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Sunday, April 15, 2018

Things: The Shot Heard Round the World

This is the anniversary week of the battles of Lexington and Concord – the famous “shot heard round the world” did not occur in a vacuum. Over a decade of political strife and miscalculation led to Englishmen firing upon Englishmen, a concept that would have been considered absurd just months before the event. So I am going to provide a short overview of those events that took a political crisis to insurgency and finally open rebellion.

Colonial Crisis


Almost after the last whiff of gunpowder dispersed into the blue skies over North America at the end of the French & Indian war in 1763, a crack began to develop in Britain’s newly won empire. The problems involved management of the new empire and the governance of the English settled colonies, native Indians, and the French speaking Quebec and the economics of empire.  These cracks were subtle at first but over time, they seemed to split of their own weight. The war had plunged the British government deep into debt, and the British Parliament sought to exploit the colonies for quick funds. They enacted a series of coercive measures to pull revenue from the colonies.

The French and Indian War sowed the seeds of later conflict
between Britain and her colonies


The Stamp Act


The Stamp Act of 1765 was one of the first initial measures forced upon the American colonists, instated to help pay for troops stationed in North America after the British victory. A tax on paper – it was not well received and more and more American colonists became politically active.




The Townshend Acts



Charles Townshend


Then in 1767, Parliament passed a series of acts called the Townshend Acts, named after Charles
Townshend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer who devised the program. These included: the Revenue Act of 1767, the Indemnity Act, the Commissioners of Customs Act, the Vice Admiralty Court Act, and the New York Restraining Act. This stirred up more agitation across the colonies but especially in New England where the acts met immediate resistance.






The King Street Incident


The political unrest caused by the Townshend Acts would lead to the event known to the British as the King Street incident. But you know it as The Boston Massacre. Colonial agitators accosted British soldiers and threatened them with violence. Their reaction led to the shooting of that name. By now the colonists in opposition to the Crown began organizing. The British met colonial reaction with one more action. The Tea Act was one of the final coercive measures passed by Parliament and became the last straw, making it the final unifying factor that brought the colonies from political agitation to an insurgent-like movement that would lead to open rebellion. The Parliament's insistence on the right to tax the colonies in the end became too much. The Tea Act was a lame attempt to convince the Americans to buy British tea and recognize Britain's right of taxation.


Boston Massacre provided rebels propaganda 


The Party


The colonies refused to accept this policy, and instead, the Sons of Liberty, one of many local insurgent groups, staged what became known as the Boston Tea Party. The Loyalist governor, Thomas Hutchinson, refused to let ships leave without the colonists paying the duty. The radicals were stirred to action. The Sons of Liberty and their supporters disguised themselves as Mohawk warriors, and clambered aboard the remaining British vessels in port tied at Griffin’s Wharf. They sent 342 chests of British tea to the bottom of the harbor.



Boston Tea Party


The Reaction

The British responded to the party by instating the Intolerable Acts, which the colonies refused to submit to. The British government now tightened its grip on Massachusetts. The new royally appointed governor, General Thomas Gage, was given expanded powers, and several thousand more troops to garrison Boston and cow the colonists with a show of force. Along with these acts, Parliament closed Boston harbor, and sent 4,000 British troops to Boston, to patrol the "rebellious areas." Parliament believed that these acts were perfectly legitimate, that the colonies needed to pay for the maintenance of the British Empire. The colonies thought differently. And a drumbeat of actions began a small but growing political rift that would lead to an insurgency of sorts.


Boston Port Bill closed the harbor
impacting New England's economy


Birth of Rebellion


Lieut Col Francis Smith
led the ill-fated column
But the colonists reacted with more action, and by 1775 political crisis morphed to open insurgency careening towards rebellion. The Massachusetts colonial assembly directed the townships to ready their militias, which had already been preparing for what many foresaw as the coming conflict. The British had many sympathetic Loyalists who kept them apprised of the growing resistance. In April 1775, Gage received orders to disarm the rebels. Gage ordered Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith to gather 700 British Army soldiers and march to Concord, where the rebels were reportedly storing mass quantities of arms and ammunition. Their orders were to find the stash and destroy it. He also had orders to arrest certain rebel leaders such as Sam Adams and John Hancock. Smith’s column was drawn from 11 of Gage's 13 occupying infantry regiments. Major John Pitcairn commanded ten elite light infantry companies, and Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Bernard commanded 11 grenadier companies. Quite a shock force by any measure.



