Saturday, July 28, 2012

Intern's Corner: July in the Revolution

Lord Dunmore and the Battle of Gwynn's Island
By Mark Relation, DLAR Intern

          When Independence was declared, the old British royal governors were expelled from office and replaced with new governments, but this does not mean that they happily accepted their fate.  John Murray, Lord Dunmore, the last royal governor of Virginia, fled his capitol in Williamsburg in 1775 only to raise a small army of soldiers, sailors, Loyalists and slaves in an attempt to regain the control of the colony.  Proclaiming martial law throughout Virginia, Dunmore seized Norfolk harbor and proceeded to raid and destroy Patriots along the Elizabeth and James Rivers with a Royal Navy Warship.  These raids only strengthened Patriot resolve and most of lower Virginia took up arms against their former governor. 

          In response, Dunmore moved his command to Gwynn’s Island in the Chesapeake Bay near the mouth of the Piankatank River in May 1776.  Concerned that the British forces on the island would tie up troops that were desperately needed in other campaigns, Virginia, under pressure from Washington and the Continental Congress, dispatched Colonels William Daingerfield and Hugh Mercer to eliminate the British forces on the island.  Progress was slow in this endeavor, as the British had the advantage of the water barrier for their defense and the Patriots lacked sufficient cannon to assault the island.  Dunmore’s troops were also unable to move against the massing Patriot forces as they were plagued by rampant sickness that either killed severely weakened most of his men. 

          By July 8th, however, the stalemate was broken when General Andrew Lewis arrived with reinforcements and 14 artillery pieces, giving the Patriots a significant advantage in firepower and men.  When the British ships were moving about in the harbor on the morning of July 9th, Lewis began an artillery barrage, silencing the British guns, severely damaging the British ships, and even wounding Dunmore himself.  With his artillery completely outclassed and his men weakened by the rampant disease, Dunmore decided to evacuate, leaving only 30 escaped slave soldiers deemed too ill to move as the rest of the troops sailed for the British stronghold at New York. 

          The next day, under cover of heavy artillery support, the Patriot forces moved on Gwynn’s Island, not realizing that Dunmore had already left.  Expecting resistance, the Patriots were shocked at the scene of death and destruction that they found.  The British garrison had been hit so hard by smallpox that even the graves that covered the landscape were insufficient to house the bodies that lay among the remains of the British outpost.  The barracks had been destroyed by a fire, and the living that remained were hardly in better condition than the dead.  Bodies of all stages of decay, both dead and dying, lay in a scene of “misery, distress, and cruelty.” 

          After the capture of Gwynn’s Island, Dunmore posed no real threat to Virginia, his hopes of reconquest dead with the majority of his men.  He later dismissed most of his remaining forces and returned to Great Britain to reclaim his seat in the House of Lords in British Parliament.  In 1781 he was sent to raise a force of Loyalists in America to attempt an invasion of Virginia, but by the time he arrived, Cornwallis had already surrendered at Yorktown and the project was abandoned.  Dunmore was later appointed governor of the Bahamas in 1786, but irregularities in his financial accounts and a scandal involving the secret marriage of his daughter to a young son of George III led to his dismissal in 1796 and he died in retirement 13 years later. 

Blanco, Richard L., and Paul J. Sanborn. The American Revolution: 1775-1783 : An Encyclopedia. New York: Garland, 1993. Print. p. 714-716, 1132-1135.

Reynolds, Joshua, Sir.  Portrait of John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore.  1765.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Intern's Corner: July in the Revolution

The Battle of Grenada and the Comte d'Estaing
By Mark Relation, DLAR Intern

          While the majority of popular focus tends to emphasize the battles fought in the northern colonies such as Trenton and Saratoga, the American Revolution was also fought in other theaters.  Once the French joined the war, it became a more global conflict as they began to send reinforcements to the Revolutionaries and to challenge British naval dominance.  Setting sail in April 1778, the Comte d’Estaing sat at the head of a significant fleet and expeditionary force sent to come to the aide of the beleaguered Americans.  After a few defeats and setbacks in the north, most notably a failed attack on New York and another failed move against the British in Newport, RI, d’Estaing repaired his fleet in Boston for some time before setting out to the Caribbean.  This move was so that d’Estaing could recuperate his forces at the French island of Martinique and capture British posts at Grenada and St. Vincent while reinforcements from France were being gathered.  Moving with a force of 25 ships and 5,500 troops, d’Estaing easily captured the two islands, along with 30 merchant ships that were docked in the Grenada harbor, but holding on to these prizes was another matter. 

