August 14, 1776

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Congress today resolves to offer all foreign deserters from the British army a secure refuge, including religious liberty, the investment of the rights, privileges, and immunities of natives, as established by the laws the states and 5 ¼ acres of unapprpriated lands.

In Boston, the city observed the 11th anniversary of the popular resistance which prevented the execution of the Stamp Act in Boston.  The Sons of Liberty erected a pole at the site of the original Liberty Tree.

The HMS Phoenix and Rose anchored in the Hudson River near New York City are boarded by American sailors with plans to set them ablaze.

Abigail Adams writes to John about the sorry state of education at home, and points out that it is important not only to educate the sons, but the daughters as well.  You remark upon the deficiency of Education in your Countrymen. It never I believe was in a worse state, at least for many years. The Colledge is not in the state one could wish, the Schollars complain that their professer in Philosophy is taken of by publick Buisness to their great detriment. In this Town I never saw so great a neglect of Education. The poorer sort of children are wholly neglected, and left to range the Streets without Schools, without Buisness, given up to all Evil. The Town is not as formerly divided into Wards. There is either too much Buisness left upon the hands of a few, or too little care to do it. We daily see the Necessity of a regular Government.—You speak of our Worthy Brother.3 I often lament it that a Man so peculiarly formed for the Education of youth, and so well qualified as he is in many Branches of Litrature, excelling in Philosiphy and the Mathematicks, should not be imployd in some publick Station. I know not the person who would make half so good a Successor to Dr. Winthrope. He has a peculiar easy manner of communicating his Ideas to Youth, and the Goodness of his Heart, and the purity of his morrals without an affected austerity must have a happy Effect upon the minds of Pupils.  If you complain of neglect of Education in sons, What shall I say with regard to daughters, who every day experience the want of it. With regard to the Education of my own children, I find myself soon out of my debth, and destitute and deficient in every part of Education.  I most sincerely wish that some more liberal plan might be laid and executed for the Benefit of the rising Generation, and that our new constitution may be distinguished for Learning and Virtue. If we mean to have Heroes, Statesmen and Philosophers, we should have learned women. The world perhaps would laugh at me, and accuse me of vanity, But you I know have a mind too enlarged and liberal to disregard the Sentiment. If much depends as is allowed upon the early Education of youth and the first principals which are instilld take the deepest root, great benifit must arise from litirary accomplishments in women.”

 

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July 25, 1776

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Congress is in the midst of discussing the first draft of John Dickinson’sArticles of Confederation.”  Among other things, they discuss the boundaries of the thirteen states.  Thomas Jefferson believed all Indian lands should be immediately bought and that Congress should in no way fix borders.  Others, Samuel Chase and James Wilson among them, disagreed, setting the stage for later debate.

John Adams, concerned about his family and their smallpox inoculations, requests permission to resign his post and to return home.  “I find myself, under a Necessity of applying to the Honourable the general Court for Leave to return home. I have attended here, So long and So constantly, that I feel myself necessitated to ask this Favour, on Account of my Health, as well as on many other Accounts.  I beg Leave to propose to the Honourable Court an Alteration in their Plan of Delegation in Congress, which it appears to me, would be more agreable to the Health, and Convenience of the Members and much more conducive to the public Good, than the present. No Gentleman can possibly attend to an incessant Round of thinking, Speaking, and writing, upon the most intricate, as well as important Concerns of human Society, from one End of the Year to another, without Injury both to his mental and bodily Strength. I would therefore humbly propose, that the Honourable Court would be pleased to appoint Nine Members to attend in Congress, Three or Five at a Time. In this Case, four, or Six, might be at home, at a Time, and every Member might be relieved, once in three or four Months. In this Way, you would always have Members in Congress, who would have in their Minds, a compleat Chain of the Proceedings here as well as in the General Court, both Kinds of which Knowledge, are necessary, for a proper Conduct here. In this Way, the Lives and Health, and indeed the sound Minds of the Delegates here, would be in less Danger than they are at present, and, in my humble Opinion the public Business would be much better done.  This Proposal, however, is only Submitted to the Consideration of that Honourable Body, whose Sole Right it is to judge of it.  For myself, I must intreat the General Court to give me Leave to resign, and immediately to appoint Some other Gentleman in my Room. The Consideration of my own Health, and the Circumstances of my Family and private Affairs would have little Weight with me, if the Sacrifice of these was necessary for the Public: But it is not, because those Parts of the Business of Congress, for which, (if for any) I have any Qualifications, being now nearly compleated, and the Business that remains, being chiefly military and commercial, of which I know very little, there are Multitudes of Gentlemen in the Province, much fitter for the public Service here, than I am.”

