Let's Steal Their Cannons - The Hearts of Oak and Hamilton's First Taste of War

Let's Steal Their Cannons - The Hearts of Oak and Hamilton's First Taste of War

The Hearts of Oak were little more than a bunch of college buddies who started a militia group in the yard.

It just so happens that these boys would leave their studies behind to go into an actual war.

Several of these young men would go on to do great things. One of these men in particular would leave a major footprint on American history…


The Corsican’s

In the aftermath of the First Continental Congress, many of the young men at King’s College were swept up in the patriotic fervor. 

In an effort to do their part, these boys started a volunteer militia, which they called the Corsican’s after the recently failed Corsican Republic.

These gentlemen created their own uniforms and drilled in the schoolyard. 


The Hearts of Oak

What makes this small group of approximately 25 men particularly unique?

Among their ranks was an 18 year old Alexander Hamilton, who had already published several radical articles in New York City papers.

Once the Revolutionary War began, and the Continental Army established, the Corsican’s changed their name to the Hearts of Oak (sometimes called the Heart’s Oak) and began fighting for the cause.


Robbing the Battery

On August 23, 1775, the Hearts of Oak were instructed by Continental Captain John Lamb to join his forces in an attempt to steal cannons from the Battery on the southern tip of Manhattan. 

It was during this mission that Alexander first got a taste of battle, as well as took the first steps toward making a name for himself.

Despite taking heavy fire from a nearby British ship, Hamilton showed great courage and resolve.

Mulligan’s Recollection

Years later, his friend Hercules Mulligan would recount that event. He said that he was struggling to move a cannon when Hamilton appeared he handed Mulligan a gun, took the rope and pulled the cannon toward American lines.

Mulligan, who was intimidated by the gunfire, left the gun on the ground and retreated. Upon seeing Mulligan, Hamilton asked for his weapon back. Mulligan apologized and told Alexander where the gun was.

Hamilton calmly turned toward the shore and walked confidently toward the fighting.


A Star is Born

Though this event was fairly minor in the greater strategy of the Revolutionary War, its effects on the United States are eternal.

Based on his performance at the Battery, and a recommendation by Major General Alexander McDougall, the New York Provincial Congress appointed Hamilton as a Captain of Artillery. This was the first time Hamilton became an Officer, and it began a long and distinguished military career.

Additionally, Hamilton was placed in charge of the very cannons he had captured with his college buddies. Though they would all split off (many doing great things), Alexander’s star would continue to climb.

After turning down offers to act as an aide-de-camp to Generals Sterling and Greene, Hamilton would finally accept a position he could not refuse...as a part of George Washington’s inner circle.


Early New York Rebels are fun to read about.

Here are some more:

John Haring Radicalizes the New York Delegation

Issac Low Organizes the Committee of Fifty-One

Simon Boerum of Brooklyn

Alexander Hamilton has dozens of biographies.

Richard Brookhiser is one of my favorite authors so if you are looking for a Hamilton bio to read, try ‘American.’

If you’d like a copy you can get one through the Amazon affiliate link below (you’ll support this site, but don’t worry, Amazon pays me while your price stays the same).

Alexander Hamilton, American
By Richard Brookhiser

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