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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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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Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

Patriotism in the female sex is the most disinterested of all virtues. Excluded from honors and from offices, we cannot attach ourselves to the State or Government from having held a place of eminence. Even in the freest countries our property is subject to the control and disposal of our partners, to whom the laws have given a sovereign authority. Deprived of a voice in legislation, obliged to submit to those laws which are imposed upon us, is it not sufficient to make us indifferent to the public welfare? Yet all history and every age exhibit instances of patriotic virtue in the female sex; which considering our situation equals the most heroic of yours.

Abigail Adams to John Adams, June 17, 1782

 

 

Published in: on February 1, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow  
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Second of the Founding Fathers to Die

The improbably named Button Gwinnett was the second of the Founding Fathers to depart this vale of tears.  John Morton of Pennsylvania died of tuberculosis on April 1, 1777.

Born in 1735 in England, in 1762 Gwinnet and his wife departed England for Charleston, South Carolina.  A merchant, in 1765 he left that trade and purchased a plantation in Georgia, the youngest of the 13 colonies.  In 1769 he was elected to the provincial legislature.   Sent as a delegate from Georgia to the Second Continental Congress, he signed the Declaration of Independence.

Back in Georgia he was elected Speaker of the Georgia Assembly.  After the death of the President (Governor) of Georgia he was elevated to that position.  He did not have long to enjoy it, receiving a mortal wound in a duel with arch political foe Lachlan McIntosh following a dispute arising out of a failed invasion of East Florida and dying on May 19, 1777. (more…)

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January 5, 1781: Benedict Arnold Takes Richmond

Benedict Arnold:  “What will the Americans do with me if they catch me?”

American Officer:  “They will cut off the leg which was wounded when you were fighting so gloriously for the cause of liberty, and bury it with the honors of war, and hang the rest of your body on a gibbet.”

Response of a captured American officer during Arnold’s Virginia campaign in January 1781 to a query by General Arnold

 

 

 

 

One of the more humiliating events in the American Revolution for the patriots was the seizure of Richmond, Virginia on January 5, 1781 by a largely Loyalist raiding party under American turncoat and traitor Benedict Arnold:

In pursuance of the orders which he had received, General Arnold sailed from Sandy Hook on the nineteenth of December, 1780[5], with the Eigtheenth or Edinburg regiment, under Lieutnant-colonel Dundas; the Queen’s Rangers, under Lieutenant-colonel Simcoe; a detachment from the New York Volunteers, under Captain Althause; and about two hundred men, whom the General had enlisted into his own corps, in New York, [6], the whole force embracing a force of sixteen hundred men.[7]. The troops were among the best in the service, and General Arnold might reasonably have felt proud of his command, had not the commander-in-chief, with commendable caution, manifested his distrust of the traitor, not only by the strictness of his orders, but by the appointment of “two officers of tried ability and experience, and possessing the entire confidence of their commander”–Colonel Dundas and Lieutenant Colonel Simcoe, –to accompany him, and to share, with him, the honors and responsibilities of the command. A violent gale, which occurred on the twenty-sixth and twenty-seventh, separated the fleet, but the scattered vessels, except three transports, on board of which were four hundred men, and one armed vessel, rejoined it off the Capes of the Chesapeake, and entered Hampton Roads on the thirtieth.

