United States History and American Revolution: 1779 and the Battle of Stony Point

About United States history in the year 1779, the American Revolution and the Battle of Stony Point


--American quarter-horse racing began in Virginia.

Jan. 9 Opening night at the John Street Theater, New York City. Publicity carried the notice that parts would be played "by young ladies . . . who never appeared on any stage before."

June Spain formally declared war on England, persuaded by France's promise to assist it in recovering the Floridas and Gibraltar. The promise was not kept.

June 24 On this day, marked by a total eclipse, George Rogers Clark set out to capture the Illinois country. Exactly 8 months later, his band of 127 men, including 50 Frenchmen picked up along the way, entered Vincennes. They came in with "colors flying and drums brassed," waving some 20 flags stitched for them by the women of Kaskaskia. The grand entry was meant to give the impression of a much larger force.

July 15 Milestone Battle: Stony Point, N.Y. General Wayne's "Mad Anthony" sobriquet was given to him for his "crazy" orders that were enforced:

1. empty muskets, shouldered, with fixed bayonets.

2. penalty for removing muskets from the shoulder, or firing them: death, at the hands of the nearest officer.

3. absolute silence until the assault.

4. then, all men to shout "The fort's our own!"

5. white slips of paper to be stuck in each soldier's headdress, for identification.

Aug. 14 Britain won the battle for ship's masts, in Penobscot Bay, Me. It was common practice for the Admiralty to keep a 3-year supply of masts on hand, soaking in navy-yard mast-ponds. But the supply was being cut off, partly by U.S. capture of the British mast ships, which were especially designed to carry the long timbers.

A Tory settlement was established to protect the shipments, at Castine, Me. Commodore Saltonstall, with 3 ships carrying 300 guns, was sent to attack it. Col. Paul Revere accompanied him, commanding an artillery unit.

Upon his arrival, Saltonstall began daily councils of war, planning the attack. They turned into debating societies. As opposition, they faced a British commander with a small land force and a navy of only 3 ships with 30 guns. Badly outclassed, he would have surrendered if asked.

Saltonstall wasted 47 days in minor skirmishes, enough time for Adm. Sir George Collier to arrive in a 64-gun man-o'-war along with 6 support ships. In the disaster that followed, Saltonstall lost his 3 ships and 500 men, fleeing in panic. The survivors drifted back to the U.S. for weeks. For his inept performance he was dismissed from the service. Revere himself lost his commission and was convicted of negligence in a 1st trial, but later cleared in a 2nd. The engagement was ranked as the worst fiasco of the Revolution.

Oct. 9 Count Casimir Pulaski was killed in a cavalry charge as he headed his Pulaski Legion during the battle to retake Savannah.

Dec. 1 U.S. monetary woes increased. Since January, when the ratio of paper currency ("Continentals") to coin was 8 to 1, the ratio had skyrocketed to 40 to 1.

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