Monthly Archives: June 2021

Congress reconvenes in Princeton, New Jersey

Congress reconvenes in Princeton, New Jersey

 

On this day in history, June 30, 1783, Congress reconvenes in Princeton, New Jersey, after leaving its longtime home in Philadelphia. Many congressional delegations from other colonies did not like Philadelphia, the largest and most commercialized city in the country, stemming from the fact that Philadelphia merchants had an outsized influence on Congress. Delegates feared their influence would cause Congress to favor "big business" over the other more agrarian colonies.

 

In 1783, Congress was negotiating with Great Britain to end the war and the Continental Army was being downsized. Many soldiers, however, were disenchanted with the perpetually broke Congress because they were still owed back pay. On June 20, 1783, a large group of Continental Army soldiers surrounded the Statehouse in Philadelphia (Independence Hall), the meeting place of Congress and the Pennsylvania government.

           

The soldiers hoped to scare Congress into acting on their pay situation, but chose to surround the building on a Saturday when neither group was in session, obviously hoping to avoid an actual confrontation, but still sending a message. The opponents of keeping the government in Philadelphia took advantage of the turmoil and quickly acted. Elias Boudinot, then President of Congress, called the body into emergency session. They voted (without a quorum present) to quickly remove to Princeton, New Jersey, 45 miles away for safety.

 

Boudinot was originally from Princeton and he was a trustee of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), but the most practical reason for choosing Princeton may have been that the College of New Jersey had a large building suitable in which Congress could meet. Nassau Hall was the main (and only) building of the college. It housed all the students, offices and classrooms, had a large chapel and had a large library. It was the largest academic building and the largest stone structure in the states at the time. Congress reconvened in Nassau Hall on June 30 and stayed in Princeton for the next 4 months.

 

While at Princeton, Congress received its first ambassador from the Netherlands and first learned that Britain had signed the Treaty of Paris ending the Revolution. Much of their debate centered on where to locate a permanent seat of government for the United States. To keep the northerners and the southerners happy, a plan was devised that would create two capitals, one near Trenton, New Jersey and the other near Georgetown, Maryland! Congress would meet half the year in one place and half the year in the other!

 

Then Congress had to decide where it would meet while the two federal cities were being built. This led to the decision that Congress would meet at Trenton for six months and Annapolis for six months, rotating until the federal cities were built.

 

Congress left Princeton in December and moved to Annapolis according to plan. The following year it moved to Trenton, but by this time, many had changed their minds about the wisdom of a continually moving Congress. They decided to abandon the plan and move to New York City, where they stayed until 1790. The decision was finally made to build the capital on the banks of the Potomac River and that Congress would meet in Philadelphia for ten years while the federal city was being built. The federal government finally moved from Philadelphia to Washington DC in the year 1800.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"All men by nature are equal in that equal right that every man hath to his natural freedom, without being subjected to the will or authority of any other man; being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions."
John Locke


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The Nancy explodes at the Battle of Turtle Gut Inlet

The Nancy explodes at the Battle of Turtle Gut Inlet

 

On this day in history, June 29, 1776, the Nancy explodes at the Battle of Turtle Gut Inlet, a little known early naval battle in the Revolutionary War, but one that was important to the career of the man who would be called the "Father of the American Navy," Captain John Barry.

 

Early in the Revolution, Continental Congressman Robert Morris chartered the brig Nancy to deliver arms to the Continental Army. Captain Hugh Montgomery traveled to the Caribbean in the spring of 1776 and loaded tons of gunpowder and other supplies. Meanwhile, back in the colonies, the British had established a blockade of the Delaware Bay to prevent ships from supplying Philadelphia.

           

John Barry was one of the first captains commissioned by the Continental Congress to command a ship in the Continental Navy. He was given command of the USS Lexington which he first sailed on March 31, 1776. Morris sent word to Captain Barry that the Nancy would soon be approaching Philadelphia and would need protection from the blockade. Barry, on the Lexington, along with the USS Reprisal, captained by Lambert Wickes and the USS Wasp, captained by William Hallock, patrolled the mouth of the bay, waiting for the arrival of the Nancy.

