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.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Heroine of the Revolution

Patriot heroine Margaret Corbin is wounded while defending a gun battery during the Battle of Ft. Washington , on upper Manhattan Island, November 16, 1776.
Painting by Don Troiani

Margaret Corbin was a woman who fought in the American Revolutionary War. On November 16, 1776, her husband, John Corbin was one of some 600 American soldiers defending Fort Washington in northern Manhattan from 4,000 attacking Hessian troops under British command. John Corbin was on the crew one of two cannons the defenders deployed. During an assault by the Hessians, John was killed, after witnessing his death, she immediately took his place at the cannon, continuing to fire until her arm, chest, and jaw were hit by enemy fire. The British ultimately won the Battle of Fort Washington, resulting in the surrender of Margaret and her comrades and the taking of the last American position in New York City. 
As the equivalent of a wounded soldier, Margaret was released by the British on parole. 
She later became the first woman in U.S. history to receive a pension from Congress for military service.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Morgan's Riflemen, the first generation snipers

"Morgan's Riflemen were an elite light infantry unit commanded by Daniel Morgan in the American Revolutionary War. They were equipped with what was then the cutting-edge rifle instead of muskets, allowing superior accuracy at an up to ten times the distance of the typical troops of the day.

Daniel Morgan was a wagoneer by occupation and a bit rough around the edges, he wasn’t known for being “gentlemanly.” A veteran of the French & Indian War, he got his start in the Revolutionary War in 1776 as the captain of a small rifle unit set up by the state of Virginia and commissioned by Congress. Morgan's had 69 men, and quickly got the nickname Morgan's Sharpshooters.
Morgan's most significant action in this period was support for the invasion of Canada, and the Battle of Quebec in which he was seen as a hero, despite General Benedict Arnold's overall failure and their subsequent capture.
In early 1777, when Morgan was freed from captivity, he was commissioned as a Colonel and assigned command of the 11th Virginia Regiment. Not long afterward he was instructed by George Washington to form a Provisional Rifle Corps consisting of men skilled with the use of the long rifle.
Having done so, his first assignment was to harass Colonel William Howe as he retreated through New Jersey. Morgan did so by having his 500 riflemen snipe the enemy troops as they moved, using their longer range to do so from safety, an unusual tactic for that day.
Sent to join the northern army headed by General Horatio Gates, Morgan's Riflemen helped establish better conditions for the coming Battle of Saratoga. A series of quick attacks on the British Indian allies drove them back to the main force which interfered with British ability to gather intelligence of the American troops' movements.
After a series of similar successes, Morgan left active service for a year, then re-joined the southern army with Nathaniel Greene. There his Riflemen's string of successes were capped when they were again pivotal in a key victory, the Battle of Cowpens.
Facing a superior British line commanded by Colonel Banastre Tarleton, they met it head-on to fire three rounds (before the marching British muskets were in range), conducting a planned withdrawal to another location and duplicating the effort, then joined the main force against the now-depleted and disheartened British lines, who quickly fell into retreat. This was seen as the worst British defeat since the battle at Saratoga, both victories credited to Morgan's Riflemen and described as key turning points in the Revolutionary War".

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Heroine of the Revolution

elizabeth burgin.jpg

Little is known about Elizabeth Burgin except that she played a significant role in aiding American soldiers who were prisoners of the British during the Revolutionary War.

During the Revolutionary War, the British held many American prisoners-of-war on prison ships in the New York Harbor. On the ships, the quarters were crowded and the prisoners were given little food or water. Diseases like smallpox and yellow fever spread easily and over seven thousand prisoners died while on the ships.

A resident of New York, Burgin was able to help the prisoners by visiting them and bringing them food. One evening when she returned home from visiting a prison ship, an American officer asked to meet with her about a plan to help the prisoners escape. The British only allowed women on the prison ships, so the officer wanted Burgin to alert the prisoners to be ready for the escape and to help with the plan of smuggling them off the ship. Burgin complied and helped more than 200 prisoners escape over the next several weeks.

