Siege of Boston begins

April 19, 2015



The Siege of Boston (April 19, 1775 – March 17, 1776) was the opening phase of the American Revolutionary War, in which New England militiamen—who later became part of the Continental Army—surrounded the town of Boston, Massachusetts, to prevent movement by the British Army garrisoned within. The Americans, led by George Washington, eventually forced the British to withdraw from the town after an 11-month siege.

The siege began on April 19 after the Battles of Lexington and Concord, when the militia from many Massachusetts communities surrounded Boston and blocked land access to the then-peninsular town, limiting British resupply to naval operations. The Continental Congress chose to adopt the militia and form the Continental Army, and unanimously elected George Washington as its Commander in Chief. In June 1775, the British seized Bunker and Breeds Hills, but the casualties they suffered were so heavy and their gains were insufficient to break the siege. For the rest of the siege, there was little action other than occasional raids, minor skirmishes, and sniper fire. Both sides had to deal with resource supply and personnel issues over the course of the siege, and engaged in naval operations in the contest for resources.

In November 1775, Washington sent a 25 year-old bookseller-turned-soldier named Henry Knox to bring heavy artillery that had been captured at Fort Ticonderoga to Boston. In a technically complex and demanding operation, Knox brought many cannons to the Boston area in January 1776. In March 1776, these artillery were used to fortify Dorchester Heights, overlooking Boston and its harbor and threatening the British naval supply lifeline. The British commander William Howe, realizing he could no longer hold the town, chose to evacuate it. He withdrew the British forces, departing on March 17 (celebrated today as Evacuation Day) for Halifax, Nova Scotia.


Engraving depicting the British evacuation of Boston

General Ebenezer Learned

April 18, 2015



Ebenezer Learned was born in Oxford, Massachusetts on April 18, 1728, the son of Colonel Ebenezer Learned and Deborah (Haynes) Learned. In his early life, he devoted much of his time to the study of books and as he matured, sat in on the discussions of his father and other men in the community. As a teen developing into manhood, he realized the difficulties faced by the Colonies from an unfriendly governmental ministry in London. He became an earnest advocate of the colonial cause as the crisis developed over taxation and representation. September 29, 1774, Learned became a member of the Provincial Congress which assembled at Concord. The assembly determined that Massachusetts must stand firm for its liberties. The First Continental Congress later met in Carpenter’s Hall, Philadelphia, where the members pledged loyalty to England, but also demanded that their liberties be preserved — and asked Parliament to adjust their difficult conditions. May 1775 was set as a deadline if the government failed to act.

It was April 19, in the meantime, that the battles of Lexington and Concord occurred and the news of them reached all over the Thirteen Colonies — inspiring patriots into action everywhere. The Provincial Congress of Massachusetts was in assembly at the time of Lexington and Concord and at once resolved to raise and equip an army of thirteen thousand six hundred men. Learned was at home in Oxford and not in the assembly. When he heard news of the battles, he immediately marched to Cambridge, leading a substantial force of minute men. Learned had been preparing for the possibility of fighting, so the troops were a disciplined and trained group of men. The Massachusetts Assembly sent messengers and proclamations for the assembling of a large army at Cambridge and within a short time, some thirty thousand men from various parts of New England were camped at Cambridge under the command of Major-general Artemas Ward. The men were eager to serve, but lacked real military discipline. Learned gave much needed assistance to General Ward, and the immediate plan was to contain the British forces in Boston.

General Ward stationed soldiers from Roxbury, Cambridge and to the north, blocking Boston. To strengthen the American position, they made plans to fortify Bunker Hill. On June 17, a careful survey was made and they began to erect fortifications on Breed’s Hill, with plans to fortify Bunker Hill with the thought it would be a good location to cover a retreat if necessary. Officers and men began the work of building the fortifications and by dawn they had established strong entrenchments.

When the British discovered the fort, General Gage, the British commander, called a council of war where it was decided to attack and destroy the American position at once. Following orders, the American soldiers held their fire until the attacking enemy was close to the entrenchments. The Americans held off two separate attempts and on the third ran out of ammunition. They retreated slowly. The British losses were unusually heavy, greater than the American losses. Learned held his position at Roxbury, under fire, but their training prevented panic.

Continental Congress, meanwhile, was assembled in Philadelphia in the state house (Independence Hall). On June 15, 1775, Congress resolved to appoint a general. It was John Adams, a leading delegate from Boston who suggested that the forces all over the colonies form a Continental Army in which the appointed general would be in command. The selection of the general was a difficult task as General Ward was already in command of the forces around Boston. Adams favored Colonel George Washington of Virginia as the most capable and efficient officer. Thomas Johnson of Maryland nominated Colonel Washington and he was unanimously elected. Thus, George Washington became the Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army. He accepted his appointment reluctantly:

“As to pay, sir, I beg leave to assure the Congress, that, as no pecuniary consideration could have tempted me to accept the arduous employment at the expense of my domestic ease and happiness, I do not wish to make a profit from it. I will keep an exact account of my expenses. Those I doubt not, they will discharge, and that is all I desire.”

Washington left for Cambridge June 21 and arrived July 2. He met with various leaders concerning possible military actions in the future and assumed leadership of the army. July 9, Washington summoned a council of war, attended by the higher officers of the army. Learned was not of sufficient rank to attend, but Washington met him and came to know his ability and efficiency as they worked around Boston.

In January 1776, Ebenezer Learned was made Colonel of the Third Continental Infantry. At this time also, Washington was more encouraged to begin carrying out his plans, as a result of the success of Colonel Knox in procuring cannon and military supplies from Ft. Ticonderoga. The army was ordered to begin a bombardment campaign on March 3 and 4, 1776 as well as the seizure of an important position, known as Dorchester Heights. The troops were readied for a potential attack, but heavy rains prevented one.

