General, Sir Henry Clinton is born

General, Sir Henry Clinton is born

 

On this day in history, April 16, 1730, General, Sir Henry Clinton is born. Clinton would be in charge of the British forces for North America through much of the Revolutionary War and would ultimately go down in defeat for losing the American Revolution.

 

Clinton was the son of Admiral George Clinton who was a Governor of New York in the 1740s. Consequently  young Henry spent much of his youth in America. His father eventually purchased him a captain’s commission and he rose in rank to lieutenant colonel by the time of the French and Indian War, during which he fought in several battles in Europe.

           

By 1775, Clinton was a major general and was informed he would be sent to Massachusetts to assist in putting down the rebellion. General Thomas Gage was then the commander of British troops in North America. Gage and Clinton did not get along from the start. Clinton often disagreed with Gage’s tactical and strategic choices and was not afraid to give his opinion, constantly offering  suggestions and criticisms and irritating Gage, who often disregarded him.

 

Clinton was part of the Battle of Bunker Hill that led to the slaughter of 1,000 British soldiers, leading him to famously write that it was, “A dear bought victory, another such would have ruined us.” In January, 1776, he was given command of an expedition to invade the Carolinas. Gage refused to give him the officers he wanted. When he arrived in North Carolina, Clinton decided not to make a base of operations there when he learned of a Tory defeat at Moore’s Bridge and made plans to attack Charleston, South Carolina, instead.

 

Assisted by Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis and Admiral, Sir Peter Parker, the attack on Charleston was a dismal failure and Clinton returned to help General William Howe, who had replaced General Gage, take New York City. Clinton’s plans were instrumental in taking Long Island, but again, his suggestions were continually rebuffed by Howe, who was generally more cautious than Clinton.

 

In 1777, plans were made to send an army under General John Burgoyne south from Quebec that would meet another army coming up from New York, to cut off the more rebellious New England from the rest of the colonies. General Howe, however, decided to take Philadelphia, instead of meeting up with Burgoyne. Gage left Clinton in charge in New York, frustrated and unable to help either group. Burgoyne’s army was captured and Howe’s nearly defeated at Germantown, causing him to resign. Henry Clinton was then appointed his replacement as Commander-in-Chief of North America.

 

Clinton returned the army to New York and oversaw the exodus of troops to the West Indies to defend British interests there. He tried to resign numerous times, but was refused by the King. In late 1779, he adopted a southern strategy intended to take the less rebellious southern colonies and personally led the capture of Charleston and Major General Benjamin Lincoln’s 5,000 man army in 1780. Clinton returned to New York after this and left Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis in control. Cornwallis ultimately failed in recapturing the south and when he surrendered his army, Clinton received much of the blame.

 

Forced to resign, Clinton returned to England. He published a book placing the blame for the failure in America on Cornwallis and continued to serve in Parliament. In 1793, Clinton became a full-fledged general and was appointed Governor of Gibraltar, but he died in 1794 before taking the position.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

“But what is liberty without wisdom, and without virtue? It is the greatest of all possible evils; for it is folly, vice, and madness, without tuition or restraint.”
Edmund Burke

Congress Ratifies Peace With Great Britain

Congress ratifies peace with Great Britain

 

On this day April 15, 1783, the Continental Congress of the United States officially ratifies the preliminary peace treaty with Great Britain that was signed in November 1782. The congressional move brings the nascent nation one step closer to the conclusion of the Revolutionary War.

 

Five months later, on September 3, 1783, the Treaty of Paris was signed by representatives of the United States, Great Britain, Spain and France, officially bringing an end to the Revolutionary War. It also formalized Great Britain’s recognition of America’s independence.

 

The treaty established the Mississippi River as the western boundary of the new United States; allowed U.S. fishermen to troll the waters off Newfoundland, Canada; recognized the legitimacy of pre-war debts owed by Americans and Britons; and promised to reunite American Loyalists with property seized from them during the war. The American and Britons were satisfied with the agreement. However, western Indians who had allied themselves to Britain discovered that their land had been handed over by the British to the Americans without consultation or compensation. As they had neither lost their battles nor negotiated a treaty with the Americans, they continued to fight until 1795. Spain assisted southern Indians as they fought to protect their land from encroaching Georgians.

 

North of the Ohio Valley, the British maintained their forts at Niagara and Detroit, despite their promise to withdraw in the Treaty of Paris. They argued that Americans had breached the treaty by failing to return Loyalist property and pay British creditors as promised. American willingness to trade with revolutionary France further angered the British, and increased their promises of British aid to aggrieved Indians. The British only retreated from the Northwest Territory following the negotiation of the controversial Jay treat with Britain, which was ratified in 1795.

