Monthly Archives: May 2018

The Mecklenberg Resolves are Adopted

The Mecklenberg Resolves are adopted


On this day in history, May 31, 1775, the Mecklenberg Resolves are adopted by Mecklenberg County, North Carolina. The Mecklenberg Resolves are an important document in understanding what most historians believe to be the fraudulent "Mecklenberg Declaration," a declaration of independence allegedly passed by the county a year before the Continental Congress' Declaration of Independence.


The original document passed by a committee of Mecklenberg County's citizens burned in a fire in the year 1800. Dr. Joseph McKnitt, the son of someone involved in the passage of the original document, put out an article in 1819 with the alleged language of the "Mecklenberg Declaration." He claimed this declaration of independence from Britain was made on May 20, 1775, more than a year before the official Declaration of Independence. This would place Mecklenberg County in the heady place of being the "first" in America to declare its independence from Great Britain.


Critics, including Thomas Jefferson, immediately pointed out several problems with the document. First of all, it contained several entire phrases from the Continental Congress' Declaration (causing some to say Jefferson had borrowed heavily from the Mecklenberg Declaration himself for the Declaration of Independence). Others pointed out that there were no other copies or reports of such a declaration in contemporary sources. Indeed, why had no one ever even heard of such a document before now?


In 1838, historian Peter Force found a partial copy of some resolutions adopted by Mecklenberg County on May 31, 1775. This list was substantially different than McKnitt's resolutions. Were there two sets of resolutions passed by the county eleven days apart? Critics pointed out that the alleged May 20 Declaration called for a complete separation from Great Britain, while the later May 31 document called merely for a suspension of British laws and the creation of an interim government until the Provincial Congress gave them more direction. This was much less severe than a complete separation. The County surely did not call for independence on the 20th and then backtrack and leave the door open for reconciliation on the 31st.


In 1847, the entire Mecklenberg Resolves were discovered in the archives of the South Carolina Gazette, which had printed the document when it was passed. In the eyes of most historians, this document proved conclusively that there was no such thing as the Mecklenberg Declaration. Instead, what most historians agree upon is that McKnitt, or someone else, tried to reconstruct the Mecklenberg Resolves from memory after the original was destroyed in the fire. Some 50 years had passed and either out of a desire to inflate North Carolina's role in the Revolution or simply out of mistaken belief, he called the document a declaration of independence, when, in reality, it was no such thing.


For decades, many, in North Carolina in particular, believed in the Mecklenberg Declaration. In fact, the date May 20, 1775, is featured prominently on the State Seal and the State Flag. The day was celebrated as an official state holiday for years and taught as fact in history textbooks. Today, you can still find a few holdouts who cling to the idea that the Mecklenberg Declaration actually took place, but most serious historians have relegated it to a fallacious footnote of history.


Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

"Foreign influence is truly the Grecian horse to a republic. We cannot be too careful to exclude its influence." 
Alexander Hamilton (1793)

Iroquois Indians Win the Battle of Cobleskill

Iroquois Indians win the Battle of Cobleskill


On this day in history, May 30, 1778, Iroquois Indians win the Battle of Cobleskill when they destroy the settlement of Cobleskill, New York. The Battle of Cobleskill was the first move of a major Iroquois campaign against colonial settlements in western New York and Pennsylvania.


Joseph Brant (his English name), also called Thayendanegea, was an Iroquois leader who had strong ties to Great Britain. He had traveled to England and had a personal meeting with King George III a few years earlier. His parents were also Christian converts, hence, the westernized name and connections.


After the disaster of General John Burgoyne's invasion into New York from Canada, the British Canadians began supplying Iroquois and Loyalist supporters in their fight against the patriots in New York. Brant helped plan a major campaign against the settlements in the region. He was adamant, however, that only militia or Continental Army soldiers be targeted. Settlers, women and children who did not resist were to be allowed to leave the area without being harmed.


Brant intended to attack Cherry Valley, New York, but was deceived into believing the village had more defenders than it actually had. He settled on Cobleskill, a small village of 20 families on farms along Cobleskill Creek in present day Warnerville, New York. Cobleskill was defended by local militia under Captain Christian Brown and a few dozen Continental Army soldiers under Captain William Patrick.


