April 20, 1777

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New York adopts a new Constitution.

John Adams writes to James Warren:  “Last Evening, a Letter was received, by a Friend of yours, from Mr. John Penn, one of the Delegates from North Carolina, lately returned home to attend the Convention of that Colony, in which he informs, that he heard nothing praised in the Course of his Journey, but Common sense and Independence. That this was the Cry, throughout Virginia. That North Carolina, were making great Preparations for War, and were determined, to die poor and to die hard, if they must die, in Defence of their Liberties. That they had, repealed, or Should repeal their Instructions to their Delegates against Independence. That South Carolina had assumed a Government chosen a Council, and John Rutledge Esqr., President of that Council with all the Powers of a Governor, that they have appointed Judges and that Drayton is Chief Justice. ‘In short, sir,’ says this Letter, ‘The Vehemence of the southern Colonies is such, as will require the Coolness of the Northern Colonies, to restrain them from running to Excess.’…I think, by all the Intelligence We have that North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, and New Jersey will erect Governments, before the Month of June expires. And, if New York should do so too Pennsylvania, will not neglect it. At least I think so.  There is a particular, Circumstance relative to Maryland, which you will learn eer long, but am not at Liberty to mention at present, but will produce important Consequences in our favour, I think.  But, after Governments shall be assumed, and a Confederation formed, We shall have a long, obstinate and bloody War to go through and all the Arts, and Intrigues of our Enemies as well as the Weakness and Credulity of our Friends to guard against.  A Mind as vast as the Ocean, or Atmosphere is necessary to penetrate and comprehend all the intricate and complicated Interests which compose the Machine of the Confederat Colonies. It requires all the Philosophy I am Master of and more than all, at Times to preserve that serenity of Mind and Steadiness of Heart, which is necessary to watch the Motives, of Friends and Enemies, of the Violent and the Timid, the Credulous and the dull, as well as the Wicked.  But if I can contribute ever so little towards preserving the Principles of Virtue and Freedom in the World, my Time and Life will be not ill spent.  A Man must have a wider Expansion of Genius than has fallen to my share to see to the End of these great Commotions. But, on such a full sea are We now afloat, that We must be content to trust, to Winds and Currents with the best Skill We have, under a kind Providence to land us in a Port of Peace, Liberty and Safety.”

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April 19, 1777

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First chaining of the Hudson.  British believe that if they controlled the Hudson they would cut Massachusetts in half.  The Patriots construct an iron chain that stretched from Fort Montgomery to Fort Clinton.  The links which are made of poor grade iron ore broke twice and are abandoned.  They weigh 35 ton and have 850 links stretching 1560 feet.  The chaining is supervised by Lieutenant Thomas Michin.  The chain was salvaged by the British and is rumored to have been used in World War II at Gibraltar.

John Adams writes to Abigail, “This is the Anniversary of the ever memorable 19. April 1775.—Two compleat Years We have maintained open War, with Great Britain and her Allies, and after all our Difficulties and Misfortunes, are much abler to cope with them now than We were at the Beginning.”

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March 23, 1777

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American troops under the command of Brigadier General Alexander McDougall fail to stop British raiders from destroying magazines and storehouses in Peekskill.  Ieutenant Colonel Marinus Willet arrives from Fort Constitution with reinforcements and forces the British to withdraw the next day.

