Sunday, September 15, 2019

Genealogy Story – Charles Somers Miller

Most people pass through life and leave little written record of what they have done. Only if they are “famous” and someone has written a book about them do we know many of the details. But occasionally this is not the case.

Such was the situation with Charles Somers Miller (known as “Uncle Charley” by many). He was born on September 27, 1858 and died at the age of 94 on March 14, 1943 and is my great-great-uncle. But the reason that we know so much about what he did is that he kept a journal (*1). The first entry is dated Saturday, 1/1/1876 when he was only 17 and the last entry was on Saturday, March 13, 1943 – written the evening before his death. Sometimes there are gaps of several weeks and the entries are only a few words, but other times there is a several paragraphs for one day. The journals for some of the early years are missing. With over six decades of material, I could probably write a full-length novel about his life, but in the limited space of this blog, I’ll only touch on a few of the highlights.


In the days before the availability of automobiles, most people stayed within a few miles of home. But Charley got around more than most. Sometimes it was a short ride to another town and one of his first recorded trips was to Litchfield, CT, a distance of about 20 miles. But even this short trip meant leaving on one day (generally Saturday), and not returning until the following day. Since 1876 was the first centennial of the US, the first centennial exposition was held in Philadelphia from May through November (*2). That was of great interest to Charley. He noted in his journal that on the first day that there were 130,000 people in attendance. In September he went himself, leaving on Monday, September 18, and returning that weekend on Saturday, September 23. What a great experience for someone just approaching his 18th birthday!

In the fall of 1890, Charley took several weeks for a “pleasure” trip that took him north through Massachusetts, into Vermont and New Hampshire, and back home. He left on Saturday, September 20, going nearly 50 miles the first day, but generally traveling 30-40 miles each day. He did not get back home until Wednesday, October 18. Quite a trip for being on horseback!


Charley was very family oriented and he often recorded things about them. In 1877 both of his grandmothers passed away – his grandmother Miller in April and his grandmother Somers in October. He took the opportunity to document his siblings and their ages – Frank (21), himself (almost 19), Mary (15), Carrie (14), Fred (13), and Ivan (3). In 1890 when his uncle Levinus Warner passed away he recorded the names of the pallbearers as Austin B. Pierpont, Chas [Charles] J. Pierpont, Elmer E. Pierpont, Wilson L. Pierpont, Chas Branuis (?) and himself. (Levinus was the brother of Mary Ann [Warner] Pierpont. Austin, Charles, Elmer and Wilson were her children and Charley was her son-in-law).

Sometimes these entries are a mix of what you think would be very important together with the mundane. For example, the entry for February 13, 1891 reads, “An appointment at the dentist. My wife had a baby girl this morning at 6:30 o’clock had Barber for doctor and Miss Maddy (Ruth Brundage) for nurse. I got my emery grinder shaft from the Waterbury Machine Co. this morning. Gave Porter S. Woods some bills to collect.” The birth of a daughter was not allowed to interrupt his activities of the day.

My grandfather’s birth was recorded on March 4, 1898 in the following manner: “When my wife got home from the Grange, she was greatly excited because her brother Wilson L. Pierpont (who is Master of the Grange) and his wife Annie (who is Secretary of the Grange) were in their respective places when she go there, after a time recess was declared and she did not see Wilson or Annie again, but just before the Grange closed a note was received by the acting Secretary which stated that the Master and Secretary had a new ten pound son.” (My grandfather was given the middle name Granger because of the circumstances of his birth.) But it was in a more somber tone that he recorded Annie’s death just 13 days later, noting that “She was 39 years old, the same age of myself. She leaves an infant child and six children.” There were over 400 people at her funeral the following Sunday.

In 1898 on September 22 he recorded, “Today is Mary’s birthday, she is 38 years old. To me she seems as young as she did when I married her when she was 23 although we have now a family if six children.”