George Washington, finding himself spending hours every day attending to official correspondence, requests assistance from Congress.  “Disagreeable as it is to me, and unpleasing as it may be to Congress to multiply Officers, I find myself under the unavoidable necessity of asking an Increase of my Aid de Camps—The augmentation of my Command—the Increase of my Correspondance—the Orders to give—the Instructions to draw, cut out more business than I am able to execute in time, with propriety. The business of so many different departments centering with me, & by me to be handed on to Congress for their information, added to the Intercourse I am obliged to keep up with the adjacent States and incidental occurrences, all of which requiring confidential (& not hack) writers to execute, renders it impossible in the present state of things for my family to discharge the several duties expected of me with that precission and dispatch that I could wish—what will it be then when we come into a more active Scene, and I am called upon from twenty different places perhaps at the same Instant?  Congress will do me the justice to believe, I hope, that it is not my Inclination or wish to run the Continent to any unnecessary expence. and those who better know me, will not suspect that shew, and parade can have any Influence on my Mind in this Instance. A Conviction of the necessity of it, for the regular discharge of the trust reposed in me is the Governing motive for the application, and as such is Submitted to Congress.”  It will not be until he is joined by young Alexander Hamilton that Washington finds somebody who he trusts enough to turn his official correspondences over to.

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June 11, 1776

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Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman and Philip Livingston comprise a committee chosen to prepare the Declaration of Independence.  John Adams requests Thomas Jefferson to prepare the first draft.  When Jefferson suggested that Adams write the Declaration, Adams “declined, and gave him several reasons for declining.  1.  That he was a Virginian, and I a Massachusettensian.  2. That he was a southern man, and I a northern one.  3.  That I had been so obnoxious for my early and constant zeal in promoting the measure, that any draught of mine would undergo a more severe scrutiny and criticism in Congress, than one of his composition.  4., and lastly, and that would be reason enough if there were no other, I had a great opinion of the elegance of his pen, and none at all of my own.  I therefore insisted that no hesitation should be made on his part.”

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May 6, 1776

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In Providence, Rhode Island, Governor Cooke sends General George Washington a copy of an act discharging inhabitants of the colony from allegiance to the King.

In Williamsburg, Virginia, the House of Burgesses meets for the last time.  In its place, the General Convention of Delegates from the counties and corporations convenes and elects Edmund Pendleton President.

In the Plains of Abraham, Quebec, American troops under General John Thomas with 250 men, had 200 sick soldiers captured, and was defeated at the Plains of Abraham by General Guy Clinton with 900 men.  The Americans fled westward in panic leaving 200 sick behind.

John Adams writes to John Winthrop about the question of independence(Original spellings retained):  “Our People, you Say are impatiently waiting for the Congress to declare off from Great Britain. What my own Sentiments, are upon this Question, is not material. But others ask to what Purpose should We declare off? Our Privateers are at Liberty, our Trade is open, the Colonies are Sliding into New Governments, a Confederation may be formed but why should We declare We never will be reconciled to Great Britain, again, upon any Terms whatsoever.  You ask how it would be relished by the Congress, if our Colony Should declare off. I am happy to hear that our Colony is disusing a certain Name in all Commissions, Acts, and Law Proscesses and I should like very well, if they would choose a Governor, or at least ask leave of Congress to do it. But I cannot advise them to make any public Declarations, Seperate from our Sister Colonies. The Union, is our Defence, and that must be most tenderly cherished. If our Colony has an Inclination to instruct their Delegates in Congress, no reasonable objection can be made to this. They may if they think proper, instruct their servants, never to vote for any Subjection to Parliament in any Case whatsoever never to vote for submitting to any Crown officer, Whether Governor, Mandamus Councillor, secretary, Judge of Admiralty, Commissioner or Custom House officer &c. &c. if this is their sentiment—or never to vote for acknowledging any Allegiance, or subjection to the Crown of Great Britain, or King of Great Britain. But if they do all this I hope you will allow us to make Peace as an independent State.  It is my opinion, sir, that We shall have but little Difference of Sentiment among the Colonies upon these great Questions in a few Weeks.

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April 3, 1776

UnknownIn Philadelphia, the Continental Congress gave privateers permission to “by force of arms, attack, subdue, and take all ships and other vessels belonging to the inhabitants of Great Britain.”

