December 8, 1776

images-3

From the Falls of the Delaware, across from Trenton, New Jersey, General Washington reports his further retreat to congress:  “Colo. Reed would inform you of the Intelligence which I first met with on the Road from Trenton to Princeton Yesterday. Before I got to the latter, I received a Second express informing me, that as the Enemy were advancing by different Routs and attempting by One to get in the rear of our Troops which were there & whose numbers were small and the place by no means defensible, they had judged it prudent to retreat to Trenton—The retreat was accordingly made, and since to this side of the River.  This information I thought it my duty to communicate as soon as possible, as there is not a moments time to be lost in assembling such force as can be collected and as the object of the Enemy cannot now be doubted in the smallest degree. Indeed I shall be out in my conjecture (for it is only conjecture), if the late imbarkation at New York, is not for Delaware river, to cooperate with the Army under the immediate command of Genl Howe, who I am informed from good authority is with the British Troops and his whole force upon this Route.  I have no certain intelligence of Genl Lee, although I have sent frequent Expresses to him and lately a Colo. Humpton to bring me some accurate Accounts of his situation. I last night dispatched another Gentn to him—Major Hoops, desiring he would hasten his march to the Delaware in which I would provide Boats near a place called Alexandria for the transportation of his Troops. I can not account for the slowness of his March.  In the disordered & moving state of the Army I cannot get returns, but from the best accounts we had between Three thousand & 3500 Men before the Philadelphia Militia and German Batallion arrived, they amount to about Two thousand.”

Meanwhile, Benjamin Franklin writes to Congress to apprise then that he has arrived in France:  “Our Friends in France have been a good deal dejected with the Gazette Accounts of Advantages obtain’d against us by the British Troops. I have help’d them here to recover their Spirits a little, by assuring them that we shall face the Enemy, and were under no Apprehensions of their two Armies being able to compleat their Junction. I understand Mr. Lee has lately been at Paris, that Mr. Deane is still there, and that an underhand Supply is obtain’d from the Government of 200 brass Field Pieces, 30,000 Firelocks, and some other military Stores which are now shipping for America, and will be convoy’d by a Ship of War. The Court of England, Mr. Penet tells me (from whom I have the above Intelligence) had the Folly to demand Mr. Deane to be deliver’d up, but were refus’d. Our Voyage tho’ not long was rough, and I feel myself weakned by it: But I now recover Strength daily, and in a few days shall be able to undertake the Journey to Paris. I have not yet taken any publick Character, thinking it prudent first to know whether the Court is ready and willing to receive Ministers publicly from the Congress; that we may neither embarras her on the one hand, or subject ourselves to the Hazard of a disgraceful Refusal on the other. I have dispatch’d an Express to Mr. Deane, with the Letters I had for him from the Committee, and a Copy of our Commission, that he may immediately make the proper Enquiries, and give me Information. In the mean time, I find it is generally suppos’d here that I am sent to negociate, and that Opinion appears to give great Pleasure, if I can judge by the extream Civilities I meet with from Numbers of the principal People, who have done me the Honour to visit me. I have desired Mr. Deane, by some speedy and safe Means to give Mr. Lee Notice of his Appointment. I find several Vessels here laden with military Stores for America, just ready to sail: On the whole there is the greatest Prospect that we shall be well provided for another Campaign, and much stronger than we were the last. A Spanish Fleet has sail’d, with 7000 Land Forces, Foot, and some Horse. Their Destination unknown, but suppos’d against the Portuguese in Brasil. Both France and England are preparing strong Fleets, and it is said that all the Powers of Europe are preparing for War, apprehending a general one cannot be very distant. When I arrive at Paris, I shall be able to write with more Certainty.”

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.

 

Advertisements

November 25, 1776

Unknown-1

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.

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.

November 2, 1776

Unknown

In London, England, former Governor Thomas Hutchinson of Massachusetts is given word that Howe had landed on New York on September 16.

An American officer in New York (William Demont) deserted to lord Hugh Percy and took with him the plans for Fort Washington on Manhattan Island.

