The North American Frontiersmen Association

A communication link to this organization.



4th Quarter 2014

Jake Jacobson




October 2, 1780: On this date, Major John Andre, a British intelligence office captured by American militiamen, was hung as a spy in Tappan, New York.  He was found to be carrying papers hidden in his boot concerning the surrender of West Point, an American fort, to the British.  Uncovered in the investigation was the disturbing information that Brigadier General Benedict Arnold, the American commander of the fort, had arranged West Point’s surrender.  A courageous and brilliant leader early in the Revolutionary War, Arnold had become disenchanted with the cause of American freedom.  It is conjectured that his wife, a loyalist named Margaret Shippen, whom he met in Philadelphia after the battles at Saratoga, influenced his decision.  On September 21, he agreed to surrender West Point to the British in exchange for 20,000 pounds.  Upon hearing of Major Andre’s capture, however, Arnold fled to a British warship anchored on the Hudson River, and for the remainder of the Revolution, served as a general in the British army.  On the same day he fled, he wrote to General George Washington begging mercy for Margaret.  Concerned for the safety of a lady, Washington gallantly provided an escort for Mrs. Arnold.  Almost immediately, and since that time, the name Benedict Arnold has become synonymous with traitor to Americans.  Only days after the discovery of his treason, the name of West Point’s Fort Arnold was changed to Fort Clinton.  Today’s visitor to the military academy at West Point will find in the Old Cadet Chapel a plaque representing each of America’s 36 Revolutionary War Generals; the one representing Benedict Arnold reads only “Major General, Born 1740.”  In 1938, when a memorial to the American Generals that fought at the Battles of Saratoga (Sept. 19 and Oct. 7, 1777) was unveiled, the inclusion of Benedict Arnold’s name caused such controversy that the plaque was removed.  But history being history, and the fact that General Arnold as second-in-command rallied his troops to victory at the 2nd Battle of Saratoga, that banished plaque has since been restored along with further information: a portrait of Arnold in his British Redcoat uniform and pictures of the London church housing his grave.  That new memorial at Saratoga, which one might say “tells the rest of the story,” is probably the only place on federal land where the name Benedict Arnold is seen. 


October 7, 1777: Fighting is raging between the British and the Americans at the Revolutionary War’s Second Battle of Saratoga.  An American victory seems likely, but British Brigadier General Simon Fraser rallies his men.  Under his direction, the British side takes on more strength; fighting with more courage.  On the American side, Major General Benedict Arnold, second-in-command, is attempting to do the same thing – rally his men.  He clearly sees the results of General Fraser’s courageous leadership, and realizes something must quickly be done.  General Arnold seeks out Colonel Daniel Morgan, commander of a group of frontier riflemen.  “Colonel Morgan,” Arnold calls out, “That man on the gray horse is a host in himself and must be disposed of.”  Morgan quickly turns to Timothy Murphy, one of his frontier sharpshooters.  Murphy climbs a nearby tree, braces his flintlock longrifle on a branch, and fires at the British general.  His first two shots miss, but the third shot mortally wounds General Fraser.  As word spreads down the British line that the general has fallen, troops lose their newly found courage, the line crumbles, and soldiers begin running for the trees.  Ten days later, with his army completely surrounded by American forces, General James Burgoyne is forced to surrender his entire British army.  It is this victory that finally influences the French to provide open military support for the teetering, yet improving, American cause.


