This Day In History


This Day 1-16-2

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.


This Day 1-16-1

The movement for the prohibition of alcohol began in the early 19th century, when Americans concerned about the adverse effects of drinking began forming temperance societies. By the late 19th century, these groups had become a powerful political force, campaigning on the state level and calling for total national abstinence. In December 1917, the 18th Amendment, also known as the Prohibition Amendment, was passed by Congress and sent to the states for ratification.

Prohibition took effect in January 1919. Nine months later, Congress passed the Volstead Act, or National Prohibition Act, over President Woodrow Wilson’s veto. The Volstead Act provided for the enforcement of prohibition, including the creation of a special unit of the Treasury Department. Despite a vigorous effort by law-enforcement agencies, the Volstead Act failed to prevent the large-scale distribution of alcoholic beverages, and organized crime flourished in America. In 1933, the 21st Amendment to the Constitution was passed and ratified, repealing prohibition.


This Day 1-15-2

The convention’s delegates included Vermont’s future governor, Thomas Chittenden, and Ira Allen, who would become known as the “father” of the University of Vermont.

Delegates first named the independent state New Connecticut and, in June 1777, finally settled on the name Vermont, an imperfect translation of the French for green mountain. One month later, on July 2, 1777, a convention of 72 delegates met in Windsor, Vermont, to adopt the state’s new—and revolutionary—constitution; it was formally adopted on July 8, 1777. Vermont’s constitution was not only the first written national constitution drafted in North America, but also the first to prohibit slavery and to give all adult males, not just property owners, the right to vote. Thomas Chittenden became Vermont’s first governor in 1778.

Throughout the 1780s, Congress refused to acknowledge that Vermont was a separate state independent of New York. In response, frustrated Vermonters went so far as to inquire if the British would readmit their territory to the empire as part of Canada. Vermont remained an independent nation even two years after George Washington became president of the United States of America under the new U.S. Constitution. However, as the politics of slavery threatened to divide the U.S., Vermont was finally admitted as the new nation’s 14th state in 1791, serving as a free counterbalance to slaveholding Kentucky, which joined the Union in 1792.


This Day 1-15-1

William Alexander was born in New York in 1726 to a wealthy family involved in provisioning the British army. Due to his experience in provisioning, Alexander joined the army’s commissariat during the French and Indian War and eventually became chief aide to Commander-in-Chief William Shirley. During this time, Alexander first met and became friends with Colonel George Washington.

In 1756, while on a trip to London, Alexander learned that he may be the oldest male heir to a vacant title, the “Earl of Stirling,” a position that carried with it a vast land claim, including parts of Nova Scotia and the entire St. Lawrence River Valley. He made an appeal to Parliament which granted his claim. However, in 1762, the House of Lords decided he had not adequately proven his pedigree and removed the title. Alexander had already returned to America by this time though and adopted the title Lord Stirling, which he would carry for the rest of his life.

When the America Revolution began, Stirling became a colonel of the New Jersey militia and was celebrated for capturing a British transport at Sandy Hook. He was promoted to Brigadier General and given control of the defenses of New York, where he built Forts Washington, Lee and Stirling. He also recommended to General Washington that a redoubt be built at West Point, the foundation for the fort and later military academy there.

When the British invaded Long Island, Alexander led a battalion of 300 men that held off the entire British army for several hours. Alexander’s men were finally overwhelmed and he was captured, but the rest of the army was able to escape and Alexander was celebrated as a hero. After a few months in prison, he was traded in a prisoner exchange for Governor Montfort Browne, the Governor of the Bahamas. Alexander returned in time to fight at the Battle of Trenton where a Hessian brigade surrendered to him.

Lord Sterling’s Headquarters during the 1777-78 Valley Forge encampment, now located at Tredyffrin Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania

Alexander was promoted to Major General and became one of George Washington’s most trusted subordinates. He was third or fourth in command of the entire army for the rest of the war. He participated in the battles of Brandywine, Germantown and Monmouth. He presided over the court-martial of General Charles Lee and was a member of the military court that sentenced British spy John Andre to death for helping Benedict Arnold. Alexander played a key role in exposing the “Conway Cabal,” a group of officers that plotted to have Washington replaced by General Horatio Gates.

When the war moved to the south, General Alexander was given command of the army’s Northern Department in case of a new British invasion from Canada, making his headquarters at Albany. Alexander had many health problems and was a heavy drinker. In January, 1783, while at Albany, he had a severe attack of gout (severe arthritis) and passed away on January 15 at the age of 56, only three months before the preliminary peace treaty with Britain was signed by Congress.


This Day 1-14-2

The Americans were represented by John JayJohn 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 JayAdams 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.

Unfinished Treaty of Paris by Benjamin West West was unable to finish the painting because the British negotiators refused to sit for the painting

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.


This Day 1-14-1

The Dutch discovered the Connecticut River in 1614, but English Puritans from Massachusetts largely accomplished European settlement of the region. During the 1630s, they flocked to the Connecticut valley from the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and in 1638 representatives from the three major Puritan settlements in Connecticut met to set up a unified government for the new colony.

Roger Ludlow, a lawyer, wrote much of the Fundamental Orders, and presented a binding and compact frame of government that put the welfare of the community above that of individuals. It was also the first written constitution in the world to declare the modern idea that “the foundation of authority is in the free consent of the people.” In 1662, the Charter of Connecticut superseded the Fundamental Orders; though the majority of the original document’s laws and statutes remained in force until 1818.


This Day 1-13-2

After the defeat of General Cornwallis at Yorktown, most of the army had taken up quarters at Newburgh, New York. Officers had been promised a pension of half pay for the rest of their lives, but if the war came to an end and the army was disbanded, they feared they would never receive the pay that was due them.

A secret movement began amongst the officers that was loosely led by General Horatio Gates and his chief aid, John Armstrong. Rumors and whispers swirled that they should march on Philadelphia or replace Washington with General Gates and usurp the power of Congress.

General Henry Knox organized the officers and sent a delegation to Congress in Philadelphia with three demands: they wanted their back pay, their pensions and the option to have their pensions paid to them in a lump sum. On January 13, 1783, the delegation met with James MadisonAlexander HamiltonRobert MorrisGouverneur Morris and other representatives of Congress who assured the officers they would receive their pay. They also hoped to use the situation to promote a stronger Congress that would have the ability to tax and pay its own bills, rather than rely on handouts from the states.

The Congressmen, however, also sensed that the officers’ discontent could grow into a larger rebellion. Hamilton wrote to George Washington explaining the seriousness of the situation. Washington’s response was to call a meeting of his senior officers. He commended them for their valorous service during the recently ended war. He assured them that, as a soldier himself, he would do everything he could to make sure they received the money owed them. He also urged them to allow the civilian leadership in Congress to be supreme and to squash any attempts to make a military dictatorship.

After his own speech, Washington pulled a letter from Congressman Joseph Jones from his pocket. Finding the print too small to read, Washington pulled a pair of glasses from his pocket and said, “Gentleman, you must pardon me. I have grown gray in your service and now find myself growing blind.”

This lighthearted moment seemed to break the ice and soften the officers’ attitudes toward Washington. Many realized that he had given up as much as they had during the war and that he would not fail to support them. When Washington left the meeting, many of the officers made a new pledge of loyalty to Washington and Congress, bringing an end to the Newburgh Conspiracy. In the end, Congress was able to pay the officers an amount equal to five years of service in place of the lifetime pensions.


This Day 1-13-1

A brief but deadly battle ensued before the British were forced to retreat. Three British marines were killed and seven injured during the ambush. Two Minutemen were wounded; one died and the other was taken prisoner. Afraid of further violence, residents abandoned the island between 1776 and 1777, and the island’s homes and windmill were burned.

Rhode Island’s Second Company continued to guard the area between Providence, Warwick Neck and Chopmist on Rhode Island for the next three years. Captain Knight rose to the rank of major in 1777, taking command of the Third Providence County Regiment. The Rhode Island General Assembly chose to end the Minutemen system in 1777 and the Second Company was reorganized as the Fifth Company of Scituate Militia. Major Knight and his regiment served the Patriot cause throughout the Rhode Island campaign of 1778. Knight received a further promotion to the rank of lieutenant colonel in 1778 and remained in the militia until his retirement in 1800, by which time he had served 34 years in the service of Rhode Island. During his tenure, Rhode Island had progressed from colony to independent state to member state of the federal union.


This Day 1-12-2

General Mercer was born in Scotland in 1726 and trained as a doctor. He served as a surgeon in the army of Bonnie Prince Charlie and was present at the defeat of his army at the Battle of Culloden, an army which was raised to put a Stuart King back on the throne of England.

This army was destroyed by the forces of Hanover King George II at the Battle of Culloden, Scotland on April 16, 1746. George’s forces massacred as many survivors as they could find, forcing Mercer into exile as a result. He eventually made his way to the colony of Pennsylvania where he settled and resumed his medical practice.

When the Braddock Expedition was massacred in 1755, Mercer came to the aid of some of the wounded soldiers and was moved by the experience because it reminded him of the massacre of his countrymen at the Battle of Culloden. This caused him to join the British army, which he had once fought against, to fight the Indians during the French and Indian War.

He became a captain of Pennsylvania militia in 1756 and was severely wounded during a raid on an Indian village that year. He was separated from his troops and marched across the wilderness for 100 miles alone to get back to his fort, after which he was promoted to colonel. During the French and Indian War, Mercer became friends with George Washington, who was also a colonel at the same time. They were such good friends that Mercer moved to Virginia after the war and settled in Fredericksburg, resuming his medical practice.

When the American Revolution began, Mercer was appointed a Brigadier General in the Continental Army by the Continental Congress. He directed the building of Fort Lee on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River to impede British access up the river.

After the Continental Army was driven from New York and across New Jersey in the fall of 1776, they stopped their retreat on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River. Mercer is sometimes credited with coming up with the plan to attack the Hessian outpost at Trenton, which helped stem the discouraging tide of American losses. Washington’s forces ferried across the river in the middle of the night on Christmas Day and captured 1,000 Hessians at the outpost.

This led to another victory a week later when Washington repulsed a counterattack from Lt. General Charles Cornwallis at Trenton again. After that victory, Washington’s men marched through the night toward Princeton to capture the British outpost there and continue its string of victories.

Hugh Mercer led an advance party of 1200 men that ran into a large British force at an orchard along the way and fighting began. The British force quickly defeated the green American militia units and General Mercer was surrounded by British troops who mistook him for George Washington and demanded that he surrender. Mercer fiercely attacked his antagonizers, but was struck to the ground, bayoneted seven times and left for dead. He was attended by Declaration of Independence signer Doctor Benjamin Rush, but he died nine days later on January 12, 1777. He was buried at Christ Church in Philadelphia originally, but his body was reinterred at Laurel Hill Cemetery in 1840.


This Day 1-12-1

It was a Thursday afternoon and there had been unseasonably warm weather the previous day from Montana east to the Dakotas and south to Texas. Suddenly, within a matter of hours, Arctic air from Canada rapidly pushed south. Temperatures plunged to 40 below zero in much of North Dakota. Along with the cool air, the storm brought high winds and heavy snows. The combination created blinding conditions.

Most victims of the blizzard were children making their way home from school in rural areas and adults working on large farms. Both had difficulty reaching their destinations in the awful conditions. In some places, though, caution prevailed. Schoolteacher Seymour Dopp in Pawnee City, Nebraska, kept his 17 students at school when the storm began at 2 p.m. They stayed overnight, burning stockpiled wood to keep warm. The next day, parents made their way over five-foot snow drifts to rescue their children. In Great Plains, South Dakota, two men rescued the children in a schoolhouse by tying a rope from the school to the nearest shelter to lead them to safety. Minnie Freeman, a teacher in Nebraska, successfully led her children to shelter after the storm tore the roof off of her one-room schoolhouse. In other cases, though, people were less lucky. Teacher Loie Royce tried to lead three children to the safety of her home, less than 90 yards from their school in Plainfield, Nebraska. They became lost, and the children died of hypothermia. Royce lost her feet to frostbite.

In total, an estimated 235 people across the plains died on January 12. The storm is still considered one of the worst blizzards in the history of the area.


This Day 1-11-12

On May 21, 1932, exactly five years after American aviator Charles Lindbergh became the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, Earhart became the first woman to repeat the feat when she landed her plane in Londonderry, Ireland. However, unlike Lindbergh when he made his historic flight, Earhart was already well known to the public before her solo transatlantic flight. In 1928, as a member of a three-member crew, she had become the first woman to cross the Atlantic in an aircraft. Although her only function during the crossing was to keep the plane’s log, the event won her national fame, and Americans were enamored with the modest and daring young pilot. For her solo transatlantic crossing in 1932, she was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross by the U.S. Congress.

Two years after her Hawaii to California flight, she attempted with co-pilot Frederick J. Noonan to fly around the world, but her plane was lost on July 2, 1937, somewhere between New Guinea and Howland Island in the South Pacific. Radio operators picked up a signal that she was low on fuel–the last trace the world would ever know of Amelia Earhart.


This Day 1-11-1

Born in the Ukraine of Russian-Jewish parents in 1879, Trotsky embraced Marxism as a teenager and later dropped out of the University of Odessa to help organize the underground South Russian Workers’ Union. In 1898, he was arrested for his revolutionary activities and sent to prison. In 1900, he was exiled to Siberia.

In 1902, he escaped to England using a forged passport under the name of Leon Trotsky (his original name was Lev Davidovich Bronshtein). In London, he collaborated with Bolshevik revolutionary Vladimir Ilyich Lenin but later sided with the Menshevik factions that advocated a democratic approach to socialism. With the outbreak of the Russian Revolution of 1905, Trotsky returned to Russia and was again exiled to Siberia when the revolution collapsed. In 1907, he again escaped.

During the next decade, he was expelled from a series of countries because of his radicalism, living in Switzerland, Paris, Spain, and New York City before returning to Russia at the outbreak of the revolution in 1917. Trotsky played a leading role in the Bolsheviks’ seizure of power, conquering most of Petrograd before Lenin’s triumphant return in November.

Appointed Lenin’s secretary of foreign affairs, he negotiated with the Germans for an end to Russian involvement in World War I. In 1918, he became war commissioner and set about building up the Red Army, which succeeded in defeating anti-Communist opposition in the Russian Civil War. In the early 1920s, Trotsky seemed the heir apparent of Lenin, but he lost out in the struggle of succession after Lenin fell ill in 1922.

In 1924, Lenin died, and Joseph Stalin emerged as leader of the USSR. Against Stalin’s stated policies, Trotsky called for a continuing world revolution that would inevitably result in the dismantling of the Soviet state. He also criticized the new regime for suppressing democracy in the Communist Party and for failing to develop adequate economic planning. In response, Stalin and his supporters launched a propaganda counterattack against Trotsky. In 1925, he was removed from his post in the war commissariat. One year later, he was expelled from the Politburo and in 1927 from the Communist Party. In January 1928, Trotsky began his internal exile in Alma-Ata and the next January was expelled from the Soviet Union outright.

He was received by the government of Turkey and settled on the island of Prinkipo, where he worked on finishing his autobiography and history of the Russian Revolution. After four years in Turkey, Trotsky lived in France and then Norway and in 1936 was granted asylum in Mexico. Settling with his family in a suburb of Mexico City, he was found guilty of treason in absentia during Stalin’s purges of his political foes. He survived a machine-gun attack on his home but on August 20, 1940, fell prey to a Spanish Communist, Ramon Mercader, who fatally wounded him with an ice-ax. He died from his wounds the next day.


This Day 1-10-2

John Paul Jones was born in Scotland and became a sailor at the age of thirteen. He eventually moved to Virginia and volunteered his services to the Continental Congress in the fall of 1775.

After a series of successful missions in American waters, Jones sailed for France on the USS Ranger to meet with America’s diplomats there, Ben FranklinJohn Adams and Arthur Lee. Jones shared with them his plan to harass British ships in British waters and they gave him permission to proceed. The Ranger made some attacks on the British coast and captured a British warship, having an enormous psychological impact on the British people, making the people realize they were not safe even in their homeland.

After returning to France, Jones was given command of the Duc de Duras, a French merchant ship given to the Americans by King Louis XVI. Jones renamed it the Bonhomme Richard in honor of Ben Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanack character, Richard Saunders (the French version was called Les Maximes du Bonhomme Richard). Jones had the ship outfitted for war and left at the head of a 5 ship convoy in August for another raid along the east side of Britain, spreading fear up and down the British coast.

The Battle of Flamborough Head, 1779 by Roy Reynolds

On September 23, the fleet met a convoy of 41 merchant ships off Flamborough Head, escorted by the 50 gun HMS Serapis. An engagement began in which the Bonhomme Richard was severely damaged. Jones knew he could not compete against the greater firepower of the Serapis and succeeded in maneuvering close enough to tie the two vessels together. Both crews tried to board the other ship unsuccessfully and nearly half the crews of each died in the battle. When another ship in Jones’ convoy finally came to the Bonhomme Richard’s aid, the captain of the Serapis knew he could not win against both ships and finally surrendered.

Jones’ crew took over the Serapis and tried in vain to repair the Bonhomme Richard, which by this time had gaping holes through her body so large that you could see all the way through the ship. She was badly leaking water and sunk about 36 hours later. Jones took command of the Serapis and sailed her to the Netherlands where the British attempted to get him charged as a pirate. The attempt failed however when a flag, allegedly designed by Ben Franklin from a description he just received of the newly approved American flag, was raised over the vessel. This flag made the vessel a vessel of war and not a pirate ship and Jones escaped further trouble. The flag became known as the Serapis Flag, but is sometimes called the John Paul Jones flag as well.


After the war Jones served in the Russian Navy for a time, but retired to Paris where he died in 1792. He is considered America’s first naval hero for his actions in the war. His body was moved from France to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland in 1906 and the burial service was presided over by President Theodore Roosevelt.


This Day 1-10-1

These North Carolina Loyalists were to march to the sea, where General William Howe intended to provision them with arms and supplement their numbers with troops from Boston and Ireland.

Governor Martin’s proclamation went on to say, every man who knows the values of freedom and blessings of a British subject, will join his heart and hand to restore to this country the most glorious, free and happy constitution and form of government. But North Carolina had seen little of such glorious, free, and happy government in the recent past. The backcountry uprising against corrupt gubernatorial appointees known as the Regulator movement had left North Carolinians all too familiar with warfare.

Only 1,500 men answered Martin’s call for a march to the sea. When they reached their destination, they were met not by Howe, but by Patriot troops. The Loyalists’ commanding officer, General Donald McDonald, knew it would be suicide for his unarmed men to fight until they had acquired arms and reinforcements from the British, but he soon fell ill and Colonel Donald McLeod took command. McLeod chose to lead an assault on the Patriots and disaster ensued. Fifty of his men died and 880 were captured, while the Patriots lost only two of their number.


This Day 1-9-2

Although little used today, pamphlets were an important medium for the spread of ideas in the 16th through 19th centuries.

Originally published anonymously, “Common Sense” advocated independence for the American colonies from Britain and is considered one of the most influential pamphlets in American history.  Credited with uniting average citizens and political leaders behind the idea of independence, “Common Sense” played a remarkable role in transforming a colonial squabble into the American Revolution.

At the time Paine wrote “Common Sense,” most colonists considered themselves to be aggrieved Britons.  Paine fundamentally changed the tenor of colonists’ argument with the crown when he wrote the following:  “Europe, and not England, is the parent country of America.  This new world hath been the asylum for the persecuted lovers of civil and religious liberty from every part of Europe.  Hither they have fled, not from the tender embraces of the mother, but from the cruelty of the monster; and it is so far true of England, that the same tyranny which drove the first emigrants from home, pursues their descendants still.”

Paine was born in England in 1737 and worked as a corset maker in his teens and, later, as a sailor and schoolteacher before becoming a prominent pamphleteer. In 1774, Paine arrived in Philadelphia and soon came to support American independence.  Two years later, his 47-page pamphlet sold some 500,000 copies, powerfully influencing American opinion. Paine went on to serve in the U.S. Army and to work for the Committee of Foreign Affairs before returning to Europe in 1787.  Back in England, he continued writing pamphlets in support of revolution. He released “The Rights of Man,” supporting the French Revolution in 1791-92, in answer to Edmund Burke’s famous “Reflections on the Revolution in France” (1790). His sentiments were highly unpopular with the still-monarchal British government, so he fled to France, where he was later arrested for his political opinions.  He returned to the United States in 1802 and died in New York in 1809.


This Day 1-9-1

When most of us think of heroes it would not occur to us that a slave would be of such importance.  What if I told you that the ultimate surrender of General Cornwallis at Yorktown may have been the result of a slave’s significant contribution?

James Armistead was born in Virginia as a slave of William Armistead in 1748.  (Some references assert James was born in 1760).  Slaves were not able to join the Continental Army, but with the permission of William Armistead, James was allowed to volunteer in 1781.  He was assigned to serve under General Marquis de Lafayette.  It’s unclear whose idea it was, but it was decided that Armistead would pose as a runaway slave.

James infiltrated British headquarters under his guise and quickly gained the confidence of General Cornwallis and General Benedict Arnold.  It seems that Arnold especially was so convinced by the ruse that he eventually employed Armistead to spy on the Patriots!

Armistead was able to freely travel between British camps, officers spoke in his presence without reservation, and he acted as a guide to British troops leading them using local roads.  As he gained intelligence, he would send written reports via other patriot spies and return to Cornwallis’ camp.

In our present day of satellites, drones, and digital technology we often fail to realize how easy it might be to hide an entire army! Oftentimes movements were not noticed unless someone witnessed it; each side had that distinct advantage and disadvantage, unless you had a spy in the camp.

The American’s success in battle had been very limited, the Patriots and Continental Army had very few decisive wins.  Hostilities had begun at Bunker Hill, six years prior and I’m sure there was little expectation that the end was in sight.  Washington desperately needed intelligence and asked Lafayette in a message to strengthen his position and if able relay Cornwallis’ numbers, resources and planned movements.

Lafayette sent several spies to try and find the requested intel, but to no avail.  Then one day a message from Armistead arrived, dated July 31, 1781.  The intel in James’ report aided Lafayette in trapping the British at Hampton.  As the summer pressed on, Armistead’s intel was instrumental in pinning Cornwallis in Yorktown.  With the aid of the French Navy, thanks to Lafayette, the British Navy was not able to save Cornwallis by sea, forcing his surrender.

After the war, Armistead was caught in a “Catch-22”.  The British had offered freedom to any slave who joined the Loyalists, had the British won the war each of them would have been granted freedom.  Not so for the Patriots.  Why?  I do not know.  There were many dynamics to slavery and any changes would have to be made in a deliberate way.  In 1783, the General Assembly of Virginia passed the Act of 1783.  They acknowledged that every slave who “contributed towards the establishment of American liberty and independence” was in turn entitled to their own freedom.  The “catch” was, this was intended for slave soldiers, those who had fought.  James was a slave spy.  James continued as a slave to William Armistead after the war.

The Marquise de Lafayette visited Virginia in 1784 and learned after seeing James that he was still a slave.  Lafayette wrote the General Assembly on Armistead’s behalf.  Two years later he was emancipated.  Upon receiving his freedom, James took the last name of Lafayette in honor of his friend.  And make no mistake, these two were indeed friends.  James’ official name became James Armistead Lafayette.

