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The Crawford Expedition begins

The Crawford Expedition begins

 

On this day in history, May 25, 1782, the Crawford Expedition begins when Colonel William Crawford leads an expedition to destroy enemy Indian villages on the Sandusky River in Ohio. Indians living in Ohio were situated between the American colonies and the British stronghold at Fort Detroit. Many of these Indians allied with the British hoping to stop westward colonial expansion.

 

Fort Detroit supplied allied Indians and encouraged them to make frequent raids into American settlements. By 1782, things had become particularly bloody. Innocent women and children were killed in Indian raids into Pennsylvania and 100 innocent Indians were killed by retaliating Pennsylvania militia at the Gnadenhutten Massacre.

 

General William Irvine, over the Continental Army’s Western Department at Fort Pitt, developed a plan to attack Fort Detroit with 2,000 men. George Washington agreed this was the only way to permanently stop the raids, but he informed Irvine that the Continental Congress simply did not have the resources to support such an expedition. Instead, Irvine planned an intermediary expedition to the Sandusky, where a large Indian base of operations was centered.

 

A personal friend of George Washington’s, Colonel William Crawford, a veteran of the French and Indian War and the American Revolution, was called on to lead the expedition. On May 25, 1782, Crawford set out from Mingo Bottom with 500 men, all of whom had provided their own supplies, horses, food and weapons. Unbeknownst to them, the Indians had learned of the Crawford Expedition practically from the start and had gathered a force of several hundred Wyandot, Delaware, Mingo and Shawnee, along with 100 British rangers to oppose them.

 

Crawford’s scouts began running into resistance on June 3. The Americans drove the Indians into the open plains in fighting that lasted much of the next day, but as evening arrived, more and more Indian reinforcements began to arrive. Crawford was soon surrounded and he ordered a retreat in the night. Many broke off in small groups and were scattered. When Crawford himself left the battle site, he could not find the rest of the group. Many of these stragglers, including Crawford, were captured over the next few days, though the main group did make it back to Fort Pitt.

 

Crawford and many of the prisoners were tortured and killed, partly in response to the Gnadenhutten Massacre. Crawford’s death was told by Dr. John Knight, the expedition’s surgeon, who was a fellow prisoner with Crawford who later escaped. He wrote that he and Crawford had their faces painted black, which was a mark of execution, and had the scalps of several dead prisoners thrown in their faces. Crawford was beaten, stripped and tied to a post. He had hot coals thrown on him and was prodded with burning sticks. His ears were cut off and he eventually lost consciousness. After being scalped and having hot coals thrown on him again, Crawford regained consciousness, but went mad until he finally died.

 

Crawford’s gruesome death was retold across the colonies and helped perpetuate the idea of the Indians as barbarians. The Crawford Expedition was a failure, but the American Revolution was virtually over. The preliminary peace treaty was signed in November of 1782 and agreed to the following year. Even though the war with the British was over, however, tensions with Indians in the west would remain and many more battles were to come in the next two decades.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Secretary General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"Where there is no law, there is no liberty; and nothing deserves the name of law but that which is certain and universal in its operation upon all the members of the community."

Benjamin Rush (1788)

John Hancock elected President of the Continental Congress

John Hancock elected President of the Continental Congress

 

On this day in history, May 24, 1775, John Hancock is elected President of the Continental Congress. John Hancock’s father and grandfather were both ministers and Hancock likely would have become a minister also if his father hadn’t died when he was a boy. Instead, Hancock was raised by his wealthy uncle, Thomas Hancock. Thomas trained John to take over his business, which he did at the age of 27 when Thomas died, making John one of the wealthiest men in the colonies.

 

Hancock became involved in the boycotts against British goods in the 1760s and found himself in the center of riots against Great Britain when his ship Liberty was impounded for alleged smuggling. Hancock was a prominent leader of the Boston Town Meeting, which often published incendiary statements against Parliament. When Governor Thomas Gage disbanded the Massachusetts Colonial Assembly in 1774, Hancock was chosen the first President of the rebel Provincial Congress.

