Monthly Archives: June 2021

Patriots win the Battle of Springfield

Patriots win the Battle of Springfield

 

On this day in history, June 23, 1780, patriots win the Battle of Springfield, the last major battle of the American Revolution in the north. British Commander-in-Chief, General, Sir Henry Clinton had left New York to conquer Charleston, South Carolina in December of 1779 as part of the new British strategy to conquer the south, where, it was believed, the Loyalists would help them attain ascendancy.

 

Clinton left Hessian Lt. General Wilhelm von Knyphausen in charge at New York in his absence. While Clinton was away, refugee New Jersey Loyalists, who had filled up New York City, pressed von Knyphausen to launch an attack on George Washington’s Continental Army encamped at Morristown, New Jersey. The American army had struggled through the winter, suffered from desertion and inadequate supplies. One strong attack, they believed, would wipe out the rebels.

           

 

Von Knyphausen was finally talked into making the attempt. On June 7, he led thousands of soldiers across New Jersey in an attempt to get through Hobart Pass in the Watchung Mountains. The Morristown encampment lay through the pass on the other side of the mountains. The New Jersey militia had arisen in force, however, and stopped them at the Battle of Connecticut Farms. Von Knyphausen retreated from this battle after hearing General Clinton would soon return with reinforcements.

 

After Clinton’s return, George Washington became concerned not only that another attack would be made on Morristown, but also on West Point, above New York, the most important point for defending upstate New York from invasion from New York City. Washington decided to send supplies and reinforcements to West Point and took part of his army north to defend this supply line. He left Major General Nathanael Greene in charge of defending Morristown.

 

On June 23rd, Clinton ordered von Knyphausen to make another attempt at destroying the Morristown encampment. 6,000 British soldiers marched out of Elizabethtown on the morning of the 23rd. When Major General Greene heard the news, he quickly dispatched his army, consisting of about 1,500 Continentals and 500 militia.

 

Greene split his men into two main groups, half along Galloping Hill Road through Connecticut Farms and Springfield, and the other half along Vauxhall Road slightly to the north. On each road, he placed successive lines of defense at various bridges. When each line of defense was attacked, they could fight for as long as they could and then retreat to the line behind them. This same strategy was later used to great effect by Greene in the battle to win the south.

 

The strategy succeeded in slowing the British down, but they eventually drove the patriots all the way to Springfield in the south and to the foot of the Short Hills on Vauxhall Road. By this time, Continental reinforcements arrived and the New Jersey militia began to assemble in mass. Von Knyphausen, though outnumbering his enemies by nearly 3 to 1, became nervous of a massacre if he tried to move forward against the patriots who held the high ground. He ordered a retreat through Springfield. Loyalists burned the entire city to the ground as they went, with the exception of 4 buildings that belonged to Loyalists. Militia continued sniping at the British the entire way back to Elizabethtown, inflicting more casualties.

 

The Battle of Springfield was the last major battle in the north as the focus of the British shifted south. It is sometimes called the “forgotten victory,” as it was overshadowed by the victory at Yorktown 16 months later. Nonetheless, it was a decisive battle in the north, checking British ambitions and once again emphasizing to the British high command that they had severely underestimated the American militia.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

“Those who own the country ought to govern it.”
John Jay


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Nathanael Greene becomes a general in the Continental Army

Nathanael Greene becomes a general in the Continental Army

 

On this day in history, June 22, 1775, Nathanael Greene becomes a general in the Continental Army. He would eventually become George Washington’s right-hand man and be known as Washington’s most able general. Greene was from Rhode Island and ran his family’s foundry in Coventry. He became interested in military matters as a young man, taught himself about military strategy and became involved in the militia. He also served in the Rhode Island Assembly.

 

When the American Revolution broke out in April of 1775, Greene was appointed Major General of the Rhode Island Army. He was one of the chief commanders of Rhode Island forces that went to the Siege of Boston. Greene met George Washington in July when he took over the Continental Army and the two became lifelong friends. On June 22, Greene was appointed a Brigadier General of the Continental Army.

