Posts Tagged ‘Revolutionary War’

Captain Nathan Hale Statue

On this lunchtime bike ride I went to see a statue of Revolutionary War hero Nathan Hale, which is located outside of the Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building, located at 950 Pennsylvania Avenue (MAP) in the city’s  Downtown neighborhood.  I went for two reasons.  First, to see the statue itself.  But the other reason I went to see the statue was to try to determine why it was located where it is.  As far as I know, Hale was not a lawyer or connected in any way to the Justice Department or the Federal government.  And he didn’t even have any known connections to D.C.  So I was curious why the statue was placed where it is.

Nathan Hale was born on June 6, 1755 in Coventry, Connecticut.  In 1768, at the age of 14, he attended Yale College along with his older brother Enoch.  Hale graduated with first-class honors in 1773 at age 18 and became a teacher in Connecticut, first in East Haddam and later in New London.

When the Revolutionary War began in 1775, Hale joined a Connecticut militia unit.  His unit participated in the Siege of Boston, but Hale remained behind.  It has been speculated by some that he was unsure as to whether he wanted to fight.  On July 4, 1775, Hale received a letter from his classmate and friend Benjamin Tallmadge, and the letter was so inspiring that, several days later, Hale accepted a commission as first lieutenant in the 7th Connecticut Regiment.

In September of the following year, General George Washington was desperate to determine the location of the imminent British invasion of Manhattan Island. To that end, he needed a spy for the Continental Army behind enemy lines.  Hale was the only volunteer.

During his mission, New York City fell to British forces, and Hale was captured.  Hale was convicted of being a spy, and according to the standards of the time, was sentenced to be hanged the next day as an illegal combatant.  While waiting for the sentence to be carried out, Hale requested a Bible, but his request was denied.  Sometime later, he requested a clergyman.  Again, his request was denied.  The sentence was carried out the next morning, and Hale was hanged.  He was 21 years old.

Hale is best remembered for a speech that he gave just prior to being executed.  It is almost certain that his last speech contained more than one sentence, but it is for the following sentence that he is best remembered.  His last words before facing the gallows were famously reported to be, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”  Subsequent to his execution, Hale’s body has never been found.

The original statue honoring Hale was created by American sculptor Bela Pratt in 1912, and stands in front of Connecticut Hall where Hale resided while at Yale.  The statue located at the south façade of the Justice Department building near the corner of 10th Street and Constitution Avenue is a copy of this sculpture.  The D.C. statue is also part of the “American Revolution Statuary”, a group of fourteen statues in D.C. that are scattered across the city, mainly in squares and traffic circles.  They are listed as a group on the National Register of Historic Places.

Unfortunately, despite visiting the statue and researching it later, I still have no idea why it is located where it is.  So if you know why, or have a theory, please feel free to share it in the comments section below.

         
[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]

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Bernardo de Gálvez Statue

On today’s lunchtime bike ride I rode to Gálvez Park, a small park located at Virginia Avenue and 22nd Street (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Foggy Bottom neighborhood, to see a statue entitled Bernardo de Gálvez.  The statue is part of a series, entitled “Statues of the Liberators,” honoring liberators and other national figures of western-hemisphere countries.  The statues can be found along Virginia Avenue between 18th and 25th Streets, near the Headquarters of the Organization of American States in northwest D.C.’s Foggy Bottom neighborhood. The statues were erected by various Latin American countries, and are maintained by the National Park Service.

Bernardo de Gálvez y Madrid, Viscount of Galveston and Count of Gálvez, was the Spanish Governor of Louisiana from 1777-1785, prior to the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. During his time as governor he staged a three-year military campaign that tied up significant numbers of British troops, allowing the . to capture British-controlled territories such as Baton Rouge, Pensacola, and Natchez. Gálvez also aided the American settlers with supplies and soldiers. Later he was among those who drafted the Treaty of Paris of 1783, negotiated between the United States and Great Britain, ended the Revolutionary War. In appreciation, America’s new president, George Washington, took Gálvez with him in the parade on July 4th. This is the reason that many U.S. cities and landmarks are named for him. Galveston, Texas, Galveston Bay, and St. Bernard Parish Louisiana are examples of these.

And on December 16, 2014, the United States Congress conferred honorary citizenship on Gálvez, citing him as a “hero of the Revolutionary War who risked his life for the freedom of the United States people and provided supplies, intelligence, and strong military support to the war effort.”

The statue, depicting Gálvez atop his horse, was sculpted by Juan de Ávalos of Spain, and sits atop a marble base that is inscribed, “Bernardo De Gálvez, the great Spanish soldier, carried out a courageous campaign in Lands bordering the lower Mississippi. This masterpiece of military strategy lightened the pressure of the English in the war against American settlers who were fighting for their independence. May this statue of Bernardo de Gálvez serve as a reminder that Spain offered the blood of her soldiers for the cause of American Independence.” It was installed in its current location on this day in 1976.

