickly overrun, trapping General Mercer. Thinking they had cornered George Washington, the British soldiers shouted, "Surrender you damn rebel!" When Mercer refused and charged them instead, he was bayoneted and left for dead, causing the rest of his men to scatter. Another 1100 militia appeared just then, but when they saw Mercer’s men fleeing, they began to flee as well.

 

At this point, George Washington arrived with yet more troops. Seeing the fleeing militia, Washington quickly rode his horse straight into the battle, rallying the troops and shouting, "Parade with us my brave fellows! There is but a handful of the enemy and we shall have them directly!" Following their leader, the Americans quickly gained control of the field. Now outnumbered, Mawhood ordered a retreat as his line began to dissolve under heavy fire.

 

Knowing that Cornwallis was approaching from the south, Washington retreated back to Princeton where his men quickly captured the remaining troops who had holed up in Nassau Hall at the College of New Jersey (now Princeton), surrendering themselves to a young Captain Alexander Hamilton.

 

Washington wished to continue attacking British outposts after three victories in ten days, but Generals Knox and Greene warned him that even though the Continental Army was newly inspired by the recent victories, they were worn out and greatly outnumbered. Following their advice, Washington moved north to Morristown and took up winter quarters. General Cornwallis and Commander-in-Chief William Howe abandoned southern New Jersey after these defeats, removing all of their men to New Brunswick which held substantial supplies and money reserves, taking up winter quarters there until the spring.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

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

The Americans win the Battle of Assunpink Creek

The Americans win the Battle of Assunpink Creek

 

On this day in history, January 2, 1777, the Americans win the Battle of Assunpink Creek, otherwise known as the Second Battle of Trenton. This was the second victory for the Continental Army in a week, helping to revive the flagging spirits of the American revolutionaries.

 

On December 26, George Washington had crossed the Delaware River into New Jersey and staged a surprise attack against the Hessian garrison at Trenton, capturing nearly 1,000 soldiers. After the battle, Washington withdrew back across the river into Pennsylvania, anticipating a strong counterattack from the British.

 

General William Howe, the British Commander-in-Chief of North America was furious with the defeat at Trenton. He canceled Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis’ scheduled leave to Britain for the winter and ordered him to Princeton immediately. 8,000 troops converged on Princeton on January 2 and Cornwallis began marching them south toward Trenton, sending an advance guard ahead of the rest.

 

George Washington had faced a dilemma only a few days before. The enlistments of most of his men would expire on December 31st. He knew the whole war might be lost if the army were to dissolve now. He offered the soldiers $10 to stay on for another month and the vast majority decided to stay. Their money arrived from Congress on January 1st.

 

Washington’s men crossed back over the Delaware on the 29th and took up positions south of Trenton on Assunpink Creek. He also sent another line under the command of French Brigadier-General Matthias Alexis Roche de Fermoy north to delay the British advance from Trenton. When the advance line met the oncoming British, they took cover behind trees and in ravines, greatly delaying Cornwallis for much of the day. General Fermoy, who had become drunk, went back to Trenton and Colonel Edward Hand took over the line.

 

The advance line was finally driven back to Assunpink Creek by twilight and the full British army began an attack on the bridge. Washington’s men held back three assaults from the British, felling hundreds of British soldiers in the process, causing Cornwallis to hold a council to decide what to do. Cornwallis had already lost 365 men to the Battle of Assunpink Creek by this point, while the Americans lost only 100. Some of his officers wanted to attack immediately, while others wanted to wait until morning. Cornwallis ultimately decided to wait until morning, believing the Continentals were already defeated, worn out and had nowhere to go.

