Francis Scott Key, amateur poet and writer of our national anthem

August 1, 2014



Francis Scott Key was an American lawyer, author, and amateur poet, from Georgetown, who wrote the lyrics to the United States’ national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.”


Francis Scott Key was born on August 1, 1779, in Keymar, Maryland. He became a respected young lawyer living in Georgetown just west of where the modern day Key Bridge crosses the Potomac River (the house was torn down after years of neglect in 1947). He made his home there from 1804 to around 1833 with his wife Mary and their six sons and five daughters. At the time, Georgetown was a thriving town of 5,000 people just a few miles from the Capitol, the White House, and the Federal buildings of Washington.

But, after war broke out in 1812 over Britain’s attempts to regulate American shipping and other activities while Britain was at war with France, all was not tranquil in Georgetown. The British had entered Chesapeake Bay on August 19th, 1814, and by the evening of the 24th of August, the British had invaded and captured Washington. They set fire to the Capitol and the White House, the flames visible 40 miles away in Baltimore.

President James Madison, his wife Dolley, and his Cabinet had already fled to a safer location. Such was their haste to leave that they had had to rip the Stuart portrait of George Washington from the walls without its frame!

A thunderstorm at dawn kept the fires from spreading. The next day more buildings were burned and again a thunderstorm dampened the fires. Having done their work the British troops returned to their ships in and around the Chesapeake Bay.

In the days following the attack on Washington, the American forces prepared for the assault on Baltimore (population 40,000) that they knew would come by both land and sea. Word soon reached Francis Scott Key that the British had carried off an elderly and much loved town physician of Upper Marlboro, Dr. William Beanes, and was being held on the British flagship TONNANT. The townsfolk feared that Dr. Beanes would be hanged. They asked Francis Scott Key for his help, and he agreed, and arranged to have Col. John Skinner, an American agent for prisoner exchange to accompany him.

On the morning of September 3rd, he and Col. Skinner set sail from Baltimore aboard a sloop flying a flag of truce approved by President Madison. On the 7th they found and boarded the TONNANT to confer with Gen. Ross and Adm. Alexander Cochrane. At first they refused to release Dr. Beanes. But Key and Skinner produced a pouch of letters written by wounded British prisoners praising the care they were receiving from the Americans, among them Dr. Beanes. The British officers relented but would not release the three Americans immediately because they had seen and heard too much of the preparations for the attack on Baltimore. They were placed under guard, first aboard the H.M.S. Surprise, then onto the sloop and forced to wait out the battle behind the British fleet.


Now let’s go back to the summer of 1813 for a moment. At the star-shaped Fort McHenry, the commander, Maj. George Armistead, asked for a flag so big that “the British would have no trouble seeing it from a distance”. Two officers, a Commodore and a General, were sent to the Baltimore home of Mary Young Pickersgill, a “maker of colours,” and commissioned the flag. Mary and her thirteen year old daughter Caroline, working in an upstairs front bedroom, used 400 yards of best quality wool bunting. They cut 15 stars that measured two feet from point to point. Eight red and seven white stripes, each two feet wide, were cut. Laying out the material on the malt house floor of Claggett’s Brewery, a neighborhood establishment, the flag was sewn together. By August it was finished. It measured 30 by 42 feet and cost $405.90. The Baltimore Flag House, a museum, now occupies her premises, which were restored in 1953.

At 7 a.m. on the morning of September 13, 1814, the British bombardment began, and the flag was ready to meet the enemy. The bombardment continued for 25 hours, the British firing 1,500 bombshells that weighed as much as 220 pounds and carried lighted fuses that would supposedly cause it to explode when it reached its target. But they weren’t very dependable and often blew up in mid air. From special small boats the British fired the new Congreve rockets that traced wobbly arcs of red flame across the sky. The Americans had sunk 22 vessels so a close approach by the British was not possible. That evening the cannonading stopped, but at about 1 a.m. on the 14th, the British fleet roared to life, lighting the rainy night sky with grotesque fireworks.

Key, Col. Skinner, and Dr. Beanes watched the battle with apprehension. They knew that as long as the shelling continued, Fort McHenry had not surrendered. But, long before daylight there came a sudden and mysterious silence. What the three Americans did not know was that the British land assault on Baltimore as well as the naval attack, had been abandoned. Judging Baltimore as being too costly a prize, the British officers ordered a retreat.

