Monthly Archives: December 2021

The Americans are defeated at the Battle of Quebec

The Americans are defeated at the Battle of Quebec

 

On this day in history, December 31, 1775, the Americans are defeated at the Battle of Quebec, the first major loss for the Continental Army during the American Revolution. The Continental Congress launched an invasion of Canada in September of 1775, trusting that the largely French speaking population would rise up against their British oppressors and join the Americans in their rebellion.

 

The first wave of the invasion was a success as General Richard Montgomery captured Fort St. Jean and Montreal. As Montgomery’s 1700 men marched up from the south, Colonel Benedict Arnold landed in Maine and began a march with another 1100 troops across the wilderness straight to Quebec City, the capital of the province. Arnold’s march was heroic, but, lacking adequate supplies, starvation and disease set in and many troops deserted, leaving Arnold with only 600 men by the time he reached Quebec City. Arnold attempted to get British Governor and Major-General Guy Carleton to surrender the city, but he refused, causing Arnold to withdraw to await reinforcements.

 

When General Montgomery arrived in early December, he began to plan an attack on the city, although he was outnumbered, 1000 to 1800 men. Quebec City was one of the best fortified cities in America with its large, thick walls. Montgomery had little artillery, so he could not bombard the walls. Instead, he determined that he should wait for a snowstorm, when his advance would be hidden by the storm. On December 31st, a snowstorm hit and Montgomery made his move around 4am. Two companies led attacks on the western walls of the city as a feint, while the more serious invasion attempts would be made on the north and south of the city, one each led by General Montgomery and Colonel Arnold.

 

General Montgomery’s men followed along the southern wall of the city and entered through a palisade, but were quickly cut off by cannon and gun fire from a blockhouse. Montgomery was killed instantly with a shot through the head. A dozen others were killed as well, including several other senior officers. Only a few escaped, including a young soldier named Aaron Burr who would one day be Vice President. The remaining troops fled in disorganization after the senior officers were killed.

 

Colonel Arnold continued his attack on the north of the city. Arnold’s men made it into the city as well, but Arnold was shot in the ankle, taken off the field and replaced by Captain Daniel Morgan. Morgan’s men overtook the first barricade, but were soon surrounded and, after intense street fighting, forced to surrender. The battle ended by 10am. In all, about 80 Americans were wounded or killed and another 430 captured. The British lost only 5 dead and 14 wounded.

 

After the defeat, Benedict Arnold continued the siege on the city for another 5 months, sending word to the Continental Congress for reinforcements. Although a few reinforcements arrived, the remaining troops were so devastated with disease and poor conditions during the winter that General John Thomas, who replaced Arnold in April, ordered a retreat. The Americans retreated upriver, attempting to burn Montreal, and successfully burning Fort St. Jean, as they withdrew. The invasion of Canada was a failure. The Continental Congress would not try again to persuade its Canadian neighbors to join them in the fight for independence.

 

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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Declaration of Independence signer Francis Lewis dies

Declaration of Independence signer Francis Lewis dies

 

On this day in history, December 30, 1803, Declaration of Independence signer Francis Lewis dies. Lewis was a New York delegate to the Continental Congress and a member of the New York Provincial Congress who saw more personal tragedy as a result of the American Revolution than most of the other Founders.

 

Francis Lewis was born in Wales and was orphaned as a young child. He was taken in by an aunt and uncle and was schooled at Westminster School in London. Lewis went to work at a London counting house where he learned about business. In 1735, at the age of 22, he sold all the property he had inherited from his father and invested it in merchandise. He moved to America and established mercantile houses in New York and Philadelphia with his goods, eventually becoming a financial success, traveling all over Europe and to Russia and Africa in his mercantile pursuits.

 

During the French and Indian War, Lewis served as a mercantile agent, supplying uniforms to the British army. In 1756, while he was serving as an aide to General Hugh Mercer at Fort Oswego on Lake Ontario, the Fort was captured by French General Louis-Joseph de Montcalm. Lewis was sent as a prisoner to France where he remained for several years until his release. Upon his release, Lewis returned to America and was rewarded with 5,000 acres of land for his service to the British government.

 

In 1765, Lewis retired from business, moved his family to his estate at Whitestone (now Flushing), New York and became involved in politics. He is believed to have been a member of the New York Sons of Liberty and served on several early committees of the fledgling New York state government.

 

In 1775, Lewis was elected to the Continental Congress. He was not allowed to vote for independence on July 2, 1776 due to his state’s reluctance to break from England, but he did sign the Declaration on August 2nd. Later that month, British General William Howe invaded Long Island. Lewis’ home was ransacked and burned and his wife captured. She remained in British custody for some time and was so poorly treated that she became severely ill. A prisoner exchange could not be conducted for some time because the Americans did not have a female prisoner of equal rank to exchange, but George Washington was able to finally arrange her release. Mrs. Lewis never recovered from her illness and died in 1779.

