The Declaration of Independence is adopted

The Declaration of Independence is adopted

 

On this day in history, July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence is adopted. Congress had voted unanimously 2 days before to sever all ties with Great Britain. The discrepancy in dates causes some confusion. The actual date of the decision to break from Great Britain was July 2nd, but the language of Congress’ public announcement was adopted on July 4th.

 

Tensions with Great Britain had been increasing for years and many colonists were hoping to reconcile with their mother country. After the America Revolution raged for a year though, enough citizens began to see that reconciliation was impossible and this meant that a vote for independence in Congress could actually succeed.

           

On June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia presented the Lee Resolution to Congress, calling for a declaration of independence, the creation of foreign alliances and the confederation of the 13 colonies. Congress immediately appointed a committee to prepare a declaration of independence, but tabled the vote until July 2.

 

The Committee of Five, consisting of Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman and Robert Livingston, was tasked with writing the declaration. Thomas Jefferson wrote most of the document with input from the others. The committee presented their document to Congress on June 28, but it was tabled for a few days.

 

On July 2, the full Congress assembled and 12 of the 13 colonies represented voted for independence with New York abstaining. After the vote, Congress debated and revised the committee’s Declaration and adopted it in its final version on July 4th.

 

On the evening of July 4th, about 200 copies of the Declaration of Independence were printed by printer John Dunlap. These copies were sent around the country and read in various places and published in newspapers. The first public readings occurred in Philadelphia, in Easton, Pennsylvania and in Trenton, New Jersey on July 8th. George Washington had the Declaration read to the Continental Army in New York City on the 9th.

 

The first Declaration did not have the signatures of the 56 signers. Instead, most of these were added to a parchment copy on August 2nd. Others who were not present signed at later dates. In January, 1777, Congress had more copies printed by Mary Katherine Goddard in Baltimore, this time with the signatures included. This was the first time the world learned of who had signed the document.

 

Many of the signers suffered great personal harm during the war as a result of their loyalties to the American cause. Some, such as Thomas Jefferson, Samuel Adams, John Hancock and Benjamin Franklin, went on to become political leaders of the new United States and eventually became heroic and iconic figures of American history.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.
Benjamin Franklin

Washington takes command of Continental Army

Washington takes command of Continental Army

On this day. July 3,1775, George Washington rides out in front of the American troops gathered at Cambridge common in Massachusetts and draws his sword, formally taking command of the Continental Army. Washington, a prominent Virginia planter and veteran of the French and Indian War, had been appointed commander in chief by the Continental Congress two weeks before. In agreeing to serve the American colonies in their war for independence, he declined to accept payment for his services beyond reimbursement of future expenses.

George Washington was born in 1732 to a farm family in Westmoreland County, Virginia. His first direct military experience came as a lieutenant colonel in the Virginia colonial militia in 1754, when he led a small expedition against the French in the Ohio River Valley on behalf of the governor of Virginia, beginning a fight that resulted in disastrous defeat for first Washington and then British General Edward Braddock. This launched the Seven Years War, but Washington resigned from his military post and returned to a planter’s life in Virginia, later taking a seat in Virginia’s House of Burgesses. During the next two decades, Washington openly opposed escalating British taxation and repression of the American colonies. In 1774, he represented Virginia at the Continental Congress.

After the American Revolution erupted in 1775, Washington was nominated to be commander in chief of the newly established Continental Army. Some in the Continental Congress opposed his appointment, thinking other candidates were better equipped for the post, but he was ultimately chosen because, as a Virginian, his leadership helped bind the southern colonies more closely to the rebellion in New England. Despite his inexperienced and poorly equipped army of civilian soldiers, General Washington led an effective war of harassment against British forces in America, while encouraging the intervention of the French into the conflict on behalf of the colonists. On October 19, 1781, with the surrender of British General Charles Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown, Virginia, General Washington defeated one of the most powerful nations on earth.

After the war, the victorious general retired to his estate at Mount Vernon, but, in 1787, he heeded his nation’s call and agreed to preside over the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The drafters created the office of president with him in mind, and, in February 1789, Washington was unanimously elected the first president of the United States. As president, Washington sought to unite the nation and protect the interests of the new republic at home and abroad. Of his presidency, he said, “I walk on untrodden ground. There is scarcely any part of my conduct which may not hereafter be drawn in precedent.” He successfully implemented executive authority, making good use of brilliant politicians such as Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson in his cabinet, and quieted fears of presidential tyranny. In 1792, he was unanimously reelected but, four years later, refused a third term. He died in 1799.

http://www.history.com  

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

The real Declaration of Independence is made

The real Declaration of Independence is made

 

On this day in history, July 2, 1776, the real Declaration of Independence is made. But wait! Don’t we celebrate the Declaration of Independence on July 4th? It’s true. We do celebrate our nation’s independence from Great Britain on July 4th, but the actual date of the vote for independence was July 2nd!

