Poor leadership leads to Cherry Valley Massacre

Year
1778
Month Day
November 11

On November 11, 1778, Patriot Colonel Ichabod Alden refuses to believe intelligence about an approaching hostile force. As a result, a combined force of Loyalists and Native Americans, attacking in the snow, killed more than 40 Patriots, including Alden, and took at least an additional 70 prisoners, in what is known today as the Cherry Valley Massacre. The attack took place east of Cooperstown, New York, in what is now Otsego County.

Alden was a New Englander from Duxbury, Massachusetts, who began his military career in the Plymouth militia before serving in the 25th Continental regiment during the siege of Boston that followed the Battle of Lexington and Concord in 1775. Alden was then sent to command the 7th Massachusetts Regiment in Cherry Valley, New York, where he was strategically out of his depth in a state deeply divided between Loyalists and Patriots and with a significant Native American military presence.

Alden ignored warnings that local natives were planning an attack and left the 200 to 300 men stationed to defend Cherry Valley ill-prepared for the eventual arrival of 600 Iroquois under the adept command of Chief Joseph Brant and 200 men, known as Butler’s Rangers, under the command of Loyalist Major Walter Butler. (The Rangers had been trained by Walter’s father, Colonel John Butler.)

Ironically, on November 11, 1775, exactly three years before this so-called massacre executed by aggrieved Iroquois, the Continental Congress had engaged the missionary Samuel Kirkland to spread the “Gospel amongst the Indians,” and confirm “their affections to the United Colonies…thereby preserving their friendship and neutrality.”

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Captain Cook reaches Hawaii


Year
1778
Month Day
January 18

On January 18, 1778, the English explorer Captain James Cook becomes the first European to travel to the Hawaiian Islands when he sails past the island of Oahu. Two days later, he landed at Waimea on the island of Kauai and named the island group the Sandwich Islands, in honor of John Montague, who was the earl of Sandwich and one his patrons.

In 1768, Cook, a surveyor in the Royal Navy, was commissioned a lieutenant in command of the H.M.S. Endeavor and led an expedition that took scientists to Tahiti to chart the course of the planet Venus. In 1771, he returned to England, having explored the coast of New Zealand and Australia and circumnavigated the globe. Beginning in 1772, he commanded a major mission to the South Pacific and during the next three years explored the Antarctic region, charted the New Hebrides, and discovered New Caledonia. In 1776, he sailed from England again as commander of the H.M.S. Resolution and Discovery and in 1778 made his first visit to the Hawaiian Islands.

Cook and his crew were welcomed by the Hawaiians, who were fascinated by the Europeans’ ships and their use of iron. Cook provisioned his ships by trading the metal, and his sailors traded iron nails for sex. The ships then made a brief stop at Ni’ihau and headed north to look for the western end of a northwest passage from the North Atlantic to the Pacific. Almost one year later, Cook’s two ships returned to the Hawaiian Islands and found a safe harbor in Hawaii’s Kealakekua Bay.

It is suspected that the Hawaiians attached religious significance to the first stay of the Europeans on their islands. In Cook’s second visit, there was no question of this phenomenon. Kealakekua Bay was considered the sacred harbor of Lono, the fertility god of the Hawaiians, and at the time of Cook’s arrival the locals were engaged in a festival dedicated to Lono. Cook and his compatriots were welcomed as gods and for the next month exploited the Hawaiians’ good will. After one of the crewmembers died, exposing the Europeans as mere mortals, relations became strained. On February 4, 1779, the British ships sailed from Kealakekua Bay, but rough seas damaged the foremast of the Resolution, and after only a week at sea the expedition was forced to return to Hawaii.

The Hawaiians greeted Cook and his men by hurling rocks; they then stole a small cutter vessel from the Discovery. Negotiations with King Kalaniopuu for the return of the cutter collapsed after a lesser Hawaiian chief was shot to death and a mob of Hawaiians descended on Cook’s party. The captain and his men fired on the angry Hawaiians, but they were soon overwhelmed, and only a few managed to escape to the safety of the Resolution. Captain Cook himself was killed by the mob. A few days later, the Englishmen retaliated by firing their cannons and muskets at the shore, killing some 30 Hawaiians. The Resolution and Discovery eventually returned to England.

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Voltaire returns to Paris from exile


Year
1778
Month Day
February 11

On February 11, 1778, some 300 people visit Voltaire following his return to Paris. Voltaire had been in exile for 28 years.

