Marquis de Lafayette commissioned a Major General by the Second Continental Congress

July 31, 2013

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

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


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

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


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


This Day in History – July 31

The Masonic Grand Lodge of Massachusetts is founded

July 30, 2013

The Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, commonly referred to as the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts and abbreviated GLMA, is the main governing body of Freemasonry within Massachusetts, and maintains Lodges in other jurisdictions overseas, namely Panama, Chile, the People’s Republic of China (meeting in Tokyo, Japan), and Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba.

It is considered to be the third oldest Masonic Grand Lodge in existence (after the United Grand Lodge of England (which dates its own existence from the formation of the Grand Lodge of England in 1717), and the Grand Lodge of Ireland (1725)), interpreting the 1733 warrant, creating Henry Price the Provincial Grand Master of New England, as the creation of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts.


Seal of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts A.F. & A.M.

Price’s successors as Provincial Grand Master, Robert Tomlinson, Thomas Oxnard, Jeremy Gridley and John Rowe, were all appointed (in 1736, 1743, 1755 and 1768 respectively) by the Moderns’ Grand Master in London. The Provincial Grand Lodge, which, due to the American Revolution, held no meeting during the period 1775 to 1787, finally merged with its counterpart Antient Provincial Grand Lodge, created in 1769 by the Grand Lodge of Scotland. On the date of that merger, March 5, 1792, the newly created body first exercised its new sovereign powers by electing a Grand Master in the person of John Cutler, and by adopting the name The Grand Lodge of the Most Ancient and Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Freemasonry in Massachusetts dates to the early 18th century, and the foundation of its Grand Lodge is wound through with the threads of the (then) ongoing disputes between the Moderns and the Antients.

After the formation of the Premier Grand Lodge of England (later referred to as the Moderns) in 1717, and the amalgamation of individual Lodges into that body, Lodges and Masons in the Boston area asked one Brother Henry Price to go to London, and petition the Grand Lodge for a Warrant in order to be considered regular, in accordance with a regulation dated in 1721.


Grand Lodge building in Boston

Price did so, and returned in the spring of 1733 with more than just a Warrant for an individual Lodge – he was made the “Provincial Grand Master of New England and Dominions and Territories thereunto belonging” by the Grand Master, The Right Honorable and Right Worshipful Anthony Browne, 6th Viscount Montague.

This Provincial Grand Lodge was historically known as St. John’s Grand Lodge, and chartered numerous Lodges in the Colonies. The first one, which was chartered in Boston in 1733, was known and recorded as First Lodge in the English rolls of 1734, and is now known as St. John’s Lodge.


  1. “The Builder” magazine, October 1918

Edward Rutledge of South Carolina, signer of the Declaration of Independence, opposed independence from Great Britain

July 29, 2013

June 29, 1776, South Carolina’s Edward Rutledge opposes independence but would later sign the Declaration of Independence.

In 1776, Edward Rutledge, one of South Carolina’s representatives to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, expresses his reluctance to declare independence from Britain in a letter to the like-minded John Jay of New York.


Edward Rutledge, youngest signer of Declaration

Contrary to the majority of his Congressional colleagues, Rutledge advocated patience with regards to declaring independence. In a letter to Jay, one of New York’s representatives who was similarly disinclined to rush a declaration, Rutledge worried whether moderates like himself and Jay could “effectually oppose” a resolution for independence. Jay had urgent business in New York and therefore was not able to be present for the debates. Thus, Rutledge wrote of his concerns. In addition, South Carolina’s leaders were unsure that the time was “ripe” and instructed their delegates to oppose the Resolution for Independence.

Rutledge was born in Charleston, to a physician who had emigrated from Ireland. Edward’s elder brother John studied law at London’s Middle Temple before returning to set up a lucrative practice in Charleston. Edward followed suit and studied first at Oxford University before being admitted to the English bar at the Middle Temple. He too returned to Charleston, where he married and began a family in a house across the street from his brother. As revolutionary politics roiled the colonies, first John, then Edward served as South Carolina’s representative to the Continental Congress. Neither Rutledge brother was eager to sever ties with Great Britain, but it fell to Edward to sign the Declaration of Independence and create the appearance of unanimity to strengthen the Patriots’ stand. At age 26, Edward Rutledge was the youngest American to literally risk his neck by signing the document.