 

During the time leading up to the American Revolution, many American colonists held out hope of reconciling with Great Britain. Letters were written and petitions made to King George detailing their grievances, but none of them made a difference. Once the Battles of Lexington and Concord took place, it became apparent to many that Britain was bent on military dictatorship, but not to all.

           

Even when the Second Continental Congress met in response to the first bloodshed, the majority was not ready to declare independence. They sent King George an "olive branch," known as the Olive Branch Petition, which was one last attempt at reconciliation. The King wouldn’t even receive the petition. He declared the colonies in full rebellion and made it an act of treason to support the colonists in any way.

 

By mid-1776, full blown battles had been waged at Bunker Hill and Quebec, naval battles had occurred in various places, Norfolk had been burned to the ground and British invasion attempts were made in North Carolina and South Carolina. These events finally convinced enough colonists that reconciliation was impossible. They would have to win a military victory over Great Britain, or be reduced to slaves.

 

On June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia presented the Lee Resolution to Congress. The resolution called for three things, a joint declaration of independence from Great Britain, the formation of alliances with foreign powers against Britain and a plan of union for the colonies.

 

By this time, the attitude of most of Congress was in favor of independence, so committees were made to deal with each of the proposals. A date was set for the formal vote on the independence question for July 2nd. During the interim, Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence. When July 2nd arrived, 12 of the 13 colonies voted for independence with New York abstaining, making July 2nd the official day of American independence.

 

For the next 2 days, Congress debated the wording of its official announcement of independence, making several revisions to Jefferson’s declaration. The final version of the Declaration was adopted on the 4th. So independence was voted on officially on the 2nd, but the wording of the official announcement was adopted on the 4th. That evening, printer John Dunlap made the first copies, which were sent to various leaders around the colonies.

 

The first public announcement that independence had been declared was in the July 5th edition of the German language Pennsylvanischer Staatsbote. On July 6th, the full text was printed for the first time in the Philadelphia Evening Post. The first public readings of the Declaration occurred in Philadelphia, in Easton, Pennsylvania and in Trenton, New Jersey, on the 8th. As public announcements and readings took place around the colonies, public celebrations were held for the first time, but they occurred whenever the news arrived, not on the 2nd or on the 4th!

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

“Liberty must at all hazards be supposed. We have a right to it, derived from our Maker. But if we had not, our fathers have earned and bought it for us, at the expense of their ease, their estates, their pleasure and their blood.”
John Adams

A Cherokee war campaign against the southern colonies begins

A Cherokee war campaign against the southern colonies begins

 

On this day in history, July 1, 1776, a Cherokee war campaign against the southern colonies begins. The Cherokee tribe was traditionally located in the area of northern Georgia, western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee. Warfare arose periodically between the Cherokee and the encroaching white settlers from the time of their first contact, but a new wave of conflict arose after the French and Indian War.

 

The Proclamation Line of 1763 forbade British settlers from settling west of the Appalachians in an effort  to limit conflict between settlers and Indians who had supported the British against the French during the war. Some settlers had other ideas though and tried to settle in the area. In the late 1760s and early 1770s, the first several settlements began in what is now eastern Tennessee in Cherokee territory. The settlers believed they were in western Virginia, but a survey proved they were actually outside colonial territory. They were ordered to leave the Cherokee territory by the British Superintendent of Indian Affairs. The Cherokee chiefs, however, said they could stay as long as no more settlers came.

           

In 1775, Richard Henderson of North Carolina made a deal with Cherokee leaders to purchase most of modern day Kentucky. The sale did not take into account the fact that other tribes claimed this land, nor the fact that it was illegal according to British law as defined by the Proclamation Line of 1763. The "sale" caused a rift in the Cherokee tribe. A young rebel named Dragging Canoe angrily challenged the older leaders who made the deal and started gathering a coalition around him of those who were disenchanted with their elders for making deals with and selling land to the settlers.

 

When the American Revolution broke out, the settlers in Cherokee territory decided that British law no longer applied to them and they could live wherever they wanted. Since they had made a treaty with the Cherokee, they were on the land legitimately in their view. In May of 1776, a coalition of northern tribes allied with the British convinced Dragging Canoe and his band to join them in fighting the colonists.

 

A plan was hatched whereby simultaneous raids would be led against the settlers in Cherokee territory, as well as on frontier settlements in Virginia, North and South Carolina and Georgia. The campaign began on July 1, 1776. In some places, settlers had been warned and took refuge in various forts. In other places, settlers were massacred and homes and villages were destroyed.

