Monday, April 29, 2013

The American Revolution in New York

Being a New York native, I thought I would make this blog post about the influence New York State had on the American Revolutionary War.

At the Ethan Allen Colonial Days Fair in Bennington, VT

With the taxation of the colonies, the colonists were up in arms. They felt as though their rights as citizens of the British Empire were being encroached upon and they cried “No taxation without representation!” The introduction of a series of acts to tax the colonies (such as the Sugar Act, Currency Act, Stamp Act, Quartering Act of 1765, Tea Act, Townsend Revenue Act, Boston Non-Importation Agreement, and the Intolerable Acts) led to the events of the Boston Massacre, which left five men, including the African-American sailor Crispus Attucks, dead; as well as the Boston Tea Party, where members of the Sons of Liberty, such as Samuel Adams, disguised themselves as Native Americans and dumped tea into Boston Harbor to protest the tea tax. Despite these actions being the most famous, New York had its own pre-Revolution events that we did not learn about in school. Those events were the Non-importation agreement, the Battle of Golden Hill, and the New York City Tea Party. 

The non-importation agreement of 1765 was in protest to the varying acts in place. This agreement was an agreement among merchants to not sell goods that had been imported from Great Britain to the colonists. This same agreement was made among the merchants of other colonies such as Massachusetts as well. 

The Battle of Golden Hill occurred in New York City on January 19, 1770, about six weeks before the Boston Massacre, and was a clash between British soldiers and the Sons of Liberty. During the imperial crisis with Britain in the 1760s, the Sons of Liberty in New York City sometimes erected "Liberty poles" to symbolize their displeasure with British authorities. The first such pole was put up in City Hall Park on May 21, 1766, in celebration of the repeal of the 1765 Stamp Act. After the New York Assembly finally voted to comply with the Quartering Act in December 1769, Alexander McDougall issued an anonymous broadside entitled "To the Betrayed Inhabitants of the City and Colony of New York". In response, on January 17, 1770, British soldiers sawed down a Liberty pole. The "red coats" also posted their own handbills which attacked the Sons of Liberty as "the real enemies of society" who "thought their freedom depended on a piece of wood".

On January 19, 1770, Isaac Sears and others tried to stop some of the soldiers from posting handbills. Sears captured some of the soldiers and marched his captives towards the mayor's office, while the rest of the British soldiers ran to the barracks to sound the alarm. A crowd of townsfolk arrived along with a score of soldiers. The soldiers were surrounded and badly outnumbered. Another squad of soldiers arrived and the officer gave the order for soldiers to draw their bayonets and cut their way through the citizens. More soldiers arrived as well as a group of officers who worked to disperse the soldiers before the situation got totally out of hand. Several of the soldiers were badly bruised and one had a serious wound. Some of the citizens were wounded and one had been fatally stabbed. This was one of the early violent protests during the period leading up to the Americans Revolution.

In the 1770s, tea parties were all the rage, and I’m not talking about high tea at four in the afternoon with women in fancy lace dresses and big hats. I’m talking about something a little more exciting—tea parties with enraged citizens and members of the Sons of Liberty throwing tea into harbors after the ships came in. 

On April 18, 1774, the Nancy, commanded by Captain Benjamin Lockyer, landed at Sandy Hook with a cargo of 698 cases of tea from the East India Company. Lockyer was threatened to return to England or to lose his life.   Members of the New York chapter of the Sons of Liberty took charge of the Nancy at Sandy Hook, and prevented its crew from deserting the ship, and escorted Lockyer into New York City, where he agreed to return to England with the tea and began procuring supplies to do so.

Meanwhile, on April 22, the ship London arrived, under the command of a Captain Chambers. Although Chambers protested that he had no tea aboard, the Sons of Liberty had received word from Philadelphia that he was smuggling 18 chests, for his own profit, hidden among the ship's blankets. Chambers was taken into custody and members of the Sons of Liberty searched the ship, discovered the tea chests, broke them open, dumped the tea into the river, and brought the busted chests back to the city, where they were used to ignite bonfires in the streets. Chambers was threatened with his life, but he managed to escape, and made his way to the Nancy. A few days later, the ship sailed back to England with both Lockyer and Chambers aboard.

With events like this going on, it is no surprise that historian and author Michael Kammen described New York as the fulcrum and cockpit of the American Revolution. New York was in the middle of it all, literally, due to its position in the middle of the colonies and was filled with rebel rousers who had no problem crying out “Liberty or Property!” or other sayings they did not fully understand but the lawyers who questioned British policy would put into their heads. However, it is also important to note that no major episode of violence erupted during the period of 1767 and 1769 because General Gage’s army, the only standing garrison in the colonies at the time, was stationed in New York and would easily put down any violent act that erupted. 

Despite these events, and although it did not happen in New York, the most important moment of the American Revolution, the moment that started it all, occurred on April 19, 1775—the Battles of Lexington and Concord. 