Born Francois-Marie Arouet to middle-class parents in Paris in 1694, Voltaire began to study law as a young man but quit to become a playwright. He made a name for himself with classical tragedies and also wrote poetry. In 1717, he was arrested for his satirical poem La Henriade, which attacked politics and religion. Voltaire spent nearly a year in the Bastille as punishment.

Voltaire’s time in prison failed to dry up his satirical pen. In 1726, government disapproval of his work forced him to flee to England. He returned several years later and continued to write plays. In 1734, his Lettres Philosophiques criticized established religions and political institutions, and he was again forced to flee Paris. He retreated to the region of Champagne, where he lived with his mistress and patroness, Madame du Chételet. In 1750, he moved to Berlin on the invitation of Frederick II of Prussia and later settled in Switzerland, where he wrote his best-known work, Candide. After 28 years, he returned to Paris and was greeted by hundreds of intellectuals. He died in Paris in May 1778.

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Massacre at Hancock’s Bridge


Year
1778
Month Day
March 21

On March 21, 1778, just three days after British Loyalists and Hessian mercenary forces assault the local New Jersey militia at Quinton’s Bridge, three miles from Salem, New Jersey, the same contingent surprises the colonial militia at Hancock’s Bridge, five miles from Salem. 

In what amounted to a civil war for New Jersey, Colonel Charles Mawhood led the attack on Quinton’s Bridge, and then threatened to burn the town of Salem and subject its women and children to the horrors of the Loyalist militia if the Patriot militia failed to lay down its arms. Colonel Asher Holmes of the Patriot militia promised retribution on Loyalist civilians if Mawhood made good his threats and Mawhood appeared to concede. Three days later, however, Colonel John Simcoe, leader of the Queen’s Rangers, unleashed the Loyalists’ fury on the sleeping men at Hancock’s Bridge.

In what became known as the Massacre at Hancock’s Bridge, at least 20 members of the Salem militia lost their lives, some after attempting to surrender. The Loyalists reputedly exclaimed, “Spare no one! Give no quarter!” as they stormed the house of Judge William Hancock, a Loyalist whose house the Patriots had commandeered, while the Patriot militia slept. Judge Hancock and his brother were bayoneted in the melee, although both were known to be staunch supporters of the crown and were themselves non-violent Quakers.

READ MORE: American Revolution: Causes and Timeline

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King Louis XVI receives U.S. representatives


Year
1778
Month Day
March 20

Benjamin Franklin, Silas Deane and Arthur Lee present themselves to France’s King Louis XVI as official representatives of the United States on March 20, 1778. Louis XVI was skeptical of the fledgling republic, but his dislike of the British eventually overcame these concerns and France officially recognized the United States in February 1778.

Some of the great ironies of the American Revolution lay in the relationship between the new United States and the French. In 1774, when Parliament decided to offer religious toleration and judicial autonomy to French-speaking Catholics in Quebec, North American colonists expressed horror at the notion of empowered French Catholics on their borders. In 1778, though, Franklin, Deane and Lee, all proponents of democratic government, were delighted at the prospect that the French Catholic monarchy, ruling by divine right, would come to their aid in a war against British parliamentary rule.

As for the French, they had recently been dealt a humiliating defeat in the Seven Years’ War by the British and stripped them of their own North American empire but still, they were loathe to declare war on Britain as an official American ally. King Louis XVI permitted secret aid to the American cause beginning in May 1776. The two most powerful men at court finally decided to make their support public in 1778 for opposing reasons. Louis XVI, who had previously refused to commit himself to a potentially losing cause, only decided to back the Patriots when they proved themselves capable of ultimate victory with a win at Saratoga in October 1777. By contrast, the French foreign minister, Charles Gravier, comte de Vergennes, had decided that the French should enter the war one month earlier, after the fall of Philadelphia to British control in September 1777 frightened him into thinking that the Patriots would give up without overt French aid.

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Revolutionary War Commander John Paul Jones sets out to raid British ships

Year
1778
Month Day
April 10

On April 10, 1778, Commander John Paul Jones and his crew of 140 men aboard the USS Ranger set sail from the naval port at Brest, France, and head toward the Irish Sea to begin raids on British warships. This was the first mission of its kind during the Revolutionary War.

Commander Jones, remembered as one of the most daring and successful naval commanders of the American Revolution, was born in Scotland, on July 6, 1747. He became an apprentice to a merchant at 13 and soon went to sea, traveling first to the West Indies and then to North America as a young man. In Virginia at the onset of the American Revolution, Jones sided with the Patriots and received a commission as a first lieutenant in the Continental Navy on December 7, 1775.

