Keyhole to History: February 26, 1776. On this day, the patriots in North Carolina heard of the hostilities at Lexington and Concord and they decided to join the revolution. After retaking the capitol of Bloomington, they formed a provincial government and kicked the English governor out of the colony. Preparing for a counterattack, they made their stand at Moore’s Creek Bridge. On February 26, 1776, the patriots began sabotaging the bridge: they loosened and removed planks, greased the handrails, and positioned their artillery to cover the enemy’s advance. As the enemy began to cross the bridge, their tight formation broke as they tripped, slid, and fell along the sabotaged span. Then came a resounding blast of musket and artillery fire from the patriots. The enemy broke ranks and retreated.

Today’s Keyhole to History takes us to 1776 when the French and Spanish royal crowns supported the organization of “Roderigue Hortalez and Company” by Pierre-Augustin Caron De Beaumarchais. The fake trading company provided support to Americans while Beaumarchais, who was also a playwright, watchmaker, and inventor, delivered surplus French military equipment in exchange for hard currency and food supplies. In 1777 the first French ships arrived in New Hampshire and delivered 200 cannons, vital equipment, and clothing for 25,000 soldiers. These vital supplies propelled the troops at Saratoga. Parties on both sides of the Atlantic kept the business secret from the British until public treaties were signed in 1778.

Today’s Keyhole to History June 11, 1776, Congress appoints the Committee of Five to draft the Declaration of Independence. Committee members were Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Robert Livingston of New York, and Roger Sherman of Connecticut. Members chose Thomas Jefferson as the primary author. The Committee of Five submitted the document to Congress on June 28, 1776. Two significant parts of the Declaration were eliminated by Congress. One dealt with criticism of the British people and the other condemned slavery. On July 4, 1776, Congress took its final vote and approved the Declaration of Independence.

Keyhole to History: June 28, 1776, when American troops repelled the British fleet at Charleston South Carolina. Expecting an attack at Charleston harbor, Colonel Moultrie was placed in charge of its defenses and three fortifications were to be built on Johnson, James, and Sullivan’s Islands, but the attack came while they were still under construction. The British army had amassed their forces by Sullivan’s Island, preparing to attack from the rear as the main fleet attacked from the sea. Several of the English ships went aground and became easy targets for the patriots’ cannons. Meanwhile, the British army was in for a big surprise: they realized that the water surrounding Sullivan’s Island was not just waist-deep as reported, but rather it was over six feet deep, and they were not prepared for a full amphibious assault. Thus the patriots had another huge victory at the beginning of the war.

Keyhole the History: July 2, 1776. That’s the day fifty-six brave and loyal patriots adopted the Declaration of Independence, and just by signing it, they each committed an act of high treason against the Crown that was punishable by death. Who were these brave men? Two dozen were judges or lawyers, eleven were merchants, nine were farmers, and the other dozen were an assortment of doctors, ministers, and local politicians. With only a few exceptions, they were men of some wealth and had more to lose from this revolution than they had to gain by it. Although formally adopted on July 2, it was dated July 4, and the document was not signed by all of the delegates until August 2, 1776.

Keyhole to History: August 22, 1776, the day when some fifteen thousand English troops rode across the narrows from Staten Island to Brooklyn and landed in a town called Gravesend, the only town in Brooklyn that was still loyal to the Crown. The troops camped at that location overnight and the next day most of them moved onto two main locations: the town of Flatlands and the village of New Utrecht. And as soon as they left, another five thousand German Hessian mercenaries took their place in Gravesend. This was the beginning of the buildup and culminated in the first major battle after the signing of the Declaration of Independence and it has become known by two names: the battle of Long Island and the battle of Brooklyn.

Keyhole to History: August 27, 1776. That’s when the battle of Long Island took place in Brooklyn, New York. Unbeknownst to General Washington, General Howe had circled around him during the night, and at nine o’clock on the morning of August 27, the enemy fired their first cannon toward the rear of the American’s main position, thus signaling the beginning of the battle. Washington was forced to swing cannons away from the frontal attack to deal with the enemy at his rear. By noon, the British were pushing forward on all fronts and Washington uttered these immortal words, “Lord, what brave fellows I this day lose.” Just then, it started to rain and the battle ended, because muskets cannot fire when wet.

