On this day in 1775, Captain Daniel Morgan and his Virginia riflemen arrive in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Earlier, Morgan had earned the nickname “The Old Waggoneer” from a young George Washington during the Seven Years’ War in 1755, when he removed the wounded from the site of the disastrous Battle of the Wilderness in his wagon.
Morgan continued to lead the Virginia militia between the Seven Years’ War and the outbreak of rebellion in New England at the Battle of Lexington and Concord in 1775. When New England Patriots laid siege to British-occupied Boston in 1775, the Continental Congress requested that other colonies send men to aid in the effort. Virginia’s House of Burgesses selected Morgan to recruit and lead one of the colony’s two rifle companies.
Morgan needed only 10 days to assemble 96 men and only 21 days to march them to Massachusetts, where he would serve under his old compatriot, the newly appointed commander in chief of the Continental Army, General George Washington. Fighting under Washington, Morgan’s men’s extraordinary skill as snipers earned them the nickname “Morgan’s Sharpshooters.” Later, Morgan led the three companies from Boston to the failed invasion of Canada, resulting in Morgan’s spending a year as a prisoner of war but also earning him a promotion to colonel.
Upon his release, Colonel Morgan was placed in charge of creating the 11th Virginia Regiment, which he would command. His test for potential riflemen was reputed to be simple: they had to hit a broadside print of a British officer of King George from 100 yards away at their first attempt.
Morgan earned Washington’s further respect with a stunning victory at Cowpens, South Carolina, in 1781. In 1794, when President Washington was faced with the need to suppress the Whiskey Rebellion in western Pennsylvania, which threatened to shatter the still fragile Union, he called on Daniel Morgan yet again. In this, his last military command, Morgan managed to assemble such an overwhelming force that he put down the rebellion without firing a single shot.