Revolutionary War History

Continental Army begins its encampment at Valley Forge

On this day in history, December 19, 1777, the Continental Army begins its encampment at Valley Forge. British General Sir William Howe had captured Philadelphia in September of 1777. George Washington’s army attempted to defend the city, but was repelled at the Battle of Brandywine on September 11 and again at Germantown, on October 4, bringing gloom and despair to the American cause.

After several more skirmishes, Washington began to march toward Valley Forge, 25 miles northwest of Philadelphia, where he intended to winter his troops, arriving there on December 19th with 12,000 men who needed food, shelter and clothing for the next 6 months. Valley Forge was named for an iron forge on the nearby Schuylkill River. It is a naturally high spot overlooking the surrounding area, so it was easily defensible from British encroachments. In addition, the location was near enough to Philadelphia to monitor any British movements and prevent them from going further into the interior of the colony.

Most Americans have heard of the hardships suffered by the Continental Army during the winter of 1777 and 1778. There were food shortages and soldiers were often stuck with eating “firecake,” a mixture of flour and water. Sometimes they had to search for food on their own in the woods. 16×14 foot huts were built according to a pattern given by George Washington with twelve men to a cabin and often with only a sheet for a door – in the middle of the winter! In the spring, as things began to warm up, disease spread rampantly through the camp, perhaps killing as many as 1200 men.

What Americans may not be as familiar with, however, is the progress that was made during the winter at Valley Forge. The primary victory came with the arrival of Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, a former member of the staff of Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, who was recruited by Ben Franklin in Paris. Baron von Steuben’s arrival was welcomed by George Washington who put him in charge of better training the troops who had little uniformity in their methods and procedures since they were all trained in different locales. Von Steuben, who barely spoke English, quickly developed a system of drills, marching and firing exercises that went on throughout the winter. By spring, the army was able to move and retreat in lockstep over any terrain, fire its weapons much faster and communicate more quickly.

The true test of the winter’s efforts came in May when the entrance of France into the war forced General Howe to leave Philadelphia because he feared the French fleet would trap his army in Philadelphia. Howe began to march his army back to New York, but was quickly followed by George Washington’s newly trained troops. They met at the Battle of Monmouth, New Jersey, on June 28, 1778 in one of the largest battles of the war. The battle was technically a draw, but Washington’s army finally held its ground against the superior British troops, forcing Lt. Gen. Charles Cornwallis to retreat in the night for New York. The victory proved the Americans had what it took to stand against the largest army in the world. Three years from this time, the very same army would defeat Cornwallis again at Yorktown, Virginia and bring the Revolutionary War to a close.

Revolutionary War hero Thaddeus Kosciuszko is born

On this day in history, February 12, 1746, Revolutionary War hero Thaddeus Kosciuszko is born in Poland. Kosciuszko studied engineering and artillery in France, but he also studied the arts and became a fairly accomplished artist and composer. After his studies, Kosciuszko (Kos-choos-ko) was unable to purchase a commission in the Polish army because of his family’s financial plight, so he decided to join the American Revolution.

This was due partly to Kosciuszko’s desire to use his military education, but also because he could relate to America’s plight due to harsh treatment his own native Poland had received from Russia and Prussia. Kosciuszko received a letter of recommendation from Ben Franklin at Paris and took this to Philadelphia where he was made a colonel of engineers on October 18, 1776.

Kosciuszko’s first assignment was to strengthen the defenses of Philadelphia. In 1777, he was sent to Fort Ticonderoga in New York. His plan for fortifying the fort is well known for being rejected by the fort’s commander Major General Arthur St. Clair. If Kosciuszko’s advice had been taken, the fort probably would not have fallen. After losing Ticonderoga, Kosciuszko’s engineering prowess helped General Nathanael Greene get away from the advancing British army and was integral in locating a battle ground near Saratoga that was nearly impregnable. Kosciuszko’s fortifications at Bemis Heights enabled General Horatio Gates to capture British General John Burgoyne’s entire army, a major turning point in the war. General Gates wrote that “a young Polish engineer” was largely responsible for the victory.

In 1778, Kosciuszko was reassigned to West Point on the Hudson River, which was responsible for preventing British ships from traveling upriver. Kosciuszko strengthened the defenses along the river for a year and a half and is usually listed as the fort’s chief engineer and architect. In August, 1780, at his own request, Kosciuszko was sent to the south, where he was the chief engineer to General Nathanael Greene. In the south, Kosciuszko helped Greene’s army escape across the Yadkin and Dan Rivers from General Cornwallis, chose sites for army camps and helped choose the Guilford Courthouse battle site, where Cornwallis’ army was largely destroyed.

Kosciuszko was bayoneted in the buttocks during the Siege of 96, his only injury in the war. In 1782, he took over the intelligence network around Charleston formed by his friend Colonel John Laurens, when he was killed. At the end of the war, Kosciuszko was given an honorary title of Brigadier General, 500 acres and a soldier’s pension if he stayed in the United States.

