Aaron Burr is arrested for treason

Aaron Burr is arrested for treason

 

On this day in history, February 19, 1807, Aaron Burr is arrested for treason. Aaron Burr was America’s third Vice-President under Thomas Jefferson. He is best-known today for killing Alexander Hamilton in a duel after some private comments Hamilton made disparaging Burr’s character were made public and Hamilton refused to retract the statements.

 

Less known is an incident Burr was involved in after his term as vice-president ended along with his political career due to the Hamilton incident. After his term, Burr went west to the American frontier and purchased land in the newly purchased Louisiana Territory, where he became involved in a scheme to either develop a new state in Louisiana or, more seriously, to conquer part of Mexico, apparently hoping to revive his political career.

           

This was illegal because Mexico was still a Spanish possession and only the United States government had the authority to make war or negotiate with foreign governments. Burr worked together with US General James Wilkinson who was the US Army Commander at New Orleans and the Governor of the Louisiana Territory. Together they developed their plans and raised a small privately funded army to accomplish their ends. They even negotiated with Great Britain, which considered aiding their plans, but eventually pulled out.

 

General Wilkinson eventually became nervous that the plans would fail and he could be implicated in a crime. He turned on Burr and wrote to President Thomas Jefferson about Burr’s plan and accused him of treason. In addition, some of Jefferson’s slave-holding supporters demanded that he do something about Burr because whatever territory Burr ended up controlling would be slave-free, since he was firmly against slavery. They did not want a slave-free territory in the south. Jefferson eventually charged Burr with treason, a charge which didn’t exactly fit the crime. Burr tried to escape to Spanish Florida, but was caught at Wakefield in the Mississippi Territory on February 19, 1807.

 

Burr was tried in a sensational trial in Richmond, Virginia beginning on August 3. He was represented by Edmund Randolph and Luther Martin, both former members of the Continental Congress. The evidence was so flimsy against Burr that four grand juries had to be convened before the prosecution could get an indictment. General Wilkinson, the chief witness for the prosecution, was found to have forged a letter, allegedly from Burr, stating his plans to steal land from Louisiana. This weakened the prosecution’s case and left Wilkinson in disgrace.

 

Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Marshall, oversaw the case and was pressured by Thomas Jefferson to make a conviction. Marshall, however, did not find Burr guilty of treason and he was acquitted on September 1. He was then tried on a more reasonable misdemeanor charge, but was acquitted of this charge as well.

 

After the trial, Burr’s hopes of reviving his political career were dead and he fled to Europe. For several years, he attempted to talk various European governments into cooperating with his plans to conquer Mexico, but he was rebuffed by all. Eventually he returned to the United States and resumed his law practice in New York, where he maintained a relatively low profile for the rest of his life.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

"It is in the interest of tyrants to reduce the people to ignorance and vice. For they cannot live in any country where virtue and knowledge prevail."
Samuel Adams

George Coryell, George Washington’s last living pallbearer dies

George Coryell, George Washington’s last living pallbearer dies

 

On this day in history, February 18, 1850, George Coryell, George Washington’s last living pallbearer dies. Coryell and his family served an interesting and colorful place in the American Revolution. His grandfather was one of the founders of Coryell’s Ferry on the Delaware River that played a major role in the war’s New Jersey campaign.

 

Emanuel Coryell founded the ferry at what is today Lambertville, New Jersey. In 1764, Emanuel’s son John bought the ferry on the opposite, Pennsylvania, side and the two sides together became known as Coryell’s Ferry. The ferry was at a strategic location, being half way between New York and Philadelphia. Both sides had an inn where travelers could stay overnight. The whole Coryell family was instrumental in helping the Continental Army during its time in the area.

 

In the fall of 1776, part of George Washington’s army camped at Coryell’s Ferry after crossing the Delaware. General William Alexander built earthworks to defend the ferry’s landing spot from a possible British crossing. The British did not dare try to cross there because of the formidable defenses.

 

George Washington visited the ferry numerous times, using the high ground to watch for British activities on the other side of the river and conducting a war council with his top generals at the inn to plan the attack on Trenton. Cornelius Coryell, another son of Emanuel Coryell, served as a guide to Washington while he was in the area and helped ferry Washington’s men across the Delaware just prior to their victory at Trenton. The Continental Army crossed at the Ferry again in 1777 and again in 1778 after the winter at Valley Forge on their way to attack Cornwallis when he abandoned Philadelphia. The Coryells helped them cross each time.