Howe decided to evacuate Boston. They were receiving threats of attack and retaliated with the threat of the destruction of the city if they were molested as they evacuated Boston. Four influential Boston citizens [John Scollay, Timothy Newell, Thomas Marshall and Samuel Austin] secured an appointment with the British that the city would not be destroyed if the Americans assured Howe that the troops would not attack as they evacuated. Howe gave his promise and the conditions were written down. The letter was taken to Colonel Learned at Roxbury, who in turn, carried it to Washington at his headquarters. Since the letter set forth no official obligation from the Select Council of Boston, nor Howe, he could not receive it officially. So, Learned returned to Roxbury and wrote the Council the following letter: “Agreeably to a promise made to you at the lines yesterday, I waited upon his Excellency General Washington and presented to him the paper handed to me, by you, from the Selectmen of Boston. The answer I received from him was to this effect: — That as it was an unauthorized paper, without an address, and not obligatory upon General Howe, he would take no notice of it, I am with esteem and respect, Gentlemen, your most obedient servant, Ebenezer Learned”. Nevertheless, Learned’s work created an unofficial plan for the evacuation of the British from Boston on March 17, 1776. Learned was given the honor to unbar the gates of Boston which admitted Washington’s army into the city. His force also kept a careful watch upon the British fleet until it sailed away.

Washington decided that he must protect New York, for if the British got hold of it, they would have the best port to carry out expeditions all over the thirteen colonies. Washington moved his army to New York to protect the city and the Hudson River. Colonel Learned traveled to New York with his regiment. However, as a result of the campaign in Boston, he had to return home to Oxford due to ill health. Learned helped the American cause as best he could at home and was anxious to return to service as he learned of the victories of Washington at Trenton and Princeton. On April 2, 1777, news reached Learned that Congress had promoted him to Brigadier-General in the Continental Army.

Late spring 1777: General Burgoyne organized his forces from Canada by way of Lake Champlain and the Hudson River. General Learned and his troops were ordered north to save the militia at Fort Edward and Fort Anne. He was successful in the removal of supplies from Ticonderoga. Burgoyne’s forces numbered about 6700 requiring them to carry a lot of baggage, which slowed them down. The Americans, numbering approximately 4000 under General Schuyler, slowed them down even more by felling trees across roads, trails and paths. General

Schuyler urged the rural residents to burn their crops and hide their cattle. In time, Burgoyne began to feel the shortage of food and supplies. The British in New York did not realize Burgoyne’s position was becoming precarious. General Howe in the meantime decided to make a move towards Philadelphia, ordering General Clinton in New York to make a drive toward the north to scatter the American army, believing Burgoyne would decisively defeat the Americans at his location. Burgoyne, sent forces against Bennington, Vermont, where American supplies were stored — he no longer had enough. The Americans defeated the British there.

A second invasion was rebuffed when the troops under General Herkimer held off the British troops under St. Leger at Ft. Stanwix. The British forces heard that General Learned and his troops were coming to aid the fort, and they fled in confusion.

In the meantime the American army was maneuvering for battle. Additional forces increased their number so they were in a position to fight the British. The Americans were at Bemis’ Heights, south of Saratoga. The first struggle took place on September 19. Each army waited upon its conclusion — the Americans could wait because of their position and knowledge that the British supplies were exceptionally low. Eventually, on October 17, Burgoyne was compelled to surrender after being pushed back to Saratoga. Burgoyne and his men were marched away…under the Stars and Stripes, the flag officially adopted on June 14, 1777. Learned and his men were commended publicly and later ordered south to join Washington north of Philadelphia.

At Valley Forge, Learned is ordered to form one division with General Patterson’s Brigade under Baron DeKalb. Learned was Brigade Major for Christmas day, serving several times after that as well. In the spring of 1778, Learned’s health failed and he was forced to resign his commission. He returned home to Oxford and served his community and state in various capacities as a member of the state constitutional convention 1779, state legislature, selectman, assessor, justice of the peace, moderator of town meetings, and was deeply interested in church affairs.

General Ebenezer Learned died on April 1, 1801 in Oxford.


Grave of General Ebenezer Learned at the South Cemetery at Oxford, Massachusetts.


The Battle of Arkansas Post

April 17, 2015



The Battle of Arkansas Post, also known as the Colbert Raid or the Colbert Incident, was a battle of the American Revolution fought at Arkansas Post on April 17, 1783. It was a part of a series of small battles fought between Spanish and British forces in the Lower Mississippi region from 1779, when Spain entered the war on the side of the United States, to the war’s end.[1] The battle consisted of an attack on the Spanish-controlled post by British partisans led by James Colbert. The battle’s primary engagement was a six-hour siege of the post’s fort and a subsequent sortie by the Spanish defenders, causing the British forces to rout.[7]

The battle actually took place three months after the preliminary peace treaty between Spain and Great Britain was signed on January 20, but word of the treaty had not yet reached the Lower Mississippi region.[2][8] It was the only battle of the Revolutionary War fought in what is now the state of Arkansas.[1][2]


Painting depicts a sortie by Spanish soldiers during the Battle of Arkansas Post. Courtesy of National Parks Service, displayed at Arkansas Post National Memorial.

In the years prior to the battle, Spanish forces had won several victories in the Lower Mississippi region, driving out the British from Manchac and Baton Rouge and taking many British combatants prisoner. By 1783, British forces in the region were severely scattered, almost non-existent, and consisted only of small partisan groups engaged in guerrilla warfare. A former British army captain, James Colbert, was a leader of one such group, managing to rally a small number of ragtag fellow loyalists to continue the fight against the Spanish.[1]

Colbert’s primary target was Arkansas Post because of its strategic location at the confluence of the Arkansas and Mississippi rivers, and he had been planning an attack on the Spanish trading post for about a year.[9] If the post could be captured, Colbert and his fighters could easily harass Spanish traffic on the Mississippi without consequence.[1] The post was inhabited by a small garrison of 33 Spanish soldiers of the Louisiana Regiment and four Quapaw Native Americans in addition to the post’s commander, Jacobo Dubreuil, the second-in-command, Lieutenant Luis de Villars, and Sergeant Alexo Pastor.[10] It was guarded by a simple stockade fort, Fort Carlos, half a mile upriver.[11][12]

In early April, Colbert and his flotilla set off from their encampment on the Wolf River. On the Mississippi, Colbert’s party encountered American vessels headed downriver to Natchez for settlement. These settlers were ordered to land and wait ashore for six days. Further down, near the mouth of the White River, Colbert encountered trading vessels from both New Orleans and Arkansas Post. These were seized along with their goods. The flotilla then proceeded up the Arkansas river.[13]