Mercy Otis Warren, the sister of James Otis and future biographer of the Revolution, wrote the following to John Adams:  “The sudden departure of the plunderers of Boston and the removal of the Continental troops from Cambridge occasions a temporary calm in the eastern region; but if the storm should again burst upon this quarter, I fear we shall be too destitute of skillful navigators, to oppose its fury with success: though we have still a few left among us whose tried courage and experience has set danger at defiance.  You Sir, have felt too much for the distresses of the Massachusetts, to wonder at the concern of any individual of a Colony, already wasted by fire, sword, pestilence, and rapine. The first scene has been opened here, but time alone must determine when the tragedy will end. The danger which threatens from foreign invaders, with an concurrence of circumstances, that prevents the energy of colonial operations, and renders internal peace, precarious are too many for my pen to enumerate, and too obvious to a gentleman of your judgment and sagacity to make it necessary.  May the great guardian of the universe, who stoops to survey the rise of Empire, and beholds from his lofty throne the squabbles of the emmets of a day, inspire with vigour and unanimity the patriots of America. May he make the decision of the present contest, the establishment of virtue, liberty, and truth, fixed on too firm a basis to be undermined by future despots!  Do you think, Sir, sinse the spirits were hurled from the etherial regions, there was ever a more sudden reverse of hope and expectation, than that experienced by the miserable group—the unhappy wretches lately transported from Boston to Halifax? Surely they must “grin horribly, a ghastly smile,” if ever they recover from their first astonishment so far as to attempt to smile again.  Yet so pitiable is their condition, that it must excite the compassion of the hardest heart, more especially for their feeble connexions. Women, children, soldiers, sailors, governors, councellors, flatterers, statesmen, and pimps, huddled promiscuously, either into fishing boats, or Royal barks, which ever first offered the means of escape to the panic which struck multitudes.  It is not difficult to say how far they would compassionate us in a similar situation. We have had too many proofs of their inhumanity to be at any loss; but this is not our rule of action.  You may laugh if you please and those disposed to exalt in the triumph may even enjoy it, but I am not afraid to say I most sincerely pity them,—yet I may smile when I see some observations on the event.”

Meanwhile, George Washington wrote to General Benedict Arnold and told him that he was sending arms and men to him in Quebec in case the British were to turn there, but probably not enough of either.  “I have Dispatch’d two Company’s of Colonel Knox’s Regiment of Artillery to you from hence Two Mortars &c. as you will see at foot hereof if any thing else is wanting that Cannot be had in Canada & in my power to Send, they Shall be forwarded with all possible expedition upon my being informed thereof—the Chief part of the troops are marched from hence towards Newyork. I will Set off to morrow, if the enemy will not find us full employment & it is necessary you may expect a detachment from thence to your assistance—I am very Sorry that the Gentlemen of Newyork & other Officers Should think themselves neglected in the new arrangement—it is true that I reserved places in this Army for those Officers who went from hence under your Command—the Congress have Since informd me, that they woud be provided for, in the Army raisd for Canada. I was not acquainted with the Gentlemen who Complain, nor with their Circumstances, there is Little doubt but their merits will be rewarded in due time—I am very Sensible of the many difficulties you have had to encounter[.] Your Conduct under them, does you great honour—as General Thomas will take the burthen off your Shoulders, I hope you will Soon gather Strenght Sufficient to assist in finishing the important work you have with So much glory to yourself, & service to your Country hitherto Conducted—as I am informed that there is a Furnace Somwhere near you, Where Shells & Shot of any Size Can be Cast, I woud reccomend to General Thomas to have what quantity of each that May be wanting immediatly prepared, the roads are So very bad that it is impossible to Send you any great number of these necessary articles from hence, I have appointed Capt. Lamb who is Prisoner in Quebec to be Second Major in the Regiment of Artillery Commanded by Col. Henry Knox, the Gentlemen of this familly return you their Compliments and I remain yrs…”

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February 28th and 29th, 1776

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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.”

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February 27, 1776

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In North Carolina, Patriots defeat loyalists at the Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge.

The Royal Governor, Josiah Martin, had been attempting to create a large Loyalist force, made up of local loyalists as well as Scots settlers, and had permission to raise a regiment that would be known as the Royal Highland Emigrants.  Patriots, on the other hand, had been organizing Continental Army militia units ever since word of the Battles of Lexington and Concord had come to them.   When he became aware of a planned British Army expedition in the area, Governor Martin ordered the Loyalist militia to form in anticipation of their arrival.  Rebels mobilized to prevent this, and blockaded several routes until the Loyalists found themselves forced to confront them at Moore’s Creek Bridge, which is about eighteen miles north of Wilmington.  The Loyalists were poorly armed, but charged across the bridge wielding their swords.  They were met by a barrage of musket fire.  One Loyalist leader was killed and another captured, and the rest of the force ran.  In the following days Loyalists were arrested, and the threat of a large Loyalist regiment was dissipated.

