The First Purple Heart

As military services go, the U.S. Armed Forces lagged behind our friends in Europe. This was partly because the kings and dukes who ruled their countries and dukedoms could give land and titles to deserving citizens. During the American Revolution, the Continental Congress could not give away land since it didn’t own any.

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America’s Most Contentious Election

The year was 1800 and Thomas Jefferson from Virginia and Aaron Burr from New York campaigned against John Adams from Massachusetts and Charles Pickney from South Carolina. Democratic-Republicans faced off against the Federalists. Northerners were pitted against Southerners. Former allies during a long war that led to independence were now at each other’s throats.

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Many By Sea

The French army of 4,800 in North America was wintering in Rhode Island. In a meeting in Weathersfield, CT, Washington and the Comte de Rochambeau met on May 23rd and 24th, 1781. While Washington favored a move on New York, Rochambeau preferred to go after Cornwallis in Virginia. Washington ultimately agreed.

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Getting to Yorktown

Arnold’s (now a British Army general) force burns Richmond on January 5th. In response, Washington ordered Lafayette south with 1,000 men to put a stop to Arnold’s activities.

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Yorktown’s Significance Beyond the Battle

The size of Cornwallis’s surrender puts it high on an unpleasant list in British Army history. The real significance is that his (and the British Army’s defeat) set in motion a series of events that ultimately led, two years later, to the Thirteen Colonies being granted their independence.

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Lewis & Clark’s Planning Challenges

On most days, the expedition covered less than 30 miles. Even with their sextant, an octant, a surveying compass, and an accurate chronograph which they had, their daily track could be within the margin of error even if, on each night, they took three sightings. Their surveying compass enabled them to differentiate between true and magnetic north. In the latitudes where they were traveling, the difference between true and magnetic north could range from five degrees near St. Louis to 200 at the mouth of the Columbia River.

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Western Exploration Plans B4 Lewis & Clark

Sending an expedition from the Mississippi to the West coast was not a new idea. Jefferson wanted an expedition of this sort as far back as the 1750s when he was a little boy. Now, as Secretary of State and later President, he could pursue his dream.

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The U.S. Population Shift Begins

Great Britain also restricted emigration between 1800 and 1820 because it was locked into a life and death struggle with France. This prevented English citizens from coming to their former colony. Famine and poverty in Ireland drove many to leave the Emerald Isle. The Napoleonic Wars limited shipping to carry passengers, but there were other pressures on citizens all over Europe that encouraged emigration to the United States.

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