Monthly Archives: May 2021

John Hancock elected President of the Continental Congress

John Hancock elected President of the Continental Congress

 

On this day in history, May 24, 1775, John Hancock is elected President of the Continental Congress. John Hancock’s father and grandfather were both ministers and Hancock likely would have become a minister also if his father hadn’t died when he was a boy. Instead, Hancock was raised by his wealthy uncle, Thomas Hancock. Thomas trained John to take over his business, which he did at the age of 27 when Thomas died, making John one of the wealthiest men in the colonies.

 

Hancock became involved in the boycotts against British goods in the 1760s and found himself in the center of riots against Great Britain when his ship Liberty was impounded for alleged smuggling. Hancock was a prominent leader of the Boston Town Meeting, which often published incendiary statements against Parliament. When Governor Thomas Gage disbanded the Massachusetts Colonial Assembly in 1774, Hancock was chosen the first President of the rebel Provincial Congress.

           

Shortly afterwards, Hancock was chosen to attend the Second Continental Congress. He was elected the Congress’ third President on May 24, 1775, after Peyton Randolph and Henry Middleton. Hancock was the longest serving president of Congress, serving for 2 1/2 years during the critical opening years of the Revolution. During his term, Hancock signed the commission of George Washington as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army. Hancock was quite disappointed that he was not given the position himself but did all he could to support Washington. In his role as President, Hancock was also the first to sign the Declaration of Independence, in large letters, allegedly so the King wouldn’t fail to see it.

 

Hancock was a lifelong sufferer from gout, a debilitating joint disease, and was eventually forced to leave the position of President due to the illness, even though he continued in Congress until 1780. He signed the Articles of Confederation, America’s first governing document in 1778. Hancock’s desire to serve in battle was finally rewarded when he became a leader of the failed American attack on Newport, Rhode Island in late 1778. The failure of the mission, however, caused much criticism to himself and other leaders involved.

 

John Hancock was one of the leading politicians back home in Massachusetts as well. He served as President of the Massachusetts State Convention that ratified the Articles of Confederation and as President of the Massachusetts State Constitutional Convention, which adopted the Constitution of Massachusetts, the oldest constitution in the world still in use.

 

After the creation of the new Massachusetts Constitution, Hancock was elected Massachusetts’ first Governor, a position he was re-elected to 9 times. Hancock was re-elected as President of the Confederation Congress in 1785, but he never filled the position due to illness. In 1788, Hancock once again filled the position of President of the Massachusetts Convention that ratified the US Constitution.

 

Hancock was one of the most popular politicians of the Founding Fathers, especially in his home state of Massachusetts, where he often won the governorship with more than 80% of the vote. Hancock finally passed away at the age of 56 in 1793. He is buried in Boston’s Old Granary Burying Ground with such other notable people as Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, James Otis, Robert Treat Paine, the parents of Benjamin Franklin and the five people killed in the Boston Massacre.

 

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Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

The important consequences to the American States from this Declaration of Independence, considered as the ground and foundation of a future government, naturally suggest the propriety of proclaiming it in such a manner as that the people may be universally informed of it.
John Hancock


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Patriots win the Battle of Sag Harbor

Patriots win the Battle of Sag Harbor

 

On this day in history, May 23, 1777, patriots win the Battle of Sag Harbor, Long Island. Sag Harbor was an important British port on the east end of Long Island used for monitoring Long Island Sound and providing supplies to British troops. The British garrison here had constructed a position on top of Meeting House Hill, complete with wooden palisades.

 

The British were in control of Manhattan and Long Island after capturing both the previous winter. The Americans surrounded the area, while the British sent soldiers on foraging missions to attack American supply posts and gather food. One such raid into Danbury, Connecticut had destroyed a large supply of American provisions in April. Connecticut Brigadier General Samuel Holden Parsons planned a retaliatory raid against Sag Harbor.

           

Control of the mission fell to Colonel Return Jonathan Meigs (yes, his first name was Return), who left Guilford, Connecticut on the night of May 23 with around 170 men. They sailed in whaleboats across Long Island Sound and landed near Southold, New York around 6 in the evening. They carried their boats overland and then sailed across Little Peconic Bay to Sag Harbor. Serendipitously, most of the British soldiers in the area had been ordered to New York City and less than 100 Loyalists were left guarding the port and the fort on Meeting House Hill.

