Monthly Archives: January 2022

James McHenry becomes Washington’s Secretary of War

James McHenry becomes Washington’s Secretary of War

 

On this day in history, January 27, 1796, James McHenry becomes Washington’s Secretary of War. McHenry was an Irish immigrant who came to America in 1771 at the age of 22. His family started an importing business in Baltimore, but James studied medicine in Philadelphia with Dr. Benjamin Rush, one of Pennsylvania’s most ardent patriots. Rush would teach McHenry medicine, but would also shape his political views.

 

When the American Revolution began, McHenry volunteered and quickly found himself at the Siege of Boston where he worked as a surgeon in the military hospital at Cambridge. This led to his appointment as a surgeon in upstate New York to care for soldiers wounded during the American invasion of Canada. Before he could take the position, however, McHenry was chosen to serve in the newly raised 5th Pennsylvania Battalion and was sent to Fort Washington in New York. The Fort was captured by the British on November 16, 1776 and McHenry, along with 2,000 others, was taken captive.

 

After his release in March, 1778, McHenry joined the Continental Army at Valley Forge as part of the army’s "Flying Hospital," a hospital unit attached to a battalion. At Valley Forge, McHenry became personally acquainted with George Washington and was soon asked to be one of his personal aides, a position he held for the next two and a half years. During this time, McHenry saw action at the Battles of Monmouth and Springfield.

 

In 1780, McHenry was transferred to the staff of the Marquis de Lafayette in Virginia. McHenry and Lafayette became lifelong friends and McHenry served at the Marquis’ side during the climactic Battle of Yorktown.

 

After the war, McHenry became involved in politics in his home state of Maryland. He served in the Maryland legislature for thirteen years and in the Continental Congress from 1783-86. As a delegate to the Constitutional Convention from Maryland, McHenry signed the US Constitution. His detailed notes from the proceedings have been of great importance to historians.

 

On January 27, 1796, President George Washington appointed McHenry his third Secretary of War. McHenry’s chief responsibility was to oversee the transformation of forts abandoned by the British on the western frontier in accordance with the Jay Treaty.

 

McHenry is credited with transitioning the forts into an efficient protection against Indian raids on the frontier, streamlining and organizing the military, codifying military rules, emphasizing civilian control over the military, overseeing the creation of 12 new regiments when war nearly broke out with France in 1798 and establishing the Department of the Navy.

 

McHenry remained as Secretary of War under President John Adams, but resigned in 1800 when he and Adams had disagreements. After his resignation, McHenry retired to his estate, named "Fayetteville" in honor of the Marquis, where he died in 1816. Baltimore’s Fort McHenry, where the battle that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the Star Spangled Banner occurred during the War of 1812, was named after James McHenry.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

We came equals into this world, and equals shall we go out of it.

George Mason


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Georgia patriots make a stand at Burke County Jail

Georgia patriots make a stand at Burke County Jail

 

On this day in history, January 26, 1779, Georgia patriots make a stand at Burke County Jail. In December of 1778, the British began their new Southern strategy with the attack and capture of Savannah, Georgia. The British were forced to reassess their strategy when France entered the war because the theater of war suddenly stretched around the world. Troops had to be taken from America and sent to other regions, such as the Mediterranean and the West Indies, to defend British interests there.

 

The Southern strategy took the focus away from the northern colonies and focused on retaking the south, where it was believed there was a much larger loyalist population that would support the invading British troops.

 

After Savannah was captured, British Major James Prevost issued an amnesty proclamation. If the citizens of Georgia would pledge their allegiance to the King, their previous rebel activity would be overlooked. About ten percent of the population took the oath, alarming Georgia’s patriot leaders.

 

Patriot leaders James Ingram, Francis Pugh, John Twiggs, Benjamin Few and William Few (who would go on to sign the US Constitution) convened a meeting on January 14, 1779 at the Burke County Jail to decide what to do. Meanwhile, Major Prevost sent a brigade of 3,000 men to take Augusta. The Burke County Jail sat 20 miles southeast of Augusta and the patriot leaders knew the jail would be a likely British target.

