December 11, 1777

General Cornwallis

In Norristown, the Continental army, while crossing theSchuylkill River at Matson’s Ford, engages with troops under General CornwallisGeorge Washington orders thebridge destroyed, and both sides face each other across the river.  The battle is a draw, although Cornwallis isable to capture 2,000 sheep and cattle.

Join us at Bow Tie Tours forPhiladelphia’s Best Historical Walking Tours. Our “Independence Tour Extraordinaire” includes tickets to Independence Hall, as well as numerous other sites, such as 2nd National Bank,Graff House, Carpenter Hall, and Christ Church. If you are interested in learning about George Washington, join us for our Valley Forge Tour.   For those interested in the Civil War’s seminal battle, come see Gettysburg. 

December 7, 1777

At around 1:00 am, Howe marched his army back through Germantown and then to Jenkintown, where they remained until noon.  These British movements were concealed by a ridge on Chestnut Hill, and Washington did not become aware of them until around 8:00 am.  He then moved Morgan’s Rifle Corps and Colonel Mordecai Gist’s Maryland militia eastward to cover his left flank.  A mile to the right, Brigadier General James Potter’s brigade of Pennsylvania militia and Webb’s 2nd Connecticut Regiment, under Lieutenant Colonel Isaac Sherman, went down Limekiln Road toward Edge Hill.  The movement of the British rear guar was being hindered by the burning of the villages at Cresheim and Beggarstown by troops in front.  Howe’s right flank was now situated nearAbington Presbyterian Meeting.  His mainforce moved to Edge Hill, on a ridge that ran parallel to, and a mile in frontof, the American lines.  Grey’s column proceeded up Whitemarsh Church Road toward the center of the American forces.

General Grey had been instructed not to attack until he heard the sound of firing fromHowe’s column,  but after several hours, he became impatient and decided to proceed on his own. He formed his column intothree divisions, with the Queen’s Rangers on the left, the Jägers on each sideof the road, and the light infantry of the Guards on the right,  and headed in the direction of Tyson’s Tavern on Limekiln Road.  As Grey advanced toward the American center,his troops took fire from American militia on Edge Hill.   The militia were quickly routed, with between twenty and thirty killed, and fifteen of them taken as prisoners.   Generals John Cadwalader and Joseph Reed out reconnoitering on horse near Twickenham, thecountry estate of Thomas Wharton Jr. attempted to rally Potter’s fleeing Pennsylvania militia.  Lieutenant Colonel Sherman, the officer incharge of the 2nd Connecticut Continentals, resented Reed’s assumption ofcommand, and later complained to Washington that it put “…Officers and Men into such confusion that it rendered it impossible to keep that necessary when going into Action.” The British soon had them surrounded and outnumbered, and the Pennsylvania militia again panicked and fled. The 2nd Connecticut Continentals made a stand, firing between two and five rounds perman; Sherman only gave the order to retreat when the Jägers were within 15–20yards of his position.  At some point, Cadwalader and Reed became separated from the militia, and Reed’s horse was shot out from under him.  A bodyof Hessians charged at the two officers with bayonets, but Captain McLane rode upwith a few dragoons and ordered a charge that scattered the Hessians.  McLane then took the two officers to safety.

The Pennsylvania militia fled in panic down Edge Hill, across Sandy Run, and toward the main American camp. Right behind them were men of the 2ndConnecticut, also in disorderly retreat. They were pursued to within yards oftheir encampment by the Queen’s Rangers and Jägers, who then fell back and tooka position on Edge Hill, between Grey’s troops and Howe’s main column.  Morgan’s Rifle Corps and Gist’s Marylandmilitia had taken position on Edge Hill, about a mile to the east of Grey’stroops, and higher up on the ridge.  A small group of Americans moved down to attack Col. Twistleton’s Light Infantry of theGuards, but were quickly repulsed by the British. William Augustus West, who was stationed with the light infantry,noted that the4th and 23rd Regiments engaged the Americans with 9 men killed and 19wounded.  British Major John Andre reported that one American was killed.

Meanwhile, the main body of Morgan’s and Gist’s troops engaged Howe’s main column in dense woods, where they fought “Indian style”, from tree to tree. The Maryland militiaattacked Abercromby’s 1st Light Infantry Battalion with unusual vigor: Britishofficers, who were used to encountering militia who would flee at the firstsign of battle, would later express admiration at the skill of Morgan’s andGist’s men.  Morgan’s troops were not reinforced,and wereforced to retreat back to the main camp.