The memorial at Lexington Green in Lexington, MA
I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Lexington Green, where the battle occurred, on Memorial Day back in 2011. For a place with so much historical significance, I was expecting it to be bigger. What is made out to be the biggest, most exciting battle of the Revolution took place on land that was smaller than my grandparents’ backyard upstate. However, words could not describe the excitement I felt when stepping out of the car and walking across the Lexington Green. To this day, we still do not know who fired the first shot that started it all. 

In April 1775 in Middlesex County in Massachusetts, 700 British regulars were given secret orders to obtain and destroy weapons and ammunition that Massachusetts militia had stored in Concord. However, having been warned weeks in advance of the British march, the militia had already moved and hid their stockpile to several different locations. 

On the evening of April 18, 1775, Paul Revere was sent for by Dr. Joseph Warren and instructed to ride to Lexington, Massachusetts, to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock that British troops were marching to arrest them. After being rowed across the Charles River to Charlestown by two associates, Paul Revere borrowed a horse from his friend Deacon John Larkin. While in Charlestown, he verified that the local "Sons of Liberty" committee had seen his pre-arranged signals. (Two lanterns had been hung briefly in the bell-tower of Christ Church in Boston, indicating that troops would row "by sea" across the Charles River to Cambridge, rather than marching "by land" out Boston Neck. Revere had arranged for these signals the previous weekend, as he was afraid that he might be prevented from leaving Boston).

On the way to Lexington, Revere "alarmed" the country-side, stopping at each house, and arrived in Lexington about midnight. As he approached the house where Adams and Hancock were staying, a sentry asked that he not make so much noise. "Noise!" cried Revere, "You'll have noise enough before long. The regulars are coming out!" After delivering his message, Revere was joined by a second rider, William Dawes, who had been sent on the same errand by a different route. Deciding on their own to continue on to Concord, Massachusetts, where weapons and supplies were hidden, Revere and Dawes were joined by a third rider, Dr. Samuel Prescott. Soon after, all three were arrested by a British patrol. Prescott escaped almost immediately, and Dawes soon after. Revere was held for some time and then released. Left without a horse, Revere returned to Lexington in time to witness part of the battle on the Lexington Green.

On April 19, 1775, shots were fired just as the sun was rising on the Lexington Green. The militia was outnumbered and fell back, and the British regulars proceeded to Concord to search for the ammunition and weapons stores that they heard the Patriots had been stockpiling. At the North Bridge in Concord, approximately 500 militiamen fought and defeated three companies of British troops. More militiamen arrived and inflicted heavy damage on the British regulars as they marched back towards Boston. Coined by Ralph Waldo Emerson as “the shot heard ‘round the world” this was the first American victory during the American War. 

But what does this have to do with New York’s influence? Correlation. Without this, and had the colonists lost here, there may not have been a true revolution at all.

One month later, colonial troops and British regulars found themselves at odds in New York, and two men both of great prominence, one whose name lives on in infamy, meet at Fort Ticonderoga in the Adirondack Mountains on the northern end of Lake George. 

Fort Ticonderoga

Seen as a key defensive position by the Americans, two expeditions were mounted in 1775 to capture Fort Ticonderoga. Led by Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold, the groups encountered each other in the wilderness and, after some disagreement, decided to work together. Moving forward, they successfully stormed the fort on May 10, 1775 and captured Captain William Delaplace’s garrison. Becoming a hub of activity, Fort Ticonderoga served as the jumping off point for the American invasion of Canada in July 1775. Later that year, Colonel Henry Knox arrived and removed many of the fort’s guns and cannons for use in the Siege of Boston.

Transporting the fort’s guns through the snow, Knox’s artillery train played a key role in forcing the British to abandon the city. In 1776, the Continental Army in Canada was thrown back by the British and forced to retreat down Lake Champlain. Encamping at Fort Ticonderoga, they aided Arnold in building a scratch fleet which fought a successful delaying action at Valcour Island that October. The following year saw Major General John Burgoyne launch a major invasion down the lake. In anticipation of the British attack, efforts had been made to fortify nearby Mounts Independence and Hope.

While these efforts strengthened the American position, Mount Defiance, which overlooked the fort, was left undefended as the garrison commander, Brigadier General Arthur St. Clair, lacked the men to fortify it. Arriving at the fort with 7,800 men, Burgoyne quickly emplaced guns on Mount Defiance. Recognizing the fort was vulnerable, St. Clair ordered it abandoned and withdrew south on July 5, 1777. Moving in, the fort was lightly garrisoned and formed a link in the supply line for Burgoyne’s advancing army.

In September, troops under Colonel John Brown raided the fort and succeeded in freeing 118 American prisoners and capturing 293 British soldiers. Following the British defeat at Saratoga, the fort was largely abandoned in November 1777. While it remained a base for the occasional British raiding party, it never again possessed strategic significance.

The Battle of Brooklyn Heights

The Battle of Brooklyn Heights was fought on August 27, 1776. It was the first major battle of the American Revolution, was the largest battle of the entire conflict, and was the first battle in which a US army engaged. 