           

Shortly afterwards, Hancock was chosen to attend the Second Continental Congress. He was elected the Congress’ third President on May 24, 1775, after Peyton Randolph and Henry Middleton. Hancock was the longest serving president of Congress, serving for almost 2 1/2 years during the critical opening years of the Revolution. During his term, Hancock signed the commission of George Washington as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army. Hancock was quite disappointed that he was not given the position himself, but did all he could to support Washington. In his role as President, Hancock was also the first to sign the Declaration of Independence, in large letters, allegedly so the King wouldn’t fail to see it.

 

Hancock was a lifelong sufferer from gout, a debilitating joint disease, and was eventually forced to leave the position of President due to the illness, even though he continued in Congress until 1780. He signed the Articles of Confederation, America’s first governing document in 1778. Hancock’s desire to serve in battle was finally rewarded when he became a leader of the failed American attack on Newport, Rhode Island in late 1778. The failure of the mission, however, caused much criticism to himself and other leaders involved.

 

John Hancock was one of the leading politicians back home in Massachusetts as well. He served as President of the Massachusetts State Convention that ratified the Articles of Confederation and as President of the Massachusetts State Constitutional Convention, which adopted the Constitution of Massachusetts, the oldest constitution in the world still in use.

 

After the creation of the new Massachusetts Constitution, Hancock was elected Massachusetts’ first Governor, a position he was re-elected to 9 times. Hancock was re-elected as President of the Confederation Congress in 1785, but he never filled the position due to illness. In 1788, Hancock once again filled the position of President of the Massachusetts Convention that ratified the US Constitution.

 

Hancock was one of the most popular politicians of the Founding Fathers, especially in his home state of Massachusetts, where he often won the governorship with more than 80% of the vote. Hancock finally passed away at the age of 56 in 1793. He is buried in Boston’s Old Granary Burying Ground with such other notable people as Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, James Otis, Robert Treat Paine, the parents of Benjamin Franklin and the five people killed in the Boston Massacre.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Secretary General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

“The Secret of Freedom lies in the people, whereas the Secret of Tyranny is in keeping them ignorant.”
Maximilien Robespierre

Patriots win the Battle of Sag Harbor

Patriots win the Battle of Sag Harbor

 

On this day in history, May 23, 1777, patriots win the Battle of Sag Harbor, Long Island. Sag Harbor was an important British port on the east end of Long Island used for monitoring Long Island Sound and providing supplies to British troops. The British garrison here had constructed a position on top of Meeting House Hill, complete with wooden palisades.

 

The British were in control of Manhattan and Long Island after capturing both the previous winter. The Americans surrounded the area, while the British sent soldiers on foraging missions to attack American supply posts and gather food. One such raid into Danbury, Connecticut had destroyed a large supply of American provisions in April. Connecticut Brigadier General Samuel Holden Parsons planned a retaliatory raid against Sag Harbor.

           

Control of the mission fell to Colonel Return Jonathan Meigs (yes, his first name was Return), who left Guilford, Connecticut on the night of May 23 with around 170 men. They sailed in whaleboats across Long Island Sound and landed near Southold, New York around 6 in the evening. They carried their boats overland and then sailed across Little Peconic Bay to Sag Harbor. Serendipitously, most of the British soldiers in the area had been ordered to New York City and less than 100 Loyalists were left guarding the port and the fort on Meeting House Hill.

 

Meigs split his men into two groups and over the next 24 hours, they attacked the fortifications on Meeting House Hill and the port. The first half stormed Meeting House Hill with bayonets drawn and captured 53 prisoners with only a single shot fired. The second group went to the harbor and began to burn British boats. They were fired on by a British schooner, but were successful in burning 12 British boats and taking another 37 prisoners. In all, 90 Loyalists were captured and taken back to Connecticut and 6 were killed, while the patriots had none killed or injured.

 

The Battle of Sag Harbor (also called Meigs’ Raid) was an important morale booster for the American rebels. It was the first American victory in New York after Long Island and Manhattan Island were captured and proved that the Americans could defeat the British. It also sent a message to Loyalist supporters of the Crown that there was a price to pay for going against their patriot brethren.

