November 16, 1776

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General Washington began the day at Fort Lee with Generals Greene and Putnam, trying to get reinforcements to Fort Washington.

The Battle of Fort Washington takes place.  American troops were under Colonel Robert Macaw; he had 2,967 troops, 53 killed in action, 96 wounded n action, and a disastrous 2818 captured!  British General William Howe has 8,000 troops, 78 killed in action, 374 wounded in action, Hessians have 272 wounded in action and 58 killed in action.

The blame will fall on Greene and Washington for allowing so many troops to reman and to be captured.

While the British were attacking Fort Washington, Lord Hugh Perry and a column of men drove the American pickets from Harlem Cove.  Once accomplished, the British launched an attack on old Harlem Heights.

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November 15, 1776

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On this night the British working party constructed batteries to cover the crossing of the Harlem River and the attack on Fort Washington.

Salt is in such short supply that Congress ordered half the public supply distributed in Philadelphia.

Nathaniel Greene writes the following to George Washington from Fort Lee:   “Inclosd you have a letter from Col. Magaw—the contents will require your Excellencys Attention[.] I have directed Col. Magaw to defend the place until he hears from me[.] I have order’d General Hands Brigade to hasten on—I shall go to the Island soon.”

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November 14, 1776

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The St. James Chronicle in London carried an item stating, “The very identical Dr Franklin, whom Lord Chatham so much caressed, and used to say, he was proud in calling his friend, is now at the head of the rebellious North America.

Reports in Congress that  British fleet is sailing south causes concern.  The Board of War authorizes the Marine Committee to defend the Delaware River.  The ships were actually headed back to England.