On May 30, 1778, the Iroquois attack began with a trick. A small band of Indians showed themselves at a distance from Cobleskill, causing the soldiers to take off after them. Captain Brown warned Captain Patrick this might be a ruse, but Patrick pursued the Indians anyway. Patrick's troops chased them for about a mile before the trap was sprung and a large force of 200-300 Indians and Loyalists came out of the woods and surrounded the pursuers. Patrick and half his force were killed.


The Indians then turned on the village, which was still being defended by Captain Brown. Several soldiers hid in the home of George Warner which was burned down, killing them all. Many of the other homes in the village and their outbuildings were destroyed. Crops and livestock that could not be carried off were destroyed. When it was all done, Cobleskill was destroyed and 22 settlers were killed. Approximately 25 Indians and Loyalists were killed. 5 settlers were captured by Brant and given the option of integrating with the Indians or being sent to the British Fort Niagara as captives, which is the option the captives chose.


After the Battle of Cobleskill, the Iroquois raids continued against villages and forts along the New York and Pennsylvania frontiers, including what some call the worst atrocity of the American Revolution, the Cherry Valley Massacre, in November of 1778. The Iroquois campaign finally drew the wrath of the Continental Congress which authorized a major expedition against them. The Sullivan Expedition, named after General John Sullivan, began in the summer of 1779 and destroyed dozens of Indian villages. The expedition had little overall effect on the war, however, because most of the Indian warriors, though their homes were destroyed, were not killed and survived to continue the fight.


Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution


“No power was given to Congress to infringe on any one of the natural rights of the people.”
Theophilus Parsons,
Massachusetts Convention on the ratification of the Constitution, January 23, 1788

Banastre Tarleton Wins the Battle of the Waxhaws

Banastre Tarleton wins the Battle of the Waxhaws


On this day in history, May 29, 1780, Banastre Tarleton wins the Battle of the Waxhaws, earning himself the epithets "Bloody Ban" and "Ban the Butcher." British forces had captured Charleston, South Carolina on May 12, 1780 and Lt. Gen. Charles Cornwallis quickly took a large army to conquer the backcountry.


Cornwallis learned that John Rutledge, South Carolina's rebel governor was fleeing to the north with Colonel Abraham Buford and 400 Virginia Continentals. Cornwallis could not move his army fast enough to catch Rutledge before he escaped, so he sent Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton, head of the Loyalist British Legion, ahead with around 270 men to capture Rutledge.


Tarleton made an impressive trek over 100 miles in 53 hours on horseback, finally catching up to Buford's rear guard on May 29th. Tarleton's men and horses were exhausted. He could not press them anymore and needed to slow Buford down. He sent a negotiator demanding Buford's surrender, hoping this would stop Buford for a while. Buford had learned of Tarleton's approach and sent Rutledge ahead to safety. When the surrender demand was delivered, Buford replied with a terse, "Sir, I reject your proposals, and shall defend myself to the last extremity." When Tarleton received the reply, he quickly put together an attack and charged the patriots.


Buford waited until the last minute before he ordered his men into a battle line. As Tarleton's dragoons (soldiers on horseback) charged the American line, Buford did not order his men to fire until the dragoons were within ten yards of the line. This proved to be a disastrous move because the dragoons were barely phased by the gunfire and quickly trounced through the American line, causing numerous injuries and causing them to scatter in every direction. Many of the Americans laid down their weapons and attempted to surrender.


What happened next is unclear due to extreme differences in the reports of those involved. Some accounts indicate that Buford sent a white flag of surrender. Just as the flag bearer approached Tarleton, Tarleton's horse was shot from under him and he tumbled to the ground. The British soldiers thought Tarleton was dead and thought the white flag was a ruse intended to deceive Tarleton and then kill him anyway. They began to attack the wounded and captured without impunity, killing them with bayonets where they lay. Other accounts indicate there was no white flag at all, but that the British began killing their captives indiscriminately when they thought Tarleton was killed.


In the end, 113 Americans were dead and 150 wounded. The British had only 5 killed and 12 wounded. The Battle of the Waxhaws, named after the region where the battle took place, and also called the Waxhaw Massacre or Buford's Massacre, earned Tarleton an infamous reputation and the epithets "Ban the Butcher" and "Bloody Ban." He was accused of ordering his soldiers to kill the captured Americans and giving them no quarter. The perceived atrocity led to a huge increase in volunteers to the patriot militia. In reality, Tarleton's men were probably to blame for killing the wounded after thinking their commander had been killed.