 

Most of Francis Lewis’ wealth was destroyed or spent during the war. He continued to serve in the Continental Congress as a delegate from New York until 1779 when he was appointed to oversee the Board of Admiralty. He signed the Articles of Confederation, America’s first governing document, in 1778. In his old age, Lewis became a vestryman at Trinity Church in New York City, where he was buried when he died at the age of 90 on December 30, 1803.

 

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 having power ought to be distrusted to a certain degree."
James Madison (1787)


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Savannah, Georgia is captured by the British army

Savannah, Georgia is captured by the British army

 

On this day in history, December 29, 1778, Savannah, Georgia is captured by the British Army in the First Battle of Savannah, the first strike of the new British southern campaign aimed at taking back control of the rebellious southern colonies. With the entry of the French on the side of the Americans after the victory at Saratoga, British commanders were forced to reassess their entire war strategy, involving a withdrawal from captured Philadelphia and a new effort designed to take back Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia.

 

The Southern Strategy relied on the British belief that Loyalist sentiment and numbers were very strong in the south and could be exploited to more easily put down the rebels there. Lieutenant Colonel Archibald Campbell left New York City with a force of 3100 men on November 26 and arrived off Tybee Island, near the mouth of the Savannah River on December 23.

 

Savannah was defended by a small group of Georgia militia and Continental Army soldiers under the command of General Robert Howe, but he only had about 650 soldiers to defend the town. When Howe learned that Campbell had begun landing his troops south of the city, his men took up positions between them and the town.

 

As Campbell’s men advanced toward them, a slave told Campbell of a path through the swamp that would bring them in behind Howe’s men. The path was followed and Howe was surprised from the rear. His position was quickly overtaken and his army scattered, many fleeing into the swamps. Some escaped to the north, others into the town, while still others drowned trying to swim across Yamacraw Creek. 83 Americans died and more than 450 were captured in what is known as the First Battle of Savannah. The British lost only 7 killed and 17 wounded.

 

Campbell took over Savannah and within eighteen months the British had near complete control over Georgia and South Carolina. General Howe took the blame for the loss of the city, but was exonerated in a court-martial for the incident. Other commanders believe he should have engaged the British forces at their landing site and prevented them from disembarking.

 

A major offensive was made to retake Savannah by American Major General Benjamin Lincoln and French Admiral Charles Hector, Count D’Estaing in October, 1779, but the attempt failed, turning into one of the most bloody losses of the war for the Americans. The city of Savannah would remain in British hands for the entire rest of the war and would not be retaken by the Americans until the British withdrawal in July, 1782.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

"As neither reason requires, nor religion permits the contrary, every man living in or out of a state of civil society, has a right peaceably and quietly to worship God according to the dictates of his conscience."
Samuel Adams, A State of the Rights of the Colonists, 1772


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Ben Franklin publishes first Poor Richard’s Almanack

Ben Franklin publishes first Poor Richard’s Almanack

 

On this day in history, December 28, 1732, Ben Franklin publishes the first Poor Richard’s Almanack. Franklin would publish the almanac for the next 25 years, becoming rich and famous in the process. Poor Richard’s Almanac contained weather predictions, witty sayings, poems, proverbs, astronomical information, math exercises, epigrams (clever sayings), calendar information, etc.

 

Franklin’s writing in the almanac came off appearing as if it was all his own homespun sayings and advice, but in reality, much of it was copied from other European almanacs and other books. Many of the sayings and puzzles were just borrowed verbatim from these sources. Even the name Richard Saunders, Franklin’s persona in the series, was borrowed from a popular London almanac called the Apollo Anglicanus. Saunders eventually came to be known as "Poor Richard" and this was borrowed from another London almanac called "Poor Robin’s Almanack."

 

Poor Richard’s was published every year from 1732 to 1758, selling around 10,000 copies a year. It was Franklin’s second most successful printing enterprise, after the Pennsylvania Gazette. The almanac was so popular that it was often the only other book in colonial homes beside the Bible. Between the Gazette and Poor Richard’s, Franklin earned enough income to retire at the age of 42 in 1748. After retirement, Franklin’s partner continued the printing business, while Franklin still provided the material for the almanac.

 

Franklin’s almanac was purchased for a variety of reasons, including the calendar, astronomical observations and weather predictions, but it became known most of all for Franklin’s proverbs, aphorisms and plays on words. Many of these sayings have come down to us today and are part of everyday life, including such sayings as, "Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise;" "God helps them that help themselves;" "Well done is better than well said;" "Search others for their virtues, thy self for thy vices;" and "He that sows thorns, should not go barefoot."

