February 20, 1777

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General Benedict Arnold writes to General Washington about his concern that British prisoners being held by the Americans will spy on behalf of their country.  I was yesterday favd with yours of the 7th instant. It has some how or other generally happened that we have been obliged to send in our prisoners at the most inconvenient times, but when they are brought down for the purpose of Exchange, it seems hard to send them back, especially as they did not fix upon the time themselves. I am so well convinced that the Officers are enabled to do us harm, by staying in the Country and making themselves acquainted with our Situation, that I have ordered Govr Trumbull to send in Eleven that were taken at princetown, If they can be conveyed to any of your posts, and sent in by a Way, in which they will see little of your disposition; it will be better than sending them by land to Kingsbridge. Whenever any Officers go in from your quarter only send me the Return and I will take Care to ask for such in Exchange as have a right to preference from length of Captivity.  If the Accounts we have lately recd of the Reinforcement of the Enemy at Brunswic be true, few can be left at Rhode Island, it is said Lord Peircy has arrived at Amboy within a few days.  The Eastern States have in so many Instances departed from the line of Conduct agreed to in Congress for the inlistment of the new Army that I do not wonder at their stripping the Ships to fill their Regiments, but they will find that as soon as the seamen have spent the Bounty they will run back and get on board the ships again.  If the Enemy will give us time to collect an Army levyed for the War, I hope we shall set ⟨all⟩ our former Errors to rights.”

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February 15, 1777

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William Livingston writes to General Washington to congratulate him for the close to dictatorial powers that congress had conferred – powers that made Washington more than a little uncomfortable – and to encourage him to avail himself of the services of a Colonel Aaron Burr.  “I received your Excellency’s Letter of the 11th Instant yesterday, inclosing a Copy of the Resolve of Congress of the 27th of December, investing you with certain Powers, which the present Situation of our public Affairs have rendered it necessary to confer upon the continental Commander in Chief. It is sometime since I was honour’d with a Copy from the President of the Congress; & I heartily congratulate my Country that they have seen the Necessity of the Measure. I could only wish that it had been done a twelve month ago.  I am sorry for the Uneasiness prevailing in the 1st Jersey Battalion, occasioned by Colo. Newcomb’s appointment to the Command of it. I hope none of the young Gentlemen in the Battalion take Umbrage at a part of his Character, for which I don’t, & I dare say your Excellency would not, like him the less, that he is a religious Man. But tho’ I have very little Acquaintance with him, I could not help remarking that either from his advanced years, or natural Sluggishness, he wanted the Activity indispensably necessary for an officer of his Rank. I accordingly disapproved of the Appointment from the Beginning; and I cannot learn from him (for he has been at and about this place almost ever since I have been here without any apparent purpose in View) what Men he has raised, or that he knows any thing about the State of his Regiment. He has however his Friends & Admirers; but as your Excely’s objection has been frequently made by many of the Members of both Houses; and there is an Uneasiness in the Regiment upon his Account, I doubt not your superceeding him will give general Satisfaction.  A most fatal mistake upon which some of our Members proceed in their appointment of Officers is, that if they have known a Man behave well as a Captain, they take it for granted that he is fit for a Collonel; & if he has acquitted himself with Honour in the latter Station, he is undoubtedly qualified to be a General.  May I once more take the Liberty to mention to your Excellency Major Burr Aid deCamp to General Putnam? I think him a most promising youth, & like to do Honour to his Country.I received a Letter from General Putnam by which I found that he was proceeding with our Militia upon such a Plan as I was fully convinced would be injurious to the Service; & therefore prevented its Execution till I had given him an Opportunity to reconsider it. I enclose a Copy of his & my Letters upon the Subject. I fear that unless the continental Officers observe some Uniformity in their Orders for calling out our Militia, it will occasion great Perplexit  Ensign Du clos of Collo. Maxwells Battalion was taken Prisoner in Canada, & is now on his Parol—as he is like to be promoted by our State to the rank of Lieut. in the new Levies, I hope his Exchange will be affected as soon as possible.”

