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Patriots destroy the Boston Lighthouse

Patriots destroy the Boston Lighthouse


On this day in history, July 20, 1775, patriots destroy the Boston Lighthouse. Boston’s lighthouse, also called Boston Light, is a still standing structure that was the first lighthouse ever built in what would become the United States.


Boston Light was built on Little Brewster Island in Boston Harbor in 1716. When the American Revolution came, the islands in Boston’s harbor were the site of several skirmishes between patriots and British soldiers and sailors. The British took over Boston Light in 1774.


Throughout the British occupation of Boston, the harbor was in British control. In July of 1775, local Massachusetts patriots decided to destroy the lighthouse to prevent the British from benefitting from its use. On July 20, Major Joseph Vose led a raid on the island with a small group of soldiers. Only a small British contingent guarded the lighthouse and they were quickly overrun. Vose burned the wooden parts of the lighthouse and captured the island’s provisions. Only two Americans were injured in the skirmish.


The British rebuilt the lighthouse within a matter of days and it was operational again by the 29th. George Washington issued orders for another attack on the lighthouse, which commenced on the morning of July 31st. Again, the small British guard was overtaken and the lighthouse burned to the ground. As the patriots escaped, they were attacked by British ships and a firefight began. One lucky hit on a British boat killed several sailors, raising the number of British casualties in the fight to 12. Only one American was killed in the fight.


The British abandoned Boston in March, 1776, when Washington fortified Dorchester Heights above the city with captured cannons brought from Fort Ticonderoga. After the evacuation, several British ships remained in the harbor for some time. On June 13, American patriots began firing on the remaining ships. As they left the harbor for good, the British set a timed charge in Boston Light, blowing up the lighthouse for good.


Boston Light was rebuilt in 1783 by order of the Massachusetts Legislature to its original height of 75 feet. This lighthouse is still standing today, although its height was raised to 98 feet in 1856. Boston Light was taken over by the federal government in 1790. The lighthouse was fully automated in 1998, but still has watchkeepers that man the site as tour guides. As such, it is the only manned lighthouse in the US under direction of the US Coast Guard.


Jack Manning

Secretary General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

"Among the natural rights of the colonists are these: First a right to life, secondly to liberty, and thirdly to property; together with the right to defend them in the best manner they can."
Samuel Adams

Brigadier General Jacob Bayley is Born

Brigadier General Jacob Bayley is born


On this day in history, July 19, 1726, Brigadier General Jacob Bayley is born. Bayley was a farmer, soldier and local politician from Newbury, Vermont. Bayley was born in Massachusetts, but eventually migrated to northern New Hampshire. At that time, the territory now known as Vermont was part of the New Hampshire Grants, a disputed territory between New Hampshire and New York. It later became the state of Vermont.


Bayley served in the local militia and in the French and Indian War where he rose to the rank of colonel. After the war, Bayley became one of the founders of Newbury, Vermont on the Connecticut River. He also served in several local offices, including as a judge and as a justice of the peace.


When the American Revolution broke out, Bayley was appointed to Vermont's Council of Safety to coordinate the war effort. He also became a brigadier general of the Vermont militia. In 1776, Bayley was made commissary general of the Continental Army's Northern Department, an important position charged with procuring supplies and transporting them for the army.


Bayley was partly responsible for what became known as the Bayley-Hazen Military Road. The Continental Congress had tried a failed invasion of British Quebec early in the war and plans were constantly thrown around for another such invasion. Part of the reason for the first failure was the difficulty in transporting troops and supplies across the northern wilderness to Canada.


Consequently, plans were made to build a road from Newbury, Vermont to St. John's near Montreal. Bayley was one of the project's chief supporters and he finally convinced George Washington to fund the road. Washington sent Bayley 250 pounds to begin construction in 1776. The project was very costly, however, and Bayley spent much of his own fortune on it, for which he was never reimbursed.


After building the road only a few miles, the project was called off due to rumors of a British attack. The road was continued on and off several times for the next 3 years, but it only ever stretched about 54 miles. It was eventually abandoned due to the great expense and to local opposition from residents who feared the British would use the road to stage an invasion.


Bayley commanded a division at the Battle of Saratoga where his connections with local Indians proved invaluable in helping the Americans win the battle. During the war, many Vermonters wanted to remain part of the British Empire, but Bayley steadfastly refused to go along.


After the war, Jacob Bayley continued in local politics, serving as town selectman in Newbury and as a judge. He passed away in 1815 and was buried in Newbury's Oxbow Cemetery.