Abigail Adams writes to her husband John:  “I have a very good opportunity of writing to you by Major Ward, who sits of tomorrow morning.  I most sincerely rejoice at your return to Philadelphia. I shall now be able to hear from you every week or fortnight. You have had journeying this winter and sufficent exercise for a year.  We have very agreable Intelligence from France which suppose will be communicated to you before this reaches you. Our proportion of Men from this State will be sent along soon, our Continental vessels are not yet ready. I have been told that the person who had the care of Building MacNeals Ship, has since built a 20 Gun Ship which has been at Sea some time. Why should a pigmy Build a World?  I yesterday received yours of the 7 of March, with a Bundle of news papers, for which I am much obliged.  Nor would I omit returning my thanks for the Barrell of flower sent by my unkles vessel. I know not a more acceptable present you could have sent, that whole cargo sold for 2.10 per hundred.  There is not a Bushel of Rye to be had within 60 miles of this Town. The late act will annihilate every article we have, unless they will punish the Breaches of it. This person has nothing and the other has nothing, no Coffe, no Sugar, no flax, no wool. They have been so much accustomed to see acts made and repeald that they are endeavouring by every art to make this share the same fate.  If you have not settled your account with Mr. Barrells Estate the next time I write will inclose one I find in your Book against it. There appears one settlement, but since that there is an account which will amount to near 10 pounds.  You mention a Resignation of an office. I have not heard it mentiond, believe tis not much known as yet.  As to news we have none I think. All our Friends are well and desire to be rememberd. I suffer much from my Eyes—otherways am well as usual—and most affectily. Yours, Portia”

Adams also received a letter from his son, John Quincy:  “I received yours of the 19 of Feb and thank you for your perpetual almanack  with the assistance of my Mamma I soon found it out and find it is a very useful thing I have been a reading the history of Bamfylde moore carew he went through the   greatest part of america twice, and he gives a very pretty Desscription of maryland and philadelphia and new york but though he got a great deal of money yet I do not think he got his living either credibly or honestly for surely it is better to work than to beg and better to beg than to lie, for he addicted himself to so many falsehoods that his charecter is odious to all and a disgrace to human nature my Brothers and Sister all send their duty to you please to accept the same from your dutiful son…”

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March 13, 1777

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Congress issues a call for qualified foreign military experts throughout Europe.

While patrolling waters off the coast of France, the USS Reprisal captures a British warship.  Lieutenant Lambert Wicks the commander takes what he needs, and hauls the ship to a nearby French port.

From Morristown, Alexander Hamilton writes to Major General Adam Stephen on behalf of General Washington regarding Washington’s insistence that members of the army receive small pox innoculations:  “In a letter Just received from Colonel Ward, there appears to be an objection made against innoculating his regiment, in consequence of some former order, not to innoculate Militia ’till all the Continental troops had undergone the operation. His Excellency desires that this objection, with respect to Colonel Wards regiment, should cease; and that they may immediately be admitted to the benefit of innoculation, in the usual proportion. He begs also that the present opportunity, while the roads continue incommodious for any movements of the enemy, may be improved to the greatest advantage, as we do not know how long it may last; and shall have no time to spare, even if the utmost diligence is used. There is no need to wait precisely for the moment the Hospital becomes vacant, before the infection is communicated to others. Four or five days before one set is fit to leave it, another set may be preparing to go in; which would save a great deal of time, and forward the business exceedingly. Let this be urged upon the Doctors, and every thing else done which may be conducive to dispatch, in a matter of so great importance.”

Join us at Bow Tie Tours for Philadelphia’s Best Historical Walking Tours.  Our “Independence Tour Extraordinaire” includes 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 Civil War buffs, come see Gettysburg.  Or, for the true history buffs, contact us about taking part in our historical vacation packages.

March 12, 1777

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Congress convenes in Philadelphia.

