Sunday, March 11, 2018

People: Artemas Ward, First Commander

When selecting what to cover regarding People, I try to cover the "second tier" first patriots. Those men and women whose actions helped shape the course of the American Revolution, but who are often glossed over in the little history that is taught these days. I use quotation marks around second tier because, in fact, the sum of their activities, and often their sole actions,were essential to the success of the Glorious Cause. In that spirit, this blog post discusses one of the least known of our great first patriots, Artemas Ward of Massachusetts. A stolid, serious leader of the patriot cause in New England, the little known Ward was the first commander in chief of the American army during the early days of the War for Independence.

Early Life

This first patriot was born in Shrewsbury on 26 November 1727. His father, Nahum Ward, was an accomplished  sea captain, merchant, land developer, farmer, lawyer and jurist. Young Artemas attended the common schools, was prepared for college by a private tutor and graduated from Harvard College (B.A. 1748, M.A. 1751). Like his father, he held a prolific number of public offices at the town, county, and state level. In 1750 he had married Sarah Trowbridge, daughter of Rev. Caleb Trowbridge and Hannah Walter of Groton, Mass. Together they had eight children. To care for his new wife and coming family he opened a general store and became a tax assessor.

Silent Servant

Ward would go on to hold many offices at the town, county and state level. But his military service was the hallmark of his career. He was appointed Justice of the Peace in 1752, a representative in the Colonial General Assembly for many terms and in the executive council. With the outbreak of the war with France in 1755 Ward became a major in the 3rd Massachusetts Regiment,the militia of Middlesex and "Worchester" counties. The regiment served as garrison forces along the frontier in western Massachusetts. This duty called him at intervals between 1755 and 1757, and alternated with his attendance at the General Court.

Massachusetts militia protected the western frontier

In 1757, he was made the colonel of the 3rd Regiment, which marched with British General James Abercrombie's force to attack Fort Ticonderoga in 1758. The French army consisted of 3,600 men under General Louis-Joseph de Montcalm who decisively defeated the numerically superior force of  Abercrombie. However Ward himself was sidelined during the decisive (losing) battle at Fort Carillon by an "attack of the (kidney) stone." This was clearly an on and off condition for Ward, as we shall see.

Abercrombie's Campaign vs Ticonderoga would end in failure

When he returned from the war, Ward was named to the Court of Common Pleas. He also got involved in the heated politics of the Bay Colony as a member of the governor's council while maintaining many of his militia connections. As friction with Britain increased in the next decade he associated with the likes of John and Samuel Adams, John Hancock and Joseph Warren.  In the General Court he was placed on the taxation committee along with Samuel Adams and John Hancock. On the floor, he was second only to James Otis in speaking out against the acts of parliament.

Safe to say he was a Whig. In  fact, his often blatant support for the increasing demands of the colonists put him at odds with the Massachusetts governor, Francis Bernard, who revoked his militia colonelcy. But Ward's growing popularity got him re-elected to the governor's council until  1774, when the new governor, the infamous Thomas Hutchinson removed him from the council for his political activism. Things were reaching a boiling point in New England and by October of that year Ward sat with the first Provincial Congress of Massachusetts. He was also appointed Brigadier General by the Congress on 24 October 1774.

Struggle for Freedom Begins

As political crises brought on an American Revolution, the populace in and around Boston, and New England in general, were at the point of insurgency by the spring of 1775. The conglomerate of local militias , minutemen and other factions assembling around the British occupied city in a popular swell of patriotism. If New England was the most aggressive rebel region, and Massachusetts the most aggressive rebel colony, Artemas Ward was one of its most aggressive if little known of its leaders.

The insurgency did not need much to shift to open rebellion. It did reach that when "the shot heard round the world" was fired on 19 April 1775. Ward missed Lexington and Concord however, due to illness. But upon learning of the action, rose from his sick bed, mounted his horse and rode in pain (he had kidney stones again) to Boston to help organize the siege of the city.

Ward missed Lexington & Concord but rallied from
his sick bed to take charge

Ward was popular with the troops and because of his military experience, soon proclaimed commander of all Massachusetts state militia. In June, the Continental Congress appointed him Major General and commander of all forces besieging Boston - some 15,000 strong. Boston-strong, I suppose. By now, other New England colonies as well as New York were sending men to Boston - America's first national army was forming.  Ward was soon to be tested in both his military and political acumen

First Commander

Ward had his hands full with the army,whether New England's or the United States' forces, the men were ill-trained, ill-led, ill-equipped and had little regard for military discipline.  But Ward, like Washington later, also had a complex array of political issues to deal with: Committees of Safety from several states, locals, his commanders and the Continental Congress. Never flashy but always steady, Ward worked through these as best he could.

General Artemas Ward as  first American commander

Ward faced formidable challenges. Not only was he confronting the world's most powerful army, but he was doing so with a force of volunteers who had agreed only to turn out for a single battle. Once the British had been driven back to Boston, many militiamen wanted to return to their farms. In their minds, they had volunteered to fight but had not enlisted in an army. The independent-minded Yankees had little enthusiasm for camp life, especially given the harsh and unsanitary conditions in the sprawling camp at Cambridge. Ward faced the daunting task of creating an army from chaos.

