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Let tyrants shake their iron rods,
Let slavery clank her galling chains.
We fear them not! We trust in God!
New England's God forever reigns!

Chester, written by William Billings, a leather tanner from Boston, was one of the most popular songs of the war.


We have long been preparing for some great catastrophe. Vice and villainy have by degrees grown reputable among us; our infidels have passed for fine gentlemen, and our venal traitors for men of sense, who knew the world. We have made a jest of public spirit, and canceled all respect for whatever our laws and religion repute sacred. The old English modesty is quite worn off, and instead of blushing for our crimes we are ashamed only of piety and virtue. In short, other nations have been wicked, but we are the first who have been wicked upon principle. - George Berkeley

Berkeley dreamed of creating a new home for Christian learning in North America.


When luxury, effeminacy, and venality are arrived at such a shocking pitch in England, when both electors and elected are become one mass of corruption; when the nation is oppressed to death with debts and taxes, owing to their own extravagance and want of wisdom, what would be your condition under such an absolute subjection to parliament?...[Corruption was now so deeply implanted in England] as to be incurable...[England needed revenue from America, not because of legitimate expenses incurred in the late war with France, but because of waste and political depravity]. Corruption, like a cancer...eats faster and faster every hour. The revenue creates pensioners, and the pensioners urge for more revenue. The people grow less steady, spirited, and virtuous, the seekers more numerous and more corrupt, and every day increases the circles of their dependents and expectants, until virtue, integrity, public spirit, simplicity, and frugality become the objects of ridicule and scorn, and vanity, luxury, foppery, selfishness, meanness, and downright venality swallow up the whole society.

- John Adams

"These are the  times
that try men's souls…"

Click to enlarge

"We have it in our power
to begin the world anew"

The cause of America is in a great measure the cause of all mankind. Many circumstances have, and will arise, which are not local, but universal, and through which the principles of all Lovers of Mankind are affected, and in the Event of which, their Affections are interested. The laying of a Country desolate with Fire and Sword, declaring War against the natural rights of all Mankind, and extirpating the Defenders thereof from the Face of the Earth, is the Concern of every Man to whom Nature hath given the Power of feeling; of which Class, regardless of Party Censures, is the…Author:
Thomas Paine Common Sense
Philadelphia, Feb. 14, 1776

The Examination of Benjamin Franklin

When questioned why Parliament had lost respect among the people of the Colonies, Franklin answered:  "To a concurrence of causes: the restraints lately laid on their trade, by which the bringing of foreign gold and silver into the Colonies was prevented; the prohibition of making paper money among themselves, and then demanding a new and heavy tax by stamps; taking away, at the same time, trials by juries, and refusing to receive and hear their humble petitions. "

from The Parliamentary History of England  February 1766

In December 1775, "An American Guesser" anonymously wrote to the Pennsylvania Journal. This anonymous writer, having "nothing to do with public affairs" and "in order to divert an idle hour," speculated on why a rattlesnake might be chosen as a symbol for America. First, it occurred to him that "the Rattle-Snake is found in no other quarter of the world besides America." The rattlesnake also has sharp eyes, and "may therefore be esteemed an emblem of vigilance."
Furthermore, "She never begins an attack, nor, when once engaged, ever surrenders: She is therefore an emblem of magnanimity and true courage. ... she never wounds 'till she has generously given notice, even to her enemy, and cautioned him against the danger of treading on her."
Finally, "I confess I was wholly at a loss what to make of the rattles, 'till I went back and counted them and found them just thirteen, exactly the number of the Colonies united in America; and I recollected too that this was the only part of the Snake which increased in numbers. ...
"'Tis curious and amazing to observe how distinct and independent of each other the rattles of this animal are, and yet how firmly they are united together, so as never to be separated but by breaking them to pieces. One of those rattles singly, is incapable of producing sound, but the ringing of thirteen together, is sufficient to alarm the boldest man living."

Many scholars now agree that this "American Guesser" was Benjamin Franklin.

"If God be for us, who can be against us?  The enemy [the British Army] has reproached us for calling on His name and professing our trust in Him.  They have made a mockery of our solemn fasts and every appearance of serious Christianity in the land....May our land be purged from all its sins!  Then the Lord will be our refuge and our strength, a very present help in trouble, and we will have no reason to be afraid, though thousands of enemies set themselves against us round about."

Reverend Samuel Lanagdon, President of Harvard College, in an address to the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts, May 31, 1775

"Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.
He said to his friend, "If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,--
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm."

-from Paul Revere's ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

First Church of Roxbury                                 William Dawes

George Washington used the pine tree, symbol of Massachusetts, on his squadron's battle flag, in solidarity with New England. Washington's forts in Massachusetts included one at Roxbury and one at Dorchester Heights.

