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Cornwallis surrenders at Yorktown

Cornwallis surrenders at Yorktown

 

On this day in history, October 19, 1781, British General Charles Cornwallis surrenders at Yorktown. The Battle of Yorktown was the last major battle of the American Revolution. Although fighting did continue in various areas, peace negotiations began the following spring and eventually brought the war to an end.

 

The British had successfully conquered Georgia and South Carolina in 1779 and 1780. When General Cornwallis invaded North Carolina, however, things didn’t go so well. In the spring of 1781, Cornwallis was forced to the coast for resupplying and regrouping. He marched to Virginia instead, thinking it would be easier to conquer than North Carolina had proved to be.

 

After arriving in Virginia, Cornwallis received orders from his superior, General Henry Clinton, in New York, to make a deep water port on the Chesapeake, where supplies and reinforcements from New York could be landed. Cornwallis marched to Yorktown in the summer of 1781 and began reinforcements.

 

George Washington, meanwhile, left New York with French General, the Comte de Rochambeau, with 7,000 soldiers. They met with the Marquis de Lafayette and his army in Virginia, while French Admiral, the Comte de Grasse, fought off a British fleet bringing reinforcements to Cornwallis and landed thousands more French soldiers. In all, 17,000 French and American troops surrounded Yorktown.

 

The allies began bombarding Yorktown after digging a siege trench. For days, bombs rained down on Cornwallis who began running out of food and ammunition. After nearly two weeks of resisting, Cornwallis knew reinforcements from New York would not arrive in time and he reluctantly sent out a drummer with a white flag on October 17.

 

Negotiations were held over the next two days at the home of Augustine Moore, which is still standing. On the 19th, the official surrender ceremony was held. The American and French soldiers marched into town and the British soldiers marched between the two allies and laid down their arms. British drummers and fifers played a popular British song called "The World Turned Upside Down," as the troops surrendered.

 

At the formal surrender ceremony, General Cornwallis refused to attend, feigning illness. He sent his second in command, General Charles O’Hara, to surrender his sword to George Washington instead. At the ceremony, O’Hara tried to give the sword to the French General, Rochambeau, but he refused it and directed him to General Washington. As O’Hara was Cornwallis’ second, Washington refused to honor this breach of protocol and he directed O’Hara to surrender the sword to his own second, General Benjamin Lincoln.

 

The surrender at Yorktown finally convinced Parliament that war with the colonists was futile. Peace negotiations began the following spring. Fighting did continue in the colonies and around the globe after the Battle of Yorktown, but the war finally came to an end when the Treaty of Paris was signed on September 3, 1783.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org  

 

"The foundations of our national policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality, and the preeminence of free government be exemplified by all the attributes which can win the affections of its citizens, and command the respect of the world."

George Washington (1789)

The Burning of Falmouth

The Burning of Falmouth

 

On this day in history, October 18, 1775, the Burning of Falmouth, Massachusetts, takes place as part of a British campaign of retribution against coastal colonial towns for their support of the rebellion against Britain and their refusal to do business with the British. Falmouth, Massachusetts, is now the city of Portland, Maine. (What is today Maine was then part of Massachusetts.)

 

After the American Revolution began with the Battles of Lexington and Concord on April 18, the British army was surrounded by colonial militia in Boston. The troops in Boston were cut off from the land and their only means of supplies was by sea. British Vice-Admiral Samuel Graves dispatched ships up and down the coast to purchase supplies. Many communities, however, refused to do business with the British and even engaged in armed rebellion in several places.

 

The citizens of Falmouth captured Lieutenant Henry Mowat of the HMS Canceaux in May, but later let him go; the town of Machias, Massachusetts, captured the HMS Margaretta and killed its captain in June; and in August, the citizens of Gloucester, Massachusetts, engaged in battle with the HMS Falcon.

 

In response to all of these attacks, Admiral Graves authorized Lt. Mowat to make an expedition of retribution against the coastal towns. Mowat left Boston on October 6 aboard the HMS Canceaux along with four other ships. Mowat passed by Gloucester, thinking its buildings were placed too far apart for an effective naval bombardment. On October 16, he reached Falmouth, the same town which had captured him and held him hostage several months before.

 

Mowat sent a messenger into town on the 18th informing them that he would commence a bombardment of the city in two hours. The citizens attempted to negotiate and Mowat offered them amnesty if they would pledge their allegiance to King George. The citizens refused and began evacuating the town. The fleet began bombarding the town around 9:30 in the morning and did not stop until 6:00 that evening. When the bombardment stopped, Mowat sent a landing party into town to set fire to buildings that hadn’t been damaged. Several of this landing party were killed in battle with the residents of the town. More than 400 buildings were damaged or destroyed by fire in the battle.

