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George Washington appointed head of the Continental Army

George Washington appointed head of the Continental Army

 

On this day in history, June 15, 1775, George Washington is appointed head of the new Continental Army. Congress created the Continental Army on June 14 and began discussing who should be appointed as Commander-in-Chief. John Hancock hoped for the position, but the more experienced Washington was elected unanimously the following day.

 

John Adams pressed for Washington as the Commander, partly because he believed someone from Virginia should hold the position. Virginia was the most populous colony and the southern colonies would be more likely to support a Virginian. In addition, Washington’s military experience from the French and Indian War was a decisive factor.

           

On June 16, Washington gave a short acceptance speech to Congress in which he expressed his grave reserves about his own qualifications for the position, but he accepted nonetheless and expressed his thanks for their trust in him. Washington then told them he would not take any salary during his time as Commander-in-Chief, but would only accept reimbursement for expenses. Washington then received his official commission on the 17th.

 

On the 18th, from Philadelphia, he wrote a letter to his wife Martha, informing her of his appointment and that he must leave for Boston immediately. He told her that he had not sought the position and had actually tried to avoid it, but that he felt duty bound to serve at the request of his countrymen. He also told Martha that he had updated his will and hoped to be home by the end of the year.

 

The following week, Washington left for Boston where New England militia were laying siege to the city. 6,000 British soldiers were trapped inside the city, while 10,000-15,000 militia, under the command of Massachusetts General Artemas Ward, surrounded the city. The militia was made up mostly of untrained farmers, merchants and artisans. They were underequipped and ill fed. Disease ran rampantly through their camps. Washington faced a formidable job of turning these regular citizens into an army that could defeat the vastly superior British army.

 

Much of these original militia members were absorbed into the Continental Army. They came from Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New Hampshire. As the war progressed they would be joined by their brethren from the rest of the colonies and develop into a formidable force in their own right. One of Washington’s greatest triumphs of the American Revolution was the turning of this ragtag bunch into a real army. Washington’s reputation as a commander and leader of men in the army eventually led to his being elected the first President of the United States.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

“No compact among men … can be pronounced everlasting and inviolable, and if I may so express myself, that no Wall of words, that no mound of parchment can be so formed as to stand against the sweeping torrent of boundless ambition on the one side, aided by the sapping current of corrupted morals on the other.”
George Washington (1789)


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First American Flag is officially adopted

First American Flag is officially adopted

 

On this day in history, June 14, 1777, the first American flag is officially adopted by Congress. The Flag Act of 1777 specified that the new American flag would have "thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation."

 

There is much controversy about who actually designed the flag. The two main candidates are Francis Hopkinson, a New Jersey signer of the Declaration of Independence, who was on the Naval Board at the time, and Betsy Ross. Both stories are unconfirmed though and have points that speak for their truth and against them.

 

Hopkinson submitted a bill to Congress for "creating the new US flag." The bill, however, was denied by Congress. Later Hopkinson changed the bill and asked for payment for creating the new US Navy flag. Were there two separate flags, one for the Navy and one for the Army? Some evidence suggests this. Hopkinson was also an artist and an expert in heraldry (flag design). In spite of this, there is no evidence of any drawings Hopkinson submitted to Congress.

 

The Betsy Ross flag story is more well-known. Again, though, there is no contemporary evidence for the story. The story comes entirely from Betsy’s grandson William Canby, and a few other relatives, all of whom stated many years after her death that they heard Betsy tell the story from her own mouth.

 

This legend goes that George Washington, George Ross (Betsy’s late husband’s uncle) and Robert Morris approached her secretly in May or June of 1776 and asked her to make the flag. Circumstantial evidence supports the story. Betsy and George Washington sat in pews next to each other at church and Washington was known to visit Betsy socially and professionally, using her tailoring services. George Ross was a family member who had been in Congress. Due to lack of concrete evidence, however, we will never know for sure who designed the first American flag.

 

The Flag Act of 1777 did not specify the pattern for the stars, the number of points on the stars, the width of the stripes or the canton (the blue field) or whether a white or red stripe should be first. This caused a proliferation of flag designs with the stars especially being in many different patterns.

