Monthly Archives: January 2021

General Daniel Morgan wins the Battle of Cowpens

General Daniel Morgan wins the Battle of Cowpens

 

On this day in history, January 17, 1781, General Daniel Morgan wins the Battle of Cowpens, a victory military strategists often call the single most brilliant victory of the American Revolution. After its defeat at Saratoga, the British army redirected its efforts to subdue the southern states, quickly conquering much of Georgia and South Carolina and destroying most of the American southern army in the process.

 

In December of 1780, General Nathanael Greene took over the decimated Continental Army in the south and split his much smaller army in two, hoping to divide the British forces. Part of the army was given to Brigadier General Daniel Morgan, a hero of earlier battles at Quebec and Saratoga. Morgan was to harass British troops in the backcountry and organize patriot militia there. When General Charles Cornwallis learned of this, he immediately sent 1,100 troops under Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton to stop him.

 

Tarleton was only 26 years old and had earned a notorious reputation when his men killed a group of militia trying to surrender to them at the Battle of the Waxhaws. In early January, Tarleton learned of Morgan’s location and set off to find him. Morgan retreated at first, but decided to stand his ground at an area known as the Cowpens, a sparsely wooded and hilly meadow in a bend of the Broad River.

 

Morgan’s strategy included three lines of soldiers, a first line of sharpshooters hidden behind trees, a second line of militia 150 yards back from them and a third line of experienced Continental soldiers 150 yards behind them and hidden by a low hill. As Tarleton attacked, the sharpshooters were to fire on them and then draw back to the second line, which was to fire two volleys and then retreat up the hill. Then, as the British pursued them up the hill, they would run into the third line of experienced soldiers coming at them downhill. The first two lines would weaken and disconcert the British soldiers and the third line would finish them off. Meanwhile, a cavalry charge would come from around the hill and flank the attacking soldiers.

 

Morgan’s strategy worked brilliantly and just as planned. Tarleton’s forces were decimated as they pursued the "fleeing" second line. Nearly the entire army was killed or simply collapsed on the ground in exhaustion and fear. Military strategists have called the victory at Cowpens the greatest tactical victory of the war and one of the greatest of all time. Of Tarleton’s 1150 troops, 110 were killed, 229 wounded and over 800 captured. Tarleton himself escaped, but not before a hand-to-hand fight with Colonel William Washington, George Washington’s second cousin and leader of the American cavalry. Tarleton shot Washington’s horse from under his feet and escaped.

 

The Battle of Cowpens was one of a string of victories, including the Battle of King’s Mountain and the Battle of Guilford Courthouse that turned things around in the south. This series of battles so weakened Cornwallis’ army that he was forced to abandon his plans to conquer North Carolina and head for the Virginia coast to await reinforcements from New York that never arrived due to the French blockade of the Chesapeake. Instead, George Washington took advantage of Cornwallis’ weakened state and brought the war to an end.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

“The same prudence which in private life would forbid our paying our own money for unexplained projects, forbids it in the dispensation of the public moneys.”
Thomas Jefferson (1808)


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Peter Francisco, the "Virginia Giant," dies

Peter Francisco, the "Virginia Giant," dies

 

On this day in history, January 16, 1831, Peter Francisco, the "Virginia Giant," dies. Peter was abandoned at the age of five years in City Point, Virginia (now Hopewell) by a sea captain. It is believed he was born in the Azores to a wealthy family and was either abducted to be sold into slavery or the abduction was staged by his parents who feared his life was in danger from their political enemies.

 

When Peter was found, he could speak no English, but repeatedly said "Pedro Francisco," so the people called him Peter Francisco. Peter was cared for in the Prince George County Poorhouse until he was adopted by Judge Anthony Winston, uncle to Patrick Henry. Winston raised Peter on his farm called "Hunting Tower Plantation" in Buckingham County. He was eventually trained to be a blacksmith due to his great height and strength – by the time he was fifteen years old, Peter had grown to be six feet six inches tall and weighed 260 pounds!