Not far from the post, on April 16, Colbert ordered several Chickasaw to scout ahead. These scouts encountered the Quapaw village, Osotouy. Here they told the local chief, Angaska, who was allied to the Spanish and regularly corresponded with Dubreuil, that they were only going upriver “with a dozen Americans to shake hands with Captain Dubreuil.” They then presented the chief with rum as a gift. As a result of this deception, Angaska did not report upriver to Dubreuil that anything was suspicious. The scouts then rendezvoused with the main party and proceeded upriver.[14]

By midnight, April 17, the partisans had made it to the habitant shore of the post. To ensure no villagers or guards would be alerted by the approach, Colbert had the paddles of his vessels muffled with leather. Colbert landed his force slightly downriver from the village, leaving seven men to guard the canoes.[14]

The battle began with an initial partisan raid of the village at about 2:30 AM, resulting in an occupation by the attacking force. Although four families escaped the village and proceeded to seek shelter in nearby Fort Carlos, the attackers took most prisoner, including Luis de Villars and Alexo Pastor. Awakened by the commotion, the garrison of Fort Carlos launched a counter-attack, led by Jacobo Dubreuil. During this engagement, the Spanish garrison sustained two losses and Pastor escaped from partisan captivity, reaching the fort in the chaos of battle. No other prisoners escaped during the fighting. Afterward, the Spanish garrison retreated to the fort, unmolested by partisan fire.[1][15]

At about 3:00 AM, the attacking force began to entrench themselves in a ravine just outside the fort, which, due to its location among trees and bush, they could approach “within pistol shot.” The two sides exchanged gunfire for six hours, with neither sustaining casualties because of both the strength of the fort’s palisade walls and the attackers’ entrenched position, which offered good shelter from the 4-pounder cannons that the defenders employed. At 9:00 AM, Commander Dubreuil ordered Sergeant Pastor, nine soldiers, and four Quapaw warriors to prepare to make a sortie. Dubreuil suspected that the attackers might be setting up artillery with which to breach the fort.[12][16]

At the same time, Colbert sent forth one of his officers under a flag of truce to deliver a peace offer demanding surrender. Marie Luisa Villars, the wife of the lieutenant and fellow prisoner, accompanied Colbert’s officer to ensure he would not be shot approaching the fort. At this point, the exchange of gunfire ceased.[12] Colbert’s officer fled suddenly in fright, and Dubreuil received the peace offer, written by Colbert in French, from Madame Villars alone:[16][12]

M. Le Capitaine Colbert is sent by his superiors to take the post of the Arkansas and by this power Sir, he demands that you capitulate. It is his plan to take it with all his forces, having already taken all the inhabitants, together with the Lieut. Luis de Villars and his family.[12][16]

Dubreuil refused to surrender, and ordered the sortie to commence. Sergeant Alexo Pastor and his force of 13 sallied out of the fort toward the 82 attackers, shouting Quapaw war cries. The apparent shock of this sortie, mixed with war cries and volleys of musket fire, scattered the attacking force, which immediately retreated to the river and boarded the canoes with their prisoners. According to Dubreuil, the partisans yelled “Let’s go! Let’s go! The Indians are upon us,” as they fled. One attacker was killed in the retreat.[1][12][16]


Partially reconstructed wall of Fort San Carlos at the Arkansas Post National Memorial.

Following the rout, Colbert drove a tomahawk into the ground near the riverbank, symbolizing his intent to return, and had another message sent to Dubreuil via one of the village inhabitants:[17]

You can form an idea of my forces, at 12 today 500 Chickasaws are due to arrive and also two bateaux loaded with men, armed with four swivels and a cannon and if the Commandant of the fort does not surrender before the said hour and I am victorious, as I have no doubt I shall be, I do not know whether I can hold my people or not, and if the… [Quapaw] are used against us I myself will order the prisoners killed.[17]

This message was ignored by Dubreuil and the reinforcements mentioned by Colbert never materialized when Dubreuil failed to surrender the fort.[17]

Chief Angaska arrived at the post at noon that day, and was scolded by Dubreuil for his failure to send word about the approaching force. Angaska, after explaining the deception by Colbert’s scouts, was sent with 100 Quapaw and 20 Spanish soldiers to recover the prisoners taken by the retreating partisans. On April 24, Angaska reached Colbert’s flotilla near the mouth of the Arkansas River and proceeded to negotiate for the release of the prisoners. Bluffing that he had 250 men, Angaska convinced Colbert to release all but eight of his prisoners. Lieutenant de Villars and his wife were among those freed, but before being released, the lieutenant was allowed to sign an agreement securing the release of five British partisans arrested by the local Spanish government for rebellious activities in Natchez. De Villars agreed to this under pain of re-imprisonment by Colbert or a fine, and the agreement was later fulfilled when the rebels were paroled on Villar’s request.[1][18]

On May 5, Dubreuil wrote to the Spanish governor of Louisiana, Esteban Rodriguez Miró, detailing the battle and praising the competence of his men.[12][8]

On May 16, Miró wrote to Colbert, informing him of the January 20 preliminary peace treaty between the two sides and requesting that all property and prisoners be returned unconditionally. Although the remaining prisoners were released, Colbert refused to return the property seized in the raid.[19]