Arthur Lee writes the following letter to Benjamin Franklin and Silas Deane in Paris:  “In my return to this place, I receivd the joyful intelligence which I enclose; and in which I congratulat you a thousand and a thousand times. The Congress had removd to Baltimore, and General Putnam was providing for the defence of Philadelphia, before this happy change in the posture of the hostile Army. It is said that the cruelties exercised in the Jerseys, had so exasperated the People, that the Militia fought with irresistible fury. I am afraid Genal. Lee is a prisoner. Upwards of a thousand of the Prisoners in New York have died of famine and cruel treatment.  The barbarity of these Sarracen Invaders went so far as to destroy the Philosophical Apparatus at Princeton College, with the Orrery constructed by Dr. Rittenhouse. The Papers say, that Genl. Howe had removed part of his baggage to Staten Island, and orderd a reinforcement from Rhode Island. There is an account in the Papers of the taking of Elizabeth Town, but that makes the number of Prisoners less than 200 among whom were 80 highlanders. The loss of the enemy in all these rencounters is stated at upwards of 2000, with Artillery, Baggage, and Stores to a considerable amount. I think we may now say the Scales are at least even, and I shall continue all my life to thank General Howe for dividing his Army, from which I always hop’d for the greatest advantages to us.  I am to wait here, an Answer to what I transmitted to Court in consequence of my conference with the Duke of Grimaldi who is to meet me here to-morrow. I have represented that my not going to Madrid will be construed a refusal on the part of Spain to receive a Deputy from the States and may therefore have a very bad effect both in Europe and America. I have askd at the same time for a credit in Holland and expect that to soften the former, they will be more liberal in the latter.4 I send an Account of the late intelligence to Madrid, London and the Hague, desiring Dumas to have it inserted in the Gazettes, and translated into German to be distributed among the german troops, before they embark, with a hint that as the King of G. Britain refuses to settle a Cartel, they may remain Prisoners for life. Surely this will be a good reason for them, especially the Officers to refuse to go. I intended to have written to Mr. Dean and Sir Roger le Grand at Amsterdam to the same purpose, but I perceive by a Letter from the latter, in the post office here, going to Madrid that he is yet in Paris, which makes me suppose they have laid aside or postpond the intended journey. Mr. Carmichael can assist you in contriving to distribute the Account among the german troops, from which I think some good must arise.  It seems to me that something ought to be transmitted to the States General, representing that their agreeing to let the mercenaries notoriously hird to desolate the States of America, have a passage, will be considered as a breach of that strict neutrality which the United States expect from all those nations, who woud wish to remain in Amity with them. Vatel acknowledges that granting such passage has often been warmly[?] remonstrated against; tho he maintains that it is no breach of neutrality, nor any just cause of war. I differ from him so much, that I am willing to have my name put to such a remonstrance. It is a palpable imposition upon common sense to say, that a nation who facilitates the enterprizes of my Enemy against me, preserves a neutrality: The pretence that they woud do the same for us, is incompetent; also why will it not justify the furnishing Arms, Ammunition and Provisions in the way of trade? They both stand upon the same foot, that of contributing directly to my distruction. For in what does he who opens the way to the employment of Arms &c. against me, differ from him who furnishes them?  I had almost forgot to mention that the Ships which brought the news, are the Alexander, Capt. Williamson and the Charlotte Capt. Sinclair from Newberry port. They saild the 4th of Feby. and arrivd at Bilboa the 8th of March.  Please to remember me to Sir Roger and all our friends. If Mr. Dean shoud go to Amsterdam, he will probably meet with a Mr. Paul Wentworth; of whom I woud advise him to be much upon his guard.”

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March 9, 1777

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American troops under the command of Brigadier General William Maxwell defeated the British at Amboy, New Jersey.

John Adams writes to Nathanael Greene describing both the disappointments and the hopes regarding the army and its generals.  “I am not yet entirely convinced, that We are playing a desperate Game, tho I must confess that my feelings are somewhat less Sanguine than they were last June. This diminution of Confidence is owing to Disappointment. I then expected that the Enemy would have Seen two or three Bunker Hills, between the Point of Long Island and the Banks of the Delaware River. Two or three Such Actions would have answered my Purpose, perhaps one alone.  I have derived Consolation however, from these Disappointments; because the People have discovered a Patience under them, greater than might have been expected. It was not very surprising to me that our Troops Should fly in certain situations, and abandon Lines of such extent, at the sudden Appearance of a formidable Enemy in unexpected Places, because I had learn’d from Marshall Saxe, and from others that Such Behaviour was not only common but almost constant among the best regular Troops. But there was Reason to apprehend, that the People would be Seized with Such a Panick, upon Such a Series of ill success, that in the fright and Confusion whole States would have revolted, instead of a few paltry Individuals. Whereas every State has stood firm, and even the most confused and wavering of them, have gained Strength and improved in order, under all this Adversity. I therefore do not yet despair.  You Say you “are sensible I have not the most exalted Opinion of our Generals.” From this Expression I Suspect, that Some busy Body has been endeavouring to do Mischief, by Misrepresentation. Be this as it may, I am generally So well Satisfied in my own Opinions, as to avow them.  I dont expect to see Characters, either among the Statesmen or the Soldiers of a young and tender State like ours equal to Some, who were bred to the Contemplation of great Objects from their Childhood in older, and more powerfull Nations. Our Education, our Travel, our Experience has not been equal to the Pro­duction of such Characters, whatever our Genius may be which I have no Reason to Suspect to be less than that of any Nation under the sun.  I dont expect to see an Epaminondas, to be sure, because in the opinion of Dr. Swift all the Ages of the World have produced but Six such Characters, which makes the Chances much against our seeing any such. When such shall appear I shall certainly have an exalted opinion.