          British Vice Admiral John Byron with 21 ships quickly mobilized against the French fleet.  Due to changing wind conditions, faulty intelligence, and the general difficulty of communication at sea, the ensuing battle progressed with much confusion on both sides.  Thinking that half the French fleet was at Port Royale rather than at Grenada, Byron believed he had a numerical advantage, and ordered his ships on in a general chase of the perceived disorderly French fleet, which quickly disrupted the British battle formation as each ship eagerly pressed forward as fast as it could.  The French were in a much better position than Byron had presumed.  With their entire fleet present and in good order, they managed to form a proper battle line and were able to inflict significant damage to a number of British vessels as they attempted to form up.  Byron was unable to get his forces fighting properly, as his change in orders in response to learning the French full numbers only served to further disorder his fleet. 

          Once the smoke settled, the fighting proved somewhat indecisive.  The French had suffered more casualties, 190 killed and 759 wounded to the British 183 killed and 346 wounded, but the French had managed to defend their captured position at Grenada.  In the fighting, the British had also suffered heavy damage to a number of their ships’ riggings, so that for a time after, the British fleet was only able to form a defensive line due to a loss of tactical mobility.  D’Estaing had achieved a tactical victory but did not press his advantage and pursue any more action against the British.  Instead, he moved the French fleet off to Georgia for his ill-fated Savannah Campaign.  The loss of productive sugar plantations in the West Indies caused wealthy British merchants to pressure Parliament, and of the next shipment of 7,000 reinforcements, 3,000 were sent to Jamaica to continue the fighting in the West Indies. 

          D’Estaing himself would be largely forgotten in popular memory of the Revolution, as his attempt on Savannah would end in a clear defeat due to his own overconfidence.  His contribution to the cause, however, was much more than a string of French failures as he played a significant role in persuading the French government to send the forces that would later fight at Yorktown, the battle that ensured American success.  His contribution did not go unnoticed, however, as he was given citizenship and a grant of 20,000 acres of land from the State of Georgia.  He was executed during the French Revolution on April 29th, 1794.  The land did acquire a bit of fame when legends grew that d’Estaing used the land to base the operations of a group of bandits, the first case of organized crime in the south.  Regardless of whether or not the land was actually the base of the first southern crime syndicate, d’Estaing deserves to be remembered as a key contributor to the success of the American Revolution. 

Blanco, Richard L., and Paul J. Sanborn. The American Revolution: 1775-1783 : An Encyclopedia. New York: Garland, 1993. Print. p. 514-515, 697-699.

Hue, Jean-Francois, Naval Combat off the Isle of Grenada, 6th July 1779.  1788

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Intern's Corner: July in the Revolution

The Articles of Confederation
By Mark Relation, DLAR Intern

          Ending the de facto governance of the Continental Congress, the Articles of Confederation, first presented to Congress on July 12th, 1776 formally created the United States as a political entity.  However, the political battles concerning the first national government were nearly as fierce as the military engagements with the British, and the Articles were not ratified and put into effect until March 1st, 1781. 

          One of the greatest issues facing the new central government was how much power it was to be given.  We may take the existence of a strong central government for granted today, but many of the delegates to the Continental Congress foresaw the federal government as only a temporary measure to conduct war with the British, to be dissolved after the war and leaving all power with states which would in all respects would be independent nations.  America had just declared Revolution against a strong central legislature and executive in the parliament and king, and there was genuine fear that the British tyrants would be replaced with American tyrants if the central government was given too much power.  This was also before the establishment of a sense of greater American national unity, as people’s loyalty was to their home states and seldom extended any farther. 

          Another contentious issue was that of the territorial claims of frontier states of land west of the Alleghenies.  While this was not directly related to the question of national governance, the ability to delay the ratification of the Articles of Confederation due to the required approval of all 13 states allowed Maryland to pressure Virginia, North Carolina, and other such states to cede their claims of yet unsettled frontier land.  Once these claims were abandoned and the political balance between large and small states was restored, Maryland ended its three year deadlock and approved the Articles on February 27th, 1781, and the Confederation assumed authority shortly after.  