 

A few other sayings from the almanac include, "To err is human, to repent divine, to persist devilish;" "Many have quarrel’d about Religion, that never practis’d it;" "No man e’er was glorious, who was not laborious;" "He that cannot obey, cannot command;" "By diligence and patience, the mouse bit in two the cable;" "Nothing but money, Is Sweeter than Honey;" and "It is better to take many Injuries than to give one."

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"If by the liberty of the press were understood merely the liberty of discussing the propriety of public measures and political opinions, let us have as much of it as you please: But if it means the liberty of affronting, calumniating and defaming one another, I, for my part, own myself willing to part with my share of it, whenever our legislators shall please so to alter the law and shall chearfully consent to exchange my liberty of abusing others for the privilege of not being abused myself."
Benjamin Franklin (1789)

 

 


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The Battle of Cedar Bridge is fought

The Battle of Cedar Bridge is fought

 

On this day in history, December 27, 1782, the Battle of Cedar Bridge is fought near Manahawkin, New Jersey. One of the last skirmishes of the Revolutionary War, the Battle of Cedar Bridge was a fight between Loyalist holdouts and New Jersey militia, illustrating the civil war nature of the American Revolution.

 

During the Revolution, Royal Governor William Franklin, son of Benjamin Franklin, authorized Loyalist supporters to form militia groups to fight against the "patriot" rebels. Numerous of these "Boards of Associated Loyalists" sprung up around New Jersey, including one in the New Jersey pinelands which had Captain John Bacon as one of its members.

 

Over the course of several years during the war, Bacon earned quite a notorious reputation for making raids on the homes and businesses of patriots throughout southern and eastern New Jersey. In one particularly gruesome act, Bacon and his followers, who were known as the "Pine Robbers" or the "Refugees," killed 30 crewmembers of the patriot privateer, Alligator, as they slept on Long Beach near their ship. The event caused an all-out manhunt as the militia tried to capture Bacon and bring him to justice. The massacre is called the "Barnegat Light Massacre" or the "Massacre of Long Beach."

 

As the end of the war approached, Loyalists began to dwindle in number as many fled to Nova Scotia or Canada. Pockets of Loyalist resistance began to shrink, especially in the cities and some of those that remained set up enclaves in the wilderness, hence the name, the "Refugees." They were truly like refugees in a foreign land. Bacon’s group took on this nature of a wilderness resistance group. Homes were pillaged. Businesses were robbed. Travelers were accosted on the road.

 

In December, 1782, two militia groups were out en masse hunting for Bacon and his band. Captain Edward Thomas of Mansfield and Captain Richard Shreve of Burlington County were heading the search mission when they heard that Bacon was near Cedar Creek, in present day Ocean County near the town of Barnegat.

 

Bacon’s men had stopped at the Cedar Bridge Tavern for some food. When he heard the militia was near, he knew he didn’t have time to escape, so he set up a barricade across the Cedar Bridge. As soon as the militia arrived, a firefight broke out. Bacon’s men lasted for quite a while, but the militia soon began to get the upper hand. Just when it seemed the militia would overtake the "Refugees," shots rang out from another direction from a bunch of local Loyalists who arrived to help Bacon. In the confusion, Bacon escaped, although he was injured in the fight. Several of these locals were later hanged for helping Bacon.

 

Four months later, in April of 1783, Bacon was captured and killed at another tavern near Tuckerton, New Jersey by some of Captain Shreve’s men. He was so hated that his body was paraded through town and across the countryside and finally buried in an unmarked grave in Arneytown.

 

The Battle of Cedar Bridge, or the Skirmish of Cedar Bridge, was one of the very last engagements of the Revolutionary War. Word of a signed preliminary peace treaty with Great Britain arrived in the United States shortly after the skirmish and a ceasefire was declared by Congress in the same month that John Bacon was killed.

 

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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The Americans win the Battle of Trenton

The Americans win the Battle of Trenton

 

On this day in history, December 26, 1776, the Americans win the Battle of Trenton, reversing a series of defeats and proving the Continental Army had what it took to compete against the British. The victory came after months of losses for the green American troops after being defeated at the Battles of Long Island, White Plains and Fort Washington, being driven out of New York and across New Jersey into Pennsylvania. In those three battles alone, 400 Americans were killed, 1000 injured and nearly 4000 captured.

 

Instead of pursuing the weakened Continental Army, the British and their Hessian hirelings took up posts across New Jersey to settle in for the winter. George Washington’s army, on the opposite side of the Delaware River in Pennsylvania, was in desperate need of supplies, ammunition and even more soldiers, as many men were leaving as their enlistment terms expired. Thousands of soldiers were not even fit for battle, suffering from wounds in the previous battles, lacking weapons and even suffering from exposure due to lack of adequate shoes and clothing. Spirits were poor and Washington knew he had to make a decisive move against the British to turn things around, otherwise, all might be lost.