After being freed, James moved nine miles south of New Kent County in Virginia, purchased 40 acres of land and began farming.  He married and started a family.  Eventually the Virginia legislature granted Armistead an annual pension of $40 for his contribution to the war effort.

In 1824, Lafayette returned to America and toured the nation finding cheering crowds everywhere he went.  While at a stop in Richmond, Virginia he spotted Armistead in the crowd.  Lafayette jumped down from his carriage and embraced James.  James was 76 years old and Lafayette himself was aging, this was his last trip to America.  James posed for the portrait seen above during this visit, dressed in a military coat.  The portrait hangs today in Richmond’s Valentine Museum.


This Day 1-8-2

Washington began by congratulating you on the present favourable prospects of our public affairs, most notable of which was North Carolina’s recent decision to join the federal republic. North Carolina had rejected the Constitution in July 1788 because it lacked a bill of rights. Under the terms of the Constitution, the new government acceded to power after only 11 of the 13 states accepted the document. By the time North Carolina ratified in November 1789, the first Congress had met, written the Bill of Rights and dispatched them for review by the states. When Washington spoke in January, it seemed likely the people of the United States would stand behind Washington’s government and enjoy the concord, peace, and plenty he saw as symbols of the nation’s good fortune.

Washington’s address gave a brief, but excellent, outline of his administration’s policies as designed by Alexander Hamilton. The former commander in chief of the Continental Army argued in favor of securing the common defence [sic], as he believed preparedness for war to be one of the most effectual means of preserving peace. Washington’s guarded language allowed him to hint at his support for the controversial idea of creating a standing army without making an overt request.

The most basic functions of day-to-day governing had yet to be organized, and Washington charged Congress with creating a competent fund designated for defraying the expenses incident to the conduct of our foreign affairs, a uniform rule of naturalization, and Uniformity in the Currency, Weights and Measures of the United States.

After covering the clearly federal issues of national defense and foreign affairs, Washington urged federal influence over domestic issues as well. The strongly Hamilton-influenced administration desired money for and some measure of control over Agriculture, Commerce and Manufactures as well as Science and Literature. These national goals required a Federal Post-Office and Post-Roads and a means of public education, which the president justified as a means to secure the Constitution, by educating future public servants in the republican principles of representative government.


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In September 1814, an impressive American naval victory on Lake Champlain forced invading British forces back into Canada and led to the conclusion of peace negotiations in Ghent, Belgium. Although the peace agreement was signed on December 24, word did not reach the British forces assailing the Gulf coast in time to halt a major attack.

On January 8, 1815, the British marched against New Orleans, hoping that by capturing the city they could separate Louisiana from the rest of the United States. Pirate Jean Lafitte, however, had warned the Americans of the attack, and the arriving British found militiamen under General Andrew Jackson strongly entrenched at the Rodriquez Canal. In two separate assaults, the 7,500 British soldiers under Sir Edward Pakenham were unable to penetrate the U.S. defenses, and Jackson’s 4,500 troops, many of them expert marksmen from Kentucky and Tennessee, decimated the British lines. In half an hour, the British had retreated, General Pakenham was dead, and nearly 2,000 of his men were killed, wounded, or missing. U.S. forces suffered only eight killed and 13 wounded.

Although the battle had no bearing on the outcome of the war, Jackson’s overwhelming victory elevated national pride, which had suffered a number of setbacks during the War of 1812. The Battle of New Orleans was also the last armed engagement between the United States and Britain.


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The following day, Samuel’s cousin, John Adams, wrote Warren’s wife, Mercy Otis Warren, and inquired if she would prefer an American Monarchy or Republic. While John declared his own preference for a republic, he wished it only if We must erect an independent Government in America, which you know is utterly against my Inclination. Although he regaled Mrs. Warren with the many virtues of republican government, Adams remained concerned that, there is so much Rascallity, so much Venality and Corruption, so much Avarice and Ambition, such a Rage for Profit and Commerce among all Ranks and Degrees of Men even in America, that I sometimes doubt whether there is public Virtue enough to Support a Republic.

Even among the inter-bred social elites of Massachusetts, there was no unanimity of opinion on the political course the colonies should take. Two days after John Adams equivocated over the sustainability of an American republic in his letter to Warren, Thomas Paine published Common Sense and swayed public opinion towards independence. Six months later, Congress charged Adams, by then considered an American Atlas for his passionate arguments for independence, to serve with Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin on the committee to draft the Declaration of Independence. Only his knowledge that Thomas Jefferson was the better writer kept Adams from drafting the famed document himself.


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The election of 1789 was a unique one in American history. Only ten of the original thirteen colonies would vote in the election. North Carolina and Rhode Island had not yet even ratified the Constitution, so were not yet part of the United States. New York had ratified the Constitution, but a deadlock in the legislature prevented them from appointing their electors by the appointed date of January 7, meaning there were no electors to vote for president on February 4th from New York. At the time, each state was allowed to decide its own method of choosing electors who would then vote for President. Each state was given a number of electors equal to its number of senators and representatives in Congress.

Electors were chosen by the legislature in 5 states – Connecticut, Georgia, New Jersey, New York and South Carolina. Virginia and Delaware divided the state into districts and one elector was chosen by each district. Maryland and Pennsylvania chose electors by popular vote. In Massachusetts, two electors were appointed by the legislature, while the remaining electors were chosen by the legislature from a list of the top two vote receivers in each congressional district. In New Hampshire, a statewide vote was held with the legislature making the decision in case of a tie.

In the election of 1789, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Massachusetts had 10 votes each; Connecticut and South Carolina had 7; New Jersey and Maryland had 6; New Hampshire and Georgia had 5; and Delaware had 3, for a total of 69 votes. Maryland could have had 2 more votes, but two electors failed to vote in February. Virginia also could have had two more votes, but the election returns in one district did not come in in time and one elector failed to attend the vote in February.

Each elector was able to cast 2 votes for President and one of the votes had to be for someone outside of his own home state. There was no question that George Washington would be the first President, even before the electors were chosen. The country was unanimous in its choice. The only question that really remained was who would be Vice-President. At the time, Presidents and Vice-Presidents did not run together on a ticket as they do today. Instead, all of them were presidential contenders with the highest vote recipient becoming President and the runner up becoming Vice-President.

In 1789, all 69 electors cast 1 vote for George Washington (the only President to win a unanimous electoral college vote, both in 1789 and in 1792).The remaining votes were split between John AdamsJohn JayJohn RutledgeJohn Hancock and some others, with John Adams receiving the most, 34, making him Washington’s Vice-President.



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The hills surrounding the camp offered Washington a perfect vantage point from which to keep an eye on the British army, which was headquartered across the Hudson River in New York City. Morristown’s position also allowed Washington to protect the roads leading from the British strongholds in New Jersey to New England and the roads leading to Philadelphia, where the leaders of the American Revolution were headquartered.

In addition to tracking the British, Washington used much of his time in Morristown to reorganize the Continental Army, which had begun to shrink following the victories in Trenton and Princeton. Some soldiers chose desertion over another cold winter without adequate supplies; others refused to reenlist, returning home when their enlistments expired.

Fortunately for the Americans, Washington’s leadership on the battlefield and his growing popularity throughout the country helped attract new recruits, and Washington orchestrated changes to hold on to the new troops and make them more effective soldiers. In an effort to instill discipline, maximum punishment for soldiers rose from 39 to 100 lashes. To make committing to the army more attractive, the Continental Army promised any man enlisting for three years a cash bonus. Those enlisting for the duration of the war could look forward to a land bounty. These promises would come back to haunt the army later, but in the early months of 1777, they allowed Washington to train and then maintain a seasoned force. By the time fighting resumed, Washington’s immediate command numbered 11,000 men, including militia. In New York, an additional 17,000 Patriots agreed to fight for the cause.


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His father was an acquaintance of Washington’s and was killed at the Battle of White Plains in New York on October 28, 1776. John reported that his first job as a boy was working for George Washington and that Washington often greeted him in public, shook his hand and encouraged him.

John was the oldest of 8 children and when his father was killed, the responsibility of providing for the family fell upon him. His family was very poor and often had only the rabbits John could catch as food to eat. Toward the end of the war, John joined the war and was present at Cornwallis’ surrender at Yorktown. He was only 17 years of age and served in the army for six months. After the war, he married and eventually moved to the Northwest Territory, into what is now Ohio and lived in Noble County for the rest of his life. He died on March 29, 1868 at 104 years, 2 months and 23 days old, surviving three wives and all but one of his four children.

Gray never received a veterans pension because his term of enlistment was too short, but about a year before his death, he was finally granted one by special act of Congress. At the time of his death, there was some controversy about exactly who was the last living veteran of the Revolution. Daniel Bakeman died in 1869, but was never able to conclusively prove that he had served in the war. (He married at 13 by the way and his wife was only 14!) George Fruits died in 1876 and was another contender, but there is now some question about whether he was mixed up with his father and actually died much earlier.

John was a lifelong Methodist and a lifelong tobacco chewer. He sided with the Union during the Civil War and regretted that his home state of Virginia joined the Confederation. He died at the home of his daughter, Nancy McElroy in 1868 and is buried in the McElroy Family Cemetery at Hiramsburg, Noble County, Ohio.


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Arnold’s 1,600 largely Loyalist troops sailed up the James River at the beginning of January, eventually landing in Westover, Virginia. Leaving Westover on the afternoon of January 4, Arnold and his men arrived at the virtually undefended capital city of Richmond the next afternoon.

Virginia’s governor, Thomas Jefferson, had frantically attempted to prepare the city for attack by moving all arms & other Military Stores records from the city to a foundry five miles outside Richmond. As news of Arnold’s unexpectedly rapid approach reached him, Jefferson then tried to orchestrate their removal to Westham, seven miles further north. He was too late–Arnold’s men quickly reached and burned the foundry and then proceeded towards Westham, which Jefferson had asked the formidable Prussian military advisor Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben to guard. Finding von Steuben, Arnold chose to return to Richmond, burning much of the city the following morning.

Only 200 militiamen responded to Governor Jefferson’s call to defend the capital–most Virginians had already served and therefore thought they were under no further obligation to answer such calls. Despite this untenable military position, the author of the Declaration of Independence was criticized by some for fleeing Richmond during the crisis. Later, two months after Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown, he was cleared of any wrongdoing during his term as governor. Jefferson went on to become the leader of the Democratic-Republican Party, and his presidential victory over the Federalists is remembered as The Revolution of 1800.

After the war, Benedict Arnold attempted and failed to establish businesses in Canada and London. He died a pauper on June 14, 1801, and lays buried in his Continental Army uniform at St. Mary’s Church, Middlesex, London. To this day, his name remains synonymous with the word “traitor” in the United States.


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The United States believed that the situation in the Middle East degenerated badly during 1956, and Egypt leader Gamal Nasser was deemed largely responsible. The U.S. used Nasser’s anti-western nationalism and his increasingly close relations with the Soviet Union as justification for withdrawing U.S. support for the construction of the Aswan Dam on the Nile River in July 1956. Less than a month later, Nasser seized control of the Suez Canal. This action prompted, in late October, a coordinated attack by French, British, and Israeli military on Egypt. Suddenly, it appeared that the Middle East might be the site of World War III.

In response to these disturbing developments, President Eisenhower called for “joint action by the Congress and the Executive” in meeting the “increased danger from International Communism” in the Middle East. Specifically, he asked for authorization to begin new programs of economic and military cooperation with friendly nations in the region. He also requested authorization to use U.S. troops “to secure and protect the territorial integrity and political independence of such nations.”

Eisenhower did not ask for a specific appropriation of funds at the time; nevertheless, he indicated that he would seek $200 million for economic and military aid in each of the years 1958 and 1959. Only such action, he warned, would dissuade “power-hungry Communists” from interfering in the Middle East.

While some newspapers and critics were uneasy with the open-ended policy for U.S. action in the Middle East (the Chicago Tribune called the doctrine “goofy”), the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate responded with overwhelming votes in favor of Eisenhower’s proposal.

The “Eisenhower Doctrine” received its first call to action in the summer of 1958, when civil strife in Lebanon led that nation’s president to request U.S. assistance. Nearly 15,000 U.S. troops were sent to help quell the disturbances. With the Eisenhower Doctrine and the first action taken in its name, the United States demonstrated its interest in Middle East developments.


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Nicholas was commissioned as a “Captain of Marines” on November 5, 1775 and received a written commission on the 28th, the first official appointment for the Continental Navy or Marines.  Nicholas recruited and trained hundreds of marines, developing 5 companies and two battalions.  They left Philadelphia on January 4, 1776 aboard the USS Alfred with Captain Nicholas, Admiral Esek Hopkins and 1st Lt John Paul Jones on board.

The British had transported large stores of weapons to the Bahamas for safe keeping from the rebels in the colonies.  The marines took the city of Nassau and two forts with little resistance, capturing 88 cannons, 15 mortars and a other supplies.  The marines had their first sea battle when the Alfred encountered the British warship HMS Glasgow.  Although damaged, the Glasgow managed to escape.

Nicholas was promoted to Major upon his return and returned to training more marines.  He and his men assisted Washington in the Battle of Princeton.  While he wanted to serve more in battle, congress believed him to be more valuable in his training  and organizational role which he did until the end of the war.

Nicholas is considered the First Commandant of the US Marines.  He was buried in the cemetery at the Arch Street Friends Meeting House on his death in 1790 during the Yellow Fever epidemic of that year.


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Handguns had not been widely used prior to Colt’s mass production revolver.  They were expensive, not very accurate and generally impractical.  In fact, knives were the preferred personal protection weapon, specifically the Bowie knife.

Colt patented his percussion repeating revolver in 1836.  Using a rifled barrel to stabilize the flight of the bullet increased accuracy, and a revolving cylinder holding five or six shots, this brought the handgun to be a serious weapon for defense.  This gun, the Colt Walker (named after the Texas Ranger that asked Colt to build it) was designed to kill a man with one shot.

While a rifle was still far more accurate, the Colt was deadly to 30 or 40 yards in the hands of an experienced shooter.  And being easier to carry while holding multiple rounds allowing for fast follow up shots made the revolver a necessary piece of equipment in the west.

Until mass production, the average man could never afford such a luxury.  However the government contract created the quantities necessary to help bring the price down, and the reviews of soldiers increased demand.  Help from Eli Whitney and others enabled Colt to streamline production and lower the production cost.  Making all the guns identical made for interchangeable parts, enhancing repairs and further lowering costs.  In time, the plant could turn out 150 Colts a day.

Samuel Colt was a master at marketing and had those in the west believing the Colt revolver was essential to the American Frontier.  Not only did the military and Texas Rangers buy the new gun, so did prospectors, gamblers, settlers and cowboys.  They were never cheap, but were inexpensive enough.  It was said, “God created men equal.  Colonel Colt made them equal.”


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After this failure, Cornwallis decided to call off the attack until morning, even though some of his officers believed Washington would try to escape in the night. Washington took advantage of the decision, but rather than running, he decided to attack the British rear guard left at Princeton. He took his army east and then to the north in utter silence during the night, approaching Princeton at dawn.

In the morning, Washington dispatched Brigadier General Hugh Mercer to destroy a bridge on the post road between Trenton and Princeton to delay Cornwallis’ pursuit. When General Mercer arrived at the post road, he ran straight into 800 men under the command of Lt. Col. Charles Mawhood, marching south from Princeton. Mawhood ordered a charge on the rebels, who were mostly equipped with rifles and no bayonets. Unable to defend themselves against a bayonet charge, they were quickly overrun, trapping General Mercer. Thinking they had cornered George Washington, the British soldiers shouted, “Surrender you damn rebel!” When Mercer refused and charged them instead, he was bayoneted and left for dead, causing the rest of his men to scatter. Another 1100 militia appeared just then, but when they saw Mercer’s men fleeing, they began to flee as well.

At this point, George Washington arrived with yet more troops. Seeing the fleeing militia, Washington quickly rode his horse straight into the battle, rallying the troops and shouting, “Parade with us my brave fellows! There is but a handful of the enemy and we shall have them directly!” Following their leader, the Americans quickly gained control of the field. Now outnumbered, Mawhood ordered a retreat as his line began to dissolve under heavy fire.

Knowing that Cornwallis was approaching from the south, Washington retreated back to Princeton where his men quickly captured the remaining troops who had holed up in Nassau Hall at the College of New Jersey (now Princeton), surrendering themselves to a young Captain Alexander Hamilton.

Washington wished to continue attacking British outposts after three victories in ten days, but Generals Knox and Greene warned him that even though the Continental Army was newly inspired by the recent victories, they were worn out and greatly outnumbered. Following their advice, Washington moved north to Morristown and took up winter quarters. General Cornwallis and Commander-in-Chief William Howeabandoned southern New Jersey after these defeats, removing all of their men to New Brunswick which held substantial supplies and money reserves, taking up winter quarters there until the spring.


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General William Howe, the British Commander-in-Chief of North America was furious with the defeat at Trenton. He canceled Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis’ scheduled leave to Britain for the winter and ordered him to Princeton immediately. 8,000 troops converged on Princeton on January 2 and Cornwallis began marching them south toward Trenton, sending an advance guard ahead of the rest.

George Washington had faced a dilemma only a few days before. The enlistments of most of his men would expire on December 31st. He knew the whole war might be lost if the army were to dissolve now. He offered the soldiers $10 to stay on for another month and the vast majority decided to stay. Their money arrived from Congress on January 1st.

Washington’s men crossed back over the Delaware on the 29th and took up positions south of Trenton on Assunpink Creek. He also sent another line under the command of French Brigadier-General Matthias Alexis Roche de Fermoy north to delay the British advance from Trenton. When the advance line met the oncoming British, they took cover behind trees and in ravines, greatly delaying Cornwallis for much of the day. General Fermoy, who had become drunk, went back to Trenton and Colonel Edward Hand took over the line.

The advance line was finally driven back to Assunpink Creek by twilight and the full British army began an attack on the bridge. Washington’s men held back three assaults from the British, felling hundreds of British soldiers in the process, causing Cornwallis to hold a council to decide what to do. Cornwallis had already lost 365 men to the Battle of Assunpink Creek by this point, while the Americans lost only 100. Some of his officers wanted to attack immediately, while others wanted to wait until morning. Cornwallis ultimately decided to wait until morning, believing the Continentals were already defeated, worn out and had nowhere to go.

Washington took advantage of the break. In the middle of the night, he withdrew most of his troops in silence and sent them north to Princeton, leaving 500 soldiers at Assunpink Creek to keep fires burning to make it appear that the army was still there. When Cornwallis arose in the morning, to his horror, Washington’s entire army was gone. They had marched to Princeton and taken over the 1,200 man garrison there, the third American victory in 9 days, forcing the British to withdraw from most of New Jersey and back to New Brunswick and New York City for the winter.


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The act called on colonial committees to indoctrinate those “honest and well-meaning, but uninformed people” by enlightening them as to the “origin, nature and extent of the present controversy.” The Congress remained “fully persuaded that the more our right to the enjoyment of our ancient liberties and privileges is examined, the more just and necessary our present opposition to ministerial tyranny will appear.”

However, those “unworthy Americans,” who had “taken part with our oppressors” with the aim of gathering “ignominious rewards,” were left to the relevant bodies, some ominously named “councils of safety,” to decide their fate. Congress merely offered its “opinion” that dedicated Tories “ought to be disarmed, and the more dangerous among them either kept in safe custody, or bound with sufficient sureties to their good behavior.”

The lengths Congress and lesser colonial bodies would go to in order to repress Loyalists took a darker tone later in the act. Listing examples of the “execrable barbarity with which this unhappy war has been conducted on the part of our enemies,” Congress vowed to act “whenever retaliation may be necessary” although it might prove a “disagreeable task.”

In the face of such hostility, some Loyalists chose not to remain in the American colonies. During the war, between 60,000 and 70,000 free persons and 20,000 slaves abandoned the rebellious 13 colonies for other destinations within the British empire. The Revolution effectively created two countries: Patriots formed the new United States, while fleeing Loyalists populated Canada.


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As a teenager, Betsy’s father had her apprenticed to an upholsterer and this is where she met her first husband, John Ross. John was the son of an assistant rector at the Episcopalian Christ Church. The two eloped and Betsy was ex-communicated from the Quaker church for marrying outside the faith. She and John then attended Christ Church and started their own business making such things as furniture coverings, clothing, curtains, bedspreads, etc.

Once the war started, John joined the Philadelphia militia and in mid-January 1776, he was severely injured in an accidental explosion while guarding ammunition. Betsy nursed John, but he died from his wounds. The following year, Betsy married again, this time to Captain Joseph Ashburn. Their home was occupied by British soldiers that winter during the British invasion of Philadelphia and Betsy was called the “Little Rebel” by the occupying soldiers for her patriotic views. Joseph was captured on a mission to the West Indies in 1780 and died in the Old Mill Prison at Plymouth, England in March, 1782, Betsy’s second husband to be lost to the war. An old suitor of Betsy’s named John Claypoole happened to be at the Old Mill when Joseph died. John brought back word to Betsy that her second husband had died and the two started up a new romance. They married in 1783 and were married for 34 years.

According to legend, George Washington came to Betsy’s upholstery shop in May of 1776 with Robert Morris and George Ross, two other members of Congress. Ross was Betsy’s first husband’s uncle. It is believed General Washington and Betsy were personal friends since their pews were right next to one another at Christ Church. Betsy’s first husband, who had just passed away, had two uncles that signed the Declaration of IndependenceGeorge Ross and George Read. These personal connections may have had something to do with her being asked to make the flag.

Washington allegedly pulled out a drawing with thirteen stars and stripes and 13 stars in a circle from his pocket and asked Betsy if she could make a flag using this design. Betsy said she believed she could, but suggested one alteration to the design. Washington had used six-pointed stars in his design. Betsy showed them how she could make a five-pointed star by folding a piece of cloth and by using only one snip of the scissors. Washington and the others were impressed and gave her the task.

Some historians have doubted the authenticity of the flag story since it was not told until the 1860s by Betsy’s grandson, William Canby. There are other contenders for the prize of being the person who made the first American flag, such as Declaration of Independence signer Francis Hopkinson.

Betsy would make flags for the United States government for the next 50 years. Her sacrifice was great, having lost two husbands to the war. Her third husband was also injured at the Battle of Germantown and spent time in a British prison. You can visit the Betsy Ross house today in Philadelphia. This is the very house where Betsy had her shop when she was visited by Washington and asked to make the flag.


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British General Henry Clinton sent emissaries from New York to meet the mutineers and offer them full pardon and the pay owed them by the Continental Army in exchange for joining the Redcoats. Instead, the men turned south towards Princeton, which they captured on January 3, intending to march on Philadelphia and Congress. From Princeton, the mutineers dispatched envoys to meet with General Wayne, who was following behind them. They aired their grievances and handed over Clinton’s men for eventual execution.

With this show of devotion to the Patriot cause, the mutineers strengthened their position in negotiations with Congress. General Wayne and Congressional President Joseph Reed met with the mutineers to hear their grievances on January 7; they came to an agreement three days later. Half the men accepted discharges, while the other half took furloughs coupled with bonuses for reenlistment. Those who reenlisted formed the Pennsylvania Battalion, which went on to participate in the southern campaign.

These excellent terms prompted 200 New Jersey men stationed at Pompton to follow suit with their own mutiny. This time, the response was quite different. General George Washington used New England soldiers to disarm their New Jersey compatriots and executed two of the leading mutineers.