On the thirty-first, without waiting for the arrival of the transports, which were still at sea, the troops–about twelve hundred in number–were transferred to small vessels and boats, adapted to the navigation and proceeded up the James River under convoy of the Hope and Swift, two small armed vessels. Late in the evening of the third of January, 1781, the expedition came near Hood’s Point, on which a small party of fifty men had been stationed with three eighteen-pounders, one twenty-four pounder, and one brass eight-inch howitzer. When the vessels approached the Point this little force gallantly opened a heavy fire on them; and, as it was quite dark, the enemy had no means of knowing the strength or position of his opponents, he cast anchor until the next morning. While it was still dark, General Arnold ordered Lieutenant- colonel Simcoe to land with one hundred and thirty of the Queen’s Rangers, the light-infantry, and the grenadiers of the Eightieth regiment, and to attack the battery. With the greatest possible secrecy a landing was effected at about a mile from the Point, and, by a circuitous route, the troops were led to the attack; but the little garrison having heard the movement had retired, and the Rangers and their commander found no laurels in their victory. After spiking the guns, Lieutenant-Colonel Simcoe returned to the vessels, carrying with him the brass howizter, and the expedition moved up the river. On the next day (Jan. 4th) it anchored at Westover, about twenty- five miles below Richmond, where the troops were landed; and at two o’clock in the afternoon, the line of march to the latter place was taken up.

This descent of the enemy appears to have been entirely unexpected, and no provision had been made to guard against the contingency. When the fleet arrived, the State had no immediate means of defense, and the people appear to have been comparatively helpless. It is true that Governor Jefferson sent General Nelson to “the lower country” as soon as the presence of the fleet had become known, and had vested in him full “powers to call on the militia in that quarter, or act otherwise, as exigencies would require;” and it is no less true that General Steuben, supposing the stores at Petersburg were the objects of attack, employed about two hundred Continental troops, which he had under his command, to remove them beyond the reach of the invader. It is equally true, however,–and it was the source of evident mortification to the patriotic leaders in Virginia,–that the enemy moved into the heart of the country, accomplished his work, and retired with, comparatively no opposition, while every foot of his progress was susceptible of an obstinate and successful defence. The causes which have been assigned–the numerous impassable rivers which intersect “the lower country,” and the thinness of the population–in fact, furnish reasons against the surprise and disgrace with which she was then overtaken, and Virginia can never wholly excuse the apathy which was apparent throughout the entire extent of her central and lower counties.

The march of the enemy from Westover to Richmond was entirely unopposed,–the few militia who had responded to the orders which had been issued, being too weak to offer any effectual resistance, having fled as he approached,–and at one in the afternoon of the fifth of January, he entered the town.

About two hundred men had assembled, under Colonel John Nicholas, on the heights of Richmond Hill, near the venerable meeting-house of St. John’s Church; and Lieutenant-colonel Simcoe was ordered to dislodge them, but, without firing a shot, they fled in confusion when he reached the summit of the hill. A small body of cavalry, near the site of the capitol, on Shockoe Hill, who had been watching the movements of Colonel Dundas, also fled when they were approached.

Without halting at Richmond, after the dispersion of the militia, Lieutenant-colonel Simcoe, with his Rangers and the flank companies of the Eightieth regiment, pushed forward to Westham, six miles above, where were a fine foundry, laboratory, and workshops; while General Arnold and the main body remained at Richmond. As no resistance was offered, the expedition was perfectly successful, and, after destroying the greater part of the papers of the auditor’s office, and the books and papers of the council office–which had been removed thither for safety– together with five or six tons of gunpowder, the boring mill, workshops, public store, and foundry; knocking off the trunnions of some iron field pieces; and carrying off a few muskets, and some other articles, it returned to Richmond, where it arrived the same night.

In the mean time the main body, at Richmond had not been idle. With characteristic impudence the enemy had sent two citizens to Governor Jefferson, with an offer that he would not burn the city, provided the British vessels were allowed to come up the river and remove the tobacco from the warehouses without molestation. This proposition was instantly rejected; and, on the morning of the sixth, the public property and large quantities of private property, together with some buildings, both public and private, were destroyed.

The public loss was much less than has been generally supposed. Besides the destruction of the roof of the foundry, –the furnaces and chimneys of which remained uninjuried, — the magazine, boring-mill, four workshops, the public store, and quartermaster’s store, the public loss appears to have been confined to the books and papers of the council, the papers of the auditor’s office; five brass field pieces; one hundred and fifty stand of arms, from the loft of the capitol; the same number taken in a wagon; a small quantity of linen, cloth, &c.; some quartermasters’ stores, including one hundred and twenty sides of leather; the tools in the workshops; and three wagons. The loss to private individuals was much greater.

