The French and Indian War Ends, 1763

2021-02-26T12:25:05-06:00February 25, 2021|HH 2021|

“They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it.” —1 Peter 3:11

The French and Indian War Ends, February 10, 1763

It was a war that started in America when “a volley fired by a young Virginian in the backwoods of America set the world on fire.” The quote was by Horace Walpole, famous writer and son of the British Prime Minister, the young Virginian was George Washington, and the French officer killed in the ambush was Joseph Coulon de Villiers de Jumonville. The site is in the modern-day county of Fayette in Western Pennsylvania, a place known now as Jumonville Glen, and marked by a mountain cross that is sixty feet tall, weighs 47,000 pounds in 183 tons of concrete. From the summit can be seen three states in a fifty-mile radius. The skirmish there began a war that lasted seven years and changed the world forever.

Horace Walpole (1717-1797) English writer, art historian and politician

Photo of the site of the Battle of Jumonville Glen, fought on May 28, 1754

From 1689-1762, England fought four major wars against France. Alliances with other European nations varied with the times, but the two main antagonists remained the same. While each war reflected dynastic controversies among the Europeans, the American colonials named them after the English monarch in power at the time—King William’s War, Queen Anne’s War, King George’s War, and finally the biggest and most consequential of them all “The French and Indian War.” Not only was the conflict named after the chief adversaries, it began in America, killed the most colonials, and set the stage for the American War for Independence.

Map depicting the major movements and conflicts of the French and Indian War (1754–1763)

George Washington (1732-1799) in 1772 wearing his Virginia Regiment colonel uniform from the French and Indian War

The French empire in America centered on Canada, which provided furs, timber, and naval stores. When the mother countries went to war, their colonies had to as well, and most fighting in North America took place in Canada and on the frontiers of New England and the middle colonies, including Virginia. Although the treaty ending “King George’s War” in 1748 settled Anglo-French controversies, both sides still claimed the Ohio Valley, which extended from western Pennsylvania to the Mississippi river. The French built forts along Lake Erie and into western New York and Pennsylvania as far south as the conjunction of “three rivers” (future Pittsburgh).

Map of Ohio River region hand drawn by George Washington in the journal he kept of his 1753 expedition noting French intentions

Model of French Fort Duquesne which stood in modern-day Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

In the year 1754, the Governor of Virginia sent his adventurous militia Major, George Washington, on a warning expedition and then with a small army to drive the French from their fort named after the French Governor Duquesne. After the ambush which killed the young French officer Jumonville, the Virginia troops got trapped in a poorly sighted makeshift fort named Fort Necessity, near the future Uniontown, Pennsylvania. Washington surrendered and was sent packing back to Virginia. The governor appealed to London for troops and was sent a British army of two regiments, who combined with five hundred or so Virginia militia, all under command of a misguided, arrogant, incompetent named General Edward Braddock. He was killed and his army routed by an ad hoc force of French civilians, Indian warriors allied to the French, and a few French soldiers, and the War known in the colonies as The French and Indian War was on in earnest—in America, Europe, and on the oceans of the world. Parliament formally declared war in May, 1756. It lasted seven years, exacted a large toll in lives, treasure, and property, and most importantly, redrew the map of empires in North America.

Modern reconstruction of Fort Necessity

An engraving depicting the night council of George Washington at Fort Necessity

The French seemed to have it all their way in the first few years of the war, “a harvest of defeats and disappointments” for the English. The British commanders in North America were characterized by one historian as “undistinguished,” and who “owed [their] position to political appointment.” General Webb, for instance was “selected for a role beyond his capacity . . . cautious, lacking in self-confidence and judgement, and soon incapacitated by palsy.” Prime Minister William Pitt finally determined to go all out to defeat France.

William Pitt (1708-1778) British Prime Minister (1766-68)

He replaced the North American command with three veteran colonels fighting in Europe and jumped them up to General to lead Britain to victory in Canada. Young James Wolfe (31), “despite being a thin, chinless, sickly man with a fondness for poetry” led the army to victory over the French at Quebec, where he was killed in his hour of triumph, in 1759, sealing the fate of the enemy, though the war lasted several more years. Pitt committed more than 25,000 men to the war in the Americas and almost bankrupted the nation, but he brought home a decisive military and diplomatic victory.