Dorchester Heights

The town was still in its infancy when the differences between the Colonies and the Mother Country began to take the form of organized resistance. As early as the fall of 1774, the citizens of Williamsburg had voted to send Russell Kellogg as a delegate to the Provincial Congress at Concord. Here such patriots as John Adams, Samuel Adams, and John Hancock were struggling to establish the rights and grievances of the American people. On March 13, 1775, it was voted to raise and provide for the payment of Minute Men, who should be ready to march at the tap of the drum, without further notice, for the defense of the colony. The battle of Lexington soon sounded the call to arms, and out of the town's small population there were thirty-one who joined the Continental Army. The first to go from Williamsburg were ten men under Captain Abel Thayer, too impatient for the twenty-one more who soon followed after them. At this time the towns in New England were appointing "Committees of Correspondence, Safety, and Inspection."

The town passed a resolution favoring national independence some weeks before the official declaration was pronounced at all. The record of this resolution reads as follows:

"May 6, 1776 -- The town, at public meeting, voted to advise the Continental Congress at Philadelphia, to make a Declaration of Independence from Great Britain, whenever the Congress might think proper to do it."

- from the History of Williamsburg

The Liberty Song was first printed on July 4, 1768, and is the earliest of the Revolutionary lyrics to advocate independence and union. Here are a few stanzas.

Pine tree




Come, join hand in hand, brave Americans all
And rouse your bold hearts at fair Liberty's call.
No tyrannous acts shall suppress your just claim,
Or stain with dishonor America's name.

In freedom we're born, and in freedom we'll live,
Our purses are ready --- steady, friends, steady.
Not as slaves, but as freemen our money will give.

This bumper I crown for our sovereign's health,
And this for Britannia's glory and wealth,
That wealth and that glory immortal may be,
If she is but just, and we are but free.

Then join hand in hand brave Americans all!
By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall.
In so righteous a cause, let us hope to succeed,
For Heaven approves of each generous deed!

Few towns in the Commonwealth, and perhaps none in the western counties, had been more prompt and efficient in responding to the demand for soldiers during the country's struggle for independence. For seventy years afterward this spirit found an outlet through two military organizations in the town, one of infantry and one of cavalry.

-from a History of Williamsburg

Hemingway, Ichabod, Private, Capt. Russell Kellogg's co., Col. Ruggles Woodbridge's regt., enlisted Aug. 17, 1777; discharged Aug. 10, 1777; service, 5 days, on an alarm at Bennington, including travel home; also, Lieut. Russell Kellogg's co., Col. Ezra May's regt., enlisted Sept. 20, 1777; discharged Oct. 14, 1777; service, 30 days, on expedition to Stillwater and Saratoga, including travel (111 miles) home; roll sworn to in Hampshire Co.

- from the Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War

Ichabod Hemenway III "A Private that received a battle field commission to Lieutenant" at the battle of Saratoga. 

- from DAR Patriot

To whom do we owe credit for America gaining its independence? Is it the Continental Army, George Washington, the French army? Though some historians will argue that all are deserving of acclaim, there is another group of people who should be recognized. They are the colonial militiamen who were the first to assemble and fight against the British, prior to the formation of the Continental Army. Opposition to British policy by the colonists in America between 1763 and 1775 focused explicitly on the issues of taxation and representation. In no area in colonial America would the conflict loom greater than in the Massachusetts colony. When the opening battles of the Revolutionary War took place in Lexington and Concord, it was not the Continental Army which responded for America. It was not the French who confronted the mighty British army. It was the Minute Men and the militia forces of Massachusetts. To these men we owe critical acclaim.

- from The Minute Men by Edward Merk 1994


"Father and I went down to camp,
Along with Captain Gooding;
And there we saw the men and boys,
As thick as hasty pudding.
Yankee doodle, keep it up,
Yankee doodle dandy,
Mind the music and the step,
and with the girls be handy."

Bennington Battle Flag



By spring of 1777, the British knew they had to work fast to keep control of the colonies. British troops in Canada under Major General John Burgoyne needed to take control of Albany, New York and the Hudson River. This would divide the New England colonies from the rest of the colonies at the Hudson River, and make it easier for Britain to gain control. Burgoyne left Montreal with 6,000 men. His cumbersome entourage contained 30 carts of his personal possessions including several cases of champagne. As they moved south, they stopped at Fort Ticonderoga and took it over from the Americans.
The first Battle was at Freeman's Farm. Burgoyne's troops encountered the Patriots near Albany and after minor skirmishes attacked them. Despite reinforcements from Benedict Arnold, they could not hold off the British and retreated to Bemis Heights. On October 7, 1777 Burgoyne staged a full assault on the Americans. This time they held and presented a strong defense against the British onslaught. On October 17, 1777, Burgoyne surrendered to the Patriots.

Saratoga was a major turning point in the war. The British gave up hope of ever regaining full control of the northern colonies. The French then decided to join with the Americans against the British. As a result of this victory, the Patriots gained more confidence and reason to continue fighting. More than any other single event, it would prove decisive in determining the eventual outcome of the war.

