Category Archives: Uncategorized

/* */

The British evacuate Savannah, Georgia

The British evacuate Savannah, Georgia

 

On this day in history, July 11, 1782, the British evacuate Savannah, Georgia as the American Revolution comes to a close. Georgia was the site of many bloody battles during the war, many between patriots and Loyalists who were their neighbors or brothers.

 

Georgia saw its first British troops in early 1776 when a fleet of British ships arrived at the mouth of the Savannah River to buy rice for the British troops which were then blockaded in Boston. Georgia patriots resisted the efforts to buy rice and the Battle of the Riceboats ensued. During the affair, Georgia’s Royal Governor, James Wright, was taken captive. Wright eventually escaped and fled the colony with the British and their confiscated rice.

           

For the next two years, Georgia remained relatively peaceful and a provincial government developed. The entrance of France into the war in 1778 changed things for Georgia, however. England was forced to remove some troops from the northern colonies to send to defend British possessions in the West Indies. A new strategy was developed to take back the southern colonies based on the belief that there were large numbers of Loyalists in the south who would support the effort. Savannah was the first target and it was easily captured on December 29, 1778 by British Lieutenant Colonel Archibald Campbell.

 

The rest of the colony fell quickly, though the militia continually gave the British trouble. Governor Wright returned in July of 1779 and re-established the royal government, the only colony to have lost its royal government and then re-establish it. In September of 1779, a joint American/French attempt to retake Savannah failed with massive casualties to the French and Americans.

 

In December of 1780, after several large defeats in the south, the Continental Congress appointed General Nathanael Greene the new head over the Continental Army’s southern department. Greene’s leadership and skill quickly subdued the south. By the summer of 1782, the British had abandoned all of Georgia except for Savannah.

 

The surrender of General Charles Cornwallis at Yorktown finally persuaded Parliament to end the war. As peace negotiations proceeded, the British began evacuating troops from the colonies. Orders arrived from New York on June 14 to abandon Georgia for good. Governor Wright was furious as General Alured Clarke made preparations to evacuate Savannah. Troops began leaving the city on July 11, headed to New York, St. Augustine and the West Indies. Governor Wright and other officials fled to Charleston.

 

Later that evening, Lieutenant Colonel James Jackson of the Georgia Legion marched into Savannah to reclaim their capital city. The Georgia House of Assembly met in Savannah on the 13th and took control of Georgia once and for all.

 

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)

 

 

George Washington picnics at Great Falls

George Washington picnics at Great Falls

 

On this day in history, July 10, 1778, George Washington picnics at Great Falls with the Marquis de Lafayette and aides Alexander Hamilton and James McHenry. The Great Falls, on New Jersey’s Passaic River, is the second largest waterfall by volume in the United States east of the Mississippi River. It sits approximately 20 miles northwest of New York City. Washington and his entourage dined in the shadow of the falls shortly after their victory at the Battle of Monmouth, on their way to the north of New York City where they intended to monitor the British army.

 

James McHenry was originally a surgeon in the Continental Army, but was asked to join Washington’s personal staff at Valley Forge. He later became the 3rd Secretary of War under President Washington. McHenry wrote of the meal at Great Falls:

           

"After viewing these falls we seated ourselves round the General under a large spreading oak within view of the spray and in hearing of the noise. A fine cool spring bubbled out most charmingly from the bottom of the tree. The travelling canteens were immediately emptied and a modest repast spread before us, of cold ham, tongue and some biscuit. With the assistance of a little spirit we composed some excellent grog. Then we chatted away a very cheerful half hour — and then took our leave of the friendly oak — it’s refreshing spring."

 

Alexander Hamilton took note of the power of the falls. Years later, as Washington’s first Secretary of the Treasury, he developed a plan to harness the falls’ power to kick-start an industrial revolution in the new United States. Hamilton’s plan became the Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures, a state sponsored corporation that developed the falls into an industrial powerhouse.

