Monthly Archives: August 2018

General Arthur St. Clair dies

General Arthur St. Clair dies


On this day in history, August 31, 1818, General Arthur St. Clair dies. St. Clair was a Pennsylvania general during the American Revolution. He later served as President of the Continental Congress and as governor of the Ohio Territory.


Arthur St. Clair was born in Scotland and trained to be a doctor. In 1757, he became a soldier in the British army and came to America to fight in the French and Indian War. After being raised to a lieutenant and fighting in such historic battles as the Capture of Louisburg and the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, St. Clair resigned, married a Boston heiress and settled in Pennsylvania. St. Clair built a series of mills and eventually became the largest landowner in western Pennsylvania.


When the American Revolution began, St. Clair became a colonel of the 3rd Pennsylvania Regiment of the Continental Army. He fought in the campaign to take Quebec and is credited with developing the plan that led to the capture of Princeton, New Jersey in January, 1777. St. Clair was raised to Major General, but was court-martialed after retreating from Fort Ticonderoga during the Saratoga Campaign. He was exonerated, but never received another field command. Instead, George Washington, who still respected his opinion, made him one of his chief aides, a position he served in until the end of the war.


After the Revolution, St. Clair served as a delegate to the Continental Congress for 2 years and in 1787 was elected that body’s president. It was during St. Clair’s tenure that Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance, creating the Northwest Territory in the area that now comprises Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin. It was also during St. Clair’s tenure that the new US Constitution was written in Philadelphia.


St. Clair was appointed the governor of the Northwest Territory after its creation and moved to and named Cincinnati, Ohio. When the territory was divided, he became the governor of the Ohio Territory. He helped write the first set of laws for the territory and was heavily involved with blocking Indian claims to the land. St. Clair’s actions were partly responsible for exacerbating the Northwest Indian War. In 1791, St. Clair became the senior general of the United States Army, but was defeated at the Battle of the Wabash in the greatest defeat ever suffered by the United States Army at the hands of Native Americans.


St. Clair was forced to resign by President George Washington after this, but he remained as governor. In 1802, St. Clair was removed from the governorship by President Thomas Jefferson over political differences. St. Clair eventually moved back to Greensburg, Pennsylvania where he died on August 31, 1818 at 81 years of age. He was broken and poverty-stricken after a series of business reversals and the refusal of Congress to repay him substantial amounts of money he had loaned for the Revolution and the Northwest Territory. St. Clair is buried in downtown Greensburg.


Jack Manning

Secretary General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution


“The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of the rulers are concealed from them."
Patrick Henry, 1788

French Fleet Arrives at the Chesapeake Bay

French fleet arrives at the Chesapeake Bay


On this day in history, August 30, 1781, the French fleet arrives at the Chesapeake Bay to assist the Americans in their assault on British General Charles Cornwallis and his 9,000 troops at Yorktown, Virginia. The arrival of the fleet under Admiral Francois-Joseph Paul, the Comte de Grasse, played a decisive role in the British defeat at Yorktown.


In the summer of 1781, George Washington sat outside New York City, planning his next move against the British. He could either attack the main British headquarters at New York City, or he could attack Cornwallis' army in Virginia. French General Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, Comte de Rochambeau, sat at Newport, Rhode Island with 6,000 troops. The Marquis de Lafayette shadowed Cornwallis in Virginia with another 4,500 troops. Admiral de Grasse was in the West Indies with 28 ships and 3,000 soldiers.


Washington and Rochambeau met in Wethersfield, Connecticut on May 22 to examine the options. Washington favored an attack on New York, while Rochambeau favored an attack on Cornwallis in Virginia. Both wrote letters to de Grasse, asking him to come and assist them. De Grasse received orders from France to sail for America, but he chose to go to Virginia, which was closer. When Washington and Rochambeau found out de Grasse's plans, they immediately began marching their combined armies to Yorktown, while leaving some troops around New York to pretend they were preparing an attack on the city in order to fool the British about their real destination, a ruse which worked.


