Today’s keyhole to history takes us back to December 21, 1804, when Mercy Otis Warren first signed an agreement with Ebenezer Larkin to publish her book, History of the Rise, Progress and Termination of the American Revolution. Warren’s situation was unusual for a woman her time, as she was highly educated and often participated in the discussions of her political family members. As a poet, playwright and political commentator, Warren was the ideal person to write an account of the Revolutionary War as she was a personal acquaintance of many of the key figures of the era including Thomas Jefferson, George and Martha Washington, and John and Abigail Adams. The original printing of her book in 1805 consisted of fifteen hundred copies of the three-volume set which sold for two dollars per set or $.69 each.
The Keyhole to History for today takes a closer look at Chief Joseph Brant, a Native American Mohawk who was a British military leader in the American Revolution. Brant, whose Mohawk name was Thayendanegea, was educated at Moor’s Charity School for Indians in Connecticut and fought for the British in the French and Indian War. During the Revolutionary War he was the leader of four of the six Iroquois tribes on the British side and was known for his success throughout the Mohawk Valley. After the war Brant continued to advocate for land rights for Native Americans, although was never able to secure a permanent place for his people. When he died in Ontario on November 24, 1807, his last words were “Have pity on the poor Indians. If you have any influence with the great, endeavor to use it for their good.”
Keyhole to History: February 6, 1814, the day that George Washington’s dear friend and physician, Dr. James Craik, passed away at the age of eighty-four. Dr. Craik first met Washington in 1754, when the future president was fighting in the French and Indian War, and throughout most of the revolution, Dr. Craik served as Washington’s Director General of Hospitals. One story Dr. Craik never tired of telling was of meeting an Indian chief who said that at the battle of Monongahela, he fired his rifle several times at Washington, but could not hit him. The chief also told Dr. Craik that several of his young warriors told him the same thing and, that after that battle, they all believed Washington was protected by the Great Spirit.
Keyhole to History: March 25, 1818, when Lieutenant Colonel Henry Lee passed away in Georgia at the age of sixty-two. Lee was but twenty years old when Patrick Henry appointed him to command one of the six companies of cavalry mustered in Virginia. On August 19, 1779, he captured a British fort at Paulus Hook, today’s Jersey City. Lee was promoted to lieutenant colonel in November 1780 and within months joined General Greene and the notorious “Swamp Fox,” Francis Marion, in the Carolinas patrolling the Santee River area. His major battles included Guilford Courthouse, Augusta, Ninety-Six, and Eutaw Springs. After the revolution, Lee was elected to a seat in the Continental Congress, became a framer of our Constitution, and served as governor of Virginia.
Keyhole to History: May 4, 1824, which marks the passing of a forgotten Revolutionary War hero, Rufus Putnam. Rufus was born in Massachusetts in 1738. He served in the army during the French and Indian War, acquiring great knowledge in surveying. At Cambridge, he assisted in the construction of fortifications on Dorchester Heights and, by 1783, he had become a brigadier general in charge of the first army corps of engineers. After the war, he settled in Ohio. In 1790, Washington made him a Supreme Court judge for the Northwest Territory and, in 1796, he was appointed surveyor general of the United States. In 1802, he helped frame the first Constitution for the State of Ohio and many still consider him the “father of Ohio.”
Today’s Keyhole to History highlights Alexander Hamilton and the $10 bill. While today the $10 bill is linked with Hamilton, he did not emerge on paper currency until 1861 when he began appearing on several denominations. In 1929 federal currency was standardized and Hamilton began his long tenure as the figurehead of the $10 bill. Hamilton’s skill in economics was recognized in 1789 when Washington named him head of the U.S. Treasury where he established the U.S. Mint. He first gained widespread fame however as a leader at the Battle of Yorktown in 1781 where he successfully took control of British Redoubt 10, helping to win the Revolutionary War. This attack on Redoubt 10 later helped solidify his status as the face of the $10 bill.