Continental Navy Captain John Burroughs Hopkins and the Gaspée Affair

July 25, 2014

 

 

John Burroughs Hopkins was a captain of the Continental Navy during the American Revolutionary War.

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Hopkins was born July 25, 1742 in Newport, Rhode Island, the son of Continental navy commander-in-chief Esek Hopkins. John Hopkins was one of seven commanders involved in the Gaspée Affair, in which a British ship was destroyed. This was one of the leading causes of the Revolutionary War. John B. Hopkins was made one of five captains under his father according to in, December 1775, the United States Congress Marine Committee’s meeting to discuss ranking the officers. He served in distinction during the war, the Providence Gazette, on March 12, 1796, called him an “eminent nautical commander.”

He died December 5, 1796 and is buried in the North Burial Ground in Providence, Rhode Island.

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The Penobscot Expedition to reclaim Maine begins

July 24, 2014

 

 

The Penobscot Expedition was an American naval expedition sent to reclaim Maine, which the British had conquered and renamed New Ireland. It was the largest American naval expedition of the American Revolution and was the United States’ worst naval defeat until Pearl Harbor.[6] The fighting took place both on land and on sea, in what is today Castine, Maine. The defeat of the Expedition was one of the greatest British victories of the war.

In June 1779, British Army forces under the command of British General Francis McLean established a series of fortifications centered on the British fort, Fort George, located on the Majabigwaduce Peninsula in Penobscot Bay, with the goals of establishing a military presence on that part of the coast and beginning a new colony to be known as New Ireland. In response, the state of Massachusetts, with some support from the Continental Congress, raised an expedition to drive the British out.

The Americans landed troops in late July and attempted to establish a siege of the Fort George in a series of actions seriously hampered by disagreements over control of the expedition between Commodore Dudley Saltonstall and General Solomon Lovell. For two weeks British General Francis McLean held off the assault until a British fleet under the command of Sir George Collier arrived on August 13th, driving the American fleet to total self-destruction up the Penobscot River. The survivors of the American expedition were forced to make an overland journey back to more-populated parts of Massachusetts with minimal food and armament.

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“Destruction of the American Fleet at Penobscot Bay,” August 14, 1779, by Dominic Serres, circa 1779, courtesy of the National Maritime Museum, London.

Following partially successful Battle of Machias in 1777, as well as General John Burgoyne’s failed Saratoga campaign, British war planners looked for other ways to gain control over the rebellious New England colonies, while most of their effort was directed at another campaign targeted at the southern colonies. Lord Germain, the Secretary of State responsible for the war effort, and his under-secretary, William Knox, wanted to establish a base on the coast of the District of Maine (which was then a part of Massachusetts) that could be used to protect Nova Scotia’s shipping and communities from American privateers and raiders.[7]

Opportunity arrived when John Nutting, a Loyalist who had piloted Sir George Collier’s expedition against Machias, came to London with the idea of establishing a British military presence in Maine. In September 1778, Nutting left for New York carrying orders for Lieutenant General Sir Henry Clinton to assist with the establishment of “a province between the Penobscot and St. Croix rivers. Post to be taken on Penobscot River.”[8] It was Knox’s idea to call this province New Ireland.[6] Unfortunately for the British, Nutting’s ship was captured by an American privateer, and he was forced to dump his dispatches, putting an end to execution of the idea in 1778.[8]

Nutting reached New York in January 1779, but General Clinton had received copies of the orders from other messengers. Clinton had already assigned the expedition to General Francis McLean, who was based in Halifax, so he sent Nutting there with Germain’s detailed instructions.[9]

McLean’s expedition set sail from Halifax on May 30, 1779, and arrived in Penobscot Bay on June 12. The next day McLean and Andrew Barkley, the captain of the naval convoy, identified a suitable site at which they could establish a post.[10] On June 16, his forces began landing on a peninsula that was then called Majabigwaduce (now Castine), between the mouth of the Bagaduce River and a finger of the bay leading to the Penobscot River.[6] The troops numbered approximately 700: 50 men of the Royal Artillery and engineers, 450 of the 74th Regiment of (Highland) Foot and 200 of the 82nd (Duke of Hamilton’s) Regiment.[1] These began to build a fortification on the peninsula, which jutted into the bay and commanded the principal passage into the inner harbor.

