Today in History
January 12 marks the birth of John Hancock (1737-1793),
often remembered for his bold signature to the Declaration
of Independence. President of the Second Continental Congress,
Hancock was the first to sign the document.
The Continental Congress ratified the Treaty of Paris
on January 14, 1784, officially establishing the United
States as an independent and sovereign nation.
Benjamin Franklin was born on January 17, 1706, in Boston,
On February 6, 1778, France and the fledgling United States
of America signed the Treaty of Amity and Commerce and the
Treaty of Alliance in Paris, France.
George Washington was born on February 22, 1732, in Westmoreland
On the morning of February 25, 1779, Lieutenant Colonel
George Rogers Clark, elder brother of explorer William Clark,
accepted British Lt. Gov. Henry Hamilton's unconditional
surrender of Fort Sackville at Vincennes, Indiana.
Late in the afternoon of March 5, 1770, British sentries
guarding the Boston Customs House shot into a crowd, killing
four civilians. Surrounded by jeering Bostonians slinging
hard-packed snowballs, the small group of soldiers lost
control when one of their number was struck.
James Madison, "Father of the Constitution" and
fourth president of the United States, was born on March
On March 24, 1776, one week after the British troops under
General William Howe evacuated Boston, General George Washington
wrote a letter to the Continental Congress. General Washington
expressed his "surprize and disappointment" that
the British fleet had not departed the harbor and described
its various exploits while still in the region.
On April 12, 1776, North Carolina's Provincial Congress
authorized its delegates to the Second Continental Congress
to vote for independence. The first formal call for American
sovereignty, the "Halifax Resolves," not only
guided North Carolina representatives, but also encouraged
the Continental Congress to champion independence.
Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743, at Shadwell
in Albemarle County, Virginia.
The Continental Congress ratified preliminary articles
of peace ending the Revolutionary War with Great Britain
on April 15, 1783.
On April 19, 1775, British and American soldiers exchanged
fire in the Massachusetts towns of Lexington and Concord.
Patrick Henry was born on May 29, 1736, in Studley, Virginia.
He was a brilliant orator and an influential leader in the
opposition to British government.
On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress approved the
design of a national flag.
On June 16, 1775, during the Siege of Boston, the Second
Continental Congress authorized the preparation of fortifications.
Thus, at the ensuing Battle of Bunker Hill, colonists fired
at the British from a redoubt at the top of the hill and
from behind fences reinforced with vegetation and brush.
The engineers' work proved so valuable to the Revolutionary
forces that Congress created the Corps of Engineers four
On June 17, 1775, American troops displayed their mettle
in the Battle of Bunker Hill during the siege of Boston,
inflicting casualties on nearly half the British troops
dispatched to secure Breed's Hill (the actual site of the
On July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress unanimously
adopted the Declaration of Independence.
John Parker was born in Lexington, Massachusetts on July
13, 1729. Parker would play a prominent role in the first
battle of the American War for Independence, as leader of
the volunteer American militia known as the Minutemen.
John Paul Jones, naval hero of the American Revolution,
died in Paris on July 18, 1792.
Revolutionary war hero Nathanael Greene was born on August
7, 1742, in Potowomut, Rhode Island. Appointed to the rank
of major general in 1776, Greene is best known for his astuteness
as commander-in-chief of the southern army, a position he
assumed in 1778.
On September 3, 1783, the Treaty of Paris was signed, bringing
the Revolutionary War to its final conclusion.
After a series of discouraging military defeats, on September
19, 1777, continental soldiers fighting under American General
Horatio Gates defeated the British at Saratoga, New York.
On September 22, 1776, American patriot Nathan Hale was
hanged for spying on British troops. As he was lead to the
gallows, Hale proclaimed his famous last words —"I
only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."
On September 26, 1777, British troops marched into Philadelphia
and occupied the city, forcing the Continental Congress,
meeting in the Pennsylvania State House (later renamed Independence
Hall), to flee to the interior of Pennsylvania.
On October 2, 1780, British intelligence officer Major
John André was hanged as a spy in Tappan, New York.
Captured on his return to New York City by American militiamen
fighting in the War of Independence, Major André
was found to have papers hidden in his boot concerning West
Point, New York.
On October 19, 1781, British General Charles Cornwallis
surrendered at Yorktown, giving up almost 8000 men and any
chance of winning the Revolutionary War.
Abigail Smith married a young lawyer by the name of John
Adams on October 25, 1764.
General Richard Montgomery led American troops in the capture
of Montreal on November 13, 1775. The American presence
in Canada proved short-lived. Just weeks later, British
victory at Quebec forced a hasty retreat to New York.
On November 15, 1777, the Second Continental Congress adopted
the Articles of Confederation.
On December 4, 1783, General George Washington received
the officers of the victorious Continental Army in the Long
Room of Fraunces Tavern, on the corner of Pearl and Broad
Streets, in lower Manhattan.
George Washington resigned his commission as commander-in-chief
of the Continental Army on December 23, 1783, in the senate
chamber of the Maryland State House in Annapolis, where
the Continental Congress was then meeting.