In a direct rebuff of General Washington, Congressestablishes the Inspector General Department of the Continental Army, andpromotes General Thomas Conway to Major General above other senior Generals andin a position that, from the civil side, is equal to that of Washington. This indicates a move by several in congressto replace Washington with General Horatio Gates, who has had more success oflate. Thomas Conway had been involved inwhat historians call the “Conway cabal,” which was a loose attempt by severalin the army and out of the army to replace Washington with Gates. As a younger man Washington would haveresponded to this action with an angry letter of resignation, but this olderand wiser Washington will bide his time.
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Nathan Rice writes a congratulatory letter to John Adams for his return to Braintree, perhaps unaware that already Adams has beeninformed that he is to leave his family once again, this time to go toFrance. Rice also writes about theupcoming Massachusetts Constitution, which is being formed: “Permit me to congratulateyou on your return to your family and frends, of which I am advertised by the weekly Gazette. It must afford not less satisfaction to the state in general to have your presence and council at this critical period, on the transactions of which depend its future happiness andtranquility—than it does to your family and private connections, to imbraceafter a tedious absence, the tender companion kind parent, and generous Friend.
When I hold up to view the welfare, and prosperity of the continent in general, to those of a single state or family—I’m at a loss whether most to rejoice at your return to Massachusetts or regret your absence from Congress.
It will ever remain asingular mark of honor to you, and a convincing proof of your Patriotism and attachment to the liberty and happiness of Mankind that no sinister views orprivate concerns, could call your attention from Congress untill you had notonly effected the union of the Colonies, but formed a plan which will both confirm that union and render it indissoluble—that being now sent forth for the acceptance of the states. God grant it may meet their speedy and hearty approbation.
The public (of whose gratitude however I do not entertain the most exalted idea) must ever acknowledge the great services you have rendered them; and however you may not think convenient to contribute further to their happiness in that exalted station you have ever held since the commencment of the dispute, yet the samevirtuous principle and generous sentiments, which have heitherto stimulated you to further the cause of mankind in general will still induce you to serve that state with which you are particularly connected, and which now in an important manner calls for the exertion of your abilities.
A Constitution is now forming—a supreme Majistrate is to be appointed—a post of the greatest honorand importance to be confered on an individual. The popular manner in which this is to be done is perhaps the best which at this crisis could have been adopted: Caprices and trifleing accidents too often actuate and govern the populace. Alarmed at this truth, I felt the most sencible pleasure on the news of your arrival in Boston persuaded that your prudence and advice would prevent the many dangerous extravagancies of so popular a measure. Happy must it be for the good people of Massachusetts should they make chose of [left blank] the gentleman to whom they are so greatly indebted, and who without pomp or pageantry, superiour to the wiles of a courtier or the applause of individuals would study to promote the happiniss and gain the approbation of hiscountrymen by a steady adhearance to the principles of vir[tue and] justice.”
Meanwhile,George Washington, having suffered yet another defeat, this time at Whitemarsh,must now make plans to gather his troops and march them to winterquarters. He sends out the followingGeneral Order: “The army to march at four o’clock in the morning from the right—ASubaltern from each regiment and a Captain from each brigade, under the commandof a Field Officer from the line, are to assemble at General Knox’s quarters in the morning and remain ’till the Army moves off the ground, and then see that all stragglers in the camp, and its environs, are collected and marched after it—They are also to see that no baggage, entrenching tools or other articlesare left, or that they are, secured under proper guards taken from the Pennsylvania Militia, by application to the commanding officer thereof.”
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In the morning, British generals and engineers analyzed the American positions tosee if they could exploit any part of their defenses. To the astonishment of the British, the Americans, and historians ever since, Howe chose to withdraw and return to Philadelphia. He had been successful in thetwo major skirmishes during the previous two days, but he had not gotten as fararound the American flank as he had hoped and his provisions were running low. Also, as the now disparaged song goes, “Baby, It’s cold outside.” The troops had left their tents and gear in Philadelphia.
At 2:00 pm, the British began their withdrawal,lighting numerous campfires—as Washington had done three days earlier—toconceal their movements. An American reconnaissance party, led by Capt. McLane,discovered that Howe was marching back down Old York Road into Philadelphia and communicated this information back to Washington. Morgan’s troops harassedthe enemy’s rear, in particular Grey’s column, which was hindered by the weightof the artillery that it was transporting. A contingent of Hessians formed tooppose them with their fieldpieces and Morgan’s troops retreated. The British arrived in Philadelphia later that day. Washington would begin thinking about Winter Quarters.
