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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 snow sleds 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.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

"There is in the nature of sovereign power an impatience of control, which disposes those who are invested with the exercise of it, to look with an evil eye upon all external attempts to restrain or direct its operations."
Alexander Hamilton (1787)

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.

 

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

President General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

"It’s not tyranny we desire; it’s a just, limited, federal government."
Alexander Hamilton

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

President General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

"Patriotism is as much a virtue as justice, and is as necessary for the support of societies as natural affection is for the support of families." 
Benjamin Rush (1773)

Mercy Otis and James Warren are Married

Mercy Otis and James Warren are married

 

On this day in history, November 14, 1754, Mercy Otis and James Warren are married. Both of them were direct descendants of pilgrims who arrived on the Mayflower. Mercy Otis Warren became one of the first female authors in the United States. She was an advisor on politics and a correspondent with such people as John Hancock, Patrick Henry, George Washington and John Adams. Mercy's 3 volume "History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution" became one of the first published works about the American Revolution and also one of the first works published by a woman in America.

 

James Warren was highly involved in politics before and during the American Revolution as well. He was a member of the Sons of Liberty and was one of the first Presidents of the Massachusetts Provincial Assembly, the independent government formed by the citizens of Massachusetts after Great Britain dissolved its Assembly. James Warren fought at the Battle of Bunker Hill and was a Paymaster General of the Continental Army for a time.

 

Mercy Otis Warren and James Warren were central figures during the Revolutionary War era, knowing many of the key leaders personally, even though their names are not so familiar to people today. James and Mercy often hosted meetings of Massachusetts patriots in their home. They formed the Massachusetts Committee of Correspondence, which was responsible for coordinating the information, tactics and plans of the patriots, along with Samuel Adams and others in their own living room. Mercy's brother, James Otis, is often called the "Father of the American Revolution" for his fiery patriotic rhetoric.

James Warren by John Singleton Copley

 

Mercy published liberty and anti-British themed poems and plays during the years leading up to and including the American Revolution, but never under her own name, which would have been highly unusual for a woman at the time. Instead, she used pen names. Her understanding and insight into politics was unusual for a woman in that day as well, since politics was considered to be the realm of men only. In 1790, she published her first book using her own name, "Poems, Dramatic and Miscellaneous." In 1788, Mercy published "Observations on the new Constitution," under the pen name "A Columbian Patriot." This work was critical of the new Constitution. Both she and her husband were anti-Federalists and did not trust centralized power in the new government.

 

Mercy's final work, "History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution" caused a breach in her relationship with one of her most important mentors, John Adams, because the work portrayed him in a bad light. Adams and Warren had exchanged letters frequently and he often critiqued her early works at her request. Later, he seemed to move away from the idea that there was nothing wrong with a woman sharing her political views publicly, in favor of the more socially acceptable view that politics was a subject properly discussed by men only and not by women, and this offended Mercy. Their friendship and political partnership was almost lost, but was restored in 1812 through the intervention of mutual friends and shortly before her death in 1814.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

“The progress of the American Revolution has been so rapid and such the alteration of manners, the blending of characters, and the new train of ideas that almost universally prevail, that the principles which animated to the noblest exertions have been nearly annihilated.” 
Mercy Otis Warren

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

President General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

"The great and chief end therefore, of men united into commonwealths, and putting themselves under government, is the preservation of their property."
John Locke

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.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

“If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.”
Abigail Adams, The Letters of John and Abigail Adams

 

 

Joseph Hewes Funeral at Christ Church

Joseph Hewes funeral at Christ Church

 

On this day in history, November 11, 1779, the funeral for Joseph Hewes, signer of the Declaration of Independence from Georgia and "Father of the US Navy," was held at Christ Church in Philadelphia. Hewes was a very successful shipping magnate with a fleet of his own ships from Edenton, North Carolina. He was only 44 years old when he was first elected to the Continental Congress.

 

Because of his shipping experience, Hewes was appointed as head of the Naval Committee by Congress. His first responsibility was to oversee the arming of four ships Congress voted to arm. Hewes turned his own ships over for the Navy's use and also helped General George Washington draw up his initial plans for the war.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

"Patriotism is as much a virtue as justice, and is as necessary for the support of societies as natural affection is for the support of families." 
Benjamin Rush (1773)