The bronze equestrian statue is idiosyncratic in that it both celebrates a Spanish loyalist and was paid for and donated by King Juan Carlos of Spain to the American people in celebration of the United States Bicentennial.  It is Gálvez’s role as a helper of the rebellious colonies during the Revolutionary War which the statue celebrates.

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[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]

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Memorial to the 56 Signers of the Declaration of Independence

Memorials to historic figures of national significance are commonplace in D.C., but the memorial I visited on this lunchtime bike ride is dedicated to one of the most select group of important people in our nation’s history. It is known as the Memorial to the 56 Signers of the Declaration of Independence, it is located on the island in the lake located in Constitution Gardens, which occupies 50 prime acres of landscaped grounds approximately halfway between The Washington Monument and The Lincoln Memorial. Located to the west of 17th Street and south of Constitution Avenue in northwest D.C. (MAP), the gardens are bordered on the west by The Vietnam Veterans Memorial and on the south by The Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. But despite its central location on the National Mall, it is a quiet haven in the heart of the bustling capital city.

The memorial was a gift from the American Revolution Bicentennial Administration, and consists of 56 granite blocks which are inscribed with the signatures of the 56 delegates to the Second Continental Congress who signed the Declaration of Independence. Each stone also contains the corresponding signer’s occupation and his home town. The signatures look just like the original pen and ink signatures which are on the bottom of the Declaration of Independence. The granite blocks are then arranged in 13 groups, representing the 13 original states, and are grouped based on the home of the signer. It was designed by Landscape Architect Joseph E. Brown, approved by Congress in 1978, and construction was completed in 1984. It was then dedicated on July 2, 1984, exactly 208 years after the Continental Congress voted to approve the Declaration of Independence.

Although Thomas Jefferson is often considered to be the “author” of the Declaration of Independence, he wasn’t the only person who contributed to its content. Jefferson was a member of a five-person committee appointed by the Continental Congress to write a Declaration of Independence. In addition to Jefferson, the Declaration Committee included Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Robert Livingston, and Roger Sherman.  However, one of the members of the committee, never signed it.  Livingston believed that it was too soon to declare independence and, therefore, refused to sign it.  So although he is one of its authors, Livingston was not included in this memorial.

After Jefferson completed the first draft of the Declaration of Independence the other members of the Declaration committee and the Continental Congress made 86 changes to Jefferson’s draft, including shortening the overall length by more than a quarter. Jefferson was quite unhappy about some of the edits made to the original draft.  He had originally included language condemning the British promotion of the slave trade, even though Jefferson himself was a slave owner. This criticism of the slave trade was one of the portions removed from the final version, despite Jefferson’s objections.

Depending on perspective and how it was perceived at the time, the Declaration of Independence was considered to either form the foundation of a new, independent country, or as a document of treason against the King of England. And had events turned out differently, the only stones commemorating these “Founding Fathers” would have been their gravestones. But despite their success in launching the United States of America, many of these men paid a very steep price for signing the document and their involvement in the birth of this new nation.

Of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence, a number saw their homes and property occupied, ransacked, looted, and vandalized by the British. Some were captured by the British during the course of the Revolutionary War, and subjected to the ill treatment typically afforded to prisoners of war during their captivity. Others saw their sons captured or killed while serving in the Revolutionary Army. Some even saw their wives captured and jailed by the British. But despite what they would go on to sacrifice, each man, by signing the document, pledged: “For the support of this declaration, with firm reliance on the protection of the divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”  It was this commitment that is honored in this memorial.

However, one of the signers, a lawyer from New Jersey named Richard Stockton, became the only signer of the Declaration of Independence to recant his support of the revolution. On November 30, 1776, he was captured by the British and thrown in jail. After months of harsh treatment and meager rations, Stockton repudiated his signature on the Declaration of Independence and swore his allegiance to King George III. A broken man when he regained his freedom, he took a new oath of loyalty to the state of New Jersey in December 1777, and again supported the Revolution until victory was achieved in September of 1783.  Despite once repudiating his signature and recanting his support for the Revolution, Stockton is nonetheless included on the memorial.

So this Memorial to the 56 Signers of the Declaration of Independence does not include one of the authors of the Declaration, but does include a signer who later repudiated his signature.  I guess this just highlights how complex our “Founding Fathers” actually were.

