Monthly Archives: April 2021

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.

 

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Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

“Let justice be done though the heavens should fall.”
John Adams (1777)


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Deborah Sampson dies

Deborah Sampson dies

 

On this day in history, April 29, 1827, Deborah Sampson dies. She would be one of several women to serve in the Revolutionary War while posing as a man and become the first woman to receive a military pension for serving in the war.

 

Deborah was born in Plympton, Massachusetts, a descendant of original settlers from the Mayflower. Her father abandoned the family when she was a child and Deborah was sent into servitude in a local farmer’s home because her mother could not care for her children. The farmer had 10 boys and Deborah lived there from the ages of 8 to 17.

           

When her indentured service was complete, Deborah began teaching school in Middleborough, but soon tried to join the army. Her reason for doing this is unclear. Perhaps she needed the money that was given to soldiers for joining, or perhaps it was that all ten of her "brothers" in the farmer’s home had joined the war. Deborah cut her hair, wore men’s clothing and wrapped her chest tightly to appear more masculine. She then spent her enlistment money in a local tavern. Her secret was exposed when a woman from the enlistment office admitted recognizing her. Deborah did not show up the next day for duty. For her behavior, she was excommunicated from her church and shunned in the community.

 

In May of 1782, Deborah enlisted again in Worcester, which was more distant from Middleborough, this time as "Robert Shurtliff." Her unit marched to West Point, New York where it joined the brigade of General John Paterson. The Battle of Yorktown was fought in October of 1781, but numerous skirmishes took place afterwards. Being so near the British headquarters in New York City, Deborah’s unit was involved in several skirmishes with soldiers and Loyalists.

 

Deborah took at least one bullet in the leg and suffered a saber slash to her forehead in a fight at Tarrytown. The doctor treated the slash first and when he left the room, Deborah snuck off to prevent her secret from being discovered. Some accounts have her digging at least one bullet out herself and she may have had one that was never removed.

 

After recovering, Deborah was among a group of soldiers sent to Philadelphia to put down a mutiny among soldiers. When she arrived, she came down with a fever. Dr. Barnabas Binney discovered Deborah’s secret while treating her and took her to his own home to nurse her. Deborah was sent back to West Point where General Henry Knox, having been made aware of her secret, discharged her with honors for her 1 1/2 years of service in October, 1783. She was 22 years old.

 

After the war, Deborah moved to Stoughton, Massachusetts and lived with relatives where she continued to pose as a man. This time as her own brother Ephraim. The relatives were distant and they believed her story. It’s unclear how things progressed during the next two years, but in April of 1785, she married farmer Benjamin Gannett of Sharon, Massachusetts and had three children with him.

 

In 1792, Deborah petitioned the State of Massachusetts for back pay from her service in the war and received $34 and a commendation signed by John Hancock, making her the first woman to receive payment for service in the war. Sometime later, she began a public speaking tour, telling of her time in the army. She began the lecture dressed as a woman, changed into military attire during the speech and showed off various military exercises. In this role, Deborah may have been the very first woman to engage in a public speaking career.

 

In 1804, Deborah became the first woman placed on the veterans pension rolls by Congress through the intervention of her friend, Paul Revere and General Paterson. Paul Revere would prove a pivotal person in Deborah’s life, often loaning her money in times of distress. After Deborah’s death on April 29, 1827, her husband Benjamin would request his widow’s pension, the first time such a request was made. The awkward situation was tabled by Congress, but the year after his death in 1837, the request was granted and the back pension was paid to Deborah and Benjamin’s children.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

"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)

 

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President James Monroe is born

President James Monroe is born

 

On this day in history, April 28, 1758, President James Monroe is born into a Westmoreland County, Virginia plantation owning family. He would fight in the American Revolution, be an Ambassador to France, Secretary of State, Secretary of War and the 5th President of the United States.

 

James’ father died when he was only 16 years old in 1774, causing him to inherit his father’s plantation and slaves. In the same year, he entered the College of William and Mary to study law. When the American Revolution broke out, James joined the 3rd Virginia Regiment of the Continental Army. He became an officer and participated in a June 1775 raid on the Governor’s Palace that captured hundreds of weapons for the patriot side.

           

Monroe fought in Washington’s New York and New Jersey campaigns, where he was wounded in the shoulder at the Battle of Trenton. Monroe is among the people featured in two of the Revolution’s most famous paintings, including Capture of the Hessians at the Battle of Trenton and Washington Crossing the Delaware.

