February 23, 1776


A resident of New York writes, “I forbear to mention the distressed state of this once happy city.  To see the vast number of homes shut up, one would think the city almost evacuated.  Women and children are scarcely to be seen in the streets.  Troops are coming in daily.  They break open and quarter themselves in any house they find shut up.  Necessity knows no law.  Private interest must give way to the public good.”

General Horatio Gates writes to Benjamin Franklin, “Last Night our People surprized a Corporal, and Two Sentrys of the Enemys, and brought them this morning to head Quarters, they declare General Clinton took with Him when he Saild from Boston a considerable Quantity of Artillery, and Artillery Men; besides The Detachment of The Troops; this convinces me that he design’d to take post at New York from whence, as I hinted to you in my last Letter, I am satisfied the Enemy meant to commence their Summer Opperations.”

Meanwhile, congress resolves itself into a Committee to “take into consideration the letters from George Washington.”  General Washington is becoming more dispirited by congress’ lack of response, as well as the failure of his other generals to agree to any plan of attraction in terms of attacking the British in Boston.  Washington believes that the British plan to take New York, and has asked for permission to burn the city down if there can be no adequate provisions for its defense.  Congress refused to grant permission to do that, although John Adams wrote Washington a letter telling him that any powers required for New York’s defense were his to use.  Living in the large house of a Loyalist, Washington spends many hours worrying over the predicament of leading an untrained army lacking in sufficient gunpowder or arms.  Writing to Joseph Reed, Washington reflects that “[f]ew people know the predicament we are in,” and continues to opine, “I have often thought how much happier I should have been if, instead of accepting of a command under such circumstances, I had taken my musket upon my shoulders and entered the ranks, or, if I could have justified the measure to posterity, and my own conscience, had retired to the back country, and lived in a wigwam.”

Join us at Bow Tie Tours for Philadelphia’s best historical walking tours.  Call us to check into this summers’ upcoming Washington trip, which takes us to the various battlefields in Pennsylvania, as well as Washington’s birthplace in Northern Neck, Virginia, his home at Mount Vernon, and the battlefield of Yorktown.






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