Dr. John Warren, Continental Army surgeon dies

Dr. John Warren, Continental Army surgeon dies

 

On this day in history, April 4, 1818, Dr. John Warren, Continental Army surgeon dies. Warren was the founder of Harvard Medical School and the younger brother of Boston patriot Dr. Joseph Warren. John Warren was born in Roxbury, Massachusetts and attended Harvard College at the age of 14. He graduated in 1771 and went into practice with his older brother, Dr. Joseph Warren, as an apprentice and assistant. After his apprenticeship, John stepped out and opened his own practice in Salem.

 

Before the Revolution began, Warren joined the Roxbury militia under Colonel John Pickering. After the war broke out in Lexington, this regiment marched to Cambridge where Warren served in the military hospital. On June 17, the younger Warren worried about his brother Joseph as the cannon fire rang out from the Battle of Bunker Hill.

           

Once the battle was over, Joseph was missing and John set about asking everyone he could if they knew what had happened to him. At one point, John attempted to enter the battlefield at Charlestown. A British sentry would not let him pass into the area and stabbed him with his bayonet when John would not give up. He bore the scar for the rest of his life. It was several days before John learned for certain that Joseph was killed at the battle.

 

After this, John was appointed the senior surgeon in the Continental Army hospital at Cambridge. He was only 22 years old. When the British finally evacuated Boston the following year. John marched with General George Washington to New York to assist in the defenses there. During this period, Warren was heavily involved with small-pox inoculations of civilians and troops and became particularly known for success with this vaccination.

 

When the British overran Long Island and Manhattan, Warren traveled with the Continental Army in its retreat across New Jersey, staying with them through the Battles of Trenton and Princeton and through the winter of 1776-77. During this time, Warren honed his surgery skills. By July of 1777, the young Dr. Warren had been transferred back to Boston to oversee the military hospital there. Warren became known for his teaching skills at the hospital as he taught other surgeons. This eventually led to him teaching medicine at Harvard and the founding of Harvard Medical School.

 

Warren achieved several major accomplishments, such as performing the first abdominal surgery in America, teaching anatomy and surgery at Harvard for 30 years and founding the medical school in 1782. Dr. John Warren passed away on April 4, 1815 from heart and lung disease. His son, John Collins Warren, followed his father’s footsteps and became one of the most famed surgeons of the 1800s. He performed the first surgery using anesthesia in history, helped found Massachusetts General Hospital, was a president of the American Medical Association and served as Harvard’s first Dean of the Medical School.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Secretary General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

“That it is an indispensable duty which we owe to God, our country, ourselves, and posterity, by all lawful ways and means in our power, to maintain, defend, and preserve those civil and religious rights and liberties for which many of our fathers fought, bled, and died, and to hand them […]”

Dr. Joseph Warren 1774

Congress authorizes privateers to capture British ships

Congress authorizes privateers to capture British ships

 

On this day in history, April 3, 1776, Congress authorizes privateering vessels to capture British ships during the American Revolution. Because of the heavy dependence on shipping in the 18th century, it was immediately necessary for Congress to create its own navy after the Revolution began. Congress created the Continental Navy in the fall of 1775. Several states created their own navies as well, but these small navies were no match for the gigantic British Royal Navy which had the largest naval force in the world.

 

To help in the fight against the British Navy, Congress and several states authorized privately owned merchant vessels to combat and capture British owned naval or merchant vessels. This practice was called "privateering" because the vessels were privately owned. Privateering was essentially the same as piracy, but privateers were not considered pirates by the authorizing nation. Privateering vessels would be outfitted with guns and cannons by their owners and could capture vessels flying an enemy flag.

           

Privateers were issued a "Letter of Marque and Reprisal" which authorized them to engage in privateering. After an enemy vessel was captured, the vessel was brought to an American port and presented to a judge who would look over the Letter and see that the capture had been handled according to the law. If all was well, the spoils captured on the ship were sold and the proceeds split between the ship’s owners and crew, with a small percentage going to the American government as well. The splitting of the spoils in such a capture made privateering quite lucrative, so lucrative in fact that sailors were much more likely to want to serve on a privateer than on a ship run by the Continental Navy.

 

The contribution of privateers during the American Revolution cannot be overestimated. While the Continental Navy had about 60 ships with 3,000 soldiers during the course of the war, there were two to three thousand privateers with more than 70,000 sailors aboard! Continental Navy vessels carried around 2,800 guns on board, while privateers carried more than 20,000 guns!