 

When the American Revolution began, Peter happened to hear Patrick Henry’s "Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death" speech when he went to Richmond with Judge Winston. Inspired by the speech, Peter asked if he could join the army, but Winston wouldn’t allow him to join until he was sixteen. In December of 1776, Peter joined the Tenth Virginia regiment of the Continental Army.

 

Peter became famous for his exploits in the army and probably became the best known individual soldier of the entire war. His exploits are numerous, including inspiring a group of soldiers to stand their ground at Sandy Hollow Gap to allow Washington’s army to retreat at the Battle of Brandywine. Peter was wounded in the leg at the battle and recovered with the 20 year old Marquis de Lafayette, who was also wounded and would become a lifelong friend.

 

At the Battle of Stony Point, Peter was one of 20 commandos chosen to assault Fort Stony Point. 17 of the 20 were killed. Peter was the second one over the wall and received a 9 inch gash in his stomach. At the Battle of Camden, Peter allegedly hauled an 1100 pound cannon off the field so the British would not capture it. At the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, Peter killed eleven men with a six foot sword made for him personally by George Washington at the request of Lafayette. Peter was shot and left for dead on the battlefield, but found by a local Quaker who nursed him back to health. While recovering from this wound, Peter reconnoitered Colonel Banastre Tarleton’s raiders in Amelia, Virginia. He outwitted and outfought 9 cavalrymen, killed three of them and escaped with all 9 of their horses!

 

Peter also fought in the Battles of Germantown, Monmouth Courthouse, and Cowpens. Peter was present at Yorktown with the Marquis de Lafayette when Cornwallis surrendered his army, but did not fight in the battle. George Washington personally said of Peter, "Without him we would have lost two crucial battles, perhaps the War, and with it our freedom. He was truly a One Man Army."

 

Peter married three times and had six children. He owned a 250 acre farm on Louse Creek and became the Sergeant-at-Arms to the Virginia State Senate for the last three years of his life. He died on January 16, 1831 of appendicitis and was buried with full military honors.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

"The principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale."
Thomas Jefferson (1816)


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General William Alexander, Lord Stirling, dies

General William Alexander, Lord Stirling, dies

 

On this day in history, January 15, 1783, General William Alexander, Lord Stirling, dies at Albany, New York. William Alexander was born in New York in 1726 to a wealthy family involved in provisioning the British army. Due to his experience in provisioning, Alexander joined the army’s commissariat during the French and Indian War and eventually became chief aide to Commander-in-Chief William Shirley. During this time, Alexander first met and became friends with Colonel George Washington.

 

In 1756, while on a trip to London, Alexander learned that he may be the oldest male heir to a vacant title, the "Earl of Stirling," a position that carried with it a vast land claim, including parts of Nova Scotia and the entire St. Lawrence River Valley. He made an appeal to Parliament which granted his claim. However, in 1762, the House of Lords decided he had not adequately proven his pedigree and removed the title. Alexander had already returned to America by this time though and adopted the title Lord Stirling, which he would carry for the rest of his life.

 

When the America Revolution began, Stirling became a colonel of the New Jersey militia and was celebrated for capturing a British transport at Sandy Hook. He was promoted to Brigadier General and given control of the defenses of New York, where he built Forts Washington, Lee and Stirling. He also recommended to General Washington that a redoubt be built at West Point, the foundation for the fort and later military academy there.

 

When the British invaded Long Island, Alexander led a battalion of 300 men that held off the entire British army for several hours. Alexander’s men were finally overwhelmed and he was captured, but the rest of the army was able to escape and Alexander was celebrated as a hero. After a few months in prison, he was traded in a prisoner exchange for Governor Montfort Browne, the Governor of the Bahamas. Alexander returned in time to fight at the Battle of Trenton where a Hessian brigade surrendered to him.