De Grasse arrived at the Chesapeake Bay on August 30, 1781, five days after a smaller British fleet arrived there looking for him. When the British fleet, under Admiral Samuel Hood, did not find de Grasse there, it sailed on to New York. De Grasse began unloading his troops, but on September 5th, a British fleet of 19 ships appeared off the capes. This fleet, under Admiral, Sir Thomas Graves, was expecting to find a much smaller French fleet that had left Newport, Rhode Island and had been instructed to rescue Lord Cornwallis and his army if necessary.


The presence of the French fleet blockading the bay made the rescue of Cornwallis impossible. The two fleets engaged in the Battle of the Chesapeake on the 5th, which was a decisive French victory. As the two sides maneuvered for the next two days, French Admiral Jacques-Melchior Saint-Laurent, Comte de Barras, arrived from Newport and slipped into the bay with 8 ships bearing heavy artillery and siege equipment. The heavily damaged British fleet was forced to flee back to New York for repairs.


Later in September, Washington and Rochambeau arrived with a combined 10,000 soldiers. Washington met with Admiral de Grasse on his 104 gun flagship, the Ville de Paris, on September 14 and expressed his warmest thanks for his assistance. The Siege of Yorktown lasted for about 3 weeks before General Cornwallis surrendered his 7,000 man army to the Americans. From New York, British Commander-in-Chief, General, Sir Henry Clinton, sent another small fleet with reinforcements for Cornwallis, but the fleet did not arrive at Yorktown until October 24th, 5 days after Cornwallis surrendered.


Jack Manning

Secretary General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution


"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 (1787)

The Battle of Rhode Island is Lost

The Battle of Rhode Island is lost


On this day in history, August 29, 1778, the Battle of Rhode Island is lost. Newport, Rhode Island was one of America's most important ports prior to and during the American Revolution. After capturing New York City in September of 1776, the British captured Newport in December, recognizing that its harbor would be an ideal staging ground for an assault on New York. Newport would be in British hands for the next three years.


Rhode Island's rebel government immediately sought to raise troops and supplies to retake Newport. In early 1778, Major General John Sullivan was given charge of the Rhode Island troops and ordered to assault the city in July. Meanwhile, France declared war on the British and allied with the Americans. The first French soldiers arrived in America with Admiral Charles Hector, the Comte d'Estaing. Unable to cross the bar into New York's harbor, D'Estaing sailed for Newport to assist Sullivan.


After news of the French involvement, Sullivan had great success in raising militia members to assist in the fight. The Marquis de Lafayette and General Nathanael Greene arrived to assist in the battle. The American generals had over 10,000 troops at their disposal.


D'Estaing's fleet arrived at Newport on August 8th and began unloading 4,000 troops on Conanicut Island the next day after consulting with the generals. Sullivan successfully ferried his 10,000 troops onto Aquidneck Island on the 9th. British General, Sir Robert Pigot, began fortifying Newport from within.


The tide changed when British Admiral Richard Howe arrived with reinforcements. On the 10th, Admiral D'Estaing quickly reloaded his troops and sailed out to do battle with Howe's fleet. As the two forces maneuvered, a great storm arose that tossed the fleets around for two days. Separated and damaged, both fleets had to regroup and sail to harbor for repairs. Howe's fleet sailed back to New York, while D'Estaing abandoned his mission to help in the attack on Newport and sailed for Boston.


The departure of D'Estaing greatly angered the Americans. Many in Sullivan's army deserted, thinking it impossible to capture the city without French help. By late August, and already surrounding Newport, Sullivan decided to abandon the attack, his force greatly depleted by desertion. On the 29th, General Pigot began pursuing and caught up to the Americans who were dug in on the northern tip of the island.


The Battle of Rhode Island began as the Americans shot at their pursuers. On the island's main east road, Brigadier General John Glover stopped the British advance. On the main western road, Colonel Christopher Greene's 1st Rhode Island Regiment, the Continental Army's only regiment made up entirely of African-Americans and Indians, repelled several Hessian attacks, inflicting so much destruction that the nearby creek was called Bloody Run Creek because it ran red with Hessian blood.


