Seth Warner of the Green Mountain Boys is Born

Seth Warner of the Green Mountain Boys is born


On this day in history, May 6, 1743, Seth Warner of the Green Mountain Boys is born. Seth Warner was born in Roxbury, Connecticut and moved to Bennington, Vermont in 1763. Bennington was part of the disputed New Hampshire Grants between New York and New Hampshire, which is today the state of Vermont. New Hampshire began granting settlers tracts of land in the area in the 1740s, but a 1764 Royal verdict gave the land to New York causing New York to invalidate all the New Hampshire grants.


New York began seeking the return of the land granted to New Hampshire settlers, who refused to give up their lands. The New Hampshire settlers organized a militia group called the Green Mountain Boys to  protect their lands from New York officials and settlers. The Green Mountain Boys were led by Ethan Allen and his cousins, Seth Warner and Remember Baker. They would harass and threaten any New York officials, surveyors or settlers that came into the area. As a leader of the Green Mountain Boys, Warner soon had a price placed on his head by Governor William Tryon of New York.


When the American Revolution broke out, the Green Mountain Boys immediately set out on a mission to capture Fort Ticonderoga in New York. The fort was notoriously undermanned and dilapidated, but had a very large store of cannons and artillery. The Green Mountain Boys captured the fort on May 10, less than a month after Lexington and Concord. Warner then went on and captured Fort Crown Point a few days later. For the capture of these two forts, Allen, Warner and the Green Mountain Boys became legends across the colonies. The captured artillery was carried across the mountains by a young Colonel Henry Knox to George Washington at the siege of Boston and used to fortify Dorchester Heights, which caused the British to evacuate the city.

Base of Seth Warner Statue, Battle of Bennington Monument, Bennington, Vermont


The Continental Congress soon authorized a regiment to be made up of Green Mountain Boys. Seth Warner was chosen to lead the regiment in place of Allen, probably because of Allen's legendary temper. The unit was officially called Warner's Regiment. The Regiment served in the invasion of Canada and helped in the capture St. John's and Montreal and with the siege of Quebec. Warner personally led the American rear guard in its retreat from Canada the next spring.


In 1777, Warner, now a colonel, participated in the Saratoga campaign, displaying superb leadership in several key battles. On August 16, he assisted General John Stark in driving the British off at the Battle of Bennington, a feat which earned him a statue at the battle site. Warner was present at the eventual surrender of Burgoyne.


In March, 1778, Warner was made a Brigadier General of the Vermont militia. He was quite ill, however, by this time, possibly from arthritis or tuberculosis, and did not spend much time with his troops anymore. As the war shifted to the south, Warner's Regiment was disbanded in 1781 and Warner returned to Roxbury permanently.


Warner was in a tough financial position by this time as his finances had largely been neglected during the war. He passed away at the young age of 41 in 1784, leaving his wife and three children, ages 16, 10 and 7. His wife, Esther, petitioned both the federal government and the Vermont government for financial assistance due to her husband's war service. Eventually the Vermont government awarded her 2,000 acres, but the land was rocky and worthless. Warner is buried in Roxbury's Center Green.


Note: Seth Warner's birthdate is sometimes listed as May 17, 1743. It is May 6 by the Old Style Julian calendar. May 17 by the New Style Gregorian calendar. The British Empire switched to the New Style in 1752.


Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution


"All men having power ought to be distrusted to a certain degree." 
James Madison (1787)

Ben Franklin Returns from Great Britain

Ben Franklin returns from Great Britain


On this day in history, May 5, 1775, Ben Franklin returns from Great Britain after having spent much of the previous two decades as a colonial agent in London. Franklin had become independently wealthy by his early 40s due to the success of his publishing business. After he retired, he devoted much of his time to scientific pursuits and to politics.


Franklin first became involved in politics in 1736 when he became the clerk for Pennsylvania's colonial assembly. He served in this position for 15 years. He served as a deputy postmaster of North America for roughly the same period. He also served on Philadelphia's City Council and as a Justice of the Peace. In 1751, Franklin was elected as a representative to the Colonial Assembly for the first time, a position he would hold for six years. He would later become the  Crown's Postmaster for all of North America.


