January 19, 1777

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Congress reprints the Declaration of Independence with the names of all the signers.

John Adams, as he does his best to make it home to Braintree, takes note of the attitudes of the citizenry in a letter to Abigail:  “There is too much Ice in Hudsons River to cross it in Ferry Boats and too little to cross it, without, in most Places, which has given Us the Trouble of riding up the Albany Road as far as this Place, where We expect to go over on the Ice, but if We should be dissappointed here, We must go up as far as Esopus about fifteen miles farther.  This, as well as Fish-kill is a pretty Village. We are almost wholly among the Dutch—Zealous against the Tories, who have not half the Tranquillity here that they have in the Town of Boston, after all the Noise that has been made about N. York Tories.  We are treated with the Utmost Respect, wherever We go, and have met with nothing like an Insult, from any Person whatever. I heard ten Reflections, and twenty Sighs and Groans, among my Constituents to one here.  I shall never have done hoping that my Countrymen will contrive some Coup de main, for the Wretches at Newport. The Winter is the Time. Our Enemies have divided their Force. Let Us take Advantage of it.”

Benjamin Franklin responds to a letter from Juliana Ritchie which warned Franklin about a number of conjectures, including the possibility that his valet was a British spy.  “Madam, I am much oblig’d to you for your kind Attention to my Welfare, in the Information you give me. I have no doubt of its being well founded. But as it is impossible to discover in every case the Falsity of pretended Friends who would know our Affairs; and more so to prevent being watch’d by Spies, when interested People may think proper to place them for that purpose; I have long observ’d one Rule which prevents any Inconvenience from such Practices. It is simply this, to be concern’d in no Affairs that I should blush to have made publick; and to do nothing but what Spies may see and welcome. When a Man’s Actions are just and honourable, the more they are known, the more his Reputation is increas’d and establish’d. If I was sure therefore that my Valet de Place was a Spy, as probably he is, I think I should not discharge him for that, if in other Respects I lik’d him.  The various Conjectures you mention concerning my Business here, must have their Course. They amuse those that make them, and some of those that hear them; they do me no harm, and therefore it is not necessary that I should take the least Pains to rectify them. I am glad to learn that you are in a Situation that is agreeable to you, and that Mr. Richie was lately well. My Daughter and her Children were so when I left them, but I have lost my dear Mrs. Franklin now two Years since.”

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January 2, 1777

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General Cornwallis marches toward Trenton to attack Washington with 6,000 men.  General Washington’s troops are in great danger, backed up against the Delaware River.  Fortunately, Cornwallis decides to wait until the next day to finish up the battle.  Washington deceived Cornwallis by having 400 men dig entrenchments and fires while making a lot of noise during the night while he and the bulk of the army quietly withdrew to safety.

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December 29, 1776

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Congress spent most of this Sunday in a committee of the whole discussing a plan for obtaining foreign assistance.

General Washington writes to Congress about his determination to once again cross the Delaware and enter New Jersey:  “I am just setting out, to attempt a second passage over the Delaware with the Troops that were with me on the morning of the 26th. I am determined to effect it, if possible but know that it will be attended with much fatigue & difficulty on account of the Ice, which will neither allow us to cross on Foot, or give us an easy passage with Boats. Genl Cadwalader crossed from Bristol on the 27th and by his Letter of Yesterday was at Borden Town with about Eighteen Hundred Men. In addition to these, Genl Mifflin sent over Five hundred from Philadelphia on Friday, Three hundred yesterday Evening from Burlington and will follow to day with 7 or 800 more. I have taken every precaution in my power for subsisting of the Troops, & shall without loss of time and as soon as circumstances will admit of, pursue the Enemy in their retreat—try to beat up more of their Quarters and in a word, in every instance, adopt such measures as the exigency of our affairs requires & our situation will justifye. had it not been for the unhappy failure of Genls Ewin and Cadwalader in their attempts to pass on the night of the 25, and if the several concerted attacks could have been made, I have no doubt but that our views would have succeeded to our warmest expectations. What was done, occasioned the Enemy to leave their Several Posts on the Delaware with great precipitation. The peculiar distresses to which the Troops who were with me, were reduced by the severities of Cold, rain, Snow & Storm—the charge of the Prisoners they had taken, and another reason that might be mentioned and the little prospect of receiving succours on account of the Season & situation of the River, would not authorize a further pursuit at that time. Since transmitting the List of Prisoners a few more have been discoverd & taken in Trentown, among ’em a Lieutt Colo. & a Deputy Adjutt Genl, The whole amounting to about a Thousand.  I have been honoured with your Letter of the 23d and Its several Inclosures, to which I shall pay due attention. A Flag goes in this Morning with a Letter to Genl Howe & Another to Genl Lee. For the latter, Rob. Morris Esqr. has transmitted a Bill of Exchange drawn by Two British Officers for 116:9:3 on Major Small for money furnished them in South Carolina, which I trust will be paid. This supply is exclusive of the Sum you have resolved to be sent him and which Mr Morris will procure in time..P.S. I am under great apprehensions about obtaining proper supplies of Provision for our Troops. I fear it will be extremely difficult if not impracticable, As the Enemy from every account, has taken & collected every thing they could find.”

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December 20, 1776

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Benjamin Franklin arrives in Versailles and writes the following letter to Silas Deane, who is already there:  “Finding myself too much fatigu’d to proceed to Paris this Evening, and not knowing whether you have receiv’d my Letter wherein I requested you to provide me a Lodging, I have concluded to remain here to-night. If you are in Paris, I hope to hear from you to-morrow Morning before I set out, which will hardly be till about Noon.”

