December 13, 1776


Charles Lee, who has been continuing to take his slow, meandering journey towards Washington, had stayed the night at an inn some distance from his army, and was lounging about when British light horse galloped up.  Seeing them through the window Lee cried out, “For God’s sake, what shall I do?”  The widow who kept the Inn attempted to hide him upstairs, but he gave himself up when the British commander threatened to burn down the house.  The British celebrated capturing the man they believed was the best of the military minds on the American side, and celebrated by making Lee’s horse drink so many toasts to King George that it became staggeringly drunk.  Lee said that he mourned not for himself, but for “a great continent…frustrated in the honest ambition of being free.”  George Washington, upon hearing the news, says, “This is an additional misfortune, and the more vexatious as it was by his own folly and imprudence (and without a view to answer any good) he was taken, “ having gone “three miles out of his own camp for the sake of a little better lodging.”  Washington ordered Lee’s forces to meet him in Pennsylvania.

Former loyalist Governor Thomas Hutchinson, from Massachusetts, writes, “A fast on account of the American War, observed with strictness and a great external devotion, the churches crowded more than ever known on Sundays, and shops everywhere shut, and few people to be seen in the streets.

Governor Cooke of Rhode Island writes both Massachusetts and Connecticut asking for a Council of War to oppose the British force of some 6 to 8,000 that landed in Newport on December 8, 1776.

British army goes into winter quarters.

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.


June 14, 1776


Congress orders Major General Philip Schuyler to confer with Six Nations Indians (Mohawk, Oneida, Tuscarora, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca) and “engage them in our interest upon the best terms that can be procured” and to proceed to erect a fortification at Fort Stanix, New York.

Major General John Sullivan with 2500 men decides to evacuate Canada and make a stand at Ticonderoga.  The British fleet occupied Sorel in about 2 hours.

Charles Lee writes to Benjamin Franklin on his ideas to create an army and prepare for war:  “I am very happy that my letter to Lord Thanet meets with your approbation. I send you here some crude notions of what ought be adopted.  1st  A solemn league and covenant defensive and offensive to be taken by every man in America, particularly by those in or near the Sea Port Towns; all those who refuse, to have their estates confiscated for the public use, and their persons remov’d to the interior par[t of] the Country with a small pension res[erved?] for their subsistance.2dly  New York to [be] well fortify’d and garrison’d or totally destroy’d.  3dly  No Regiments to be rais’d f[or any?] particular local purposes, but one general g[reat?] Continental Army adequate to evry purpose. South Carolina may be excepted from its distance and peculiar circumstances.4thly.  The Regiments to be exchang’d those who are rais’d in one Province to serve in another rather than in their own, viz. the New Englanders in New York the N. Yorkers in New England and so on. This system will undoubtedly make ’em better Soldiers.5thly.  A general Militia to be establishd and the regular Regiments to be formd by drafts from the Militia or their substitutes.  6thly.  A certain portion of lands to be [assign]ed to evry Soldier who serves one campaign [a d]ouble portion to him who serves two, and so on.7thly.  A strong flying camp to be kept about Hampton Bay, another about Annapolis and Charles Town in S. Carolina to be well watch’d and guarded.  8thly.  The greatest [pains?] to be taken and no expence to be spar’d in securing the Indians to our interest.  These measures may appear bold but I am sure they will be efficacious and decisive decision is the onset[?] of success. I wish I had time to write a longer letter, and I wish my pen was better to be more legible.”

Join us at Bow Tie Tours for Philadelphia’s Best Historical Walking Tours.   Join us for our award winning battlefield tours, and don’t miss the best July 4th Celebration in America!

May 10, 1776

Congress recommends to the colonial assemblies and conventions, “Where no government sufficient to the exigencies of their affairs have ben hitherto established, to adapt such government as shall best conduct to the happiness and safety of their constituents in particular, and Americas in general.”


In Rhode Island, John Paul Jones is appointed to command USS Providence.

