News of the Victory at Saratoga reaches Paris

News of the Victory at Saratoga reaches Paris

 

On this day in history, December 4, 1777, news of the victory at Saratoga reaches Paris, paving the way for French involvement in the American Revolution. Earlier in 1777, British General John Burgoyne had embarked on a strategy to split the American colonies in two by invading from Canada. The plan was to capture Lake Champlain, Lake George and nearby American forts, including Ticonderoga, Stanwix and Anne and to arrive at Albany, where he would meet up with General William Howe’s forces, who would move up the Hudson River Valley from New York City. British control of the Hudson Valley up through Lake Champlain would effectively cut off New England from the rest of the colonies.

 

The plan worked fine at first, the British forces and their Indian allies easily took Lake Champlain, Fort Crown Point and Fort Ticonderoga, but then, the American resistance began to mount effective resistance in various skirmishes at places such as Hubbardton, Bennington and Fort Stanwix. The American forces began to swell as Indians allied with the British began to attack civilian settlers and the fall of Ticonderoga stirred up American resolve.

 

General Burgoyne’s strategy began to be plagued by desertion from his Indian allies, news that General Howe would take his main force to Philadelphia instead of sending them to Albany; and the loss of 1,000 men at the Battle of Bennington. Meanwhile, the American troops swelled to nearly 15,000 men as militia and Continental troops arrived from all over New England. Burgoyne had only half this number.

 

Two main battles, which together are generally called the Battles of Saratoga, took place. One at Freeman’s Farm on September 19 and the second at Bemis Heights on October 7. Over 1,000 British soldiers were killed or captured in the battles, while the Americans lost only a third of this number. General Burgoyne was forced to draw back to Saratoga where his troops were quickly surrounded. On October 17, he surrendered his army of over 6,000 men.

 

While Americans celebrated and London scrambled to reassess its strategy, word of the victory arrived in Paris on December 4, 1777. Benjamin Franklin received the news from the Continental Congress and went immediately to the French government. France desperately wanted to enter the war against its archrival, Britain, but believed it should wait until the American colonists first proved they could resist or even defeat the British without outside assistance. The victory at Saratoga gave the world proof that the Americans had the tenacity and resolve to stand up to Great Britain and two days after the word arrived in Paris, King Louis XVI announced his intention to join the war on the side of the Americans. Over the next several years, France contributed large sums of money, troops, ships and supplies without which the Americans may never have won the war.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org  

 

"The principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale."

Thomas Jefferson (1816)

General Nathanael Greene takes over the Southern Department

General Nathanael Greene takes over the Southern Department

 

On this day in history, December 3, 1780, General Nathanael Greene takes over the Southern Department of the Continental Army after the Americans suffered a string of defeats in the southern states. General Robert Howe lost the city of Savannah, Georgia; General Benjamin Lincoln lost the city of Charleston, South Carolina with over 5,000 soldiers; and in August, 1780, General Horatio Gates’ army was destroyed at Camden, South Carolina with almost 2,000 men killed or captured. These losses left South Carolina and Georgia completely in British hands. British General Charles Cornwallis then turned his sights on North Carolina and his ultimate goal, Virginia. After these defeats, morale was at an all-time low in the southern colonies. There was virtually no army remaining. Congress needed to turn something around before the South was completely lost.

 

Congress had bypassed George Washington’s authority by appointing all three failed generals in the South. This time, they deferred to Washington’s judgment as Commander-in-Chief, who immediately selected General Nathanael Greene to take over. Greene had already proved himself in battles at Trenton, Brandywine, Germantown, Monmouth and Newport and had shown an enormous talent for organizing and logistics as Quartermaster General at Valley Forge. Nathanael Greene was the owner of a foundry in Coventry, Rhode Island and had trained himself in the art of war through books. He was appointed a Major General in Rhode Island at the outbreak of the war and soon became a Brigadier General in the Continental Army, becoming one of Washington’s most trusted advisers.

 

Greene took charge of the Southern Department at Charlotte, North Carolina on December 3, 1780 and things immediately began to turn around. Greene first concentrated on rebuilding the forces with the help of his legendary organizational skills and ability to procure supplies and garner local support. He began making strikes against Cornwallis, but would pull back and outrun the British pursuers, often using swollen rivers to keep distance between them. Cornwallis’ army began to wear out as Greene drew them further inland, away from their supply depots on the coast. Greene gathered all the forces he could to Guilford Courthouse in Greensboro, North Carolina and fought a battle there that was extremely costly to the British, who were forced to return to their base at Wilmington on the sea. Cornwallis decided to abandon his attempt to conquer North Carolina and he turned north to Virginia instead, setting up the surrender at Yorktown less than one year later.

