On December 23, Washington stood in front of the leaders of the new country and resigned as commander-in-chief. At the time Washington was so beloved the country would have given him a kingship right then. However, he quietly rode home to Mount Vernon in hopes to retire. (see )
Seven years earlier, the British defeated the Continental Army at the Battle of Long Island on August 27, 1776, starting their siege of New York and the first major battle following America’s Declaration of Independence. (see and ) The British overtook lower Manhattan a few weeks later, raising the Union Jack at Fort George on September 15, 1776, where it remained until Evacuation Day. Washington and his troops left Manhattan Island completely on November 16.
The day after the British occupied Fort George, the city experienced a suspicious and devastating fire. Citizens who remained in the city were primarily tories, or loyalists, whether out of genuine principle or pure survival, and lived in makeshift homes. Only a few churches were saved, but most were converted to hospitals, barracks, storehouses, prisons, and training facilities with their contents stripped bare. Costs of products skyrocketed 800% as any provisions were appropriated by the Red Coats. When the British left, the city was still in ruins. Yet it began to thrive again as citizens from rural areas flooded the island with goods and produce, substantially dropping prices.
Once agreements were made regarding the Treaty of Paris of 1783, two years after Cornwallis’ surrender at Yorktown, Carleton was ordered in mid-August to make plans for evacuating the city. (see ) Arrangements were made to remove loyalists to British controlled areas. This included 3,000 blacks who were granted their freedom for fighting with the Red Coats, sending them to Nova Scotia, Eastern Florida, the Caribbean, and London. (see ) Likewise, Canadians and Nova Scotians who fought for the cause of liberty from the crown were granted lands in the states. (see ) Citizens that remained quickly became patriots, whether they were that way all along and hid it or out of self-preservation because of not wanting to leave their home.
Once preparations were made and plans executed, Carleton announced November 25, 1783, as their final evacuation day. For 160 years, the British ruled Manhattan following its purchase from the Natives in 1626, destroying it in 1776 by fire. (see ) Now under American capitalism, within a century it rose to become the financial capital of the world.
Starting in 1787, for the next 129 years, New Yorkers celebrated “Evacuation Day” much like it was the 4th of July. During the festivities, Van Arsdale and later his descendants, were given the honor of hoisting the flag as part of the ceremonies. In 1819, the Common Council presented Peale's American Museum in Philadelphia, one of America’s earliest museums, with the original flag Van Arsdale raised. The museum advertised: "The Flag hoisted by order of Gen. Washington, on the Battery, the same day the British troops evacuated this city, is displayed in the upper hall, as a sacred memorial of that day.” Van Arsdale and his descendants raised this flag every year at the Battery until 1846. The museum, which was housed in several locations over the years, including Independence Hall, burned after this celebration, destroying the flag.
“Evacuation Day” celebrations experienced a decline starting in 1863 following Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, which he declared the last Thursday of November as the day of observation. With Thanksgiving falling on or around November 25, many New Yorkers found it redundant to celebrate both. Once World War I started, the celebrations ended completely as America was now a strong ally of Great Britain and no longer felt the need to rejoice over their departure. The holiday’s last official observation occurred on November 25, 1916.
Liberty, it is understandable that "Evacuation Day" lost some of its relevance once America and Great Britain became strong allies. However, forgetting such a holiday also leads to citizens forgetting the blood that was shed to win our independence. When that is not honored, the heroism, bravery, and sacrifice Washington and his Continental Army endured for eight years, fighting against all odds to secure liberty for America, is diminished in the eyes of her citizens.
Likewise, Antifa and other anarchist groups are now tearing down statues and monuments of the Civil War. (see ) This is equally dangerous as America must be reminded of both her good history and her bad. (see ) Thousands of men, both black and white, lost their lives fighting to end slavery. However, to push an agenda and control a narrative, reminders of that struggle and war are being erased from America's memory so she can be eternally shamed and ridiculed for even having slavery. Only knowing a part of history is often more damaging than knowing none of it at all.