After the Siege of Boston in March 1776, General George Washington brought the Continental Army to defend the strategic port city of New York. Washington knew that the city’s harbor would prove to be an excellent base for the British Navy during the campaign and established defenses there and waited for the British to attack. In July, the British under the command of General William Howe landed on Staten Island where they would slowly reinforced by ships in Lower New York Bay, bringing their total force to 32,000 men. With the British fleet in control of the entrance to the harbor, Washington knew the difficulty in holding the city. Believing Manhattan would be the first target, he moved the bulk of his forces there.

On August 22, the British landed on the southwest shore of Long Island, across The Narrows from Staten Island, more than a dozen miles south from the East River crossings to Manhattan. After five days of waiting, the British attacked American defenses on the Guan Heights. Unknown to the Americans, however, Howe had brought his main army around their rear and attacked their flank soon after. The Americans panicked, although a stand by 400 Maryland troops prevented most of the army from being captured. The remainder of the army fled to the main defenses on Brooklyn Heights. The British dug in for a siege but, on the night of August 29–30, Washington evacuated the entire army to Manhattan without the loss of materiel or a single life. Washington and the Continental Army were driven out of New York entirely after several more defeats and forced to retreat through New Jersey and into Pennsylvania.

Prior to the battle, more than 80% of the city’s population evacuated to upstate New York or to other colonies.


The Battle of Oriskany

"That the late incursions of the enemy and their savages into the said country, and upon a part of the County of Albany have reduced the inhabitants to the utmost distress. The harvests not yet gathered in are rotting upon the ground. The grass uncut. The fallow grounds not yet ploughed. The cattle in a great measure destroyed" (William Harper and Frederick Fisher to Gov. George Clinton, August 28, 1777 from Public Papers of George Clinton, Vol. 2; Albany, New York State Archives).

That quote is about the Battle of Oriskany, which is a battle that seems to have been lost in history to greater Revolutionary War battles such as Saratoga and lost to New York State history as well.

The Battle of Oriska (Oriskany) occurred on August 6, 1777 when the local Tryon County Militia attempted to come to the relief of the besieged Fort Schuyler (also known as Fort Stanwix). On July 30, 1777, the militia's commander, General Nicholas Herkimer, had ordered his men to begin assembling at Fort Dayton (which was located in the modern Herkimer area). By August 4, around 800 of the militiamen were assembled and ready to begin the march to relieve Fort Schuyler. The militia was composed of four regiments. The 1st Regiment (Canajoharie) was under the command of Colonel Ebenezar Cox; the 2nd Regiment (Palatine) was under the command of Colonel Jacob Klock; the 3rd Regiment (Mohawk) was under the command of Colonel Frederick Visscher; and the 4th Regiment (Kingsland-German Flatts) was under the command of Colonel Peter Bellinger.

On the morning of August 6, 1777, General Herkimer held a war council. Not having heard from Fort Schulyer, Herkimer wanted to wait before pressing on towards the fort. However, Herkimer's captains pressured him to continue, some had even accused Herkimer of being a Tory (a British Loyalist) because his brother was serving under Barrimore St. Leger. Hurt by these accusations, Herkimer ordered the column to march towards Fort Schuyler.

About six miles from the fort the road dipped more than fifty feet into a marshy ravine where a stream about three feet (1 m) wide meandered along the bottom. Sayenqueraghta and Cornplanter, two Seneca war chiefs, chose this place to set up an ambush. While the King's Royal Yorkers waited behind a nearby rise, the Indians concealed themselves on both sides of the ravine. The plan was for the Yorkers to stop the head of the column, after which the Indians would begin their assault on the extended column. At about 10 am, Herkimer's column, with Herkimer on horseback near the front, descended into the ravine, crossed the stream, and began ascending the other side.

Contrary to the plan, the Indians who were lying in wait near the rear of the column, were apparently unable to contain themselves any longer and opened fire, taking the column completely by surprise. Leading the 1st Regiment Colonel Ebenezer Cox, was shot off his horse and killed in the first volley. Herkimer turned his horse to see the action, and was very shortly thereafter struck by a musket ball, which shattered his leg and killed the horse. He was carried by several of his officers to a beech tree, where his men urged him to retire from further danger. He defiantly replied, "I will face the enemy", and calmly sat leaning against the tree, smoking a pipe and giving directions and words of encouragement to the men nearby. Despite his efforts, the Americans were eventually forced from the field.

Both sides suffered heavy losses at Oriskany. Herkimer was taken back to his home where his leg was amputated. He died shortly thereafter. Most of his surviving militiamen returned to their homes, which allowed the British to concentrate again on Fort Schuyler.

What appeared to be a success for St. Leger was only temporary. He continued his siege for another two weeks, but then concluded that he was no match for Benedict Arnold's advancing forces and returned to Fort Oswego. The British army in the Mohawk Valley failed to keep its rendezvous with Burgoyne at Albany, a failure that contributed heavily to the events around Saratoga in the following weeks.

