August 6, 1776

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Congress directs General Philip Schuyler to contact British General John Burgoyne for the purpose of entering a prisoner of war exchange agreement.  By now the members are convinced that Howe will assault New York.

From Port Amboy, Elizabeth, the wife of exiled Governor William Franklin, writes to her father-in-law Benjamin Franklin.  After the outbreak of hostilities, William Franklin’s position had become increasingly perilous.   “At present we only live, as it were, upon Sufferance,” he had written three days after Bunker Hill, “nor is it in our power to mend our Situation.” He managed to hold onto the remnants of his authority longer than most colonial governors, but by the beginning of 1776 the remnants were tatters. In early January he sent a confidential report to Lord George Germain, the new Secretary of State for the American Colonies; the report was intercepted and brought to the local commander of militia, Lord Stirling, who concluded that it endangered the American cause. The Governor’s house was surrounded by soldiers in the middle of the night; his wife was so frightened that he feared for her life. She had no relatives of her own to turn to, and had little support from the Baches and none from her father-in-law. William, distressed as he was for her, stood his ground and held onto office until June. Then, in response to a resolution of Congress urging the establishment of new governments in all the colonies, the New Jersey provincial congress moved to secure his person. On June 19 he was removed from his house, and on the 21st examined before the congress, which recommended that the Continental Congress send him out of the province as soon as possible. On the 26th orders came from Philadelphia to transfer him to Connecticut; he arrived there on July 4, and on giving his parole was lodged in a private house in Wallingford.

She wrote as follows:  Honored Sir, Your Favor by my Son I received Safe, and should have done myself the Honor of answering it by the first Post after, but I have been of late much Indisposed. I am infinitely obliged to you for the 60: Dollars, and as soon as Mr: Pettit Settles his Account with me3 I will punctually repay you.

My Troubles do Indeed lie heavy on my Mind, and tho’ many People may Suffer Still more than I do, yet that does not lessen the Weight of mine, which are really more than so weak a Frame is able to Support. I will not Disstress you by enumerating all my Afflictions, but allow me Dear Sir, to mention, that it is greatly in your Power to Relieve them. Suppose that Mr. Franklin would Sign a Parole not dishonorable to himself, and Satisfactory to Governor Trumbull, why may he not be permitted to return into this Province and to his Family? Many of the Officers that have been taken during the War has had that Indulgence shewn them, and why should it be denied to him? His private Affairs are unsettled, his Family Disstressd and he is living very uncomfortably, and at a great expence, which he can very illy afford at present. Consider my Dear and Honored Sir, that I am now pleading the Cause of your Son, and my Beloved Husband. If I have Said, or done anything wrong I beg to be forgiven. I am with great Respect Honored Sir Your Dutifull and affectionate Daughter”

Franklin ignored her request, and never helped secure the release of his son.

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August 4, 1776

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Colonel Joseph Reed in New York, an astute member of Washington’s staff, observes to a friend that although Admiral Howe spoke convincingly of “peace and accommodation,” his written communications fail to disclose any “serious intention of relinquishing one iota of their despotic claim over this country.”  He also reveals that Washington had considered an attack on Staten Island where the British troops were garrisoned but a lack of men and boats forced him to abandon the idea.

During July and August the entire frontier from Virginia to Georgia was thrown into turmoil by Indian attacks instigated by British agents.  Colonel Andrew Williamnson reports to President Rutledge that the state militia has fought its way out of an Indian ambush and on the following day crossed the Kenowee River to destroy four Indian towns.

An anonymous citizen complains to George Washington about his bad treatment by the army:  “My House is forcibly entered & posessed by officers and Soldiers without my Consent, to the number of 60 or 70. . . . From A barrack, my House is now become A mere Hospital Noise & Disturbance day and night, reign in every part—The two Halls below are occupied by the rude hand of Insolence the Doors nailed, & I am at last reduced to such narrow limits that the next Encroachment must consign myself & family to the Fields, & Mr Clarkes Estate to every waste.” One wonders what redress the anonymous citizen can expect if he does not give Washington his name:

John Adams writes to Nathaniel Greene about regional differences within the army:  “The New England Collonells, you observe, are jealous, that southern Officers are treated with more Attention than they, because Several of the Southern Collonells have been made Generals, but not one of them.”  After discussing some of the specific cases involving who had been promoted and who not, Adams goes on to discuss his perception of the difference between the two regions:  “Military Characters in the southern Colonies, are few—they have never known much of War and it is not easy to make a People Warlike who have never been so. All the Encouragement, and every Incentive therefore, which can be given with Justice ought to be given, in order to excite an Ambition among them, for military Honours.”  Just what characteristics do we want in our officers?  “A General Officer, ought to be a Gentleman of Letters, and General Knowledge, a Man of Address and Knowledge of the World. He should carry with him Authority, and Command. There are among the New England Officers, Gentlemen who are equal to all this… It is not every Piece of Wood that will do, to make a Mercury. And Bravery alone, is not a Sufficient Qualification for a General Officer. Name me a New England Collonell of whose real Qualifications, I can Speak with Confidence, who is intituled to Promotion by succession and If I do not get him made a General Officer, I will join the N. E. Collonells, and outclamour the loudest of them in their Jealousy.  nay I will go further!There is a real difficulty, attending this subject, which I know not how to get over. Pray help me. I believe, there would be no Difficulty in obtaining Advancement for some of the N. E. Collonells here. But by promoting them over the Heads of So many, there would be a Difficulty in the Army. Poor Massachusetts will fare the worst.”

Meanwhile, Nathaniel Greene writes from Long Island:  “Col. Hand Reports 21 Sail seen off last Evening, Eight arrivd at the Hook this morning and thirteen coming in.The Enemies Guard Boats pattroled much higher up the Bay than usual last Night.  I apprehend a couple of Guard Boats are necessary to Pattrole from Red to Yellow Hook across the Bay leading to Rappelyeas Mills, providing there are Boats to spare.”

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July 26, 1776

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Colonel Alexander Hamilton writes to the New York Representatives in regards to the scarcity of supplies being afforded his men:  “I am obliged to write you, to remove a difficulty which arises respecting the quantity of subsistence which is to be allowed my men. Enclosed you have the rate of rations which is the standard allowance of the whole Continental and even the Provincial army; but it seems Mr. Curtenius can not afford to supply us with more than his contract stipulates, which by comparison, you will perceive is considerably less than the forementioned rate. My men, you are sensible, are by their articles, entitled to the same subsistence with the Continental troops; and it would be to them an insupportable discrimination, as well as a breach of the terms of their enlistment, to give them almost a third less provisions than the whole army besides receives. I doubt not you will readily put this matter upon a proper footing. Hitherto, we have drawn our full allowance from Mr. Curtenius, but he did it upon the supposition that he should have a farther consideration for the extraordinary supply. At present however he scruples to proceed in the same way, until it can be put upon a more certain foundation.”

Congress discussed Article XVIII of the confederation proposal which granted Congress the power of “regulating the trade, and managing al affairs with the Indians.”  John Adams takes notes of the debate (original spellings):  “Rutledge and Linch oppose giving the Power of regulating the Trade and managing all Affairs of the Indians, to Congress. The Trade is profitable they say.

Gwinnett is in favour of Congress having such Power.

Braxton is for excepting such Indians as are tributary to any State. Several Nations are tributary to Virginia.

Jefferson explains it to mean the Indians who live in the Colony. These are Subject to the Laws in some degree.

Wilson. We have no Right over the Indians, whether within or without the real or pretended Limits of any Colony…. They will not allow themselves to be classed according to the Bounds of Colonies. Grants made 3000 miles to the Eastward have no Validity with the Indians. The Trade of Pensilvania has been more considerable with the Indians than that of the neighbouring Colonies.

Walton. The Indian Trade is of no essential service to any Colony. It must be a Monopoly. If it is free it produces Jealousies and Animosities, and Wars. Carolina very passionately considers this Trade as contributory to her Grandeur and Dignity. Deerskins are a great Part of the Trade. A great difference between S. Carolina and Georgia. Carolina is in no danger from the Indians at present. Georgia is a frontier and Barrier to Car. G. must be overrun and extirpated before Car. can be hurt. G. is not equal to the Expence of giving the Donations to the Indians, which will be necessary to keep them at Peace. The Emoluments of the Trade are not a Compensation for the Expence of donations.

Rutledge differs from Walton in a Variety of Points.—We must look forward with extensive Views. Carolina has been run to an amazing expence to defend themselves vs. Indians. In 1760 &c. fifty thousand Guineas were spent. We have now as many Men on the frontiers, as in Charlestown. We have Forts in the Indian Countries. We are connected with them by Treaties.

Lynch. Congress may regulate the Trade, if they will indemnify Car. vs. the Expence of keeping Peace with the Indians, or defending Us vs. them.

Witherspoon. Here are two adjacent Provinces, situated alike with respect to the Indians, differing totally in their Sentiments of their Interests.

Chase. S. Carolina claims to the S. Sea. So does North, Virginia, and Massachusetts Bay. S. Carolina says they have a Right to regulate the Trade with the Indians. If so 4 Colonies have all the Power of regulating Trade with the Indians. S.C. alone could not stand alone vs. the Indian Nations.