 

When Monroe’s enlistment expired, he returned to Virginia and studied law with Thomas Jefferson from 1780-1783. He began a practice in Fredericksburg and was first elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1782. From 1783-1786, Monroe served in the Continental Congress meeting in New York City.

 

When the new Constitution was being debated, Monroe opposed it for giving too much power to the federal government, but eventually changed his mind on the condition that a bill of rights be added. Monroe was appointed one of Virginia’s senators to the First Congress where he soon became the Senate’s leader of the Democrat-Republican Party, Jefferson’s and Madison’s party that opposed Washington and the Federalists.

 

In 1794, Monroe was appointed Minister to France where he was a strong supporter of the French Revolution and opponent of the Jay Treaty with Great Britain, angering George Washington to the point of recalling him. Back in Virginia, Monroe served several terms as Governor and put down a slave revolt. He helped negotiate the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 and became Madison’s Secretary of State and Secretary of War for a period.

 

Monroe was elected the 5th President of the United States in 1816 and again in 1820. During his administration, a harsh economic recession hit America and one of the main public debates revolved around whether or not new states would permit slavery. The Missouri Compromise was adopted during his time in office, which made an equal number of slave and no-slave states. Monroe got into trouble when General Andrew Jackson chased Seminole Indians into Spanish-owned Florida, but he later purchased Florida from the Spaniards for America. Monroe’s most important foreign policy development was the Monroe Doctrine, which demanded that no European powers intervene any longer in the countries of the Western Hemisphere.

 

Monroe spent his years after the presidency in financial troubles, never gaining financial stability due to poor management and long terms in office. He passed away in New York City on July 4, 1831, 55 years to the day after the Declaration of Independence was adopted. He was the third president to die on July 4th, after Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died on July 4, 1826.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

“It was by one Union that we achieved our independence and liberties, and by it alone can they be maintained.”
James Monroe

 

 

 


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The House of Commons passes the Tea Act

The House of Commons passes the Tea Act

 

On this day in history, April 27, 1773, the House of Commons passes the Tea Act, an act which would lead to the Boston Tea Party and plunge Great Britain and her American colonies into war. The colonists in America had complained about taxes before. They did not mind paying taxes. Rather, their disagreement was with who had the authority to tax them. Since they had no representatives in Parliament, they believed it was unjust for Parliament to tax them. Instead, the proper bodies to tax them should be their own elected assemblies.

 

When the Stamp Act was passed in 1765, the colonists protested its taxes to the point of violence. When Parliament finally repealed the Act, it passed along with it an act called the Declaratory Act, which reaffirmed Parliament’s right to tax the colonies in whatever way it saw fit. While most celebrated the repeal of the Stamp Act, some saw an ominous sign in the Declaratory Act of more taxes to come.

 

More taxes did indeed come with the Townshend Acts of 1767, which levied taxes on paper, lead, glass painters’ colors and tea. The colonists responded by protesting and boycotting British goods as usual, forcing Parliament to repeal all of the Townshend Acts’ taxes in 1770, except for the tax on tea, which the colonists continued to boycott. The boycott especially affected the British East India Company, which shipped tea from India to Britain and her colonies.

 

British policy forced the East India Company to ship tea to England first where it was taxed upon import. Then the tea had to be sold in London markets to merchants who shipped it to America where it was taxed again. The multiple taxes and the middlemen merchants caused the price of tea to be very high by the time it reached consumers in America. This opened up a large market for smuggled Dutch tea, which was much cheaper. By the early 1770s, the East India Company was struggling to survive, with warehouses full of tea it couldn’t sell because its price was undercut in the colonies by Dutch tea.

 

In order to prevent the East India Company from going bankrupt, Parliament came up with a scheme called the Tea Act, first passed by the House of Commons on April 27, 1773 and passed into law with King George’s signature on May 10. The Tea Act allowed the Company to ship tea directly to the colonies, bypassing the London middlemen and the London duties. The only tax that remained was on the colonies’ end and that tax was quite small. This new scheme greatly reduced the price of British tea. If the colonists bought the lower priced tea, they would also be tacitly agreeing to the notion that Parliament did indeed have the right to tax them.

 

The colonists, however, no matter how small the tax, had no intention of paying unjust taxes to Britain. They recognized the scheme immediately as an attempt to bribe them into giving Parliament authority to tax them in exchange for cheap goods. The colonists responded by forbidding tea ships from entering their harbors, culminating with the Boston Tea Party, during which 42 tons of tea were dumped into Boston Harbor in protest.