 Battles of Saratoga 
(Battle of Freeman Farm on left; Battle of Bemis Heights on right)

 The Battle of Saratoga
On September 19, 1777, the Royal Army advanced upon the American camp in three separate columns within the present-day towns of Saratoga and Stillwater in upstate New York. Two of the columns headed through the heavy forests which covered the region and the third column, which was composed of German troops, headed down towards the river road. American scouts detected that Burgoyne’s army was in motion and notified General Gates, who ordered Colonel Daniel Morgan’s corps of Kentucky riflemen to track the British march. At about 12:30pm, some of the Kentucky riflemen brushed with the advance of Burgoyne’s center column in a clearing known as Freeman’s Farm, which was about a mile or so away from the American camp. The general Battle of Saratoga swayed back and forth across the clearing of the Freeman’s Farm for more than three hours. As the British lines began to waver in the face of the deadly fire of the Americans, who outnumbered the British greatly, German reinforcements arrived from the river road and were hurled at the American right as Burgoyne tried to steady the wavering British lines and gradually forced the Americans to retreat. Burgoyne may have been defeated that day if not for the arrival of the German reinforcements from the river road, and the exhaustion of the American’s ammunition, which led them to withdraw. Although Burgoyne held the immediate field of battle, he had been stopped about a mile north of the American line with his army roughly treated. Burgoyne was shaken by his premature victory and ordered his troops to encamp in the vicinity of the Freeman Farm where they would wait for support from General Clinton, who was supposedly preparing to move troops north towards Albany, New York from New York City.

For nearly three weeks, Burgoyne waited but Clinton did not come. At this point, Burgoyne’s situation was critical. He was faced by a growing American army without the hope from the south, and supplies were rapidly diminishing which made the British army weaker with each day that passed. Burgoyne had to choose between advancing or retreating. He decided to risk a second engagement, and ordered a reconnaissance-in-force to test the American left plank on October 7, 1777. Ably led and supported by eight cannons, a force of 1,500 men moved out from the British camp. They marched southwesterly about three-quarters of a mile and the troops were deployed in a clearing on the Barber Farm. Most of the British front faced open field, but both the right and left planks were in the woods which exposed them to possible surprise attacks by the American forces. The American forces, by now, knew that Burgoyne was once again on the move and attacked in three columns under Colonel Morgan, General Ebenezer Learned, and General Enoch Poor. The British line was repeatedly broken, rallied, and both the right and left planks were severely punished and driven back. General Simon Fraser, who commanded the British right plank, was mortally wounded by one of the sharpshooters of Colonel Morgan’s Kentucky riflemen as he rode among his men and tried to encourage them to make a stand and cover the developing withdrawal of the British troops. Before the British plank could be rallied, General Benedict Arnold—who had been relieved of command after an argument with General Horatio Gates—rode onto the battlefield and led General Learned’s brigade against the German troops holding the British center. The Germans were under tremendous pressure from all sides and thus joined the general withdrawal into the fortifications which were made on Freeman’s Farm. Within an hour after the clash, Burgoyne lost eight cannons and more than 400 officers and men. The Americans believed that victory was near. Arnold led one column in a series of savage attacks on the Balcarres Redoubt, a powerful British fieldwork on the Freeman Farm. After failing repeatedly to carry this position, Arnold wheeled his horse as he dashed through the crossfire of both armies and spurred northwest to the Breymann Redoubt. Arriving at the same time as the other American forces began to assault the fortification, he joined in the final surge that overwhelmed the German soldiers defending the work. Upon entering the Redoubt, Arnold was wounded in the leg. If Benedict Arnold had died at the Battle of Saratoga, history would know few men better than he. Darkness ended the day’s fighting and saved Burgoyne’s army from immediate disaster.

That night, the British commander left his campfires burning and withdrew his troops behind the Great Redoubt which protected the high ground and the river flats at the northeast corner of the battlefield. The next night, October 8, 1777, after burying General Fraser in the Redoubt, the British began to make their retreat northward. They had suffered the loss of 1,000 casualties in fighting over the past three weeks whereas the Americans suffered less than 500 casualties. After a miserable march in mud and rain, Burgoyne and his troops took refuge in a fortified camp on the heights of Saratoga. There, to the American forces had grown to nearly 20,000 men, Burgoyne surrendered on October 17, 1777. By the terms of the Convention of Saratoga, Burgoyne’s men, which numbered only some 6,000 men, marched out of its camp “with the Honors of War” and stacked their weapons along the western bank of the Hudson River.

The American victory at the Battle of Saratoga helped to solidify French interests and helped the Americans with battles that followed by sending troops and goods. Thus was gained one of the most decisive and important victories in not only American history but in world history as well.

African-American Involvement
                Prior to the American Revolution, and until 1807, the English colonies were involved in the transatlantic slave trade. Slaves were transported from primarily West Africa on ships that would “tight pack” them in order to carry more slaves than the ships were made to hold, and bring them to mainland America and the Caribbean islands. Once in the Americas, their treatment varied depending on where the slaves lived; however, a common misconception is that slavery didn’t exist in New York State, or anywhere north of the Mason-Dixon Line, but slavery did exist in the northern states and the masters in the north could be just as harsh as the masters in the south. 