About noon, on the sixth of January, the enemy retired from the city, and the next day he reached Westover, without the loss of a man.

 

Chapter LXXX of Henry B. Dawson’s Battles of the United States, Volume I, New York, 1858, pp. 641-644.

Washington was so enraged by this event that he placed a 5,000 Guinea reward on the head of Arnold;  He ordered the Marquis de Lafayette, commanding American forces in Virginia, to immediately hang Arnold if he was captured; and  He had targets in the shape of Arnold distributed to the Continental troops to practice their marksmanship upon.

 

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Happy 242nd Birthday to the Corps!

You cannot exaggerate about the Marines. They are convinced, to the point of arrogance, that they are the most ferocious fighters on earth – and the amusing thing about it is that they are…You should see the group about me as I write- dirty, bearded, their clothing food-spattered and filthy- they look like the castoffs of creation. Yet they have a sense of loyalty, generosity, even piety greater than any men I have ever known. These rugged men have the simple piety of children. You can’t help loving them, in spite of their language and their loose sense of private property. Don’t ever feel sorry for a priest in the Marines. The last eight weeks have been the happiest and most contented in my life.

 Father Kevin Keaney, 1st MarDiv Chaplain, Korean War

 

 

On November 10, 1775 the Continental Congress passed this resolution authored by John Adams:

“Resolved, That two battalions of Marines be raised consisting of one colonel, two lieutenant-colonels, two majors, and other officers, as usual in other regiments; that they consist of an equal number of privates with other battalions; that particular care be taken that no persons be appointed to office, or enlisted into said battalions but such as are good seamen, or so acquainted with maritime affairs as to be able to serve with advantage by sea when required; that they be enlisted and commissioned to serve for and during the present War with Great Britain and the colonies, unless dismissed by order of Congress; that they be distinguished by names of First and Second Battalions of American Marines, and that they be considered as part of the number which the Continental Army before Boston is ordered to consist of.”

The Continental Marines were just over three months old when they staged the first of the amphibious operations that have ever been the hallmark of the Marine Corps.  As depicted in the video clip from the movie John Paul Jones (1959).  Under the command of Captain Esek Hopkins, a tiny American fleet seized  Nassau in the Bahamas  on March 3, 1776, 210 Marines leading the way.  Desperately needed artillery, gunpowder and military supplies were seized.  The Marines had won the first of their many, many victories for the United States. (more…)

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November 5, 1775: Washington Ends Guy Fawkes Day

gwpict

The idiotic anti-Catholic celebration of Guy Fawkes Day , observed each November fifth, was effectively ended two hundred and forty-tw0 years ago in America during the Revolution, in large part due to George Washington.  Here is his order on November 5, 1775:

As the Commander in Chief has been apprized of a design form’d for the observance of that ridiculous and childish custom of burning the Effigy of the pope–He cannot help expressing his surprise that there should be Officers and Soldiers in this army so void of common sense, as not to see the impropriety of such a step at this Juncture; at a Time when we are solliciting, and have really obtain’d, the friendship and alliance of the people of Canada, whom we ought to consider as Brethren embarked in the same Cause. The defence of the general Liberty of America: At such a juncture, and in such Circumstances, to be insulting their Religion, is so monstrous, as not to be suffered or excused; indeed instead of offering the most remote insult, it is our duty to address public thanks to these our Brethren, as to them we are so much indebted for every late happy Success over the common Enemy in Canada. (more…)

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The Surrender of Cornwallis

 

Something for the weekend.  The Surrender of Cornwallis to the tune of The British Grenadiers sung by Bobby Horton.  Bonus: World Turned Upside Down song from Hamilton:

 

Published in: on October 21, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Surrender of Cornwallis  
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