 

With this massive firepower, privateers captured over 3,000 British vessels during the war, while the Continental Navy captured around 200. In addition to the captured vessels and their cargoes, privateers captured more than 10,000 British sailors. Primary locations for privateering included Long Island Sound, the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the coasts of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, the Caribbean and even British waters off the coasts of England and Ireland.

 

How lucrative was privateering? Some estimates put the spoils of American privateers during the Revolution at around $300 million dollars. Clearly, many fortunes were made from the practice. Britain estimated that 10% of all the cargoes it shipped to America were captured by the privateers, earning the privateers the honor of being one of the most influential forces giving America it’s victory in the Revolutionary War.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Secretary General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

“No Free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms. The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.”

Thomas Jefferson Papers, page 334

Congress Creates the First United States Mint

Congress Creates the First United States Mint

 

On this day in history, April 2, 1792, Congress creates the first United States Mint. Creating a coinage system unique to the new United States was seen as a priority to the Founding Fathers because it would help establish the identity of the young nation, as well as encourage commerce. The full name of the act was An act establishing a mint, and regulating the Coins of the United States and it directed that a mint should be built in Philadelphia, which was then the capital of the United States.

 

The Mint Act or the Coinage Act, as it was informally known, created five officer positions to oversee the direction of the mint and the creation of the coinage. The Act directed that the new coins would be based on the decimal system, with the dollar being the chief means of exchange. 10 types of coins were created with the Act: Eagles ($10), Half Eagles ($5), Quarter Eagles ($2.50), Dollars ($1), Half Dollars ($.50), Quarter Dollars ($.25), Dimes ($.10), Half Dimes ($.05), Cents ($.01) and Half Cents ($.005).

            

Eagles were made of gold, dollars and dimes were made of silver and cents were made of copper. Each coin was to have an image symbolizing “Liberty” on one side. The back of the gold and silver coins was to have an image representing “Liberty” on it, while the back of the cents was to have the coins' denomination.

 

Any person could bring in gold or silver bullion and have it minted into coins for free. The Act specified the purity of each type of metal for the coins and created a strict testing system to make sure the coins met the guidelines. Employees of the mint could receive the death penalty for stealing or tampering with the coins.

 

David Rittenhouse, a renowned scientist, mathematician and astronomer was appointed by George Washington as the first director of the Mint. Rittenhouse had served as Pennsylvania's treasurer from 1777 to 1789, giving him much experience dealing with currency. Rittenhouse's first job was to actually build the Mint. He purchased two lots in Philadelphia on July 18, 1792 and construction began immediately.

 

The first building was the smelting building where the metal ores were melted and separated. The second building contained offices, vaults, weighing rooms and the presses for striking the coins. A third building contained a horse-powered mill where the metal was rolled into sheets. The first coins minted were made from silver flatware donated by George Washington himself. Rittenhouse struck the coins himself to test the new equipment and delivered the coins to Washington.

 

The smelting and mill buildings were destroyed by fire in 1816 and these functions were moved elsewhere. The main office building, however, with “Ye Olde Mint” painted on its side, remained as the United States Mint until 1833 when a larger facility was built. This original Mint building stood until the early 1900s. It was the first building constructed by the US government after the ratification of the US Constitution.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Secretary General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

“Even mercy, where conquest is the object, is only a trick of war; the cunning of the fox is as murderous as the violence of the wolf.” 

Thomas Paine (1776)

Frederick Muhlenberg Elected First Speaker of the House

Frederick Muhlenberg Elected First Speaker of the House

 

On this day in history, April 1, 1789, Frederick Muhlenberg is elected the first Speaker of the House of Representatives by the First Congress meeting in New York City. After the Constitution was ratified, the federal government of the United States made its first home in New York City. On April 1, 1789, the House of Representatives had enough members present to begin and elected its first officers. Frederick Augustus Conrad Muhlenberg, a Lutheran minister, businessman and politician from Pennsylvania, was chosen as the first Speaker of the House.

 

Frederick Muhlenberg was born in Trappe, Pennsylvania, a son of Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, a Lutheran minister and the founder of the Lutheran church in America. Frederick studied in Germany with his brothers and returned to Pennsylvania in 1770, where he preached in Stouchsburg and Lebanon until 1774. In 1774, Muhlenberg moved to New York City to take a church there. When the American Revolution broke out, however, he returned to Pennsylvania for fear the British would take the city and his family would be in danger.

            

Back in Pennsylvania without a church to preach in, Muhlenberg entered politics and became a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1779. He became a representative to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 1780 and served as its Speaker for three years. In 1781, Muhlenberg purchased a home in Trappe and built a general store onto the side of the house where he lived for the next ten years. In 1787, he served as the president of the Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention that ratified the US Constitution.