 

Alexander was promoted to Major General and became one of George Washington’s most trusted subordinates. He was third or fourth in command of the entire army for the rest of the war. He participated in the battles of Brandywine, Germantown and Monmouth. He presided over the court-martial of General Charles Lee and was a member of the military court that sentenced British spy John Andre to death for helping Benedict Arnold. Alexander played a key role in exposing the "Conway Cabal," a group of officers that plotted to have Washington replaced by General Horatio Gates.

 

When the war moved to the south, General Alexander was given command of the army’s Northern Department in case of a new British invasion from Canada, making his headquarters at Albany. Alexander had many health problems and was a heavy drinker. In January, 1783, while at Albany, he had a severe attack of gout (severe arthritis) and passed away on January 15 at the age of 56, only three months before the preliminary peace treaty with Britain was signed by Congress.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"Aware of the tendency of power to degenerate into abuse, the worthies of our country have secured its independence by the establishment of a Constitution and form of government for our nation, calculated to prevent as well as to correct abuse."
Thomas Jefferson to Washington Tammany Society, 1809


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The Treaty of Paris brings the American Revolution to a close

The Treaty of Paris brings the American Revolution to a close

 

On this day in history, January 14, 1784, the Treaty of Paris brings the American Revolution to a formal close. After the surrender of Lord Cornwallis’ army at Yorktown, Virginia in October, 1781, the British Parliament began to lose its will to fight the war. In April of 1782, the House of Commons decided to bring the war to and end and peace negotiations began in Paris.

 

The Americans were represented by John Jay, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, while Richard Oswald was the British negotiator. A preliminary peace treaty was signed on November 30, 1782, ratified by Parliament on January 20, 1783 and by Congress on April 15, 1783.

 

Final terms still had to be reached however. Skirmishes between both sides still took place here and there and George Washington kept the Continental Army together at Newburgh, New York in case hostilities broke out again.

 

The final Treaty was signed between the negotiators on September 3, 1783. The signatures of Jay, Adams and Franklin appear on the last page of the document, as well as that of David Hartley, who had replaced Richard Oswald. The American Congress ratified the document on January 14, 1784 at the Maryland State House in Annapolis, Maryland, where Congress was temporarily meeting at the time. Great Britain ratified the document on April 9 and the two sides exchanged copies in Paris on May 12.

 

The Treaty of Paris has ten articles. The main points of the articles include: Great Britain acknowledges the sovereignty of the United States; the boundaries of the United States are set at (roughly) the Mississippi River in the west, the Great Lakes in the north, the northern border of Florida in the south and the Atlantic Ocean in the east; citizens of the United States may still fish off the coast of Newfoundland, even though it was British territory; legally contracted debts from before the war must be honored by both sides; Congress must "encourage" the states to protect the property of British Loyalists from confiscation and to return any property that was confiscated; all prisoners on both sides must be released; the British army must evacuate the United States and not take any American property, arms or slaves with them; both countries were given access to the Mississippi River; any territory conquered by either side after the treaty was signed had to be returned; and both countries must ratify the document within six months of the signing.

 

The Treaty of Paris formally brought the Revolution to a close. Conflict continued, however, due to several factors, including the British failure to leave all its forts on the western frontier; the British continuing to encourage Native Americans against the United States; British confiscation of American ships in French waters and impressment of American sailors into the British navy due to a trade war between France and Britain. Some of these issues were ironed out in the Jay Treaty of 1794, negotiated by John Jay in London. However, some issues remained and war broke out again between Great Britain and the United States in 1812.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"But the fact being once established, that the press is impotent when it abandons itself to falsehood, I leave to others to restore it to its strength, by recalling it within the pale of truth."
Thomas Jefferson (1805)


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The Newburgh Conspiracy brings its demands to Philadelphia

The Newburgh Conspiracy brings its demands to Philadelphia

 

On this day in history, January 13, 1783, the Newburgh Conspiracy brings its demands to Philadelphia. In late 1782, negotiators in France were near to signing a peace treaty to end the hostilities of the American Revolution, alarming many officers in the Continental Army who had gone for several years without pay from the Continental Congress which was perpetually out of money.