Tarleton's reputation became that of a villain, even in today's popular culture. In the 2000 movie, The Patriot, the villain, Colonel Tavington, is loosely based on Tarleton. Tavington is portrayed as a bloodthirsty killer, burning civilians in churches and murdering children in front of their parents. In reality, Tarleton could be vulgar, but this is an extreme misrepresentation of who he was.


Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution


“The powers of Congress are totally inadequate to preserve the balance between the respective States, and oblige them to do those things which are essential for their own welfare or for the general good.”
Henry Knox

George Washington Starts the French and Indian War

George Washington starts the French and Indian War


On this day in history, May 28, 1754, George Washington inadvertently starts the French and Indian War at the Battle of Jumonville Glen. For decades, France and Great Britain had competed for control of the Ohio River Valley. In 1753, the French began building a string of forts in the area and pushing out British traders.


Governor Robert Dinwiddie of Virginia had been ordered to protect the area from French aggression. He sent a 22 year old Major George Washington with a letter demanding the French depart the area, but the letter was rebuffed. Dinwiddie then ordered the construction of a fort at the forks of the Ohio River and ordered Washington to protect its construction.


Washington raised a small force of militia and Indian allies, including his friend, Mingo chief, Tanacharison. As they neared the location of the already under construction fort, they met the fort's crew, who informed them that a French army had demanded their evacuation, taken over the site and begun building their own fort, which became known as Fort Duquesne.


When the commander of Fort Duquesne learned Washington's small army was approaching, he sent another officer, Coulon de Villiers de Jumonville, with an order that they leave French territory. Washington, who had been instructed by Governor Dinwiddie to repel the French, even if it meant bloodshed, had begun building Fort Necessity south of Fort Duquesne. When he learned of the approach of Jumonville's men, he decided to attack.


Jumonville had about 35 men with him. Washington had 40 militia and 12 Mingo Indians who surrounded the French camp while many of them slept. When the fighting began, nearly all of the French were captured or killed within a few minutes. What happened next is murky because of conflicting accounts, but it would result in the death of Jumonville and the elevation of George Washington to a figure known in the courts of Europe for the first time.


Apparently Washington, who did not speak French, was attempting to interrogate Jumonville and the communication was difficult. He may have left Jumonville unattended for a period, during which either Tanacharison or a militia member killed Jumonville in cold blood. Some accounts say Tanacharison tomahawked Jumonville in the head and washed his hands in Jumonville's brains. Others say a militia member shot him. The reason for Jumonville's killing is unclear. Washington's official account to Governor Dinwiddie states that Jumonville was killed in the battle, but doesn't state how.


After the Battle of Jumonville Glen, a full sized French force came out of Fort Duquesne and chased Washington back to Fort Necessity. The French captured the fort and Washington surrendered on July 3, 1754, the only time he ever surrendered in battle. Washington signed a surrender document written in French that he could not read and may have not been translated properly to him. The document stated that Jumonville had been "assassinated"  and Washington was later blamed of ordering the assassination by France. This affair led to the first time that Washington's name became known abroad in an international context. The result of all of this was an escalation of British and French troops in the area and the outbreak of the French and Indian War two years later.


Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution


“The Secret of Freedom lies in the people, whereas the Secret of Tyranny is in keeping them ignorant.” 

Maximilien Robespierre

The Burrowes Mansion is raided

The Burrowes Mansion is raided


On this day in history, May 27, 1778, the Burrowes Mansion is raided in Matawan, New Jersey. John Burrowes, Sr. was a wealthy grain merchant living in Matawan, then known as Middletown Point. Burrowes gathered the grain from the New Jersey countryside, milled it in his own mills and then shipped it by boat to New England and New York City. Because of his very large grain business, Burrowes was called the "Corn King" by locals.


Burrowes was aligned with the patriots during the time leading to the American Revolution. He was involved with the Sons of Liberty during the Stamp Act crisis and served in New Jersey’s rebel congress once the Revolution began. Monmouth County’s first militia group to gather against the British trained in his front yard.