 

For his bravery, Colonel Meigs received a commemorative sword from the Continental Congress, one of only 15 such awards given during the entire war. Meigs would later be involved in putting down a mutiny in the 6th Connecticut Regiment that would earn him a written thank you from George Washington. After the war, Meigs would become a settler in the newly opened Northwest Territory and be a US government agent to the Cherokee Nation in Tennessee.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Secretary General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"There can be no prescription old enough to supersede the Law of Nature and the grant of God Almighty, who has given to all men a natural right to be free, and they have it ordinarily in their power to make themselves so, if they please."

James Otis

The Siege of Ninety-Six begins

The Siege of Ninety-Six begins

 

On this day in history, May 22, 1781, the Siege of Ninety-Six begins against Loyalist troops at Fort Ninety-Six, South Carolina. Ninety-Six is a still existing village in South Carolina’s backcountry. The origin of the name is uncertain, but it likely has to do with the distance from Ninety-Six to a common travel destination, such as Lexington, South Carolina or the Savannah River.

 

By mid-1781, the American General Nathanael Greene had begun taking back the south from the British. Assisted by Generals Thomas Sumter, Francis Marion, Andrew Pickens and Col. "Lighthorse Harry" Lee, British posts across Georgia, North and South Carolina began to fall one by one. In May, the only major inland strongholds remaining were Ninety-Six in South Carolina and Augusta in Georgia. On May 22, sieges were begun against both of these inland posts. Henry Lee and Andrew Pickens led the siege on Augusta, which finally surrendered on June 6.

           

General Greene and 1,000 men laid siege to Ninety-Six, the central fortification of which was an 8 point star fort, called the Star Fort, with 14 foot walls. The fort was surrounded with a large ditch and abattis, which are large logs sharpened to a point and buried in the ground at an angle toward the attackers. The Polish Colonel Thaddeus Kosciuszko was Greene’s chief engineer in charge of the siege, which required digging ditches near the fort which would provide places for the attacking forces to hide. Such a strategy usually entailed digging ditches closer and closer to the intended target. By June 3, the Patriots were within 30 yards of the fort. They then built a Maham Tower, which is a tall tower on which riflemen could stand and fire down into the fort.

 

British Lieutenant Colonel John Cruger, in charge of Ninety-Six, blocked the fire from the tower by raising the height of the walls with sandbags. He also tried to burn the tower down with heated shot, but that was unsuccessful. Greene fired burning arrows into the fort, but Cruger countered this by removing the roofs of the buildings.

 

On June 7, Greene was reinforced by Henry Lee and Andrew Pickens after their successful capture of Augusta. On June 11, Greene learned that a large British force under Lord Francis Rawdon was coming from Charleston to rescue Ninety-Six from the siege. This put General Greene in the difficult position of either needing to successfully finish the attack soon or of retreating to get away before Lord Rawdon arrived.

 

On June 18, Greene led an all-out attack on Ninety-Six, hoping to capture the fort before Rawdon arrived. It was a bloody attack, much of it fought with bayonets hand to hand. Greene was successful at first in taking an outer redoubt, breaking through the abattis and removing the sandbags for the riflemen on the tower. Ultimately though, Cruger was successful in driving the attackers back. The following day, Greene led his men in retreat as Rawdon’s force was only 30 miles away.

 

Rawdon sent a force after Greene, but they soon came back after the exhausting march from Charleston. Having lost many of his inland posts and with the increase in patriot activity, Rawdon believed Ninety-Six was indefensible and abandoned the fort, the last major British inland post to fall in the south. Rawdon then marched back to Charleston with the rescued Loyalists, many of whom would eventually flee the country at the end of the war and end up settling in a town they named "Rawdon" in Nova Scotia.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Secretary General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

“We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again.”

Nathanael Greene

 

Washington and Rochambeau Meet in Connecticut

Washington and Rochambeau meet in Connecticut

 

On this day in history, May 21, 1781, Washington and Rochambeau meet in Connecticut to discuss their options. By early 1781, the success of the American Revolution was in question. People were tiring of the war. Inflation was rampant. The Continental Congress had no money with which to pay its soldiers. Some soldiers were even threatening to mutiny. French involvement beginning in 1778 had failed to yield any significant victories. The British were in control of much of the south and had inflicted some severe losses on the Continental Army there, including America’s largest defeat of the war, when General Benjamin Lincoln surrendered 5,000 men at Charleston.

