The Life of Founder John Hancock

John HancockThe events leading to the declaration of independence, which have been rapidly passed in review, in the preceding pages, have brought us to the more particular notice of those distinguished men, who signed their names to that instrument, and thus identified themselves with the glory of this American republic.

If the world has seldom witnessed a train of events of a more novel and interesting character, than those which led to the declaration of American independence, it has, perhaps, never seen a body of men, placed in a more difficult and responsible situation, than were the signers of that instrument. And certainly, the world has never witnessed a more brilliant exhibition of political wisdom, or a brighter example of firmness and courage.

The first instant the American colonies gave promise of future importance and respectability, the jealousy of Great Britain was excited, and the counsels of her statesmen were employed to keep them in humble subjection. This was the object, when royalty grasped at their charters; when restrictions were laid upon their commerce and manufactures; when, by taxation, their resources were attempted to be withdrawn, and the doctrine inculcated, that it was rebellion for them to think and act for themselves.

Hancock 2It was fortunate for the Americans, that they understood their own rights, and had the courage to assert them. But even at the time of the declaration of independence, just as was the cause of the colonies, it was doubtful how the contest would terminate. The chance of eventual success was against them. Less than three millions of people constituted their population, and these were scattered over a widely extended territory. They were divided into colonies, which had no political character, and no other bond of union than common sufferings, common danger, and common necessities. They had no veteran army, no navy, no arsenals filled with the munitions of war, and no fortifications on their extended coast. They had no overflowing treasuries; but in the outset, were to depend upon loans, taxation, and voluntary contributions.

Thus circumstanced, could success in such a contest be reasonably anticipated? Could they hope to compete with the parent country, whose strength was consolidated by the lapse of centuries, and to whose wealth and power so many millions contributed? That country directed, in a great measure, the destinies of Europe: her influence extended to every quarter of the world. Her armies were trained to the art of war; her navy rode in triumph on every sea; her statesmen were subtle and sagacious; her generals skilful and practiced. And more than all, her pride was aroused by the fact, that all Europe was an interested spectator of the scene, and was urging her forward to vindicate the policy she had adopted, and the principles which she had advanced.

But what will not union and firmness, valor and patriotism, accomplish? What will not faith accomplish? The colonies were, indeed, aware of the crisis at which they had arrived. They saw the precipice upon which they stood. National existence was at stake. Life, and liberty, and peace, were at hazard ; not only those of the generation which then existed, but of the unnumbered millions which were yet to be born. To heaven they could, with pious confidence, make their solemn appeal. They trusted in the arm of Him, who had planted their fathers in this distant land, and besought Him to guide Hancock3the men, who in His Providence were called to preside over their public councils.

It was fortunate for them, and equally fortunate for the cause of rational liberty, that the delegates to the congress of 1776, were adequate to the great work, which devolved upon them. They were not popular favorites, brought into notice during a season of tumult and violence; nor men chosen in times of tranquility, when nothing is to be apprehended from a mistaken selection. “But they were men to whom others might cling in times of peril, and look up to in the revolution of empires; men whose countenances in marble, as on canvass, may be dwelt upon by after ages, as the history of the times.” They were legislators and senators by birth, raised up by heaven for the accomplishment of a special and important object; to rescue a people groaning under oppression; and with the aid of their illustrious compeers, destined to establish rational liberty on a new basis, in an American republic.

They, too, well knew the responsibility of their station, and the fate which awaited themselves, if not their country, should their experiment fail. They came, therefore, to the question of a declaration of independence, like men who had counted the cost; prepared to rejoice, without any unholy triumph, should God smile upon the transaction; prepared also, if defeat should follow, to lead in the way to martyrdom.

declaration_of_independenceA signature to the declaration of independence, without reference to general views, was, to each individual, a personal consideration of the most momentous import. It would be regarded in England as treason, and expose any man to the halter or the block. The only signature, which exhibits indications of a trembling hand, is that of Stephen Hopkins, who had been afflicted with the palsy. In this work of treason, John Hancock led the way, as president of the congress, and by the force with which he wrote, he seems to have determined that his name should never be erased. * The pen, with which these signatures were made, has been preserved, and is now in the cabinet of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

This gentleman, who, from his conspicuous station in the continental congress of 1776, claims our first notice, was born in the town of Quincy, in the state of Massachusetts, in the year 1737. Both his father and grandfather were clergymen, distinguished for great devotion to the duties of their profession, and for the happy influence which they exercised over those to whom they ministered. Of his father it is recorded, that he evinced no common devotion to learning, to which cause he rendered essential service, by the patronage that he gave to the literary institutions of his native state.

Harvard

Harvard College

Of so judicious a counselor, young Hancock was deprived, while yet a child, but happily he was adopted by a paternal uncle, Thomas Hancock, the most opulent merchant in Boston, and the most enterprising in New England. Mr. Thomas Hancock was a man of enlarged views; and was distinguished by his liberality to several institutions, especially to Harvard college, in which he founded a professorship, and in whose library his name is still conspicuous as a principal benefactor.

Under the patronage of the uncle, the nephew received a liberal education [liberal here means bountiful, free, generous, large] in the above university, where he was graduated in 1754. During his collegiate course, though respectable as a scholar, he was in no wise distinguished, and at that time, gave little promise of the eminence to which he afterwards arrived.

On leaving college, he was entered as a clerk in the counting house of his uncle, where he continued till 1760; at which time he visited England, both for the purposes of acquiring information, and of becoming personally acquainted with the distinguished correspondents of his patron. In 1764, he returned to America; shortly after which his uncle died, leaving to his nephew his extensive mercantile concerns, and his princely fortune, then the largest estate in the province.

To a young man, only twenty-seven, this sudden possession of wealth was full of danger; and to not a few would have proved their ruin. But Hancock became neither giddy, arrogant, nor profligate; and he continued his former course of regularity, industry, and moderation. Many depended upon him, as they had done upon his uncle, for employment. To these he was kind and liberal; while in his more extended and complicated commercial transactions, he maintained a high reputation for honor and integrity.

The possession of wealth, added to the upright and honorable character which he sustained, naturally gave him influence in the community, and rendered him even popular. In 1766, he was placed by the suffrage’s of his fellow citizens in the legislature of Massachusetts, and this event seems to have given a direction to his future career.

He thus became associated with such individuals as Otis, Cushing, and Samuel Adams, men of great political distinction, acute discrimination, and patriotic feeling. In such an atmosphere, the genius of Hancock brightened rapidly, and he soon became conspicuous among his distinguished colleagues. It has, indeed, been asserted, that in force of genius, he was inferior to many of his contemporaries; but honorable testimony was given, both to the purity of his principles, and the excellence of his abilities, by his frequent nomination to committees, whose deliberations deeply involved the welfare of the community.

The arrival of a vessel belonging to Mr. Hancock, in the year 1768, which was said to be loaded contrary to the revenue laws, has already been noticed in our introduction. This vessel was seized by the custom-house officers, and placed under the guns of the Romney, at that time in the harbor, for security. The seizure of this vessel greatly exasperated the people, and in their excitement, they assaulted the revenue officers with violence, and compelled them to seek their safety on board the armed vessel, or in a neighboring castle. The boat of the collector was destroyed, and several houses belonging to his partisans were razed to their foundation.

In these proceedings, Mr. Hancock himself was in no wise engaged; and he probably condemned them as rash and unwarrantable. But the transaction contributed greatly to bring him into notice, and to increase his popularity.

This, and several similar occurrences, served as a pretext to the governor to introduce into Boston, not long after, several regiments of British troops; a measure which was fitted more than all others to irritate the inhabitants. Frequent collisions, as might be expected, soon happened between the soldiers and the citizens, the former of whom were insolent, and the latter independent. These contentions not long after broke out into acts of violence. An unhappy instance of this violence occurred on the evening of the 5th of March, 1770, at which time, a small party of British soldiers was assailed by several of the citizens, with balls of snow, and other weapons. The citizens were fired upon by order of the commanding officer: a few were killed, and several others were wounded.

Although the provocation, in this instance, was given by the citizens, the whole town was simultaneously aroused to seek redress. At the instigation of Samuel Adams, and Mr. Hancock, an assembly of the citizens was convened the following day, and these two gentlemen, with some others, were appointed a committee to demand of the governor the removal of the troops. Of this committee, Mr. Hancock was the chairman.

bostonmassacrebychampneyA few days after the above affray, which is usually termed “the Boston massacre,” the bodies of the slain were buried with suitable demonstrations of public grief. In commemoration of the event, Mr. Hancock was appointed to deliver an address. After speaking of his attachment to a righteous government, and of his enmity to tyranny, he proceeded in the following animated strain: “The town of Boston, ever faithful to the British crown, has been invested by a British fleet; the troops of George the third have crossed the Atlantic, not to engage an enemy, but to assist a band of traitors in trampling on the rights and liberties of his most loyal subjects; those rights and liberties, which, as a father, he ought ever to regard, and as a king, he is bound in honor to defend from violation, even at the risk of his own life.