 

http://www.history.com

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

"Religion and virtue are the only foundations, not of republicanism and of all free government, but of social felicity under all government and in all the combinations of human society." 
John Adams (1811)

Thomas Jefferson is born

Thomas Jefferson is born

 

On this day in history, April 13, 1743, Thomas Jefferson is born. He would write the Declaration of Independence, be America’s Ambassador to France, be the first Secretary of State and the 3rd President of the United States.

 

Jefferson was born to a plantation owning family. He inherited a large amount of land and slaves when his father died when he was only 14 years old. He was educated by private tutors until he began attending the College of William and Mary where he met eminent lawyer George Wythe. Jefferson became a protégé of Wythe, who trained him to become a lawyer. Over the years, Jefferson learned 5 languages, studied architecture, religion and science and learned to play the violin.     

 

Jefferson first became involved in politics when he was elected to Virginia’s House of Burgesses in 1769. As tensions increased with Great Britain, he wrote A Summary View of the Rights of British America, which detailed the grievances against England and the rights of the colonists, in 1774. Jefferson was sent to the Continental Congress from Virginia in 1775. When the time came to declare independence from Great Britain, the other members of Congress, who were impressed with A Summary View, asked Jefferson to write the first draft of the Declaration of Independence. Congress reworded portions of it, but the language is largely Jefferson’s.

 

During the war, Jefferson continued to serve in the Virginia legislature and as governor from 1779-1781. While governor, he was nearly captured by British Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton at Monticello. After the war, Jefferson served for a time in the Confederation Congress and was appointed Minister to France from 1785 to 1789. When the new US Constitution was adopted, Jefferson returned to the United States and accepted an appointment from George Washington as his first Secretary of State. He soon became aligned with James Madison and they formed the Democratic-Republican party to oppose Washington and the Federalist Party.

 

In 1796, Jefferson received the second highest number of votes for President and thus became Vice-President under John Adams, whom he opposed in most matters. In 1800, the unpopular Adams was not re-elected and Jefferson won the presidency, which he would hold for two terms. During his first term, Jefferson attempted to reduce tensions with the Barbary states of North Africa and made the famous Louisiana Purchase from Napoleon, which doubled the size of the United States. In 1804, he sent the famed Lewis & Clark Expedition to explore the new lands and find a path to the Pacific. During his second term, tensions increased with Great Britain, later breaking out into the War of 1812.

 

In his retirement, Jefferson founded the University of Virginia, which he had been planning for years. Though he inherited slaves when he was young, he was not able to release them by law. Jefferson advocated the abolition of slavery his entire life and was known to treat his slaves well. Jefferson wrote his own epitaph, which points out the three accomplishments he was most proud of: HERE WAS BURIED THOMAS JEFFERSON, AUTHOR OF THE DECLARATION OF AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE, OF THE STATUTE OF VIRGINIA FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM AND FATHER OF THE UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

“All the powers of government, legislative, executive, and judiciary, result to the legislative body. The concentrating these in the same hands is precisely the definition of despotic government."
Thomas Jefferson, 1781- Notes on the State of Virginia, Query XIII

North Carolina is the first state to call for independence

North Carolina is the first state to call for independence

 

On this day in history, April 12, 1776, North Carolina is the first state to call for independence from Great Britain. Her Provincial Congress, meeting at Halifax, North Carolina, passed a resolution that has come to be known as the Halifax Resolves. In the document, the Congress instructs its representatives to the Continental Congress to vote for independence if the other colonies agree to do so. The resolution does not instruct them to introduce a resolution for independence to the Congress, but to vote in the affirmative if the other colonies agree to it.

 

North Carolina was a hotbed of rebellion against royal authority from the beginning of tensions with England. North Carolina was the site of the "War of the Regulation," a conflict that lasted from 1760 to 1771. This "war" was an effort of poor western farmers to remove corrupt officials in the more prosperous east who were oppressing them with high taxes. The movement was finally defeated at the Battle of Alamance in 1771.

           

After the Boston Tea Party, the women of Edenton, North Carolina joined in a compact to boycott tea, the first political resistance organized by women in the colonies. The first North Carolina Provincial Congress met in 1774 and elected members to attend the Continental Congress. The second Provincial Congress met the next year, causing Royal Governor Josiah Martin to dissolve the official assembly.

 

North Carolina was the site of an early invasion attempt by the British in 1776, but the attempt failed when a large group of Loyalists were defeated at the Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge. The Halifax Resolves were adopted less than a month later on April 12. In July, after Richard Henry Lee of Virginia proposed a formal vote for independence to the Continental Congress, North Carolina’s representatives, Joseph Hewes, William Hooper and Lyman Hall, voted for independence in accordance with their instructions in the Resolves. In the same month, Governor Martin fled with the attempted British invasion fleet, bringing royal rule to an end in North Carolina.