Fife and Drum Corps

Charley was very involved in the Mattatuck Fife and Drum Corps (*3, *4) for many, many years and is credited with keeping it going when it went through a period of low enrollment. He joined the band in 1877 (*5), but his first record of involvement in his journals was in 1878 when he purchased some fife and drum equipment. The following year he recorded several instances when he drummed at various fairs – Wolcottville (Torrington) Soldiers Monument Dedication (*6), Hartford, Harwinton, and Wolcott. In 1881, Charley was elected the leader of this group, a position he held for the next 50 years (*5). Without his leadership, the band would likely not have survived, as there were as few as 5 men still active in the years following the Civil War.

Significant Events

Charley didn’t document just the trivia of day-to-day living. He also noted other significant events that happened that impacted him. In 1888 the railroad line from Waterbury to Meriden, CT was completed. He noted that the stock holder’s special train made the trip in just 45 minutes. The following year he noted that the freight train was 25 cars long, “the longest train I ever saw on the road and the longest I think that ever passed over it drawn by one engine.”

In 1898, Charley recorded the blowing up of the Battleship Maine in the harbor in Havana, Cuba, as well as some of the discussions and actions of President McKinley in the following months. Later that year he recorded all the details of the surrender of the Spanish and the particulars of the treaty.

Honoring Rochambeau

I had written previously about General Rochambeau and his travel through CT on his way to meet Gen. George Washington and assist him in what turned out to be the ending battle of the Revolutionary War (*7). Charley was on the committee that organized a monument to be placed where two of Rochambeau’s men were buried when they fell ill on that trip across CT (*8), but interestingly he does not mention that fact at all in his journal. But that he was selected for the erection committee was not a surprise as he had been involved in placing flags on the graves in that cemetery as early as 1891. He had taken an interest in Rochambeau as evidenced by an entry in 1898: “This evening went to see the Rev. Dr. Davenport at Major Tucker’s to give him information about the French army which passed through here under Count Rachambeau[sp] in 1781. Dr. Davenport is to write a paper to be read before the Order of Patriots and Founders in Milford a week from next Saturday.”


Charley was unfailingly honest in his journals. One entry in 1891 reads, “Mr. C. S. Fairclough is 63 years old today, he is an ugly man.” He also recorded a lot of seemingly trivial information, such as an entry in 1898 which read, “lay down for a nap but could not sleep as one fly would fly into my ear then into my nose and pestered me other wise so that I was obliged to get up and fight him…”.  In another entry he was at the waterfront in New Haven and recorded, “There were many girls in bathing which I took much pleasure in watching.”


Recounting even a small portion of all the Charley wrote would take me several days just to read through all of his journals. I’m sure that there are many more interesting incidents that I have yet to discover. But even the short amount of time that I have spent gives me a wonderful insight into the thoughts and activities of this fascinating individual.

I have attached to this blog just two pictures which were sent to me by my cousin Bob Kraft (a great-grandson of Charley). One is a picture of him from 1942, just a year before his passing, in his uniform from the Mattatuck Drum Corp. Bob is standing next to his great-grandfather. The second is a bust of Charles Somers Miller that was presented in 1942. In (*5) it is recorded as follows:

“On October 16, 1941, the Mattatuck Drum Band played at the dedication of the Noah Webster Statue in West Hartford where the Band became fast friends of the sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski (Kor-chok Jewel-CUFF-ski) and his wife. The Band asked Mr. Ziolkowski to make a portrait bust of Charles S. Miller, who had been their leader for 50 years and a member of the Band for 65 years. On February 15, 1942, this portrait bust was unveiled.

“Mr. Miller said during the presentation of the bust, "This business from the beginning has been a series of surprises. But the greatest surprise of all is that at this age, I have so many friends. I have come down from a former generation. And I rejoice and I thank God that I have lived to see this day. But my feeble tongue can find no words that can express the joy, the gratitude, and appreciation that I feel within. I know not whether my future coming days are to be many or few. It will be as directed. But the memory of these faces all radiant with hope, with good wishes and beauty, will remain with me to the final end."