 

The Burke County Jail was built in 1778 by patriot John Sharpe and was used to house captured loyalists. The jail had quickly become a central meeting place for patriots in Burke County. At the gathering, the patriots quickly put out their own proclamation urging citizens to declare allegiance to the patriot cause and to gather with them at the jail within three days. They also published a list of Tory leaders they vowed to arrest. When Major Prevost heard of all this, he ordered Lt. Col. Archibald Campbell, in charge of the troops on the way to Augusta, to send off a detachment to take the patriots gathered at the jail.

 

Campbell sent 230 men, among them some of Georgia’s most prominent Tories, to take the jail. By the time Campbell’s men arrived, however, many of the patriots had already dispersed to arrest local Tories. Only 120 remained in the jail on the morning of January 26th. Here, the details get a bit foggy as different sources give different accounts. Some sources have nearly half the patriots dying and most of the rest captured or fleeing. Other sources say the Americans suffered 9 deaths, while the British had 5. These (more numerous) sources have the British finally being driven back and giving up after a whole day of fighting. In the end, the Battle of Burke County Jail appears to have been a draw.

 

Campbell’s forces went on to capture Augusta on January 31, but remained there only a few weeks due to gathering patriot forces in nearby South Carolina. Savannah, however, would be held by the British until the end 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

 

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


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Presbyterian Church burned at Elizabethtown, New Jersey

Presbyterian Church burned at Elizabethtown, New Jersey

 

On this day in history, January 25, 1780, the Courthouse and Presbyterian Church are burned in Elizabethtown, New Jersey by the British. Due to its proximity to New York City and Staten Island, the city was the site of numerous skirmishes and events of significance during the war. Elizabethtown sat just across Newark Bay from Staten Island and is just south of Newark, New Jersey. At the time of the Revolution, Elizabethtown was the largest city in New Jersey and its county, Union County, the largest county.

 

Elizabethtown (now Elizabeth) was a hotbed of patriot activity during the American Revolution. Abraham Clark, a signer of the Declaration of Independence was from Elizabethtown. Elias Boudinot, who was a President of the Continental Congress was also from Elizabethtown. William Livingston was a New Jersey delegate to the Continental Congress, a brigadier general in the New Jersey militia, New Jersey’s first governor and a signer of the US Constitution. William Burnet, John De Hart and Elias Dayton, all members of the Continental Congress, were also from Elizabethtown.

 

Staten Island was a primary base of operation for the British army for the entire American Revolution. Many British missions originated from here and it was a primary target for rebel activity. On January 14 and 15, 1780, New Jersey militia had conducted a raid in Staten Island that went bad because the soldiers, who had been instructed to confiscate livestock and military supplies, went on a wild scavenging mission and stole anything of value they could get their hands on. Sixty soldiers from Elizabethtown were captured during the raid.

 

In response, the British sent a raiding mission into Elizabethtown on January 25th. During the raid, the Presbyterian Church and the Courthouse were destroyed, as well as several private homes. You may wonder why a church was a target for the British. This particular church was pastored by the Rev. James Caldwell, known for his incendiary sermons against the British. 36 officers and numerous non-commissioned officers and privates in the Continental Army came from this church.

 

Caldwell is the pastor known for yelling out, "Give ’em Watts, boys! Give ’em Watts!," during the Battle of Springfield, in which the soldiers ran out of wadding for their guns. In response, he gave them a load of hymnals by the famous songwriter Isaac Watts and tore out the pages for wadding. He also served as a chaplain in the Continental Army. Caldwell was so hated by the British that his parsonage was burned down in a raid the year before. His wife, Hannah was killed, some say assassinated, only two weeks before at the Battle of Connecticut Farms while she sat in her house. Caldwell himself was assassinated by the end of 1781.