Lieutenant Colonel Ethan Allen writes to George Washington from his British confinement in New York:  “Sir, Having Procur’d the favour of Writing a few Lines to your Excellency, I Cherfully Exbrace the oppertunity and Entertain fond Hopes Shortly to pay my compliments to your Excellency Personally; The Kings Officers Incourage me that it will not be long before I am Exchanged, and I doubt Not but that your Excellency will Promote it, the more so, as I have suffered a long and sevear Imprisonment;1 Tho, in the passage from Halifax to Newyork Harbour, where I have been a few days, I was Courteously Treated by Capt. Smith & his Officers of the Lark Frigate in which I Sailed, and am now on Board a Transport Cal’d the Glasgow, where I am well Used, and have in great measure recover’d my Health, provided a little Cash could be Sent me it would Oblige your Excellency’s Most Obedient Humble Servt

Ethan Allen

P.S. There are Twenty four Prisoners with me, some of them were Taken at Bunkers Hill but the most of them with me Near Montreal, here are Included the Master of the Brigg Washington & his Mait, Also Mr James Lovell from Boston, who is this day to be Set at Liberty in Exchange for Governor Skeen; the Prisoners are all well but Earnestly desire their Liberty.”

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.

 

October 4, 1776

Unknown

To halt the rapid deprecation of paper currency, Congress authorizes a domestic loan of $5 million at 4%.

The Maryland Convention reassembles to continue drafting a Bill of Rights and Constitution.

Two British ships, HMS Phoenix and HMNS Roebuck sail up the North River.

John Adams, who has been chastised for his failure to write, finds time to write to his wife, Abigail:  “I am seated, in a large Library Room, with Eight Gentlemen round about me, all engaged in Conversation. Amidst these Interruptions, how shall I make it out to write a Letter?  The first day of October, the day appointed by the Charter of Pensilvania for the annual Election of Representatives, has passed away, and two Counties only have chosen Members, Bucks and Chester.  The Assembly is therefore dead, and the Convention is dissolved. A new Convention is to be chosen, the Beginning of November.  The Proceedings of the late Convention are not well liked, by the best of the Whiggs.—Their Constitution is reprobated and the Oath with which they have endeavoured to prop it, by obliging every Man to swear that he will not add to, or diminish from or any Way alter that Constitution, before he can vote, is execrated.  We live in the Age of political Experiments. Among many that will fail some, I hope will succeed.—But Pensilvania will be divided and weakend, and rendered much less vigorous in the Cause, by the wretched Ideas of Government, which prevail, in the Minds of many People in it.”