“On March 16, 1943, twenty-three members of the Band assembled in special meeting at the call of the President at the Alderson Funeral Home to pay their respects to the late Leader and member, Charles S. Miller, who died suddenly on March 14, 1943, at the age of 84 years and 6 months. His memory and his spirit live on in the Band even to this day.”


Sunday, August 25, 2019

Genealogy Story – The Vander Laan Family

Recently I was investigating the ancestors of someone at our church and ran across the surname of Vander Laan. Since that is also the name of the person who is on the video series that we are viewing in our Sunday School class, I wondered if there was a connection. In the process, I have discovered a very interesting genealogy story that I thought worthwhile to share.

Since I do not have a personal connection to anyone in this family, I do not know any of the family stories, therefore, all the below is based on the information I could glean from various census records and other documents.

Derk Vander Laan was born in Stedum, Loppersum, Groningen, Netherlands in 1835. He married Geertje Bolwijn in 1860 when they were each about 25 years old. They had a total of six children – Hendrik (b. 1863), Engelina (who went by the name Lena) (b. 1865), Jakob (b. 1867), Gerhard (b. 1871), Jan (who was also called John) (b. 1873), and Grietje (b. 1875).

However, the late 1870s were tragic years for the family. In 1875 Hindrik died at the age of 11, in 1876 Derk died at the age of 40, in 1877 Geertje died at the age of 42, and in 1878 Gerhard died at the age of 7. This left four children (Engelina, Jakob, Jan, and Grietje) who would have been 13, 11, 5, and 3 when their mother died.

For the next decade it is not known where the children lived – but likely they were taken care of by relatives in the area. In the early 1890s all four children (by now young adults) emigrated to the United States – specifically to the area around Grand Rapids, Michigan, where there were large Dutch settlements. According to ship registers, Jakob came first in 1888. Jan and Grietje came together on the ship Rotterdam on 23 September 1891. Lena came on the same ship six months later in 28 April 1892.

All four children settled down in the Grand Rapids area, married and had children.
·       Lena married Hubregt Wagemaker in 1893. See more on this below.
·       Jakob married Jacoba Jaspersse in 1889. They had two children. When she passed away he married again in 1897 to a widow, Fannie [Kremer], who had one other child from her first marriage.
·       Jan married Florence Wildeboer and had two children.
·       Grietje married Berk Sikkema in 1896 and they had four children.

As noted, Lena married Hubregt Wagemaker. He was born in 1836 (making him about the age of Lena’s parents). He had been married previously and had nine children (two died young), but his first wife had passed away in 1890. Thus, when he married a second time in 1893, Lena was 28, only 5 years older than her oldest stepson. Her step-children were at the time 23, 20, 19, 16, 15, 13, and 10.  Lena and Hubregt went on to have five more children together (two died young), the last born in 1904 when Hubregt was 68. Hubregt passed away in 1911, leaving 46-year-old Lena with her three children at home – then being 16, 13 and 7.

Lena had spent the majority of her life caring for children – first her younger siblings after the death of her parents, then the large group of step-children from her marriage, then her own children. When her youngest child was of marriable age in 1924, she would have been taking care of others since 1877 – a total of 47 years! Fortunately, Lena lived a long life and finally passed away in 1947 at the age of 82.

Lena’s daughter Jennie (Wagemaker) married Siebert Sterkenburg in 1918 when she was only 19. They had three sons, the youngest of whom was Walter Earl (b. 1925). Walter married Carol Howlerda and one of their sons was Mark Walter Sterkenburg who is a member of our church.

One of Jan’s sons was Harold Vander Laan (b. 1926). He was the father of Raynard Vander Laan who is the individual who produces the video series we have been viewing at church – That the World May Know.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

You Could Write a Book About That

Recently I shared a fun picture that I saw on Facebook (see below). One of my wife’s cousins replied with the comment, “you could write a book about that.” Since my wife and I have had primary childcare duties for our daughter’s four boys, we have had our share of incidents. So, while I may not have enough material to write a book, I thought it would be a good topic for a blog posting.