Job one was to keep the army together. He appealed for volunteers to become the first enlistees. Men from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Rhode Island began to fill the ranks. Some have claimed Ward was a poor disciplinarian and that his "Grand American Army" was anything but grand. But the solid Yankee puritan understood his volunteer Yankee soldiers. He knew from experience they would resist strict discipline, a discipline the jurist in him felt he had no legal authority to impose. Ward felt he had to lead by consensus and mutual respect. These were after all the men of whom Samuel Adams wrote, "our soldiers will not be brought to obey any person of whom they do not themselves entertain a high opinion." Ward's calculated soft management helped his raw recruits hold the siege.

Ward began his RevWar service commanding the ragtag force
besieging Boston

Job two was to keep the British in Boston. The Battle of Bunker Hill occurred under Ward’s general command. On June 13, 1775, having learned from a "line crosser" that the British were planning to send troops from Boston to occupy the hills surrounding the city, Ward directed General Israel Putnam to set up defenses on the Charlestown Peninsula, specifically on Bunker Hill. On 16 June, some 1,000 colonial militiamen under Colonel William Prescott  built earthen fortifications on top of Breed’s Hill, because although smaller, was closer to Boston. The resulting battle was iconic: a draw that resulted in the slaughter of British regulars by militia rebels.

Lack of munitions caused rebels to abandon Breed & Bunker Hills

From Number One to Number Two

On 17 June, Congress debated who should be appointed supreme commander of the American forces. Fellow (and completely biased) New Englander John Adams suggested that "the greatest number" wanted the job to go to Ward. But Congress needed to persuade delegates from the South that this was not just New England's war and chose George Washington of Virginia and made Ward his second in command.

Adams suggested Ward was initial first choice
for commander in chief

While General Ward received national recognition for the heroic stand at Bunker Hill, the failure to supply enough ammunition to hold the position denied the Americans a victory. When Washington took over command of the army in Cambridge on 2 July, 1775, Ward became his second in command. The New England militiamen who made up the balance of the first American army trusted and admired Ward, but Washington quickly became a critic. Accustomed to serving with professional officers, Washington dismissed Ward as "a fat old church warden." Washington was also appalled by the lax discipline among Ward's New England soldiers.

Ward was instrumental in the successful siege of Boston in 1775

The New England versus Virginia clash became an early on challenge to the unity of the army. Washington's open criticism deeply offended Ward, yet over the next nine months he helped Washington convert the assembled militia units into the Continental Army. He was stationed with the right wing on Roxbury heights. Because of impaired health and the British now gone from Boston, he resigned his commission in April, 1776. But at the request of General Washington, who now realized he needed to win over the New Englanders, he continued to act as his second until the end of May.

Ward was part of the leadership team that forced the
mighty British Army from Boston 

Post Military Public Service

When Ward returned to civilian life he served in demanding and important positions in Massachusetts. He was Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas of Worcester County in 1776 and 1777. He served in the Massachusetts Senate as President of the Executive Council for about three years. In this capacity, Ward functioned as Massachusetts’ chief executive during the critical years of the war (1777-1779). Essentially the office that replaced the Royal Governor. Ward served as a member of the Continental Congress from January 1780 to May 1782.

Post War Public Service

Shay's rebellion led to
the Constitutional Convention

Ward was elected Speaker of the Massachusetts House in 1786, which made his actions as a Justice of the Peace of the Worcester Court during the 1786 Shays’ Rebellion all the more significant. He faced down the rebels on the courthouse steps, demonstrating his popular influence and his respect for the rule of law. Shays' rebellion led to demands for a new form of government and the Constitutional Convention resulted. With the instantiation of the new constitution, Artemas Ward was  elected as a Federalist to the 2nd and 3rd Congresses (1791-1795).

Ward House in Shrewsbury

In December of 1797 Ward concluded his long career as judge and spent his final years in quiet retirement at home with his family. He died on October 28, 1800 and is buried at Mountain View Cemetery in Shrewsbury Center.

Ward is buried in Mountain View Cemetery


Ward's accomplishments as a jurist and politician mark him among the first rank of founders who helped guide the colonies to statehood and transition and an idea into a nation. As a military commander he was eclipsed by Washington and hindered by health and his disposition. Still, he provided a popular figure for the New England colonists to rally around at a time of near chaos and when, with one correct move by the British, the cause of American independence could have  been snuffed out easily. He suffered criticism from his commander in chief yet had the fortitude and patriotism to remain long enough for the culture of a new American army, the Continental Army, to emerge from the chaos of the early camp around Boston. For that alone, we give a loud huzzah to the rebellion's first commander.

Artemas Ward Memorial

On November 3, 1938 a bronze statue of General Ward was unveiled at Ward Circle, Washington, D.C. and stands at the intersection of Nebraska Avenue and Massachusetts Avenue. The stone base is inscribed “Artemas Ward, 1727-1800, Son of Massachusetts, Graduate of Harvard College, Judge and Legislator, Delegate 1780-1781 Continental Congress, Soldier in Three Wars, First Commander of the Patriotic Forces.”

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Places: Coryell's Ferry

Before the Brooklyn Bridge, the Lincoln Tunnel, or the Wilson Bridge, there was the ferry. And not just the Staten Island Ferry...And yes, there were tolls...