Waiting in the predawn darkness, Key waited for the sight that would end his anxiety; the joyous sight of Gen. Armistead’s great flag blowing in the breeze. When at last daylight came, the flag was still there!


Fort McHenry Memorial today

Being an amateur poet and having been so uniquely inspired, Key began to write on the back of a letter he had in his pocket. Sailing back to Baltimore he composed more lines and in his lodgings at the Indian Queen Hotel he finished the poem. Judge J. H. Nicholson, his brother-in-law, took it to a printer and copies were circulated around Baltimore under the title “Defence of Fort M’Henry”. Two of these copies survive. It was printed in a newspaper for the first time in the Baltimore Patriot on September 20th,1814, then in papers as far away as Georgia and New Hampshire. To the verses was added a note “Tune: Anacreon in Heaven.” In October a Baltimore actor sang Key’s new song in a public performance and called it “The Star-Spangled Banner”.

Immediately popular, it remained just one of several patriotic airs until it was finally adopted as our national anthem on March 3, 1931. But the actual words were not included in the legal documents. Key himself had written several versions with slight variations so discrepancies in the exact wording still occur.

The flag, our beloved Star-Spangled Banner, went on view ,for the first time after flying over Fort McHenry, on January 1st,1876 at the Old State House in Philadelphia for the nations’ Centennial celebration. It now resides in the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of American History. An opaque curtain shields the now fragile flag from light and dust. The flag is exposed for viewing for a few moments once every hour during museum hours.

Francis Scott Key was a witness to the last enemy fire to fall on Fort McHenry. The Fort was designed by a Frenchman named Jean Foncin and was named for then Secretary of war James McHenry. Fort McHenry holds the unique designation of national monument and historic shrine.

Since May 30th, 1949, the flag has flown continuously, by a Joint Resolution of Congress, over the monument marking the site of Francis Scott Key’s birthplace, Terra Rubra Farm, Carroll County, Keymar, Maryland.

The copy that Key wrote in his hotel September 14,1814, remained in the Nicholson family for 93 years. In 1907 it was sold to Henry Walters of Baltimore. In 1934 it was bought at auction in New York from the Walters estate by the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore for $26,400. The Walters Gallery in 1953 sold the manuscript to the Maryland Historical Society for the same price. Another copy that Key made is in the Library of Congress.

Francis Scott Key died at the home of his daughter Elizabeth Howard in Baltimore on January 11, 1843, and was initially interred in Old Saint Paul’s Cemetery in the vault of John Eager Howard. In 1866, his body was moved to his family plot in the Mount Olivet Cemetery at Frederick, Maryland.



Marquis de Lafayette commissioned a Major General by Second Continental Congress

July 31, 2014



On July 31, 1777, 19-year-old French aristocrat Marie-Joseph Paul Roch Yves Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, accepted a commission as a major-general in the Continental Army—without pay.

During his service as the Continental Congress’ secret envoy to France, Silas Deane had, on December 7, 1776, struck an agreement with French military expert, Baron Johann DeKalb, and his protégé, the Marquis de Lafayette, to offer their military knowledge and experience to the American cause. However, Deane was replaced with Benjamin Franklin and Arthur Lee, who were unenthused by the proposal. Meanwhile, King Louis XVI feared angering Britain and prohibited Lafayette’s departure. The British ambassador to the French court at Versailles demanded the seizure of Lafayette’s ship, which resulted in Lafayette’s arrest. Lafayette, though, managed to escape, set sail and elude two British ships dispatched to recapture him. Following his safe arrival in South Carolina, Lafayette traveled to Philadelphia, expecting to be made General George Washington’s second-in-command. Although Lafayette’s youth made Congress reluctant to promote him over more experienced colonial officers, the young Frenchman’s willingness to volunteer his services without pay won their respect and Lafayette was commissioned as a major-general.


Marquis de Lafayette inspecting his command of Light Infantry in 1782 by Henry Alexander Ogden; Bridgeman Art Library

Lafayette served at Brandywine in 1777, as well as Barren Hill, Monmouth and Rhode Island in 1778. Following the formal treaty of alliance with Lafayette’s native France in February 1778 and Britain’s subsequent declaration of war, Lafayette asked to return to Paris and consult the king as to his future service. Washington was willing to spare Lafayette, who departed in January 1779. By March, Franklin reported from Paris that Lafayette had become an excellent advocate for the American cause at the French court. Following his six-month respite in France, Lafayette returned to aid the American war effort in Virginia, where he participated in the successful siege of Yorktown in 1781, before returning to France and the further service of his own country.