The principal works, called Fort George, was in the center of the small peninsula, with two batteries outside the fort to provide cover for the Albany, which was the only ship expected to stay in the area. A third battery was constructed on an island south of the bay in which Albany was harbored, near the mouth of the Bagaduce River. Construction of the works occupied the troops for the next month, until rumors came that an American expedition was being raised to oppose them,[11] following which efforts were redoubled to have works suitable for defense against the Americans prepared before they arrived.[12] Albany’s captain, Henry Mowat, who was familiar with Massachusetts politics, took the rumors (which were followed by reports that a fleet had left Boston) quite seriously, and convinced General McLean to leave additional ships that had been part of the initial convoy as further defense. Some of the convoy ships had already left; orders for armed sloops North and Nautilus were countermanded before they were able to leave.[13]

When news of this reached the American authorities in Boston, they hurriedly made plans to drive the British from the area. The Penobscot River was the gateway to lands controlled by the Penobscot Indians, who generally favored the British. Congress feared that if a fort were successfully constructed at the mouth of the river, all chance of enlisting the Penobscots as allies would be lost. Massachusetts was also motivated by the fear of losing their claim over the territory to rival states in any post-war settlement.[14]

To spearhead the expedition, Massachusetts petitioned Congress for the use of three Continental Navy warships—the 12-gun sloop Providence, 14-gun brig Diligent, and 32-gun frigate Warren—while the rest of over 40 ships were made up of ships of the Massachusetts State Navy and private vessels under the command of Commodore Dudley Saltonstall. The Massachusetts authorities mobilized more than 1,000 militia, acquired six small field cannons, and placed Brigadier General Solomon Lovell in command of the land forces. The expedition departed from Boston on July 24 and arrived off Penobscot Bay that same day.

On July 25, nine of the larger vessels in the American flotilla exchanged fire with the Royal Navy ships from 3.30 p.m to 7.00 p.m. While this was going on, seven American boats approached the shore for a landing but turned back when enemy fire killed an American-allied Native warrior in one of the boats.[15] On July 26, Lovell sent a force of Continental Marines to capture the British battery on Nautilus Island (also known as Banks Island),[16] while the militia were to land at Bagaduce. The marines achieved their objective but the militia turned back when British shot overturned the leading boat, drowning Major Daniel Littlefield and two of his men.[17] Meanwhile, 750 men under Lovell landed and began construction of siege works under constant fire. On July 27, the American artillery bombarded the British fleet for three hours, wounding four men aboard HMS Albany.[18]

On July 28, under heavy covering fire from the Tyrannicide, the Hunter and the Sky Rocket, Brigadier General Peleg Wadsworth led an assault force of 400 (200 marines and 200 militia)[19] ashore before dawn at Dyce’s Head on the western tip of the peninsula with orders to capture the British fort. They landed on the narrrow beach and advanced up the steep bluff leading to the fort. The British pickets, who included Lieutenant John Moore, put up a determined resistance but received no reinforcement from the fort and were forced to retire, leaving the Americans in possession of the heights. Eight British troops were captured.[4] At this point, Lovell ordered the attackers to halt and entrench where they were. Instead of assaulting the fort, Lovell had decided to build a battery within “a hundred rods” of the British lines and bombard them into surrender.[20] The American casualties in the assault had been severe: “one hundred out of four hundred men on the shore and bank”,[21] with the Continental Marines suffering more heavily than the militia. Commodore Saltonstall was so appalled by the losses incurred by his marines that he refused to land any more and even threatened to recall those already on shore.[19]

On July 29, 1 American was killed.[22] On July 30, both sides cannonaded each other all day.[23] On July 31, 2 American sailors belonging to the Active were wounded by a shell.[22] On August 1, Lovell ordered a night assault on the Half-Moon Battery, next to Fort George, whose guns posed a danger to the American shipping. The Americans opened fire at 2.00 a.m. Colonel Samuel McCobb’s center column, comprising his own Lincoln County Regiment, broke and fled as soon as the British returned fire. The left column comprising Captain Thomas Carnes and a detachment of marines, and the right column comprising sailors from the fleet, both kept going and stormed the Battery. As dawn broke, the Fort’s guns opened up on the captured battery and a detachment of redcoats charged out and recaptured the Half-Moon, routing the Americans, who took 18 prisoners with them. Their own casualties were 4 men missing (who were killed) and 12 wounded.[24] The siege continued with minor skirmishing. On August 2, militiaman Wheeler Riggs, of Falmouth, was killed by an enemy cannon shot that bounced off a tree before hitting him.[22] On August 4, Surgeon John Calef recorded in his journal that several men were wounded in exchanges of fire.[25] On August 5, one American-allied Indian was killed and another man captured.[22] On August 7, 100 Americans engaged 80 British but the only casualties were 1 killed and 1 wounded on the American side and 2 wounded among the British.[26]

During this time, the British had been able to send word of their condition, and request reinforcements. On August 3, British commander George Collier led a fleet of 10 warships out of New York.[27]

On August 11, about 250 American militia advanced from their fortified camp and occupied a recently abandoned battery about a quarter mile from the British fort. As expected, a sortie of about 55 British troops advanced from the fort to engage: but the poorly trained American troops fired only one volley at the attacking British troops, inflicting about 13 casualties, and fled back to their fort, leaving behind all of their arms and equipment.

The next day, Saltonstall finally decided to launch a naval attack against the British fort, but Collier in command of the British relief fleet arrived and attacked the American ships.[28] Over the next two days, the American fleet fled upstream on the Penobscot River, pursued by the Collier. On August 13, an American officer was wounded by enemy fire.[22] Several vessels were scuttled or burned along the way with the rest destroyed at Bangor. In the 18th century there were rapids at Bangor at the approximate location of the old Water Works. The surviving crews then fled overland back to Boston with virtually no food or ammunition.