Sherman moves that Congress may have a Superintending Power, to prevent Injustice to the Indians or Colonies.

Willson. No lasting Peace will be with the Indians, unless made by some one Body. No such language as this ought to be held to the Indians. We are stronger, We are better. We treat you better than another Colony. No Power ought to treat, with the Indians, but the united States. Indians know the striking Benefits of Confederation— they have an Example of it in the Union of the Six nations. The Idea of the Union of the Colonies struck them forcibly last Year. None should trade with Indians without a Licence from Congress. A perpetual War would be unavoidable, if every Body was allowed to trade with them.  Stone. This Expedient is worse than either of the Alternatives. What is the meaning of this Superintendency? Colonies will claim the Right first. Congress cant interpose untill the Evil has happened. Disputes will arise when Congress shall interpose.”

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July 19, 1776

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The Congress resolved to publish in “several gazettes” a copy of the circular letter and enclosed declaration, which Lord Howe had sent to former Royal Governors Franklin, Eden, Penn, Dunmore, Martin, and Wright.  They hoped that in publishing the Commission’s terms, the few who still remain suspended by the hope found in justice or moderation of their late King, mauy now, at length, be convinced, that the valor alone of their country is to save its liberties.

Off the coast of Charlestown, South Carolina British General Henry Clinton sailed with his troops convoyed by the one frigate that Commodore Peter Parker had in condition to go to sea.  He would join Howe on Staten Island on August 1, 1776.

General Washington writes the following missive to Horatio Gates:  “I expected ’ere this to have heard from you; as I have not, I will open the corrispondance by expressing my exceeding great concern on acct of the determination of your board of General Officers, to retreat from Crown Point to Ticonderago; assigning (contrary to the opinion of all your Field Officers) for reason, that the former place is not tenable with your present force, or the Force expected.  My concern arises from information, and a firm belief, that your relinquishing Crown point is, in its consequences, a relinquishment of the Lakes, and all the advantages to be derived therefrom; for it does not admit of a doubt, but that the Enemy will possess themselves, if possible, of that pass (wch is a key to all these Colonies) the moment you leave it, & thereby confine your Vessels to the narrow part of the Lake in front of that Post, or, by having them in the Rear of it cut off all kind of Supplies from, & intercourse between your Camp & them; securing by this means a free and uninterrupted passage into the three New England Governments for Invasion thereof.  Nothing but a belief that you have actually removed the Army from the point to Tyconderago, and demolishd the Works at the former; and the fear of creating dissentions, & encouraging a Spirit of remonstrating against the conduct of Superior Officers by inferiors, have prevented me by Advice of the Genl Officers here, from directing the Post at Crown point to be held till Congress should decide upon the propriety of its Evacuation—As the case stands I can give no Order in the matter, least between two opinions; & places, neither are put into such a posture of defence, as to resist an advancing Enemy. I must however express my sorrow at the Resolution of your Council—& wish, that it had never happened; as every body who Speaks of it also does; & that the measure could yet be changed with Propriety.  We have the Enemy full in view of us, but their operations are to be suspended ’till the Reinforcement hourly expected, arrives, when I suppose there will soon be pretty warm work—Lord Howe is arrived. He & the Genl his Brother are appointed Commissioners to dispense pardons to Repenting Sinners.”  Note the sarcasm with which Washington refers to his upcoming meeting with the British Peace Delegates.

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July 16, 1776

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Once again, General Howe sends a soldier under a flag of truce with a letter addressed to “George Washington Esq.”  This letter was refused for the same reason that the letter addressed in the same way had been refused on the 14th – it was not stating Washington’s proper credentials, and was thus a rebuff to not only himself but his cause.  The British agent, Ambrose Serle, was furious, remarking that the letter “was refused for the same idle and insolent reasons as were given before.”  Why he thought there would be a different outcome is difficult to fathom.  Serle continued that “it seems to be beneath a little paltry colonel of militia at the head of banditti or rebels to treat with the representative of his lawful sovereign because ‘tis impossible for him to give all the titles which the poor creature requires.