“These troops, upon their first arrival, took possession of onr senate house, pointed their cannon against the judgment hall, and even continued them there, whilst the supreme court of the province was actually sitting to decide upon the lives and fortunes of the king’s subjects. Our streets nightly resounded with the noise of their riot and debauchery; our peaceful citizens were hourly exposed to shameful insults, and often felt the effects of their violence and outrage. But this was not all; as though they thought it not enough to violate our civil rights, they endeavored to deprive us of the enjoyment of our religious privileges; to vitiate [to spoil or corrupt] our morals, and thereby render us deserving of destruction. Hence the rude din of arms, which broke in upon your solemn devotions in your temples, on that day hallowed by heaven, and set apart by God himself for his peculiar worship. Hence, impious oaths and blasphemies, so often tortured your unaccustomed ear, Hence, all the arts which idleness and luxury could invent, were used to betray our youth of one sex into extravagance and effeminacy, and of the other to infamy and ruin; and have they not succeeded but too well? Has not a reverence for religion sensibly decayed? Have not our infants almost learned to lisp curses, before they knew their horrid import? Have not our youth forgotten they were Americans, and regardless of the admonitions of the wise and aged, copied, with a servile imitation, the frivolity and vices of their tyrants? And must I be compelled to acknowledge, that even the noblest, fairest part of all creation, have not entirely escaped their cruel snares?—or why have I seen an honest father clothed with shame; why a virtuous mother drowned in tears?

“But I forbear, and come reluctantly to the transactions of that dismal night, when in such quick succession we felt the extremes of grief, astonishment, and rage; when heaven in anger, for a dreadful moment suffered hell to take the reins; when satan, with his chosen band, opened the sluices of New England’s blood, and sacrilegiously polluted our land with the dead bodies of her guiltless sons.

“Let this sad tale of death never be told, without a tear; let not the heaving bosom cease to burn with a manly indignation at the relation of it, through the long tracks of future time; let every parent tell the shameful story to his listening children, till tears of pity glisten in their eyes, or boiling passion shakes their tender frames.

“Dark and designing knaves, murderers, parricides! How dare you tread upon the earth, which has drunk the blood of slaughtered innocence shed by your hands? How dare you breathe that air, which wafted to the ear of heaven the groans of those who fell a sacrifice to your accursed ambition?—But if the laboring earth doth not expand her jaws; if the air you breathe is not commissioned to be the minister of death; yet, hear it, and tremble! The eye of heaven penetrates the darkest chambers of the soul; and you, though screened from human observation, must be arraigned, must lift your hands, red with the blood of those whose death you have procured, at the tremendous bar of God.

“But I gladly quit this theme of death—I would not dwell too long upon the horrid effects, which have already followed, from quartering regular troops in this town; let our misfortunes instruct posterity to guard against these evils. Standing armies are sometimes, (I would by no means say generally, much less universally,) composed of persons who have rendered themselves unfit to live in civil society; who are equally indifferent to the glory of a George, or a Louis; who for the addition of one penny a day to their wages, would desert from the Christian cross, and fight under the crescent of the Turkish sultan; from such men as these what has not a state to fear? With such as these, usurping Caesar passed the Rubicon; with such as these he humbled mighty Rome, and forced the mistress of the world to own a master in a traitor. These are the men whom sceptred robbers now employ to frustrate the designs of God, and render vain the bounties which his gracious hand pours indiscriminately upon his creatures.”

Previously to this address, doubts had been entertained by some, as to the perfect patriotism of Mr. Hancock. It was said that the governor of the province had, either by studied civilities, or by direct overtures, endeavored to attach him to the royal cause. For a time insinuations of this derogatory character were circulated abroad, highly detrimental to his fame. The manners and habits of Mr. Hancock had, not a little, contributed to countenance the malicious imputations his fortune was princely. His mansion displayed the magnificence of a courtier, rather than the simplicity of a republican. Gold and silver embroidery adorned his garment, and on public occasions, his carriage and horses, and servant in livery, emulated the splendor of the English nobility. The eye of envy saw not this magnificence with indifference, nor was it strange that reports unfriendly to his patriotic integrity should have been circulated abroad; especially as from his wealth and fashionable intercourse, he had more connection with the governor and his party than many others.

The sentiments, however, expressed by Hancock in the above address, were so explicit and so patriotic, as to convince the most incredulous ; and a renovation of his popularity was the consequence.

lexington-battle-pictureHancock, from this time, became as odious to the royal governor and his adherents, as he was dear to the republican party. It now became an object of some importance to the royal governor, to get possession of the persons of Mr. Hancock and Samuel Adams; and this is said to have been intended in the expedition to Concord, which led to the memorable battle of Lexington, the opening scene of the revolutionary war. Notwithstanding the secrecy with which that expedition was planned, these patriots, who were at the time members of the provincial congress at Concord, fortunately made their escape; but it was only at the moment the British troops entered the house where they lodged. Following this battle, Governor Gage issued his proclamation, offering a general pardon to all who should manifest a proper penitence for their opposition to the royal authority, excepting the above two gentlemen, whose guilt placed them beyond the reach of the royal clemency.

In October, 1774, Hancock was unanimously elected to the presidential chair of the provincial congress of Massachusetts. The following year, the still higher honor of the presidency of the continental congress was conferred upon him. In this body, were men of superior genius, and of still greater experience than Hancock. There were Franklin, and Jefferson, and Dickinson, and many others, men of pre-eminent abilities and superior political sagacity; but the recent proclamation of Governor Gage, proscribing Hancock and Adams, had given those gentlemen great popularity, and presented a sufficient reason to the continental congress, to express their respect for them, by the election of the former to the presidential chair.

In this distinguished station Hancock continued till October, 1777; at which time, in consequence of infirm health, induced by an unremitted application to business, he resigned his office, and, with a popularity seldom enjoyed by any individual, retired to his native province.

Of the convention, which, about this time, was appointed to frame a constitution for the state of Massachusetts, Hancock was a member. Under this constitution, in 1780, he was the first governor of the commonwealth, to which office he was annually elected, until the year 1785, when he resigned. After an interval of two years, he was re-elected to the same office, in which he was continued to the time of his death, which took place on the 8th of October, 1793, and in the 55th year of his age.

Of the character of Mr. Hancock, the limits which we have prescribed to ourselves, will permit us to say but little more. It was an honorable trait in that character, that while he possessed a superfluity of wealth, to the unrestrained enjoyment of which he came at an unguarded period of life, he avoided excessive indulgence and dissipation. His habits, through life, were uniformly on the side of virtue. In his disposition and manners, he was kind and courteous. He claimed no superiority from his advantages, and manifested no arrogance on account of his wealth.

His enemies accused him of an excessive fondness for popularity; to which fondness, envy and malice were not backward in ascribing his liberality on various occasions. Whatever may have been the justice of such an imputation, many examples of the generosity of his character are recorded. Hundreds of families, it is said, in times of distress, were daily fed from his munificence. In promoting the liberties of his country, no one, perhaps, actually expended more wealth, or was willing to make greater sacrifices. An instance of his public spirit, in 1775, is recorded, much to his praise.

At that time, the American army was besieging Boston, to expel the British, who held possession of the town. To accomplish this object, the entire destruction of the city was proposed by the American officers. By the execution of such a plan, the whole fortune of Mr. Hancock would have been sacrificed. Yet he immediately acceded to the measure, declaring his readiness to surrender his all, whenever the liberties of his country should require it.

It is not less honorable to the character of Mr. Hancock, that while wealth and independence powerfully tempted him to a life of indolence, he devoted himself for many years, almost without intermission, to the most laborious service of his country. Malevolence, during some periods of his public life, aspersed [maligned; slandered] his character, and imputed to him motives of conduct to which he was a stranger. Full justice was done to his memory at his death, in the expressions of grief and affection which were offered over his remains, by the multitudes who thronged his house while his body lay in state, and who followed his remains to the grave.

NEW HAVEN CT, ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO by Leonard Bacon July 4, 1876

Leonard BaconIn the year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred and seventy-six, the fourth of July fell on Thursday. On that day, the Continental congress at Philadelphia gave notice to all nations that the political communities which it represented had ceased to be colonies, were absolved from their allegiance to the British Crown, and had become Independent States. The news that such a Declaration had been made was not flashed along electric wires; it was not conveyed by steam car or steam boat; nor can I learn that it was sent in all directions by an extraordinary express. But we may assume that as early as Tuesday morning, July 9th, the people of New Haven heard the news, and that such news reported by neighbor to neighbor, was talked about everywhere, with every variety of opinion as to whether the Independence that had been declared could be maintained; some rejoicing in the Declaration and sure that it would stand; others doubting; here and there one indignant, but not daring to express his indignation. All knew that the decisive step had been taken, and that the country was committed to a life and death struggle, not for the recovery of chartered and inherited rights as provinces included in the British empire, but for an independent nationality and a place among acknowledged sovereignties.

It is difficult for us to form in our minds any just conception of what New Haven was a hundred years ago. But let us make the attempt. At that time, the town of New Haven included East Haven, North Haven, Hamden, West Haven, and almost the entire territory of what are now the three towns of Woodbridge, Beacon Falls and Bethany. What is now the city of New Haven was then “the town plat”—the nine original squares —with the surrounding fields and scattered dwellings, from the West river to the Quinnipiac, and between the harbor and the two sentinel cliffs which guard the beauty of the plain. Here was New Haven proper—the territorial parish of the First Ecclesiastical Society, all the outlying portions of the township having been set off into distinct parishes for church and school purposes. In other words, the town of New Haven, at that time was bounded on the cast by Branford, on the north by Wallingford (which included Cheshire), on the west by Derby and Milford; and all the “freemen” within those bounds were accustomed to assemble here in town meeting.