Lafayette with George Washington at Valley Forge by John Ward Dunsmore, circa 1907

Source: This Day in History – July 31

The Virginia House of Burgesses convenes for the first time

July 30, 2014



The Virginia House of Burgesses was the first legislative assembly of elected representatives in North America.[1] The House was established by the Virginia Company, who created the body as part of an effort to encourage English craftsmen to settle in North America and to make conditions in the colony more agreeable for its current inhabitants.[2] Its first meeting was held in Jamestown, Virginia, on July 30, 1619.[3]

The word “Burgess” means an elected or appointed official of a municipality, or the representative of a borough in the English House of Commons.

The Colony of Virginia was founded by an English stock company, the Virginia Company, as a private venture, though under a royal charter. Early governors provided the stern leadership and harsh judgments required for the colony to survive its early difficulties. As early crises with famine, disease, Indian attacks, the need to establish a cash crop and insufficient skilled or committed labor subsided, the colony needed to attract enough new and responsible settlers if it was to grow and prosper.

To encourage settlers to come to Virginia, in 1618-1619, the Virginia Company’s leaders drew up a great charter. [4] Emigrants who paid their own way to Virginia would receive fifty acres of land. They would not be mere tenants. Civil authority would control the military. A council of burgesses, representatives chosen by the inhabitants of the colony for their government, would be convened as the House of Burgesses. The governor could veto their actions and the company still had overall control of the venture, but the settlers would have a say in their own government, including the right of the House of Burgesses to introduce money bills.[5]

On July 30, 1619, the first legislative assembly in the Americas convened for a six-day meeting at the church on Jamestown Island, Virginia. A council chosen by the Virginia Company as advisers to the governor, the Virginia Governor’s Council, met as a sort of “upper house,” while 22 elected representatives met as the House of Burgesses. Together, the House of Burgesses and the Council would be the Virginia General Assembly.[5]

The House’s first session of July 30, 1619, accomplished little. It was cut short by an outbreak of malaria. The assembly had 22 members from the following constituencies: James City (Captain William Powell, Ensign William Spense), Charles City (Sergeant Samuel Sharpe, Samuel Jordan), the City of Henricus (Thomas Dowse, John Polentine or John Plentine), Kicoughtan (Captain William Tucker, William Capps), Martin-Brandon (Captain John Martin’s Plantation) (Thomas Davis, Robert Stacy), Smythe’s Hundred (Captain Thomas Graves, Walter Shelley), Martin’s Hundred (John Boys, John Jackson), Argall’s Gift Plantation (Thomas Pawlett, Edward Gourgainy), Flowerdew Hundred Plantation or Flowerdieu Hundred (Ensign Edmund Rossingham, John Jefferson), Captain Lawne’s Plantation (Captain Christopher Lawne, Ensign Washer), and Captain Ward’s Plantation (Captain John Warde or Capt. John Ward, Lt. John Gibbs or Lt. Gibbes).[6]

Especially after the massacre of about 400 colonists on March 22, 1622 by Native Americans and epidemics in the winters before and after the massacre, the governor and council ruled arbitrarily and allowed no dissent. By 1624, the royal government in London had heard enough about the problems of the colony and revoked the charter of the Virginia Company. Virginia became a crown colony and the governor and council would be chosen by the king. Nonetheless, the basic form of government of the colony was retained, although the right of the General Assembly to exist was not officially confirmed until 1639.[5]

In 1634, the General Assembly divided the colony into eight shires (later redesignated as counties) for purposes of government, administration and the judicial system. By 1643, the expanding colony had 15 counties. All of the county offices, including a board of commissioners, judges, sheriff, constable and clerks, were appointed positions. Only the members of the House of Burgesses were elected by a vote of the people. Women had no right to vote. While all free men originally were given the right to vote, by 1670 only property owners were allowed to vote.[5]

In 1652, the parliamentary forces of Oliver Cromwell forced the colony to submit to their takeover of the English government. Again, the colonists were able to retain the General Assembly as their governing body. Only taxes agreed to by the assembly were to be levied. Still most Virginia colonists were loyal to Prince Charles and were pleased at his restoration as King Charles II in 1660. He went on directly or indirectly to restrict some of the liberties of the colonists, such as requiring tobacco to be shipped only to England only on English ships with the price set by the English merchant buyers,[7] but the General Assembly remained.[5]

