Benedict Arnold given command of West Point

Benedict Arnold given command of West Point

 

On this day in history, August 3, 1780, Benedict Arnold is given command of West Point. Arnold was trained as a pharmacist and opened a pharmacy and bookstore in New Haven as a young man. He was involved in many mercantile ventures, including owning his own ships that made frequent voyages to the West Indies.

 

The British acts such as the Sugar Act and the Stamp Act greatly harmed Arnold’s business. He was soon in debt and involved in anti-British groups such as the Sons of Liberty. When the American Revolution broke out, Arnold was appointed a captain in the Connecticut militia. He went to the Siege of Boston and participated in the capture of the cannons at Fort Ticonderoga.

 

Arnold led 1100 men across the Maine wilderness to assist in the invasion of Canada, a journey which saw 300 deserters and several hundred succumb to illness. In Canada, Arnold led troops that laid siege to Quebec City, a battle in which his leg was severely injured. During the retreat from Canada, Arnold was placed in charge of Montreal for a time. He later built a fleet on Lake Champlain, which, though it was destroyed by the British, successfully delayed an invasion down the lake.

 

Arnold was turning out to be a brave and well-known soldier by this time, but he was also beginning to make enemies. He was headstrong and appeared to be too interested in financial gain. He often clashed with his superiors. The first of many accusations arose that led to a near court-martial.

 

After Canada, Arnold was given command of troops in Rhode Island and participated in the Battle of Ridgefield, Connecticut, where he was wounded again in the left leg. Arnold was deeply offended when others were promoted to general over him. Arnold was sent to New York in 1777 where he won acclaim for his role in the Battles of Saratoga, but where he also had a public feud with General Horatio Gates and disobeyed his orders. Arnold’s leg was severely injured yet again and he spent the winter at Valley Forge, after which he was given command of Philadelphia, which was recently evacuated by the British.

 

During his time in Philadelphia, Arnold became more and more intertwined with local Loyalists. He became involved in a series of business deals that earned him a court-martial for using his position for personal gain. Fuming from the convictions and still angry for being passed over for promotions, Arnold sent an offer to supply intelligence on American movements to the British. The agreement developed into a plan to surrender West Point, the most strategic place on the Hudson River, to the British for a large sum of money when Arnold was placed in command there on August 3, 1780.

 

The plan was discovered, but Arnold was able to escape to the British lines before being captured. He was made a brigadier general in the British army and soon led an invasion of Virginia, which destroyed Richmond and wreaked havoc through the state. Arnold later led an invasion of Connecticut which destroyed much of New London and captured Fort Griswold.

 

After Cornwallis’ surrender, Arnold sailed for England, where he lobbied for more attacks in America. After the war, and unable to serve in the army due to his injuries, Arnold tried unsuccessfully for years to get another government appointment. Arnold eventually established another shipping business in New Brunswick, Canada in the late 1780s, but he was forced to leave after several bad business deals. He died deeply in debt back in London in 1801. As you probably know, Arnold’s name became synonymous with "traitor" in the United States, a tragedy underscored by Arnold’s heroism and valor in the early days of the Revolution.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org  

 

"The republican is the only form of government which is not eternally at open or secret war with the rights of mankind."

Thomas Jefferson (1790)

Delegates Sign the Declaration of Independence

Delegates Sign the Declaration of Independence

 

On this day, August 2, 1776, members of Congress affix their signatures to an enlarged copy of the Declaration of Independence.

 

Fifty-six congressional delegates in total signed the document, including some who were not present at the vote approving the declaration. The delegates signed by state from North to South, beginning with Josiah Bartlett of New Hampshire and ending with George Walton of Georgia. John Dickinson of Pennsylvania and James Duane, Robert Livingston and John Jay of New York refused to sign. Carter Braxton of Virginia; Robert Morris of Pennsylvania; George Reed of Delaware; and Edward Rutledge of South Carolina opposed the document but signed in order to give the impression of a unanimous Congress. Five delegates were absent: Generals George Washington, John Sullivan, James Clinton and Christopher Gadsden and Virginia Governor Patrick Henry.

 

Exactly one month before the signing of the document, Congress had accepted a resolution put forward by Richard Henry Lee that stated “Resolved: That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.”

 

Congress adopted the more poetic Declaration of Independence, drafted by Thomas Jefferson, two days later, on July 4. The president of Congress, John Hancock, and its secretary, Charles Thompson, immediately signed the handwritten draft, which was dispatched to nearby printers. On July 19, Congress decided to produce a handwritten copy to bear all the delegates’ signatures. Secretary Thompson’s assistant, Philadelphia Quaker and merchant Timothy Matlack, penned the draft.