James Wolfe (1727-1759) British Army officer known primarily for his victory in 1759 over the French at the Battle of Quebec

The Treaty of Paris was signed on February 10, 1763. It ended a monumental war, doubling the size of the British Empire and “sweeping France from the mainland of North America.” Besides Canada, England got Florida and everything France had claimed east of the Mississippi River. Spain picked up New Orleans and western Florida. Within twenty years, the long-suffering colonial Americans would be independent nations, and by 1814, England would be ensconced only in Canada, peering over their southern border musing on the fallout from their overwhelming triumph of the French and Indian War.

Map showing territorial gains of Britain and Spain following the French and Indian War

Texas Secedes from the Union, 1861

2021-02-01T12:10:55-06:00February 1, 2021|HH 2021|

“But Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, ‘every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.’” —Matthew 12:25

Texas Secedes from the Union,
February 1, 1861

Since 1865, secession of states from the United States has been a forbidden subject, discussed only by “Neo-Confederates” and “revanchist cranks”. In recent times, the discussion of breaking from the Union is no longer unthinkable, but part and parcel of a renewed interest in separating from Federal authority. Secession-talk has attracted all sorts of people, from the aging hippies of Vermont to the young independent-minded Texans. Secession discussions and movements are, in fact, an international phenomenon today. In 1861, eleven American states did more than talk and speculate.

Texas was one of eleven states that seceded from the Union in 1861, including:
South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina

The founding fathers of 1776 spent their time breaking the bonds of empire that had been forged in the colonies since 1607. All thirteen had developed independently of one another and now found themselves dependent on their combined military forces and a Congress determined to maintain both the principles and realities of unity and self-rule. The ultimate result was a republic defined and bounded by a Constitution, and federated state governments. Few of the founders anticipated, and none desired, secession from that union. Nonetheless, disagreements and differences in political philosophy persisted, becoming more obvious in crises which appeared soon after ratification of the Constitution.

The thirteen original colonies that seceded from Great Britain in 1776 and formed the United States

Talk of secession and serious contemplation of pursuing such a course erupted during the War of 1812 when New Englanders opposed the war, continued to trade with the British enemy, and even met in Convention in Hartford to strategize over resistance to continuing the war. Back-room debate over secession made an appearance. South Carolinians in 1828 during the nullification crisis, suggested they might be better off outside the Union. Again in 1850 political leaders in several states suggested that secession might solve their problem with deadlock in Congress. The breaking point, however, came in late 1860 and early 1861, with the election of a purely sectional, minority President, Abraham Lincoln.

Seal of the Confederate States of America, prominently featuring George Washington

Why seven deep-south states seceded from the Union has been the subject of acrid debate ever since. At the heart of the matter lies the question—could it ever be Constitutional for a state to secede from the United States? The founders did not explicitly put a clause in the document that gives leave to a state to secede. In response to the question, the breakaway states argued that the Central Government had only the rights and powers enumerated in the Constitution. The Tenth Amendment states Powers not delegated to the federal government are reserved to the states and the people. Denying the right of secession is not an enumerated power, therefore, states have the power to secede. Joining the Union was voluntary, which the secessionists believed implied the ability to voluntarily leave it as well. From December 20, 1860 (South Carolina) to February 1, 1861, (Texas), seven southern states seceded from the Union and formed the Confederate States of America.

This fifteen-star secession variation of the flag of the Republic of Texas (the design of which was inferred from descriptions as no iterations of this variant exist) was briefly in use in early 1861 between the secession of Texas from the Union and its admittance into the Confederacy

Excerpt from the Laws of the Eighth Legislature of Texas (November 7, 1859 to April 9, 1861), proposing a vote on secession

As the other Deep South states left the Union, the Governor of Texas, Sam Houston, took a firm stand against secession, counseling patience and compromise and declaring that the state had no right to break its loyalty to the Union. He refused to call the legislature into session. Texas secessionists, however, many of them legislators, called a convention to address the question, in opposition to Governor Houston. Each county elected two commissioners to attend the convention which met January 28, 1861. They drafted and passed an Ordinance of Secession, 166 to 8, “repealing and annulling” the annexation laws of 1845 which had brought them into the Union.

