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.

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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.

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November 23, 1776

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George Washington has 5,410 troops with him.  Enlistments for 2,060 will expire on December 1st.  Congress sent Washington a supply of blank commissions to issue at headquarters.  Washington writes the following letter to John Hancock, President of the Congress:  “I have not yet heard that any Provision is making to supply the place of the Troops composing the Flying Camp, whose departure is now at hand. The situation of our Affairs is truly critical & such as requires uncommon exertions on our part. From the movements of the Enemy & the information we have received, they certainly will make a push to possess themselves of this part of the Jersey. In order that you may be fully apprized of our Weakness and of the necessity there is of our obtaining early Succours, I have by the advice of the Genl Officers here, directed Genl Mifflin to wait on you. he is intimately acqu[ainte]d with our circumstances and will represent them better, than my hurried state will allow. I have wrote to Genl Lee to come over with the Continental Regiments immediately under his command; those with Genl Heath, I have ordered to secure the Passes, through the Highlands; I have also wrote to Govr Livingston requesting of him such aid as may be in his power, and would submit it to the consideration of Congress, whether application should not be made for part of the Pensylvania Militia to step forth at this pressing time.

Menawhile, in New York City, British General Orders assign troops for winter residence, order the outlines of old Fort Washington leveled and usable construction materials to be sent to New York.

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September 27, 1776

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The South Carolina House sends a report to President Rutledge that opposed the idea of forcing captured Indians into slavery.  They argued that the idea would hurt future relations and encourage Indians to retaliate in a similar fashion.

General George Washington transmits to Congress that the British military force in Canada is 8,000 men, one 18 gun ship, two brigs, three schooners, gondolas, bateaux, and artillery companies and about 100 cannon, the finest ever sent from England.

Richard Henry Lee writes to Thomas Jefferson to inform him that he has been chosen, along with Benjamin Franklin and Silas Deane to travel to France in order to convince the French to join the efforts of the colonies.  “I should have written to you before now if I had not been uncertain about finding you at home, as the distance was great, and the meeting of our Assembly approaching. All the material events that have happened since you left us are to be found related pretty faithfully in the public papers, which I suppose are regularly conveyed to you.

The plan of foreign treaty is just finished, and yourself, with Doctor Franklin, and Mr. Deane now in France, are the Trustees to execute this all important business. The great abilities and unshaken virtue, necessary for the execution of what the safety of America does so capitally rest upon, has directed the Congress in their choice; and tho ambition may have no influence in this case, yet that distinguished love for your country that has marked your life, will determine you here. In my judgement, the most emminent services that the greatest of her sons can do America will not more essentially serve her and honor themselves, than a successful negotiation with France. With this country, every thing depends upon it, and if we may form a judgement of what is at a distance, the dispositions of that Court are friendly in a high degree, and want only to be properly acted upon, to be wrought into fixt attachment and essential good. We find ourselves greatly endangered by the Armament at present here, but what will be our situation the next campaign, when the present force shall be increas[ed] by the addition of 20 or 30 thousand Russians with a larg[e] body of British and Irish troops? I fear the power of America will fail in the mighty struggle And the barbarous hand of despotism will extirpate libe[rty] and virtue from this our native land; placing in th[eir] stead slavery, vice, ignorance, and ruin. Already these foes of human kind have opened their Courts of Justice (as they call them) on Long Island, and the first frui[ts] of their tender mercies, are confiscation of estates, and condemnation of Whigs to perpetual imprisonment.  The idea of Congress is, that yourself and Dr. Frank[lin] should go in different Ships. The Doctor, I suppose, will sail from hence, and if it is your pleasure, on[e] of our Armed Vessels will meet you in any River in Virginia that you choose.”

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September 9, 1776

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Congress adopts the name “United States of America.”  “Resolved, that in all continental commissions, and other instruments, where, heretofore, the words ‘United Colonies’ have been used, the style be altered for the future to the ‘United States.”

In London, England, William Lee informs C.F.W. Dumas in Pairs that the Declaration of Independence has “totally changed the nature of the contest” and for the British military effort, the Americans required more military stores and experienced officers.