 

Cornelius Coryell had a son named George whom George Washington became acquainted with in Philadelphia during his first term as president. Coryell crafted an impressive gate for Ben Franklin which Washington was very impressed with. He persuaded Coryell to move to Alexandria, Virginia where he set up shop and became a merchant and official and did occasional work at Mount Vernon. Both Georges were members of the same Masonic Lodge and knew each other quite well. For Washington’s funeral, Martha Washington requested that members of the Lodge serve as pallbearers. Six pallbearers carried the casket at the funeral itself, which was held at Mount Vernon for family and friends. Another four were assigned to carry the casket from the house to the tomb, which was also on the property.

 

Coryell was not one of the scheduled pallbearers. Some accounts say that Lt. William Moss, one of the four who were to lay the casket in the tomb, got sick, while some accounts say he was not strong enough to carry the casket. Whichever is the true reason, Lt. George Coryell, was present and asked to take Moss’s place. He was the last living of the ten pallbearers.

 

George Coryell lived in Alexandria until he retired and moved back to Lambertville. He lived there until his death in 1850 and is buried at the First Presbyterian Church of Lambertville.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"There is nothing I have more at heart than the ease and security of every part of the Country and its inhabitants."
George Washington, letter to Connecticut Governor Jonathan Trumbull, December 19, 1778

 

 

 

The House of Commons passes the Stamp Act

The House of Commons passes the Stamp Act

 

On this day in history, February 17, 1765, the House of Commons passes the Stamp Act. The Stamp Act would be one of the primary points of contention between the American colonists and Parliament in the years leading up to the Revolutionary War.

 

The Act placed a small tax on 54 separate items, all things made of paper, such as contracts, wills, playing cards, newspapers, almanacs, etc. The Act was part of Prime Minister George Grenville’s plan to reduce the massive debt incurred by the British treasury during the French and Indian War. All the money raised by the Act was to be used within the colonies to pay for the expenses of British soldiers stationed there after the end of the war.

 

The colonists did not object to paying taxes. They did, however, have a strong opinion about who could tax them. English law provided that people could only be taxes by their elected representatives. Since the colonies had no representatives in Parliament, Parliament could not legally tax them. Instead, they believed the proper bodies to lay taxes on them were their own elected colonial legislatures.

 

Parliament did not respond to the formal protests from the colonial governments, so the citizens began to take things into their own hands. Newspapers and citizens published anti-Stamp Act letters and pamphlets and mob violence broke out in numerous places against government officials involved with implementing the Act. The violence became so severe that by November 1, 1765, the intended start date of the Act, not a single stamp distributor was left in the colonies. Every single one had resigned, except for the one from Georgia and that was because he did not arrive until January. When he did arrive, he resigned the next day.

 

Many localities in the colonies then passed non-importation agreements, refusing to import British goods until the Act was repealed. This put an enormous amount of pressure on British merchants who began to suffer and lay people off because they could not pay their debts. These merchants began to pressure Parliament to repeal the bill. A change in administration made Lord Rockingham Prime Minister and he immediately began pushing for a repeal. The Stamp Act was finally repealed on March 18, 1766, causing rejoicing and celebrations both in England and in the colonies.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org “The public cannot be too curious concerning the characters of public men.”
Samuel Adams (1775)

South Carolina patriot Christopher Gadsden is born

South Carolina patriot Christopher Gadsden is born

 

On this day in history, February 16, 1724, South Carolina patriot Christopher Gadsden is born. Gadsden was one of the most prominent patriots in the south during the American Revolution. He was born into a wealthy family in Charleston, South Carolina and went to school in England. He later started a mercantile business in Philadelphia and made his own fortune.

 

Christopher moved back to Charleston in 1747, where he served in the legislature, continued his business pursuits and joined the militia. By 1765, he was involved in the anti-Parliament wave sweeping the colonies. He attended the Stamp Act Congress in New York, where he became friends with Samuel Adams. When he returned to South Carolina, Gadsden would help form the Sons of Liberty movement there and would become known as the "Sam Adams of the South."

 

In the late 1760s, Gadsden began building Gadsden’s Wharf, the most prominent wharf in Charleston, with docking space for six ships at a time and warehouse space which he rented to shipping companies. Gadsden earned a profit from every item shipped through this major southern port. Most of the slaves imported to Charleston at the time came through Gadsden’s Wharf.

 

Gadsden served in the Continental Congress from 1774-1776. While serving on the Marine Committee, in charge of the newly formed Continental Navy, he designed the personal standard of the Navy’s commander, which is known as the Gadsden Flag. It features a yellow field with a rattlesnake and the words Don’t Tread On Me and is still used prominently today in protests against the government.

 

In February, 1776, Gadsden was appointed brigadier general over South Carolina’s militia. When the British tried to invade Charleston in June, General William Moultrie repelled the attackers from Sullivan’s Island, while Gadsden and his regiment built an escape bridge off the island, at Gadsden’s personal expense. The attack was repelled and the British did not return for 3 more years.