Kosciuszko returned to Poland, however, where he became the top general involved in resisting the Russian occupation. His army was eventually destroyed and Kosciuszko spent several years in a Russian prison. He was freed in 1796 and returned to the United States, where he was welcomed as a war hero and developed a deep friendship with Thomas Jefferson. Kosciuszko would leave America again for France in 1798, where he hoped to persuade Napoleon Bonaparte to give Poland its freedom back. He was unsuccessful though and eventually moved to Switzerland, where he remained in exile for the rest of his life, never returning to his native Poland.

Pennsylvania General John Cadwalader dies

On this day in history, February 10, 1786, Pennsylvania General John Cadwalader dies. Cadwalader was a wealthy Philadelphia merchant and general who played a prominent role in the early years of the Revolution. He was born to a wealthy physician, but never finished college because he and his brother opened a successful mercantile business.

Cadwalader married the daughter of a rich Maryland planter. Between them, their wealth was so great that they built what was called the most luxurious home in the colonies in downtown Philadelphia. George Washington, a personal friend, wrote in his diary that it was the “grandest house he had ever seen.” To give you an idea of the wealth and prominence of John Cadwalader, a chair from his parlor sold for $2.75 million at Sotheby’s in 1986!

When the American Revolution broke out, Cadwalader was part of Philadelphia’s Committee of Safety. He was a militia captain in the “Silk Stockings Company,” so named because most of its members were wealthy. He was placed in command of a battalion to protect Philadelphia and was soon promoted to Brigadier General of the Pennsylvania militia.

Cadwalader played a key role early on, fighting in the Battles of Princeton, Brandywine, Germantown and Monmouth. He assisted in the planning of the attack on Trenton, New Jersey, and was charged with bringing a column of soldiers across the Delaware south of the city to assist George Washington. He was unable to get all of his soldiers across the river, however, because of the ice, causing him to turn back and miss the action. The following day, though, they did cross and helped Washington capture Princeton.

George Washington so respected Cadwalader that he urged Congress to appoint him a general in the Continental Army. Congress appointed him a Brigadier General, but he declined, instead choosing to stay on as a Pennsylvania general. Shortly after, Washington personally asked him to organize a militia for the defense of eastern Maryland, which he agreed to, later bringing those troops to several prominent battles. Cadwalader was then offered another generalship in the Continental Army over the cavalry, but he declined again, again preferring to remain in charge of the Pennsylvania militia.

In 1778, Cadwalader was involved with suppressing the “Conway Cabal,” an effort of General Thomas Conway to have George Washington ousted as commander-in-chief. Cadwalader was so offended at Conway’s actions that he challenged him to a duel and shot Conway in the mouth when they met on the field of honor. Conway recovered, wrote a letter of apology to Washington and fled to France, thus ending the Conway Cabal!

As the war shifted to the south, Cadwalader became a trustee of the University of Pennsylvania, a position his father also held, and moved to one of his homes in Maryland where he became a state legislator. He lived there for the rest of his life, but unfortunately died at the very young age of 43 in 1786.

Daniel Boone is captured by a British/Shawnee war party

On this day in history, February 8, 1778, Daniel Boone is captured by a British/Shawnee war party. Boone had forged a trail across the Cumberland Gap several years earlier and settled Fort Boonesborough, one of only three settlements at the time in what is now Kentucky.

In the winter of 1777-78, Boonesborough ran out of its vital salt supply. No supplies would come until spring, so the only way to get salt was by boiling water from a salt spring. The settlers decided they had to do this, in spite of the fact that sending out a large party of men to the nearest spring would leave the fort vulnerable to attack.

30 men set out for Blue Licks, which was about 60 miles away, where they gathered salt for several weeks. On February 8, Boone was out hunting when he was captured by a group of Indians. He discovered that over 100 Shawnee were on their way to attack Boonesborough, accompanied by two aides to the British Governor of Detroit. This was a British backed attack.

Boone knew the fort couldn’t stand, so he played nice and told them that if his men were allowed to surrender peacefully and accompany them back to Detroit, in the spring Boone would lead an expedition back to Boonesborough where he would persuade the settlers to declare allegiance to King George. Chief Blackfish, the Shawnee leader, agreed to this, not knowing that Boone was lying and trying to save the lives of his men and those back at the fort.

Boone persuaded the men to give themselves up, convincing them it was the only way to save their families. The Indians did not harm them, but did force them to “run the gauntlet,” a form of punishment in which the prisoners were made to run through two lines of Indians who would strike them as hard as they could. The prisoners stayed with the Indians for months, pretending to be friendly, but hoping to escape all along. Boone was even adopted into the tribe as a son of Chief Blackfish.

Back at the fort, word arrived that the men had been captured. After several months of hearing nothing, they were given up for dead. Rebecca Boone, Daniel’s wife, and her children moved back to North Carolina with many of the others. Meanwhile, one of the other captured men escaped and returned to the fort. He convinced them that Boone was collaborating with the British.

In June, the Shawnee decided to take revenge on Boonesborough for a failed attempt to capture Donelly’s Fort. Boone escaped to warn them, traveling 160 miles across the wilderness in 4 days. He was held in suspicion at first because the settlers believed he had colluded with the British, but he was able to convince them a war party was coming.