Here is a nice picture of these four grandsons sitting nicely in a row on the sofa. They are certainly not getting into trouble here. And for the most part they are good kids, follow instructions, and stay safe. But there are times . . . .

Climbing a Tree

In the spring of 2018, when Asher was only three, the four boys were playing together in the front yard. Living in the country and on a wooded lot, there are lots of trees, rocks, and dirt to play in/on – a great environment for four growing boys. I was in another part of the yard, but keeping my ears tuned to the play in the front yard. Suddenly, I heard one of the older boys calling out, “Asher’s stuck in a tree!”

I quickly ran to that part of the yard, to be greeted by the sight of Asher about 20’ up in one of the small pine trees. The lower branches were close enough to the ground that they could be reached by stepping off one of the nearby large rocks that we have in the area. Once getting on the lower branch, he just kept climbing from branch to branch. But he quickly got up two stories in the tree before the other boys noticed and they had called for my help.

What to do!? The tree was too small and the branches too flimsy to support my weight. And even if I had a handy ladder, the tree was not strong enough to lean the ladder against it at that height. And I couldn’t leave in case he fell while I went for help.

I positioned myself under him, so that if he fell I could catch him before he hit the ground – or worse yet the large rocks at the base of the tree. Yelling up to him, I told him that he’d have to start climbing down the same way he got up and that I would guide him from one branch to the next since climbing down to branches below you is much more difficult that climbing to ones that are above you where you can see them.

One foot at a time, once branch at a time, I slowly talked him down, all the while with my arms above me ready to catch him if need be. After an agonizing few minutes, he was finally low enough that I could reach him and have him let go so that I could take his weight and lower him safely to the ground.

I think I was more scared than he was! And I then gave all four boys a stern warning that they were never to climb a tree again unless I was there to oversee the activity. The tree is still there, and we have not had any further instances of climbing. Once was enough!

Getting Stuck

Isaiah is thin and wiry. And he’s also quite adventurous. He likes getting into small places. But sometimes he’s not able to get himself out the same way he got in. A few years ago, he was playing in the kitchen and at the time we had a large cooler on the floor next to the refrigerator. Somehow, he managed to stick his head into the opening in the handle of the cooler and pull it down to his shoulders. But then he couldn’t get it off the same way. As you can tell from the below picture, he was stuck – and not very happy about it.

We adults all had a bit of a laugh at the situation and took his picture before we set about getting him out of the predicament. Fortunately, by lifting up the cooler and having him put his face to the front so his chin wouldn’t catch he came out pretty easily. He didn’t do that again!

Getting Stuck (Again!)

As noted, Isaiah has a propensity for getting into small spaces. A few weeks ago the sheets on the bunkbed in the room that he and Ethan share were being washed and they had been told that they could put some new clean, fitted sheets on their mattresses. They figured that standing the mattresses on their side would make it easier to put on the fitted sheets. Isaiah decided to tackle the mattress on the top bunk. But doing so meant that the slats that hold up the mattress were exposed.

But as he was maneuvering around, he stepped through the opening between two of the slats. The opening was large enough that with downward pressure his foot went through but his calf would not fit. But upward tugs do not stretch the skin the same way and so he could not pull his foot out again. Once again – stuck!

Ethan ran to get me and I also tried to see if I could maneuver his foot into a position where it would come out – but I was not successful either. All the slats in this particular bunkbed are screwed onto the support rails to keep the spacing even. So I had Ethan go get me a tool box with a Phillips screwdriver. I took out the screw on one end of one of the two slats that Isaiah’s foot was between so that I could enlarge the opening and he could get his foot out. Problem solved – once again he knows to avoid that situation – and I finished the task of putting on the fitted sheets in a safer manner.

Loosing a Fingernail

A few weeks ago, as the boys were playing, Caleb managed to get his finger pinched in the bedroom door. It caught his finger about 2/3 of the way down the nail. Very quickly, that part of the nail turned a lovely shade of black-and-blue. Initially there was not much to do except put some ice on it to dull the pain – and of course use the miraculous power of a band-aid.