  1. David Sesser (September 14, 2010). “Colbert Raid”. Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture. The Butler Center for Arkansas Studies
  2. “Colbert launches raid on Fort Carlos, Arkansas”. The History Channel website. April 17, 2013
  3. Edwin C. Bearss (November 1974). “Special History Report: The Colbert Raid,” p. 40, National Park Service
  4. Edwin C. Bearss (November 1974). “Special History Report: The Colbert Raid,” pp. 42, 61, National Park Service
  5. Edwin C. Bearss (November 1974). “Special History Report: The Colbert Raid,” pp. 40, 44, National Park Service
  6. “Arkansas Post National Memorial – Gillett, Arkansas,” National Park Service
  7. Edwin C. Bearss (November 1974). “Special History Report: The Colbert Raid,” pp. 42-45, National Park Service
  8. Edwin C. Bearss (November 1974). “Special History Report: The Colbert Raid,” p. 46, National Park Service
  9. Edwin C. Bearss (November 1974). “Special History Report: The Colbert Raid,” p. 42, National Park Service
  10. Edwin C. Bearss (November 1974). “Special History Report: The Colbert Raid,” pp. 40, 43, 44, National Park Service
  11. Edwin C. Bearss; John Garner (November 1974). “Special History Report: The Colbert Raid,” pp. 10, 12, 43, 55-57, National Park Service
  12. Eric Leonard (September 2003). “An Account of ‘Colbert’s Raid,” National Park Service
  13. Edwin C. Bearss (November 1974). “Special History Report: The Colbert Raid,” p. 42-43, National Park Service
  14. Edwin C. Bearss (November 1974). “Special History Report: The Colbert Raid,” p. 43, National Park Service
  15. Edwin C. Bearss (November 1974). “Special History Report: The Colbert Raid,” pp. 43-44, National Park Service
  16. Edwin C. Bearss (November 1974). “Special History Report: The Colbert Raid,” p. 44, National Park Service
  17. Edwin C. Bearss (November 1974). “Special History Report: The Colbert Raid,” p. 45, National Park Service
  18. Edwin C. Bearss (November 1974). “Special History Report: The Colbert Raid,” pp. 45-46, National Park Service
  19. Edwin C. Bearss (November 1974). “Special History Report: The Colbert Raid,” pp. 46-47, National Park Service

Residents of Alexandria address George Washington

April 16, 2015



George Washington was unanimously elected the first President of the United States and commenced his journey from Mount Vernon to New York City on April 16, 1789. Shortly after leaving his estate, Washington was met by a civic procession which escorted him to Alexandria for the first of many public receptions and dinners. Colonel Dennis Ramsay, Mayor of Alexandria, an affectionate friend and companion of Washington, delivered an address on behalf of the citizens of his city.[1]

Colonel Ramsay’s Address.

To George Washington, Esq., President of the United States, drc.

Again your country commands your care. Obedient to its wishes, unmindful of your ease, we see you once more relinquishing the bliss of retirement, and this, too, at a period of life when nature itself seems to authorize a preference of repose.

Not to extol your glory as a soldier; not to pour forth our gratitude for past services; not to acknowledge the justice of the unexampled honour which has been conferred upon you by the spontaneous and unanimous suffrage of three millions of freemen, in your election to the supreme magistracy, nor to admire the patriotism which directs your conduct, do your neighbors and friends now address you. Themes less splendid but more endearing, impress our minds. The first and best of citizens must leave us; our aged must lose their ornament; our youth their model; our agriculture its improver; our commerce its friend; our infant academy its protector; our poor their benefactor; and the interior navigation of the Potomac (an event, replete with the most extensive utility, already by your unremitted exertions brought into partial use), its institutor and promoter.

Farewell! Go, and make a grateful people happy—a people who will be doubly grateful when they contemplate this recent sacrifice for their interest.

To that Being Who maketh and unmaketh at His will, we commend you; and after the accomplishment of the arduous business to which you are called, may He restore to us again the best of men, and the most beloved fellow-citizen.

George Washington - Inauguration 009 (Procession)

The President-Elect delivered a short reply:[2]

Gentlemen: Although I ought not to conceal, yet I cannot describe, the painful emotions which I felt in being called upon to determine whether I would accept or refuse the Presidency of the United States.

The unanimity of the choice, the opinion of my friends, communicated from different parts of Europe, as well as of America, the apparent wish of those, who were not altogether satisfied with the Constitution in its present form, and an ardent desire on my own part, to be instrumental in conciliating the good will of my countrymen towards each other have induced an acceptance.

Those, who have known me best (and you, my fellow citizens, are from your situation, in that number) know better than any others that my love of retirement is so great, that no earthly consideration, short of a conviction of duty, could have prevailed upon me to depart from my resolution “never more to take any share in transactions of a public nature.” For, at my age, and in my circumstances, what possible advantages could I propose to myself, from embarking again on the tempestuous and uncertain ocean of public-life?

I do not feel myself under the necessity of making public declarations, in order to convince you, Gentlemen, of my attachment to yourselves, and regard for your interests. The whole tenor of my life has been open to your inspection; and my past actions, rather than my present declarations, must be the pledge of my future conduct.

In the mean time I thank you most sincerely for the expressions of kindness contained in your valedictory address. It is true, just after having bade adieu to my domestic connexions, this tender proof of your friendship is but too well calculated still farther to awaken my sensibility, and encrease my regret at parting from the enjoyments of private life.

All that now remains for me is to commit myself and you to the protection of that beneficent Being, who, on a former occasion has happly brought us together, after a long and distressing separation. Perhaps the same gracious Providence will again indulge us with the same heartfelt felicity. But words, my fellow-citizens, fail me: Unutterable sensations must then be left to more expressive silence: while, from an aching heart, I bid you all, my affectionate friends and kindnd neighbours, farewell.


  1. “Washington: The Man and The Mason,” Charles H. Callahan, Published under the auspices of the Memorial Temple Committee of the George Washington Masonic National Memorial Association, 1913, ALEXANDRIA-WASHINGTON LODGE. No. 22. A. F. St A. M., p. 155
  2. “The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745—1799,” edited by John C. Fitzpatrick, 39 vols. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office (1931-44) Vol. 30, pp. 286-287

Journal of Occurrences

April 15, 2015



The “Journal of Occurrences,” also known as “Journal of the Times” and “Journal of Transactions in Boston,” was a series of newspaper articles published from 1768 to 1769 in the New York Journal, chronicling the occupation of Boston, Massachusetts, by the British Army. Authorship of the articles was anonymous, but is usually attributed to Samuel Adams, then the clerk of the Massachusetts House of Representatives. William Cooper, Boston’s town clerk, has also been named as a possible author. The articles may have been written by a group of men working in collaboration.


Paul Revere’s engraving of British troops landing in Boston in 1768.