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At around 1:00 am, Howe marched his army back through Germantown and then to Jenkintown, where they remained until noon. These British movements were concealed by a ridge on Chestnut Hill, and Washington did not become aware of them until around 8:00 am. He then moved Morgan’s Rifle Corps and Colonel Mordecai Gist’s Maryland militia eastward to cover his left flank. A mile to the right, Brigadier General James Potter’s brigade of Pennsylvania militia and Webb’s 2nd Connecticut Regiment, under Lieutenant Colonel Isaac Sherman, went down Limekiln Road toward Edge Hill. The movement of the British rear guar was being hindered by the burning of the villages at Cresheim and Beggarstown by troops in front. Howe’s right flank was now situated nearAbington Presbyterian Meeting. His mainforce moved to Edge Hill, on a ridge that ran parallel to, and a mile in frontof, the American lines. Grey’s column proceeded up Whitemarsh Church Road toward the center of the American forces.
General Grey had been instructed not to attack until he heard the sound of firing fromHowe’s column, but after several hours, he became impatient and decided to proceed on his own.He formed his column intothree divisions, with the Queen’s Rangers on the left, the Jägers on each sideof the road, and the light infantry of the Guards on the right, and headed in the direction of Tyson’s Tavern on Limekiln Road. As Grey advanced toward the American center,his troops took fire from American militia on Edge Hill. The militia were quickly routed, with between twenty and thirty killed, and fifteen of them taken as prisoners. Generals John Cadwalader and Joseph Reed out reconnoitering on horse near Twickenham, thecountry estate of Thomas Wharton Jr. attempted to rally Potter’s fleeing Pennsylvania militia. Lieutenant Colonel Sherman, the officer incharge of the 2nd Connecticut Continentals, resented Reed’s assumption ofcommand, and later complained to Washington that it put “…Officers and Men into such confusion that it rendered it impossible to keep that necessary when going into Action.” The British soon had them surrounded and outnumbered, and the Pennsylvania militia again panicked and fled. The 2nd Connecticut Continentals made a stand, firing between two and five rounds perman; Sherman only gave the order to retreat when the Jägers were within 15–20yards of his position. At some point, Cadwalader and Reed became separated from the militia, and Reed’s horse was shot out from under him. A bodyof Hessians charged at the two officers with bayonets, but Captain McLane rode upwith a few dragoonsand ordered a charge that scattered the Hessians. McLane then took the two officers to safety.
The Pennsylvania militia fled in panic down Edge Hill, across Sandy Run, and toward the main American camp. Right behind them were men of the 2ndConnecticut, also in disorderly retreat. They were pursued to within yards oftheir encampment by the Queen’s Rangers and Jägers, who then fell back and tooka position on Edge Hill, between Grey’s troops and Howe’s main column. Morgan’s Rifle Corps and Gist’s Marylandmilitia had taken position on Edge Hill, about a mile to the east of Grey’stroops, and higher up on the ridge. A small group of Americans moved down to attack Col. Twistleton’s Light Infantry of theGuards, but were quickly repulsed by the British. William Augustus West, who was stationed with the light infantry,noted that the4th and 23rd Regiments engaged the Americans with 9 men killed and 19wounded. British Major John Andre reported that one American was killed.
Meanwhile, the main body of Morgan’s and Gist’s troops engaged Howe’s main column in dense woods, where they fought “Indian style”, from tree to tree. The Maryland militiaattacked Abercromby’s 1st Light Infantry Battalion with unusual vigor: Britishofficers, who were used to encountering militia who would flee at the firstsign of battle, would later express admiration at the skill of Morgan’s andGist’s men. Morgan’s troops were not reinforced,and wereforced to retreat back to the main camp.
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From the very start, Charles Lee has felt no doubt that, despite what story might need to be peddled for public consumption, that he, and not George Washington, was the man who should be leading the army. His pedigree, education, and level of experience clearly exceeded that of the man who had been given the position. Lee never felt any compunction in peddling his personal theories to members of congress and other leaders about how he felt the army should be run, and the revolution conducted.
In this letter, sent in December 3rd, Charles Lee explains his theories to Benjamin Franklin –
Dear Sir, 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.6 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.
By pushing for militias instead of a regular standing army, Lee has made himself popular among the pro-democracy Whig elements in Congress. This popularity is growing due to George Washington’s recent military defeats.
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David Bushnell, inventor of the submarine “The Turtle” creates a minefield of gunpowder kegs to harass British shipping.
“The Turtle” is the first submarine. Bushnell came up with the idea while studying at Yale in 1775. While at Yale he proved that gunpowder could be exploded under water. He followed up by creating the first time bomb. He then combined these ideas with his building of the Turtle, which was designed to attack ships by attaching a time bomb to their hulls while using a hand powered drill and ship auger to penetrate the hulls. Its first use was in an attack on September 6. However, on that date it failed to destroy the 64 gun ship, HMS Eagle, that was its target.