Burrowes’ son, John Burrowes, Jr. became a Major of the militia and served in the Continental Army during the battles in New York and New Jersey. John married Margaret Forman during the war. Margaret stayed with the elder Burrowes’ family at their mansion in Matawan while John Jr. was away fighting. Every chance he could, he got away to come to visit his young wife.


As in most communities, Matawan was divided between patriots and Loyalists. Loyalist sympathizers became aware of John’s frequent visits to Matawan and set a trap for him. When they received intelligence that he would be home toward the end of May, they sent word to the "Greens," a group of Loyalist refugees gathered on Staten Island who would exact vengeance on local patriots for their involvement with the rebels.


On May 27th, John Jr. was visiting at the mansion when the Greens landed nearby and headed toward the property. Local patriots, however, noticed them and quickly warned the Burrowes family. John was able to escape out the back of the house, swim the creek and hide in the woods before the Greens arrived. Local patriots fought with the Greens as they arrived and began to set fire to Burrowes‘ mills and storehouses.


When the Greens knocked down the front door of the mansion around midnight, young Margaret came down the stairs in her nightgown and shawl. A British soldier demanded that she give him her shawl to wrap around a wounded soldier. Margaret refused and said something along the lines of, "You’ll not get my shawl or anything else here to aid a British subject." The angered soldier then struck her with his sword hilt and went upstairs looking for Burrowes. Margaret survived the attack, but was injured severely. She lived for several more years, but died in the 1780s, some believe due to complications from her injuries.


The soldiers searched the house for Burrowes, Jr., but did not find him, even firing shots into the attack from the second floor, the holes of which can still be seen today. Several patriot militia were killed or captured during the raid, including John Burrowes, Sr., who was captured, but later released. Much of the furnishings of the house were brought out and burned on the lawn. All the mills and storehouses were destroyed, but the house itself was spared. The fortune of the Burrowes family was destroyed in the raid, illustrating the personal tragedy suffered by many individuals during the Revolution. Both father and son died several years later at sea and penniless. Today the Burrowes mansion has been completely restored and is the home of the Matawan Historical Society.


Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution


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

John Adams

The Battle of Saint Louis is won

The Battle of Saint Louis is won


On this day in history, May 26, 1780, the Battle of Saint Louis is won by defending Spanish and French citizens allied with the Americans during the American Revolution. Also called the Battle of Fort San Carlos, the attack by the British and their Indian allies was the last attempt by the British to control the Mississippi River during the Revolution.


St. Louis was founded by a Frenchman, Pierre Laclede, in 1764, though other French villages had been founded in the area as early as the 1690s. After the French and Indian War, St. Louis and the surrounding territory was ceded to Spain and became part of Spanish Louisiana. Spain allied with the Americans against the British in 1779, putting Spanish territory into British sights.


The British desired to control the Mississippi River and began planning an attack on St. Louis, which was the governing center of northern Louisiana. They sent the word among their Indian allies and promised them the rights to trap fur in Louisiana for their cooperation. A force of nearly 1,000 Sioux, Chippewa, Winnebago, Menominee and Sac and Fox warriors gathered at Prairie du Chien, in present day Wisconsin, under the command of Captain Emanuel Hesse. They began the trek south on May 2, 1780.


In St. Louis, Spanish Lt. Gov. Fernando de Leyba began preparing the defenses of the city when he learned from traders that an attack against the city was coming. St. Louis was already enclosed with three large walls, with the Mississippi River itself as the fourth side. De Leyba made plans for four large towers to be built around the fort on which to place sharpshooters and cannons. Since there was little money, he asked the locals to give toward building the towers, which many did. By mid-May, when word came that the Indians were near, only one tower was finished in front of the fort, which gave a wide view of the surrounding area. They called the tower Fort San Carlos and built trenches along the rest of the walls. Five cannons were placed atop the tower, along with more cannons along the trenches.