 

Meigs split his men into two groups and over the next 24 hours, they attacked the fortifications on Meeting House Hill and the port. The first half stormed Meeting House Hill with bayonets drawn and captured 53 prisoners with only a single shot fired. The second group went to the harbor and began to burn British boats. They were fired on by a British schooner, but were successful in burning 12 British boats and taking another 37 prisoners. In all, 90 Loyalists were captured and taken back to Connecticut and 6 were killed, while the patriots had none killed or injured.

 

The Battle of Sag Harbor (also called Meigs’ Raid) was an important morale booster for the American rebels. It was the first American victory in New York after Long Island and Manhattan Island were captured and proved that the Americans could defeat the British. It also sent a message to Loyalist supporters of the Crown that there was a price to pay for going against their patriot brethren.

 

For his bravery, Colonel Meigs received a commemorative sword from the Continental Congress, one of only 15 such awards given during the entire war. Meigs would later be involved in putting down a mutiny in the 6th Connecticut Regiment that would earn him a written thank you from George Washington. After the war, Meigs would become a settler in the newly opened Northwest Territory and be a US government agent to the Cherokee Nation in Tennessee.

 

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Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

“If the Freedom of Speech is taken away then dumb and silent, we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”
George Washington


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Captain James Estill killed at the Battle of Little Mountain

Captain James Estill killed at the Battle of Little Mountain

 

On this day in history, March 22, 1782, Captain James Estill is killed at the Battle of Little Mountain. James Estill had moved to Boonesborough, Kentucky in 1778 at the age of 28 with his brother and his slave Monk, an imposing, but smart man. Estill quickly became a militia captain and built an outpost called Estill’s Station north of Boonesborough where he moved with Monk.

 

1782 was called "The Year of Blood" by Kentucky settlers due to escalated attacks from Indians allied with the British at Fort Detroit. In March, Estill received an order to assemble a search party after signs of a Wyandot war party were noticed near Boonesborough. Estill quickly gathered 40 men who galloped off to search for the Indians, leaving Estill’s Station completely unguarded and full of women, children and a few slaves. Estill was still nursing a wounded arm shot by an Indian bullet the year before, a fact that would be crucial in the battle to come.

           

That same night, 14-year-old Jenny Gass had a dream of climbing a ladder to heaven, which she shared with the other settlers. They were all Christians and took the message as a blessing from heaven. Meanwhile, the Wyandot war party surrounded the station in the night. In the morning, Monk went out to gather firewood, while Jenny and her father’s slave, Dick, went out to gather syrup from maple trees.

 

The Wyandots quickly captured them. Monk persuaded them not to attack the fort, telling them it was fully guarded. Dick managed to escape back to the fort, but Jenny was scalped and killed in full view of the fort, while her horrified mother watched from the ramparts.

 

The Wyandots left the fort and two boys were sent to tell Estill what happened. When they found him, several men were sent back to guard the fort, while the rest pursued the Indians. On the morning of the 22nd, Estill located and attacked the Indians as they were crossing Little Mountain Creek, near present day Mount Sterling, Kentucky. The two sides began fighting one on one through the woods.

 

The Wyandot leader was quickly killed, but his men pressed forward. Estill divided his men into three groups and put the left flank under Lt. William Miller. Miller and his men, however, fled when his gun was damaged by an Indian bullet. The loss of the flank exposed the center, which was quickly overcome. Estill ordered a retreat, but was soon attacked by a Wyandot warrior. They fought hand to hand, the Indian trying to stab Estill with his knife. Estill’s damaged arm soon gave out and the knife plunged into his chest. As soon as he was dead, Joseph Proctor shot the Indian dead.

 

7 settlers were killed and approximately 20 Indians. Estill’s slave, Monk, escaped during the fray and carried a wounded man 25 miles to safety. He was later rewarded his freedom for his bravery in the battle, becoming the first freed slave in Kentucky. The losses at the Battle of Little Mountain, sometimes called Estill’s Defeat, were blamed on William Miller by most for abandoning his post. His life was threatened for years by survivors of the battle. He lived to be 95 years old, while James Estill and six others died, partly due to his cowardice.