Over the course of the siege, Colonel David Stewart claims the British garrison suffered 25 killed and 34 wounded.[3] Stewart gives no figures for captured or missing but 26 prisoners are known to have been taken by the Americans.[4]

Apart from the 100 men killed and wounded during the assault of July 28, the known American casualties throughout the siege came to 12 killed, 16 wounded and 1 captured, in addition to “several wounded” on August 4. This adds up to at least 130 killed and wounded. The History of Penobscot says that “our whole loss of men was probably not less than 150″.[29] The chaotic retreat however, brought the American loss up to 474 killed, wounded, captured or missing.[5]

A committee of inquiry blamed the American failure on poor coordination between land and sea forces and on Commodore Saltonstall’s failure to engage the British naval forces. Saltonstall was declared to be primarily responsible for the debacle, and he was court-martialed, found guilty, and dismissed from military service. Paul Revere, who commanded the artillery in the expedition, was accused of disobedience and cowardice. This resulted in his dismissal from the militia, even though he was later cleared of the charges. Peleg Wadsworth, who mitigated the damage by organizing a retreat, was not charged in the court martial.

The British evacuated the area pursuant to the terms of the 1783 Peace of Paris, abandoning their attempts to establish New Ireland. During the War of 1812 the British again occupied the area they called New Ireland, and used it as a naval base before withdrawing again with the arrival of peace. Full ownership of present-day Maine (principally the northeastern borders with New Brunswick) remained disputed until the Webster-Ashburton Treaty in 1842. Maine was a part of Massachusetts until 1820, when it was admitted into the Union as the 23rd state.

References

  1. Buker, p. 11
  2. Campbell, p. 498
  3. Stewart, p. 115
  4. Buker, p. 176, note 67
  5. Boatner, p. 852
  6. Bicheno, p.149
  7. Buker, pp. 4–5
  8. Buker, p. 5
  9. Buker, p. 6
  10. Buker, p. 7
  11. Buker, p. 13
  12. Buker, p. 15
  13. Buker, p. 14
  14. Bicheno, pp. 149–150
  15. Buker, p. 37
  16. A Naval History of the American Revolution: Chapter XII, The Penoboscot Expedition, http://www.americanrevolution.org/navy/nav12.html
  17. Buker, pp. 36,39–40
  18. Buker, p. 41
  19. Goold, quoting General Wadsworth
  20. Buker, pp. 42–45
  21. Williams and Chase, p. 89, quoting William D. Williamson’s History of Maine. Williamson got this casualty information directly from General Wadsworth
  22. Goold, quoting William Moody’s Journal
  23. Buker, p. 49
  24. Buker, pp. 50–52
  25. Buker, p. 56
  26. Buker, p. 66
  27. Campbell, p. 497
  28. Bicheno, p. 152
  29. Williams and Chase, p. 90

Sources

  • Bicheno, Hugh (2003). Redcoats and Rebels: The American Revolutionary War. London: Harper Collins. ISBN 978-0-00-715625-2. OCLC 51963515
  • Boatner, Mark Mayo (1966). Cassell’s Biographical Dictionary of the American War of Independence, 1763-1783. London: Cassell & Company. ISBN 0-304-29296-6
  • Buker, George E (2002). The Penobscot Expedition: Commodore Saltonstall and the Massachusetts Conspiracy of 1779. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-212-9. OCLC 47869426
  • Campbell, John; Berkenhout, John, and Yorke, Henry Redhead (1813). Lives of the British Admirals: Containing Also a New and Accurate Naval History, from the Earliest Periods, volume 5. London: C. J. Barrington. OCLC 17689863
  • Goold, Nathan (2000). “Bagaduce Expedition, 1779: Paper read before the Maine Historical Society, October 27, 1898″ (PHP). Rick Hagen
  • Hunter III, James W (2003). “Penobscot Expedition Archaeological Project Field Report” (PDF). Naval Historical Center
  • Stewart, David (1977 (first published, 1822)). Sketches of the Character, Manners, and Present State of the Highlanders of Scotland; with Details of the Military Service of the Highland Regiments. Volume II. Edinburgh: John Donald Publishers
  • Wheeler, George A (1875). History of Castine: Battle Line of Four Nations. Bangor, Maine: Burr & Robinson. OCLC 2003716
  • Williams and Chase (1882). History of Penobscot, Maine, with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches. Cleveland, OH: Williams, Chase & Co.

Elizabeth "Aunt Betty" Frazee: "I give this not in love but in fear"

July 23, 2014

 

 

During the Battle of Short Hills, June 26, 1777, Elizabeth “Aunt Betty” Frazee shared her baked goods with the revolutionary forces, but bravely told Lord Cornwallis he was not welcome after British forces looted her home in Union County (today, the township of Scotch Plains). In a popular rendition, Aunt Betty answered the General’s request for bread by saying, “I give this not in love but in fear”.[1] The general then with a gracious gesture declined to accept the proffered bread. Records show that the Frazees submitted a claim for damages caused by the passing British troops.