 

Washington took advantage of the break. In the middle of the night, he withdrew most of his troops in silence and sent them north to Princeton, leaving 500 soldiers at Assunpink Creek to keep fires burning to make it appear that the army was still there. When Cornwallis arose in the morning, to his horror, Washington’s entire army was gone. They had marched to Princeton and taken over the 1,200 man garrison there, the third American victory in 9 days, forcing the British to withdraw from most of New Jersey and back to New Brunswick and New York City for the winter.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

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

Samuel Adams (1776)

Mutiny of the Pennsylvania Line

Mutiny of the Pennsylvania Line

 

On January 1, 1781, 1,500 soldiers from the Pennsylvania Line–all 11 regiments under General Anthony Wayne’s command–insist that their three-year enlistments are expired, kill three officers in a drunken rage and abandon the Continental Army’s winter camp at Morristown, New Jersey.

 

British General Henry Clinton sent emissaries from New York to meet the mutineers and offer them full pardon and the pay owed them by the Continental Army in exchange for joining the Redcoats. Instead, the men turned south towards Princeton, which they captured on January 3, intending to march on Philadelphia and Congress. From Princeton, the mutineers dispatched envoys to meet with General Wayne, who was following behind them. They aired their grievances and handed over Clinton’s men for eventual execution.

 

With this show of devotion to the Patriot cause, the mutineers strengthened their position in negotiations with Congress. General Wayne and Congressional President Joseph Reed met with the mutineers to hear their grievances on January 7; they came to an agreement three days later. Half the men accepted discharges, while the other half took furloughs coupled with bonuses for reenlistment. Those who reenlisted formed the Pennsylvania Battalion, which went on to participate in the southern campaign.

 

These excellent terms prompted 200 New Jersey men stationed at Pompton to follow suit with their own mutiny. This time, the response was quite different. General George Washington used New England soldiers to disarm their New Jersey compatriots and executed two of the leading mutineers.

 

These actions kept the Patriot army from disintegrating, but it still faced severe challenges–early 1781 saw more Americans fighting for the British than fighting for Washington.

 

http://www.history.com

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

“The greater the power, the more dangerous the abuse.”

Edmund Burke

The Americans are defeated at the Battle of Quebec

The Americans are defeated at the Battle of Quebec

 

On this day in history, December 31, 1775, the Americans are defeated at the Battle of Quebec, the first major loss for the Continental Army during the American Revolution. The Continental Congress launched an invasion of Canada in September of 1775, trusting that the largely French speaking population would rise up against their British oppressors and join the Americans in their rebellion.

 

The first wave of the invasion was a success as General Richard Montgomery captured Fort St. Jean and Montreal. As Montgomery’s 1700 men marched up from the south, Colonel Benedict Arnold landed in Maine and began a march with another 1100 troops across the wilderness straight to Quebec City, the capital of the province. Arnold’s march was heroic, but, lacking adequate supplies, starvation and disease set in and many troops deserted, leaving Arnold with only 600 men by the time he reached Quebec City. Arnold attempted to get British Governor and Major-General Guy Carleton to surrender the city, but he refused, causing Arnold to withdraw to await reinforcements.

 

When General Montgomery arrived in early December, he began to plan an attack on the city, although he was outnumbered, 1000 to 1800 men. Quebec City was one of the best fortified cities in America with its large, thick walls. Montgomery had little artillery, so he could not bombard the walls. Instead, he determined that he should wait for a snowstorm, when his advance would be hidden by the storm. On December 31st, a snowstorm hit and Montgomery made his move around 4am. Two companies led attacks on the western walls of the city as a feint, while the more serious invasion attempts would be made on the north and south of the city, one each led by General Montgomery and Colonel Arnold.

 

General Montgomery’s men followed along the southern wall of the city and entered through a palisade, but were quickly cut off by cannon and gun fire from a blockhouse. Montgomery was killed instantly with a shot through the head. A dozen others were killed as well, including several other senior officers. Only a few escaped, including a young soldier named Aaron Burr who would one day be Vice President. The remaining troops fled in disorganization after the senior officers were killed.