A hundred years ago, there was a very pleasant village here at the “town-plat,” though very little had been done to make it beautiful. This public square had been reserved, with a wise forethought for certain public uses; but in the hundred and thirty-eight years that had passed since it was laid out by the proprietors who purchased these lands from the Indians, it had never been enclosed, nor planted with trees, nor graded; for the people had always been too poor to do much for mere beauty. Here, at the centre of their public square, the planters of New Haven built a plain, rude house for public worship, and behind it they made their graves—thus giving to the spot a consecration that ought never to be forgotten. At the time which we are now endeavoring to recall, that central spot (almost identical with the site of what is now called Centre church) had been reoccupied about eighteen years, by the brick meeting-house of the First church; and the burying-ground, enclosed with a rude fence, but otherwise neglected, was still the only burial-place within the parochial limits of the First Ecclesiastical Society. A little south of the burying-ground, was another brick edifice, the state house, so called even while Connecticut was still a colony. Where the North church now stands, there was a framed meeting-house, recently built by what was called the Fair Haven Society, a secession from the White Haven, whose house of worship (colloquially called “the old Blue Meetinghouse”) was on the corner now known as St. John Place. Beside those three churches there was another from which Church street derives its name. That was per-eminently “the church”—those who worshipped there would have resented the suggestion of its being a meeting-house. It was, in fact, a missionary station or outpost of the Church of England, and as such was served by a missionary of the English “Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts.” The budding, though of respectable dimensions (58×38), was smaller than the others, yet it had one distinction,—its steeple—a few feet south of Cutler comer, and in full view from the Green, though somewhat less aspiring than the other three—was surmounted by the figure of a crown signifying that, whatever might be the doctrine or the sentiment elsewhere, there the king’s ecclesiastical supremacy was acknowledged, and loyalty to his sacred person was a conspicuous virtue’ Only a few householders worshipped there, for the Church of England was an exotic in the climate of New England. Not till the Episcopal church had become (in consequence of the event which this day commemorates) an organization dependent on no king but Christ, an American church, and therefore no longer English, did it begin to strike its roots deep into the soil and to flourish as if it were indigenous. Two other public buddings adorned this “market-place;” one a little school-house just behind the Fair Haven meeting-house and not unlike the old-time wayside school-houses in the country; the other a county jail, which was a wooden structure fronting on College street about half way from Elm to Chapel.

Yale UniversityBeside all these public buddings, representative of religion, of government and justice, and of provision by the commonwealth against popular ignorance, there was the college, then as now, the pride of New Haven, but very different then from what we now see. The college buddings at that time were only three. First there was the original college edifice, to which, at its completion, in 1718, the name of Yale had been given in honor of a distinguished benefactor, and from which that name had been gradually, and at last authoritatively, transferred to the institution which has made it famous. That original Yale College was close on the comer of College and Chapel streets, a wooden budding, long and narrow, three stories high, with three entries, and cupola and clock.

Next in age was the brick chapel with its tower and spire, the building now called the Athenaeum and lately transformed into recitation rooms. More glorious yet was the new brick college (then not ten years old), which had been named Connecticut Hall, and which remains (though not unchanged) the “Old South Middle.”

Such was New Haven, a hundred years ago, in its public buildings and institutions. Its population, within the present town limits was, at the largest estimate, not more than 1800 (including about 150 students) where there are now more than thirty times that number. If you ask, what were the people who lived here then, I may say that I remember some of them. Certainly they were, at least in outward manifestation, a religious people. Differences of religious judgment and sympathy had divided them, within less than forty years, into three worshiping assemblies beside the little company that had gone over to the Church of England. Their religious zeal supported three ministers; and I will venture to say that the houses were comparatively few in which there was not some form of household religion. Compared with other communities in that age (on either side of the ocean) they were an intelligent people. With few exceptions, they could read and write; and though they had no daily newspapers, nor any knowledge of the modern sciences, nor any illumination from popular lectures, nor that sort of intelligence and refinement which comes from the theater, they knew some things as well as we do. They knew something about the chief end of man and man’s responsibility to God; something about their rights as freeborn subjects of their king; something about their chartered freedom; and the tradition had never died out among them. There were graves in the old burial ground which would not let them forget that a king may prove himself a traitor to his people, and may be brought to account by the people whom he has betrayed. There were social distinctions then, as now. Some families were recognized as more intelligent and cultivated than others. Some were respected for their ancestry, if they had not disgraced it. Men in official stations—civil, military, or ecclesiastical— were treated with a sort of formal deference now almost obsolete; but then, as now, a man, whatever title he might bear, was pretty sure to be estimated by bis neighbors at bis real worth, and nothing more. Some men were considered wealthy, others were depressed by poverty, but the distinction between rich and poor was not just what it is to-day. There were no great capitalists, nor was there anything like a class of mere laborers with no dependence but their daily wages. The aggregate wealth of the community was very moderate, with no overgrown fortunes and hardly anything like abject want. Almost every family was in that condition—”neither poverty nor riches “—which a wise man of old desired and prayed fox as most helpful to right living. Such a community was not likely to break out into any turbulent or noisy demonstrations. Doubtless the Declaration of Independence was appreciated as a great fact by the people of New Haven when they heard of it . Perhaps the church bells were rung (that would cost nothing); perhaps there was some shouting by men and boys (that would also cost nothing): perhaps there was a bonfire on the Green or at the “Head of the Wharf” (that would not cost much); but we may be sure that the great fact was not greeted with the thunder, of artillery nor celebrated with fireworks; for gunpowder was just then too precious to be consumed in that way. The little newspaper, then published in this town every Wednesday, gives no indication of any popular excitement on that occasion. On “Wednesday, July 10th, 1776,” the Connecticut Journal had news, much of it very important, and almost every word of it relating to the conflict between the colonies and the mother country; news from London to the date of April 9; from Halifax to June 4 ; from Boston to July 4; from New York to July 8, and from Philadelphia to July 6. Under the Philadelphia date the first item was “Yesterday the Congress unanimously resolved to declare the United Colonies Free And Independent States.” That was all, save that, in another column, the printer said, “To-morrow will be ready for sale ‘The Resolves of the Congress declaring the United Colonies Free And Independent States.”’ What the printer, in that advertisement, called “The Resolves of Congress,” was a handbill, 8 inches by 9, in two columns, with a rudely ornamented border, and was reproduced in the Journal for July 17. It was the immortal state paper with which we are so familiar, and we may be sure that everybody in New Haven, old enough to know the meaning of it had read it, or beard it read, before another seven days had been counted.

The Declaration of Independence was not at all an unexpected event. It surprised nobody. Slowly but irresistibly the conviction bad come that the only alternative before the United Colonies was absolute subjection to a British Parliament or absolute independence of the British crown. Such was the general conviction, but whether independence was possible, whether the time had come to strike for it, whether something might not yet be gained by remonstrance and negotiation, were questions on which there were different opinions even among men whose patriotism could not be reasonably doubted.

[Here followed some of the facts intended to give a better understanding of “what were the thoughts, and what the hopes and fears of good men in New Haven a hundred years ago.”]

Having at last undertaken to wage war in defense of American liberty, the Continental Congress proceeded, very naturally, to a formal declaration of war, setting forth the causes which impelled’ them to take up arms.

That declaration preceded by a year the Declaration of Independence; for at that time only a few sagacious minds had seen clearly the impossibility of reconciliation. Declaring to the world that they had taken up arms in self-defense and would never lay them down till hostilities should cease on the part of the aggressors, they nevertheless disavowed again the idea of separation from the British empire. “Necessity,” said they, “has not yet driven us to that desperate measure;” “we have not raised armies with ambitious designs of separating from Great Britain and establishing independent states.” That was an honest declaration. Doubtless a few prophetic souls had seen the vision of a separate and independent nationality, and knew to what issue the long controversy had been tending; but the thought and sentiment of the people throughout the colonies, at that time—the thought and sentiment of thoughtful and patriotic men in every colony—was fairly expressed in that declaration. They were English colonies, proud of the English blood and name; and as young birds cling to. the nest when the mother trusts them out half-fledged, so they clung to their connection with Great Britain notwithstanding the unmotherly harshness of tho mother country. They were English as their fathers were; and it was their English blood that roused them to resist the invasion of their English liberty. The meteor flag of England

“Had braved a thousand years
The battle and the breeze,”

and it was theirs; its memories of Blenheim and Ramillies, of Crecy and Agincourt, were theirs; and they themselves had helped to plant that famous banner on the ramparts of Louisburg and Quebec. Because they were English they could boast

“That Chatham’s language was their mother-tongue,
And Wolfe’s great name compatriot with their own.”

Because they were English, Milton was theirs, and Shakespeare, and the English Bible. They still desired to be included in the great empire whose navy commanded the ocean, and whose commerce encircled the globe. They desired to be under its protection, to share in its growth and glory, and enjoying their chartered freedom under the imperial crown, to maintain the closest relations of amity and mutual helpfulness with the mother country and with every portion of the empire.