                Slaves were not taught to read or write, and during this era literacy was low among the white people as well, but the slaves were not oblivious to the revolutionary rhetoric of the era. The colonists would speak of freedom, of liberty, and of oppression. Upon hearing this rhetoric, upon hearing the colonists talk about The Rights of Man and other Lockean principles, those slaves would further talk amongst themselves. In November 1775, British Colonial Governor Lord Dunmore issued a proclamation stating that slaves who took up arms to fight for the British cause would gain their freedom. 

General George Washington didn’t want to use African-American slaves to fight the British, but if the enemy was using the tactic, then he was going to gain manpower and do the same thing. One African-American who took up arms against the British for the American cause was Patriot and member of the large Afro-American community here in Albany, NY Benjamin Lattimore. 

Benjamin Lattimore was born in Connecticut in 1761 and shortly after his birth his family moved to Ulster County, New York where they ran a ferry. In September 1776, at the age of 15, Lattimore joined the Continental Army and served in the New York Regiment for the remainder of the war. He served at the Battle of Manhattan as well as offensives against the Iroquois Indians. But most notably, he was captured by the British and made a house slave in NYC. Luckily later, he was captured by the Americans and freed so he could return to his unit. After the war, he settled in Poughkeepsie before moving to Albany in the 1790s. In 1799, he was baptized at the Albany Presbyterian Church. While in Albany he held an Albany City license to haul cargo and trash. Financially successful, he purchased a lot at #9 Plain Street and built a house. In 1804, he married Dina, who was the servant maid for Dr. Wilhelmus Mancius (1738-1808). He had at least three children; Benjamin Jr., William and Mary Lattimore Jackson. Despite being born a free man, Benjamin in 1820 was summonsed to court to defend himself against allegations that he was an escaped slave. The testimony given by himself and many of members of the Albany community provides incredible details on his life. In 1834, he applied for his Revolutionary War pension and received an annual allowance of $80 and back pay of $240. Lattimore is also a founder of the Israel African Methodist Church here in Albany and also founded a school for colored children. 

However, Lattimore’s life isn’t typical of African-Americans who participated in the War. Some never gained their freedom as they were promised; and those who served with the British were freed but sent to places like Nova Scotia or even to places in Africa. Many more ran away to Spanish Florida where they lived in maroon societies.

Women’s Involvement
                When learning or reading about the American Revolution, one often times recalls the great men who were involved...George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, Alexander Hamilton, John Hancock, Daniel Morgan, Paul Revere, Samuel Adams, John Adams, even John Burgoyne and Benedict Arnold. But very rarely do we hear about the women who were involved in the war as well. Not only were they making the uniforms for the Continental (Patriot) Army, they were also leading political talks, hauling pitchers of water, feeding the troops, firing cannons, and some even cross-dressed and disguised themselves as men so they could bear arms and fight in the war (or just fought in the war and didn't bother cross-dressing). There was even a female version of Paul Revere. Why, then, do we rarely hear about all that the women have done? Certainly there were great women and not just great men. There's an old adage that "Behind every great man there has to be a great woman" but, sometimes, BESIDE every great man there was a great woman. This segment is about those great women.

Sybil Ludington was one of the youngest women involved in the American Revolution and was dubbed the title of the female Paul Revere. Sybil Ludington was the daughter of Colonel Henry Ludington, who was the commander of the 7th Regiment of the Dutchess County Militia in New York. On April 26, 1777, and at only 16-years-old, Sybil took her famous midnight ride around her home of Carmel, New York to warn the militia of the approaching British troops. She rode 40 miles, which is more than twice the distance Paul Revere rode to warn the Massachusetts Militia that the British were coming to the storehouses at Lexington in 1775. When Sybil arrived back to her house at dawn, the 400 militiamen were ready to march. Although they were too late to save Danbury, Connecticut and lost the Battle of Ridgefield, she was recognized by neighbors, friends, and even General George Washington and is still remembered today as one of the great Patriot heroines, there is even a statue in her hometown depicting her famous ride.

Sybil Ludington statue

Mary Ludwig Hayes, also known as "Molly Pitcher", was one such heroine of the American Revolution. At the Battle of Monmouth (June 28, 1778), Molly was running through the battlefield dodging musket balls to bring fresh water to the solders so they wouldn't be overheated and pass out because of the muggy June New Jersey weather. Her husband operated one of the cannons and he was shot and fell. "Molly" ran to his side, but seeing that there was little she could do, she took his place at the cannon and fired into the oncoming British line.