 

When the British abandoned Boston in March 1776, Greene was left in command of Boston by Washington. He joined the main army at New York in August when the army was reorganized, and he was made one of four major generals in command of the entire army. He organized the defenses of Long Island but was not present at the Battle of Long Island due to illness.

 

Greene was involved in nearly every major battle in the north after this, including the Battles of Harlem Heights, Trenton, Princeton, Brandywine, Germantown, Monmouth, Rhode Island and Springfield. In nearly all these battles, Greene was involved in the thick of things, often leading attacking wings of the army. Greene was largely responsible for saving the army from starvation at Valley Forge when he was put in charge of procuring supplies. When Benedict Arnold’s intrigue was discovered in 1780, Greene was given command of West Point and oversaw the trial of British spy John Andre who was hanged for his role in the affair.

Major General Nathanael Green Statue, Guilford Courthouse National Military Park, Greensboro, North Carolina

 

By this time, the British had begun to conquer the southern colonies and had decimated the Continental Army in the south. Desperate to find a general to replace its failed choices, Congress yielded to George Washington’s recommendation that Nathanael Greene be given the position.

 

Things changed immediately upon Greene’s arrival in the south. He succeeded in wearing out British General Charles Cornwallis’ army by dragging them into long marches far away from their bases. After the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, which was a costly victory for the British, Cornwallis took time to regroup and then elected to go to Virginia, where he was ultimately defeated at Yorktown.

 

Meanwhile, Greene set about the reconquest of the Carolinas, which he accomplished in only a few months, driving the British out of the interior and forcing them into seclusion in Charleston and Savannah. With the end of the war, all three southernmost colonies gave Greene large sums of money or valuable tracts of land in reward for liberating them.

 

After the war, Greene settled near Savannah on his new plantation, Mulberry Grove. Unfortunately, his retirement was not to last long. Greene passed away from sunstroke on June 19, 1786. He was only 43 years old. Greene’s contribution to the founding of the United States cannot be understated. He was responsible for numerous victories in battle and largely responsible for the defeat of Cornwallis at Yorktown, even though he wasn’t present at that battle. Greene was George Washington’s most trusted general and certainly deserves the nickname he received as a result of his victories, the "Savior of the South."

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

“It had been happy for me if I could have lived a private life in peace and plenty, enjoying all the happiness that results from a well-tempered society founded on mutual esteem. But the injury done my country, and the chains of slavery forging for all posterity, calls me forth to defend our common rights, and repel the bold invaders of the sons of freedom.”
Nathanael Greene


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New Hampshire ratifies the US Constitution

New Hampshire ratifies the US Constitution

 

On this day in history, June 21, 1788, New Hampshire ratifies the US Constitution. The 9th state to do so, this ratification makes the new Constitution the official law of the land, according to its requirement that 9 of the original 12 involved in its creation must ratify it in order for it to take effect. (Rhode Island was not a part of the Constitution’s creation.)

 

The US Constitution is the longest existing national constitution in the world. Its creation was a history changing event that guaranteed the rights of the average person against arbitrary and tyrannical government. Its adoption is arguably one of the greatest events in human history. Nations around the world have sought to emulate its principles ever since its adoption.

           

The United States Constitution enshrines the rights of the people by limiting the powers of the federal government. It guarantees people the right to self-rule in their local states with only certain powers granted to the federal government. The Constitution defines the basic structure of the United States government, which is a lawmaking body (the legislature) elected by the citizens of the states, an executive (the President) charged with carrying out those laws and a judiciary (the Supreme Court and other federal courts) to decide cases of conflict.

 

The Constitution also guarantees sweeping rights to the people, such as freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right to bear arms, the right to trial by jury, limitations on government powers, freedom from cruel and unusual punishments and many more.

 

The Constitution relies on several key doctrines such as "consent of the governed," "separation of powers," the idea that all men have the right to "life, liberty and property," that it is government’s role to protect these rights, and the idea that government does not create or grant rights, but that these rights are granted to individuals by nature by virtue of their being human.