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untill then, I believe my Opinion of our Generals will continue not very exalted

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Notwithstanding this I have a sincere Esteem of our General Officers taken together as a Body, and believe them upon the whole the best Men for the Purpose that America affords. I think them Gentlemen of as good Sense, Education, Morals, Taste and Spirit as any we can find, and if this Opinion of them is not exalted enough I am Sorry for it but cannot help it. I hope however that my Opinion as well as that of the World in general, will be Somewhat more sublimated, before next Winter. I do assure you that two or three Bunker Hill Battles, altho they might be as unsuccessfull as that was would do it. I lament the Inexperience of all of them and I am Sure they have all Reason to lament mine. But not to disguise my sentiments at all, there are Some of them, particularly from New England that I begin to think quite unequal to the high Command they hold.  It is very true that Success generally marks the Man of Wisdom, and in Some Instances Injustice is done to unsuccessfull Merit: But Still it is generally true that Success is a Mark of Wisdom, and that Misfortunes are owing to Misconduct. The sense of Mankind has uniformly Supported this Opinion and therefore I cannot but think it just. The Same Sense, has uniformly attributed the ill Success of Armies to the Incapacity or other Imperfections of the General Officers, a Truth which I have Sometimes presumed to Hint to some of our General Officers, with whom I could make So free. There Seems to be Justice in this because the Glory of Successfull Wars is as uniformly attributed to them.  I shall join with you, very chearfully, in burying past Errors, and in wishing to concert and execute the most effectual Measures to free America, from her cruel oppressors.  You ask why G. Lee is denyed his Requests? You ask, can any Injury arise? Will it reflect any Dishonour upon Congress. I dont know that it would reflect any dishonour, nor was it refused upon that Principle. But Congress was of Opinion that great In­juries would arise. It would take up too much Time to recapitulate all the Arguments which were used upon occassion of his Letter. But Congress was never more unanimous, than upon that Question. Nobody I believe would have objected against a Conference, concerning his private Affairs or his particular Case. But it was inconceivable that a Conference should be necessary upon Such Subjects. Any Thing relative to those might have been conveyed by Letter. But it appears to be an Artfull Stratagem of the two gratefull Brothers to hold up to the public View the Phantom of a Negotiation, in order to give Spirit and Courage to the Tories, to distract and divide the Whiggs, at a critical Moment, when the Utmost Exertions are necessary to draw together an Army.  The Words of the Count La Tour, upon a similar Occasion, ought to be adopted by Us. ‘Remember that now there is room neither for Repentance, nor for Pardon. We must no longer reason, nor deliberate. We only want Concord and Steadiness.—The Lot is cast. If We prove victorious, We shall be a just free and Sovereign People; if We are conquered, We shall be Traitors, perjured Persons, and Rebels.’  But further. We see what use G. and the two Houses make of the former Conference with Lord How. What a Storm in England they are endeavouring to raise against Us from that Circumstance.  But another Thing. We have undoubted Intelligence from Europe, that the Embassadors and other Instruments of the B. Ministry at foreign Courts made the worst Use of the former Conference. That Conference did Us a great and essential Injury at the french Court you may depend Upon it. Ld How knows it—and wishes to repeat it.  ‘The Princes of the Union were not diligent enough in preparing for War: they Sufferd themselves to be amused with Proposals of Accommodation, they gave the League time to bring together great Forces, and after that, they could no longer brave it. They committed the fault which is very common in civil Wars viz that People endeavour to Save Appearances. If a Party would Save Appearances, they must lie quiet, but if they will not lie quiet, they must push Things to an Extremity, without keeping any Measures. It rarely happens, but that otherwise they are at once both criminal and unfortunate.’ Bailes Life of Gustavus Adolphus.  They meant farther to amuse Opposition in England, and to amuse foreign Nations by this Maneuvre, as well as the Whiggs in America, and I confess it is not without Indignation, that I See Such a Man as Lee Suffer himself to be duped by their Policy So far as to become the Instrument of it, as Sullivan was upon a former occasion. Congress is under no concern about any Use that the disaffected can make of this Refusal. They would have made the worst Use of a Conference. As to any Terms of Peace—look into the Speech to both Houses—the Answers of both Houses—look into the Proclamations.—it is useless to enumerate Particulars which prove that the Howes have no Power but to murder or disgrace Us.  The Retaliation that is to be practiced, on Lees Account, was determined on, when I was absent, So that I can give no Account of the Reasons for that Measure. Yet I have no doubt of the Right. And as to the disagreable Consequences you mention these I hope and presume will not take Place—if they do, they will be wholly chargeable on the Enemy. The End of Retaliation is to prevent a Repetition of the Injury. A Threat of Retaliation is to prevent an Injury, and it seldom fails of its design. In Lees Case, I am confident, it will Secure him good Treatment. If Lees Confinement is not Strict, that of Campbell and the Hessians ought not to be. The Intention was that they should be treated exactly as Lee is.  Our late Promotions may possibly give Disgust: But that cannot be avoided. This delicate Point of Honour, which is really one of the most putrid Corruptions of absolute Monarchy, I mean the Honour of maintaining a Rank Superiour to abler Men, I mean the Honour of preferring a single Step of Promotion to the Service of the Public, must be bridled. It is incompatible with republican Principles. I hope for my own Part that Congress will elect annually all the general officers—if in Consequence of this Some great Men should be obliged at the Years End to go home, and serve their Country in some other Capacity, not less necessary and better adapted to their Genius I dont think the public would be ruined. Perhaps it would be no Harm.  The Officers of the Army, ought to consider that the Rank, the Dignity, and the Rights of whole States, are of more Importance, than this Point of Honour, more indeed than the Solid Glory of any particular officer. The States insist with great Justice and Sound Policy, on having a Share of the General Officers, in Some Proportion to the Quotas of Troops they are to raise. This Princi­ple has occasioned many of our late Promotions, and it ought to Satisfy Gentlemen. But if it does not, they as well as the Public must abide the Consequences of their Discontent. I shall at all Times think myself happy to hear from you, my dear sir, and to give the Utmost Attention to whatever you may suggest. I hope I shall not often trouble you to Read So Long a Lurry of small Talk.”