 

Rather than follow Cornwallis into Virginia, General Greene turned south and aided the local militias in driving the British back from the interior toward the sea. By the time the Treaty of Paris was signed to end the war, only a few southern coastal cities remained in British hands. The remainder of their territory was securely in American hands.

 

General Nathanael Greene is usually regarded as the most talented military mind of the American Revolution after George Washington, even though he never won a single decisive victory. All the major battles he fought in the South were draws. However, his strategy of dividing and weakening the British lines, separating them from their supply lines and forcing them to a chase on long marches eventually wore them out and returned the South safely into American hands. Nathanael Greene is truly one of the great geniuses and heroes of the American Revolution and deserves all the praise he usually receives.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org  

 

"Our unalterable resolution would be to be free. They have attempted to subdue us by force, but God be praised! in vain. Their arts may be more dangerous than their arms. Let us then renounce all treaty with them upon any score but that of total separation, and under God trust our cause to our swords."

Samuel Adams (1776)

General Richard Montgomery is born

General Richard Montgomery is born

 

On this day in history, December 2, 1738, General Richard Montgomery is born. Montgomery is best known for his failed attempt to capture the city of Quebec during the American Revolution and for his death during the battle.

 

Richard Montgomery was born and raised in Dublin, Ireland. He joined the British army in 1756 during the French and Indian War and saw extensive military service, including the surrender of Fort Louisbourg, the capture of Fort Carillon and the taking of Montreal. After Montreal, Montgomery’s regiment went to the West Indies where he participated in the capturing of the French island of Martinique and the Spanish Havana. He was then promoted to captain and sent to the Great Lakes to deal with Pontiac’s rebellion.

 

When that crisis began to subside, Captain Montgomery returned to England where he became associated with several Whigs who were friendly to the Americans and began to have doubts about British treatment of the colonists. In 1771, Montgomery sold his army commission for £1500 pounds and moved to America, intending to become a farmer.

 

Montgomery purchased a farm at King’s Bridge north of New York City and soon married Janet Livingston, whom he had met during his earlier travels. She was part of the powerful Livingston political dynasty that included Philip Livingston, who signed the Declaration of Independence and William Livingston who signed the US Constitution and later notables such both Presidents Bush, Eleanor Roosevelt and actress Jane Wyatt.

 

Due to his political ties with the Livingston family, Richard was elected to the New York Provincial Congress in 1775 where he was asked to help prepare the defenses of New York and organize its militia. Soon after, he was appointed a brigadier general in the Continental Army. Shortly afterwards, George Washington announced plans to invade Canada. General Philip Schuyler, who was the senior general, became ill shortly before the invasion and Montgomery took charge in his place. Montgomery captured Fort St. Jean and marched without opposition into Montreal, capturing the first British regimental flag of the war in the process, for which he received a commendation from George Washington.

 

Unaware that he had received a promotion to Major General on December 9th, Montgomery marched on to Quebec where he joined the forces of Colonel Benedict Arnold who had just traipsed across the wilderness of Maine to join him. Montgomery continued the Siege of Quebec for several weeks with little success. On the morning of December 31st, 1775, General Montgomery led a courageous assault on the city and was killed by grapeshot from defending Canadian militia.

 

General Richard Montgomery was buried in Quebec on January 4, 1776. His remains were moved to St. Paul’s Chapel on Manhattan Island in 1818. He is considered one of the first heroes of the American Revolution.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org  

 

"Aware of the tendency of power to degenerate into abuse, the worthies of our country have secured its independence by the establishment of a Constitution and form of government for our nation, calculated to prevent as well as to correct abuse."

Thomas Jefferson to Washington Tammany Society, 1809

Continental Army winters at Morristown, New Jersey

Continental Army winters at Morristown, New Jersey

 

On this day in history, December 1, 1779, the Continental Army establishes winter headquarters at Morristown, New Jersey. George Washington’s army had suffered some serious defeats in the month’s leading up to what would turn out to be the harshest winter of the 18th century, even worse than the winter at Valley Forge in 1777-1778. In June, the disastrous Penobscot Expedition in Maine had resulted in the loss of 43 American ships and nearly 500 men killed, wounded or captured. Lieutenant Colonel Paul Revere, who was an officer in the Massachusetts militia, lost his appointment over his role in the failed mission. In October, the Americans had failed to retake the city of Savannah. Washington’s army had failed to make any serious headway against the British since the victory at Saratoga in 1777.

 

George Washington made his headquarters at the home of Theodosia Ford, a wealthy widow with four children. Theodosia’s husband, Colonel Jacob Ford, Jr. had died shortly after contracting pneumonia at the Battle of Princeton. Jacob and his father owned extensive iron mines and foundries and other businesses. George Washington, with his wife Martha, and several aides and servants stayed at the home. Visitors to the house included the Marquis de Lafayette, Benedict Arnold, French Ambassador the Chevalier de la Lucerne and Generals John Stark, Henry Knox, Israel Putnam and Anthony Wayne. The Ford home is still standing today and is part of the National Park Service’s Morristown National Historical Park.