Jack Manning

Secretary General
National Society Sons of the American Revolution


“If the Freedom of Speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.” 
George Washington

Captain John Paul Jones Dies

Captain John Paul Jones dies


On this day in history, July 18, 1792, Captain John Paul Jones dies. John Paul Jones was America's first naval hero for his exploits during the American Revolution. He was born in Scotland and began working as a sailor at the age of 13. Jones was soon serving on merchant and slave ships bound for America and the West Indies.


At the age of 20, Jones was on a voyage when the captain and first mate died during a yellow fever outbreak. After successfully leading the ship into harbor, the ship's owners were so grateful that they made him the captain. He made two successful voyages as captain before his career took a turn.


Jones had a sailor flogged for insubordination who died a few weeks later. He was arrested for the man's death and imprisoned for a time, having his reputation permanently tarnished. Sometime later, Jones killed a sailor involved in a mutiny on his ship. He refused to sit for a court martial and fled Scotland for America.


Jones had a brother living in Virginia who died around this time and Jones took over his brothers' affairs. After meeting several local politicians, Jones went to Philadelphia where the new United States Navy was just being formed. Jones was appointed first lieutenant of the Navy's flagship, USS Alfred.


After Alfred's initial voyage to the Bahamas, Jones was given command of the USS Providence. In six weeks, he captured 16 British ships. He went on to command a series of ships, wreaking havoc on the coast of British Nova Scotia and on British shipping.


In 1777, Jones was sent to France to assist the American commissioners there, Ben Franklin, John Adams and Arthur Lee. Jones became endeared to France and eventually set sail for England itself. Jones captured a number of British merchant ships, made the only American land attack on England in the war, captured the HMS Drake and tried to kidnap the Earl of Selkirk.


Jones terrorized the English coast and earned the reputation of a "pirate" in England. In 1779, he engaged the HMS Serapis in battle. Both ships were severely damaged. The Serapis surrendered, but Jones' own ship, the Bonhomme Richard, sank a few days later. Jones then sailed the captured Serapis into port.


As the American Revolution came to a close, but with his reputation tarnished from friction with America's political leaders, including John Adams, Jones looked for employment elsewhere. He served for a time in the navy of Empress Catherine II of Russia, fighting in their war against the Ottoman Turks in the Black Sea. Once again, though, disagreements and accusations stopped his advancement and Jones retired to France.


John Paul Jones lived in France for the rest of his life after 1790. He tried to regain employment in Russia and also with Sweden, but this never succeeded. In 1792, Jones was appointed US Consul to the Dey of Algiers, but he never fulfilled his mission. Jones passed away on July 18, 1792 in Paris. Jones' body was removed to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis in 1913. He is considered America's first great naval hero and is often called the "Father of the US Navy."


Jack Manning

Treasurer General
National Society Sons of the American Revolution


“I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast; for I intend to go in harm's way.”
John Paul Jones

The Battle of Quinby Bridge and Shubrick’s Plantation

The Battle of Quinby Bridge and Shubrick's Plantation


On this day in history, July 17, 1781, the Battle of Quinby Bridge and Shubrick's Plantation gives the British temporary relief as they fall back to Charleston  after losing control of the interior of South Carolina and Georgia.


In the summer of 1781, American General Nathanael Greene began systematically taking back the south from British armies. After losing control of much of the interior, British forces began moving back to Charleston in an ever shrinking ring around the city. One such place that served as a major supply depot was Monck's Corner, about 30 miles north of Charleston.


In mid-July, British Lt. Col. James Coates learned that a large force of 600-700 men, under American Brigadier General Thomas Sumter, was descending on Monck's Corner. Coates was in charge of protecting provisions and supplies at Monck's Corner. He quickly decided to get the supplies out before the Americans could capture them.


While skirmishes took place between various roaming groups of Americans and British soldiers, Coates moved out with about 600 men, first transporting all the supplies to Biggin Church. Coates, however, began to see that his position was untenable and moved out yet again on the evening of July 16th, setting the church and everything in it on fire to prevent it falling into American hands.


Around 3 am, American scouts noticed the fire and informed General Sumter, who immediately took off after Coates. Coates' group split in two, as did the Americans to follow them. The main body of soldiers crossed Quinby Creek at Quinby Bridge near the Cooper River. Upon crossing the bridge, Coates' men began tearing up the planking, but the Americans charged the bridge on horseback, driving the British back. Much of the planking fell from the bridge and some of the horses jumped the gap, while other soldiers began walking across on the narrow support beams.