READ MORE: The Appalling Way the British Tried to Recruit Americans Away from Revolt

After departing from Brest, Jones successfully executed raids on two forts in England s Whitehaven Harbor, despite a disgruntled crew more interested in “gain than honor.” Jones then continued to his home territory of Kirkcudbright Bay, Scotland, where he intended to abduct the earl of Selkirk and then exchange him for American sailors held captive by Britain. Although he did not find the earl at home, Jones crew was able to steal all his silver, including his wife s teapot, still containing her breakfast tea. From Scotland, Jones sailed across the Irish Sea to Carrickfergus, where the Ranger captured the HMS Drake after delivering fatal wounds to the British ship s captain and lieutenant.

In September 1779, Jones fought one of the fiercest battles in naval history when he led the USS Bonhomme Richard frigate, named for Benjamin Franklin, in an engagement with the 50-gun British warship HMS Serapis. After the Bonhomme Richard was struck, it began taking on water and caught fire. When the British captain of the Serapis ordered Jones to surrender, he famously replied, “I have not yet begun to fight!” A few hours later, the captain and crew of the Serapis admitted defeat and Jones took command of the British ship.

One of the greatest naval commanders in history, Jones is remembered as a “Father of the American Navy,” along with fellow Revolutionary War hero Commodore John Barry.

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John Jay is elected president of the Continental Congress


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Year
1778
Month Day
December 10

On December 10, 1778, John Jay, the former chief justice of the New York Supreme Court, is elected president of the Continental Congress. Jay, who graduated from King’s College (now Columbia University) at the age of 19, was a prominent figure in New York state politics from an early age. While Jay opposed British interference in the colonies, he was against complete independence from Great Britain.

Jay was elected to the First Continental Congress in 1774 as a representative from New York, where he published a paper entitled Address to the People of Great Britain, in which he promoted a peaceful resolution with Great Britain instead of independence. Jay was reelected to the Second Continental Congress in 1775 but, upholding his opposition to complete independence from Great Britain, he resigned in 1776 rather than sign the Declaration of Independence.

Upon his return to New York, Jay helped draft the state’s constitution before his election as the state’s first chief justice in 1777. Despite his early misgivings about independence, Jay served as president of the Continental Congress from 1778 to 1779 and in 1782 signed the Treaty of Paris with Great Britain. He contributed to the The Federalist Papers, part of the successful campaign waged by Alexander Hamilton and James Madison to win ratification for the Constitution in 1788 and 1789. Soon after, President George Washington appointed Jay as the first chief justice of the United States. In 1794, Jay negotiated his eponymous treaty with Britain to settle ongoing military and commercial disputes between the two nations. Although extremely unpopular with Jefferson’s Republicans, the Jay Treaty was ratified: Jay, however, resigned from the Supreme Court during the uproar over its passing. Still drawn to public service, Jay served as governor of New York from 1797 to 1801, when he retired from public life.

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John Paul Jones leads American raid on Whitehaven, England

Year
1778
Month Day
April 22

At 11 p.m. on April 22, 1778, Commander John Paul Jones leads a small detachment of two boats from his ship, the USS Ranger, to raid the shallow port at Whitehaven, England, where, by his own account, 400 British merchant ships are anchored. Jones was hoping to reach the port at midnight, when ebb tide would leave the shops at their most vulnerable.

Jones and his 30 volunteers had greater difficulty than anticipated rowing to the port, which was protected by two forts. They did not arrive until dawn. Jones’ boat successfully took the southern fort, disabling its cannon, but the other boat returned without attempting an attack on the northern fort, after the sailors claimed to have been frightened away by a noise. To compensate, Jones set fire to the southern fort, which subsequently engulfed the entire town.

Commander Jones, one of the most daring and successful naval commanders of the American Revolution, was born in Scotland on July 6, 1747. He was apprenticed to a merchant at the age of 13 and soon went to sea from Whitehaven, the very port he returned to attack on this day in 1778. In Virginia at the onset of the revolution, Jones sided with the Patriots and received a commission as a first lieutenant in the Continental Navy on December 7, 1775.

After the raid on Whitehaven, Jones continued to his home territory of Kirkcudbright Bay, where he intended to abduct the earl of Selkirk, then exchange him for American sailors held captive by Britain. Although he did not find the earl at home, Jones’ crew was able to steal all his silver, including his wife’s teapot, still containing her breakfast tea. From Scotland, Jones sailed across the Irish Sea to Carrickfergus, where the Ranger captured the HMS Drake after delivering fatal wounds to the British ship’s captain and lieutenant.

