1780 American History Summary

The year 1780 now drew to a close, yet the patriots were far from being subdued. The British government had expended vast sums of money and many precious lives in endeavors to subjugate them, and had involved the nation in a war with France, as a consequence. Yet English pluck would not yield an iota to adverse circumstances. Great Britain seemed to acquire fresh vigor when any new obstacle presented itself.

The economic problems faced by the Congress deeply touched the lives of most Americans in the 1780s. The war had disrupted much of the American economy. On the high seas the BRITISH NAVY had great superiority and destroyed most American ships, crippling the flow of trade. On land, where both armies regularly stole from local farms in order to find food, farmers suffered tremendously.

On May 12, 1780 – The worst American defeat of the Revolutionary War occurs as the British capture Charleston and its 5400-man garrison (the entire southern American Army) along with four ships and a military arsenal. British losses are only 225.

On May 25, 1780 – After a severe winter, Gen. Washington faces a serious threat of mutiny at his winter camp in Morristown, New Jersey. Two Continental regiments conduct an armed march through the camp and demand immediate payment of salary (overdue by 5 months) and full rations. Troops from Pennsylvania put down the rebellion. Two leaders of the protest are then hanged.

On June 11, 1780 – A new Massachusetts constitution is endorsed asserting “all men are born free and equal,” which includes black slaves.

On September 25 – The march begins this date at Sycamore Shoals on the Watauga River (Tennessee) by the “over-mountain men” militia of the American Revolution under Colonels Charles McDowell, John Sevier, Isaac Shelby, and William Campbell as they move toward the Battle of Kings Mountain.

October 7, 1780 – Gen. Cornwallis abandons his invasion of North Carolina after Americans capture his reinforcements, a Loyalist force of 1000 men.

October 14, 1780 – Gen. Nathanael Greene, Washington’s most able and trusted General, is named as the new commander of the Southern Army, replacing Gen. Gates. Greene then begins a strategy of rallying popular support and wearing down the British by leading Gen. Cornwallis on a six month chase through the back woods of South Carolina into North Carolina into Virginia then back into North Carolina. The British, low on supplies, are forced to steal from any Americans they encounter, thus enraging them.

On Dec. 1 A Boston naval board of inquiry looked into the mental behavior of Capt. Pierre Landais, master of the U.S. Navy frigate Alliance. In a situation that closely paralleled the plot of Herman Wouk’s best seller The Caine Mutiny, the ship’s officers “mutinied,” relieving Landais of command while on the high seas.

Acting with great caution, they carefully wrote down every move they made, after electing a reluctant Lieutenant Degge to take command. Behaving like a “Captain Queeg” prototype, Landais gave irrational commands, talked to himself and eventually took to his bed, feigning illness. He was partially acquitted by the military court, but still cashiered. Degge fared little better. This hapless officer escaped the death penalty by a split verdict, but also was dismissed.