George Washington, who had arrived at Fort Lee on the 13th, writes the following letter to John Hancock, President of the Congress:  “I have the honor to inform you of my arrival here Yesterday and that the whole of the Troops belonging to the States which lay South of Hudsons River and which were in New York Government have passed over to this side, except the Regiment lately Colo. Smalwoods, which I expect is now on their march.  That they may be ready to check any incursions the Enemy may attempt in this Neighbourhood, I intend to quarter them at Brunswic, Amboy, Eliz. Town, New Ark and about this place, unless Congress should conceive it necessary for any of them to be stationed at or more contiguous to Philadelphia. in such case they will be pleased to signify their pleasure. There will be very few of them after the departure of those who were engaged for the Flying Camp and which is fast approaching. The disposition I have mentioned seems to me well calculated for the end proposed and also for their accomodation.  The movements and designs of the Enemy are not yet understood. Various are the opinions and reports on this Head. From every information, the whole have removed from Dobb’s Ferry towards Kings bridge and it seems to be generally beleived on all hands, that the investing of Fort Washington is one object they have in view. But that can employ but a small part of their force. whether they intend a Southern expedition, must be determined by Time. to me there appears a probability of It, and which seems to be favoured by the advices we have, that many Transports are wooding and watering. General Green’s Letter would give you the substance of the intelligence brought by Mr Mersereau from Staten Island in this instance, which he received before It came to me.  Inclosed you have Copies of Two Letters from Genl Howe and of my Answer to the first of them. The Letter alluded to and returned in his last was One from myself to Mrs Washington of the 25 Ulto from whence I conclude that All the Letters which went by the Boston Express have come to his possession. You will also perceive, that Genl Howe has requested the return of Peter Jack, a servant to Major Stewart, to which I have consented as he was not in the military line and the requisition agreable to the custom of War. This Servant having been sent to Philadelphia with the Waldeckers and other Prisoners, I must request the favor of you to have him conveyed to Genl Greene by the earliest Opportunity in order that he may be returned to his master.  Before I conclude, I beg leave not only to suggest but to urge the necessity of increasing our Field Artillery very considerably. Experience has convinced me, as It has every Gentleman of discernment in this Army, that while we remain so much inferior to the Enemy in this Instance, we must carry on the War under infinite disadvantages, and without the smallest probability of success. It has been peculiarly owing to the situation of the Country where their Operations have been conducted, and to the rough and strong Grounds we possessed ourselves of and over which they had to pass, that they have not carried their Arms by means of their Artillery to a much greater extent. When these difficulties cease, by changing the Scene of Action to a level champaign Country, the worst of consequences are justly to be apprehended. I would therefore with the concurrence of all the Officers whom I have spoke to upon the Subject, submit to the consideration of Congress, whether immediate measures ought not to be taken for procuring a respectable Train. It is agreed on all hands, that each Batallion should be furnished at least with Two peices, and that a smaller number than 100—of 3 lb. 50 of 6 lb. & 50—of 12 lb. should not be provided in addition to those we now have—besides these, if some 18 & 24 pounders are ordered, the Train will be more serviceable & compleat. The whole should be of Brass for the most Obvious reasons. they will be much more portable—not half so liable to burst, and when they do, no damage is occasioned by it, and they may be cast over again. The Sizes before described should be particularly attended to, if they are not, there will be great reason to expect mistakes and confusion in the charges in Time of Action, As it has frequently happened in the best regulated Armies. The disparity between those I have mentioned, and such as are of an Intermediate size, is difficult to discern. It is also agreed, that a Regiment of Artillerists with approved and experienced Officers should be obtained if possible, and some Engineers of known reputation and abilities. I am sorry to say, too ready an indulgence has been had to several appointments in the latter instance, and that men have been promoted, who seem to me, to know but little if any thing of the business. Perhaps this Train &c. may be looked upon by some, as large & expensive; true it will be so, but when it is considered that the Enemy, having effected but little in the course of the present Campaign, will use their utmost efforts to subjugate us in the next, every consideration of that sort should be disregarded, and every possible preparation made to frustrate their unjust and wicked attempts. How they are to be procured, is to be inquired into. That we cannot provide them among ourselves or more than a very small proportion, so trifling as not to deserve our notice, is evident; therefore I would advise, with all immaginable deference, without any abatement of our own internal exertions, application should be immediately made to such Powers as can & may be willing to supply them. They cannot be obtained too early, if soon enough, and I am told they may be easily had from France & Holland.  Mr Trumbull, the Comy Genl has frequently mentioned to me of late, the inadequacy of his pay to his trouble and the great risk he is subject to on account of the large Sums of Money which pass through his Hands. He has stated his case with a view of laying it before Congress and obtaining a more adequate compensation. My Sentiments upon the Subject are already known, but yet I shall take the liberty to add, that I think his complaint to be well founded and that his Pay considering the important duties and risks of his Office by no means sufficient, and that the footing he seems to think it should be upon himself, appears just and reasonable.  A Proposition having been made long since to Genl Howe and agreed to by him for an Exchange of Prisoners in consequence of the Resolutions of Congress to that effect, I shall be extremely happy if you will give directions to the Committees and those having the charge of Prisoners in the Several States, South of Jersey to transmit me proper Lists of the names of All the Commissioned Officers and of the Ranks & the Corps they belong to—also the Number of the non Commissioned and Privates & their respective Regiments. You will perceive by his Letter he supposes me to have affected some delay or to have been undmindfull of the proposition I had made.  I propose to stay in this neighbourhood a few days, in which time I expect the designs of the Enemy will be more disclosed and their Incursions be made in this quarter or their Investiture of Fort Washington if they are intended.”

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November 13, 1776

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George Washington, having crossed the Hudson, arrives at Fort Lee to gauge the situation.  He learns that the New Jersey Militia are not coming out.  Although Washington is inclined to abandon both of the twin forts – Fort Lee and Fort Washington – at his council of war, General Greene and Colonel Robert Magaw, urged the attempt to retain both forts.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Trumbull responds to Washington’s letter regarding his concern over the dissolution of his army:  “Your’s of the 7th advising of the Approaching Dissolution of a large part of our Army is truly Alarming,2 and that season drawing near am Sensible will be most Critical and that every Method possible ought to be taken in Order in some good measure to Supply the deficiency which must happen by their Dismission, for which purpose as well as for a reconsideration of the matters referred to in yours of the 10th has Induced me to call the Assembly of this State to meet at Hartford on Tuesday Next; the reasons you have therein given of the great Inconvenience which may happen by adding to the wages of the Soldiery to be raised in this State beyond the Incouragements given by Congress are indeed Obvious, & which effectually opperated to prevent our Assembly taking such a Step untill the Comtee of the Massachusetts passed New Haven for the Army and there gave out to sundry of our members that—that State had given the additional Incouragement of 20/ pr month and that New Hampshire undoubtedly had done the same[.] That being the case we were Induced to resume the Subject and make the same Addition—Being Sensible it would be Impossible to raise our Quota on terms inferior to those given by our Neighbouring States. tho we are apprehensive that it will be attended with much greater difficulty to Receed from the additional Incouragements than if they had never been given.  The earliest Notice shall be given you of the Resolutions of our Assembly—Hope our Army may be Established on a firm & United footing.”