 

The Constitution was originally written as a remedy for the weaknesses in the Articles of Confederation, America’s first governing document. The Articles had not created a strong enough central government to sustain and perpetuate itself. Many voices called for revising the Articles. The Constitutional Convention met in Philadelphia from May through September of 1787 to draft the new document. The Constitution was then passed to the thirteen states. Each state held its own Constitutional convention to decide whether or not to ratify. The document required that 9 states ratify it in order for it to become law.

 

New Hampshire was the 9th state to vote in the affirmative on June 21, 1788, making the Constitution law for those states which had accepted it. Eleven of the original thirteen colonies had ratified it by July of that year and the new government formally started on March 4, 1789. By May of 1790, the final two holdouts, North Carolina and Rhode Island ratified the Constitution, making one new nation of the thirteen colonies which rebelled against Great Britain in the American Revolution.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"If we are to guard against ignorance and remain free, it is the responsibility of every American to be informed."
George Washington


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The Great Seal of the United States is adopted

The Great Seal of the United States is adopted

 

On this day in history, June 20, 1782, the Great Seal of the United States is adopted by the Continental Congress. Congress first appointed a committee to create the Great Seal on July 4, 1776, shortly after approving the Declaration of Independence. The committee consisted of Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams.

 

The three men volunteered several designs based on biblical and classical themes. After consulting with artist Pierre Eugene du Simitiere, a design was chosen  with a female Liberty figure and a female Justice figure holding a crest and surrounded by small shields representing each of the 13 states for the obverse side (the front), while the reverse side held Moses parting the Red Sea. Congress was not impressed when it received the design on August 20 and tabled it. Several of the themes would eventually make it into the final design, however, including the Eye of Providence, the motto E Pluribus Unum and 1776 written in Roman numerals.

           

Not until March, 1780 did Congress address the Great Seal again by appointing another committee, this time consisting of James Lovell of Massachusetts and John Morin Scott and William Houston of Virginia. The second committee produced a new design, incorporating some elements from the first committee’s design, with the help of heraldry expert, artist and signer of the Declaration of Independence Francis Hopkinson. This committee’s design was also rejected by Congress, but again, elements of their design made it into the final Great Seal, including 13 stripes on a shield, 13 stars surrounded by a cloud of glory and the olive branch and arrows.

Great Seal of the United States obverse side

           

Two years later, in May of 1782, a third committee was appointed, this time consisting of John Rutledge and Arthur Middleton of South Carolina and Elias Boudinot of New Jersey. Rutledge was later replaced by Arthur Lee of Virginia. This committee relied on a young lawyer and heraldry expert named William Barton. Barton took elements of the first two committees and came up with a design that adhered more closely to traditional rules of heraldry. Elements of this design that made it into the final seal included the eagle and the unfinished pyramid.

 

Congress did not choose the third committee’s design, but instead, turned the creations of all three committees over to its long time secretary Charles Thomson on June 13. Thomson took elements from all three previous designs and made a few changes of his own, including removing the Liberty and Justice figures and using only the eagle and putting a banner in the eagle’s mouth. Barton again reviewed the design and made a few minor changes. The final design was presented to and approved by Congress on June 20, 1782.

 

The original die was cast within the next few months and first used on September 16, 1782. Charles Thomson, as secretary of Congress, kept the die and used it on official documents. It was adopted by the new United States government officially on September 15, 1789. The description of the seal has remained the same since it was adopted in 1782, but the die has changed slightly over the years each time the old one wore out and a new one was created. Such seals or flags often change in design because the "blazon," or the official description describes certain aspects of the design, but leaves others up to artistic interpretation. The current design was adopted in 1903 and all future die casts are to use the exact same design.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"No power on earth has a right to take our property from us without our consent."
John Jay


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The Continental Army leaves Valley Forge

The Continental Army leaves Valley Forge

 

On this day in history, June 19, 1778, the Continental Army leaves its encampment at Valley Forge in pursuit of the British Army. British General William Howe had captured Philadelphia in September of 1777. George Washington’s Continental Army had tried unsuccessfully to defeat the invading army at the Battles of Brandywine and Germantown.