He served as a captain of artillery in the South Carolina militia, and fought at the Battle of Beaufort in 1779. The next year he was captured by the British in the fall of Charleston, and held prisoner until July 1781.


San Antonio Chapter of the Texas State Society of the Sons of the American Revolution

Colonel Joseph Habersham, Georgia statesman

July 28, 2013

Joseph Habersham was an American businessman, Georgia politician, soldier in the Continental Army, and Postmaster General of the United States.

Born on July 28, 1751, in Savannah, Georgia, to James Habersham and Mary Bolton, he attended preparatory schools and Princeton College and became successful merchant and planter.


3rd United States Postmaster General

He was a member of the council of safety and the Georgia Provincial Council in 1775 and a major of a battalion of Georgia militiamen and subsequently a colonel in the 1st Georgia Regiment of the Continental Army. He had to resign from the army after he served as Lachlan McIntosh’s second in the controversial duel that killed Button Gwinnett.

He and his brothers, James Jr. and John, were active in Georgia politics. Some older references state that Joseph was a delegate to the Confederation Congress in 1785, but this may stem from confusion with his brother John, who was a delegate at that time.[1] Joseph served as Speaker of the Georgia House in 1785 and was a member of the Georgia convention in 1788 that ratified the U.S. Constitution.[2]


John Habersham, Continental Congress, 1785

He served as mayor of Savannah from 1792 to 1793 and then was appointed Postmaster General by President George Washington in 1795 and served until the beginning of Thomas Jefferson’s administration in 1801. When Habersham created the office of first assistant postmaster-general in 1799, Abraham Bradley, Jr. was appointed to the office. In 1802, Bradley named one of his sons, Joseph Habersham Bradley (later a notable Washington, D.C. attorney), after his former superior.[3]

Habersham died on November 17, 1815. He was buried at Colonial Park Cemetery in Savannah, Georgia.


Grave of John Habersham at Colonial Park Cemetery

Habersham County in Northeast Georgia, from its creation in 1818, is named in his honor, along with numerous sites and streets throughout the state.

Joseph Habersham was also a Savannah Freemason. He is recorded as a Masonic member of Solomon’s Lodge No. 1, F. & A. M. at Savannah, Georgia. Solomon’s Lodge No. 1, F. & A. M. at Savannah was founded by renowned statesman, philanthropist and Freemason James Edward Oglethorpe on February 21, 1734. Joseph Habersham’s father James Habersham, both of his brothers, and his noted descendant, the Savannah Painter, Richard West Habersham (the intimate friend of Samuel F. B. Morse inventor of the telegraph) were all Freemasons and members of Solomon’s Lodge.


  1. Mark Boatner, Encyclopedia of the American Revolution, 2nd ed., p. 474. Joseph Habersham’s entry the in American National Biography makes no mention of service in the Confederation Congress.
  2. Frances Harrold, “Habersham, Joseph”; American National Biography Online, February 2000.
  3. Bradley, Charles S.; Columbia Historical Society (1903) [May 12, 1902]. “The Bradley Family and Times in Which They Lived”. Records of the Columbia Historical Society, Washington, D.C.. 6. Washington, D.C.: Columbia Historical Society.

Colonel John Neville, central figure in the Whiskey Rebellion

July 27, 2013

John Neville was an American military officer, land speculator, and state official who served in the American Revolutionary War and, as a tax collector, was a central figure in the Whiskey Rebellion. He was the father of Presley Neville.

Born on July 27, 1731, in Virginia, he served with British General Edward Braddock during the French and Indian War, and fought in Dunmore’s War in 1774. Commandant at Fort Pitt when the Revolutionary War began, Neville served in several regiments of the Virginia Line, rising to the rank of colonel and seeing action at Trenton, Princeton, Germantown, and Monmouth. At the end of the war he was awarded a brevet promotion to brigadier general.

After the war Neville was an inspector of revenue under the excise laws, which the newly formed United States Congress imposed on distilled spirits to help pay for the cost of the Revolutionary War. There were two methods of paying the whiskey excise: paying a flat charge or paying by the gallon. The tax effectively favored large distillers, most of whom were based in the east, who produced whiskey in volume and could afford the flat fee. Western farmers who owned small stills did not usually operate them at full capacity, so they ended up paying a higher tax per gallon. Thus, large producers ended up paying a tax of about 6 cents per gallon, while small producers were taxed at about 9 cents per gallon.[1]

Events climaxed in 1794, according to Alexander Hamilton, when shots were fired at Neville and a U.S. Marshal he was escorting through the area to summon to court farmers who had not paid the tax. On July 16, 1794, a group of men surrounded the Neville mansion, demanding to see the US Marshal. The confrontation led to Neville’s shooting of one of the protesters. This further angered the people, and the next day, over 500 again surrounded the home. At least one more protester died, and Neville’s home, “Bower Hill”, was burned to the ground.