The Commissioners from Canada (Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Chase, Charles Carroll) inform Congress of a defeat in Montreal  (original spellings retained):  “By Col: Campbell, who arrived here early this morning from Quebeck, we are informed that two men of war, two Frigates and one Tender arrived there early on monday the 6th. instant about eleven o’clock the enemy sallied out, to the number, as is supposed, of one thousand men. Our forces were so dispersed at different posts, that not more than two hundred could be collected together at Head Quarters; this small force could not resist the enemy: all our cannon, five hundred muskets, and about two hundred sick unable to come off have fallen into their hands. The retreat, or rather flight was made with the utmost precipitation and confusion; however Col: Campbell informs us, that he imagines we have lost very few men except the sick abovementioned. Genl. Thomas was last Thursday evening at De Chambeau; at a Council of war it was determined by eleven to three to retreat to the mouth of the Sorel: this day Genl. Arnold goes down here; and if he can get information of the enemy’s real strength and it should be found inconsiderable, perhaps a council of war on reconsideration, may think proper to march the army back to Dechambeau, which is now strengthened by Col: Gratton’s, Burrels, and Sinclair’s regiments. Besides the above losses, one batteau loaded with powder, supposed to contain thirty barrels, and an armed vessel, which the Crew were obliged to abandon, were intercepted by one of the enemy’s frigates. We are afraid it will not be in our power to render our Country any farther services in this Colony: if our army should maintain possession of any considerable part of this country, it will be absolutely necessary to keep some power to controul the military.”

General Lee writes to General Washington from Williamsburg, Virginia:  “My command (as you may easily conceive) is extremely perplexing from the consideration of the vast extent of vulnerable parts of this Country intersected by such a variety of navigable waters, and the expedition with which the Enemy (furnish’d with canvass Wings) can fly from one spot to another—had We arms for the Minute Men and half a dozen good field Engineers—We might laugh at their efforts—but in this article (like the rest of the Continent) We are miserably deficient—Engineers We have but two—and They threaten to resign as it is impossible that They shou’d subsist on a more wretched pittance than Common Carpenters or Brickl[ay]ers can earn—I have written to the Congress intreating ’em to augment the pay—a word from you, woud, I make no doubt, effect it—I wish, My Dr General, You woud send me Capt. Smith on condition the Congress make it worth his while, otherwise I have not the conscience to propose it—I am well pleas’d with your Officers in general, and the Men are good, some Irish Rascals excepted—I have form’d two Companies of Grenadiers to each Regt arm’d with spears of thirteen feet long—their Rifles (for they are all Rifle Men) slung over their Shoulders—their appearance is formidable and the Men are conciliated to the weapon—I am likewise furnishing myself with four ounc’d Rifled Amusets which will carry an infernal distance—the two ounc’d hit a half sheet of Paper at five hundred yards distance—so much for military—a noble spirit possesses the Convention—They are almost unanimous for independence but differ in their sentiments about the mode—two days will decide it—I have the pleasure to inform you that I am extremely well in the opinion of the senatorial part as well as of the People at large—God send me the grace to preserve it—but their Neighbours of Maryland (I mean their council of safety) make a most damnable clamour (as I am inform’d) on the subject of a letter I wrote to the Chairman of the Committee of Baltimore to seize the person and papers of Mr Eden upon the discovery which was communicated to me of his treacherous correspondence with the Secretary of State—it was a measure not only justifiable in the eyes of Gods and Men, but absolutely necessary—the Committee of safety here are indeed as deep in the scrape as myself—the Congress must, and will, I dare say support and vindicate the measure Capt. Greer and his party are upon their March as you order’d, I was a damn’d Blockhead for bringing ’em so far—as their accounts will be intricate—but I hope not so intricate as not to be unriddled—I send you an account of the Money I advanc’d to the different Officers—to Capts. Smith Lunt and Greer—I have taken the liberty to appoint a Serjt Denmark, of the Rifle Battalion to do duty as Ensign—He is a Man of worth and I beg you will confirm his commission—another Serjt of the same Battalion I have promoted to the rank of second Lt in the Artillery of this Province—He is a German—his name Holmer and very deserving—if little Eustace cannot be provided for with you—I cou’d wish if there is a cheap method of doing it, You wou’d send him to me—as I have it in my power to place him and quite doat upon him9—my love to Mrs Washington Gates and her bad half—to Moyland—but Palfrey is a Scoundrel for not writing adieu, My Dr General…”

Join us at Bow Tie Tours for Philadelphia’s Best Historical Walking Tours.  To hear the first episode of our Washington 101 Series, check out!