 

Nearly 1,000 people in Falmouth were left homeless, but the citizens of Massachusetts sent aid in their distress. The Burning of Falmouth was received with revulsion and outrage in the rest of the colonies. Even Britain and France were shocked at the destruction of an entire town full of many innocent citizens by a supposedly "enlightened" modern nation.

 

The destruction of Falmouth helped encourage many colonists to come down firmly against Great Britain, even those who had previously been neutral or loyal to the Crown. Both Admiral Graves and Lt. Mowat suffered as a result of the destruction of Falmouth. Their actions were viewed as barbaric and unnecessarily brutal. Graves was dismissed from his position in December and Mowat was continuously overlooked for promotion. In the end, the burning of Falmouth had the opposite effect from what was intended, it only served to harden the colonists in their view that Britain’s government was full of tyrants. The only proper response was to resist.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org  

 

"Do not conceive that fine Clothes make fine Men, any more than fine feathers make fine Birds." —George Washington (1783)

The Americans win the Battles of Saratoga

The Americans win the Battles of Saratoga

 

On this day in history, October 17, 1777, the Americans win the Battles of Saratoga when British General John Burgoyne surrenders more than 6,000 men at Saratoga. The battle is one of the most important of the American Revolution because the American victory caused France to join the war on the American side. It has also been called one of the 15 most important battles in world history.

 

The British strategy in 1777 was for Burgoyne to invade New York from Canada. He would meet at Albany with more British forces coming from the west and the south, in order to cut off New England from the rest of the colonies. The plan was doomed to failure nearly from the start. Burgoyne’s army successfully sailed down Lake Champlain and captured Forts Crown Point and Ticonderoga. Beyond this though, difficulties arose when Burgoyne’s Indian allies abandoned him, supply lines were hard to maintain and almost 1,000 men were lost at the Battle of Bennington when they were sent to forage for supplies.

 

Burgoyne’s army ended up camped about ten miles south of Saratoga, while the American army under General Horatio Gates was a few miles south at Bemis Heights. The first battle of Saratoga, called the Battle of Freeman’s Farm, was fought on September 19 when Burgoyne attempted to flank the American position. The move had been anticipated by Benedict Arnold, who commanded the resistance. Burgoyne ultimately won this battle, but at the cost of 600 men.

 

The American army was swelling by this time and Burgoyne knew he was in trouble. He learned that both the armies he was to meet at Albany would not be arriving. One was defeated in the Mohawk Valley and the other went to Philadelphia instead. After corresponding with General Henry Clinton in New York, he hoped help would come.

 

By late September, Burgoyne knew Clinton’s army would not arrive in time to help him. He made another attack on the Americans on October 7 at the Battle of Bemis Heights. The Americans, however, breached the main British line, forcing Burgoyne to withdraw in the night. By October 13, Burgoyne was back at Saratoga after losing 1,000 men in the battles. The American army swelled to 20,000 men and surrounded him, forcing him to surrender on October 17.

 

The victory at the Battles of Saratoga was one of the most important of the entire war. Not only did it encourage the Americans and humiliate the British, it encouraged France and Spain to join the war on the American side. This escalated the war into a worldwide conflict and forced Britain to stretch its resources across the world to the West Indies, the Mediterranean and India, as well as North America. Eventually, Britain could no longer maintain this massive worldwide stretching of its resources and was forced to capitulate in the place the war began – her 13 American colonies.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org  

 

"Every new regulation concerning commerce or revenue; or in any manner affecting the value of the different species of property, presents a new harvest to those who watch the change and can trace its consequences; a harvest reared not by themselves but by the toils and cares of the great body of their fellow citizens."

James Madison (1788)

The Royalton Raid

The Royalton Raid

 

On this day in history, October 16, 1780, the Royalton Raid is one of the last Indian attacks in New England during the American Revolution. The Royalton Raid was an attack of 270 Mohawk and Abenaki Indians led by British officers on several small villages in what is now central Vermont. This is the region that produced the Green Mountain Boys and patriot leaders such as Ethan Allen and Seth Warner.