 

The Continental Army troops stayed in Jockey Hollow nearby the Ford mansion. The encampment sat on a high point, 31 miles west of New York City, where the British army was located. The elevation made it easy to detect any movements of the redcoats. Abundant forests provided logs with which 1,000 log cabins were built for 10,000-13,000 soldiers. As many as twelve soldiers were crowded in each cabin, which had dirt floors. Soldiers made their own beds, chairs and tables. Nearly 600 acres of timber were cut down to make the cabins and provide wood for furniture.

 

The winter turned out to be the worst of the century. George Washington wrote that, "The oldest people now living in this Country do not remember so hard a Winter as the one we are now emerging from. In a word, the severity of the frost exceeded anything of the kind that had ever been experienced in this climate before." Snow began falling in October, but the bitter cold was the worst part. It was so cold that countless animals froze to death. Indians and soldiers alike avoided the area in the spring because of the smell of rotting flesh everywhere. Disease and food shortages were rampant. Many soldiers deserted.

 

George Washington’s true genius is shown in circumstances like these. Many leaders would not have been able to hold the army together, but Washington encouraged the troops to stay on and fight for freedom. The revealing part… is that they followed him. The war would rage on for another two years.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org  

 

"We should be unfaithful to ourselves if we should ever lose sight of the danger to our liberties if anything partial or extraneous should infect the purity of our free, fair, virtuous, and independent elections."

John Adams (1797)

Preliminary Treaty of Paris is signed

Preliminary Treaty of Paris is signed

 

On this day in history, November 30, 1782, the preliminary Treaty of Paris is signed, bringing the hostilities of the American Revolution to a close. The British government became more disposed to achieving peace with the Americans after the surrender of General Charles Lord Cornwallis and the loss of several of its possessions to France and Spain.

 

The United States was prevented from dealing directly with Great Britain due to its alliance with France, having promised that it would not negotiate with Britain without them. Nonetheless, messages were exchanged between Ben Franklin in Paris and Prime Minister, Lord Shelburne’s peace commissioner in Paris, Richard Oswald, seeking common ground on which a preliminary peace could be formed.

 

The United States demanded full recognition by Britain as a sovereign nation, removal of British troops from its territory and fishing rights off Newfoundland. At first, Britain wanted the United States to remain as British possessions, but with greater autonomy. This was rejected by Ben Franklin, who wanted all of Canada for the United States as part of the deal. Britain rejected this proposal.

 

The negotiations continued in secret and John Jay and John Adams joined Franklin. Due to the exposure of some secret meetings between Britain and France and to his distrust of the French, John Jay, began negotiating directly with the British, against the wishes of Franklin and unbeknownst to France. Formal talks began in September and the remaining difficulties were ironed out over the next two months.

 

Two days after America’s 4th peace commissioner, Henry Laurens, arrived, a preliminary agreement was signed on November 30, 1782, which recognized the United States and established its boundaries, roughly being from the Mississippi to the Atlantic and from the Great Lakes to Florida. The preliminary Treaty of Paris also granted the US the right to fish off Newfoundland and granted both Britain and the US the right to use the Mississippi River.

 

Congress was to "earnestly recommend" to the states that they refund any property taken from Loyalists during the war and creditors on both sides were given full rights to recover all debts. Prisoners were to be released on both sides and all American property was to be left undamaged by British troops when they left.

 

The preliminary Treaty of Paris was ratified by Parliament on January 20, 1783 and by Congress on April 15. A ceasefire was declared by Britain on February 4 and by America on April 11th. The final official Treaty of Paris was signed by the commissioners on September 3, 1783, ratified by Congress on January 14, 1784 and by Great Britain on April 9, 1784. The ratified documents were exchanged once and for all in Paris on May 12, 1784, bringing the American Revolution to an end.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org  

 

"Without freedom of thought there can be no such thing as wisdom; and no such thing as public liberty, without freedom of speech."

Benjamin Franklin (1722)

USS Lee captures British Brigantine Nancy

USS Lee captures British brigantine Nancy

 

On this day in history, November 29, 1775, the USS Lee captures the British brigantine Nancy. George Washington and the Continental Army were besieging British held Boston at the time. The British troops were trapped in the city and the only way to receive food and supplies was by sea. Washington wanted to harass and capture as many ships bringing supplies to the troops in Boston as possible, so he formed a small squadron of ships, outfitted at his own expense, for the task.

