On December 16, 1773, Bostonians dumped 340 chests holding 92,000 pounds or 46 tons of East India Company tea into the harbor. Due to the distance news had to travel across the Atlantic Ocean and then for the gears of government to crank a response, it was not until March of 1774 that Lord Frederick North, his administration, and Parliament passed the Coercive Acts.
The Coercive or Intolerable Acts as they were referred to in the American colonies were actually four acts in total, including the Boston Port Act, which closed the port to all commerce, the Massachusetts Government Act, restricting town meetings and changed the governor’s council to an appointed body, the Administration of Justice Act, which gave immunity to British officials from prosecution in Massachusetts, and lastly the Quartering Act, ordering colonists to house British troops when demanded.
Side note: A fifth act, the Quebec Act extended freedom of worship to Canadian Catholics and this decree was looped into the Intolerable Acts by the colonists.
Understandably the response in Massachusetts was one of defiance, protest, and angst and the acts are credited with promoting momentum toward independence. What was not truly appreciated by the British government was the outcry from other colonies.
On this date in 1774, the town of Farmington, Connecticut showed what the passage of the Coercive Acts meant. On May 19, a handbill, a small printed advertisement or notice, was distributed around the town inviting the inhabitants to a gathering to honor “the immortal Goddess of Liberty.”
Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes back guest historian Bill Backus
The American Revolution ultimately set in motion a chain of events that transformed not only society in the Americas but also back in the Old World. Six years after the United States gained independence, revolution broke out across France. While Americans focused on building a new nation, across the Atlantic the French Revolution sparked a series of wars subsequently known as the French Revolutionary Wars. Eventually after many years of combat and political chaos, a young army officer named Napoleon Bonaparte emerged as the new Emperor of France. Led by the Emperor the French army and nation embarked on a series of new wars that spread from Spain to Russia. From the beginning of the French Revolution to the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo, Europe was at war for nearly 26 years, or nearly the entire lives of people born during the American Revolutionary period.
While Napoleon’s French Empire is widely known on both sides of the Atlantic, the wars that allowed Napoleon’s ascent to power are less prominent. Concerned that revolution could spread to the rest of continental Europe, Revolutionary France found itself engaged fighting the European status co intent on restoring the Bourbon monarchy in France. Over the course of years war and peace ebbed and flowed in Europe, with war sometimes sparked by the French in hopes of unifying a splintered public. In “European Armies of the French Revolution, 1789-1802”, historian Frederick Schneid has organized a study exploring the role of some of the prominent European armies in this period. Collaborating with noted scholars in their respective fields, the essays explore the armies of the nation-states of France, Prussia, Austria, Russia, Great Britain, Spain, and the Ottoman Empire, along side the various German principalities and the armies of the Italian states. Continue reading “Review: European Armies of the French Revolution, 1789–1802 (Campaigns and Commanders Series) Edited by Frederick C. Schneid”→
On October 19, 1781, General George Washington had one of the ultimate highs in his military career. With the help of the French army and navy, Washington forced the surrender of British Lord Charles Cornwallis’ forces at Yorktown, Virginia.
To best sum up the impact of this momentous victory for the Americans in their cause for independence, British Prime Minister Lord Frederick North exclaimed when receiving the news:
“Oh God, it’s all over.”
But, weeks before North learned of the calamity in the Tidewater of Virginia, Washington dealt with his own calamity. One very personal. The death of his stepson.
John Parke Custis, affectionately known as “Jackie” or “Jack” as he got older, was one of two children that Martha Custis Washington brought into the marriage with George Washington on January 6, 1759.
The other child, Martha Park Custis, known as “Patsy” had died in 1773 of an epileptic seizure.
Now, seventeen days after the successful completion of the Siege of Yorktown, Jack Custis would be dead.
Custis had joined his stepfather as a volunteer aide-de-camp for the Yorktown Campaign and contracted “camp fever” a catch-all term for a whole litany of illnesses. With the disease quickly causing his health to fail, Custis had one last wish before leaving the lines at Yorktown. He wanted to see the surrender, so faithful attendants lifted Custis in a stretcher to the top of one of the redoubts.
From there Custis had a complete view of the proceedings, the crowning achievement of his stepfather.
To remove him from the scene of pestilence and in a hopeful attempt to save 26-years old life, Custis was moved 30 miles up the Tidewater Peninsula of Virginia to Eltham Landing, where his uncle, Burwell Bassett owned a plantation. His mother, Martha and wife, Eleanor Calvert Custis was summoned to his bedside.
Before Washington could arrive at the bedstead, Jack died on November 5, 1781. He was the last of five children Martha had given birth too. Martha was, understandably, slipped into a “deep and solemn distress.” Even the general exhibited some rarely seen emotion, And”clasping his [Jack’s] bereaved widow to his bosom and proclaiming that henceforth he regarded Jacky’s two youngest children as his own.”
Jack was buried in the family plot near Williamsburg, Virginia at Queen’s Creek.
The funeral was a week later and afterward Washington accompanied Martha and Eleanor back to Mount Vernon. George and Martha Washington would spend considerable energy in the pursuing years raising their late son/stepson’s children. Jack’s widow, Eleanor, would leave the two youngest children in the care of the Washington’s and by war’s end had remarried to a Dr. David Stewart of Alexandria in which the couple would have 16 more children.
But, all that was in the future. In the meantime, after leaving Mount Vernon in mid-November, George Washington had a revolution to see through to its successful conclusion.
The loss of his stepson, whose limited service in the war does not diminish the anguish felt by his family, put Washington in the company of countless parents whose sons had given their lives in the same cause.
And the war had approximately two years left in America.
Emerging Revolutionary War and Revolutionary War Wednesday is pleased to welcome back guest historian Drew Gruber.
When we think about American militia during the Revolutionary War, the image of an untrained rifle-toting citizen turned soldier comes to mind. This stereotype of the American soldier, popularized by movies like The Patriot is not completely false but such generalizations should give us pause and inspire us to investigate the roll of American militia, independent companies, and ‘irregular’ troops a bit closer. For example, how was it that on October 3, 1781 a group of Virginia militiamen defeated an elite British force? The story of Lieutenant Colonel John Mercer’s Grenadier Militia during the battle at Seawell’s Ordinary has been told and retold since 1781, however the formation of this illustrious group is often ignored and deserves a closer look. Continue reading “Mercer’s Grenadier Militia”→
It will be hard to describe in modern terms the celebrity of Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier de Lafayette, Marquis de Lafayette (aka LaFayette) in 18th century America.
The young Marquis was fascinated with the American ideal of revolution and against the wishes of the French monarchy, in 1776 he cast his lot with the American patriots. His relationship with George Washington and other American leaders played a major role in the American-French alliance that brought about American independence. Continue reading “The Return of L’Hermoine”→