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The Siege of Yorktown Begins

The Siege of Yorktown begins

 

On this day in history, September 28, 1781, the Siege of Yorktown begins when George Washington leads the American and French armies out of Williamsburg to attack British General, Lord Charles Cornwallis.

 

In the summer of 1781, George Washington and his Continental Army in New York were faced with an important decision. Should they attack the British headquarters in New York City, or should they attack the army of Cornwallis in Virginia? 5,500 French soldiers had arrived in Rhode Island the year before and united with Washington's army. French General, the Comte de Rochambeau recommended an attack on Virginia, but the decision was Washington's to make.

 

A letter from French Admiral, the Comte de Grasse, inspired Washington's final decision. De Grasse would arrive in Virginia from the West Indies with a fleet of French naval ships and more soldiers toward the end of August. Washington immediately decided to march south and join him. 7,000 French and American soldiers began the march from New York on August 19. Washington arrived in Williamsburg, Virginia, only 13 miles from Yorktown on September 14.

 

General Cornwallis had occupied Yorktown during the summer, on instructions from his superior, General, Sir Henry Clinton in New York, to build a deep water port on the Virginia coast. Cornwallis built up a series of defenses around the city and a few British ships in the river gave defense as well.

 

Admiral de Grasse arrived at the Chesapeake on August 30 and engaged a British fleet sent with reinforcements for Cornwallis on September 5 at the Battle of the Chesapeake. After a firm French victory, the British fleet departed, leaving Cornwallis to fend for himself.

 

As Washington marched out of Williamsburg on September 28, he led 7,800 French soldiers, 8,000 American Continental soldiers and 3,100 militiamen, for a total of almost 19,000 men. General Cornwallis had 9,000 soldiers within the defense works around Yorktown. Nearly a third of all the participants were German conscripts or Americans of German descent.

 

Over the next two weeks, the Americans waged an ever tightening ring of fire around Yorktown, moving closer and closer and confining the British more tightly. A continuous barrage of American fire power rained down on the city for weeks. Cornwallis held out hope that another fleet with reinforcements would arrive from New York, but when word arrived that a fleet would not depart from New York until October 12, Cornwallis knew he would not last that long.

 

On October 16, Cornwallis met with his officers and the decision was made to surrender. The following morning, a soldier with a white flag approached the Americans and the surrender negotiations began. On October 19, the official surrender took place. Lord Cornwallis refused to attend the surrender ceremony, sending his second, Brigadier General Charles O'Hara in his place.

 

O'Hara at first attempted to surrender Cornwallis' ceremonial sword to General Rochambeau who refused it and directed him to give it to Washington. Since Cornwallis had sent his second, Washington also refused to take it and directed O'Hara to give it to his own second, General Benjamin Lincoln.

 

The Siege of Yorktown was the last major land battle of the Revolution in the colonies, although skirmishes and smaller engagements continued for some time. The surrender at Yorktown took away Parliament's desire to continue the war and peace negotiations began early in 1782, with the final Peace Treaty of Paris signed to end the war on September 3, 1783.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"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

Baylor’s Massacre Takes Place

Baylor’s Massacre takes place

 

On this day in history, September 27, 1778, Baylor’s Massacre takes place when dozens of Virginia militiamen are killed or wounded in a surprise attack as they sleep, in what is today River Vale, New Jersey.

 

26 year old George Baylor had served as an aide to George Washington before he was given command of the 3rd Regiment of Continental Dragoons. This unit was made up of about 120 Virginia militia and was tasked with escort duty and intelligence gathering. The unit was sometimes called “Mrs. Washington’s Guards,” because they were often called on to escort Martha Washington.

 

In the summer of 1778, Baylor’s unit was stationed at Paramus, New Jersey. On September 22nd, 5,000 British troops landed at Paulus Hook to engage in foraging operations to gather supplies for the army in New York and for the upcoming invasion of the South.

 

The American patriots were unsure what the British mission was, so they arrayed their forces in an arc across northern New Jersey to prevent the British from marching up the Hudson. Baylor’s unit was part of this arc, and, on the evening of September 27, Baylor’s men were stationed at several farms along the Overkill Road in what is today River Vale, New Jersey. The soldiers camped out in six barns that evening, while the officers slept in the houses.