Sam Houston c. 1860 (1793-1863), Governor of Texas at the time of secession, but who opposed leaving the Union. Upon secession, he was deposed and replaced by his Lt. Governor, Edward Clark.

Although Secession was officially announced on February 1, the people of Texas were given the opportunity to accept or reject the Ordinance, a vote in which they approved the actions of the Convention by a large majority. The Convention then reconvened and passed an ordinance joining the Confederate States of America, meeting at their capital city of Montgomery, Alabama. Governor Houston declared the Convention unconstitutional and refused to take an oath to the Confederacy “in the name of my own conscience and manhood,” and was replaced by the Lieutenant Governor. Houston refused to command troops on either side, but finally announced on May 10, he would stand with his beloved Texas and the Confederacy in its war effort. His son Sam Jr., fought for the Confederacy and was wounded at Shiloh. Houston retired to Galveston, corresponded with the new governor during the war, and died at the age of 70 in July of 1863. After the state had seceded, Houston uttered to a Texan crowd in April, these prophetic words:

Edward Clark (1815-1880), Lt. Governor of Texas at the time of secession, then promoted to Governor when Sam Houston failed to support secession

“Let me tell you what is coming. After the countless sacrifice of millions of treasure and hundreds of thousands of lives, you may win Southern independence if God be not against you, but I doubt it. I tell you that, while I believe with you in the doctrine of states’ rights, the North is determined to preserve this Union. They are not a fiery impulsive people, as you are, for they live in colder climates. But when they begin to move in a given direction, they move with the steady momentum and perseverance of a mighty avalanche; and what I fear is, they will overwhelm the South.”

First Capitol of the Confederacy, Montgomery, AL, on the occasion of Jefferson Davis’s inauguration as the first and only President of the Confederate States of America, February 18, 1861

Gold Discovered at Sutter’s Mill, 1848

2021-01-25T13:07:52-06:00January 25, 2021|HH 2021|

Gold Discovered at Sutter’s Mill, January 24, 1848

The disease began in California and spread eastward. It struck people in every state of the Union in 1848 and continued, gaining virulence, for several years. The population most susceptible to the malady tended to be men between the ages of 16 and 60. Quite a few died seeking a cure, which, when found, tended to cause an instant relapse. The sickness peaked in 1852 and eventually died down after several years, with many failures to find the cure. It exploded again with new vigor in the Klondike region of Western Canada from 1893-96; more than a hundred thousand, mostly men, were again infected. As previously occurred in California, a number of the afflicted wore masks, so they wouldn’t be identified when they relieved other people of the sickness. The disease became known as “gold fever.”

Johann Augustus Suter of Baden, Germany, a soldier in the Swiss army, fled to California in 1839, leaving his family behind, and escaping his creditors in Switzerland. He convinced the Mexican overlords of the region to grant him lands at the junction of the American and Sacramento Rivers, where he built a fort and lavishly entertained, supplied, and employed trappers, traders, and immigrants. He hired one James W. Marshall to build a sawmill on the American River in 1848 just before the end of the War with Mexico, which officially brought California into American possession. On January 24, Marshall found flecks of gold in the millrace. Suter, now known as John Sutter, tried to keep the find quiet.

Johann Augustus Sutter (1803-1880)

Sutter’s Mill in 1850

Rumors of the find leaked out and in March, a San Francisco newspaper publisher and businessman, Samuel Brannan trumpeted the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill, and announced his mining supplies store open for business! By August, The New York Herald headlined the discovery of gold fields in California and the gold fever took hold of the United States. Even President James Polk announced to Congress the discovery of gold in California—the War with Mexico not only expanded United States territory, but now promised wealth beyond all that had been previously imagined.

Hired by Sutter to construct a sawmill, James W. Marshall (1810-1885) found flecks of gold

James Marshall’s Cabin in Coloma, California, near Sutter’s Mill

Sutter’s workers abandoned him—squatters consumed all his crops and stole all his cattle, utterly ruining his businesses and life. Thousands upon thousands of people were possessed by gold fever and lit out searching for the “mother lode” in California. In two years, San Francisco went from 1,000 full-time inhabitants to 25,000. For most of the “Forty-niners” of the gold rush, travel by sea offered the safest and fastest way to get there, but took four to five months sailing around the southern tip of South America and up the West Coast. Some travelers docked in Mexico or Panama and trekked across to the Pacific Ocean and then caught steamers north. Shipwreck, cholera, typhoid fever, yellow fever, and accidents plagued all the routes to California. Many lonely graves were scattered across South America or lay at the bottom of the oceans.

