A Revolutionary March

2- The Battle of Dorchester (1776)
In February of 1776, General Washington was on the lookout for a way to get back into Boston, and kick the British out. When Henry Knox arrived with his 60 cannons from Canada, Washington decided his first step was to get his men onto Dorchester Heights, and build a defensive that could make his attack on Boston more obtainable. In a letter to Burwell Bassett, the General wrote, “We are preparing to take possession of a post (Dorchester) which will, it is generally thought, bring on a rumpus between us and the enemy.” He may have written his intent, but he told very few people about it, only a few officers needed to carry out his plan. On the night of March 2, three thousand men, cloaked in darkness, quietly made their way to the Heights without the British knowing. Although the ground was hard and frozen, they began to dig to make fortifications. They hauled wood and sticks to build a rampart. Then, one by one, they dragged each of Knox’s cannon behind the newly secured embankment. It took them the entire night. They slipped back into camp at three in the morning, where another group of 2,500 soldiers were ready to take their place. When the British awoke the next morning, they were amazed to find the “most astonishing night’s work” that would normally take 20,000 men to accomplish. Their next thought, however, is that they had to attack. The Americans were now too close and needed to be pushed back.  Washington had a different idea. He had a surprise attack of his own in mind and set out to put it into action. Let the mighty rumpus begin. As in many other cases, the sky darkened before his task could be accomplished, and a tremendous storm came over the area. When the storm had passed, the British were no longer certain that a direct attack would be successful, as their opportunity for surprise had gone with the storm. They were unable to decipher where so many cannons had come from, as the traitorous Americans were normally devoid of ammunition and artillery. Feeling completely threatened by their situation, and unable to decide on the wisest course, the lobsterbacks began to retreat toward their ships in the Boston Harbor. A thousand frightened Tories left behind their own cannon to board the ship, which then had to be relieved of its supplies to carry so many men. When Washington and his men entered Boston without having fired a shot, they were greeted by more stores of food, blankets and artillery than they had ever seen. Surprisingly enough, Washington found himself grateful he had not attacked, for Boston appeared to be “almost impregnable, every avenue fortified.” He exclaimed that 20,000 men could not have taken Boston. Was the storm another amazing coincidence? I think not.

5 – Boston Massacre (1770) and then trial with lawyer John Adams

15 – Battle at Guilford Courthouse (1781) As the South became more involved in the war, it became apparent that the  Congress had selected unwise commanders. They first chose Robert Howe, who easily lost Savannah. Next came Benjamin Lincoln who lost Charleston. When Horatio Gates received the command in 1780 he was soon attacked by the British in South Carolina. His men, seeing the large army coming, broke rank and ran away in wild confusion. Since Congress had done such a poor job at choosing the Southern Commanders, they now turned to George Washington to make the decision. He didn’t even hesitate when assigning Nathaniel Greene to the job. Nathaniel was born a Quaker and was removed from his congregation when he chose to fight for his country. He tried first to enter the local militia but was marked inadmissable because of a limp.  He began his career as a reader of tactical maneuvers and military history. Because of his vast knowledge he was made a brigadier-general over Rhode Island and then Quartermaster over the whole army. He was then given the command of the South from Delaware down to Georgia. His army was weak, and as they moved South, they recruited as many volunteers as possible. By December, Greene and his ragtag army were in North Carolina training. British General Cornwallis had already defeated 3 former generals, and now sought again to easily take the Carolinas. Greene continued to move his troops to elude Cornwallis by keeping rivers and streams between the two armies. In fact, after crossing the Yadkin River, he was able to hold off Cornwallis for quite some time due to the bad weather and rapid forming floods. His next step was to choose his own battlefield at Guildford Court House, and lure the British to him. By doing this he would keep the British far away from the rest of their army and in unknown territory. The scheme worked and they found themselves against a strong British military force in March of 1781. They were of course doomed to failure. They had untrained men, very little ammunition, and half the army size. But they strengthened their resolve and continued shooting until their ammunition dissolved. Greene had chosen a battlefield full of trees so that his expert rifleman could hide behind them and be concealed while still being very accurate. They wounded and killed over 600 British men. The British were in confusion and crippled by their losses. Cornwallis turned his army and began to retreat. Greene wanted to follow but couldn’t because he had no more ammunition. They had however, run Cornwallis out of  North Carolina and back up into Virginia. With his limited supplies and troops he had accomplished what the other well-experienced generals could not.