May 9 1776


General Washington urges General Artimus Ward, commander of the continental troops in Boston, to continue working on the defenses for the city.  He fears the British might return to the city.  Ward submitted his resignation on April 23, but was convinced to stay until a replacement could be found.

Washington also writes to General Lee a comprehensive letter discussing the siege of Boston and its aftermath:  “Your favour of the 5th Ulto from Williamsburg (the first I have receivd from you since you left this City) came to my hands by the last Post. I thank you for your kind congratulations on our Possession of Boston—I thank you also for your good wishes in our future operation’s—and hope that every diabolical attempt to deprive Mankind of their Inherent Rights and Priviledges, whether made in the East—West—North—or South, will be attended with disappointment and disgrace; and that the Authors—in the end—will be brought to such punishment as an injured People have a right to Inflict.  General Howe’s retreat from Boston, was precipitate—beyond any thing I could have conceived—the destruction of the Stores at Dunbars Camp from Braddocks defeat, was but a feint Immage of what was seen at Boston1—Artillery Carts cut to pieces in one place; Gun Carriages in another; Shells broke here; Shott buried there; and every thing carrying with it, the face of disorder & confusion—as also of distress.  Immediately upon their Imbarkation I detach’d a Brigade of five Regiments to this City—& upon their Sailing, remov’d with the whole Army hither, except four Regiments at Boston, and one at Beverley, &ca for Protection of those places—the Stores & Barracks there—and for erecting Works for defending the Harbour of the first—Immediately upon my arrival here I detached four Regiments by Order of Congress to Canada—(to wit, Poors, Pattersons, Greaton’s, and Bonds) under the Command of Brigadier Thompson—& since that, by the same Authority, and in consequence of some unfavourable Accts from that Quarter, Genl Sullivan & Six other Regiments, namely Starkes, Reeds, Wains, Irvines, Winds & Daytons have movd of[f] for that Department—(the four last Regiments are of Pensylvania & New Jersey)—The first Brigade arrived at Albany the 24th Ulto & were moving on when Accts came from thence the 27th2—the other Brigade must all be at Albany before this, as some of the Regiments Sailed ten days ago, and the last four, & the Winds very favourable—this has left us very weak at this place, whilst I have my fears that the Re-inforcement will scarce get to Canada in time, for want of Teams to transport the Troops &ca to Fort George, & Vessels to convey them on afterwards.  We have done a great deal of Work at this place—In a fortnight more I think the City will be in a very respectable posture of defence. Governors Island has a large & strong Work erected, & a Regiment Incamp’d there—the point below (call’d red hook) has a small, but exceeding strong Barbet Battery—and several New Works are constructed and many of them almost executed at other places.

