Little Bits of History

Battle of Brooklyn

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 27, 2015
Howard's Tavern in East New York (1776)

Howard’s Tavern in East New York (1776)

August 27, 1776: The Battle of Long Island is fought. Also called the Battle of Brooklyn or the Battle of Brooklyn Heights, it was a campaign of the American Revolutionary War. In March of 1776, General Washington had defeated the British in Boston. He brought his troops to the port of New York which at the time was limited to the southern end of Manhattan Island. The harbor would provide an excellent base for whomever controlled it and Washington needed to keep the British fleet out. In July, British General William Howe landed at what was then sparsely populated Staten Island. Over the next six weeks, troops were reinforced by ships in Lower New York Bay and their numbers swelled to 32,000.

On August 22, the British began moving troops to Gravesend Bay. Washington was poised at Guan Heights and after five days of waiting, the battle was begun when the British attacked. Washington was unaware of how many troops had been brought ashore. At 9 PM on August 26, Howe began to move his men toward the enemy positions. No one, not even the officers under his command, were aware of the plan. There was a column of 10,000 men stretching for two miles as they were led by Loyalists to Jamaica Pass. They left fires burning at their encampment so as not to alert the Rebels of their approach. The British marched, until they reached Howard’s Tavern and met no American troops en route. The owner of the tavern and his son were forced to act as guides to show the British an old Indian trail they could use for their final approach.

At about 11 PM on August 26, the first shots were fired near the Red Lion Inn when American guards fired on two British soldiers looking for food in a watermelon patch. Around 1 AM on this day, with about 200-300 of the first troops in the Red Lion area, the American troops fired on the British troops. Major Edward Burd, the commander, was captured along with 15 privates and the fight moved forward. The British advanced and took ground as they moved. The major portion of the battle saw the Americans with 10,000 troops fighting against a combined British and Hessian force of 20,000. The Americans had 300 killed and about 700 wounded and another 1,000 captured. The British lost 64 and 293 were wounded with 31 missing. This was the largest battle of the entire war and ended in a British victory.

Washington was forced to retreat. But because of the weather, it began raining as the battle raged, and because of cunning and the cover of night, he was able to get most of his troops away. The British were feted in London for their victory, but in the colonies, they had been more hopeful of actually capturing Washington and more of his troops. The defeat showed up Washington’s lack as a strategist and the inexperience of his generals. Their raw troops were also tested. There are those who look to Washington’s nighttime retreat as one of his greatest military feats. The city of New York was lost to the Americans and they had to retreat to New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Discipline is the soul of an army. It makes small numbers formidable; procures success to the weak, and esteem to all.

Arbitrary power is most easily established on the ruins of liberty abused to licentiousness.

Nothing can be more hurtful to the service, than the neglect of discipline; for that discipline, more than numbers, gives one army the superiority over another.

The marvel of all history is the patience with which men and women submit to burdens unnecessarily laid upon them by their governments. – all from George Washington

Also on this day: Powerful Industry – In 1859, the modern day oil industry started.
War is Hell – In 1896, the shortest war in history was fought.
Kǒng Qiū – In 551 BC, Confucius was born.
Sculptor – In 1498, Michelangelo was commissioned to create the Pieta.
Nuclear Power – In 1956, Calder Hall nuclear station went online in Britain.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 19, 2014
George Washington’s Farewell Address

George Washington’s Farewell Address

September 19, 1796: George Washington’s Farewell Address is printed as an open letter to the public. Washington published the letter late in his second term before he retired to his home, Mount Vernon. The letter was published in the American Daily Advertiser on this day under the title “The Address of George Washington To The People of The United States on his declining of the Presidency of the United States.” Newspapers across the country reprinted the letter for others to share and it was also put out in pamphlet form. Since the title was a bit over the top, it was later changed to “Farewell Address”. This was Washington’s farewell after twenty years of service to the new nation.

The first draft was written in 1792 with the help of James Madison. Washington had hoped to serve only one term and then finally get to retire. As he ran for a second term, the letter was put aside. He opted to run for a second term when it was pointed out that party politics would tear the country apart without his adept leadership counteracting the divisive nature of the two parties, the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans. This disunity, along with troubling foreign affairs, led Washington away from retirement and into the ring for a second term as President.

Four years later, Alexander Hamilton helped Washington prepare a revision to the original draft. Washington looked at the emerging political landscape and how far the young country had come in a short time. His support of the Constitution was also mentioned. He defended his actions of the prior eight years and advised the nation and the population on how to proceed. Washington was exhausted. He was an old man of 64 at the time of the letter’s publication and it was two months before the Electoral College would announce the new leader of the country, John Adams.

