Friday, August 24, 2012

Intern's Corner: Courts Martial

Trial of Evan Morgan
By Mark Relation, DLAR Intern

               This is my last week with the David Library, and so this will be my final post.  For my final entry, I have chosen to write about one of the other projects that I have been working on this summer: reading and indexing British courts martial from the mid 1700’s.  This is particularly interesting work, as many of the soldiers on trial get themselves into downright humorous situations that could rival any that appear on courtroom TV shows.  Below is a summary of the trial of Private Evan Morgan, one of my personal favorite cases that I read this summer.
               On October 13, 1748, a general court martial was held in Berwick to hear the case of Pvt. Morgan, accused of desertion and joining the enemy.  A few witnesses were called testifying that he had in fact left the unit and was not seen again by them until the trial.  Morgan then got the chance to give his version of events.
               In August, 1745, Morgan’s unit was travelling in a bilander (merchant ship with two masts), which had stopped for a time.  Several men, Morgan included, left the ship to go to a pub and have a few drinks before the ship moved on again.  However, the pub was very crowded and Morgan was unable to get himself a drink before the ship was preparing to leave.  His companions told him it was time to leave, but Morgan elected to stay and have his drink and spent the night at the pub instead of the crowed vessel.
              After a presumably eventful night (he only reported getting a half hour of sleep at the pub), Morgan awoke to find that the bilander had already moved on without him.  Morgan set out after his unit, but was apprehended by four Dutch-speaking men who took his hat and coat and took him back to their guard house.  They placed him before an officer who tried to recruit him for service in France.  Not wanting to enlist for foreign service, Morgan proceeded to talk and connive his way out and return to his home unit.
               Morgan was able to get the commanding officer drunk and then convinced the others that he had enlisted without actually doing so.  He joined a different unit, and marched with them to winter quarters, where he and four other men plotted to make their escape.  This did not go as planned, however, as when the group was escaping, they made it to a river only to remember that two of them could not swim, Morgan included.  Morgan was recaptured, and sent to prison on and off until his trial in 1748, three years after the fateful night at the pub.
               Morgan was found guilty of desertion and joining the enemy under the 10th Article of War and sentenced to receive 1,000 lashes (not uncommon for desertion charges).  When the case was later sent to the king for confirmation, Morgan was pardoned, and continued to serve with the British military.

WO71/39 p. 20-25

I hope you have enjoyed following the blog this summer.  For more information about every topic covered here and more, please feel free to come to the David Library of the American Revolution.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Intern's Corner: August in the Revolution