 

After the raid in Elizabethtown, the British soldiers went on to Newark, New Jersey where they burned down another patriot filled Presbyterian church, pastored by the Rev. Alexander McWhorter, and McWhorter’s school, Newark Academy.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"The boisterous sea of liberty is never without a wave."
Thomas Jefferson (1820)


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Major General John Sullivan dies

Major General John Sullivan dies

 

On this day in history, January 23, 1795, Major General John Sullivan dies. Sullivan was a lawyer from Durham, New Hampshire, who, in his younger days, became a hated figure for filing lawsuits against his neighbors. As the years passed though, he regained his stature and became friends with Royal Governor John Wentworth. In 1772, he was appointed a major in the New Hampshire militia.

 

In 1774, Sullivan was elected to attend the first rebel Congress of New Hampshire, which elected him a delegate to the First Continental Congress. Sullivan returned to New Hampshire in the fall of 1774 and led a raid on Fort William and Mary in New Castle. The raid was successful in rescuing a large supply of guns and cannon.

 

Sullivan was re-elected to Congress in 1775. Congress quickly appointed him a Brigadier General and sent him to the Siege of Boston. After the siege was broken, he was sent to Canada to take over the failed mission there. He was eventually forced to retreat and for this he was highly criticized in Congress, but still received a promotion to Major General.

 

Next Sullivan was put in command of the American forces at Long Island. He fought valiantly, but was captured. British Admiral Richard Howe sent Sullivan with a peace proposal to Congress, but nothing came of it. After his release, Sullivan fought at the Battles of Trenton and Princeton, his two major victories of the war.

 

In early 1777, Sullivan got into a fight with Congress for being overlooked for promotion. In August of that year, he failed to capture Staten Island, which led Congress to investigate his behavior, but he was exonerated. Sullivan commanded the right flank that collapsed at the Battle of Brandywine and he also performed poorly at the Battle of Germantown.

 

Some in Congress wanted him to resign, but he still found favor with George Washington who sent him to retake Newport, Rhode Island. This mission failed when a storm damaged the French fleet. Sullivan was criticized again, but sent on another mission to western New York where he conducted a "scorched earth" campaign against British Loyalists and their Indian allies. After this, Sullivan resigned from the army due to ill-health and frustration with Congress for being overlooked for promotion.

 

After his resignation, Sullivan was re-elected to Congress in 1780, but he resigned the following year after being accused of being a French agent when he borrowed some money from the French ambassador. Back in New Hampshire, where Sullivan was considered a war hero, he became the attorney general for 4 years, served in the state assembly where he was elected Speaker of the House, served 3 years as president of the state (governor) and served at the Convention that created the New Hampshire Constitution. He served as President of the state convention that ratified the US Constitution and in 1789 was appointed as the first US District Judge of the Federal Court in New Hampshire by George Washington, a position which he held until his death in 1795.

 

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 desire to avoid insult, we must be able to repel it; if we desire to secure peace, one of the most powerful instruments of our rising prosperity, it must be known, that we are at all times ready for War."    
George Washington

 

 

 


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Light-Horse Harry Lee and Francis Marion attack Georgetown

Light-Horse Harry Lee and Francis Marion attack Georgetown

 

On this day in history, January 24, 1781, "Light-Horse Harry" Lee and Francis Marion attack Georgetown, South Carolina. Georgetown was a Loyalist stronghold protected by 300 British troops led by Lt. Col. George Campbell.

 

"Light-Horse Harry" Lee, whose real name was Henry Lee III, was a Virginia lawyer who became famous for commanding light troops on horseback during the American Revolution, hence the name, "Light-Horse Harry." Henry’s second-cousin, Richard Henry Lee, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Henry was also distantly related to Thomas Jefferson through his great-grandmother.