Meanwhile General Benedict Arnold, from Quebec, writes to George Washington regarding army operations.  Dear General – I wrote you the 14th Ulto of Our Situation and prospects, since which nothing of Consequence has Occured, here, The Enemy to the number of abt five hundred have twice Sallied out at Pallace Gate, with Design of seizeing our Field peices, (near the Nunnery) but On Our Troops, Advanceing to Attack them, they made a precipitate retreat, under Cover of their guns—Desertions from the Garrison are frequent by which we learn they are much distres’d for Fuell & must soon Burn their Houses, & Ships—Two Officers taken At St Johns were lately sent with a flagg to the Walls, with a View of geting their familys at liberty, but Were refused admittance, which I am told by several Deserters incensed the Inhabitants very much, and Caused a great uneasiness in the Garrison, who I beleive begin to grow heartily tired of Salt Provissions and Confinement. We have received a reinforcemt, of Four hundred Men, many are daily comeing in I hope in the Course of this month we shall have four Or Five thousand Men—I am fearfull we shall Not be supplied with Shott, Shells Mortars &c. I am therefore prepareing Ladders, for an Assault If necessary—the extensiveness of the works I think will render their Defence impracticable.  I have this minute the Pleasure of your favour of the 27th Ulto, I am greatly Obliged to you for your good wishes, and the Concern, you express for me. Sensable of the Vast Importance of this Country, you may be assured my utmost exertions will not be wanting to effect your wishes, in adding It, to the United Colonies, I am fully of your Opinion, that the Ballance will turn in whose favour it belongs The repeated Successes of Our Raw, undisiplined Troops Over the Flower of the British Army, the many, unexpected and remarkable Occurrences in Our favour Are plain proofs of the Overruleing hand of Providence And Justly Demands Our warmest gratitude to Heaven which I make no Doubt will Crown Our Virtuous efforts with success. No Doubt Administration will exert themselves in sending a large Force this way in the Spring, but if we are fortunate enough to Reduce the City before they arive, I make no Doubt of keeping it, as we shall have the Intrest of the Country in general to which the raiseing Two Regiments of Canadians (which Congress have Ordered) will Not a little Conduce.  I am sorry to inform you Notwithstanding every precaution that could be used the Small Pox has, Crept in among the Troops, we have near One hundred Men in the Hospital, in General it is favourable, very few have died, I have Moved the Inhabitants of the Vicinity of Quebec Into the Country, and hope to prevent it’s spreading Any further.  The Severity of the Climate the Troops, very Illy Clad, & worse paid, the Trouble of Reconceleing matters among the Inhabitants, and Lately, an uneasiness among some of the New York, & other officers, who think themselves neglected In the new Arangement, while, those who deserted the Cause and went home last fall have ben promoted In short the Choice of Difuculties I have had to Encounter has, rendered it so very perplexing that I have often ben at a loss how to Conduct Matters.  As General Schuylers Ill state of health will not permit his Comeing this Way, I was in hopes Genl Lee, or some Experienced Officer, would have ben sent to take the Command here, the Service requires a Person of greater Abilities, and experience, than I can pretend too Genl Wooster writes me his Intention of Comeing Down here, I am afraid he will Not be able to Leave Montreal.  I have the pleasure to inform you my wound is Intirely healed, and I am able to hobble about my Room, tho my leg is a little Contracted & weak. I hope soon to be fit for Action We are waiting, impatiently, expecting to hear of Some Capital Blow, being struck with you

Washington too has hopes that General Philip Schuyler’s health might soon improve enough so that he can provide assistance to Arnold.  “Dear Sir – Last Night I received your Favor of the 14th Instant by Mr Bennet, inclosing a general Return of the Artillery & Military Stores in our possession in Canada.  It gives me great pleasure to hear that you are improving in your Health, before long I sincerely hope you will be so recovered as to be able to go to the Army in Canada, where I am convinced you are much wanted, and wou’d be of the highest Service at this important Crisis; I doubt not of there being a good Deal of Confusion and Disorder in that Quarter: which I flatter myself wou’d in a great Measure subside and be composed by your presence. It is natural enough that Mr Walker’s Resentment should be up for the Wrongs he has suffered; It is incident to Humanity, but yet the passions of Individuals ought never to prevail so far as to injure the State.  I am sorry to find that the Quantity of Artillery and Military Stores is so small and inconsiderable as appears by the Return, I had hoped that you were better provided with the former, and also with much more Ammunition than what you have, particularly powder and that the Distresses no where else were equal to mine for Want of this capital Necessary—Wou’d Fortune but give you possession of Quebec, then wou’d our Wants be mostly supplied—May she smile propitious and your virtuous Struggles be crowned with Success—The Reduction of this Fortress would be attended with Consequences of the most happy and salutary Nature to our great Cause, and as General Arnold with a Handful of Men has been able to maintain the Blockade, I look forward with a pleasing Confidence to the Day when you being properly reinforced will oblige it to surrender.”

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