 

Many skirmishes took place around the city for a few months between the two armies, but when the dead of winter hit, General Howe decided to settle the army in for the winter. Washington located a defensible location on the Schuylkill River about 25 miles west of the city at Valley Forge, named after a local Quaker forge. The location was protected by the river and some creeks and was high enough to allow a view of the surrounding area.

           

The winter at Valley Forge was miserable. Of the 12,000 soldiers encamped there, up to a fourth may have died from sickness and disease. Food and clothing were chronically short. Soldiers stayed in makeshift log huts with sheets for doors. The winter was one of the worst on record.

 

Things began to change though around March. The Prussian, Baron von Steuben arrived and started training the soldiers in military maneuvers and reorganizing the camp. General Nathanael Greene, arguably Washington’s most capable general, was made quartermaster general, meaning he was in charge of procuring supplies. He immediately began building roads and bridges and the supplies started rolling in. A group of bakers was organized under Philadelphia gingerbread maker Christopher Ludwig and the soldiers started having adequate supplies of bread to eat. In April, the shad season began on the Schuylkill and there was fish to eat.

 

In May, a wave of encouragement swept through the army when it was learned that France had joined the war on the American side. This meant more troops, money and armaments with which to fight the British. The entrance of France into the war also spelled bad news for the British. General Henry Clinton, Howe’s replacement, was forced to abandon Philadelphia because the French fleet could easily blockade his army in the city. He elected to march his army back to New York, leaving Philadelphia on June 18.

 

Washington was already aware of Clinton’s plans and had the army ready to move. As Clinton marched across New Jersey, the Continentals abandoned Valley Forge and engaged the British 9 days later in the Battle of Monmouth Courthouse, one of the largest and bloodiest battles of the war.

 

This battle was technically a stalemate, but the Continentals, which before this time had not been able to fight successfully in open battle against the British, proved that von Steuben’s winter training had paid off. The British were drawn to a standstill in the fight and eventually chose to retreat back to New York. After this, the battle would shift to the south and Washington’s northern army would not face the British again until the Battle of Yorktown in 1781, a battle which they would win decisively and would bring the war to a close.

 

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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The Americans retake Philadelphia

The Americans retake Philadelphia

 

On this day in history, June 18, 1778, Americans retake Philadelphia after the British army evacuates the city. Philadelphia was captured in September of 1777 by British General William Howe who was hoping to end the American rebellion by cutting off its head in Philadelphia. The Continental Congress, however, fled the city to York, Pennsylvania and continued to lead the rebellion from there.

 

After a massive British sea landing southwest of the city, George Washington and the Continental Army suffered thousands of casualties at the Battles of Brandywine and Germantown trying to save Philadelphia from capture, but to no avail. Thousands of patriots fled and nearly 20,000 British soldiers occupied the city.

 

General Howe, known for extreme caution, decided to wait out the winter in Philadelphia instead of attacking Washington’s army to the north of the city. The occupation was devastating for Philadelphia. Homes and businesses were ransacked or destroyed. Supplies of all kinds were in short supply. Piles of the dead lay around the city. Meanwhile, the top officers lived in luxury in the confiscated homes of patriots who had fled.

 

The Continental Army passed the winter at Valley Forge, starving and freezing in makeshift huts. The one advantage they had was that this hastily prepared army finally had some time to train. Washington and the newly arrived Prussian Baron, Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, instituted a strict regimen of firing and marching exercises that better enabled the army to fight against the British once the campaigns began again in 1778.

 

In October of 1777, the army of British Major General John Burgoyne was forced to surrender to American General Horatio Gates at Saratoga, New York. This surrender encouraged France to join the Americans by declaring war against Great Britain the following February, forcing Britain to redesign its entire war strategy. Large numbers of troops were sent from North America to the West Indies to defend British interests there. General Howe was replaced by General Sir Henry Clinton, who was ordered to abandon Philadelphia and return to New York as both cities were now endangered by blockade of the French fleet.