Born Elizabeth Lee, she married Gershom Frazee.[2] The couple raised their nephew Gershom Lee, son of Elizabeth’s brother Thomas and his first wife, who died at a young age. One source states that Gershom and Elizabeth had two children of their own, Moses (1764-1850) and Jemima, however only Elizabeth Frazee and Gershom Lee were named in Frazee’s will of 1791. If they had other children that were still living in 1791, it is curious that they were not also named. It is more likely that this was their niece Jemima, daughter of brother Abraham and that Moses Frazee (1764-1850) was the son of Gershom’s older brother Moses. Moses Sr. was made guardian of Abraham’s 7 year-old son, also named Gershom, and 5 year-old daughter Jermima at the death of Abraham in 1762. This younger nephew Gershom (b.1755) is sometimes confused with Aunt Betty’s husband Gershom Frazee, carpenter and joiner (1735-1791).

Gershom Frazee died in October 1791. Elizabeth passed away on July 23, 1792, and is buried in the Presbyterian Church Burial Grounds at Westfield, New Jersey.[3]

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The couples historic home, Frazee House, at 1451 Raritan Road, Scotch Plains, New Jersey, is currently under restoration by The Rotary Club of Fanwood-Scotch Plains. The house is not open for tours but you can visit to see the outside.

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The Gershom and Betty Frazee House has received official recognition on the National Register of Historic Places by the National Park Service and in State of New Jersey with a listing on the New Jersey Register of Historic Places in the New Jersey State Historic Preservation Office.

Sources:

  1. Ricord, F. W (2007). History of Union County, New Jersey. Bowie, MD: Heritage Books. ISBN 978-0-7884-1792-4; OCLC 182527582, p. 513
  2. The Frazee House Historical Restoration Project http://frazeehouse.org/History-%20of-Frazee-House-property.html
  3. Elizabeth Mills Frazee at Find A Grave

Cleveland, Ohio, founded as "Cleaveland"

July 22, 2014

 

 

Cleveland, Ohio, is the county seat of Cuyahoga County[8] and the most populous county in the state. The city is located in northeastern Ohio on the southern shore of Lake Erie, approximately 60 miles west of the Pennsylvania border. It was founded in 1796 near the mouth of the Cuyahoga River, and became a manufacturing center owing to its location on the lake shore, as well as being connected to numerous canals and railroad lines.

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This is the earliest known photograph of the Ohio and Erie Canal in Cleveland ca. 1859. Built in 1832, the canal’s usefulness was ending as railroads became the preferred means of transport. These buildings stood in the East Flats area and the high ground visible at rear is a residential area south and east of downtown Cleveland.

Cleveland obtained its name on July 22, 1796 when surveyors of the Connecticut Land Company laid out Connecticut’s Western Reserve into townships and a capital city they named “Cleaveland” after their leader, General Moses Cleaveland. Cleaveland oversaw the plan for what would become the modern downtown area, centered on Public Square, before returning home, never again to visit Ohio.

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Portrait of General Moses Cleaveland. Artist information unknown. Published in “Sketches of Western Reserve Life,” Harvey Rice, 1885

The first settler in Cleaveland was Lorenzo Carter, who built a cabin on the banks of the Cuyahoga River. The Village of Cleaveland was incorporated on December 23, 1814.[9] In spite of the nearby swampy lowlands and harsh winters, its waterfront location proved to be an advantage. The area began rapid growth after the 1832 completion of the Ohio and Erie Canal. This key link between the Ohio River and the Great Lakes connected the city to the Atlantic Ocean via the Erie Canal and later via the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Gulf of Mexico via the Mississippi River. Growth continued with added railroad links.[7] Cleveland incorporated as a city in 1836.[1]

In 1836, the city, then located only on the eastern banks of the Cuyahoga River, nearly erupted into open warfare with neighboring Ohio City over a bridge connecting the two.[18] Ohio City remained an independent municipality until its annexation by Cleveland in 1854.[1]

Residents of Cleveland are called “Clevelanders”. Nicknames for the city include “The Forest City”, “Metropolis of the Western Reserve”, “The Rock and Roll Capital of the World”, “C-Town”, “The Cleve”, and the more historical “Sixth City”.[2][3][4][5][6] Due to Lake Erie’s proximity to the city, the Cleveland area is sometimes locally referred to as “The North Coast”.[2][3][5]

The place called “Cleaveland” eventually became known as “Cleveland”. One explanation as to why the spelling changed is that, in 1830, when the first newspaper, the Cleveland Advertiser, was established, the editor discovered that the head-line was too long for the form, and accordingly left out the letter “a” in the first syllable of “Cleaveland”, which spelling was at once adopted by the public.[9] An alternative explanation is that Cleaveland’s surveying party misspelled the name of the future town on their original map.[10]

