History From America's Most Famous Valleys
Frontiersmen of New York
by Jeptha R. Simms
Albany, NY 1883
Volume I, Page 483, 1775
The American, Flag.-In 1775 the colonies adopted a plain red flag. By a resolution of Congress, the flag of the United States-consisting of thirteen stars and thirteen stripes-was adopted June 14th, 1777. On the 13th January, 1794, two new States having been added to the compact, the stars and stripes were increased to fifteen each. In January, 1817, by an act of Congress, it was resolved that it should consist of thirteen stripes, and a star for every additional State.
The First National Fast.-In consequence of the "calamitous state of the colonies," a day of general fasting and prayer was observed July 20th, the first fast in all the colonies on the same day. Georgia came into the compact just at that time, and gave evidence of her sincerity by seizing on board of a London ship, under Capt. Maitland, 13,000 pounds of powder for the American magazine. Gen. Gage returned to England in October, to be succeeded by Sir William Howe.
If matters were every day becoming worse in England, in the latter part of the years 1775 and the early part of 1776, they were assuming an aspect no more favorable to a reconciliation in the colonies. Many events had transpired after the battle of Bunker's Hill, which served to feed the flame of discord. Lord Dunmore, Governor of Virginia, had pursued a course which rendered him not only odious to a majority of the colonists, but which tended greatly to unite the anti-tea party. The Governor of North Carolina also proved himself to be a tool of the British ministry ; while Gov. Tryon, of New York, in his efforts to please his master, became so unpopular, that he was obliged, m the course of the year, to follow the example of Gov. Dunmore, and seek personal safety on board of an armed vessel.
The British torch which at Charlestown shed its light so gloomily on the Bunker's Hill redoubt in June, was used in other localities later in the season ; and so effectually at Falmouth, Mass., October 18th, as to destroy over 300 stores and houses. In several laborious expeditions the colonists had also conquered a good part of Canada ; and in an attempt to complete the conquest, the brave Montgomery, on the last day of the year, fell under the walls of Quebec, where the daring Wolfe had fallen.*
In the fall of 1775, Massachusetts fitted out several privateers, and in one of them Capt. Manly had soon captured four or five ships containing many stores, several brass cannon and other munitions of war intended for the enemy's service, which went into ours. About the same time a vessel went from Charleston, S. C., to East Florida, with only a dozen men, who boarded a British vessel near St. Augustine, and took from it 15,000 pounds of powder, a most timely supply.
I have alluded to the massacre of several citizens of Boston, March 5, 1770, by British troops then quartered in that city to awe the people into submission to unjust taxation, and said the event was annually celebrated to the close of the war. Those orations did much to inspire that love of liberty which carried us successfully through the war ; and were given by the following gentlemen in this order : + April 2, 1771, by James Lovell, March 5, 1772, by Joseph Warren ; and on the same day successively in 1773 by Benjamin Church ; 1774 by John Hancock, March 5, 1775, by Dr. Warren, who delivered it in the presence and under threats of armed soldiers ; March 5, 1776 (at Watertown) by Peter Thacher, who closed with the prayer O God, let America be free! same day 1777 by Benjamin Hichborn;
* Holmes' Annals.-In speaking of the death of Gen. Montgomery, said Holmes " Congress directed a monument to be erected to his memory, with an inscription, expressive of their veneration of his character, and their deep sense of his many signal and important services; and to transmit to future ages, as examples truly worthy of imitation, his patriotism, conduct, boldness of enterprise, insuperable perseverance and contempt of danger and death.' "
+ Niles' Principles of the Revolution, a valuable work in which they may be found.
1778 by Jonathan W. Austin ; 1779 by William Tudor ; 1780 by Jonathan Mason, Jr.; 1781 by Thomas Dawes, Jr.; 1782 by George Richards Minot: and in alluding to the scene commemorated he said : " Melancholly scene ! the fatal, but we trust the last effect in our country of a standing army quartered in populous cities in a time of peace;" 1783 by Thomas Welsh, who closed with this sentence : " Henceforth shall the American wilderness blossom as the rose, and every man shall sit under his own vine and under his fig-tree, and none shall make him afraid." All these orations were delivered in Boston, except that of Thacher in 1776, when the British held the city.
Also among the auxiliaries for spreading information and arousing patriotic feeling among the masses in some of the colonies, were the public charges of jurists to grand juries, who took such occasions to inspire the love of country and hatred of tyranny-and especially did they set forth the principle of no taxation without representation. Several such are preserved in Niles' Principles. Among those charges are some orations, also delivered with telling effect. One of the latter was that of Perez Morton delivered at Boston April 8, 1776, on the re-interment of the remains of Dr. Warren, killed at Bunker's Hill. Another of the latter was delivered by David Ramsay, in South Carolina, on the second anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. In no place in the colonies did the love of liberty shine brighter than in South Carolina. Among the former efficient jury charges, was that of Judge William Henry Drayton, at Charleston, S. C., April 23, 1776. It enumerated not a few of the grievances set forth in the Declaration of Independence, adopted a little over two months later. October 15 of the same year Judge Drayton delivered another telling charge to the grand jury of Charleston, and in both instances the jury responded nobly. Judge Drayton also in 1777 and 1778 made patriotic speeches, one in the court room and the other in the General Assembly, each time doing yeoman service in the popular cause. Judge Breckenridge also delivered in Philadelphia, July 5, 1779, an eulogium on the men who had up to that time fallen in the contest, doing justice to their character. He said : " These brave men were not soldiers by profession, bred to arms, and from a habit of military life attached to it." He said they were not unacquainted with the unprepared state of the country for war. " It was the pure love of virtue and of freedom, burning bright within their minds, that alone could engage them to embark in an undertaking of so bold and perilous a nature."