This incident persuaded President George Washington to take the drastic action of leading a militia force of 13,000 men into western Pennsylvania to squelch the uprising. This response marked the first time under the new Constitution that the federal government had used a strong military presence to exert authority over the nation’s citizens. In 1802, the tax was repealed.


Woodville, Neville’s home

Neville built two mansion-style homes near Pittsburgh. The first, “Bower Hill”, was burned in 1794 during the Whiskey Rebellion, and the second, “Woodville”, survives today; owned by the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, it is a National Historic Landmark.

He died on July 29, 1803, is buried in Pittsburgh’s Allegheny Cemetery.


Neville Island, Pennsylvania, is named after Gen. John Neville.


  1. National Park Service, Friendship Hill National Historic Site: The Whiskey Rebellion

Nicholas Brown, Sr., Co-Founder of Brown University

July 27, 2013

Nicholas Brown, Sr. was a Providence, Rhode Island merchant who co-founded the College in the English Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, which was renamed Brown University after Brown’s son Nicholas Brown, Jr. in 1804. He was born on July 26, 1729 to James Brown II and Hope Power Brown.

According to Sotheby’s a desk-and-bookcase crafted by John Goddard of the Newport tradition and originally owned by Nicholas Brown, Sr. sold in June 1989 for $12,100,000, the highest price ever paid for a piece of American furniture at that date.[1]

In 1764, Nicholas Brown, Sr. joined his brothers John Brown and Moses Brown, a prominent abolitionist, and several others as an original fellow or trustee for the chartering of the College in the English Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations (the original name for Brown University).[2] Brown was an active supporter of the College and of the First Baptist Church in America throughout his life. Upon his death on May 29, 1791, Rev. Dr. Stillman, of Boston gave a eulogy on Nicholas Brown:

He was the affectionate husband, the tender father, the compassionate master, the dutiful son, the loving brother, and the steady, faithful friend. He took much pains, by reading and by conversation, to inform his mind, and had acquired much general knowledge. But religion was his favorite subject. To Christianity in general, as founded on a fulness of evidence, and to its peculiar doctrines, he was firmly attached. * * * He was a Baptist from principle, and a lover of good men of all denominations. Blessed with opulence, he was ready to distribute to public and private uses. In his death the college in this place, this church and society, the town of Providence, and the general interests of religion, learning, and liberality have lost a friend indeed.[3][4]

Nicholas Brown, Sr. was also a known slave trader. Brown’s involvement in the Triangular Trade in African slaves and financial contribution to the early years of Brown University’s development are addressed in the official “Response of Brown University to the Report of the Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice.”


Nicholas Brown, Jr.

Brown’s son, Nicholas Brown, Jr. (1769–1841), was a Providence, Rhode Island businessman and philanthropist. He graduated from the College of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations in 1786, and became such a great benefactor to the school that it was renamed Brown University for him in 1804.


  1. [1] Property of the Goddard Family
  2. [2] The Charter of Brown University
  4. The History of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations: Biographical, Volume 6, by the American Historical Society, Inc., 1920. Pages 188 – 191

Major General Henry Knox, soldier and government leader

July 25, 2013

Major General Henry Knox

July 25, 1750-October 25, 1806

Robust Henry Knox had a lifelong interest in the military. Born in Boston, Knox enlisted in a local military company at the age of eighteen; eventually promoted to major general in the Continental Army, he took part in most of the major battles of the Revolutionary War, and became a close friend and advisor to George Washington. After the war, on March 8, 1785, the Congress made Knox Secretary of War, to be paid a salary of $2,450 a year. President George Washington asked his friend Knox to remain in this position throughout his presidency.

Knox was a generous, amiable man, who enjoyed life’s luxuries. He weighed more than 300 pounds, as did his somewhat intimidating wife; in New York they were commonly known as the “largest couple in the city.”