General Ward, upon the Evacuation of Boston, and finding that there was a probability of his removing from the smoke of his own Chimney, applied to me, & wrote to Congress, for leave to Resign—A few days afterwards (some of the Officers, as he says, getting uneasy at the prospect of his leaving them) he applied for his Letter of Resignation, which had been committed to my care; but behold! it had been carefully forwarded, and as I have since learnt judg’d so reasonable—want of health being the Plea—that it was instantly complied with. Brigadier Fry, previous to this, also conceiving that there was nothing entertaining or profitable to an old man to be Marching & counter-marching desired (immediately upon the evacuation of Boston which happen[ed] on the 17th of March) that he might Resign his Commission on the 11th of April: the choice of the day became a matter of great speculation, & remain’d profoundly misterious till he exhibited his Acct, when there appeard neither more nor less in it, than the completion of three Kalender Months; the pay of which he receivd without any kind of compunction, although he had never done one tour of duty, or I believe had ever been out of his House from the time he enterd till he quitted Cambridge. so much for two Generals—I have next to inform you, that the Paymaster Genl, Colo. Warren, not finding it convenient to attend the Army, from the various Imployments and avocations in which he was Ingaged, also resignd his Commission; & is succeeded by your old aid, Palfrey.  When I was speaking of the distressed Situation of the Kings Troops, and the Tories, at their evacuation of Boston, I might have gone on and added, that their Misfortunes did not end here6—It seems upon their arrival at Hallifax, many of the former were obliged to Incamp, although the ground was coverd deep with Snow; and the latter to pay Six dollars a week for sorry upper Rooms, and stow in them Men, Women, & Children as thick (comparitively) as the hair upon their heads; this induced many of these Gentry to return, and throw themselves upon the Mercy, & clemency of their Countrymen, who were for sending them immediately back as the properest, & severest punishment they could Inflict, but death being preferred to this, they now wait, in confinement, any other that may be thought due to such parricides.”

Join us at Bow Tie Tours for Philadelphia’s Best Historical Walking Tours.  Also, if you want to hear the inside scoop on George Washington, check out our exciting new podcast, which begins with the George Washington 101 Series.

May 4, 1776


General Charles Lee, commander of the southern military department, informs General Washington about the dire state of his men:   “I am just return’d from Suffolk and the Posts below, and the Post is just going out; so that this must rather be consider’d as an apology for not writing than as a letter—in a few days I shall set out for Carolina, but before I set out shall send you a full description of our state and situation—We want arms Medcines and blankets most cruelly indeed We want some Battalions—I wish, Dr General You woud prevail on the Congress to increase the pay of our Engineers—it is too wretched—no Men qualify’d for the buszness will serve on the terms—inclosd is an uncouth return of our force—adieu, Dr General…”

General Horatio Gates, who will later be a rival of General Washington’s, begins to cultivate his own connections with congress and writes to John Adams:  “Your Favour of the 27th: of April was put into my hands by Colonel Clinton, we had much conversation together upon the Critical and political State of this Country; He thinks with You, and I; and has besides a very Uncommon share of Knowledge, and penetration; I shall endeavour to Cultivate his Friendship, and Acquaintance.  The Six Regiments under General Sullivan, are Saild for Albany, with a Fair Wind, so by my Calculation, founded upon the best Authority, we shall have Ten Thousand Men near Quebeck, before the Enemy can throw any Succour into the Town; consequently, Sensible, and Spirited Management, must put that important place in Our possession. General Worster upon his Arrival near Quebeck, thought proper to Slight and Neglect my Worthy Friend Arnold; who, having received a considerable Bruize in his Wounded Leg, by a Fall from his Horse, applied for leave to go to Montreal for recovery. This with a Eager haste was Granted by Worster, and This altogether convinces me that Worster is not the Man fit to Command there, or any where. How happy must every good Officer be to find himself Seconded by so Capable and Brave a Spirit as that possess’d by Arnold, but Men of little Merit, are ever Jealous of those who have a Great deal.

Join us for Philadelphia’s Best Historical walking tours at Bow Tie Tours.