 

When Clinton took over from Howe in May, he immediately began planning the evacuation of the city. He did not, however, have enough ships to transport thousands of troops, horses, supplies and numerous Loyalists and their belongings who wanted to flee as well. Consequently, he ordered an overland march of the troops and allowed thousands of Loyalists to flee to New York on his ships.

 

The city was finally abandoned on June 18 and George Washington sent Major General Benedict Arnold, who had not yet committed his act of treason, into the city to become its temporary military commander. Congress returned shortly after. The Continental Army, meanwhile, came out of Valley Forge and chased Clinton’s army on its way back to New York, culminating in the massive Battle of Monmouth, a battle involving 25,000 men. The battle was essentially a draw, ending up with the British back in New York City and the Continental Army back at White Plains, New York, the exact positions they were in two years earlier before the New Jersey and Philadelphia campaigns.

 

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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Patriots lose the Battle of Bunker Hill

Patriots lose the Battle of Bunker Hill

 

On this day in history, June 17, 1775, patriots lose the Battle of Bunker Hill, the first major battle of the American Revolution and the bloodiest of the entire war. The Battle of Bunker Hill began when patriots surrounding Boston learned that British commanders were planning to break out and take the hills around the city. The very green and untrained militia was surrounding the city after chasing the British back to Boston after the opening shots of the war at the Battles of Lexington and Concord.

 

The British were planning to break out of the town on June 18, but a businessman from New Hampshire visiting the city alerted the patriots after overhearing the plan. At this time, the militia was under the command of Massachusetts General Artemas Ward. The Continental Army was only authorized in Philadelphia on the 14th and George Washington appointed its leader on the 15th. The events that unfolded on Bunker Hill and Breed’s Hill occurred several weeks before Washington arrived and took over.

           

On the night of June 16, 1200 soldiers entered the Charlestown Peninsula north of Boston under Colonel William Prescott. Prescott’s orders were to build fortifications atop Bunker Hill on the northwest part of the peninsula. Prescott disobeyed the orders and built atop Breed’s Hill instead, which was further south and closer to Boston. This defiance of orders was typical of American movements at the time since the militia was made up of units from different counties and cities with no established chain of command.

 

Across the water in Boston, British General Thomas Gage was informed of the American movements early on the 17th. He began preparing an assault on the peninsula, but the soldiers took their time and didn’t begin landing until late in the afternoon. By 3:00 the British began their first assault. American commanders had ordered their soldiers not to fire until the British were within close range in order to assure that every bullet would count since they were very low on ammunition.

 

The first British assault turned into a massacre as the Americans fired on them as they marched up the hill on Prescott’s position. Colonel John Stark repelled another attack on the left flank by British Major General William Howe. Dozens and dozens of British soldiers fell and the survivors were forced to retreat. A second assault had the same results. The British regrouped once again for a third assault, but this time the Americans on Breed’s Hill ran out of ammunition. British soldiers crawled over their own dead comrades to get to the top of the hill where hand to hand combat began. The British, who were better equipped with bayonets, finally drove the Americans back across Bunker Hill and across the Charlestown Neck.

 

The Battle of Bunker Hill was a victory for the British since they took the peninsula, but at an enormous cost, suffering over 1,000 casualties! 226 were killed and over 800 injured. A large chunk of Britain’s officer corps in North America was killed or wounded, including the entire field staff of General Howe. The Americans lost 115 killed and 300 wounded, including the President of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, Dr. Joseph Warren.

 

News of the battle shocked London to its core. It finally realized that the Americans were not the "rabble" they were thought to be, but a formidable fighting force. The battle also hardened Americans and persuaded many to join the revolutionary cause. The battle was a strategic stalemate, having no real value to either side, but to strengthen their resolve. George Washington would arrive in July and begin the task of forming the militia into an orderly and effective army. They would finally force the British to abandon Boston the following year.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

“If the people let the government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will be in as sorry a state as are the souls living under tyranny.”
Thomas Jefferson


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