As the next few days went by, the nail remained that lovely shade, the band-aid disappeared, and life resumed. But the boys being what they are, and it being summer, they were involved in a lot of outdoor activities. Then one day Caleb came in crying because he’d been digging in the ground and he’d gotten a lot of dirt up under the fingernail. I flushed it out with water as best I could, then put two band-aids on it – one over the top to stop more dirt from getting under the nail, and a second one around the finger the hold the first one on. But then every few days the band-aids would come loose and he’d come to me for replacements. I could tell that he was likely to lose the fingernail before too long as there was a gap between the nail and the finger that ran almost the entire length of the fingernail.

Finally, while swimming in our pool this week, the band-aid came off once again and he came running to me saying, “my fingernail is coming off!” I checked and the nail had come loose at the bottom and it was being held on only at one corner by being under the cuticle. I knew he wouldn’t like it, but I grabbed the now flopping fingernail, gave it a quick tug, and pulled it the rest of the way off. After a few tears, he found that just holding it under water in the pool was comforting enough. Within ten minutes he was swimming again and having fun – just holding that finger up enough to avoid too much contact with anything.

At this point we’re not sure if the fingernail will grow back – or how long it will take if it does – but he’s doing fine with it. And he’s keeping it away from doors as they close. Boys! Such a challenge growing up!

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Rochambeau and the Revolutionary War

When we think of the American Revolutionary War, what comes to mind is the signing of the Declaration of Independence. When asked to name significant figures involved in the war, the first person we probably think of is George Washington – and rightly so, as he was the Commander-in-chief of the Continental Army throughout the entire war and our first President afterwards. We also might think of some of the other famous colonists during this period like Paul Revere, Samuel Adams, Nathan Hale, or perhaps Benedict Arnold.

But confining our list of individuals to just the colonists is ignoring the very important role that the French played in helping us win that war. One that might come to mind is Lafayette (*1). But as important as he was in helping the Americans, he was a lone individual who came here seeking glory in war. He was made a major general at only the age of 19, and later was key in leading some of the American troops to block British General Cornwallis (*2) at the Siege of Yorktown where the eventual surrender of Cornwallis marked the end of the significant conflict portion of the war.


But it was the presence of actual French troops that helped turn the war and forced Cornwallis to surrender. Without them, it is quite likely that Cornwallis would have overpowered the troops led by Lafayette, the conflict would have continued, and the colonists eventually defeated. The French troops who helped change the course of the war were led by Rochambeau (*3).

But in this blog I’m not going to focus on the battles that the French helped us win. Rather I’d like to look at the period of time before the French joined up with Washington near the Hudson River in New York.

There is an excellent summary (*4) on Wikipedia about the route that Rochambeau’s troops took starting from their initial landing in Newport, RI, in July 1780. There is a map which shows this route as well. Another website shows additional details of the march route (*5).

They met up with Washington in early July, stayed in NY for six weeks, then the combined armies went down to VA which is where they joined up with the American troops led by Lafayette and led the Siege of Yorktown which resulted in Cornwallis surrendering. The following fall they returned by roughly the same route, but went back to Boston where they reboarded ships and returned to France.

Route Across Connecticut

Rochambeau led an army of 5,300 men and 450 officers. They left Providence, RI, in multiple divisions over a couple of days in mid-June, 1781, travelling about 15 miles a day. Rochambeau was in the first division. At the end of each day’s march, they would find a new place to camp for the night. If they were in a village, Rochambeau and his top officers would stay in a local inn, but if not, they would camp with their men.

Consider this from the point of view of the villagers. All the towns in Connecticut were populated nearly entirely by individuals from Britain/Scotland/Ireland/Wales. They only spoke English. And here they found themselves being “invaded” by a division of the French Army – men who wore unfamiliar uniforms, who spoke a language that no one in town was likely to understand. And the number of men in each division quite often exceeded the entire population of the town. At some locations they stayed more than one day, but with the divisions being only one day apart that meant that several divisions might be in town at the same time, necessitating multiple camp sites.

