Friday, February 15, 2013

Forgotten Heroes of History

DAR Regent Marlene Armato, left, with award winners Matthew Souder and Aidan DePietropaolo of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, and Ma. Sofia Sosa of Pottstown Middle School.

Blogger's Note: Three local students were recently chosen out of 43 entries in the Mahanatawny Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution's annual essay contest. A story on the students is in today's The Mercury and you can read it by clicking here. However there is no room in the paper to reproduce their full essays. Luckily, there IS room in the Digital Notebook for such things. (Particularly when the author is such a history nut...) Congrats to all three students. The essays are wonderful.

Hercules Mulligan 

By Ma. Sofia Sosa -- Pottstown Middle School

Hercules Mulligan was born in County Antrim, Ireland, the year of 1740. Having had a poor life in Ireland, he and his family moved, in 1756, to the “New World” in search of a better life.

The grave of Hercules Mulligan in NYC.
The family prospered and even opened their own accounting business in New York City. After attending and graduating from King’s College, Hercules worked in the accounting business as a clerk and eventually went on to open his own tailoring and haberdashery business in Lower Manhattan. His customers were important British figures including wealthy British businessmen and high ranking British military officers. This sheer coincidence would render him a valuable piece in the war for liberty and freedom.

One of the first significant things Hercules had done involved one of our nation’s founding fathers: Alexander Hamilton. Back when Hamilton was just a young man, he moved to the American colonies to complete his education. He brought with him a letter of recommendation to Hugh Mulligan, who then introduced Hamilton to his younger brother, Hercules Mulligan. Hamilton lived with Hercules and his family while he attended King’s College. At this time, Hamilton sided with the British, yet as time went on, Hamilton came to support the idea of freedom and liberty, of independence, influenced by Hercules’s passion for America.

Later in his life, Hamilton recommended Mulligan as a “confidential corresponded” in New York City to General George Washington. Working as a spy, Hercules Mulligan became a key asset to Washington, and even gathered information that saved our future first president’s life.

Hercules Mulligan was very conveniently placed. He worked in a shop in New York when it was still under British control, as a tailor for important British figures. Even more, his British customers felt safe around him because he was married to Elizabeth Sanders, niece of Admiral Sanders of the British navy. They did not know that Hercules and his wife were actually secret patriots. One of the valuable pieces of information he collected came about when a British officer came late in the night for a watch coat. When Mulligan asked why this happened so late at night, the officer bragged of soon having “the rebel general in our hands.”

The British had somehow caught wind of the location of a conference between Washington and other American generals. After receiving this valuable piece of information, Washington and the other generals were successfully able to avoid capture.
New York was a strategic port to hold for the British

Another time was when Hugh found out about a plan by the British, when a rush order of supplies came to his import/export firm in February, 1781. The plan was to intercept Washington, on his way to consult with the French General Rochambeau. He told Hercules, who then passed it on to Washington. Again, this information was very helpful to Washington.

Long before the revolution actually started, Hercules Mulligan had already been a patriot. In 1765, Mulligan joined the militia group, the Sons of Liberty, and actively participated in its activities. During the summer in the year 1775, Mulligan and the Sons of Liberty stole a stash of muskets from the city. Also, Mulligan had been one of the patriots that brought down the statue of King George III, chopped the statue to pieces, melted the lead, and turned it into bullets to be fired at the British.

Something interesting about Hercules Mulligan was that he had the gift of “blarney,” meaning he could influence or persuade someone to do something using charm and flattery. This is often what he used to obtain bits of information from his British customers, making full use of his access to British personnel, as their tailor. Sometimes he used whiskey to help him too.

Another interesting fact is that the British never found out that General Washington’s Aide-de-camp, Alexander Hamilton, was closely acquainted with Mulligan and even recruited him as a spy.

After the war, any Loyalist business or home was in danger of being destroyed. Though Hercules was a patriot and strongly supported the American cause, he was also a spy and had to keep his patriotism a secret, so only a handful of individuals knew of Mulligan’s deeds. Because of this, Washington had breakfast with him, publicly thanked him for his service, and purchased clothing from his shop, tremendously helping his business.

His business prospered and at the age of 80, Hercules finally retired. Hercules and his wife had three sons and five daughters. He died in March during the year of 1825.