These actions kept the Patriot army from disintegrating, but it still faced severe challenges–early 1781 saw more Americans fighting for the British than fighting for Washington.


This Day 12-31-2

The first wave of the invasion was a success as General Richard Montgomery captured Fort St. Jean and Montreal. As Montgomery’s 1700 men marched up from the south, Colonel Benedict Arnold landed in Maine and began a march with another 1100 troops across the wilderness straight to Quebec City, the capital of the province. Arnold’s march was heroic, but, lacking adequate supplies, starvation and disease set in and many troops deserted, leaving Arnold with only 600 men by the time he reached Quebec City. Arnold attempted to get British Governor and Major-General Guy Carleton to surrender the city, but he refused, causing Arnold to withdraw to await reinforcements.

When General Montgomery arrived in early December, he began to plan an attack on the city, although he was outnumbered, 1000 to 1800 men. Quebec City was one of the best fortified cities in America with its large, thick walls. Montgomery had little artillery, so he could not bombard the walls. Instead, he determined that he should wait for a snowstorm, when his advance would be hidden by the storm. On December 31st, a snowstorm hit and Montgomery made his move around 4am. Two companies led attacks on the western walls of the city as a feint, while the more serious invasion attempts would be made on the north and south of the city, one each led by General Montgomery and Colonel Arnold.

General Montgomery’s men followed along the southern wall of the city and entered through a palisade, but were quickly cut off by cannon and gun fire from a blockhouse. Montgomery was killed instantly with a shot through the head. A dozen others were killed as well, including several other senior officers. Only a few escaped, including a young soldier named Aaron Burr who would one day be Vice President. The remaining troops fled in disorganization after the senior officers were killed.

Colonel Arnold continued his attack on the north of the city. Arnold’s men made it into the city as well, but Arnold was shot in the ankle, taken off the field and replaced by Captain Daniel Morgan. Morgan’s men overtook the first barricade, but were soon surrounded and, after intense street fighting, forced to surrender. The battle ended by 10am. In all, about 80 Americans were wounded or killed and another 430 captured. The British lost only 5 dead and 14 wounded.

After the defeat, Benedict Arnold continued the siege on the city for another 5 months, sending word to the Continental Congress for reinforcements. Although a few reinforcements arrived, the remaining troops were so devastated with disease and poor conditions during the winter that General John Thomas, who replaced Arnold in April, ordered a retreat. The Americans retreated upriver, attempting to burn Montreal, and successfully burning Fort St. Jean, as they withdrew. The invasion of Canada was a failure. The Continental Congress would not try again to persuade its Canadian neighbors to join them in the fight for independence.


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In the first few decades of its existence, the East India Company made far less progress in the East Indies than it did in India itself, where it acquired unequaled trade privileges from India’s Mogul emperors. By the 1630s, the company abandoned its East Indies operations almost entirely to concentrate on its lucrative trade of Indian textiles and Chinese tea. In the early 18th century, the company increasingly became an agent of British imperialism as it intervened more and more in Indian and Chinese political affairs. The company had its own military, which defeated the rival French East India Company in 1752 and the Dutch in 1759.

In 1773, the British government passed the Regulating Act to reign in the company. The company’s possessions in India were subsequently managed by a British governor general, and it gradually lost political and economic autonomy. The parliamentary acts of 1813 ended the East India Company’s trade monopoly, and in 1834 it was transformed into a managing agency for the British government of India.

In 1857, a revolt by Indian soldiers in the Bengal army of the company developed into a widespread uprising against British rule in India. After the so-called Indian Mutiny was crushed in 1858, the British government assumed direct control over India, and in 1873 the East India Company was dissolved.


This Day 12-30-2

Francis Lewis was born in Wales and was orphaned as a young child. He was taken in by an aunt and uncle and was schooled at Westminster School in London. Lewis went to work at a London counting house where he learned about business. In 1735, at the age of 22, he sold all the property he had inherited from his father and invested it in merchandise. He moved to America and established mercantile houses in New York and Philadelphia with his goods, eventually becoming a financial success, traveling all over Europe and to Russia and Africa in his mercantile pursuits.

During the French and Indian War, Lewis served as a mercantile agent, supplying uniforms to the British army. In 1756, while he was serving as an aide to General Hugh Mercer at Fort Oswego on Lake Ontario, the Fort was captured by French General Louis-Joseph de Montcalm. Lewis was sent as a prisoner to France where he remained for several years until his release. Upon his release, Lewis returned to America and was rewarded with 5,000 acres of land for his service to the British government.

In 1765, Lewis retired from business, moved his family to his estate at Whitestone (now Flushing), New York and became involved in politics. He is believed to have been a member of the New York Sons of Liberty and served on several early committees of the fledgling New York state government.

In 1775, Lewis was elected to the Continental Congress. He was not allowed to vote for independence on July 2, 1776 due to his state’s reluctance to break from England, but he did sign the Declaration on August 2nd. Later that month, British General William Howe invaded Long Island. Lewis’ home was ransacked and burned and his wife captured. She remained in British custody for some time and was so poorly treated that she became severely ill. A prisoner exchange could not be conducted for some time because the Americans did not have a female prisoner of equal rank to exchange, but George Washington was able to finally arrange her release. Mrs. Lewis never recovered from her illness and died in 1779.

Most of Francis Lewis’ wealth was destroyed or spent during the war. He continued to serve in the Continental Congress as a delegate from New York until 1779 when he was appointed to oversee the Board of Admiralty. He signed the Articles of Confederation, America’s first governing document, in 1778. In his old age, Lewis became a vestryman at Trinity Church in New York City, where he was buried when he died at the age of 90 on December 30, 1803.


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Also known as the Soviet Union, the new communist state was the successor to the Russian Empire and the first country in the world to be based on Marxist socialism.

During the Russian Revolution of 1917 and subsequent three-year Russian Civil War, the Bolshevik Party under Vladimir Lenin dominated the soviet forces, a coalition of workers’ and soldiers’ committees that called for the establishment of a socialist state in the former Russian Empire. In the USSR, all levels of government were controlled by the Communist Party, and the party’s politburo, with its increasingly powerful general secretary, effectively ruled the country. Soviet industry was owned and managed by the state, and agricultural land was divided into state-run collective farms.

In the decades after it was established, the Russian-dominated Soviet Union grew into one of the world’s most powerful and influential states and eventually encompassed 15 republics–Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Belorussia, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. In 1991, the Soviet Union was dissolved following the collapse of its communist government.


This Day 12-29-2

American Major General Robert Howe and his paltry force of between 650 and 900 men were severely outnumbered. Campbell also outflanked the Continental forces by locating a path through the swamp to the right of the American position. Howe ordered the city to be evacuated and the army to withdraw from combat. During the process, the Georgia Brigade took heavy losses when it was cut off from Howe’s other forces. The Patriots lost 83 men and another 483 were captured, while the British lost only 3 men and another 10 were wounded.

Savannah remained in British control until the Redcoats left of their own accord on July 11, 1782. French and American forces held Savannah under siege from September 23 to October 18, 1779, but failed to reclaim the city.

The French troops included 500 free Haitians of African descent, calling themselves the Chasseurs-Volontaires de Saint-Dominigue. Soldiers of African descent fighting for the Patriots was an anomaly during the southern campaign–most American slaves attempted to flee and join British forces, as they had no desire to defend their Patriot masters’ right to enslave them. Many of the Volontaires themselves later went on to rebel against French control of Haiti. In fact, the Volontaires’ twelve year old drummer, Henri Christoph, commanded Haiti’s revolutionary army and later became king of Haiti.


This Day 12-29-1

Throughout 1890, the U.S. government worried about the increasing influence at Pine Ridge of the Ghost Dance spiritual movement, which taught that Indians had been defeated and confined to reservations because they had angered the gods by abandoning their traditional customs. Many Sioux believed that if they practiced the Ghost Dance and rejected the ways of the white man, the gods would create the world anew and destroy all non-believers, including non-Indians. On December 15, 1890, reservation police tried to arrest Sitting Bull, the famous Sioux chief, who they mistakenly believed was a Ghost Dancer, and killed him in the process, increasing the tensions at Pine Ridge.

On December 29, the U.S. Army’s 7th cavalry surrounded a band of Ghost Dancers under the Sioux Chief Big Foot near Wounded Knee Creek and demanded they surrender their weapons. As that was happening, a fight broke out between an Indian and a U.S. soldier and a shot was fired, although it’s unclear from which side. A brutal massacre followed, in which it’s estimated almost 150 Indians were killed (some historians put this number at twice as high), nearly half of them women and children. The cavalry lost 25 men.

The conflict at Wounded Knee was originally referred to as a battle, but in reality it was a tragic and avoidable massacre. Surrounded by heavily armed troops, it’s unlikely that Big Foot’s band would have intentionally started a fight. Some historians speculate that the soldiers of the 7th Cavalry were deliberately taking revenge for the regiment’s defeat at Little Bighorn in 1876. Whatever the motives, the massacre ended the Ghost Dance movement and was the last major confrontation in America’s deadly war against the Plains Indians.



This Day 12-28-2

Franklin’s writing in the almanac came off appearing as if it was all his own homespun sayings and advice, but in reality, much of it was copied from other European almanacs and other books. Many of the sayings and puzzles were just borrowed verbatim from these sources. Even the name Richard Saunders, Franklin’s persona in the series, was borrowed from a popular London almanac called the Apollo Anglicanus. Saunders eventually came to be known as “Poor Richard” and this was borrowed from another London almanac called “Poor Robin’s Almanack.”

Poor Richard’s was published every year from 1732 to 1758, selling around 10,000 copies a year. It was Franklin’s second most successful printing enterprise, after the Pennsylvania Gazette. The almanac was so popular that it was often the only other book in colonial homes beside the Bible. Between the Gazette and Poor Richard’s, Franklin earned enough income to retire at the age of 42 in 1748. After retirement, Franklin’s partner continued the printing business, while Franklin still provided the material for the almanac.

Franklin’s almanac was purchased for a variety of reasons, including the calendar, astronomical observations and weather predictions, but it became known most of all for Franklin’s proverbs, aphorisms and plays on words. Many of these sayings have come down to us today and are part of everyday life, including such sayings as, “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise;” “God helps them that help themselves;” “Well done is better than well said;” “Search others for their virtues, thy self for thy vices;” and “He that sows thorns, should not go barefoot.”

A few other sayings from the almanac include, “To err is human, to repent divine, to persist devilish;” “Many have quarrel’d about Religion, that never practis’d it;” “No man e’er was glorious, who was not laborious;” “He that cannot obey, cannot command;” “By diligence and patience, the mouse bit in two the cable;” “Nothing but money, Is Sweeter than Honey;” and “It is better to take many Injuries than to give one.”




This Day 12-28-1

Paine moved to Paris to become involved with the French Revolution, but the chaotic political climate turned against him, and he was arrested and jailed for crimes against the country.

When he first arrived in Paris, Paine was heartily welcomed and granted honorary citizenship by leaders of the revolution who enjoyed his antiroyalty book The Rights of Man. However, before long, he ran afoul of his new hosts. Paine was strictly opposed to the death penalty under all circumstances and he vocally opposed the French revolutionaries who were sending hundreds to the guillotine. He also began writing a provocative new book, The Age of Reason, which promoted the controversial notion that God did not influence the actions of people and that science and rationality would prevail over religion and superstition. Although Paine realized that sentiment was turning against him in the autumn of 1793, he remained in France because he believed he was helping the people.

After he was arrested, Paine was taken to Luxembourg Prison. The jail was formerly a palace and unlike any other detainment center in the world. He was treated to a large room with two windows and was locked inside only at night. His meals were catered from outside, and servants were permitted, though Paine did not take advantage of that particular luxury. While in prison, he continued to work on The Age of Reason.

Paine’s imprisonment in France caused a general uproar in America and future President James Monroe used all of his diplomatic connections to get Paine released in November 1794. Ironically, it wasn’t long before Paine came to be despised in the United States, as well. After The Age of Reason was published, he was called an anti-Christ, and his reputation was ruined. Thomas Paine died a poor man in 1809 in New York.


This Day 12-27-2

Hammonds Store was a blacksmith’s shop and trading post in what became Laurens County, northeast of Mountville, in the district of Fort Ninety-Six. Colonel Washington, a cousin of General George Washington, surprised the Loyalists and Redcoats camping at the store. American forces killed or wounded 150 British Loyalists and captured 40 prisoners during the four-day siege without incurring any losses of their own. The Patriots consisted of 75 dragoons (cavalry on horseback) under Washington’s direct command and 200 members of the South Carolina militia under Lieutenant Colonels Joseph Hayes and James McCall.

The area around Hammonds Store had seen its first European settler less than 30 years before. The ensuing Cherokee War of 1760-1761 had rendered the western Carolinas an area of ungovernable violence throughout the 1760s, with factional allegiances continuing to color settlers’ politics during the revolution. In an area where murder, rape and plunder had been par for the course for 20 years, the violence at Hammonds Store seemed comparatively mild.

After their resounding victory, the Patriots burned the store. The exact location of the store has since been lost to time.


This Day 12-27-1

During the Revolution, Royal Governor William Franklin, son of Benjamin Franklin, authorized Loyalist supporters to form militia groups to fight against the “patriot” rebels. Numerous of these “Boards of Associated Loyalists” sprung up around New Jersey, including one in the New Jersey pinelands which had Captain John Bacon as one of its members.

Over the course of several years during the war, Bacon earned quite a notorious reputation for making raids on the homes and businesses of patriots throughout southern and eastern New Jersey. In one particularly gruesome act, Bacon and his followers, who were known as the “Pine Robbers” or the “Refugees,” killed 30 crewmembers of the patriot privateer, Alligator, as they slept on Long Beach near their ship. The event caused an all-out manhunt as the militia tried to capture Bacon and bring him to justice. The massacre is called the “Barnegat Light Massacre” or the “Massacre of Long Beach.”

As the end of the war approached, Loyalists began to dwindle in number as many fled to Nova Scotia or Canada. Pockets of Loyalist resistance began to shrink, especially in the cities and some of those that remained set up enclaves in the wilderness, hence the name, the “Refugees.” They were truly like refugees in a foreign land. Bacon’s group took on this nature of a wilderness resistance group. Homes were pillaged. Businesses were robbed. Travelers were accosted on the road.

In December, 1782, two militia groups were out en masse hunting for Bacon and his band. Captain Edward Thomas of Mansfield and Captain Richard Shreve of Burlington County were heading the search mission when they heard that Bacon was near Cedar Creek, in present day Ocean County near the town of Barnegat.

Bacon’s men had stopped at the Cedar Bridge Tavern for some food. When he heard the militia was near, he knew he didn’t have time to escape, so he set up a barricade across the Cedar Bridge. As soon as the militia arrived, a firefight broke out. Bacon’s men lasted for quite a while, but the militia soon began to get the upper hand. Just when it seemed the militia would overtake the “Refugees,” shots rang out from another direction from a bunch of local Loyalists who arrived to help Bacon. In the confusion, Bacon escaped, although he was injured in the fight. Several of these locals were later hanged for helping Bacon.

Four months later, in April of 1783, Bacon was captured and killed at another tavern near Tuckerton, New Jersey by some of Captain Shreve’s men. He was so hated that his body was paraded through town and across the countryside and finally buried in an unmarked grave in Arneytown.

The Battle of Cedar Bridge, or the Skirmish of Cedar Bridge, was one of the very last engagements of the Revolutionary War. Word of a signed preliminary peace treaty with Great Britain arrived in the United States shortly after the skirmish and a ceasefire was declared by Congress in the same month that John Bacon was killed.


This Day 12-26-2

The victory came after months of losses for the green American troops after being defeated at the Battles of Long Island, White Plains and Fort Washington, being driven out of New York and across New Jersey into Pennsylvania. In those three battles alone, 400 Americans were killed, 1000 injured and nearly 4000 captured.

About 1400 Hessian forces under the command of Colonel Johann Rall were sleeping, having let their guard down due to the snowstorm. Rall had been warned of an imminent attack, but the snowstorm caused him to discount any attack that night. Just after daylight, Washington’s troops began to come across Hessian posts as they approached the town. A firefight began and the Hessians retreated into town, realizing they were outnumbered.

Colonel Rall tried to organize a counterattack, but his troops were soon scattered and overwhelmed. Rall himself received a mortal gunshot wound in the combat. A few hundred Hessians escaped town to the south, but eventually nearly 1,000 surrendered. 22 Hessians were killed and 83 wounded in the fighting. The Americans lost only 2 men and that was due to exposure, while only 5 were wounded.

The Battle of Trenton was a crucial turning point in the American Revolution. The victory revived the spirits of patriots everywhere and encouraged more men to enlist in the Continental Army. Within a few days, Washington’s men would return to Trenton and turn back British reinforcements again on January 2. They would sneak off in the night to Princeton to overwhelm another Hessian garrison on the 3rd. These victories would turn the tide of the war.


This Day 12-26-1

Bathory was already infamous in the area for her torture and murder of servants and peasants, but her title and high-ranking relatives had, until this point, made her untouchable. Her bloodthirsty activities have led many to cite her as one of the first vampires in history.

Bathory was born in Transylvania in 1560 to a distinguished family that included kings, cardinals, knights, and judges. Though she counted many luminaries among her relatives, her family tree also featured some seriously disturbed kin. One of her uncles instructed her in Satanism, while her aunt taught her all about sadomasochism. At the age of 15, Bathory was married to Count Nadady, and the couple settled into Csejthe Castle. To please his wife, her husband reportedly built a torture chamber to her specifications.

Bathory’s torture included jamming pins and needles under the fingernails of her servant girls, and tying them down, smearing them with honey, and leaving them to be attacked by bees and ants. Although the count participated in his wife’s cruelties, he may have also restrained her impulses; when he died in the early 1600s, she became much worse. With the help of her former nurse, Ilona Joo, and local witch Dorotta Szentes, Bathory began abducting peasant girls to torture and kill. She often bit chunks of flesh from her victims, and one unfortunate girl was even forced to cook and eat her own flesh. Bathory reportedly believed that human blood would keep her looking young and healthy.

Since her family headed the local government, Bathory’s crimes were ignored until 1610. But King Matthias finally intervened because Bathory had begun finding victims among the daughters of local nobles. In January 1611, Bathory and her cohorts were put on trial for 80 counts of murder. All were convicted, but only Bathory escaped execution. Instead, she was confined to a room of the castle that only had slits for air and food. She survived for three years but was found deadin August 1614.


This Day 12-25-2

At about 11 p.m. on Christmas, Washington’s army commenced its crossing of the half-frozen river at three locations. The 2,400 soldiers led by Washington successfully braved the icy and freezing river and reached the New Jersey side of the Delaware just before dawn. The other two divisions, made up of some 3,000 men and crucial artillery, failed to reach the meeting point at the appointed time.

At approximately 8 a.m. on the morning of December 26, Washington’s remaining force, separated into two columns, reached the outskirts of Trenton and descended on the unsuspecting Hessians. Trenton’s 1,400 Hessian defenders were groggy from the previous evening’s festivities and underestimated the Patriot threat after months of decisive British victories throughout New York. Washington’s men quickly overwhelmed the Germans’ defenses, and by 9:30 a.m. the town was surrounded. Although several hundred Hessians escaped, nearly 1,000 were captured at the cost of only four American lives. However, because most of Washington’s army had failed to cross the Delaware, he was without adequate artillery or men and was forced to withdraw from the town.

Within a few days, they crossed back over and turned back reinforcements at Trenton on January 2nd and defeated another British outpost at Princeton on the 3rd. The whole operation forced Cornwallis to withdraw all his southern outposts in New Jersey to New Brunswick, while Washington’s army wintered at Morristown, New Jersey. The victories of December 25 through January 3 revived the flagging spirits of the Continental Army and proved that the Americans could stand up to their British foes.


This Day 12-25-1

At the first light of dawn, many of the German soldiers emerged from their trenches and approached the Allied lines across no-man’s-land, calling out “Merry Christmas” in their enemies’ native tongues. At first, the Allied soldiers feared it was a trick, but seeing the Germans unarmed they climbed out of their trenches and shook hands with the enemy soldiers. The men exchanged presents of cigarettes and plum puddings and sang carols and songs. There was even a documented case of soldiers from opposing sides playing a good-natured game of soccer.

The so-called Christmas Truce of 1914 came only five months after the outbreak of war in Europe and was one of the last examples of the outdated notion of chivalry between enemies in warfare. In 1915, the bloody conflict of World War I erupted in all its technological fury, and the concept of another Christmas Truce became unthinkable.


This Day 12-24-2

The General Arnold was a private ship that had received a Letter of Marque from the Government of Massachusetts, allowing it to be outfitted for war and to capture enemy ships, both merchant vessels and warships.

The General Arnold set off on the 24th, captained by James Magee and operated by 105 crew members, intending to go to the West Indies to capture British ships as prizes. Captured ships and their cargo were given as awards to crews who captured them and making privateering a very lucrative enterprise.

Unfortunately, the crew of the General Arnold ran into a severe noreaster the very next day off of Plymouth Harbor. The storm was so severe that Captain Magee began to make for Plymouth Harbor, intending to take refuge from the storm. Arriving at Gurnet Point, the outermost point of Plymouth Bay, the Captain dropped his anchor because there was no pilot boat to guide him the rest of the way. Pilot boats were captained by local seamen who were familiar with the local shoals and sandbars who guided larger ships and captains who were unfamiliar with the local seascape into safer waters.

The snowstorm was so bad, however, that no pilot boat arrived. By the 26th, the wind was so severe that the General Arnold began to be pushed to the point of dragging its anchor, eventually running aground on a sandbar on White Flats. The men took refuge below deck, but the ship’s seams began to rupture and the hull filled with water, forcing them back to the deck.

When the tide came in, waves washed over the deck of the ship. Ice and snow covered both ship and crew and the men began to succumb to the cold. Some of them allegedly filled their boots with rum to prevent their feet from freezing (alcohol does not freeze if the percentage of alcohol is high enough). Some of the dead washed overboard, while others froze to death holding each other to keep warm or holding onto the ship’s rigging to keep from washing overboard.

By the 27th, townspeople in Plymouth were aware of the ship, which was a mile off the shore. They were able to stand along the harbor and hear the cries of the men on the ship in the distance. The whole event cast a pall of gloom over the town’s Christmas celebrations. Several attempts were made by the residents of Plymouth to send rescue boats to the doomed ship, but they were forced to turn around because of the treacherous ice floes which had developed on the harbor.

Finally, on the 28th, they were able to construct a sort of bridge across the harbor across the tops of large chunks of ice. They sent sleds over the sea to rescue the survivors. By this time, seventy-two of the crew had perished. There were only 33 survivors, 9 of whom died after getting to shore.

The disaster of the General Arnold is just one in a long string of sacrifices that many of our forefathers made during the American Revolution. The disaster shows their heroism and the treacherous conditions the sea could bring. A mass grave was dug for many of the dead in Plymouth, most of whom remained unknown because the captain had not yet logged the names of the crewmembers. A monument was erected over the site in 1862.


This Day 12-24-1

By terms of the treaty, all conquered territory was to be returned, and commissions were planned to settle the boundary of the United States and Canada.

