The Second Battle of Machias

The Second Battle of Machias


On this day in history, August 13, 1777, the Second Battle of Machias begins when British marines assault the town of Machias, Maine. Machias, which was then part of Massachusetts, was a center of American privateering during the American Revolution. The town was an irritation to the British since the beginning of the war when it captured the HMS Margaretta during the First Battle of Machias, the first naval battle of the Revolution.


In 1777, the Continental Congress gave John Allan permission to establish a patriot militia in western Nova Scotia (modern day New Brunswick). Nova Scotia at that time was teetering between British and patriot loyalties and it was not yet determined which side the colony would choose. Allan began raising troops in Machias and had a small contingent at the mouth of the St. John’s River in New Brunswick by June of that year. When the British northern command, located at Halifax, learned of Allan’s location, they sent a small force to deal with them, causing Allan to flee and return to Machias.


By August, Allan’s mission was canceled by the Massachusetts Provincial Congress which needed the men to thwart the anticipated attack of General Burgoyne in New York instead. Allan’s complete plans, including an attack on Fort Cumberland, had fallen into the hands of the British when they attacked his base on the St. John’s River. The plans created alarm in the British headquarters and a mission was planned to destroy Allan’s base of operations at Machias to prevent any attacks on Nova Scotia.


Captain, Sir George Collier, second in command at Halifax, abruptly sailed in late July for Machias. He left without any army troops aboard because he did not get along with General Eyre Massey, the army commander at Halifax. Instead, he intended to storm Machias with the marines aboard the four ships that sailed with him.


When the citizens of Machias learned a British expedition was heading their way, they quickly set up a string of defenses along the Machias River, which came from the coast up to their town. They erected a log barricade across the river, as well as several redoubts for the militia to fire from. Collier reached the Machias River on August 13 and sent two of his ships upriver, filled with 123 marines. When they reached the log barricade, a firefight began. The following day, the marines were able to break up the barricade, land and capture supplies on shore.


The two ships continued upriver and were harassed by gunfire the entire way to the town. Local Indian allies, fighting alongside the Machias militia, began shouting war whoops, which made the British think there were many more defenders than there actually were. Suddenly, the two ships turned around and began to escape downriver. One of the ships grounded, but the next morning it refloated and got away.


Both sides claimed victory in the Second Battle of Machias. Casualties were small, with 3 British killed and 18 wounded, while only 1 American was killed and one wounded. General Massey, who had been preparing his soldiers for the expedition when Collier abruptly left Halifax, was quite critical of the whole expedition and claimed that Collier intended to get all the glory for destroying Machias for himself. Overall, the British authorities were able to prevent any successful American invasions or rebellions in Nova Scotia and the colony remained loyal to Britain throughout the war.


Jack Manning

Secretary General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution


"All men are created equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights, of which they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; among which are the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing the obtaining of happiness and safety."
George Mason

Andrew Pickens Wins the Ring Fight

Andrew Pickens wins the Ring Fight


On this day in history, August 12, 1776, Andrew Pickens wins the Ring Fight, a unique battle with Cherokee Indians in South Carolina. The Cherokee tribe was spread out across the southeast through western North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, as well as Kentucky, Tennessee and northern Georgia and Alabama. When the American Revolution arrived, the tribe split in its loyalties, with some siding with the British and others declaring neutrality.


In 1776, those Cherokee aligned with the British launched a campaign into the western colonial settlements from Georgia to Virginia. Major Andrew Williamson rallied the South Carolina backcountry militia, assisted by Captain Andrew Pickens. Eventually they gathered a force of 1100 men and began a scorched earth campaign against the Cherokee villages in western South Carolina.


On August 12, 1776, Captain Pickens was leading a 25 man scouting party ahead of Williamson's main body of militia when the party was suddenly surrounded by a large group of Cherokee. The Indians had 175-200 men and easily outnumbered Pickens' small band. Pickens' quick thinking saved the day.