The Great Siege of Boonesborough began on September 8 and lasted 12 days. Though the Indians made numerous attempts, they were unable to penetrate its defenses and finally gave up the attack. Daniel Boone was charged with aiding the British for his ruse, but after a court-martial examined the evidence, he was commended for his handling of the crisis, promoted to major in the Virginia militia and soon reunited with his family in North Carolina.

Anna Maria Lane receives a Revolutionary War veterans pension

On this day in history, February 6, 1808, Anna Maria Lane receives a Revolutionary War veterans pension. Anna Maria is the only known Virginia woman who fought as a soldier in the Revolution. Scholars believe she was born in New Hampshire and that she became a “camp follower” when her husband, John Lane, joined the Continental Army’s Connecticut Line in 1776. Camp followers were women who traveled with the army and did tasks such as cooking, laundering clothes and tending to the wounded.

John served under General Israel Putnam and fought at the battles of White Plains, Trenton, Princeton, Germantown and later in Georgia. Anna Maria was apparently with him the whole time. We do not know when Anna Maria first fought as a soldier, but the one thing that is known for certain is that she was dressed as a soldier and fought at the Battle of Germantown in 1777 during George Washington’s attempt to retake Philadelphia from the British. Anna Maria was wounded in the leg during the battle and this made her lame for the rest of her life. Later in the war, John joined the Virginia Light Dragoons and fought in Georgia.

After the Revolution, John Lane took a job at the Virginia state arsenal at Point of Fork, Virginia. In 1801, he and Anna Maria moved to the capital of Richmond when he took a job with the public guard, which was the equivalent of the national guard today. The public guard in Richmond was responsible for the security of the capital city’s public buildings.

Anna Maria volunteered as a nurse at the military hospital in Richmond where she met Dr. John Foushee. Dr. Foushee was so impressed with Anna Maria’s work that he petitioned then governor (and future President) James Monroe to give Anna Maria a salary for her work at the hospital, which he agreed to.

By 1804, John and Anna Maria were both aging and retired from work. They joined a group of other war veterans and petitioned the state to receive veterans’ pensions. A letter dated January 28, 1808 from Governor William Cabell to the Virginia Speaker of the House recommends giving pensions to several veterans and he draws special attention to Anna Maria, saying she was “very infirm, having been disabled by a severe wound which she received while fighting as a common soldier, in one of our Revolutionary battles, from which she never has recovered, and perhaps never will recover.”

The typical Virginia veteran received a pension of $40 a year at the time. The Virginia legislature paid John and several others $40 a year in the legislation passed on February 6, 1808, but it took the extraordinary measure of paying Anna Maria Lane $100 a year – two and a half times the typical soldiers’ pension! Because of this extremely oversized salary, many historians speculate that Anna Maria must have done something truly extraordinary at the Battle of Germantown. Unfortunately, no one took the time to write down exactly what she did and the facts are lost to us today. Maybe she fought in hand to hand combat? Maybe she led a charge against the enemy? We will never know.

Anna Maria died in 1810. An historical marker was erected in her honor near the Capitol in Richmond in 1997.

General William Moultrie wins the Battle of Beaufort

On this day in history, February 3, 1779, General William Moultrie wins the Battle of Beaufort, also known as the Battle of Port Royal Island, when the British attempt to take this island at the mouth of the Broad River in South Carolina during the beginning stages of their invasion of the south.

After Savannah, Georgia fell, American Commander Major General Benjamin Lincoln gathered his forces at the small town of Purrysburg, just over the South Carolina border. British Brigadier General Augustine Prevost in Savannah, immediately sent a small force to take Port Royal Island, hoping to establish a base from which he could cut off the supply lines from Charleston to Lincoln’s army.

General Prevost sent 200 men to capture the small town of Beaufort on the island and its only protection, Fort Lyttleton, which was guarded by a handful of militia and 20 Continental soldiers. As soon as word came that the British were assaulting the island, however, the militia guarding the fort fled. Captain John DeTreville knew he could not defend the fort with only 20 men, so he spiked the fort’s cannons and blew up the main defensive bastion to prevent it from being captured by the British.

General Lincoln sent 300 militia under the command of South Carolina Brigadier General William Moultrie to confront the assault. Moultrie was the hero of the Battle of Sullivan’s Island that had prevented a British invasion of Charleston in 1776 and the Fort Moultrie Flag is named after him. Moultrie’s small army ferried to Port Royal Island on February 2 and occupied Beaufort on the morning of February 3.

Meanwhile the British force also landed on the 2nd on the opposite side of the island. A small force attempted to secure the island side of the ferry, but many of Moultrie’s men were already across and drove them off. The two forces met on the 3rd near the highest point on the island, called Gray’s Hill. In an unusual twist from the typical American/British battles, the Americans were arrayed in an open field, while the British took cover in a forest. The Americans took out the only piece of British artillery at the outset of the firing, leaving the Americans with superior numbers and superior firepower.