In June 1812, the United States declared war against Great Britain in reaction to three issues: the British economic blockade of France, the induction of thousands of neutral American seamen into the British Royal Navy against their will, and the British support of hostile Indian tribes along the Great Lakes frontier. A faction of Congress, made up mostly of western and southern congressmen, had been advocating the declaration of war for several years. These “War Hawks,” as they were known, hoped that war with Britain, which was preoccupied with its struggle against Napoleonic France, would result in U.S. territorial gains in Canada and British-protected Florida.

In the months following the U.S. declaration of war, American forces launched a three-point invasion of Canada, all of which were repulsed. At sea, however, the United States was more successful, and the USS Constitution and other American frigates won a series of victories over British warships. In 1813, American forces won several key victories in the Great Lakes region, but Britain regained control of the sea and blockaded the eastern seaboard.

In 1814, with the downfall of Napoleon, the British were able to allocate more military resources to the American war, and Washington, D.C., fell to the British in August. In Washington, British troops burned the White House, the Capitol, and other buildings in retaliation for the earlier burning of government buildings in Canada by U.S. soldiers. The British soon retreated, however, and Fort McHenry in Baltimore harbor withstood a massive British bombardment and inspired Francis Scott Key to pen the “Star-Spangled Banner.”

On September 11, 1814, the tide of the war turned when Thomas Macdonough’s American naval force won a decisive victory at the Battle of Plattsburg Bay on Lake Champlain. A large British army under Sir George Prevost was thus forced to abandon its invasion of the U.S. northeast and retreat to Canada. The American victory on Lake Champlain led to the conclusion of U.S.-British peace negotiations in Belgium, and on December 24, 1814, the Treaty of Ghent was signed, ending the war. Although the treaty said nothing about two of the key issues that started the war–the rights of neutral U.S. vessels and the impressment of U.S. sailors–it did open up the Great Lakes region to American expansion and was hailed as a diplomatic victory in the United States.

News of the treaty took almost two months to cross the Atlantic, and British forces were not informed of the end of hostilities in time to end their drive against the mouth of the Mississippi River. On January 8, 1815, a large British army attacked New Orleans and was decimated by an inferior American force under General Andrew Jackson in the most spectacular U.S. victory of the war. The American public heard of the Battle of New Orleans and the Treaty of Ghent at approximately the same time, fostering a greater sentiment of self-confidence and shared identity throughout the young republic.


This Day 12-23-2

Washington addressed the assembled Congress:

“Happy in the confirmation of our independence and sovereignty, and pleased with the opportunity afforded the United States of becoming a respectable nation, I resign with satisfaction the appointment I accepted with diffidence; a diffidence in my abilities to accomplish so arduous a task; which however was superseded by a confidence in the rectitude of our cause, the support of the supreme power of the Union, and the patronage of Heaven.

Washington’s willingness to return to civilian life was an essential element in the transformation of the War for Independence into a true revolution. During the war, Congress had granted Washington powers equivalent to those of a dictator and he could have easily taken solitary control of the new nation. Indeed, some political factions wanted Washington to become the new nation’s king. His modesty in declining the offer and resigning his military post at the end of the war fortified the republican foundations of the new nation.

Although he asked nothing for himself, Washington did enter a plea on behalf of his officers:

“While I repeat my obligations to the army in general, I should do injustice to my own feelings not to acknowledge, in this place, the peculiar services and distinguished merits of the gentlemen who have been attached to my person during the war. It was impossible the choice of confidential officers to compose my family should have been more fortunate. Permit me, sir, to recommend in particular, those who have continued in the service to the present moment, as worthy of the favorable notice and patronage of Congress.

The patronage Washington requested seemed most pressing as the army had narrowly survived several mutinies and a near-attempted coup the previous autumn. The veteran officers who had helped to keep the army intact desired western lands in thanks for their service. Their claims would constitute a major issue for the new American government as it attempted to organize the settlement of what had been the colonial backcountry.

Washington concluded:

“Having now finished the work assigned to me, I retire from the great theatre of action; and bidding an affectionate farewell to this august body, under whose orders I have so long acted, I here offer my commission, and take any leave of all the employments of public life.”

General Washington’s respite proved extremely brief. He was unanimously elected to the first of two terms as president of the United States in 1788.


This Day 12-23-1

Thomas Paine had already had an enormous effect on the Revolution by publishing Common Sense in January of 1776, which encouraged Americans to consider the idea of independence from Britain when the idea was not widely held.

During the fall of 1776, the Continental Army was driven out of New York and across New Jersey. After crossing the Delaware River into Pennsylvania, George Washington’s army was exhausted, waiting for reinforcements and hoping for another chance to attack the British who were encamped on the New Jersey side of the river, but unable to cross because Washington had commandeered every boat up and down the river for seventy miles.

The American cause was looking very uncertain at this point. Washington’s army seemed to be shattered. The British were a stone’s throw from capturing Philadelphia, forcing the Continental Congress to flee to Baltimore. 11,000 soldiers left the army and went home because their commissions had come to an end. The commissions of many more would come to an end on December 31st. Patriots everywhere were disillusioned and uncertain about the future.

In the midst of this situation, Thomas Paine, who was a soldier traveling with the Continental Army at this time, published The American Crisis. It immediately came to George Washington’s attention. He found it so inspiring that he had it read to all his troops as they prepared to attack the Hessians at Trenton on Christmas Day.

The American Crisis begins, “THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.”

Paine encourages Loyalists to realize that a conquering nation will never treat them fairly; that surrender to Britain will make them no more than slaves; that the colonists have more than enough power to overthrow Britain; and that America has a bright future if it rules itself. The publication painted the image of a happy and prosperous future where Americans governed themselves in peace and security, while also pointing a clear path to victory.

The American Crisis helped persuade many Loyalists and people who had previously been neutral to support independence. It also brought a wind of inspiration and resolve to Americans everywhere who were losing hope. Most especially, it uplifted the spirits of the Continental Army soldiers as they repeated its phrases while they marched to victory at the Battles of Trenton and Princetonon December 26 and January 2. The American Crisis was eventually combined with 15 other pamphlets by Paine and published all together in one booklet. It was read by Americans everywhere, encouraging them to stand up and fight for their independence.


This Day 12-22-2

Esek Hopkins had married well and used his wife’s fortune to buy a ship. It proved a wise investment. He added to his wealth working as a privateer during the Seven Years’ War. In his new position, Congress promised to pay him 125 dollars per calendar month; they also informed that he could look forward to some share of the prizes allotted to the captors. Christopher Gadsden of South Carolina designed Hopkins’ personal standard, which flew from the first navy fleet. The yellow flag bore the image of a coiled snake and the Patriot motto, Don’t Tread on Me.

In January, 1776, Hopkins assembled eight ships and sailed for the Chesapeake Bay at Congress’ orders, aided by Captain Dudley Saltonstall and First Lieutenant, John Paul Jones. Their mission was to “take or destroy all the naval force of our enemies that you may find there.” After arriving, however, Hopkins determined that the British fleet was too powerful for his small flotilla, so he scrubbed the mission and made other plans. Congress had authorized him to go on to harass British ships in North and South Carolina or “to follow such courses as your best Judgment shall suggest to you… to distress the Enemy by all means in your power.” Hopkins’ decision? To go all the way to the Bahamas!

Upon reaching Nassau, three-fourths of the gunpowder was spirited away by the British in the night on a fast ship, but the remaining gunpowder, numerous cannons and various government officials were captured, including the Royal Governor, Montfort Browne. In April, on their return voyage, the fleet captured two British ships near Long Island, but was outmaneuvered by the HMS Glasgow, which damaged one ship badly, killed or wounded eleven sailors and escaped capture by Hopkins’ much larger fleet.

Hopkins was praised at first for capturing the goods at Nassau, but questions and accusations arose about his character, his failing to capture the Glasgow and especially about his decision to go to Nassau. Congress formally censured him in June, 1776, for not following his orders in Virginia and the Carolinas. Hopkins then took his fleet to Newport, Rhode Island, which was blockaded and occupied by the British in December, trapping his fleet in Narragansett Bay. Congress relieved him of his command in the Navy for the loss of Newport in March, 1777 and dismissed him permanently on January 2, 1778.


This Day 12-22-1

Walesa first came into prominence in Poland in 1980 when he took over the leadership of a strike of shipyard workers. The action was a success, with Poland’s communist government agreeing to the union’s right to exist. This was the birth of the so-called “Solidarity” movement in Poland, a broad-based movement designed to remove communist control over labor organizations. Though forced to give in during the strike, the government plotted to eliminate this new threat to its power. Martial law was imposed in 1981 and shortly thereafter Walesa was arrested and put into solitary confinement for nearly a year. In 1983, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in organizing Polish labor and protesting communist oppression in his nation.

Upon his release from prison, Walesa resumed his union efforts. The Solidarity movement rapidly gained in strength and popularity. In 1989, the Polish government allowed semi-free elections and Solidarity candidates won seats in the national parliament. In 1990, General Wojciech Jaruzelski, the communist leader of Poland, agreed to step down and allow free elections. Walesa, though he initially shunned political office, ran for president as the Solidarity candidate and won. His election was another blow to Soviet power in East Europe and marked another defection from the communist Iron Curtain nations of Europe.

Walesa’s five years in office were marked by Poland’s rapid transformation to a growing free-market economy, though Walesa himself was often criticized for his leadership style, which included replacing government staffers almost yearly. He lost the presidential election in 1995 and ostensibly retired from public life. He ran for president again in 2000, but received less than one percent of the vote.


This Day 12-21-2

At age 16, Barnwell enlisted as a private in the Patriot militia. Wounded 17 times in the Battle of Matthews’ Plantation on St. John’s Island in June 1779, his supplies were taken and he was left for dead on the battlefield. Fortunately, a slave found him and took him to his aunt’s nearby plantation, where he recuperated. He rejoined the militia as a lieutenant the following spring, only to be taken prisoner by the British during the siege of Charleston in May 1780. Barnwell spent the next 13 months imprisoned on the ship Pack Horse. Still undeterred, he joined the militia after his release, reaching the rank of lieutenant colonel by the end of the War of Independence.

Having served the new nation loyally during the war, Barnwell became a successful politician in the political revolution that followed. He was elected first to the South Carolina House of Representatives in 1787, then served as a delegate to the Continental Congress from 1788 to 1789. In 1788, he also served as a member of the South Carolina convention that ratified the U.S. Constitution. He sat in the second U.S. Congress as a member of the House of Representatives from 1791 to 1793, declining to run for a second term. He returned to the South Carolina legislature from 1795 to 1797, including a stint as speaker of the house in 1795. His public service also included time in the South Carolina Senate from 1805 to 1806, serving as president in the latter year, and as president of the Beaufort College Board of Trustees beginning in 1795. He died in his birthplace on October 24, 1814.

Barnwell’s devotion to civic life and the importance of education were characteristics shared by the Revolutionary generation; his blend of military heroism with political and pedagogical activity was a far rarer combination. Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin and many of the other luminaries of the age never bore arms in the fight they so passionately championed. Barnwell’s son, Robert Woodward Barnwell, carried on his father’s tradition of political and educational service. Ironically, he chose to serve the Confederacy in its attempt to divide the nation his father helped to build.


This Day 12-21-1

A bomb hidden inside an audio cassette player detonated in the cargo area when the plane was at an altitude of 31,000 feet. The disaster, which became the subject of Britain’s largest criminal investigation, was believed to be an attack against the United States. One hundred eighty nine of the victims were American.

Islamic terrorists were accused of planting the bomb on the plane while it was at the airport in Frankfurt, Germany. Authorities suspected the attack was in retaliation for either the 1986 U.S. air strikes against Libya, in which leader Muammar al-Qaddafi’s young daughter was killed along with dozens of other people, or a 1988 incident, in which the U.S. mistakenly shot down an Iran Air commercial flight over the Persian Gulf, killing 290 people.

Sixteen days before the explosion over Lockerbie, the U.S. embassy in Helsinki, Finland, received a call warning that a bomb would be placed on a Pan Am flight out of Frankfurt. There is controversy over how seriously the U.S. took the threat and whether travelers should have been alerted, but officials later said that the connection between the call and the bomb was coincidental.

In 1991, following a joint investigation by the British authorities and the F.B.I., Libyan intelligence agents Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah were indicted for murder; however, Libya refused to hand over the suspects to the U.S. Finally, in 1999, in an effort to ease United Nations sanctions against his country, Qaddafi agreed to turn over the two men to Scotland for trial in the Netherlands using Scottish law and prosecutors. In early 2001, al-Megrahi was convicted and sentenced to life in prison and Fhimah was acquitted. Over the U.S. government’s objections, Al-Megrahi was freed and returned to Libya in August 2009 after doctors determined that he had only months to live.

In 2003, Libya accepted responsibility for the bombing, but didn’t express remorse. The U.N. and U.S. lifted sanctions against Libya and Libya agreed to pay each victim’s family approximately $8 million in restitution. In 2004, Libya’s prime minister said that the deal was the “price for peace,” implying that his country only took responsibility to get the sanctions lifted, a statement that infuriated the victims’ families. Pan Am Airlines, which went bankrupt three years after the bombing, sued Libya and later received a $30 million settlement.


This Day 12-20-2

While the Continental Army had been driven out of New York and New Jersey into Pennsylvania, Washington had the remarkable foresight to commandeer every boat for 70 miles up and down river, thus preventing the British from following.

British Commander Howe elected to winter most of his troops in New York rather than chase Washington’s army which he believed to be defeated, physically and in morale.  He stationed troops across New Jersey at various outposts to prevent Washington from encroaching back in to New Jersey.

New Jersey citizens were not happy, and while the British could control the towns such as Bordentown, Trenton, Princeton, New Brunswick and Burlington – many of these were essentially ghost towns as the citizens had evacuated when the British arrived.  Controlling the cities was one thing, controlling the rural stretches between was entirely another.  As British soldiers  would send out reconnaissance, go foraging or relaying messages from town to town the New Jersey militia attacked and harassed them at every opportunity.  British casualties mounted quickly.

Colonel Johann Rall was the senior officer in Trenton.  In response to the harassment he had to send 100 men to send a message to Princeton, 13 miles distant.  On the 20th (today’s date), Rall sent a patrol to Howell’s Ferry, about 4 miles upriver from Trenton.  150 Hunterdon County militiamen were coming from their headquarters on the Pennsylvania side when they met the British.  While the Americans lost a few men, this was just an example of how difficult it was to control anything but the towns themselves.  The militia knew the back country and fought in more of a guerrilla style vs the orderly “proper” way of the British.

Rall’s men were harassed to the point they were ordered to remain dressed and armed, even when sleeping.  There were constant alarms and attacks leaving the men scared, tired and worn out.  Their morale was shot.  Rall was alerted by two deserters on the 25th of an attack planned by Washington on the 26th.  He could not believe Washington capable of mounting such an attack, thinking Washington essentially defeated, however he was concerned due to the attacks by the local militia.

It is not true that the Hessian Garrison was drunk and unprepared for Washington’s arrival.  In fact they were at high alert all day the 25th.  A severe snow storm developed that evening and it was snowing so hard they put down their guard believing that no army could move through such conditions.  Patrols were cancelled and the men were getting what they felt was a well deserved rest when they were surrounded and arrested the next morning.


This Day 12-20-1

The US, in April 1803, purchased the 828,000 square miles of French Louisiana from France.  It comprised two territories; the northern part was unsettled except for Indians and the southern Orleans Territory populated by Europeans.

Home to about 50,000 people, the Orleans Territory (somewhat similar in size and borders to present day Louisiana) was primarily French and had been under Spanish rule.  They knew little of American laws or institutions so the new Governor had the task of bringing them into the “fold”.  William Claiborne was only 28 when he took control.

Claiborne spoke neither French nor Spanish, and his initial move to take down the French Flag and replace it with the Stars and Stripes caused many to cry.  The effort o make English the official language, and the fact that he was appointed rather than elected did create some difficulties.

Rather than governing, he found himself dealing with ethnic tensions and political unrest, things he neither liked nor understood.  In January he wrote President Jefferson that the people were, “uninformed, indolent, luxurious-in a word, ill-fitted to be useful citizens for a Republic.”  He was caught up handling riots, robberies, runaway slaves and similar crisis more than running the new territory.

In spite of the early problems, progress was made.  In December 1804 he reported to Jefferson, “they begin to view their connexion with the United States as permanent and to experience the benefits thereof.”  Eight years later a constitution was drafted and a petition to be added to the US as the 18th state of the union.  Louisianans were now officially Americans.


This Day 12-19-2

When these phrases appeared in the pages of the Pennsylvania Journal for the first time, General George Washington’s troops were encamped at McKonkey’s Ferry on the Delaware River opposite Trenton, New Jersey. In August, they had suffered humiliating defeats and lost New York City to British troops. Between September and December, 11,000 American volunteers gave up the fight and returned to their families. General Washington could foresee the destiny of a rebellion without an army if the rest of his men returned home when their service contracts expired on December 31. He knew that without an upswing in morale and a significant victory, the American Revolution would come to a swift and humiliating end.

Thomas Paine was similarly astute. His Common Sense was the clarion call that began the revolution. As Washington’s troops retreated from New York through New Jersey, Paine again rose to the challenge of literary warfare. With American Crisis, he delivered the words that would salvage the revolution.

Washington commanded that the freshly printed pamphlet be read aloud to his dispirited men; the rousing prose had its intended effect. Reciting Paine’s impassioned words, the beleaguered troops mustered their remaining hopes for victory and crossed the icy Delaware River to defeat hung-over Hessians on Christmas night and on January 2, the British army’s best general, Earl Cornwallis, at the Battle of Princeton. With victory in New Jersey, Washington won not only two battles, but also the love and thanks of man and woman.


This Day 12-19-1

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.


This Day 12-18-2

In proclaiming the first national day of thanksgiving, Congress wrote, “It is therefore recommended to the Legislative or executive Powers of these UNITED STATES, to set apart THURSDAY, the eighteenth Day of December next, for solemn THANKSGIVING and PRAISE; That at one Time and with one Voice the good People may express the grateful Feelings of their Hearts, and consecrate themselves to the Service of their Divine Benefactor”

Neither when the Congress proclaimed the day of Thanksgiving on November 1, nor when the population celebrated in December, were they aware that on December 17, the French would finally formalize a military and trade alliance with the rebelling states. These were not disconnected events. The victory at Saratoga convinced the French king that the Americans might be worthy allies and the ensuing alliance made an American victory possible.

Merely having a national day of thanksgiving was a tremendous step forward in creating an American identity. Previously, the colonies had celebrated individually or as part of the British Empire. Now they had experienced an event that had affected them all and formalized a celebration that involved them all. With the French alliance, they had an ally who supported them all. Americans had just taken a major step on the tortured trail from colonies to states and from states to nation.


This Day 12-18-1

The famous Mayflower story began in 1606, when a group of reform-minded Puritans in Nottinghamshire, England, founded their own church, separate from the state-sanctioned Church of England. Accused of treason, they were forced to leave the country and settle in the more tolerant Netherlands. After 12 years of struggling to adapt and make a decent living, the group sought financial backing from some London merchants to set up a colony in America. On September 6, 1620, 102 passengers–dubbed Pilgrims by William Bradford, a passenger who would become the first governor of Plymouth Colony–crowded on the Mayflower to begin the long, hard journey to a new life in the New World.

On November 11, 1620, the Mayflower anchored at what is now Provincetown Harbor, Cape Cod. Before going ashore, 41 male passengers–heads of families, single men and three male servants–signed the famous Mayflower Compact, agreeing to submit to a government chosen by common consent and to obey all laws made for the good of the colony. Over the next month, several small scouting groups were sent ashore to collect firewood and scout out a good place to build a settlement. Around December 10, one of these groups found a harbor they liked on the western side of Cape Cod Bay. They returned to the Mayflower to tell the other passengers, but bad weather prevented them from docking until December 18. After exploring the region, the settlers chose a cleared area previously occupied by members of a local Native American tribe, the Wampanoag. The tribe had abandoned the village several years earlier, after an outbreak of European disease. That winter of 1620-1621 was brutal, as the Pilgrims struggled to build their settlement, find food and ward off sickness. By spring, 50 of the original 102 Mayflower passengers were dead. The remaining settlers made contact with returning members of the Wampanoag tribe and in March they signed a peace treaty with a tribal chief, Massasoit. Aided by the Wampanoag, especially the English-speaking Squanto, the Pilgrims were able to plant crops–especially corn and beans–that were vital to their survival. The Mayflower and its crew left Plymouth to return to England on April 5, 1621.

Over the next several decades, more and more settlers made the trek across the Atlantic to Plymouth, which gradually grew into a prosperous shipbuilding and fishing center. In 1691, Plymouth was incorporated into the new Massachusetts Bay Association, ending its history as an independent colony.


This Day 12-17-2

News of the Continental Army’s overwhelming victory against the British General John Burgoyne at Saratoga gave Benjamin Franklin new leverage in his efforts to rally French support for the American rebels. Although the victory occurred in October, news did not reach France until December 4th.

Franklin had quickly mustered French support upon his arrival in December 1776. France’s humiliating loss of North America to the British in the Seven Years’ War made the French eager to see an American victory. However, the French king was reluctant to back the rebels openly. Instead, in May 1776, Louis XVI sent unofficial aid to the Continental forces and the playwright Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais helped Franklin organize private assistance for the American cause.

Franklin, who often wore a fur cap, captured the imagination of Parisians as an American man of nature and his well-known social charms stirred French passions for all things American. He was the toast of Parisian society, enchanting salons with his wide-ranging knowledge, social graces and witty repartee. Nevertheless, he was not allowed to appear at court.

It took the impressive and long-awaited victory at Saratoga to convince Louis that the American rebels had some hope of defeating the British empire. His enthusiasm for the victory paired with the foreign minister’s concern that the loss of Philadelphia to the British would lead Congress to surrender, gave Franklin two influential allies with two powerful–if opposing–reasons for officially backing the American cause. A formal treaty of alliance followed on February 6, 1778.


This Day 17-17-1

Orville and Wilbur Wright grew up in Dayton, Ohio, and developed an interest in aviation after learning of the glider flights of the German engineer Otto Lilienthal in the 1890s. Unlike their older brothers, Orville and Wilbur did not attend college, but they possessed extraordinary technical ability and a sophisticated approach to solving problems in mechanical design. They built printing presses and in 1892 opened a bicycle sales and repair shop. Soon, they were building their own bicycles, and this experience, combined with profits from their various businesses, allowed them to pursue actively their dream of building the world’s first airplane.

After exhaustively researching other engineers’ efforts to build a heavier-than-air, controlled aircraft, the Wright brothers wrote the U.S. Weather Bureau inquiring about a suitable place to conduct glider tests. They settled on Kitty Hawk, an isolated village on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, which offered steady winds and sand dunes from which to glide and land softly. Their first glider, tested in 1900, performed poorly, but a new design, tested in 1901, was more successful. Later that year, they built a wind tunnel where they tested nearly 200 wings and airframes of different shapes and designs. The brothers’ systematic experimentations paid off–they flew hundreds of successful flights in their 1902 glider at Kill Devils Hills near Kitty Hawk. Their biplane glider featured a steering system, based on a movable rudder, that solved the problem of controlled flight. They were now ready for powered flight.