A majority of the members of the General Assembly of 1676 were supporters of Nathaniel Bacon. They enacted legislation designed to further popular sovereignty and representative government and to equalize opportunities.[8] Bacon took little part in the deliberations since he was busy fighting the Native Americans.[9]

The statehouse in Jamestown burned down for the fourth time on October 20, 1698. The House of Burgesses met temporarily in Middle Plantation, 11 miles inland from Jamestown, and then in 1699 permanently moved the capital of the colony to Middle Plantation, which they renamed Williamsburg.[10]

Though not a unique occurrence on the frontier, colonists remained loyal to the British crown during the French and Indian War in North America from 1754 to 1763. Despite its beginnings in Europe between Great Britain and France, it resulted in local colonial losses and economic disruption. Higher taxes were to follow, and adverse local reactions to these and how they were determined would drive events well into the next decade.[11]

In 1764, desiring revenue from its North American colonies, Parliament passed the first law specifically aimed at raising colonial money for the Crown. The Sugar Act increased duties on non-British goods shipped to the colonies.[12] The same year, the Currency Act prohibited American colonies from issuing their own currency.[13] These angered many American colonists and began colonial opposition with protests. By the end of the year, many colonies were practicing non-importation, a refusal to use imported English goods.[12] In 1765 the British Quartering Act, which required the colonies to provide barracks and supplies to British troops, further angered American colonists; and to raise more money for Britain, Parliament enacted the Stamp Act on the American colonies, to tax newspapers, almanacs, pamphlets, broadsides, legal documents, dice, and playing cards.[14] American colonists responded to Parliament’s acts with organized protest throughout the colonies. A network of secret organizations known as the Sons of Liberty was created to intimidate the stamp agents collecting the taxes, and before the Stamp Act could take effect, all the appointed stamp agents in the colonies had resigned.[15] The Massachusetts Assembly suggested a meeting of all colonies to work for the repeal of the Stamp Act, and all but four colonies were represented.[16] The colonists also increased their non-importation efforts,[17] and sought to increase in local production.

In May 1765, Patrick Henry presented a series of resolves that became known as the Virginia Resolves, denouncing the Stamp Act and denying the authority of the British parliament to tax the colonies, since they were not represented by elected members of parliament. Newspapers around the colonies published all his resolves, even the most radical ones which had not been passed by the assembly.[18]


Patrick Henry addressing the Virginia House of Burgesses

In 1769 the Virginia House of Burgesses passed several resolutions condemning Britain’s stationing troops in Boston following the Massachusetts Circular Letter of the previous year; these resolutions stated that only Virginia’s governor and legislature could tax its citizens.[19] The members also drafted a formal letter to the King, completing it just before the legislature was dissolved by Virginia’s royal governor.[20]

In 1774 the First Continental Congress passed their Declaration and Resolves, which inter alia claimed that American colonists were equal to all other British citizens, protested against taxation without representation, and stated that Britain could not tax the colonists since they were not represented in Parliament.[21]

In 1619, the House of Burgesses first met in the church in Jamestown. Subsequent meetings continued to take place in Jamestown.[1]

In 1699, the seat of the House of Burgesses was moved from Jamestown to Middle Plantation, soon renamed Williamsburg.[22] The Burgesses met there, first (1700 to 1704) in the Great Hall of what is now called the Wren Building at the College of William and Mary, while the Capitol was under construction. When the Capitol burned in 1747, the legislature moved back into the College until the second Capitol was completed in 1754. The present Capitol at Colonial Williamsburg is a reconstruction of the earlier of the two lost Capitol buildings.

In 1779, and effective in April 1780, the House of Delegates moved the capital city to Richmond during the American Revolutionary War for safety reasons.[23]

The House of Burgesses became the House of Delegates in 1776, forming the lower house of the General Assembly, the legislative branch of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

In honor of the original House of Burgesses, every other year, the Virginia General Assembly traditionally leaves the current Capitol in Richmond, and meets for one day in the restored Capitol building at Colonial Williamsburg.[24]

In January 2007, the Assembly held a special session at Jamestown to mark the 400th anniversary of its founding as part of the Jamestown 2007 celebration including an address by then-vice president Dick Cheney.[25]