Deborah Sampson was another heroine of the American Revolution. She was one such woman who disguised herself as a man in order to fight in the Continental Army. Under the guise of "Robert Shurtlieff Samson", taking the name of her deceased brother. She served 17 months in the army, was wounded in 1782, and was honorably discharged at West Point in 1783. She served in the 4th m=Massachusetts Regiment in the Light Infantry Company under the command of Captain George Webb. Deborah fought in several skirmishes, however, during her first battle outside of Tarrytown, New York on July 3, 1782, she was injured--she had a cut on her forehead and took two musket balls to one of her thighs. She urged her fellow infantrymen to continue without her and let her die, not wanting her guise to be discovered, but one of the men refused and put her on his horse and rode six miles to the nearest hospital with her. She let the doctors treat the head wound but left before they could remove the musket balls. She used a penknife and sewing needle to remove one of the musket balls, but because she couldn't reach the other one, her leg never fully healed. After that battle, she was promoted and spent several months under the leadership of General John Patterson. After a peace treaty was signed, everyone thought the war was over but that was not true. General George Washington was ordered to send a fleet of ships and men to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. During the summer of 1783, Deborah came down with malignant fever and was cared for by a doctor, Barnabas Binney. He removed her clothes to treat her and discovered the band she used to bind her breasts and, thus, discovered her secret. He did not betray her secret; he took her to his house, where his wife and daughters further treated her. After Sampson recovered she returned to the army, but it wasn't for long. In September 1783, peace was assured through the signing of the Treaty of Peace of Paris. November 3rd was the date for the soldiers to be sent home. When Dr. Binney asked her to deliver a note to General John Patterson, she thought that her secret was out. However, General Patterson never uttered a word; instead, she received an honorable discharge from the service, a note with some words of advice, and a sum of money sufficient to bear her expenses home. Thus, on October 25, 1783, General Henry Knox honorably discharged Deborah Sampson from the Army at West Point, after a year and a half of service.

Men weren't the only ones who did great things during the War for Independence. There were great women as well, and this segment only highlights a few of them. Like what I've previously stated, sometimes BESIDE every great man is a great woman.

The American Revolution is the most important war in our nation’s history. This is the war which gave birth to our great nation. After many incidents arising from the enforcement of both old and new taxes after the French and Indian War, which I will discuss briefly, the first shots of the American Revolution were fired on April 19, 1775 in the small towns of Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts. Little did the colonists know that those shots would change the course of history forever. Like a phoenix rises from the ashes, the United States rose out of the shadows of tyranny to become a major world power.

For a timeline of the American Revolution, you can visit:

After the French and Indian War

After the French and Indian War, Britain had around 10,000 troops to North America to protect its colonists from attacks by the Native Americans. The British had spent millions of pounds to fund the war and by the end, they were in debt 140,000 pounds, an enormous amount of money in that era.

After the war, the British issued a series of proclamations and taxes to the people living in areas they controlled to try to cover the war debt. In 1763, the Proclamation of 1763, a treaty which tried to protect the Native Americans from further encroachment by the settlers, was issued. The proclamation established a western boundary for colonial settlement along the Appalachian Mountains; to the west of the mountains, the land was reserved for the Natives. The colonists responded to the proclamation with a combination of anger and disdain. They were angry with the government for interfering and trying to limit their economic growth. They also felt as though there was very little the government could do to enforce the proclamation because they believed there was no way Britain could stop the natural movement of the colonists westward. 

The second British action was to issue a series of taxes. In 1764, the British passed the Revenue Act, also known as the Sugar Act, which actually lowered the tax on molasses, a key import of the colonies, probably in hopes that the colonies would import more molasses and thus spend more money which would benefit the Mother Country and its holdings. However, the this new act provided strong methods on enforcing the tariff on molasses, as well as placing a tax on the importation of other items such as silks, wine, and potash. Other taxes include the Stamp Act, which was a tax on all paper products and a stamp would be placed on the product to show you paid the tax; the Townshend Acts, which were a series of taxes to raise revenue for the Crown, including the infamous tea tax; and later, the Intolerable Acts, which were a series of acts enacted upon the colonists in response to the Boston Tea Party—including the Boston Port Act, which closed down the Port of Boston; the Massachusetts Government Act, which altered the government of Massachusetts to bring it under control of the British government, and all governing colonial positions were appointed by the governor or the King; the Administration of Justice Act, which allowed the governor to move trials of accused royal officials to another colony or even to Britain if he believed the official could not get a fair trial in Massachusetts; and the Quartering Act, which sought to create a more effective way of housing British troops in North America by providing them housing.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The French and Indian War

The French and Indian War was the name of the North American Theater of the Seven Years War, which took place from 1754 to 1763. In 1748, British legislators and elites in the Virginia territory vied for land speculation and settlement of the Ohio River Valley. The French liked the climate and began building forts in the area, such as Fort Duquesne and Fort Frontenac. However, the Native Americans had the Ohio River Valley by right of conquest, and so tensions between the French, British, and Native Americans competing for land and trading claims in the Ohio River Valley grew between 1752 and 1753 as each group wanted control of the land. Minor skirmishes, mostly occurring in rural areas, ensued.  
From November to December of 1753, a 21-year-old George Washington surveyed the land in the Ohio River Valley and carried Virginia’s ultimatum over French encroachment to Captain Legardeur de Saint-Pierre at Riviere aux Boefs, where the ultimatum is rejected.