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December 5, 1777

After his defeat in Germantown, General Washington had led his army along the Skippack Pike to Pawling’s Mill, beyond the Perkiomen Creek wherethey temporarily encamped. From there they marched east on Skippack Pike andturned left on Forty-Fort Road, marched to Semnyetown Pike, and camped on theproperty of Frederick Wampoe near Kulpsville in Towamencin Township.  After Howe’s successive battles, Washingtonwas expecting an attack.

General Howe did indeed entertain thoughts of an attack that would destroyWashington’s army before both sides took their winter pauses.

Washington marched his men to Whitemarsh, which was approximately 13 miles east of Philadelphia.  He established headquarters at the Emlen House, and set his army to building redoubts and defensive works.

It was just after midnight that Cornwallis’s vanguard,consisting of two British light infantry battalions, skirmished with anAmerican cavalry patrol near Three Mile Run on Skippack Road.  Washington received a message alerting him tothe British movements.  At the same timethe main body of British troops marched through Germantown, Beggarstown, andFlourtown.  At 3:00 a.m.. the Britishhalted on Chestnut Hill, just south of the American defenses, and waited fordaybreak.  Washington ordred his troopsto build additional campfires to deceive the British.  According to Hessian Major Carl vonBauermeister, “[I]t looked as if fifty thousand men were encamped there.  By day we could see this was merely a trick…”  Expecting a battle, Washington dispatched histroops to discover the size and intent of the British.   Colonial troops met up with British troops onthe north side of Chestnut Hill.  ThePennsylvania militia was quickly routed by the British, and fled.

General Howe arrived and went to the church’s bell tower in order to view Amerian positions.  There he decided that the Amerian defenses were too strong to attack with his present force and chose to shell their defenses with artillery fire.  However, the guns did not have adequate range to reach Washington’s men.

Howe and his men encamped for the night at Chestnut Hill, and planned for a new manner of attack the following day.

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February 20, 1777

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General Benedict Arnold writes to General Washington about his concern that British prisoners being held by the Americans will spy on behalf of their country.  I was yesterday favd with yours of the 7th instant. It has some how or other generally happened that we have been obliged to send in our prisoners at the most inconvenient times, but when they are brought down for the purpose of Exchange, it seems hard to send them back, especially as they did not fix upon the time themselves. I am so well convinced that the Officers are enabled to do us harm, by staying in the Country and making themselves acquainted with our Situation, that I have ordered Govr Trumbull to send in Eleven that were taken at princetown, If they can be conveyed to any of your posts, and sent in by a Way, in which they will see little of your disposition; it will be better than sending them by land to Kingsbridge. Whenever any Officers go in from your quarter only send me the Return and I will take Care to ask for such in Exchange as have a right to preference from length of Captivity.  If the Accounts we have lately recd of the Reinforcement of the Enemy at Brunswic be true, few can be left at Rhode Island, it is said Lord Peircy has arrived at Amboy within a few days.  The Eastern States have in so many Instances departed from the line of Conduct agreed to in Congress for the inlistment of the new Army that I do not wonder at their stripping the Ships to fill their Regiments, but they will find that as soon as the seamen have spent the Bounty they will run back and get on board the ships again.  If the Enemy will give us time to collect an Army levyed for the War, I hope we shall set ⟨all⟩ our former Errors to rights.”

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February 6, 1777

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The HMS Soleby captured the sloop USS Speedwell and sent it to Jamaica, the following day the Solebay captured the schooner USS Hope and the brig USS Fortune, Solebay captured four ships in three days, sent all to Jamaica.

“The Secret Committee,” headed by Benjamin Franklin, signs a contract with John and Nicholas Brown to obtain material for uniforms, etc.:  “The Browns will procure in Europe 10,000 good blankets at approximately 4s. 6d. to 5s. sterling apiece; 9,200 yards of blue and brown broadcloth for uniforms and 800 yards of different colors for facings, most of the cloth, being for privates, at about 4s. sterling per yard and the rest, for officers, at 6s.; ten tons of lead; 250 stands of good arms such as are used by French infantry; and fifty 100-pound barrels of good gunpowder. Gov. Cooke will value the vessels and estimate their hire or the freight to be paid on the goods exported and imported.6 The Browns are hereby advanced $24,000 for which they will be accountable to the committee. Signed for the Browns by Josiah Hewes, who has their power of attorney, and for the committee by Franklin, John Alsop, Josiah Bartlett, Joseph Hewes, Francis Lewis, and Samuel Ward

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 historical vacation packages.