 

The State of New Jersey founded the corporation, along with the city of Paterson, New Jersey, adjacent to the falls, in 1791. Pierre Charles L’Enfant, the designer of Washington DC, was recruited to develop a system of raceways to harness the power of the falls for watermills to be built in the town. Raceways are canals used to carry water back and forth between the mills. By 1815, thirteen new mills were built in the town, employing over 2,000 people. For decades, Paterson was the center of cloth manufacturing in the United States.

 

By the 1830s, cloth manufacturing in the US was in decline and the Great Falls area shifted to producing locomotives and other steel products. This industry thrived for several decades, until the silk industry supplanted it in the 1880s, earning Paterson the name "Silk City."

 

The Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures played a large part in America’s Industrial Revolution. It became a model for future public/private partnerships in the United States. Unfortunately, in recent decades, as manufacturing shifted overseas, Paterson’s industry saw great decline and urban decay. Today, the city of Paterson, the State of New Jersey and the federal government are making strides to see the former industrial area surrounding the Great Falls refurbished into parks, apartments and retail establishments.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

"There is a certain enthusiasm in liberty that makes human nature rise above itself, in acts of bravery and heroism."
Alexander Hamilton (1775)

The Declaration of Independence is read to troops in New York City

The Declaration of Independence is read to troops in New York City

 

On this day in history, July 9, 1776, the Declaration of Independence is read to the troops in New York City. After voting for independence on July 2nd and voting on the language for their public declaration on July 4th, the Continental Congress ordered that copies of the document be printed and sent to provincial and military leaders around the colonies.

 

John Hancock, who was then the President of Congress, had one copy of the Declaration of Independence mailed to George Washington with instructions to have it read to his troops however he saw fit. Washington was then in New York City preparing for battle with the British. 10,000 British soldiers had already landed on Staten Island in preparation for invading New York and many more would soon arrive. Nearly 30,000 colonial soldiers had assembled in the area.

           

Washington and many others had been waiting for a declaration of independence for some time, while efforts at reconciliation were made by those reluctant to rebel against the Crown. While some waited for peace commissioners to arrive from England, Washington famously stated that the only people coming from Europe were Hessian soldiers.

 

Washington was elated upon receiving the Declaration of Independence. He immediately sent out orders that all the troops should be assembled on their parade grounds at 6pm on July 9th. The parade grounds were on New York’s Commons, which is very near today’s City Hall.

 

Washington’s order explaining the purpose for the gathering was read first… "The Continental Congress, impelled by the dictates of duty, policy and necessity, [have] been pleased… to declare the United Colonies of North America, free and independent States." Afterwards, the Declaration was read to each regiment by their generals or other officers.

 

Numerous citizens came out for the reading as well, which sparked a celebration through the streets. Led by Isaac Sears, one of New York’s leading patriots, the crowd, including many soldiers, rushed to the Bowling Green where a large equestrian statue of King George III stood. The 4,000 pound lead statue was torn down and the head cut off. The iron fence surrounding the Green had posts topped with little crowns, all of which were sawed off as well. The horse statue was cut in pieces and shipped to Connecticut to get it away from the British, who could melt it down for bullets.

 

The statue ended up at the home of General Oliver Wolcott, where it was melted down and cast into 42,088 bullets. Curiously though, this amount of metal should have produced twice as many bullets. For many years, the reason for so few bullets was not known, but over the decades, pieces of the statue began to appear, especially buried in the yards of homes owned by Tories during the war and near to General Wolcott’s home. It is believed that Tories were spiriting off bits of the statue as they could to prevent them from being cast into bullets to be used against the British.

 

The head of the statue was allegedly taken by Tories on the night of July 9th and made its way to England where Thomas Hutchinson confirmed that he saw it in the home of Lord Charles Townshend. George Washington, by the way, expressed displeasure at the destruction of property, writing in his diary the next day he hoped in the future people would leave this sort of thing "to the proper authorities."