All this was true in July, 1775. When Washington consented to command the Continental armies “raised or to be raised,” he thought that armed resistance might achieve some adequate security for the liberty of the colonies without achieving their independence. When, in his journey from Philadelphia to New York, hearing the news from Bunker Hill and how the New England volunteers had faced the British regulars in battle, he said, “Thank God! our cause is safe;” he was not thinking of independence, but only of chartered liberty. When, on his journey from New York to New Haven, he said to Dr. Bipley, of Green’s Farms, who dined with him at Fairfield, “If we can maintain the war for a year we shall succeed,” his hopes was that by one year of unsuccessful war the British ministry and parliament would be brought to some reasonable terms of reconciliation. When (in the words of our historian Palfrey), “the roll of the New England drums at Cambridge announced the presence there of the Virginian, George Washington,” he knew not, nor did Putnam know, nor Prescott, nor Stark, nor the farmers who had hastened to the siege of Boston, that the war in which he then assumed the chief command was, what we now call it, the war of independence. With all sincerity the Congress, four days later, while solemnly declaring “before God and the world,” “The arms we have been compelled by our enemies to assume, we will, in defiance of every hazard, with unbating firmness and perseverance, employ for the preservation of our liberties, being with one mind resolved to die freeman rather than to live slaves “—could also say, at the same time, to their “friends and fellow subjects in every part of the empire,” “We assure them that we mean not to dissolve that union which has so long and so happily subsisted between us, and which we sincerely wish to be restored.” The declaration on the 6th of July, 1775, was a declaration of war, but not of independence.

Yet, from the beginning of the war, there was in reality only one issue—though a whole year must pass before that issue could be clearly apprehended by the nation and proclaimed to the world. From the first clash of arms the only possible result was either subjection or separation; either the loss of liberty or the achievement of independence. The first shot from Major Pitcairn’s pistol on the village green at Lexington, at the gray dawn of April 19th, 1775, was fatal to the connection between these colonies and their mother country. That was “the shot that echoed round the world,” and is echoing still along “the corridors of time.” That first shot, with the slaughter that followed and the resistance and repulse of the British soldiery that day at Concord, was felt by thousands who knew in a moment that it meant war in defense of chartered liberty, but did not yet know that, for colonies at war with their mother country, independence was the only possible liberty. As the war proceeded, its meaning, and the question really at issue became evident. The organization of a Continental army, the expulsion of the king’s regiments and the king’s governor from Boston, the military operations in various parts of the country, the collapse of the regal governments followed by the setting up of popular governments under the advice of the Continental Congress—what did such things mean but that the colonies must be thenceforward an independent nation or provinces conquered and enslaved?

It came, therefore, as a matter of course, that from the beginning of 1876, the people in all the colonies began to be distinctly aware that the war in progress was and could be nothing less than a war for independence. The fiction fundamental to the British Constitution, that the king can do no wrong, and that whatever wrong is done in his name is only the wrongdoing of his ministers, gave way before the harsh fact that they were at war, not with Parliament nor with Lord North, but, with king George III. So palpable was the absurdity of professing allegiance to a king who was waging war against them, that as early as April in that year, the Chief Justice of South Carolina under the new government just organized there, declared from his official seat in a charge to the grand jury, “The Almighty created America to be independent of Great Britain, let us beware of the impiety of being backward to act as instruments in the Almighty hand now extended to accomplish His purpose.”

When the public opinion of the colonies, north and south, was thus declaring itself, the time had come for action on the part of the Continental Congress. Accordingly on the 7th of June, Richard Henry Lee, in behalf of the delegation from Virginia, proposed a resolution “that the united colonies are and ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown; and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved.” It was agreed that the resolution should be considered the next day, and every member was enjoined to be present for that purpose. The next day’s debate was earnest, for the Congress was by no means unanimous. Nobody denied or doubted that liberty and independence must stand or fall together, but some who had been leaders up to that point could not see that the time had come for such a declaration. Some were embarrassed by instructions given the year before and not yet rescinded. The debate having been continued through the day (which was Saturday) was adjourned to Monday, June 10. On that day the resolution was adopted in committee of the whole by a vote of seven colonies against five, and so was reported to the house. Hoping that unanimity might be gained by a little delay, the house postponed its final action for three weeks, but appointed a committee to prepare a formal declaration of independence. Meanwhile, though the sessions of the congress were always with closed doors, these proceedings were no secret, and public opinion was finding distinct and authentic expression. I need not tell what was done elsewhere; but I may say what was done, just at that juncture, in our old commonwealth.

On the 14th of June there came together at Hartford, in obedience to a call from Jonathan Trumbull, governor, “a General Assembly of the Governor and Company of the English colony of Connecticut, in New England, in America “—the last that was to meet under that name. It put upon its record a clear though brief recital of the causes which had made an entire separation from Great Britain the only possible alternative of slavery, and then—what? Let me give the words of the record: “Appealing to that God who knows the secrets of all hearts for the sincerity of former declarations of our desire to preserve our ancient and constitutional relation to that nation, and protesting solemnly against their oppression and injustice which have driven us from them, and compelled us to use such means as God in His providence hath put in our power for our necessary defence and preservation, resolved, unanimously, by this Assembly, that the delegates of this colony in General Congress be and they are hereby instructed to propose to that respectable body, to declare the United American colonies free and independent States, absolved from all allegiance to the King of Great Britain, and to give the assent of this colony to such declaration.”

It was amid such manifestations of the national will coming in from various quarters, that the Congress, on Monday, July 1, took up the postponed resolution declaring the colonies independent, discussed it again in committee of the whole and passed it, so bringing it back for a final decision. The vote in the house was postponed till the next day, and then, July 2, the resolution was adopted and entered on the journal. In anticipation of this result, the formal Declaration of Independence had been reported by the special committee on the preceding Friday (June 28), and it was next taken up for consideration. After prolonged discussion in committee of the whole and various amendments (some of which were certainly changes for the better), it came before the house for final decision, and was then adopted, in the form in which we have heard it read to-day, the most illustrious state paper in the history of nations.

We may be sure, therefore, that whatever diversity of opinion there may have been in New Haven on the 4th of July, 1776, about the expediency of declaring independence at that time, news that such a declaration had been made by the Congress caused no great astonishment or excitement here. The General Assembly of Connecticut, had already made its declaration, and instructed its delegates in the Congress. One of those delegates was Roger Sherman (or as his neighbors called him, “Squire Sherman”) ; and nobody in this town, certainly, could be surprised to hear that the Continental Congress had done what Roger Sherman thought right and expedient to be done. The fact that Roger Sherman had been appointed on a committee to prepare the Declaration may have been unknown here, even in his own house; but what he thought about the expediency of the measure was no secret. We, to-day, I will venture to affirm are more excited about the Declaration of Independence than they were to whom the news of it came, a hundred years ago.

[Here followed a large number of records, or extracts from records, principally from the town clerk’s office in New Haven, to show that our fathers on all proper public occasions were firmly, perhaps unconsciously, pursuing those steps which when taken by a brave and high-spirited people inevitably lead to their complete independence.]

I have exhausted your patience, and must refrain from tracing even an outline of the war, as New Haven was concerned in it, after that memorable day a hundred years ago. Especially must I refrain from a description of the day when this town was invaded and plundered, and was saved from conflagration only by the gallant resistance of its citizens keeping the enemy at bay till it was too late for him to do all he designed. The commemoration of that day will be more appropriate to its hundredth anniversary, July 4th, 1876. From the day of that invasion to this time, no footstep of an enemy in arms has pressed our soil—no roll of hostile drums or blare of hostile trumpet has wounded the air of beautiful New Haven. So may it be through all the centuries to come!

But before I sit down, I may yet say one word, suggested by what I have just been reading to you from the records of 1775. At the time of that conflict with Great Britain—first for municipal freedom, and then for national independence as the only security of freedom, the people of these colonies, and eminently the people of New England, were, perhaps, in proportion to their numbers, the most warlike people in Christendom. From the day when Miles Standish, in the Pilgrim settlement at Plymouth, was chosen “Captain” and invested with “authority of command” in military affairs, every settlement had its military organization. The civil order, the ecclesiastical, and the military, were equally indispensable. In every town, the captain and the trained militia were as necessary as the pastor and the church, or the magistrate and the town meeting. When the founders of our fair city came to Quinnipiack, 238 years ago, they came not only with the leaders of their unformed civil state, Eaton and Goodyear—not only with their learned minister of God’s word, Davenport, to be the pastor of the church they were to organize—but also with their captain, Turner, who had been trained like Standish in the wars of the Dutch Republic, and who in the Pequot war of the preceding year had seen the inviting beauty of the Quinnipiack bay and plain. Who does not know how, in those early times,

“Our grandsires bore their guns to meeting,
Each man equip’d, on Sunday morn,
With psalm-book, shot, and powder-horn,”

and that, in the arrangements of the house of worship, a place for “the soldiers,” near the door, was as much a matter of course as the place for “the elders” at the other side of the building? Who does not know that every able-bodied man (with few exceptions) was required to bear arms and to be trained in the use of them? What need that I should tell how a vigorous military organization and the constant exhibition of readiness for self-defense, not less than justice and kindness in dealing with the Indians, were continually the indispensable condition of safety? What need of my telling the story of King Philip’s war, just two hundred years ago? Let it suffice to remind you of the long series of inter-colonial wars, contemporaneous with every war between England and her hereditary enemies, France and Spain—beginning in 1689 and continued with now and then a few years’ interruption till the final conquest and surrender of the French dominion on this continent in 1762. It was in the last war of that long series that the military heroes of our war for independence had their training, and it was in the same war that the New England farmers and Virginia hunters, fighting under the same flag and under the same generals with British red-coats, learned how to face them without fear. That war which swept from our continent the Bourbon lillies and the Bourbon legions made us independent and enabled us, a few years later, to stand up as independent, and, in the ringing proclamation of July 4th, 1776, to inform the world that where the English colonies had been struggling for existence, a nation had been born.