The Battle of Bennington August 16, 1777
By Mark Relation, DLAR Intern

               The campaigning season of 1777 looked especially bleak to the Americans.  General Burgoyne’s army had marched down from Canada and had come dangerously close to capturing the whole Lake Champlain-Hudson River waterway, which would have divided the colonies and dealt a crippling blow to the American cause.  Burgoyne had already won at Hubbardton and captured Ft. Ticonderoga, and the Patriots desperately needed a victory to both save the campaign and the whole Revolution. 
               However, the situation was not set entirely against the Americans.  The British were facing a serious problem of supply.  Though ostensibly supplied by their base in Canada, the slow trickle of provisions that reached Burgoyne was not sufficient to keep his army moving.  General Sir Guy Carleton, commander in Canada, was resentful of Burgoyne’s power and popularity and did not put forth every effort to support his rival.  The British supply problem was also exacerbated by the scorched earth policy of American General Philip Schuyler, who convinced the majority of the locals to flee with their crops and livestock, further starving the British forces.
               In order to secure food and draft animals for his army, Burgoyne dispatched Lt. Col. Friedrich Baum with 800 Brunswick, Canadians, Tories, and Indians into Vermont to raid the American supply base at Bennington.  Although this was intended to be a surprise move against unsuspecting and undefended farmers, all did not go according to plan.  Baum did not speak a word of English, and grossly underestimated his opposition.  Baum moved his troops slowly and stopped frequently to redress formations, giving the Americans the initiative and plenty of time to organize resistance.  Colonel John Stark, promoted to Brigadier General of Vermont Militia, and General Benjamin Lincoln gathered nearly 1,500 men together to oppose Baum’s men. 
               After some initial skirmishes with Stark’s men, Baum sent for reinforcements, but Burgoyne misunderstood the gravity of the local resistance and so sent only 640 men under Lt. Col. Heinrich Breymann on August 15th.   When the opposing armies came within sight of each other, Baum set up a defensive position on what later became known as Hessian Hill to wait for reinforcement.  A number of local patriots, mistaken for loyalists by Baum, were able to infiltrate the German camp and give detailed information on its defenses to Stark, and were later credited with hitting the Germans in the rear while Stark attacked from the front.  Based on this intelligence, Stark was able to easily surround the German position and set up his attack for 3 PM August 16, 1777.  After two hours of fighting, the Americans had won a decisive victory.  One by one, every single German position was captured or destroyed.  But this was not the end of the battle; around 5 PM, Lt. Col. Breymann arrived on the scene.
               Breymann arrived and began pushing the American line, attempting to hit their flanks with his light infantry.  However, the Americans were able to steadily retreat in order and delay the German advance until more American forces arrived on the scene.  Seeking revenge for their defeat at Hubbardton, Warner’s men arrived on the battlefield at precisely the right time and place to hit both of Breymann’s flanks and rout the German force. 
               All told, the day ended in a decisive victory for the Americans.  During the fighting, nearly 700 Germans were taken prisoner and 200 dead, compared to only 100 American casualties.  Stark was proclaimed an American hero and given full commission by Congress.  Burgoyne also lost most of his light infantry, and so would later have to fight Gates’ troops without good scouts, putting him at a serious disadvantage.  More immediately, the Battle of Bennington changed the progress of the campaign.  Previously, Burgoyne was supremely confident that his forces would reach Albany and link up with St. Leger, but the battle revised Burgoyne’s attitudes and priorities.  Survival became a goal, and the loss of supply made Burgoyne much more willing to gamble it all rather than retreat in the face of earlier successes.  It was this attitude that persuaded Burgoyne to give a last ditch effort to reach Albany that set the stage for the crushing American victory at Saratoga that changed the whole War.
Blanco, Richard L., and Paul J. Sanborn. The American Revolution: 1775-1783 : An Encyclopedia. New York: Garland, 1993. Print. p. 108-115.

Unknown, Portrait of John Stark.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Intern's Corner: August in the Revolution

The Siege of Newport, Rhode Island 1778
By Mark Relation, DLAR Intern

After the signing of the Franco-American Alliance, the Comte d’Estaing sailed from Toulon in April 1778 with nearly 4,000 infantry and several naval vessels to aid in the struggle for American Independence.  However, the debacle that followed convinced many Americans, General Sullivan in particular, that they were better off without their new allies.  Initially, Washington intended the French contingent to join an assault on New York to regain what was lost in the Battle of Long Island two years prior.  Due to the much more able defense put up by the British than by Washington previously and to local sandbars blocking the French ships, however, this was deemed impossible and the attack abandoned.  On July 29th, the French arrived at Newport, Rhode Island, to meet up with Sullivan’s troops and attack there instead. 
From the start, the siege did not go well.  D’Estaing’s troops, after being at sea for the better part of four months, were low on provisions and plagued by scurvy, and were eager to attack as soon as possible to procure supplies.  Sullivan expressly did not want to rush into battle, both because his forces were still gathering and, after suffering defeats at Staten Island, Brandywine, and Germantown, did not want to engage the enemy until he was sure he held the advantage.  The British also kept up a substantial garrison at Newport of some 6,000 men.  Further exacerbating the problem was the distrust and contempt that each of the commanders held for each other, the perceived French arrogance and American incompetence put the two generals at odds every time they attempted to coordinate an attack. 
This conflict between the two allies came to a head in mid August.  On August 9th, Sullivan launched an assault while the French were still landing their men, and the French similarly abandoned their allies in the afternoon when a British fleet appeared under Admiral Howe.  The next day, the French set sail to engage the British at sea and were battered so heavily by a storm that d’Estaing decided to withdraw to Boston for repairs.  On the 12th and 13th, that same storm hit the unsheltered American forces and devastated their supplies.  When word reached Sullivan that d’Estaing was retreating, he sent a protest of his conduct to Boston, and by the 30th was forced to abandon the siege. 
This first action of the joint French-American forces was just short of a disaster.  Despite the best efforts of Congress and the Rhode Island legislature, public opinion regarded the French conduct of nothing less than a betrayal.  Riots broke out and a few French officers were harmed, but the conflict soon simmered down and relations were repaired between the newfound allies.  Despite this rocky start to Franco-American cooperation, the two nations would eventually come together for the decisive victory of the Yorktown campaign and win the war as allies. 