References

  1. “Cleveland: A Bicentennial Timeline”. The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History, Case Western Reserve University
  2. Marshall, Alli (January 24, 2007). “Of Cleveland, by Cleveland, for Cleveland (and the world)”. MountainX: Asheville Arts and Entertainment. Mountain Xpress. Retrieved July 5, 2010. “Nicknames include the ‘Forest City,’ ‘Metropolis of the Western Reserve’, and ‘C-Town.’”
  3. Neville, Anne (August 16, 2009). “Buffalo by any other name”. The Buffalo News. Archived from the original on January 18, 2012. Retrieved October 25, 2010. “Cleveland has been called by many titles, including The Forest City, The Metropolis of the Western Reserve and The Rock ‘n’ Roll Capital of the World. The city is also affectionately called… “C-Town””
  4. “Ohio: Sixth City”. Time.com. October 11, 1937
  5. “Cleveland Court Winner: Sixth City Gets Permanent Possession of Inter-Lake Trophy” (PDF). The New York Times. August 3, 1919
  6. “Rock ‘n’ Roll”. The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History. Case Western Reserve University. 2009
  7. “Ohio and Erie Canal”. The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History, Case Western Reserve University
  8. “Find a County”. National Association of Counties
  9. “10/05: Cleveland, Ohio”. Roadmuseum.org
  10. “Moses Cleaveland – Ohio History Central – A product of the Ohio Historical Society”. Ohio History Central

Isaac Norris, Mayor of Philadelphia

July 21, 2014

 

 

Isaac Norris was a merchant and prominent figure in provincial Pennsylvania, including mayor of Philadelphia in 1724.

He was born in London, England, on July 21, 1671, but his father, Thomas, moved to Jamaica when Isaac was seven years old. Isaac went to Philadelphia in 1690 to arrange for his family to move to that city, but on his return he found that they had all died in the great earthquake at Port Royal. He returned to Philadelphia, went into business, and became one of the wealthiest proprietors in Pennsylvania.

While he was in England in 1706 he came to the aid of William Penn in his difficulties and rescued him from imprisonment. On his return to Philadelphia two years later, he was elected to the governor’s council, and from then until his death continued in public life. He was a member of the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly for many years, its speaker in 1712, justice for Philadelphia County in 1717, and, on the organization of the high court of chancery, became a master to hear cases with the lieutenant-governor. He was elected mayor of Philadelphia in 1724. On the death of David Lloyd, he was unanimously chosen Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, but he declined and remained in the county court. For many years he was one of the chief representatives of the proprietors, and by the will of Penn he was named a trustee of the province of Pennsylvania.

In 1694 he married Mary, daughter of Thomas Lloyd, president of the council. Their son, Isaac, succeeded his father in business and also became active in politics, serving as speaker of the Assembly. Norris died in Philadelphia on June 4, 1735.

The borough of Norristown, Pennsylvania is named for Norris, who in 1704 bought a large tract of land there from Penn.

Sources

  • “Isaac Norris’s Fairhill: Architecture, Landscape, and Quaker Ideals in a Philadelphia Colonial Country Seat”, Mark Reinberger and Elizabeth McLean, Winterthur Portfolio, Vol. 32, No. 4 (Winter, 1997), pp. 243-274

Battle of Bull’s Ferry

July 20, 2014

 

 

The Battle of Bull’s Ferry on July 20-21, 1780, saw two American brigades under Brigadier General Anthony Wayne attack a party of Loyalist Americans led by Thomas Ward. The Loyalists successfully defended a blockhouse against an ineffective bombardment by four American artillery pieces and a failed attempt to storm the position by Wayne’s infantry. During the action, American light dragoons under Major Light Horse Harry Lee drove off a large number of cattle that were kept in the area for the use of the British army in New York City. The clash inspired British Major John André to write a satirical ballad entitled The Cow Chace. The skirmish was fought at Bulls Ferry, New Jersey in the Northern theater of the American Revolutionary War after Saratoga. At this stage of the conflict only raids and minor actions occurred in the north.

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Bulls Ferry Road descends from the top of the Hudson Palisades down to the river.

The Battle of Monmouth on June 28, 1778 was the last significant engagement in the north.[1] After the battle, George Washington marched his army to Brunswick, New Jersey, arriving there on July 2. Leaving William Maxwell’s brigade in New Jersey, the main body of the American army crossed the Hudson River. By July 24, Washington’s army arrived at White Plains, New York and placed the British garrison of New York City in a blockade that lasted the remainder of the war. In late July, the French admiral Charles Hector, comte d’Estaing arrived off Sandy Hook with one 90-gun ship of the line, one 80, six 74s, two 64s, and one 50, plus four frigates. Badly outgunned, Sir Richard Howe prepared to defend the entrance to New York harbor with six 64s, three 50s, six frigates, four galleys, and an armed merchantman. Meanwhile, British commander Sir Henry Clinton at Sandy Hook needed Howe’s ships to transport his army to New York, otherwise he might be trapped. D’Estaing, whose larger vessels drew 30 feet was informed by local pilots that there was only 23 feet of water over the bar. On the morning of July 22, the frustrated French admiral sailed away. That afternoon a high tide pushed 30 feet of water over the bar and thus an opportunity to end the war in 1778 was missed. [2]