Meanwhile, John Adams receives words that not only his children are to be given the smallpox vaccination, but that his wife is as well, and is anguished to be so far apart from her.  “In a Letter from your Uncle Smith, and in another from Mr. Mason which I received by this days Post I am informed that you were about taking the Small Pox, with all the Children. . . .It is not possible for me to describe, nor for you to conceive my Feelings upon this Occasion. Nothing, but the critical State of our Affairs should prevent me from flying to Boston, to your Assistance…I can do no more than wish and pray for your Health, and that of the Children. Never—Never in my whole Life, had I so many Cares upon my Mind at once. I should have been happier, if I had received my Letters, before Mr. Gerry went away this Morning, because I should have written more by him.—I rely upon the tender Care of our Friends. Dr. Tufts and your Uncle Quincy, and my Brother will be able to visit you, and give you any Assistance. Our other Friends, I doubt not will give you every Advice, Consolation and Aid in their Power.—I am very anxious about supplying you with Money. Spare for nothing, if you can get Friends to lend it you. I will repay with Gratitude as well as Interest, any sum that you may borrow.—I shall feel like a Savage to be here, while my whole Family is sick at Boston. But it cannot be avoided. I cannot leave this Place, without more Injury to the public now, than I ever could at any other Time, being in the Midst of scaenes of Business, which must not stop for any Thing. . . . Make Mr. Mason, Mr. any Body write to me, by every Post—don’t miss one for any Cause whatever.—My dearest Love to you all.”

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June 29, 1776

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Contrary to most of his colleagues in Congress, Edward Rutledge of South Carolina advocates patience regarding declaring independence.  In a letter to John Jay of New York, Rutledge worries whether he and other conservatives can “effectually oppose” such legislation.  Given the mood in the congress and the belligerent letter that King George wrote to them, it feels as if the tide is turning.

In Staten Island, New York, signals indicate the appearance of General William Howe’s fleet from Halifax, prompting Lieutenant Colonel Smuel Webb to declare “a warm and bloody campaign is the least we may expect, may God grant us a victory and success.”

In South Carolina, inspired by his stunning success in repulsing Commodore Peter Parker’s naval squadron, William Logan sends a gift of hogshead of old Antigua rum to Colonel Moultrie.

Virginia adapts a Constitution as a free Commonwealth.

General Washington writes to John Hancock regarding the precarious state of affairs regarding the numbers of individuals he has under his command:  “I observe the augmentation Congress have resolved to make to the forces destined for the Northern department & the bounty to be allowed such Soldiers as will Inlist for three years. I hope many good consequences will result from these measures, and that from the latter a considerable number of men may be induced to engage in the service.  I should esteem myself extremely happy to afford the least assistance to the Canada department in compliance with the desire of Congress and your requisition, were It in my power, but It is not. The Return which I transmitted yesterday will but too well convince Congress of my Incap[ac]ity in this instance, and point out to them, that the force I now have is trifling, considering the many, and important posts that are necessary & must be supported if possible. But few Militia have yet come in; the whole being about Twelve hundred Including the Two Battallions of this City and One Company from the Jerseys. I wish the delay may not be attended with disagreable circumstances, and their aid may not come too late, or when It may not be wanted. I have wrote, I have done everything I could, to call them in, but they have not come, tho I am told that they are generally willing.”

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June 27, 1776

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Congress resolves to organize rifle regiments in Virginia, New York, and Maryland.  In addition, the members vote for torm a battalion of Germans.

Off the coast of South Carolina, Commodore Peter Parker gives the signal to get underway towards Sullivan’s Island, but is again halted when the wind suddenly shifts to the opposite quarter.

General Washington writes to John Hancock about the situation in Canada:  “I this morning received by Express Letters from Genls Schuyler & Arnold, with a Copy of one from Genl Sullivan to the former and also of Others to Genl Sullivan, of all which I do myself the honor to transmit you Copies. they will give you a further account of the melancholy situation of our affairs in Canada, and shew that there is nothing left to save our Army there, but evacuating the Country. I am hopefull Genl Sullivan would retreat from the Isle au noix without waiting for previous orders for that purpose, as from Genls Schuyler and Arnolds Letters, It is much to be feared by remaining there any considerable time his retreat would be cut off or at best be a matter of extreme difficulty. I would observe to Congress that It is not in my power to send any Carpenters from hence, to build the Gondola’s & Gallies, Genl Arnold mentions, without taking them from a work equally necessary if not more so here of the same kind, and submit It to them whether It may not be advisable, as It is of great importance to us to have a number of these Vessels on the Lake, to prevent the Enemy passing, to withdraw the Carpenters for the present from the frigates building up the North River & detach them immediately with all that can be got at Philadelphia for that purpose & carrying on those here.”

Meanwhile, Joseph Hawley writes to General Washington to suggest that men currently stationed in Boston be sent to Canada, where (he believes) they can be of more use.  “For God’s Sake! If it is possible Let all Ward’s People be instantly orderd to Canada or to Some place where they are More Needed than they are here—Pray Sr Consider that they are Officerd Armed and equipd in all respects—Every thing is to do for the Militia—Our People will fight here pro Aris & focis—But very few of them (Believe Me) will be got to Canaday this year—I Pray your Excellency to Pardon My troublesome repetitions of this Matter to you—I am here and See the true state and posture of affairs.”

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