Sunday, June 15, 2014

Guest Post: January 1st, 1781 - Pennsylvania Line Mutiny ends the Revolt

A general uprising in the Continental Army began to take shape in the Winter Camp at Jockey Hollow near Morristown in New Jersey. History would simply record that the catalyst was the killing of three officers in a drunken rage, but emotions actually ran far deeper than that, in actual fact it was a revolt-within-a-revolt.

The Commander of the Pennsylvania Line was General Anthony Wayne. His considerable forces comprised eleven regiments of some fifteen hundred men, but the expense of their maintenance was the issue since their conditions were utterly deplorable, as candidly reported in letters exchanged between Wayne and his superior officer, General George Washington, commander of the entire Continental Army. In previous years, both generals had cited corruption and a lack of concern on the part of state governments and the Continental Congress in fostering the poor conditions. But their futile attempts to "manage up" had ended in failure, and on New Year's Day, they lost control and destiny was being taken completely out of their hands. 

After a raucous New Year's Day celebration, soldiers from several regiments had armed themselves and prepared to depart the camp without permission. Officers led the remaining orderly regiments to quell the uprising, but after a few warning shots from the mutineers, the rest of the regiments fell into line with them. Captain Adam Bitting, commander of Company D, 4th Pennsylvania Regiment, was fatally shot by a mutineer who was trying to kill a lieutenant colonel. General Wayne tried to convince the soldiers to return to order peacefully, but he was also killed in the confusion.

Several days later, an emissary from General Sir Henry Clinton, British commander in New York City, arrived with a guide he had acquired in New Jersey. The agent brought a letter from Clinton offering the Pennsylvanians their back pay from British coffers if they gave up the rebel cause. News of these negotiations triggered a further uprising from the "New Jersey Line." Unlike the more conciliatory figure of Wayne, Washington saw a threat to his personal authority and responded with extreme force, executing many of the mutineers. When he was also killed, the game was up. Even before the uprising, the number of Americans under British Command had started to approach the Patriot troop count.
 Addendum by Jeff Provine: By 1783, the "united states" had given up their rebellion outside of a few guerrilla warriors in the South. Britain reconstructed the region, hanging all but a few of the signers of the "Declaration of Independence", which had truly been their own death warrants. Wealthy Patriots were stripped of their merchant fleets and plantations.

The American colonies continued to have troubled days with the British Empire, arguing to maintain slavery and to expand into Indian lands. Britain soon went to war with Napoleon, causing a spur of enthusiasm for the mother country as was seen with the conquest of New Orleans in 1806.

1 comment:

  1. This is the first time I've looked at this blog and it is so informative. I didn't know anything about the events leading up to the conquest of New Orleans in 1806. Good job!


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