On September 27, 1778, the British wiped out the 3rd Continental Light Dragoons in the Baylor Massacre.[3] On the American side, Anthony Wayne carried out a brilliant coup in the Battle of Stony Point on July 16, 1779.[4] This feat was followed on August 19, 1779, by another successful raid by Light Horse Harry Lee in the Battle of Paulus Hook.[5]

With a total of 27,000 troops on the Atlantic coast of North America, Clinton decided to move against Charleston, South Carolina. Leaving Wilhelm von Knyphausen to hold New York with 10,000 soldiers, Clinton embarked for the south with 8,700 troops in the fleet of Mariot Arbuthnot on December 26, 1779.[6] Clinton was later reinforced so that his army numbered 12,500. The subsequent capitulation of Benjamin Lincoln’s army in the Siege of Charleston on 12 May 1780 represented the largest American mass surrender of the war. As many as 5,500 men were captured, including 2,650 irreplaceable Continental Army soldiers. Leaving Lord Charles Cornwallis in South Carolina with two-thirds of the army, Clinton headed back to New York.[7]

Meanwhile, Knyphausen staged the Springfield Raid in June 1780. The Hessian general started out with 5,000 men on June 7. That day, he was successfully blocked by Elias Dayton’s Continentals and militia in the Battle of Connecticut Farms. Clinton returned to New York on 17 June. Hearing that a French fleet and army was on the way to Newport, Rhode Island, the British commander sent some ships up the Hudson to make it difficult for the Americans to cross to the east side and join the French. Washington moved his army to cover his key fort at West Point, New York on the Hudson, leaving Nathanael Greene to shield his base at Morristown, New Jersey. On June 23, Knyphausen lunged at Morristown. In the Battle of Springfield, Greene’s division slowed the Hessian general’s thrust. That evening Knyphausen withdrew into Staten Island.[8]

On July 20, 1780, Washington ordered Wayne to take the 1st and 2nd Pennsylvania Brigades, four artillery pieces, and Stephen Moylan’s 4th Continental Light Dragoons to destroy a British blockhouse at Bulls Ferry, opposite New York City. The stockade position was held by 70 Loyalists commanded by Thomas Ward, providing a base for British woodcutting operations and protection against raids by American militia.[9]

At that time, the British kept cattle and horses on Bergen Neck to the south, within easy reach of foragers from the British garrison at Paulus Hook. A second motive for Wayne’s operation was to seize the livestock for the use of Washington’s army. Wayne sent his cavalry under the leadership of Harry Lee to round up the cattle, while he took three regiments and the artillery to attack the blockhouse.[10]

Early on July 21, Wayne bombarded the blockhouse with his four cannons, but an hour later there were no discernible results. After being peppered with accurate fire from the blockhouse, the American soldiers from the 1st and 2nd Pennsylvania Regiments became impatient. Despite their officers’ attempts to stop them, the soldiers dashed forward through the abatis to the base of the stockade. Once there, they found it impossible to break into the defensive works, and were forced to retreat.[11]

Aside from John Andrés’ ballad, the consequences of the skirmish were the loss of lives and the seizure of cattle. Wayne reported losses of 15 enlisted men killed, plus three officers and 46 enlisted men wounded. Clinton estimated that Wayne had almost 2,000 troops available. He admitted the loss of 21 casualties and reported that 50 round shot penetrated the blockhouse.[11] In a poetical note at the end of The Cow Chace, André suggested that five Loyalists were killed.

Five refugees (’tis true) were found,

Stiff on the blockhouse floor;

But then ’tis thought the shot went round,

And in at the back door.[10]

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British Major John André penned a satirical verse The Cow Chace about the battle.

In one stanza, the British major poked fun at American claims that their cannon balls could not damage the blockhouse.

No shot could pass, if you will take

The General’s word for true;

But ’tis a d(amna)ble mistake,

For every shot went through.[10]

Lee rounded up a substantial number of cattle and returned them to Washington’s camp. Wayne burned the wood-cutters’ boats and captured some of the boatmen. From André’s fifth stanza, it is clear that Colonel Thomas Proctor commanded Wayne’s artillery.[10] Proctor was born in Ireland (“remoter Shannon”).[12]

And sons of distant Delaware,

And still remoter Shannon,

And Major Lee with horses rare,

And Procter with his cannon.[10]

André mocked Wayne’s subordinate Brigadier General William Irvine, who fought at Bull’s Ferry.[13] The British major credited Irvine, misspelled “Irving”, with command of the attack on the blockhouse while Wayne and Lee had the easy work of cattle rustling.