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

"Arbitrary power is most easily established on the ruins of liberty abused to licentiousness."
George Washington (1783)

George Washington makes his headquarters at West Point

George Washington makes his headquarters at West Point

 

On this day in history, July 8, 1779, George Washington makes his headquarters at West Point, New York, a strategic location on the Hudson River about 50 miles north of New York City. West Point is situated on high ground on the west side of the river where a unique S curve bends the waterway, giving the location command over the entire river for the entire curve.

 

Throughout the American Revolution, it was the desire of the British to cut New England off from the middle states by controlling the entire Hudson River valley. Gaining command of West Point was crucial to this objective, but if the Americans could stop them at West Point, the British would never be able to get further upriver.

           

The Americans began a string of defenses in the area as early as 1775. George Washington ordered a fort to be built on Constitution Island across the river from West Point and several batteries were located in the area. Fort Constitution was begun on the island, but these defenses were destroyed in 1777 when a British army came through and occupied the area. They remained only a few weeks, however.

 

George Washington believed West Point was the single most important strategic location in all of the colonies. In January of 1778, he sent Polish engineer Thaddeus Kosciuszko to build another fort on the west side of the river. Kosciuszko began construction of a new fort called Fort Arnold and eventually a string of forts, redoubts and batteries crisscrossed the river through the S curve.

 

In addition, Kosciuszko constructed the Great Chain, a 150 ton chain of 2 inch thick iron links that stretched across the river from West Point to Constitution Island. The Great Chain was so formidable that the British never even attempted to cross it.

 

After the British evacuation of Philadelphia, Washington wanted to keep a close eye on British headquarters in New York City, in case they tried another highly probably strike to the north. After moving around New Jersey and New York for a year, Washington established his headquarters at West Point on July 8, 1779 for four months.

 

Benedict Arnold was placed in command of West Point in August of 1780. He intended to give the strategic fort to the British in exchange for a large sum of money and a commission in the British army. His plot was exposed the following month, however. Despite Arnold’s treachery, the British were never able to conquer the West Point complex or sail upriver. After Arnold’s treason, the name of the main fort at West Point was changed to Fort Clinton, in honor of General Henry Clinton.

 

After the Revolution, West Point became a training place for soldiers. It became the United States Military Academy in 1802 by order of President Thomas Jefferson. Generations of engineers and military officers graduated from West Point, including such famous names as Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, Dwight Eisenhower, John Pershing, Douglas MacArthur, George S. Patton, Norman Schwarzkopf and David Petraeus. West Point is the oldest US military installation still in use. Remains of some of the original Revolutionary War era defenses can still be seen on tours there today.

 

The Quasi-War with France Begins

The Quasi-War with France begins

 

On this day in history, July 7, 1798, the Quasi-War with France begins. This was an undeclared naval war between the United States and France extending out of continued war between Britain and France after the French Revolution.

 

A state of war existed between the British monarchy and revolutionary France in the 1790s. Both sides wished to prevent the Americans from joining the other side, while the Americans hoped to remain neutral. The British policy at the time was basically, if you help my enemy then YOU are my enemy. This caused the British confiscation of American ships trying to trade with France or with French possessions in the Caribbean.

            

The Jay Treaty of 1796 resolved this and many other issues remaining with Britain after the Revolution, but the agreement angered the French Directorate, a five man committee then leading France. In response, France used the same British policy against America and began confiscating ships and impressing soldiers on American vessels trading with Britain.

 

President John Adams tried to use diplomatic channels to resolve the crisis, but in March of 1797, the French refused to meet with new American ambassador, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney. By June 1797, over 300 American ships had been taken by French vessels. Insurance costs skyrocketed. Congress met and reauthorized the creation of a US Navy and the commissioning of 12 naval vessels. It authorized the resurgence of the US Army and George Washington was asked to come out of retirement to lead it in case of war with France.

