Ethan Allen’s Ill-Fated March on Canada

A new look at a famous Revolutionary figure questions whether history’s long-standing judgment is accurate

AT 9 O’CLOCK ON THE morning of September 25, 1775, a French Canadian habitant banged on the main gate of Montreal. The Americans were coming, he blurted breathlessly to a British officer. As drums began to rattle out the alarm and a panicky crowd filled the Place d’Armes, the farmer told Sir Guy Carleton, governor general of Canada, that an American army had crossed the St. Lawrence during the night and was marching south down the island. The invaders numbered in the hundreds.Read more »

Drill Master At Valley Forge

How Baron von Steuben used a tough winter to make a solid army out of a collection of untrained volunteers

On the first day of December, 1777, a group of four foreign gentlemen landed from the French ship Le Flamand at Portsmouth, New Hampshire. They had had a rough voyage, 66 days at sea diversified by a mutiny of the crew and three occasions when the vessel was on fire. But they were not traveling in search of comfort and safety: they had come to offer their services to the army of the infant United States of America. Read more »

Big Guns For Washington

How tough Henry Knox hauled a train of cannon over wintry trails to help drive the British away from Boston

Knox was one of those providential characters which spring up in emergencies, as if they were formed by and for the occasion.

—Washington Irving, Life of George Washington .

 
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The Magnificent Fraud

How a lying poseur gave America its army

There is no evidence of any such events taking place at Valley Forge. The baron’s letter was one more piece of theater in what may well be the greatest public deception ever perpetrated in a good cause.

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After Valley Forge

Baron von Steuben remained an important officer in the Continental Army until the end of the war. He grew weary of his role as drillmaster and yearned for a fighting command. Washington found him more useful as a spokesman for the army’s needs before Congress. In 1780, when Washington’s great lieutenant Nathanael Greene took command of the shattered Southern Department, Washington sent Steuben with him to help reorganize the battered Southern army.Read more »

How The Baron Got His Day

Baron von Steuben lay in his northern New York grave more or less forgotten by everyone but scholars of the American Revolution until 1919. Then German-Americans, deeply disturbed by the propaganda generated by World War I, set about reviving him as a symbol of their patriotism. Chapters of the Steuben Society were founded in cities and towns with large German-American populations. During the 1930s they were vociferously anti-Nazi.Read more »

Half A Million Purple Hearts

Why a 200-year-old decoration offers evidence in the controversy surrounding the Hiroshima bombing.

Early last year, just as NATO was stepping up its bombing campaign in Kosovo, the news broke that the United States was manufacturing 9,000 new Purple Hearts, the decoration that goes to American troops wounded in battle and the families of those killed in action. To the media, this seemed a clear indication that despite its pledge not to send in ground forces, the United States was planning to do just that.

 
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1783 Two Hundred Years Ago

The war was over and it was settled (after much negotiation) that the British rear guard would leave New York on December 4. George Washington’s work was done. There remained two emotionally charged tasks for him to perform: he would say farewell to his officers and resign his commission to the Congress of the United States. Read more »

The Newburgh Conspiracy

Encamped above the Hudson for the last, hard winter of the Revolution, the officers of the Continental Army began to talk mutiny. It would be up to their harried commander to defend the most precious principle of the infant nation—the supremacy of civilian rule .

Sunday, October 27, 1782. Mist and intermittent sheets of cold rain shrouded the granite spine of Butter Hill as it stretched west from the Hudson River above West Point toward the distant Shawangunk mountain range. Farmers, working neat, stonewalled fields, watched the storm without noticing anything unusual along the mountain’s crest. At dusk, however, the rain eased and the mist lifted to reveal something new and strange. High on the mountain hundreds of small lights flickered like fireflies.Read more »

Men Of The Revolution: 13. John Sullivan

He was Irish, but with neither the proverbial charm nor the luck. Generals are not much known for the former quality, but the latter, as Napoleon suggested, is one no successful commander can be without. And John Sullivan was an officer whom luck simply passed by. Read more »