  1. Hatch, Charles (1956). America’s Oldest Legislative Assembly & Its Jamestown Statehouses, Appendix II. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service
  2. Bosher, Kate (1907). “The First House of Burgesses”. The North American Review. 184 (612): 733–39
  3. “The House of Burgesses”.
  4. Virginia Company of London (1957). Instructions to George Yeardley, 18 November 1618 (Sometimes called “The Great Charter”). Jamestown 350th Anniversary Historical Booklet Number 4. Introduction by Samuel M. Bemiss. Williamsburg, Virginia: Virginia 350th Anniversary Celebration Corporation. pp. 95–108. Retrieved 5 July 2013. “Fn. 4: There is no authority in these Instructions for the Governor to establish a General Assembly. There is, however, evidence in the Instructions to Wyatt (p. 123) that a “Commission” was given to Yeardley which granted this authority.”
  5. Rubin, Jr. Louis D. Virginia: A History. New York W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1977. ISBN 0-393-05630-9. pp. 3–27
  6. Stanard, William G. and Mary Newton Stanard. The Virginia Colonial Register. Albany, NY: Joel Munsell’s Sons Publishers, 1902. OCLC 253261475, Retrieved July 15, 2011. p. 52
  7. Rubin, 1977, p. 19
  8. Rubin, 1977, p. 25
  9. Rubin, 1977, p. 26
  10. Rubin, 1977. p. 29
  11. Anderson, Fred (2005). “The Real First World War and the Making of America.”. American Heritage. 6 56 (75)
  12. Johnson, Allen. “The Passage of the Sugar Act”. The William and Mary Quarterly. 16 (4): 507–14
  13. Greene, Jack; Richard Jellison (1961). “The Currency Act of 1764 in Imperial-Colonial Relations, 1764-1776.”. The William and Mary Quarterly. 3 18 (4): 485–518
  14. “America During the Age of Revolution, 1764-1775″. Library of Congress
  15. “The Sons of Liberty”.
  16. Rothbard, Murray (1975). The Stamp Act Congress. NY: Arlington House
  17. America During the Age of Revolution, 1764-1765, Library of Congress
  18. Gordon S. Wood, The American Revolution, A History. New York, Modern Library, 2002 ISBN 0-8129-7041-1, p. 14
  19. MacDonald, William (1914). Select Charters and Other Documents Illustrative of American History, 1606-1775. NY: Macmillan
  20. America During the Age of Revolution, 1768-1769, Library of Congress
  21. Macdonald, William (1916). Documentary Source Book of American History, 1606-1913. NY: Macmillan
  22. Olmert, Michael (1985). Official Guide to Colonial Williamsburg. Williamsburg, VA: Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
  23. “April dates in Virginia history”. Virginia Historical Society
  24. – Historic Sites & Buildings : Capitol of Colonial Williamsburg”.
  25. “Vice President’s Remarks to a Joint Session of the Virginia General Assembly”


  • Hatch, Charles E., Jr., (1956 rev). America’s Oldest Legislative Assembly & Its Jamestown Statehouses, Appendix II. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service
  • Mayer, Henry (1986). A Son of Thunder, Patrick Henry and the American Republic. New York: Franklin Watts
  • Rubin, Jr. Louis D. Virginia: A History. New York W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1977. ISBN 0-393-05630-9
  • Salmon, Emily J. and Campbell, Jr., Edward D. C., editors, The Hornbook of Virginia History. Richmond, Virginia: The Library of Virginia, 1994

The House in the Horseshoe

July 29, 2014



The House in the Horseshoe, also known as the Alston House, is a historic home in Moore County, North Carolina, and a historic site managed by the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources’ Historic Sites division. The home, built in 1772 by Philip Alston, was the site of a battle between loyalists under the command of David Fanning and patriot militiamen under Alston’s command on either July 29 or August 5, 1781 (the date being unclear in available records).[2] The battle ended with Alston’s surrender to Fanning, in which Alston’s wife negotiated the terms with the loyalists.[3]


Reenactors defend the House in the Horseshoe

In 1798, the home was sold to Benjamin Williams, who would become Governor of North Carolina from 1799-1802, and again in 1807-1808. Williams owned approximately 103 slaves and produced about 300 acres of cotton annually at the site of the house.[3]

The Moore County Historical Association purchased the home in 1954, and ownership was then transferred to the state in 1955. The property was made a North Carolina Historic Site in 1971. The property is now used as a museum and as the site of Revolutionary War reenactments and living history demonstrations each year.[4]


  1. “National Register Information System”. National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service
  2. William H. Thompson, Jr.”House in the Horseshoe”, Encyclopedia of North Carolina, William S. Powell, ed. (UNC Press, 2006)
  3. Thompson, Jessica. “House in the Horseshoe”. North Carolina History Project. John Locke Foundation
  4. “Carthage house saw Revolutionary War battle”. Capital Broadcasting Company. June 17, 2011

Thomas Heyward, Jr., signed the Declaration of Independence and Articles of Confederation

July 28, 2014



Thomas Heyward, Jr. was a signer of the United States Declaration of Independence and of the Articles of Confederation as a representative of South Carolina.