 

On June 28, the three ship British blockade spotted the Nancy and gave pursuit. Signals were exchanged between the Nancy, spotters on shore and the Lexington indicating the need for assistance. Through the night, the British continued pursuing the Nancy. Unable to enter the bay, Captain Montgomery turned into a small inlet called Turtle Gut Inlet where the Nancy ran ashore in shallow water early on the morning of the 29th. The larger British ships were unable to pursue her but began bombarding the ship from a distance.

 

Captain Barry ordered longboats from the Lexington, Reprisal and Wasp to go to Nancy’s rescue, where they began unloading the gunpowder and taking it to land where it was hidden by locals. Part of Barry’s men kept up the return fire to prevent British longboats from getting near enough to board the ship. In a few hours, with 2/3 of the gunpowder unloaded and the Nancy seriously damaged from cannon fire, Barry ordered his men to abandon ship. As they left, he had them secure 50 pounds of gunpowder to the main mast, tie it up with the main sail and run it down the side of the ship. The fuse was set alight as the crew abandoned ship. Their last act was the removal of the flag from the mast.

 

The British soldiers who were floating in longboats nearby, saw the removal of the flag as an act of surrender and rowed toward the Nancy. Just as the first soldiers began to board the ship, the fire from the fuse reached the gunpowder. The powder on the deck and the 100 barrels remaining in the hold caused a massive explosion which could be heard all the way to Philadelphia 80 miles away. The entire 7 man crew of the first British longboat was killed.

 

The Battle of Turtle Gut Inlet brought Captain Barry to Congress’ attention. He was congratulated for his bravery and ingenuity in securing the gunpowder and rescuing the crew of the Nancy. He would go on to capture over 20 British vessels during the war. After the Revolution, he would receive the US Navy’s first commission from President George Washington, making him Commodore John Barry. Due to his role in organizing and training many of the first officers of the US Navy, he is often called the "Father of the American Navy."

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"A good government implies two things; first, fidelity to the objects of the government; secondly, a knowledge of the means, by which those objects can be best attained."
Joseph Story (1833)

 

 

 


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The Battle of Monmouth

The Battle of Monmouth

 

On this day in history, June 28, 1778, the Battle of Monmouth is the last major battle of the American Revolution in the north. Philadelphia had been occupied in September of 1777, but the entry of France into the war on the American side made the British change their entire strategy. Philadelphia could no longer be safely defended and New York was at risk.

 

British General, Sir Henry Clinton was ordered to return to New York. He did not have enough ships to transport 15,000 soldiers and their equipment, plus thousands of Loyalists and their belongings, back to New York. Instead, he put most of the Loyalists on the ships and marched his troops overland.

           

George Washington and the Continental Army had spent the winter at Valley Forge. The down time gave them the advantage of training with the Polish Baron von Steuben, a military officer who helped train the inexperienced army in basic battle tactics and maneuvers.

 

Washington’s generals were split over what to do. Some wanted to attack the British, while others believed it was crazy to attack such a large army. It was eventually decided that a small force would attack Clinton’s rear while waiting for the main body of the army to arrive. General Charles Lee was offered the command, but he refused, until Washington gave the command to the Marquis de Lafayette at which point Lee demanded control of the operation.

 

Lee encountered the rear guard of Clinton’s army, under Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis, on the morning of June 28th near the Monmouth County, New Jersey, Courthouse. Lee gave inconsistent and unclear orders to his men and, after several hours of fighting, Lee ordered a retreat. Just then, Washington was coming up the road with the rest of the army. When he encountered Lee’s fleeing troops, he was incredulous. When he came across Lee, Washington flew into a tirade and dismissed Lee for his incompetence in one of the few times we know of that Washington lost his temper. Lee was later court-martialed for his role in the affair.

 

Washington rallied Lee’s fleeing troops and blended them in with his own troops. The British made repeated attacks, but they were repelled every time. The day was so hot, with temperatures soaring over 100 degrees, that many dropped or even died, of heat exhaustion. This battle is the source of the Molly Pitcher legend, where she allegedly took her husband’s place at the cannon when he fell from heat exhaustion.