The British scattered on the other side, but soon regrouped and those Americans which had already crossed retreated to the woods. Coates then took over the Shubrick Plantation, placing his men strategically in the main house and outbuildings. General Francis Marion and Lt. Col. Henry Lee, who were leading the pursuit, stopped when they saw what a strong position the British had at the plantation and waited for General Sumter to arrive.


When Sumter arrived, he ordered an immediate attack, which Marion and Lee strongly advised against. Sumter overrode their wishes, however, and ordered an assault. The attackers had little cover approaching the house, and dozens were killed. Sumter finally called the assault off, hoping to renew it in the morning when his only cannon arrived.


Marion, Lee and others were furious at the needless loss of life. Nearly every commander abandoned Sumter in the night or in the morning, forcing him to call off a further attack. The Battle of Quinby Bridge cemented Sumter's poor reputation and was the last time many of these soldiers worked with him. The battle gave the British somewhat of a reprieve on their retreat to Charleston, but the American noose was tightening and the British would soon be confined to Charleston until the end of the war.


Jack Manning

Treasurer General
National Society Sons of the American Revolution


“All the powers of government, legislative, executive, and judiciary, result to the legislative body. The concentrating these in the same hands is precisely the definition of despotic government." 
Thomas Jefferson, 1781- Notes on the State of Virginia, Query XIII

Maryland has its Largest Battle of the Revolution

Maryland has its largest battle of the Revolution


On this day in history, July 16, 1776, Maryland has its largest battle of the Revolution, the Battle of St. George's Island, when a fleet of British ships attempts to make a landing on St. George's Island, a narrow isle between St. George's Creek and the Potomac River in southern Maryland.


St. George's Island is in St. Mary's County, Maryland, which was Maryland's first settlement. During the American Revolution, St. Mary's County, and indeed, all of Maryland, supplied a large number of soldiers to the Continental Army, in spite of the fact that no major battles were fought in Maryland. St. Mary's County, in fact, lost over 2,000 men to the war.


Even though no major battles were fought in Maryland during the war, there were numerous skirmishes and "actions," especially along the coast. One such major event occurred in July of 1776. John Murray, the Earl of Dunmore, was the Royal Governor of Virginia. He was driven out of Virginia by the colonists in January after burning Norfolk to the ground. Dunmore had already been living on a ship for months for his own protection. After Norfolk, Dummore continued to try to re-establish Royal authority in Virginia, making frequent raids on coastal towns up and down the Chesapeake Bay for supplies.


By July, Dunmore was sailing with a fleet of more than 70 ships and they were in desperate need of supplies. Maryland troops were amassing in Annapolis to leave for New York, where the next anticipated British strike would come. On July 12, warnings began to come in that a British fleet was spotted near Point Lookout, the  southernmost tip of Maryland's western peninsula.


Calls were sent to Annapolis to quickly send back some of the soldiers to St. Mary's County to stop the fleet from landing. Meanwhile, ten boats full of British soldiers landed on St. George's Island on the 15th. They began foraging for water and food and dumping off the dead bodies of those who had died from smallpox on the ships.


The following day, the soldiers came back, but this time 100 of the local militia, under Captain Rezin Beall, held the landing party off. The militia lined up in bushes along the shore and fired on the landing boats when they came within range. They successfully kept the British from landing. By July 19th, more than 400 militia were on the island and Lord Dunmore was forced to abandon the idea of establishing any kind of base on St. George's Island.


The Battle of St. George's Island was one of the larger skirmishes in Maryland during the Revolution, but coastal areas and plantations were under constant threat of plundering. The locals even resorted to using "fire ships" against the British, lighting ships aflame and sailing them into British ships at night. Maryland's soldiers would go on to become some of the most celebrated of the entire war. In fact, Maryland got its official motto, "The Old Line State," because George Washington called the Maryland soldiers the "Old Line," because the original line of Maryland soldiers lasted so long in the war.


Jack Manning

Treasurer General
National Society Sons of the American Revolution


"Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism." 
George Washington (1796)

The Battle of Stony Point begins

The Battle of Stony Point begins


On this day in history, July 15, 1779, the Battle of Stony Point begins. Led by Brigadier General "Mad" Anthony Wayne, this battle takes back a strategic Hudson River vantage point from the British south of West Point.


During the winter of 1778-79, the Continental Army was encamped at Middlebrook, New Jersey. When the spring arrived, British General Henry Clinton hoped to draw George Washington out from Middlebrook and into a decisive full-on battle.


Clinton marched 8,000 troops north from New York City towards West Point, 50 miles upriver. Clinton hoped Washington would come out of Middlebrook in force to protect the valuable West Point, which was the key to holding the upper reaches of the Hudson. Clinton’s real goal, however, was not to take West Point, merely to draw Washington out of his encampment.