A satirical cartoon c. 1850 that reads “The independent gold hunter on his way to California”

Advertisement offering transport to gold-seekers, c. 1850

Travel companies offered tickets across the United States along the “California Trail,” the “Oregon Trail,” and other wagon routes opening up to accommodate the gold fever-ridden adventurers and greed-besotted gold bugs. People came from around the world to pan for gold. People came from Hawaii (Sandwich Islands), Peru, Chile, Mexico, Europe, the Philippines, Australia, Turkey, and China. The California legislature responded with tax laws designed to strip the profits from successful miners, especially foreigners. The native Americans were shoved out of the way and retaliation met with massacre. Traders made fortunes selling mining equipment, food, transportation, and “entertainments.” Several smaller gold fields were opened up in the Sierra Nevadas and elsewhere, spurring more immigration and its attending vices. Multitudes were driven to poverty and early graves.

San Francisco Harbor is filled with merchant ships, c. 1850-51

About 90,000 gold-seekers arrived in 1849, 60,000 of them Americans. By 1855, more than 300,000 settlers had arrived. Probably less than half the seekers found gold and made a modest profit. A few struck it rich. Thousands died in the basically lawless mining towns and on the prairies. Merchants like Brannan became the most prosperous of the lot, many parlaying their wealth into political power. California became a state in 1850 because of the populations surge. Economies around the world profited. Native Americans probably suffered the most—records indicate that fifty Indians a day were slaughtered in some areas where the miners settled on native lands. Almost overnight, California had become “The Golden State,” and has never looked back.

A “forty-niner” pans for gold in the American River, c. 1850

The Overthrow of Hawaii’s Queen Lili’uokalani, 1893

2021-01-18T10:52:21-06:00January 18, 2021|HH 2021, Uncategorized|

The Overthrow of Queen Lili’uokalani,
January 17, 1893

British Captain James Cook is generally recognized as the first European to lay eyes on the islands he named after his patron, the Earl of Sandwich, in 1778. In time, the local name of the largest island, Hawai’i, gave its name to the eight isles that make up the modern American state of Hawaii. In common with Texas, it was the only other state that was an independent nation prior to statehood. Like Texas, it was a Christian nation. But unlike the Lone Star State, the Christian Queen of Hawaii was overthrown in a coup by American businessmen in collusion with the American government backed by United States Marines, in 1893. Although President Grover Cleveland determined that the coup was illegal, and tried to reinstate the Queen, the fait accompli prevailed, and the island kingdom became a protectorate of the United States, and in sixty-seven years, a state.

Captain James Cook (1728-1779), cartographer, navigator, explorer and captain in the British Royal Navy

The modern history of Hawaii began with internecine warfare in the last two decades of the 18th Century which ended in the triumph of King Kamehameha I, who established a monarchic dynasty which lasted until 1872 with the death of Kamehameha V. Two events had profound impact on the Hawaiian Islands in the 19th Century—the development of the sugar industry and the success of the Christian Gospel brought there by American missionaries.

Sugar exporting began shortly after the arrival of the British expeditions of Captain Cook. From 1835 to 1865, sugar plantations were constructed on the four largest islands and utterly dominated the economy of the nation. Both England and America competed for economic dominance on the other end of the world.

Kamehameha I, (c. 1736-1819) ruler of the Kingdom of Hawaii

King Kamehameha II (1797-1824) abolished the ancient pagan “kapu” religious system. He died of measles at the young age of 26 during a diplomatic visit to London.