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February 13, 1777

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Benjamin Franklin is beseeched by a Elizabeth Wright to do what he can to help a young man who was being detained by the British as a traitor.  Your known Goodness of Heart and Generosity in Releiving and Suckouring the injured or oppres’d has Emboldned me to trouble you with the Case of Mr. Plat now a Prisoner in Newgate, On a charge of High Treason Comitted in America, that thro your Means or influence his Frinds may be made acquaintd with his Situation in order that they may take some Precautions for his being acquited, or at least, that he may Receive some Remittances for his Support in His Disagreable Unhappy Confinement, which I am apprehensive will be of some Continuence, as I fear this new Act that is now passing, is made allmost on Purpose to Detain Him with Several Others Nearly in the same Situation, Without Bail or Tryall as Prisoners of Warr, to be Confined in the Severeest Maner, in Goals, or Dungeons, as Criminals and God only knows where it may End, Perhaps Hang’d. Wee was intimately Acquainted with Mr. Plat in New York of Which Place He is A Native. His Father was A Merchant There a Man of Fortune and unspotted Reputation and He Himself is a very Amiable young Man, and A Credit to His Country. His Uncle of the same Name, no Doubt Sir, you are Acquainted with, As He is One of the Members of the Congress.8 About 3 years Ago Mr. Plats Father setled Him in Georgia at His own Request, where he Purchased 5000 Acres of Land, intending to turn Planter, but meeting with some Obstructions with Regard to Negros to Stock His Farm He Entred into Trade And became much known and Esteemed in Georgia as A Worthy Young Man. His Father Came from New York to see him and unfortunately Died whilest on the Vissit. His Mother A Brother and two Sisters are now on Long Island and have not heard from Him since He wrote them an Account of his Fathers Death. The 13th of Jully 1775 there Arived A Vessel in Savanah Harbour Commanded by A Captain Maitlord, Laden with Goods and some Powder and Arms from Merchants in England Consignd to their Correspondents, Merchants in Georgia. The People of Georgia at that Time had just formd a Congress amongst themselves and began as well as the Other Provinces to be Divided into Liberty and tory Partys. The Merchants to whom the Goods were Consigned were of these different Oppinions. A Stoppage of Trade then takeing Place and Goods being rather Scarce the Congress Previous to the Arival of the Vessel Purchased the Goods of the Merchants at An Advanced Price, but rather against the Will of those of them who were in the opposition to the Congress, in Consequence of which the others fearing there might be any obstruction to the Landing the Goods or that Possibly a Mob might be Rais’d to Destroy or Prevent the Congress from obtaining them, applied to Mr. Plat with two other Gentleman to go on board the Vessel which Lay some Miles off and see that She was safe brought up to the Town and that none of the Goods should be Landed till Her Arival There. They gave them an order to the Captn. and Mate to Receive and Entertain them in the best Maner on Board. But they seeing the Captn. aterwards in Town shew’d Him the order, and as He was not going on Board again just then He gave them an order to the Mate, much to the same Purpose as the other, viz., to Receive and treat them well, and was very Polite and Friendly. But by what hapned afterwards it appears that He was rather Averse to the Congress haveing the Cargo. They staid on Board 6 Days, saw the Vessel brought up to the Town and Nothing Landed Except some Horses for Governor Campbell at Charlestown south Carolina. They then went on shore thought no more of it and Another Commite was sent in their stead, who Landed the Cargo. After Captn. Maitland had Cleard his Vessel in Georgia he set sail with a Cargo from thence for Jamaica and soon after Mr. Plat went as Merchant in a Vessel of His own which He had fitted out for the same Port leaving his Partner to superintend his Business and Property in the Mean time. After his Arival in Jamaica He saw Captain Maitland There who was Exceeding Friendly to Him and invited Him to Make His home on Board His ship whilest He staid in Kingston. This offer He Declined but they frequently fell in Company with Each other and allways upon the footing of Friendship for about 8 weeks when they hapned one Evening to Meet in A Coffee House in a good deal of other Company amongst which was Captain Miller of New York, with several other Captains. Some of them had got a little heated with the Liquor and one Amongst the rest, gave as a Toast “Damnation to all Americans” to which Mr. Plat Reply’d, that No Gentlemen of Honour or Goodness could drink such a Toast as it was Repugnant to the Rules of Society, on which the other grew warm as well as some of the Company, and Mr. Plat fearing A Quarrel imediately Withdrew. Captain Maitland