Blanco, Richard L., and Paul J. Sanborn. The American Revolution: 1775-1783 : An Encyclopedia. New York: Garland, 1993. Print. p. 1218-1219.

American Revolutionary War General John Sullivan.  By A. Tenney, 1873.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Intern's Coner: August in the Revolution

The Battle of Long Island, August 27th, 1776
By Mark Relation, DLAR Intern

          The largest battle of the war, the Battle of Long Island was the first battle in U.S. History, just eight weeks after the Declaration of Independence, and very nearly the last.  Overconfident from their victories at Breed’s Hill, Boston, and Sullivan’s Island, Washington’s fledgling army of 20,000 men occupied New York, a vital tactical position on the mouth of the Hudson as well as a psychological and political symbol of the Revolution.  However, the Patriots took up an untenable position.  Washington split his troops, stationing half on Manhattan and the other half on the butt end of Long Island, which given the British naval superiority, left them completely exposed.  From their base on Staten Island, and with uncontested mastery of the seas, the British could attack the Patriots from any direction. 

          On August 21st and 22nd, 20,000 British and Hessian troops began landing on Long Island to face some 9,000 Americans under the command of General John Sullivan.  Early on, Washington suspected this move to be a feint, as the wind impeded and slowed the British movements by forcing their ships out of the East River.  Washington initially believed the real attack to come at Manhattan, and so did not substantially reinforce Sullivan until the 25th, when he himself arrived with more men.  While the British in retrospect perhaps should have moved on Manhattan as they could have seized the bridges and cut off Washington’s troops, the British did not want to repeat the evacuation of Boston, where strong American artillery positions much like those on Brooklyn Heights forced their withdrawal.  Regardless, Long Island was where both sides had committed their forces, and where the fighting would be decided. 

          Adopting a daring night march, around 4,000 British soldiers led by Generals Clinton and Cornwallis moved through the largely undefended Jamaica pass on the exposed American left on the night of the 26th, an were quickly reinforced by another 6,000 along with General Howe.  On the opposite side of the battlefield, British General Grant moved against the Americans there, drawing attention away from Clinton and Cornwallis.  While the American attention was diverted, Clinton and Howe rolled up the American left, and the American positions off of Brooklyn Heights were enveloped and destroyed.  During the battle, the Patriots suffered 200 men killed and 900 prisoners, including Generals Sullivan and Stirling. 

          However, the British decided not to press their victory.  Howe held his men back, giving up what may have been Britain’s best chance of winning the war in a single stroke.  Instead, he hunkered down for a drawn out siege of the American fortified positions, giving Washington time to execute his famous retreat to Manhattan.  Washington and the Continental army, though badly beaten and greatly demoralized, were able to escape and carry on the fight until their eventual victory eight years later.

Blanco, Richard L., and Paul J. Sanborn. The American Revolution, 1775-1783: An Encyclopedia. New York: Garland Pub., 1993. Print.  p. 956-959.
Selesky, Harold E. Encyclopedia of the American Revolution. Detroit: Scribner, Thomson Gale, 2006. Print.  p. 646-655.