 

In 1778, Gadsden served at the convention that drew up the new South Carolina Constitution and became Lieutenant Governor. In 1780, the British returned to lay siege to Charleston again. Continental Army Major General Benjamin Lincoln was eventually forced to surrender the city and his entire army. As the highest ranking civilian authority in town, Gadsden was part of the delegation that surrendered to British General Sir Henry Clinton. Gadsden and many others were taken prisoner to the fortress at Saint Augustine, Florida where he remained in a dungeon for 42 months.

 

Gadsden was released in 1781 and returned to South Carolina where he was re-elected to the legislature. He was also elected Governor, but he declined the position because of his health, which was suffering because of his imprisonment. After the war, he served at the South Carolina Constitutional Convention and voted to ratify the US Constitution. Christopher Gadsden died in 1805 in Charleston.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism."
George Washington (1796)

Abraham Clark is born

Abraham Clark is born

 

On this day in history, February 15, 1726, Abraham Clark, signer of the Declaration of Independence from New Jersey, is born. Clark was born in Elizabethtown, New Jersey (now Elizabeth) and was trained as a surveyor. He taught himself law and was involved in surveying and legal work regarding titles, mortgages and so forth. He was well-respected for often helping poor people with legal advice and title issues at no charge. Because of this, he was sometimes called, "The Poor Man’s Counselor."

 

Before the Revolution, Clark served as a clerk for the New Jersey colonial assembly and as sheriff of Essex County. When the Revolution began, he served on the New Jersey Committee of Safety and was elected to the rebel New Jersey provincial assembly in 1775. This assembly appointed 5 men to the Continental Congress on June 21, 1776, including Abraham Clark.

 

Clark voted for independence on July 2, 1776 and signed his name to the Declaration of Independence. About the vote, Clark wrote to his friend Elias Dayton on July 14th, "Our Declaration of Independence I dare say you have seen. A few weeks will probably determine our fate. Perfect freedom, or Absolute Slavery. To some of us freedom or a halter. Our fates are in the hands of An Almighty God, to whom I can with pleasure confide my own; he can save us, or destroy us; his Councils are fixed and cannot be disappointed, and all his designs will be Accomplished."

 

Clark served nearly 10 years in the Continental Congress, both during and after the war. Clark had two sons who served as captains in the war and both were taken prisoner and held captive on the notorious British prison ship, Jersey. The British offered to release his sons if Clark would switch sides and pledge allegiance to the King, which he refused to do. Due to Elizabethtown’s proximity to Staten Island and New York City, the city was the site of dozens of battles and skirmishes during the war. Much of Clark’s property was destroyed, though his house survived.

 

Clark served in the New Jersey legislature for four years, during which he introduced a bill forbidding the abuse of slaves and authorizing their freedom under certain conditions. After the war, he was one of twelve men who met at the Annapolis Convention to discuss the necessity of a new constitution to replace the Articles of Confederation. Clark and the other attendees, including Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Dickinson, urged the Confederation Congress to meet in Philadelphia to revise the inadequate Articles. Clark was then elected to attend the Constitutional Convention in May, 1787, but he was not able to attend because of sickness.

 

Clark’s last act of public service was to represent New Jersey in the US House of Representatives from 1791-1794, where he is said to have insisted on and been responsible for the printing of the word "Liberty" on United States coins. He also persuaded Congress to put symbols of America on the coins, instead of the head of the current president, which was the other proposal. Clark passed away in 1794 after suffering a heat stroke on his property. He is buried in Rahway, New Jersey.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

“Let justice be done though the heavens should fall.”
John Adams (1777)

The Battle of Kettle Creek is won

The Battle of Kettle Creek is won

 

On this day in history, February 14, 1779, the Battle of Kettle Creek is won, which turns out to be one of the most important battles in Georgia during the American Revolution. The British had begun their southern strategy to take back the southern states by capturing Savannah in December, 1778. The strategy revolved around the belief that large numbers of Loyalists in the southern states would rally to the British and help defeat the patriot uprising. The Battle of Kettle Creek disproved the theory.

 

After capturing Savannah, a force was sent to take Augusta under Lieutenant Colonel Archibald Campbell. Campbell dispatched well-known Loyalist militia leader John Boyd to travel through the Georgia and South Carolina back country to recruit Loyalist soldiers. Boyd was able to gather some 600 to 800 men and set out to rendezvous with Campbell, who had arrived in Augusta and taken the town without a fight on January 24.