After a series of battles in what is now Pennsylvania and Nova Scotia, the French and British forces, along with their Native American allies, found themselves in the Adirondack Mountain region of New York where they encountered one another in battles in Lake George, Oswego, and Niagara.
At the risk of sounding bias, I will be highlighting the Battle of Lake George, the Battle and Massacre at Fort William Henry, and the Battle of Fort Carillon as I grew up in that region of the Adirondacks and consider those battles to be part of my local history.
Picture: Fort William Henry Museum in Lake George, NY
The Battle of Lake George
                 With the outbreak of the French and Indian War, the governors of the British colonies in North America convened in April 1755 to discuss strategies for defeating the French. Meeting in Virginia, they decided to launch three campaigns that year against the enemy. In the north, the British effort would be led by Sir William Johnson who was ordered to move north through Lakes George and Champlain. Departing Fort Lyman (renamed Fort Edward in 1756) with 1,500 men and 200 Mohawks in August 1755, Johnson moved north and reached Lac du Saint Sacrament on the 28th.
Renaming the lake after King George II, Johnson pushed on with the goal of capturing Fort St. Frederic. Located on Crown Point, the fort controlled part of Lake Champlain. To the north, the French commander, Jean Erdman Baron Dieskau, learned of Johnson's intentions and assembled a force of 2,800 and 700 allied Indians. Moving south to Carillon (later called Fort Ticonderoga), Dieskau made camp and planned an attack on Johnson's supply lines and Fort Lyman. Leaving half of his men at Carillon as a blocking force, Dieskau moved down Lake Champlain to South Bay and marched within four miles of Fort Lyman.
Scouting the fort on September 7th, Dieskau found it heavily defended and elected not to attack. As a result, he began moving back towards South Bay. Fourteen miles to the north, Johnson received word from his scouts that the French were operating in his rear. Halting his advance, Johnson began fortifying his camp and dispatched 800 Massachusetts and New Hampshire militia, under Colonel Ephram Williams, and 200 Mohawks under King Hendrick, south to reinforce Fort Lyman. Departing at 9am on September 8th, they moved down the Lake George-Fort Lyman road.
While moving his men back towards South Bay, Dieskau was alerted to Williams' movement. Seeing an opportunity, he reversed his march and set an ambush along the road about three miles south of Lake George. Placing his grenadiers across the road, he aligned his militia and Indians in cover along the sides of the road. Unaware of the danger, Williams' men marched directly into the French trap. In an action later referred to as the "Bloody Morning Scout", the French caught the British by surprise and inflicted heavy casualties.
Among those killed were King Hendrick and Colonel Williams, who was shot in the head. With Williams dead, Colonel Nathan Whiting assumed the command. Trapped in a crossfire, the majority of the British began fleeing back towards Johnson's camp. Their retreat was covered by around 100 men led by Whiting and Lieutenant Colonel Seth Pomeroy. Fighting a determined rearguard action, Whiting was able to inflict substantial casualties on their pursuers, including killing the leader of the French Indians, Jacques Legardeur de Saint-Pierre. Pleased with his victory, Dieskau followed the fleeing British back to their camp.
Arriving, he found Johnson's command fortified behind a barrier of trees, wagons, and boats. Immediately ordering an attack, he found that his Indians refused to go forward. Shaken by the loss of Saint-Pierre, they did not wish to assault a fortified position. In an effort to shame his allies into attacking, Dieskau formed his 222 grenadiers into an attack column and personally led them forward around noon. Charging into heavy musket fire and grape shot from Johnson's three cannons, Dieskau's attack bogged down. In the fighting, Johnson was shot in the leg and command dissolved to Colonel Phineas Lyman.
By late afternoon, the French broke off the attack after Dieska was badly wounded. Storming the barricade, the British drove the French from the field, capturing the wounded French commander. To the south, Colonel Joseph Blanchard, commanding Fort Lyman, saw the smoke from the battle and dispatched 120 men under Captain Nathaniel Folsom to investigate. Moving north, they encountered the French baggage train approximately two miles south of Lake George. Taking a position in the trees, they were able to ambush around 300 French soldiers near Bloody Pond and succeeded in driving them from the area. After recovering his wounded and taking several prisoners, Folsom returned to Fort Lyman. A second force was sent out the next day to recover the French baggage train. Lacking supplies and with their leaders gone, the French retreated north. The Battle of Lake George effectively secured the Hudson Valley for the British.
The Battle and Massacre at Fort William Henry
In the 1750s, the European imperial powers in North America, France and Britain, faced one another as rivals in the greater Lake Champlain region, an area of economic and strategic value to both powers. Fort Carillon (also known as Fort Ticonderoga) located between Lakes Champlain and George was the southernmost outpost of New France. The closest British position was Fort Edward on the banks of the upper Hudson River to the southeast.
The British gradually increased their presence in the Lake George area and by 1757 had completed a road through the dense forest from Fort Edward. In late summer of that year, a French army unsuccessfully attacked British forces under William Johnson on the south shore of the lake. The victors solidified their position by constructing the wood-walled Fort William Henry, which was designed to serve as a base of operations for future campaigns against French positions to the north.