In May, Clinton’s army took Stony Point and Verplanck’s Point, ten miles below West Point. These two points were on opposite sides of the busy King’s Ferry crossing. Clinton knew that capturing these two points would make it look like the target really was West Point. After several weeks, however, Washington still had not taken the bait and Clinton sent much of his force on other missions, leaving only about 600 men at Stony Point.


Washington himself came to observe the defenses at Stony Point and devised a plan to take it back. Stony Point is a triangle that juts a half mile into the Hudson. The west side, at the time, was mostly a swamp with a single elevated road through it. The other two sides that made the point, were steep, rocky slopes. Washington’s plan was to have a force attack each rocky side, with another force attacking the point. Everyone would scale the heights to the garrison at the top. Another force would make a show of attacking over the main road from the west, but this would be a feint.


Washington appointed Brigadier General "Mad" Anthony Wayne to lead 1,350 elite Corps of Light Infantry soldiers. The attack would happen at night and the soldiers would carry nothing but their bayonets. No ammunition was allowed, lest a misfire should occur and warn of their approach.


On the evening of July 15 around 8 pm, Wayne’s force arrived at the Springsteel farm, just west of Stony Point. They formed into their columns and began their attack around midnight. Wayne’s column, approaching from the south, found its crossing point flooded with water and had to wade across. British sentries saw them and began firing on them. Wayne himself was shot in the head, but his group continued up the hill and overran the British defenses. The other two attack groups made it to the top as well and the British were forced to surrender. The Americans lost 15 dead and 83 wounded, while the British had 20 killed with 74 wounded, 58 missing and 472 prisoners.


Wayne survived the gunshot wound and went on to serve with great distinction for the rest of the war. Congress awarded him a medal for his bravery at Stony Point. The Battle of Stony Point proved not to be a decisive factor in the war, but it did give a much needed morale boost to the Continental Army. A planned continuation of the attack to Verplanck’s Point was called off and Washington abandoned Stony Point within a few days. This was one of the last battles of the Revolution in the north as the British shifted their strategy to conquering the southern colonies.


Jack Manning

Treasurer General
National Society Sons of the American Revolution


"Before any man can be considered as a member of Civil Society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governor of the Universe."
James Madison (1785)

Howe brothers attempt to negotiate with George Washington

Howe brothers attempt to negotiate with George Washington


On this day in history, July 14, 1776, the Howe brothers attempt to negotiate with George Washington. Washington, however, will not receive their letter because it is not addressed properly to "General."


A massive British fleet arrived in New York’s harbor in mid-July under the authority of General William Howe and his brother, Admiral Richard Howe. This was the largest British expeditionary force ever assembled, with 300 ships carrying over 40,000 soldiers and sailors.


The Continental Army, by this time, was assembled around the New York area, after having successfully driven General Howe out of Boston. The Howes intended to conquer New York militarily if peace could not be reached with the rebel Continental Congress and its army. The Howe brothers, however, were optimistic and naive. They believed reconciliation could be reached and that the colonists would bow to their reasonable demands.


On July 14, 1776, General Howe sent a message to George Washington in New York. The message offered a "pardon" to all who would lay down their arms and pledge allegiance to Great Britain. The letter was addressed to "George Washington, Esq." The letter was delivered to Washington, but shortly afterwards it was returned unopened to the messenger by Washington’s aide, Joseph Reed. Reed informed the messenger that there was no one with that title in the army.


Mystified, the messenger returned the letter to General Howe with the message that no one with that title was in the Continental Army. Howe, who was not amused, sent a second letter, this one addressed to "George Washington, Esq., etc.," the etc. meaning… "and any other relevant titles."


Washington rejected the second letter as well, as it was not addressed to "General." He did, however, inform the messenger that he would meet with one of Howe’s subordinates if he wished. The meeting, which took place on July 20, was a short one. The Howes were given diplomatic authority only to issue pardons or have discussions with the colonists, but not to negotiate demands. Washington informed Howe’s representative that since the Americans had done nothing wrong they were not in need of any "pardons," and since the Howes had no authority to negotiate, the meeting was over, and he dismissed the representative.


Only a month later, General Howe would begin his invasion at Long Island. Long Island, Manhattan and the surrounding area were quickly overcome and Washington and the Continental Army found themselves being chased across New Jersey and into Pennsylvania. The war would drag on for another six years.


Jack Manning

Treasurer General
National Society Sons of the American Revolution


In selecting men for office, let principle be your guide. Regard not the particular sect or denomination of the candidate – look to his character."

Noah Webster, 1789