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February 27, 1777

 

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In Baltmore, Congress adjourns and make plans to return to Philadelphia now that General Washington has eliminated the British threat to the city.

General Howe sends the following letter to General Washington, complaining of the treatment of some of his captured officers:  “Some Days having elapsed since the Conference between Lt Col. Walcott and Lt Col. Harrison without hearing from You for the further Prosecution of the Business relative to Prisoners of War, I am to trouble You with my Request to have a second Meeting at the same, or at any other Place You shall appoint, and to desire You will vest Lt Col. Harrison with proper Powers for reducing to the Form of a regular Cartel, the Agreement already concluded between us, for the Exchange of Prisoners.  With much Reluctance I am to remonstrate against the Treatment of Lt Col. Campbell of the 71st Regiment, who, Instead of being exchanged, to which he has an indubitable Right, is, I am credibly informed, put into close Confinement at Concord in the Massachusetts Bay, contrary to the Tenour of his Parole, which is binding to both Parties.  Serjeant McConkie and Serjeant Andrews are also, I hear, still in close Confinement in that Province.  These Grievances requiring Your immediate Interposition, I am hopeful You will give them the speediest Redress, and that All Prisoners of War at present in Your Possession, will be returned without further Delay; Their Detention being contrary to the Agreement subsisting between us. I am Sir, your most obedient humble Servant…”

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