 

News of the Declaration of Independence arrived in London eight days later, on August 10. The draft bearing the delegates’ signatures was first printed on January 18 of the following year by Baltimore printer Mary Katharine Goddard.

 

www.history.net

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org  

 

"If new difficulties arise, we must only put forth new Exertions and proportion our Efforts to the exigency of the times."
George Washington (1777)

Whiskey rebels gather to march on Pittsburgh

Whiskey rebels gather to march on Pittsburgh

 

On This Day in History, August 1, 1794, the Whiskey rebels gather to march on Pittsburgh at the height of the Whiskey Rebellion, a tax revolt that threatened to derail the early United States under the new US Constitution.

 

Farmers on the frontier often operated small distilleries to supplement their incomes. Their grain was often converted to whiskey for easy transport across the Appalachians. Whiskey was often used as a form of payment on the frontier as well. This caused the prices of common items to rise, which disproportionately affected the poor. The tax affected western distillers more than it did eastern distillers, who were often much larger and could afford to pay the tax.

 

Violence began to break out in 1791 when the government began establishing tax authorities in the frontier counties. Tax officials were tarred and feathered, had their homes vandalized and were threatened into resigning their positions at gunpoint. Those against the tax began to organize, form militia groups for resistance and even form their own "Congress."

 

Matters came to a head in July, 1794, When a US Marshall began delivering subpoenas to distillers in western Pennsylvania who had not paid their taxes. Rebel militia surrounded the home of General John Neville, the tax inspector for western Pennsylvania, believing the marshal was there. Hundreds of militia surrounded Neville’s home and a battle broke out with US Army officers at the home. The rebel leader was killed along with several others on each side. Neville’s house was burned to the ground.

 

Rebel leaders began to call for open rebellion at this point and a meeting convened on August 1 at Braddock’s Field. The most ardent advocated a march on Pittsburgh, the center of the whiskey tax’s supporters, to loot and destroy the town. The residents of Pittsburgh calmed the crowd down by sending representatives to the gathering who agreed with the injustices being protested and offering to let the crowd march through the town peacefully, with free whiskey for all. This ameliorated the crowd’s fury and the following day thousands of protestors marched through the town peacefully, burning only the barns of Major Abraham Kirkpatrick, the leader of the US Army soldiers at Neville’s home.

 

The march on Pittsburgh brought down the full wrath of the US government. Most of President George Washington’s advisers believed the rebellion could only be put down by force. Washington ordered the militias of four states to gather and personally led 13,000 men toward western Pennsylvania. When they arrived, the rebellion quickly dissolved. Dozens of rebel leaders were rounded up, but few were ever prosecuted and only two were convicted. These were pardoned by Washington.

 

The response to the Whiskey Rebellion proved that the new federal government had the power and the will to put down internal rebellion. It also helped establish the authority of the federal government on the western frontier and the notion that freedom of assembly and petitioning the government for redress of grievances were part of legitimate protest. The Whiskey Rebellion was also a catalyst for the development of the Democrat-Republican party of Thomas Jefferson, which pitted those who wanted a less powerful central government against the Federalist Party of George Washington and John Adams.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org  

 

"The natural cure for an ill-administration, in a popular or representative constitution, is a change of men." —Alexander Hamilton (1787)

Rachel Fletcher confirms the Betsy Ross Flag story

Rachel Fletcher confirms the Betsy Ross Flag story

 

On this day in history, July 31, 1871, Rachel Fletcher confirms the Betsy Ross Flag story. Rachel was the third daughter of Betsy Ross. Her affidavit is important to the question of whether or not Betsy Ross actually created the first American flag, an idea that some historians doubt.

 

Today, most Americans are taught that Betsy Ross created the first American flag. This was not the case, however, until after the 1870s. The Betsy Ross flag story was first told publicly by her grandson, William Canby, in a speech to the Historical Society of Philadelphia. Canby, who was only 11 years old when his grandmother died, told that he heard his grandmother say from her own mouth that she had created the first flag, along with other details of the event.

 

Canby told that a secret committee, consisting of George Ross, Robert Morris and George Washington, approached Betsy shortly before the Declaration of Independence in 1776. The men showed Betsy, a seamstress, a flag design and asked her if she could make it. Betsy said she would try and offered several suggestions to change their design, including the use of 5-pointed stars, instead of 6-pointed stars. George Washington then redrew the design himself, incorporating Betsy’s suggestions.

 

Betsy completed the flag and it was approved by Congress. Betsy then embarked on a lifelong career of flag making for the government. The Betsy Ross flag story was first told to a national audience in the July, 1873 issue of Harper’s New Monthly magazine. From there, it entered into American folklore.

