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Henry Knox begins the Knox Expedition

Henry Knox begins the Knox Expedition

 

On this day in history, November 17, 1775, Henry Knox begins the "Knox Expedition," leaving Boston for Fort Ticonderoga at the direction of George Washington to bring 60 tons of captured British artillery across the frozen mountains of New England and back to Boston to help drive the British out of the city. The trip became known as the Knox Expedition and makes the history books because of Knox's daring feat, bringing the cannons across a large lake, on snowsleds and across frozen rivers.

 

Henry Knox was a 25 year old bookseller from Boston with an interest in military history. When George Washington took control of the Continental Army at Boston, he and Knox became friends. Benedict Arnold, Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys of Vermont had captured Fort Ticonderoga in New York in May, along with its huge supply of cannons and other materials.

 

Washington sent Knox to retrieve the cannons, a journey that was supposed to last two weeks. Knox reached Ticonderoga on December 5. He chose 60 tons of cannons, mortars and howitzers, including several 24 pound cannons known as "Big Berthas," which were 11 feet long and weighed 5,000 pounds.

 

The cannons were carried to the northern end of Lake George and put on a ship. The ship grounded once on a rock and began to sink at another point because of the weight. It was almost a disaster, but the water was bailed out and the cannons arrived safely at the southern tip of the lake. It was already winter and Knox built 42 sleds to pull the cannons across the wilderness with 80 yoke of oxen. Two frozen rivers had to be crossed and several cannons broke through the ice, but were retrieved each time.

 

Snow and ice, including two feet of snow that fell on Christmas Day, impeded Knox's progress, but he continued to press on. John Adams wrote that he saw the "noble train of artillery," as the equipment came to be called, pass through Framingham, Massachusetts on January 25. The weapons arrived at Cambridge, just outside Boston, on January 27, nearly two months after leaving Ticonderoga. General Washington placed the cannons around Boston, including at the high point of Dorchester Heights, overlooking both the city and the harbor. The advantage forced General William Howe to abandon the city and the British never did return to northern New England.

 

Coincidentally, Henry Knox received a Colonel's commission from the Continental Congress, and was appointed Chief of the Continental Artillery, also on November 17, 1775, the same day he left to begin the expedition. One year later, after the Battle of Trenton, in which his artillery played an important role, Colonel Knox was promoted to Brigadier General. He became one of George Washington's most trusted advisers. He was promoted to Major General in 1782 and later served as President Washington’s Secretary of War.

 

"The second office of this government is honorable and easy, the first is but a splendid misery." 
Thomas Jefferson (1797)

Americans lose the Battle of Fort Washington

Americans lose the Battle of Fort Washington

 

On this day in history, November 16, 1776, the Americans lose the Battle of Fort Washington. Fort Washington sat on the highest point of Manhattan Island, then called York Island. It was built in the summer of that year to prevent British ships from sailing up the Hudson River after George Washington and his officers had decided the area would be impenetrable by the British. Fort Washington sat on one side of the Hudson, while Fort Lee sat on the other side. Fire from the two forts, along with a series of impediments constructed in the river would prevent the British from advancing deeper into New York.

 

After the British abandoned Boston, George Washington concentrated on the defense of New York City. The British began landing troops on Staten Island unopposed in July and by August had 32,000 men in the area. They quickly conquered Long Island and attacked Manhattan in mid-September, driving Washington’s men all the way north to White Plains.

 

Washington left a contingent of 1200 men, under the command of Colonel Robert Magaw, to defend Fort Washington and hopefully the Hudson River Valley. In late October, Magaw's men had the chance to prove the value of the Fort when two British ships attempted to go upriver. The ships were badly damaged and had to be towed back downriver by the British.

 

George Washington's army was defeated at White Plains on October 28 causing him to flee and separate his army. British General William Howe marched his forces back to Manhattan to take Fort Washington and drive the Americans from the island for good. Some wanted Washington to abandon the Fort, but several of his chief officers believed it was defensible and advised him to defend the Fort, which he did.

 

Margaret Corbin became the first woman to receive a military pension from the US government for taking her husband's

place at the cannons of Fort Washington after he was killed in the battle. Margaret was wounded with grape shot and

disabled for the rest of her life.

 

Washington went with part of his troops down the western side of the Hudson to Fort Lee, across the Hudson from Fort Washington. On the morning of November 16, Howe's men began their attack on the Fort with a three pronged attack from three sides. The American positions around the Fort fell quickly and Washington, who had come over from Fort Lee, along with several of his key generals were forced to flee back across the river. The Americans were severely outnumbered and the British stormed the Fort once the outer defenses fell. 59 Americans were killed and 96 were wounded at the Battle of Fort Washington, but the biggest loss was 2,838 men that were captured, along with 34 cannons and a great deal of supplies and ammunition. Of the 2,800 men that were captured, 2,000 died in British captivity due to unsanitary conditions. The remaining 800 were released in a prisoner exchange 18 months later.