 

The Flag Act of 1794 added two stars and stripes for the new states of Vermont and Kentucky. This was the only official United States flag to ever have 15 stripes. The Star Spangled Banner Flag of Francis Scott Key fame was made in this design, but again, the 1794 act did not specify the pattern of the stars.

 

The Flag Act of 1818 finally determined that the stripes would remain at 13 for the original colonies. It also added five stars, bringing them to 20, for recently inducted states. This act also set the rule that a new star would be added for each new state to be added. The new star would be added on the July 4th after the state was added to the Union. The last time the US Flag was changed was with the addition of Alaska, the 50th state, in 1960. June 14 is celebrated across America as Flag Day in honor of the adoption of the first official US Flag.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

"Freedom had been hunted round the globe; reason was considered as rebellion; and the slavery of fear had made men afraid to think. But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks, and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing."
Thomas Paine, Rights of Man, 1791

 

 

 

 


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The 1st Rhode Island Regiment is disbanded

The 1st Rhode Island Regiment is disbanded

 

On this day in history, June 13, 1783, the 1st Rhode Island Regiment is disbanded. The 1st Rhode Island Regiment was the Revolution’s only regiment to have units made up entirely of African Americans. The regiment was not all black, but was at one point at least ¾ black. The regiment had white officers and other white, Indian and mulatto members, but it was unique in that it had entire units made up of former slaves, while other regiments with blacks were more integrated.

 

The use of slaves or former slaves in the American Revolution was controversial. Many whites did not like the idea of arming slaves because they thought it might encourage a rebellion. Under direction of the Continental Congress, George Washington issued an order early on forbidding the service of blacks in the Continental Army.

           

Nearly simultaneously, Governor Murray of Virginia issued an order granting freedom to any slaves that would leave their masters and join the Royal Army. As the war progressed and the states found it hard to fill their quotas of soldiers, voices began to rise advocating the use of slaves and free blacks. By early 1776, Washington had changed the order to allow free blacks with former military experience. The following year he allowed all free blacks.

1st Rhode Island Regiment at the Battle of Bloody Run Brook by David Wagner

 

In 1778, Rhode Island’s capital Newport was occupied by the British. The rebel legislature could not fill its quota of soldiers asked for by Congress. Rhode Island Brigadier General James Mitchell Varnum recommended to General Washington that slaves be taken into the ranks. Washington sent the request to Governor Nicholas Cooke. In February, the Rhode Island Assembly voted to allow all slaves to join the 1st Rhode Island Regiment. They were to be granted their freedom for their service and their owners would be compensated by the government.

 

Around 200 blacks eventually joined the Regiment, which saw its first celebrated action at the Battle of Rhode Island in August. The green African American regiment fought valiantly in an effort that allowed the besieged American troops to retreat with few casualties, while inflicting serious casualties on their attackers.

 

The "Black Regiment," as it was called, was commanded by Colonel Christopher Greene, a cousin of General Nathanael Greene. Colonel Greene and many of his black soldiers were killed by Loyalists near Groton, New York in 1781. The Regiment did not see a lot of action since the main theater of the war shifted to the south, but they did play a role in the Battle of Yorktown. The regiment was disbanded at Saratoga on June 13, 1783, having served for five years 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

"Foreign influence is truly the Grecian horse to a republic. We cannot be too careful to exclude its influence."
Alexander Hamilton (1793)


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The Battle of Machias is the first naval battle of the Revolution

The Battle of Machias is the first naval battle of the Revolution

 

On this day in history, June 12, 1775, the Battle of Machias is the first naval battle of the American Revolution. Citizens of Machias, Maine (then part of Massachusetts) captured the armed British schooner HMS Margaretta when it threatened their town.

 

After the opening shots of the Revolution at the Battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775, American militia laid siege to the city of Boston, trapping the British army inside the city. British General Thomas Gage was forced to import supplies by sea since all land access was cut off. Loyalist merchant Ichabod Jones made a deal with Gage to sail to Machias, on the far northeastern part of present day Maine, to bring back a load of lumber to Gage, who needed it to build barracks for arriving troops.