What would happen if Hercules Mulligan didn’t do these things? George Washington possibly wouldn’t have been on our dollar bills. America might have still been in the hands of the British. Who knows?

One thing, though, is certain. Had it not been for him, America would certainly not be the great nation it is today. Like our passionate yet unsung patriot, Hercules Mulligan, what other forgotten heroes are out there? What other unknown things had they done that completely changed the course of history? What would America be like if their feats had not been accomplished?

These men and women deserve to be honored, for had it not been for these forgotten patriots, the dream of independence might not have become reality.

James Armistead – The Double Agent 

By Aidan DePietropaolo -- Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

My essay is on James Armistead Lafayette. He was an African American slave who volunteered to join the American Army in its fight for Independence during the Revolutionary War. I choose to write about James Armistead Lafayette because I believe he was a man of great character. In the recent presidential debates both candidates talked about their opponent’s character. Character is defined as an individual with moral or ethical qualities of honesty and bravery. James Armistead Lafayette chose to join the army because he believed in fighting for America’s freedom. Since he was a slave, he knew how it felt not to be free. Armistead was a man who stood up for what he believed in, and he was willing to fight in the war for his beliefs. I believe that anyone that reads my report will come to the same conclusion. And that conclusion is that James Armistead Lafayette was a man of great character and a true unsung hero of the American Revolutionary war.

James Armistead was born into slavery in Virginia. Historians are unsure of his actual birth date, but it is believed Armistead was born anytime between 1748 and 1760. His family was owned by a man named William Armistead. When the war broke out, James received permission from his owner to join the army in 1781 serving under General Marquis de Lafayette. Lafayette was the commander of the French army who were fighting alongside the American Army. Lafayette appointed Armistead the position of a spy rather than a soldier. While working for Lafayette, Armistead infiltrated the British Army camp of General Charles Cornwallis. He did this by pretending to be a runaway slave hired by the British Army to spy on the American Army. Armistead gained the trust of turnout soldier General Benedict Arnold and General Cornwallis. Armistead was so convincing in his role as double agent that the British allowed him to guide British troops though local roads. Armistead was able to travel between camps, spy on British officers who spoke openly in front of him about their war plans. Armistead wrote down what he heard about the British plans, and handed them over to other American spies along local roads. He would then return to General Cornwallis’s headquarters as a double agent to obtain more information.

In the summer of 1781, the American General George Washington sent word to General Lafayette to keep a close watch on Cornwallis’s activities. Lafayette sent several spies to Cornwallis’s headquarters, but it was Armistead’s report dated July 31, 1781 that helped the  American’s trap the British troops at Hampton.

All through the summer of 1781 Armistead sent reports to the Americans. Because of the information provided by Armistead, Generals Lafayette and Washington were able to stop the British from sending 10,000 troops as reinforcements to Yorktown, Virginia. The American and French Army were successful in blockading the British and were able to defeat the British troops at the battle of Yorktown. This victory was a turning point in the American Revolutionary War. After their defeat at Yorktown, the British surrendered in October 19, 1781.

After the war ended, Armistead had to return to William Armistead to continue his life as an African American slave. He was not eligible for emancipation under the Act of 1783 because his position in the war was a slave-spy and not a slave-soldier. Only slave-soldiers were granted emancipation. Armistead petitioned the Virginia Legislature for his emancipation. With the help of General Marquis de Lafayette, Armistead was granted emancipation in 1787. James Armistead was so thankful to Lafayette for his help that Armistead adopted Lafayette’s surname. After gaining his freedom, Armistead bought 40 acres of land and began farming not far from where he was born. He married and raised a large family. He continued to work as a farmer until his death on August 9, 1830. For his service during the war, Armistead received a $40 annual pension from the Virginia Legislature.

Contributions of the Spanish Empire

By Matthew Souder -- Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

Throughout the American Revolutionary War, many Spanish and Hispanic men and women made great contributions to the colonial cause. Spain, its colonies, and many other Hispanics helped the American colonies gain the independence that so characterizes the country they became. These men and women sacrificed money, time, and even their lives for the patriot cause.