In Dayton, they designed a 12-horsepower internal combustion engine with the assistance of machinist Charles Taylor and built a new aircraft to house it. They transported their aircraft in pieces to Kitty Hawk in the autumn of 1903, assembled it, made a few further tests, and on December 14 Orville made the first attempt at powered flight. The engine stalled during take-off and the plane was damaged, and they spent three days repairing it. Then at 10:35 a.m. on December 17, in front of five witnesses, the aircraft ran down a monorail track and into the air, staying aloft for 12 seconds and flying 120 feet. The modern aviation age was born. Three more tests were made that day, with Wilbur and Orville alternately flying the airplane. Wilbur flew the last flight, covering 852 feet in 59 seconds.

During the next few years, the Wright brothers further developed their airplanes but kept a low profile about their successes in order to secure patents and contracts for their flying machines. By 1905, their aircraft could perform complex maneuvers and remain aloft for up to 39 minutes at a time. In 1908, they traveled to France and made their first public flights, arousing widespread public excitement. In 1909, the U.S. Army’s Signal Corps purchased a specially constructed plane, and the brothers founded the Wright Company to build and market their aircraft. Wilbur Wright died of typhoid fever in 1912; Orville lived until 1948.


This Day 12-16-2

The midnight raid, popularly known as the “Boston Tea Party,” was in protest of the British Parliament’s Tea Act of 1773, a bill designed to save the faltering East India Company by greatly lowering its tea tax and granting it a virtual monopoly on the American tea trade. The low tax allowed the East India Company to undercut even tea smuggled into America by Dutch traders, and many colonists viewed the act as another example of taxation tyranny.

When three tea ships, the Dartmouth, the Eleanor, and the Beaver, arrived in Boston Harbor, the colonists demanded that the tea be returned to England. After Massachusetts Governor Thomas Hutchinson refused, Patriot leader Samuel Adams organized the “tea party” with about 60 members of the Sons of Liberty, his underground resistance group. The British tea dumped in Boston Harbor on the night of December 16 was valued at some $18,000.

Parliament, outraged by the blatant destruction of British property, enacted the Coercive Acts, also known as the Intolerable Acts, in 1774. The Coercive Acts closed Boston to merchant shipping, established formal British military rule in Massachusetts, made British officials immune to criminal prosecution in America, and required colonists to quarter British troops. The colonists subsequently called the first Continental Congress to consider a united American resistance to the British.


This Day 12-16-1

In November, the stakes in the Korean War dramatically escalated with the intervention of hundreds of thousands of communist Chinese troops. Prior to their arrival on the battlefield, the U.S. forces seemed on the verge of victory in Korea. Just days after General Douglas MacArthur declared an “end the war offensive,” however, massive elements of the Chinese army smashed into the American lines and drove the U.S. forces back. The “limited war” in Korea threatened to turn into a widespread conflict. Against this backdrop, Truman issued his state of emergency and the U.S. military-industrial complex went into full preparations for a possible third world war. The president’s proclamation vastly expanded his executive powers and gave Mobilization Director Charles E. Wilson nearly unlimited authority to coordinate the country’s defense program. Such an increase in government power had not been seen since World War II.

The Soviet Union, which Truman blamed for most of the current world problems in the course of his speech, blasted the United States for “warmongering.” Congress, most of America’s allies, and the American people appeared to be strongly supportive of the President’s tough talk and actions. Truman’s speech, and the events preceding it, indicated that the Cold War-so long a battle of words and threats-had become an actual military reality. The Korean War lasted from 1950 to 1953.


This Day 12-15-2

When the new US Constitution was being debated, many people refused to ratify it because they thought it did not give enough protection to individual rights. Proponents of the Constitution agreed to add a bill of rights in the first Congress if the opponents would agree to support it. This argument persuaded enough opponents to see the new Constitution ratified.

In the first Congress, James Madison proposed twenty amendments to the Constitution, the most popular from a long list of amendments proposed by the states. According to the Constitution’s directions for the amendment process, Congress debated them and recommended twelve of them to the states. Each state then had its own internal debate and ten of them were eventually ratified, becoming the Bill of Rights.

The Bill of Rights contains a list of restrictions on the federal government and guarantees various rights to the people and the states. The Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, the right to keep and bear arms and freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures of private property.

The Bill of Rights also guarantees that the government cannot house soldiers on private property except in case of war, the right to have a grand jury review infamous criminal charges, the right to trial by jury, the right not to incriminate oneself in court and the right to be tried in the district where criminal charges are alleged.

The Bill of Rights also guarantees that a criminal defendant must be informed of the charges against him, be able to obtain witnesses in his favor and be able to confront the witnesses against him. It also guarantees the right to have an attorney represent you in court, bans excessive bail, fines and cruel and unusual punishments. Finally, the Bill of Rights states the federal government only has the powers specifically given to it in the Constitution and reserves every other power and right to the states and individuals in them.


This Day 12-15-1

Eichmann was born in Solingen, Germany, in 1906. In November 1932, he joined the Nazi’s elite SS (Schutzstaffel) organization, whose members came to have broad responsibilities in Nazi Germany, including policing, intelligence, and the enforcement of Adolf Hitler’s anti-Semitic policies. Eichmann steadily rose in the SS hierarchy, and with the German annexation of Austria in 1938 he was sent to Vienna with the mission of ridding the city of Jews. He set up an efficient Jewish deportment center and in 1939 was sent to Prague on a similar mission. That year, Eichmann was appointed to the Jewish section of the SS central security office in Berlin.

In January 1942, Eichmann met with top Nazi officials at the Wannsee Conference near Berlin for the purpose of planning a “final solution of the Jewish question,” as Nazi leader Hermann Goering put it. The Nazis decided to exterminate Europe’s Jewish population. Eichmann was appointed to coordinate the identification, assembly, and transportation of millions of Jews from occupied Europe to the Nazi death camps, where Jews were gassed or worked to death. He carried this duty out with horrifying efficiency, and between three to four million Jews perished in the extermination camps before the end of World War II. Close to two million were executed elsewhere.

Following the war, Eichmann was captured by U.S. troops, but he escaped a prison camp in 1946 before having to face the Nuremberg International War Crimes Tribunal. Eichmann traveled under an assumed identity between Europe and the Middle East, and in 1950 he arrived in Argentina, which maintained lax immigration policies and was a safe haven for many Nazi war criminals. In 1957, a German prosecutor secretly informed Israel that Eichmann was living in Argentina. Agents from Israel’s intelligence service, the Mossad, were deployed to Argentina, and in early 1960 they located Eichmann living in the San Fernando section of Buenos Aires under the name of Ricardo Klement.

In May 1960, Argentina was celebrating the 150th anniversary of its revolution against Spain, and many tourists were traveling to Argentina from abroad to attend the festivities. The Mossad used the opportunity to smuggle more agents into the country. Israel, knowing that Argentina might never extradite Eichmann for trial, had decided to abduct him and take him to Israel illegally. On May 11, Mossad operatives descended on Garibaldi Street in San Fernando and snatched Eichmann away as he was walking from the bus to his home. His family called local hospitals but not the police, and Argentina knew nothing of the operation. On May 20, a drugged Eichmann was flown out of Argentina disguised as an Israeli airline worker who had suffered head trauma in an accident. Three days later, Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion announced that Eichmann was in Israeli custody.

Argentina demanded Eichmann’s return, but Israel argued that his status as an international war criminal gave them the right to proceed with a trial. On April 11, 1961, Eichmann’s trial began in Jerusalem. It was the first televised trial in history. Eichmann faced 15 charges, including crimes against humanity, crimes against the Jewish people, and war crimes. He claimed he was just following orders, but the judges disagreed, finding him guilty on all counts on December 15 and sentencing him to die. On May 31, 1962, he was hanged near Tel Aviv. His body was cremated and his ashes thrown into the sea.



This Day 12-14-2

George Washington was born in 1732 in Westmoreland County, Virginia. He first joined the military in 1753 when his older brother Lawrence, who led the colony’s militia, passed away. Royal Governor Robert Dinwiddie broke the position into four smaller districts and appointed George as one of the adjutants with the rank of major.

Washington first came to international attention when he was accused of assassinating a French officer. The event helped set off the French and Indian War. He was later chosen by the Continental Congress to lead the Continental Army during the American Revolution. His bravery, determination and ultimate victory in the face of impossible circumstances endeared him to the American people forever.

Washington desired to retire from public service at the end of the war, but the people needed a President for their newly formed nation and they wanted him. Out of a sense of duty and responsibility, Washington agreed and served two terms as President of the United States. When his term ended in 1797, he finally entered retirement on his plantation, Mount Vernon, near Alexandria, Virginia.

On December 12, 1799, Washington was out all day directing work on the house and inspecting parts of the property on horseback in the freezing rain. That evening, he failed to change his wet clothes during dinner with guests and developed an extremely sore throat. Historians believe he had acute laryngitis or acute epiglottitis, which causes the throat and epiglottis to swell, obstructing the airway. By early on the morning of the 13th, it was apparent that Washington was severely ill. Doctors were called, who drained blood from his arm. This was the practice of the day, as it was believed the sickness was in the blood.

When he knew the end was nearing, Washington told Dr. Craik, his oldest friend, “Doctor, I die hard; but I am not afraid to go; I believed from my first attack that I should not survive it; my breath cannot last long;” to Martha, he said, “Go to my desk, and in the private drawer you will find two papers. These are my Wills -preserve this one and burn the other;” shortly before 10pm, Washington asked the time and after being told, spoke no more. He was 67 years old.


This Day 12-14-1

Conway, who was born in Ireland but raised in France, entered the French army in 1749. He was recruited to the Patriot cause by Silas Deane, the American ambassador to France, and after meeting with General George Washington at Morristown in May 1777, he was appointed brigadier general and assigned to Major General John Sullivan’s division.

Conway served admirably under Sullivan at the battles of Brandywine in September 1777 and Germantown in October 1777 before becoming involved in an unconfirmed conspiracy to remove General Washington from command of the Continental Army. The rumored conspiracy would go down in history as the Conway Cabal.

Just a few months after receiving a glowing recommendation from General Washington, Conway rose in power and influence to major general and then inspector general. After several defeats in the fall of 1777, some members of Congress expressed displeasure with the leadership of General Washington and Conway began writing letters to prominent leaders, including General Horatio Gates, that were critical of Washington.

After Washington got word of Conway’s letter to General Gates, he responded with a letter to Congress in January 1778. Embarrassed, Conway offered his resignation in March 1778 by way of apology, and was surprised and humiliated when Congress accepted. After General John Cadwalader wounded him in a duel defending Washington’s honor, Conway returned to France, where he died in exile in 1800.


This Day 12-13-2

General George Washington had repeatedly urged General Lee to expedite his movements across New Jersey in order to reinforce Washington’s position on the Delaware River. Lee, who took a commission in the British army upon finishing military school at age 12 and served in North America during the Seven Years’ War, felt slighted that the less experienced Washington had been given command of the Continental Army and showed no inclination to rush.

Famed for his temper and intemperance, the Mohawk had dubbed Lee Boiling Water. Lee was an adopted tribesman through his marriage to a Mohawk woman, but his union apparently failed to quell his interest in prostitutes. Lee rode to Widow White’s tavern with a minimal guard and it was there that Banastre Tarleton and the 16th Queen’s Light Dragoons captured him on the morning of December 15.

The former comrades were now captor and captive. After being disappointed in his efforts to acquire a lucrative royal appointment, Lee had retired to the colonies in 1773 and quickly joined the Patriot cause. Tarleton had sworn in a London club that he would hunt down the traitor to the crown and relieve him of his head. Fortunately for Lee, Tarleton failed to keep his promise, although the vain general may well have preferred a quick end to the humiliation of being led from Widow White’s tavern to New York City in his nightdress.

The British rejoiced at the capture of the Patriots’ best-trained commander, while Washington fruitlessly negotiated for his release. Meanwhile, Lee enjoyed his captivity, even drafting a battle plan for his captors from plush accommodations in which his personal servant maintained his three rooms and no doubt served his food and wine in a most civilized fashion. The British did not act upon his plan, and Lee reported to Valley Forge upon his release in May 1778. After a series of arguments with Washington, Lee was suspended from the army in December 1778 and dismissed in 1780.


This Day 12-13-1

To break the spirit of Chinese resistance, Japanese General Matsui Iwane ordered that the city of Nanking be destroyed. Much of the city was burned, and Japanese troops launched a campaign of atrocities against civilians. In what became known as the “Rape of Nanking,” the Japanese butchered an estimated 150,000 male “war prisoners,” massacred an additional 50,000 male civilians, and raped at least 20,000 women and girls of all ages, many of whom were mutilated or killed in the process.

A “contest” between two Japanese officers, Toshiaki Mukai and Tsuyoshi Noda of the Japanese 16th Division was held to see who could kill 100 with a sword, most were beheaded.

Shortly after the end of World War II, Matsui, Mukai and Noda were found guilty of war crimes by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East and executed.


This Day 12-12-2

Since the dead of winter was setting in, however, the Commander of the British forces, General William Howe, stopped pursuing the Americans. He posted several large contingents in various places in New Jersey, including Princeton, Trenton and Bordentown, but many of his troops went back to New York for the winter.

Congress convened again in Baltimore on December 20th at the Henry Fite House, which they rented for three months for £60. The building was built as a tavern by Henry Fite in 1770. With 3 stories and 14 rooms, it was the largest building in Baltimore at the time. It had large rooms with fireplaces that could accommodate Congress’ need for multiple committees to meet at the same time and still stay warm in the cold winter months. It was located downtown, so it was near places to lodge and eat, but was also on the western edge of town, protecting it from any British advance from the east. While Congress met there, the building took on the name Congress Hall and in later years, it was referred to as Old Congress Hall. Unfortunately the building was destroyed in the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904.


This Day 12-12-1


This Day 12-11-2

Early on December 11th, the army began its march and headed toward Matson’s Ford on the Schuylkill River, which it needed to cross to get to Valley Forge. The river is pronounced “SKOOL-kul,” with the emphasis on the first syllable, by the way.

Washington had sent out three scouting parties from the Pennsylvania militia to the western side of the river to watch for any British movements. General Charles Cornwallis was also on the move on the western side of the river, however, with several thousand men on a foraging mission for supplies and food for the army. Cornwallis’ men ran into Washington’s first advance troops at Middle Ferry where the British crossed the river. The Americans fired, but quickly withdrew because they were so small in numbers.

Soon after, a skirmish occurred at the Black Horse Inn with the second of Washington’s militia units. This group fled in confusion from the British, but got word back to General James Potter that the British were coming down the road toward the third detachment of militia at Harriton House, the home of Continental Congress Secretary, Charles Thomson, on Old Gulph Road. Potter then placed several regiments of militia between the advancing British and Harriton House. His line soon crumbled, however, due to the superior numbers of the British.

Potter’s men withdrew and crossed back to the eastern side of the river at Swede’s Ford, while Cornwallis called off the attack when the opposition dissolved. His men took up a position on the heights overlooking Matson’s Ford to watch for further movement. General Potter later guessed that 5 or 6 of his men were killed with 20 wounded and another 20 or so captured. The other side, however, estimated that 160 militia were captured. The collective engagements are called the Battle of Matson’s Ford.

In the morning, neither side knowing what the other was doing, General John Sullivan began the construction of a bridge across Matson’s Ford made from wagons that were tied together. After nearly getting two whole divisions across the river, the Americans spied the British army on the hills watching them openly. General Sullivan hastily ordered a retreat back across the river and destroyed the bridge behind them. The Continental Army spent the next day waiting while scouts went to determine the movements of Cornwallis. Cornwallis, however, had already departed for Philadelphia, taking the spoils from the farms in the countryside with him.

On the evening of December 12, George Washington and the army finally crossed the Schuykill at Swede’s Ford on another bridge made of wagons. The army camped out at Gulph Mills for another week before marching the rest of the way to Valley Forge on the 19th.


This Day 12-11-1

The commerce agreement secured America’s autonomy on the high seas, but more importantly, it signified Britain’s acceptance of America as a separate nation with the will and capacity to defend its interests.

Resentment left over from the American Revolution (1775-1783) between Britain and the United States erupted into a second full-scale war when Britain began harassing American shipping. Beginning during the administration of America’s third president, Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809), British warships occasionally fired on and boarded American navy or merchant ships while patrolling the seas for enemy French. To add insult to injury, the British “impressed” or involuntarily drafted American sailors to serve on British warships. This affront to America’s autonomy led Madison to ask Congress for a declaration of war against Britain in 1812. In 1814, the British captured the city of Washington and burned the White House, but not before Madison’s plucky wife, Dolley, saved a portrait of George Washington from looters. The U.S. emerged victorious in this “second war of independence” against Britain and as a result gained confidence in its military capabilities and a stronger sense of national identity.

During the ensuing peace negotiations, Madison’s administration extended an olive branch to the British, suggesting that the two countries shared mutual interests and ought to be collaborating in commerce rather than endangering “their future harmony.” Although Madison described the 1815 maritime trade agreement as “conciliatory,” he also emphasized America’s insistence that American navigation be “confined to American seamen,” free from international (i.e. British) interference. Madison thus signaled to the world that America would continue to vigorously defend her territory and economic interests.


This Day 12-10-1

Jay, who graduated from King’s College (now Columbia University) at the age of 19, was a prominent figure in New York state politics from an early age. While Jay opposed British interference in the colonies, he was against complete independence from Great Britain.

Jay was elected to the First Continental Congress in 1774 as a representative from New York, where he published a paper entitled Address to the People of Great Britain, in which he promoted a peaceful resolution with Great Britain instead of independence. Jay was reelected to the Second Continental Congress in 1775 but, upholding his opposition to complete independence from Great Britain, he resigned in 1776 rather than sign the Declaration of Independence.

Upon his return to New York, Jay helped draft the state’s constitution before his election as the state’s first chief justice in 1777. Despite his early misgivings about independence, Jay served as president of the Continental Congress from 1778 to 1779 and in 1782 signed the Treaty of Paris with Great Britain. He contributed to the The Federalist Papers, part of the successful campaign waged by Alexander Hamilton and James Madison to win ratification for the Constitution in 1788 and 1789. Soon after, President George Washington appointed Jay as the first chief justice of the United States. In 1794, Jay negotiated his eponymous treaty with Britain to settle ongoing military and commercial disputes between the two nations. Although extremely unpopular with Jefferson’s Republicans, the Jay Treaty was ratified: Jay, however, resigned from the Supreme Court during the uproar over its passing. Still drawn to public service, Jay served as governor of New York from 1797 to 1801, when he retired from public life.


This Day 12-10-2

At first, Henry Ford had built his cars like every other automaker did: one at a time. But his factories’ efficiency and output steadily increased, and after he introduced the moving assembly line in 1913 the company’s productivity soared. Ford was determined to build what he called “a motor car for the great multitude,” and that’s just what he did: By mass-producing just one kind of car–from 1908 on, that car was the Model T–Ford could take advantage of economies of scale that were unavailable to smaller carmakers and pass the savings on to his customers. Between 1908 and 1927, Ford sold more than 15 million Model Ts in all; they cost $850 at first (about $20,000 in today’s dollars) but by the end of their run, Ford had managed to reduce the price to just $300 (about $3700 today).

No one paid much attention to the 1 million milestone. (“With twenty-five assembly plants…and with a big factory in Detroit assembling so many Ford cars a day,” said The Ford Times, “we passed the million mark without knowing it.”) The 10 millionth Ford, on the other hand, traveled back and forth from New York to San Francisco and from Los Angeles to Chicago in the summer of 1924, inspiring raucous celebrations everywhere it went. The company even made a movie of this goodwill tour, called “Fording the Lincoln Highway.” Along with the 15 millionth Ford in 1927 came another milestone: the company’s announcement that it was discontinuing its classic but no-longer–beloved Model T. Compared to that news, the release of the 20 millionth Ford was fairly dull: emblazoned with the words “TWENTY MILLIONTH” and the Ford logo on both sides and the top, that car went on a national barnstorming tour in 1931, then directly to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.

Revolutionary as it was at the time, Ford’s early production rate was nothing compared to its modern-day output. In 2008, even in the midst of a global financial crisis, Ford produced nearly 6 million cars.


This Day 12-9-1

Governor Dunmore had removed to the Tory stronghold of Norfolk after Patriots drove him from the capitol, Williamsburg, in June 1775. On November 7, 1775, he offered emancipation to any slave of a Patriot master willing to join his forces. By November 30, Dunmore’s ranks had swelled and he was convinced of his ability to regain control of the colony. George Washington feared Dunmore was correct and wrote to the Continental Congress from New England, warning them that they needed to see to it that Dunmore was instantly crushed. When Dunmore’s forces won a resounding victory at Kemp’s Landing, it looked like Dunmore’s troops, dubbed the Ethiopian Regiment, would ensure continued British rule in Virginia, despite a backlash against him among slaveholders on both sides of the conflict who were angry over the precedent Dunmore’s move might be setting.

Dunmore was determined to defend Great Bridge, building a stockade, dismantling the main bridge and defending the smaller bridges with cannon. Having taken these precautions, Dunmore then squandered his efforts by underestimating the strength of the Patriot militias. His decision to offer emancipation had incited at least 150 men from across the Carolinas to march north to help drive Dunmore from the state. By contrast, the overconfident Dunmore sent only a few sailors and sixty townsmen from Norfolk to meet them. They got within 15 feet of the Patriots before being shot dead. Within thirty minutes, 150 Loyalists fell. There was only one Patriot fatality. Three hundred of the 800 Black Loyalists survived their enlistment in the Ethiopian Regiment only to confront smallpox on the Otter.


This Day 12-9-2

Tennyson was born into a chaotic and disrupted home. His father, the eldest son of a wealthy landowner, was disinherited in favor of his younger brother. Forced to enter the church to support himself, the Reverend Dr. George Tennyson became a bitter alcoholic. However, he educated his sons in the classics, and Alfred Tennyson, the fourth of 12 children, went to Trinity College at Cambridge in 1827. The same year, he and his brother Charles published Poems by Two Brothers. At Cambridge, Tennyson befriended a circle of intellectual undergraduates who strongly encouraged his poetry. Chief among them was Arthur Hallam, who became Tennyson’s closest friend and who later proposed to Tennyson’s sister.

In 1830, Tennyson published Poems, Chiefly Lyrical. The following year, his father died, and he was forced to leave Cambridge for financial reasons. Besieged by critical attacks and struggling with poverty, Tennyson nevertheless remained dedicated to his work and published several more volumes.

The sudden death of Tennyson’s dear friend Arthur Hallam in 1833 inspired several important works throughout Tennyson’s later life, including the masterful In Memoriam of 1842. Later that year, he published a volume called Poems, containing some of his best works. The book boosted Tennyson’s reputation, and in 1850 Queen Victoria named him poet laureate. At long last, Tennyson achieved financial stability and finally married his fiancée, Emily Sellwood, whom he had loved since 1836.

Tennyson’s massive frame and booming voice, together with his taste for solitude, made him an imposing character. He craved solitude and bought an isolated home where he could write in peace. In 1859, he published the first four books of his epic Idylls of the King. Eight more volumes would follow. He continued writing and publishing poems until his death in 1892.


This Day 12-8-2

In June, Congress decided to send two columns of 1,000 men each towards Canada. General Richard Montgomery proceeded up Lake Champlain and successfully captured Montreal in November before reaching Quebec City. Colonel Benedict Arnold led his men through the woods of Maine, approaching the city directly. On November 14, Arnold arrived on the Plains of Abraham outside the city of Quebec; his men sustained themselves upon dog meat and leather in the cold winter. The 100 men defending the city refused to either surrender to Arnold or leave their defenses to fight them on open plains, so Arnold waited for Montgomery to join him with his troops and supplies at the beginning of December.

