Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Hero of the Revolution

Image result for Nathan Hale

In New York City on September 22, 1776, Nathan Hale, a Connecticut schoolteacher and captain in the Continental Army, is executed by the British for spying.

A graduate of Yale University, Hale joined a Connecticut regiment in 1775 and served in the successful siege of British-occupied Boston. On September 10, 1776, he volunteered to cross behind British lines on Long Island to spy on the British in preparation for the Battle of Harlem Heights.

Disguised as a Dutch schoolmaster, the Yale-educated Hale slipped behind British lines on Long Island and successfully gathered information about British troop movements for the next several weeks. While Hale was behind enemy lines, the British invaded the island of Manhattan; they took control of the city on September 15, 1776. When the city was set on fire on September 20, British soldiers were told to look out for sympathizers to the Patriot cause. The following evening, September 21, Hale was captured while sailing Long Island Sound, trying to cross back into American-controlled territory. Although rumors surfaced that Hale was betrayed by his first cousin and British Loyalist Samuel Hale, the exact circumstances of Hale’s capture have never been discovered.

Hale was interrogated by British General William Howe and, when it was discovered that he was carrying incriminating documents, General Howe ordered his execution for spying, which was set for the following morning. After being led to the gallows, legend holds that the 21-year-old Hale said, “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country.” There is no historical record to prove that Hale actually made this statement, but, if he did, he may have been inspired by these lines in English author Joseph Addison’s 1713 play Cato: “What a pity it is/That we can die but once to serve our country.”

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Battle of Freeman’s Farm

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In the early morning hours of  September 19, 1777, British General John Burgoyne launches a three-column attack against General Horatio Gates and his American forces in the First Battle of Saratoga, also known as the Battle of Freeman’s Farm.

Coming under heavy cannon fire from the approaching British troops, General Gates initially ordered the Northern Army to be patient and wait until the British neared before launching a counter-attack. General Gates’ second in command, American Brigadier General Benedict Arnold, strongly disagreed with Gates’ orders and did not hesitate to share his opinion with his superior. After arguing for several hours, General Arnold was finally able to convince Gates to order American troops onto the battlefield to meet the center column of the approaching British, and to dispatch a regiment of riflemen to intercept the British right flank.

Although the Americans were able to inflict severe casualties on the British, the delay in ordering a counter-attack forced the Americans to fall back. During the five-hour battle, the Americans lost approximately 280 troops killed, while the British suffered a more severe loss of more than 550 killed.

Due to the disagreement over military decisions of the battle
, Gates removed Arnold as his second in command. Arnold felt slighted by the army he served, and in 1780, he betrayed the Patriot cause by handing over the Patriot-held fort at West Point, New York, to the British. 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Battle of Harlem Heights

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September 16, 1776, General George Washington arrives at Harlem Heights, on the northern end of Manhattan, and takes command of a group of retreating Continental troops. The day before, 4,000 British soldiers had landed at Kip’s Bay in Manhattan (near present-day 34th Street) and taken control of the island, driving the Continentals north, where they appeared to be in disarray prior to Washington’s arrival.

In the early morning hours, General Washington ordered the Continentals to hold their line at Harlem Heights while he sent Captain Thomas Knowlton and a volunteer group of Rangers to scout British movements and possibly lure the British into combat. While Captain Knowlton and the Rangers engaged the British in a frontal assault, Washington sent a second force of Patriots to attack the British from their right flank. During the short but intense fighting that ensued, the Americans were able to force a small British retreat from their northern positions.

Despite the American failure to stop the British invasion of New York City the previous day at Kip’s Bay, the successful Battle of Harlem Heights restored public confidence in the American troops and lifted the spirits of the Continental Army. The Americans and British each lost approximately 70 troops in the fighting. One of the Americans lost was the Ranger leader, Captain Thomas Knowlton.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Battle at Eutaw Springs

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After receiving reinforcements on September 8, 1781, Major General Nathanael Greene of the Continental Army resumes offensive action against Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Stewart and the British soldiers at Eutaw Springs, located on the banks of the Santee River in South Carolina. The Patriots approached in the early morning, forcing the British soldiers to abandon their uneaten breakfasts in order to fight.

Greene commanded approximately 2,200 men compared to the less than 2,000 British soldiers commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Stewart. Unbeknownst to most of the Patriots, however, British Major John Majoribanks had managed to secure his unit in a stone house, impervious to Patriot Lieutenant Colonel William Washington’s cavalry attack. When Patriot soldiers took over the British camp and began to devour the abandoned breakfast, Majoribanks set his men upon them. A four-hour inconclusive bloodbath in the burning sun ensued, ending in both sides retreating from the battlefield. More than 500 Americans were killed or wounded in the action. British losses were even greater and the greatest sustained by any army in a single battle during the entire Revolutionary War. By the end of the battle, 700 of their soldiers were killed, wounded or missing. Because of the high number of casualties the British sustained, Stewart subsequently ordered his men to withdraw to Charleston, South Carolina, to regroup.