Fellow citizens! We have a goodly heritage—how came it to be ours? God has given it to us. How? By the hardships, the struggles, the self-denial, the manifold suffering of our fathers and predecessors on this soil; by their labor and their valor, their conflicts with rude nature and with savage men; by their blood shed freely in so many battles; by their manly sagacity and the Divine instinct guiding them to build better than they knew. For us (in the Eternal Providence) were their hardships, their struggles, their sufferings, their heroic self denials. For us were the cares that wearied them and their conflicts in behalf of liberty. For us were the hopes that cheered in labor and strengthened them in battle. For us—no not for us alone, but for our children too, and for the unborn generations. They who were here a hundred years ago, saw not what we see to-day (oh! that they could have seen it), but they labored to win it for us, and for those who shall come after us. In this sense they entered into God’s plan and became the ministers of his beneficence to us. We bless their memory to-day and give glory to their God. He brought a vine out of Egypt when ho brought hither the heroic fathers of New England. He planted it and has guarded it age after age. We are now dwelling for a little while under its shadow and partaking of its fruit. Others will soon be in our places, and the inheritance will be theirs. As the fathers lived not for themselves but for us, so we are living for those who will come after us. Be it ours so to live that they shall bless God for what we have wrought as the servants of his love ; and that age after age, till time shall end, may repeat our fathers’ words of trust and of worship, Latin Motto: Qui Transtulit Sustinet. (English translation: He who transplanted sustains)

See also:
Non-Revisionist Politically Incorrect History of America from the Ancient Authors Part 1

Non-Revisionist Politically Incorrect History of the World With Biblical References Part 1

Joseph Baldwin: Address 1892, to National Teachers Association in New York
Eulogy of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams by Daniel Webster
Battle of King's Mountain

History of the Battle of King’s Mountain and it’s Heroes: Part I 1765 to May, 1780

King’s Mountain and Its Heroes: History of the Battle of King’s Mountain October 7th, 1780 and The Events that Led To It.

By Lyman Copeland Draper, Peter Gibson Thompson, Anthony Allaire, Isaac Shelby (1881)

1768 to May, 1780.

Causes of the Revolution—Alternate Successes and Disasters of the Early Campaigns of the War—Siege and Reduction of Charleston.

For ten years before the outbreak of the American Revolution, the great question of taxation without representation agitated the minds of the American people. They rejected the stamps, because they implied a tax; they destroyed the tea, because it imposed a forced levy upon them without their consent, to gratify the insatiate demands of their trans-Atlantic sovereign, and his tyrannical Ministry and Parliament. Should they basely yield one of their dearest rights, they well judged they might be required, little by little, to yield all. They, therefore, manfully resisted these invasions as unbecoming a free people.

Revolutionary War Localities North and South Carolina

Revolutionary War Localities North and South Carolina

See also History of the Battle of King’s Mountain and it’s Heroes: Part XV October-November, 1780

See also October 7, 1780 Battle of King’s Mountain

When, in 1775, Great Britain determined to enforce her obnoxious laws, the people, under their chosen leaders, seized their arms, forsook their homes and families, and boldly asserted their God-given rights. A long and embittered contest was commenced, involving mighty interests. Freedom was threatened—an empire was at stake. Sturdy blows were given and received, with various results. The first year of the war, the Americans beat back the British from Lexington and Concord, and captured Crown Point, but were worsted at Bunker Hill; they captured Chambly and St. Johns, and repulsed the enemy near Longueil, but the intrepid Montgomery failed to take Quebec, losing his life in the effort.

Battle of Moore's Creek Bridge

Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge

The second year of the contest, which brought forth the immortal Declaration of Independence, proved varying in its fortunes. The Scotch Tories in North Carolina were signally defeated at Moore’s Creek, and the British, long cooped up in Boston, were compelled to evacuate the place: and were subsequently repulsed at Sullivan’s Island, near Charleston; while the Americans, on the other hand, were defeated at the Cedars, and were driven from Montreal, Chambly and St. Johns, worsted at Long Island and White Plains, and lost Fort Washington, on the Hudson. Meanwhile the frontier men of Virginia, the Carolinas, East Tennessee, and Georgia, carried on successful expeditions against the troublesome Cherokees, whom British emissaries had inveigled into hostilities against their white neighbors.

The Battle of Germantown - October 24, 1777

The Battle of Germantown – October 24, 1777

Yet the year closed with gloomy prospects—despair sat on many a brow, and saddened many a heart—the main army was greatly reduced, and the British occupied New York, and the neighboring Province of New Jersey. Washington made a desperate venture, crossing the Delaware amid floating ice in December, attacking and defeating the unsuspecting enemy at Trenton; and, pushing his good fortune, commenced the third year of the war, 1777, by securing a victory at Princeton. While the enemy were, for a while, held at bay at the Red Bank, yet the results of the contests at Brandywine and Germantown were not encouraging to the American arms, and the British gained a firm foot-hold in Philadelphia. And subsequently they captured Forts Clinton and Montgomery, on the Hudson.

Forts Clinton and Montgomery battle map

Forts Clinton and Montgomery battle map

Farther north, better success attended the American arms. St. Leger, with a strong British and Indian force, laid siege to Fort Stanwix, on the Mohawk ; but after repelling a relieving party under General Nicholas Herkimer, he was at length compelled to relinquish his investiture, on learning of the approach of a second army of relief, retiring precipitately from the country ; while the more formidable invading force under General John Burgoyne met with successive reverses at Bennington, Stillwater, and Saratoga, eventuating in its total surrender to the victorious Americans.

Molly Pitcher at the Battle of Monmouth

Molly Pitcher at the Battle of Monmouth

In June, 1778, the fourth year of the war, the British evacuated Philadelphia, when Washington pursued their retreating forces, overtaking and vigorously attacking them at Monmouth. A large Tory and Indian party defeated the settlers, and laid waste the Wyoming settlements. As the result of Burgoyne’s signal discomfiture, a treaty of alliance between the new Republic and France brought troops and fleets to the aid of the struggling Americans, and produced some indecisive fighting on Rhode Island.

George-Rogers-ClarkThe adventurous expedition under George Rogers Clark, from the valleys of Virginia and West Pennsylvania, down the Monongahela and Ohio, and into the country of the Illinois, a distance of well nigh fifteen hundred miles, with limited means, destitute of military stores, packhorses and supplies — with only their brave hearts and trusty rifles, was a remarkable enterprise. Yet with all these obstacles, and less than two hundred men, Clark fearlessly penetrated the western wilderness, killing his game by the way, and conquered those distant settlements. Though regarded at the time as a herculean undertaking, and a most successful adventure, yet none foresaw the mighty influence it was destined to exert on the subsequent progress and extension of the Republic.

hero_of_vincennes1Varied fortunes attended the military operations of 1779, the fifth year of the strife. The gallant Clark and his intrepid followers, marched in winter season, from Kaskaskia across the submerged lands of the Wabash, sometimes wading up to their arm-pits in water, and breaking the ice before them, surprised the garrison at Vincennes, and succeeded in its capture. The British force in Georgia, having defeated General Ashe at Brier creek, projected an expedition against Charleston, and progressed as far as Stono, whence they were driven back to Savannah, where the combined French and Americans were subsequently repulsed, losing, among others, the chivalrous Count Casimir Pulaski. At the North, Stony Point was captured at the point of the bayonet, and Paulus Hook surprised; while General John Sullivan’s well-appointed army over-ran the beautiful country of the Six Nations, destroying their villages, and devastating their fields, as a retributive chastisement for their repeated invasions of the Mohawk and Minisin settlements, and laying waste the lovely vale of Wyoming.

The Storming of Stony Point by Alonzo Chappell

The Storming of Stony Point by Alonzo Chappell

The war had now dragged its slow length along for five successive campaigns, and the British had gained but few permanent foot-holds in the revolted Colonies. Instead of the prompt and easy conquest they had promised themselves, they had encountered determined opposition wherever they had shown the red cross of St. George, or displayed their red-coated soldiery. Repeated defeats on the part of the Americans had served to inure them to the hardships of war, and learned them how to profit by their experiences and disasters.

Americans holding off the attack of 10 British ships at Sullivans Island - 1776

Americans holding off the attack of 10 British ships at Sullivans Island, Charleston, S.C. – 1776

Surrender of Hessian troops to General Washington
New efforts were demanded on the part of the British Government to subdue their rebellious subjects; and South Carolina was chosen as the next field of extensive operations. Sir Henry Clinton, who had met such a successful repulse at Charleston in 1776, and in whose breast still rankled the mortifying recollections of that memorable failure, resolved to head in person the new expedition against the Palmetto Colony, and retrieve, if possible, the honor so conspicuously tarnished there on his previous unfortunate enterprise.

