September 30, 1776

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Spanish authorities are concerned over reports of an increase in British naval strength, which indicated to them a possible war with countries other than the colonies.

General Washington in a letter to Lund Washington, his nephew in charge of Mount Vernon, blamed the reliance on the militia as the chief root of the problem.  Washington complained that the militia was not “worth the bread they ate I tell you that I never was in such an unhappy, divided state since I was born.”

Sam Adams writes to John Adams about the prior conference with Lord Howe:  “I am much obligd to you for your two Letters of the 8th and 14th of this Month,1 which I receivd, together, by the last Post. The Caution given in the first of these Letters was well designd; and had it come to me as early as you had Reason to expect it would, I should have been relievd of a full fortnights Anxiety of Mind. I was indeed greatly ‘concernd’ for the Event of the proposd Conferrence with Lord Howe. It is no Complement when I tell you, that I fully confided in the Understanding and Integrity of the Gentlemen appointed by Congress; but being totally ignorant of the Motives which inducd such a Measure, I was fearful lest we might be br’ot into a Situation of great Delicacy and Embarrassment. I perceive that his Lordship would not converse with you as Members of Congress or a Committee of that Body; from whence I concluded that the Conference did not take its Rise on his part. As I am unacquainted with its Origination and the Powers of the Committee, I must contemplate the whole Affair as a Refinement in Policy beyond my Reach, and content my self with remaining in the Dark, till I shall have the Pleasure of seeing you, when, I trust, the Mystery will be fully explaind to me. Indeed I am not so sollicitous to know the Motives from whence this Conference sprang, or the Manner in which it was brought up, as I am pleasd with its Conclusion. The Sentiments and Language of the Committee, as they are related to me, were becoming the Character they bore. They mannagd with great Dexterity. They maintaind the Dignity of Congress, and in my Opinion, the Independence of America stands now on a better footing than it did before. It affords me abundant Satisfaction, that the Minister of the British King, commissiond to require and fondly nourishing the Hopes of receiving the Submission of America, was explicitly and authoritatively assured, that neither the Committee nor that Congress which sent them had Authority to treat in any other Capacity than as Independent States. His Lordship, it seems, ‘has no Instruction on that Subject”; We must therefore fight it out, and trust in God for Success. I dare assure my self, that the most effectual Care has before this time been taken, for the Continuance and Support of our Armies, not only for the Remainder of the present, but for a future Year. The People will chearfully support their Independence to the utmost. Their Spirits will rise upon their knowing the Result of the late Conference. It has, you may depend upon it, been a Matter of great Expectation. Would it not be attended with a good Effect, if an Account of it was publishd by Authority of Congress? It would, I should think, at least put it out of the Power of disaffected Men (and there are some of this Character even here) to amuse their honest Neighbors with vain hopes of Reconciliation.  I wish that Congress would give the earliest Notice to this State, of what may be further expected to be done here for the Support of the Army. The Season is advancing or rather passing fast. I intended when I sat down to have written you a long Epistle, but I am interrupted: I have a thousand Avocations which require my Attention. Many of them are too trifling to merit your Notice. Adieu, my Friend. I hope to see you soon.”

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August 30, 1776

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General George Washington lists three reasons for the American retreat:  the need to reunite his forces, the extreme fatigue of the soldiers, and the lack of proper shelter from the weather.  General John Sullivan also visits George Washington with Generals William Howe’s proposals for reconciliation and desire to meet with members of Congress.  Washington refuses to accept the papers but gave Sullivan the permission to deliver them to Philadelphia.

Major General Charles Lee writes a letter to the Governor of Haiti describing the vast economic and political benefits that would derive to France if the Americans maintained their independence.  Therefore, he argued, it is in their own best interest to assist the country by sending military hardware, clothing and artillerymen.

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.

 

August 14, 1776

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

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

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

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

 

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August 11, 1776

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General orders prohibit furloughs or discharge of officers and soldiers without the knowledge and consent of General George Washington.

In Boston, Massachusetts, the Declaration is read in all the local churches.

In Little River, South Carolina, Major Andrew Pickens, with a detachment of 25 men was attacked by a group of 135 Cherokee Indians while on a reconnaissance mission.  The American troops killed several Indians who then broke off the fight and withdrew.  The battle was also known as the “Ring Fight”

John Adams writes to James Warren:  “I Informed you in my last that we were Calling in every 25th. Man of the Train Band, and Alarm List to supply the places of your Battalions called away and already Marched. These Men are coming into the place of Rendesvous Dochester Heigths, but you have Appointed no General Officer to Command them, and unless General Ward can be prevailed on to Continue, I know not how they can be furnished with pay subsistence Barrack Utensils, or Ordinance Stores. Would it not be well to Appoint A Major General to Command in the Eastern department only. I am not Aware of any disadvantages in such An Appointment. I hope before this the Confederation, and matter of foreign Alliances are determined, As I suppose matters will go more glibly after the decleration of Independance, which by the way was read this Afternoon by Doctor Cooper, and Attended to by the Auditory with great Solemnity, and satisfaction.  Matters of great Importance must after all remain to be settled, Among which I Conceive Coin and Commerce are not to be reckoned Among the smallest. These are indeed such Intricate subjects that I dont pretend to Comprehend them in their full Extent. Your Currency still retains its Credit, but how long that will last if you Continue large Emissions is difficult for me to Guess. Commerce is A Subject of Amazeing Extent. While such Matters are on the Carpet how can we spare you.  I suppose Mrs. Adams will Inform you by this Post that She and the Children are well tho’ Charles has not yet had the Small Pox, which is the Case with many others After being Inoculated 2. 3. and even 6 or 7 Times. The Physicians cant Account for this. Several Persons that supposed they had it lightly last winter, and some before, now have it in the Natural way. Mrs. Warren and myself have been fortunate enough to have it very Cleverly and propose going home this week. She Joins me in the sincerest regards, for you and Mr. Adams, and wishes for your Health and Happiness. I am &c.  If the News you have from France be true the Ball must wind up soon.  God Grant a Confirmation. I long to be A Farmer again.

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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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