Farewell

Today in History, December 4, 1783:

General George Washington, veteran of the French and Indian War, leader of his men from Bunker Hill to Valley Forge to Yorktown, with all of the hardships involved, announces to his officers that he is resigning his commission and returning to civilian life at the Fraunces Tavern in New York City.

“With a heart full of love and gratitude, I now take leave of you. I most devoutly wish that your latter days may be as prosperous and happy as your former ones have been glorious and honorable.”

Washington then took a moment with each of his officers alone. There was not a dry eye in the house, including the future President…George Washington….wept.

Desist from Treasonable Acts and Doings…

Today in History, November 30, 1776:

The Howe Brothers, Admiral Richard and General William, in command of the Engliah Army and Navy in the Americas issue a proclamation that American colonists who will “desist from treasonable acts and doings” would receive a pardon.

Of course, most of the colonists were determined. After the British signed the Treaty of Paris in 1783, those “Tories” that had accepted the offer, mostly New Yorkers, were evacuated by the British to Canada.

The Federalist Papers

Today in History, October 27, 1787:

The first of 85 Federalist Papers are published in New York’s Independent Journal.

A collaboration between Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay, published under the name “Publius”, the Papers used eloquence and remarkable examples from the history of governments, ancient and modern at that point to advocate the ratification of the new Constitution recently approved by a constitutional convention.

They were selling an idea abhorrent to most Americans who had just won a hard fought battle for independence – a strong central government.

If you are into that sort of thing, they are worth reading. You will find examples of the genius of our government and of how our government has been changed from the vision of our founding fathers.

But for the most part, the well thought out form of government they designed has survived the ravages of time and the attempts of less ethical men to corrupt it.

A General Above All Others

Today in History, October 11, 1976:

Lt. Gen. George Washington is promoted to General of the Armies.

No, that is not a typo.

After leading all American Continental forces to victory in the Revolutionary War and serving two terms as our first President, George Washington maintained his rank as Lieutenant General.

In the interim, other men were promoted to Gen. of the Army…Grant, Sherman, Sheridan (4-star), Marshall, Eisenhower, MacArthur, Arnold and Bradley 5-star.). Admirals Leahy, King and Nimitz became 5-star Fleet Admirals. And John “Back Jack” Pershing.

At our Bicentenial, Congress decided, and rightly so, that no General should ever outrank the father of our nation.

So they created the rank of General of the Armies (not to be confused with Gen. of the Army), and posthumously promoted General Washington and declared none should ever exceed his rank.

——————————————–

Hereas Lieutenant General George Washington of Virginia commanded our armies throughout and to the successful termination of our Revolutionary War;

Whereas Lieutenant General George Washington presided over the convention that formulated our Constitution;

Whereas Lieutenant General George Washington twice served as President of the United States of America; and

Whereas it is considered fitting and proper that no officer of the United States Army should outrank Lieutenant General George Washington on the Army list;

Now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That

(a) for purposes of subsection (b) of this section only, the grade of General of the Armies of the United States is established, such grade to have rank and precedence over all other grades of the Army, past or present.

(b) The President is authorized and requested to appoint George Washington posthumously to the grade of General of the Armies of the United States, such appointment to take effect on July 4, 1976.

Approved October 11, 1976.

Public Law 94-479

Proving Their Mettle…Farmers and Shopkeepers at Bunker Hill

Today in History, June 17, 1775:

“Don’t one of you fire until you see the whites of their eyes!”

The Battle of Bunker Hill.

British Gen. William Howe landed his army on the Charlestown Peninsula and attacks colonist (Patriot) positions on Breed’s Hill and Bunker Hill.

Believing they were fighting farmers with pitchforks (the Patriots WERE as yet untrained and unorganized) Howe had his well trained, experienced troops charge the American positions head on, and was repelled by not so inexperienced fire (a poor farmer hunting game can’t afford to waste ammo, and becomes a very good marksman).

The Brits mounted a second attack, and were again sent running back down the hill. A third wave succeeded, however, as the militia was running out of ammunition.

Howe eventually won the battle, but he did so at great expense…nearly half his army lie dead on the field. The British had learned a dear lesson…they were fighting an untrained and poorly disciplined group of citizen soldiers…that were highly motivated and devoted to their cause.

The Siege of Gibraltar

Today in History, June 16, 1779:

Reportedly the largest battle (in terms of troops / sailors involved) of the American Revolutionary War begins….at Gibraltar.

When the French came in to aid the Americans, Spain followed suit. But of course, they had their own motives and designs. Primarily to regain lost territories; but they also drew up plans for the invasion and conquest of Britain.

On today’s date French and British forces began a land and sea siege of the British fortress at Gibralter, which was the keystone of English control of the Mediterranean Sea.

The Great Siege of Gibraltar, with constant bombardment, attacks, counter attacks, Naval reinforcement, Naval battles, starvation and disease would continue for 3 years and 7 months.

Gibraltar never fell.

“Don’t fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.” –Militiaman Capt. John Parker, on Lexington Green

Today in History, April 19, 1775:

“Don’t fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.” –Militiaman Capt. John Parker, to his troops on Lexington Green.

When the 700 British troops reached Lexington, they were confronted with a mere 77 minutemen who had managed to convene there. The British plan was to capture an American armory and arrest Samuel Adams and John Hancock.

Thanks to the “midnight ride”, the armaments had been dispersed, Adams and Hancock sprited awat.

Capt. Parker, knowing that the British mission had already been rendered pointless, was not eager to risk the lives of is men. He had them form in ranks on Lexington Green, where they could give an expression of dissention without blocking the road to Concord.

The British commander decided to confront them anyway. With an expression of great insult, the British commander ordered the “damned rebels” to disperse. Parker directed them to do so as the well trained British regulars approached.

Nobody knows who fired the “shot heard ’round the world”. The Americans, of course, believed it was and over eager British soldier; the British believed it was from a minuteman; some speculation is that it was fired from the safety of a nearby tavern.

Whoever fired that first shot, it resulted in the British cutting down nearly a dozen minutemen, and one injured British soldier. The British then marched past the dead and injured on their way to Concord. 

The Brits, emboldened, marched on Concord. When they got there they were confronted with more than 300 minutemen. The outcome was quite different than at Lexington.

The British were quickly repelled, and decided to return to Boston.

As they completed the long march back to Boston, the minutemen continuously fired upon them from behind trees, rocks, fences, etc. By the time the regulars made it back to Boston, they had lost over 300 men.

Why was it the “shot heard ’round the world”? Not just because of the American Revolution. The acts of the revolutionaries did not affect only the “Colonies”. The French were encouraged to aid the Americans with their fleet eventually.

Other portions of the British Empire were encouraged to revolt. King George didn’t know it, but on this date, thanks to a few farmer and merchant “peasants”, the sun had begun to set on the British Empire.