In September 1779, Jones fought one of the fiercest battles in naval history when he led the USS Bonhomme Richard frigate, named for Benjamin Franklin, in an engagement with the 50-gun British warship HMS Serapis. The USS Bonhomme Richard was struck; it began taking on water and caught fire. When the British captain of the Serapis ordered Jones to surrender, Jones famously replied, I have not yet begun to fight! A few hours later, the captain and crew of the Serapis admitted defeat and Jones took command of the British ship.

Jones went on to establish himself as one of the great naval commanders in history; he is remembered, along with John Barry, as a Father of the American Navy. He is buried in a crypt in the U.S. Naval Academy Chapel at Annapolis, Maryland, where a Marine honor guard stands at attention in his honor whenever the crypt is open to the public.

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John Paul Jones burns Whitehaven, England

Year
1778
Month Day
April 23

At 8 a.m. on April 23, 1778, John Paul Jones, with 30 volunteers from his ship, the USS Ranger, launches a surprise attack on the two harbor forts at Whitehaven, England. Jones’ boat successfully took the southern fort, but a second boat, assigned to attack to the northern fort, returned to the Ranger without having done so, claiming to have been scared off by a strange noise. To compensate, Jones decided to burn the southern fort; the blaze ultimately consumed the entire town. It was the only American raid on English shores during the American Revolution.

Later the same day, Jones continued from Whitehaven, where he began his sailing career, to his home territory of Kirkcudbright Bay, Scotland. There he intended to abduct the earl of Selkirk, and then exchange him for American sailors held captive by Britain. Although he did not find the earl at home, Jones’ crew was able to steal all his silver, including his wife’s teapot, still containing her breakfast tea. From Scotland, Jones sailed across the Irish Sea to Carrickfergus, where the Ranger captured the HMS Drake after delivering fatal wounds to the British ship’s captain and lieutenant.

In September 1779, Jones fought one of the fiercest battles in naval history when he led the USS Bonhomme Richard frigate, named for Benjamin Franklin, in an engagement with the 50-gun British warship HMS Serapis. The USS Bonhomme Richard was struck; it began taking on water and caught fire. When the British captain of the Serapis ordered Jones to surrender, Jones famously replied, “I have not yet begun to fight!” A few hours later, the British captain and crew of the Serapis admitted defeat and Jones took command of their ship.

Jones went on to establish himself as one of the greatest naval commanders in history; he is remembered, along with John Barry, as a Father of the American Navy. He is buried in a crypt in the U.S. Naval Academy Chapel at Annapolis, Maryland, where a Marine honor guard stands at attention in his honor whenever the crypt is open to the public.

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John Adams prepares to sail for France


Year
1778
Month Day
February 16

On February 15, 1778, two future presidents of the United States, John Adams and his son, 10-year-old John Quincy Adams, sit in Marblehead Harbor, off the coast of Massachusetts, on board the frigate, Boston, which is to take them to France, where John Adams will replace Silas Deane in Congress’ commission to negotiate a treaty of alliance.

Silas Deane’s son, Jesse Deane, who was 11 or 12 years old, was also on board and bore a letter from his uncle requesting that Adams take care of the child, whose Youth and Helplessness among such bad company would require “some friendly Montior (sic) to caution, and keep him from associating with the common hands on board.”

Adam’s newfound role as pater familias expanded further with the delivery of a letter from William Vernon, Esquire, a member of the Continental Navy Board in Boston. Vernon’s son, a recent college graduate, was also on board the Boston. His father asked John Adams to find a merchant whom he could trust to educate his son in the business. Although sending him to a Catholic nation, the elder Vernon wished to see his son installed with a Protestant family of extensive Business in hopes that he “would hereafter be usefull (sic) to Society, and in particular to these American States.” He entrusted Adams not only with his son, but also with his money, asking Adams to negotiate a price of approximately £100 sterling for room and board with an eminent merchant to train his son for two to three years.

Once in France, Jesse Deane joined John Quincy Adams and Benjamin Franklin’s grandson, Benjamin Franklin Bache, at a pension in Passy, outside Paris; Vernon remained in Bordeaux. Two of the boys in Passy grew to be among the leaders of the next American generation. Benjamin Franklin Bache inherited his grandfather’s skills as a journalist and founded The Aurora, a newspaper in which he attacked first George Washington’s presidency and then John Adams’. Under the notoriously unconstitutional Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, Bache was imprisoned for his opposition to Federalist Party policy. John Quincy Adams followed in his father’s footsteps, serving as a foreign diplomat, Massachusetts state senator and president of the United States. Jesse Deane, like his father, faded into the backdrop of history.

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