After 45 minutes of fighting, though, the Americans began to run out of ammunition and General Moultrie ordered a retreat. Just after the retreat began, he was relieved to hear that the British were also retreating. The British were taking a beating and Major William Gardner realized he could not take the island. General Moultrie ordered a pursuit and several British soldiers were captured as they fled to their boats and left the island. In the end, the British lost several dozen men, while the Americans had only 8 killed.

The Battle of Beaufort was not a significant battle in the American Revolution. It did however, raise the flagging spirits of patriots in the south who were quite rightly discouraged after the fall of Savannah and the invasion of the south. The stand at Gray’s Hill proved that green South Carolina militia forces could stand up to trained soldiers from the largest military on earth. The engagement would prevent any further incursions of the British into South Carolina for several months longer.

Gouverneur Morris, Penman of the US Constitution, is born

On this day in history, January 31, 1752, Gouverneur Morris, the “Penman of the US Constitution,” is born into the wealthy Morris clan of New York, a family which produced generations of prominent leaders, including a signer of the Declaration of Independence, Gouverneur’s half-brother, Lewis Morris.

Gouverneur was first elected to the rebel New York Assembly in 1775. He became a liaison between the Assembly and the Continental Army, starting a long period of advocacy for George Washington. When the British invaded New York, the family manor, called Morrisania, was overrun. Morris’ mother, and many of his aristocratic friends remained loyal to Britain, and he would be exiled for the next 7 years.

In 1777, Morris was elected to attend the Continental Congress as a New York delegate. He was immediately placed on a committee to improve the military and was sent to Valley Forge where he saw the deplorable conditions the army was living in. He said it was “an army of skeletons… naked, starved, sick, discouraged” and he became a chief advocate of military reforms. Morris signed the Articles of Confederation during this period and also suffered an unfortunate carriage accident that shattered his left leg, forcing him to walk on a peg-leg for the rest of his life.

At this early state, Morris became a strong advocate for an even stronger national government. This view was at odds with many in New York and he was not re-elected to Congress. Instead, he moved to Philadelphia and became acquainted with wealthy businessman, Robert Morris (no relation). When Robert Morris was elected Minister of Finance by Congress, Gouverneur became his assistant and the two organized Congress’ financial dealings for several years. In 1782, Gouverneur introduced the decimal based coin system that has been used in the US ever since and “coined” the word “cent.”

After the Revolution, Morris was sent to the Constitutional Convention by Pennsylvania, where he played a pivotal role by speaking an astonishing 173 times, more than any other delegate. Morris stood staunchly against slavery and promoted religious liberty at the Convention. His fluency earned him a spot on the committee to actually draft the US Constitution and much of its language is his own, including its familiar opening phrase, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union…”

Morris went to Europe in 1789 and stayed there for the next ten years. In 1792, he was appointed the US Ambassador to France, during the height of the Reign of Terror. He was deeply involved with helping aristocrats escape, even conducting a failed attempt to help Louis XVI escape. He was the only diplomat to stay in Paris during this time, at great risk to his life. He was instrumental in getting the wife of the Marquis de Lafayette out of France, while many of her relatives were beheaded. Morris’ diary of his time in France has been invaluable to historians of the French Revolution.

When he returned to the United States, Morris served one term as a US Senator from New York and retired to his ancestral estate at Morrisania. He was an instrumental player in the building of the Erie Canal that helped transform New York City into a commercial powerhouse. He died at Morrisania on November 6, 1816.

Secretary of State Timothy Pickering dies

On this day in history, January 29, 1829, Secretary of State Timothy Pickering dies. Pickering was born in Salem, Massachusetts, graduated from Harvard and became a lawyer in 1768. He joined the Essex County militia in 1766. In 1769, he was promoted to captain and published a small book about training and drilling the militia. This book was published in 1775 as “An Easy Plan for a Militia” and was used as the training manual for the Continental Army until it was replaced by Baron von Steuben’s new regulations in 1779. (Pickering’s letter to General Washington that accompanied delivery of this book.)

Pickering served on the Massachusetts Committee of Safety in 1774 and 1775 and was elected to the rebel legislature in 1776. Appointed a colonel in the Continental Army, his men were part of the Siege of Boston and then went with the Army to New York where his well-trained forces came to General George Washington’s attention. Washington made Pickering his adjutant general, meaning he was the army’s chief administrative officer. In this position, Pickering oversaw the creation of the Great Chain, which was a gigantic iron chain strung across the Hudson River at West Point to prevent British ships from going upriver. The chain succeeded in its purpose for the entire war.

In 1777, Congress placed Pickering on its powerful Board of War and in 1780 he was made Quartermaster General of the Army, meaning he was in charge of all supplies and the logistics of moving the army, a position he filled until the end of the war.

After the war, Pickering moved to Wyoming County, Pennsylvania. He served at the Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention that ratified the US Constitution. He entered into two successful land speculation deals that involved negotiations with northeastern Indian tribes and this again brought him to George Washington’s attention. Washington appointed him an ambassador to the Iroquois Indians and he negotiated the Treaty of Canandaigua, which established peace with the Six Tribes of the Iroquois confederacy, a treaty which is still in effect today.

