The Liberty Song

 

Something for the weekend.  The Liberty Song sung by Bobby Horton.

Written by Founding Father John Dickinson in 1768, the song was sung by patriots in America to the tune of Heart of OakThe video below is the most hilarious scene from the John Adams mini-series where a completely fish out of water John Adams gets donations for the American cause from French aristocrats as they sing the Liberty Song, led by Ben Franklin who is obviously immensely enjoying himself.  It is a good song for Americans to recall, and perhaps especially so in this year of grace, 2019.

 

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Published in: on February 16, 2019 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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January 27, 1776: Henry Knox Delivers the Noble Train of Artillery to Washington

 

One of the interesting aspects of wars and revolutions is the unexpected talents and abilities that come to the fore in the most unlikely of individuals.  As that remarkable year 1775 was drawing to a close, General Washington, if he was to force the British  to leave Boston, needed a substantial artillery force, which he entirely lacked.  Twenty-five year old Colonel Henry Knox, a fat Boston book seller prior to the War, came up with the idea of transporting the artillery from newly captured Fort Ticonderoga in northern New York to the siege lines around Boston.  This was accomplished by Knox from December 5, 1775 to January 27, 1776, transporting sixty tons of artillery and ammunition, 59 cannon, mortars and howitzers, through wilderness in the dead of winter, a truly astounding feat. On December 17, 1775 Knox wrote to Washington:

I return’d to this place on the 15 & brought with me the Cannon being nearly the time I conjectur’d it would take us to transport them to here, It is not easy [to] conceive the difficulties we have had in getting them over the Lake owing to the advanc’d Season of the Year & contrary winds, but the danger is now past & three days ago it was very uncertain whether we could have gotten them untill next spring, but now please God they must go – I have had made forty two exceeding Strong Sleds & have provided eighty Yoke of oxen to drag them as far as Springfield where I shall get fresh Cattle to Carry them to Camp – the rout will be from here to Kinderhook from thence into Great Barrington Massachusetts Bay & down to Springfield There will scarcely be possibility of conveying them from here to Albany or Kinderhook but on sleds the roads being very much gullied, at present the sledding is tolerable to Saratoga about 26 miles; beyond that there is none – I have sent for the Sleds & teams to come here & expect to begin [to] move them to Saratoga on Wednesday or Thursday next trusting that between this & then we shall have a fine fall of snow which will enable us to proceed further & make the carriage easy – if that should be the case I hope in 16 or 17 days time to be able to present to your Excellency a noble train of artillery. (more…)

Published in: on January 27, 2019 at 6:12 am  Leave a Comment  
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January 14, 1784: Congress Ratifies the Treaty of Paris

 

Two hundred and thirty-five years ago the War of Independence officially ended with the ratification of the Treaty of Paris by Congress.  Nine states were needed under the Articles of Confederation to ratify the treaty and with the rough winter of 1783-1784 only seven states were represented in Congress meeting in Annapolis, Maryland.  The arrival of delegates from Connecticut and South Carolina on January 13 and January 14 allowed the treaty to be ratified unanimously by the delegates present.  Congress had previously on April 11, 1783 announced the cessation of hostilities with Great Britain.  The British had evacuated New York City on November 25, 1783, their last major foothold in the new United States.  Member of Congress Edward Hand of Pennsylvania, who had served in the Continental Army and risen to the rank of Major General, shared the hopes of many of the American people when he wrote:  “God grant the Peace may be perpetual & productive of every happiness to America, as I think it commences with the joint & full accord of all her good Citizens.” 

Published in: on January 14, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on January 14, 1784: Congress Ratifies the Treaty of Paris  
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December 27, 1776: General Washington Reports

 

A good video on the battle of Trenton is here.  Here is the report that Washington wrote to Congress on the Trenton victory:

27 December 1776

Sir:

I have the pleasure of congratulating you upon the success of an enterprise which I had formed against a detachment of the enemy lying in Trenton, and which was executed yesterday morning. The evening of the 25th I ordered the troops intended for this service to parade back of McKonkey’s Ferry, that they might begin to pass as soon s it grew dark, imagining we should be able to throw them all over, with the necessary artillery, by twelve o’clock, and that we might easily arrive at Trenton by five in the morning, the distance being about nine miles. But the quantity of ice, made that night, impeded the passage of the boats so much, that it was three o’clock before the artillery could all be got over; and near four before the troops took up their line of march. This made me despair of surprising the town, as I well knew we could not reach it before the day was fairly broke. But as I was certain there was no making a retreat without being discovered and harassed on repassing the river, I determined to push on at all events. I formed my detachment into two divisions, one to march by the lower or river road the other by the upper or Pennington road. As the divisions had nearly the same distance to march, I ordered each of them, immediately upon forcing the out-guards to push directly into the town, that they might charge the enemy before they had time to form. (more…)

Published in: on December 27, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on December 27, 1776: General Washington Reports  
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General John Glover and His Marbleheaders

A good argument can be made that but for the presence of John Glover and his Marblehead Regiment in the American Revolution, the War might well have been lost.