 

Washington and his army were driven across New Jersey and into Pennsylvania by the end of the year. The loss of Fort Washington crowned a string of losses that seemed to indicate the Americans were no match for their British counterparts and many Americans lost hope that they could win the war. George Washington turned the tide though, when he attacked the Hessian garrison at Trenton, New Jersey on Christmas Eve and the British at Princeton a week later. These victories helped restore American morale, encouraging them to fight on.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org  

 

"It is a principle incorporated into the settled policy of America, that as peace is better than war, war is better than tribute." 

James Madison (1816)


Articles of Confederation are approved

Articles of Confederation are approved

 

On This Day in history, November 15, 1777, the Articles of Confederation are approved by the Continental Congress for distribution to the states. All 13 states would have to ratify the Articles in order for them to become the first governing document of the new United States of America.

 

A Confederation of states was first called for in Congress on June 7, 1776 by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia when he submitted what became known as the "Lee Resolution." The Resolution called for three things, 1) a declaration of independence from Great Britain, 2) that foreign alliances should be sought and 3) that a plan of confederation between the colonies should be prepared.

 

On June 12, 1776, one day after appointing a committee to prepare a declaration of independence from Great Britain, Congress also created a committee to prepare a plan of confederation between the states. The committee, chaired by John Dickinson of Pennsylvania, submitted its plan to Congress one month later. Congress then began a long and tedious process of debating the final form of the Confederation that lasted an entire year. The final form of the Articles was determined during the summer of 1777 and the final document was approved on November 15 for distribution to the states. Three and half years later, the final state approved the Articles and it became law on March 1, 1781.

 

The Articles of Confederation created a weak central government due to fears of creating another too-powerful government like the one they had just overthrown. They are the source of the name "the United States of America." The Articles created a single body where each state had one vote. Changes to the Articles had to be agreed upon unanimously in order to become law. Congress had power to declare war, establish foreign treaties, settle disputes between the states and to settle maritime disputes.

 

The Articles did not, however, give Congress authority to tax, to control commerce between the states or even to compel its own members to attend sessions. These weaknesses made it virtually impossible for the new federal government to function and before long, calls were made for a new convention to create a new Constitution. The Articles lasted until March 4, 1789 when it was replaced with the United States Constitution.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org   

 

"Aware of the tendency of power to degenerate into abuse, the worthies of our country have secured its independence by the establishment of a Constitution and form of government for our nation, calculated to prevent as well as to correct abuse." 

Thomas Jefferson to Washington Tammany Society, 1809.

Benjamin Franklin takes sides

Benjamin Franklin takes sides

 

On this day, November 14, 1776, the St. James Chronicle of London carries an item announcing “The very identical Dr. Franklyn [Benjamin Franklin], whom Lord Chatham [former leading parliamentarian and colonial supporter William Pitt] so much caressed, and used to say he was proud in calling his friend, is now at the head of the rebellion in North America.”

 

Benjamin Franklin, joint postmaster general of the colonies (1753-1774), and his son William traveled to London together in 1757. There, for the next five years, William studied law, and Franklin studied social climbing. They had remarkable success for a candle-maker’s son and his illegitimate progeny. By the end of their sojourn, William had become an attorney and received an honorary Master of Arts from Oxford University, while his father reveled in honorary doctorates from Oxford and the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. The elder Franklin’s plans for his son’s advancement succeeded, and his son won the choicest of appointments, a royal governorship, in 1762.

 

Franklin then accompanied his son from London to Pennsylvania, only to return to London as Pennsylvania’s agent in 1764, where he lobbied for the placement of the colony under direct royal control. He soon added Georgia, New Jersey and Massachusetts to the list of colonies for which he served as spokesperson in Parliament.

 

In 1775, Franklin returned to America as the American Revolution approached; he served as a delegate to the Continental Congress and, in 1776, signed the Declaration of Independence. Ironically, his son William came out on the side of the British during the War of Independence and was imprisoned while serving as the Loyalist governor of New Jersey.

 

www.history.com

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org   

 

"Without freedom of thought there can be no such thing as wisdom; and no such thing as public liberty, without freedom of speech." 

Benjamin Franklin (1722)

General Richard Montgomery takes Montreal

General Richard Montgomery takes Montreal

 

On this day in history, November 13, 1775, American General Richard Montgomery takes Montreal without a fight. The Americans had decided to try to take British Quebec in the fall of 1775. This was the first military offensive of the new Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. Their goal was to take Quebec and convince the French speaking citizens to join them in their rebellion against England.

 

General Guy Carleton was the Royal Governor of Quebec. Carleton had focused his efforts against Ethan Allen of Vermont, who tried to take Montreal in September. Carleton’s distraction with Allen allowed General Montgomery to take Fort St. Jean, the main British defense post south of Montreal. The fort was surrendered to Montgomery on November 3.