In 1757, Ben Franklin became Pennsylvania's representative to the Crown in London. This began a long career of service to the colonies in England. He would spend 18 of the next 20 years in London as an agent for Pennsylvania, Georgia, New Jersey and Massachusetts. For a short stint in the early 1760s, he would return to the colonies and serve in the Pennsylvania Assembly again and would be elected the Speaker of the House in 1764.


Franklin returned to London in late 1764 and resumed his career as agent for the colonies. Franklin disagreed with many British policies, but for the most part thought the colonists would have to submit to London's plans. As time progressed, however, his mind slowly changed and he began to realize that Parliament had no intention of being reasonable in its treatment of the colonists.


In late 1772, Franklin obtained several private letters from Thomas Hutchinson and Andrew Oliver, the governor and lieutenant-governor of Massachusetts, from several years earlier. In the letters, the officials recommended abridging civil liberties in Massachusetts in response to the colonists' rebellion and in order to enforce Parliament's will. Franklin privately sent the letters back to officials in Massachusetts who published them in public newspapers. Colonists were outraged and Parliament was shamed.


For his role in the affair, Ben Franklin was brought before the King's Privy Council in January, 1774. He was humiliated and removed from his position as Postmaster General. Later in the year, Parliament passed the Coercive Acts in response to the Boston Tea Party. The Coercive Acts shut down Boston Harbor and the Massachusetts Assembly until the tea was paid for. Franklin realized through all this that reconciliation with England was impossible. He left England permanently and arrived back in Philadelphia on May 5, 1775. The following day, he was informed he had been chosen to attend the Second Continental Congress as a delegate from Pennsylvania.


In Congress, Franklin would help write the Declaration of Independence and serve as America's Ambassador to France, helping secure vital aid and cooperation from the French for the war. He would later be a governor of Pennsylvania and also sign the United States Constitution.


Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

"In reality there is perhaps no one of our natural Passions so hard to subdue as Pride. Disguise it, struggle with it, beat it down, stifle it, mortify it as much as one pleases, it is still alive, and will now and then peek out and show itself." 
Benjamin Franklin (1771)

Rhode Island is the first state to declare independence

Rhode Island is the first state to declare independence


On this day in history, May 4, 1776, Rhode Island is the first state to declare independence from Great Britain. Rhode Island had an independent streak from its very beginnings. The colony was founded by Roger Williams, a Baptist minister who was kicked out of Massachusetts for his different religious views from the majority.


Williams founded Providence Plantations in 1636 at the northern tip of Narragansett Bay on land given to him by the Narragansett tribe. In 1637, more Baptist refugees from Massachusetts, including Anne Hutchinson, founded another colony on Rhode Island at the southern tip of the bay. Today the island is called Aquidneck Island and has the cities of Newport, Middleton and Portsmouth on it.


The two colonies joined together for common defense and common interests and were granted a Royal Charter in 1663 by Charles II, officially recognizing the "Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations." The colony was known for religious toleration and became an early home for Baptists, Jews, Quakers and others. Because of its proximity to the ocean, Rhode Island became a major shipping and mercantile center and a center of great wealth. Much of the colonial slave trade was handled by Rhode Island merchants.


As the American Revolution approached, Rhode Island was particularly affected by British shipping regulations and taxes, which fomented anger and rebellion in the colony. In 1769, citizens of Newport burned the HMS Liberty for enforcing anti-smuggling regulations. The Liberty had formerly been owned by John Hancock and seized by the British for alleged smuggling. In 1772, the citizens of Providence burned the British customs schooner HMS Gaspee for the same reason.


On May 4, 1776, the Rhode Island General Assembly declared its independence from Great Britain, the first of the original 13 colonies to do so, two months before the rest declared independence on July 2. Ironically, Rhode Island would be the last of the colonies to ratify the US Constitution. Rhode Islanders were reluctant to cede sovereignty to the United States government, keeping in line with their independent streak.