During 1756, both sides increased their troop strength on the lakes and conducted small raids against each other. In the following year, the French commander at Fort Carillon, the Marquis de Montcalm, decided to end the stalemate and moved against Fort William Henry. His army numbered more than 7,000--French regulars, Canadian militia, and Native American warriors from several dozen tribes. The French had stirred Indian interest by promises of great plunder to be gained in the conquest.
British General Daniel Webb had visited Fort William Henry but withdrew to the safer confines of Fort Edward after receiving reports of the advent of the large French army. Lieutenant Colonel George Munro was left at Fort William Henry in charge of 2,000 soldiers. The modest installation could only hold 500 persons, which forced the remaining men to dig trenches outside the walls.
Montcalm arrived in the area in August 1757 and commenced a protracted artillery attack; as the days passed, the French slowly tightened their lines around the fort. Nevertheless, Montcalm's looming victory was threatened by shortages of ammunition and supplies. Before the General could order a retreat, the French intercepted a message sent by Webb in which he expressed his inability to bring reinforcements and urged Munro to surrender. The note was quickly passed on to its intended recipient under a flag of truce and the British, lacking any other alternative, negotiated terms of surrender. The French agreed to allow their foes to leave for Fort Edward in possession of their side arms and a token cannon. The fort formally changed hands on August 9th. The departing British forces camped outside and anticipated getting an early start the following day.
The gentlemanly operation cooperation between the British and the French was shattered by the Indians, who felt as though they were cheated out of the spoils of war. Although reports of the following events differ widely, authorities agree that the natives attacked soldiers and civilians in the British party. There is also general agreement that Montcalm and other French officers acted honorably and risked their lives by trying to stop the slaughter.
What has been open for debate, however, was the extent of the killing. Some reported that as many as 1,500 men, women, and children were shot, scalped, and bludgeoned to death. More recent accounts describe the extent of the killing between 70 and 180 men, women, and children. After the Indians had killed those who had resided at Fort William Henry, they threw their bodies into what is now known as Bloody Pond.
After the massacre was quelled, French soldiers accompanied the British survivors to Fort Edward and then returned to Lake George to burn down Fort William Henry so it could not be utilized as a military hold again.
The Battle of Fort Carillon
                Fort Carillon, later renamed Fort Ticonderoga (which in Iroquois means “Land between two waters”), was built by Michel Chartier de Lotbiniere. The governor of Canada, Marquis de Vaudreuil, ordered the fort to be built after the French defeat at the Battle of Lake George in September 1755 to protect the French routes to Canada. When the fort was completed in 1758, it was surveyed by the principal French field commander Louis-Joseph le Marquis de Montcalm.
                Assessing the fortifications with his engineers, Montcalm criticized Carillon’s size, the quality of its construction, as well as the height of its buildings.
Having launched his successful campaign against Fort William Henry from Fort Carillon in 1757, Montcalm prompted the British to plan an attack on the new fort the following year. Moving up Lake George , 16,000 British troops led by Major General James Abercrombie (not to be confused with the Abercrombie from Abercrombie and Fitch) arrived near the fort on July 6th. Having been alerted to the British approach, Montcalm’s 3,600 men quickly worked to expand the fort’s defenses.
By adding lines of entrenchments and abatis, Montcalm’s men were able to repel Abercrombie’s frontal assaults on July 8th. Attacking these lines, Abercrombie sought to overwhelm the defenders and did not order his artillery into the fight. In the battle that ensued, the British were repulsed with almost 2,000 casualties. The fighting occurred away from the fort itself and its guns played only a minimal role. After further expanding the fort’s defenses, Montcalm withdrew the bulk of the garrison as winter approached.
The following spring, Montcalm, who faced a severe manpower shortage, elected not to reinforce the fort. Instead, he issued instructions to the garrison’s commander, Brigadier General Francois-Charles de Bourlamaque, to destroy the fort and retreat in the face of a British attack. In July, the new British commander, Major General Jeffery Amherst, advanced on the fort with 11,000 men. Sending away all but 400 of his men, Bourlamaque withdrew to the fort. Occupying the outer defenses, Amherst captured the fort after a brief fight. The French attempted to destroy the fort as Montcalm commanded before leaving but they only damaged the magazine.
Taking possession on June 27th, 1759, the British renamed the fortification Fort Ticonderoga. While work commenced in 1759 and 1760 to improve and repair the fort, it saw no further combat during the war as the action moved toward Canada. Following the war’s end in 1763, the garrison was severely reduced and the fort began to fall into despair. With the outbreak of the American Revolution, however, the fort remained a quiet backwater with a garrison of only 48 men.


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