The ancient pagan “kapu” religious system continued to prevail during the reign of Kamehameha I but was abolished by his son and successor. The American board of Commissioners for Missions, an ecumenical Reformed missionary association based in New England, sent fourteen missionaries (Presbyterian, Congregationalist, and Dutch Reformed) on one ship to bring the Gospel to the Sandwich Islands. They arrived in April of 1820. After centuries of human sacrifice, cannibalism, and demon worship, the light of the Gospel shown on Hawaii and the Holy Spirit was pleased to bring many people to faith in Christ. With the approval of the king, Rev. Hiram Bingham led the missionaries to establish headquarters in Honolulu. They learned the language, created a written alphabet, taught it back to the natives, translated the Scriptures and preached to them in the vernacular. Succeeding waves of missionaries arrived throughout the century and most of the children of the missionaries remained there, establishing educational institutions, joining in business ventures, often sugar planting and trade, as well as intermarrying with Hawaiians. Within two generations, members of the royal family had become Christians also.

Hiram Bingham I (1789-1869) led the first wave of American missionaries introducing the Gospel to the islands

A stone chimney and foundation are all that remain of “The Old Sugar Mill”, Hawaii’s first commercially successful sugarcane plantation founded in 1835 on the island of Kauai.

The sugar barons were active in Hawaiian and American politics, and between 1887 and 1895, fomented a series of rebellions against the King of Hawaii. The “Reform Party” protested the growing debt of the kingdom, as well as the corrupt bargains made by the king himself with foreign interests. A coalition of cabinet members, sugar planters, and royal advisors imposed a constitution on the king, the so-called “bayonet constitution,” for they used United States Marines to force compliance by King Kalākaua. He was stripped of his powers and only wealthy Americans, Europeans and Hawaiians were given the right to vote. The king died on a visit to San Francisco in 1891 and his sister Lilioukalani became the Queen and ruler of Hawaii.

Kalākaua (1836-1891), King of the Hawaiin Islands from 1874 to 1891. He named his sister Lili’uokalani as his heir-apparent.

Lorrin Thurston (1858-1931), grandson of Christian missionaries to Hawaii and a key figure in the overthrow of Hawaii

The Queen believed that the majority of Hawaiians did not want the new constitution and took steps to rid the nation of the imposed document. A “Committee of Safety” in the “Name of the people” organized a coup with the American minister to Hawaii, John L. Stevens. Citing imminent danger to Americans and their property, Marines and sailors of the U.S. Navy were brought to shore and the Queen was deposed on January 17, 1893. A provisional government was established by the Committee of Safety. The Queen wrote in response:

I Lili’uokalani, by the Grace of God and under the Constitution of the Hawaiian Kingdom, Queen, do hereby solemnly protest against any and all acts done against myself and the Constitutional Government of the Hawaiian Kingdom by certain persons claiming to have established a Provisional Government of and for this Kingdom.

That I yield to the superior force of the United States of America whose Minister Plenipotentiary, His Excellency John L. Stevens, has caused United States troops to be landed at Honolulu and declared that he would support the Provisional Government.

Now to avoid any collision of armed forces, and perhaps the loss of life, I do this under protest and impelled by said force yield my authority until such time as the Government of the United States shall, upon facts being presented to it, undo the action of its representatives and reinstate me in the authority which I claim as the Constitutional Sovereign of the Hawaiian Islands.

Queen Lil’uokalani (1838-1917), ruled as the Kingdom of Hawaii’s last sovereign from 1891 until the overthrow of the kingdom on January 17, 1893

After lengthy investigation, by the American Congress and President, the Republic of Hawaii was declared on the 4th of July, 1894, with Sanford Dole as President. The United States got their permanent naval base at Pearl Harbor.

The Death of General Hugh Mercer, 1777

2021-01-11T13:26:52-06:00January 11, 2021|HH 2021|

The Death of General Hugh Mercer,
January 12, 1777

Hugh Mercer was born fighting. His military service ranged over two continents and three different armies, which reflect his devotion to his calling as a doctor and a soldier, and a temporary change of heart regarding his loyalties. George Washington considered Mercer one of the best soldiers in North America and instigated his promotion to Brigadier General in the American Army. Mercer was at the sharpest end in his final battle, commanding the 3rd Virginia Infantry of the Continental Line, helping Washington win the great victory at Princeton at one of the moments of great crisis in the War for Independence.