A Hard Land to Travel

America in the time of the Yankee Doodle Spies was a hard land to travel. Most of America was still heavily forested and inland, rugged to mountainous terrain made any travel worth one's life, literally. But by the mid 1700's the coastal and tidewater regions were fairly developed. Here, a network of (usually bad) roads crisscrossed these regions connected by fords, bridges, and ferries crossing the waterways. Early American bridge construction was limited to short spans. Fords enabled travel across only shallow waters. But numerous ferries were established along rivers and tidal flows. They carried carts, wagons, livestock, and travelers on foot, horseback, or in carriages. But ferries in the time of the Yankee Doodle Spies were not always reliable, and sometimes very dangerous. With weather forecasting non existent they were subject to sudden changes of weather, storms and shifting tides causing accidents that damaged property and injured passengers or livestock. Many ferries had unreliable schedules. Some ferries offered only part time service along. And sometimes not very reliable source of income. For that reason, many ferry operators had a second trade or occupation such as a farm, tavern, or store. Schedules were often non existent. The weary colonial traveller was at the mercy of the ferryman's other demands, causing delays and long waits for service.

Dutch settlers used ferries to traverse the Hudson and cross to Long Island

But they were critical to the transportation system of the time. Ferries connected America's burgeoning tidal cities to their surroundings, using a growing system of toll roads, pikes, and longer-range boats connected with them, allowing efficient if sometimes erratic transit of the mid Atlantic to distant points such as New York and Baltimore. North of Philadelphia, significant ferry enterprises linked Mercer County, New Jersey, and Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Between 1675 and the outbreak of the American Revolution, Trenton established the Lower, Middle, and Upper Ferry crossings over the Delaware. The Middle Ferry connected with a stagecoach line to New Brunswick and downriver service to Philadelphia.

River Ferries

Simple Designs

Some ferries were merely small longboats rowed or sailed across a body of water. But most were purpose built and of simple design. Essentially a simple rectangular platform, with a flat bottom and flat, vertical sides. They were easy and cheap to build and the only requirement was that they float! The bottom at each end sloped upward, which reduced the water resistance, making it possible to move across the water with minimal effort. Most upriver ferries lacked landing docks, simply loading and and unloading onto a natural riverbank, sometimes modified to make a sloping earth ramp as the entry/exit point. In more sophisticated ferries, a movable ramp was attached at each end of the vessel, pivoting on hinges, and controlled by a long pole mounted. When crossing the water, both ramps were held in a raised position. The simplest and most dependable way to propel a ferry across a (usually shallow) river was through man power. That is, by poling. This is the same method used by most river boats, and the method of choice for the Durham boats used in the military transport across the Delaware in 1776. Others used oars, or winches pulling via rope.

Photo of 19the century ferry - simple design little changed from 18th century
this one powered by winch and rope

The Ferry to Freedom

The ferry played a major role in the American War for Independence. The movement of supplies relied on them. But most important was the ferry's role in the movement of armies. Some engagements, such as Stonos Ferry in South Carolina (1779), took place at or near ferries, and many others were facilitated by ferry travel.

The battles around New York in 1776 (setting for my first novel, The Patriot Spy) relied on ferry crossing points to move troops and supplies. Brooklyn was central to Washington's escape from Long Island in the face of overwhelming British forces. He used the Brooklyn ferry point as his point of debarkation. Most famously, the ferries between Pennsylvania and New Jersey played key roles in the American Revolution. As the war shifted across the Jerseys, other ferries played a role on the Delaware. Trenton’s Lower Ferry earned the nickname, the “Continental Ferry” as its proprietor, Elijah Bond, offered active American soldiers reduced rates. During the British occupation of Philadelphia (September 1777–June 1778), American spies disguised as farmers used ferries at the Schuylkill River (including Gray’s Ferry) to slip in and out of the city.The most celebrated ferry action of the war was George Washington and his army crossing the Delaware on Christmas night in 1776, at McConkey’s Ferry. This gallant action and events around are told in my second novel, The Cavalier Spy. But a lesser known ferry in the region also played a pivotal role in the struggle for independence.

Washington's Crossing of Delaware on Durham boats December 1776

A Lesser Known Ferry

Some ten miles up the Delaware River was an important ferry operated by one John Coryell, a tavern keeper and ferry operator. Coryell's Ferry operated on the Delaware River between what are now Lambertville, New Jersey, and New Hope, Pennsylvania. At that time, both places were also called Coryell's Ferry. Although less well known than McConkey's ferry, Coryell's ferry was an important crossing during the Revolutionary War.  In early December 1776, Coryell denied British soldiers passage on his ferry as General Charles Cornwallis  pursued the Continental Army into Pennsylvania. There was also some military activity at and around Coryell's Ferry at that time as Cornwallis troops pressured the retreating Americans and fended off the local militias. And in 1777, part of Washington's army camped near the ferry, which it used to cross into Pennsylvania in the ramp up to the Brandywine campaign.

Coryell's Ferry 1776

Mentioned in the Dispatches

Coryell's Ferry is mentioned in three of George Washington's papers from December 1776: “General Orders, 12 December 1776,” “From George Washington to John Hancock, 12 December 1776,”“General Orders, 29 December 1776,” Spelling tended to be inconsistent in 1700's America, and the name of the ferry is spelled differently in each document. ("Corells", "Corriels", and "Coryells"). 