Rhode Island was wealthy enough that it could possibly have survived as an independent state. The primary way for the federal government to raise funds in that time was through taxes on trade. Rhode Island’s heavy dependence on shipping meant it would have paid a heavy share of these taxes. Eventually, however, Rhode Islanders realized they would pay even heavier taxes to trade with the United States as a foreign country than as a member state and she became the last of the original thirteen colonies to ratify the Constitution on May 29, 1790.


Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

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

Loyalist Publisher Margaret Green Draper is Born

Loyalist publisher Margaret Green Draper is born


On this day in history, May 3, 1727, Loyalist publisher Margaret Green Draper is born in Boston. Margaret would be a staunch Loyalist supporter of the British in the opening days of the American Revolution. She would eventually be forced to flee the country and return to England.


Margaret Green Draper was the great-granddaughter of Samuel Green, one of the earliest printers in North America and the printer of the Cambridge Press. In 1704, the Boston News-Letter began publication by the Boston postmaster John Campbell. It was the first regularly published newspaper in North America. Bartholomew Green, Samuel Green's son, became the printer for the Boston News-Letter. Bartholomew purchased the newspaper in 1721 and continued its publication until his death in 1732. Ownership passed to his son-in-law, John Draper in 1732 and to John's son Richard in 1762.


Richard Draper, who married his cousin, Margaret Green, in 1750, changed the name of the paper to the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter. The paper became the official printer for the Massachusetts Royal Government in the 1760s and, as such, printed many pro-government articles. When the Stamp Act was enacted, many colonial newspapers felt threatened by the tax on the use of paper and consequently became staunchly anti-Parliament. The Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter, however, remained pro-British, although it did print articles reflecting both sides of the issues.


Richard Draper died in 1774 and Margaret took over the paper at the age of 47. Under her leadership, the paper leaned even more staunchly to the pro-British side. Margaret gave leadership of the paper to 20 year old John Howe who had served as an apprentice under her husband. John wrote pro-British articles about the Boston Tea party in 1773 and probably wrote the paper's article about the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the first article to be published about the incidents in the colonies.


After Lexington and Concord, the Massachusetts militia surrounded Boston and began a year long siege of the city. Margaret continued publication in the city under British protection. Every other newspaper in the city shut down during the siege. Finally, in March of 1775, the Americans, under George Washington, occupied Dorchester Heights south of the city and fortified it with cannons brought from Fort Ticonderoga. The British found their position to be untenable and were forced to evacuate the city.


Loyalists such as Margaret were then faced with a decision. Stay in the city and face the wrath of the local patriots for their support of the British, or flee the city with the British army into exile. Margaret certainly would have been a target of patriots as publisher of a pro-British newspaper. Her papers had already been destroyed in public burnings by patriots.


Margaret chose to leave Boston and her lifelong home with the British on March 17 with more than 9,000 troops and 1,000 Loyalist civilians. The Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter, North America's first regularly published newspaper, ended publication with Margaret's departure. The evacuees landed in Halifax and Margaret eventually emigrated to London. She successfully petitioned the British government for a pension, which was granted due to her support of the Crown. Margaret passed away in London in 1802.


Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution


"It is necessary for every American, with becoming energy to endeavor to stop the dissemination of principles evidently destructive of the cause for which they have bled." 

Mercy Warren (1805)

Founding Father Nicholas Gilman Dies

Founding Father Nicholas Gilman dies


On this day in history, May 2, 1814, Founding Father Nicholas Gilman dies. Gilman was from a politically prominent family in New Hampshire. His father was a member of New Hampshire's Provincial Congress and served as the state's treasurer during the American Revolution. His older brother John Taylor Gilman served as a soldier in the war. John Taylor would be the first person to read a copy of the Declaration of Independence to the citizens of Exeter in July, 1776. He would also later become a 14 term governor of the State.


In late 1776, the 21 year old Nicholas was appointed adjutant (or chief administrator) of the 3rd New Hampshire Regiment of the Continental Army. The Regiment served in the Battles of Saratoga and saw the surrender of British General John Burgoyne's army there. After this, Nicholas' New Hampshire Regiment reported to Valley Forge and served with Washington for the rest of the war.