 

December 31, 1776

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General Washington gives a speech to his troops, hoping to persuade some of them to reenlist for six weeks.  As one sergeant recalled, Washington “told us our services were greatly needed and that we could do more for our country than we ever could at any future date and in the most affectionate manner entreated us to stay.”  When drums rumbled out a roll call for volunteers, nobody at first stepped forward.  One soldier spoke up, told Washington that they had already sacrificed greatly and that they all dreamed of going home.  Pulling up his horse, Washington wheeled about and rode along the line of men.  “My brave fellows,” he said, “you have done all I asked you to do and more than could be reasonably expected.  But your country is at stake, your wives, your houses, and all that you hold dear…If you will consent to stay one month longer, you will render that service to the cause of liberty and to your country which you probably can never do under any other circumstances>’’As the drums resumed beating, the soldiers huddled and conferred among themselves.  One was overheard to say, “I will remain if you will,” while another said, “we cannot go home under such circumstances.”  A small group of men reluctantly stepped forward, followed by others.  Ultimately, two hundred joined in.

Join us at Bow Tie Tours for Philadelphia’s Best Historical Walking Tours, including the best tour regarding the crossing of the Delaware and the Battle of Trenton in existence!  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 historical vacation packages.

 

 

December 30, 1776

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General Phillip Schuyler, impatient with no action on this requests for supplies, clothing, arms and men, admits that the action in New Jersey took the attention of Congress.  Nevertheless he continues to write Congress and the New England states for needed militia.

George Washington writes to Robert Morris concerning another immediate need for hard cash:  “We have the greatest Occasion at present for hard Money, to pay a certain set of People who are of particular use to us. If you could possibly collect a Sum, if it were but One hundred or one hundred and fifty Pounds it would be of great Service. Silver would be most convenient.  I am taking every Measure to improve our late lucky Blow, and hope to be successful; the greatest impediment to our Motion is, the want of provisions, if it lays in your way to give the Commissary any advice or Assistance in that Way I am sure you will do it. Some of the Troops are yet on the other Side of the River, only waiting for provisions. Jersey has been swept so clean that there is no dependance upon any thing there.”  Morris will come through and send Washington much needed funds.  Ironically, many years later when the country is new and Washington is the President, Morris will be incarcerated in debtor’s prison across the street from the building where he signed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

Join us at Bow Tie Tours for Philadelphia’s Best Historical Walking Tours, including the best tour regarding the crossing of the Delaware and the Battle of Trenton in existence!  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 historical vacation packages.

 

 

December 21, 1776

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Robert Morris receives a shipment of blankets and cloth on a Continental sloop and sends the blankets off to General Washington.  There were 16 bales, and 856 blankets, intended for the recruits but, “as the inclemency of the weather and the exceeding severe duty of the troops now with him entitles them to every comfort we can supply.”