 

The Battle of Monmouth was the largest single day battle of the war with nearly 25,000 men involved. By nightfall, both sides were exhausted and the battle stopped. Washington expected to resume the fight in the morning, but the British had withdrawn in the night. This was the first pitched battle success of Washington’s army in the war and it proved that the training at Valley Forge had worked. Up to 1100 British were killed or injured and around 500 Americans, making it one of the bloodiest battles of the entire war. The Battle of Monmouth was the last major battle of the Revolution in the north, as the British shifted their strategy to the southern colonies. The next time Washington’s army would face the British would be at Yorktown in the battle that would bring 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

“I am determined to defend my rights and maintain my freedom or sell my life in the attempt.”
Nathanael Greene


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Congress leave York, Pennsylvania for Philadelphia

Congress leave York, Pennsylvania for Philadelphia

 

On this day in history, June 27, 1778, Congress leaves York, Pennsylvania for Philadelphia. The Continental Congress had abandoned Philadelphia in haste in September of 1777 when a British invasion force neared. They reconvened in Lancaster, approximately 70 miles west, on the 27th, but stayed there  for only one day because the city was overcrowded with refugees and soldiers. The exiled Pennsylvania legislature was meeting there as well, in the courthouse, the only building suitable in which the Congress could meet.

 

On the 27th, Congress had a short session in Lancaster and decided to reconvene in York, another 20 miles to the west. York was a small town of 1,700 people, but it had a courthouse where Congress could meet. They began their session on September 30th and would stay in York for the next 9 months.

           

During its time in York, the Continental Congress completed one of its most important achievements, the Articles of Confederation. Congress had begun working on this document to unify the 13 colonies under one central government the year before at the same time it made its Declaration of Independence. War matters and disagreements had delayed its passage, however.

 

Once Congress arrived in York, the members worked hard to get the Articles finished, spending many hours in debate, finally passing it on November 15, 1777. This did not make the Articles the law of the land, but the process was begun. The Articles were then sent to all 13 colonies for ratification, a process that did not end until Maryland was the last state to ratify on March 1, 1781.

 

The second major event that happened while Congress was meeting at York was the surrender of British General John Burgoyne’s army at Saratoga, New York. News of this event sent elation through the colonies. It also made some of George Washington’s failures more apparent. A secretive conspiracy to have him ousted and replaced swept through the officers and members of Congress in York. This effort, known as the Conway Cabal, finally died out, however.

 

Burgoyne’s surrender led to the entrance of France into the American Revolution on the American side. France was finally convinced the Americans were able to fight and win against the British. After the news arrived in York on May 2, Congress was abuzz with speculation that France’s entry into the war would cause Britain to abandon Philadelphia. The French navy could easily trap General Clinton’s army in Philadelphia. New York, the British headquarters, was now vulnerable from the sea as well. The British did indeed decide to abandon Philadelphia and march back to New York, leaving the city on June 18, 1778.

 

Philadelphia was re-occupied the following day and Major General Benedict Arnold (who had not yet committed his act of treason) was placed as military commander over it by George Washington. Congress convened for the last time in York on June 27 and resolved to meet again at the State House in Philadelphia on July 2.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

Self-defense is a primary law of nature, which no subsequent law of society can abolish; the immediate gift of the Creator, obliges everyone to resist the first approaches of tyranny.
Elbridge Gerry


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Declaration of Independence signer Caesar Rodney dies

Declaration of Independence signer Caesar Rodney dies

 

On this day in history, June 26, 1784, Declaration of Independence signer Caesar Rodney dies. Rodney is best known for making his own midnight ride to vote for a declaration of independence from Great Britain on July 2, 1776.

 

Caesar Rodney was born near Dover, Delaware, to a moderately prosperous planter who died when Caesar was only 16. On the death of his father, Caesar was placed in the home of Nicholas Ridgely, a clerk of the peace in Kent County, by the Orphan’s Court. Ridgely’s influence may have been the origin of Caesar’s interest in politics, but he also had a grandfather who was once the Speaker of Delaware’s Colonial Assembly.

 

Starting at the age of 22, Rodney filled a number of local political positions in Kent County, including Sheriff, Register of Wills, justice of the peace, clerk of the orphan’s court and recorder of deeds. At the age of 30, Rodney was elected for the first time to the Delaware Assembly, a position he served in until 1776. He also became an associate justice of the Delaware Supreme Court from 1769 through 1777. He served as a Kent County militia captain during the French and Indian War, but his unit never saw active duty.