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William Irvine was viciously lampooned by André.

At Irving’s nod ’twas fine to see,

The left prepare to fight;

The while, the drovers, Wayne and Lee,

Drew off upon the right.[10]

Two later stanzas made fun of the retreat of Irvine’s column.

Irving and terror in the van,

Came flying all abroad;

And cannon, colors, horse, and man,

Ran tumbling to the road.

Still as he fled, ’twas Irving’s cry,

And his example too,

“Run on, my merry men – For why?

The shot will not go through.”[10]

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Light Horse Harry Lee’s dragoons rounded up cattle.

The British major even took a swipe at William Alexander, Lord Stirling who was not even involved in the operation.[10] Alexander had made an unsuccessful attempt to claim a Scottish earldom between 1756 and 1762.[14] His hard-drinking ways were well-known to British officers.[15]

Let none candidly infer,

That Stirling wanted spunk;

The self-made peer had sure been there,

But that the peer was drunk.[10]

Alluding to his pre-war career as a tanner,[16] André poked fun at Wayne in the first and last stanzas.

To drive the kine one summer’s morn,

The tanner took his way;

The calf shall rue that is unborn,

The jumbling of that day.

And now I’ve clos’d my epic strain,

I tremble as I show it,

Lest this same warrior-drover, Wayne,

Should ever catch the poet.[10]

Notes

  1. Boatner, 725
  2. Morrissey, 77-78
  3. Boatner, 1085-1086
  4. Boatner, 1062-1067
  5. Boatner, 836-841
  6. Boatner, 207-208
  7. Boatner, 212-214
  8. Boatner, 1045-1048
  9. Boatner, 119–120
  10. americanrevolution.org, The Cow Chace 1780
  11. Boatner, 120
  12. Nead, Gen. Thomas Proctor
  13. Boatner, 546
  14. Boatner, 16
  15. Preston, 266–267
  16. Boatner, 1175

References

  • americanrevolution.org. “The Cow Chace 1780″ http://www.americanrevolution.org/war%20songs/warsongs78.html
  • Boatner, Mark M. III (1994). Encyclopedia of the American Revolution. Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Stackpole Books. ISBN 0-8117-0578-1
  • Morrissey, Brendan (2008). Monmouth Courthouse 1778: The last great battle in the North. Long Island City, N.Y.: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84176-772-7
  • Nead, Benjamin M. (1880) usgwarchives.net Pennsylvania Magazine of History & Biography. Vol. 4 No. 4. A sketch of Gen. Thomas Proctor, with some account of the First Pennsylvania Artillery in the Revolution
  • Preston, John Hyde (1962). Revolution 1776. New York, N.Y.: Washington Square Press

Colonel Thomas Contee, Maryland Patriot

July 19, 2014

 

 

Colonel Thomas Contee of “Brookefield”, near Nottingham, Prince George’s County, Maryland. He was an American Patriot, militiaman, politician, planter.

Born in 1729, Thomas married Sarah Fendall (1732–1793) in 1751 in Charles County, Maryland. Thomas and Sarah resided at “Brookefield”, which is now called “The Valley”, near Nottingham, Prince George’s Co., Maryland.

Sarah (Fendall) Contee (1732–1793), was the daughter of Benjamin Fendall I, Esq. (1708–1764) and first wife, Eleanor Lee (1710–1759). Sarah was born February 7, 1732 at “Potomoe”, Charles County., Maryland. Sarah was described as a very beautiful woman with a wealth of golden hair.

clip_image001

Portrait of Thomas Contee. Artist information unknown.

Thomas inherited through his mother, the estate “Brookefield”, the original home of his ancestor, Maj. Thomas Brooke, Sr., Esq. (1632–1676). Thomas was a merchant by 1764, and was an attorney in fact for William Molleson, of London, England in 1766. He was engaged in a tobacco trade business with Capt. Fielder Bowie (ca. 1745-1794), which imported large quantities of goods until the firm disbanded in 1775. Thomas had management of a store at Pig Point, in Prince George’s County from 1772–1775, and was an agent for his sons Alexander and Benjamin, in Nottingham, and Upper Marlboro.

Contee and his wife, Sarah Fendall, had five children:

  1. Alexander Contee (1752–1810), who never married.
  2. Capt. Benjamin Contee, Rev., Hon. (1755–1815), who married Sarah Russell Lee (1766–1810), daughter of Philip Thomas Lee (1736–1778) and Ann Russell (d. 1777).
  3. Eleanor Lee Contee (1758–1786), who married Dr. Michael Wallace, Jr., Esq. (1749–1794).
  4. Jane Contee (1761–1825), who married William Worthington (1747–1820).
  5. Sarah Contee (1767–1844), who married David Slater (ca. 1763).