Campaign of 1778

Coryell's Ferry figured large in the Monmouth campaign in June 1778, when the Continental  Army crossed there in pursuit of the British into the Jerseys. The events which set that crossing in motion began the previous autumn.The British army occupied the American capital, Philadelphia, from 26 September , 1777 until 18 June, 1778. The occupation forced Congress to move to York, Pennsylvania, which had a demoralizing effect on many Americans. During that same winter of 1777, General George Washington  camped  his army some twenty miles  from Philadelphia at Valley Forge, which provided a  great venue for the  "winter quarters." The forge offered good ground for a defense from British attack and a great strategic point from which to watch or block British movements. The British recalled General William Howe in early 1778, appointing his second in command, Sir Henry Clinton as the new commander in chief. Sensing his exposure and wanting to consolidate his forces for a new British strategy, Clinton decided to move the army back to new York. His forces moved out on 18 June, 1777, crossing  the Delaware River at Cooper's Ferry into New Jersey. From there, they began a march northeast across the Jerseys.

There were numerous ferries along the coastal and inland rivers
of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania - as with all the colonies

By then, Washington had the Continental army on the move. Learning of the British evacuation of Philadelphia, Washington decided it was time to leave Valley Forge. On 20 June , the columns of dust ridden but eager soldiers arrived at the Pennsylvania side of Coryell's Ferry. The following day, Washington crossed to the New Jersey side (at today's Lambertville), and established his headquarters at the Holcombe house. The main body of the army soon followed the commander in chief into New Jersey.  This was no surreptitious, cover-of-night crossing as at Brooklyn or McConkey's. Given a much larger army with 700 horses and 200 wagons, the 1778 crossing was a large scale and noisy  event. By the morning of 21 June, they began their pursuit of the retreating British. From Coryell’s Ferry, the Army headed through today’s West Amwell (then simply called Amwell). The main body of Washington’s army camped for the night of June 22, 1778 near Ringoes.This would culminate on 28 June, when they clashed with the British near Monmouth Courthouse in the controversial battle of that name. Although a draw, the Continental Army met the British on even terms in open combat. 

The crossing at Coryell's Ferry led to the battle at Monmouth C.H.

A Call for Help

Although the maneuver and actions of Monmouth took place in June, Washington had done much prior planning and clearly viewed Coryell and his ferry as central to his plans to prevent British use and to ensure its availability for the Continental army. The dispatches to and from Coryell shown below  offer a window into the logistical side of Washington's war. A side that required early preparation of the area of operations. (Note: indifferent spelling was the norm for all classes during the time of the Yankee Doodle Spies.)

To John Coryell
Head Quarters Valley Forge 1st March 1778


I am very anxious to have all the continental flat Boats below Trenton carried up the River as far as Easton or near it, that they may be intirely out of the Enemy’s reach—I have desired the Gentlemen of the Navy Board to order Commodore Hazelwood to collect all those and carry them up as far as Trenton and when he has got them there to let you know it. I shall therefore be exceedingly obliged to you if you will collect a proper number of hands who are used to carry Boats thro’ the Falls and go down for them when you have notice. Or if you do not receive such notice in a few days, the Men may as well go down to Bordentown where the Boats are and bring them up from thence. There are a number of Cannon and some Stores there which I want carried to a place of safety. If you think the Boats can be taken thro’ the falls with the Cannon in them, it will save much expence and secure them perfectly. You are to apply to Messrs Hopkinson and Wharton of the Continental Navy Board at Bordentown for the Cannon if they can be carried up in the Boats.

I see by a letter of yours to Colo. Lutterloh that you want Money for these purposes. You may hire the Men for doing this service upon an assurance of their being paid the moment it is performed. And you will therefore make out the account when you have finished and apply directly to me for the Money when it shall be paid with thanks. 

I am &c.


Coryell's Landing Toll House

Response to His Excellency

Coryells Ferry [Delaware River]

March the 6th 1778

Honoured Sr

I Recd yours of the 1st instant the third at night & am Determined to serve you according to your Directions If Possable the Badness of the weather has hindered me to proceed on with any more Boats since my Last1 but Expect to Start the Remainder in two or three Days that I now have at my Ferry & when they are gone I will go after the Rest I am afraid I cant Bring up any Cannon in the Fleet Boats If there should be any Dur[ha]m boats below as I Expect there is I kno I Can Bring up Canno[n] in them and Will I have ingaged a number of Brave watermen for the purpose & I am dr Sr your Humble sert

Jno. Coryell

P.S. there was a number of peac eis of Duck Left at my place I had to press sleds to move them to Reading & I Kept one for the use of my self & men; If it Cant be spared it is not Cut I will send it on.


Coryell's Landing today

Monday, January 15, 2018

Things: Who Let the Dogs Out?

I apologize for the  title but I could not help myself. The eighteenth century - the age of enlightenment - gave birth to more than the world's first modern republic. It gave birth to a more modern view of dogs. Scientists generally agree that there is good evidence that dogs were domesticated around 15,000 years ago. By 14,000 years ago, people were burying dogs, sometimes along with humans. The relationship between man and dogs has developed over thousands of years.

Wolf-Dog Companion

Working Dogs

Dogs are considered the first domesticated animals. The first domesticated dogs were used for hunting, but later became sheepdogs, war dogs and watchdogs of all types. We are all aware of the uses of dogs in guarding sheep and home. But dogs were given other jobs as well. Turnspit dogs were used as a source of power, they turned a treadmill connected to a roasting spit. Similar arrangements were used for household duties such as churning butter. Dogs were trained to herd cattle. They were used as draft animals to pull small carts or sleds for farms, peddlers, or travelers, to deliver mail, and to pull carts carrying people for transportation or entertainment. In the case of the latter, dogs were trained to fight and race, with wages being placed on the results. This was very popular by the eighteenth century.