 

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Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.
Patrick Henry

 

 

 

 


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Parliament shuts down self-rule in Massachusetts

Parliament shuts down self-rule in Massachusetts

 

On this day in history, May 20, 1774, Parliament shuts down self-rule in Massachusetts in response to the Boston Tea Party. In December of 1774, Boston citizens angry that Parliament was taxing imported tea, even though they had no elected representatives in Parliament, responded by dumping 42 tons of tea into Boston Harbor.

 

Parliament responded with a series of acts intended to reign in the unruly colonists. The acts were officially called the Restraining Acts, but were commonly called the Coercive Acts in England. The colonists, however, called them the Intolerable Acts and this set of acts was largely responsible for igniting the American Revolution.

           

The first act to be passed was the Boston Port Act which closed Boston Harbor to all trade until the ruined tea was paid for. This was accomplished with a naval blockade and thousands of troops in Boston. Naturally, the citizens of Boston resented the occupation of their city, just as they had when it was occupied a few years earlier, during an occupation which led to the Boston Massacre.

 

On May 20, 1774, Parliament enacted the next set of acts. The Massachusetts Government Act required that most government positions be filled by appointment of the King or the governor, who was himself appointed by the King. This effectively gave control of the government to the King. Massachusetts had a long tradition, as did all the colonies, of self-rule, with locally elected officials controlling local governments. As you can imagine, the citizens were outraged. In addition, the Act forbade town meetings (where much of the rebellion was being fomented) to meeting only once a year.

 

Along with the Massachusetts Government Act, the Administration of Justice Act gave the governor of Massachusetts the right to remove trials of colonial officials to other colonies or even to England. The purpose of this act was to remove the authority of colonial laws and colonial juries over government officials. Such locally created laws and local juries were often at odds with royal prerogatives. The Administration of Justice Act was actually called the “Murder Act” by George Washington because it allowed colonial officials to commit crimes against local laws and get away with them.

 

The final two parts of the Coercive Acts were the Quartering Act, which renewed the British army’s authority to house troops on private property, and the Quebec Act, which expanded British French-speaking Quebec south to the Ohio River and west to the Mississippi. It granted freedom of religion to Quebec’s Catholic speaking residents and also removed the right to self-rule in this territory. The Quebec Act outraged American colonists because the French were still seen as an enemy after the French and Indian War and Catholicism was viewed with disdain by many Protestants, not necessarily because of religious differences, but because of Catholicism’s history of entanglements in authoritarian European governments. So the colonists viewed the strengthening of French Catholic Quebec as a direct threat.

 

Colonists in all thirteen colonies were alarmed by the Intolerable Acts. If self-rule could be closed down in Massachusetts, Parliament could do it in any colony. Their response was to form the First Continental Congress to deal with the Acts as one body. When the First Congress met in Philadelphia in September of 1774, they remonstrated with Parliament for changes to be made, but also warned all the colonies to begin gathering arms and ammunition to prepare for war.

 

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Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.
Patrick Henry

 


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Georgia Declaration of Independence signer Button Gwinnett dies

Georgia Declaration of Independence signer Button Gwinnett dies

 

On this day in history, May 19, 1777, Georgia Declaration of Independence signer Button Gwinnett dies from wounds received in a duel with Brigadier General Lachlan McIntosh. Gwinnett was born in England around 1735. He moved to Charleston, South Carolina in 1762 and went into business. At the age of 28, he bought a large tract of land on St. Catherine’s Island, which was part of the colony of Georgia and became a prosperous planter. He was first elected to the Georgia Assembly in 1769.

 

As tensions with Great Britain grew, Gwinnett joined the patriots and was elected to Georgia’s extra-legal Provincial Assembly. The Assembly sent him to the Continental Congress as one of Georgia’s three delegates, where he voted for independence from Great Britain on July 2, 1776 and for the formal Declaration of Independence on July 4. His signature was written on the document when most of the other’s signed it on August 2.

           

At this time, Gwinnett was hoping to be appointed the top military leader of the Georgia state militia, but since he had no military experience, the position was given to his chief political rival, Lachlan McIntosh. Gwinnett continued to serve in Congress, but returned to attend Georgia’s convention to create a state constitution. Using a plan given to him by John Adams, Gwinnett wrote the first draft of Georgia’s first Constitution and became the Speaker of the Georgia Assembly. When the first governor, Archibald Bulloch, died, Gwinnett was made the President and Commander-in-Chief of Georgia’s militia.