The occupation of Boston arose from colonial resistance to the Townshend Acts, passed by the British Parliament in 1767. In response to acts, the Massachusetts House of Representatives issued a circular letter in February 1768. Written primarily by Samuel Adams, the circular letter argued that the Townshend Acts were a violation of the British Constitution because they taxed British subjects without their consent. Lord Hillsborough, British secretary of state for the colonies, ordered the Massachusetts House to revoke the circular letter, but the legislature refused. In addition to this act of colonial defiance, Hillsborough was also hearing reports from the Board of Customs—who were in charge of enforcing the trade regulations—that Boston was in a state of anarchy. The British ministry dispatched four regiments of the British Army to restore order. The troops began arriving in October 1768.

The first installment of the “Journal” was published on October 13, 1768, and continued once a week for more than a year. In an innovative approach for an era without professional newspaper reporters, the “Journal” presented a narrative of shocking events in Boston to the outside world. Although the authors claimed that what they wrote was “strictly fact”, the events depicted in the articles were apparently exaggerated for polemical effect. Drawing upon the traditional Anglo-American distrust of standing armies garrisoned among civilians, the “Journal” presented a Boston besieged by unruly British soldiers, who assaulted men and raped women with regularity and impunity. The customs commissioners were also portrayed negatively.

Although British officials in Boston insisted that the events depicted in the “Journal” were mostly fictitious, the articles were widely reprinted and helped build the sentiment that eventually produced the American Revolution.


  • Alexander, John K. Samuel Adams: America’s Revolutionary Politician. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2002. ISBN 0-7425-2115-X
  • Dickerson, Oliver M., ed. Boston under Military Rule (1768–1769): As Revealed in a Journal of the Times. Boston: Chapman & Grimes, 1936
  • Fowler, William M., Jr. Samuel Adams: Radical Puritan. New York: Longman, 1997
  • Streitmatter, Rodger. Mightier Than the Sword: How the News Media Have Shaped American History. Westview Press, 2007

Anna Smith Strong: was she Culper agent 355?

April 14, 2015



Anna Smith Strong of Setauket-East Setauket, New York, was an American Patriot and a member of the Culper Spy Ring during the American Revolution.

Anna Smith Strong’s father was Colonel William Smith, son of Henry Smith and grandson of Colonel William Smith, a justice of the supreme court established in New York in 1691.[2] He was clerk of Suffolk County, New York and judge of the Common Pleas court for the county for several years before the American Revolution.[2] Anna’s mother was Margaret Lloyd Smith, daughter of Henry Lloyd of Lloyd’s Neck.[2] Anna, who was born on April 14, 1740,[1] was described in an 1839 book by Benjamin Franklin Thompson on the history of Long Island as “a lady of much amiability and worth.”[2]

Strong’s husband, Selah Strong (December 25, 1737 – July 4, 1815) was a delegate to the first three provincial Congresses in New York, which convened on May 22, 1775 and December 6, 1775 and in May 1776.[3] He also was a captain in the New York militia in 1776.[4] According to Rivington’s Gazette of January 3, 1778, Selah Strong was imprisoned in the sugar house at New York City as a presumed spy.[5] Family tradition has him later imprisoned on the prison ship HMS Jersey.[5] Later works mention only his imprisonment on the prison ship.[6] Tradition says Anna brought him food.[7] Author Ryan Ann Hunter states that Anna eventually got Selah paroled through the influence of Tory relatives.[8] Upon his release, he spent the rest of the war in Connecticut with their younger children while Anna stayed in Long Island.[8]

Selah Strong’s mother was the former Hannah Woodhull, a sister of General Nathaniel Woodhull, who was a relative Abraham Woodhull, alias “Samuel Culper, Sr.”[9]

The Strongs had children: Keturah, a daughter, James Woodhull, (Judge) Thomas, Margaret, Benjamin, Mary (died young), William Smith, Joseph (died young), George Washington and Joseph.[1]

On August 25, 1778, Continental Army Major Benjamin Tallmadge convinced General George Washington that Abraham Woodhull of Setauket, Long Island, New York would make a good agent to gather intelligence in New York City, the British Army’s headquarters and base of operations during the American Revolutionary War.[10] For a short time, Washington continued to support Tallmadge’s superior as chief of intelligence, Brigadier General Charles Scott, who favored single missions by agents, usually officers.[11]

After the failure of an intelligence mission to New York City by five Continental Army officers, three of whom were discovered and executed, in September 1778, Washington gave Tallmadge the assignment to set up a network of spies and couriers in New York City. Scott soon went on furlough and was replaced by Tallmadge as chief of intelligence.[12] In October 1778, Tallmadge started the New York City operation with Woodhull making trips into New York, ostensibly to visit his sister, Mary Underhill, who operated a boarding house with her husband Amos Underhill.[13] Woodhull sent his messages under the alias “Samuel Culper,” later as “Samuel Culper, Sr.”[10] Tallmadge was referred to by the alias “John Bolton.”[10] On October 31, 1778, Woodhull was questioned threateningly at a British checkpoint.[14] Woodhull hoped to pass on the work in New York to Amos Underhill but Underhill was not in a position to conduct the operation and make clear and useful reports.[15] So Woodhull continued his visits, although he became increasingly anxious that he might be discovered as time passed.[16]

In June 1779, Woodhull engaged Robert Townsend, who used the alias “Samuel Culper, Jr.” to gather intelligence in New York City.[17] Since Townsend was engaged in business there, his presence was expected to arouse less suspicion than Woodhull would. He also had access to British officers through the authorship of a society column in a Loyalist newspaper and his tailoring business, as well as his interest in a coffeehouse with Loyalist newspaper owner James Rivington, who also was a secret member of the Ring.[18][19]

A network was then established in which Townsend would pass intelligence to a courier, Jonas Hawkins or Austin Roe, who would take it 55 miles to Setauket and pass it to Woodhull, usually via dead drop.[20] Woodhull would evaluate and comment on it and pass it to Caleb Brewster, take it across Long Island Sound and pass it to Tallmadge, who would usually add a cover letter with comments. Tallmadge found that personally taking the message to Washington was too time consuming. So he sent future messages to Washington by a dragoon, then by a relay of dragoons, acting as couriers.[20]