And yet, they welcomed these men. The war with England had been going on for about seven years at this point – far longer then most people had expected – and they needed this kind of intervention from the French.

The Inns

Many of the inns that were occupied by General Rochambeau and his top officers are still in existence. The owners of these inns were generally individuals who are cousins of mine from the colonial time of Connecticut.

·       White’s Tavern (*6) – Also known as Daniel White’s Tavern, was operated by Daniel White (1749-1816). He is my fourth cousin, 6 times removed via our common ancestor, John Crow.

·       Elm Street Inn (*7) – Was begun by my great*9 grandfather, William Lewis (1620-1690), in 1655, but at the time of Rochambeau’s march, was being run by Williams’s great-grandson (and my third cousin, 7 times removed), Phineas Lewis (1722-1800).

·       Asa Barnes Tavern (*8) – Had been established as a tavern around 1675 by Asa Barnes (1745-1819), my second cousin, 8 times removed through my great*9 grandfather, Nathan Sutcliffe.

·       Israel Bronson Tavern – As the name implies, was being run by Israel Bronson (1735-1785). He is my second cousin, 7 times removed, by our common ancestors, my great*9 grandparents, John Welton and Mary Upson.

·       Caleb Baldwin’s Tavern (*8) – Was being run by Caleb Baldwin (1724-1797). He is also my second cousin, 7 times removed, by our common ancestor, Nicholas Camp.

East Farms Cemetery

There is one other tavern and one other incident that were a part of Rochambeau’s march across Connecticut. During the trip through Waterbury, two of Rochambeau’s soldiers became ill. As noted in (*10), the local residents helped to care for ill soldiers along the way.

The two men were initially housed in the tavern owned by Joseph Beach (1714-1795) (*11, my second cousin, 7 times removed). But the two men died and Waterbury paid 15 shillings to Joseph to purchase land for a burying ground. He purchased a plot, four rods square, where he buried the two soldiers. This is now East Farms Cemetery (located at 3156 East Main St) (*12). In addition to a monument recognizing the two soldiers which was erected in 1914, there are 163 other graves located there. Included among these are Joseph Beach, the innkeeper, and many of my Pierpont relatives. The cemetery was in the back yard of the house next door to where my grandparents lived, so I had the privilege of visiting the cemetery many times during my growing up years. I did not realize the historical significance at the time!


War is a Long Process

It’s been well over two centuries since the American Revolutionary War. As time passes, we tend to forget the details, and what we learned in school about this significant event. But even in the prior sentence I’ll bet that most people would only name July 4, 1776 as the “event”. Those who remember a little more of their US History might be able to remember that there were other things besides the writing of the Declaration of Independence that were a part of that war. They might remember things like the “shot heard ‘round the world” in Concord. They might remember Washington Crossing the Delaware, or the harsh winter at Valley Forge. But most people would be hard pressed to give the dates of some of these other aspects of that war or to tell how many years the war actually lasted.

In more recent history there are probably more people who could give the range of dates for the US Civil War (1861-1865), for WWI (1914-1918) (*3, *4), or for WWII (1939-1945) (*5, *6), although for the latter ones, we tend to focus on only the portion where the US was involved. And we now get upset about wars that aren’t over with quickly, with the war in Iraq lasting 7 years (*7), and the War in Afghanistan now dragging on in it’s 18th year (as least as far a US involvement is concerned) (*8).

So, let me refresh your memory about the American Revolutionary War – the one that defined us as a nation (at least for my US readers). Here is a brief timeline of some of the more significant events. (For a fuller list, see *1 and *2).


People might come to different conclusions about what events to attribute to the war. The timeline in *1 starts in 1629, but the timeline in *2 starts in 1754. But there is some agreement as to which events were most significant:

·       1764-1765 – England imposes various acts upon the colonies that make people upset. These include the Sugar Act (to raise revenue), the Currency Act (preventing the colonies from producing their own currency), the Stamp Act (putting a tax on a number of items), and the Quartering Act (requiring citizens to house British troops).
·       1765 – Delegates from nine of the colonies meet together for the Stamp Act Congress which adopts a Declaration of Rights and Grievances.
·       1767 – England passes the Townshend Acts which place duties on many items imported into the colonies
·       1770 – The Boston Massacre – British soldiers had been stationed in Boston since 1768. When some of them are harassed by local citizens, they fire into the crowd, killing three and critically wounding two others who later die from their wounds.
·       1773 – The Tea Act and subsequent Boston Tea Party.
·       1774 – England passes the Intolerable Acts, more of the same type of oppression as some of the above.