 

Muhlenberg’s election as the first Speaker of the House of Representatives gave him a great deal of power in shaping the new government. The First Congress, under his leadership, established many of the key departments of the United States government, such as the State Department, the US Treasury and the Department of War. The First Congress passed the first Naturalization Act, Patent Act and Copyright Act, set in place the plan to move the seat of government to Washington DC, built the First Bank of the United States and passed the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the US Constitution. Frederick Muhlenberg was the first person to sign the Bill of Rights upon its acceptance. Muhlenberg was elected to the House for the first four consecutive Congresses and served as the Speaker of the House for the First and Third Congresses.

 

Muhlenberg was not re-elected to the House in 1797 due to his vote for the Jay Treaty, a treaty intended to reduce tensions with England after the war. The vote was unpopular with many people who thought it was too favorable to England. After leaving Congress, he returned to Pennsylvania and held some minor political offices until his death on June 4, 1801 at the age of 51. He was buried in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, which was then the state capital.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Secretary General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution." 

Thomas Jefferson (1798)

Eleanor Parke Custis Lewis is Born

Eleanor Parke Custis Lewis is born

 

On this day in history, March 31, 1779, Eleanor Parke Custis Lewis is born. Known as Nelly, she is the granddaughter of Martha Washington and step-granddaughter of George Washington. Nelly was the daughter of John Parke Custis, Martha's son from her first marriage. Martha had two children with her first husband Daniel Parke Custis, who died in 1757. John Parke Custis and his sister, Martha Parke Custis, were then raised by Martha and George Washington when they married in 1759. John was called "Jacky" and Martha was called "Patsy."

 

Both John and Martha died young, Martha from a seizure at the age of 17. John married young at the age of 18 and had four children, the youngest of whom was Eleanor Parke Custis, born on March 31, 1779, during the midst of the Revolutionary War. John served as an aide to George Washington at the Battle of Yorktown where he contracted "camp fever" and died at the age of 28. John's wife could not raise four children by herself, so the younger two, Eleanor and her younger brother, George Washington Parke Custis, went to live with George and Martha at Mount Vernon and were raised by them for the rest of their youths.

            

Eleanor, who was known as "Nelly" in the Washington household, was ten years old when Washington became the first President of the United  States. Nelly and her brother went with the Washingtons to New York and Philadelphia and lived in the presidential mansions there. Nelly spent her teenage years as the daughter of a President and was known for entertaining the dignitaries and guests that came to visit President Washington.

 

Nelly returned to Mount Vernon with George and Martha after the presidency. In 1799, she married Lawrence Lewis, Washington's personal secretary. Lewis was also a nephew of George Washington and became the executor of Washington's will upon the President's death only a few months after they were married.

 

Nelly and Lawrence received a gift of 2,000 acres next to Mount Vernon from the Washingtons upon their marriage. There they built a plantation and estate called Woodlawn Plantation, where they lived for the next 30 years. In 1830, they moved to a new estate called Audley, which Lawrence built on land he had purchased from Washington's estate in Clarke County, Virginia. Nelly continued to live here until her death in 1852. She and Lawrence had 3 children that survived to adulthood. Nelly is buried at Mount Vernon near the tombs of George and Martha Washington.

 

Nelly was the author of a frequently referred to letter that answers the question, "Was George Washington a Christian?" Nelly was asked the question in 1833 by historian Jared Sparks. Nelly responded with a letter detailing Washington's frequent church attendance and devotional habits and stated that questioning Washington's Christianity was the equivalent of questioning his patriotism. The letter is usually viewed as quite authoritative on the subject because she lived with Washington for 20 years.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Secretary 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)

The New England Restraining Act is made law

The New England Restraining Act is made law

 

On this day in history, March 30, 1775, the New England Restraining Act is made law with the signature of King George III. The Act restricts the New England colonies from trading with any other country besides Great Britain or her colonies and prevents colonists from entering the North Atlantic fisheries. These measures were enacted as a punishment to the colonies for their ban on trade with Britain after the institution of the Coercive Acts and other resistance to Parliament.

 

Colonial relations with Great Britain had been deteriorating gradually since the Stamp Act of 1765. The Tea Act of 1773 brought things to a head with a small tax placed on imported tea. Though the tax was small, the colonists were firm in their belief that Parliament did not have the right to tax them since they had no representation there. Instead, they believed the proper bodies to institute taxes on them were their own elected legislatures.