Once the British discovered they were missing prisoners they offered a two hundred pound reward for her capture. This amount was equal to twenty years of pay for a British soldier, so there was a great incentive for them to try to capture her. Burgin narrowly escaped being captured and left the area. Burgin wrote to General George Washington, asking for his help now that the British had all of her possessions.

General Washington wrote to the Continental Congress about Burgin’s role:

“Regarding Elizabeth Burgin, recently an inhabitant of New York. From the testimony of our own (escaped) officers…it would appear that she has been indefatigable for the relief of the prisoners, and for the facilitation of their escape. For this conduct she incurred the suspicion of the British, and was forced to make her escape under disturbing circumstances.” (1)

In 1781, the Continental Congress awarded Burgin with a pension for her part in helping the Patriots’ cause.

Monday, August 15, 2016

A Defeat at Camden, A Victory at Bennington

The Defeat

After the defeat in Charleston, the Congress appointed General Gates to be the new commander of the American Southern District. Gates was impatient to strike back at the British. He believed the British troops at Camden, North Carolina were vulnerable. Camden was also an advanced munitions depot, so it made a tempting target.

On July 27th 1780, Gates set off for Camden with over 3,000 regular and militia troops. Gates headed directly towards Camden, despite the difficulty in obtaining supplies on the route. Gates arrived near Camden on August 14th, with his 3,000 men, believing that this would give him overwhelming numerical superiority over the forces of British Colonel Radwon, whom he believed were in Camden. Little did he know that British General Cornwallis had learned of Gates' advance and hurried to Camden with reinforcements.

Gates' forces still outnumbered the British forces. However, the British forces were better equipped and included cavalry as well as more extensive artillery. 

On the night of the 15th, Gates learned of the arrival of the British forces, when his forces approached Camden at night; only to run into a British force. Neither force wanted to fight at night, so they both retreated. The Americans took some soldiers prisoner and learned of the existence of Cornwallis' troops. Gates realized he faced a difficult predicament. Capturing Camden seemed nearly impossible, while a withdrawal with a large number of British cavalry forces present would be nearly impossible. He decided to stand and fight.

Gates arranged his forces in a defensive position, a strategy that had served him well at the Battle of Saratoga. Despite his knowledge of the British position, Gates arranged his forces in a disastrous deployment. He placed the militia opposite the British dragoons and Hessian soldiers, while placing his better trained Continentals opposite the Loyalist militia that Cornwallis lead. Gates' final error of the day was to order the militia forward to attack.

The American line broke at the site of the British regulars advancing. Most militia ran without firing a shot. Gates tried to staunch the retreat, but it was hopeless. The Americans began a full retreat from the battlefield, losing over 600 soldiers in the process. The Battle of Camden was a complete American defeat. It marked a low in the war for the Americans.

The Victory

5-Yohn, F.C.-Battle of Bennington-Aug. 16, 1777.jpg

August 16, 1777, the Battle of Bennington was a battle of the American Revolutionary War in Walloomsac, New York, about 10 miles from its namesake Bennington, Vermont. A rebel force of 2,000 men, primarily composed of militiamen, led by General John Stark, and reinforced by Vermont militiamen led by Colonel Seth Warner and members of the Green Mountain Boys, decisively defeated a detachment of General John Burgoyne's army of led by Lieutenant Colonel Friedrich Baum, with support of Hessians under Lieutenant Colonel Heinrich von Breymann.
He was sent by Burgoyne to raid Bennington New Hampshire for horses, draft animals, and other supplies. Believing the town to be only lightly defended, Baum was unaware that Stark and 1,500 militiamen were stationed there. After a rain-caused standoff, Stark's men enveloped Baum's position, taking many prisoners, and killing Baum. Reinforcements for both sides arrived as Stark and his men were mopping up, and the battle restarted, with Warner and Stark driving away von Breymann’ Hessian reinforcements with heavy casualties.