          However, this authority was extremely limited due to the nature of the Articles.  While the central government was given a wide range of responsibilities, it was given very few means to carry them out, which so handicapped its power that the most talented statesmen of the time nearly always chose to remain in their state governments rather than serve in the Confederation.  The Confederation was given exclusive power over foreign relations and the conduct of war, but had no means of raising troops to fight war once it was declared.  It could pass laws, but these were in practice just suggestions to the states as the Confederation had no authority to compel states to follow them.  Perhaps most cripplingly, the Confederation could only raise money by requesting it from the states which by and large did not oblige and left the Confederation with very little ability to act as a government at all.  Most interestingly, the Articles of Confederation did not establish the separation of powers that would become so synonymous with American government later on.  The Confederation’s powers, limited though they were, all lay in the hands of the Congress, a president merely presided and no real judiciary was established. 

          While it is easy to criticize the failings of the Confederation government, it is more appropriate to view it as a product of the times.  America was engaged in a war against what it saw as the oppression of centralized authority, a war which was very nearly lost.  The establishment of the Constitution only came some time after the war, when the economy and population were on the rise in the wake of a great American triumph and highly favorable peace treaty with the British.  While the Articles of Confederation were far from perfect, it did serve its purpose of keeping the fragile political union of the 13 colonies alive during its most bitter struggle and paved the way for the establishment of American government as we know it.

Blanco, Richard L., and Paul J. Sanborn. The American Revolution: 1775-1783 : An Encyclopedia. New York: Garland, 1993. Print. p. 64-66.

Selesky, Harold E. Encyclopedia of the American Revolution. Detroit: Scribner, Thomson Gale, 2006. Print.  p. 37.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Intern's Corner: July in the Revolution

Wyoming Valley Massacre, July 3-4, 1778
By Mark Relation, DLAR Intern

          A 25 mile long stretch of the Susquehanna River below the mouth of the Lackawanna, the Wyoming Valley was home to much tension throughout the colonial period.  Claimed by Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and local Iroquois, debates sometimes turned bloody as the three groups vied for control of the area.  In the years leading up to the Revolution, both Connecticut and Pennsylvania settlers rallied for the most part behind the Patriot cause.  However, hopes of ending conflict in the Wyoming Valley were soon dashed when, starting in around 1774, a significant number of loyalist families began to arrive from the Hudson and Mohawk Valleys in western New York. 

          In response, the Patriot settlers began to move against the Loyalists, arresting many suspected Loyalists and sending them off to mines or prisons in Connecticut.  However, open fighting did not break out in the region until 1778, when British Colonel John Butler led a mixed force of roughly 1,000 Loyalists and Native Americans from Ft. Niagara to raid across New York and Pennsylvania and to provide support for local oppressed Loyalists, moving to occupy Wintermoot Fort in the Wyoming Valley.  In response, the Patriots mustered some 300 militia under off duty Colonel Zebulon Butler and gathered at Forty Fort (named for the 40 original pioneer families to settle the area). 

          Boldly deciding to take the offensive, Zebulon Butler moved from Forty Fort to attack John Butler’s troops in an attempt to draw them away from their homes and crops.  Feigning retreat, John Butler set fire to Wintermoot Fort and drew the Patriots into an open field as they rushed after the Loyalists in a disorganized mass, hoping to run down their fleeing foe.  Once the Patriots were in position, John Butler sprung his trap, enveloping the disordered Patriots and drove them back to the Susquehanna.  The Patriots fell for John Butler’s trap perfectly, and were completely destroyed.  Many attempted to flee across the river, but most were caught and cut down by pursuing Iroquois.  While exact casualty rates are difficult to gauge, John Butler reported killing 227 Patriots while losing just 3 men.  Whatever the exact figures may be, what is clear is that it was a complete victory for the Loyalists, with only 60 Patriot militiamen surviving as a fighting force in the area. 

          Following the battle, the Loyalists were able to raid and plunder the area unimpeded, destroying 8 forts and 1,000 houses, and capturing 1,000 cattle and a number of sheep and pigs.  The Wyoming Valley settlers also agreed to demolish their forts, restore the property of Loyalists, end their persecutions, and never to take up arms again for the remainder of the War.  While the Loyalists celebrated this as a great victory, the Patriots quickly spread the news of the “massacre” done at their hands.  John Butler reported that “not a single person was hurt, except such as were in arms,” but the Patriots exaggerated the story until reports suggested no survivors in the whole valley as a result of the Loyalist rampage. 

