Disharmony on the Hudson

Cannon Fire at Fort Lee“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.” – The American Crisis by Thomas Paine 1776

During those disheartening days of the colonial’s cause for independence, Thomas Paine would begin to pen his inspirational patriotic plea for staying the course in the midst of a full and hasty retreat from an enemy army that was determined to put an end to this fledgling insurrection. On November 20, 1776, in the wake of having taken control of both Long island and New York City, superior British forces, under the command of General Charles Cornwallis, began their advance on the newly established American fortification on the heights overlooking  the New Jersey side of the Hudson River. Realizing the need to preserve what was left of his beleaguered army, George Washington issued orders to abandon Fort Lee. The inevitable capture of this recently renamed redoubt (in honor of General Charles Lee, the army’s third-in-command who was credited with the successful defense of Charleston, South Carolina a few months earlier) would unfortunately yield an abundant amount of ammunition, artillery and stores to the English.

As for the fort’s namesake, Washington’s somewhat suspect and scheming subordinate, who had often complained to Congress about his commander’s capacity to lead,  would fall victim to his own lust for libations and the ladies. On the morning  of December 15, 1776, Charles Lee would pay dearly for the previous evening’s pleasures at the Widow White’s Tavern in Basking Ridge, New Jersey. He would awake to the sound of the approaching horsemen of the 16th Queen’s Light Dragoons with his former comrade, and now sworn adversary, Benastre Tarleton in the lead. This once celebrated soldier, who preferred to diddle while the rest of the Continental Army was attempting to avoid annihilation, would be led back to New York in his night-clothes. For the next seventeen months, General Lee would spend a fairly comfortable detainment in the care of his former employer.  

In May of 1778, Lee was released as part of a prisoner exchange. He returned to active service, but after questionable field decisions at the Battle of Monmouth, and continued conflicts with command; he was suspended from the army at the end of that same year, and permanently dismissed in 1780. Charles Lee died in a tavern in Philadelphia on October 2, 1782–and so ends this tale of eighteenth century disloyalty and treachery in the Garden State.

For better or for worse, the overall nature of man, and the behavior of those charged with the care of the republic has not changed all that much since we decided to make our  break from the British brand of tyranny. However, there may have been at least some lessening in the lengths at which one is willing to go in order to punish their rivals. Instead of stalling aid to those trying to allude their captors while taking flight across the well-trodden pathways of New Jersey–someone is content to simply lengthen the commute home by closing down a few lanes on the George Washington Bridge. Let us just hope that we are sparred the spectacle of that particular scoundrel being spirited away in nothing more than his night-clothes. 

Thomas Paine Portrait“Reputation is what men and women think of us; character is what God and angels know of us.” – Thomas Paine

Click here for some further insights from the Garden State.

Click here to enjoy our favorite tribute song to Thomas Paine from singer-songwriter Dick Gaughan.

Posted by Chris Poh

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A Patriotic stop along the coast of Maine

Last month I wrote about a great tavern in Rockland, Maine called the Waterworks.  If you should happen to get there, especially during the month of July, and you are feeling a bit patriotic, there is an absolutely terrific place to stop not far from town.  Just outside Rockland, in the town of Thomaston, is the home of one of America’s great founders and warrior-patriots, Henry Knox.

Knox is one of the earliest and best examples of what we now call the “American Dream”.  He was born into poverty, but soon his hard work and intellect paid off.  At the age of 21 he opened his own bookstore and took a keen interest in artillery strategy.  When the American Revolution broke out, Knox joined the patriot cause and his knowledge and ability soon caught the eye of General George Washington.  With no formal training whatsoever, just self-taught know-how, Knox was appointed the Chief of Artillery for the Continental Army.

Montpelier, the Henry Knox Museum

Henry Knox served as a trusted aide to Washington for nearly the entire war.  He was with the Commander-in-Chief as they pulled off the storied victories at Trenton and Princeton, suffered the cold of winter in Valley Forge and Morristown, and fought gallantly at the battles of Monmouth, Brandywine, and Germantown.  When the Continental and French armies pinned Cornwallis at Yorktown, it was Henry Knox who placed and commanded the guns.

After the war Knox distinguished himself again when he served as the nation’s first Secretary of War.  He held that post for ten years and then decided to retire.  This incredibly accomplished man, who began life with little, moved his family to a gorgeous mansion in Maine called “Montpelier”, where he lived the rest of his life.

You can tour this incredible home and learn more about this inspirational founding father.  It is a terrific museum and a fun learning experience.  Check out the museum’s website for more details.

Blue Tag

Posted by: David McBride

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