Cape_St_VincentHaving enjoyed the Christmas holiday of 1779 in New York harbor, Sir Henry, accompanied by Lord Cornwallis, sailed from Sandy Hook the next day with the fleet under Admiral Mariot Arbuthnot, transporting an army of over seven thousand five hundred men. Some of the vessels, however, were lost by the way, having encountered stormy weather in the gulf-stream—one bark, carrying Hessian troops, was dismasted and driven across the ocean, an ordnance vessel was foundered, while several transports were captured by bold and adventurous American privateers, and most of the horses for the expedition perished. The place of rendezvous was at Tybee Bay, near the entrance to Savannah river, whence Clinton, on his way towards Charleston, was joined by the troops in Georgia, making his force nine thousand strong, besides the sailors in the fleet; but to render his numbers invincible beyond all peradventure, he at once ordered from New York Lord Rawdon’s brigade, amounting to about two thousand five hundred more.

Battle of Charleston

Battle of Charleston

Charleston, against which this formidable British force was destined, was an opulent city of some fifteen thousand people, white and black, and was garrisoned by less than four thousand men—not near enough to properly man the extended works of defence, of nearly three miles in circumference, as they demanded. Governor Rutledge, a man of unquestioned patriotism, had conferred upon him by the Legislature, in anticipation of this threatened attack, dictatorial powers, with the admonition, ‘to do every thing necessary for the public good; “but he was, nevertheless, practically powerless. He had few or none of the sinews of war; and so depreciated had become the currency of South Carolina, that it required seven hundred dollars to purchase a pair of shoes for one of her needy soldiers. The defeat of the combined French and American force at Savannah the preceding autumn, in which the South Carolinians largely participated, had greatly dispirited the people; and the Governor’s appeal to the militia produced very little effect. The six old South Carolina regiments had been so depleted by sickness and the casualties of war as to scarcely number eight hundred, all told; and the defence of the city was committed to these brave men, the local militia, and a few regiments of Continental troops—the latter reluctantly spared by Washington from the main army, and which, he thought, was “putting much to hazard” in an attempt to defend the city, and the result proved his military foresight. It would have been wiser for General Benjamin Lincoln and his troops to have retired from the place, and engaged in a Fabian warfare, harassing the enemy’s marches by ambuscades, and cutting off his foraging parties; but the leading citizens of Charleston, relying on their former success, urged every argument in their power that the city should be defended to the last extremity. Yet no experienced Engineer regarded the place as tenable.

abatis1On the eleventh of February, 1780, the British forces landed on St. John’s Island, within thirty miles of Charleston, subsequently forming a depot, and building fortifications, at Wappoo, on James’ Island; and, on the twenty-sixth of that month, they gained a distant view of the place and harbor. The dreaded day of danger approached nearer and nearer; and on the twenty-seventh, the officers of the Continental squadron, which carried one hundred and fifty guns, reported their inability to guard the harbor at the bar, where the best defence could be made; and “then,” as Washington expressed it, “the attempt to defend the town ought to have been relinquished.” But no such thought was entertained. Every thing was done, that could be done, to strengthen and extend the lines of defence, dig ditches, erect redoubts and plant abatis, with a strong citadel in the center.fn1

Preparations, too, were steadily progressing on the part of the enemy. On the twenty-fourth of March, Lord Cornwallis and a Hessian officer were seen with their spyglasses making observations; and on the twenty-ninth, the British passed Ashley river, breaking ground, on the first of April, at a distance of eleven hundred yards from the American lines. At successive periods they erected five batteries on Charleston Neck.

Late in the evening of March thirtieth, General Charles Scott, commanding one of the Virginia Continental brigade, arrived, accompanied by his staff, and some other officers. “The next morning,” says Major William Croghan, “I accompanied Generals Lincoln and Scott to view the batteries and works around town ; found those on the Cooper river side in pretty good order, and chiefly manned by sailors ; but the greater part of the remainder not complete, and stood in need of a great deal of work. General Scott was very particular in inquiring of General Lincoln as to the quantity of provisions in the garrison, when the General informed him there were several months’ supply, by a return he had received from the Commissary. General Scott urged the necessity of having officers to examine it, and, as he expressed it, for them to lay their hands on it.”fn2

A sortie was planned on the fourth of April, to be commanded by General Scott—one battalion led by Colonel Elijah Clarke and Major Lee Hogg, of North Carolina; another by Colonel Elisha Parker and Major Croghan, of Virginia, and the light infantry by Lieutenant-Colonel Laurens; but the wind proved unfavorable, which prevented the shipping from going up Town creek, to fire on the enemy, and give the sallying party such assistance as they might be able to render, and thus it failed of execution. General William Woodford’s Virginia brigade of Continentals arrived on the sixth, and some North Carolina militia under the command of Colonel George F. Harrington. They were greeted by the firing of a feu de j’oie [bonfire], and the ringing of the bells all night.fn3

Fort Moultrie

Fort Moultrie

Admiral Arbuthnot’s near approach to the bar, on the seventh of April, induced Commodore Abraham Whipple, who commanded the American naval force, to retire without firing a gun, first to Fort Moultrie, and afterward to Charleston; and the British fleet passed the fort without stopping to engage it—the passage having been made, says the New Jersey Gazette fn4 while a severe thunder storm was raging, which caused the ships to be “invisible near half the time of their passing.” Colonel Charles C. Pinckney, who commanded there, with three hundred men, kept up a heavy cannonade on the British ships during their passage, which was returned by each of the vessels as they passed—the enemy losing fourteen men killed, and fifteen wounded, while not a man was hurt in the garrison.fn5 One ship had its fore-topmast shot away, and others sustained damage. The Acteus transport ran aground near Haddrell’s Point, when Captain Thomas Gadsden, a brother of Colonel Christopher Gadsden, who was detached with two field pieces for the purpose, fired into her with such effect, that the crew set her on fire, and retreated in boats to the other vessels. The Royal fleet, in about two hours, came to anchor within long shot of the American batteries.

By the tenth of April, the enemy had completed their first parallel, when Clinton and Arbuthnot summoned the town to surrender. Lincoln answered: “From duty and inclination I shall support the town to the last extremity.” A severe skirmish had previously taken place between Lieutenant-Colonel John Laurens and the advance guard of the enemy, in which the Americans lost Captain Bowman killed, and Major Edmund Hyrne and seven privates wounded. On the twelfth, the batteries on both sides were opened, keeping up an almost incessant fire. The British had the decided advantage in the number and strength of their mortars and royals, having twenty-one, while the Americans possessed only two;fn6 and the lines of the latter soon began to crumble under the powerful and constant cannonade maintained against them. On the thirteenth, Governor Rutledge was persuaded to withdraw from the garrison, while exit was yet attainable, leaving Lieutenant-Governor Gadsden with five members of the Council.

CowpensOn the same day, General Lincoln, in a council of war, revealed to its members his want of resources, and suggested an evacuation. “In such circumstances,” said General Mcintosh, ” we should lose not an hour in attempting to get the Continental troops, at least, over Cooper river; for on their safety, depends the salvation of the State.” But Lincoln only wished them to give the matter mature consideration, and he would consult them further about it. Before he met them again, the American cavalry at Monk’s Corner, which had been relied on to keep open the communication between the city and the country, were surprised and dispersed on the fourteenth ; and five days later, the expected British reinforcements of two thousand five hundred men arrived from New York, when Clinton was enabled more completely to environ the devoted city, and cut off all chance of escape.

A stormy council was held on the nineteenth, when the heads of the several military departments reported their respective conditions—of course, anything but flattering in their character. Several of the members still inclined to an evacuation, notwithstanding the increased difficulties of effecting it since it was first suggested. In the midst of the conference, Lieutenant-Governor Gadsden happened to come in—whether by accident, or design, was not known—and General Lincoln courteously proposed that he be allowed to take part in the council. He appeared surprised and displeased that a thought had been entertained of either evacuation or capitulation, and acknowledged himself entirely ignorant of the state of the provisions, etc., but would consult his Council in regard to the proposals suggested.

In the evening, an adjourned meeting was held, when Colonel Laumoy, of the engineer department, reported the insufficiency of the fortifications, the improbability of holding out many days longer, and the impracticability of making a retreat; and closed by suggesting that terms of honorable capitulation be sought from the enemy. Lieutenant-Governor Gadsden, with four of his Councilors, coming in shortly after, treated the military gentlemen very rudely, the Lieutenant-Governor declaring that he would protest against their proceedings; that the militia were willing to live upon rice alone, rather than give up the town on any terms; and that even the old women had become so accustomed to the enemy’s shot, that they traveled the streets without fear or dread; but if the council were determined to capitulate, he had his terms ready in his pocket.

Mr. Thomas Ferguson, one of the Councilors, declared that the inhabitants of the city had observed the boats collected to carry off the Continental troops; and that they would keep a good watch upon the army, and should any attempt at evacuation ever be made, he would be among the first to open the gates for the admission of the enemy, and assist them in attacking the retiring troops Colonel C. C. Pinckney soon after came in abruptly—probably having been apprised by the Lieutenant-Governor of the subject under discussion—and, forgetting his usual politeness, addressed General Lincoln with great warmth, and in much the same strain as General Gadsden, adding that those who were for business needed no council, and that he came over on purpose from Fort Moultrie, to prevent any terms being offered to the enemy, or any evacuation of the garrison attempted; and particularly charged Colonel Laumoy and his department with being the sole authors and promoters of such proposals.fn7

It is very certain, that these suggestions of evacuation or capitulation, occasioned at the time great discontent among both the regulars and militia, who wished to defend the city to the last extremity, and who resolved, in view of continuing the defence, that they would be content, if necessary, with only half rations daily.fn8 All these good people had their wishes gratified—the siege was procrastinated, and many an additional death, suffering, sorrow, and anguish, were the consequence.