 

After the defeat of General Cornwallis at Yorktown, most of the army had taken up quarters at Newburgh, New York. Officers had been promised a pension of half pay for the rest of their lives, but if the war came to an end and the army was disbanded, they feared they would never receive the pay that was due them.

 

A secret movement began amongst the officers that was loosely led by General Horatio Gates and his chief aid, John Armstrong. Rumors and whispers swirled that they should march on Philadelphia or replace Washington with General Gates and usurp the power of Congress.

 

General Henry Knox organized the officers and sent a delegation to Congress in Philadelphia with three demands: they wanted their back pay, their pensions and the option to have their pensions paid to them in a lump sum. On January 13, 1783, the delegation met with James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, Robert Morris, Gouverneur Morris and other representatives of Congress who assured the officers they would receive their pay. They also hoped to use the situation to promote a stronger Congress that would have the ability to tax and pay its own bills, rather than rely on handouts from the states.

 

The Congressmen, however, also sensed that the officers’ discontent could grow into a larger rebellion. Hamilton wrote to George Washington explaining the seriousness of the situation. Washington’s response was to call a meeting of his senior officers. He commended them for their valorous service during the recently ended war. He assured them that, as a soldier himself, he would do everything he could to make sure they received the money owed them. He also urged them to allow the civilian leadership in Congress to be supreme and to squash any attempts to make a military dictatorship.

 

After his own speech, Washington pulled a letter from Congressman Joseph Jones from his pocket. Finding the print too small to read, Washington pulled a pair of glasses from his pocket and said, "Gentleman, you must pardon me. I have grown gray in your service and now find myself growing blind."

 

This lighthearted moment seemed to break the ice and soften the officers’ attitudes toward Washington. Many realized that he had given up as much as they had during the war and that he would not fail to support them. When Washington left the meeting, many of the officers made a new pledge of loyalty to Washington and Congress, bringing an end to the Newburgh Conspiracy. In the end, Congress was able to pay the officers an amount equal to five years of service in place of the lifetime pensions.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

“I was summoned by my country, whose voice I can never hear but with veneration and love.”
George Washington


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General Hugh Mercer dies

General Hugh Mercer dies

 

On this day in history, January 12, 1777, General Hugh Mercer dies from wounds received at the Battle of Princeton. General Mercer was born in Scotland in 1726 and trained as a doctor. He served as a surgeon in the army of Bonnie Prince Charlie and was present at the defeat of his army at the Battle of Culloden, an army which was raised to put a Stuart King back on the throne of England.

 

This army was destroyed by the forces of Hanover King George II at the Battle of Culloden, Scotland on April 16, 1746. George’s forces massacred as many survivors as they could find, forcing Mercer into exile as a result. He eventually made his way to the colony of Pennsylvania where he settled and resumed his medical practice.

 

When the Braddock Expedition was massacred in 1755, Mercer came to the aid of some of the wounded soldiers and was moved by the experience because it reminded him of the massacre of his countrymen at the Battle of Culloden. This caused him to join the British army, which he had once fought against, to fight the Indians during the French and Indian War.

 

He became a captain of Pennsylvania militia in 1756 and was severely wounded during a raid on an Indian village that year. He was separated from his troops and marched across the wilderness for 100 miles alone to get back to his fort, after which he was promoted to colonel. During the French and Indian War, Mercer became friends with George Washington, who was also a colonel at the same time. They were such good friends that Mercer moved to Virginia after the war and settled in Fredericksburg, resuming his medical practice.

 

When the American Revolution began, Mercer was appointed a Brigadier General in the Continental Army by the Continental Congress. He directed the building of Fort Lee on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River to impede British access up the river.