 

Meanwhile, Lachlan McIntosh was recruited as a Brigadier General over Georgia’s Continental Army battalion. This put McIntosh and Gwinnett in a confrontational position as McIntosh had the official right to command the battalion, but, as President of Georgia, Gwinnett felt that the responsibility belonged to him. Gwinnett began to undermine McIntosh’s leadership and spread dissension amongst his top officers. When an expedition to capture St. Augustine in British East Florida failed, partly because of their squabbling, both were called back by the angry Georgia Assembly to defend themselves. During the process, McIntosh accused Gwinnett of being a “scoundrel and a rascal,” which were extremely inflammatory words at the time. Gwinnett demanded an apology, which McIntosh refused, causing Gwinnett to challenge him to a duel, the common method of gaining “satisfaction” in those days.

 

McIntosh and Gwinnett met on May 16, 1777 with their pistols near Savannah. At a distance of 12 feet, both men fired on one another and both were shot seriously in the leg. McIntosh would eventually recover, but Gwinnett was wounded mortally and died 3 days later from gangrene.

Button Gwinnett signature

 

Button Gwinnett left a lasting legacy to Georgia and to America. He signed the Declaration of Independence and served in the Continental Congress during the critical years of the nation’s birth. He also wrote the foundation for Georgia’s first constitution and served as one of its first chief executives. As an interesting side note, Button Gwinnett’s signature is among the most valuable signatures in all of world history. Why? Only 51 copies are known to exist and many collectors have tried to put together complete collections of the signatures of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence. Gwinnett’s signature is so in demand and so rare, that a single copy sold for $722,000 in 2010, ranking in value right up there with the signatures of Julius Caesar and William Shakespeare!

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

A people who mean to be free must be prepared to meet danger in person, and not rely upon the fallacious protection of armies.”
Edmund Randolph


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The Mischianza is thrown for British General Sir William Howe

The Mischianza is thrown for British General Sir William Howe

 

On this day in history, May 18, 1778, the Mischianza is thrown for British General Sir William Howe upon his resignation. It was the largest and most extravagant celebration the colonies had ever seen to that time. William Howe was the Commander-in-Chief of British forces in America. He had served at the Battle of Bunker Hill and led the invasion of New York.

 

Howe’s tenure was controversial. He captured New York and Philadelphia but failed to defeat George Washington’s Continental Army. Howe finally resigned in late 1777 amidst a cloud of criticisms and received word that his resignation was accepted in April 1778. Howe’s military successes can be questioned, but nonetheless, he was extremely well liked by his soldiers. Several of his officers got together and planned a lavish ball and celebration, at their own expense, to honor his departure, which was called the Mischianza, which is Italian for "medley."

           

The grand event was not merely a ball though. It was a grand display of opulence and extravagance, complete with a regatta sailing down the Delaware River, a jousting tournament, costumes, military bands, arches of flowers, a ball room and banquet hall constructed just for the occasion and fireworks and dancing that lasted into the night.

 

Captain John Andre, the captain who would later be hanged by the Americans for his role in the Benedict Arnold affair, was the main planner of the Mischianza. Andre was a soldier, but was also an artist, poet and singer. He personally designed the whole display from front to back. He painted murals, designed the tickets, ordered tons of food and built bleachers with covered awnings for the joust.

 

The affair began with a regatta sailing down the Delaware from Philadelphia. The boats were covered in flowers, banners and awnings and many of the leading citizens, mostly Loyalists, and top officers and officials were among the guests. The flotilla sailed down the river as most of Philadelphia watched from the shore and dozens of boats brought onlookers out to see the display. The procession landed south of town and made its way to Walnut Grove, the mansion of merchant Joseph Wharton, where they went to the jousting field.

 

12 knights fought for the hands of the most eligible maidens in town, which included the daughters of many leading citizens. After the joust, the procession walked to the ballroom, specially constructed for the occasion, where they were entertained all evening and finally secret doors were opened up to reveal a grand dining hall. Later in the evening, the fireworks began and the guests danced and drank until morning.