Hesse approached St. Louis on May 25th, but his scouts could not get near the fort because there were so many settlers around the area on their farms. The following day, Hesse sent 300 Indians to attack Cahokia on the American side and slightly downriver. Hesse took the rest of the force and attacked St. Louis in broad daylight, capturing several civilians in the process. The first wave of attackers consisted of many Sac and Fox who were repelled by the violent cannon fire, which so alarmed them that they refused to fight anymore. The other attackers continued their attempts to breach the defenses, but the cannon fire, especially, proved to be too strong and the attackers eventually withdrew and gave up.


As the Indians withdrew, they were joined by the retreating attackers from Cahokia who had failed as well when they were repelled by forces under General George Rogers Clark. As the Indians retreated, they captured, tortured and killed numerous settlers who were out on their farms. Settlers would often build near forts where they would withdraw for protection from Indians, but it is not known why so many of the settlers around St. Louis had failed to seek refuge in the fort when they had so much advance warning.


Somewhere between 50 and 100 settlers were killed in the battle, while the number of Indian casualties is unknown, but must have been quite high. The failed Battle of Saint Louis was the last attempt of the British to control the Mississippi River valley and St. Louis would never again come under attack from a foreign power.


Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

"Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice?"
George Washington, Farewell Address, 1796

The Crawford Expedition begins

The Crawford Expedition begins


On this day in history, May 25, 1782, the Crawford Expedition begins when Colonel William Crawford leads an expedition to destroy enemy Indian villages on the Sandusky River in Ohio. Indians living in Ohio were situated between the American colonies and the British stronghold at Fort Detroit. Many of these Indians allied with the British hoping to stop westward colonial expansion.


Fort Detroit supplied allied Indians and encouraged them to make frequent raids into American settlements. By 1782, things had become particularly bloody. Innocent women and children were killed in Indian raids into Pennsylvania and 100 innocent Indians were killed by retaliating Pennsylvania militia at the Gnadenhutten Massacre.


General William Irvine, over the Continental Army’s Western Department at Fort Pitt, developed a plan to attack Fort Detroit with 2,000 men. George Washington agreed this was the only way to permanently stop the raids, but he informed Irvine that the Continental Congress simply did not have the resources to support such an expedition. Instead, Irvine planned an intermediary expedition to the Sandusky, where a large Indian base of operations was centered.


A personal friend of George Washington’s, Colonel William Crawford, a veteran of the French and Indian War and the American Revolution, was called on to lead the expedition. On May 25, 1782, Crawford set out from Mingo Bottom with 500 men, all of whom had provided their own supplies, horses, food and weapons. Unbeknownst to them, the Indians had learned of the Crawford Expedition practically from the start and had gathered a force of several hundred Wyandot, Delaware, Mingo and Shawnee, along with 100 British rangers to oppose them.


Crawford’s scouts began running into resistance on June 3. The Americans drove the Indians into the open plains in fighting that lasted much of the next day, but as evening arrived, more and more Indian reinforcements began to arrive. Crawford was soon surrounded and he ordered a retreat in the night. Many broke off in small groups and were scattered. When Crawford himself left the battle site, he could not find the rest of the group. Many of these stragglers, including Crawford, were captured over the next few days, though the main group did make it back to Fort Pitt.


Crawford and many of the prisoners were tortured and killed, partly in response to the Gnadenhutten Massacre. Crawford’s death was told by Dr. John Knight, the expedition’s surgeon, who was a fellow prisoner with Crawford who later escaped. He wrote that he and Crawford had their faces painted black, which was a mark of execution, and had the scalps of several dead prisoners thrown in their faces. Crawford was beaten, stripped and tied to a post. He had hot coals thrown on him and was prodded with burning sticks. His ears were cut off and he eventually lost consciousness. After being scalped and having hot coals thrown on him again, Crawford regained consciousness, but went mad until he finally died.


Crawford’s gruesome death was retold across the colonies and helped perpetuate the idea of the Indians as barbarians. The Crawford Expedition was a failure, but the American Revolution was virtually over. The preliminary peace treaty was signed in November of 1782 and agreed to the following year. Even though the war with the British was over, however, tensions with Indians in the west would remain and many more battles were to come in the next two decades.


Jack Manning

Treasurer General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

“Hold on, my friends, to the Constitution and to the Republic for which it stands. Miracles do not cluster and what has happened once in 6,000 years may not happen again. Hold on to the Constitution, for if the American Constitution should fail, there will be anarchy throughout the world.”
Daniel Webster