The Battle of Long Island.  As taken from

Friday, August 10, 2012

Intern's Corner: August in the Revolution

Defection of Benedict Arnold
By Mark Relation, DLAR Intern

          The son of British immigrants, Benedict Arnold was born on January 14, 1741 in Norwich Connecticut.  His early life was fraught with deaths in the family, his mother and father in 1759 and 1761 respectively due to ill health and only one sibling of five surviving to adulthood.  As a youth, Arnold was reckless and thrill-seeking, often endangering himself to perform acrobatic stunts and solving his personal conflicts with violence.  His daring was coupled with intelligence and ambition, which made him a natural leader.  To start his professional life, Arnold was apprenticed to his cousins who ran an apothecary, where he gained valuable business experience to later start his own drug and book trade in New Haven.  During his career, Arnold became a Free Mason, and expanded his business greatly to include numerous ventures from the West Indies to Canada. 

          As tensions grew with Britain, Arnold sided with the Revolutionaries, beginning formal military service in 1774.  Arnold proved himself a fine military commander, serving with great distinction during an invasion of Canada, the Battle of Valcour Island, and the Saratoga Campaign.  Unfortunately for him, his political skill was nowhere near equal to his military successes.  Throughout his career, Arnold was continually at odds with those around him, both fellow officers and civilian political authorities.  He was brought to trial several times for financial irregularities, had his character ruthlessly attacked by fellow officers, and quarreled enough with Horatio Gates that he was only able to participate in later actions of the Saratoga campaign by directly disobeying Gates’ orders. 

          Arnold’s dissatisfaction with the Revolutionary cause reached its peak during his tenure as military governor of Philadelphia, when financial struggles and embitterment over his treatment in the Continental forces sowed the seeds of treason.  Corresponding through John Andre with General Clinton, Arnold plotted to seek command of an important post and the deliver it to the British.  At this time, Washington wanted to get Arnold back into the mainstream of American military service, and called him from his post in Philadelphia to take command of West Point, a perfect prize to offer the British, on August 3, 1780.  His treachery went awry, however, as Andre was captured while carrying details of West Point’s defenses to the British from Arnold, and the plot was exposed.  Instead of delivering West Point to the British, Arnold was only able to defect himself, in what Washington called “treachery of the blackest dye.” 

          Arnold was appointed local Brigadier General of the British forces and served with some note, raiding through Virginia and igniting intense hatred and a bounty of 5,000 on his head from Governor Thomas Jefferson.  In 1781, Arnold left for England, ingratiating himself with the Tories before the King’s party fell from power and Arnold was again sidetracked by those he served.  Arnold retired as a colonel on half pay, securing pensions and half pay commissions for his wife and children, though he would never see active service again.  He travelled, fought a duel with the Earl of Louderdale, and eventually secured a grant of 13,400 acres in Canada for his sister and sons.  At the age of 60, Arnold died in 1801 of dropsy and gout, and his wife Peggy died three years later. 

          Despite his popular mythos, Arnold was not quite the despicable traitor as he has often been portrayed.  Arnold was an extremely talented military commander, but was unable to deal with the stresses of command off the battlefield.  The constant attacks on his character and the petty squabbles that sidetracked his career fostered deep resentment with the Revolutionary cause.  While it may be too much to say that Arnold was totally vindicated in his betrayal, he was not completely unjustified and malicious either.  Had he not chosen to “return to his former loyalty,” as he would have put it, Arnold would be remembered for his many decisive victories and the vital role he played in securing Independence, but due to his actions his name still lives on as synonymous with treachery.
Blanco, Richard L., and Paul J. Sanborn. The American Revolution: 1775-1783 : An Encyclopedia. New York: Garland, 1993. Print. p. 46-56.

Hall, H.B.  Benedict Arnold.  1879.