 

The problem with Canby’s story is that there is absolutely no other evidence corroborating his story. Extensive searches have been made in the National Archives, the Pennsylvania Archives and Betsy’s own papers and no such evidence has been found. This makes the affidavit of Rachel Fletcher, signed on July 31, 1871, all the more important.

 

Rachel stated that she heard her mother tell the story of George Washington asking her to make the flag on numerous occasions. In addition to Rachel’s testimony, a niece and a granddaughter of Betsy’s signed written affidavits affirming the same.

 

There is circumstantial evidence indicating Betsy’s story may be true, such as the fact that she and George Washington sat next to one another at church, George Ross was her husband’s uncle and some paintings place the 13 star flag in battles that would corroborate her story.

 

Some historians claim that since the story cannot be proven with outside evidence, the story must not be true. A more accurate assessment would be that since the story cannot be proved with outside evidence, that it may not be true. On the other hand, it may be true, just unverifiable. We will most likely never know for certain if Betsy Ross created the first American flag, but one thing is for sure, she will remain a part of American folklore for many years to come.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org  

 

"It is a happy circumstance in human affairs that evils which are not cured in one way will cure themselves in some other." —Thomas Jefferson (1791)

George Clinton becomes 1st governor of New York

George Clinton becomes 1st governor of New York

 

On this day in history, July 30, 1777, George Clinton becomes 1st governor of New York. Clinton would be the longest serving governor in American history, including throughout the time period of the American Revolution and the adoption of the US Constitution. Clinton also served as a general in the Continental Army and became vice-president under both Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.

 

George Clinton was born in 1739 to a father who was a member of the New York colonial assembly. He fought in the French and Indian War as a teenager and later studied law. In 1759, Clinton began a life in politics when he became the County Clerk for Ulster County, New York. He served in this position for the next 52 years! Clinton began serving as a representative from Ulster County in the Provincial Assembly in 1768 and continued in this position until New York declared its independence in 1776.

 

When the American Revolution began, Clinton was squarely on the side of the patriots. He became a brigadier general in the Continental Army in 1777, but shortly afterwards was elected governor of the fledgling New York government. Clinton took office on July 30, 1777 and would be re-elected 5 times until 1792. He would serve again as governor from 1801-1804, making him the longest serving governor in American history.

 

In his role as governor of New York, Clinton played a central role in many aspects of the Revolution, from the detaining of Loyalists and confiscating their property, to negotiating the British evacuation of New York with George Washington and British General, Sir Guy Carleton.

 

Clinton was a strong opponent of the US Constitution at first, believing it did not adequately protect individual rights. He withdrew his opposition, however, when Federalists agreed to add a Bill of Rights to the document. When George Washington took office as the first president, Clinton welcomed him to the city of New York (then the capital), accompanied Washington to his inauguration and later put on the first inaugural celebration.

 

Clinton was elected to the New York State Assembly in 1800. He was then re-elected governor in 1801, but stepped down when he was chosen to replace the disgraced Aaron Burr as Thomas Jefferson’s running mate in 1804. Clinton served through Jefferson’s second term and then was elected as vice-president again under James Madison, where he served until his death in 1812.

 

George Clinton is a little known Founding Father to modern Americans, but he played a pivotal role in shepherding one of the largest states through the American Revolution. Clinton was the first elected official to die in the White House and was one of only two people to serve as vice-president under two different presidents, the second being John C. Calhoun. Clinton died of a heart attack on April 20, 1812 and was buried in Washington DC. His body was reinterred in Kingston, New York in 1908.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org  

 

"It is the manners and spirit of a people which preserve a republic in vigor. A degeneracy in these is a canker which soon eats to the heart of its laws and constitution."
Thomas Jefferson (1781)

Loyalists win the Battle of the House in the Horseshoe

Loyalists win the Battle of the House in the Horseshoe

 

On this day in history, July 29, 1781, Loyalists win the Battle of the House in the Horseshoe, a battle that took place at the home of North Carolina militia colonel, Philip Alston. Alston and his men had just returned to Alston’s home after a failed mission to capture Loyalist militia commander Colonel David Fanning.

 

David Fanning was notorious for rallying Loyalists together and staging raids on patriot forces throughout North and South Carolina. In the summer of 1781, with British General Charles Cornwallis having taken his army north into Virginia from North Carolina, Fanning was left leading the Loyalists against the Revolution.

 

Colonel Alston lived in a large two-story house in a horseshoe bend of the Deep River near present day Sanford, North Carolina, hence the name, House in the Horseshoe. During the evening of July 28th, Alston’s men camped at his home, many of them sleeping on the large porch. Alston’s children and wife slept in the house and sentries watched in case Fanning tried to retaliate.