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[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]

In addition to the famously prominent signature of John Hancock from Massachusetts, the President of the Continental Congress, the remaining signatories of the Declaration of Independence consisted of: Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple and Matthew Thornton (who was the last man to sign the document, on November 4, 1776), all from the state of New Hampshire; Samuel Adams, John Adams (who later became the second President), Robert Treat Paine and Elbridge Gerry from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; Stephen Hopkins and William Ellery from the state of Rhode Island; Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams and Oliver Wolcott from the state of Connecticut; William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis and Lewis Morris from the state of New York; Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart and Abraham Clark from the state of New Jersey; Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin (who, at the age of 70, was the oldest to sign the Declaration), John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson and George Ross, all from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; George Read, Caesar Rodney and Thomas McKean from the state of Delaware; Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, from the state of Maryland; George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson (who later became the third President), Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee and Carter Braxton from the Commonwealth of Virginia; William Hooper, Joseph Hewes and John Penn from the state of North Carolina; Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr. (who at 26 years old was the youngest person to sign), and Arthur Middleton from the state of South Carolina, and; Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall and George Walton from the state of Georgia.

The John Paul Jones Memorial

The John Paul Jones Memorial

The John Paul Jones Memorial near the Potomac River was my destination on this bike ride. Located in West Potomac Park near the National Mall, the memorial is situated at the terminus of 17th Street near Independence Avenue (MAP) on the northern bank of the Tidal Basin in southwest D.C.

The memorial consists of a 10-foot bronze statue by American sculptor Charles Henry Niehaus, mounted on a 15-foot marble pylon. On the sides of the monument are ducts, out of which water flows into a small pools on either side. And the back of the pylon includes a relief of Jones raising the U.S. flag on his ship, the Bonhomme Richard, an event which is believed to be the first time the flag was flown on an American warship. The memorial was dedicated on May 16, 1914, and is the oldest monument in Potomac Park. It is part of a group of fourteen statues in D.C. known collectively as the “American Revolution Statuary.” These statues are scattered across the city, mainly in squares and traffic circles, and are listed as a group on the National Register of Historic Places.

John Paul Jones was the United States’ first well-known naval hero of the Revolutionary War. Despite having made enemies among America’s political elites and never rising about the rank of Captain in the Continental Navy, his actions in British waters during the Revolution earned him an international reputation which persists to this day. Based on this, he is sometimes referred to as the “Father of the United States Navy”, an appellation he shares with Commodore John Barry. He is also widely remembered as the Captain of the USS Bonhomme Richard, who, in response to a taunt about surrender from the enemy captain of the HMS Serapis during Revolutionary War’s Battle of Flamborough Head, exclaimed, “I have not yet begun to fight!”

But despite his eventual success and fame, John Paul Jones came close on several occasions to losing out on his place in history. He had an inauspicious start in life, and there were several events early in his career that had the potential to not only end his career, but could have landed him in prison for the rest of his life.

John Paul (he added “Jones” later) was born to John Paul, Sr. and Jean McDuff on July 6, 1747 in Scotland. He started his maritime career as an apprentice at the age of 13, with many of his destinations being near Fredericksburg, in the Province of Virginia, where his older brother William Paul had settled. He worked his way up the ranks on a number of different sailing ships until, having become disgusted with the cruelty in the slave trade, he abandoned his prestigious position as first mate on a profitable ship named “Two Friends” while docked in Jamaica, and found his own passage back to Scotland.

After eventually obtaining another position on a different ship, John Paul’s maritime career unexpectedly took off when both the captain and a ranking mate suddenly died of yellow fever. He was able to navigate the ship back to a safe port, for which the vessel’s grateful Scottish owners rewarded him by making him the ship’s captain.

However, as quickly as his reputation had been earned, it was nearly destroyed during a subsequent voyage. John Paul viciously flogged one of his sailors, which resulted in accusations that his discipline was “unnecessarily cruel.”  When the disciplined sailor died a few weeks later, he was arrested and imprisoned for his involvement in the man’s death. After being released on bail, he fled Scotland.

Leaving Scotland behind, John Paul commanded a London-registered vessel named The Betsy, which he sailed to Tobago in the southern Caribbean and made a fortune engaging in commercial speculation. This ended after approximately 18 months, however, when he killed a member of his crew named Blackton with a sword in a dispute over wages. He would later claim that it was in self-defense but, nonetheless, fled Tobago to avoid the hangman’s noose.  Leaving his fortune behind, he fled to his brother’s home back in Fredericksburg.

It was at this time that John Paul began using the alias John Jones. At the suggestion of his brother, he began using the name John Paul Jones. Shortly after settling in North America, he went to Philadelphia and volunteered his services to the newly founded Continental Navy at the beginning of the Revolutionary War. And the rest, as they say, is history.