          On July 8th, John Butler withdrew from the area, and a Patriot relief force from Connecticut arrived in early August and began a series of revenge campaigns against Native American villages.  These raids, while unsuccessful in capturing those Natives responsible for the “massacre,” did manage to recover some of the loot and animals taken, and the Valley remained in Patriot hands for the remainder of the War.

Blanco, Richard L., and Paul J. Sanborn. The American Revolution: 1775-1783 : An Encyclopedia. New York: Garland, 1993. Print. p. 1801-1803.

Selesky, Harold E. Encyclopedia of the American Revolution. Detroit: Scribner, Thomson Gale, 2006. Print.  p. 1286-1288.

Chappel, Alonzo.  Wyoming Valley Massacre.  1858.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Intern's Corner: July in the Revolution

The Battle of Hubbardton
By Mark Relation, DLAR Intern

          Often cited as the bloodiest battle of the Revolution, The Battle of Hubbardton, Vermont, on July 7, 1777 was a bitter struggle between the British Advance Corps and the American rear guards and reserves as the Americans attempted to retreat from Fort Ticonderoga.  Nearly a month previously, General Arthur Sinclair arrived at Ticonderoga to take command of the fort, but abandoned the defenses in the face of the over 10,000 man strong British invasion force under command of General Burgoyne.  As the Americans withdrew, Sinclair left behind Colonel Seth Warner with three regiments, around 1,000 men, to collect the rear guard and various other stragglers who had fallen behind the army. 

          Sensing an opportunity for a surprise attack, Brigadier General Fraser and Major General von Riedesel marched with around 900 men to attack the exposed American rear guard.  After marching some 14 miles, Fraser received intelligence from Native American Allies of the close American position, and he boldly moved to attack the numerically superior American force without support from von Riedesel, hitting their camp at 5 AM.  The Americans were taken completely by surprise, and the 2nd New Hampshire Regiment broke and fled in the face of the British assault.  However, the British soon began to lose their advantage.  The uneven wooded terrain allowed the Americans to stage a controlled retreat from one naturally defensible position to another, slowing British momentum and allowing the Americans to form up and bring their superior numbers to bear. 

          The battle began to swing in favor of the Americans, who threatened to overwhelm the British left and envelop the entire British force.  Fraser was only saved by the timely arrival of von Riedesel with 120 of his most elite jaegers and grenadiers.  While this was a small relief force compared to the nearly 2,000 men already engaged, the Germans made enough noise by blowing horns and singing psalms that they managed to hide their numbers and tipped the balance back in favor of the British.  Fire from the newly arrived German reinforcements cut down Colonel Ebenezer Francis, commander of the 11th Massachusetts.  The arrival of fresh troops and the loss of their commander routed the Massachusetts men, and Warner was forced to retreat, his last orders to his men to “scatter and meet me in Manchester.” 

          During the battle, the Americans lost 30 killed, 96 wounded, and 228 captured.  The British faced even greater casualties, and many were suffered by the elite light infantry which would be extremely difficult to replace during the war.  Ultimately, the battle was a hollow victory for the British, as they failed to gain any advantage from it.  The surprisingly heavy resistance of the American forces convinced the British that the Americans were much stronger than they had thought, and indeed, much stronger than they actually were at the time.  While Burgoyne was content to not to pursue his victory, the Americans were spread thin and largely disorganized, greatly fearing the disastrous potential of a British attack. However, the British inaction allowed for General John Nixon to arrive with 6,700 fresh American reinforcements, setting the stage for the American triumph at Saratoga.

Blanco, Richard L., and Paul J. Sanborn. The American Revolution: 1775-1783 : An Encyclopedia. New York: Garland, 1993. Print. p.570-571, 789-792.

The Battle of Hubbardton, as taken from

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Intern's Corner: July in the Revolution

The Marquis De Lafayette, Commissioned July 31, 1777
My Mark Relation, DLAR Intern

          Marie-Joseph-Paul-Yves-Roch-Gilbert du Mortier, the Marquis de Lafayette, was born on September 6th, 1757 in his family home near Le Puy, France.  He was raised primarily by his grandparents and two aunts in Auvergne in the countryside as both his parents passed away early in his life.  His father died at the Battle of Minden during the Seven Years War under two years after his birth, and Lafayette’s mother passed away some time later.  Lafayette began formal studies in Paris at the age of eleven, and married Marie Adrienne Francoise de Noailles in April 1774, solidifying his position as a member of the young French aristocracy. 