April 5, 1776


General Charles Lee arrived in Williamsburg, Virginia, and wrote to General Washington as follows:  “I most sincerely congratulate you, I congratulate the Public on the great and glorious event—your possession of Boston—it will be a most bright page in the annals of America, and a most abominable black one in those of the Beldam Britain—go on, My Dr General, crown yourself with glory and establish the liberties and lustre of your Country on a foundation more permanent than the Capitol Rock—my situation is just as I expected. I am afraid that I shall make a shabby figure without any real demerits of my own—I am like a Dog in a dancing school—I know not where to turn myself, where to fix myself—the circumstances of the Country intersected by navigable rivers, the uncertainty of the Enemy’s designs and motions who can fly in an instant to any spot They chuse with their canvass wings throw me, or wou’d throw Julius Cæsar into this inevitable dilemma—I may possibly be in the North, when as Richard says, I shou’d serve my Sovereign in the West—I can only act from surmise and have a very good chance of surmising wrong—I am sorry to grate your ears with a truth, but must at all events assure you, that the Provincial Congress of N. York are Angels of decision when compar’d with your Countrymen the Committee of Safety assembled at Williamsburg. Page, Lee, Mercer and Payne are indeed exceptions, but from Pendleton, Bland the Treasurer & Co.—libera nos Domine1—I shall not trouble you with a detail of the Army, ordinance stores, but compendiously say that the Regiments in general are very compleat in numbers, the Men (those that I have seen) fine—but a most horrid deficiency of Arms—no intrenching tools, no guns (âltho the Province is pretty well stockd) mo⟨mutilated⟩ service—had I only eight eighteen Pounders I wou’d immediately at all events take post on Crany Island, by which measure I shoud drive out the Enemy and exclude em from the finest and most advantageous Port in America—I have order’d with this view the Artificers to work night and day—if I succeed I shall come in for a sprig of lawrels—this essenstial measure might have been effected long ago, but the same apathy and oblique squinting towards what the milk and water People call reconciliation; the prodigious flattering prospect open’d by the appointment of Commissioners were strong arguments against the expence of gun carriages and intrenching tools—but this is not all They have distributed their Troops in so ingeneous a manner, as to render evry active offensive operation impossible—an equal number of their Battalions are station’d on the different necks—They say, very acutely, that as the expence is equal, the security ought to be equal—I cannot help perswading myself that their object will be to take possession of Williamsburg—not only from it’s tempting advantageous situation commanding in great measure two fine rivers and a Country abundant in all the necessaries for an army; but the possession of the Capital woud give an air of dignity and decided superiority to their arms, which in this Slave Country where dominion is founded on opinion ⟨multilated⟩ a circumstance of the utmost importance—perhaps I may be mistaken—but the surmise is not irrational[.] I have calld three Regiments down the Country—You will excuse, My Dr General, the blots and scratches of this letter—for the Post is just going out—by the next I will inform You of the steps We have taken for the security of this place—I have been desir’d to recommend Colonel Grayson as a Man of extraordinary merit He sets out soon to make application to the Congress for an establishment—if We have, as We must, a Continental Hospital in the Southern department Dr McClurg I suppose will be the Man to direct it—I need not mention his qualifications—they are so well known7—I beg You will make some body write to me from time to time, indeed I think I may modestly insist on Mr Palfrey’s Pen being employ’d often in this service—adieu, Dr General…”

The relationship between General Lee and Washington would prove to play a large role in the Revolution.  Join us at Bow Tie Tours to learn more about the Charles Lee and George Washington relationship, specifically in our tours regarding Valley Forge and the Battle of Monmouth.

February 28th and 29th, 1776


General George Washington’s troops prepare to move ahead on the proposed occupation of Dorchester Heights.  Writing to Burwell Bassett, he writes, “We are preparing to take possession of a post (which I hope to do in a few days—if we Can get provided with the means) which will, it is generally thought bring on a rumpus between us & the enemy, but whether it will or not—time only Can show—It is believed by many that the troops are preparing for a removal from Boston—it being Certain that they are watering & fitting up their vessels for the reception of the Crew, & have actually put some of their heavy ordnance on board; but whether this is for deception or to prepare against orders that may arrive, I know not.”

General Charles Lee writes to George Washington from New York, regarding Washington’s last letter urging him to travel to Canada (which he has been ordered to do by Congress as well) to help Benedict Arnold.  Dr General – I am now so far recover’d tho far from well, that I shall set out in two days—the stripping Ticonderora so intirely of it’s heavy Cannon is a most unfortunate circumstance, as the transportation of ’em from this place is a busyness of monstrous difficulties expence and labour—The Congress have as yet not taken the least step for the security of this place—the instant I leave it, I conclude the Provincial Congress and Inhabitants in general will relapse into their former Histerics.”