General Lincoln must have felt hurt, it not sorely nettled, by these repeated insults—as General Mcintosh acknowledges that he did. When matters of great public concern result disastrously, scape-goats are always sought, and all participants are apt to feel more or less unamiable and fault-finding on such occasions. Or, as Washington expressed it, referring to another affair, “mutual reproaches too often follow the failure of enterprises depending upon the cooperation of troops of different grades.” Looking at these bickerings in the light of history, a century after their occurrence, one is struck with General Lincoln’s magnanimous forbearance, when he confessedly made great sacrifices in defending the place so long against his better judgment, in deference to the wishes of the people, who, we may well conclude, were very unfit judges of military affairs.

sfmuralcutAt another council of officers, held on the twentieth and twenty-first, the important subject of an evacuation was again under deliberation; and the conclusion reached was, “that it was unadvisable, because of the opposition made to it by the civil authority and the inhabitants, and because, even if they should succeed in defeating a large body of the enemy posted in their way, they had not a sufficiency of boats to cross the Santee before they might be overtaken by the whole British army.”fn9 It was then proposed to give Sir Henry Clinton quiet possession of the city, with its fortifications and dependencies, on condition that the security of the inhabitants, and a safe, unmolested retreat for the garrison, with baggage and field pieces, to the north-east of Charleston should be granted. These terms were instantly rejected. On searching every house in town, it was found that the private supplies of provisions were as nearly exhausted as were the public magazines.

On the twenty-fourth, at daybreak, Lieutenant-Colonel Henderson sallied out with two hundred men, chiefly from Generals Woodford’s and Scott’s brigades, surprising and vigorously attacking the advance flanking party of the enemy, bayoneting fifteen of them in their trenches, and capturing a dozen prisoners, of whom seven were wounded, losing in the brilliant affair, the brave Captain Thomas Gadsden and one or two privates. A considerable body of the enemy, under Major Hall, of the seventy-fourth regiment, attempted to support the party in the trenches; but were obliged to retire on receiving a shower of grape from the American batteries.fn10 A successful enterprise of this kind proved only a momentary advantage, having no perceptible influence on the final result.

StandIt is said Colonel C. C. Pinckney, and Lieutenant-Colonel Laurens, assured General Lincoln they could supply the garrison with plenty of beef from Lempriere’s Point, if they were permitted to remain on that side of Cooper river with the force then under their command; upon which the Commissary was ordered to issue a full allowance again. But unfortunately the first and only cattle butchered at Lempriere’s for the use of the garrison were altogether spoiled through neglect or mismanagement before they came over. These gentlemen, are said, also, to have promised that the communication on the Cooper side could, and would, be kept open. Being inhabitants of Charleston, and knowing the country well, perhaps the General, with some reason, might be inclined to the same opinion; and besides furnishing the garrison with beef, they were to send a sufficient number of negroes over to town for the military works, who were much wanted. But Colonel Pinckney with the greater part, or almost the whole of his first South Carolina regiment, and Lieutenant-Colonel Laurens with the light infantry were recalled from Fort Moultrie and Lempriere’s fn11—and thus ended this spasmodic hope. Probably this failure caused a strict search to be made, about this time, in the houses of the citizens for provisions; “some was found,” says Major Croghan, ” but a much less quantity than was supposed.”

The Americans were not slow in perceiving the utter hopelessness of their situation. On the twenty-sixth, General DuPortail, an able French officer and Engineer-in-Chief of the American army, arrived from Philadelphia, having been sent by Washington to supervise the engineer department. He frankly informed General Lincoln that there was no prospect of getting any reinforcements very soon from the grand army—that Congress had proposed to General Washington to send the Maryland Line to their relief.fn12 As soon as General DuPortail came into the garrison, examined the military works, and observed the enemy, he declared the defences were not tenable—that they were only field lines; and that the British might have taken the place ten days ago. “I found the town,” wrote DuPortail to Washington, “in a desperate state.”fn13 He wished to leave the garrison immediately, while it was possible; but General Lincoln would not allow him to do so, as it would dispirit the troops. On learning General DuPortail’s opinion, a council was called the same day, and a proposition made for the Continental troops to make anight retreat; and when the citizens were informed of the subject under deliberation, some of them came into the council, warmly declaring to General Lincoln, thatif he attempted to withdraw the troops and abandon the citizens, they would cut up his boats, and open the gates to the enemy. This put an end to all further thoughts of an evacuation.fn14

As late as the twenty-eighth, a supernumerary officer left town to join the forces in the country; but the next day the small party remaining at Lempriere’s Point was recalled, the enemy at once occupying it with a large force; and thus the last avenue between the city and country was closed. General Lincoln informed the general officers, privately, this day, that he intended the horn work as a place of retreat for the whole army in case they were driven from the lines. General Mcintosh observing to him the impossibility of those then stationed at South Bay and Ashley river, in such a contingency, being able to retreat there, he replied that they might secure themselves as best they could. And on the thirtieth, in some way, Governor Rutledge managed to convey a letter to General Lincoln, upon which the General congratulated the army, in general orders, on hearing of a large reinforcement, which may again open the communication with the country.fn15 It was the old story of drowning men catching at straws.

It is unnecessary to dwell upon the daily details of the protracted siege. Some of the more unusual occurrences only need be briefly noticed, so that we may hasten on to the melancholy catastrophe. Eleven vessels were sunk in the channel to prevent the Royal fleet from passing up Cooper river, and enfilading the American lines on that side of the place; while a frigate and two galleys were placed above the sunken obstructions, to cooperate with the shore batteries in thwarting any attempt on the part of the enemy for their removal.

But the work of destruction went steadily on. Cannon balls by day and by night went streaking through the air, and crashing through the houses. One morning, a shell burst very near Colonel Parker, a large piece of which fell harmless at his feet, when he said, with much composure, “a miss is as good as a mile;”fn16 and, that very evening, while the gallant Colonel was looking over the parapet, he was shot dead. Shells, fire-balls, and carcasses, ingeniously packed with combustibles, loaded pistol barrels, and other destructive missiles, were thrown into the city, setting many buildings on fire, and maiming and destroying not a few of the citizens and soldiery. On one occasion, when a pastor and a few worshipers, mostly women and invalids, were gathered in a church, supplicating the mercies of heaven on themselves and suffering people, a bomb-shell fell in the chuch-yard, when all quickly dispersed, retiring to their several places of abode.

Some of the cases of fatality were quite uncommon. Mever Moses’ young child was killed while in the arms of its nurse, and the house burned down. A man and his wife were killed at the same time, and in the same bed. A soldier who had been relieved from serving at his post in the defence of the city, entered his humble domicile, and while in the act of embracing his anxious wife, with tears of gladness, a cannon ball passed through the house, killing them both instantly. Many sought safety in their cellars; but even when protected for the moment from the constantly falling missiles of death and destruction, they began to suffer for want of food, since all the avenues to the city for country supplies, had been cut off.

General Moultrie has left us a vivid picture of this period of the siege: “Mr. Lord and Mr. Basquin, two volunteers, were sleeping upon the mattress together, in the advanced redoubt, when Mr. Lord was killed by a shell falling upon him, and Mr. Basquin at the same time had the hair of his head burnt, and did not awake until he was aroused from his slumbers by his fellow soldiers. The fatigue in that advanced redoubt was so great for want of sleep, that many faces were so swelled they could scarcely see out of their eyes. I was obliged to relieve Major Mitchell, the commanding officer. They were constantly on the lookout for the shells that were continually falling among them. It was by far the most dangerous post on the lines. On my visit to the battery, not having been there for a day or two, I took the usual way of going in, which was a bridge that crossed our ditch, quite exposed to the enemy, who, in the meantime, had advanced their works within seventy or eighty yards of the bridge, which I did not know. As soon as I had stepped upon the bridge, an uncommon number of bullets whistled about me; and on looking to my right, I could just see the heads of about twelve or fifteen men firing upon me from behind a breastwork—I moved on, and got in. When Major Mitchell saw me, he asked me which way I came in? I told him over the bridge. He was astonished, and said, ‘Sir, it is a thousand to one that you were not killed,’ and told me that he had a covered way through which to pass, by which he conducted me on my return. I staid in this battery about a quarter of an hour, giving the necessary orders, during which we were constantly skipping about to get out of the way of the shells thrown from their howitzers. They were not more than one hundred yards from our works, and were throwing their shells in bushels on our front and left flank.”fn17

Under date of the second of May, Major Croghan records in his Journal, which is corroborated by General Mcintosh’s Diary, that the enemy threw shells charged with rice and sugar. Simms tells us, that tradition has it, that it was not rice and sugar with which the shells of the British were thus ironically charged, but wheat flour and molasses—with an inscription addressed: “To the Yankee officers in Charleston,” courteously informing them that it contained a supply of the commodities of which they were supposed to stand most in need. But the garrison could still jest amid suffering, volcanoes and death. Having ascertained that the shell was sent them from a battery manned exclusively by a Scottish force, they emptied the shell of its contents; and filling it with lard and sulphur, to cure them of the itch, and sent it back to their courteous assailants, with the same inscription which originally accompanied it. “It was understood,” says Garden, “after the siege, that the note was received, but not with that good humor that might have been expected, had it been considered as jeu d’esprit, resulting from justifiable retaliation.”