 

 

Caesar Rodney was a delegate to the 1765 Stamp Act Congress. He also served on Delaware’s Committee of Correspondence. In the House of Assembly, Rodney was Speaker of the House when Delaware declared its independence on June 15, 1775. He was subsequently made a Brigadier General of the Delaware militia, charged with the defense of the state and putting down Loyalist rebellions.

 

Rodney was elected a delegate to the Continental Congress from 1774-1776. He was a member when the vote for independence was made, but was away in Delaware when the issue was being debated. The final vote, which was scheduled for July 2, would have passed without Rodney’s presence, but the other members wanted a unanimous decision from the colonies present. Delaware’s other two delegates, George Read and Thomas McKean, were split in their votes. McKean sent an urgent letter to Rodney to come to Philadelphia immediately to cast his vote. He made his own "midnight ride" through the night of July 1st and arrived just as the votes were being cast on the 2nd. His vote, along with McKean’s, meant Delaware voted in the affirmative for a declaration of independence. Rodney’s signature was later added with the other 55 signers to the formal Declaration of Independence.

 

Rodney was elected President of Delaware in 1778 under the new independent government. He served for three years in this position while simultaneously the general in charge of the state militia. Throughout the war, Rodney was instrumental in sending supplies and troops to aid George Washington in numerous battles. In 1783, Rodney was again elected to the Continental Congress, but he did not serve because of ill health.

 

Rodney suffered from cancer and had a cancerous growth that had disfigured his face. He was often known to wear a covering for it in public. Perhaps this was the reason that he never married. Caesar Rodney passed away at his plantation "Byfield" near Dover on June 26, 1784 at the age of 55.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

“That it is the indispensable duty of all the colonies not only to alleviate the unexampled distresses of our brethren of Massachusetts Bay, who are suffering in the common cause of America, but to assist them by all lawful means in removing their grievances, and for the re-establishing their constitutional right, as well as those of all America, on a solid and permanent foundation.”

Caesar Rodney letter, Aug 2, 1774 to George Read


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French forces attempt to break the Siege of Cuddalore

French forces attempt to break the Siege of Cuddalore

 

On this day in history, June 25, 1783, French forces attempt to break the Siege of Cuddalore, India, the last battle of the American Revolution. You may wonder what a battle in India had to do with the American Revolution! Actions of the war that occurred in places other than the thirteen colonies receive very little attention in American history textbooks!

 

France’s entry into the American Revolution on the colonists’ side was truly the beginning of the end for Britain’s hope of reigning in her North American colonies. France’s entry, and later the entry of the Netherlands and Spain, against Great Britain, meant that the theater of war expanded beyond just the 13 colonies into the West Indies, the Mediterranean, Africa and the Far East – basically anywhere Britain or France had colonies. Britain was forced to stretch her military resources all over the globe.

           

Parts of Eastern India were controlled by the British East India Company from the city of Madras at this time. The Kingdom of Mysore ruled much of southern India and was in conflict with the British. Mysore was also a French ally. When France joined the war, she immediately began attacking and subduing British holdings in India, assisted by Mysore’s king, Hyder Ali. The city of Cuddalore on India’s eastern coast was one such city captured from Britain by France at this time.

 

On June 7, 1783, British Major General James Stuart  arrived and began to lay siege to Cuddalore with between 12,000 and 14,000 men, most of whom were Indian soldiers. Cuddalore was defended by Charles Joseph Patissier, the Marquis de Bussy-Castelnau, with around 10,000 French and Mysoreans. Stuart made a major assault on the city on the 13th which resulted in nearly 1,000 casualties to his own army and nearly 500 to the French. Both sides could ill afford such losses.

 

On the 20th, a French fleet arrived under the Bailli de Sufren. This fleet confronted a British fleet under Admiral, Sir Edward Hughes and drove them off, allowing de Sufren to land an additional 2,400 troops in Cuddalore. This naval battle is known as the Battle of Cuddalore, while the fight for the city is known as the Siege of Cuddalore.

 

With troop numbers now equal to Stuart’s, de Bussy made a major attack from the city on June 25 to try to break the siege. Repeated attacks on the British lines made little progress with high casualties to the French. Several key French officers were captured, including a French marine named Jean Bernadotte who would later become the King of Sweden! The French finally gave up the attack and withdrew.