Samuel Wharton writes to Benjamin Franklin about the rejoicing in the colonies over his safe arrival, and the distress in England.  “I take the earliest Opportunity of expressing my sincere Congratulations on your safe Arrival in France. An Event of the greatest Importance to all America, and particularly regarding your own personal Safety; As the Resentment of your and our Country’s Enemies is not in the least abated, and They would have exceedingly rejoiced, If one of their Cruizers had conveyed you to this despotick Shoar: But Thanks to that all gracious Providence, Which has hitherto, so wonderfully animated and supported you in the great Cause of an oppress’d, virtuous, and gallant People. Your unexpected Arrival in France has afforded Administration much Uneasiness, and made a vast Noise through the City. The three per centum Consol. fell half per Centum on that Account,3 and if a general Insensibility, and Ignorance, blended with a savage Vindictiveness against Us, did not prevail over the whole Kingdom, all the subtle Arts of the Minister and his Friends, could not keep Them, as high as They are; They however continue to deceive the People with the foolish Idea of a Reconciliation being effected by the two Brothers, during the Winter, or That General Howe will before the Spring, totaly rout the grand American Army; and the News just arrived of his success near Kingsbridge, affords Them favorable Ground to establish that Idea.
The Minority in both Houses, a little before their Adjournment, declined attending Parliament; But it was neither a formal Secession, nor done by Agreement between the Heads of the different Parties in Opposition, of Course, as might have been expected, it made little Impression on Administration; and especialy, as each Party remains as unconnected, and jealous of the other, as When you was here; But Yet most of Them write in discovering Disapointment and Displeasure, at the Declaration of Independence, as it deprived Them, of what They esteemed, Their best stepping Ladder into Office.4 The confidential Language nevertheless of a few of the Leaders in Opposition, such as No. 34. 35. 193, and 206 . . .,5 is, That if America Persists in her Resolution of Independence, The Situation of the Kingdom requires, That no Time ought to be lost, before a federal Union is made with Her; But the Pride and Ignorance of the Court and Nation are yet too high, to listen to such Wise Tho’ humiliating Council, and nothing, in my Opinion, but the honest Adversity, or Dread of a Union with France and Spain (on the part of America) will awaken No. 125 of 72 from his brutal Lethargy. Lord Chatham declines fast, and it is generaly thought, will never be able again to assume a publick Character. He foretells the greatest Calamitys to be experienced by the Kingdom, in consequence of the rash and unjust Measures prosecuting against the American States. Mr. Deane is in Possession of his Prediction; It is founded in Experience and Wisdom.6 The Losses occasioned by the successes of our Privateers, will be felt at the yearly Settlement in January, much to the Injury of commercial Credit. Several Failures are expected to follow from these Captures. At New Lloyds’ They have a List of 160 Vessels taken by our Cruizers,7 and doubless They do not know the Names of all, which are taken, and yet They compute the British Loss, at a Million Sterling. The Impress goes on heavily, and Lord Sandwich begins to find, and acknowledge, That it is impossible to man twenty Sail of Men of War, Whilst the Transports are detained in America. In Truth, The Nation cannot furnish Seamen for the Navy, The Transport Service, and for carrying on its remaining Commerce; And if a large Fleet is required, In Addition to what is employed in America, either the Transport, or Merchant Service, or perhaps both of Them, must be sacrificed to it. It is fortunate however for the Admiralty, That One hundred and Thirty Sail of Transports were, from their leaky State, obliged to be sent hither to be repaired, otherwise the impressing Parties would have been a long Time, before They could have procured, as many Men, as are on Board these Transports: But for farther Particulars relative to the Plans of Administration, and the State of the Kingdom, I must beg the Favor of referring you, to our Friend Dr. Bancroft.8 Last Spring I wrote you many Letters, after the Ones I sent you by Mr. Cumming, But I fear several of Them were intercepted, and particularly One, conveying to you, a circumstantial Account of what Passed between Lord Howe and Me on the Subject of America, and what were the real Designs of Administration. I now send you under Cover, a State of the Conference between his Lordship, and Myself, and I would fain flatter myself, That my Propositions, (when considered, in Reference to the Time They were made) may meet your Approbation. I acted for the best, and thought, I was discharging a Duty I owed to my Country.
From the Moment I was favored with your kind Letter of Septr. 1775, (Which I considered, and therefore circulated among the Great, as a fair Warning, as well to Administration, as to their Opponents, of What would happen, if They delayed to do immediate and substantial Justice to America) I was convinced of the indispensable Propriety, and Necessity of the Colonies asserting their Independence, and Therefore I have faithfully and zealously endeavoured as far as was in my Power, To countenance, and support it, And May I add, That I shall be happy, While I remain in Europe (Which will be for a few Months) to dedicate my poor Abilities, If you think They may be usefully employed, To the service of our Country? I lament exceedingly the mistaken Conduct of Mr. Galloway, my Brother, and too many of our former Friends (on Political Subjects) in Pennsylvania.9 My Correspondence for many Months, on that Head, has been very offensive to Them, and They blamed my liberal Communications, and Sentiments; But I have been long convinced of the arbitrary System and sad Depravity of this Court and People, and That if the Liberties of America were to be saved and Perpetuated, It must be done by the Americans Themselves, and Not by any Man, or Set of Men of this Country; And Therefore I have been inexpressibly rejoiced, in Perusing the new Forms of Goverment in the several American States, and especiely That of Pennsylvania, because it communicates equal civil, and religious Liberties to all, and particularly establishes an Equality of Representation in all the Counties, on a broad and fair Basis; Thereby destroying the narrow System of the Quakers, and emancipating the Inhabitants of a Majority of the Counties from the partial Views, of Sectarian Politicans. Lord Camden highly extolls the New Form of Goverment of Pennsylvania and says, That the bad Part of the British Laws is therein wisely corrected; and let me add, That the highest Honor and Thanks are due to you, for effectuating a Form of Goverment, so wonderfully replete with true Wisdom and Liberality.