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November 11, 1776

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Congress orders the Board of War to confer with the Council of Safety for Pennsylvania on plans to defend Philadelphia should it be attacked by General Howe.

The Maryland Convention orders that copies of the new Constitution be sent to all the counties.  The Maryland Constitution provides for a bicameral legislature, with the Senators elected by an Electoral College method, only property owners could vote, office holders had to have property too.

George Washington writes to John Hancock about his twin concerns of the British Army in New York and the fact that his own army is nearing dissolution, as the bulk of the men are nearing their termination dates.  “I have only time to acknowledge the honor of your Letter of the 5th Instt and Its Several Inclosures, and to inform you, that agreable to the Resolves of Congress I shall use every measure in my power that the moving & present confused State of the Army will admit of, for to appoint Officers for recruiting. You will have been advised before this of the arrival of Commissioners from the Massachusets. Others have come from Connecticut, but from the present appearance of things, we seem but little, if any nearer levying an Army. I had anticipated the Resolve respecting the Militia, by writing to the Eastern States & to the Jersey by the advice of my Genl Officers, and from a consciousness of the necessity of getting in a Number of Men if possible, to keep up the appearance of an Army.  How my applications will succeed, the event must determine. I have little or no reason to expect, that the Militia now here will remain a day longer than the Time they first engaged for. I have recommended their Stay & requested it in Genl Orders—Genl Lincoln & the Massachusets Commissrs, are using their Interest with those from that State, but as far as I can judge, we cannot rely on their Staying.  I left White Plains about 11 OClock Yesterday all peace then. The Enemy appeared to be preparing for their expedition to Jersey according to every Information. What their designs are, or Whether their present conduct is not a feint, I can not determine. the Maryland & Virginia Troops under Lord Stirling have crossed the River as have part of those from the Jersey, the remainder are now embarking. The Troops judged necessary to Secure the Several Posts through the Highlands have also got up. I am going to examine the Passes, and direct such Works as may appear necessary, after which and making the best disposition I can of things in this Quarter, I intend to proceed to Jersey which I expect to do to morrow.  The Assemblies of Massachusets & Connecticut to induce their Men more readily to engage in the Service, have voted an Advance pay of Twenty Shillings  Month in addition to that allowed by the Congress to Privates. It may perhaps be the means of their levying the Quotas exacted from them sooner than they could otherwise be raised, but I am of Opinion a more fatal & mistaken policy could not have entered their Councils, or One more detrimental to the Genl cause. The Influence of the Vote will become Continental and materially affect the other States in making up their Levies. If they could do It, I am certain when the Troops come to act together, that Jealousy, impatience & mutiny would necessarily arise. a different pay cannot exist in the same Army. the reasons are obvious & experience has proved their force in the case of the Eastern & southern Troops last Spring. Sensible of this, and of the pernicious consequences that would inevitably result from the advance, I have prevented the Commissrs from proceeding or publishing their Terms till they could obtain the sense of Congress upon the Subject and remonstrated against It in a Letter to Govr Trumbull. I am not singular in Opinion, I have the concurrence of all the General Officers of it’s fatal Tendency.

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November 10, 1776

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From White Plains the following General Orders are issued:  “Such Officers as have been commissioned by the different States for the New-Army, are immediately to set about recruiting from the Troops of such State only, upon the following terms. Twenty Dollars Bounty. A Suit of Cloaths. One hundred Acres of land. The same pay and Rations, as are now given—The service to continue during the present Contest with Great-Britain.  Such ample encouragement, it is not doubted, will induce every true Lover of his Country, to engage in its defence; to preserve it from the Horrors of Slavery, and the desolation of a cruel and barbarous enemy—No Boys (under the idea of Waiters, or otherwise) or old Men, to be inlisted—if they are, they will be returned on the hands of the officer, without any allowance for any expence he may be at.”