The next day, the entire American force was successfully ferried across to Tiverton and Bristol, bringing the Battle of Rhode Island to a close. The battle was the largest engagement of the war in New England in terms of men involved with nearly 17,000 fighting. It was a tactical tie, but Britain continued to hold Newport for another year, until it abandoned the city to focus its efforts on New York and a new campaign to take the southern colonies.


Jack Manning

Secretary General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

"Patriotism is as much a virtue as justice, and is as necessary for the support of societies as natural affection is for the support of families." 
Benjamin Rush (1773)

The American Invasion of Quebec Begins

The American invasion of Quebec begins


On this day in history, August 28, 1775, the American invasion of Quebec begins, part of the American attempt to secure the French-speaking Quebec in an alliance with the lower 13 colonies during the American Revolution. Quebec had been founded as a French colony, but was given over to the British after the French and Indian War.


When the American Revolution began, the Continental Congress sent letters to Quebec encouraging its citizens to join them in their rebellion against Great Britain. The citizens of Quebec, however, were mostly happy with the benefits Britain gave to French speaking Catholics after Quebec became a British territory.


When the Continental Congress learned that Quebec's British governor, Guy Carleton, was making war preparations, reinforcing Fort St. John's and allying with local Indians, they decided to invade the territory and drive the British out.


General Philip Schuyler was placed in charge of the invasion. He began assembling troops at Fort Ticonderoga, which had recently been captured by Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold, on the south end of Lake Champlain. Arnold, upset at being passed over to head the mission, approached George Washington at Boston with a plan to take another force from the east to Quebec City. Washington approved the plan and Colonel Arnold set off with 1100 soldiers across the rough wilderness of Maine.


In August, as General Schuyler met with Indian allies at Albany, his second in command, General Richard Montgomery learned that Governor Carleton was building ships at Fort St. John's, on the northern tip of Lake Champlain. Without waiting for further orders, Montgomery set out with 1200 soldiers on August 28 for Fort St. John's. This marked the beginning of the American invasion of Quebec.


Montgomery took over the entire campaign when Schuyler fell ill. He captured Fort St. John's on November 3 and marched into Montreal unopposed on November 13. Governor Carleton fled to Quebec City where Benedict Arnold soon arrived and laid siege to the city. General Montgomery arrived at Quebec City on December 2 and the two made plans to attack the city.


On December 31, in a blinding snowstorm, the Battle of Quebec began and it was a disaster for the Americans. General Montgomery was killed. Colonel Arnold was severely wounded in the leg and taken out of action. The attack was a complete failure. As the winter dragged on, Arnold continued the siege, but in the spring he was replaced by General David Wooster and then by General John Thomas, who ordered a retreat when British reinforcements arrived. The Americans were forced to abandon Montreal and Fort St. John's, retreating all the way to Fort Ticonderoga.


Carleton would attempt an invasion down the lake in the fall, but the ingenious Arnold constructed a fleet of ships on the lake which delayed the invasion. Carleton ended up retreating back to Quebec. Another British invasion would occur the next year under General John Burgoyne, and that invasion would be a British disaster when Burgoyne was forced to surrender his entire army to American General Horatio Gates at the Battle of Saratoga.


Jack Manning

Secretary General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution


“The question is, not what rights naturally belong to man, but how they may be most equally and effectually guarded in society.”

Roger Sherman

A Boston Mob Destroys the Home of Thomas Hutchinson

A Boston mob destroys the home of Thomas Hutchinson


On this day in history, August 26, 1765, a Boston mob destroys the home of Thomas Hutchinson, the Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts, for his support of the Stamp Act. The Stamp Act was passed by Parliament on March 22, 1765 to raise revenue for the British treasury. The act required that all paper transactions and goods be made on "stamped" or embossed paper. Common everyday items such as contracts, marriage certificates, newspapers, legal documents, and many others were subject to the tax.


