United States History and American Revolution: 1780

About the United States in 1780, history and the American Revolution and Benedict Arnold among others.


--U.S. population--2,781,000.

May 29 The term "Tarleton's quarter" entered the English language when this British colonel, ignoring the white flag of surrender at the battle of Waxhaws, shot, bayoneted, or sabered 113 Virginians fatally, and left an additional 150 wounded to die where they lay.

Aug. 17 Milestone Battle: Camden, S.C. A U.S. disaster. The militiamen fled in wild panic, suffering over 1,000 in casualties. Their leader, Gen. Horatio Gates, outdistanced them, covering 180 mi. in 3 days. Said Alexander Hamilton: "Was there ever such an instance of a General running away ... from his whole army?"

Tories snickered over one explanation: Gates may have had diarrhea. Baron de Kalb was killed in the fight.

Sept. 21 Benedict Arnold offered to exchange West Point for 20,000 pounds and a major general's commission in the British army. He met Maj. John Andre aboard the Vulture in the Hudson River. Unaccountably, a U.S. soldier along the river bank fired without orders on the ship, and the British captain weighed anchor. His hasty action left Andre stranded and forced him to make his way back to New York City by land. Caught carrying top secret papers and wearing civilian clothing, Andre was hung a week later.

Oct. 6 Henry Laurens was imprisoned in the Tower of London, the 1st American ever to be jailed there. He had sailed for Holland to serve as U.S. minister, but was captured off New-foundland and charged with high treason. Laurens was required to pay for his room, board, and his guard's salary until his release on December 31, 1781. He was exchanged for Lord Cornwallis.

Nov. A 3-day horse-racing meet was held at Hempstead Plains, Long Island. It featured a "Ladies Subscription" special and, in one race, women riders.

Dec. 1 A Boston naval board of inquiry looked into the mental behavior of Capt. Pierre Landais, master of the U.S. Navy frigate Alliance. In a situation that closely paralleled the plot of Herman Wouk's best seller The Caine Mutiny, the ship's officers "mutinied," relieving Landais of command while on the high seas. Acting with great caution, they carefully wrote down every move they made, after electing a reluctant Lieutenant Degge to take command. Behaving like a "Captain Queeg" prototype, Landais gave irrational commands, talked to himself, and eventually took to his bed, feigning illness. He was partially acquitted by the military court, but still cashiered. Degge fared little better. This hapless officer escaped the death penalty by a split verdict, but also was dismissed.

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