In the fall of 1774, the First Continental Congress met with delegates from 12 of the 13 colonies. They sent a petition to the King asking for the repeal of the Intolerable Acts.

Armed Conflict Begins

·       April 1775 – Battles of Lexington and Concord (some of my relatives had a significant part in this, see *9)
·       May 1775 – Second Continental Congress meets, Fort Ticonderoga captured by Benedict Arnold and the Green Mountain Boys
·       June 1775 – George Washington named Commander in Chief of the Army
·       June 1775 – Battle of Bunker Hill
·       July 1776 – Declaration of Independence adopted

As you can see, we had already been fighting for over a year before we finally adopted a formal declaration. And you can see in the Declaration the listing of many of the items which preceded the conflict with specific reference to things like the Quartering Act, and some of the various forms of taxes imposed.

Conflict Continues

·       August 1776 – British defeat Washington on Long Island, but army manages to escape
·       September 1776 – British occupy New York City
·       December 1776 – Washington crosses the Delaware and captures Trenton
·       January-May 1777 – Army winters in Morristown, NJ
·       July 1777 – Lafayette arrives from France to assist the Americans
·       September 1777 – British occupy Philadelphia
·       December 1777 – Army winters over in Valley Forge, PA
·       1778 – Continued fighting from NY to GA and west as far as St. Louis
·       November 1779 – Army winters over again at Morristown, NJ (harshest winter of the 18th century)

The End Approaches

·       July 1780 – French troops arrive in Newport, RI, to assist
·       March 1781 – Articles of Confederation written
·       May 1781 – British cede Fort Granby SC
·       June 1781 – Augusta, GA recaptured by Americans
·       September 1781 – French fleet drives British naval forces from Chesapeake Bay
·       October 1781 – Cornwallis surrounded by Americans and French and surrenders
·       July 1782 – British evacuate GA
·       November 1782 – British and American sign preliminary Articles of Peace

Cleaning Up the Pieces

·       September 1783 – Treaty of Paris signed
·       November 1783 – British troops leave New York City
·       December 1783 – Washington resigns as Commander in Chief
·       September 1787 – Constitution signed
·       June 1788 – Constitution adopted
·       December 1788-January 1789 – First elections held
·       April 1789 – Congress meets, certifies Washington as first President
·       September 1789 – Bill of Rights approved by Congress
·       December 1791 – Bill of Rights ratified


From the first shots being fired in Lexington and Concord until the surrender at Yorktown, the American Revolutionary War lasted nearly seven years. But there were also eleven years of preliminaries before the actual conflict and another eight years after that surrender until the United States became an actual entity and elected their first President – a total of 26 years from beginning to end, one full generation.

Even then, the disagreements between the United States and Britain were not totally resolved. Only a decade after Washington was elected President, France, our partner in the American Revolutionary War, declared war on Britain, and in 1803, Britain once again began to capture American ships and impress American sailors into service in the British Navy (*10). This led to a series of Acts by the US Congress, then the first battle of what was called the War of 1812 was fought. This second war with Britain lasted about 3 years (again from the US perspective) and included American troops occupying Toronto, Canada, in 1813 and the retaliatory burning of Washington, DC, in 1814. It was not until Christmas Eve of 1814 that the Treaty of Ghent was signed – ending the disagreements and conflict with Britain that had begun in earnest FIFTY years earlier.

*4 – Fighting ended in 1918, but the Treaty of Versailles was not signed until January of 1919
*6 – Conflict began in 1939, but the US did not enter until after Pearl Harbor attack in December 1941