General Hugh Mercer (1726-1777), as portrayed by his son Hugh, Jr. in a portrait based on a sketch by artist John Trumbull

Hugh was born near Aberdeen, Scotland in 1726, son of a Church of Scotland minister. After a rigorous classical education, he earned a master’s degree and trained to become a surgeon. The Mercer family, though Presbyterian, supported the dynastic claims of Bonnie Prince Charlie, and Hugh joined the Jacobite army as an assistant surgeon. The military fortunes of the Pretender’s army declined until extinguished at the Battle of Culloden, where Hugh Mercer escaped the English pursuers and slipped aboard a merchant ship bound for America. Upon arrival in Philadelphia, Hugh travelled to the back-country and served as a country physician. He settled in the area now named after him—Mercersburg.

Bonnie Prince Charlie (1720-1788), leader of the Jacobite Rising of 1745

The Battle of Culloden, April 16, 1746, effectively put an end the Jacobite Rebellion

General Edward Braddock had led British troops and American militia to a dazzling defeat at the hands of the French and Indians along the Monongahela River in Western Pennsylvania in 1755, thus opening the frontier to further incursions and war. Dr. Mercer obtained a Captain’s commission from his colony to fight against Britain’s frontier enemies. After an Indian ambush where he was the only survivor, Hugh made his way through a trackless one-hundred-mile wilderness with a shattered arm, and arrived in Philadelphia for treatment. He became a local hero, was promoted to Colonel, and ended up under the command of Virginian George Washington, a fellow Colonel. Mercer was assigned the road-building duties to Fort Duquesne, which eventually led him to guiding the construction of Fort Pitt at the confluence of three rivers, and the Fort at Presque Isle on Lake Erie.

Fort Duquesne in modern-day Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where Mercer served for a time

Following the French and Indian War, Colonel Mercer settled in Fredericksburg, Virginia where he opened a very successful medical practice, especially among the substantial Scottish community. He married into a popular local family and acquired significant property holdings, including George Washington’s Fredericksburg farm. Active in the resistance movement from the start, Dr. Mercer led the Sons of Liberty and commanded a militia company, which became part of the 3rd Virginia Regiment, Continental Line, with Hugh appointed by Congress as Colonel and, within a year, General, under his friend and old comrade, George Washington. The old (age 35) Scottish Jacobite had come full circle and was again in the field against the British government.

General George Washington (1732-1799) under whom Mercer served

Ferry Farm in Fredericksburg, Virginia—childhood home of George Washington, who sold it to Hugh Mercer in 1772

General Mercer supervised the building of Fort Washington and Fort Lee, both lost to the British in 1776. Some historians believe that the secret attack on Trenton on December 26, 1776 was originally Mercer’s idea, which Washington accepted and implemented. In any event, Mercer successfully led one of the columns in the attack, at the absolute nadir of American prospects, striking a physical and psychological blow that saved the Cause.

Battle of Trenton, December 26, 1776

Washington placed Mercer’s Brigade at the point in his maneuver to capture Princeton on January 3, ten days after Trenton. Bypassing the main British forces under Lord Cornwallis, Mercer took 350 men to seize a strategic bridge and cut off the post road—the British regiments’ main avenue of retreat. Spotting the Scotsman making the maneuver in the early morning fog, the British General deployed his men along a fence line and opened fire. General Mercer led his troops in a direct attack, driving the ad hoc group of the 17th Foot Regiment from their position. Mercer fell wounded and in the ensuing melee and retreat of his troops, General Mercer was bayonetted seven times, the British thinking they had killed Washington. Mercer lingered for nine days under the ministrations of fellow-doctor Benjamin Rush, before dying on January 12. George Washington had lost what biographer Douglas Southall Freeman said “was the peer, and perhaps the superior, of [Nathaniel] Greene”, considered second only to Washington himself.

General Mercer is wounded at the Battle of Princeton, January 3, 1777. Mercer would survive another nine days, but eventually die on January 12.

Mercer left a widow and five children. His direct descendants include two Confederate generals as well as General George Patton of World War II fame. Seven counties are named after him, as well as five towns and at least three schools. Three wars on two continents, untold hundreds of medical patients, a patriotic and valorous progeny, and the thanks of a nation are among a legacy that ought not to be forgotten.

General George S. Patton, Jr. (1885-1945), direct descendant of Hugh Mercer

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