Keyhole to History, 1775, the year the Gardoqui family of Bilbao, Spain began providing colonists in Massachusetts with supplies to support the escalating conflict with Great Britain. The Gardoqui family was a powerful Spanish family with a mega-trading house. Originally run by Jose Gardoqui, his three sons took over after his death in 1765. Merchants in Massachusetts had done business with the family for years, trading fish for Spanish products such as fruit and salt. While Spain would not openly provide military supplies to the colonies, the government allowed certain individuals to trade with the colonists. The Gardoqui family provided much-needed weapons, ammunition, and other supplies in what was America’s first foreign aid of the war. The Gardoquis continued their support throughout the war and in 1785 Jose’s son Diego became the first Spanish Ambassador to the United States.

Today’s Keyhole to History takes us to 1775 when David Bushnell invented the first submarine for military use. Known as the Turtle, this one-man egg-shaped submarine was made of wood and reinforced iron. It carried a detachable torpedo that could be attached underwater to an enemy ship. In September 1776 the Turtle, operated by Ezra Lee, attempted to attach the torpedo to a British ship in New York Harbor. The boring mechanism failed, and the mission had to be aborted. Attempts to use the Turtle in other attacks were not successful. Eventually the Turtle sank after the sloop carrying it was attacked by the British on October 9, 1776. Unsuccessful in the American Revolution, the Turtle was important advancing submarine technology.

Today’s Keyhole to History highlights Mary Katherine Goddard, a colonial printer and newspaper editor. In 1762 Mary Katherine began working in her brother William’s printing shop in Providence, Rhode Island. Eventually she followed him to Philadelphia managing the shop of the Philadelphia Chronicle. Later, they moved to Maryland where William started the Maryland Journal in 1774. In 1775, the paper began to read “Published by M.K. Goddard”, finally acknowledging Mary Katherine’s role at the paper. That same year, she became the postmaster of Baltimore, thought to be the first woman to hold that position in the colonies. She remained the postmaster until 1789 when she was fired by her superiors who thought the required travel was too much for a woman, even though she had the support of over 200 Baltimore businessmen.

Keyhole to History: April 21, 1775. On this day, a Lieutenant John Barker of the King’s Own wrote the following account of the battle of Lexington in his diary. “We were about five miles on this side of a town called Lexington, which lay in our road. We heard there were some hundreds of people collected together intending to oppose us and stop our going on. At five o’clock, we arrived there and saw a number of people, I believe between two and three hundred, formed in a common in the middle of the town. We still continued advancing, keeping prepared against attack, though without intending to attack them. On our coming near them, they fired one or two shots upon us, then our men, without any orders, rushed in and fired upon them. Several of them were killed. Shortly thereafter, we continued on to Concord.”

Keyhole to History: May 10, 1775. That’s when Colonel Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys from New Hampshire captured Fort Ticonderoga in upstate New York. Although some history books give credit to Benedict Arnold for this capture, he had only a small band of men with him, while Allen, under orders from Connecticut, had two to three hundred Green Mountain Boys. In a report by Lieutenant Jocelyn Feltham, an officer at the fort, we learn the following: “Mister Allen held a drawn sword over my head while his men aimed their flintlocks at me. He insisted I give up the fort or else they would kill every man, woman, and child if I did not comply. Meanwhile, Mr. Arnold begged in a genteel manner, but without success, for us to surrender the fort.

Keyhole to History June 17, 1775, the Battle of Bunker Hill. After the Battles at Lexington and Concord, the Americans learned of British plans to surround the city of Boston with troops. This led the colonists to fortify Breed’s Hill (where most of the battle took place) and Bunker Hill. When the British attacked, General William Prescott was said to have uttered to “not fire until you see the whites of their eyes.” The Americans were able to hold off the British forcing them to retreat twice. Eventually ammunition began to run low and the colonists were forced into hand-to-hand combat. While the British won the battle, they suffered greater casualties than the Americans despite having more troops. The significant British casualties boosted the colonists’ self-confidence in their fighting abilities.

Keyhole to History: October, 1755, French forces begin constructing Fort Carillon, later renamed Ticonderoga, to control Lake Champlain. Native Americans had long traversed the natural corridor connecting modern Montreal and New York City called “the great warpath.” Known today as the St. Lawrence River, Lake Champlain, Lake St. George, and Hudson River, these waterways create an almost continuous water-route. Early in the French and Indian War, France built Fort Carillon to control travel on Lake Champlain, making it one of the most important fortifications in North America at the time. The British captured the fort in 1759 on their way to winning the war and renamed it Fort Ticonderoga. It saw little action again until the eve of the American Revolution. Led by Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold, an American force captured the fort in 1775 before its British defenders even knew they were at war. Seemingly remote today, Fort Ticonderoga was central to military strategy during the American Revolution.

Today’s Keyhole to History takes us to November 7, 1775, when the Dunmore Proclamation was issued. John Murray, Earl of Dunmore and Virginia Royal Governor, issued the proclamation to undermine rebellious Virginians by offering freedom to indentured servants and enslaved men who left patriotic owners to join the British army. Although only issued in Virginia, the proclamation circulated throughout the colonies, spurring thousands of enslaved people to seek freedom with the British. Eight hundred enslaved men served in Dunmore’s “Royal Ethiopian Regiment”, but they and the governor were forced to flee Virginia. Slave insurrection was one of Virginians’ greatest fears, which led colonists, including Thomas Jefferson, to accuse the British government of inciting the enslaved to revolt. The Dunmore Proclamation alienated elite Virginians, prompting many who had been Loyalists to take up the Revolutionary cause.

Keyhole to History: November 16, 1775, Henry Knox departs for Fort Ticonderoga to return with a “noble train of artillery” to drive the British from Boston. Following the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the Continental Army besieged the British army occupying Boston. Knox, a 25-year-old bookseller with knowledge of artillery, convinced General Washington of his daring plan to retrieve cannon from the recently captured Fort Ticonderoga. Once at the Fort, Knox selected 58 cannon weighing nearly 120,000 pounds, including a massive 2.5 ton 24-pounder nicknamed “Old Sow”. The difficult winter journey took 40 days to travel about 300 miles back to Boston, but not a single cannon was lost along the way. The “noble train of artillery”, as Knox called it, arrived in late January 1776, and on March 4 the cannon were placed on Dorchester Heights. Upon learning this, British General William Howe ordered the evacuation of Boston.

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