Washington was able to retire in March 1797 and returned to his home in Virginia. He spent the last three years of his life immersed in his plantation and other business interests which included a distillery which produced its first run in February 1797. His estate was worth nearly a $1 million in 1799 dollars or about $19.3 million in today’s dollars. However, Washington was land poor. His holdings didn’t earn much money and squatters on his property refused to pay rent, feeling he was rich enough and didn’t need their money. By July 4, 1798 with war with Britain looking like a distinct possibility, Washington came out of retirement to become Commander-in-chief of the US armies, a position he held for seventeen months until his death. He was 67 years old and had been inspecting his plantation on horseback. He was cold and wet and became ill. Physicians were called and bloodletting was the choice of treatment. Three doctors helped bleed the Father of Our Country to death.

Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.

Observe good faith and justice toward all nations. Cultivate peace and harmony with all.

It will be found an unjust and unwise jealousy to deprive a man of his natural liberty upon the supposition he may abuse it.

The marvel of all history is the patience with which men and women submit to burdens unnecessarily laid upon them by their governments. – all from George Washington

Also on this day: Lord Haw-Haw – In 1945, William Joyce is sentenced to death for high treason against the British Government.
Buy a Vowel? – In 1983, Wheel of Fortune began evening broadcasts.
Sportsman of the Year – In 1988, Greg Louganis hit his head on the diving board at the Olympic games.
Equal Rights – In 1893, women got the right to vote in New Zealand.

Battle of the Assunpink Creek

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 2, 2014
The Battle of the Assunpink Creek

The Battle of the Assunpink Creek

January 2, 1777: The Battle of the Assunpink Creek is fought. It is sometimes called the Second Battle of Trenton. It was part of the US Revolutionary War and took place, as the second name indicates, near Trenton, New Jersey. The first Battle of Trenton was fought about a week earlier on December 26, 1776 after George Washington famously Crossed the Delaware River. Because the weather was so bad the Continental Army was not expected and they managed to earn a surprise victory. This was sorely needed and did much to increase both morale, which had been flagging, and enlistment, which needed this inspirational win. After their lightning strike and victory, the army returned to Pennsylvania.

George Washington and his war council were fairly certain of a strong counter-attack. Washington moved his troops back to Trenton on December 30 and the men dug in and established a defensive position south of Assunpink Creek, a nearly 23 mile long tributary of the Delaware River. The name is from the Lenape Ahsen’pink and meant “stony, watering place”. Most of the men had signed up to fight only until December 31 and so General Washington spoke with them and asked them to stay for just one more month for a bonus of ten dollars. No one stepped forward. Washington tried again, pleading passionately with the men who had not been paid, were hungry and frozen, and tired of war. With this second plea, one brave man stepped forward and soon most of the rest followed.

On January 1, money from Congress arrived and the men were paid. Along with the money came received orders and among them was one that gave Washington powers far greater than before. He decided to stay and fight as well as ask General John Cadwalader to bring his troops to Trenton. With the new troops, Washington had 5,000 men and 40 guns spread along a 3 mile line. On December 31, news had reached Washington that General Charles Cornwallis was moving 8,000 troops to Trenton for the counter attack. The men spent the following days building earthworks stretching across the three mile front along the Creek. The position was not secure as there were places upstream that would allow British troops to perform a flanking maneuver.

As the British neared, they formed into lines and American troops opened fire from behind trees and under cover of the woods, ravines, and bends in the road. As the British reformed lines, the Americans would fall back and repeat the procedure. By 3 PM, the British were a half mile away from where the Americans had dug in. Cornwallis was leading 5,000 men with 28 guns. Washington had 6,000 troops and 40 guns. Cornwallis’s council wanted to wait until morning to attack, believing Washington trapped. During the night, Washington moved his troops around Cornwallis’ camp. Victory went to the Americans who suffered 7-100 casualties (killed or wounded) while the British had  55-365 killed, wounded, or captured. After this defeat, the British withdrew from most of New Jersey.

Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the peoples’ liberty’s teeth.

If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.

The marvel of all history is the patience with which men and women submit to burdens unnecessarily laid upon them by their governments. – all from George Washington

Also on this day: Liquor Through the Ages – In 1934, Pennsylvania opened the first state run liquor store.
Big Bottom – In 1791, the Big Bottom massacre took place.
The Planet Vulcan – In 1860, a new planet’s discovery was announced in Paris.
Espionage – In 1943, the Duquense Spy Ring was sentenced.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 9, 2013
Washington Monument

Washington Monument

October 9, 1888: The Washington Monument officially opens to the public. George Washington was born in 1732 in Virginia. He was a farmer and surveyor. At his brother’s death he took over the duties of adjutant for the colony. He was appointed as a Major in the Virginia Militia at age 20. He served as a Lieutenant Colonel in the French and Indian Wars (Seven Years War) and learned many valuable lessons. He was elected to the House of Burgesses in 1758. He remained mostly interested in his estates at Mount Vernon. What proved to be the impetus for his political involvement was the passage of the Intolerable Acts of 1774.