           

Jones’ ships Polly and Unity left Boston, accompanied by the HMS Margaretta for security, arriving at Machias on June 2. The Polly and Unity went straight up the bay to Machias, while the Margaretta, under command of Midshipman James Moore, stopped to retrieve the guns from the wreck of the HMS Halifax, which had run aground in the bay earlier in the year.

 

When Jones arrived in the town, he explained to the citizens that he wanted to exchange his load of flour and other goods for a shipment of lumber. The citizens met on the 6th and voted against the transaction, not wanting to aid the British. Jones then called on Moore who brought the Margaretta within firing distance of the town. This caused alarm in the town and they voted again, this time to acquiesce in the transaction with Jones.

 

Jones, however, refused to do business with anyone who had previously voted against the deal, which made many citizens angry. Colonel Benjamin Foster, leader of the local militia, took matters into his own hands. On June 11, the militia attempted to capture Jones and Moore while they attended church. Moore got away to the Margaretta, but Jones ran into the woods where he hid for two days.

 

Meanwhile, Foster and the militia boarded the Unity and the Polly and demanded that Moore surrender the Margaretta. After some brief gunfire exchange, Moore sailed downriver and tried to get away. While running, his main boom and gaff were broken in high winds removing his ability to navigate. At this point, he commandeered another ship and took its boom and mast to replace his own, and also took the ship’s captain, Robert Avery, of Norwich, Connecticut, captive.

 

Back in Machias, the Unity was equipped for battle, along with another ship, the Falmouth Packet and the two ships set out after the Margaretta, under command of Jeremiah O’Brien, a local captain. On June 12th, the much faster Unity overtook the Margaretta and after several attempts, her crew was able to tie the two ships together. Shots were fired and several on both sides were killed, including the captive captain from Norwich. When Moore, captain of the Margaretta, threw several grenades onto the Unity, he was shot in the chest by Samuel Watts. Moore died a few days later from his wounds.

 

With their captain down, the crew of the Margaretta quickly surrendered. They were later turned over to the Massachusetts Provincial Congress. Machias patriots went on to capture numerous British vessels during the war and many became part of the Continental Navy. Captain Jeremiah O’Brien served with distinction and has had five US Navy vessels named after him since. The Battle of Machias has the distinction of being the first naval battle of the American Revolution. Machias was later targeted for invasion in 1777, but the mission was a failure and the British failed to take the town.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"A right to property is founded in our natural wants, in the means with which we are endowed to satisfy these wants, and the right to what we acquire by those means without violating the similar rights of other sensible beings."
Thomas Jefferson

 

 

 


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Doctor Joseph Warren is born

Doctor Joseph Warren is born

 

On this day in history, June 11, 1741, Doctor Joseph Warren is born. Warren was one of the key patriot leaders in Boston leading up to the American Revolution. Unfortunately, he was killed early on at the Battle of Bunker Hill, becoming a martyr for the American cause.

 

Joseph Warren was born in Roxbury, Massachusetts in 1741 to a farmer who died when Joseph was only 14 when he fell off a ladder while picking fruit from his orchard. Joseph attended Roxbury Latin School and Harvard College. After graduating, he taught school for a year and began studying medicine. Joseph eventually opened a medical practice in Boston and became involved in local politics. He became an intimate acquaintance of such other patriot leaders as John Hancock, Samuel Adams, Paul Revere and Dr. Benjamin Church.

           

Warren was closely involved with several key events that led to the Revolution, including performing the autopsy on 11 year old Christopher Seider, who was killed during a riot a few days before the Boston Massacre. Warren participated on a committee that gathered depositions and put out a public report on the Boston Massacre itself. He was also the author of political articles and even wrote a patriotic song. Warren wrote the Suffolk Resolves, which encouraged the colonies to resist the Coercive Acts. He eventually became the President of the rebel Massachusetts Provincial Congress and a major general of the Massachusetts militia.

 

By mid-April 1775, the Massachusetts patriots were aware that General Gage was about to embark on a major mission to put down the growing rebellion, but they did not know the target of the mission. On the evening of April 18th, Warren received word from his inside spy, thought to be General Gage’s wife, that the intended target was the arms supply at Concord.