 

Montgomery continued on to Montreal and Carleton, whose forces were depleted from the fight with Allen, fled north to Quebec City. This allowed Montgomery to march into Montreal without opposition. Montgomery left Brigadier General David Wooster in charge of Montreal and continued on to Quebec where he met with Colonel Benedict Arnold’s battalions of New England militia. They had braved an arduous journey across the forests of Maine to meet Montgomery in December. Many had died along the way of starvation or illness and many had deserted.

 

Montgomery and Arnold attacked Quebec City at 4 am on December 31, 1775, but were badly defeated. Carleton was waiting for them and began firing when they were in range of the city’s walls. General Montgomery was killed in the first fusillade. Benedict Arnold was wounded in the leg. Arnold tried to keep up the siege but was forced to give up. Over 60 Americans died and more than 400 were captured in the Continental Army’s first defeat. The Americans stayed at their posts in Montreal and surrounding Quebec City until the spring, still hoping to take the city. When newly appointed General John Thomas decided continuing the siege was pointless, the Americans fell back to Fort Ticonderoga in New York, never again to fight on Canadian soil.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org  

 

"It is a misfortune, inseparable from human affairs, that public measures are rarely investigated with that spirit of moderation which is essential to a just estimate of their real tendency to advance or obstruct the public good; and that this spirit is more apt to be diminished than prompted, by those occasions which require an unusual exercise of it."

James Madison (1788)

Abigail Adams reveals anger toward Great Britain

Abigail Adams reveals anger toward Great Britain

 

On this day in history, November 12, 1775, Abigail Adams pens a letter to her husband John Adams who is in Philadelphia at the Continental Congress. Abigail’s letter is a response to Great Britain’s refusing to receive Congress’ "Olive Branch Petition," a last effort by Congress expressing a wish for reconciliation if the King will right the wrongs done to them.

 

The insult was that the King would not even receive their petition. When word got back to America, the mood quickly changed. Many had hoped for reconciliation right up to the end, but with the King’s refusal to even receive their petition, they knew it was too late.

 

Abigail’s letter reveals the bitter and hostile response that many Americans had at the news. She wrote, "Let us seperate, they are unworthy to be our Breathren. Let us renounce them and instead of suplications as formorly for their prosperity and happiness, Let us beseach the almighty to blast their counsels and bring to Nought all their devices."

 

Even as Congress was writing the Olive Branch Petition to the King in June of 1775, they were already preparing for war, even though the majority was not yet at the place of wanting to declare independence. If their letter was rejected, they knew that war was inevitable. News of the King’s refusal pushed enough in the Continental Congress over the line to make a majority and a Declaration of Independence was made within seven months of the news.

 

www.history.com

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org  

 

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

John Adams (1811)

Poor leadership leads to Cherry Valley Massacre

Poor leadership leads to Cherry Valley Massacre

 

On November 11, 1778, Patriot Colonel Ichabod Alden refuses to believe intelligence about an approaching hostile force. As a result, a combined force of Loyalists and Native Americans, attacking in the snow, killed more than 40 Patriots, including Alden, and took at least an additional 70 prisoners, in what is known today as the Cherry Valley Massacre. The attack took place east of Cooperstown, New York, in what is now Otsego County.

 

Alden was a New Englander from Duxbury, Massachusetts, who began his military career in the Plymouth militia before serving in the 25th Continental regiment during the siege of Boston that followed the Battle of Lexington and Concord in 1775. Alden was then sent to command the 7th Massachusetts Regiment in Cherry Valley, New York, where he was strategically out of his depth in a state deeply divided between Loyalists and Patriots and with a significant Native American military presence.

 

Alden ignored warnings that local natives were planning an attack and left the 200 to 300 men stationed to defend Cherry Valley ill-prepared for the eventual arrival of 600 Iroquois under the adept command of Chief Joseph Brant and 200 men, known as Butler’s Rangers, under the command of Loyalist Major Walter Butler. (The Rangers had been trained by Walter’s father, Colonel John Butler.)

 

Ironically, on November 11, 1775, exactly three years before this so-called massacre executed by aggrieved Iroquois, the Continental Congress had engaged the missionary Samuel Kirkland to spread the “Gospel amongst the Indians,” and confirm “their affections to the United Colonies… thereby preserving their friendship and neutrality.”

 

http://www.history.com

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org   

 

“There is no nation on earth powerful enough to accomplish our overthrow. Our destruction, should it come at all, will be from another quarter. From the inattention of the people to the concerns of their government, from their carelessness and negligence.

I must confess that I do apprehend some danger. I fear that they may place too implicit a confidence in their public servants, and fail properly to scrutinize their conduct; that in this way they may be made the dupes of designing men, and become the instruments of their own undoing.”

Daniel Webster