Henry Knox was born in Boston to William Knox and Mary Campbell Knox on July 25, 1750. His parents were pioneers from North Ireland. Henry was the seventh of ten children. William Knox was a shipmaster, carrying on trade with the West Indies. Suffering from financial difficulties and all the mental stress and burdens that go with money woes, William died at the age of fifty. Henry gave up school and became the sole support for his mother. He became a clerk in a Boston bookstore, and eventually opened one himself. He was an avid reader, fond of history, but his main interest later settled on artillery.

Knox supported the American cause, and as early as 1772, he became a member of the Boston Grenadier Corps. He was a volunteer in June 1775 at the Battle of Bunker Hill. He served under General Ward, in charge of the colonials around Boston. In 1775, Washington arrived in Boston, taking command of the army. There he met and developed a friendship with Knox, a friendship that would last a lifetime. Washington realized the need of artillery in the American forces and found Knox to be well versed on the subject. Washington asked his opinion on what the army should do. The thought of Knox was to use the cannon from the captured Fort Ticonderoga. Thus, Knox was commissioned a colonel, placed in charge of artillery, and given the task to bring cannon from Ticonderoga to Boston. By way of ox sleds, Knox successfully brought fifty cannon to the city.

In March 1776, Washington seized Dorchester Heights (the key to Boston) and Knox placed the cannon in position there. Howe realizing the danger of an impending American bombardment, withdrew his troops from the city. On March 17, he embarked his troops for Halifax. Boston was entered the following day by triumphant Americans.

After the capture of Boston, Knox helped place Connecticut and Rhode island in proper defense, in preparation for the return of the British. Washington took his forces to defend New York. Knox joined the army there, as the British fleet arrived in New York, with men numbering 30,000. The American forces numbered about 18,000 with very little experience. Knox had 520 officers and soldiers to handle his (approximately) 120 cannon…with little experience as well. The American forces were so outnumbered, they were forced to retreat which did not end until the crossing of the Delaware River at Trenton on December 8, 1776. The Americans had seized all the boats along the Delaware, so the British were unable to follow. With severely reduced forces, who were scantily clothed and poorly armed, the American troops were depressed. Washington did not give up hope, and Knox followed his lead — the would be no reason for despondency. It was on Christmas night that Washington made his famous trip across the Delaware, directed by Knox, to surprise the Hessian forces at Trenton, capturing 1000 men as well as supplies. The American army of 2500, the captives and stores were all carried back across the Delaware. This event gave a much needed boost to the American morale. Knox, himself, was promoted to brigadier-general as a result of his service.

At the same time, Washington was under the threat of losing his army to the expiration of enlistments. The troops had not been paid, so Washington wrote to his friend Robert Morris, a Philadelphia banker, for aid. $50,000 was sent to Washington and a massive departure of the troops was averted.

Washington was now in a position to make another strike against the British. The army crossed the Delaware once more into New Jersey. Cornwallis withdrew a portion of his troops and pursued Washington. Washington was located between the Delaware and Trenton. Thinking the Americans were trapped, Cornwallis planned their capture for the morning. Washington had other plans: the Americans built blazing fires to deceive the British and made their escape, marching to Princeton. On January 3, 1777, Washington attacked the British army, but they were driven back. Washington rallied the troops…and the British in turn, were driven back and defeated. Knox and his men rendered aggressive service, earning him a commendation from the Commander-in-Chief. The American army went into winter quarters at Morristown, New Jersey.

Knox had a commission while the army was in winter quarters at Morristown: he was sent to Massachusetts to raise a battalion for the artillery. He was also given the task of creating an arsenal, and Knox did so at Springfield. It became a valuable source in the production and repair of arms for the remaining years of the Revolution.

Knox was almost displaced of his position in charge of artillery by a Frenchman named Ducondray, secured by Silas Deane, the American Minister to France. Ducondray interviewed with Washington and then headed to lay his credentials before Congress. Washington wrote Congress on behalf of Knox on May 31, 1777: “General Knox, who has deservedly acquired the character of one of the most valuable officers in the service, and who combating almost innumerable difficulties in the department he fills has placed the artillery upon a footing that does him the greatest honor; he, I am persuaded, would consider himself injured by an appointment superseding his command, and would not think himself at liberty to continue in the service. Should such an event take place in the present state of things, there would be too much reason to apprehend a train of ills, such as might confuse and unhinge this important department.” Generals Green and Sullivan supported Washington, and Ducondray was permitted to join the troops under Washington as a volunteer. He was to prove his ability as an engineer, but not given any preference over Knox. Unfortunately, in the late summer of 1777, Ducondray was riding a spirited horse in search of Washington in Chester County, Pennsylvania. As he was about to enter a flat bottom boat to cross the Schuylkill River, he lost control of the horse, the horse and rider plunged into the river and Ducondray was drowned.