 

The French foreign minister, Charles Gravier, the Comte de Vergennes, realized something must be done quickly before the British solidified their gains. He sent millions in aid to Congress and authorized the French army at Newport, Rhode Island under General Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, the Comte de Rochambeau, to join the Continental Army near New York for an attack on the city. In addition, Vergennes sent word to Admiral François-Joseph Paul, the Comte de Grasse, who was in charge of France’s West Indies fleet, that he should join the Americans.

            

On May 21, 1781, Washington and Rochambeau met in Wethersfield, Connecticut to discuss their options. Washington favored an attack on New York City. The American and French soldiers would now outnumber the British in New York by 3 to 1. Rochambeau, on the other hand, favored a less risky joint attack on British operations in Virginia under General William Phillips and the traitor, Benedict Arnold. They sent word to Admiral de Grasse of the options and the French army marched from Newport to White Plains, New York to join the Continental Army.

 

Admiral de Grasse sailed for the Chesapeake during the summer and sent word to Washington and Rochambeau that he believed a joint attack on Virginia would be the most effective option and encouraged them to join him. Washington abandoned the plans to attack New York and began to march south.  Meanwhile, British General Charles Cornwallis had taken a surprise turn into Virginia after suffering from his attempts to secure the Carolinas. Cornwallis received instructions from his superior, General Henry Clinton, to establish a deep water port on the coast. Cornwallis ended up in Yorktown, Virginia.

 

Admiral de Grasse arrived at the Chesapeake at the end of August and disembarked 3,000 new troops to join the Marquis de Lafayette, who was already in Virginia. On September 5, de Grasse’s fleet successfully fought off a British fleet sent to aid Cornwallis at the Battle of the Chesapeake. The failure of the British fleet to bring aid or assist in an escape trapped Cornwallis in Yorktown. Washington and Rochambeau arrived in September and laid siege to the city, outnumbering the British by 2 to 1. The Siege of Yorktown lasted nearly three weeks, ending in the surrender of Cornwallis on October 19.

 

The surrender at Yorktown did not end the war, but it did break the back of support for the war in England. A new group of politicians were quickly elected that began peace negotiations, culminating in the Treaty of Paris, which ended the American Revolution on September 3, 1783.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Secretary General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

Parliament Shuts Down Self-rule in Massachusetts

Parliament shuts down self-rule in Massachusetts

 

On this day in history, May 20, 1774, Parliament shuts down self-rule in Massachusetts in response to the Boston Tea Party. In December of 1774, Boston citizens angry that Parliament was taxing imported tea, even though they had no elected representatives in Parliament, responded by dumping 42 tons of tea into Boston Harbor.

 

Parliament responded with a series of acts intended to reign in the unruly colonists. The acts were officially called the Restraining Acts, but were commonly called the Coercive Acts in England. The colonists, however, called them the Intolerable Acts and this set of acts was largely responsible for igniting the American Revolution.

            

The first act to be passed was the Boston Port Act which closed Boston Harbor to all trade until the ruined tea was paid for. This was accomplished with a naval blockade and thousands of troops in Boston. Naturally, the citizens of Boston resented the occupation of their city, just as they had when it was occupied a few years earlier, during an occupation which led to the Boston Massacre.

 

On May 20, 1774, Parliament enacted the next set of acts. The Massachusetts Government Act required that most government positions be filled by appointment of the King or the governor, who was himself appointed by the King. This effectively gave control of the government to the King. Massachusetts had a long tradition, as did all the colonies, of self-rule, with locally elected officials controlling local governments. As you can imagine, the citizens were outraged. In addition, the Act forbade town meetings (where much of the rebellion was being fomented) to meeting only once a year.

 

Along with the Massachusetts Government Act, the Administration of Justice Act gave the governor of Massachusetts the right to remove trials of colonial officials to other colonies or even to England. The purpose of this act was to remove the authority of colonial laws and colonial juries over government officials. Such locally created laws and local juries were often at odds with royal prerogatives. The Administration of Justice Act was actually called the “Murder Act” by George Washington because it allowed colonial officials to commit crimes against local laws and get away with them.