Nicholas' superior officer, Colonel Alexander Scammell, was appointed the Continental Army's Adjutant General and Nicholas became his chief assistant. In this pivotal administrative position, Gilman was in daily contact with George Washington, General Henry Knox, General Nathanael Greene and other key figures. Nicholas saw action in key battles such as the Battle of Monmouth and the Battle of Yorktown.


After the war, Gilman returned to Exeter to take over his recently deceased father's business, but he was soon appointed to the Continental Congress. In 1787, Gilman attended the Constitutional Convention and signed the US Constitution. Gilman and his brother, John Taylor, helped secure the Constitution's ratification in New Hampshire on June 21, 1788. New Hampshire was the 9th state to ratify and with this vote the Constitution became law since 9 affirmative votes were needed for adoption.


Gilman was elected a member of the US House of Representatives in the 1st through 4th Congresses from 1789-1797 and to the US Senate from 1804-1814. He also served in several state offices during this time, including as a state legislator and as state treasurer. In 1793 and 1797, he was a presidential elector, and in 1802, he was appointed a Federal bankruptcy commissioner by President Thomas Jefferson. Nicholas Gilman passed away on his way home to Exeter from Washington in 1814.


The Ladd-Gilman House in Exeter still stands today and was the place of Nicholas Gilman's birth. In 1985, an electrician discovered the original copy of the Declaration of Independence brought to Exeter and read by Gilman's brother, John Taylor, to the citizens of Exeter, in the floorboards of the house. This copy of the Declaration of Independence from the original run of copies of the document is now on display in the home, which was purchased and is now operated by the American Independence Museum, whose mission is "Connecting America's Revolutionary past with the present."


Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution


"If by the liberty of the press were understood merely the liberty of discussing the propriety of public measures and political opinions, let us have as much of it as you please: But if it means the liberty of affronting, calumniating and defaming one another, I, for my part, own myself willing to part with my share of it, whenever our legislators shall please so to alter the law and shall chearfully consent to exchange my liberty of abusing others for the privilege of not being abused myself." 
Benjamin Franklin (1789)

Brigadier General John Lacey loses the Battle of Crooked Billet

Brigadier General John Lacey loses the Battle of Crooked Billet


On this day in history, May 1, 1778, Brigadier General John Lacey loses the Battle of Crooked Billet. The previous fall had been devastating for the Americans. Philadelphia was captured and the Americans had lost the Battles of Brandywine and Germantown attempting to defend the city. Forts Mercer and Mifflin were destroyed, opening up the way for British reinforcements to the city. George Washington took his worn out army to a miserable winter at Valley Forge.


The British often made excursions out of Philadelphia on foraging expeditions to confiscate the produce of local farms and mills. Many locals, who were still loyal to the Crown, would take their produce into Philadelphia for sale. George Washington placed patrols all around the city to prevent the farmers from taking their goods into town and to prevent the British from confiscating supplies as much as possible.


In January of 1778, a 23 year old Brigadier General John Lacey was placed in charge of the patrols north of Philadelphia. Lacey experienced enough success in his operations that the British made his capture a priority. By late April, Lacey had established a headquarters near the Crooked Billet Tavern in a small town known as The Billet, which is in present day Hatboro, about 16 miles north of downtown Philadelphia. The British had placed spies in the area to watch his movements and on April 30, a troop of 850 men marched out of Philadelphia under Major John Graves Simcoe to attack Lacey's men.


Lacey's 400 men were mostly untrained and under armed local militia. His group was constantly changing in size as members came and went and he often had trouble keeping his force manned. On the night of the 30th, Lacey gave instructions to several subordinates to make scouting missions to watch for British movements. Unfortunately, Lieutenant William Neilsen did not follow his orders to go scouting between 2 and 3 am. Instead, his patrol didn't leave until just before daybreak and ran right into Simcoe's men as they approached the sleeping camp.


