Congress informed of Dr. Benjamin Church’s treason

Congress informed of Dr. Benjamin Church’s treason

 

On this day in history, October 5, 1775, Congress is informed of Dr. Benjamin Church’s treason. Dr. Church was deeply involved in the patriot movement in Boston, having close relations with such people as Paul Revere, Samuel Adams, Joseph Warren and John Hancock. The interception of a coded letter to a British soldier revealed that he had been sending intelligence to the British all along.

 

Benjamin Church was born into a prominent Boston family. He studied medicine in London and built a lucrative medical practice in Boston, where he became known as a skilled surgeon. Prior to the Revolution, Church was involved in the Sons of Liberty movement. He nursed several of the wounded after the Boston Massacre and his prominence as a member of the patriot movement grew when he delivered the annual oration on the anniversary of the massacre in 1773.

 

Church was elected to the rebel Provincial Congress in 1774. He became a member of the Committee of Safety, which was charged with the military preparation of the colony. In these positions, Dr. Church was at the heart of the rebel movement, but his treasonous activities went undiscovered. After the Battle of Lexington, Church was seen meeting with British General Thomas Gage in Boston, which aroused suspicion, but Church said he had been detained and then released and the suspicions were put to rest.

 

In July of 1775, Church attempted to send a letter through his mistress to a British Major Cane. The woman asked another of her suitors to take her to certain British officials to deliver the letter, but he refused. She then left the letter with him and asked him to deliver it. The man was suspicious and opened the letter, but it was written in code and he couldn’t read it so he set it aside.

 

Some time later, he received an anxious letter from the woman asking what he had done with the letter. This aroused his suspicion again and he delivered the letter to patriot officials. The letter contained information about American troop strength and positions around Boston, but it had no indication of who wrote it. When the woman was questioned, she disclosed that Dr. Church was the author.

 

On October 4, Washington oversaw a court-martial that found Church guilty of collaborating with the enemy and referred the matter to Congress for judgment. On October 5, Washington wrote to Congress and informed them of Dr. Church’s treason. Congress had Church confined in prison in Connecticut. After some time, he was released due to ill health and was finally allowed to leave the country in 1778. He sailed for the West Indies, but the ship was never heard from again and is presumed to have been lost at sea.

 

The extent of Church’s treason was unknown for generations, but in the early 20th century, General Gage’s records of correspondence were finally opened to the public and numerous letters from Church were discovered. The letters revealed that Church had been delivering sensitive information to Gage for quite some time, earning him a place on the list of America’s most notorious traitors.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org  

 

"National defense is one of the cardinal duties of a statesman."

John Adams (1815)

The Battle of Germantown

The Battle of Germantown

 

On this day in history, October 4, 1777, the Battle of Germantown is a loss by the Americans. Rather than a psychological loss to the patriots, the battle proves that the Americans can stand up against Great Britain and even encourages European leaders to believe that Great Britain can be defeated.

 

The Battle of Germantown was part of the Philadelphia Campaign, which saw Philadelphia captured by the British on September 26. The Continental Army had suffered defeats trying to protect the city at the Battles of Brandywine and Paoli. After successfully entering the capital, British General William Howe divided his forces, leaving 3,400 in the city and placing the rest of his 9,000 troops north of the city.

 

George Washington decided to take advantage of Howe’s splitting his troops by attacking him at the small town of Germantown, which today is part of Philadelphia, but then was some distance north of the city. Washington planned to attack in the early morning hours of October 4 with four columns of soldiers approaching from different routes.

 

Generals John Sullivan and Nathanael Greene led the two center columns of Continental soldiers, while the two outer columns were made up of militia from various states. The battle began when Sullivan’s column ran into British sentries around 5 am on October 4. The fighting began in heavy fog and the British soldiers were finally overwhelmed and pushed back.

 

Some of these retreating soldiers holed up in the mansion of Pennsylvania’s Chief Justice, Benjamin Chew, which was called Cliveden. Washington decided to attack the house, which turned out to be a disastrous move. An entire brigade was brought to deal with the 120 soldiers in the house, but the defenders managed to hold their ground, inflicting heavy casualties on their American attackers. The stone walls of the house were impervious to American cannon-fire. Valuable time and lives were wasted trying to take the house.

 

Everything that could have gone wrong went wrong at this point. Heavy fog caused some Americans to take the wrong roads; two American brigades fired on each other in the fog; Sullivan’s men who pushed past the Chew mansion were unnerved from the cannon fire coming from behind them. In the fog and confusion, the British began making progress from various directions and the Americans began to retreat, with one entire American regiment surrounded and captured.