 

After the Continental Army was driven from New York and across New Jersey in the fall of 1776, they stopped their retreat on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River. Mercer is sometimes credited with coming up with the plan to attack the Hessian outpost at Trenton, which helped stem the discouraging tide of American losses. Washington’s forces ferried across the river in the middle of the night on Christmas Day and captured 1,000 Hessians at the outpost.

 

This led to another victory a week later when Washington repulsed a counterattack from Lt. General Charles Cornwallis at Trenton again. After that victory, Washington’s men marched through the night toward Princeton to capture the British outpost there and continue its string of victories.

 

Hugh Mercer led an advance party of 1200 men that ran into a large British force at an orchard along the way and fighting began. The British force quickly defeated the green American militia units and General Mercer was surrounded by British troops who mistook him for George Washington and demanded that he surrender. Mercer fiercely attacked his antagonizes, but was struck to the ground, bayoneted seven times and left for dead. He was attended by Declaration of Independence signer Doctor Benjamin Rush, but he died nine days later on January 12, 1777. He was buried at Christ Church in Philadelphia originally, but his body was reinterred at Laurel Hill Cemetery in 1840.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

“It is too true, however disgraceful it may be to human nature, that nations in general will make war whenever they have a prospect of getting anything by it.”
John Jay,
The Federalist Papers


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Alexander Hamilton is born

Alexander Hamilton is born

 

On this day in history, January 11, 1755, Alexander Hamilton is born in the British West Indies. Hamilton was orphaned as a young boy and later attended King’s College in New York (now Columbia). Hamilton joined the New York militia when the Revolution began and raised a company of artillery soldiers which took part in the Battle of White Plains and the Battle of Trenton.

 

Hamilton’s intellect brought him to the attention of George Washington who made him his chief aide for four years. In this position, Hamilton dealt with the highest ranking generals, governors and members of Congress and often negotiated on Washington’s behalf. Toward the end of the Revolution, Hamilton led a battalion of men that took Redoubt No. 10 at Yorktown, one of the crucial actions that forced Cornwallis to surrender his army and bring the war to a close.

 

Hamilton was then elected to Congress from New York and became a strong advocate of a new Constitution with a stronger central government. He served as a delegate at the Constitutional Convention and was the only signer of the document from New York. During the ratification process, he authored 51 of the 85 essays now known as the Federalist Papers, co-authored with John Jay and James Madison. The Federalist Papers, even today, are the most frequently cited texts dealing with understanding the proper interpretation of the Constitution.

 

Hamilton became George Washington’s first Secretary of the Treasury and largely shaped Washington’s policies. Under his leadership, the federal government assumed all state debts incurred during the war, established a national bank, the US Mint, the US Coast Guard and America’s first taxes.

 

During this time, he also became the leader of the Federalist Party. His leadership helped prevent John Adams from winning a second term, nearly caused a war with France, passed the Alien and Sedition Acts and broke the deadlocked vote that gave Thomas Jefferson the presidency instead of Aaron Burr.

 

In 1804, Burr ran for governor of New York and Hamilton used his influence to help get him defeated. During the process, ugly words were spoken by both sides. Burr felt that his honor had been offended and challenged Hamilton to a duel. On July 11, 1804, the two met at Weehauken, New Jersey, in the same spot Hamilton’s oldest son had been killed in a duel 3 years earlier. As the two fired, Burr’s shot went through Hamilton’s abdomen, doing a great deal of damage. He died the next morning at the age of 49.

 

Some historians consider Alexander Hamilton to be one of the most important Founding Fathers for his role in shaping the American government. His interpretation of the "Necessary and Proper Clause" forms the basis for much of our modern legal system and he is considered to be the architect of our modern capitalist financial system.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

“It is the knowledge that all men have weaknesses and that many have vices that makes government necessary.”
James Monroe


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