 

 

On December 20, 2000 more troops arrived with General John Sullivan and another 800 arrived with General Horatio Gates. These additional troops gave Washington the confidence that he had enough troops to make a move. The British army was stationed across New Jersey in outposts from Burlington in the south to New Bridge in the north. Trenton was one of the most vulnerable spots and this is where Washington decided to attack. During the evening of the 25th, three groups of soldiers attempted to cross the Delaware into New Jersey. Washington’s group was the only one to successfully get across due to a severe snowstorm. Washington’s troops then split into two parties and attacked the town from different directions.

 

About 1400 Hessian forces under the command of Colonel Johann Rall were sleeping, having let their guard down due to the snowstorm. Rall had been warned of an imminent attack, but the snowstorm caused him to discount any attack that night. Just after daylight, Washington’s troops began to come across Hessian posts as they approached the town. A firefight began and the Hessians retreated into town, realizing they were outnumbered.

 

Colonel Rall tried to organize a counterattack, but his troops were soon scattered and overwhelmed. Rall himself received a mortal gunshot wound in the combat. A few hundred Hessians escaped town to the south, but eventually nearly 1,000 surrendered. 22 Hessians were killed and 83 wounded in the fighting. The Americans lost only 2 men and that was due to exposure, while only 5 were wounded.

 

The Battle of Trenton was a crucial turning point in the American Revolution. The victory revived the spirits of patriots everywhere and encouraged more men to enlist in the Continental Army. Within a few days, Washington’s men would return to Trenton and turn back British reinforcements again on January 2. They would sneak off in the night to Princeton to overwhelm another Hessian garrison on the 3rd. These victories would turn the tide of the war.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

“Our cause is noble, it is the cause of mankind!”
George Washington


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George Washington crosses the Delaware River

George Washington crosses the Delaware River

 

On this day in history, December 25, 1776, George Washington crosses the Delaware River on Christmas Day with the Continental Army on their way to attack the Hessians at Trenton, New Jersey. The attack had been planned in secret and was a "Hail Mary pass" from Washington to save the failing American Revolution. After invading New York in August, Washington’s army had been driven out of the colony and across New Jersey late in the year. British forces quickly conquered Rhode Island and set their sights on wiping out Washington’s remaining forces and conquering Philadelphia, the home of the rebel Congress.

 

After crossing the Delaware into Pennsylvania, Washington had all the boats commandeered for seventy miles up and down the river to prevent the British from crossing. Instead of trying to follow, British Lt. Gen. Charles Cornwallis set up a string of garrisons across New Jersey, ordering the troops into winter quarters. Washington sensed an opening, knowing that the British troops would relax their guard having begun their winter rest. He also sensed an opportunity to revive the flagging spirits of patriots everywhere, who were deeply discouraged with the losses of late 1776. Indeed, British Commander-in-Chief Sir William Howe seemed to believe the Revolution was all but defeated by this point.

 

On the 23rd, Washington informed only the most senior of his officers of the planned attack on Trenton, in order to prevent spies from getting word to the British and Hessian outposts on the other side of the river. On the 25th, the soldiers were gathered at 4 pm and given their orders. The plan was to begin the crossing after dark and to divide the men into three different crossing groups. 2400 men were to cross with Washington at McConkey’s Ferry, 9 miles north of Trenton. Another group was to cross over with Lt. Col. John Cadwalader at Dunk’s Ferry near Bristol to the south to create a diversion, while a third group was to cross with Brigadier General James Ewing at Trenton Ferry, just south of Trenton.

 

Drizzle fell during the evening of the 25th, but as dark came on and the evening progressed, the drizzle turned to freezing rain and, eventually, to snow. Fierce winds churned the Delaware as the soldiers began to cross on captured boats of every kind, flat boats, ferry boats, Durham boats and others. Soldiers later told of hearing Colonel Henry Knox’s deep voice carrying across the river in the middle of the night, giving orders to the boats on how to get the soldiers, artillery and horses across.

 

In the end, Washington’s boats were the only ones to make it over safely. General Ewing called off his crossing because of the treacherous ice and wind on the river. Colonel Cadwalader got many of his men over the river, but brought them back when he could not get the artillery over, only to cross again after hearing of Washington’s victory at Trenton and to return again when he learned Washington had taken his captives back to New Jersey.

 

After the crossing, Washington’s men captured nearly 1,000 Hessians at the Battle of Trenton on the 26th and returned to Pennsylvania. Within a few days, they crossed back over and turned back reinforcements at Trenton on January 2nd and defeated another British outpost at Princeton on the 3rd. The whole operation forced Cornwallis to withdraw all his southern outposts in New Jersey to New Brunswick, while Washington’s army wintered at Morristown, New Jersey. The victories of December 25 through January 3 revived the flagging spirits of the Continental Army and proved that the Americans could stand up to their British foes.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"There is but one straight course, and that is to seek truth and pursue it steadily."
George Washington (1795)


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