 

152 Americans were killed in the Battle of Germantown, including 57 in the attack on the Chew house. Another 1000 were wounded or captured. The British lost 71 dead, with 450 wounded or captured. In spite of the loss at Germantown, the battle had the effect of raising American prospects in the war.

 

European powers were encouraged by the battle. The Americans had suffered some devastating defeats recently, but they still had the courage to face the British. Frederick the Great of Prussia, who was regarded as the top military mind of the age, noted that if these untrained Americans could put up such a fight against the British, just imagine what they could do once they were trained.

 

The Battle of Germantown, along with the American victory at Saratoga, encouraged France to join the war on the American side, turning the American Revolution into a worldwide war. This stretched the British forces out so thin, as they defended their interests globally, that they could not successfully defend the American colonies, eventually forcing them to capitulate to American demands.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org   

 

“Arbitrary power is most easily established on the ruins of liberty abused to licentiousness.” 

George Washington (1783)

George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation

George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation

 

On this day in history, October 3, 1789, George Washington issues his Thanksgiving Proclamation, the first such proclamation from the government of the newly formed United States under its new Constitution. Washington issued the proclamation at the request of both houses of Congress, which is interesting considering the modern day belief that the Founders advocated a complete separation of all things religious from the government.

Original copy of George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation

 

In the address, Washington asks Americans to thank God for His blessings, for civil and religious freedom and for His hand in the recently finished war. He also asks them to pray for God’s continued favor, prosperity, peace and good government, and that America will always be a nation of "wise, just and constitutional laws."

 

By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor– and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

 

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be– That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks–for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation–for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war–for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed–for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted–for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

 

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions– to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually–to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed–to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord–To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us–and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

 

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

 

Go: Washington

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org  

 

"The foundations of our national policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality, and the preeminence of free government be exemplified by all the attributes which can win the affections of its citizens, and command the respect of the world."

George Washington (1789)

Benedict Arnold passes Norridgewock Falls

Benedict Arnold passes Norridgewock Falls

 

On this day in history, October 2, 1775, Benedict Arnold’s Quebec Expedition passes over Norridgewock Falls at the site of present day Norridgewock, Maine. Arnold’s expedition was part of the Continental Army campaign to capture Canada from the British at the beginning of the American Revolution.

 

Congress approved of the Quebec Campaign in May of 1775 and sent General Philip Schuyler to lead a large American force up Lake Champlain to Montreal and then to the capital, Quebec City. Colonel Benedict Arnold was offended for being overlooked for command of the expedition. He came up with a plan to send an additional force across the wilderness of Maine to take Quebec City from the east. He presented his plan to George Washington and the plan was approved.

 

Arnold left Cambridge with about 1,100 soldiers in September. It was easy to find recruits since the siege of Boston was mostly uneventful and many soldiers were anxious for action. The group was ferried north to the Kennebec River and began sailing up the river in small boats called barques.

 

Arnold had a map of the area that indicated the journey would be about 180 miles. In reality, it was 350 miles over rough terrain and dense evergreen forests, much of which was uninhabited. When falls or rough patches in the rivers and lakes were reached, the troops were forced to carry their boats and supplies. In this manner they moved across the wilderness from river to lake to pond to stream.

 

On October 2, the troops reached Norridgewock Falls, the last inhabited area along the river for hundreds of miles. Beyond this point, there would be no more inhabitants from which to buy food.

 

By the end of October, the expedition’s supplies were running out. Supplies were either eaten or lost in boating accidents on the rough waters. Snow covered the ground, rivers were freezing cold and many were walking on bare feet or with thin moccasins. The men were reduced to eating dogs, shoe leather, bark and candle wax. Many died and others deserted, including a large group of 350 who returned to Massachusetts with Lieutenant Colonel Roger Enos, who was later court-martialed for the departure.

 

By early November, about 600 of the original 1100 arrived at the southernmost French settlements of Quebec and the remaining soldiers were saved from starvation. The expedition continued on toward Quebec and crossed the St. Lawrence River on November 13th. They attempted a siege of the city, but couldn’t keep it up because they were fatigued, outnumbered and without ammunition after it was mostly lost during the trip.

 

Instead, the expedition waited for the arrival of General Richard Montgomery from the south. Montgomery had replaced General Schuyler and successfully captured Montreal. Montgomery and Arnold then attempted to capture Quebec City on the evening of December 31st. The battle ended in failure with Montgomery being killed and Arnold severely wounded. The siege of the city continued until spring, however, when the mission was finally called off and the troops returned to Ticonderoga.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General
National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

“No free government was ever founded, or ever preserved its liberty, without uniting the characters of the citizen and soldier in those destined for the defense of the state…such area well-regulated militia, composed of the freeholders, citizen and husbandman, who take up arms to preserve their property, as individuals, and their rights as freemen.”