 

Colonel Fanning meanwhile, learned that two of his friends and supporters had been killed by Alston’s men. On the morning of the 29th, Fanning,  with a much larger force, approached the house and took two sleeping sentries hostage. Other sentries, however, noticed the approaching force and raised the alarm.

 

Alston’s militia quickly took up positions inside and outside the house and a battle began that lasted a few hours. Alston protected his children by making them stand inside the brick chimney on a small table. At one point, Fanning sent a slave with a torch to burn the house, but he was shot down by the defenders. Fanning was close to giving up the battle after suffering several casualties when his men came up with a plan to burn the house down by rolling a cart full of flaming hay into it.

 

As the cart was being prepared and the hay set alight, Alston realized that his group would not survive if the house was set on fire. He decided to surrender, but knew that if he stepped onto the porch he would instantly be shot. Alston’s wife volunteered to go out and negotiate the terms of surrender. She came out bearing a white flag and met with Colonel Fanning. All the defenders in the House in the Horseshoe were allowed to surrender peacefully and then paroled.

 

Alston was considered a war hero, but later his reputation was tarnished with a "murder" investigation which was later judged to be an act of war, and with his alleged role in the murder of a political opponent. Colonel Fanning left North Carolina after the war and ended up an exile in Canada where he built a shipping business. The House in the Horseshoe is still standing today and is the site of an annual reenactment of the Battle of the House in the Horseshoe.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org  

 

“Charity is no part of the Legislative Duty of the Government.”

James Madison

The Battle of Fort Freeland

The Battle of Fort Freeland

 

On this day in history, July 28, 1779, the Battle of Fort Freeland clears out the Wyoming Valley for a second time in two years. The Wyoming Valley is part of northeastern and north central Pennsylvania containing the Susquehanna River. At the time of the American Revolution, this was the frontier, containing the furthest western settlements of Pennsylvania.

 

In the summer of 1778, a joint Iroquois and British campaign terrorized the valley, culminating in the Wyoming Massacre of July 3. The area was targeted because of its rich farmland produce and to discourage settlers from joining the Revolution. After hundreds were killed at the Wyoming Massacre, most settlers fled as the Iroquois burned buildings and crops throughout the valley.

 

After some time passed, the settlers began to gradually return. Settler Jacob Freeland decided to fortify his home and mills with a fence for protection from future Indian raids. Fort Freeland, as it became known, sat on Warrior Run Creek in Northumberland County, four miles east of present day Watsontown.

 

In the spring of 1779, the Indian raids began again and several families moved into Fort Freeland. The vast majority of fighting age men, however, had gone off to fight in the Continental Army. On the evening of July 28th, a large force consisting of 300 Seneca under Chief Hiokatoo and 100 British soldiers arrived. Approximately 80 people were in the fort, mostly women, children and old men. Only about 20 were capable of using a gun. On the morning of July 29th, a battle began. The settlers fought valiantly until their ammunition ran out, the women even contributing by melting down all the pewter in the fort for musket balls.

 

Eventually the inhabitants had to surrender. Non-combatants were allowed to go peacefully, but those of fighting age were taken captive. Chief Hiokatoo, known for his bloodlust, killed all the wounded. Fort Freeland was plundered and the victors settled down along the creek to enjoy a meal.

 

Just then, Captain Hawkins Boone (possibly a cousin of Daniel Boone) arrived with 30 militiamen. Boone had set off to relieve Fort Freeland after hearing of the arrival of the Indians, but he was too late. Boone, upon realizing that a number of settlers had been killed, was furious and ordered his men to fire directly into the resting enemy troops. Several dozen were shot and killed. The Indians and British immediately fired back and Boone and half his company were killed, while the rest fled.

 

After the Battle of Fort Freeland, the Indians continued to terrorize the area and most of the remaining settlers left again, not to return until the end of the war. The Battle of Fort Freeland was a small engagement, but it was significant in one respect. The ultimate goal of the British and Indians was Fort Augusta in Sunbury to the south. The fort was lightly guarded, but it contained a large amount of supplies and food for the upcoming Sullivan Expedition, which George Washington organized to retaliate against the Iroquois campaign. For whatever reason, the Indians and British did not go much further south than Fort Freeland and called off an attack on Fort Augusta. Their losses at Fort Freeland may have been the reason, sparing the supplies for the Sullivan Expedition which devastated Iroquois territory permanently.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org  

 

"There must be a positive passion for the public good, the public interest, honour, power and glory, established in the minds of the people, or there can be no republican government, nor any real liberty: and this public passion must be superiour to all private passions." —John Adams (1776)