Today’s Keyhole to History focuses on the Caribbean island of Sint Eustatius of the Dutch West Indies, a key region for colonial trade in the eighteenth century. Its status as a neutral port, devoid of customs duties, encouraged even Benjamin Franklin to have his mail routed through Sint Eustatius for safety’s sake during the war. On November 16, 1776, the American brig-of-war Andrew Doria sailed into the island’s harbor. The commander at Fort Oranje, Governor Johannes de Graaff, answered the ship’s salute with his own eleven cannons. This was significant because Sint Eustatius was then the first foreign nation to officially recognize the American colors. Great Britain shortly thereafter declared war on the Netherlands because of this event.

Keyhole to History: November 16, 1776, when the battle for Fort Washington took place at the northern tip of Manhattan Island in New York. As Washington was moving north, after his defeat in White Plains, General Howe turned his attention to Forts Washington and Lee along the Hudson River. Washington’s generals, Greene and Putnam, had insisted that Fort Washington could not be taken, but they were mistaken. After a brief siege, the fort was taken, along with over twenty-five hundred men and a huge store of arms. Fort Lee, on the New Jersey side of the Hudson, was easily taken on November 20. On hearing this news, Washington and Greene agreed that they had lost New York and decided to retreat to New Jersey.

Today’s Keyhole to History December 6, 1776, Margaret Morris begins journaling her war experiences in New Jersey. Margaret, a Quaker, lived in Burlington and kept diary entries of her family’s daily life. She included the reactions to Washington’s attack on Trenton on Christmas Day, 1776. Located near both Trenton and Philadelphia, Burlington was in the middle of troop movements. Though Margaret hated the war and was frightened by unfamiliar soldiers she stayed and helped in Burlington. Her Quaker beliefs led her to aid those in need, regardless of their social position or political stance. Margaret’s story is important to historians for its information about the war and personal insight into women’s experiences during the Revolution.

Keyhole to History: December 13, 1776. That’s the day General Charles Lee was captured by the British in New Jersey. Shortly after the battle of White Plains, Washington sent orders to Lee to meet him in Delaware. On the way, Lee stopped by to see the Widow White, who ran a tavern near Basking Ridge, New Jersey. In a letter from British Colonel Tarleton that dated December 18, he gives this account: “I knew General Lee was in the house and informed him that if he surrendered himself, everyone else would be safe. And if he did not surrender immediately, the house would be burned and every person, without exception, would be put to the sword. At that instant, I was called to the back door, where General Lee was caught trying to escape.”

Keyhole to History, December 25, 1776 when the 14th Massachusetts Regiment, also known as the Marbleheaders, led George Washington and the Continental Army in crossing the Delaware River. In preparation for the Battle of Trenton the Marbleheaders used their skills as seamen and worked through the night in a snowstorm as they aided 2400 soldiers in durham boats and their artillery. The 14th Regiment was one of the most diverse groups in the American Revolution, comprised of black, white, Spanish and Native Americans hailing from the town of Marblehead. Led by John Glover, they rose to fame earlier in 1776 at the Battle of Long Island when they evacuated 9500 men to Manhattan enabling the U.S to continue the war. The U.S. Army would not see a unit this diverse again for over 170 years

Keyhole to History: December 26, 1776. That’s when the Battle of Trenton, New Jersey, took place. After months of defeat and retreat, General Washington knew he needed a victory and his best chance would be against the Hessian garrison in Trenton. Washington’s plan was to split his army in half: while he crossed the Delaware north of Trenton, General Ewing would cross to the south. But due to icy conditions, Ewing could not move his men and artillery across the Delaware and was forced to abandon this plan. So, on the morning of December 26, 1776, during a violent storm, only half of the American army staged their attack and caught the Hessians by surprise. The patriot cause which had seemed helpless took on a new life and much hope.

Previous Page > 1775

Next Page > 1777