 Richard Henry Lee

John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg is born

John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg is born

 

On this day in history, October 1, 1746, John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg is born. Muhlenberg was a Lutheran minister who rose to prominence as a general during the American Revolution and was later elected to serve in the US Congress.

 

Peter Muhlenberg was born into a minister’s family in Trappe, Pennsylvania. As a young man, he and his brothers were sent to Germany to study. Peter was a rambunctious youth and the teachers recommended that he be trained for business instead of the ministry, as his father had planned. For this reason, Peter was apprenticed to a merchant in Lubeck for some time, a position he hated. Peter eventually ran off and joined the German army for a time and then the British army.

 

In 1767, Peter returned to Pennsylvania as an assistant to a British officer and left the army to begin studying for the ministry. In 1769, Peter was licensed in the Lutheran church and began serving with his father in New Jersey. Peter married and took a church in Woodstock, Virginia, where he remained until the Revolution began.

 

Peter became a follower of Patrick Henry and was appointed the head of Dunmore County’s Committee of Safety and Correspondence. In 1774, he was elected to the House of Burgesses and then to the first rebel Virginia Convention. As the war progressed, George Washington personally asked Peter to raise the 8th Virginia Regiment.

 

According to legend, Muhlenberg stood before his congregation on January 21, 1776 in his clerical robes and began to preach from Ecclesiastes chapter 3, "To every thing there is a season…" When he reached the 8th verse, "a time of war, and a time of peace," Muhlenberg tore off his robe to reveal a colonel’s uniform of the Continental Army underneath. He preached that this was a time of war and encouraged the men in his congregation to join the fight. 162 men joined him that today. The following day, Muhlenberg led the regiment to join the Continental Army.

 

Muhlenberg’s regiment first served on the southern coast, but was then transferred to Valley Forge where he was promoted to brigadier general. Muhlenberg saw action at the Battles of Brandywine, Germantown, Monmouth, Stony Point and Charleston. He was later transferred to Virginia to oversee the state militia and served in Lafayette’s division at the Battle of Yorktown.

 

 

After the war, Muhlenberg moved back to Pennsylvania where he served on the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania, several years of which he was Vice-President of the Council, a position equivalent to lieutenant-governor. In 1789, Muhlenberg was elected to the First Congress. His brother, Frederick Augustus Muhlenberg, was elected to Congress as well and became the first Speaker of the House of Representatives. Peter was also elected to the 3rd and 5th Congresses as a Democratic-Republican.

 

Muhlenberg formed the first Democratic-Republican society, a group of political activists who promoted their views and candidates. These groups spread around the country and helped create our modern notion of grassroots political activity.

 

In 1801, Muhlenberg was elected to the US Senate, but he only held this position for a few months before President Thomas Jefferson appointed him to the lucrative position of Supervisor of US Customs for Pennsylvania. In 1803, he also became the Collector of Customs for the Port of Philadelphia, a position he held until his death, also ironically on October 1, 1807. Muhlenberg is buried at Augustus Lutheran Church in Trappe, Pennsylvania.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General
National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"As neither reason requires, nor religion permits the contrary, every man living in or out of a state of civil society, has a right peaceably and quietly to worship God according to the dictates of his conscience."

Samuel Adams, A State of the Rights of the Colonists, 1772

The Battle of Edgar’s Lane

The Battle of Edgar’s Lane

 

On this day in history, September 30, 1778, the Battle of Edgar’s Lane takes place near Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, a small village 20 miles north of Manhattan island. During the summer of 1778, British General Henry Clinton was instructed to abandon the city of Philadelphia and return his army to New York City. France’s entry into the war conflated the American colonial revolution into a world war and Britain had to consolidate its activities in the colonies in order to defend its far flung empire. New York was the central headquarters of British activity in the colonies and it would continue to be so in the future.

 

George Washington’s Continental Army chased the retreating British army from Philadelphia across New Jersey and engaged them at the Battle of Monmouth, one of the largest and bloodiest battles of the Revolution. The British finally escaped in the night and made it back to the refuge of New York City.

 

By the fall, Washington’s army had taken up winter positions about 40 miles north of New York City. Hastings-on-Hudson was a small village that lay roughly between the two armies, in a sort of no-man’s land, which was a frequent target of foraging parties for both sides.