According to widely accepted local and family tradition, Anna Strong’s role in the ring was to signal Brewster, who ran regular trips with whaleboats across the Sound on a variety of smuggling and military missions, that a message was ready. She did this by hanging a black petticoat on her clothesline at Strong Point in Setauket, which was easily visible by Brewster from a boat in the Sound and by Woodhull from his nearby farm after he began to operate almost exclusively from home.[6][20][21] She would add a number of handkerchiefs for one of six coves where Brewster would bring his boat and Woodhull would meet him.[22][23][24] Historian Richard Welch writes that the tradition of the clothesline signal is unverifiable but it is known that the British had a woman at Setauket who fits Anna’s profile under suspicion for disloyal activities.[25]

Woodhull had to continue to visit New York for meetings with Townsend, who occasionally needed to be encouraged to continue his work or to discuss instructions or information.[26] In October 1779, Woodhull was attacked by four armed men who searched his clothes, shoes and saddle but did not find the letter from Townsend that he was carrying.[27] Woodhull told Tallmadge that this occurred and asked him to keep it secret so that others in the ring would not be intimidated.[9] He also wrote to Tallmadge that he would soon be visiting New York again and “…by the assistance of a 355 [lady] of my acquaintance, shall be able to outwit them all.”[9]

Historians Alexander Rose and Mark Anthony Phelps write that the lady identified only as “a 355″, 355 being Tallmadge’s substitution code for “lady”, was Anna Strong.[7][9] Men traveling alone might come under suspicion as spies and be stopped and searched but a man traveling with a wife drew less suspicion and might not even be stopped, much less searched.[7][9] Anna had her own reason to visit New York to visit her husband aboard the prison ship where he was confined and to bring him food if possible.[7][9] Her main service on their trips would have been to divert attention from Woodhull.[9]

On one of his trips to Setauket, Brewster was waiting for Woodhull in Strong’s back garden.[7][28] While waiting, he surprised a passing British lieutenant, pulled him off his horse and had the opportunity to capture or kill him.[28] He refrained from doing so in order to avoid drawing suspicion on Anna by leaving the impression that Brewster and his men were thieves.[7][28]

On February 4, 1781, the double agent, or simple self-dealing mercenary, William Heron told British intelligence chief Major Oliver De Lancey of the Seventeenth Light Dragoons that private dispatches were being sent from New York City by some traitors to Setauket “where a certain Brewster received them near a certain woman’s.”[29] Since the British were never able to catch Brewster and get him to disclose the woman’s name, Anna’s identity remained secret.[29]

Selah Strong was on Washington’s list of persons to be reimbursed for expenses that they incurred in connection with their activities for the Culper Ring. Rose and Phelps state that the reimbursement must have been for expenses incurred by Anna since Selah was imprisoned for much of the relevant time period.[7][30]

After the war, Selah Strong was a state senator in New York between 1792 and 1800 and a member of Council of Appointment in 1794.[5] He was the first judge of Suffolk County between 1783 and 1793 and county treasurer between 1786 and 1802.[5] He was a supervisor between 1784 and 1794 and President of Board of Trustees of Brookhaven, 1780-1797 (1780 is almost certainly a typo for a later date).[5]

No information has been found concerning Anna’s activities after the end of the war other than that she and Selah lived quietly in Setauket for the rest of their lives.[31] She died on August 12, 1812,[1] and is buried in the Saint Georges Manor Cemetery in Setauket, New York



  1. Robison, Jeannie Floyd Jones and Henrietta Collins Bartlett, eds. Genealogical Records: Manuscript Entries of Births, Deaths and Marriages Taken from Family Bibles, 1581-1917. New York: Colonial Dames of the State of New York, 1917, p. 202
  2. Thompson, Benjamin Franklin. History of Long Island: Containing an Account of the Discovery and Settlement; with Other Important and Interesting Matters to the Present Time. Long Island, NY: E. French, 1839, p. 503
  3. Ross, Peter. History of Long Island: From Its Earliest Settlement to the Present Time. Volume 2. New York: Lewis Pub. Co., 1905. OCLC 674186167, p. 466
  4. Rose, Alexander. Washington’s Spies: The Story of America’s First Spy Ring. New York: Bantam Dell, a division of Random House, 2007. First published in hardcover in 2006. ISBN 978-0-553-38329-4. pp. 83, 173
  5. Mather, Frederic Gregory. The Refugees of 1776 from Long Island to Connecticut. Albany, NY: J. B. Lyon Company, printers, 1913. ISBN 978-1-55613-342-8, p. 582
  6. Baker, Mark Allen. Spies of Revolutionary Connecticut: From Benedict Arnold to Nathan Hale. Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2014. ISBN 978-1-62619-407-6, p. 124
  7. Phelps, Mark Anthony. 355 In Frank, Lisa Tendrich. An Encyclopedia of American Women at War: From the Home Front to the Battlefields. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2013. ISBN 978-1-59884-444-3, p. 529
  8. Hunter, Ryan Ann. In Disguise!: Undercover with Real Women Spies. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2013. ISBN 978-1-4424-6726-2, p. 41
  9. Rose, 2007, p. 173
  10. Ibid, p. 75
  11. Ibid, p. 78
  12. Ibid, p. 79
  13. Ibid, pp. 88, 90
  14. Ibid, p. 88
  15. Ibid, pp. 90, 92
  16. Ibid, p. 101
  17. Ibid, p. 132
  18. Nelson, David Paul. Robert Townsend in Hastedt, Glenn, P., ed. Spies, Wiretaps, and Secret Operations: A-J. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2011. ISBN 978-1-85109-807-1, p. 763.
  19. Rose, 2007, pp. 150–154
  20. Nelson, David Paul. Culper Ring in Hastedt, Glenn, P., ed. Spies, Wiretaps, and Secret Operations: A-J. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2011. ISBN 978-1-85109-807-1, p. 217
  21. Naylor, Natalie A. Women in Long Island’s Past: A History of Eminent Ladies and Everyday Lives. Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2012. ISBN 978-1-60949-499-5, p. 38
  22. Hunter, 2013, p. 42
  23. Owen, David. Hidden Secrets. Toronto: Firefly Books, 2002. ISBN 1552975649, p. 21
  24. Brady, Kevin M. Culper Spy Ring In Frank, Lisa Tendrich. An Encyclopedia of American Women at War: From the Home Front to the Battlefields. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2013. ISBN 978-1-59884-444-3, p. 172
  25. Welch, Richard F. General Washington’s Commando: Benjamin Tallmadge in the Revolutionary War. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2014. ISBN 978-0-7864-7963-4. Retrieved May 4, 2014, p. 37
  26. Rose, 2007, pp. 170, 172, 187–188
  27. Ibid, pp. 172–173
  28. Ibid, p. 234
  29. Ibid, p. 247
  30. Ibid, p. 265
  31. Ibid, p. 277