“Provisions,” as we learn from Johnson’s Traditions, “now failed among the besieged. A sufficiency had been provided for the occasion; but the beef and pork had become tainted and unfit for food.” But the British “were misinformed,” says Moultrie, “if they supposed us in want of rice and sugar.” Of the latter article, at least during the earlier stages of the siege, such was its plentifulness that it was a favorite amusement to pursue the spent hot shot of the enemy, in order, by flinging sugar upon the balls, to convert it into candy. But towards the close of the siege, the supply of sugar must have become limited. “On the fourth of May,” says Major Croghan, “we received from the Commissary, with our usual allowance of rice, six ounces of extremely bad meat, and a little coffee and sugar. It has been very disagreeable to the northern officers and soldiers to be under the necessity of living without wheat or Indian bread, which has been the case during the whole siege.” So that the Scotch jokers who sent their shot, laden with either rice and sugar, or flour and molasses, ironically hinting at the deficiencies of the beleaguered garrison, did not, after all, hit very wide of the mark.

carronadecrewClinton, on the sixth of May, renewed his former terms for the surrender of the garrison. With the limited store of provisions on hand, with no prospects of receiving further supplies or reinforcements, and with the admission on the part of the Engineers that the lines could not be maintained ten days longer, and were liable to be carried by assault at any time, General Lincoln was disposed to accept the terms tendered; but he was opposed by the citizens, as they were required by Clinton to be prisoners on parole, when they wished to be regarded as non-combatants, and not subject to the rigorous laws of war. It was only putting off the evil day for a brief period; and again the twentyfour and thirty-two pound carronades, the mortars and howitzers, belched forth their shot, shell and carcasses upon the devoted town and garrison, setting many buildings on fire, and keeping up the most intense excitement. So near were now the opposing parties, that they could speak words of bravado to each other; and the rifles of the Hessian Yagers were so unerring, that a defender could no longer show himself above the lines with safety; and even a hat raised upon a ramrod, was instantly riddled with bullets.

Captain Hudson, of the British Navy, on the fifth of May, summoned Fort Moultrie, on Sullivan’s Island to surrender; the larger portion of its garrison having previously retired to Charleston. Lieutenant-Colonel William Scott,fn18 who commanded, sent for answer a rollicking reply: “Tol, lol, de rol, lol—Fort Moultrie will be defended to the last extremity.” The next day, Hudson repeated his demand, threatening that if he did not receive an answer in fifteen minutes, he would storm the fort, and put every man to the sword. Scott, it would seem, was at first disposed to resort to bravado of the “last extremity” character; but recalled the officer bearing it, saying on further reflection the garrison thought better of it—the disparity of force was far too great—and begging for a cessation of hostilities, proposed terms of surrender, which were granted by Captain Hudson. The surrender formally took place on the seventh.fn19 Thus the historic Fort Moultrie, which four years before had signally repulsed a powerful British fleet under Admiral Sir Hyde Parker, now surrendered to the enemy without firing a gun.

revolutionary_warThe seventh of May was further noted by an unfortunate disaster—the partial destruction of the principal magazine of the garrison, by the bursting of a shell. General Moultrie had most of the powder—ten thousand pounds—removed to the north-east corner of the exchange, where it was carefully bricked up, and remained undiscovered by the British during the two years and seven months they occupied the city. Another summons was sent in by Clinton on the eighth—a truce was granted till the next day; when Lincoln endeavored to secure the militia from being considered as prisoners of war, and the protection of the citizens of South Carolina in their lives and property, with twelve months allowance of time in which to determine whether to remain under British rule, or dispose of their effects and remove elsewhere. These articles were promptly rejected, with the announcement on the part of Clinton that hostilities would be re-commenced at eight o’clock that evening.

“After receiving his letter,” says Moultrie, “we remained near an hour silent, all calm and ready, each waiting for the other to begin. At length, we fired the first gun, and immediately followed a tremendous cannonade—about one hundred and eighty, or two hundred pieces of heavy cannon were discharged at the same moment. The mortars from both sides threw out an immense number of shells. It was a glorious sight to see them, like meteors, crossing each other, and bursting in the air. It appeared as if the stars were tumbling down. The fire was incessant almost the whole night, cannon balls whizzing, and shells hissing, continually among us, ammunition chests and temporary magazines blowing up, great guns bursting, and wounded men groaning along the lines. It was a dreadful night! It was our last great effort, but it availed us nothing. After it, our military ardor was much abated, and we began to cool.”

When, on the eleventh of May, the British had crossed the wet ditch by sap, and were within twenty-five yards of the American lines, all farther defense was hopeless. The militia refused to do duty.fn20 It was no longer a question of expediency ; but stern necessity demanded a speedy surrender, and the stoppage of farther carnage and suffering. General Lincoln had proved himself brave, judicious and unwearied in his exertions for three anxious months in baffling the greatly superior force of Sir Henry Clinton and Admiral Arbuthnot. Hitherto the civil authorities, and citizens of Charleston, had stoutly contended that the city should be defended to the last extremity; but now, when all hope was lost, a large majority of the inhabitants, and of the militia, petitioned General Lincoln to accede to the terms offered by the enemy. The next day articles of capitulation were signed.

The loss of the Americans during the siege was ninetyeight officers and soldiers killed, and one hundred and forty- six wounded; and about twenty of the citizens were killed by the random shots of the enemy. Upward of thirty houses were burned, and many others greatly damaged. Besides the Continental troops, less than two thousand, of whom five hundred were in hospitals, and a considerable number of sailors, Sir Henry Clinton managed to enumerate among the prisoners surrendered, all the free male adults of Charleston, including the aged, the infirm, and even the Loyalists, so as to swell the number of his formidable conquest. In this way, his report was made to boast of over five thousand six hundred prisoners, when the Loyalist portion but a few days afterwards offered their congratulations on the reduction of South Carolina. The regular troops and sailors became prisoners of war until exchanged; the militia from the country were permitted to return home on parole, and to be secured in their property so long as their parole should be observed.

(fn1 There was published, first in a Williamsburgh, Va.. paper of April 8th. 1780. copied into Dunlap’s Pennsylvania Packet of April 18th. and into the New York Royal Gazette of same date, an account of a Colonel Hamilton Ballendine having made drawings of Charleston and its fortifications, was directing his course to the enemy, when an American picket guard sent out to Stono. captured him; he. thereupon, exhibited his drafts, supposing that the party belonged to the British army. They soon disabused him of his error, carried him to General Lincoln, who ordered him for execution, and he was accordingly hanged on the 5th of March. As none of the South Carolina historians, nor any of the Charleston diarists or letter-writers during the siege, make the slightest reference to any such person or circumstance, there could have been no foundation for the story.)
(fn2 MS. Journal of Major William Croghan, of the Virginia Line. Siege of Charleston, 123.)
(fn3 Croghan’s MS. Journal.)
(fn4 May 12th, 1780.)
(fn5 Croghan’s MS. Journal.)
(fn6 Such is the statement of Dr. Ramsay, who was present during the siege. The British official returns show nine mortars, ranging from four to ten-inch caliber, and one eight-inch howitzer, surrendered at Charleston, and a ten-inch mortar taken at Fort Moultrie; but probably the most of these were either unfit for use, or more likely, the limited quantity of shells enabled the defenders to make use of only two of this class of ordnance.)
(fn7 The details of this military council are taken from Major Crojthan’s MS. Journal; and from General Mcintosh’s Journal, published entire in the Magnolia Magazine. Dec. 1842. and cited in Simms’ South Carolina in tin Revolution. U7-129, both of which are, in this case, identical in language.)
(fn8 MS. letter of John Lewis Gervais, cited in Simms, 129.)
(fn9 The enemy were constantly on the watch for any attempted evacuation on the part of the Americans. Capt J. R. Rousscict. of Tarleton’s cavalry, has left this MS. note. written on the margin of a copy of Steadman’s American War, referring to the closing period of the siege: “Some small vessels, taken from the Americans, were armed, manned with troops, and stationed off Town Creek, to prevent the escape of the garrison should they attempt to evacuate the town by that channel. Capt. Roussclet commanded an armed sloop, with his company on board, under Capt. Salisbury. Royal Navy.”)
(fn10 Croghan’s MS. Journal.)
(fn11 Croghan’s MS. Journal; and Mcintosh’s Diary.)
(fn12 Croghan’s MS. Journal.)
(fn13 Letters to Washington, ii, 450.)
(fn14 Moultrie’s Memoirs, i, 80.
(fn15 Croghan’s MS. Journal.)
(fn16  Virginia Gazette, May 16, 1780.)
(fn17 Moultrie’s Memoirs, i, 83.)
(fn18 Scott was a brave, experienced officer. He served as a Captain during the attack on Charleston, in 1776. and died in that city in June, 1807.)
(fn19 Gordon’s History 0/ the Revolution, in. 354; Moultrie’s Memoirs, ii, 84; Ramray’s Revolution in South Carolina, ii, 56. nancroft. x, 305. and others, give May 6th as the date of surrender, but that the 7th was the true date of this occurrence mr.y be seen by com. paring Tarleton’s Campaign, 53-55; Rotta’s Rrvnlntion, New Haven edition, 1842. ii. 249; Johnson’s Traditions, 259; Pimms’ South Carolina in the Revolution, 146; and Siege of Charleston. Munselt, 1867, p. 167.)
(fn20 Du Portail to Washington, Msy 17th, 1780.)