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 historical vacation packages.

 

December 5, 1776

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In New York a British officer writes about the 5,000 American prisoners being held.  “Many of them are such ragamuffins as you never saw in your life.  I cannot give you a better idea of them than by putting you in mind of Falstaff’s recruits, or poor Ton in King Lear, and yet they have strained every nerve to cover their nakedness by dismantling all the beds.”

General Washington writes to Congress that he is moving supplies and men across the Delaware to Pennsylvania protected by a rear guard in Princeton commanded by Lord William Stirling (William Alexander) and General Adam Stephens.  He then made a long plea for a standing army instead of the militia:  I shall now, having removed the greatest part of the above Articles, face about with such Troops as are here fit for service, and march back to Princeton and there govern myself by circumstances and the movements of Genl Lee. At any event the Enemy’s progress may be retarded by this means, if they intend to come on, & the Peoples fears in some measure quieted, if they do not. Sorry I am to observe however, that the frequent calls upon the Militia of this State—the want of exertion in the Principal Gentlemen of the Country—or a fatal supineness and insensibility of danger, till it is too late to prevent an evil, that was not only foreseen, but foretold, have been the causes of our late disgraces. If the Militia of this State had stepped forth in Season, and timely notice they had, we might have prevented the Enemy’s crossing the Heckenseck, although without some previous notice of the time & place it was impossible to have done this at the North River. We might with equal probability of success, have made a stand at Brunswic on the Rariton; but as both these Rivers were fordable in a variety of Places, (knee deep only) it required many men to defend the passes & these we had not. At Heckenseck our force was insufficient, because a part was at Elizabeth Town, Amboy & Brunswick, guarding a Coast which I thought most exposed to danger—and at Brunswic, because I was disappointed in my expectation of Militia, and because on the day of the Enemy’s approach, and probably the occasion of it, the term of the Jersey & Maryland Brigades service expired, neither of which would consent to stay an hour longer.

These among Ten thousand other Instances might be adduced to shew the disadvantages of Short inlistments & the little dependance upon Militia in times of real danger; But as yesterday cannot be recalled, I will not dwell upon a Subject which no doubt has given much uneasiness to Congress, as well as extreme pain and anxiety to myself. My first wish is, That Congress may be convinced of the impropriety of relying upon the Militia, and of the necessity of raising a larger standing Army than what they have voted. The saving in the article of Stores, Provisions and in a thousand other things, by having nothing to do with Militia unless in cases of extraordinary exigency, & such as could not be expected in the common course of events, would amply support a large Army, which well officered would be daily improving, instead of continuing a destructive, expensive, disorderly Mob.

I am clear in Opinion, that if 40,000 Men had been kept in constant pay since the first commencement of Hostilities, and the Militia had been excused doing duty during that period, the Continent would have saved Money. When I reflect on the losses we have sustained for want of good Troops, the certainty of this is placed beyond a doubt in my mind. In such case the Militia, who have been harrassed & tired by repeated calls upon them, and farming & manufactures in a manner suspended, would upon any pressing emergency have run with alacrity to Arms, Whereas the cry now is, they may be as well ruined in one way as another, & with difficulty are obtained. I mention these things to shew, that in my Opinion, if any dependance is placed in the Militia another year, Congress will be deceived. When danger is a little removed from them, they will not turn out at all—When it comes Home to ’em, the well affected instead of flying to Arms to defend themselves, are busily employed in removing their Families & Effects, whilst the disaffected are concerting measures to make their submission & spread terror & dismay all around to induce others to follow the example. daily experience & abundant proofs warrant this information.”

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November 27, 1776

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

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

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