Pickens ordered his men to form a ring, facing outwards. The men took turns shooting around the circle, while others reloaded their guns. Those Indians who approached were shot. The few Indians who did breach the circle with their tomahawks were killed as well. Eventually, Pickens set fire to a nearby sugar cane patch. As the cane burned, the joints popped, sounding like gunfire. The Indians, hearing the popping sound, believed reinforcements had arrived and fled.


Shortly after, reinforcements from Major Williamson did arrive and Pickens' men survived. Believe it or not, only one of them was even injured! Numerous Indians were killed in what came to be called the "Ring Fight." After Williamson's arrival, he and Pickens led an attack on the nearby Cherokee village of Tamassee and burned it to the ground.


Pickens earned the respect and awe of the Cherokee for his role in the Ring Fight. After the battle, they began to call him "Skyagunsta" or the "Wizard Owl." He would serve throughout the war with great distinction and be raised to Brigadier General of the South Carolina militia. After the war, Pickens spent many years as a state representative and a few years in Congress. Later in life, he built a home called the “Red House” near Tamassee, not far from the site of the Ring Fight, where he lived until his death in 1718.


Major Williamson continued to serve in the militia as well and also became a Brigadier General. After the British captured Charleston in 1780, the situation looked very bleak for the patriots and many swore oaths of allegiance to Britain, including Williamson (and Pickens). Many took up arms anyway and continued to fight, such as Pickens, but Williamson actively tried to get his fellow countrymen to renege and join the British, earning the ire of many patriots. After the war, General Nathanael Greene revealed that Williamson was actively feeding him intelligence on British activities, but this did not do much to change his reputation among fellow South Carolinians, who continued to view him as a traitor.


Jack Manning

Secretary General
National Society Sons of the American Revolution


"[J]udges, therefore, should be always men of learning and experience in the laws, of exemplary morals, great patience, calmness, coolness, and attention. Their minds should not be distracted with jarring interests; they should not be dependent upon any man, or body of men."
John Adams (1776)

Sir Frederick Haldimand is Born

Sir Frederick Haldimand is born


On this day in history, August 11, 1718, Sir Frederick Haldimand is born. Haldimand would serve as the British governor of Quebec and Montreal throughout the time of the American Revolution. Francois-Louis-Frederick Haldimand was born in Yverdon, Switzerland and trained in military affairs as a young man. Due to lack of opportunity in Switzerland, Haldimand joined the Prussian army and fought in the War of the Austrian Succession. Afterwards, he joined the Swiss Guard in the Netherlands.


In 1755, the French and Indian War was just beginning in North America and Britain put together a regiment of German speaking immigrants called the Royal American regiment. Haldimand was recruited to help organize and lead the regiment due to his native born ability to speak German.


Haldimand served in several important positions in the region of Niagara during the war and was involved in the British invasion down the Saint Lawrence River into Canada. Haldimand was the first British officer to take control of Montreal after the French evacuation and later received the military governorship of Trois-Rivieres.


After Quebec was turned over to civilian government, Haldimand was promoted to Brigadier General and sent to head the British army's Southern Department, based in Saint Augustine, Florida. Haldimand held this position for 8 years, a period that he described as very unpleasant due to Florida's isolation and the difficulty in adequately supplying his troops. During this time, Haldimand became a British citizen.


In 1773, Haldimand was called to New York to fill the duties of General Thomas Gage who was then Commander-in-Chief of all British forces in North America, while he took leave in London. Haldimand's tenure in New York was peaceful, but tensions in the colonies were growing. When Gage returned to the colonies in 1774, this time also as the governor of Massachusetts, Haldimand was called with the New York forces to strengthen the royal army at Boston. While Gage served as governor, Haldimand was the chief officer over the army at Boston. Remarkably, Haldimand was not informed of the march on Concord by Gage and did not learn of it until the march began.


As the war broke out, the army leadership judged having a foreigner in Haldimand's position was too risky and he was forced to step down. Haldimand returned to Europe and bought an estate in Switzerland. In 1778, he was called upon by England again and made the Governor of Quebec, a position he held until 1784. Throughout the American Revolution, Haldimand strengthened Quebec's defenses in anticipation of an American invasion. He was largely responsible for the near recruitment of Vermont as a British province during what is called the Haldimand Affair, in which Haldimand negotiated with Ethan Allen to bring the rebel state back in to the British fold.