Washington participated in the First Virginia Convention and was sent as a delegate to the First Continental Congress. Fighting began in April 1775. Washington came to the Second Continental Congress dressed in his military uniform, signaling his willingness to fight. The Congress created the Continental Army on June 14, 1775. John Adams nominated Washington as Commander-in-chief the next day. He was elected and assumed control in July 1775. The Revolutionary War ended with the Treaty of Paris in 1783. The United States of America was now free of British rule.

Washington retired to Mount Vernon after the war. He reluctantly attended the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787 and was unanimously elected president of the convention. The Electoral College was created as an intermediate step in the election process. Washington was elected the first President of the US with 100% of the Electoral College votes, the only man to ever reach that level of approval. His two terms as President helped to define both the Office and the Nation. He is known as the “Father of His Country.”

The idea for a national memorial began even as Washington was the sitting president. Finally, 100 years after his birth, enough funds were collected to truly begin. Building began in 1848 but funds ran out in 1854. Controversy over funding and the Civil War delayed construction. The obelisk was completed on December 6, 1884 and officially dedicated on February 22 (Washington’s birthday) in 1885. It was officially opened to the public on this day. Tickets are needed to enter but admission is free. The monument stands 555 feet and 5 1/8 inches tall. It changes color part way up due to the delay in construction.

“A slender acquaintance with the world must convince every man that actions, not words, are the true criterion of the attachment of friends.”

“Discipline is the soul of an army. It makes small numbers formidable; procures success to the weak, and esteem to all.”

“Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.”

“I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.” – all from George Washington

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: When the Washington Monument was completed, it took over as the tallest structure in the world, previously held by the Cologne Cathedral. It remained the tallest structure until 1889 when the Eiffel Tower took top billing. The monument stands east of the Reflecting Pool and Lincoln Memorial. The National Park Service is in charge of the structure. The Washington Monument was damaged in the earthquake of August 23, 2011 and further damaged by Hurricane Irene later that year. It is being repaired and is currently not open to the public. Scheduled repairs should be completed by 2014. Part of the reason for the delay is the difficulty with constructing scaffolding to effect the repairs. A portion of the plaza needed to be removed in order to erect the scaffolding, which caused more delays.

Also on this day: Vinland – In 1000, Leif Ericson arrived in North America.
Bright Lights – In 1604, a supernova was discovered.
Free – In 1820, Guayaquil declared independence from Spain.

Father of Our Country

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 30, 2011

George Washington

April 30, 1789: George Washington takes the oath of office and becomes the first elected President of the United States. He spoke from the balcony of Federal Hall in New York City and his opening greeting was, “Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and the House of Representatives.” There were nearly 4 million people living in the new country.

Washington had hoped to retire to farming after the war, but with the call to further duty he assumed the mantle of leadership again. This time in pursuit of peace and harmony. Washington resided at The President’s House in Philadelphia during his terms as leader. It has since been torn down but once stood one block north of Independence Hall. Ironically, the entrance to the new Liberty Bell Center is built at the site where slave quarters once stood to house the nine slaves Washington brought with him to Philadelphia, two of whom escaped.

The 3-story house was built in 1767-1769 by Mrs. Mary Lawrence Masters, one of the richest women in the city. Her daughter married Richard Penn, lieutenant-governor of the colony and grandson of the founder of the Pennsylvania. She gave them the house as a wedding present. During the Revolutionary War, the house suffered a fire and was extensively damaged. Robert Morris rebuilt the house and took ownership in 1785. He restored the house to its original floor plan with 6 bedrooms and 4 servant rooms but added significantly to the outbuildings. The kitchen was given a second story as well. Kitchens were separated from the main houses of the time in order to limit fire hazards.

Morris offered the house to Washington while the new Federal City, now Washington DC, was being built. The house was not large enough for Washington and his staff and a 2-story addition was built on the south side along with many significant additions to the outbuildings. Both Washington and Adams lived there until the new buildings were ready in 1800. By 1832 the President’s House was gutted and turned into three separate stores. These, too, eventually fell into disrepair and were demolished over time with the final assault on the area completed in 1951 without realizing the significance of the buildings. The area is now known as an archeological site and study continues with government funding.

“The propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained.”

“I hope I shall always possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an ‘Honest Man.'”

“The basis of our political system is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government.”

“Laws made by common consent must not be trampled on by individuals.” – all from George Washington

Also on this day:
Oh, Hail – In 1888 the deadliest hailstorm in history strikes in India.
Louisiana Purchase – in 1803, President Jefferson bought some land from France.