October 20, 1780: The Historical Footnote for October 7th describes the sharpshooting of Timothy Murphy at the 1777 Battle of Saratoga.  Two years later we find Timothy Murphy stationed with New York militia at Middle Fort near Albany.  The fort is under siege by a combined force of British and Indians.  Ammunition is running low and the defenders, including Murphy’s wife, Peggy, are fashioning spears for a desperate last-ditch fight.  The commander of Middle Fort, “weak-kneed” regular army Major Melancthon Woolsey is considering surrender.  This does not fit well with Murphy’s frontier ideals and as British negotiators approach the fort under a flag of truce, he aims his longrifle over the palisade and fires a shot over their heads.  The negotiators scurry for cover and Major Woolsey angrily threatens to place Murphy under arrest.  In support of Murphy, other militiamen along with regular officers change Woolsey’s mind.  Woolsey does not arrest Murphy, but does order a white surrender flag raised over the fort.  Murphy responds by threatening to summarily shoot any man who attempts to carry out such an order.  Major Woolsey, realizing that the validity of his command has been compromised, turns over leadership to another.  In turn, the British realize that taking Middle Fort will prove too costly and retire back to Canada.




November 1 – 2, 1985: On this date, the Cheat River in West Virginia flowed over its banks wiping out some 30 bridges including a massive iron trestle on the B & O Railroad’s main line.  However, the 150-year-old covered bridge leading into Philippi suffered only minor damage – a testimony to its structural strength.  The town of Philippi , which was the site of the Civil War’s first land battle, was inundated under 35 feet of flowing water.  When the water receded, two items that required special attention were the “Mummies of the Insane” – one of America ’s strangest roadside curiosities.  In 1888, amateur scientist Graham Hamrick obtained two female corpses from the West Virginia Hospital for the Insane.  He then proceeded to mummify the remains with his homemade, patented embalming potion.  He had been practicing on vegetables, snakes, and the head of a man he had somehow obtained and kept in a jar.  His intention was to “unlock the secrets of the Pharaohs.”  People say the two mummies, which can be viewed at a local museum, look like they are made of beef jerky.  The flood did them little good, and they were laid out on the Post Office lawn to dry.  The moisture covered them with a green fungus and prompted a disturbing hair-like growth.  But, “a man secured some kind of a mixture that would get the green mold off them and also the hairs…”  And, today air-wicks are kept in the glass-topped coffins to help “stave off the aromas of time.”  If you are ever in the area, be sure to drop by and say, “Hello.”


November 20, 1868:  Often what we learn of life in earlier times comes from surviving letters and journals – they are like time capsules that open to reveal life’s realities.  Just as often those writings are not from well-known historic figures, but rather from normal folks who lived normal lives and in some cases may even have totally disappeared amid the fog of years.  One such person was Emil Kuhn, a German emigrant who came to America in 1867.  Four letters he wrote to his mother were discovered at Germany’s Ruhr University.  In the following quote, he tells his mother about the recent American election:


You probably learned from the newspapers that recently a new president, General Grant, was elected.  At the same time it was voted on whether the negroes, who have been free since the end of the war, should also have the right to be citizens of the United States, that is, to be allowed to vote.  In our state, Missouri, the vote was overwhelmingly against this, whereas other northern states voted to give negroes this right.  Missouri belongs to the former slave states and here it will probably take a good long time for blacks to be granted the same rights as whites. – I would not be writing true opinion if I were to say that I was not quite in agreement with that, in spite of the liberal views that I hold.  The negro is now free, may he then use time and opportunity to educate himself and his children.  Then, when he once understands what suffrage is, when he is self-aware and entirely free of the filth in which slavery kept him imprisoned, then may he be given full rights of citizenship.  But we are not that far yet and even if there are a few among the blacks who are not entirely uneducated, these are merely “white ravens.”


Note:  “Weisse Raben” was a proverbial German expression referring to something / anything very rare – rare as a white (albino) raven.


November 25, 1960: This is the birthday of John F. Kennedy Junior, the son of President John F. Kennedy.  On the occasion of his third birthday, “John John,” as he is affectionately called, watches with the world as his father, the assassinated 35th President of the United States, is laid to rest next to a flickering Eternal Flame in Arlington National Cemetery.  Anyone alive today, who watched that sad affair in 1963, will remember the gray weeping day; the slow dirge of drums; the flag-draped, horse-drawn caisson that also had carried the body of Abraham Lincoln; the led, riderless horse with empty boots turned backwards in the stirrups, and the brave little boy who stepped out to salute his father’s casket.  Sadly, as we all are well aware, in July 1999, John John joined his father in a too-early death.