 

The Cherokee attack led to a massive response from the combined colonial militias of the attacked colonies. Thousands of militia members marched on Cherokee territory, burned dozens of villages, destroyed crops and killed those who resisted. Even those who were not involved in the attacks suffered. Over a period of several months, the Cherokee campaign was put down with a resounding colonial victory.

 

The colonial victory led to peace treaties established with the older and wiser Cherokee chiefs who understood they could not win this fight. The younger Dragging Canoe moved south with a growing group of rebels where he continued to work with the British and launch attacks against white settlers for years to come, which were known as the Chickamauga Wars, named for the region in which Dragging Canoe settled near modern day Chattanooga, Tennessee.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer 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)

Congress reconvenes in Princeton, New Jersey

Congress reconvenes in Princeton, New Jersey

 

On this day in history, June 30, 1783, Congress reconvenes in Princeton, New Jersey, after leaving its longtime home in Philadelphia. Many congressional delegations from other colonies did not like Philadelphia, the largest and most commercialized city in the country, stemming from the fact that Philadelphia merchants had an outsized influence on Congress. Delegates feared their influence would cause Congress to favor "big business" over the other more agrarian colonies.

 

In 1783, Congress was negotiating with Great Britain to end the war and the Continental Army was being downsized. Many soldiers, however, were disenchanted with the perpetually broke Congress because they were still owed back pay. On June 20, 1783, a large group of Continental Army soldiers surrounded the Statehouse in Philadelphia (Independence Hall), the meeting place of Congress and the Pennsylvania government.

           

The soldiers hoped to scare Congress into acting on their pay situation, but chose to surround the building on a Saturday when neither group was in session, obviously hoping to avoid an actual confrontation, but still sending a message. The opponents of keeping the government in Philadelphia took advantage of the turmoil and quickly acted. Elias Boudinot, then President of Congress, called the body into emergency session. They voted (without a quorum present) to quickly remove to Princeton, New Jersey, 45 miles away for safety.

 

Boudinot was originally from Princeton and he was a trustee of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), but the most practical reason for choosing Princeton may have been that the College of New Jersey had a large building suitable in which Congress could meet. Nassau Hall was the main (and only) building of the college. It housed all the students, offices and classrooms, had a large chapel and had a large library. It was the largest academic building and the largest stone structure in the states at the time. Congress reconvened in Nassau Hall on June 30 and stayed in Princeton for the next 4 months.

 

While at Princeton, Congress received its first ambassador from the Netherlands and first learned that Britain had signed the Treaty of Paris ending the Revolution. Much of their debate centered on where to locate a permanent seat of government for the United States. To keep the northerners and the southerners happy, a plan was devised that would create two capitals, one near Trenton, New Jersey and the other near Georgetown, Maryland! Congress would meet half the year in one place and half the year in the other!

 

Then Congress had to decide where it would meet while the two federal cities were being built. This led to the decision that Congress would meet at Trenton for six months and Annapolis for six months, rotating until the federal cities were built.

 

Congress left Princeton in December and moved to Annapolis according to plan. The following year it moved to Trenton, but by this time, many had changed their minds about the wisdom of a continually moving Congress. They decided to abandon the plan and move to New York City, where they stayed until 1790. The decision was finally made to build the capital on the banks of the Potomac River and that Congress would meet in Philadelphia for ten years while the federal city was being built. The federal government finally moved from Philadelphia to Washington DC in the year 1800.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

"A better system of education for the common people might preserve them long from such artificial inequalities as are prejudicial to society, by confounding the natural distinctions of right and wrong, virtue and vice."
John Adams (1786)

The Nancy explodes at the Battle of Turtle Gut Inlet

The Nancy explodes at the Battle of Turtle Gut Inlet

 

On this day in history, June 29, 1776, the Nancy explodes at the Battle of Turtle Gut Inlet, a little known early naval battle in the Revolutionary War, but one that was important to the career of the man who would be called the "Father of the American Navy," Captain John Barry.

 

Early in the Revolution, Continental Congressman Robert Morris chartered the brig Nancy to deliver arms to the Continental Army. Captain Hugh Montgomery traveled to the Caribbean in the spring of 1776 and loaded tons of gunpowder and other supplies. Meanwhile, back in the colonies, the British had established a blockade of the Delaware Bay to prevent ships from supplying Philadelphia.

           

John Barry was one of the first captains commissioned by the Continental Congress to command a ship in the Continental Navy. He was given command of the USS Lexington which he first sailed on March 31, 1776. Morris sent word to Captain Barry that the Nancy would soon be approaching Philadelphia and would need protection from the blockade. Barry, on the Lexington, along with the USS Reprisal, captained by Lambert Wickes and the USS Wasp, captained by William Hallock, patrolled the mouth of the bay, waiting for the arrival of the Nancy.