The royal governor general of Canada, Sir Guy Carleton, had managed to escape Montgomery’s early successful attacks. He snuck into Quebec, organized 1,800 men for the city’s defense, and prepared to wait out the Patriots’ siege. But Arnold and Montgomery faced a deadline as their troops’ enlistments expired at the end of the year. On December 7, Montgomery fired arrows over the city walls bearing letters demanding Carleton’s surrender. When Carleton did not acquiesce, the Americans began a bombardment of the city with Montgomery’s cannon on December 8. They then attempted a disastrous failed assault on December 31, in which Montgomery was killed and Arnold seriously wounded.


This Day 12-8-1

Margaret Kemble Gage has long been suspected of being the spy in her husband’s inner circle who warned the Boston Sons of Liberty of the impending attack on Concord.

Thomas Gage was born in England and first came to America during the French and Indian War. During the Battle of the Monongahela, he fought alongside future General and President George Washington and remained friendly with him for several years afterwards.

Gage spent the winter of 1757 in New Jersey and this may have been when he first met Margaret Kemble, daughter of a wealthy businessman and grand-daughter of a former mayor of New York City. They were married on December 8, 1758.

Gage went on to serve in the campaign to drive France out of New York and Canada and, in 1763, was appointed Commander-in-Chief of all British forces in North America, making him the most powerful person on the continent. The office was based in New York City and the family lived there for the next decade. Margaret became a well-known socialite of the city.

In 1774, Thomas Gage was sent to Boston to deal with the growing uprising. In 1775, he received instructions to capture rebel arms and ringleaders. He began planning a mission to Concord, where a large supply of weapons was hidden, a fact he learned through his intelligence network of Loyalist spies.

Unknown to Gage was that there was a spy within his own inner circle. During the week before April 18, signs began to emerge that a large scale British mission was in the works. Dr. Joseph Warren learned of the mission, but needed to confirm the specifics before alarming local patriot leaders. Warren had a spy in General Gage’s closest circle, a spy whose identity has never been determined. Dr. Warren died at the Battle of Bunker Hill only a few months later and took the secret with him to the grave. Dr. Warren sent word to his spy and received back confirmation that the mission was to capture John Hancock and Samuel Adams in Lexington and then to destroy the ammunition store in Concord.

Margaret Kemble Gage has long been suspected of being Dr. Warren’s informant, though there is no definitive evidence. The circumstantial evidence is comments she made or wrote to friends indicating that she was torn in her loyalties. She didn’t approve of British policies toward her countrymen, but she also loved her husband and Mother Country.

When General Gage learned that his “secret” mission was known all over the countryside, even before his own officers knew, he immediately began to suspect his wife, having told her of the mission before he told anyone else. Shortly after the Battles of Lexington and Concord, Gage put Margaret on a ship and sent her back to England, allegedly to take care of the family estate, where she lived the rest of her life. After the Battle of Bunker Hill, Gage was recalled to England. He and Margaret remained married, but there are indications the marriage was strained until his death in 1787, possibly because of the breach of trust that resulted from her spying.



This Day 12-7-2

Forbidden to go by King Louis XVI, Lafayette obtained a ship and, escaping the efforts of the King to detain him, set sail in April of 1777. He was only 19 years old.

Gilbert du Motier, the Marquis de Lafayette, was an aristocrat born in the south of France from a distinguished line, including a marshal who served in Joan of Arc’s army, a legendary ancestor who fought in the Crusades and his grandfather, the ultra-wealthy Comte de La Rivière. Lafayette was trained for the military from a young age. Due to his military and society connections, he became a member of the Freemasons where he was exposed to the ideas of the Enlightenment and political liberty. Many of these connections supported French involvement in the American Revolution against Britain and Lafayette determined to join the Americans in their fight for freedom.

Fearful of being arrested, Lafayette left Europe dressed as a woman to avoid detection. He arrived in South Carolina on June 13, 1777 and made his way to Philadelphia. Congress did not want to receive him at first, believing he was just another Frenchman looking to make a name for himself. Eventually, Ben Franklin persuaded George Washington to accept him as a personal aide. Washington and Lafayette grew very close, even to the point that Lafayette was almost treated as a son. He became one of Washington’s inner circle and one of his most trusted advisers during the war.

Lafayette went on to serve in the Battle of Brandywine, where he was injured. He served in New Jersey with General Nathanael Greene; helped expose the cabal of General Thomas Conway to replace George Washington; fought in the Battles of Barren Hill, Rhode Island and Monmouth; and was eventually sent back to France to help negotiate more substantial support for the Americans. After returning to the US, Lafayette was put in command of three regiments in Virginia where he fought against the traitor, Benedict Arnold and General Charles Cornwallis. Lafayette’s actions trapped the General at Yorktown, contributing to his surrender on October 19, 1781, where Lafayette was present at the surrender ceremony.

When Lafayette returned to France, he joined the French government, where he served for many years as a politician and military officer. During the French Revolution, Lafayette was branded as a traitor for helping the King and was captured while trying to escape the country. He spent the next five years in an Austrian prison. His wife narrowly escaped the country through the intervention of the American ambassador,Gouverneur Morris, but several of her family members went to the guillotine. After the Revolution, Napoleon Bonapartenegotiated Lafayette’s release and he returned to France, continuing to serve in the Chamber of Deputies.

In 1824-25, the Marquis de Lafayette made a grand tour of the United States at the invitation of President James Monroe. Lafayette toured all 24 states at the time and was received as a hero of the American Revolution. Lafayette visited such places as Mount Vernon, the Brandywine Battlefield, Williamsburg and the University of Virginia, meeting with such notables as President Monroe, Thomas Jefferson and the aging Dorothy Hancock, widow of John Hancock.

Although Washington had died more than 30 years earlier, he and Lafayette had frequent correspondence while he was still alive. When Lafayette finally died on May 20, 1834, he was buried in Paris under soil from George Washington’s grave.


This Day 12-7-1

The surprise attack struck a critical blow against the U.S. Pacific fleet and drew the United States irrevocably into World War II.

With diplomatic negotiations with Japan breaking down, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his advisers knew that an imminent Japanese attack was probable, but nothing had been done to increase security at the important naval base at Pearl Harbor. It was Sunday morning, and many military personnel had been given passes to attend religious services off base. At 7:02 a.m., two radar operators spotted large groups of aircraft in flight toward the island from the north, but, with a flight of B-17s expected from the United States at the time, they were told to sound no alarm. Thus, the Japanese air assault came as a devastating surprise to the naval base.

Much of the Pacific fleet was rendered useless: Five of eight battleships, three destroyers, and seven other ships were sunk or severely damaged, and more than 200 aircraft were destroyed. A total of 2,400 Americans were killed and 1,200 were wounded, many while valiantly attempting to repulse the attack. Japan’s losses were some 30 planes, five midget submarines, and fewer than 100 men. Fortunately for the United States, all three Pacific fleet carriers were out at sea on training maneuvers. These giant aircraft carriers would have their revenge against Japan six months later at the Battle of Midway, reversing the tide against the previously invincible Japanese navy in a spectacular victory.

The day after Pearl Harbor was bombed, President Roosevelt appeared before a joint session of Congress and declared, “Yesterday, December 7, 1941–a date which will live in infamy–the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.” After a brief and forceful speech, he asked Congress to approve a resolution recognizing the state of war between the United States and Japan.  Three days later, Germany and Italy declared war against the United States, and the U.S. government responded in kind.

The American contribution to the successful Allied war effort spanned four long years and cost more than 400,000 American lives.


This Day 12-6-2

According to legend, a Quaker housewife named Lydia Darragh gave Washington’s men warning that the British planned to attack. Although the Pennsylvania militiamen sent to meet Howe’s troops on December 5 quickly fled, their retreat back to the hills proved a strategic boon. From the hills they could see Howe’s every move, and Howe overestimated the Patriots’ strength. Washington successfully deceived his opponent by having his men set extra campfires.

By December 6, Howe realized that he would be unable to use his preferred flanking strategy against the Americans, as they could see his every move from their lofty vantage point. On December 7, Howe chose to engage on Edge Hill on the left side of the American position. American General Daniel Morgan led his riflemen against the British in the style of guerilla warfare for which they would later become famous in the Carolinas, though he was eventually forced to retreat in the face of an attack by General Charles Cornwallis’ regiment.

Although Howe decided against attacking the main American line, General Charles “No Flint” Grey grew tired of waiting for Howe’s go-ahead and launched a separate attack on Edge Hill. The Patriots narrowly avoided disaster at Grey’s hands. A cavalry squad arrived just in time to save Continental officers Colonel Joseph Reed and General John Cadwalader from death at the ends of Hessian bayonets. Having successfully softened Washington’s position, Grey decided against further combat.

After two days of inconclusive skirmishes, Howe decided to return to the city on December 8th. He made no further attempts to attack Washington’s troops that winter, a decision for which he was eventually relieved of his duties.


This Day 12-6-1

After then-President Washington asked him to lay out a new federal capital on the Potomac River in 1791, architect Pierre L’Enfant left a place for the statue at the western end of the sweeping National Mall (near the monument’s present location).

It wasn’t until 1832, however–33 years after Washington’s death–that anyone really did anything about the monument. That year, a private Washington National Monument Society was formed. After holding a design competition and choosing an elaborate Greek temple-like design by architect Robert Mills, the society began a fundraising drive to raise money for the statue’s construction. These efforts–including appeals to the nation’s schoolchildren–raised some $230,000, far short of the $1 million needed. Construction began anyway, on July 4, 1848, as representatives of the society laid the cornerstone of the monument: a 24,500-pound block of pure white marble.

Six years later, with funds running low, construction was halted. Around the time the Civil War began in 1861, author Mark Twain described the unfinished monument as looking like a “hollow, oversized chimney.” No further progress was made until 1876–the centennial of American independence–when President Ulysses S. Grant authorized construction to be completed.

Made of some 36,000 blocks of marble and granite stacked 555 feet in the air, the monument was the tallest structure in the world at the time of its completion in December 1884. In the six months following the dedication ceremony, over 10,000 people climbed the nearly 900 steps to the top of the Washington Monument. Today, an elevator makes the trip far easier, and more than 800,000 people visit the monument each year. A city law passed in 1910 restricted the height of new buildings to ensure that the monument will remain the tallest structure in Washington, D.C.–a fitting tribute to the man known as the “Father of His Country.”


This Day 12-05-2

The British began what is known as the Philadelphia Campaign by landing 15,000 troops at the northern end of the Chesapeake Bay near Elkton, Maryland, about 55 miles from Philadelphia. British General Sir William Howechose this location because the approach to Philadelphia from the Delaware River, which went straight into the town, was nearly impregnable, being guarded by Forts Mifflin and Mercer and a series of spikes in the river that could impale ships just south of the city.

Washington’s forces were badly defeated at the Battle of Brandywine, the first major engagement of the campaign. After this, Howe was able to march straight into Philadelphia, causing Congress to flee inland to York. Part of Howe’s forces occupied Philadelphia, while the main body camped at Germantown, 5 miles north of the city. Washington attacked the British at Germantown in a battle that highly impressed the courts of Europe, even though he lost this engagement as well. General Howe then moved all his forces to Philadelphia to concentrate on the city’s defense in October, while Washington set up a formidable system of defensive works just south of the town of White Marsh, 13 miles northwest of Philadelphia.

The deep of winter was fast approaching and both sides wanted to make a last effort to attack the other side decisively before they had to take up winter quarters. Very late on December 4, Howe marched 10,000 men north out of Philadelphia. A series of skirmishes took place beginning on December 5 that lasted for the next four days. Howe’s different battalions tried to find a way to flank or penetrate Washington’s defenses, but were unable. Skirmishes took place around the southern edge of White Marsh on Edge Hill, Chestnut Hill, around Wissahickon Creek and near places with names such as Tyson’s Tavern, Sandy Run and Three Mile Run.

After 4 days of unsuccessfully trying to find a way to penetrate Washington’s line, Howe decided to turn back. His troops were running low on supplies and it was extremely cold at night. His men had not brought overnight gear such as tents, so they were sleeping in the open air. With that, Howe withdrew to Philadelphia where his men made winter quarters.

The British had lost 120 men killed, wounded or missing and suffered over 200 deserters at the Battle of White Marsh. The Americans lost 200 men. George Washington was disappointed that he had not been able to draw Howe into a larger battle at White Marsh, but he also conceded that it was time to winter. On December 11, 10,000 troops began to march to Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, where they would spend the brutal winter of 1777-1778.


This Day 12-5-1

The fluent scholars of Greek and Latin who gathered to found the society, which was destined to count presidents and poets of the newly declared republic among its ranks, could not have differed more greatly from their Patriot fellows suffering as prisoners of the crown in British-occupied New York.

From the British stronghold, an officer writing on this day described his 5,000 American captives in Shakespearian terms: “…many of them are such ragamuffins, as you never saw in your life; I cannot give you a better idea of them than by putting you in mind of Falstaff’s recruits, or poor Tom in King Lear; and yet they had strained every nerve to cover their nakedness, by dismantling all the beds.”

While students toasted and the captured shivered, General George Washington pled the virtues of a standing army above those of an ad hoc militia. His missive to Congress came at the end of his notice that his batch of ragamuffins and their supplies were still in transit across the Delaware to Pennsylvania, protected from the rampaging redcoats by a rear guard at Princeton commanded by Lord William Stirling and General Adam Stephens.


This Day 12-4-2

After nearly a year of brutal backcountry conflict between Washington and the fierce British commander Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton (who was infamous for Tarleton’s Quarter, the murder of colonial POWs on May 29, 1780 at Waxhaws), Washington had retreated to North Carolina the previous October. Commanded to return to the South Carolina theater by Brigadier General Daniel The Old Wagoner Morgan, Colonel Washington still lacked the proper artillery to dislodge the Loyalists. He told his cavalrymen to dismount and surround the barn. While out of Rugeley’s sight, Washington’s men fabricated a pine log to resemble a cannon.

This Quaker gun trick, named so because Quakers used it to be intimidating without breaching their pacifist vow of non-violence, worked beautifully. Washington faced the cannon toward the buildings in which the Loyalists had barricaded themselves and threatened bombardment if they did not surrender. Shortly after, Rugeley surrendered his entire force without a single shot being fired.

When informed of the pacifist victory, General Charles Cornwallis, commander of the British armies in America, informed Tarleton that Rugeley’s performance ensured he would never rise to the rank of brigadier. A few weeks later, Tarleton would himself face an even worse humiliation at the hands of General Morgan during the devastating Battle of Cowpens. The harrowing civil war for the hearts and minds of the Carolina backcountry had finally begun to favor the Patriots.



This Day 12-4-1

The plan worked fine at first, the British forces and their Indian allies easily took Lake Champlain, Fort Crown Point and Fort Ticonderoga, but then, the American resistance began to mount effective resistance in various skirmishes at places such as Hubbardton, Bennington and Fort Stanwix. The American forces began to swell as Indians allied with the British began to attack civilian settlers and the fall of Ticonderoga stirred up American resolve.

General Burgoyne’s strategy began to be plagued by desertion from his Indian allies, news that General Howe would take his main force to Philadelphia instead of sending them to Albany; and the loss of 1,000 men at the Battle of Bennington. Meanwhile, the American troops swelled to nearly 15,000 men as militia and Continental troops arrived from all over New England. Burgoyne had only half this number.

Surrender of General Burgoyne by Jonathan Trumbull US Capitol Rotunda

Two main battles, which together are generally called the Battles of Saratoga, took place. One at Freeman’s Farm on September 19 and the second at Bemis Heights on October 7. Over 1,000 British soldiers were killed or captured in the battles, while the Americans lost only a third of this number. General Burgoyne was forced to draw back to Saratoga where his troops were quickly surrounded. On October 17, he surrendered his army of over 6,000 men.

While Americans celebrated and London scrambled to reassess its strategy, word of the victory arrived in Paris on December 4, 1777. Benjamin Franklin received the news from the Continental Congress and went immediately to the French government. France desperately wanted to enter the war against its archrival, Britain, but believed it should wait until the American colonists first proved they could resist or even defeat the British without outside assistance. The victory at Saratoga gave the world proof that the Americans had the tenacity and resolve to stand up to Great Britain and two days after the word arrived in Paris, King Louis XVI announced his intention to join the war on the side of the Americans. Over the next several years, France contributed large sums of money, troops, ships and supplies without which the Americans may never have won the war.

This Day 12-3-2

These losses left South Carolina and Georgia completely in British hands. British General Charles Cornwallis then turned his sights on North Carolina and his ultimate goal, Virginia. After these defeats, morale was at an all-time low in the southern colonies. There was virtually no army remaining. Congress needed to turn something around before the South was completely lost.

Congress had bypassed George Washington’s authority by appointing all three failed generals in the South. This time, they deferred to Washington’s judgment as Commander-in-Chief, who immediately selected General Nathanael Greene to take over. Greene had already proved himself in battles at Trenton, Brandywine, Germantown, Monmouth and Newport and had shown an enormous talent for organizing and logistics as Quartermaster General at Valley ForgeNathanael Greene was the owner of a foundry in Coventry, Rhode Island and had trained himself in the art of war through books. He was appointed a Major General in Rhode Island at the outbreak of the war and soon became a Brigadier General in the Continental Army, becoming one of Washington’s most trusted advisers.

General Nathanael Green Statue Guilford Courthouse National Military Park

Greene took charge of the Southern Department at Charlotte, North Carolina on December 3, 1780 and things immediately began to turn around. Greene first concentrated on rebuilding the forces with the help of his legendary organizational skills and ability to procure supplies and garner local support. He began making strikes against Cornwallis, but would pull back and outrun the British pursuers, often using swollen rivers to keep distance between them. Cornwallis’ army began to wear out as Greene drew them further inland, away from their supply depots on the coast. Greene gathered all the forces he could to Guilford Courthouse in Greensboro, North Carolina and fought a battle there that was extremely costly to the British, who were forced to return to their base at Wilmington on the sea. Cornwallis decided to abandon his attempt to conquer North Carolina and he turned north to Virginia instead, setting up the surrender at Yorktown less than one year later.

Rather than follow Cornwallis into Virginia, General Greene turned south and aided the local militias in driving the British back from the interior toward the sea. By the time the Treaty of Paris was signed to end the war, only a few southern coastal cities remained in British hands. The remainder of their territory was securely in American hands.

General Nathanael Greene is usually regarded as the most talented military mind of the American Revolution after George Washington, even though he never won a single decisive victory. All the major battles he fought in the South were draws. However, his strategy of dividing and weakening the British lines, separating them from their supply lines and forcing them to a chase on long marches eventually wore them out and returned the South safely into American hands. Nathanael Greene is truly one of the great geniuses and heroes of the American Revolution and deserves all the praise he usually receives.


This Day 12-3-1

Many do not understand the dark days of the Revolution…

In his letter Washington wrote, Immediately on my arrival here, I ordered the removal of all the military and other stores and baggage over the Delaware, a great quantity are already got over, and as soon as the boats come up from Philadelphia, we shall load them, by which means I hope to have every thing secured this night and tomorrow if we are not disturbed.

Washington then made the critical strategic move of confiscating and burning all the boats along the Delaware to prevent British troops from pursuing his beleaguered forces across the river. The British strategy of chasing Washington across New Jersey, rather than capturing his entire army in Manhattan, seemed to be a stroke of genius. As New Jersey was devastated at the hands of British forces and Washington’s men cowered in Pennsylvania, even staunch Patriots, including Thomas Jefferson, considered surrender to the crown.

Also on this day, General Washington received a letter dated November 30 from his second-in-command, General Charles Lee, reporting that he was about to cross into New York near Peekskill on this day in 1776. In an apt reflection of the state of the American fortunes, the British captured General Lee nine days later in New Jersey. Richard Stockton, a leading New Jersey patriot and signer of the Declaration of Independence, was also in British custody and was forced to swear an oath of allegiance to the British king along with thousands of his New Jersey neighbors.


This Day 12-2-2

During the occupation of Philadelphia, British General William Howe stationed his headquarters across the street from the Darragh home, and when Howe’s headquarters proved too small to hold meetings, he commandeered a large upstairs room in the Darraghs’ house. Although uncorroborated, family legend holds that Mrs. Darragh would eavesdrop and take notes on the British meetings from an adjoining room and would conceal the notes by sewing them into her coat before passing them onto American troops stationed outside the city.

On the evening of December 2, 1777, Darragh overheard the British commanders planning a surprise attack on Washington’s army at Whitemarsh, Pennsylvania, for December 4 and 5. Using a cover story that she needed to buy flour from a nearby mill just outside the British line, Darragh passed the information to American Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Craig the following day.

The British marched towards Whitemarsh on the evening of December 4, 1777, and were surprised to find General Washington and the Continental Army waiting for them. After three inconclusive days of skirmishing, General Howe chose to return his troops to Philadelphia.

It is said that members of the Central Intelligence Agency still tell the story of Lydia Darragh, one of the first spies in American history.


This Day 12-2-1

The origins of the Monroe Doctrine stem from attempts by several European powers to reassert their influence in the Americas in the early 1820s. In North America, Russia had attempted to expand its influence in the Alaska territory, and in Central and South America the U.S. government feared a Spanish colonial resurgence. Britain too was actively seeking a major role in the political and economic future of the Americas, and Adams feared a subservient role for the United States in an Anglo-American alliance.

The United States invoked the Monroe Doctrine to defend its increasingly imperialistic role in the Americas in the mid-19th century, but it was not until the Spanish-American War in 1898 that the United States declared war against a European power over its interference in the American hemisphere. The isolationist position of the Monroe Doctrine was also a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy in the 19th century, and it took the two world wars of the 20th century to draw a hesitant America into its new role as a major global power.


This Day 12-1 2

George Washington’s army had suffered some serious defeats in the month’s leading up to what would turn out to be the harshest winter of the 18th century, even worse than the winter at Valley Forge in 1777-1778. In June, the disastrous Penobscot Expedition in Maine had resulted in the loss of 43 American ships and nearly 500 men killed, wounded or captured. Lieutenant Colonel Paul Revere, who was an officer in the Massachusetts militia, lost his appointment over his role in the failed mission. In October, the Americans had failed to retake the city of Savannah. Washington’s army had failed to make any serious headway against the British since the victory at Saratoga in 1777.

George Washington made his headquarters at the home of Theodosia Ford, a wealthy widow with four children. Theodosia’s husband, Colonel Jacob Ford, Jr. had died shortly after contracting pneumonia at the Battle of Princeton. Jacob and his father owned extensive iron mines and foundries and other businesses. George Washington, with his wife Martha, and several aides and servants stayed at the home. Visitors to the house included the Marquis de Lafayette, Benedict Arnold, French Ambassador the Chevalier de la Lucerne and Generals John Stark, Henry Knox, Israel Putnam and Anthony Wayne. The Ford home is still standing today and is part of the National Park Service’s Morristown National Historical Park.

The Continental Army troops stayed in Jockey Hollow nearby the Ford mansion. The encampment sat on a high point, 31 miles west of New York City, where the British army was located. The elevation made it easy to detect any movements of the redcoats. Abundant forests provided logs with which 1,000 log cabins were built for 10,000-13,000 soldiers. As many as twelve soldiers were crowded in each cabin, which had dirt floors. Soldiers made their own beds, chairs and tables. Nearly 600 acres of timber were cut down to make the cabins and provide wood for furniture.