 

After hearing that American militia were in the area, British General Charles Cornwallis decided to go after them and began marching north. Major General Charles Grey went up another road and the two were to meet in north New Jersey. Along the way, Grey learned of the presence of Baylor’s men on Overkill Road from local Tories and decided to go after them immediately.

 

Grey ordered his men to remove their flints, just as he had done at the Battle of Paoli a year before, earning him the nickname, “No Flint” Grey. This would prevent the soldiers from discharging their guns, which would alert the patriots. The Regulars had to rely on their bayonets instead.

 

A 12 man guard was quickly surrounded and overcome, after which the Regulars proceeded to surround the barns and houses. The incident didn’t earn the name “Baylor’s Massacre,” for nothing. After being ordered to kill anyone they found, the British soldiers stormed the barns and homes, demanding the militia to give themselves up. As the startled soldiers awoke, most tried to surrender, but they were bayoneted even while surrendering. Dozens were wounded and about 15 killed. Many more were captured and a few escaped.

 

Colonel Baylor and his second in command, Major Alexander Clough, tried to escape the slaughter through the chimney of Cornelius Haring’s home where they were lodged. Both were caught though and stabbed. Clough perished, while Baylor survived. He died, however, a few years later as a result of complications from his wounds.

 

When farmer Cornelius Blauvelt went to his barn the morning after the attack, he found five Americans bayoneted to death and several others wounded but still alive. All of the dead were buried in old tanning vats beside the river on Blauvelt’s property, the graves of whom were discovered in 1967.

 

Unfortunately for the patriots, there were indications that Blauvelt may have been complicit in exposing the location of the militia to the British, including the fact that Blauvelt was a known member of the New Jersey militia and none of his property was damaged or confiscated.

 

News of Baylor’s Massacre quickly spread around the colonies and back to England, inspiring outrage and revenge on the American side, and shame on the British side.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

“All men by nature are equal in that equal right that every man hath to his natural freedom, without being subjected to the will or authority of any other man; being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions.”
John Locke

 

 

 

The Battle of Charlotte

The Battle of Charlotte

 

On this day in history, September 26, 1780, the Battle of Charlotte reveals to British General Charles Cornwallis that he will not have an easy time taking over North Carolina. After the British captured most of Georgia in 1779 and South Carolina in 1780, Cornwallis hoped mopping up the remnants of the Continental Army which had escaped to North Carolina would be an easy task.

 

Various small groups of Continentals and militia harassed Cornwallis' movements from behind and before. Colonel William R. Davie had successfully attacked a Loyalist camp adjacent to Cornwallis' main army at the Battle of Wahab's Plantation on September 20th. He and 150 troops skirmished again with Cornwallis' troops on the evening of September 25th and withdrew to Charlotte around midnight. Ordered to guard the city and slow down the British advance, Davie placed his men strategically around the small town.

 

Charlotte at the time consisted of about 20 houses with two intersecting main streets. The Mecklenberg County Courthouse sat at the intersection. The courthouse featured 8 pillars facing to the south with a low wall connecting them. Behind the wall was a common area where an outdoor market was held. Davie posted part of his men behind this wall, part to the north of the courthouse and the rest behind some nearby houses. He also posted two lines of cavalry to the east and west of the courthouse.

 

As the British army approached, Cornwallis sent the American Legion to scout out the area. The Legion's commander, Banastre Tarleton, was ill, so command was given to Major George Hanger instead. Hanger had been ordered to move into the town cautiously because Cornwallis expected militia were close by. Instead, Hanger charged into town at full force and the Legion came under a hail of gunfire. When the first line of militia began to withdraw, Hanger mistook this as a retreat and charged all the harder, coming under crossfire from the men behind the houses.

 

Three different charges were made by the British and they suffered heavy casualties, including Major Hanger, who was wounded. Lord Cornwallis finally sent the light infantry to the rescue and Colonel Davie ordered his men to retreat. As they escaped north of the town, the British followed them and several more casualties occurred on both sides at Sugar Creek Church north of town. In all, the Americans had about 5 killed and 6 wounded, while the British had more than 50 dead or wounded.