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Hessians and British under command of German General Friedrich von Riedesel and British General Simon Fraser defeat the retreating Americans at Hubbardton. American forces are commanded by Colonel Seth Warner with 730 men, with 41 killed in action, 95 wounded in action and 234 captured. British forces had 1,030 men, with 60 killed in action and 138 wounded in action. Although the Americans are defeated they fight off the enemy and gave General Arthur St. Clair’s troops time to withdraw. The Battle of Hubbardton involved approximately 2,000 troops and resulted in approximately 600 casualties, losses on both sides was equal.
Congress appoints William Lee as the United States’ representative to Vienna and Berlin.
John Adams writes to Nathaniel Greene about the many causes that were keeping people away from the army, one of which was the “debauchery” to be found there: “The Indifference of the People about recruiting the Army, is a Circumstance, which ought to make Us, consider what are the Causes of it. It is not, merely the Melancholly, arising from the unfortunate Events of the last Campaign, but the Small Pox, and above all the unhappy State of our Finances, which occasion this Evil. There are other Circumstances, which are little attended to, which contribute, much more than is imagined, to this unfavourable Temper in the People. The Prevalence of Dissipation, Debauchery, Gaming, Prophaneness and Blasphemy, terrifies the best People upon the Continent, from trusting their Sons and other Relations among so many dangerous snares and Temptations. Multitudes of People, who would with chearfull Resignation Submit their Families to the Dangers of the sword, shudder at the Thought of exposing them, to what appears to them, the more destructive Effects of Vice and Impiety. These Ideas would be received by many with Scorn. But there is not the less Solidity in them for that. It is Discipline alone that can Stem the Torrent. Chaplains are of great Use, I believe, and I wish Mr. Leonard might be in the Army, upon such Terms as would be agreable to him, for there is no Man of whom I have a better opinion. But there is So much difficulty in accomplishing any Thing of the Kind, that I wish G. Washington would either appoint him, or recommend him to Congress. The Utility of Medals, has ever been impressed Strongly upon my Mind. Pride, Ambition, and indeed what a Philosopher would call Vanity, is the Strongest Passion in human Nature, and next to Religion, the most operative Motive to great Actions. Religion, or if the fine Gentlemen please, Superstition and Enthusiasm, is the greatest Incentive, and wherever it has prevailed, has never failed to produce Heroism. If our N. Englandmen were alone, and could have their own Way, a great deal of this would appear. But in their present Situation, I fear We have little to expect from this Principle, more than the Perseverance of the People in the Cause. We ought to avail ourselves then of even the Vanity of Men. For my own Part I wish We could make a Beginning, by Striking a Medal, with a Platoon firing at General Arnold, on Horseback, His Horse falling dead under him, and He deliberately disentangling his Feet from the Stirrups and taking his Pistolls out of his Holsters, before his Retreat. On the Reverse, He should be mounted on a Fresh Horse, receiving another Discharge of Musquetry, with a Wound in the Neck of his Horse.1 This Picture alone, which as I am informed is true History, if Arnold did not unfortunately belong to Connecticutt, would be sufficient to make his Fortune for Life. I believe there have been few such Scenes in the World.”
A twenty-seven year old candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates, James Madison, was defeated. Madison chose not to engage in the time-honored practice of purchasing liquor for voters. Madison would later recall that he had regarded the liquor custom as “equally inconsistent with the purity of moral and of republican principles.” He was “anxious to promote, by his example, the proper reform.” He made the mistake of believing that “new views of the subject” would “prevail with the people.” They did not. They cast their votes for his opponent, who was the owner of a brewery.
Joshua Loring gives a message from British General William Howe about the American prisoners being held in New York: “I am directed by his Excellency Sir William Howe to inform you, that your Prisoners here are in the greatest Distress for want of Cloathing The sick in the Hospitals are particularly in Want of this Article, so essential to their Health; To guard against the Sufferings which the Prisoners lately, in our hands underwent for want of Cloathing, & of the other Necessarys which they had a Right to expect from their Friends, and to prevent the unjust Interpretations which have been thrown out with Regard to their Sufferings, His Excellency has thought proper to have this early Intimation convey’d to You, that you may take such Steps as You shall judge necessary for their immediate Supply. I am likewise to inform You that the General has no Objections to your employing Mr Pintard or any other Person in furnishing your Prisoners with Provisions or any other Necessary Articles1 you may be desirous of sending in to them.”
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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.”