          Lafayette was a military man, joining the Black Musketeers, an elite unit of royal troops, and began creating important contacts in French high society.  In 1775 Lafayette joined a Masonic lodge and began to take interest in the American cause, which would shape the rest of his life.  Emboldened by popular French support of the American Revolution, Lafayette crossed the Atlantic aboard the La Victoire and presented himself to the American Congress, offering his services as a volunteer to their military.  July 31st, 1777, Lafayette was commissioned as a Major General, but at 19 years old, Congress sent him to Washington’s staff rather than trust such a young officer with an independent command. 

          During the war, Lafayette served with distinction, commanding troops at Brandywine, Valley Forge, Barren Hill, Monmouth, and Yorktown, not counting numerous other small engagements and skirmishes.  Aside from his field command, Lafayette was an important figure in negotiating the alliance between the Americans and the French, and helped pressure the French crown into committing an army and naval forces to the American cause.  His greatest success was at the battle of Yorktown, where troops under his own independent command worked in tandem with French officers and ships culminating in the victory that decisively ended British hopes to win back control of America.  For his service, Lafayette became immensely popular, both in his adopted country of America and at his native home of France, even called the “hero of two worlds.” 

          However, Lafayette’s liberal views and political inclinations served to dampen his prominence in the years following the American Revolution in France.  Amid the turmoil of the French Revolution, Lafayette ended up supporting the constitutional monarchy and he eventually was imprisoned by the Austrians until the rise of Napoleon, when he and the American government were able to pressure the Austrians into letting Lafayette return to his native France.  His political views once again set him against the French public opinion, as he became a vocal critic of Napoleon’s regime and those that replaced it until his death in Paris in May 1834.  He may have been naively optimistic, overly confident in his own ability, and constantly at odds with the powers that be, but Lafayette is remembered as one of America’s most beloved supporters of the Revolution.  Throughout his life, he was intensely committed to liberty and vehemently fought oppression wherever he saw it, earning his place as a major player in French politics, and as one who helped create our great nation.

Blanco, Richard L., and Paul J. Sanborn. The American Revolution: 1775-1783 : An Encyclopedia. New York: Garland, 1993. Print. p.896-902.
Selesky, Harold E. Encyclopedia of the American Revolution. Detroit: Scribner, Thomson Gale, 2006. Print. p. 597-600.

Joseph-Desire.  Court Portrait of Gilbert Mortier the Marquis De La Fayette as a Lieutenant General.  1791.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Intern's Corner: July in the Revolution

The Assault on Stony Point, NY, July 16, 1779
By Mark Relation, DLAR Intern

          The campaigning season of 1779 opened with a decisive move from the British in late May.  General Henry Clinton amassed some 6,000 men and began to capture American forts on the Hudson River including Stony Point, which threatened the critical American position of West Point 12 miles north of the British positions.  Clinton was maneuvering his forces into the Hudson Highlands to lure Washington’s force away from its defensible position in the New Jersey hills to more open ground, where the British would have the advantage.  This would also open up Washington’s supply bases of Trenton NJ and Easton PA to an attack from a body of British reinforcements expected to arrive soon from England.  Washington did move his forces into the Hudson Highlands, but occupied a strong defensive line against the British based around West Point, refusing to play to the British hand by meeting them on open ground. 

          The British strategy faced another setback when the reinforcements did not arrive on time.  They would eventually turn up in New York City in August, but would be too late to assist Clinton in any meaningful way during this campaign.  However, the British were not entirely losing the campaign.  They had taken Stony Point and Ft. Lafayette, securing King’s ferry and effectively closing off the Hudson River to American supply lines.  Without access to King’s Ferry, American supply convoys and messengers were forced to take detours of more than 30 miles to reach Washington’s men.  The Americans were losing morale, and Washington desperately needed a victory to boost spirits and ensure the continuation of the war effort. 