Many colonists in America rejected the tax for several reasons. First, they believed it was illegal for Parliament to tax them at all since they had no representatives in Parliament. Second, Parliament had never taxed activities within the colonies themselves. Its previous taxes had only been related to trade on items coming in and out of the colonies.


Many cities, colonial legislatures and civic groups lodged complaints with Parliament about the Stamp Act, but Parliament refused their complaints. This caused a spate of physical violence to break out against stamp distributors and other officials across the colonies. The first act of violence occurred in Boston on August 14 when a mob burned an effigy of Andrew Oliver, the Massachusetts stamp distributor, and then destroyed his office and ransacked his house. Oliver resigned the next day.


Two weeks later, after a fiery sermon from the Reverend Jonathan Mayhew of Boston's West Church, another mob was riled up to attack the homes of more officials. On the 26th, a mob attacked the home of Lieutenant Governor Thomas Hutchinson for his public support of the Stamp Act. Hutchinson was personally against the tax, but he felt it was his job to enforce it as a public official. Hutchinson had been involved in Massachusetts politics for 30 years as a member of the Governor's Council, as Lieutenant Governor and as Chief Justice of the Superior Court.


As the mob approached Hutchinson's house, his daughter begged him and persuaded him to leave the house, fearing for his life, even though he had intended to stay and fight. When the crowd reached the house, they broke the doors down and looted everything. Every stick of furniture was destroyed, pictures were torn from the walls, windows were broken, walls were torn down and everything of worth burned, including Hutchinson's priceless book collection and a trove of historical papers about the early history of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.


Violence spread across the colonies and all the stamp distributors were eventually forced to resign. Many merchants refused to sell British goods until the Stamp Act was repealed. Even London merchants began to request that Parliament repeal the Act because they were losing so much business from America. Parliament finally conceded and repealed the hated Stamp Act on March 18, 1766. Of course, the violence of the Stamp Act riots was only a sign of things to come. The American Revolution would break out almost exactly ten years later over the same issues that Parliament refused to resolve.


Jack Manning

Secretary General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution


"An honest man can feel no pleasure in the exercise of power over his fellow citizens."
Thomas Jefferson (1813)

The Philadelphia Campaign Begins

The Philadelphia Campaign begins


On this day in history, August 25, 1777, the Philadelphia Campaign begins when British General William Howe and his brother, Admiral Richard Howe, land 17,000 troops in an armada of 265 ships at Head of Elk, Maryland. The armada was the largest ever assembled in American waters.


George Washington's Continental Army tracked Howe's movements down the eastern seaboard until he lost track of them near the Delaware Capes. Washington camped at Wilmington, Delaware until he could determine where exactly Howe was going. Howe encountered rough weather at sea, taking six weeks to get from Sandy Hook, New Jersey to Maryland's Elk River at the top of the Chesapeake Bay. Howe's men were sea sick and his horses dying after running out of forage during the long and rough voyage.


Howe landed just below the town of Elkhorn, Maryland, and began unloading supplies and thousands of soldiers, a monumental task in a shallow and muddy river. Ships got stuck in the mud. Horses were so weak after running out of food that they couldn't walk. Some of the largest ships couldn't even make it all the way up river and had to be unloaded further down and their cargos transported by land.


Wilmington sits between Elkton and Philadelphia and Washington himself led frequent reconnoitering missions to determine what the British were doing and what their troop strength was. Howe advanced slowly. He had to wait for his horses to eat and get their strength back. Another huge storm enveloped the area, destroying ammunition for both sides.


Eventually Howe began advancing toward Philadelphia. For weeks, the two armies maneuvered around each other, with frequent skirmishes, but no major battles. Washington finally dug in along the Brandywine Creek near Chadds Ford about 20 miles to the southwest of Philadelphia. The two armies clashed in one of the biggest battles of the Revolution at the Battle of Brandywine on September 11th, a battle that pitted 30,000 soldiers against one another and had almost 2,000 casualties.