who by this time had grown warm with the Liquor and Conversation soon after His Departure, Cryd out “That Damnd fellow was one of them on Board my Ship at Georgia with an order from the Congress and Landed the Powder and Arms for them.” Most of the Company was Exceedingly Pleasd at the Discovery and the next Day Reported it all over the town, not omiting the Governor Sir Bassil Keith1 who imediately sent word to Captain Maitland that He ought to come and Exhibit an information against Mr. Plat. The Captn. having grown sober again was Exceedingly Sorry for what he had said and sent word to Mr. Plat that He wish’d he would absent Himself or Leave the Place. Elce He must be obliged to Comply with the Governors Comands. Mr. Plat Amazed, tho’ indiffirent, at his information returnd Answer that His Business did not suit him to leave the Place at that Time, that He had nothing to dread from any information He Could make against Him, and that He was at liberty to act as he thought Proper in the Case. Mr. Plat was at that Time haveing Disposed of his Vessel and Cargo fitting out another for Turtling and fishing before His Return to Georgia. As He Lay off in the River Prepared to Sail the Admiral’s Boat Came allong Side and Askd for Mr. Plat the Captain Reply’d that He was on Board on which they imediately seiz’d the Vessel and Crew alledging it was on account of An information of Captain Maitlands against Mr. Plat, before the Governor. Mr. Plats Captain and Crew were set at Liberty about 3 weeks afterward, but Mr. Plat was Confind in Irons and for a fortnight Debard from Seeing or writeing to Any of His Friends, and treated with the greatest insolence and indignities by the Sailors. He was afterwards Permited to write to His Friends on shore who Procured for him a Habeas Corpus on which He was brought to Trial on the affadavit of Captn. Maitland His Mate and 3 of His Men who deposed that he had been on Board their Vessel in Georgia with an order from the Congress and Landed for them the Powder and Arms which the Governor Deem’d Rebelion and Treason but finding it rather Difficult to Prove He Deliverd Him intirely into the Admiral Gaytons Hands2 who was both His Prosecuter and Goalor. Mr. Plat had a Negro Boy which with his own Cloaths they had when His Vessel was seiz’d Permitted Him to keep. Him He was oblidged to sell in order to defray the Expences of His tryal. Mr. Plats Council Pleaded that at the Time these goods Arived in Georgia that Province was not Declared in Rebelion, as this hapned in July and that Declaration was not made till in the fall and that as to Seizing His Vessel, the Act3 intitled them to Seize American Privateers and did not Extend to A Private Vessel which had been cleard out for Turtling and Fishing. The admirals Council made their Cheif Plea wich was addressing themselves to the Judge, Pleas your Honour if your Honour should set the Prisoner at Liberty it will cost the Admiral 6000 Pound Damages for falce imprisoment to which the Judge Reply’d “Well I acquit the Prisoner of the Charges laid to Him but Return Him on Board as an Able Bodied Seaman to do Duty in Consequence of a late Act that all Masters and Mariners so taken, should serve on Board His Majestys frigates in His Majesty’s Service. To this it was answerd that Mr. Plat was neither Master nor Mariner but Merchant on Board His own Vessel, that this the Captain and crew could Prove. But this Assertion was Evaded and he was again Caried on Board the Admirals Ship and from thence Remov’d to several others and after some time sent home by the Admiral under Pretence of tryal in England in order Chiefly to Secure Himself from Prosecution, which He fear’d had Mr. Plat been set at Liberty. He arived at Portsmouth after having been A Prisoner 10 Months and sent to London for A Habeas, obtain’d it but there was the greatest Precautions taken in order to Render it inefectual. He was Remov’d with the greatest Expedition into Another Vessel, but He still Persisting in desire to be Brought to Tryall, 2 of Sir Johnfeildin[g’s Men?] Was sent for Him to Portsmouth. He wa[s brought] to Town and Carry’d before Him but He not ch[oosing] to Medle with so intricate a Cause He was Carryd before another Majistrate and Comanded to Prison, with a charge of Treason tending to Piracy on the written affadavit of two of Captn. Maitlands Sailors Previously Prepared by Council and not appearing to Confront Him in a new, and diffirent Maner from that at Jamaica. A Copy of it Refused Him, and the Comitment wrote in such a Maner that his tryall Cannot be brought on till the Kings Pleasure wich no doubt according to this New Act will not be during the Warr unless He could be Exchanged for some English Prisoner. I could not help wishing you sir and his Uncle knew his situation, as it Distresses us Exceedingly tho he himself is Exceeding chearful under it and says that if it can in any respect conduce to the good of his country he shall bear it with Pleasure Even tho his Life was Required of him.”

