In 1624, the Dutch West India Company formed the colony of New Amsterdam; later, the name was changed to New York—to honor the Duke of York–and it emerged as America’s first capital in 1788.
According to History.com, the Dutch colony “grew to encompass all of present-day New York City and parts of Long Island, Connecticut and New Jersey. A successful Dutch settlement in the colony [also] grew up on the southern tip of Manhattan Island and was christened New Amsterdam.”
An oft repeated tale is that the Dutch purchased Manhattan for $24 worth of guilders and trinkets in 1646, but the actual transaction occurred—in 1626– between Peter Minuit, a Dutch agent for the West India company, and the Native Americans.
The Grateful American Book Prize recommends The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony That Shaped America by Russell Shorto.
The American Revolution might have commenced April 19,1775, but by September 9, 1776, the Continental Congress had officially changed the name of the country from the United Colonies to the “United States of America.” The declaration stated, “That in all continental commissions, and other instruments, where, heretofore, the words ‘United Colonies’ have been used, the stile be altered for the future to the ‘United States’.”
“A resolution by Richard Henry Lee, which had been presented to Congress on June 7 and approved on July 2, 1776, issued the resolve, ‘That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States….’ As a result, John Adams thought July 2 would be celebrated as “the most memorable epoch in the history of America.” Instead, the day has been largely forgotten in favor of July 4, when Jefferson’s edited Declaration of Independence was adopted,” according to History.com.
For more information, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends A Young People’s History of the United States by author Howard Zinn and Rebecca Stefoff.
During the American Revolution, Great Britain’s navy was the most powerful maritime force in the world–until a squadron of its warships encountered an American fleet commanded by Captain Oliver Hazard Perry. On September 10, 1813, an English armada faced off with Perry in the Battle of Lake Erie.
History.com notes that “Perry’s flagship Lawrence was reduced to a defenseless wreck. He then transferred to the Niagara and sailed directly into the British line, firing broadsides and forcing the British to surrender. Perry had won a complete victory at the cost of 27 Americans killed and 96 wounded; British casualties were 40 dead and 94 wounded. After the battle, Perry sent a famous dispatch to U.S. General William Henry Harrison that read, ‘We have met the enemy, and they are ours’.”
The Grateful American Book Prize recommends The Battle of Lake Erie: One Young American’s Adventure in the War of 1812 by David Vining.
History Matters is a biweekly feature courtesy of The Grateful American Book Prize.