 

Britain responded in force by passing the Coercive Acts, which closed Boston Harbor and shut down the Massachusetts government, until the tea was paid for. Known as the Intolerable Acts in the colonies, these Acts led directly to the formation of the First Continental Congress to plan a joint colonial response. The American Revolution broke out in full fury shortly afterwards.

 

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 a misfortune, inseparable from human affairs, that public measures are rarely investigated with that spirit of moderation which is essential to a just estimate of their real tendency to advance or obstruct the public good; and that this spirit is more apt to be diminished than prompted, by those occasions which require an unusual exercise of it."
James Madison (1788)

 

 

 


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British forces raid Danbury, Connecticut

British forces raid Danbury, Connecticut

 

On this day in history, April 26, 1777, British forces raid Danbury, Connecticut and destroy a large American supply depot. Western Connecticut was a staging ground for patriot activities against the British in New York. When former New York governor, William Tryon learned the Continental Congress had located a supply depot in Danbury, it gave him the perfect excuse for an attack into the region.

 

Danbury was strategically located about 20 miles from the Long Island Sound and about 35 miles east of the Hudson River, making it a perfect supply location for the Hudson River Valley, but sufficiently far inland to be safe from attack by sea. On April 22, Tryon left New York with about 1,800 soldiers on 16 ships. They landed between Norwalk and Fairfield, Connecticut on the 25th, in present day Westport. They camped for the night and resumed their march to Danbury in the morning.

           

As soon as the British were in site, word spread through the countryside that an invasion was under way. Locals began hiding valuables, dispersing their livestock into the woods and even hiding their young boys because Tryon was known for taking them as slaves to work in New York’s "sugar houses." Local militia leaders began rounding up their troops and Generals David Wooster, Benedict Arnold and Gold Silliman took charge of repelling the invasion.

 

The supply depot in Danbury was guarded by Colonel Joseph Platt Cooke with about 150 men. Unfortunately, General Silliman instructed Cooke to send many of his men to Fairfield, believing the attack would come there. Others from Cooke’s unit went west to the Hudson because Tryon had sent a diversionary fleet up the Hudson to confuse the rebels, leaving Cooke with only a small contingent to guard the supply depot.

 

On the evening of April 26, Tryon’s force marched into Danbury and quickly drove off Col. Cooke’s small force. During the night and the next morning, British soldiers got drunk on local rum, pillaged the town, burned down buildings and homes owned by “rebels” and destroyed a vast supply of the patriots’ stores, including 5,000 barrels of pork, molasses, flour and beef, 2,000 bushels of rice, 1,600 tents and more than 5,000 pairs of shoes.

 

The next day, as they marched back to the coast, the British were harassed by the militia in the same fashion the British were chased back to Boston after the Battle of Concord. Many of the militia were from Dutchess County, New York and had been rallied by the Paul Revere-esque midnight ride of 16 year old Sybil Ludington. General Wooster was mortally wounded during these skirmishes. The major fight occurred at Ridgefield, where Benedict Arnold’s men were scattered in a fight down the town’s main street and Arnold himself was injured when his horse was shot from underneath him.

 

The British finally reached the coast to return to New York, but with a heavy cost of nearly 200 killed, captured or wounded. The Americans had only 20 killed and 40-80 wounded. The Raid on Danbury and the Battle of Ridgefield would be tactical British victories, but the fierceness of the American response would prevent the British from attempting such inland raids with a landing force by sea again. In addition, the British incursion into their territory turned the hearts of many in Connecticut squarely against the British. Within a short time after the raid, nearly 3,000 Connecticut men joined the Connecticut Army and served in numerous battles of the Revolution to come.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

“The present Constitution is the standard to which we are to cling. Under its banners, bona fide must we combat our political foes.”
Alexander Hamilton (1802)


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General Greene loses the Battle of Hobkirk’s Hill

General Greene loses the Battle of Hobkirk’s Hill

 

On this day in history, April 25, 1781, General Greene loses the Battle of Hobkirk’s Hill near Camden, South Carolina. This was a tactical loss for the Continental Army in the south, but part of an overall strategy that eventually forced the British to abandon the interior of South Carolina and Georgia.

 

General Nathanael Greene had taken over the decimated American forces in the south in December of 1780. After a string of victories early in 1781, Greene had forced British Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis to the coast of North Carolina to regroup and resupply. Greene hoped to draw Cornwallis back to the interior to engage him further, but when Cornwallis did not fall for the bait, Greene turned south to reclaim South Carolina.

 

The British had built a string of forts along the interior of South Carolina and Georgia to hold the back country. Greene broke his forces into several groups that attacked various of these posts in hopes of breaking off their communications and supply lines in order to force them to retreat to the coast.