Lacey was sleeping in a nearby house and was awakened by the skirmish when the attackers were only 200 yards away. The entire camp was virtually surrounded and Lacey knew he could not survive a head on fight. Instead, he quickly ordered a retreat across an open field and into a wood. Nearly a fourth of his men were wounded, captured or killed.


The British attackers at Crooked Billet were about 2/5 Loyalists born in America. This meant there were numerous cases of neighbor fighting neighbor and even family member fighting family member in the battle. The great tragedy of the Battle of Crooked Billet is that the British tortured and killed several wounded and captured militia members. Many Americans had hidden in a large pile of buckwheat straw and were burned alive. Others who were wounded were thrown onto the pile of burning straw, while others were bayoneted and slashed with sabers.


Brigadier General Lacey was soon replaced by George Washington. 26 Americans were killed in the battle and 58 captured, while 10 valuable wagonloads of supplies were lost. The British had none killed and only 7 injured. In spite of the loss, General Lacey is credited with quick thinking for quickly ordering his troops to retreat and preventing greater carnage.


Jack Manning

Treasurer General
National Society Sons of the American Revolution


"It is proper you should understand what I deem the essential principles of our Government…. Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever persuasion, religious or political." —Thomas Jefferson (1801)

George Washington inaugurated first President of the United States

George Washington inaugurated first President of the United States


On this day in history, April 30, 1789, George Washington is inaugurated the first President of the United States. Washington was informed by Congress on April 14th that he was unanimously elected as the first president. Two days later he left for New York City, the first seat of the US government. As he traveled, he was greeted in each city along with the way by cheering crowds, the tolls of church bells and flowers thrown by grateful admirers.


Washington sailed from New Jersey on April 23rd in a specially decorated barge, accompanied with other dignitaries and numerous smaller boats. They arrived at Murray’s Wharf in New York City to a great throng assembled to greet him. Governor George Clinton then escorted Washington to the house where he would be staying.


On April 30, Washington walked to Federal Hall on Wall Street. The building was New York’s City Hall and had been the meeting place of the Stamp Act Congress in 1765 and of the Confederation Congress from 1785-1789. Washington walked up to the second floor balcony for the inauguration, overlooking a crowd of 10,000 people. The entirety of the First Congress sat on a platform facing the balcony.


On the balcony, Samuel Otis, the Secretary of the Senate, held a red velvet cushion with a Bible open on it. Vice-President John Adams, who had already been sworn in a few days earlier, stood to the side. John Jay, who was then the Confederation Congress’ Secretary of State, Generals Henry Knox and Philip Schuyler and others graced the balcony as well.


New York’s Chancellor Robert Livingston, the highest judge in New York, administered the oath of office to Washington because no Supreme Court justices were yet appointed. Washington placed his left hand on the open Bible and raised his right hand as he made the oath prescribed in the Constitution. When he finished, by his own volition, he leaned down and kissed the Bible and added, "So help me God." At this point, Chancellor Livingston turned to the crowd, said, "It is done!" and "Long live George Washington – the first President of the United States!," to the cheering crowd.


Washington then entered the Senate Chamber and addressed both houses of Congress with a short speech in which he talked about his own inability to perform the office and desire to be back at Mount Vernon, his desire that each of them think of the country as a whole and not simply their own districts and made numerous references to God’s hand in establishing the United States and their dependence on Him for future prosperity. He also informs them that he will not take any pay from them for serving as President.


After addressing the Congress, Washington, Adams and the rest of Congress walked down Broadway to St. Paul’s Chapel to pray for the new nation, take communion and hear a sermon preached by the Reverend Samuel Provost, who was chosen as the Senate’s first chaplain. The prayer service was scheduled by an Act of Congress a few days before the inauguration. This is the same Saint Paul’s Chapel that survived the terrorist attacks of 9/11 at the foot of the World Trade Center.


After the inauguration, George Washington was entertained at a lavish dinner put on by Governor Clinton and in the evening, fireworks and cannon balls were shot over the city in celebration of the new nation and her first president.


Jack Manning

Treasurer General
National Society Sons of the American Revolution


"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)