 

Captain John Manley was given command of a schooner named the USS Lee, after General Charles Lee. The schooner was chartered from Thomas Stevens of Marblehead, Massachusetts and was previously called the Two Brothers. Captain Manley set out from Marblehead on October 28. He captured a small British sloop called the Polly, carrying turnips to the soldiers in Boston on November 27th, but on the 29th, he ran into the brigantine Nancy, a massive 250 ton British ship bringing supplies to Boston. Unknown to Captain Manley and the crew of the USS Lee, the ship was carrying tons of ammunition and weapons.

 

After capturing the Polly, Manley searched the waters off of Boston. When the Nancy saw the Lee, it was mistaken for a British pilot boat which would lead them into Boston. The Nancy then gave a series of signal flags, alerting the Lee that her intentions had not yet been discovered. Captain Manley sent a boat of men to the Nancy with their arms concealed. As soon as they boarded the ship, they pulled their weapons on the crew and the ship was surrendered without a fight.

 

The Nancy turned out to be one of the most valuable captures of the American Revolution. It contained 2,000 muskets, 8,000 fuses, 31 tons of musket balls, 3,000 solid shot for 12-pounders (cannon balls), one 13 inch cannon, 100,000 flints and other types of ammunition and supplies.

 

 

The Nancy was sailed into Beverly, Massachusetts, where the supplies were loaded onto wagons and hauled to Cambridge, George Washington’s headquarters outside Boston. The arrival of the supplies caused an eruption of excitement through the Continental Army camp and throughout the northeast because their arms and supplies were extremely limited before the arrival of the captured munitions. The joy was so great that Colonel Stephen Moylan wrote of General Israel Putnam celebrating as he sat on top of the newly acquired cannon with a bottle of rum in his hand to christen it.

 

The USS Lee was captained by John Manley for one more mission, on which the British ship Concord was captured, carrying food and coal to Boston. Manley was then promoted to captaining the faster ship USS Hancock. The USS Lee went on in the service of the Navy for two more years, captained by various men and capturing another 15 ships before it was returned to its owner.

 

Captain John Manley went on to command Washington’s schooner fleet in the northeast, sailing under the Washington’s Cruisers flag, a flag with a pine tree on it, created just for the fleet. He received the third naval commission from Congress as a captain when Congress took on the duties of creating a navy. Manley captured ten British ships during the war and helped in the capture of five others. He was also captured three times and spent more than two years in British prisons during the war. Though little known today, John Manley is regarded as one of the first naval heroes of American history for his many spectacular and heroic deeds.

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

“The greatest good we can do our country is to heal its party divisions and make them one people.”

Thomas Jefferson in a letter to John Dickinson, 1801

Congress adopts Rules for the Regulation of the Navy

Congress adopts Rules for the Regulation of the Navy

 

On this day in history, November 28, 1775, Congress adopts “Rules for the Regulation of the Navy,” the first set of guidelines governing the American navy. Congress had first established the Navy on October 13th, when it called for the purchase and arming of two vessels to be used for intercepting British ships. On the same day, a committee of seven people was formed to oversee naval affairs. The committee consisted of John Adams of Massachusetts, John Langdon of New Hampshire, Christopher Gadsden of South Carolina, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia, Silas Deane of Connecticut, Joseph Hewes of South Carolina and Stephen Hopkins of Rhode Island. The committee was called the Naval Committee and it set the course for the US Navy’s development.

 

On November 28th, Congress adopted “Rules for the Regulation of the Navy of the United Colonies of North-America,” on the recommendation of the Naval Committee. The Rules were largely created by John Adams. Adams had no naval or military experience himself, but he was an eminent lawyer and may have had some experience with maritime law since he practiced in the prominent port city of Boston.

 

Adams borrowed heavily from existing British naval rules. In fact, the first seven articles of Adams’ Rules are taken almost verbatim from “Rules of Discipline and good Government to be observed on board His Majesty’s Ships of War,” the British naval guidelines since 1730. The main difference is that wherever the British articles said “His Majesty’s Ships,” Adams changed it to “ships of the Thirteen United Colonies.”

 

Adams’ Rules contain 41 articles altogether. They deal with such things as food rations, how to deal with crimes and dereliction of duty on board ship, the proper conduct of officers, the proper care of injured seamen, how to deal with captured ships and how to deal with mutiny and sedition. The Rules also contained strict guidelines about personal behavior, forbidding “dissolute, immoral and disorderly practices,” requiring regular church services on board ship and punishment for swearing, cursing, blaspheming God and drunkenness.

 

“Rules for the Regulation of the Navy” formed the basis of all naval regulations in the United States for decades to come, many of the articles being passed nearly word for word into future naval regulations.

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

“Man, once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without rudder, is the sport of every wind. With such persons, gullibility, which they call faith, takes the helm from the hand of reason and the mind becomes a wreck.” —Thomas Jefferson (1822)