Washington appointed Pickering Postmaster General from 1791-1795. In 1795, he became Washington’s Secretary of War for a brief time and then Secretary of State, a position he held through John Adams’ term as President. Pickering was a staunch supporter of England over France and this sometimes brought him into conflict with President Adams. Pickering supported going to war with France during the crisis of the late 1790s, while Adams did everything he could to prevent war. Pickering said some ugly things about Adams publicly and was involved in some behind the scenes manipulations trying to foment the war. For all this, Adams finally fired him on May 12, 1800.

After his time in the Cabinet, Pickering spent 8 years as a United States Senator from Pennsylvania and another 5 years as a member of the House of Representatives. During his time in Congress, Pickering was highly involved in the movement to secede New England from the United States, a dispute which arose because of differences between Pickering’s minority Federalist Party and the ruling Jeffersonian Democratic-Republicans. Pickering returned to Salem after retiring and lived on his farm until his death in 1829.

Jack Manning
Treasurer General
National Society Sons of the American Revolution

Fort Nashborough, now called Nashville, is founded

On this day in history, January 28, 1779, Fort Nashborough, now called Nashville, is founded during the American Revolution in response to Indian attacks on settlers in the area. After the Revolution began, many Cherokee and other tribes in the southeast joined the British against the Americans. Their motivation was to stop the American settlers’ encroachment on their land.

The Cherokee, especially, played a huge role in the Revolution, particularly in Georgia and South Carolina. Not all Cherokee sided with the British, however. Many remained neutral and some were on the side of the Americans. Chief Dragging Canoe was the principal anti-American and anti-settler chief in the region.

Dragging Canoe led numerous attacks on settlements throughout what is now Tennessee and Kentucky, Virginia, Georgia and North and South Carolina. This conflict between American settlers and Chief Dragging Canoe and his allies stretched from 1776 when the Revolution began, to 1794 when peace was finally reached between the two sides. The whole time period is called the “Chickamauga Wars” and is named after the Chickamauga River where Dragging Canoe settled and had his base of operations.

What is now known as Tennessee was part of North Carolina at the outbreak of the Revolution. The mid-section of modern Tennessee had no permanent white settlements up to this point, although the region had been traveled thoroughly by traders and explorers. In 1775, Judge Richard Henderson of North Carolina purchased about two million acres of land from the Cherokee in what is now Kentucky and Tennessee, including the Nashville area. Dragging Canoe was firmly against the sale and mounted attacks on settlers coming into the area. Henderson’s original plan was to create a 14th state known as Transylvania in the region, but the plan fell apart when Congress and the state of Virginia did not recognize the claim.

In early 1779, James Robertson and John Donelson brought the first white settlers to an area on the Cumberland River known as “French Lick.” The name came from a previous French trading post nearby and from naturally occurring salt in the ground that animals would “lick,” called a “salt lick.” On January 28, 1779, the settlers built a 2 acre fort called Fort Nashborough, named after General Francis Nash, a North Carolina General who died at the Battle of Germantown.

Fort Nashborough would be renamed Nashville within a few years (to get rid of the British sounding “borough”) and would suffer numerous Indian attacks for the next decade and a half until Dragging Canoe died in 1792. After this, his Indian coalition fell apart, a peace treaty was signed with the Cherokee and much of the remaining resistance was put down by the American army.

A reconstructed Fort Nashborough was built in downtown Nashville in 1930 by the Daughters of the American Revolution. The fort still stands today and has buildings constructed in the same way they were in the original fort. The fort is open for self-guided tours year round and has period actors appearing there at certain times to teach about frontier life.

Jack Manning
Treasurer General
National Society Sons of the American Revolution

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.

Jack Manning
Treasurer General
National Society Sons of the American Revolution

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.

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.

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 1794 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.

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.”

Jack Manning
Treasurer General
National Society Sons of the American Revolution

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.

Jack Manning
Treasurer General
National Society Sons of the American Revolution

The Pompton Mutiny Begins

On this day in history, January 20, 1781, the Pompton Mutiny begins. The Pompton Mutiny, also called the Federal Hill Rebellion, was a mutiny of New Jersey Continental soldiers at Pompton, New Jersey. In 1781, the Continental Army was wintering again near Morristown, New Jersey. To make it easier to provide food and supplies from the local countryside, the Army was broken down into smaller groups and placed in different towns around the area.

Winter conditions were extremely hard on the Army. There were shortages of food and clothing, and in addition to this, many soldiers had not been paid for their services by Congress or by their respective state governments. On January 1, 1781 about 1300 troops from the Pennsylvania Line quartered at Jockey Hollow, New Jersey, mutinied.

Many of these soldiers had not been paid in several years. They were angry that new recruits were being paid a bounty for joining the army, while they had back pay owed to them. In addition to this, many of the soldiers felt that their terms of enlistment had rightfully expired on January 1 and that they should be able to leave or reenlist for a new term and receive the proper bounty.