 

Peter Post was the owner of Post’s Tavern in Hastings-on-Hudson. Peter himself was a patriot, but his customers were a mixed group of patriots and Loyalists. One evening in September, he overheard talk of a Hessian raiding party that would be coming through on a foraging mission. Peter informed the Continental Army and a plan was hatched to ambush the raiding Hessians.

 

On the evening of September 30th, Post was at his farm north of town when the expected Hessians came riding by. They asked him if any rebel soldiers were in the area. Post directed the 80 Hessians right toward a waiting group of about 120 American dragoons hiding in the woods near the Edgar’s farm on Edgar’s Lane. As the Hessians rode into the ambush, the firing began. The Hessians dismounted their horses and began firing into the woods and chasing their attackers, but were surprised when the American force turned out to be much larger than they originally thought.

 

Once they realized they had been led into an ambush, the Hessians turned and fled, chased by their American enemies down a ravine and toward the Hudson. The fleeing Hessians were forced into the river where many drowned and others were shot in the water. Only a few escaped. Later, after the American soldiers had left the area, the Hessians returned and beat Peter Post to near death, but he did survive and became a prominent landowner in the town after the war.

 

Hastings-on-Hudson would grow into an industrial town, but also become a place of getaway homes for the wealthy of New York. Hastings was the home of Florence Ziegfeld and his wife, Billie Burke, who played Glenda the Good Witch in the Wizard of Oz, as well as Frank Morgan who played the Wizard. The BF Goodrich Company was started here. Comedian Jonathan Winters once lived here; actress Ricki Lake was born here and TV news commentator Keith Olbermann grew up in Hastings-on-Hudson.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General
National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

“To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead.”

Thomas Paine

British spy, Major John Andre, is sentenced to death

British spy, Major John Andre, is sentenced to death

 

On this day in history, September 29, 1780, British spy Major John Andre is sentenced to death by hanging for his role in the Benedict Arnold treason affair. John Andre was born into a wealthy Swiss family in London in 1750. He joined the military at age 20 and was sent to Canada in 1774, where he was captured by General Richard Montgomery at Fort St. Jean, but later released in a prisoner exchange.

 

Andre was not only a soldier. He was also an extremely talented artist, poet, singer and songwriter. For this reason, he was promoted quickly through the ranks after his release and became a chief staff member of General William Howe and General Henry Clinton after him. Because of his talents and charm, Andre became a favorite of the elite in New York and Philadelphia society circles.

 

In 1779, Andre became the Adjutant-General of the British army. This was one of the senior-most administrative positions, overseeing personnel issues and policies. In this role, Andre was given charge of the army’s intelligence program and this was how he became involved in the Benedict Arnold affair.

 

Arnold had grown disenchanted with Congress and his superiors and colleagues in the Continental Army and began negotiating with the British for favors, in exchange for information on American positions and plans. By 1780, a plan was hatched for Arnold to turn over the American fort at West Point, New York, a crucial spot controlling the Hudson River, to the British, in exchange for 20,000 pounds and a general-ship in the British army.

 

Andre directed the intelligence effort with Arnold and met him clandestinely on the evening of September 23 near West Point. Arnold turned over papers detailing the defenses of West Point to Andre who hid them in his shoe and returned to New York. He was captured two days later by 3 inquisitive patriots who found the papers and turned him over to the Continental Army. Arnold escaped safely to the British army.

 

Andre’s case was unique because he held the title of general, but the rank of major. Generals were typically to be held and exchanged, but Congress had ruled clearly that anyone involved in spying was to be hanged. George Washington offered to British General Clinton to exchange Andre for Arnold, hoping to hang Arnold for his treason instead. Clinton, however, failed to respond and allowed one of his best and brightest to go to the gallows.

 

On September 29, a court was convened to decide Andre’s fate. General Nathanael Greene presided over the court, which also consisted of Generals Stirling, St. Clair, Lafayette, Howe, Steuben, Parsons, Clinton, Knox, Stark and others. The court ruled on the same day that Andre was guilty of spying for being behind enemy lines and wearing a disguise based on his own testimony.

 

Andre wrote a letter to George Washington requesting to be executed by firing squad, as this was considered to be more "gentlemanly," but Washington refused the request. On the morning of his execution on October 2nd, Andre was said to be calm and resigned to his fate. He marched toward the gallows, acknowledging those whom he knew in the large crowd that had gathered.

 

After his death, Andre was buried at the foot of the gallows. In 1821, Andre’s body was removed to England and buried in Westminster Abbey as a hero, alongside other famous British citizens such as Geoffrey Chaucer, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, William Wilberforce, Charles Dickens and numerous kings and queens.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

Treasurer General
National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"The great and chief end therefore, of men united into commonwealths, and putting themselves under government, is the preservation of their property."

John Locke