In Baltimore, Maryland, Congress meets and acts to improve the quarters in which prisoners are held and to provide provisins and clothing.  They also ask General William Howe concerning the conditions under which General Charles Lee is held in New York.

The British frigate HMS Pearl captures the Continental Navy brig USS Lexington.

Adam Stephen writes to his friend Thomas Jefferson:  “The Enemy like locusts Sweep the Jerseys with the Besom of destruction. They to the disgrace of a Civilisd Nation Ravish the fair Sex, from the Age of Ten to Seventy. The Tories are Baneful in pointing out the friends to the American Cause, and giving Notice of every Motion we make.The Enemy have made greater progress than they themselves expected owing to the Weakness of our Counsels and our Attempt to mantain The Forts Washington and Lee.Our Salvation under Heaven, depends on our Raising an Army Speedily. Every lover of Liberty should with Spirit promote the Recruiting Service.Genl. Lee had the misfortune to be taken prisoner to the 13th Inst. He had Saunterd about three miles and a half from his Army -lodged the night before at a house recommended to him by a Colo. Vanhorn, a person in the Enemys Service, who is appointed to Sign pardons on the peoples Submission; and Stayd at the place untill ten O’Clock on the 13th, when 50 light horsemen Supposd to be detachd by Advice of Vanhorn, came to the house and carryd him off. He had thirteen men of a Guard but they were Stragling and Absent except three.By accounts from Old France of Octob 1st. That Nation is on the Eve of a War with England.I expect that we shall have hot Work as soon as the Delawar is frozen over.If we lose Philadelphia and let it Stand, it will go near to Ruin us. They will open the port, give great prices for Wheat and flour and Seduce the Body of the People.Three of Mr. Aliens Sons, and Jo. Galloway are with the Enemy in Trenton. A Frigate went in pursuit of the Reprisal Capt. Wicks with Franklin on Board; Must they not have had Intelligence from a member of Congress? Would it not be adviseable to open the doors of Congress and have the Debates in publick? Let the Secret Business be done, by a Committee, or the Boards of Admiralty and War; after the plan has been Settled by Committees of the Whole house in Secret. We Should then have a better Chance of distinguishd [distinguishing] the Spirited from the Languid Members.”

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December 18, 1776

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Ex-patriot Samuel Curwen’s journal for this day reads, “It piques my pride, I confess, to hear us called our colonies, our plantations, with such airs as if our property and persons are absolutely theirs, like the villains of the old feudal system.”

George Washington writes to James Bowdoin:   “I should be happy if there had been just grounds for the report of the success of our Arms at Heckensec, but things have been entirely the reverse. By the expiration of the service of the Troops denominated flying Camp men and their return home on the 1st Instt, our force on this side Hudsons River, which before that period was unequal to any successfull opposition, was reduced to a mere handfull. With this small number I have been pushed through Jersey by the main body of the Enemy’s Army, without deriving the least aid from the Militia, notwithstanding the earliest & most pressing sollicitations and for want of their Assistance a large part of that State has been exposed to all the effects of ravage & of the most wanton plunder.  The Delaware now divides what remains of our little force from that of Genl Howe whose Object beyond all question, is to possess Philadelphia. They have been industrious in their efforts to procure Boats for their transportation, but the precautions I have taken have hitherto rendered their attempts unsuccessfull. How things will terminate I must leave to the event itself; As yet I have recd but little or no augmentation except that of the City Militia who have turned out in a Spirited manner.  Convinced that Philadelphia was the Object of Mr How’s movements, & of the fatal consequences that would attend the loss of it—I wrote for Genl Lee to Reinforce me with the Troops under his immediate command. By some means or other, their arrival has been retarded and unhappily on Friday last, the Genl having left his division and proceeded on the flanks, three or four miles nearer the Enemy (then 18 miles from him) of which they were informed by some Tories, was surprized and carried off about Eleven OClock by a party of Seventy Light Horse. I will not comment upon this unhappy accident. I feel much for his misfortune, and am sensible that in his captivity, Our Country has lost a warm friend and an able Officer.  Upon the whole our Affairs are in a much less promising condition than could be wished, Yet I trust under the smiles of Providence, and by our own exertions, we shall be happy. Our cause is righteous and must be supported. Every nerve should be strained to levy the New Army; If a respectable one can be procured in season, All may be well. The ensuing Campaign will be an important one, and the issue may lead to happiness or the most melancholy of all events.”

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November 27, 1776

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General Washington writes General Charles Lee in Westchester urging Lee to join him in New Jersey.  “I confess I expected you would have been sooner in motion.  The force here when joined by yours, will not be adequate to any great opposition, at present it is weak, and it has been more owing to the badness of the weather that the enemy’s progress has been checked, than any resistance we could make.  They are now pushing this way.”

Lee, perhaps in a reflection of Washington’s diminished power base after the losses in New York, seems not to feel inclined to follow Washington’s “suggestion” at this point.

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 those interested in the Civil War, come see our Gettysburg Tour.  Or, for the true history buffs, contact us about taking part in our American History Vacation Packages.

November 25, 1776

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British Colonel Guy Johnson, Indian Superintendent in New York, reports to Lord Germain in England that the Indians have kept their promises to him of last year and that he had sent an officer in disguise to the Six Nations.

In New York, William Franklin writes in a letter to his wife in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, regarding their son going to Paris with his father, Benjamin, “if the old gentleman has taken the boy with him, I hope it is only to put him in some foreign university, which he seemed anxious to do when he spoke to me last about his education.”  William and Benjamin are at odds, since William has chosen to support the British in the conflict.

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 those interested in the Civil War, come see our Gettysburg Tour.  Or, for the true history buffs, contact us about taking part in our American History Vacation Packages.