 

Greene’s 1,500 men went to the city of Camden, which the British had held for almost a year. Greene knew he did not have the strength to breach the town’s defenses, so he hoped to draw them out of the town and into battle. His men encamped on a ridge known as Hobkirk’s Hill northwest of the town.

 

On April 25th, British Colonel Francis Rawdon marched out of Camden, just as Greene had hoped and began to march up the ridge. Rawdon’s men marched up the ridge in a narrow formation, allowing Greene to attack from the front and both sides and gain an early advantage that inflicted heavy casualties on the British. Soon after the fight began, however, several of the key American leaders were shot, causing their units to break apart and flee. Rawdon took this advantage and charged up the hill, causing Greene to withdraw in full retreat, even though he had a much larger force. The Americans lost 270 killed, captured, wounded or missing, while the British lost 261.

 

Rawdon left a small group of dragoons (soldiers on horseback) to hold Hobkirk’s Hill and took the rest of his men back to Camden. After regrouping, however, General Greene brought his men back and they drove the dragoons off and reoccupied the hill.

 

The Battle of Hobkirk’s Hill was a tactical loss for Greene. Rawdon, however, was virtually trapped in Camden with Greene to the north, General Thomas Sumter to the south, Col. Andrew Pickens to the west and General Francis Marion between Camden and Charleston. The British posts began to fall one by one and Rawdon knew he had to get out of Camden and back to the coast.

 

On May 9, exactly two weeks after the Battle of Hobkirk’s Hill, Rawdon left Camden, after destroying its public buildings and many private homes, and began the march back to Charleston. Greene’s strategy had worked brilliantly so far by freeing northeastern South Carolina from British rule. By the end of June, all of the interior of Georgia and the Carolinas would be back in American hands and the British would be confined to Charleston and Savannah on the coast.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

“We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again.”
Nathanael Greene


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Declaration of Independence signer Benjamin Harrison dies

Declaration of Independence signer Benjamin Harrison dies

 

On this day in history, April 24, 1791, Declaration of Independence signer Benjamin Harrison dies. Harrison was from a politically prominent family of planters from Charles City County, Virginia. His family dated back to the earliest English settlement of Virginia. He was related by blood or marriage to several  other Revolutionary War heroes, including Martha Washington, Thomas Nelson and Peyton Randolph, and was a business partner of Robert Morris, who was known as the "Financier of the Revolution."

 

Harrison attended William and Mary College, but never graduated. At the age of 19, his father and two sisters were killed in a freak lightning strike and Benjamin left school to take over his father’s business at Berkeley Plantation, which also included a ship building business and breeding horses.

           

Harrison was first elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1749 and he served there for the next 25 years. He was elected to the First Continental Congress when the Revolution broke out and shared rooms in Philadelphia with his friend, George Washington. Harrison’s jovial personality had a way of reducing tension and he was thus often chosen to serve as the "Chairman of the Whole" in Congress, meaning he would guide the debates about tough topics.

Berkeley Plantation, Home of Benjamin Harrison

 

Harrison served in this position during debates about the Articles of Association, which was Congress’ boycott of British goods, during the debate about whether or not to declare a declaration of independence from Great Britain and during the discussions on the actual language of the Declaration of Independence itself. Harrison was one of Virginia’s seven signers of the Declaration.

 

Harrison served on several important committees in Congress and helped create the Board of War, the Navy and the Committee of Secret Correspondence. He also served simultaneously as a lieutenant in the militia of his home county and as a judge. In 1781, Harrison and his family were forced to flee when the traitor Benedict Arnold, now working for the British, invaded Virginia near Harrison’s Berkeley Plantation. Arnold pillaged Berkeley and burned many of the family’s valuables, including family portraits, the reason why no contemporary portrait of Harrison exists except for a small miniature carried by one of the family members.

 

After the war, Harrison continued in the Virginia Assembly and as governor from 1781 to 1784. He also served in the Virginia Constitutional Ratification Convention where he was a strong advocate for the inclusion of a Bill of Rights.

 

Perhaps Benjamin Harrison’s greatest legacy was his progeny. His son William Henry Harrison would famously defeat the Shawnee leader Tecumseh at the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811, become a general in the War of 1812 and be elected the 9th President of the United States. In addition, William Henry’s grandson and Benjamin Harrison’s great-grandson, also Benjamin Harrison, would be a Civil War Union general and would be elected the 23rd President of the United States.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

"The propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which heaven itself has ordained.”
George Washington


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