These men left their camp and started marching toward Philadelphia, 80 miles away, to demand that Congress address their grievances. Several officers tried to stop the mutiny and were killed by the mutineers. In the end, the Pennsylvania government and General Anthony Wayne were able to negotiate a settlement with the mutineers. About half the Pennsylvania line was discharged, amounting to over 1,300 men. Some reenlisted later, but this loss of soldiers was a huge blow to the Continental Army.

On January 20, New Jersey soldiers stationed near Federal Hill at Pompton (present day Bloomington) decided they would mutiny as well. About 200 soldiers left their stations and began a march toward Trenton where they intended to get a similar redress from the New Jersey government.

George Washington, smarting from the loss of Pennsylvania soldiers, took a much more hardline approach with the New Jersey soldiers. As he wrote in some letters about the affair, he knew the entire Army would break down if this type of behavior continued. This time, he ordered General Robert Howe to take as many men as he could to force the mutineers’ unconditional surrender and to execute the ringleaders on the spot.

On the 27th, General Howe overtook the mutineers with about 500 soldiers and demanded their immediate surrender, which they did without a fight. Howe then inquired among the mutineers and singled out three ringleaders, sergeants David Gilmore, John Tuttle and George Grant. He ordered 12 of the mutineers to form a firing squad. Gilmore and Tuttle were executed on the spot by the crying and very contrite firing squad, according to Washington’s orders. After further inquiry, however, Grant was given a reprieve when several soldiers testified that he had tried to stop the mutiny once it began.

After the executions, the rest of the mutineers had enough of a change of heart that Washington wrote to Congress that the spirit of insubordination in the army seemed to have been put down for good.

Jack Manning
Treasurer General
National Society Sons of the American Revolution

First Blood of the American Revolution shed at the Battle of Golden Hill

On this day in history, January 19, 1770, the “First Blood” of the American Revolution is shed at the Battle of Golden Hill. The Liberty Pole in New York City was first erected on the Commons in 1766. Soldiers in a barracks on the north side of the Commons saw this sign of defiance every day and tore it down in August, only to have 3,000 angry citizens confront them. Both sides were armed, but no one was hurt. The citizens erected another pole, but it was torn down in September. A third pole was erected, and this one stood until March 18, 1769, when it was torn down after that month’s Stamp Act repeal celebrations.

Yet another pole was raised, this one sheathed in iron to protect it. On March 21, soldiers attempted to blow it up with gunpowder but failed. Two more attempts were made, but thwarted. This pole stood on the Commons until December, 1769, when the new Assembly complied with the Quartering Act by giving some money for the upkeep of the soldiers, an act which previous assemblies had refused.

This caused a new round of protests at the Liberty Pole and soldiers tried to blow it up on the night of January 13, 1770. They stopped when citizens from the local Montagne’s Tavern sounded the alarm and ransacked the tavern instead. The Sons of Liberty called for a meeting at the pole the next Wednesday, but the soldiers finally succeeded in blowing it up the night before. When it was discovered, a mob of citizens approached the nearby barracks. The soldiers lined up with drawn bayonets, but officers corralled them back inside.

On January 19, several soldiers began posting handbills around town which demeaned the local citizens. Sons of Liberty leader Isaac Sears and others stopped them, but some escaped. Sears took 2 prisoners to the mayor’s house and a large crowd gathered. Soon a group of 20 soldiers showed up to rescue their friends. The 2 soldiers in the house were alarmed by the crowd and told their friends to leave, which they did, but the crowd followed them, harassing them with epithets.

When the soldiers reached Golden Hill, a small hill where wheat was grown, another group of soldiers arrived. This emboldened the first group and they turned to face the angry crowd. At this point, one of the soldiers cried out, “Draw your bayonets and cut your way through them!” They attacked the crowd, which began to flee, lunging at anyone who came across their path.

Francis Field, an innocent bystander, was slashed across the face when he stepped into his doorway to see what was the matter. A food vendor and a fisherman were injured and another man took a near fatal bayonet stab. Finally, British officers arrived and were able to get control of their men. None of the victims died, however. The following day, violence flared again and a sailor was stabbed with a bayonet.

The Battle of Golden Hill is often called the “First Blood” of the American Revolution. The Boston Massacre would happen six weeks later. The Battle of Golden Hill was even more significant than the Boston Massacre in that it was a protracted skirmish that lasted several days. The Boston Massacre would earn the greater place in history though, because of the actual casualties that occurred… and because of the more skillful propaganda machine of the Boston Sons of Liberty.

Jack Manning
Treasurer General
National Society Sons of the American Revolution

James Wright, Royal Governor of Georgia is arrested

On this day in history, January 18, 1776, James Wright, Royal Governor of Georgia is arrested by the Georgia Provincial Congress. Wright was born in England and moved to South Carolina with his father in 1730. James became a lawyer and began to accumulate large plantations. He went to London in 1757 as South Carolina’s agent to Parliament and in 1760 was named Governor of Georgia.

Wright was a popular governor and oversaw much of Georgia’s early growth and expansion. He presided over negotiations with the local Creek Indians that saw hundreds of thousands of acres come under Crown rule.