 

After the war, Henry served as a delegate to the Confederation Congress for two years. He served in the Virginia Assembly for two years and became the 9th governor of Virginia. Lee led the 13,000 man army that suppressed the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794. He served as a representative to Congress for two years and delivered the eulogy at George Washington’s funeral on December 26, 1799, making the now famous statement, "He was first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen." Henry was also the father of Civil War Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

 

Francis Marion, called the "Swamp Fox," was a South Carolina planter who became famous for his guerrilla tactics against British troops during their Southern campaign. Marion led a group of South Carolina militia that would hide in the swamps, come out and attack unsuspecting British troops and Loyalist supporters and then melt back into the swamps. Marion became so hated by the British that his capture or death became a chief goal of Lt. Gen. Charles Cornwallis, the British army leader in the South. Marion served in the South Carolina Assembly and was promoted to Brigadier General during the war.

 

On January 24, 1781, Lee and Marion led an attack on Georgetown, South Carolina. The plan was to attack the riverside town from two directions. One group attacked from an island in the river, where they had hidden the night before. Lee’s cavalry was then to attack from the land and meet the ground troops in the town. The town had a small fort, but was weakly fortified.

 

When the attack began, the ground soldiers coming from the river quickly captured Lt. Col. Campbell, the garrison’s leader. The Americans were surprised when there was little resistance from the British soldiers and the Loyalists all went into their homes and stayed put. The soldiers could have taken the fort and captured several cannon held there, but Lee’s cavalry was late. Eventually they decided to leave and give up the few captives they held because they were wary of the losses they would take if they tried to take the fort. Lee’s troops did arrive, but it was too late and the mission to take the town failed.

 

The British used the incident to sack Lt. Col. Campbell who was disliked by his own troops (probably the reason they refused to defend him at the battle). Lee and Marion would go on and have numerous victories through the rest of the year, capturing British forts across the region and breaking down British communication between North and South Carolina permanently.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

“Harmony, liberal intercourse with all Nations, are recommended by policy, humanity and interest. But even our Commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand: neither seeking nor granting exclusive favours or preferences; consulting the natural course of things; diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of Commerce, but forcing nothing; establishing with Powers so disposed; in order to give trade a stable course.”
George Washington (1796)


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Mary Ludwig Hays McCauley, otherwise known as Molly Pitcher, dies

Mary Ludwig Hays McCauley, otherwise known as Molly Pitcher, dies

 

On this day in history, January 22, 1832, Mary Ludwig Hays McCauley, otherwise known as "Molly Pitcher," dies. The details of the Molly legend are somewhat uncertain. Molly Pitcher was actually a common name used for women who helped carry water to soldiers on the battlefield, so "Molly" is not necessarily referring to one person. Indeed, there are several "Mollies" that we know of.

 

One "Molly" that we do know a fair amount about is Mary Ludwig Hays McCauley. Mary was born in Pennsylvania to a poor family. She worked as a servant in a doctor’s house for many years before she married William Hays of Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

 

William Hays joined the Continental Army in May, 1777 in Bucks County, New Jersey, during the British occupation of that state. Mary joined William as a "camp follower" during the winter at Valley Forge that year. Camp followers were women who would travel with the army and perform tasks such as washing clothes, preparing food and caring for sick or dying soldiers.

 

William was trained as an artilleryman during the winter of 1777-78 and Mary is known to have carried water to the trainees. When the winter ended, British Commander-in-Chief, Sir Henry Clinton received orders to evacuate Philadelphia, which was captured in 1777 and to concentrate his forces in New York instead. This was due to a reassessment of strategic needs due to France’s entry into the war.

 

As Lt. Gen. Charles Cornwallis retreated from Philadelphia across New Jersey, George Washington attacked him at what is known as the Battle of Monmouth or the Battle of Monmouth Courthouse. During this battle, Mary’s husband William manned the cannons. The temperature was over 100 degrees that day and many men fell or died from heat exhaustion. Mary carried water from a nearby spring for her husband’s unit. The water was used by the men, but also to cool the cannon and the ramrod’s rag, a rag on the end of a stick used to clean excess gunpowder from the cannon after each shot.