          Washington turned his eye upon Stony Point, whose British garrison was considered an “affront” to the Americans and would greatly help the American position and morale if taken.  Initially, the fort seemed too strong to take, as the British had been busily fortifying their position, and the fort was already naturally well defended by water on three sides and swamplands on the third.  The 625 British soldiers even dubbed the place “Little Gibraltar,” out of confidence that their position was unassailable.  After extensive reconnaissance on the fort and its defenses, the Americans began to spot weaknesses in the British fortifications, and a plan was made for an attack. 

          Washington tasked an elite unit of Light Infantry under General Anthony Wayne to launch a bayonet attack on the fort in the dead of night and capture the British garrison.  Receiving these orders, Wayne moved his 1,350 troops with the utmost care and discipline.  Soldiers placed pieces of white paper in their caps to distinguish friend from foe in the darkness, and soldiers were strictly ordered not to fire their muskets, call out, retreat, or disobey any order under penalty of death.  Once his men were in place, Wayne charged the British on the moonless night of July 16, sowing confusion and disarray in the British garrison.  The daring and courage of the American men, fueled by their battle cry, “the fort’s our own,” combined with the inability of the British to mount an effective resistance in the confusion of the night caused the fort to fall with very little bloodshed. 

          The Americans lost some 20 killed and 74 wounded to American losses of 15 killed and 83 wounded.  Along with the fort itself, the Americans captured $158,640 worth of military stores and ordinance, including 15 artillery pieces.  For his service in the battle, General Anthony Wayne was awarded a gold medal by Congress, and two of his subordinates were awarded silver medals.  This victory was a substantial boost to American morale and effectively ended the British campaign for the season in the north. 

Blanco, Richard L., and Paul J. Sanborn. The American Revolution: 1775-1783 : An Encyclopedia. New York: Garland, 1993. Print. p. 1590-1595.

The Battle of Stony Point, by J. H. Brightly.  1818

Friday, July 13, 2012

Intern's Corner: July in the Revolution

Capture of General Richard Prescott
By Mark Relation, DLAR Intern

          In December 1776, General Charles Lee, second in command of the American forces, was captured by a patrol of British Light Dragoons in Mrs. White’s Tavern in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, several miles from the rest of his forces.  At the time, many believed Lee to be the most capable commander in the American military and the best hope for independence, as he was actively opposing the British occupation of New Jersey after Washington had retreated his forces to Pennsylvania.  Washington was widely perceived by many leaders of the revolution as overly cautious and unwilling to actually fight the British while Lee was out raiding British outposts and defiantly battling for the control of the colony.  When news of his capture reached leading Americans, it was received as a terrible blow to the revolutionary movement, and plans were made to recover Lee from the British. 

          However, this posed a bit of a problem.  Lee was kept in much more secure accommodations in British New York than he had been in at Mrs. White’s tavern, so an armed rescue became implausible.  This left the Americans to try to negotiate for his release, but that required an exchange for a British prisoner of equal rank, which the Americans did not possess.  So on the 9th of July, 1777, a party of around 40 men under the command of Lt. Col. William Barton set out from Warwick Neck, Rhode Island, to obtain their bargaining chip.  General Richard Prescott, commander of the British forces in Rhode Island was their target, and a heavily guarded one at that.  He was situated on an island surrounded by 5,000 of his men and several frigates guarding the approaches. 

          Masking the sound of their oars by covering them with cloth, Lt. Col. Barton’s men rowed straight past the British frigates in 5 whaleboats, even passing so close as to hear the sentries calling “All’s well,” as they passed completely unnoticed.  They then landed on the beach and marched to the Overing House, where Prescott was quartered.  They quickly overwhelmed the sentries and captured Prescott and his aide-de-camp before they even had time to change clothes for the trip. 

          One of the sentries guarding Prescott managed to evade the Americans in the attack and made it out to raise the alarm, but as soon as patrols could be sent out after them, the Americans were long gone.  In spring 1778, negotiations finally succeeded in the exchange of the two prisoners, and General Lee returned to service in his post as second in command under Washington to later participate in the Battle of Monmouth.

Blanco, Richard L., and Paul J. Sanborn. The American Revolution: 1775-1783 : An Encyclopedia. New York: Garland, 1993. Print. p. 914-917, 1316-1317.