General Thomas Gage faced a difficult situation


An Intelligence War


But the patriots, as the rebels deemed themselves, had an intelligence network. Some believe Gage’s American wife, Margaret Kemble Gage, was a rebel spy. See my Blog post, “The Lady was a, Spy?” Regardless the source, the rebels had received word of the British orders. On 8 April, Paul Revere rode to Concord and notified local militias in the area to be on the alert for the British army forces. On 18 April, Revere received word of British “regulars” making their way to Lexington and Concord. Having already warned the militia in Concord, which had secured the weapons supply, Revere and William Dawes rode quickly to Lexington to warn the townspeople of the expected British onslaught.



Margaret Kemble Gage: Spy?

Shot Heard Round the World


This began a frantic race to Lexington during the night: The British pressing to maintain surprise, the patriots to gather enough forces to challenge them.  The celebrated first clash took place at Lexington Green, the town square, dawn on the morning of 19 April. Militia captain John Parker, a veteran of the Seven Years' War, led some 80 Lexington militiamen, known as minutemen. The British had 700. Years later, one of the participants recalled Parker’s alleged words before the skirmish: “Stand your ground; don’t fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.”




Race to Concord



A British officer demanded that the militia disarm and disperse, and in the ensuing confusion, muskets were fired. To this day, there exists considerable uncertainty over whether the militiamen or the British soldiers fired first. Regardless, the British soldiers rushed forward with their bayonets. A skirmish ensued, during which eight militiamen were killed and only one British soldier wounded. Resistance melted away at Lexington, and the British moved on to Concord, where militia from Concord and nearby Lincoln awaited anxiously. The British found and destroyed some rebel weapons caches, but most of the colonists’ military supplies were hidden or destroyed.


The shot heard round the world on Lexington Green



At the approach of the huge British column, the Concord militia retreated to a ridge overlooking the town and militia colonel James Barrett withdrew from the town of Concord and led the men across the North Bridge to a hill about a mile north of town, where they could continue to watch the troop movements of the British and the activities in the center of town. The militia faced off against the regulars at the North Bridge.

Minutemen take on British at North Bridge


When a British covering party of around 100 regulars moved to secure the North Bridge, they were attacked by some 400 American patriots.  The regulars were both outnumbered and outmaneuvered. Confused orders from their commander and the superior numbers of the rebels broke their morale. In a confused retreat, they abandoned their wounded in search of the safety of the approaching grenadier companies coming from Concord. Despite the setback at the North Bridge, the regulars continued to search for and destroy colonial military supplies in the town while the rebels watched anxiously. They paused for lunch, assembled for a march, and left Concord  in the afternoon.


Militias swarmed the returning British column inflicting maximum casualties



But the deliberate actions of the British, aimed at displaying British superiority, had an unintended consequence. It gave the colonial militiamen from outlying towns and villages additional time to reach the road back to Boston. The call went out and more and more companies of militias swarmed along the British column as they marched back to Boston. It was all the officers could do to avoid panic with revenge-minded rebels continually firing on them from behind roadside houses, barns, trees, and stone walls. Some estimates give the rebel strength at 2,000 by time the British column returned to Boston. The bill for the day’s actions: British 273, Americans 95.

Aftermath


When the British returned to garrison, the militiamen began to lay siege to Boston.  The call went out to the other colonies and soon they were joined by militias from Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. These colonial forces would be constituted as the Continental Army by the Second Continental Congress. The Battles of Lexington and Concord turned the decade-long crack between the colonists and the mother country into a chasm Britain could never breach. It also widened the split between the patriots and Loyalist colonists, who soon would wage their own savage war within a war. But the immediate result was impressive: it roused 16,000 New Englanders to the join forces around Boston.  Less than a year later, the British army of occupation would withdraw to Canada to prepare for a long war.


The British occupation of Boston



The American Revolutionary War had begun. But it would take another year for that to morph into a war for independence.

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



Legacy


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

Sir

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.

(Washington)

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.

J.C.



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
mascots


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