New York City has seen dark times, but in the spring and early summer of 1776 the outlook was especially grim. The Revolutionary War was in its early, chaotic days, the British fleet sailed en masse toward the city, and in a desperate defensive measure, General George Washington ordered thousands of his Continental troops into lower Manhattan. Almost a third of the city's citizens fled, and Washington's filthy, untrained and undisciplined soldiers quartered themselves in the elegant houses left behind. They were hungry, cold and scared, and they numbed their fear with drink, gambling and prostitutes. They were about to face the greatest military force in the world, outgunned and outmanned, fighting for a country that hadn't been created yet.
In hindsight, America's victory against the British seems like one of history's inevitabilities, but in the beginning it was anything but. And had a small group of pro-British conspirators had their way, the Glorious Cause might have lost its essential leader — George Washington — to imprisonment, execution or assassination.
Retired Col. Joe Jackson poses with a permanent Medal of Honor display March 24, 2015, at the Pentagon in Washington D.C. The display depicts him and other medal recipients. (U.S. Air Force/Scott M. Ash)
Few people outside of military and veterans circles will likely recognize the name T. Moffatt Burriss, but the Army veteran's stories of valor and heroism during World War II were the stuff every infantryman's dreams are made of.