  • Andreeva, Nellie. AMC Picks Up ‘Halt & Catch Fire’ & ‘Turn’ To Series. Publisher: Deadline
  • Baker, Mark Allen. Spies of Revolutionary Connecticut: From Benedict Arnold to Nathan Hale. Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2014. ISBN 978-1-62619-407-6
  • Brady, Kevin M. Culper Spy Ring In Frank, Lisa Tendrich. An Encyclopedia of American Women at War: From the Home Front to the Battlefields. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2013. ISBN 978-1-59884-444-3
  • Hunter, Ryan Ann. In Disguise!: Undercover with Real Women Spies. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2013. ISBN 978-1-4424-6726-2
  • Mather, Frederic Gregory. The Refugees of 1776 from Long Island to Connecticut. Albany, NY: J. B. Lyon Company, printers, 1913. ISBN 978-1-55613-342-8
  • Naylor, Natalie A. Women in Long Island’s Past: A History of Eminent Ladies and Everyday Lives. Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2012. ISBN 978-1-60949-499-5
  • Nelson, David Paul. Robert Townsend in Hastedt, Glenn, P., ed. Spies, Wiretaps, and Secret Operations: A-J. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2011. ISBN 978-1-85109-807-1
  • Nelson, David Paul. Culper Ring in Hastedt, Glenn, P., ed. Spies, Wiretaps, and Secret Operations: A-J. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2011. ISBN 978-1-85109-807-1
  • Owen, David. Hidden Secrets. Toronto: Firefly Books, 2002. ISBN 1552975649
  • Phelps, Mark Anthony. 355 In Frank, Lisa Tendrich. An Encyclopedia of American Women at War: From the Home Front to the Battlefields. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2013. ISBN 978-1-59884-444-3
  • Robison, Jeannie Floyd Jones and Henrietta Collins Bartlett, eds. Genealogical Records: Manuscript Entries of Births, Deaths and Marriages Taken from Family Bibles, 1581-1917. New York: Colonial Dames of the State of New York, 1917
  • Rose, Alexander. Washington’s Spies: The Story of America’s First Spy Ring. New York: Bantam Dell, a division of Random House, 2007. First published in hardcover in 2006. ISBN 978-0-553-38329-4
  • Thompson, Benjamin Franklin. History of Long Island: Containing an Account of the Discovery and Settlement; with Other Important and Interesting Matters to the Present Time. Long Island, NY: E. French, 1839
  • Welch, Richard F. General Washington’s Commando: Benjamin Tallmadge in the Revolutionary War. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2014. ISBN 978-0-7864-7963-4

Battle of Bound Brook

April 13, 2015



The Battle of Bound Brook was a surprise attack conducted on April 13, 1777, by British and Hessian forces against a Continental Army outpost at Bound Brook, New Jersey during the American Revolutionary War. The British objective of capturing the entire garrison was not met, although prisoners were taken. The American commander, Major General Benjamin Lincoln, left in great haste, abandoning papers and personal effects.

Late on the evening of April 12, 1777, four thousand British and Hessian troops under the command of Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis marched from the British stronghold of New Brunswick. All but one detachment reached positions surrounding the outpost before the battle began near daybreak the next morning. During the battle, most of the 500-man garrison escaped by the unblocked route. American reinforcements arrived in the afternoon, but not before the British plundered the outpost and began the return march to New Brunswick.

Following the Battles of Trenton and Princeton in December 1776 and January 1777, the Continental Army of Major General George Washington entered winter quarters in Morristown, New Jersey, while the British and German forces of Lieutenant General William Howe settled into winter quarters in New York City and northeastern New Jersey.[4] Throughout the winter months, a guerrilla war of sorts went on, in which American militia companies, sometimes with Continental Army support, harassed British and German outposts and ambushed their foraging and raiding expeditions.[5] One of the forward bases used for these operations was at Bound Brook, located on the Raritan River upriver from New Brunswick, the major British camp in New Jersey.[6] The post was responsible for patrolling three bridges across the Raritan likely to be used by the British in moves against the main camp at Morristown.[7]


In February 1777, the Bound Brook outpost consisted of 1,000 men under the command of Major General Benjamin Lincoln, but this was reduced by expiring militia enlistments to 500 in mid-March.[1] The troops that remained were from the 8th Pennsylvania Regiment, a company from the 4th Continental Artillery, and two independent companies from the Wyoming Valley in what is now northeastern Pennsylvania, but was then also claimed by Connecticut as Westmoreland County.[8][9][10] Lincoln expressed concern over his exposed position to General Washington, noting that many units were not in a position to “render the least assistance to this post in case it is attacked”, and that he was keeping wagons ready in case a precipitate departure was needed.[1] Lieutenant General Lord Charles Cornwallis, in command of the British forces in New Jersey, had had enough of the ongoing petite guerre, and organized a reprisal action against the Bound Brook outpost.[2] According to the Hessian jäger Captain Johann Ewald, Cornwallis asked him to draft a plan of attack in February, but the plan could not be executed until springtime because it necessitated fording the Raritan.[11] On the night of April 12, the plan was put into action.[2]

Under the overall command of Cornwallis, 4,000 British and Hessian troops marched from New Brunswick to make a multi-pronged surprise attack. The right flank, under the command of Major General James Grant, consisted of the Hessian jäger corps, grenadiers from the English Brigade of Guards, and a detachment of British light dragoons.[12] While most of this column advanced from Raritan Landing (opposite New Brunswick on the left, or Bound Brook side, of the river), two companies of light infantry went further right, aiming to cut off the main road from Bound Brook to the Continental Army camp at Morristown.[13] The center, under the command of Hessian Colonel Carl von Donop, consisted of the Hessian grenadier battalions von Linsing and Minnigerode, and the left, commanded by Cornwallis, consisted of two battalions of British light infantry, the 1st battalion of grenadiers, and another detachment of light dragoons.[12][14] Donop’s column advanced up the right bank of the Raritan, aiming to gain control of the bridge directly at Bound Brook, while Cornwallis took a longer route to ford the river above Bound Brook and thus cut off the possibility of retreat in that direction.[13]