 

General Howe sailed for England a few days later where his leadership faced an inquiry by Parliament. The grandness of the Mischianza was questioned by Tories and patriots alike. Many felt the display was too extravagant, especially since Howe had failed to obtain any type of significant victory. Others criticized the lavish expense of the event while people all around Philadelphia, including George Washington’s army, which was then at Valley Forge, were starving due to the war. In later years, the Mischianza came to be looked at with romantic sentimentality by those who remembered it. In reality, it probably reveals a good deal about why the British lost the war in the first place. Its chief officers were often more concerned with titles, rewards and promotions than they were with actually winning battles.

 

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Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

“I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure it will cost us to maintain this declaration, and support and defend these states. Yet through all the gloom I see the rays of ravishing light and glory. I can see that the end is worth all the means. This is our day of deliverance.”
John Adams

 

 

 


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The Battle of Thomas Creek ends the Second Florida Expedition

The Battle of Thomas Creek ends the Second Florida Expedition

 

On this day in history, May 17, 1777, the Battle of Thomas Creek ends the Second Florida Expedition, an attempt by Georgia patriots to invade British East Florida during the American Revolution. After the French and Indian War, eastern Florida was ceded to Great Britain by Spain. It became a separate colonial province with its capital at Saint Augustine.

 

East Florida had a very small population, but Saint Augustine became an important British military base. When the Revolution began, it remained loyal to the Crown and thousands of Loyalists fled there to escape persecution. The influx of people brought about a food shortage and raiding parties into Georgia were established to confiscate food and wreak havoc on Georgia patriots. In addition, the Creek Nation to the southeast was allied with the British and aided the raiding parties into Georgia.

           

In response to all this, three attempts were made by Georgia to capture Saint Augustine. All three failed and were plagued by infighting. The first expedition in late 1776 failed due to food shortages and the recall of Continental Army General Charles Lee back to the main army. The third expedition, in the spring and summer of 1778, failed due to infighting of the leaders of different militia factions and a superior British opposing force.

 

The Second Florida Expedition ended in disaster and the death of Button Gwinnett, a Georgia signer of the Declaration of Independence. As President of Georgia in early 1777, Gwinnett planned an expedition against Saint Augustine. He had no military experience, so command of the mission was given to Brigadier General Lachlan McIntosh, Gwinnett’s chief political rival. Both tried to lead the mission, causing unnecessary delays. Their constant fighting caused the General Assembly to call them both back to Savannah after they had already left on the mission, command of which was given to Colonel Samuel Elbert. McIntosh and Gwinnett would famously fight a duel over who was to blame for the mission’s delays and Gwinnett would be mortally wounded.

 

Colonel Elbert continued the expedition to East Florida, sending the cavalry over land and taking the rest himself down the coast in ships. The cavalry arrived first at the Nassau River, but were forced to wait for days for Elbert’s flotilla. Meanwhile, East Florida governor, Patrick Tonyn, sent 200 Loyalists and Creek to ambush the approaching patriots. On May 14, Indians captured some of the patriots’ horses, but one of the Indians was caught and allegedly tortured and killed by the militia, which outraged the Indians.

 

On May 17, the cavalry reached the Loyalists who were hiding in wait at Thomas Creek. When they were fired upon, the surprised Georgia militia turned to flee, only to run right into more Loyalists who had come up behind them. A handful of Georgia patriots were killed or wounded, but more than 30 were captured. Unfortunately, the Creek Indians tortured half of them to death in retaliation for the alleged murder of their compatriot a few days before. The rest of the Georgia militia escaped and made their way to rendezvous with Colonel Elbert. When Elbert discovered what happened at the Battle of Thomas Creek, he called off the mission. They were already deep inside enemy territory, many had already been killed or captured, they suffered from food shortages and a fleet of British ships was nearby. The Americans would not attempt another invasion of East Florida.

 

The British forces in Saint Augustine would later play an important part in the overall British strategy to reclaim the south during the latter part of the Revolution. All of East Florida would eventually be ceded to Spain by Britain at the end of the war and would not become part of the United States until 1822.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

"They define a republic to be a government of laws, and not of men."
John Adams (1775)


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