The winter turned out to be the worst of the century. George Washington wrote that, “The oldest people now living in this Country do not remember so hard a Winter as the one we are now emerging from. In a word, the severity of the frost exceeded anything of the kind that had ever been experienced in this climate before.” Snow began falling in October, but the bitter cold was the worst part. It was so cold that countless animals froze to death. Indians and soldiers alike avoided the area in the spring because of the smell of rotting flesh everywhere. Disease and food shortages were rampant. Many soldiers deserted.

George Washington’s true genius is shown in circumstances like these. Many leaders would not have been able to hold the army together, but Washington encouraged the troops to stay on and fight for freedom. The revealing part… is that they followed him. The war would rage on for another two years.


This Day 12-1

In the November 1824 election, 131 electoral votes, just over half of the 261 total, were necessary to elect a candidate president. Although it had no bearing on the outcome of the election, popular votes were counted for the first time in this election. On December 1, 1824, the results were announced. Andrew Jackson of Tennessee won 99 electoral and 153,544 popular votes; John Quincy Adams–the son of John Adams, the second president of the United States–received 84 electoral and 108,740 popular votes; Secretary of State William H. Crawford, who had suffered a stroke before the election, received 41 electoral votes; and Representative Henry Clay of Virginia won 37 electoral votes.

As dictated by the Constitution, the election was then turned over to the House of Representatives. The 12th Amendment states that if no electoral majority is won, only the three candidates who receive the most popular votes will be considered in the House. Representative Henry Clay, who was disqualified from the House vote as a fourth-place candidate, agreed to use his influence to have John Quincy Adams elected. Clay and Adams were both members of a loose coalition in Congress that by 1828 became known as the National Republicans, while Jackson’s supporters were later organized into the Democratic Party.

Thanks to Clay’s backing, on February 9, 1825, the House elected Adams as president of the United States. When Adams then appointed Clay to the top cabinet post of secretary of state, Jackson and his supporters derided the appointment as the fulfillment of a corrupt agreement.

With little popular support, Adams’ time in the White House was largely ineffectual, and the so-called Corrupt Bargain haunted his administration. In 1828, he was defeated in his reelection bid by Andrew Jackson, who received more than twice as many electoral votes than Adams.


This Day in History 11-30-2

The United States demanded full recognition by Britain as a sovereign nation, removal of British troops from its territory and fishing rights off Newfoundland. At first, Britain wanted the United States to remain as British possessions, but with greater autonomy. This was rejected by Ben Franklin, who wanted all of Canada for the United States as part of the deal. Britain rejected this proposal.

Two days after America’s 4th peace commissioner, Henry Laurens, arrived, a preliminary agreement was signed on November 30, 1782, which recognized the United States and established its boundaries, roughly being from the Mississippi to the Atlantic and from the Great Lakes to Florida. The preliminary Treaty of Paris also granted the US the right to fish off Newfoundland and granted both Britain and the US the right to use the Mississippi River.

Congress was to “earnestly recommend” to the states that they refund any property taken from Loyalists during the war and creditors on both sides were given full rights to recover all debts. Prisoners were to be released on both sides and all American property was to be left undamaged by British troops when they left.

The preliminary Treaty of Paris was ratified by Parliament on January 20, 1783 and by Congress on April 15. A ceasefire was declared by Britain on February 4 and by America on April 11th. The final official Treaty of Paris was signed by the commissioners on September 3, 1783, ratified by Congress on January 14, 1784 and by Great Britain on April 9, 1784. The ratified documents were exchanged once and for all in Paris on May 12, 1784, bringing the American Revolution to an end.


This Day in History 11-30

The Howes’ offer appealed to thousands of residents from downstate New York, who were willing to trade in their weapons for pardons. At the time, Westchester, Manhattan and Long Island were securely in British hands and would remain so until after the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1783.

General William Howe’s large army had arrived on Long Island on August 22, hoping to capture New York City and gain control of the Hudson River, a victory that would divide the rebellious colonies in half. Five days later, on August 27, the Redcoats marched against the Patriot position at Brooklyn Heights, overcoming the Americans at Gowanus Pass and then outflanking the entire Continental Army. The Americans suffered 1,000 casualties to the British loss of only 400 men during the fighting. Howe chose not to follow the advice of his subordinates, however, and did not storm the Patriot redoubts at Brooklyn Heights, where he could have taken the Patriots’ military leadership prisoner and ended the rebellion.

General Washington ordered a retreat to Manhattan by boat. The British could easily have prevented this withdrawal and captured most of the Patriot officer corps, including Washington. However, General William and Admiral Richard Howe still hoped to convince the Americans to rejoin the British empire in the wake of the humiliating defeat, instead of forcing the former colonies into submission after executing Washington and his officers as traitors. On September 11, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and other congressional representatives reopened negotiations with the Howe brothers on Staten Island. The negotiations fell through when the British refused to accept American independence.

The British captured New York City on September 15; it would remain in British hands until the end of the war. By contrast, upstate New York suffered through a civil war between Patriot and Loyalist fighters, most of whom were New York born and bred. After the Treaty of Paris, the British evacuated their New York Loyalists to remaining British territories, mainly in Canada, where they ultimately created the present-day province of Ontario.



November 29, 1775, the USS Lee captures the British brigantine NancyGeorge Washington and the Continental Army were besieging British held Boston at the time. The British troops were trapped in the city and the only way to receive food and supplies was by sea. Washington wanted to harass and capture as many ships bringing supplies to the troops in Boston as possible, so he formed a small squadron of ships, outfitted at his own expense, for the task.

Captain John Manley was given command of a schooner named the USS Lee, after General Charles Lee. The schooner was chartered from Thomas Stevens of Marblehead, Massachusetts and was previously called the Two Brothers. Captain Manley set out from Marblehead on October 28. He captured a small British sloop called the Polly, carrying turnips to the soldiers in Boston on November 27th, but on the 29th, he ran into the brigantine Nancy, a massive 250 ton British ship bringing supplies to Boston. Unknown to Captain Manley and the crew of the USS Lee, the ship was carrying tons of ammunition and weapons.

The Nancy turned out to be one of the most valuable captures of the American Revolution. It contained 2,000 muskets, 8,000 fuses, 31 tons of musket balls, 3,000 solid shot for 12-pounders (cannon balls), one 13 inch cannon, 100,000 flints and other types of ammunition and supplies.

The USS Lee was captained by John Manley for one more mission, on which the British ship Concord was captured, carrying food and coal to Boston. Manley was then promoted to captaining the faster ship USS Hancock. The USS Lee went on in the service of the Navy for two more years, captained by various men and capturing another 15 ships before it was returned to its owner.

Captain John Manley went on to command Washington’s schooner fleet in the northeast, sailing under the Washington’s Cruisers flag, a flag with a pine tree on it, created just for the fleet. He received the third naval commission from Congress as a captain when Congress took on the duties of creating a navy. Manley captured ten British ships during the war and helped in the capture of five others. He was also captured three times and spent more than two years in British prisons during the war. Though little known today, John Manley is regarded as one of the first naval heroes of American history for his many spectacular and heroic deeds.



November 29, 1775 – The Second Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia, establishes a Committee of Secret Correspondence. The committee’s goal was to provide European nations with a Patriot interpretation of events in Britain’s North American colonies, in the hope of soliciting aid for the American war effort.

The committee, consisting of Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Harrison, John Dickinson, John Hay and Robert Morris, instructed Silas Deane to meet with French Foreign Minister Charles Gravier, Count de Vergennes, to seek military stores and guarantee the French that the colonies were moving toward “total separation” from Great Britain. France began to covertly convey aid into the colonies soon after the outbreak of hostilities in 1775. Deane, a Connecticut delegate to the Continental Congress, left for France on the secret mission on March 3, 1776.

Deane obtained assistance from France, in the form of ships containing military supplies, and recruited the Gilbert du Motier, marquis de Lafayette to share his military expertise with the Continental Army’s officer corps. However, it was not until after the arrival of the charming Benjamin Franklin in France in December 1776 and the American victory at the Battle of Saratoga in October 1777 that the French became convinced that it was worth backing the Americans in a formal treaty.

On February 6, 1778, the Treaties of Amity and Commerce and Alliance were signed, and in May 1778 the Continental Congress ratified them. One month later, war between Britain and France formally began when a British squadron fired on two French ships. During the American Revolution, French naval fleets proved critical in the defeat of the British, which was assured after the Battle of Yorktown in October 1781.


Continental Fleet At Sea

November 28, 1775, Congress adopts “Rules for the Regulation of the Navy,” the first set of guidelines governing the American navy. Congress had first established the Navy on October 13th, when it called for the purchase and arming of two vessels to be used for intercepting British ships. On the same day, a committee of seven people was formed to oversee naval affairs. The committee consisted of John Adams of Massachusetts, John Langdon of New Hampshire, Christopher Gadsden of South Carolina, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia, Silas Deane of Connecticut, Joseph Hewes of South Carolina and Stephen Hopkins of Rhode Island. The committee was called the Naval Committee and it set the course for the US Navy’s development.

On November 28th, Congress adopted “Rules for the Regulation of the Navy of the United Colonies of North-America,” on the recommendation of the Naval Committee. The Rules were largely created by John Adams. Adams had no naval or military experience himself, but he was an eminent lawyer and may have had some experience with maritime law since he practiced in the prominent port city of Boston.

Adams’ Rules contain 41 articles altogether. They deal with such things as food rations, how to deal with crimes and dereliction of duty on board ship, the proper conduct of officers, the proper care of injured seamen, how to deal with captured ships and how to deal with mutiny and sedition. The Rules also contained strict guidelines about personal behavior, forbidding “dissolute, immoral and disorderly practices,” requiring regular church services on board ship and punishment for swearing, cursing, blaspheming God and drunkenness.

“Rules for the Regulation of the Navy” formed the basis of all naval regulations in the United States for decades to come, many of the articles being passed nearly word for word into future naval regulations.



November 28, 1520 – After sailing through the dangerous straits below South America that now bear his name, Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan enters the Pacific Ocean with three ships, becoming the first European explorer to reach the Pacific from the Atlantic.

On September 20, 1519, Magellan set sail from Spain in an effort to find a western sea route to the rich Spice Islands of Indonesia. In command of five ships and 270 men, Magellan sailed to West Africa and then to Brazil, where he searched the South American coast for a strait that would take him to the Pacific.  On Easter day at midnight, the Spanish captains mutinied against their Portuguese captain, but Magellan crushed the revolt, executing one of the captains and leaving another ashore when his ship left St. Julian in August.

On October 21, he finally discovered the strait he had been seeking. The Strait of Magellan, as it became known, is located near the tip of South America, separating Tierra del Fuego and the continental mainland. Only three ships entered the passage; one had been wrecked and another deserted. It took 38 days to navigate the treacherous strait, and when ocean was sighted at the other end Magellan wept with joy.

His fleet accomplished the westward crossing of the ocean in 99 days, crossing waters so strangely calm that the ocean was named “Pacific,” from the Latin word pacificus, meaning “tranquil.” By the end, the men were out of food and chewed the leather parts of their gear to keep themselves alive. On March 6, 1521, the expedition landed at the island of Guam.

Ten days later, they dropped anchor at the Philippine island of Cebu—they were only about 400 miles from the Spice Islands. Magellan met with the chief of Cebu, who after converting to Christianity persuaded the Europeans to assist him in conquering a rival tribe on the neighboring island of Mactan. In fighting on April 27, Magellan was hit by a poisoned arrow and left to die by his retreating comrades.

After Magellan’s death, the survivors, in two ships, sailed on to the Moluccas and loaded the hulls with spice. One ship attempted, unsuccessfully, to return across the Pacific. The other ship, the Vittoria, continued west under the command of Basque navigator Juan Sebastian de Elcano. The vessel sailed across the Indian Ocean, rounded the Cape of Good Hope, and arrived at the Spanish port of Sanlucar de Barrameda on September 6, 1522, becoming the first ship to circumnavigate the globe.



November 17, 1746, Robert R. (or R.R.) Livingston—later known as “the Chancellor”—becomes the first of nine children eventually born to Judge Robert Livingston and Margaret Beekman Livingston in their family seat, Clermont, on the Hudson River in upstate New York.

The Livingston family were proprietors of large land claims in the Hudson Valley and their attempt to enforce restrictive leases led to tenant uprisings in 1766, during which tenant farmers threatened to kill the lord of Livingston Manor, Robert Livingston (R.R.’s relative), and destroy his opulent homes. The British army suppressed the revolt, saving the Livingstons.

In 1777, the British army burned down Clermont and another of R.R.’s estates, Belvedere, in retribution for Livingston’s decision to side with the Patriots. During the 11 years between the tenant uprising and the burning of Clermont, Robert R. Livingston, who had graduated from King’s College (now Columbia University) in 1764, had established himself as a lawyer and political leader. He represented the Provincial Congress of New York at the Continental Congress in 1776 and helped to draft the Declaration of Independence, although he returned to New York before he was able to sign the document.

During the War of Independence, Livingston served as secretary of foreign affairs under the Articles of Confederation. In 1783, he accepted the post of chancellor of the state of New York; he bore the title as a moniker for the rest of his life. “The Chancellor” was a Federalist delegate to the ratification convention in New York, and as New York’s senior judge administered President George Washington’s first oath of office. Under President Thomas Jefferson, Livingston negotiated the Louisiana Purchase and, while minister to France, sponsored Robert Fulton’s development of the steamboat.



November 27, 1095, Pope Urban II makes perhaps the most influential speech of the Middle Ages, giving rise to the Crusades by calling all Christians in Europe to war against Muslims in order to reclaim the Holy Land, with a cry of “Deus vult!” or “God wills it!”

Born Odo of Lagery in 1042, Urban was a protege of the great reformer Pope Gregory VII. Like Gregory, he made internal reform his main focus, railing against simony (the selling of church offices) and other clerical abuses prevalent during the Middle Ages. Urban showed himself to be an adept and powerful cleric, and when he was elected pope in 1088, he applied his statecraft to weakening support for his rivals, notably Clement III.



peyton randolph

November 26, 1776 – 1776, the body of Peyton Randolph is returned to Williamsburg, Virginia, for re-interment at his alma mater, the College of William and Mary. On September 5, 1774, Randolph was elected by unanimous vote as the first president of the Continental Congress.  Randolph had died on October 22, 1775, at the age of 54, while in Philadelphia representing Virginia in the second Continental Congress.

Randolph did not live to see America achieve independence, a goal toward which he had worked for most of his adult life. He was initially buried at Christ Church in Philadelphia, but was moved to the cemetery at the chapel of the College of William and Mary one year later.



November 26, 1941 – President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs a bill officially establishing the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day.

The tradition of celebrating the holiday on Thursday dates back to the early history of the Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay colonies, when post-harvest holidays were celebrated on the weekday regularly set aside as “Lecture Day,” a midweek church meeting where topical sermons were presented. A famous Thanksgiving observance occurred in the autumn of 1621, when Plymouth governor William Bradford invited local Indians to join the Pilgrims in a three-day festival held in gratitude for the bounty of the season.

Thanksgiving became an annual custom throughout New England in the 17th century, and in 1777 the Continental Congress declared the first national American Thanksgiving following the Patriot victory at Saratoga. In 1789, President George Washington became the first president to proclaim a Thanksgiving holiday, when, at the request of Congress, he proclaimed November 26, a Tuesday, as a day of national thanksgiving for the U.S. Constitution. However, it was not until 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving to fall on the last Thursday of November, that the modern holiday was celebrated nationally.



November 25, 1783, the last British soldiers evacuate the United States. The signing of the Treaty of Paris ended hostilities between the United States and Great Britain on September 3, 1783. Sir Guy Carleton, commander of British forces in North America at the time, received orders in August to begin planning the evacuation of all remaining British troops from the United States.

The evacuation plans dragged on because of large large numbers of Loyalists descending on New York in a panic to flee the country. Nearly 30,000 Loyalists and escaped slaves left with the British, most ending up in Quebec or Nova Scotia.


pearl parbor

November 25, 1941, Adm. Harold R. Stark, U.S. chief of naval operations, tells Adm. Husband E. Kimmel, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, that both President Roosevelt and Secretary of State Cordell Hull think a Japanese surprise attack is a distinct possibility.

“We are likely to be attacked next Monday, for the Japs are notorious for attacking without warning,” Roosevelt had informed his Cabinet. “We must all prepare for trouble, possibly soon,” he telegraphed British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.



November 24, 1778, North Carolina wins the Battle of Midway ChurchGeneral Augustine Prevost, commander of British forces in British East Florida organized the first British invasion of Georgia in November of 1778, after Sir Henry Clinton determined the British would begin its “Southern Strategy.”

The plan was to meet at Sunbury and attack the Americans at Fort Morris, where they also expected to meet another group of British soldiers who were expected to arrive from New York. On November 22, 1778, 100 soldiers under the command of Continental Army Colonel John White and Major James Jacksonconfronted Prevost’s 700 professional soldiers a mile and a half south of Midway in Liberty County, which was called St. John’s Parish at the time.

While the patriots were outnumbered, the area was deep inside patriot territory and the British were concerned that even if they won the battle, they might be isolated so elected to pull back.



November 24, 1963, in the basement of the Dallas police station, Lee Harvey Oswald, the alleged assassin of President John F. Kennedy, is shot to death by Jack Ruby, a Dallas nightclub owner.  Oswald was formally arraigned on November 23 for the murders of President Kennedy and Officer J.D. Tippit.

The next day, Oswald was brought to the basement of the Dallas police headquarters to be relocated to a more secure county jail.  The area was crowded with reporters and police officers, live television cameras were rolling when Ruby emerged from the crowd and fired one shot from a .38 revolver.  In spite of the fact some considered him a hero, he was charged with first degree murder.  Ruby was found guilty and sentenced to death, but his conviction was overturned.  He died in jail of lung cancer while awaiting a new trial.



November 23, 1730, Governor and General William Moultrie is born. Moultrie was a celebrated general of the American Revolution, primarily for his role in keeping the British out of the South during the early years of the war at the Battle of Sullivan’s Island.

Charleston Harbor was guarded by Sullivan’s Island on the north and James Island on the south. On September 15th, Col. Moultrie’s men attacked the British Fort Johnson on the edge of James Island, but the soldiers had been warned and had abandoned the fort. Moultrie erected his own cannon to guard the harbor and flew a new flag, which he created himself, over the fort, at the direction of the Council of Safety. The flag featured a blue field with a crescent in the corner with the word liberty on it. The flag later became known as the Fort Moultrie Flag. The current flag of South Carolina is a very similar version of the Fort Moultrie Flag.


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November 23, 1859 – The infamous Western outlaw known as “Billy the Kid” is born in a poor Irish neighborhood on New York City’s East Side. Before he was shot dead at age 21, Billy reputedly killed 27 people in the American West.

Billy the Kid called himself William H. Bonney, but his original name was probably Henry McCarty. Bonney was his mother Catherine’s maiden name, and William was the first name of his mother’s longtime companion–William Antrin–who acted as Billy’s father after his biological father disappeared. Around 1865, Billy and his brother traveled west to Indiana with their mother and Antrin, and by 1870 the group was in Wichita, Kansas. They soon moved farther west, down the cattle trails, and in 1873 a legally married Catherine and William Antrin appeared on record in New Mexico territory. In 1874, Billy’s mother died of lung cancer in Silver City.

Billy was a central figure in the Lincoln County Wars of New Mexico.  On the night of July 14, 1881, Sheriff Pat Garrett finally tracked Billy down at a ranch near Fort Sumner, New Mexico. He gained access to the house where Billy was visiting a girlfriend and then surprised him in the dark. Before the outlaw could offer resistance, Garret fired a bullet into his chest.




November 22, 1783, Maryland patriot leader John Hanson dies. Hanson was the descendant of an indentured servant from England who came to Maryland in 1661. He increased the family’s agricultural lands to around 1,000 acres and served for many years in political office in Maryland. Hanson is a little known figure from the American Revolution today, but he played a prominent role during those formative years.

John Hanson began his political career as sheriff of Charles County in 1750, but was soon elected to the Maryland General Assembly in 1757, a position he held for the next 12 years. Hanson became associated with American patriots opposing British policy during the Stamp Act crisis, chairing the committee that wrote Maryland’s instructions to the Stamp Act Congress. Hanson also opposed the Townshend Acts, signing a non-importation agreement in 1769 until the Acts were repealed in 1770.




November 22, 1963 – John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States, is assassinated while traveling through Dallas, Texas, in an open-top convertible.

First lady Jacqueline Kennedy rarely accompanied her husband on political outings, but she was beside him, along with Texas Governor John Connally and his wife, for a 10-mile motorcade through the streets of downtown Dallas on November 22. Sitting in a Lincoln convertible, the Kennedys and Connallys waved at the large and enthusiastic crowds gathered along the parade route. As their vehicle passed the Texas School Book Depository Building at 12:30 p.m., Lee Harvey Oswald allegedly fired three shots from the sixth floor, fatally wounding President Kennedy and seriously injuring Governor Connally. Kennedy was pronounced dead 30 minutes later at Dallas’ Parkland Hospital. He was 46.




November 21, 1775, the Continental Congress writes to Oswald Eve, asking him to help with the building of a new gunpowder mill in Massachusetts. Oswald Eve was the owner of the only gunpowder mill in the colonies at the time.

The letter was delivered by Paul Revere who had to try and convince Eve to share the process for manufacturing powder, but Eve was worried about competition from another mill and refused to help.  However, after taking a tour of the mill, Revere was able to learn enough through observation to set up a mill without help from Eve.  Back at home in Canton, MA Revere ‘s mill produced tons of powder for the Continental Army during the Revolution.





November 21, 1877- Thomas Edison announces his invention of the phonograph, a way to record and play back sound.

Edison stumbled on one of his great inventions–the phonograph–while working on a way to record telephone communication at his laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey. His work led him to experiment with a stylus on a tinfoil cylinder, which, to his surprise, played back the short song he had recorded, “MARY HAD A LITTLE LAMB”. Public demonstrations of the phonograph made the Yankee inventor world famous, and he was dubbed the “Wizard of Menlo Park.”


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November 20, 1789, New Jersey becomes the first state to ratify the Bill of Rights.  Anti-Federalists feared the new Constitution gave too much power to the federal government which would then take the place of the Monarchy they had just thrown off.  To gain acceptance, the Federalists promised to add amendments to the Constitution outlining the guaranteed rights of the individuals and the states.  James Madison used Virginia’s Declaration of Rights as a basis for the Amendments.




November 20, 1945 – Twenty-four high-ranking Nazis go on trial in Nuremberg, Germany, for atrocities committed during World War II.  The Nuremberg Trials were conducted by an international tribunal made up of representatives from the United States, the Soviet Union, France, and Great Britain. It was the first trial of its kind in history, and the defendants faced charges ranging from crimes against peace, to crimes of war, to crimes against humanity. Lord Justice Geoffrey Lawrence, the British member, presided over the proceedings, which lasted 10 months and consisted of 216 court sessions.

On October 1, 1946, 12 architects of Nazi policy were sentenced to death. Seven others were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 10 years to life, and three were acquitted.  On October 16, 10 of the architects of Nazi policy were hanged. Goering, who at sentencing was called the “leading war aggressor and creator of the oppressive program against the Jews,” committed suicide by poison on the eve of his scheduled execution. Nazi Party leader Martin Bormann was condemned to death in absentia (but is now believed to have died in May 1945). Trials of lesser German and Axis war criminals continued in Germany into the 1950s and resulted in the conviction of 5,025 other defendants and the execution of 806.