 

By the fall, Pinckney was joined by Elbridge Gerry and John Marshall, but French Foreign Minister, Charles Talleyrand, would not meet formally with the American commission. Instead, he sent a series of unofficial representatives who asked for financial bribes in order for Talleyrand to meet with them. These clandestine meetings lasted for several months until the commissioners finally refused any more dealings with the unofficial representatives and returned home.

 

Back in the US, the dealings in France were shared with Congress by President Adams. The whole affair became as known as the "XYZ Affair," X, Y and Z being used as substitutes for the names of the French intermediaries. The predictable response in the US was outrage. On July 7, 1798, Congress revoked its Treaty of Alliance with France that had existed since the American Revolution. This date is normally considered to be the beginning of the "Quasi-War" with France. It is called the Quasi-War because a formal declaration of war was never issued by either side, although both sides authorized military force against naval ships.

 

2 days after revoking the treaty, Congress authorized the attacking of French war vessels. American naval ships began seizing French vessels and the war machine in the US continued to grow. By the fall of 1800, hundreds of American ships had been seized, while the Americans had captured dozens of French vessels.

 

In spite of his party's wish for war with France, John Adams continued to pursue diplomatic means to peace behind the scenes. A change finally occurred when the Directorate was overthrown by Napoleon Bonaparte who had a more favorable attitude toward the United States. The Treaty of Mortefontaine, also called the Convention of 1800, brought the hostilities to an end when it was signed on September 30, 1800. The treaty confirmed an end to hostilities and guaranteed trade and perpetual peace between the two nations.

 

President Adams is generally considered to have singlehandedly prevented further war with France. The events of the Quasi-War helped reaffirm the supremacy of Congressional statutes over Presidential orders, as well as the policy of American neutrality in foreign affairs.


Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

Margaret Cochran Corbin, 1st woman to receive a military pension

Margaret Cochran Corbin, 1st woman to receive a military pension

 

On this day in history, July 6, 1779, Margaret Cochran Corbin is the first woman to receive a military pension from the US government. Margaret Cochran was born in 1751 in Pennsylvania. When Margaret was only 5, her father was killed in an Indian attack and her mother was kidnapped, never to be seen again. Margaret and her brother happened to be visiting their uncle on the day of the raid, so they were not killed. The two children were then raised by their uncle.

 

In 1772, Margaret married John Corbin who joined the First Company of the Pennsylvania Artillery when the American Revolution began. Rather than stay at home, Margaret became a “camp follower,” which were women who traveled with the army and provided services such as laundering clothes, cooking foods and caring for the wounded.

           

By November of 1776, John’s unit was stationed at Fort Washington in northern Manhattan. This was the last American stronghold on Manhattan Island and it became a target for the British to control the entire island. 3,000 Americans defended the fort, while 8,000 British and Hessian soldiers attacked.

 

Versions of Margaret’s story differ according to the source, but generally the story goes like this: John Corbin was loading a cannon, while another man would fire it. Margaret was there assisting John as he loaded the cannon. When the man firing the cannon was killed, John took his place doing the firing, while Margaret took John’s place loading the cannon. Eventually John was killed as well and Margaret took his position firing the cannon. Margaret’s shots were so accurate that the Hessian attackers began firing on her position. She was eventually shot several times. Her jaw and chest were damaged and her left arm was nearly cut off.

 

After the British stormed the fort (winning the battle), Margaret was paroled with the other soldiers. She was then taken to a military hospital in Philadelphia, but she never fully recovered from her wounds. In fact, she never regained the use of her left arm.

 

Margaret’s story quickly gained legendary status. Upon hearing of Margaret’s sacrifice, the Philadelphia Society of Women began making plans to erect a monument in her behalf, but when they met her in person, they changed their minds. It seems that Margaret was quite rough. She was a smoker and a drinker and was said to be gruff and "unclean."