 

In the fall of 1780, a campaign launched from British Quebec conducted simultaneous raids along Vermont's White River, the Mohawk River valley in New York and on the shores of Lake Champlain and Lake George. The White River attack was led by Lieutenant Richard Houghton and six other British soldiers. The campaign was intended to terrorize the inhabitants of New York, Vermont and New Hampshire to prevent them from organizing and launching any further raids against Canada.

 

On the morning of October 16, the large force of Indians attacked the small town of Royalton, which was then a village of about 25 homes on both sides of the river. The Indians went from house to house capturing as many residents as they could and killing anyone who resisted. Most of the town's residents were captured, while a few escaped or hid. As the Indians left town, they burned the buildings and destroyed any crops and livestock they found. The attack continued up and down the river for several miles, with the settlements of Sharon and Tunbridge suffering the same fate.

 

That night, a large party of 300 militia located the Indians, having gathered after survivors got away and warned nearby towns. The militia began attacking, but were warned that all the captives would be killed if the attack did not stop. The attackers reluctantly pulled back to spare the captives and let the raiders go.

 

One hero to rise out of the Royalton Raid was Hannah Hendee. Hendee escaped capture, but her young son and other children were taken captive by the raiding party. She was outraged that British officers would capture children and use them as pawns in war. She crossed the river and followed the raiding party until she found them. She accosted Lt. Houghton for taking children and demanded that they be returned. Houghton complied and returned Hendee's son, as well as several other children.

 

Four settlers were killed in the Royalton Raid and 26 were taken captive. They were marched to Canada and sold to the British where some spent as long as two years in dismal prisons. Just as the Revolution came to an end, one of the captives taken in the raid, Zadock Steele, helped stage a prison break from the notorious Prison Island in the St. Lawrence River. Steele traipsed across the wilderness for three weeks, nearly starved, before he came to an American settlement. Unbeknownst to him, the war had already ended and all the remaining prisoners had been released.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org   

 

"The bosom of America is open to receive not only the Opulent and respectable Stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all Nations and Religions; whom we shall welcome to a participation of all our rights and privileges, if by decency and propriety of conduct they appear to merit the enjoyment." 

George Washington (1783)

The Affair at Little Egg Harbor

The Affair at Little Egg Harbor

 

On this day in history, October 15, 1778, the Affair at Little Egg Harbor is part of the only British attack on the shore of New Jersey south of the New York area during the American Revolution. Little Egg Harbor was a focal point of American privateering during the war. American ships would scour the coast, capturing British mercantile and military ships. The captured ships were taken to ports where a court would distribute the goods and auction off the ship.

 

The small village of Chestnut Neck on the Little Egg Harbor River, and a small village called "The Forks," further up the river, were two such towns that handled confiscated ships. When captured ships were brought to these towns, the goods were shipped overland to George Washington at Valley Forge and the ships were added to the privateering fleet.

 

British General Henry Clinton was continually frustrated with the numbers of British ships being captured by the privateers. Between June and September of 1778 alone, 18 ships were captured by the privateers of Little Egg Harbor. Clinton decided to launch an expedition to "clean out that nest of Rebel Pirates." 15 ships carrying hundreds of sailors and soldiers left New York in late September and arrived at Little Egg Harbor on October 5.

 

The residents of the area were warned of the coming attack. Most of the residents of Chestnut Neck moved inland, carrying their personal household items and warehouses full of confiscated goods with them. When the attack came on October 7, the British burned homes, destroyed 10 captured ships in the river and destroyed whatever confiscated goods they could not carry off. By the next morning, the British were forced to leave after hearing that Count Casimir Pulaski and 250 men would soon arrive.

 

Pulaski’s men camped at Tuckerton where they had a view of the British ships in the harbor and for a week the two sides faced one another. After a deserter informed British Captain Patrick Ferguson where the patriots were camped and told him they would not allow anyone they captured to live, an incensed Ferguson ordered an attack.

 

Early on the morning of October 15, 400 British soldiers stormed the beach and came across an outpost of 50 men. Ferguson’s men attacked the outpost as they slept, killing nearly everyone with bayonets before withdrawing as Pulaski’s main force was aroused.

 

The affair was called the Little Egg Harbor Massacre by the Americans because of the British brutality. The expedition was called back to New York, having failed to stop the privateering and failing to destroy certain targets in the area. The residents of Chestnut Neck never rebuilt, most moving to nearby Port Republic. Casimir Pulaski would be killed later in the war during the Siege of Savannah and Captain Ferguson would be killed at the Battle of Kings Mountain.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org  

 

"Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism."

