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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February 26, 1776

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The Spanish government orders its West Indies fleet to establish a patrol to observe the cnduct and movements of the British squadrons, and under the guise of preventing smuggling, detain British vessels and try to obtain information on the whereabouts of warships.  The intelligence was to be exchanged with French authorities.

Meanwhile, George Washington writes to the President of the Congress, John Hancock, about his upcoming attempt to take Dorchester Heights. (The letter includes Washington’s original spellings.)   “I had the honour of addressing you on the 18 and 21st Instt by Mr Hooper, since which nothing material has Occurred.  We are making every necessary preparation for taking possession of Dorchester Heights as soon as possible, with a view of drawing the Enemy out—How far our expectations may be answered, Time can only determine; But I should think, If any thing will Induce them to hazard an engagement, It will be our attempting to fortifye these heights, as on that event’s taking place, we shall be able to command a great part of the Town, and almost the whole harbour, and to make them rather disagreable than otherwise, provided we can get a sufficient supply of what we greatly want.  Within these three or four days I have received Sundry accounts from Boston of such movements there, such as taking the Mortars from Bunker Hill, the putting them with several peices of Heavy Ordnance on board of Ship, with a quantity of Bedding; the Ships all taking in Water, the baking a large quantity of Biscuit &c., as to Indicate an embarkation of the Troops from thence—A Mr Ides who came out Yesterday says that the Inhabitants of the Town generally beleive, that they are about to remove either to New York or Virginia, and that every Vessell in the Harbour on Tuesday last was taken up for Governments service, and Two months pay advanced them—Whether they really Intend to embark, or whether the whole is a feint, is impossible for me to tell; However I have thought it expedient to send an express to General Lee to Inform him of it, in order that he may not be taken by Surprize (If their destination shou’d be against New York) and continued him on to you—If they do embark, I think the possessing themselves of that place and of the North River is the Object they have in view, thereby securing the communication with Canada, and rendering the Intercourse between the Northern & Southern United Colonies exceedingly precarious and difficult. To prevent them from effecting their plan is a matter of the highest Importance, and will require a large & respectable army and the most vigilant & judicious exertions.  Since I wrote by Mr Hooper some small parcells of powder have arrived from Connecticut, which will give us a little assistance.  On Thursday night, a party of our men at Roxbury, made the Enemies Out Sentries, consisting of a Corporal and two privates, prisoners without firing a Gun or giving the least alarm.  I shall be as attentive to the Enemies motions as I can, and Obtain all the Intelligence in my power, and If I find ’em embark, shall in the most expeditious manner detach a part of the light Troops to New York and repair thither myself If circumstances shall require It—I shall be better able to judge what to do when the matter happens, at present I can only say, that I will do every thing that shall appear proper and necessary.  Your Letter of the 12 Instt by Colonel Bull came to hand yesterday evening, and shall agreable to your recommendation pay proper notice to him—the supply of Cash came very seasonably, as our Treasury was just exhausted, and nothing can be done here without It.”

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February 25, 1776

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General Washington received information that the British had taken over all ships in Boston harbor for government service.  He believes that the British are getting ready to evacuate in the near future.

Concerned that he lacks the arms and men to fight the British, General Washington sends a letter to General Schuyler requesting help.  Dear Sir -Notwithstanding I have adopted every Measure which my Judgment directed for procuring arms in these Governments for the army under my Command, as well by applications to the several assemblies and Conventions as by sending officers to the several Towns to purchase, I am under the disagreeable and melancholly Necessity of informing you, that there is at this important Crisis a very great Deficiency, and that there is now a considerable Number of Men at these Encampments without any in their Hands, nor do I know that there is any prospect or probability of providing them. Can you my Dear Sir assist me with any from your parts? If you procure or purchase any in the Towns fit for Use, I beg that you will do it and have them forwarded with—all possible Expedition to me. I will pay for them immediately on Delivery and the Charges of bringing them—I am told that a Major Duncan at Schenectady has about 300 King’s arms; these or such of them as are good and serviceable will be of great Use and I doubt not may be readily procured—If they can I request that they may and be forwarded with any others that you may get with the price—I would not be thus pressing and thus importunate were it not for my Situation which is truly alarming and distressing: To be within Musket Shot of a formidable army well provided of every Necessary without having the Means on my part of maintaining even a defensive War—Relying that every Thing in your power will be done to serve me…”

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