Platt was ultimately released in 1778 and married Elizabeth.

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February 12, 1777

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Abigail Adams writes to John about her loneliness, as well as the events of the days.  “Mr. Bromfield was so obliging as to write me Word that he designd a journey to the Southern States, and would take perticuliar care of a Letter to you. I rejoice in so good an opportunity of letting you know that I am well as usual, but that I have not yet got reconciled to the great distance between us. I have many melancholy Hours when the best company is urksome to me, and solitude the greatest happiness I can enjoy.  I wait most earnestly for a Letter to bring me the welcome tidings of your safe arrival. I hope you will be very perticuliar and let me know how you are after your fatigueing journey. How you are accommodated. How you like Maryland. What state of mind you find the C[ongre]ss in, and what may be communicated relative to their proceedings. You know how little intelegance we received during your stay here with regard to what was passing there or in the Army. We know no better now, all communication seems to be embaressed. I got more knowledge from a Letter wrote to you from your Namesake which I received since you left me,1 than I had before obtaind since you left P[hiladelphi]a. I find by that Letter that six Hessian officers together with Col. Campel had been offerd in exchange for General Lee. I fear he receives very ill Treatment, the terms were not complied with as poor Campbel finds. He was much surprized when the officers went to take him, and beg’d to know what he had been guilty of? They told him it was no crime of his own but they were obliged tho reluctantly to commit him to Concord jail in consequence of the ill treatment of General Lee. He then beged to know how long his confinement was to last, they told him that was imposible for them to say, since it lay wholy in the power of General How to determine it.  By a vessel from Bilboa we have accounts of the safe arrival of Dr. F——g in France ten day[s] before She saild; a French Gentleman who came passenger says we may rely upon it that 200 thousand Russians will be here in the Spring.  A Lethargy seems to have seazd our Country Men. I hear no more of molessting or routing those troops at Newport than of attacking Great Britain.  We just begin to talk of raising our Men for the Standing Army. I wish to know whether the reports may be Credited of the Southern Regiments being full?  You will write me by the Bearer of this Letter, to whose care you may venture to commit any thing you have Liberty to Communicate. I have wrote you twice before this, hope you have received them.”

Meanwhile, the citizens of Hanover, Pennsylvania, write to George Washington request that he rescind his order that all soldiers be inoculated from the small pox epidemic.   “Request that no Continental soldiers be inoculated in their town “as Comparitively Verry fiew in Our Town has had that infectious Disorder and For the reasons as Follows.  1st It must be Verry Distressing to the Inhabitance at this Season of the Year When our Provisions Such as Fowls and Every other Nessesary Fit for that Disorder is already Exhausted by armies Passing and Repassing and Many of them being sick and Billitted so long amoungst Us.  2d Our grain is almost spent and Numbers of Familyes has none but what they buy at a Verry Dear Rate and that from what they Earn by their Dayly Labour and be at the Expence of Fetching it 20 or 30 Miles.  3d Many of Our Laybouring men being out in the Militia—thereby many Families is Left with onely a Woman and a Number of Small Children and is at Present for Want of Firewood and many other Comforts of Life Put to Greate Difficulty.  4th Our Young men being so many of them Out in the service and Laybourers being so Exceadingly scarce that Every man left at home has Enough to do to Get Firewood and Take Care of his Stock which the Latter must be attended to with the Greatest Prudence & Care to bring them throug the Winter as much of Our hay has been Taken to supply the Army.”