George Washington (1796)

The Battle of Shallow Ford

The Battle of Shallow Ford

 

On this day in history, October 14, 1780, the Battle of Shallow Ford helps convince British General Charles Cornwallis to abandon his attempts to conquer North Carolina for the year. The battle that saw a large band of Loyalists defeated along the Yadkin River is often overlooked by historians due to the Battle of Kings Mountain that happened only a week before.

 

In the fall of 1780, General Cornwallis entered North Carolina after successfully conquering most of Georgia and South Carolina. North Carolina militia members gathered from around the state and converged on Charlotte where Cornwallis was headquartered. The absence of local patriot militia groups left a vacuum for Loyalists to rise up and wreak havoc in their prospective counties.

 

In Surry County, local Loyalist brothers Gideon and Hezekiah Wright rallied hundreds of Tories who began exacting revenge on the properties of absent patriots and killing those who opposed them. When news spread of the Loyalist uprising, patriots from nearby areas began to mobilize to stop them.

 

General William Lee Davidson sent 50 soldiers from Charlotte. Two companies of militia from Salisbury and 160 men from Montgomery County, Virginia, converged on the area, along with other local patriots who hadn’t gone to confront Cornwallis. The Virginia militia, under Major Joseph Cloyd, had come to confront British Colonel Patrick Ferguson’s activities in western North Carolina, but when they learned of Ferguson’s defeat at the Battle of Kings Mountain, they were diverted to helping stop the Loyalist uprising in Surry County. All of the converging patriots came under the leadership of Major Cloyd.

 

On October 14, a band of 600 Loyalists crossed the Yadkin River, apparently on their way to join General Cornwallis in Charlotte. Cloyd’s patriot force, numbering around 350 by this time, located the Loyalists a mile west of Shallow Ford and attacked them, even though they were nearly outnumbered 2 to 1. Colonel Samuel Bryan, who led the Loyalists, was killed early in the fight, causing the rest of his troops to scatter.

 

14 Loyalists were killed at the Battle of Shallow Ford, while only one patriot was killed, Captain Henry Francis of Virginia. The loss of this large Loyalist force at the Battle of Shallow Ford was one more nail in the coffin of Cornwallis’ hopes to conquer North Carolina in 1780. The Battle of Kings Mountain had been the first.

 

The Loyalists in this area were never able to gather such a force again. Cornwallis was forced to withdraw into South Carolina for the winter due to the strong uprising of North Carolina patriots, He tried again the following year, during which his entire army was defeated at Yorktown after withdrawing from North Carolina yet again into Virginia.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org  

 

“Just because you do not take an interest in Politics, doesn’t mean Politics won’t take an interest in you.

Pericles

George Washington lays the cornerstone of the White House

George Washington lays the cornerstone of the White House

 

On this day in history, October 13, 1792, George Washington lays the cornerstone of the White House. President John Adams would be the first American president to live in the presidential mansion in Washington DC. Today’s White House, however, looks very different than the building that was originally constructed.

 

After Congress decided to locate the federal capital along the Potomac River in 1790, Pierre Charles L’Enfant was chosen to design a plan for the federal city. Part of the plan included space for a massive mansion, five times the size of the house that was eventually rebuilt.

 

In 1791, a public request was put out by President George Washington for potential designs for the president’s mansion. Irish architect James Hoban’s design was eventually chosen. Hoban had designed the Charleston County Courthouse in Charleston, South Carolina, a building Washington had seen when he visited there. Washington liked the courthouse’s design and Hoban’s plans for the presidential house looked very similar.

 

On October 13, 1792, Washington laid the cornerstone for the White House. The original home did not have the circular south portico or the northern drive under portico that Americans recognize today. Instead, both the north and south sides of the White House had only a series of eleven windows on 2 floors.

 

After the White House was burned in 1814 by the British, the building was mostly reconstructed. The familiar rounded south portico was added in 1824 and the north portico in 1830. The White House’s West Wing was not added until 1901 by President Teddy Roosevelt for more office space. President William Howard Taft built the first Oval Office there in 1909. The East Wing was first added by President Roosevelt, but has gone through several iterations, including time as a greenhouse and a cloakroom.

 

The White House was entirely gutted during the administration of President Harry Truman. A steel frame was placed inside the outer walls and all the inner walls were replaced. Today, the White House has six stories, 2 underground, a ground floor, the State Floor, Second Floor and Third Floor. The entire White House complex also has the East and West Wings for offices, the Blair House for guests and the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which houses more presidential offices.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org  

 

"There is but one straight course, and that is to seek truth and pursue it steadily." George Washington (1795)