Also, these General Orders are issued:  “As the Army (at least part of it) is near the period of its dissolution, you are to exert yourself to the utmost in recovering all the Arms & other Stores which have been issued by you to the several Corps (whether Continental or militia) in the Service of the United States—Such of the Arms as are unserviceable & cannot be repaired by the Armourers of the Army are to be packed in Chests with an Inventory thereof & numbered in order that they may be sent to the Board of War at Philadelphia or delivered to their Order for the purpose of Repair.  All the other Stores are to be deposited in carefull Order in some safe Place near the Winter Quarters of the Troops on the East Side of Hudson’s River, comprehending the Stores taken from them. You will remain on this Side (that is the East Side) till farther Orders & be particularly attentive to the above directions—I shall appoint some Person to do this Duty on the West Side of the River, who you are to furnish with a List of such Articles as the Troops there have drawn from you.  Give particular Attention to the makers of Cartridges that there may be no want of this Article—and as a part of the Army are removing to the Jerseys, under the Supposition that the Enemy are bending their Course that way—consult with Colo. Knox on the Stores necessary for their Use & see they are forwarded.  It is unnecessary to add that the Troops under General Lee, will also cross Hudson’s River, if it shou’d be necessary in consequence of the Enemy’s throwing their Force over.”

Finally, George Washington sends the following instructions to Charles Lee:  “The late movement of the Enemy, and the probability of their having designs upon the Jerseys (confirmd by Sundry accts from Deserters & Prisoners) rendering it necessary to throw a body of Troops over the North River, I shall immediately follow, & the Command of the Army which remains (after Genl Heaths Division Moves to Pecks kiln’s)1 devolving upon you, I have to request[:]

That you will be particularly attentive that all the Intrenching & other Tools (except those in immediate use) be got together, and delivered to the Quarter master Genl or Majr Reed, who heretofore has been Intrusted with the care of them.  That you will direct the Commanding officer of Artillery to exert himself in having the Army well supplied with Musket Cartridges—for this purpose a convenient place, at a distance, should be fixed on, that the business may go on uninterupted.  That no Troops who have been furnished with arms, accoutrements, or Camp Utensils, be suffered to depart the Camp before they have delivered them either to the Commissary of Stores, or the Quarter Master Genl (or his assistant) as the case may be; taking receipts therefor in Exoneration of those which they have passed. In a particular manner let the Tents be taken care of, and committed to the Quarter masters care.  A Little time now, must manifest the Enemys designs, and point out to you, measures proper to be pursued by that part of the Army under your Command[.] I shall give no direction therefore on this head, having the most entire confidence in your Judgment, and Military exertions—One thing however I will suggest—namely, that as the appearance of Imbarking Troops for the Jerseys may be intended as a feint to Weaken us, & render the strong Post we now hold more vulnerable; or, if they find that Troops are Assembled with more expedition, and in greater numbers than they expected on the Jersey shore to oppose them—I say, as it is possible that from one or the other of these motives they may yet pay the Army under your Command a visit, It will be unnecessary, I am perswaded, to recommend to you the propriety of Putting this Post if you stay at it, into a proper posture of defence; and guarding against Surprizes—But I would recommend it to your Consideration, whether under the Suggestion above, your retiring to Croton Bridge, & some strong Post still more Easterly (covering the other Passes thrô the Highlands) may not be more advisable than to run the hazard of an attack with unequal Numbers. At any rate, I think all your Baggage and Stores except such as are necessary for immediate use ought to be to the Northward of Croton River.  In case of your Removal from hence, I submit to the consideration of your self & the General Officers with you, the Propriety of destroying the Hay to prevent the Enemy from reaping the Benefit of it.  You will consider the Post at Crotons (or Pines) Bridge as under your immediate care; as also that lately occupied by Genl Parsons,3 and the other at Wrights Mill—the first I am taught to believe is of consequence—the other two can be of little use while the Enemy hover about the North River, and upon our right Flank.  General Wooster from the State of Connecticut and by Order of the Governor, with several Regiments of Militia are now, I presume, in or about Stamford. they were to receive Orders from me. of course they are to do it from you. There are also some other Regiments of Connecticut Militia who came out with Genel Saltonstall, and were annexd to Genl Parsons’s Brigade, & others, which you must dispose of as occasion & Circumstances shall require—but as by the late return many of those Regiments are reduced to little more than a large Company, I recommend the discharge of all supernumerary Officers, and the others annexed to some Brigade.  As the Season will soon oblige the Enemy to betake themselves to Winter Quarters, and will not permit our Troops to remain much longer In Tents, it may be well to consider in time where Magazines of Provision’s & Forage should be laid In for the army on the East side of Hudsons River. Pecks kiln or the Neighbourhood, would, I should think, be a very advantageous Post for as many as can be supported there—Croton Bridge may possibly be another good deposit—& somewhere more Easterly for the rest, as the Commissary, Quarter Master, &ca may assist in pointing out.  It may not be amiss to remind you, for it must (as it ought) to have some Influence upon your deliberations & measures, that the Massachusets Militia stand released from their contract the 17th of this Instt; & that the Connecticut Militia are not engaged for any fixed Period; & by what I can learn begin to grow very impatient to return, few indeed of whom being left.  If the Enemy should remove the whole, or the greatest part of their Force to the West side of Hudsons River, I have no doubt of your following with all possible dispatch, leaving the Militia, & Invalids to cover the Frontiers of Connecticut &ca in case of Need. Given at Head Quarters near the White Plains this 10th day of Novr 1776.