 

Warren quickly dispatched Paul Revere and William Dawes to warn Concord. The following morning, after the first shots rang out and the British soldiers began their perilous march back to Boston, Warren joined in the fight and was nearly killed when a bullet flew through his wig. He then helped coordinate the Siege of Boston and participated in negotiating with General Gage.

 

By June, the patriots learned the British were going to send out troops to take the hills around Boston. On June 16, Colonel William Prescott and 1200 men took Breed’s Hill and Bunker Hill on the Charlestown peninsula north of Boston to prevent the British from taking it. Now Major General Warren joined the men as a common soldier and helped prepare the defenses. On the 17th, the British began a major attack and on the third assault, General Warren was killed with a musket ball through the head. He was bayoneted numerous times, stripped bare and thrown in an unmarked grave.

 

Nearly a year later, the body was dug up by Warren’s brothers and identified by Paul Revere who had given Warren a false tooth. Warren became an instant hero and martyr for the Revolutionary cause. He has been celebrated as one of the first to give his life in the fight for American freedom. Paintings and statues were created in his honor and numerous places are named for him.

 

Warren had four children when he died who were then raised by his fiancée Mercy Scollay. Warren’s younger brother and apprentice, Dr. John Warren, went on to serve as a medic in the Continental Army and later founded the Harvard Medical School.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

The question is, not what rights naturally belong to man, but how they may be most equally and effectually guarded in society.
Roger Sherman

 

 

 

 


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John Hancock’s ship Liberty is confiscated

John Hancock’s ship Liberty is confiscated

 

On this day in history, June 10, 1768, John Hancock’s ship Liberty is confiscated for alleged smuggling. Many of the measures of Parliament with which the American colonies were in disagreement were created in order to raise revenue. Smuggling was a vast enterprise in the thirteen colonies and many of Parliament’s measures were directed at reducing it. Smugglers evading customs officials and the taxes they enforced reduced the Royal Treasury’s income.

 

On May 9, 1768, a ship owned by John Hancock sailed into Boston Harbor. The following day, the Liberty’s goods were inspected and the customs officials suspected Hancock of smuggling. The reason was that the ship only carried 25 barrels of Madeira wine, but it had the capacity for much more. They alleged that Hancock must have unloaded the rest of the cargo during the night before the goods were examined, but they had no evidence. Two customs officials were stationed on the ship during the night and they said nothing was unloaded… at first.

           

This followed another incident in April during which Hancock’s ship Lydia was boarded, also for suspected smuggling. In that incident, Hancock physically had the customs officials removed from the ship because they did not have a proper warrant. Suit was filed against Hancock, but later dropped because of the missing warrant. This may have made Hancock a marked man in the eyes of the humiliated customs officials.

 

A month after the original investigation into the Liberty’s alleged smuggling, one of the customs officials changed his story, saying some cargo actually had been removed in the night and the officials were forced to remain silent. On June 10, the Liberty was impounded, along with a new shipment of goods already loaded on her. The Liberty was hauled into the harbor and placed under guard by the HMS Romney, a British warship. When the Liberty was confiscated, a riot broke out in Boston. The homes of several customs officials were destroyed, causing several of them and their families to flee to the Romney.

 

Two suits were filed against Hancock, the first led to the permanent confiscation of the Liberty, which was put into the customs service and later burned by angry Rhode Island residents the following year. The second suit alleged Hancock smuggled wine and charged him for lost customs revenue plus damages. Hancock was represented by a young attorney named John Adams who would one day be president. The suit was finally dropped for lack of evidence.

 

It should be noted that no evidence has ever surfaced that Hancock was involved in any smuggling at all, even though he has that reputation. Of course, no records would have been kept about smuggling because it was illegal. Boston officials had already been calling for more security as they began enforcing the Townshend Acts. Boston had earned the ire of Parliament by issuing a circular letter calling for all the colonies to resist the Townshend Acts. The Liberty Incident only reinforced Britain’s decision to occupy Boston with military troops in October, 1768, to enforce customs laws, protect officials and reign in the rowdy citizens. The occupation would lead to the Boston Massacre in March, 1770.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

We must be unanimous; there must be no pulling different ways; we must hang together.
John Hancock

 

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The Gaspee Incident occurs

The Gaspee Incident occurs

 

On this day in history, June 9, 1772, the Gaspee Incident occurs near Providence, Rhode Island, when citizens burn the British revenue schooner HMS Gaspee and seize its crew. The Gaspee affair was one of a series of important events that lit the fuse to the American Revolution, but it is little known in comparison with other events such as the Boston Tea Party.