Born on July 28, 1746, near Beaufort in Saint Luke’s Parish, South Carolina. His father, Daniel Heyward, had already named another son, Thomas, so the future signer added a Junior to his name to distinguish himself from his brother. Coming from a wealthy family, he was able to study law in England, where he discovered that the English looked down on Americans. Returning to South Carolina, he established a successful law practice, built a plantation called White Hall, and in 1772, was elected to the South Carolina legislature. In 1773, he married Elizabeth Mathews, sister of South Carolina Governor John Mathews; together they would have five children. In February 1776, he was elected to the Second Continental Congress. While angry with England, Heyward was uncertain if America was ready for independence. At the first trial vote on July 1, South Carolina voted to reject independence, but the next day, at the actual vote, they switched sides and voted for independence, so as not to divide the country. After signing the Declaration of Independence, Heyward returned to South Carolina to fight the British, joining the militia. In 1779, he was wounded during the successful battle of Port Royal Island, near Beaufort, South Carolina. He recovered, and a year later, helped to defend Charleston. When the British were finally successful in capturing the city in May 1780, he was among those captured. While Heyward was imprisoned in Saint Augustine, Florida, the British raided his plantation, burning White Hall and taking his 130 slaves for sale to the sugar plantations in Jamaica. When he was eventually freed, he became a judge and a state lawmaker in South Carolina. His wife, Elizabeth Mathews Heyward, would die in 1782, and four years later, he married Elizabeth Savage, with whom he would have three more children. Hayward died on March 6, 1809, at the age of 62.

He is buried in the Heyward Family Cemetery in Jasper County, South Carolina.


A descendant of Thomas Heyward was DuBose Heyward (1885–1940), a poet, novelist and playwright who was a large influence on the Southern Renaissance and is most well-known for the 1925 and 1927 play Porgy and the libretto to the 1935 opera by George Gershwin based on the former, Porgy and Bess.

A great-nephew was Confederate General James Heyward Trapier.

Living relatives

The Gibeson, Melander, and Cramer families are living relatives of Thomas Heyward, Jr.


Captain Samuel Whittemore, the oldest combatant in the American Revolution

July 27, 2014



Samuel Whittemore was eighty years of age when he became the oldest known colonial combatant in the American Revolutionary War.[1]

Whittemore was born July 27, 1694, in England. He came to North America in 1745 as an officer in the British Army, where he fought in King George’s War (1744-48). He was involved in the capture of the French stronghold, Fort Louisburg. After the war he stayed in the colonies, settling in Menotomy, Massachusetts (present-day Arlington). He subsequently fought in the French and Indian War (1754-63) at the age of 64, once again assisting in the capture of Fort Louisburg.[2]


Samuel Whittemore

On April 19, 1775, British forces were returning to Boston from the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the opening engagements of the war. On their march they were continually shot at by colonial militiamen.

Whittemore was in his fields when he spotted an approaching British relief brigade under Earl Percy, sent to assist the retreat. Whittemore loaded his musket and ambushed the British from behind a nearby stone wall, killing one soldier. He then drew his dueling pistols and killed a grenadier and mortally wounded a second. By the time Whittemore had fired his third shot, a British detachment reached his position; Whittemore drew his sword and attacked. He was shot in the face, bayoneted thirteen times, and left for dead in a pool of blood. He was found alive, trying to load his musket to fight again. He was taken to Dr. Cotton Tufts of Medford, who perceived no hope for his survival. However, Whittemore lived another 18 years until dying on February 3, 1793, of natural causes at the age of 98.

Editor’s Note: Details of Samuel Whittemore’s remarkable confrontation with the British soldiers is reprinted from the February 1997 Edition of “The Liberty Tree” and “Valley Compatriot Newsletter.”

It is recorded that Sam believed in American independence stating that he wanted his descendants to be able to enact their own laws and not be subject to a distant king. So, it is not surprising when he again took up arms on April 19th, 1775.