Knox was involved in fighting at both the battles of Brandywine and Germantown. He had a limited number of cannon. At Brandywine he placed them well near Chadds Ford, but the British forced a retreat. The Americans held them in check at Birmingham Meeting House and were able to retreat to Chester.

At Valley Forge, Knox was invaluable in organizing and erecting forts to safeguard the winter encampment from British attack. In the Weedon Orderly Book under January 3, 1778 at Valley Forge there is written of a General Court Martial, of which Colonel Scammel was President: “Capt. Courtley of artillery appeared before the Court, charged with leaving his Hoitz in the field in the action of Brandywine in a cowardly unsoldierly like manner. The Court having considered the charge and evidence are of opinion that Capt. Courtly is guilty of the charge exhibited against him and do sentence him as he has ever supported the character of a brave man to be reprimanded by Gen. Knox in presence of all the artillery officers.” “The Commander in Chief is indeed from a state of all the evidence to disapprove the sentence and orders Capt. Courtley to be discharged from his arrest without censure.”

Knox was given permission to leave Valley Forge for a time to visit his family in Massachusetts, but particularly to speed supplies for the army from the New England states. Knox returned and immediately began to assist Steuben in his drilling of the troops, particularly the artillery men. The troops left Valley Forge on June 19 and headed for battle at Monmouth.

Much later, Knox was sent as a representative of Washington to secure aid from the northern states in what Washington hoped would be the last campaign of the war. January 1, 1781, from New Windsor, Washington wrote Knox: “…You will generally represent to the supreme executive powers of the States, through which you pass, and to gentlemen of influence in them, the alarming crisis to which our affairs have arrived, by a too long neglect of measures essential to the existence of the army, and you may assure them, that, if a total alteration of system does not take place in paying, clothing and feeding the troops, it will be in vain to expect a continuance of their service in another campaign. Knox was successful.

Eventually, the British army was forced in siege at Yorktown. Knox had placed the artillery in fine strategic position. After the surrender of Cornwallis on October 19, 1781, Knox was advanced to major-general, an honor well earned.

In 1782, Knox was stationed at West Point and remained there with the troops until the agreement was made for the British to evacuate New York. In the fall of 1783, Knox was able to leave as they followed the British out of New York. On December 4, the officers assembled at Fraunces Tavern to take final leave of their Commander-in-Chief. Knox stood by Washington. Washington withdrew and Knox returned to Boston, well-received.

Knox was elected Secretary of War by Congress in 1785, and in 1789 he was appointed Secretary of War in President Washington’s new cabinet. Knox found his service as Secretary of War to deal with growing unrest in the western frontier of the little country. When a treaty was finally reached, the leadership of Knox was manifested in his aid in promoting law and order.

Knox officially wrote to the President on December 28, 1794: …”After having served my country nearly twenty years, the greatest portion of which under your immediate auspices, it is with extreme reluctance, that I find myself constrained to withdraw from so honorable a station. But the natural and powerful claims of a numerous family will no longer permit me to neglect their essential interest. In whatever situation I shall be, I shall recollect your confidence and kindness with all the power and purity of affection, of which a grateful heart is susceptible.”

Washington accepted Knox’s resignation with regret. Timothy Pickering, who was Postmaster General at this time, was appointed the successor to Knox as Secretary of War and took office January 2, 1795.

General Knox and his family settled on an estate at Thomaston, Maine in 1796, which he called “Montpelier.” He was engaged in various types of businesses during the latter part of his life such as: brick-making, cattle-raising and ship-building. He entertained numerous guests and gave some time in service to his state in General Court and Governor’s Council. Washington desired to appoint Knox as a Commissioner to St. Croix, but Knox declined.

Knox died unexpectedly in 1806. He was buried in Thomaston.


Abridged from the article by Charles William Heathcote, Ph.D., The Picket Post, Valley Forge Historical Society; July 1956



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