A look at some of the history, holidays & observances on November 16
In the early 1700’s, the Netherlands colonized the small island and operated it as the world’s great smuggling supermarket. Before the Revolution, American smugglers went there for three staples of colonial life: French molasses, Spanish Madeira and Dutch tea. In the critical years from 1775 to 1780, Americans went there for gunpowder and weapons. It proved of vital importance to the success of the Revolution. So today, in honor of the shady entrepreneurs of St. Eustacia, drink a few toasts with the national spirit of the Netherlands, gin . . . and get double points if it is smuggled.
1776 – American Revolutionary War: The Battle of Fort Washington
The year 1776 was a wildly swinging pendulum for the Patriots. It started exceptionally well. In March, Washington had forced the British out of Boston. In June, the Patriots in South Carolina beat back the first major British invasion of the war at Charleston in the Battle of Sullivan’s Island. Then the 2nd Continental Congress passed the Declaration of Independence. After that, the pendulum went in the other direction, as the British Army nearly annihilated the Continental Army in New York, with the nadir coming at the disastrous Battle of Fort Washington.
The battle was fought as part of Britain’s second major offensive of the war, this one aimed at capturing the port of New York and the colony of New Jersey. Washington defended with the Continental Army in some depth in the area of New York City, but in a series of actions, was driven back across the Hudson River, leaving only one fortified Patriot defense, Fort Washington, on Manhattan Island. Manned by some 3,000 soldiers, Washington considered withdrawing the troops, but was swayed by Gen. Greene and others to maintain the post, believing that the Fort could hold out for months against a sustained British attack. At 7 a.m. on this date in 1776, the British had maneuvered into position and began their assault on the forward defenses of the Fort. By 4 p.m. that day, the fighting was over and the commander of the Fort surrendered it to the British. The Americans had suffered 59 killed, 96 wounded casualties, and some 2,838 men, captured. It was one of the three worst defeats of the war for the Patriots (the other two coming in 1780, both in South Carolina, first at the Siege of Charleston, then at the Battle of Camden). Of the 2,838 captured, so severe were the conditions in which they were held by the British, many on prison ships in New York Harbor, that only 800 remained alive some 18 months later.
Following this defeat, Washington began a retreat across New Jersey. It seemed that defeat for the Revolution was inevitable. But there would be yet one more wild swing of the pendulum to go for the Patriots in 1776 — all due to Washington’s dogged determination. But that wouldn’t come until December 26. Stay tuned.