Therefore, continue to educate yourself and others on the historical importance of America and her fight for freedom. Because as John Adams wrote to Thomas Jefferson, "A Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever." May God never forget us and continue to bless us so this never happens to America.
That’s my 2 cents.
As Knox’s men approached the pole, they quickly realized the depths of contempt their enemies harbored towards them. After nailing their flag to the flagpole, the Red Coats removed the ropes used to hoist and lower the flag and knocked off the cleats which held the ropes. Then, to ensure no-one could climb the pole, they covered it with grease. Several solutions were proposed, including constructing a new flagpole, yet there was no time. Then from the ranks, a young soldier named John Van Arsdale emerged.
Trained on his father’s boat, this former sailor left his father’s business to enlist in the Army seven years earlier at the tender age of 19, the same time the flag was first hoisted over Fort George. He fought with Benedict Arnold in Quebec and was captured at the Battle of Fort Montgomery. (see ) He even served under the Marquis de Lafayette at the time of Arnold’s betrayal. (see ) There was no way he was going to allow his new country’s valiant and heroic fight end in an act of disgrace. He would not let Washington arrive to an enemy flag.
Putting his sailor skills to work, he attempted to climb the pole. However, even his expert abilities could not overcome the grease. Someone suggested replacing the cleats so as to give him a boost, and the soldiers quickly got to work. As Van Arsdale got a footing and started up the pole, a ladder was finally found and brought to the scene. Van Arsdale climbed onto the ladder, ripped the Union Jack from the pole and replaced it with the Star-Spangled Banner and new ropes. The British troops witnessed this last act of dogged determination by the American Patriots as their ships sailed out of sight.
Upon his descent, the crowd cheered, cannons fired in a 13-gun salute and a donation was collected for his gallant effort, of which a sizable amount was gathered. Even Washington contributed to the young man’s fortune.
For the next several days, officers, soldiers, and citizens celebrated their newly won independence. New lines had been drawn with America receiving the lands east of the Mississippi River and south of the Great Lakes while Florida fell into Spain’s hands. Great Britain retained Canada and Nova Scotia as well as sole jurisdiction of the St. Lawrence River. Little did the Americans know Great Britain would be back in less than 30 years to wage war again.
On December 4, Washington collected his officers to bid his final adieu as their commander. With all sincerity, he told them, "With a heart full of love and gratitude, I now take leave of you, and most devoutly wish that your latter days may be as prosperous and happy as your former ones have been glorious and honorable.” Following a heartfelt embrace with each officer, Washington departed towards Princeton, New Jersey, to meet with Continental Congress. They fled from Philadelphia in June after soldiers, furious about not getting paid, stormed the capital, making New Jersey their temporary home. (see and )
While Washington made his way to Princeton, Congress declared December 11 "as a day of public Thanksgiving throughout the United States.” In a sermon preached by Dr. John Rogers for the occasion in St. George’s chapel and later published as “The Divine Goodness displayed in the American Revolution,” Rogers declared, “The Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad.”
November 25, 2018
General George Washington made his way down Broadway with General George Clinton, now New York’s Governor. Seven years earlier, the British ran the Continental Army out of New York, placing their flag atop Fort George and other forts. Washington arrived to ensure today would be the last day the Union Jack flew over Manhattan.
The Treaty of Paris, signed September 3, 1783, officially ended the Revolutionary War. Now Washington was coming to take control of the remaining territory the British still occupied in the new country. The last of the Red Coats, led by Sir Guy Carleton, marched out of New York City to board ships that would take them back to England. Before they left they performed one last act of defiance against Washington and the Continental Army. Yet in true American fashion, the Patriots once again showed why their willpower, determination, and resolution won the war.
General Henry Knox and his men preceded Washington into the city, taking possession until he arrived to make it official. (see ) The British were to remove their flags from the forts as they left so they could be replaced with the Stars and Strips. With Washington on his way to Fort George at The Battery in lower Manhattan, the Union Jack still flew defiantly on the flagstaff.
THE FORGOTTEN HOLIDAY