Born on November 5, 1732, Glover grew up in poverty in Marblehead, Massachusetts, after the death of his carpenter father when Glover was 4 years old.  Glover became a cordwainer and rum trader, working his way up to become a merchant and a ship owner.  Elected to the Marblehead Committee of Correspondence following the Boston massacre, Glover’s political sympathies were firmly allied with the patriot cause.  A member of the  Marblehead militia since 1759, with the coming of the War Colonel Glover marched the Marblehead militia, Almost all fishermen, to the siege of Boston in April 1775.

While active on land in the fight for independence, Glover was also active on the sea.  General Washington commissioned Glover’s schooner Hannah, to raid British supply vessels.  The Hannah is considered to be the first ship of the US Navy.

The Marblehead militia regiment joined the Continental Army, becoming the 14th Continental regiment.

In 1776, Glover and his “amphibious regiment”, as it was called, saved the army after the disastrous defeat at the Battle of Long Island, by ferrying it to Manhattan in a nighttime operation.  On land throughout the New York campaign the regiment fought fiercely in every engagement.  It capped its service by ferrying the Army across the Delaware on Christmas 1776 to attack the Hessians at Trenton. (more…)

Published in: on December 26, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on General John Glover and His Marbleheaders  
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December 1776: A Dying Revolution and The Old Fox

 

 

The American Revolution was in the process of dying 242 years ago as General George Washington revealed in letters to his cousin Lund Washington who looked after Mount Vernon for the General during the War.

 

Dear Lund,

* * * * * *

I wish to Heaven it was in my power to give you a more favorable account of our situation than it is. Our numbers, quite inadequate to the task of opposing that part of the army under the command of General Howe, being reduced by sickness, desertion, and political deaths (on or before the first instant, and having no assistance from the militia), were obliged to retire before the enemy, who were perfectly well informed of our situation, till we came to this place, where I have no idea of being able to make a stand, as my numbers, till joined by the [78] Philadelphia militia, did not exceed three thousand men fit for duty. Now we may be about five thousand to oppose Howe’s whole army, that part of it excepted which sailed under the command of Gen. Clinton. I tremble for Philadelphia. Nothing, in my opinion, but Gen. Lee’s speedy arrival, who has been long expected, though still at a distance (with about three thousand men), can save it. We have brought over and destroyed all the boats we could lay our hands on upon the Jersey shore for many miles above and below this place; but it is next to impossible to guard a shore for sixty miles, with less than half the enemy’s numbers; when by force or strategem they may suddenly attempt a passage in many different places. At present they are encamped or quartered along the other shore above and below us (rather this place, for we are obliged to keep a face towards them) for fifteen miles. * * *

December 17, ten miles above the Falls.

* * * I have since moved up to this place, to be more convenient to our great and extensive defences of this river. Hitherto, by our destruction of the boats, and vigilance in watching the fords of the river above the falls (which are now rather high), we have prevented them from crossing; but how long we shall be able to do it God only knows, as they are still hovering about the river. And if every thing else fails, will wait till the 1st of January, when there will be no other men to oppose them but militia, none of which but those from Philadelphai, mentioned [79] in the first part of the letter, are yet come (although I am told some are expected from the back counties). When I say none but militia, I am to except the Virginia regiments and the shattered remains of Smallwood’s, which, by fatigue, want of clothes, &c., are reduced to nothing—Weedon’s, which was the strongest, not having more than between one hundred and thirty to one hundred and forty men fit for duty, the rest being in the hospitals. The unhappy policy of short enlistments and a dependence upon militia will, I fear, prove the downfall of our cause, though early pointed out with an almost prophetic spirit! Our cause has also received a severe blow in the captivity of Gen. Lee. Unhappy man! Taken by his own imprudence, going three or four miles from his own camp, and within twenty of the enemy, notice of which by a rascally Tory was given a party of light horse seized him in the morning after travelling all night, and carried him off in high triumph and with every mark of indignity, not even suffering him to get his hat or surtout coat. The troops that were under his command are not yet come up with us, though they, I think, may be expected to-morrow. A large part of the Jerseys have given every proof of disaffection that they can do, and this part of Pennsylvania are equally inimical. In short, your imagination can scarce extend to a situation more distressing than mine. Our only dependence now is upon the speedy enlistment of a new army. If this fails, I think the game will be pretty well up, as, from disaffection and want of spirit and fortitude, the inhabitants, [80] instead of resistance, are offering submission and taking protection from Gen. Howe in Jersey. * * * I am &c. (more…)