 

North Carolina remained free from fighting with the British for the next several years as the fighting was concentrated in the north. During this time, however, she was involved in numerous battles with Indian tribes allied with the British to the west. In the latter half of the war, the fighting moved south and North Carolina saw some of the fiercest fighting of the war. After the crucial Battle of Guilford Courthouse, British General Charles Cornwallis wrote, "I never saw such fighting… the Americans fought like demons."

 

Though the battle was won by the British, Cornwallis’ troops were worn out and ill-supplied after a year of chasing the Continental Army through the state. The Battle of Guilford Courthouse finally broke his strength and Cornwallis was forced to flee to the coast for reinforcements, where he was trapped at Yorktown, Virginia and forced to surrender, bringing about the end 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

 

"During the course of administration, and in order to disturb it, the artillery of the press has been leveled against us, charged with whatsoever its licentiousness could devise or dare. These abuses of an institution so important to freedom and science are deeply to be regretted, inasmuch as they tend to lessen its usefulness and to sap its safety." Thomas Jefferson (1805)

Congress declares a permanent ceasefire

Congress declares a permanent ceasefire

 

On this day in history, April 11, 1783, Congress declares a permanent ceasefire with Great Britain, bringing the hostilities of the American Revolution to an end. The American Revolution began as a result of increasing efforts of Parliament to control her American colonies. After the French and Indian War ended in 1763, Parliament attempted to extract more taxes from the colonists in order to make up the heavy debt incurred during the war and to pay for soldiers stationed in the colonies to police the territory gained in the war.

 

The colonists rejected the taxes primarily because they had no representation in Parliament and they believed this "taxation without representation" was unfair. They believed governments should govern "with the consent of the governed." Parliament continued with various schemes of taxation over the next decade and the colonists became increasingly rebellious.

           

Britain eventually occupied Boston, which was viewed as the center of the resistance. After the war broke out on April 19, 1775 at Lexington, the Americans soon surrounded Boston and forced the British to leave the city. This illustrates the problem Britain had for the entire war. She was able to control the cities with an occupying army, but controlling the entire countryside was impossible. The territory was simply too large to control, even for the largest army in the world.

 

After France, Spain and Holland joined the war on the American side, Britain was faced with a world war, with theatres from the Caribbean to the Mediterranean to India. She was actually forced to withdraw soldiers from North America to defend other areas and create a new American strategy. This resulted in the Southern Strategy in which Britain withdrew from the north and tried to capture the southern colonies. Again, the large cities were easy to take, but the countryside was impossible.

 

Southern commanders such as Nathanael Greene were able to wear out the army of British General Charles Cornwallis by drawing them into long marches inland. Eventually, Cornwallis was forced to flee to the coast, hoping for reinforcements. A large French fleet blocked the reinforcements from landing at Yorktown, Virginia and George Washington was able to trap Cornwallis and force his surrender.

 

The surrender of Cornwallis’ army disheartened Parliament enough that it was ready to concede the war. Peace negotiations began and the preliminary Treaty of Paris was signed on November 30, 1782. Parliament ratified the preliminary treaty on January 20, 1783 and declared a ceasefire on February 4. Congress declared a ceasefire on April 11, 1783 and ratified the treaty on April 15. After more negotiations, the final Treaty of Paris was agreed to by Congress on January 14, 1784 and by Parliament on April 9, 1784, with final copies of the document exchanged in Paris on May 12, 1784.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

“I was summoned by my country, whose voice I can never hear but with veneration and love.”
George Washington

General Horatio Gates dies

General Horatio Gates dies

 

On this day in history, April 10, 1806, General Horatio Gates dies. Gates was one of the most controversial military figures of the American Revolution due to his constant desire for promotion, his jealousy of George Washington and his tendency to be too cautious.

 

Gates joined the army and served in Germany and Nova Scotia. He was injured at the Battle of the Monongahela during the French and Indian War, the same battle from which a young Colonel George Washington led the survivors of Braddock’s Expedition to safety. After this, Gates, who was a strongly gifted administrator, became the chief of staff at Fort Pitt.

           

After the end of the French and Indian War, the army was downsized and Gates’ career stalled. He left the army and purchased a small plantation in Virginia. He re-established his friendship with George Washington and, when the American Revolution broke out, quickly volunteered his services.

 

When Washington was made Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, Gates was jealous, believing he should have received the position. Washington recommended Gates be made Adjutant General of the army, or chief administrative officer. Congress agreed and also made him a Brigadier General. Gates’ organizational skills were critical in the opening days of the conflict as he organized the army, set up a system of records and helped streamline the colonial forces.