 

The Battle of Charlotte was not a consequential battle of the American Revolution. Its main significance was that it opened General Cornwallis' eyes to the fact that this war was not over, despite the victories in Georgia and South Carolina. Mecklenberg County was a hotbed of patriot sentiment in North Carolina and Colonel Davie and the local militia lived up to this reputation in the Battle of Charlotte.

 

Cornwallis had such a bad time in Mecklenberg County, in fact, that he later it called the area a "hornets' nest," which made the locals quite proud! The name was taken with such pride that the name was officially adopted. The city seal carries a hornet's nest, local groups have the words "hornets" or "hornets' nest" in their names, even pro-sports teams in Charlotte are still called "Hornets" to this day!

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"A good government implies two things; first, fidelity to the objects of the government; secondly, a knowledge of the means, by which those objects can be best attained." Joseph Story (1833)

Ethan Allen is Captured

Ethan Allen is captured

 

On this day in history, September 25, 1775, Ethan Allen is captured at the Battle of Longue-Pointe. After capturing Fort Ticonderoga in May of 1775, Allen led a few hundred of the Green Mountain Boys north to capture Fort St. Jean, which guarded the approach to Montreal. After arriving, the Boys learned that a large contingent of British soldiers was heading toward Fort St. Jean from Montreal and they were forced to call off their mission. The mission cemented Ethan Allen as a hero in the minds of Quebec patriots and as a notorious traitor in the minds of Loyalists.

 

In August, American General Philip Schuyler led an invasion of Quebec in which Allen participated. As he prepared to besiege Fort St. Jean, Schuyler sent Allen and Major John Brown north to recruit patriots into the militia and to distribute a proclamation encouraging the inhabitants to join in the rebellion against Britain. The mission succeeded in gaining several hundred soldiers.

 

Due to illness, the invasion was turned over to General Richard Montgomery by General Schuyler. As Montgomery besieged Fort St. John, he sent Allen to block any attempt to send reinforcements from Montreal. Allen was to camp across the St. Lawrence River from Montreal to block the reinforcements, while Major Brown guarded the road from Montreal to Fort St. Jean.

 

According to Allen, he and Brown met and made a plan to conquer Montreal, though this is disputed by some historians who believe Allen made up the story of Brown’s involvement when the plan failed. According to Allen, Brown’s men were to cross the St. Lawrence above Montreal and his own men were to cross below and then attack the town simultaneously.

 

On the evening of the 24th, Allen crossed and landed at Lonque-Pointe, but for some unknown reason, Major Brown failed to cross above the city leaving Allen to face the British alone. Most of the residents were friendly to Allen, but one escaped to Montreal and told British Governor and General Guy Carleton of Allen’s presence. Carleton had only a few soldiers available because the rest had gone to Fort St. Jean, but he quickly raised 200 militia to fight against the notorious Allen.

 

Allen realized he did not have enough time to ferry all his men back to safety so he made a stand instead. Many of the Canadian militia with Allen quickly fled when they realized a fight was about to occur, leaving Allen with only 50 men. The two sides fought in the early morning hours of September 25, but the Americans were finally overcome. About 30 were captured, including Allen.

 

Allen spent the next 2 ½ years imprisoned, mostly on prison ships because the British were afraid to execute him and make a martyr of him because of his reputation. He was finally exchanged for British Colonel Archibald Campbell, who would later lead the invasion of Georgia. After his release, Allen was taken to Valley Forge where he met with George Washington and was received with great honors.

 

Allen returned to Vermont where he continued serving in the war effort and in politics. He also became a successful author, publishing A Narrative of Colonel Ethan Allen’s Captivity, which became extremely popular, and Reason: the Only Oracle of Man, which condemned the Bible and exalted human reason, a work which tarnished his hero status in the eyes of many.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

“Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”
Edmund Burke

Chief Justice John Marshall is born

Chief Justice John Marshall is born

 

On this day in history, September 24, 1755, Chief Justice John Marshall is born, the longest serving Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court in history. Appointed by President John Adams, Marshall was one of the last surviving members of the founding generation when he died in 1835. He was particularly known for making the Supreme Court a co-equal branch of government with the Presidency and with Congress and establishing the principle that the Court has the final say on what is "Constitutional."