 

Because of her injuries, Margaret was unable to care for herself and had trouble finding employment. The government of Pennsylvania gave her $30 in June, 1776, to help her with immediate expenses. Then they referred her to the Continental Congress, which agreed to give her half of a man’s military pension for the rest of her life on July 6, 1779.

 

Margaret was then enrolled in the Corps of Invalids, a special unit for injured soldiers located at West Point, where she lived for the rest of the war. Through the efforts of General Henry Knox, Margaret was placed with a caregiver in later years in Buttermilk Falls (now Highland Falls) near West Point. Margaret was buried in a non-descript grave near here upon her death in 1800.

 

In 1926, Margaret’s grave was rediscovered and her remains were moved to West Point, one of only two Revolutionary War soldiers to be buried at the United States Military Academy. Her remains were identified by comparing the wounds on the skeleton to the description of her wounds received at the Battle of Fort Washington.

Now for the rest of the story: Where is Margaret Corbin? Hunt on for Revolutionary War hero’s grave

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"It is the press which has corrupted our political morals — and it is to the press we must look for the means of our political regeneration."
Alexander Hamilton (1804)

Congress makes its first land acquisition

Congress makes its first land acquisition

 

On this day in history, July 5, 1776, Congress makes its first land acquisition when it purchases 96 acres of land south of Philadelphia to build a fort for the protection of the young nation’s capital city. After the July 4th Declaration of Independence, Congress immediately began to think about its own safety and that of its host city, knowing that it would be a likely British target.

 

The modern city of Paulsboro, New Jersey encompasses the land Congress purchased for the location of Fort Billingsport, which sat on the high ground at the narrowest point of the Delaware River south of Philadelphia. Construction of the fort was intended to block, or at least slow, a naval invasion up the river from the Delaware Bay.

           

Polish engineer Thaddeus Kosciuszko had arrived in America in June and volunteered his services to the Continental Army. Kosciuszko’s first assignment, given to him by George Washington, was to build Fort Billingsport. The fort consisted of a redoubt along the river adjacent to the larger fort. The defenses consisted of cannons trained over the river and chevaux-de-frise, which were long poles tipped with iron points to puncture the bottom of ships, placed in the river itself.

 

The attack came in the fall of 1777. An invasion fleet came up the Delaware River, but was unable to proceed due to the defenses of Fort Billingsport. British General William Howe had to land his 15,000 troops on the Chesapeake Bay side of the Delaware-Maryland-Virginia peninsula and march them overland to Philadelphia instead. The city was taken on September 26th after defeating the Continental Army at the Battle of Brandywine. Fort Billingsport, along with Forts Mercer and Mifflin further upriver still lie in American hands, however, and this prevented the supply of the British troops in Philadelphia.

 

Shortly after capturing Philadelphia, Howe sent 1,500 men to deal with Fort Billingsport. The fort, whose defenses faced downriver, was not equipped to deal with an assault from behind.  On the morning of October 2nd, as the British force approached, Colonel William Bradford gave the order to abandon the fort. The crew of the USS Andrew Doria, afloat in the river, worked for hours transporting soldiers and weapons in guard boats to the ship. As the last boat sailed for the Andrew Doria, shots were fired as the British took the fort. The garrison was then transported to Fort Mercer upriver.

 

The British began clearing the chevaux-de-frise from the river, which was a major undertaking. Both Forts Mercer and Mifflin fell in November, clearing the way for the British to finally supply their troops in Philadelphia. The occupation of Philadelphia lasted until the following summer when the British were finally forced to abandon the city due to France joining the war on the American side.

 

The site of Fort Billingsport was the first acquisition of land by the Continental Congress and has been called the "Birthplace of Homeland Security." As the first federally owned installation of any kind, it has great historical significance. Efforts are currently underway to have the site reconstructed and turned into a tourist attraction.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animated contest of freedom – go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen!"
Samuel Adams