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.

 

 

February 9, 1777

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The imprisoned Charles Lee writes the following to General Washington:  “My Dr Sir:  As Lord and General Howe have given me permission to send the inclosd to the Congress, and as the contents are of the last importance to me and perhaps not less to the Community, I most earnestly entreat, My Dr General, that You will despatch it immediately and order the Express to be as expeditious as possible — They have likewise indulgd me with the permission of sending for one of my Aid de Camps—I must therefore, request that You will consent to either Bradford or Eustace returning with the flag of Truce—He will have leave to stay here for one day—and a safe conduct back—my reason for this request is that I have many things material with respect to my private affairs which can be settled better by conference than letter—I am likewise extremely desirous that My Dogs should be brought as I never stood in greater need of their Company than at present.”  Eventually, Lee was able to retain one of his dogs while in custody.

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.

February 6, 1777

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The HMS Soleby captured the sloop USS Speedwell and sent it to Jamaica, the following day the Solebay captured the schooner USS Hope and the brig USS Fortune, Solebay captured four ships in three days, sent all to Jamaica.

“The Secret Committee,” headed by Benjamin Franklin, signs a contract with John and Nicholas Brown to obtain material for uniforms, etc.:  “The Browns will procure in Europe 10,000 good blankets at approximately 4s. 6d. to 5s. sterling apiece; 9,200 yards of blue and brown broadcloth for uniforms and 800 yards of different colors for facings, most of the cloth, being for privates, at about 4s. sterling per yard and the rest, for officers, at 6s.; ten tons of lead; 250 stands of good arms such as are used by French infantry; and fifty 100-pound barrels of good gunpowder. Gov. Cooke will value the vessels and estimate their hire or the freight to be paid on the goods exported and imported.6 The Browns are hereby advanced $24,000 for which they will be accountable to the committee. Signed for the Browns by Josiah Hewes, who has their power of attorney, and for the committee by Franklin, John Alsop, Josiah Bartlett, Joseph Hewes, Francis Lewis, and Samuel Ward

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.

 

February 4, 1777

Georgia adopts a new Constitution.

George Washington writes to General William Heath:  “This Letter is in addition to my public one of this date—It is to hint to you, and I do it with concern, that your conduct is censured (and by Men of sense and Judgment who have been with you on the Expedition to Fort Independance) as being fraught with too much caution, by which the Army has been disappointed, and in some degree disgraced.  Your Summons, as you did not attempt to fulfil your threats, was not only Idle but farcical; and will not fail of turning the laugh exceedingly upon us—these things I mention to you as a friend (for you will perceive that they have composed no part of my public Letter)—Why you should be so apprehensive of being surrounded, even if Lord Piercy had Landed, I cannot conceive—You know that Landing Men—procuring Horses—&ca is not the work of an hour—a day—or even a Week.  Upon the whole; it appears to me from Information, that if you had pushed vigorously upon your going first to Fort Independance that that Post would have been carried—And query, may it not yet be taken by Surprize? It is nothing for a party of light Troops to March twelve or Fourteen Miles in the course of five or Six hours—an expedition therefore undertaken with precaution, and conducted with Secrecy in a dark Night, may be attended with fortunate consequences—I drop this hint—you may improve, or reject it, as Circumstances will justifie—too large a body for such an Enterprize might be unwieldy, & expose the measure to discovery.”

In other words, Washington wrote to Heath on this day to tell him to let his action, not his boasts, do his talking, and advised him not to be too cautious.  Good advice for Doug Pederson too – not that he needs it!  GO EAGLES!!!!!!!!!!!

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.

 

Go Eagles!