That night he watched as Colonel Smith led his column of 700 soldiers through Menotomy. He was probably concerned, but the British had come out of Boston before and there had not been any serious trouble. Later that morning he heard rumors that there had been fighting at Lexington and Concord. But, when General Percy marched through the town with an additional 1,400 soldiers, Sam’s military experience told him there was serious trouble – – ‘why else would the British be sending reinforcements?’ , he probably asked himself.

Word had come to Menotomy that the combined, heavily engaged, columns of Smith and Percy were retreating toward the town, and were burning homes along the way, so the aged warrior decided to take action in spite of his being eighty years old! He strapped on his captured french sword, stuck his brace of dueling pistols in his belt, put on his powder horn and shot bag, took his musket from its place on his fireplace mantle and went to war!

Sam selected a position that gave him a excellent view of the road from Lexington, and sat down to wait. His fellow minuteman from Menotomy pleaded for him to find a safer position, but he choose to ignore them.

His fellow minuteman started firing at the oncoming British Grenadiers of the 47th Regiment of Foot, falling back to reload, then firing again. Sam waited. Finally, when the column was directly in front of him, he stood and fired his musket. A grenadier fell dead. He drew his two pistols, firing both at almost point blank range. Another grenadier fell dead, a third fell mortally wounded. The British soldiers were on top of him, he had not the time to reload his musket or pistols, so drawing his sword, he . started flailing away at the bayonet wielding soldiers. A soldier leveled his Brown Bess musket, at point blank range and fired. The .69 calibre ball struck Sam in the cheek, tearing away part of his face and throwing him to the ground. Sam valiantly tried to rise, fending off bayonet thrusts with his sword, but he was overpowered. Struck in the head with a musket butt, he went down again, then was bayoneted thirteen times and left for dead.


Samuel Whittemore fighting with his sword

The British continued their fight through the streets of Menotomy, which turned out to be the costliest action of the day. They left forty of their soldiers dead in the town and another eighty wounded, half the casualties of the day.

After the British column had fought its way clear, the town’s people and minuteman started to search for their wounded compatriots. Several had seen Sam Whittemore’s “last stand” and approached to remove his body. To everyone’s astonishment Sam was not only still alive, but conscious and still full of fight. Laying there, he was trying to load his musket!

Using a door as a makeshift stretcher, Sam was carried to Cooper Tavern, which was being used as a emergency hospital. Doctor Nathaniel Tufts of Medford attended to Sam. He cut off his bloody clothes, and exposed the gaping bayonet wounds. Sam’s face was horribly injured. Doctor Tufts knew the injuries were fatal, stating it wouldn’t do any good to even dress the wounds. Sam’s family and friends insisted and Dr. Tufts did the best he could. He tried to make the old man as comfortable as possible. After his wounds were attended to Sam was carried to his home, to die surrounded by his family. To everyone’s utter amazement Captain Sam Whittemore lived! He recovered and remained active for the next eighteen years. He was terribly scarred, but always was proud of what he had done for his adopted country. He is quoted as having stated that he would take the same chances again.

You can question the old soldier’s tactical judgment, making the stand in the manner he did, but you can never question his bravery. He also proved you are never too old!


1. 2005 Massachusetts Senate bill no. 1839, at the Wayback Machine

2. Moran, Donald N.. “Never Too Old: The Story of Captain Samuel Whittemore”

3. The Liberty Tree and Valley Compatriot Newsletter, February 1997

George Clinton, Governor of New York and Vice President of the United States

July 26, 2014



George Clinton was an American soldier and politician, considered one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. He was the first Governor of New York, and then the fourth Vice President of the United States (1805–1812), serving under Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. He and John C. Calhoun are the only persons to serve as Vice-President under different U.S. Presidents.


His political interests were inspired by his father, Charles Clinton, who was an English immigrant to Little Britain, New York and a member of the New York colonial assembly. George Clinton, born on July 26, 1739, was the brother of General James Clinton and the uncle of New York’s future governor, DeWitt Clinton.

At 18, he enlisted in the British Army to fight in the French and Indian War, eventually rising to the rank of lieutenant. He subsequently studied law, became clerk of the court of common pleas and served in the colonial assembly.

He was known for his hatred of Tories[1] and used the seizure and sale of Tory estates to help keep taxes down. A supporter and friend of George Washington, he supplied food to the troops at Valley Forge, rode with Washington to the first Inauguration and gave an impressive dinner to celebrate it.