 

On June 28, the three ship British blockade spotted the Nancy and gave pursuit. Signals were exchanged between the Nancy, spotters on shore and the Lexington indicating the need for assistance. Through the night, the British continued pursuing the Nancy. Unable to enter the bay, Captain Montgomery turned into a small inlet called Turtle Gut Inlet where the Nancy ran ashore in shallow water early on the morning of the 29th. The larger British ships were unable to pursue her, but began bombarding the ship from a distance.

 

Captain Barry ordered longboats from the Lexington, Reprisal and Wasp to go to Nancy’s rescue, where they began unloading the gunpowder and taking it to land where it was hidden by locals. Part of Barry’s men kept up the return fire to prevent British longboats from getting near enough to board the ship. In a few hours, with 2/3 of the gunpowder unloaded and the Nancy seriously damaged from cannon fire, Barry ordered his men to abandon ship. As they left, he had them secure 50 pounds of gunpowder to the main mast, tie it up with the main sail and run it down the side of the ship. The fuse was set alight as the crew abandoned ship. Their last act was the removal of the flag from the mast.

 

The British soldiers who were floating in longboats nearby, saw the removal of the flag as an act of surrender and rowed toward the Nancy. Just as the first soldiers began to board the ship, the fire from the fuse reached the gunpowder. The powder on the deck and the 100 barrels remaining in the hold caused a massive explosion which could be heard all the way to Philadelphia 80 miles away. The entire 7 man crew of the first British longboat was killed.

 

The Battle of Turtle Gut Inlet brought Captain Barry to Congress’ attention. He was congratulated for his bravery and ingenuity in securing the gunpowder and rescuing the crew of the Nancy. He would go on to capture over 20 British vessels during the war. After the Revolution, he would receive the US Navy’s first commission from President George Washington, making him Commodore John Barry. Due to his role in organizing and training many of the first officers of the US Navy, he is often called the "Father of the American Navy."

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"The only principles of public conduct that are worthy of a gentleman or a man are to sacrifice estate, ease, health, and applause, and even life, to the sacred calls of his country."
James Otis

The Battle of Monmouth

The Battle of Monmouth

 

On this day in history, June 28, 1778, the Battle of Monmouth is the last major battle of the American Revolution in the north. Philadelphia had been occupied in September of 1777, but the entry of France into the war on the American side made the British change their entire strategy. Philadelphia could no longer be safely defended and New York was at risk.

 

British General, Sir Henry Clinton was ordered to return to New York. He did not have enough ships to transport 15,000 soldiers and their equipment, plus thousands of Loyalists and their belongings, back to New York. Instead, he put most of the Loyalists on the ships and marched his troops overland.

 

George Washington and the Continental Army had spent the winter at Valley Forge. The down time gave them the advantage of training with the Polish Baron von Steuben, a military officer who helped train the inexperienced army in basic battle tactics and maneuvers.

 

Washington’s generals were split over what to do. Some wanted to attack the British, while others believed it was crazy to attack such a large army. It was eventually decided that a small force would attack Clinton’s rear while waiting for the main body of the army to arrive. General Charles Lee was offered the command, but he refused, until Washington gave the command to the Marquis de Lafayette at which point Lee demanded control of the operation.

 

Lee encountered the rear guard of Clinton’s army, under Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis, on the morning of June 28th near the Monmouth County, New Jersey, Courthouse. Lee gave inconsistent and unclear orders to his men and, after several hours of fighting, Lee ordered a retreat. Just then, Washington was coming up the road with the rest of the army. When he encountered Lee’s fleeing troops, he was incredulous. When he came across Lee, Washington flew into a tirade and dismissed Lee for his incompetence in one of the few times we know of that Washington lost his temper. Lee was later court-martialed for his role in the affair.

 

Washington rallied Lee’s fleeing troops and blended them in with his own troops. The British made repeated attacks, but they were repelled every time. The day was so hot, with temperatures soaring over 100 degrees, that many dropped or even died, of heat exhaustion. This battle is the source of the Molly Pitcher legend, where she allegedly took her husband’s place at the cannon when he fell from heat exhaustion.

 

The Battle of Monmouth was the largest single day battle of the war with nearly 25,000 men involved. By nightfall, both sides were exhausted and the battle stopped. Washington expected to resume the fight in the morning, but the British had withdrawn in the night. This was the first pitched battle success of Washington’s army in the war and it proved that the training at Valley Forge had worked. Up to 1100 British were killed or injured and around 500 Americans, making it one of the bloodiest battles of the entire war. The Battle of Monmouth was the last major battle of the Revolution in the north, as the British shifted their strategy to the southern colonies. The next time Washington’s army would face the British would be at Yorktown in the battle that would bring the war to an end.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

"[A] wise and frugal government … shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government."
Thomas Jefferson (1801)