Spain, an extremely strong force at the time, went above and beyond what was asked of them in aid of the patriots. Spain had much land, and profited greatly from it. This made Spain a powerful ally of the patriots. Spain sided with the patriots after the colonies pleaded for Spain's help. Spain had lost great deals of land to the British in the French and Indian war, and the colonies promised to help get it back, in return for help in their struggle for freedom.

Spain agreed to this deal, but their help was not limited to what they were asked for. Spain officially declared war on Britain June 2, 1779. They helped the struggling patriots in many ways.

One way was by loaning and giving money to the American colonies.; On several occasions, Spain made large financial contributions to the patriot effort. Spain donated 2 million livres in hard currently and war materiel. They also loaned 74 thousand dollars to patriots Oliver Pollock and Thomas Willing, and 175 thousand dollars to John Jay, United States emissary to Spain. King Carlos III even asked Spanish and Indian males in the Americas to donate $2 and $1 in goods for the patriot war effort.

Spain also helped by starting a new military front against the British. They started this front in 1779 when Spain declared war. This second front was very successful and helped the Americans a great deal in their war for independence.

Yet another way Spain contributed to the patriot cause was by opening a world trading company with the colonies. This world trading company was opened to bring supplies and military leaders to the patriots. It was funded b the Bourbon Kinds of Spain and France. It was based in Paris but operated out of St. Eustatius in the lesser Antilles and sent supplies and leaders by ship from there to all over North America.
Bernardo de Galvez

The colonies also received help from many Hispanics in the American Revolution. Several Hispanic individuals made great contributions to the American fight for independence. One of these people was Bernardo de Galvez. He was born in the mountain village of Malaga, Spain, and was a career soldier when, in 1777, he was appointed Govenror of Louisiana, then a territory of Spain.

De Galvez helped the patriots by closing the Mississippi River to the British but let the Americans use the river. He also let the patriot troops use the port of New Orleans. He began helping the patriots before Spain officially declared war on Britain. he helped not only because trouble for Britain would help Spain, but also out of personal conviction. Once Spain officially declared war on Great Britain, Bernardo de Galvez led a crew of Cubans, blacks and Spaniards. This crew won several battles against the British.

Another Hispanic who was influential in the American Revolution was Jorge Farragut. he was born on the island of Minorca. Farragut joined the South Carolina Navy at the start of the American Revolution. He distinguished himself in the battles of Cowpens and Wilmington.

Another Hispanic hero was Francisco de Miranda, born in Venezuela. He participated in Bernardo de Galvez's expeditions. De Miranda also helped get money for the battle of Yorktown. he was also assigned as a Spanish army attache' to George Washington's staff.

Yet another Hispanic person who made great contributions was Juan de Miralles, Spanish born. He was King Carlos III's Royal Commissioner to the Continental Congress. His ship transported supplies to the revolutionaries. He died at George Washington's camp, and because of all Juan had done for the patriot war effort, George Washington himself led the mourners at his funeral.

Hispanic groups from all over the Americas also made huge sacrifices so that the colonies could be free of British rule. One group was the Canary Islanders. Bernardo de Galvez made a plea for soldiers to authorities in Spain, who did a recruiting effort on the Canary Islands. The islanders responded. Over 700 male soldiers joined the patriot cause, including their wives and children, over 2,300 islanders sacrificed for American independence.

Another group of Hispanics who played an influential role in the Revolutionary War were the people of Cuba. Cuba helped in many ways. They gave access to port facilities to patriots; they also offered supplies, the Cuban militia, and helped finance the battle of Pensacola. In 1781 when in Cuba collected money and jewelry to French and American forces could continue their siege of Yorktown. Cuba made great sacrifices for American freedom.

Other groups of Hispanics who helped the patriot cause were the people of the Yucatan Peninsula and the people of Santo Domingo, which is now the Dominican Republic. Soldiers and volunteers from the Yucatan joined Bernardo de Galvez. The people of Santo Domingo gave troops, money and helped protect themselves and their land during the battles of Yorktown and the Chesapeake Bay. These Hispanic groups made huge sacrifices and contributions so that the colonies could be free and independent.

Spain, its colonies and Hispanics all over North America sacrificed so that we can enjoy the many freedoms we enjoy today. Many individuals sacrificed for this cause and should always be remembered.

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