 

John Marshall was born in rural western Virginia to a father who worked as a surveyor for Lord Fairfax. Marshall’s father saw that his children were well-educated, often using books from Lord Fairfax’s library to teach them. As a young man, Marshall joined the Culpeper Minutemen of Culpeper County, Virginia and fought in the American Revolution. He later served in the 11th Virginia Regiment of the Continental Army.

           

After his service in the army, Marshall studied law with George Wythe and became a lawyer in 1780. In 1782, he was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates, where he served for 9 of the next 14 years, during which time his reputation as a lawyer continued to grow. In 1788, he helped lead the Federalists in securing the vote to accept the US Constitution at the Virginia Ratification Convention. In the late 1780s, he spoke in several prominent cases before both the Virginia and US Supreme Courts.

 

Marshall turned down appointments from George Washington to be the US Attorney General and the Ambassador to France. President John Adams, however, was successful in appointing Marshall as one of the commissioners to France. That mission ended in the scandal known as the XYZ Affair, during which the commissioners were asked to pay bribes to deal with French officials, but refused. The affair made Marshall quite popular at home.

 

In 1799, Marshall was elected a member of the House of Representatives from Richmond, Virginia. The next year, President Adams successfully appointed Marshall his Secretary of State. When Adams lost the 1800 election, he chose Marshall in a last minute flurry of appointments to be the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. John Adams later said that was the best decision of his entire life.

 

Marshall served as Chief Justice for 34 years, the longest service of any chief justice. Marshall used his position of influence to cement Federalist policies into law, which supported a powerful central government. He was often at odds with President Thomas Jefferson and his Democrat-Republican party, which favored states’ rights and small government.

 

Marshall’s policies helped establish the Supreme Court as an equal branch of the federal government, giving it authority to review the actions and laws of the President and Congress and deem them "unconstitutional." The Marshall Court helped establish that the government must obey the Constitution and that federal law supersedes state law. His Court gave Congress large leeway in deciding what was “necessary and proper” to do its duties; helped define Congress’ role in regulating interstate commerce; established the idea that corporations have the same rights as individuals; and ruled that the Bill of Rights was only intended as a restriction against the federal government.

 

Marshall served on the Supreme Court right up to his death on July 6, 1835. His other accomplishments include writing and publishing a 5 volume biography of George Washington; serving as the first president of the American Colonization Society, which settled freed American slaves in Liberia; and serving at the 1829 Virginia Constitutional Convention. When he died in 1835, he was one of the last surviving leaders of the founding generation.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

The constitution controls any legislative act repugnant to it.

John Marshall

 

 

Benedict Arnold’s treason is discovered

Benedict Arnold’s treason is discovered

 

On this day in history, September 23, 1780, Benedict Arnold’s treason is discovered by 3 young patriots who grew suspicious of a passerby who turned out to be British spy, John Andre. The discovery led to the three men’s entry into the hall of fame of American heroes from the Revolution.

 

Benedict Arnold was a hero of the American invasion of Canada and the Battle of Saratoga. He was once viewed as one of the Continental Army’s best and brightest and had the personal favor of George Washington. The reason for Arnold’s turning is uncertain, but he was known for having frequent disputes with his superiors and was overlooked for promotion several times. This may have been the source of his disgruntlement.

           

Arnold began corresponding with British General, Sir Henry Clinton in New York the year before and proposed the exchanging of information for certain favors. Arnold used his influence with George Washington to have himself placed in command of West Point, the most strategically important place on the Hudson River preventing a British invasion to the north.

 

On the evening of September 21, 1780, Arnold met with British Major John Andre at the home of Joshua Hett Smith, a patriot who was unaware of Arnold’s true intent, at Haverstraw, New York. Arnold turned over the plans of West Point to Andre and was to receive 20,000 pounds and be made a general in the British army in return. The following morning, Andre began the trek back to New York in disguise, carrying a pass signed by Arnold that would let him through American lines. He carried the secret plans of West Point in his shoes.

 

After crossing the Croton River, Andre believed he would be in safe territory as Arnold had told him only British patrols would be found beyond that point. When he crossed the river, however, he was stopped by a patrol made up of three young patriots, 25 year old David Williams, 22 year old John Paulding and 20 year old Isaac Van Wert. The three belonged to the New York militia and were in the area searching for cattle stolen by the British.