Dogs Returned from the Chase in  colonial time

Man’s Best Friend 

Over centuries of cohabitation the dog became “man’s best friend.” Yet there continued a negative context in the relationship in history. The Roman proverb, cave canem—beware of the dog, indicated a negative side to the esteemed creature. The playwright and poet William Shakespeare used the terms "dog" and "cur" to describe despicable people. But overall, the feeling of man toward dogs was very positive. Benjamin Franklin once wrote that, "There are three faithful friends—an old wife, an old dog, and ready money."

Hunting dogs were companions and workers in the 18th century

Dogs of War

Frederick the Great &
His Beloved
War dogs came into use in ancient times. They were trained in combat as well as use as scouts, sentries and trackers. The earliest use of war dogs in a battle recorded in classical sources was by Alyattes of Lydia against the Cimmerians around 600 BC. The Egyptians, Greeks, Persians, Sarmatians, Baganda, Alans, Slavs, Britons, and the Romans all used dogs in war. During the Middle Ages, the nobility made gifts of war dog breeding stock. The Spanish conquistadors brought war dogs to America. They used armored dogs specifically trained to kill natives. These dogs were a mixed breed of deerhound and mastiff with padded armor and spiked collars. These animals were large and fearsome. Aztec and Inca warriors were terrified of them (who wouldn’t be?). The conquistadors usually unleashed the dogs just as the enemy was just about to break. This led to a route that often proved more lethal than the battle. Ponce De Leon reportedly used a brace these large war dogs of them to put down a slave rebellion in Puerto Rico. In the eighteenth century, the famed Prussian king and warlord Frederick the Great used dogs as battlefield messengers. A celebrated dog lover, he famously is quoted: “The more I see of men, the better I like my dog."

War dogs were used in ancient times

Yankee Doodle Dogs

Soldiers always had affection
for dogs

By the start of the Revolutionary War in 1775, dogs were well established and part of the culture of the thirteen colonies. However, they were not always welcome. In 1772, the city leaders of Williamsburg passed legislation called the Act to Prevent Mischief from Dogs that forbade anyone to own a female dog in the city. Residents could keep two male dogs as long as they wore marked collars. Strays would be put down. The time of the Yankee Doodle Spies ushered the beginning of
advocacy for animals. In 1776, an Anglican clergyman named Humphrey Primatt published a seminal work entitled: “A Dissertation on the Duty of Mercy and Sin of Cruelty to Brute Animals.” Sort of a Declaration of Independence for animals. The growing popularity of fox hunting in both England and the colonies created a need for hunting dogs. Although dogs traditionally herded livestock, carried messages, guarded their owners, and carried packs for their owners in addition to retrieving game. But they also became more popular as pets.  During the Revolutionary War, they provided also comfort for their owners who were far from home. Dogs were both working dogs and pets in colonial America. And of course there were sporting dogs as well. While fighting, both British and American soldiers adopted stray dogs and other animals as they traveled. Many units in both armies kept dogs as pets and mascots. Let’s profile a few notables of the war who have a connection to the beloved canine.

Many British Regiments had dogs as

His Excellency

The premier figure of the Glorious Cause, George Washington loved dogs. As a Virginia planter, he was an avid hunter, and most of his dogs would have been used for hunting. Washington also owned Black and Tan Coonhounds.  Curiously, he named them:  Drunkard, Taster, Tippler, and Tipsy.  Just as Washington experimented in farming, he is reputed to have done so with his dogs, breeding coonhounds with staghounds. The Marquis de Lafayette, a close and long term friend of Washington, sent him seven staghounds to George as a gift. During the time of the Yankee Doodle Spies these dogs were great hunters, bred to hunt using speed and sight. Three of Washington’s staghounds he named: Sweet Lips, Scentwell, and Vulcan. More names to amuse.

Dogs played no small part in a planter's life - especially the first planter

Charles Lee

Gen Charles Lee loved his dogs more
than people
One of the most controversial, eccentric and distasteful characters was Major General Charles Lee. The former British officer, mercenary and Virginia planter was a rival to Washington and second only to Washington in the Continental Army. Lee seemed to always be accompanied by a pack of hounds. He doted on them and treated them better than most of the people about him.  Once during a social event, he had his favorite dog, Spada, mount a chair and present his paw to Abigail Adams, also a dog lover. In December 1776, Lee was captured under mysterious circumstances while separated from his troops for a visit to White’s Tavern in Basking Ridge New Jersey. A British raiding party led by the equally notorious Banastre Tarleton captured Lee in the early morning hours and whisked him off to captivity. After his capture, Lee wrote Washington requesting that a servant and an aide-de-camp be sent to him along with “my dogs…as I never stood in greater need of their company than at present." I adapted Lee’s dogs into one of the plots of my novel, The Cavalier Spy (2012, Twilight Times Books). Lee’s relationship to the dogs plays a role in his search for Lee. And the dogs nearly frustrate his efforts, although they do not frustrate the efforts of Tarleton and the British.