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November 8, 1776

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The new Pennsylvania Constitution gives citizens the right to hold public meetings to instruct their representatives in the legislature.  Christopher Marshall reports, “Past six, went to the Philosophical Hall, called there by notice, to consider a set of instructions to be handed to a town meeting, which was concluded to be called on the third day next.”

General Washington writes a key dispatch to Nathaniel Greene:  “The late passage of the 3 Vessells up the North River (which we have just received Advice of) is so plain a proof of the inefficacy of all the Obstructions we have thrown into it that I cannot but think it will fully justify a Change in the Disposition which has been made. If we cannot prevent Vessells passing up, and the Enemy are possessed of the surrounding Country, what valuable purpose can it answer to attempt to hold a post from which the expected Benefit cannot be had—I am therefore inclined to think it will not be prudent to hazard the Men & Stores at Mount Washington, but as you are on the Spot, leave it to you to give such Orders as to evacuating Mount Washington as you judge best, and so far revoking the Order given Colo. Magaw to defend it to the last. The best Accounts obtained from the Enemy assure us of a considerable movement among their Boats last evening, and so far as can be collected from the various sources of Intelligence they must design a Penetration into Jersey, & fall down upon your Post—You will therefore immediately have all the Stores &c. removed, which you do not deem necessary for your defence, and as the Enemy have drawn great relief from the Forage and Provisions they have found in the Country, and which our Tenderness spared, you will do well to prevent their receiving any fresh Supplies there by destroying it, if the Inhabitants will not drive off their Stock and remove the Hay, Grain &c. in time. Experience has shewn that a contrary Conduct is not of the least Advantage to the poor Inhabitants, from whom all their Effects of every kind are taken without distinction, and without the least Satisfaction.”

In other words, Washington is observing the utter pointlessness of having so many men in harm’s way, when neither side can touch the British who are floating along between the forts unharmed.  Washington is indicating that Greene should remove the soldiers from Fort Lee.  However, he has not ordered it!  Events are coming to a head in New York!

Join us at Bow Tie Tours for Philadelphia’s Best Historical Walking Tours.  Our “Independence Tour Extraordinaire” includes tickets to Independence Hallincludes tickets to Independence Hall, as well as numerous other sites, such as 2nd National Bank, Graff House, Carpenter Hall, and Christ Church.  If you are interested in learning about George Washington, join us for our Valley Forge Tour.  For those interested in the Civil War, come see our Gettysburg Tour.  Or, for the true history buffs, contact us about taking part in our American History Vacation Packages.