The British were the victors at the Battle of Brandywine, the first major battle of the Philadelphia Campaign. The Continental Army was nearly wiped out, and would have been if not for the last minute maneuvers of generals Nathanael Greene and William Alexander, who held off the British until the rest of the army could escape. The American defeat forced Congress to flee Philadelphia in haste and move further inland.


For several more days the two armies maneuvered around one another, but the British were able to march into Philadelphia on September 28th unchallenged. They would continue to occupy the city until June of 1778, when the new American commander, Henry Clinton took over from Howe and abandoned Philadelphia on orders from London. Clinton took the troops back to New York and began the new Southern Campaign to take back the southern states after their attempts in the north had failed.


Jack Manning

Secretary 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

Lochry’s Defeat

Lochry’s Defeat


On this day in history, August 24, 1781, Lochry’s Defeat takes place when Colonel Archibald Lochry and his Pennsylvania militia are ambushed by Mohawk chief Joseph Brant. Virginia general George Rogers Clark had tried repeatedly to take an expedition to capture Fort Detroit, the British headquarters in the Northwest Territory, but the plans always failed for lack of supplies and men.


The frontier was suffering from constant Indian attacks which were being supported by the British from Detroit. In late 1780, Clark traveled to see Virginia governor Thomas Jefferson to persuade him to support another expedition to take Fort Detroit. Jefferson agreed to an expedition of 2,000 men.


Clark went to Fort Pitt in western Pennsylvania and began recruiting for the mission. Jefferson had trouble recruiting in Virginia though. Many counties did not want to send men to fight at distant Detroit when their own homes were threatened by British General Cornwallis who was now nearby.


Clark found difficulty recruiting in Pennsylvania as well. The militia in Pennsylvania’s western counties did not want to leave their homes undefended from Indian attacks, leaving Clark to ask for volunteers. The staunchest supporter he found was Colonel Archibald Lochry of the Westmoreland County militia. Lochry received permission from Pennsylvania governor Joseph Reed to take 100 men on the mission.


Clark finally left Fort Pitt with only 400 men, intending to rendezvous with Lochry at Fort Henry. Clark waited for several days at Fort Henry, but finally sailed down the Ohio without Lochry since his men were starting to desert. Lochry followed a few days behind and they stayed in constant contact through messengers.


Meanwhile, the British and their Indian allies learned of the expedition and put together their own force to stop them. On the night of August 18th, Clark floated past the mouth of the Great Miami River as they sailed downriver. Joseph Brant, a Mohawk warrior and one of Britain’s chief Indian allies, was hiding on the bank nearby, but he had too few men to attack. Instead, he decided to wait for reinforcements.


3 days later, Brant captured some of Clark’s messengers and learned that Lochry was coming behind with only 100 men. On the morning of the 24th, Lochry came ashore to feed his men and horses. Brant was watching and took advantage of the situation. He and his own force, which numbered nearly the same as Lochry’s force, jumped out of the woods and quickly overtook Lochry’s stunned men. 37 were killed and the rest captured. The Indians didn’t even have a single man injured.


Lochry’s Defeat, or Lochry’s Massacre, as it came to be called, was the death knell for General Clark’s expedition to Detroit. He continued with some raids on Indian villages, but never was able to take the fight directly to Detroit. Of Lochry’s 100 Westmoreland County militia, some were killed, including Lochry, who was killed with a tomahawk blow to the head after surrendering; others were adopted into Indian tribes and the rest were sold to the British at Detroit and kept in prison until the end of the war. Fewer than half ever made it home. The loss deeply affected their home county, where nearly every person lost someone they knew or loved.


Jack Manning

Secretary General

National Society Sons of the American Revolution


Sad will be the day when the American people forget their traditions and their history, and no longer remember that the country they love, the institutions they cherish, and the freedom they hope to preserve, were born from the throes of armed resistance to tyranny, and nursed in the rugged arms of fearless men.
Roger Sherman