Arrest of General Richard Prescott, By Edmund Ollier

Friday, July 6, 2012

Intern's Corner: Independence Day

The Fourth of July
By Mark Relation, DLAR Intern

          Almost since that day in 1776 itself, the Fourth of July was recognized as one of the nation’s most important holidays.  As early as 1793, it was referred to as “America’s Birthday,” and was celebrated nationwide with martial displays, parades, public and private dinners, formal speeches by leading figures, and fireworks.  The “truly American Festival” served to connect people across the country to their common revolutionary past, and helped foster a larger sense of Americanism that helped keep the young nation together in its early years.  Without the long and storied tradition of the older nations of Europe, America desperately needed some unifying nationalistic sentiment to pull people together, and fight the sectionalism and regional conflict abundant in the early Republic.  In the first few generations following the Revolution, the celebration of the Fourth was a dignified affair, taken very seriously by participants. 

          One account from Oakham MA details the proceedings of the Fourth of July celebrations of 1797, where the whole town and many members of the surrounding communities gathered together to celebrate with the local veterans.  The proceedings opened with a prayer service and speech from the local priest, followed by a meal at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. The festivities culminated in a large procession of the veterans through town and much ceremony as each individual unit represented fired off its salute for those gathered.  A few years after 1797, one of the veterans preparing to fire off his musket accidentally left his ramrod in the barrel, propelling it across the park and into the roof of the village hotel some distance away. 

          However, by 1826, the 50 year anniversary, the Fourth was starting to lose some of its immediacy and function as a unifying force in American nationalism.  By that point, America was rapidly diversifying both culturally and geographically, with Manifest Destiny already in full swing.  As people moved west, cultures were created and redefined, and America as an idea began to take on new meaning, and the unifying force of the Fourth was not quite as prevalent.  But this is not to say that the Fourth lost its significance place in American ideology.  Over the next two centuries, America would face great challenges, and the language of the founders and the political and emotional force of the Fourth would be used to inspire and guide the American people through thick and thin, as it still does today.
Travers, Len. Celebrating the Fourth: Independence Day and the Rites of Nationalism in the Early Republic. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts, 1997. Print.  p. 3-11.
Wright, Henry P. Independence Day in 1797 in Oakham, Massechussetts. Oakham: Oakham Historical Society, 1911. Print.  p. 4-14.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Intern's Corner: Independence Day

History of the Declaration of Independence
By Mark Relation, DLAR Intern

          Despite the already established revolutionary sentiment in America following the numerous taxes and the fighting in Lexington and Concord, many Americans of the Continental Congress in 1776 were still reluctant to break from the British Empire.  Several were still proud of their status as British subjects, celebrated their British heritage, and felt strong loyalty to the King.  Another significant concern was what would replace the British should they be expelled from the colonies; many feared internal struggles and civil war or that they would replace the British with an even worse alternative. 

          In spite these reservations, revolutionary sentiment began to gain sway early in 1776 thanks to two important documents: the Prohibitory Act and Common Sense.  The first was a law passed in the British Parliament in December 1775 that prohibited trade with the colonies and marked colonial ships as enemies of Britain and to be treated as such.  This amounted to a declaration of war in spirit if not in name, and convinced many that they no longer had any allegiance or obligation to the crown.  The famous Common Sense, printed in January 1776, proved itself vital to the Revolutionary movement, getting the word out and transforming Revolution from the ravings of the radicals into a topic that people could openly support.  With up to 500,000 copies sold, Common Sense did much to create Revolutionary sentiment and solidify the ideals of the movement. 

          In the wake of these two documents, the Continental Congress began to pass legislation and create new state governments without British approval, effectively establishing themselves as a new, independent government.  However, many delegates to the Continental Congress were still reluctant to formally declare independence, believing peaceful solutions were still viable or disagreeing outright with separating from the British Empire.  When the issue came up in Congress, seven delegations were in support and six were opposed, so Congress appointed a committee to create a formal draft of the resolution, including Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston. 

          After numerous revisions and alterations, a final draft was formed, and it was passed with a 12-0 vote (New York abstained) on July 2nd, 1776, with a final alteration on July 4th.  The Declaration was signed by delegates at different times, with the majority signing on August 2nd, and signified the formal beginning to the seven year conflict that created America.

Blanco, Richard L., and Paul J. Sanborn. The American Revolution, 1775-1783: An Encyclopedia. New York: Garland Pub., 1993. Print. p. 446-449.

Hicks, Edward.  Declaration of Independence.  1845