Lee continues on to explain the scarcity of his letters to Washington, a matter that Washington has chided him over.  “I have this moment receiv’d yours of the 22’d—it is a sort of reprim⟨and⟩ for not having more exactly inform’d you of the occurrencies here—I do assu⟨re⟩ you, General, that I have wrote fully and frequently—it is true, I believe two Posts have carried no letters from me, but I wou’d not trouble you when I had nothing material to communicate—I shall not intrench myself behind the parade of great busyness, (for my first busyness tis to be attentive to my General,) nor shall I make a plea of the loss of Palfrey, since whose departure I have been oblig’d to write with my own hand even, the most trifling note—but in fact, tho I confess I am naturally remiss, I have not neglected my duty in this point—I have suffer’d no safe opportunity to escape me—but enough of this—I sha⟨ll⟩ now give you a detail of what We have been doing and in what circumstances We are—Our, force including the Minute Men, amoun⟨ts⟩ to about seventeen hundred Men—Ward’s Regt which is the stron⟨gest,⟩ I have station’d in long Island—They are employ’d in making fascines and preparing other materials for constructing three redouts, one of which will in great measure (in correspondence with a battery which I have sunk opposite to it in the City) will secure the entrance of the East River—Waterbury’s and Stirlings Regts are quarterd in the City—the former in the upper Barracks, the latter in the lower—two hundred Minute Men are likewise lodg’d in the Town—Drakes Regt of Minute Men and one more Company (in all about two hundred) are station’d at Horn’s Hook which commands the pass of Hell Gate—They are employ’d in throwing up a redout to contain three hundred Men—as to the Town, having few hands and the necessary duty being hard—I have been able to effect little—I have indeed thrown down the side of the Fort next the Town to prevent it’s being converted into a Citadel for the use of the Enemy—it was absolutely impossible to be moulded into any thing which coud annoy their Ships—I have likewise thrown a traverse or barrier across the Broad Way two hundred yards in the rear of the fort with four pieces of Cannon to prevent the enemy lodging themselves in the remains of the Fort and repairing it—it is likewise my intention to barricade all the streets leading into the Broad Way both on the right and left to secure us against being taken in reverse—Batteries are to be erected ⟨on⟩ the eminence behind Trinity Church to keep ⟨the⟩ir Ships at so great a distance as not to injure the ⟨to⟩wn—as We are surrounded by navigable Waters, I consider enclos’d Works as rather dangerous—it was therefore my intention to throw up a great number of large Fleches or Redans at certain distances one behind another—so as to render it a disputable Field of Battle against any force. Kings Bridge being a most important pass—without the command of which We cou’d have no communication with Connecticut I had resolv’d to make as strong as possible such were my schemes, but as the Congress have not furnish’d the Force which I was taught to expect from Philadelphia We have not had it in our Power to effect more than I have related—Governor Tryon and the Asia still continue betwixt Nutten and Bedlow’s Islands—it has pleas’d his Excellency in violation of the compact—He had made to seize sevral vessels from Jersey laden with flour it has, in return pleas’d my Excellency to stop all provision from the City and cut of all intercourse with him—a meas⟨ure⟩ which has thrown the Mayor Council and Tories into agonies—the propensity or rather rage for paying Court to this great man is inconceivable—They cannot be wean’d from him—We must put wormwood on his paps, or They will cry to suck as are in their second childhood—Capt. Smith is just return’d from Fort Constitution—He gives a most terrible account of it—the expence of its construction has been enormous, its defects both in point of situation laying out finishing, &ca are numerous—He has made the pl⟨an⟩ of another which will command, as far as I can judge from it on ⟨paper⟩ the River effectually9—I have now related as minutely as necess⟨ary⟩ our situation—as I shall set out very soon it will probably be my last from this place—I must intreat once more, Dr General, that you will spare us a company of Artillery.”

Join us for Philadelphia’s Best Historical Walking Tours at Bow Tie Tours.  You may also want to contact us to hear about our historical vacation plans this summer, which include trips on George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.