15 – Peter Francisco Day (celebrated in Virginia, Mass, RI) Hefting an 1100 pound cannon? Standing 6’6″ and 260 pounds? He was called the Giant of the Revolution, and made his name known through his fearless fighting, strength, and valor. But his beginnings were quite  humble and almost unknown. On June 23, 1765, a ship sailed into the harbor of City Point, Virginia, rowed toward shore, and deposited a child of 5 years of age. The small boy spoke no English and could only repeat his name to anyone who asked. Pedro Francisco. To the local housewives he became Peter. They took turns bringing him food and taking care of his needs, though he lived alone in a warehouse on the wharf. When he first arrived, he wore clothes of some quality, though well worn, and shoes with silver buckles engraved with P.F. Though the true story could only be gathered from bits of memories and broken English from Peter himself, it was thought that the boy was stolen from his family’s “mansion on the sea” in Portugal, to be sold as a slave. Why he was dropped off in Virginia is unknown. The locals didn’t know what to do with the child, and after some time in the warehouse with a makeshift bed, and then a few months in a poor house, he was taken to Judge Anthony Winston’s home to work as an indentured servant. He was more than a servant to the judge who taught him, instilling in him a passion for freedom and his new country. In the spring of 1775, he accompanied the judge to Richmond, where they heard Patrick Henry’s famous speech “Give Me Liberty, or Give Me Death”. Peter wanted to immediately volunteer in the army, but at age 14 (though already 6’6″ and 260 lbs.) the judge felt he was too young. Two years later, in December of 1776, Peter enlisted himself in the 10th Virginia Regiment. The “Virginia Giant” first showed himself useful in the Battle of Brandywine, where he held off the British while Washington led an orderly retreat. Because of his loyalty there, the General chose him as one of 20 elite soldiers to penetrate the British fortress at Stony Point. They hacked their way through forest and climbed  steep rock, leading others into the fort. Peter was the second man over the wall. In the squirmish he received a 9 inch stomach wound, but still managed to kill three more men before fainting. At the Battle of Camden, Peter tried to stop the retreat of his fellow patriots, but knew it was impossible with the cruel Colonel Tarleton’s troops on their tail. He protected his own colonel, Colonel Mayo, by shooting a grenadier who was about to bayonet him. Peter then sidestepped two sword attacks and lifted a cavalryman off his horse with a bayonet. He then climbed atop the horse, rode through enemy lines to find Colonel Mayo, and gave him the horse to escape. Seeing another group of patriots abandoning an 1100 lb. cannon, and not wanting it falling into enemy hands, Peter picked it up and rested it on his shoulder as he carried it to safety.

At the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, Peter used his 6 foot broadsword (made especially for him by General Washington) to slay 11 men before a British soldier pinned his leg to his horse with a bayonet. He removed the bayonet and still managed to kill the guardsmen. He received even more wounds as the battle went on, and was even left for dead,  until a neighboring Quaker man found him and bandaged him. He once again healed and returned to battle. During the following winter, as the British were causing trouble wherever possible, Peter spent his time  collecting information on Tarleton’s infamous Raiders. One evening when he was discussing information with a man he thought was a Patriot sympathizer, 9 of the Raiders rode up and told him he was now their prisoner. Apparently they thought nothing of his reputation, as they all got off their horses and entered the inn to be refreshed. The last soldier turned back and said he wanted the silver buckles off Peter’s shoes, which was refused. The Raider tried to take them but was struck on his head. He pulled out a gun and was shocked when Peter cut off his wrist. The gun went off and grazed Peter’s side,  alerting the nearby Tarleton with the rest of his Raiders. Peter was able to kill 3 of the original 9 Raiders, grab 8 of their horses, and escape before Tartleton arrived at the scene..