After the Revolution, Haldimand helped settle thousands of Loyalist refugees from the colonies in New Brunswick and Ontario, as well as the Iroquois nations which had been driven from New York. Haldimand returned to London in 1784, where he remained until his death in 1791 at the age of 72. Haldimand remained a bachelor his entire life. He left extensive correspondence that gives a unique view of colonial life in North America where he lived and served for 29 years.


Jack Manning

Secretary General
National Society Sons of the American Revolution


“Charity is no part of the Legislative Duty of the Government.”

James Madison

Georgia patriots meet at Tondee’s Tavern

Georgia patriots meet at Tondee’s Tavern


On this day in history, August 10, 1774, Georgia patriots meet at Tondee’s Tavern in Savannah for the first time to plan Georgia’s response to British policies. Only a few days before, Royal Governor James Wright had issued a proclamation forbidding gatherings from meeting to air their grievances against Great Britain, but 30 representatives from Georgia’s various counties met anyway.


The meeting was a result of several occurrences over the previous year, starting with the Boston Tea Party in December of 1773. Parliament’s response to the Tea Party was to shut down Boston Harbor and to dissolve the elected Massachusetts government. All the colonies were outraged, knowing that if Parliament could do this to Massachusetts, it would not hesitate to do it to the other colonies as well.


Virginia called for a "Congress" of all the colonies to gather in Philadelphia in September of 1774 to organize a joint response to Parliament’s aggressive actions. In Georgia, representatives were chosen to plan the colony’s response to these events. This group, meeting at Tondee’s Tavern on August 10, adopted a series of 8 resolutions which affirmed the colonists’ loyalty to the King, but also affirmed their rights as British citizens.


The resolutions condemned the Intolerable Acts (the acts against Massachusetts), Parliament’s insistence that it had the right to tax the colonists and the policy of holding trials of colonists elsewhere than the jurisdiction where the alleged crime occurred. Finally, they appointed an interim committee and sent copies of their resolutions to the other colonies.


This first meeting of Georgia’s patriots did not elect delegates to send to the First Continental Congress since Georgia’s population was slow to adopt the idea of resistance to Great Britain. It was not until the war broke out on April 19, 1775 that enough Georgians were persuaded to rebel against England and delegates were finally sent to Congress. On July 4, 1775, Georgia’s Second Provincial Congress met at the tavern and created Georgia’s first post-colonial government and elected delegates to send to Congress.


Tondee’s Tavern served as the meeting place for Georgia’s Provincial Congress until Savannah was captured by the British in late 1778. The establishment was run by Peter Tondee, a local patriot and member of the Sons of Liberty, until his death in October of 1775. Peter’s wife, Lucy, took over the business upon his death and continued to allow the rebel Congress to meet there.


When the British evacuated Savannah in 1782, the Congress reconvened at Tondee’s Tavern and met there until the government was permanently moved to Augusta in 1785. Lucy Tondee also died in that year and the Tondee property was eventually sold to others. Unfortunately, none of the original Tondee’s Tavern still exists because it burned down in the Great Savannah Fire of 1796.


Jack Manning

Secretary General
National Society Sons of the American Revolution


"A fondness for power is implanted, in most men, and it is natural to abuse it, when acquired."
Alexander Hamilton (1775)

The Action of 9 August 1780 takes place

The Action of 9 August 1780 takes place


On this day in history, August 9, 1780, the Action of 9 August 1780 takes place during the American Revolution. It would be one of the largest naval captures of all time. Spain joined the American Revolution in 1779 as an ally of France and America against Great Britain. The entrance of France and Spain into the war was a great challenge to Britain, spreading her navy very thinly across the globe.


In the summer of 1780, Spain learned that a large British convoy would soon be leaving Portsmouth, England for the West Indies. Preparations were made to send 37 Spanish and French warships to intercept the convoy. 63 ships left Portsmouth by late July, including five East Indiamen, massive ships that made frequent voyages to the Far East and under the control of the East India Company, as well as over 50 West Indiamen, smaller ships that carried goods back and forth from the West Indies. The convoy was guarded by Captain John Moutray aboard the 74 gun HMS Ramillies and accompanied by two other war frigates.