Meanwhile, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, while travelling to meet with the British Peace Negotiators, find themselves sharing a bed and arguing about the nature of the common cold.  John Adams later described the event:  “The Taverns were so full We could with difficulty obtain Entertainment. At Brunswick, but one bed could be procured for Dr. Franklin and me, in a Chamber little larger than the bed, without a Chimney and with only one small Window. The Window was open, and I, who was an invalid and afraid of the Air in the night, shut it close. Oh! says Franklin dont shut the Window. We shall be suffocated. I answered I was afraid of the Evening Air. Dr. Franklin replied, the Air within this Chamber will soon be, and indeed is now worse than that without Doors: come! open the Window and come to bed, and I will convince you: I believe you are not acquainted with my Theory of Colds. Opening the Window and leaping into Bed, I said I had read his Letters to Dr. Cooper in which he had advanced, that Nobody ever got cold by going into a cold Church, or any other cold Air: but the Theory was so little consistent with my experience, that I thought it a Paradox: However I had so much curiosity to hear his reasons, that I would run the risque of a cold. The Doctor then began an harrangue, upon Air and cold and Respiration and Perspiration, with which I was so much amused that I soon fell asleep, and left him and his Philosophy together: but I believe they were equally sound and insensible, within a few minutes after me, for the last Words I heard were pronounced as if he was more than half asleep…. I remember little of the Lecture, except, that the human Body, by Respiration and Perspiration, destroys a gallon of Air in a minute: that two such Persons, as were now in that Chamber, would consume all the Air in it, in an hour or two: that by breathing over again the matter thrown off, by the Lungs and the Skin, We should imbibe the real Cause of Colds, not from abroad but from within. I am not inclined to introduce here a dissertation on this Subject. There is much Truth I believe, in some things he advanced: but they warrant not the assertion that a Cold is never taken from cold air. I have often conversed with him since on the same subject: and I believe with him that Colds are often taken in foul Air, in close Rooms: but they are often taken from cold Air, abroad too. I have often asked him, whether a Person heated with Exercise, going suddenly into cold Air, or standing still in a current of it, might not have his Pores suddenly contracted, his Perspiration stopped, and that matter thrown into the Circulations or cast upon the Lungs which he acknowledged was the Cause of Colds. To this he never could give me a satisfactory Answer. And I have heard that in the Opinion of his own able Physician Dr. Jones he fell a Sacrifice at last, not to the Stone but to his own Theory; having caught the violent Cold, which finally choaked him, by sitting for some hours at a Window, with the cool Air blowing upon him.

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August 29, 1776

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In New York, a Council of War is summoned by General Washington, and it votes to fall back across the East River to New York.  Washington spends the night riding between forts and the shore encouraging and directing his men.  Fortunately the wind, tide and weather assist the Americans and equally fortunate was the failure of Admiral Howe to order his numerous warships to block the retreat.  10,000 troops evacuate between August 29th and 30th.  Troops are ferried across the East River by Colonel John Glover’s Marbleheaders.

Meanwhile, Abigail Adams writes to her husband John:  “Dearest Friend:  I have spent the 3 days past almost intirely with you. The weather has been stormy, I have had little company, and I have amused my self in my closet reading over the Letters I have received from you since I have been here.  I have possession of my Aunts chamber in which you know is a very conveniant pretty closet with a window which looks into her flower Garden. In this closet are a number of Book Shelves, which are but poorly furnished, however I have a pretty little desk or cabinet here where I write all my Letters and keep my papers unmollested by any one. I do not covet my Neighbours Goods, but I should like to be the owner of such conveniances. I always had a fancy for a closet with a window which I could more peculiarly call my own.  Here I say I have amused myself in reading and thinking of my absent Friend, sometimes with a mixture of paine, sometimes with pleasure, sometimes anticipating a joyfull and happy meeting, whilst my Heart would bound and palpitate with the pleasing Idea, and with the purest affection I have held you to my Bosom till my whole Soul has dissolved in Tenderness and my pen fallen from my Hand.  How often do I reflect with pleasure that I hold in possession a Heart Eaqually warm with my own, and full as Susceptable of the Tenderest impressions, and Who even now whilst he is reading here, feels all I discribe.  Forgive this Revere, this Delusion, and since I am debared real, suffer me, to enjoy, and indulge In Ideal pleasures—and tell me they are not inconsistant with the stern virtue of a senator and a Patriot.  I must leave my pen to recover myself and write in an other strain. I feel anxious for a post day, and am full as solicitious for two Letters a week and as uneasy if I do not get them, as I used to be when I got but one in a month or 5 weeks. Thus do I presume upon indulgance, and this is Humane Nature, and brings to my mind a sentiment of one of your correspondents viz. “That Man is the only animal who is hungery with His Belly full.”  Last Evening Dr. Cooper came in and brought me your favour from the post office of August 18 and Coll. Whipple arrived yesterday morning and deliverd me the two Bundles you sent, and a Letter of the 12 of August. They have already afforded me much amusement, and I expect much more from them.  I am sorry to find from your last as well as from some others of your Letters that you feel so dissatisfied with the office to which you are chosen. Tho in your acceptance of it, I know you was actuated by the purest motives, and I know of no person here so well qualified to discharge the important Duties of it, Yet I will not urge you to it. In accepting of it you must be excluded from all other employments. There never will be a Salery addequate to the importance of the office or to support you and your family from penury. If you possess a fortune I would urge you to it, in spight of all the flears and gibes of minds who themselves are incapable of acting a disintrested part, and have no conception that others can.  I have never heard any Speaches about it, nor did I know that such insinuations had been Thrown out.  Pure and disintrested Virtue must ever be its own reward. Mankind are too selfish and too depraved to discover the pure Gold from the baser mettle.  I wish for peace and tranquility. All my desires and all my ambition is to be Esteemed and Loved by my Partner, to join with him in the Education and instruction of our Little ones, to set under our own vines in Peace, Liberty and Safety.  Adieu my Dearest Friend, soon, soon return to your most affectionate- Portia

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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.”

 

Join us at Bow Tie Tours for Philadelphia’s Best Historical Walking Tours.  Our “Independence Tour Extraordinaire” includes tickets to Independence Hall, as well as numerous other sites, such as 2nd National Bank, Graff House, Carpenter Hall, and Christ Church.  If you are interested in learning about George Washington, join us for our Valley Forge Tour.  For Civil War buffs, come see Gettysburg.  Or, for the true history buffs, contact us about taking part in our American History Vacation Packages.