Ewald and a few of his jägers were in the vanguard of Grant’s column and engaged the American sentries to the south of Bound Brook. Unaware that this was supposed to be a feint, Ewald drove the sentries back nearly to the main redoubt where the outpost’s cannons were located. By sunrise he was nearly surrounded; the timely arrival of von Donop’s column just over the river, and the attack by Cornwallis’s column prompted the Americans to begin abandoning the post.[15] The surprise was very nearly complete; the Pennsylvania artillery company, which had been manning the redoubt, was severely mauled, with numerous killed and captured.[16] Colonel von Donop reported that General Lincoln “must have retired en Profond Négligé” (“profoundly undressed”, or naked),[17] and Lincoln’s papers were taken.[18] The British plan was marred by the early skirmishing involving Ewald, and the too-late arrival of the companies sent to cut off the road to Morristown; Many Americans escaped via this route.[17] The British captured also cannons, ammunition, and supplies, and looted Bound Brook, but returned to New Brunswick later that morning.[1]


Major General Benjamin Lincoln

The Continental Army response was immediate; Washington sent a large force under Major General Nathanael Greene to reoccupy Bound Brook.[19] The British had already left by the time they arrived; Greene sent a detachment to harass their rear guard. This detachment caught up with the British near Raritan Landing, where they killed 8 and captured 16.[20]

General Howe reported that about 30 Americans were killed and 80 to 90 were captured, while General Lincoln reported that 60 of his men were killed or wounded.[18][1] Howe claimed no deaths and seven wounded among the British and Hessians.[3] Washington reported that “[t]he enemy lost the post at Eleven O’Clock the same day, & our people took possession of it again”, and that the army’s losses were “trifling and not worth mentioning”.[19] He did, however, also report that between 35 and 40 killed or captured, and the loss of three field cannons.[19] General Greene reported to his wife, “The British Generals breakfasted and I [dined] at the same house that day”.[19]

Washington, concerned that the attack presaged an early start to the campaign season, worried that his troops were not yet in place to deal with major British movements. Two weeks later, after no further major activity, the Americans learned that “the Enemy are to take the field the first of June.”[19]

Washington recognized that Bound Brook itself was a difficult place to defend. On May 26 he withdrew the garrison, and on May 28, he moved part of his army from Morristown to a new entrenched camp near Middle Brook, just north of Bound Brook but well protected between the first and second Watchung Mountain ranges; other troops were stationed near Princeton.[21][22] From the top of the Watchung Mountains Washington monitored British movements while the two sides continued to skirmish. Both sides also engaged in intelligence gathering, each trying to determine the strength and intentions of the other.[23]

On June 12 Howe marched a significant force (more than 18,000 men) out of New Brunswick, through Bound Brook, and as far as Somerset, apparently in an attempt to draw Washington out of the hills. Washington, aware that Howe had left the army’s heavy baggage behind, was not fooled and refused to move. Howe then abruptly retreated back to Piscataway on June 19, upon which Washington had some of his troops give chase, and he moved down out of the hills.[24] A week later Howe tried to spring a trap on one of Washington’s detachments that would have cut the American retreat into the hills off; this effort was repulsed in the Battle of Short Hills.[25] After this failure, Howe embarked his army on transports and set sail for Chesapeake Bay, intending to take Philadelphia from the south.[26]

The battle site in Bound Brook is marked by signs and interpretive plaques.[27]


Battlefield marker in Bound Brook, New Jersey


  1. Mattern, p. 37
  2. McGuire, p. 21
  3. Davis, p. 10
  4. McGuire, pp. 6–8
  5. McGuire, p. 17
  6. McGuire, pp. 8, 20
  7. Davis, p. 6
  8. The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Volume 4, p. 458
  9. Boucher, p. 138
  10. Connecticut Historical Society, p. 263
  11. Ewald, p. 55
  12. McGuire, pp. 21–22
  13. Ewald, p. 56
  14. It was British army practice at the time to combine light infantry and grenadier companies from an army’s regiments into brigades separate from the infantry of the regiment; because of this, detailed regimental identifications are not possible for some of the units involved in this action. (Ward, p. 26)
  15. Ewald, p. 57
  16. The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Volume 4, p. 459
  17. McGuire, p. 22
  18. Davis, p. 9
  19. McGuire, p. 23
  20. Davis, p. 13
  21. McGuire, p. 27
  22. Ward, p. 325
  23. McGuire, pp. 27–37
  24. Ward, p. 326
  25. Ward, p. 327
  26. Ward, p. 329
  27. “HMDB – Battle of Bound Brook Markers”. HMDB


  • Boucher, John Newton (1906). History of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, Volume 1. New York and Chicago: Lewis Publishing. OCLC 1012666
  • Connecticut Historical Society (1997) [1889]. The Record of Connecticut Men in the Military and Naval Service During the War of the Revolution, 1775–1783. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing. ISBN 978-0-8063-4742-4. OCLC 38461894
  • Davis, T.E (1895). The Battle of Bound Brook: An Address Delivered Before the Washington Camp Ground Association. Bound Brook, NJ: The Chronicle Steam Printery. OCLC 66268501
  • Ewald, Johann; Tustin, Joseph P. (trans, ed.) (1979). Diary of the American War: a Hessian Journal. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-02153-4
  • Mattern, David (1998). Benjamin Lincoln and the American Revolution (paperback ed.). Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press. ISBN 978-1-57003-260-8. OCLC 39401358
  • McGuire, Thomas J (2006). The Philadelphia Campaign, Vol. I: Brandywine and the Fall of Philadelphia. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books. ISBN 978-0-8117-0178-5
  • Ward, Christopher (1952). The War of the Revolution. New York: MacMillan. OCLC 214962727
  • The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Volume 4. Philadelphia: Historical Society of Pennsylvania. 1880. OCLC 1762062


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