 

Gates pressed Congress for a field position and soon found himself under Major General Philip Schuyler in New York, where he was credited with turning back a British invasion on Lake Champlain. He took forces to assist Washington in New Jersey and discouraged him from attacking the British at Trenton and Princeton. Instead of participating in these fights, Gates went to Baltimore to persuade Congress to give him Washington’s position, but this was denied after the victories at Trenton and Princeton.

 

In 1777, Gates replaced General Schuyler and subsequently led the army at the Battles of Saratoga when British General Burgoyne surrendered to the Americans. Gates received the credit, but most historians agree the victory was due to the actions of his subordinates. Shortly after this, Gates again pressed Congress to be made Commander-in-Chief. Some of his personal letters, in which he was critical of Washington, were exposed during an incident called the Conway Cabal, in which General Thomas Conway and others actively tried to replace Washington with Gates. Gates was embarrassed by the situation and forced to apologize.

 

After the loss of General Benjamin Lincoln’s 5,000 men at the Siege of Charleston, South Carolina, Gates was given command of the Southern Department. He foolishly led an ill-prepared and hungry army to a direct attack at the Battle of Camden in which nearly 2,000 men were killed or captured, effectively ending his military career. He was nearly court-martialed for the failure, but his supporters defeated it.

 

When the war was over, he returned to Virginia and married a wealthy widow. They moved to New York where he lived the rest of his life. He served one term in the New York legislature in 1800 and passed away in 1806 and was buried at Trinity Church on Wall Street.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

"The ingredients which constitute safety in the republican sense are, first, a due dependence on the people, secondly, a due responsibility."
Alexander Hamilton (1788)

The Battle of the Saintes begins

The Battle of the Saintes begins

 

On this day in history, April 9, 1782, the Battle of the Saintes begins, a battle in which the same French fleet that helped defeat the British at Yorktown was defeated by another British fleet. Admiral Francois Joseph Paul, Comte de Grasse, had brought 3,000 troops to Yorktown and prevented a British fleet from landing with reinforcements.

 

After this victory, de Grasse sailed for the Caribbean and helped capture several British islands, leaving the British in possession of only Jamaica, Antigua, St. Lucia and Barbados. Spain and France together then developed a plan to capture Jamaica. On April 7, Admiral de Grasse left Martinique with 35 war ships and over 100 merchant ships bound for France. They were to meet a Spanish fleet with 15,000 soldiers and together they would invade Jamaica.

           

British Admiral, Sir George Rodney immediately followed with 36 war ships. On April 9, de Grasse saw the British fleet and sent the merchant ships into Guadeloupe, just as the British fleet was reaching the tail of de Grasse’s near the Islands of the Saintes, a small chain just south of Guadeloupe. Several British ships were badly damaged and the fleet pulled away to repair and regroup.

 

On the 11th, they proceeded and the epic battle began on the morning of the 12th. A fleet of this size had tens of thousands of sailors and soldiers on board. None of the ships had less than 64 cannons. Many had 74, 80… up to 98 cannons! The massive flagship for Admiral de Grasse, the Ville de Paris, was a triple decker with 104 guns. A ship this size would have a few thousand soldiers and sailors on board.

 

During the previous night, the French Zele had become disabled and began to straggle. Early in the morning, the British reached the Zele and began to bombard her, causing de Grasse to turn the fleet around to rescue her. This resulted in a line to line battle in which each side formed a single line of ships following the ship ahead of it. As the two lines passed each other, they fired on the other side continually.

 

Eventually, the winds shifted and it became difficult to see in the smoke from all the cannon fire. Several gaps opened in the French line and the British began to cross through the openings at 90 degree angles. This allowed the British to fire on the French ships, but the French ships were at the wrong angle to fire back. Several French ships were decimated during this maneuver. Both lines fell into disarray at this point and mini-battles took place all over the battlefield.

 

Some of the French ships were completely dismasted. Others sailed away. The Ville de Paris was surrounded. Admiral de Grasse fought until his last cannonball was used and forced to surrender. In all, 5 French ships were captured, with over 5,000 soldiers and sailors. 2,000 were injured or killed. Over 400 were killed and 700 wounded on the Ville de Paris alone. The powder magazine exploded on the captured Cesar, killing 400 French and 50 British sailors. In all, the British had 243 killed and over 800 wounded.

 

The massive Battle of the Saintes helped restore British morale after losing the Battle of Yorktown and decimated French hopes to take all of the West Indies. Admiral de Grasse was taken prisoner to London, but released on parole. Admiral Rodney was awarded a peerage for the victory and given an annual pension of 2,000 pounds!

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

“I regard it (the Constitution) as the work of the purest patriots and wisest statesman that ever existed, aided by the smiles of a benign Providence; it almost appears a "Divine interposition in our behalf… the hand that destroys our Constitution rends our Union asunder forever.”
Daniel Webster