 

Colonel Arnold continued his attack on the north of the city. Arnold’s men made it into the city as well, but Arnold was shot in the ankle, taken off the field and replaced by Captain Daniel Morgan. Morgan’s men overtook the first barricade, but were soon surrounded and, after intense street fighting, forced to surrender. The battle ended by 10am. In all, about 80 Americans were wounded or killed and another 430 captured. The British lost only 5 dead and 14 wounded.

 

After the defeat, Benedict Arnold continued the siege on the city for another 5 months, sending word to the Continental Congress for reinforcements. Although a few reinforcements arrived, the remaining troops were so devastated with disease and poor conditions during the winter that General John Thomas, who replaced Arnold in April, ordered a retreat. The Americans retreated upriver, attempting to burn Montreal, and successfully burning Fort St. Jean, as they withdrew. The invasion of Canada was a failure. The Continental Congress would not try again to persuade its Canadian neighbors to join them in the fight for independence.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority. It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters."

Daniel Webster

Declaration of Independence signer Francis Lewis dies

Declaration of Independence signer Francis Lewis dies

 

On this day in history, December 30, 1803, Declaration of Independence signer Francis Lewis dies. Lewis was a New York delegate to the Continental Congress and a member of the New York Provincial Congress who saw more personal tragedy as a result of the American Revolution than most of the other Founders.

 

Francis Lewis was born in Wales and was orphaned as a young child. He was taken in by an aunt and uncle and was schooled at Westminster School in London. Lewis went to work at a London counting house where he learned about business. In 1735, at the age of 22, he sold all the property he had inherited from his father and invested it in merchandise. He moved to America and established mercantile houses in New York and Philadelphia with his goods, eventually becoming a financial success, traveling all over Europe and to Russia and Africa in his mercantile pursuits.

 

During the French and Indian War, Lewis served as a mercantile agent, supplying uniforms to the British army. In 1756, while he was serving as an aide to General Hugh Mercer at Fort Oswego on Lake Ontario, the Fort was captured by French General Louis-Joseph de Montcalm. Lewis was sent as a prisoner to France where he remained for several years until his release. Upon his release, Lewis returned to America and was rewarded with 5,000 acres of land for his service to the British government.

 

In 1765, Lewis retired from business, moved his family to his estate at Whitestone (now Flushing), New York and became involved in politics. He is believed to have been a member of the New York Sons of Liberty and served on several early committees of the fledgling New York state government.

 

In 1775, Lewis was elected to the Continental Congress. He was not allowed to vote for independence on July 2, 1776 due to his state’s reluctance to break from England, but he did sign the Declaration on August 2nd. Later that month, British General William Howe invaded Long Island. Lewis’ home was ransacked and burned and his wife captured. She remained in British custody for some time and was so poorly treated that she became severely ill. A prisoner exchange could not be conducted for some time because the Americans did not have a female prisoner of equal rank to exchange, but George Washington was able to finally arrange her release. Mrs. Lewis never recovered from her illness and died in 1779.

 

Most of Francis Lewis’ wealth was destroyed or spent during the war. He continued to serve in the Continental Congress as a delegate from New York until 1779 when he was appointed to oversee the Board of Admiralty. He signed the Articles of Confederation, America’s first governing document, in 1778. In his old age, Lewis became a vestryman at Trinity Church in New York City, where he was buried when he died at the age of 90 on December 30, 1803.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer 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

Savannah, Georgia is captured by the British army

Savannah, Georgia is captured by the British army

 

On this day in history, December 29, 1778, Savannah, Georgia is captured by the British Army in the First Battle of Savannah, the first strike of the new British southern campaign aimed at taking back control of the rebellious southern colonies. With the entry of the French on the side of the Americans after the victory at Saratoga, British commanders were forced to reassess their entire war strategy, involving a withdrawal from captured Philadelphia and a new effort designed to take back Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia.

 

The Southern Strategy relied on the British belief that Loyalist sentiment and numbers were very strong in the south and could be exploited to more easily put down the rebels there. Lieutenant Colonel Archibald Campbell left New York City with a force of 3100 men on November 26 and arrived off Tybee Island, near the mouth of the Savannah River on December 23.