In 1765, Wright was the only colonial governor of the original 13 colonies to successfully use the stamps required in the Stamp Act, albeit only a few were sold there. Governor Wright was confronted at his own front door by an armed group of the local Sons of Liberty who demanded that he not enforce the Stamp Act. The armed Governor met them at the door, but refused to back down.

Much of Georgia’s population remained loyal to the King, but patriotic fervor finally took over. In early January, 1776, a small British fleet arrived with the intention of buying rice for the beleaguered troops trapped in the Siege of Boston. The Georgia patriots had no intention of cooperating and the Provincial Congress promptly ordered the arrest of Wright and several other officials to prevent them from helping the newly arrived ships.

Wright was arrested on January 18 by Major Joseph Habersham, a soldier who would later become President George Washington’s third Postmaster General of the United States. Wright was held captive in the Governor’s mansion for several weeks, but escaped on February 11 and made his way to the lead ship of the fleet, the HMS Scarborough, with the help of a Loyalist supporter. On March 2 and 3, a small battle took place when the fleet attempted to capture several rice boats. Some rice was captured, but the fleet finally left, taking Governor Wright with it. It was the end of British colonial rule in Georgia, for a time…

In late December, 1778, the British returned and captured Savannah again. It was the first effort of their new Southern Campaign to retake the southern states. Wright had returned to London after leaving Georgia and spent a year lobbying Parliament to retake the colony. When the effort succeeded, Wright was sent back and resumed the governorship in July, 1778. This was the only instance of the British retaking an American colony after it been taken over by rebels.

Wright was able to reestablish royal control over parts of Georgia, but it was an uphill battle. After the surrender of Cornwallis’ army in Virginia in October, 1781, American General “Mad” Anthony Wayne started south and won several battles against British and Indian forces in Georgia. Wright knew it was only a matter of time before Wayne reached Savannah and he knew he could not withstand him when he arrived. Finally, on June 14, 1782, Wright received orders to abandon the city, which he did promptly within the week, abandoning Georgia to the patriots forever.

Jack Manning
Treasurer General
National Society Sons of the American Revolution

General Daniel Morgan wins the Battle of Cowpens

On this day in history, January 17, 1781, General Daniel Morgan wins the Battle of Cowpens, a victory military strategists often call the single most brilliant victory of the American Revolution. After its defeat at Saratoga, the British army redirected its efforts to subdue the southern states, quickly conquering much of Georgia and South Carolina and destroying most of the American southern army in the process.

In December of 1780, General Nathanael Greene took over the decimated Continental Army in the south and split his much smaller army in two, hoping to divide the British forces. Part of the army was given to Brigadier General Daniel Morgan, a hero of earlier battles at Quebec and Saratoga. Morgan was to harass British troops in the backcountry and organize patriot militia there. When General Charles Cornwallis learned of this, he immediately sent 1,100 troops under Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton to stop him.

Tarleton was only 26 years old and had earned a notorious reputation when his men killed a group of militia trying to surrender to them at the Battle of the Waxhaws. In early January, Tarleton learned of Morgan’s location and set off to find him. Morgan retreated at first, but decided to stand his ground at an area known as the Cowpens, a sparsely wooded and hilly meadow in a bend of the Broad River.

Morgan’s strategy included three lines of soldiers, a first line of sharpshooters hidden behind trees, a second line of militia 150 yards back from them and a third line of experienced Continental soldiers 150 yards behind them and hidden by a low hill. As Tarleton attacked, the sharpshooters were to fire on them and then draw back to the second line, which was to fire two volleys and then retreat up the hill. Then, as the British pursued them up the hill, they would run into the third line of experienced soldiers coming at them downhill. The first two lines would weaken and disconcert the British soldiers and the third line would finish them off. Meanwhile, a cavalry charge would come from around the hill and flank the attacking soldiers.

Morgan’s strategy worked brilliantly and just as planned. Tarleton’s forces were decimated as they pursued the “fleeing” second line. Nearly the entire army was killed or simply collapsed on the ground in exhaustion and fear. Military strategists have called the victory at Cowpens the greatest tactical victory of the war and one of the greatest of all time. Of Tarleton’s 1150 troops, 110 were killed, 229 wounded and over 800 captured. Tarleton himself escaped, but not before a hand-to-hand fight with Colonel William Washington, George Washington’s second cousin and leader of the American cavalry. Tarleton shot Washington’s horse from under his feet and escaped.

The Battle of Cowpens was one of a string of victories, including the Battle of King’s Mountain and the Battle of Guilford Courthouse that turned things around in the south. This series of battles so weakened Cornwallis’ army that he was forced to abandon his plans to conquer North Carolina and head for the Virginia coast to await reinforcements from New York that never arrived due to the French blockade of the Chesapeake. Instead, George Washington took advantage of Cornwallis’ weakened state and brought the war to an end.

Jack Manning
Treasurer General
National Society Sons of the American Revolution

Peter Francisco, the “Virginia Giant,” dies

On this day in history, January 16, 1831, Peter Francisco, the “Virginia Giant,” dies. Peter was abandoned at the age of five years in City Point, Virginia (now Hopewell) by a sea captain. It is believed he was born in the Azores to a wealthy family and was either abducted to be sold into slavery or the abduction was staged by his parents who feared his life was in danger from their political enemies.