Baron von Steuben

Italian Greyhound
“Baron” von Steuben, a  German officer who offered his services to America, served as inspector general and major general of the Continental Army.  Steuben played a critical role in retraining the Continental Army at Valley Forge. His “Blue Book” of drills served as the Army’s manual for years after the war. Less known is that Von Steuben loved dogs. His favorite was said to be an Italian greyhound named Azor. Azor went everywhere with Steuben. In that sense he was much like his erstwhile master, Frederick the Great.

Von Steuben

William Howe

Gen Howe
British commander in chief in North America, General Sir William Howe also had a fondness for canines.  During the Philadelphia campaign in 1777, Howe’s army barely fended off a surprise attack by Washington’s Continental Army. The battle was fought in the fog and more chaotic than most 18th century affairs. Washington’s divisions could not coordinate their movements because they could not see what was happening on the battlefield.  After some hard fighting, the Americans withdrew,
abandoning their capital to the British occupation. Somehow during the fog enshrouded combat, a small dog was found by the Americans.  After the battle, they saw from his collar that he belonged to General Howe.  Many around Washington urged him to hold the dog as a form of revenge for the loss and defiance to the British commander. But ever the gentleman, Washington saw the situation differently.

He ordered the dog returned to Howe with this two-line message:

“General Washington’s compliments to General Howe, does himself the pleasure to return him a Dog, which accidentally fell into his hands, and by the inscription on the Collar appears to belong to General Howe.”

A fully documented as a draft of the note still exists in the archives, written in the handwriting of Washington’s aide-de-camp - Alexander Hamilton

Yankee Doodle Dog 

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

People: The Mad Man

Who was that Mad Man?

As a boy learning about the American Revolution, I was thoroughly amused that a general would have the name "Mad"  Anthony Wayne.  I wondered who was that mad man? I wondered what he was so mad about. Any study of the American War for Independence should address this colorful Pennsylvanian who captured the imagination of his times and down through the ages.

Scion of a Scots-Irish Military Family

Anthony Wayne was born on 1 January 1745 to  Isaac Wayne and Elizabeth Iddings Wayne in Easttown Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania. Isaac Wayne was born in Ireland, the son of a military officer, Captain Anthony Wayne, who immigrated to America with his Dutch wife, Hannah. Their son Isaac became a tanner, establishing one of the most prominent businesses in Pennsylvania, and eventually took over the family estate, Waynesboro, from the aging captain. Young Anthony Wayne was well schooled, attending the Philadelphia Academy and the College of Philadelphia.. Like George Washington, Wayne did a stint as a surveyor. In his case up in Nova Scotia. He returned to Pennsylvania in 1766, where he continued surveying and worked in Isaac's tannery. He also married Mary Penrose who would bear him two children, Margretta and Isaac. Just as the politics of friction with Great Britain were heating up, young Anthony got involved in the American cause. Like many up and coming men of means he turned to public service. Wayne served in the Pennsylvania legislature in 1774 and the following year he raised a militia regiment in Chester County. In January 1776,  he received a commission as colonel of the 4th Pennsylvania Continental Line. Things were about to get interesting for Anthony and for the war.

Wayne's Home in Waynesboro

A Mad Campaigner in a Mad Campaign

It was in the capacity of colonel of the 4th Pennsylvania that Wayne headed north to join General John Sullivan's division in the quixotic and  ill-fated invasion of Canada. In his first action, Wayne fought bravely but unsuccessfully against superior forces  at the battle of Trois Rivieres in June 1776. The campaign soon collapsed but Wayne distinguished himself with his leadership in covering the army's retreat into New York. He then took command of Fort Ticonderoga, the key defense point on the New York northern frontier. An approving Congress promoted him to Brigadier General in February 1777. Not long after, he was summoned south to join General George Washington and  the main Continental Army where he received command of a brigade of Pennsylvanians.

Anthony Wayne

A Colorful Character

Wayne was a colorful and irreverent leader that seemed to set the stage for  such later military notables as George Custer and George Patton.  He used profanities to great effect, often to the amusement of his troops.  Like Patton, he understood that troops should look good and that military pride followed a good appearance.  As with Custer and Patton, he was a sharp dresser and always turned out immaculately.  His braggadocio added to the legend, making him the talk of not just the troops but his fellow officers. And like Custer and Patton, Wayne backed all of this up with stirring performances in combat.

His actions at the Battle of Brandywine on 11 September 1777 provide an example. His division was positioned to cover Chadd's Ford, where the British commander Lord Howe decided to send a powerful force of Hessians to launch a frontal assault on the Americans. Wayne's  command withstood fierce attacks by the Hessians under General von Knyphausen until his division, along with Nathanael Greene's, was forced to withdraw.

Holding the line at Brandywine

Although Washington was beaten, he managed to extricate his army and maintain it as a threat to the slowly advancing British. When the Americans abandoned Philadelphia, Washington sent Wayne to shadow the British army and threaten their lines of communication. Unfortunately, the British received intelligence that exposed Wayne's command.  Wayne's encampment near the Paoli Tavern was overrun in a stealthy night attack by Major General Charles Grey on the evening of September 20th. Grey received the nickname "No Flint" because he ordered his men to remove them to avoid the accidental discharge that could spoil his surprise: cold steel for the rebels. Later, claims were made that the British took no prisoners and granted no quarter, and the engagement became known as the "Paoli Massacre." The massacre sullied Wayne's name somewhat. Undaunted, he led his men  in the fog shrouded fields near Germantown, Pennsylvania on October 4, 1777.  With  typical audacity, Wayne's command moved ahead of other Continental brigades and drove on the retreating British with the bayonet. But Wayne and his old commander, General John Sullivan (also known to be headstrong and impetuous) advanced too quickly. Both were cut off some two miles ahead of other Continental regiments. When the British recovered from their initial surprise their defenses stiffened. When Washington finally ordered a retreat he once more  tapped Wayne to provide the rear guard. Not long after, the Continental Army went into winter quarters at Valley Forge.