The Spanish fleet, under Admiral Luis de Cordova y Cordova, left from Cadiz and finally spied the British on the evening of August 8th, 200 miles from Portugal. They used a trick to lure the British fleet right to them. During the night, lantern signals were given by the Santisima Trinidad, Admiral Cordova y Cordova’s flagship, which the British ships mistakenly believed to be from their own commander. The fleet turned toward the signal and, in the morning, found themselves right in the middle of the Spanish fleet, which commenced an attack from all sides.


The Spanish fleet easily captured dozens of ships, one after the other. Many of the ships suffered significant damage as a result of cannon bombardment and numerous sailors were killed. When the five East Indiamen, the Godfrey, Gatton, Mountstuart, Royal George and Hillsborough, were captured, it represented the East India Company’s largest financial loss in the company’s history. In all, 55 ships were captured, one of the largest naval captures of all time. Only the three military escorts and five other ships managed to get away.


The loss to the British economy from the Action of 9 August 1780 was staggering. Not only were the ships and their cargos lost, but nearly 3,000 soldiers and sailors were taken captive. Tons and tons of military supplies were confiscated, including arms, artillery, ammunition and tents. The value of the lost cargo was around £1.5 million, an enormous amount of money. The financial loss to British merchants was so staggering, that numerous marine insurance underwriters in Europe went bankrupt. Prices for marine insurance skyrocketed and voices in Britain against the war spoke out all the louder. Captain Moutray suffered the punishment for the loss. He was court-martialed and lost command of his ship.


All of the captured ships were put into the Spanish navy. Admiral Cordova y Cordova would go on to capture 24 more ships during the war and would fight the Royal Navy to a standstill at the Battle of Cape Spartel after she brought supplies to the besieged British possession of Gibraltar. The Admiral would be celebrated for his role in the American Revolution, though he failed to stop the British from relieving the Great Siege of Gibraltar.


Jack Manning

Secretary General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution


"A general dissolution of principles and manners will more surely overthrow the liberties of America than the whole force of the common enemy. While the people are virtuous they cannot be subdued; but when once they lose their virtue then will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or internal invader."

Samuel Adams, 1779


Patriots win the Battle of Gloucester

Patriots win the Battle of Gloucester


On this day in history, August 8, 1775, patriots win the Battle of Gloucester, an early battle of the American Revolution fought in Gloucester Harbor, Massachusetts. After the war broke out on April 19, patriots from around the colonies surrounded the British in Boston, trapping them inside the city. This made the British soldiers dependent on supplies brought in from the sea.


British General Thomas Gage and Admiral Samuel Graves began sending raiding parties along the coast to take supplies from seaside communities and farms. One such raid was attempted by Captain John Linzee, aboard the HMS Falcon, on August 5, when he sent a raiding party to shore near Ipswich Bay. This particular raid failed when local farmers drove off the sailors with their shotguns.


Linzee cruised along the coast of Cape Ann for a few days, until he saw two American merchant ships, newly arrived from the West Indies, on the morning of August 8th. Linzee pursued the ships, quickly capturing one of them without a fight and posting his own men to captain the ship. The second ship, however, was captained by a more experienced seaman who knew the area well. He sailed into Gloucester Bay and grounded the ship to prevent the British from capturing it.


Linzee anchored the Falcon and the captured ship in the bay, then sent out 3 small boats of sailors to capture the grounded ship. By this time, the people of Gloucester had called out the militia, who began firing on the small boats as they approached the ship. The sailors reached the ship, but were trapped on board by continuous gunfire from the shore.


Captain Linzee fired his cannons on the town and sent a landing party to burn the town down as a distraction. The landing party was not able to reach the town, however, and the sailors remained trapped on the ship. Late in the afternoon, Linzee’s first lieutenant, in charge of the boarding party on the ship and now injured from gunfire, managed to get away on a small boat with a few other sailors, but the rest remained trapped on the ship.