In 1759 he was appointed County Clerk for Ulster County, New York, a position he held for the next 52 years.[2] He was a member of the New York Provincial Assembly for Ulster County from 1768-76. He became the first elected Governor of New York in 1777, and was re-elected five times, serving until 1795.

In 1783, at Dobbs Ferry, Clinton and Washington negotiated with General Sir Guy Carleton for the evacuation of the British troops from their remaining posts in the United States. In 1787–88, Clinton publicly opposed adoption of the new United States Constitution. Herbert Storing identifies Clinton as “Cato”, the pseudonymous author of the Anti-Federalist essays which appeared in New York newspapers during the ratification debates. However, the authorship of the essays is disputed. Clinton withdrew his objections after the Bill of Rights was added.

In 1792, he was chosen by the nascent Jeffersonian “Republican” party as their candidate for Vice President. While the Republicans joined in the general acclamation of Washington for a second term as President, they objected to the allegedly “monarchical” attitude of Vice President John Adams. Clinton was nominated rather than Thomas Jefferson because the Virginia electors could not vote for Washington and for a second Virginian. Clinton received 50 electoral votes to 77 for Adams. His candidacy was damaged by his anti-Federalist record, and by his narrow and disputed re-election as governor in 1792. He won by only 108 votes, and the substantial anti-Clinton vote of Otsego County was excluded on a technicality.

He did not run for re-election as governor in 1795. He held no political office until he was elected to the New York State Assembly in 1800 and 1801. In 1801 he was again elected governor, serving until 1804. With 21 years of service, he was the longest-serving governor of a U.S. state.[3] He was selected as President Jefferson’s running mate in the 1804 Presidential election, replacing Aaron Burr. He served as the fourth Vice President of the United States, first under Jefferson, from 1805 to 1809, and then under President James Madison from 1809 until his death of a heart attack in 1812. He was the first Vice President to die in office.

Clinton was the first of two Vice Presidents to serve in the position under two different Presidents. John C. Calhoun was the other. He is of no known relation to the 42nd President, Bill Clinton, who was born William Jefferson Blythe III but took the surname of his stepfather.

Clinton was an unwilling candidate for President in the 1808 election, receiving six electoral votes from a wing of the Democratic-Republican Party that disapproved of James Madison. He came in third after Madison and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney of the Federalist Party.

He died on April 20, 1812, and his original burial was in Washington, D.C. He was re-interred in Kingston, New York in 1908.


Clinton’s pew in St. Paul’s Chapel in New York City

On February 7, 1770, Clinton married Sarah Cornelia Tappen; they had five daughters and one son:

  1. Catharine Clinton (November 5, 1770 – January 10, 1811); married firstly, to John Taylor, and secondly Pierre Van Cortlandt, Jr.
  2. Cornelia Tappen Clinton (June 29, 1774 – March 28, 1810); married Edmond-Charles Genet
  3. George Washington Clinton (October 18, 1778 – March 27, 1813); married Anna Floyd, daughter of William Floyd
  4. Elizabeth Clinton (July 10, 1780 – April 8, 1825); married Matthias B. Tallmadge
  5. Martha Washington Clinton (October 12, 1783 – February 20, 1795)
  6. Maria Clinton (October 6, 1785 – April 17, 1829); married Dr. Stephen D. Beekman, a grandson of Pierre Van Cortlandt


The grave monument of George Clinton in Kingston, New York

Clinton County, New York, Clinton County, Missouri, Clinton County, Ohio, and the village of Clinton, Oneida County, New York (site of Hamilton College) are all named for him. In Washington, D.C. there is a gilded equestrian sculpture of him on Connecticut Avenue.

In 1873, the state of New York donated a bronze statue of Clinton to the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall Collection.[4] In 1787 Clinton was depicted on an unauthorized copper coin minted privately in New York with “EXCELSIOR” on reverse.

He was depicted in John Trumbull’s Declaration of Independence even though he neither signed it nor was present when it was signed. In 1976 the painting appeared on the reverse of the two dollar bill and printed again in series 1995 and 2003.

In 2000, the State of New York ceremonially renamed the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge in honor of Clinton.[5]


  2. A Revolutionary Day
  3. CQ Guide to U.S. Elections
  4. Clinton genealogy site
  5. “The George Clinton Bridge”


  • Kaminski, John P. George Clinton: Yeoman Politician of the New Republic. Madison House, 1993


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