Despite  the Paoli Massacre Wayne held in high regard

The harsh winter at Valley Forge had a plus side. A new American army was born, trained and drilled  to fight European style by the German General Von Steuben. The new army would get its chance to prove itself the following summer and Wayne would be once again in the mix. The British relieved Lord Howe from command and replaced him with Sir Henry Clinton, who decided to abandon Philadelphia and concentrate force once more around New York City. In June 1778, Clinton ordered half  his force to sail north. But a sizable column marched across the Jerseys towards their new base of operations. Wayne was called upon to lead the advance guard at Monmouth Court House, New Jersey. Once more thrust into a controversial engagement, Wayne's forces were abandoned by Major General Charles Lee.  His men were soon pinned down by superior British forces, the rear guard that struck back at the pursuing Americans. Showing determination and resourcefulness  under fire,Wayne held his ground until reinforcements sent by Washington arrived. Wayne reformed his troops and continued to fight.

American attack at Monmouth

Light Anthony

By the spring of 1779, Washington's Army was oriented on the main British garrison in New York. The British attempted to draw Washington into a decisive battle. Awaiting the long expected French support, Washington entered into  cat and mouse game.  In May 1779, Sir Henry Clinton, the British Commander in Chief launched the first phase of a complex strategic plan to destroy Washington's army. Using their superior naval forces the British made an incursion up the North (Hudson) River and seized the critical position at Stony Point, some 10 miles south of West Point and 35 miles north of the city. This was the opening gambit to lure Washington out of the Hudson Highlands. Clinton then dispatched an expedition to Connecticut, leaving a reinforced regiment with fifteen guns to defend the earthworks around Stony Point. Washington observed the British defenses and decided to take them by force. To storm the position, the Corps of Light Infantry was formed on June 12, 1779. There was never a question as to who to assign command of the unit or the mission: Anthony Wayne.  The Corps of Light Infantry was an elite unit, put together for each campaign between  1777 and 1781. Its men were drawn from the light infantry companies of each regiment in Washington's army. In 1779 the Corps consisted of a brigade of four regiments, each composed of two battalions of four companies. At midnight on 16 July the attack commenced in three columns with Wayne personally leading one. In a tactic that was used successfully against him at Paoli, Wayne had his men move with unloaded muskets - they would storm the defenses with the bayonet. Wayne's column came under musket fire and he fell wounded. Wayne's men continued the attack and quickly overran the British defenders. They took over 500 prisoners and suffered only 100 casualties. The victory was critical for the morale of the American Army and the cause, which had suffered a series of reverses. For his personal heroics and tactical success, Congress awarded Wayne a rare medal for the victory.

Stony Point was Wayne's most celebrated exploit

Why so Mad?

I always had assumed Wayne was nicknamed "Mad" due to his heroics in combat, particularly for his exploits at Stony Point. But ironically, he did not receive his nickname for his reckless style of combat  but from incident at  Morristown, New Jersey during winter quarters in 1781. The story goes that New Jersey law officers arrested an eccentric soldier known as “the Commodore” or “Jimmy the Drover,” for a local civil infraction.  The soldier demanded Wayne’s intervention.  But Wayne threatened to have the miscreant flogged instead.  “Jimmy the Drover” reportedly responded “Anthony is mad!  Farewell to you; clear the coast for the Commodore, ‘Mad Anthony’s’ friend.”  Wayne’s Pennsylvanians really got a kick out of the story and decided that “Mad Anthony” described their commander pretty well.  You have to admit that it’s not bad, as nicknames go.

 Winning the War

In the spring of 1781, Wayne took his Pennsylvanians to Virginia and served under Lafayette in trying to thwart the British. On 6 July 1781, he fought with Lafayette at the Battle of Green Spring. His aggressive charge shocked the superior British forces, probably saving the Americans from destruction. Wayne then joined Washington to help defeat Cornwallis at Yorktown. The war did not end with Yorktown, however. So in 1782, Wayne was sent to Georgia to help dislodge the British forces there. Wayne broke the long standing British alliance with the Indian tribes in Georgia. With the waning of British power he was able to negotiate treaties with the two most powerful tribes, the Creek and the Cherokee.  In a final tribute, Congress promoted him to major general on October 10, 1783. After the war Wayne returned to Pennsylvania. The noted war hero served in the Pennsylvania Assembly and became a delegate to the Constitutional Convention. But his post-war life would long be one of peace and tranquility as it was with so many of his peers.