The grounded ship was eventually boarded by the citizens and the remaining soldiers were taken captive. Linzee, realizing things were falling apart, sent the captured schooner to shore to retrieve the captured soldiers. The schooner’s native sailors mutinied against Linzee’s men, took them captive and reclaimed the ship. At this point, Linzee realized resistance was futile and he sailed off.


The British loss at the Battle of Gloucester was listed as one of the reasons for an October expedition under British Captain Henry Mowat to punish Massachusetts coastal towns. Captain Mowat’s orders specifically included Gloucester as a target, but Mowat decided to forego bombarding the town because its buildings were too far apart and he didn’t think his ships’ guns would have much effect.


This expedition culminated in the Burning of Falmouth (present day Portland, Maine), the first American town completely destroyed by the British. The burning of Falmouth led many Americans who were previously neutral or undecided to come down squarely against the British and led the Continental Congress to create the Continental Navy.


Jack Manning

Secretary General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

“Permit me then to recommend from the sincerity of my heart, ready at all times to bleed in my country’s cause, a Declaration of Independence, and call upon the world and the Great God who governs it to witness the necessity, propriety and rectitude thereof.”
Nathanael Greene

George Washington Creates the Purple Heart Award

George Washington creates the Purple Heart award


On this day in history, August 7, 1782, George Washington creates the Purple Heart award. Washington had long wanted an award for average soldiers who performed meritoriously in combat. From his headquarters at Newburgh, New York, Washington issued an order that read in part:


    "The General ever desirous to cherish virtuous ambition in his soldiers, as well as to foster and encourage every species of Military merit, directs that whenever any singularly meritorious action is performed, the author of it shall be permitted to wear on his facings over the left breast, the figure of a heart in purple cloth, or silk, edged with narrow lace or binding. Not only instances of unusual gallantry, but also of extraordinary fidelity and essential service in any way shall meet with a due reward."


The heart-shaped purple cloth medal was originally called the "Badge of Military Merit," and contained the word "Merit," surrounded by oak leaves. Those awarded the medal were to have their name recorded in a special book and were given the privilege of walking through any sentry or guard, just like officers could do. This was the first time a major military power awarded average soldiers for meritorious conduct in a time when awards usually went to the officers.


Historians have verified only three recipients of the Badge of Military Merit during the Revolution, though there are some others who may have received it. The reason for so few awards of the medal is unclear, but it probably had to do with the fact that the war was almost over when it was created. The medal was never officially discontinued, but fell out of use for over a century. The picture of the medal above belonged to one of the three verified recipients, Sergeant Elijah Churchill. It now belongs to the New Windsor Cantonment, a New York historical site which was the last encampment of the Continental Army during the American Revolution.


The use of the Badge of Military Merit faded after the Revolution, but in 1918, General John Pershing revived the idea of a badge of merit. General Charles Summerall, US Army Chief of Staff, pushed the idea of reviving the badge in 1927. In 1931, his successor, General Douglas MacArthur, pushed the idea further and the US War Department announced the creation of the "Order of the Purple Heart" on George Washington's 200th birthday, February 22, 1932. The awards could be given to anyone who met certain criteria back to April 5, 1917.


At first, the Purple Heart was awarded for meritorious conduct on the battlefield, just as the original Badge of Military Merit was, and was only awarded to members of the US Army. In 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an order extending the Purple Heart to other branches of the US Armed Forces, and to those who had been killed in military service on or after December 7, 1941.


Also in 1942, the "Legion of Merit" was created, which is an award for meritorious conduct in battle. This made the Purple Heart award obsolete, so its requirements for award were changed. Today, the Purple Heart is awarded to anyone who is wounded or killed during military service in the US Armed Forces. It is the oldest existing US military award, with the exception of the "Fidelity Medallion," a one-time award given to three soldiers involved in the capture of Major John Andre, the British spy who helped facilitate Benedict Arnold's treason.


Jack Manning

Secretary General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

“Hold on, my friends, to the Constitution and to the Republic for which it stands. Miracles do not cluster and what has happened once in 6,000 years may not happen again. Hold on to the Constitution, for if the American Constitution should fail, there will be anarchy throughout the world.” 
Daniel Webster