General Washington summed up Peter’s contribution to his country by saying, “without him we would have lost two crucial battles, perhaps the war, and with it our freedom.  He was truly a one man army.”

15 – Spectacles (1783) In 1783, many were talking of a military revolt. It seems ridiculous to think that a military coup would occur the same year the war ended. We already knew we were victorious in the war, as the surrender at Yorktown 2 years earlier had been substantial. We were only waiting for an official peace treaty to say it was over and done. Many at this time were turning their thoughts toward the future and how government would be run in this new nation. Some called for another monarchy, turning to George Washington to be their king. He absolutely refused. Then others began to stir up anger within the still standing army. There were very few battles occurring and a lot more time to remember all their sufferings. There still was no power in a central government to make money, or pay the soldiers. It was thought that they would never be paid, and not having jobs to go home to after so many years of war, they were restless for starting their new lives. Washington immediately called a meeting on March 15th to hear their grievances. He didn’t want civil discord, but he did want to show them he was aware of the problems that needed solving. He talked and pleaded with them for patience, and tried to persuade them against violent action. After concluding, the audience was silent. They hadn’t been moved by his pleadings. Before he sat down, George Washington reached into his pocket and pulled out a letter.  He tried to read the writing, but it was too small for him to read. Biographer James Flexner, in his book Washington in the Revolution describes the scene.

“The officers stirred impatiently in their seats, and then suddenly every heart missed a beat. Something was the matter with His Excellency. He seemed unable to read the paper. He paused in bewilderment. He fumbled in his waistcoat pocket. And then he pulled out something that only his intimates had seen him wear. A pair of glasses. He explained, ‘Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have not only grown gray but almost blind in the service of my country.’ The simple statement achieved what all Washington’s rhetoric and all his arguments had been unable to achieve. The officers were instantly in tears, and from behind the shining drops, their eyes looked with love at the commander who had led them all so far and long.”  Needless to say, they fell in with their commander.

17 – British evacuate Boston & British navy moves to Halifax, Canada (76)

17 – Old Glory (1824) Nearly two centuries ago – on March 17, 1824 – in Salem, Massachusetts, upon the occasion of  the celebration of his twenty-first birthday, William Driver was presented by his mother and a group of Salem girls with a beautiful American flag. “I name her Old Glory,” said he, in response to the greetings of the givers, and thus it was that the name “Old Glory” made its advent into the history of our Flag.  William Driver’s heart and soul were in his occupation of sailing the seas, and from that day on, “Old Glory” accompanied him whenever he went to sea. When, in 1837, after many notable voyages, Captain Driver quit the sea and settled in Nashville, Tennessee, “Old Glory” as usual accompanied him. On historic occasions it could be seen gracefully waving from a rope extending from the Captain’s house to a tree across the street. One day, not long before his death, the old Captain placed in the arms of his daughter a bundle, saying: “Mary Jane, this is my old ship flag, ‘Old Glory.’  It has been my constant companion on many voyages. I love it as a mother loves her child; take it and cherish it as I have cherished it, for it has been my steadfast friend and protector in all parts of the world, among savages, heathen, and civilized. Keep it always.” “Old Glory” was kept and guarded as a precious heirloom in the Driver family until 1922, when it was sent to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington. There it resides today, carefully preserved under glass. Every year it is seen by thousands of loyal Americans who visit the capital of their country.

Story taken from The American Patriot’s Handbook, copyright 1997 Rand McNally, pg 101.

18 – The Declaratory Act (1766)

22 – The Stamp Act (1765)

23 – Patrick Henry “give me liberty” speech (75)

24 – The Quartering Act of 1765

29 – Siege of Charleston (1780)

29 – Patrick Henry speech “if this be treason, make the most of it” (1765)

30 –  The Virginia Stamp Act Resolutions (1765)

31 – Boston Port Act ( one of the intolerable acts) (74)

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