The Battle of Eutaw Springs was one of the hardest fought and bloodiest battles of the Revolution and proved to be the last major engagement of the war to take place in the South. The Patriots’ partial victory cemented their near-complete control of the southern section of the country.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

For the Seamstress & Tailor

In the Draper´s Shop; by Adriaen Bloem

Burnley & Trowbridge: If you want authentic and accurate, this should be your first stop.

The Village Green Clothier: The author of Fitting & Proper also has a web store! An excellent source and someone you should know.

At the Sign of the Golden Scissors: The millinery shop of South Coast Historical Associates.  Also have a blog here.

Smoke & Fire: A huge selection and variety of items. 

Jas. Townsend and Son, Inc.: Another well-known name in the reenacting world. 

Wooded Hamlet Designs/Needle & Thread: Excellent source of sewing notions, ribbons, etc. Linen, linen, and more linen!

Super Silk, Inc.: Silk, silk, and more silk! Learn about fabrics.

Joann's: Sign up on their email list for coupons. Get tools from them (scissors, rotary cutter, ruler, etc.), buy only with a coupon.

Liberty Linens: Fine linens, also offering some wools.

Farmhouse Fabrics, LLC: Excellent source of fabrics, sewing notions, ribbons, etc.

Renaissance Fabrics: A great selection of silk taffeta.

Wm. Booth, Draper: Loads of goodies, from fabric to notions to books and patterns. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

From Patriot to Desperado

Cave-In-Rock, Illinois

August 31, 1777, Samuel Mason, a Patriot captain in command of Fort Henry on the Ohio frontier, survives a devastating Indian attack.
The son of a distinguished Virginia family, Samuel Mason became a militia officer and was assigned to the western frontier post of Fort Henry in present-day West Virginia. In the summer of 1777, with the colonies fighting a war for independence, Mason feared attacks by the Indian allies of the British. He was proven correct on August 31, 1777, when a band of Native Americans from several eastern tribes attacked the fort.
The Indians initially fired only on several men who were outside the fort rounding up horses. Hearing the shots, Mason gathered 14 men and rode to their rescue; this was exactly what the warriors hoped he would do. They ambushed the party, killing all but Mason. Badly wounded, Mason escaped death by hiding behind a log. A second party that attempted to come to his rescue suffered the same fate as the first. All told, Mason lost 15 men, compared to only one fatality among the attackers.
Mason recovered from his wounds and continued to command Fort Henry for several years. Following the end of the war, though, he fell on hard times. Repeatedly accused of being a thief, he moved farther west into the lawless frontier of the young American nation.

By 1790's, Mason took to robbing travelers along the Natchez Trace in Tennessee, often with the assistance of his four sons. The law eventually ran them off for robbing people.

Mason then moved to the Henderson, Kentucky area - then known as Red Banks - the Commonwealth sent a constable to regulate his activities, but Mason and his gang ended up killing him. Once again a group of regulators ran him out of town. 
After this, he and his family and gang became river pirates on the Lower Ohio River, preying on boatmen who moved valuable goods up and down the river. Historical records place Mason at Cave-In-Rock, Illinois in 1797.

The 1962 film How the West Was Won featured Jimmy Stewart playing a mountain man going down the Ohio River. Along the way, they stopped in at Cave-In-Rock where Stewart meets a group of pirates. Their trick was to lure people in the cave then robbing and killing their victims. Walter Brennan's character, Alabama Colonel Hawkins, was based on a real pirate in the Lower Ohio River Valley: Samuel Mason.

By the early 1800's, Mason had become one of the most notorious desperadoes on the American frontier, a precursor to Jesse James, Cole Younger and later outlaws of the “Wild West.” In January 1803, Spanish authorities arrested Mason and his four sons and decided to turn them over to the Americans. En route to Natchez, Tennessee, Mason and his sons killed the commander of the boat and escaped.
Determined to apprehend Mason, the Americans upped the reward for his capture, dead or alive. The reward money soon proved too tempting for two members of Mason’s gang; in July 1803 they killed Mason, cut off his head and brought it into the Mississippi territorial offices to prove that they had earned the reward. The men were soon identified as members of Mason’s gang, however, and they were arrested and hanged.

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Saturday, August 27, 2016

Battle of Long Island

The Delaware Regiment at the Battle of Long Island

On August 27, 1776, the Battle of Long Island took place it was the first major battle of the American Revolutionary War. In terms of troop deployment and fighting, it was also the largest battle of the entire war. 
It pitted General George Washington’s 9,500 men against British Major General Howe’s force of 32,000. The confrontation was a disaster for American fortunes in New York, the defeat at Long Island was the first in a string of reverses which culminated in the British capture of the city and surrounding area. Badly defeated, Washington was forced retreat across New Jersey that fall, finally escaping into Pennsylvania. 
The defeat at Long Island cost Washington 312 killed, 1,407 wounded, and 1,186 captured. British losses were a relatively light 392 killed and wounded.