           

The citizens of Boston responded to the Tea Act by dumping 42 tons of imported tea into Boston Harbor in December, 1773, an act known as the Boston Tea Party. When news reached Parliament, it responded by passing the Coercive Acts, a series of acts to punish Boston which closed the harbor, shut down the Massachusetts government, moved trials of government officials out of the colony, required the housing of British troops on private property and extended the boundaries of French speaking, but British held, Quebec, which was viewed as a threat by the colonists.

 

Even though the Coercive Acts were focused on Massachusetts, all of the colonies saw the Acts as a precedent that could be extended to their own colonies. They responded with mass promises not to import any more British goods until the Acts were repealed. Most of the colonies began actively recruiting and training their own armies to confront Britain if the need arose. Most of the colonies sent representatives to the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia to deal with the crisis as one.

 

Parliament’s response to all this preparation was to pass the New England Retraining Act, which was signed by the King on March 30, 1775. This Act forbade Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Connecticut from trading with any other countries but Great Britain or her colonies. The idea was to strangle the colonists into a position of desperation so they would drop their opposition and consent to Parliament’s demands. The Acts also forbade them from using the North Atlantic fisheries off Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, a heavy blow to the colonists, who were dependent on the food and income from the fisheries.

 

The New England Restraining Act focused on the New England colonies because the rebellion was centered there. In April, however, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia and South Carolina were added to the Act when it was learned that they were also participating in the boycotts and raising armies. The Act, tough as it was, was never really enforced and never amounted to much because the war broke out in Lexington on April 19th, causing Britain to escalate to the point of making war on her own people.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Secretary 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 Siege of Charleston begins

The Siege of Charleston begins

 

On this day in history, March 29, 1780, the Siege of Charleston begins, when the British advance to take the most important city in the south. After failing to defeat George Washington in the north and the entrance of France into the American Revolution, Great Britain decided to focus on the south where it was believed heavy Loyalist sentiment would help conquer the rebels in those colonies.

 

The southern strategy began with the taking of Savannah, Georgia, in December of 1779. The British Commander-in-Chief, General Sir Henry Clinton, sailed south from New York with 8,500 men and arrived south of Charleston on February 11, 1780. More troops arrived to raise the total British force to 14,000 men.

           

Continental Army Major General Benjamin Lincoln had around 3,000 men in Charleston. Rather than following George Washington’s strategy of evacuating the army from large cities when the enemy approached, Lincoln decided to leave his army in Charleston at the request of the city’s leaders to prevent it from falling into British hands. Lincoln established extensive defenses, including a "boom chain" and sunken Continental Army ships to block access from the sea. He built a defensive canal that ran the length of the peninsula on which Charleston was located. Another 1,500 Virginia soldiers arrived to bring Lincoln’s force to 5,500 men, but they were still vastly outnumbered by the British.

 

Charleston sat at the end of the peninsula between the Ashley and Cooper Rivers. General Clinton marched overland and, on March 29, crossed the Ashley River onto the peninsula. The Siege of Charleston was to last for the next six weeks. Within days, American outposts around the city were taken and British ships entered Charleston Harbor, trapping the small American fleet under Commodore Abraham Whipple.

 

When Lincoln refused to surrender, the British began a bombardment of the town that went on for weeks, killing soldiers and destroying homes and businesses every day. Letters were exchanged several times by Lincoln and Clinton demanding various terms for a surrender. On April 29, the British began to destroy the dam holding the water in the defensive canal, which was the last protection for the city. The Americans tried to defend the canal, but it was mostly drained by May 6, giving the British free access to the city. General Clinton demanded a full surrender, which was refused. He then began a massive bombardment of the city and threatened to destroy it. The civilian leaders convinced Lincoln to surrender to save the city, which he did on May 12.

 

5,300 soldiers were taken captive, destroying the Continental Army in the south, a high percentage of whom died in squalid British prison facilities during the next 2 1/2 years. The captives included Major General Lincoln, Commodore Abraham Whipple and Declaration of Independence signers Arthur Middleton, Edward Rutledge and Thomas Heyward, Jr.

 

The defeat at Charleston was a huge blow to the Continental Army. Congress would respond by sending Major General Horatio Gates with another large army that would be defeated at Camden, South Carolina. It was not until General Nathanael Greene arrived to take over the army’s operations in the south late in the year that things began to turn around for the Americans. Less than one year later, British General Charles Cornwallis would surrender at Yorktown, ending the major operations of the war.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Secretary General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

“Gold is good in its place; but loving, brave, patriotic men are better than gold.”

General Benjamin Lincoln