During the Revolutionary period he took a conspicuous position. He was chairman of various meetings of the citizens in Marlboro, was member of the House of Burgesses (Maryland), a delegate to the first convention held at Annapolis in 1770, and was one of the signers of the Declaration of Association of Freeman of Maryland in 1775. In September of the same year he was elected to the Committee of Observation. Too old for active duty, Thomas in 1776 was commissioned a Major of Militia by the Council of Safety and instructed to inspect the newly raised troops and to aid in the equipment of the volunteer forces. In November 1776, he was elected a member of the Council of Safety which continued to act until March 20, 1777, when the new state government was organized. He was sent to Philadelphia to confer with the Continental Congress as to the proper organization of the army and the general plans for defense. Thomas also served as Chairman of the Patuxent Associators.

Thomas was elected to the state legislature and for many years was chairman of the Republican Party in Prince George’s County. Thomas was a vestryman for St. Paul’s Parish, Prince George’s County. In 1811, at the time of his death, Thomas had amassed 1,082 acres in Prince George’s, Baltimore, and Frederick counties, 4 lots in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, plus 4,833 acres in Kentucky. His estate was valued at $9,167.75, including 19 slaves, books, and silver.

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A portrait of John Hanson by John Hesselius, around 1765 to 1770.

Thomas’ older sister Jane Hanson, married John Hanson (1721–1783), of “Mulberry Grove”, who some say was the first President of the United States. On November 5, 1781, he was elected by a large majority, President of the Congress and in 1782, as head of the new nation, issued letters of marque to prey upon the British Commerce. These commissions were signed “John Hanson, President”. Hanson served as President of the United States in Congress Assembled which is erroneously though to mean that he was the first president of the country.

Thomas Contee died in 1811 in Prince George’s, Maryland, and is buried there.

clip_image003

Thomas was the son of Alexander Contee (1693–1740) and Jane Brooke (1702–1779). Jane was the daughter of Col. Thomas Brooke, Jr., Hon. (1660–1730) of “Brookefield”, President of Maryland and his second wife, Barbara Dent (1676–1754). Col. Thomas Brooke, Jr., was the son of Maj. Thomas Brooke, Sr., Esq. (1632–1676), of “Brookefield”, and Eleanor (Hatton) Darnall (1642–1745), who married secondly Col. Henry Darnall, Sr. (1645–1711). Alexander was the son of Dr. Peter Contee (d. 1714), of Barnstaple, Devonshire, England, and his first wife Catherine. Peter immigrated in about 1703 and resided in Charles County, before taking up permanent residence in Prince George’s County. Peter was a surgeon, and married secondly, Francis (?) Hopkins. Francis was the widow of Capt. William Hopkins (d. 1702). Peter was the son of Adolphe de Conti and his wife Grace. Adolphe was a Huguenot who immigrated to England from France during the reign of Louis XIII, King of France (1601–1643). Adolphe was lord mayor of London, England, in 1643, and High Sheriff of Middlesex, England. The motto under his Arms in Guild Hall, London is, “pour dieu et mon roi” (“for God and my king”).

Alexander, was born in April 1693, in Barnstaple, Devonshire, England. He immigrated around 1703, and resided in Charles County about 1720. He joined his uncle, Col. John Contee (d. 1708), who though married twice, had no children, and whose will provided liberally for Alexander. Alexander was a prosperous merchant at Nottingham Prince George’s Co., Clerk of the Court; and from 1720 to 1724, member of the Lower House of the General Assembly. He was a vestryman of St. Paul’s Parish. He married about 1720, Jane Brooke. Jane inherited a portion of “Brookefield”, her father’s estate. “Brookefield” is now known as “The Valley”, and was located near Nottingham in Prince George’s County. At the time of his death on December 24, 1740, Alexander had amassed at least 2,598 acres of land, and his estate was valued at 1,613.2.11 pounds sterling, plus 3,827.19.8 pounds current money. This included 32 slaves, 2 servants, books, and clerk’s writing equipment. Alexander’s will contained a heraldic shield only, with a chevron on which are charges and beasts in Dexter, middle and sinister chief and middle base. The arms of the Conte of Montulle, Normandy, contain a chevron and three mullets described as “Azure chevron or between three mullets or”.

The Contees came to Maryland from England, but they were of French descent Huguenots, who emigrated to Barnstable, in Devonshire, to escape the religious persecutions which culminated in the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. The name originally de Conti, appears among the French nobility from a very early date. As far back as 1375, Isabella, dame de Conti, married Colard de Mailly. Their great granddaughter married in 1551, Louis I, Prince de Conde, a cadet of the Bourbons who ascended the French throne in the person of Henry IV, King of France and Navare (1553–1610). The second son of this latter marriage, Francois de Bourbon, was Prince de Conti, but had no issue and the title was revived from Armand de Bourbon, a cadet of the great Conde but expired for lack of male issue. The Vicomte de Conti arms are identical with those of the Rochelle family and also with those of the Marquis de Graviers, Comte de Noirant (of Normandy) and Baron de Conti (of Orange).

References

  • Across the Years In Prince George’s County, page 228
  • The Bowies and Their Kindred
  • Daughters of the American Revolution Lineage Books, Vol. 3

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