November 19, 1794, Jay’s Treaty is signed to bring to an end several years of conflict between Great Britain and the United States after the end of the American Revolution. Once America’s independence had been achieved with the Treaty of Paris in 1783, several areas of contention with Britain began to arise. Things got worse and worse, until it looked like war might break out again.

In Jay’s Treaty, the British agreed to abandon the forts in the Ohio River Valley by June 1796. They opened up limited trade to the Americans in the West Indies and in India. They agreed to establishing commissions to deal with boundary issues with Canada, reparations for captured merchant vessels and remuneration for Loyalist losses. Jay’s Treaty failed to deal with remunerations for slave losses and with British impressment of American sailors.




November 19, 1863, at the dedication of a military cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, during the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln delivers one of the most memorable speeches in American history.  The Battle of Gettysburg, fought some four months earlier, was the single bloodiest battle of the Civil War. Over the course of three days, more than 45,000 men were killed, injured, captured or went missing.

“The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”




November 18, 1804, General Philip Schuyler dies. Philip Schuyler was a wealthy planter from Albany, New York who owned tens of thousands of acres of land and his own lumber, flour and flax mills, including the first flax mill in America for making linen.

Schuyler served in the French and Indian War as a young man after raising his own militia company and was given the commission of Captain. He became a quartermaster during the war, meaning he was in charge of procuring and managing equipment and supplies.



November 18, 1978, Peoples Temple founder Jim Jones leads hundreds of his followers in a mass murder-suicide at their agricultural commune in a remote part of the South American nation of Guyana. Many of Jones’ followers willingly ingested a poison-laced punch while others were forced to do so at gunpoint. The final death toll at Jonestown that day was 909; a third of those who perished were children.

Temple members and concerned relatives of current members convinced U.S. Congressman Leo Ryan, a Democrat of California, to travel to Jonestown and investigate the settlement.  When several members asked for help in leaving, Jones became outraged and ordered the congressman and his team killed.  Jones ordered Ryan and his companions ambushed and killed at the airstrip as they attempted to leave. The congressman and four others were murdered as they boarded their charter planes.  Jones then commanded everyone to gather in the main pavilion and commit what he termed a “revolutionary act.”



November 17, 1775, Henry Knox begins the “Knox Expedition,” leaving Boston for Fort Ticonderoga at the direction of George Washington to bring 60 tons of captured British artillery across the frozen mountains of New England and back to Boston to help drive the British out of the city. The trip became known as the Knox Expedition and makes the history books because of Knox’s daring feat, bringing the cannons across a large lake, on snow sleds and across frozen rivers.




November 17, 1869 – The Suez Canal, connecting the Mediterranean and the Red seas, is inaugurated in an elaborate ceremony attended by French Empress Eugénie, wife of Napoleon III.

In 1854, Ferdinand de Lesseps, the former French consul to Cairo, secured an agreement with the Ottoman governor of Egypt to build a canal 100 miles across the Isthmus of Suez. An international team of engineers drew up a construction plan, and in 1856 the Suez Canal Company was formed and granted the right to operate the canal for 99 years after completion of the work.



November 16, 1776, the Americans lose the Battle of Fort Washington. Fort Washington sat on the highest point of Manhattan Island, then called York Island. It was built in the summer of that year to prevent British ships from sailing up the Hudson River after George Washington and his officers had decided the area would be impenetrable by the British. Fort Washington sat on one side of the Hudson, while Fort Lee sat on the other side. Fire from the two forts, along with a series of impediments constructed in the river would prevent the British from advancing deeper into New York.




November 16, 1945 – The United States ships 88 German scientists to America to assist the nation in its production of rocket technology. Most of these men had served under the Nazi regime and critics in the United States questioned the morality of placing them in the service of America. Nevertheless, the U.S. government, desperate to acquire the scientific know-how that had produced the terrifying and destructive V-1 and V-2 rockets for Germany during WWII, and fearful that the Russians were also utilizing captured German scientists for the same end, welcomed the men with open arms



November 15, 1777, the Articles of Confederation are approved by the Continental Congress for distribution to the states. All 13 states would have to ratify the Articles in order for them to become the first governing document of the new United States of America.

A Confederation of states was first called for in Congress on June 7, 1776 by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia when he submitted what became known as the “Lee Resolution.” The Resolution called for three things, 1) a declaration of independence from Great Britain, 2) that foreign alliances should be sought and 3) that a plan of confederation between the colonies should be prepared.




November 15, 1957 – In an interview with an American reporter, Nikita Khrushchev claims the Soviet Union has a superior missile program and greater capability.  Saying the US did not have intercontinental missiles, “If she had, she would have launched her own sputnik.” He then issued a challenge: “Let’s have a peaceful rocket contest just like a rifle-shooting match, and they’ll see for themselves.”  In the case of war, it “would be fought on the American continent, which can be reached by our rockets.” NATO forces in Europe would also be devastated, and Europe “might become a veritable cemetery.” While the Soviet Union would “suffer immensely,” the forces of communism would ultimately destroy capitalism.


ben franklin

November 14, 1776, the St. James Chronicle of London carries an item announcing “The very identical Dr. Franklyn [Benjamin Franklin], whom Lord Chatham [former leading parliamentarian and colonial supporter William Pitt] so much caressed, and used to say he was proud in calling his friend, is now at the head of the rebellion in North America.”






November 14, 1754, Mercy Otis and James Warren are married. Both of them were direct descendants of pilgrims who arrived on the Mayflower. Mercy Otis Warren became one of the first female authors in the United States. She was an advisor on politics and a correspondent with such people as John Hancock, Patrick Henry, George Washington and John Adams. Mercy’s 3 volume “History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution” became one of the first published works about the American Revolution and also one of the first works published by a woman in America.  James Warren a member of the Sons of Liberty and was one of the first Presidents of the Massachusetts Provincial Assembly, fought at the Battle of Bunker Hill and was a Paymaster General of the Continental Army for a time.




November 13, 1982 – Near the end of a week long national salute to Americans who served in the Vietnam War, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is dedicated in Washington after a march to its site by thousands of veterans of the conflict. The long-awaited memorial was a simple V-shaped black-granite wall inscribed with the names of the 57,939 Americans who died in the conflict, arranged in order of death, not rank, as was common in other memorials.





November 13, 1775, American General Richard Montgomery takes Montreal without a fight. The Americans had decided to try to take British Quebec in the fall of 1775. This was the first military offensive of the new Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. Their goal was to take Quebec and convince the French speaking citizens to join them in their rebellion against England.










November 12, 1775 – Abigail Adams wrote to her husband, “Let us separate, they are unworthy to be our Brethren. Let us renounce them and instead of supplications as formerly for their prosperity and happiness, Let us beseech the almighty to blast their councils and bring to Nought all their devices.” The letter was written upon hearing of England’s rejection of the Olive Branch Petition.




November 12, 1954, Ellis Island, the gateway to America, shuts it doors after processing more than 12 million immigrants since opening in 1892. Today, an estimated 40 percent of all Americans can trace their roots through Ellis Island, located in New York Harbor off the New Jersey coast and named for merchant Samuel Ellis, who owned the land in the 1770s.





November 11, 1778, Patriot Colonel Ichabod Alden refuses to believe intelligence about an approaching hostile force. As a result, a combined force of Loyalists and Native Americans, attacking in the snow, killed more than 40 Patriots, including Alden, and took at least an additional 70 prisoners, in what is known today as the Cherry Valley Massacre. The attack took place east of Cooperstown, New York, in what is now Otsego County.








November 11, 1918 – On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month the armistice with Germany went in to effect ending WWI.  The United States previously observed Armistice Day. The U.S. holiday was renamed Veterans Day in 1954.





November 10, 1782, the last battle of the American Revolution is fought as American militiamen attacked Shawnee villages near Chillicothe, Ohio in retaliation for attacks by Loyalists and Indians against Sandusky, Ohio, Lexington, Kentucky and other places. General George Rogers Clark and over a thousand militiamen on horseback attacked and burned several Shawnee villages and defeated them decisively.

Contrary to the understanding of many Americans, the surrender of British General Charles Cornwallis at Yorktown, Virginia in October, 1781 did not end the Revolutionary War. It was a pivotal point, but hostilities continued for two more years and a preliminary peace treaty was not signed until November 20, 1782, more than a year after Cornwallis’ surrender.




November 10, 1775

During the American Revolution, the Continental Congress passes a resolution stating that “two Battalions of Marines be raised” for service as landing forces for the recently formed Continental Navy. The resolution, drafted by future U.S. president John Adams and adopted in Philadelphia, created the Continental Marines and is now observed as the birth date of the United States Marine Corps.





November 9, 1780, General Thomas Sumter escaped capture in South Carolina by the British Major James Wemyss at the Battle of Fishdam Ford. Instead, Wemyss was wounded in the arm and the knee and was captured by Sumter.







Damaged Jewish Owned Storefront after Kristallnacht Riot

November 9, 1938, in an event that would foreshadow the Holocaust, German Nazis launch a campaign of terror against Jewish people and their homes and businesses in Germany and Austria. The violence, which continued through November 10 and was later dubbed “Kristallnacht,” or “Night of Broken Glass,” after the countless smashed windows of Jewish-owned establishments, left approximately 100 Jews dead, 7,500 Jewish businesses damaged and hundreds of synagogues, homes, schools and graveyards vandalized. An estimated 30,000 Jewish men were arrested, many of whom were then sent to concentration camps for several months; they were released when they promised to leave Germany.



November 8, 1775, General George Washington seeks to resolve several problems facing the army: how to encourage experienced troops to enlist, how to assemble a capable officer corps and how to overcome provincial differences and rivalries. Describing the problems, he wrote, “Connecticut wants no Massachusetts man in her corps. Massachusetts thinks there is no necessity for a Rhode Islander…”  Washington fought an uphill battle for military order until Friedrich von Steuben arrived at the Continental Army encampment at Valley Forge on February 23, 1778.



war records.jpg

November 8, 1800, a fire destroys the Revolutionary War records in the War Department building in Washington DC. Most other records of the war were lost during the British invasion of Washington DC during the War of 1812.  Records were purchased from private collections over the next several decades, in addition to copies made from various state records.  The whole collection was transferred to the National Archives in 1938.






November 7, 1775, what became known as Dunmore’s Proclamation was signed by John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore and Royal Governor of the Colony of Virginia. This proclamation declared martial law in the colony and promised freedom to all slaves who would leave their Virginia masters and join the Royal army.






November 7, 1940 – The Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapses due to high winds. Fortunately, only a dog was killed.  The Tacoma Narrows Bridge was built in Washington during the 1930s and opened to traffic on July 1, 1940. It spanned the Puget Sound from Gig Harbor to Tacoma, which is 40 miles south of Seattle. The channel is about a mile wide where the bridge crossed the sound. Sleek and slender, it was the third longest suspension bridge in the world at the time, covering 5,959 feet.





November 6, 1789, John Carroll was appointed the first Catholic bishop in the United States. Carroll was born in Upper Marlboro, Maryland and was trained in the ministry in France, becoming a member of the Society of Jesus. He returned to the US as a Catholic missionary in 1773.







vladimir-lenin-51November 6, 1917 – Led by Bolshevik Party leader Vladimir Lenin, leftist revolutionaries launch a nearly bloodless coup d’État against Russia’s ineffectual Provisional Government. The Bolsheviks and their allies occupied government buildings and other strategic locations in the Russian capital of Petrograd (now St. Petersburg) and within two days had formed a new government with Lenin as its head.  Bolshevik Russia, later renamed the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was the world’s first Marxist state.




November 5, 1775, Continental Army commander in chief General George Washington condemns his troops’ planned celebration of the British anti-Catholic holiday, Guy Fawkes Night, as he was simultaneously struggling to win French-Canadian Catholics to the Patriot cause.




french general

November 5, 1780, a Revolutionary War battle known as De la Balme’s Defeat or De la Balme’s Massacre takes place when retired November 5, 1780, a Revolutionary War battle known as De la Balme’s Defeat or De la Balme’s Massacre takes place when retired French cavalry officer Augustin de la Balme is killed near present day Fort Wayne, Indiana in a battle with Miami Indians. is killed near present day Fort Wayne, Indiana in a battle with Miami Indians.



william Shippen


November 4, 1801 – William Shippen died. He was a patriot, politician and physician. He served as a Pennsylvania delegate to the Continental Congress from 1779 to 1780.








November 4, 1979 – Student followers of the Ayatollah Khomeini send shock waves across America when they storm the U.S. embassy in Tehran. The radical Islamic fundamentalists took 90 hostages. The students were enraged that the deposed Shah had been allowed to enter the United States for medical treatment and they threatened to murder hostages if any rescue was attempted. Days later, Iran’s provincial leader resigned, and the Ayatollah Khomeini, the leader of Iran’s fundamentalist revolutionaries, took full control of the country—and the fate of the hostages.






November 3, 1777, General George Washington is informed that a conspiracy is afoot to discredit him with Congress and have him replaced by General Horatio Gates. Thomas Conway, who would be made inspector general of the United States less than two months later on December 14, led the effort.





bill of rights


November 3, 1791, the state of Vermont ratified all twelve amendments to the Bill of Rights that were suggested by Congress. Ten of them would be agreed upon by 2/3rds of the states and would become the Bill of Rights.








November 2, 1947 – The Spruce Goose flies.  The Hughes Flying Boat—the largest aircraft ever built—is piloted by designer Howard Hughes on its first and only flight. Built with laminated birch and spruce, the massive wooden aircraft had a wingspan longer than a football field and was designed to carry more than 700 men to battle.




November 2, 1777, the USS Ranger, with a crew of 140 men under the command of John Paul Jones, leaves Portsmouth, New Hampshire, for the naval port at Brest, France, where it will stop before heading toward the Irish Sea to begin raids on British warships. This was the first mission of its kind during the Revolutionary War.





November 1, 1777 – The Congress proclaimed a day of thanksgiving on December 18 to commemorate the American victory at the Battle of Saratoga.








November 1, 1765, the Stamp Act of 1765 was to take effect. The protests, rioting, boycotts and threats of the colonists against stamp distributors and customs officials had already taken their toll though. When November 1st arrived, there was not a single stamp distributor left in the colonies who had not resigned his position, with the exception of Georgia’s because he did not arrive until January, and he resigned… after one day on the job!







October 31, 1765, New York merchants sign a non-importation agreement, agreeing not to import goods from Great Britain in protest of the Stamp Act. The Stamp Act placed a small tax on all paper goods, such as contracts, licenses, newspapers, almanacs, etc. The tax affected nearly everyone since it was placed on such common goods.








king george and parliment

October 31, 1776, in his first speech before British Parliament since the leaders of the American Revolution came together to sign of the Declaration of Independence that summer, King George III acknowledges that all was not going well for Britain in the war with the United States.






October 30, 1938 – Orson Welles causes a nationwide panic with his broadcast of “War of the Worlds”—a realistic radio dramatization of a Martian invasion of Earth.





October 30, 1775 – The Continental Congress appointed seven members to an administrative naval committee tasked with the acquisition, outfitting and manning of a naval fleet to be used in defense against the British.








October 29, 1781, the Continental Congress authorizes the Yorktown Victory Monument at York, Virginia, to remember the surrender of Lord Cornwallis and the British army, news of which had just reached the Congress in Philadelphia. The monument was not even begun for 100 years and was started during the centennial celebration of the victory in 1881.







sir walter raleigh


October 29, 1618 – Sir Walter Raleigh, English adventurer, writer, and favorite courtier of Queen Elizabeth I, is beheaded in London, under a sentence brought against him 15 years earlier for conspiracy against King James I.





invasion of quebec


August 28, 1775, the American invasion of Quebec begins, part of the American attempt to secure the French-speaking Quebec in an alliance with the lower 13 colonies during the American Revolution. Quebec had been founded as a French colony, but was given over to the British after the French and Indian War.




October 28, 1775 – The new commander in chief of the British army, Major General Sir William Howe, issues a proclamation to the residents of Boston on this day in 1775. Speaking from British headquarters in Boston, Howe forbade any person from leaving the city and ordered citizens to organize into military companies in order to “contribute all in his power for the preservation of order and good government within the town of Boston.”



king george and parliment

October 27, 1775, King George III speaks before both houses of the British Parliament to discuss growing concern about the rebellion in America, which he viewed as a traitorous action against himself and Great Britain. He began his speech by reading a “Proclamation of Rebellion” and urged Parliament to move quickly to end the revolt and bring order to the colonies.




October 27, 1659 – William Robinson and Marmaduke Stevenson, two Quakers who came from England in 1656 to escape religious persecution, are executed in the Massachusetts Bay Colony for their religious beliefs. The two had violated a law passed by the Massachusetts General Court the year before, banning Quakers from the colony under penalty of death.  Picture is of a Quaker meeting place in Boston.



ben franklinOctober 26, 1776, exactly one month to the day after being named an agent of a diplomatic commission by the Continental Congress, Benjamin Franklin sets sail from Philadelphia for France, with which he was to negotiate and secure a formal alliance and treaty.  A few short months after the Battle of Saratoga, representatives of the United States and France, including Benjamin Franklin, officially declared an alliance by signing the Treaty of Amity and Commerce and the Treaty of Alliance on February 6, 1778.





Erie Canal Buffalo-1908

October 26, 1825 – The Erie Canal opens, connecting the Great Lakes with the Atlantic Ocean via the Hudson River. Governor DeWitt Clinton of New York, the driving force behind the project, led the opening ceremonies and rode the canal boat Seneca Chief from Buffalo to New York City.  The 425 mile canal was dug largely by hand in two years.




October 25, 1774, the First Continental Congress sends a respectful petition to King George III to inform his majesty that if it had not been for the acts of oppression forced upon the colonies by the British Parliament, the American people would be standing behind British rule.  The king did not respond to the satisfaction of Congress and on July 6, 1775, the Second Continental Congress adopted a resolution entitled “Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms.”






October 25, 1415 – During the Hundred Years’ War between England and France, Henry V, the young king of England, leads his forces to victory at the Battle of Agincourt in northern France.












brit nav

October 24, 1775 –  Virginia’s last royal governor, Lord John Murray Dunmore, orders a British naval fleet of six ships to sail up the James River and into Hampton Creek to attack Patriot troops and destroy the town of Norfolk, Va. British Captain Matthew Squire led the six ships into Hampton Creek and began bombarding the town with artillery and cannon fire, while a second contingent of British troops sailed ashore to begin engaging the Patriots. The British were surprised to come under fire from expert riflemen, who began striking down British troops at a distance. After the attack began, 100 additional members of the militia marched in to assist. The Patriots pushed the British back to their ships, where the riflemen again began picking off British troops from the decks of their vessels.  In the unorganized and hurried withdrawal that followed, two British ships ran aground and were captured. The Patriots, meanwhile, did not suffer a single fatality.



30 years war

October 24, 1648 – The Treaty of Westphalia is signed, ending the Thirty Years War and radically shifting the balance of power in Europe.  The Thirty Years War, a series of wars fought by European nations for various reasons, ignited in 1618 over an attempt by the king of Bohemia (the future Holy Roman emperor Ferdinand II) to impose Catholicism throughout his domains. Protestant nobles rebelled, and by the 1630s most of continental Europe was at war.



ft miffin

October 23, 1777, a British Royal Navy fleet of ships, trying to open up supply lines along the Delaware River and the occupying British army in Philadelphia, is bombarded by American cannon fire and artillery from Fort Mifflin, Pennsylvania.  Six British ships were severely damaged, including the 64-gun battleship HMS Augusta and the 20-gun sloop Merlin.



beirut barracks

October 23, 1983 – A suicide bomber drives a truck packed with explosives into the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, killing 241 U.S. military personnel. That same morning, 58 French soldiers were killed in their barracks two miles away in a separate suicide terrorist attack.




October 22, 1962 – In a televised speech of extraordinary gravity, President John F. Kennedy announces that U.S. spy planes have discovered Soviet missile bases in Cuba. These missile sites—under construction but nearing completion—housed medium-range missiles capable of striking a number of major cities in the United States, including Washington, D.C.


peyton randolph


After years of poor health, Peyton Randolph, former president of the Continental Congress, dies on October 22, 1775 at the age of 54.  Randolph had served on the Virginia House of Burgesses and presiding over Virginia’s Committee of Correspondence, which worked to communicate with other colonies to form a united resistance.  He was elected unanimously as president of the First Continental Congress in September 1774.





October 21, 1797, the USS Constitution is launched in Boston Harbor. The Constitution is the world’s oldest commissioned naval ship still sailing. It was one of six ships built by the US Congress in 1797 to deal with the Barbary pirates of North Africa.






October 21, 1779 – The Continental Congress elects former congressman Henry Laurens minister to Holland. Laurens’ duty as the new minister was to negotiate an alliance with Holland, which he did in 1780.  On the return voyage from Holland in the fall of 1780, his ship was intercepted and captured by the British Navy off the coast of Newfoundland, and he was taken prisoner. During their search of the vessel, British sailors discovered Laurens’ copy of the unofficial Patriot treaty with the Dutch, drafted by Congressional agent William Lee. The British used the document as grounds for war against the Dutch and sent Laurens to London to stand trial on suspicion of high treason. He was subsequently imprisoned in the Tower of London for 15 months.  On December 31, 1781, the British finally released Laurens from prison in exchange for American-held prisoner General Charles Lord Cornwallis





October 20, 1777, Robert Howe is promoted to major general of the Continental Army. Howe was one of only five North Carolinians to serve as generals in the Continental Army during the American Revolution and the only one to attain this high rank.









October 20, 1774 – The First Continental Congress created the Continental Association in response to the Coercive Acts by the British. It called for a complete ban on all trade between America and Great Britain of all goods, wares or merchandise.





October 19, 1812 – One month after Napoleon Bonaparte’s massive invading force entered a burning and deserted Moscow, the starving French army is forced to begin a hasty retreat out of Russia.  The enormous army, featuring more than 500,000 soldiers and staff was decimated in retreat, having suffered a loss of more than 400,000 men during the disastrous invasion.





August 19, 1779, Major Henry Lee wins the Battle of Paulus Hook, New Jersey, during the American Revolution. Paulus Hook was a strategically located piece of land across the Hudson River from the tip of Manhattan Island. George Washington had realized the strategic importance of the ground and ordered a fort built there before the arrival of the British, but it was abandoned when the massive British force of over 40,000 soldiers took over the area in September of 1776.




October 18, 1775, the Burning of Falmouth, Massachusetts, takes place as part of a British campaign of retribution against coastal colonial towns for their support of the rebellion against Britain and their refusal to do business with the British. Falmouth, Massachusetts, is now the city of Portland, Maine. (What is today Maine was then part of Massachusetts.)



October 18, 1767 – Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon completed their survey of the boundary between the colonies of Pennsylvania and Maryland. The survey included other areas that would eventually become the states of Delaware and West Virginia. The boundary is known as the Mason-Dixon Line.


Horatio Gates

General Horatio Gates



British general and playwright John Burgoyne surrenders 5,000 British and Hessian troops to American General Horatio Gates at Saratoga, New York, on October 17, 1777.







October 17, 1781 – George Washington accepted British General Charles Cornwallis’s surrender at Yorktown, VA. This event effectively ended America’s War for Independence.