 

Savannah was defended by a small group of Georgia militia and Continental Army soldiers under the command of General Robert Howe, but he only had about 650 soldiers to defend the town. When Howe learned that Campbell had begun landing his troops south of the city, his men took up positions between them and the town.

 

As Campbell’s men advanced toward them, a slave told Campbell of a path through the swamp that would bring them in behind Howe’s men. The path was followed and Howe was surprised from the rear. His position was quickly overtaken and his army scattered, many fleeing into the swamps. Some escaped to the north, others into the town, while still others drowned trying to swim across Yamacraw Creek. 83 Americans died and more than 450 were captured in what is known as the First Battle of Savannah. The British lost only 7 killed and 17 wounded.

 

Campbell took over Savannah and within eighteen months the British had near complete control over Georgia and South Carolina. General Howe took the blame for the loss of the city, but was exonerated in a court-martial for the incident. Other commanders believe he should have engaged the British forces at their landing site and prevented them from disembarking.

 

A major offensive was made to retake Savannah by American Major General Benjamin Lincoln and French Admiral Charles Hector, Count D’Estaing in October, 1779, but the attempt failed, turning into one of the most bloody losses of the war for the Americans. The city of Savannah would remain in British hands for the entire rest of the war and would not be retaken by the Americans until the British withdrawal in July, 1782.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

“But what is liberty without wisdom, and without virtue? It is the greatest of all possible evils; for it is folly, vice, and madness, without tuition or restraint.”

Edmund Burke

Ben Franklin publishes first Poor Richard’s Almanack

Ben Franklin publishes first Poor Richard’s Almanack

 

On this day in history, December 28, 1732, Ben Franklin publishes the first Poor Richard’s Almanack. Franklin would publish the almanac for the next 25 years, becoming rich and famous in the process. Poor Richard’s Almanac contained weather predictions, witty sayings, poems, proverbs, astronomical information, math exercises, epigrams (clever sayings), calendar information, etc.

 

Franklin’s writing in the almanac came off appearing as if it was all his own homespun sayings and advice, but in reality, much of it was copied from other European almanacs and other books. Many of the sayings and puzzles were just borrowed verbatim from these sources. Even the name Richard Saunders, Franklin’s persona in the series, was borrowed from a popular London almanac called the Apollo Anglicanus. Saunders eventually came to be known as "Poor Richard" and this was borrowed from another London almanac called "Poor Robin’s Almanack."

 

Poor Richard’s was published every year from 1732 to 1758, selling around 10,000 copies a year. It was Franklin’s second most successful printing enterprise, after the Pennsylvania Gazette. The almanac was so popular that it was often the only other book in colonial homes beside the Bible. Between the Gazette and Poor Richard’s, Franklin earned enough income to retire at the age of 42 in 1748. After retirement, Franklin’s partner continued the printing business, while Franklin still provided the material for the almanac.

 

Franklin’s almanac was purchased for a variety of reasons, including the calendar, astronomical observations and weather predictions, but it became known most of all for Franklin’s proverbs, aphorisms and plays on words. Many of these sayings have come down to us today and are part of everyday life, including such sayings as, "Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise;" "God helps them that help themselves;" "Well done is better than well said;" "Search others for their virtues, thy self for thy vices;" and "He that sows thorns, should not go barefoot."

 

A few other sayings from the almanac include, "To err is human, to repent divine, to persist devilish;" "Many have quarrel’d about Religion, that never practis’d it;" "No man e’er was glorious, who was not laborious;" "He that cannot obey, cannot command;" "By diligence and patience, the mouse bit in two the cable;" "Nothing but money, Is Sweeter than Honey;" and "It is better to take many Injuries than to give one."

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"In reality there is perhaps no one of our natural Passions so hard to subdue as Pride. Disguise it, struggle with it, beat it down, stifle it, mortify it as much as one pleases, it is still alive, and will now and then peek out and show itself."

Benjamin Franklin (1771)