 

Major General Stuart now considered abandoning the siege. His troops were being decimated with disease and he felt abandoned by Madras after Admiral Hughes withdrew his navy. De Bussy began planning another assault on the British lines, but everything came to a stop on the 30th when a British ship arrived with the news that a peace treaty had been signed, ending the war between the Americans and French against the British. By July 2, the two sides agreed to a cessation of hostilities.

 

The Siege of Cuddalore was the last battle of the American Revolution, occurring even after the Treaty of Paris was signed. Cuddalore itself was given back to the British according to the terms of the treaty. Hostilities continued between Britain and the Kingdom of Mysore, however, until the signing of the Treaty of Mangalore brought that war to an end in March, 1784.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

"I often note with equal pleasure that God gave this one connected country to one united people — a people descended from the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in manners and customs, who by their joint counsels, arms, and efforts, fighting side by side through a long bloody war, have nobly established general liberty and independence."
John Jay (1787)


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Congress resolves to imprison Governor William Franklin

On this day in history, June 24, 1776, Congress resolves to imprison Governor William Franklin of New Jersey in Connecticut. Franklin was the son of Benjamin Franklin. He had been the Royal Governor of New Jersey since 1763. William Franklin was an acknowledged, but illegitimate child of Ben Franklin, born in 1730. His mother has never been definitely determined. William may have been born from an illicit encounter with a prostitute, but others believe Franklin’s later common-law wife, Deborah, was William’s mother. William was raised by Ben and Deborah and he called her mother. Franklin may have taken all the blame to himself for the child since he and Deborah were not married.

 

William served in King George’s War in the 1740s and later traveled to England to study law. There he fathered an illegitimate child, William Temple Franklin, whose mother has never been determined. He also married Elizabeth Downes, the daughter of a Barbados planter. Franklin was admitted to the bar and became a partner with his father while he was serving in London as a colonial representative to the Crown. The elder Franklin used his influence to have William appointed New Jersey’s Royal governor in 1763, a position he held through the American Revolution.

           

When the American Revolution arrived, William Franklin remained loyal to King George. He was threatened with arrest for his activities in January, 1777, but was put under house arrest instead for the next 5 months. By mid-year, the Continental Congress was nearing its Declaration of Independence and becoming more powerful. Franklin feared the Royal government of New Jersey would be completely destroyed as it had been in most of the other colonies by this point. He called the General Assembly into session and the rebel Provincial Congress ordered his resignation or arrest.

 

Colonel Nathanael Heard delivered the terms of parole on June 17, which Franklin refused. On the 19th, Colonel Heard arrested Franklin and delivered him to the Provincial Congress at Burlington. Franklin’s wife, Elizabeth, stayed in the Royal mansion in Perth Amboy until the British evacuated the city in July of 1777. Elizabeth died in New York shortly afterwards.

 

The Continental Congress issued orders on June 24 to imprison Franklin in Connecticut. He arrived at Lebanon, ironically on July 4th, the day of Congress’ Declaration of Independence. Governor Jonathan Trumbull of Connecticut, the only Royal governor to side with the patriots, allowed Franklin freedom of movement in the town where he was confined and to converse with whomever he chose due to his previous position and his relationship to Ben Franklin, as long as he did not try to further British aims.

 

In December of 1776, Franklin was caught collaborating with British General Howe in New York. Franklin was put in solitary confinement in Litchfield after this, where he remained until he was freed in December, 1778, in a prisoner exchange for the captured rebel President of Delaware, John McKinley. Franklin then went to New York City where he helped coordinate Loyalist efforts to retake New Jersey for the next 4 years.

 

After the Revolution ended, Franklin moved to London where he lived for the rest of his life. He lost all of his possessions to the war, his wife, his father (with whom he never reconciled) and his son, William Temple, who sided with his grandfather during the war, though they were later reconciled. He died in relative obscurity and poverty in 1813.

 

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 very imprudent to deprive America of any of her privileges. If her commerce and friendship are of any importance to you, they are to be had on no other terms than leaving her in the full enjoyment of her rights."
Benjamin Franklin


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