Commander of the US Army

Wayne as Commander of the
Legionof the United States
In 1792, it was time for Anthony Wayne to answer the bugle call once more.  President George Washington named Wayne to serve as commander in chief of the modest U.S. Army, dubbed the Legion of the United States. The Legion had suffered several defeats at the hands of the inter tribal Indian Confederation formed to resist the white man’s incursions into the Ohio Territory - the mid west. The Indian Confederacy decisively defeated U.S. forces in 1790 and 1791 under the leadership of  a Shawnee chieftain called Blue Jacket and the Miami chieftain called Little Turtle . The Indians had been encouraged and supplied by the British, who had refused to evacuate British fortifications in the region as called for in the Treaty of Paris.

Wayne's victory at Fallen Timbers was the new army's first post in #RevWar

Upon his arrival Mad Anthony energized the beaten Legion with his own brand of zealous leadership. At the Battle of Fallen Timbers, Wayne effectively ended Indian resistance when his seasoned force of 1,000 men routed the 2,000 warriors gathered for a final confrontation near Fort Miami on the Maumee River. This victory enabled Wayne to negotiate the Treaty of Greenville in August 1795. Under its terms the Indians ceded most of Ohio and large sections of Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan. This was not inevitable for many reasons (British machinations tried to keep the 13 states pinned along the Atlantic coast). Wayne's victory secured thousands of square miles of disputed land for the United States, and had signed peace treaties with the Indian tribes. Mad Anthony Wayne successfully accomplished the mission for which President George Washington had called him back to active duty.

Treaty of Fort Greenville secured peace in the Northwest Territory
paving the way for American expansion

Untimely Death

His work in the northwest done, Wayne began the long journey home. He sailed from the region that is now Detroit on a sloop. After five days he made port at the site of the former French outpost at  Fort Presqu'Isle, today's Erie, Pennsylvania.  But while the weather was pleasant, his thoughts turned grim and he wrote a number of letters listing his final wishes. At Presque Isle, Wayne suffered a serious gout attack. Now anyone who has suffered gout knows that is reason enough to be mad. This was clearly a severe case with complications. Calls for doctors were rushed to Pittsburgh and the Army hospitals. Wayne's health worsened.  He developed intense stomach pains. The doctors from the east arrived, but on the same day, 15 December, 1796,  "Mad"Anthony Wayne died. They buried him in a plain coffin, his initials and date of death driven into the wood using round-headed brass tacks, at the foot of the blockhouse flagstaff on garrison hill.

Rebuilt blockhouse on Presque Isle

Presque Isle

A Strangely Eerie Homecoming

In 1808, Wayne's son Isaac returned to Presque Isle to take his father's remains back home. Unfortunately he did not have room for all the remains in his wagon, a small sulky. The doctor assisting him boiled the late hero's corpse. He threw the flesh and clothing back into the coffin an re interred it. He then packed the bones for transport to the east. "Mad" Anthony Wayne's bones were interred in the family plot in St. David's Episcopal Church cemetery in Radnor, Pennsylvania. The bizarre end to the great warrior's earthly remains gave rise to legends of hauntings. One might say that while Anthony Wayne may have become enraged for little cause in life, he certainly reason for rage in death.

Wayne's 2d Grave site Radnor, Penna.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

A Yankee Doodle Thanksgiving

Origins of the the Thanksgiving Celebration

Although the origins of Thanksgiving in America pre-date the 18th century, it was His Excellency, President George Washington, who issued the first United States proclamation calling on all Americans to give thanks to God on a specific date. Americans traditionally hold that Thanksgiving first took place at Plymouth colony in 1621. The Puritan settlers of Plymouth, also called Pilgrims, held the feast after their first successful harvest as a way of thanking God for their blessings. Nearby Indians were invited to share in the feast. This did not become an annual event. Instead the settlers of the colonies held days of thanksgiving at different times of year and without a consistent theme.

Plymouth Thanksgiving

By the time of the American Revolution, days of fasting and thanksgiving became political. Most Americans viewed liberty as a gift from God. Days of fasting or thanksgiving proclaimed by the states promoted unity by, and helped instill commitment to, the Glorious Cause. During the American war for independence, state assemblies set aside days of prayer to recognize specific military victories. In  1777, the  stunning victory over the British at Saratoga, New York was a game changer. Instead of state legislatures marking it with celebrations, the Continental Congress suggested that a national day be set aside to recognize that decisive victory.  The Commander-in Chief, General George Washington agreed. He proclaimed December 18, 1777 as the first national thanksgiving day. The Continental Congress supported various similar proclamations until 1784.

British surrender at Saratoga spurred a
December 1777 Thanksgiving proclamation

Boudinot's Resolution

On 25 September 1789 New Jersey's Elias Boudinot (a devout Presbyterian) made a motion in the United States House of Representatives for a resolution that stated “That a joint committee of both Houses be directed to wait upon the President of the United States, to request that he would recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging, with grateful hearts, the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a Constitution of government for their safety and happiness.”  The purpose this time was to thank the Almighty for the new constitution and the new form of government - created with about as much sweat and tears as independence itself. The founders and the members of the new government made no distinction between the blessings of independence and the new republic and God's grace. To them, the former stemmed from the latter. This we should remember each Thanksgiving.

Elias Boudinot

President Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation

New York, 3 October 1789

By the President of the United States of America. a Proclamation.
Washington issued the nation's first
Proclamation of Thanksgiving
Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor—and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be—That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks—for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation—for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war—for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed—for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted—for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

and also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions—to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually—to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed—to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord—To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us—and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New-York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

Go: Washington