The battle was a decisive victory for the rebel cause, as it reduced Burgoyne's army in size by almost 1,000 men, led his Indian support to largely abandon him, and deprived him of needed supplies such as cavalry and draft horses and food, all factors that contributed to Burgoyne's eventual surrender at Saratoga.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Meriwether Lewis Is Shot While Hunting

"August 11, 1806, while hunting for elk along the Missouri River, Meriwether Lewis is shot in the hip, probably by one of his own men.

Lewis and Clark had embarked on their epic journey to the Pacific two years earlier. The 33 members of the Corps of Discovery had experienced many adventures and narrowly escaped disaster on several occasions, but they had lost only one man (Sergeant Floyd, a probable victim of appendicitis) and suffered relatively few serious injuries. Now, at last, they were returning home; St. Louis was scarcely a month away.
A few weeks earlier, Lewis and Clark had divided the party in order to explore additional new territory. The two groups were supposed to reunite at the junction of the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers.

Lewis, traveling with nine men, hurried down the Missouri, eager to be reunited with Clark and the main body of the expedition. However, he periodically had to take time to stop and hunt for game to feed the hardworking men.
On the morning of this day in 1806, Lewis spotted some elk on a bar in the river thickly overgrown with willows. He put to shore and set out to hunt accompanied by Private Cruzatte. Spotting an elk, Lewis was just about to fire his rifle when he was hit in the buttocks by a bullet. The blow spun him around and slashed a three-inch gash in his hip. Knowing that Cruzatte was blind in one eye and nearsighted in the other, Lewis immediately assumed the private had mistaken him for an elk. “Damn you,” Lewis cried. “You have shot me.”
When Cruzatte did not respond, Lewis feared Indians might have attacked him. Rushing back to the boat, he rallied the men and sent them off to save Cruzatte. Twenty minutes later, the men returned with Cruzatte. They had seen no Indians, and Cruzatte denied having shot Lewis and claimed he had not heard his shouts.

For the rest of his days, Cruzatte insisted he had not shot his captain. Lewis, however, had the offending bullet: A .54 caliber slug from a modern U.S. Army rifle. Lewis was shot by a gun identical to the one carried by Cruzatte, and one unlikely to be in the hands of any Indian. The near-sighted Cruzatte probably mistook the leather-clad Lewis for an elk, though it is unlikely the private’s guilt will ever be proven with absolute certainty.

His wound was not serious, but Lewis spent the next several days lying faced down in the bottom of a canoe as the party proceeded down river. The following day, they caught up with Clark. By the time they reached St. Louis on September 23, Lewis’ wound had healed and the excitement of homecoming overshadowed the event".

You will find Lewis' own account of this mishap HERE from his journals.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Battle of Monguagon

On August 9, 1812, American Lieutenant-Colonel James Miller’s command, comprised of 280 regulars and more than 330 Ohio Volunteer troops, was sent to escort a supply train to Detroit.

At Monguagon (Trenton, MI), Miller came upon British Captain Adam Muir, with 205 British regulars, Canadian militia and Native American. As the Americans advanced a skirmish broke out and things started to go wrong for the British.
Noticing some men creeping through the woods on their right, some of the British thought it was the enemy trying to outflank them and opened fire on them. The "enemy" turned out to be allied Potawatomi warriors, who immediately thought that the people firing at them must be Americans. Both returned fire until the Potawatomi realized that they were fighting their own side and withdrew into the woods to the rear.
At about that same time, seeing the American advance waiver, Muir ordered the bugler of the light infantry company to sound the charge.
In the British Army, only the light infantry used the bugle; the rest of the infantry communicated using drumbeats. The officer commanding one of the other companies thought that the bugle was sounding the "recall" and ordered his men to fall back.
Before Muir knew what was happening, his whole force was streaming off to the rear.
The Americans, who thought that the British were running from them, took heart and advanced over Muir's vacated position in pursuit of an enemy they thought they had routed. Miller advanced a good distance only to find that Muir had regrouped and was standing, awaiting Miller to attack. Miller, satisfied with his "victory", decided not to renew his assault and withdrew.

Lieutenant-Colonel James Miller