Published in: on December 18, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on December 1776: A Dying Revolution and The Old Fox  
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July 8, 1775: The Olive Branch Petition

 

 

 

We celebrate July 4, 1776, but we do so because of the failure of an initiative undertaken by the Second Continental Congress on July 5, 1775.  On that date Congress approved the sending of an “Olive Branch Petition” to the King in a last-ditch attempt to end the war through negotiation with the King.  The Petition was signed on July 8, 1775 and sent to London.  The King ignored this olive branch and proclaimed that he would crush the rebellion with military force.  The reaction of the Continental Congress to the rejection of the Petition was dramatized in the John Adams miniseries and may be viewed below.  The complete rejection of the Petition place Congress on the road to the Declaration of Independence.  Here is the text of the Olive Branch Petition:

 

 

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Published in: on July 8, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on July 8, 1775: The Olive Branch Petition  
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Remember William Dawes!

William Dawes

Poor William Dawes!  A Boston tanner and patriot,  he along with Revere, and other riders, spread the news of the coming British expedition on April 18, 1775.  Due to Henry Wadsworth’s Longfellow’s poem, he is forgotten in comparison to Paul Revere.  In 1896 Helen F. Moore wrote a poem to attempt to set the record straight:

The Midnight Ride of William Dawes

I am a wandering, bitter shade,

Never of me was a hero made;

Poets have never sung my praise,

Nobody crowned my brow with bays;

And if you ask me the fatal cause,

I answer only, “My name was Dawes”

‘Tis all very well for the children to hear

Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere;

But why should my name be quite forgot,

Who rode as boldly and well, God wot?

Why should I ask?

The reason is clear —

My name was Dawes and his Revere.

When the lights from the old North Church flashed out,

Paul Revere was waiting about,

But I was already on my way.

The shadows of night fell cold and gray

As I rode, with never a break or a pause;

But what was the use, when my name was Dawes!

History rings with his silvery name;

Closed to me are the portals of fame.

Had he been Dawes and I Revere,

No one had heard of him, I fear.

No one has heard of me because

He was Revere and I was Dawes.

Dawes served as a Quartermaster during the Revolution.  His great-great grandson Charles G. Dawes served as Vice President under Calvin Coolidge.

Published in: on April 20, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Remember William Dawes!  
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March 23, 1775: Liberty or Death

 

 

 

A fine video on the great “Give Me Liberty, or Give Me Death Speech” of Patrick Henry delivered in the Virginia House of Burgesses on March 23, 1775.  It is a remarkable speech, made even more remarkable when we consider that Patrick Henry was in deep mourning for his beloved wife Sarah who, after years of fighting a losing battle with mental illness, had died in February of 1775.   ( Henry refused to have her committed, against the advice of his physician, to the appalling insane asylums of his day, one he inspected would have had his wife chained to a wall, and Henry cared for her at home, bathing her, dressing her and keeping her from harming herself.)

Henry was perhaps the greatest American orator in a time of great American oratory.  It was said of him that cold print did not do justice to the passions he roused in his listeners with his speeches.  American school children used to memorize passages from this speech, a custom I hope is revived, because his speech goes to the core of what it means to be an American.  Here is the text of his speech, as it has been reconstructed, as no manuscript of it survives and our text is based on the recollections of men who heard it: (more…)

Published in: on March 23, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on March 23, 1775: Liberty or Death  
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February 7, 1783: The Great Siege of Gibraltar Ends

It is easy for Americans to forget that after the intervention of France, the Revolutionary War became a world war.  One of the notable events of this global conflict was the siege of Gibraltar by French and Spanish forces from June 24, 1779 to February 7, 1783.  The siege was conducted on land and sea with British fleets twice battling through with relief forces and supplies for the Rock.  The British garrison, immensely outnumbered, beat off every assault and staged surprise night sorties to keep their foes off balance.  The siege was lifted as negotiations over a preliminary peace was underway.  The siege was the longest one in British military history.  Mozart wrote  Bardengesang auf Gibraltar: O Calpe! Dir donnert’s am Fuße to commemorate the British victory.

 

 

 

 

Published in: on February 7, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on February 7, 1783: The Great Siege of Gibraltar Ends  
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