 

Young John Paulding wore a worn out Hessian military jacket and this jacket apparently deceived Andre into believing they were British. Andre exclaimed he was glad to meet some friendly soldiers and that he was on important business. The three boys took him into custody instantly and told him they were patriots. When Andre changed his story and produced the signed pass from Arnold, they became more suspicious. They stripped him and found the documents from West Point.

 

At this point, the three soldiers took Andre to a nearby Continental Army outpost. Lt. Col. John Jameson listened to the story and quickly sent off letters to George Washington and Benedict Arnold (it wasn’t yet clear that Arnold was guilty of any wrongdoing). Arnold quickly escaped to a British ship and made his way to safety. George Washington was furious when he arrived at West Point only a few hours after Arnold’s departure and the truth was revealed.

 

Arnold escaped to New York and, as promised, was made a general in the British army. He led attacks in Virginia and Connecticut and later moved to London. John Andre, the captured British spy, was hanged for his role in the affair on October 2. The three boys who captured Andre became heroes, with poems and songs, books and plays written about them. They were well-known figures to Americans for over a hundred years because of all the publicity, but their names have faded in recent times, which is truly a loss to modern day Americans.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

When the American spirit was in its youth, the language of America was different: Liberty, sir, was the primary object.
Patrick Henry

Nathan Hale is hanged

Nathan Hale is hanged

 

On this day in history, September 22, 1776, Nathan Hale is hanged for spying against the British on Long Island. Hale was born in Coventry, Connecticut in 1755. He went to Yale and became a school teacher in New London, Connecticut. When the Revolution broke out, Hale joined Connecticut’s 7th Regiment as a lieutenant and marched to Boston to participate in the siege of that city.

 

Hale was disappointed that he saw no military action at Boston before the British abandoned the city. Afterwards, the Continental Army moved to defend New York. Hale was disappointed once again when his unit saw no action at the Battle of Long Island on August 27, 1776.

 

After losing the battle, George Washington knew the British would attempt to invade Manhattan and devised a plan to place a spy into the British ranks on Long Island to learn where the invasion would begin. The 21 year old Hale volunteered for the mission, probably because he was tired of being overlooked and out of harm’s way.

 

Hale sailed from Norwalk, Connecticut across Long Island Sound on September 12th. He landed at Huntington and made his way west where he posed as a teacher of Dutch descent looking for a job. Hale spent several days trying to gather information, especially about the planned invasion of Manhattan. Unbeknownst to Hale, the British invaded the island at Kip’s Bay on the 15th, forced the Continental Army to withdraw to the north of the island and captured New York City all on the same day.

 

Hale continued with his mission, not realizing that it had already failed. On the evening of September 21st, a large fire started in New York City that burned down a quarter of the town. In the hysteria of the event, some 200 patriot sympathizers were rounded up on suspicion that they had set the fire to prevent the British from using the city as a base of operations.

 

Hale by this time had already begun to make his way back to Huntington to cross back to safe territory and report back to Washington, so he had nothing to do with the fire. During his escape from Long Island, Hale was tricked into disclosing his mission to a British officer who had been tipped off to Hale’s mission. He was taken into custody and sent to General William Howe in New York. Some have speculated that Hale was caught as a result of the frenzy to take patriots into custody after the fire, but there is no evidence to support this claim.

 

General Howe interrogated Hale at the Beekman Mansion outside the city and sentenced him to hanging for treason. That night, Hale was held in the greenhouse on the Beekman estate, where he was denied his request to have a Bible or see a clergy member. British officer John Montresor reported the young man conducted himself with great composure as he marched to the gallows on September 22.

 

Before his death, Nathan Hale made one of the most memorable statements of the Revolution, when he allegedly said, "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country." Hale apparently made much more lengthy comments in which he condemned the British and made it clear that he was proud of his role in the rebellion.

 

No grave has ever been discovered for Hale, but numerous statues of the blond haired, blue eyed spy from Connecticut have been erected in his honor. Numerous schools, buildings, army installations and a US submarine have been named for this 21 year old hero of the American Revolution as well.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

“I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country.”

Nathan Hale