When Peter was found, he could speak no English, but repeatedly said “Pedro Francisco,” so the people called him Peter Francisco. Peter was cared for in the Prince George County Poorhouse until he was adopted by Judge Anthony Winston, uncle to Patrick Henry. Winston raised Peter on his farm called “Hunting Tower Plantation” in Buckingham County. He was eventually trained to be a blacksmith due to his great height and strength – by the time he was fifteen years old, Peter had grown to be six feet six inches tall and weighed 260 pounds!

When the American Revolution began, Peter happened to hear Patrick Henry’s “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” speech when he went to Richmond with Judge Winston. Inspired by the speech, Peter asked if he could join the army, but Winston wouldn’t allow him to join until he was sixteen. In December of 1776, Peter joined the Tenth Virginia regiment of the Continental Army.

Peter became famous for his exploits in the army and probably became the best known individual soldier of the entire war. His exploits are numerous, including inspiring a group of soldiers to stand their ground at Sandy Hollow Gap to allow Washington’s army to retreat at the Battle of Brandywine. Peter was wounded in the leg at the battle and recovered with the 20 year old Marquis de Lafayette, who was also wounded and would become a lifelong friend.

At the Battle of Stony Point, Peter was one of 20 commandos chosen to assault Fort Stony Point. 17 of the 20 were killed. Peter was the second one over the wall and received a 9 inch gash in his stomach. At the Battle of Camden, Peter allegedly hauled an 1100 pound cannon off the field so the British would not capture it. At the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, Peter killed eleven men with a six foot sword made for him personally by George Washington at the request of Lafayette. Peter was shot and left for dead on the battlefield, but found by a local Quaker who nursed him back to health. While recovering from this wound, Peter reconnoitered Colonel Banastre Tarleton’s raiders in Amelia, Virginia. He outwitted and outfought 9 cavalrymen, killed three of them and escaped with all 9 of their horses!

Peter also fought in the Battles of Germantown, Monmouth Courthouse, and Cowpens. Peter was present at Yorktown with the Marquis de Lafayette when Cornwallis surrendered his army, but did not fight in the battle. George Washington personally said of Peter, “Without him we would have lost two crucial battles, perhaps the War, and with it our freedom. He was truly a One Man Army.”

Peter married three times and had six children. He owned a 250 acre farm on Louse Creek and became the Sergeant-at-Arms to the Virginia State Senate for the last three years of his life. He died on January 16, 1831 of appendicitis and was buried with full military honors.

Jack Manning
Treasurer General
National Society Sons of the American Revolution

 The Treaty of Paris brings the American Revolution to a close

On this day in history, January 14, 1784, the Treaty of Paris brings the American Revolution to a formal close. After the surrender of Lord Cornwallis’ army at Yorktown, Virginia in October, 1781, the British Parliament began to lose its will to fight the war. In April of 1782, the House of Commons decided to bring the war to and end and peace negotiations began in Paris.

The Americans were represented by John Jay, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, while Richard Oswald was the British negotiator. A preliminary peace treaty was signed on November 30, 1782, ratified by Parliament on January 20, 1783 and by Congress on April 15, 1783.

Final terms still had to be reached however. Skirmishes between both sides still took place here and there and George Washington kept the Continental Army together at Newburgh, New York in case hostilities broke out again.

The final Treaty was signed between the negotiators on September 3, 1783. The signatures of Jay, Adams and Franklin appear on the last page of the document, as well as that of David Hartley, who had replaced Richard Oswald. The American Congress ratified the document on January 14, 1784 at the Maryland State House in Annapolis, Maryland, where Congress was temporarily meeting at the time. Great Britain ratified the document on April 9 and the two sides exchanged copies in Paris on May 12.

The Treaty of Paris has ten articles. The main points of the articles include: Great Britain acknowledges the sovereignty of the United States; the boundaries of the United States are set at (roughly) the Mississippi River in the west, the Great Lakes in the north, the northern border of Florida in the south and the Atlantic Ocean in the east; citizens of the United States may still fish off the coast of Newfoundland, even though it was British territory; legally contracted debts from before the war must be honored by both sides; Congress must “encourage” the states to protect the property of British Loyalists from confiscation and to return any property that was confiscated; all prisoners on both sides must be released; the British army must evacuate the United States and not take any American property, arms or slaves with them; both countries were given access to the Mississippi River; any territory conquered by either side after the treaty was signed had to be returned; and both countries must ratify the document within six months of the signing.

The Treaty of Paris formally brought the Revolution to a close. Conflict continued, however, due to several factors, including the British failure to leave all its forts on the western frontier; the British continuing to encourage Native Americans against the United States; British confiscation of American ships in French waters and impressment of American sailors into the British navy due to a trade war between France and Britain. Some of these issues were ironed out in the Jay Treaty of 1794, negotiated by John Jay in London. However, some issues remained and war broke out again between Great Britain and the United States in 1812.

Jack Manning
Treasurer General
National Society Sons of the American Revolution

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