 

Several smaller militia groups under South Carolina Major Andrew Pickens and Georgia Colonel and Lieutenant Colonel John Dooly and Elijah Clarke gathered together to attack Boyd’s Loyalists. On February 14, Boyd’s men stopped to rest and eat at Kettle Creek near present day Washington, Georgia. Pickens, in command of about 350 men, sent Dooly to the right and Clarke to the left, while his own men advanced from the center. An advance force in front of Pickens alarmed Boyd’s sentries and began firing, which alarmed Boyd’s entire camp, ruining the surprise attack. In addition, both Dooly’s and Clarke’s men were hindered in the swamps, ruining Pickens’ plan to attack from three sides.

 

In spite of these errors, Boyd met his fate when he was shot with a mortal wound causing the rest of his men to panic and scatter. Pickens advanced and Clarke was finally able to rally through the swamp and lead another attack on the main force of Loyalists. In the end, 9 patriots were killed and 23 wounded, while somewhere between 40 and 70 Loyalists were killed and another 75 taken prisoner. The more significant statistic though, is that only 270 of Boyd’s men finally joined Campbell’s British troops. The rest went home discouraged and afraid. Several of the prisoners were tried for treason and hung. The British defeat at Kettle Creek proved that Loyalist sentiment in the south was not as strong as the British had hoped.

 

Ironically, on the same day as the Battle of Kettle Creek, Campbell decided to abandon Augusta and head back to the coast, only three weeks after taking the town. He did this because of another gathering patriot army under Generals Andrew Williamson and John Ashe and because he didn’t know whether Boyd would succeed in bringing a large army of Loyalists to his aid. Of course, Campbell turned out to be right.

 

After the Battle of Kettle Creek, Major Pickens tended to the mortally wounded John Boyd, with whom he was probably acquainted. Boyd gave Pickens a message and some personal items to give to his wife, which he later did. Pickens would go on to serve in several major battles and be promoted to Brigadier General and would later become a member of the US House of Representatives from South Carolina.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"The Constitution be never construed to authorize Congress to infringe the just liberty of the press, or the rights of conscience; or to prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms."
Samuel Adams

General George Rogers Clark dies

General George Rogers Clark dies

 

On this day in history, February 13, 1818, General George Rogers Clark dies. Clark was called the "Conqueror of the Old Northwest," for his military exploits. Clark made his first surveying trip into Kentucky in 1772, when settlers were pouring into the region. Lord Dunmore’s War soon broke out with the Indians and Clark became a captain in the war, which ended with the Indians agreeing to recognize the Ohio River as their southern boundary.

 

Just as the American Revolution broke out, Kentuckians were involved in a disagreement with Richard Henderson of North Carolina, who planned to start a new colony in the area known as Transylvania. Many of the settlers were not in agreement with Henderson’s plans so they elected Clark to go to Virginia to persuade Governor Patrick Henry to partition Kentucky. Henry agreed to this and created Kentucky County, Virginia, making the 24 year old Clark a major of the Kentucky County militia.

 

As the Revolution progressed, some of the Indians who had lost their territory in Kentucky allied with England. British Governor Henry Hamilton in Detroit began sponsoring Indian raids south of the Ohio. Clark secured Henry’s support for capturing the British outposts that were supporting the raids and in 1778, he and 175 men marched north of the Ohio and took several British posts and Indian villages, including Vincennes, within a matter of days. Hamilton personally led a march that retook Vincennes shortly after.

 

In February, 1779, Clark made an epic winter trek through the wilderness to recapture Vincennes, which he did. Hamilton was captured, Clark was viewed as a hero throughout the colonies and the Indians feared even the mention of Clark’s name. Virginia claimed the territory and called it Illinois County. Clark was promoted to Brigadier General by new Virginia Governor Thomas Jefferson and would go on to plan several attacks on Detroit, which never came to pass. He then led an expedition into Ohio against several Indian towns that proved to be the last expedition of the American Revolution.

 

After the war, Clark led one of the first expeditions of the Northwest Indian War in 1785, but it failed due to a mutiny. Clark was accused of being drunk on the job and was forced to resign. He would never serve in the military again. He spent most of his remaining years in Louisville, Kentucky, which he founded, and Clarksville, Indiana, which was named after him, serving as an advisor to governors and city councils and acting as a negotiator with Indians.

 

Clark fell into deep debt and, in 1793, to remedy his financial woes, made a deal with French Ambassador Edmond-Charles Genet to raise an army to drive Spain out of the Mississippi River valley. President George Washington put a stop to this, however, by issuing a warrant for Clark’s arrest. Kentucky Governor Isaac Shelby refused to arrest Clark, but Genet was recalled to France and the plan dissolved.

 

Clark lived his last years with his brother-in-law near Louisville after a severe accident caused a leg amputation. He died February 13, 1818. Virginia did finally vote to reimburse some of his war expenses to his estate, but not until several years after his death.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

"Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence, (I conjure you to believe me fellow citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake; since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of Republican Government."
George Washington (1796)