The county of Mecklenburg, N. C., as early as May 20, 1775, through her leading men-passed a series of strong resolutions, expressing independence of the mother country, one of which was as follows : " Resolved, That we do hereby declare ourselves a free and independent people ; are, and of right ought to be, a sovereign and self-governing association, under the control of no power other than that of our God and the general government of the Congress, to the maintenance of which independence, we solemnly pledge to each other our mutual co-operation, our lives, our fortunes and our most sacred honor." Those with similar measures elsewhere, were copied in to the newspapers of the period and heralded abroad ; and with the diabolical acts of Gov. Tryon of New York, Gov. Dunmore of Virginia and other loyal governors, tended wonderfully to widen the breach between the colonies and England ; and pave the way for the final separation. Indeed, it would be impossible in the space I have designed, to show all this kind of information that has been preserved to the American reader, and yet I desire that he shall know how wide spread and how general was the opinion at the close of 1775, that the separation of the colonies from Great Britain must take place. In furtherance of that view, I cannot help alluding to a communication sent from the colony of Maryland, to the Earl of Dartmouth, dated December 20, 1775, to which are signed the initials B. P., the writer saying in a note that he was borne in the city of Oxford, England. From the frequent allusions to Jehovah, Christianity and sacred things, it is supposed the writer was a clergyman. In this letter said its author:
" The parliament of Great Britain say, they have a right to tax or bind the Americans in all cases whatsoever, to which they answer, 'As they were born free, free they will be or die,' and upon many of their hats is this motto, 'Freedom or death! "' upon others, 'God and our rights!'
"Since the battle of Lexington, I have been twice in eight of the thirteen colonies, namely: Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New Castle [Delaware], and Maryland, all of which, except New York, are almost unanimous in the voice of liberty. Indeed, none (save a few officers under the crown), are willing to be bound by the British Parliament, in all cases whatsoever. The Americans declare, a master can lay no greater burden on a slave than to bind him in all cases whatsoever," etc.
This writer said he arrived in the colonies in 1769, and spoke of the love of the people at that time and since for their Sovereign-spoke of the influence of the clergy and their prayers concerning his majesty, his crown and dignity ; with all which every loyalist could but be perfectly well pleased, and added : " To these facts, my lord, I have not only been an eye witness in one colony, but in many, nay even in Massachusetts Bay, and her capitol." Said he : " Now my lord, for Christ's sake faithfully attend " to what I have to say. He then discoursed upon what the colonists had done in the way of fortifications, armaments and preparations for war-what certain privateers had done, and how the harbors by spring would swarm with them, many of their captains having seen similar service in the preceding French war. He spoke of the Americans making iron cannon of the best quality, and rifles far better than those imported, and added that the colonists, especially on the frontiers, were the best marksmen in the world, learning the use of firearms from shooting turkies and deer in the woods ; where, as he said one thousand of those marksmen would cut in pieces ten thousand of the best English troops.
After presenting many facts for his lordship's consideration try them, said he, lawfully and faithfully, and I (by God's permission) will pledge my life they will stand the test, against the most inevitable foes." Speaking of the inability of England to subdue the Americans, or make them acquiesce in their parliamentary claims, he said : " Let government say what they please in favor of their forces-remember, my lord, the Americans have just such blood, the like courage, the same spirits, and are equal in color and stature, as well as discipline." After introducing some telling Bible hyperbole, he added: " The Americans may be led with a hair : but they have too much English blood in them, are too well disciplined, and too numerous to be driven, even by an hundred thousand of the best forces government can raise." He said also, that for every thousand on the continent, America with equal ease would produce ten thousand in opposition ; " For," he added, " men women and children are against the proceedings of the adrninistration throughout the united colonies to a wonderful majority." He continued : " The women, both old and young, being greatly irritated at the inflexibility of administration, are not only willing their sons and brothers should turn out in the field, but also declare that they will give themselves likewise as a sacrifice before they will bow to Pharaoh's task-masters; this makes the raising of troops on the continent very easy." But reason and argument availed nothing with the home government, and the war policy went on.
It remains for us to show more particularly the condition of things in Tryon county, at the commencement of hostilities: for hardly another frontier settlement gave such early vital evidence, of its love of liberty and sense of right, as did that of the Mohawk valley. As the reader may suppose, there was not another frontier in the union like it, from the fact that the Indians in numbers still occupied the valley, as did their new Superintendent, Guy Johnson, and Sir John Johnson, a military officer under the Crown, with others who were beholden to the British government for honors and emoluments which they hoped to perpetuate. Frequent collisions occurred between the loyalists and patriots, owing to the espionage of the former upon the movements of the latter. Indeed, no county in the State was stronger than Tryon in its loyal or tory element, but it was well matched in the dare to do right principle of its whigs. The servants of royalty in Tryon county could not over-awe the people, when at their front were enrolled such names as Visscher, Fonda, Putman, Sammons, Gardinier, Davis, Schuyler, Veeder, Quackenbush, Yates, Van Alstyne, Frey, Clyde, Campbell, Klock, Fox, Fink, Paris, Wagner, Cox, Seeber, Diefendorf, Herkimer, Petrie, Helmer, Pickert, Hess, Ecker, Van Slyke, Eisenlord, Gray, Harper, Failing, Snell, Gros, Wormuth, Zielley, Nellis, Van Vechten, Bellinger, and scores of other equally brave spirits.
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