"There is more here then the military significance, the immediate significance of the time. It is here that every American can stand and truthfully say, 'Had General Gates not beaten Burgoyne on this spot, I might not be an American today.' It was at Concord, Independence Hall, Trenton, Yorktown and Saratoga that this Nation was assured its life. The flickering light for freedom was strengthened here and a Nation based on some of the most liberal and selfless principles of all time was assured an existence. Without this battle, without the existence of Bemis Heights with the river running close by, this Nation may never have existed. This is the real significance of Saratoga."

- from the Interpretive Prospectus for Saratoga National Historic Park

General Arnold had been unable to resist the British fleet under Burgoyne on Lake Champlain. General Schuyler commanded the nucleus of the Northern army. After the British had driven Generals St. Clair and Arnold from Lake Champlain, and Ticonderoga had been evacuated, a messenger was dispatched down the country to rally recruits and troops. The man came through Williamsburg on a Sunday morning. He reined up at the church door during sermon time and made his business known by proclamation. The church service was immediately adjourned, and the church was converted into a recruiting station at once. Captain Fairfield promptly called for soldiers and arms and over fifty men were drafted and enlisted before four o'clock that afternoon. (among them was Ichabod Hemenway)

- from a History of Williamsburg


The following are excerpts from the book SARATOGA: Turning Point of America's Revolutionary War by Richard M. Ketchum describing some of the events leading up to and including the Battles of Saratoga.

...(Scalping) was the principal element behind the dread of Indians that was a constant of frontier life, and behind the charge leveled against George III in the Declaration of Independence that he unloosed "the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes, and conditions." (Close inspection of the scalping knives in warrior's hands revealed that they were made in England.)

Then came a murder so shrouded in hearsay, wild tales, and propaganda that it was the stuff of legend for a century and more, retold in lurid prints, etchings, and paintings, in novels and plays, making it virtually impossible to determine the truth of what occurred on that Sunday in July.

Jane McCrea
was one of seven children born to a Presbyterian minister in New Jersey by his first wife, and after both parents died she moved to the Fort Edward area to live with her oldest brother, John, a colonel in the New York militia. She was in her early twenties and by almost all accounts was uncommonly attractive -- tall and well-formed with reddish hair said to be so long it touched the floor. During her stay with her brother she and a local man named David Jones fell in love, but his loyalist sympathies were so strong that he went to Canada and joined Peter's American Volunteer Corps. With the approach of Burgoyne's army, Jane's brother John decided to move his family to Albany, and he urged her to accompany them, but she had hopes of meeting and perhaps marrying her fiance and elected to remain near Fort Edward with an elderly woman, a Mrs. McNeil, who was a cousin of Brigadier General Simon Fraser. There they were presumably warned by a militiaman fleeing Fort Edward after the ambush of Van Vechten's party that the Indians were coming.

The two women sought cover inside the log cabin and evidently were climbing through a trapdoor into the cellar when they were discovered by the war party. Both were seized and taken off as prisoners toward Fraser's advance camp, but somewhere along the way the women became separated, and near the spot where Van Vechten had been killed two Indians began arguing about whose prisoner Jane McCrea was. One brave, in a fit of rage, shot and scalped her, stripped off her clothes, and mutilated her body; then her corpse and that of the lieutenant were rolled down an embankment and covered with leaves.

Both raw scalps were taken to Burgoyne's camp at Fort Anne that evening, and a shocked David Jones was said to have seen and recognized Jane's hair as the Indians danced about their trophies in triumph. Then the widow Jones was brought to Fraser's camp. She was huge, the warriors had stripped off her clothes, she had a tongue that could blister paint off a wall, and the embarrassed brigadier discovered that none of the women with his corps had clothing large enough to fit his cousin, so he finally draped her in his own greatcoat until something more suitable could be found. But nothing he could do or say could make up for the loss of her young companion.

When Burgoyne learned of the tragedy he was as shocked as anyone else. That night he sent a note to Fraser: "The news I have just received of the savages having scalped a young lady, their prisoner, fills me with horror." He went on to say he planned to visit the Indian camp the next morning and asked Fraser to have the warriors assembled. "I would rather put my commission in the fire than serve a day if I could suppose Government would blame me for discountenancing by some strong acts such unheard of barbarities." What that meant is somewhat obscure, but obviously he was thunderstruck by what had happened.

The following day the general met with the Indians and demanded that the murderer be executed. Fraser and other officers were leery of such drastic action and urged caution; so did St. Luc, who warned that it would cause mass defections by the Indians, who might go over to the enemy or, if they headed for home, would surely attack white settlements in Canada. Between that advice and the pleading of the assembled tribesmen to spare the killer's life -- he was young and a promising warrior, they said -- Burgoyne relented and had to content himself with an agreement that all future raids would be supervised by a British officer -- as unlikely a scenario as could be imagined.

All things considered, Thomas Anburey concluded, while the unfortunate young lady's death must be "universally lamented," in the context of all the other violence related to the war this "is but a little moment."

The Murder of Jane McCrea

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