 

To understand the Gaspee Incident, one must understand Rhode Island’s unique circumstances before the war. Rhode Island had always been a place of dissidents. It was founded by religious dissenters who were kicked out of Massachusetts for their religious beliefs. Rhode Island was later the first state to declare independence from Britain and the last of the original 13 colonies to accept the Constitution.

           

Because of its unique topography, Rhode Island developed an economy completely based on sea trade, illegal sea trade. Rhode Island is only 35 miles across and 49 miles long, but it has 420 miles of coastland. It has few natural resources, so an illicit trade in slaves, illegal rum and molasses developed. The taxes and trade restrictions of the previous years, including the Sugar Act, the Townshend Acts, and so forth hit Rhode Island’s economy square in the face.

 

In 1772, the revenue schooner HMS Gaspee came under the command of Lieutenant William Dudingston. A revenue schooner was charged with boarding suspicious ships to look for smuggled goods and enforcing collection of customs taxes. Lt. Dudingston executed his duties zealously. Many merchants and sailors found their livelihoods threatened by Dudingston’s activities. Ships were boarded, goods confiscated and livelihoods ruined.

 

In addition, there was conflict between Dudingston and the popularly elected Royal Governor, Joseph Wanton. Colonists typically viewed revenue officers as under civilian control, but Dudingston was a military officer. The Crown had authorized naval officers to act as customs enforcers, but the colonists didn’t like this idea. A series of terse letters was exchanged between Wanton, Dudingston and Dudingston’s superior officer, Admiral John Montagu about whether or not Dudingston had the authority to look for "pirates" within Rhode Island waters.

 

On June 9, 1772, Dudingston chased a small packet called the Hannah up Narragansett Bay. When the ships arrived near present day Warwick, the Gaspee became grounded in shallow water. The crew of the Hannah landed in Providence and told the citizens about the Gaspee. Word quickly spread and enterprising citizens realized their chance to exact vengeance on Dudingston had come. Picketers marched up and down Providence’s streets telling people to meet at Sabin’s Tavern.

 

Led by merchant John Brown, somewhere between 50 and 80 men sailed in longboats that evening, arriving at the Gaspee in the middle of the night. When sentries became aware of their arrival, Lt. Dudingston came out in his night-hat and demanded to know who was there. One of the attackers yelled it was the sheriff and he had come to arrest the crew of the ship for piracy. At that point, one of the attackers fired a single shot that hit Dudingston right in the crotch. The attackers then boarded the ship and took everyone captive. As they left the boat, they set it ablaze. After leaving their prisoners on the shore, the Providence men returned home, but the fire in the boat reached the powder magazine and the ship blew sky high. Not a trace of the ship has ever been found!

 

After the incident, Parliament was outraged and a Royal commission was set up to find the perpetrators and hang them. Even though everyone in Providence knew who was involved, the commission could not find one single person who would give them up! After months of investigating, the commission was forced to give up and the perpetrators never paid for their crime.

 

The Gaspee Incident, also called the Gaspee Affair, was significant because it actually helped promulgate communication between the colonies. Colonists everywhere wanted to know what was happening in Rhode Island because Parliament could do the same things to them no matter where they were. Correspondence flourished between the various Committees of Correspondence set up in different cities as a result of the Gaspee Affair. The same Committees of Correspondence would coordinate the activities of a full blown rebellion that was to begin less than three years away.

 

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

 

Jack Manning

President General

2019 – 2021

National Society Sons of the American Revolution

www.sar.org

 

"Aware of the tendency of power to degenerate into abuse, the worthies of our country have secured its independence by the establishment of a Constitution and form of government for our nation, calculated to prevent as well as to correct abuse."
Thomas Jefferson to Washington Tammany Society, 1809


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