December 2, 1859: On this date in the public square at Charlestown, Virginia, abolitionist firebrand John Brown is hung for his raid on the Federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry.  Fearing that someone or some force might attempt to free Brown, the gallows were surrounded by 1500 troops, and public admittance to the hanging was severely restricted.  However, those who came wanted to see Brown die, not to release him.  In the crowd was one man who would eventually cause the nation far more pain and grief than Brown.  It was John Wilkes Booth, the future assassin of President Abraham Lincoln.  He said of Brown, "I looked at the traitor and terrorizer with unlimited, undeniable contempt."  It gives pause to consider how history has treated these two men.  Booth, justifiably is remembered as an evil man.  Brown has been somewhat glossed over, possibly trading his crimes for the perceived higher moral standard of his beliefs.  Yet both men had blood on their hands.  Brown and his followers killed in both “Bloody Kansas” and at Harper’s Ferry.  He was guilty of murder and treason and there was no doubt that he deserved the gallows.  Brown’s prophecy, however, was profoundly correct.  In his cell, he left the following note:


"I John Brown am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away, but with Blood. I had...vainly flattered myself that without very much bloodshed, it might be done." -- John Brown.  


December 7, 1941: When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, not everyone initially understood what was happening.  The people of Honolulu were accustomed to noisy Navy drills.  Around 9:30 a.m., Toy Tamanaha, a feisty flyweight boxer walked down Fort Street to the Pacific Café for breakfast.  He could hear gunfire, but the Navy was always shooting at something.  Somebody in the café said the war had started, and that all the carpenters had been called to their jobs.  Although Toy was unconvinced, he advised his friend Johnny Kawakami, who was a carpenter, to get going.  Toy, however, decided he would go to the Cherry Blossom Sweet Shop on Kukui Street for a popsicle.  As he stepped inside, a blinding explosion hurled him back onto the street.  He heard yells for help, and realized that his left leg was missing.  Toy remembered thinking: Maybe I only lost one leg.  He had, however, lost both of them.  Just before he dropped into unconsciousness, he heard a friend say, “Toy, you’ll be all right.”  Toy and the Cherry Blossom Sweet Shop were not alone that Sunday morning.  Explosions occurred all over Honolulu.  On the corner of Judd and Tholena Streets four Navy Yard workers were killed when their ’37 Packard was blown to bits.  That same explosion killed a 13-year-old girl sitting on her front porch.  For years the people of Honolulu thought the explosions had been Japanese bombs.  In actuality, all but one had been American Navy shells initially fired at attacking Japanese planes – after-all, if they didn’t hit a plane, the shells had to eventually hit something.


December 23, 1823: There are probably few children in America, as well as their parents, who of course, were also once children, which have not heard the following lines:


          ‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro’ the house,

          Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;


Newspapers of that period not only provided news, advertisements, and public notices, but they often included articles of general interest and poetry.  Advertisements sometimes were even on the front page where readers were sure to see them.  On page 3 of the December 23rd edition of the Troy Sentinel, published in Troy, New York, between an article on the “taking of honey” and a marriage announcement, was an item entitled, Account of a Visit From St. Nicholas, which we know today as Twas the Night Before Christmas.  It was the first time the poem was published, and it was done so anonymously.  The following is the start of the paper’s introduction to the poem:


We know not to whom we are indebted for the following description of that unwearied patron of children – that homely, but delightful personification of parental kindness – Sante Claus, his costume and his equipage, as he goes about visiting the fire-sides of this happy land, laden with Christmas bounties; but, from whomsoever it may have come, we give thanks for it.


By either title; Account of a Visit From St. Nicholas or Twas the Night Before Christmas, the author was Clement Clarke Moore (1779-1863), and the last line of his beloved poem will stand forever as one of the best of Christmas wishes:


          Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.       





Published Quarterly to keep our membership informed of association status and upcoming events.

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