 

The final two parts of the Coercive Acts were the Quartering Act, which renewed the British army's authority to house troops on private property, and the Quebec Act, which expanded British French-speaking Quebec south to the Ohio River and west to the Mississippi. It granted freedom of religion to Quebec's Catholic speaking residents and also removed the right to self-rule in this territory. The Quebec Act outraged American colonists because the French were still seen as an enemy after the French and Indian War and Catholicism was viewed with disdain by many Protestants, not necessarily because of religious differences, but because of Catholicism's history of entanglements in authoritarian European governments. So the colonists viewed the strengthening of French Catholic Quebec as a direct threat.

 

Colonists in all thirteen colonies were alarmed by the Intolerable Acts. If self-rule could be closed down in Massachusetts, Parliament could do it in any colony. Their response was to form the First Continental Congress to deal with the Acts as one body. When the First Congress met in Philadelphia in September of 1774, they remonstrated with Parliament for changes to be made, but also warned all the colonies to begin gathering arms and ammunition to prepare for war.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Secretary General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"I hope our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us, that the less we use our power the greater it will be."

Thomas Jefferson

Georgia Declaration of Independence signer Button Gwinnett dies

Georgia Declaration of Independence signer Button Gwinnett dies

 

On this day in history, May 19, 1777, Georgia Declaration of Independence signer Button Gwinnett dies from wounds received in a duel with Brigadier General Lachlan McIntosh. Gwinnett was born in England around 1735. He moved to Charleston, South Carolina in 1762 and went into business. At the age of 28, he bought a large tract of land on St. Catherine’s Island, which was part of the colony of Georgia and became a prosperous planter. He was first elected to the Georgia Assembly in 1769.

 

As tensions with Great Britain grew, Gwinnett joined the patriots and was elected to Georgia’s extra-legal Provincial Assembly. The Assembly sent him to the Continental Congress as one of Georgia’s three delegates, where he voted for independence from Great Britain on July 2, 1776 and for the formal Declaration of Independence on July 4. His signature was written on the document when most of the other’s signed it on August 2.

           

At this time, Gwinnett was hoping to be appointed the top military leader of the Georgia state militia, but since he had no military experience, the position was given to his chief political rival, Lachlan McIntosh. Gwinnett continued to serve in Congress, but returned to attend Georgia’s convention to create a state constitution. Using a plan given to him by John Adams, Gwinnett wrote the first draft of Georgia’s first Constitution and became the Speaker of the Georgia Assembly. When the first governor, Archibald Bulloch, died, Gwinnett was made the President and Commander-in-Chief of Georgia’s militia.

 

Meanwhile, Lachlan McIntosh was recruited as a Brigadier General over Georgia’s Continental Army battalion. This put McIntosh and Gwinnett in a confrontational position as McIntosh had the official right to command the battalion, but, as President of Georgia, Gwinnett felt that the responsibility belonged to him. Gwinnett began to undermine McIntosh’s leadership and spread dissension amongst his top officers. When an expedition to capture St. Augustine in British East Florida failed, partly because of their squabbling, both were called back by the angry Georgia Assembly to defend themselves. During the process, McIntosh accused Gwinnett of being a “scoundrel and a rascal,” which were extremely inflammatory words at the time. Gwinnett demanded an apology, which McIntosh refused, causing Gwinnett to challenge him to a duel, the common method of gaining “satisfaction” in those days.

 

McIntosh and Gwinnett met on May 16, 1777 with their pistols near Savannah. At a distance of 12 feet, both men fired on one another and both were shot seriously in the leg. McIntosh would eventually recover, but Gwinnett was wounded mortally and died 3 days later from gangrene.

 

Button Gwinnett left a lasting legacy to Georgia and to America. He signed the Declaration of Independence and served in the Continental Congress during the critical years of the nation’s birth. He also wrote the foundation for Georgia’s first constitution and served as one of its first chief executives. As an interesting side note, Button Gwinnett’s signature is among the most valuable signatures in all of world history. Why? Only 51 copies are known to exist and many collectors have tried to put together complete collections of the signatures of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence. Gwinnett’s signature is so in demand and so rare, that a single copy sold for $722,000 in 2010, ranking in value right up there with the signatures of Julius Caesar and William Shakespeare!

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Secretary General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"If we are to guard against ignorance and remain free, it is the responsibility of every American to be informed."

George Washington