 

At some point in the battle, William collapsed, but did not die. He was carried off the field and Mary took his place. She continued cleaning the cannon between shots with her husband’s ramrod and loading the cannon for the next shot. Mary was nearly injured when a musket ball went between her legs and tore off the bottom part of her dress. At some point, it is alleged that George Washington actually saw Mary on the field and issued her a warrant as a non-commissioned officer after the battle. After the war, Mary went by the name "Molly" for the rest of her life.

 

William Hays died in 1786, leaving Mary 200 acres of land he was awarded for his service in the war. She remarried to John McCauley in 1793 and continued doing domestic housework for the rest of her life. Around 1810, John McCauley tricked Mary into selling her land for a dirt cheap price and absconded with the money, leaving Mary penniless. In 1822, Mary was recognized by the Pennsylvania Government for her service in the war and awarded an annual veteran’s pension of $40 a year. She died at 88 and is buried in the Old Graveyard in Carlisle under the name "Molly McCauley."

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

In all our associations, in all our agreements let us never lose sight of this fundamental maxim – that all power was originally lodged in, and consequently is derived from, the people.

George Mason

 

 

 


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Colonel Ethan Allen is born

Colonel Ethan Allen is born

 

On this day in history, January 21, 1738, Colonel Ethan Allen is born. Allen became a land owner in the late 1760s in the area known as the New Hampshire Grants, the area of present day Vermont. Before the American Revolution, both Connecticut and New York claimed ownership of the land and granted land rights in the area causing frequent disputes between settlers with competing land claims.

 

Eventually, the local settlers formed the Green Mountain Boys, a militia group charged with stopping the actions of any New York officials or settlers in the area, and named Allen the group’s commander. New York’s Governor William Tryon eventually ordered Allen’s arrest and put a price on his head for the Boys’ activities.

 

When the Revolution began, the Green Mountain Boys immediately planned and captured the British Fort Ticonderoga and Fort Crown Point. Allen led the mission and was celebrated as a hero for the victories. The cannons captured at Ticonderoga were brought by Colonel Henry Knox across the wilderness to assist in breaking the Siege of Boston. On June 22, Allen and his cousin, Seth Warner, appeared before Congress and the Green Mountain Boys were brought into the Continental Army, but Warner was chosen as the leader because Allen’s personality and ego had turned many people off.

 

Congress invaded Canada that fall and Allen, who was supposed to be out recruiting local citizens for the army, attempted to capture Montreal. His small force was easily defeated and Allen was captured. He spent the next 2 1/2 years as a prisoner of war. He was eventually released in a prisoner exchange in 1778, received by George Washington and given an honorary title in the Army, but was never used in action for the rest of the war.

 

When Allen returned to Vermont, he became involved in local politics for the next several years, during which Vermont tried unsuccessfully to become the 14th state. Congress was reluctant because four states laid claim to the land and Congress couldn’t settle their dispute. As a result, certain figures in Vermont, including Allen, began negotiations with the British to come back under British rule. Historians believe these figures needed a government to protect their landholdings and since the US wouldn’t receive them, they went to the next best alternative. Vermont was finally accepted as the 14th state in 1791.

 

In 1785, Allen published Reason: the Only Oracle of Man, a polemic against Christianity. He was a believer in God, but was a deist and did not believe in the authority of the Bible or the divinity of Jesus Christ, earning him the reputation of a scoundrel in the eyes of many. He was only able to sell 200 copies, despite the widespread popularity of his earlier work, A Narrative of Colonel Ethan Allen’s Captivity, about his time as a prisoner of war.

 

Allen passed away on February 12, 1789 after having a stroke. His statue is featured in the US Capitol’s Statuary Hall as one of two Vermont leaders chosen by that state to be represented there. Allen’s grandson Ethan Allen Hitchcock served as a Union General in the Civil War.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

"[A] wise and frugal government … shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government."
Thomas Jefferson (1801)


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