George Washington writes about the alarming situation regarding his army and its possible dissolution:  “Your Army, as I mentioned in my last, is upon the eve of its political dissolution—True it is you have voted a larger one in lieu of it, but the Season is late, and there is a material difference between voting of Battalions and raising of Men. In the latter, there are more difficulties than Congress are aware of; which makes it my duty (as I have been informed of the prevailing Sentiment of this Army) to inform them, that unless the pay of the Officers (especially that of the Field Officers) is raised, the chief part of those that are worth retaining will leave the Service at the expiration of the present term; as the Soldiers will also, if some greater Incouragement is not offered them than Twenty Dollars, & one hundred Acres of Land.  Nothing less in my opinion, than a suit of Cloaths annually given to each Non-commissioned Officer & Soldier, in addition to the pay and bounty, will avail, and I question whether that will do, as the Enemy from the Information of one John Mash, who with Six others were taken by our Guards, are giving Ten pounds bounty for Recruits; and have got a Battalion under Majr Rogers nearly compleated upon Long Island.  Nor will less pay according to my judgment than I have taken the liberty of mentioning in the Inclosed estimate retain such Officers as we could wish to have continued.4 the difference pr Month in each Battalion will amount to better than one hundred pounds—to this may be added the pay of the Staff Officers, for it is presumable they will also require an augmentation; but being few in number, the Sum will not be greatly Increased by them, & consequently is a matter of no great moment; but it is a matter of no small Importance to make the several Offices desirable—When the pay & establishment of an Officer once become objects of Interested Attention, the Sloth, negligence, and even disobedience of Orders which at this time but too generally prevails, will be purged off—but while the Service is viewed with Indifference—while the Officer conceives that he is rather confering than receiving an obligation, there will be a total relaxation of all order and Discipline, and every thing will move heavily on, to the great detriment of the Service, and inexpressible trouble & vexation of the General.  The critical Situation of our Affairs at this time will justify my saying, that no time is to be lost in making of fruitless experiments—an unavailing tryal of a Month to get an Army upon the terms proposed, may render it impracticable to do it at all; and prove fatal to our cause; as I am not sure whether any rubs in the way of our Inlistments, or unfavourable turn in our Affairs, may not prove the Means of the Enemy Recruiting Men faster than we do—to this may be added the inextricable difficulty of forming one Corps out of another, and arranging matters with any degree of Order in the face of an Enemy, who are watching for advantages.  At Cambridge last year, where the Officers (and more than a sufficiency of them) were all upon the spot, we found it a work of such extreame difficulty to know their Sentiments (each having some terms to propose) that I despair’d once of getting the arrangemts compleated; and do suppose that at least a hundred alterations took place before matters were finally adjusted; what must it be then under the present regulation, where the Officer is to negociate this matter with the State he comes from, distant perhaps two or three hundred Miles—some of whom, without leave or license from me set out to make personal application the moment the resolve got to their hands—what kind of Officers these are, I leave Congress to judge.  If an Officer of reputation (for none others should be applied to) is ask’d to stay what answer can he give, but in the first place, that he does not know whether it is at his option to do so—no provision being made in the Resolution of Congress even recommendatory of this Measure; consequently, that it rests with the State he comes from (surrounded perhaps with a variety of applications, and influenced probably by local Attachments) to determine whether he can be provided for or not. In the next place, if he is an Officer of Merit, and knows that the State he comes from is to furnish more Battalions than it at present has in the Service, he will scarcely, after two years faithful Services, think of continuing in the Rank he now bears when new Creations are to be made, and Men appointed to Offices (no ways superior in merit, and ignorant perhaps of Service) over his head.5 A Committee sent to the Army from each State may, upon the Spot, fix things with a degree of propriety & certainty; and is the only method I can see, of bringing matters to a decision with respect to the Officers of the Army; but what can be done in the meanwhile, towards the arrangement in the Country I know not—In the one case, you run the hazard of loosing yr Officers—in the other, of encountering delay, unless some method could be devised of forwarding both at the same Instant.  Upon the present Plan, I plainly forsee an intervention of time between the old & New Army, which must be filled with Militia (if to be had) with whom no Man, who has any regard for his own reputation can undertake to be answerable for Consequences—I shall also be mistaken in my conjectures, if we do not loose the most valuable Officers in this Army under the present mode of appointing them; consequently, if we have an Army at all, it will be composed of Materials not only entirely raw, but if uncommon pains is not taken, entirely unfit—and I see such a distrust & jealousy of Military power, that the Commander in chief has not an oppertunity even by recommendation, to give the least assurances of reward for the most essential Services. In a word such a cloud of perplexing Circumstances appear before me without one flattering hope, that I am thoroughly convinced unless the most vigorous and decisive exertions are immediately adopted to remedy these Evils, that the certain and absolute loss of our Liberties will be the inevitable consequence, as one unhappy stroke will throw a powerful weight into the Scale against us, enabling Genl Howe to recruit his Army as fast as we shall ours, numbers being disposed, and many actually doing so already. Some of the most probable remedies, and such as experience has brought to my more intimate knowledge, I have taken the liberty to point out—the rest I beg leave to submit to the consideration of Congress.”

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.

September 28, 1776

images-3

Generals William Howe and George Washington are preparing strong defensive positions.

The State Convention of Pennsylvania adopts a Constitution and Bill of Rights.  The Constitution features two distinct features where were unicameral legislature and the election of a Board of Censors every seven years to determine if the Constitution has been violated.

Benjamin Franklin wrote to his grandson, William Temple Franklin, “Dear Tempe – I hope you will return hither immediately, and that your Mother will make no Objection to it, something offering here that will be much to your Advantage if you are not out of the Way. I am so hurried that I can only add Ever your affectionate Grandfather – B Franklin”  Benjamin Franklin’s son, and William Temple Franklin’s father, William Franklin, had decided to support the British during the war, but the relationship between Grandfather/Grandson was undiminished, as Franklin is writing to him elliptically about including him in the upcoming delegation to Paris.

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 who are 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.

September 25, 1776

Carol & Madison Visit, summer 2010 278

Congress spends the day approving payments to individuals and adopting resolves intended to increase the supply of winter clothing for the army.  John Adams wrote, “This was another measure I constantly urged, convinced that nothing short of the Roman and British discipline could possibly save us.”

Meanwhile, George Washington takes the time to write an unusually lengthy and personal letter to the President of Congress, John Hancock, describing the army’s current difficulties and those he sees coming around the corner.  Most important in Washington’s eyes is for members of the congress to agree that the risks inherent in a standing army are trifling when compare to the current risks of having insufficient men to conduct the war.   (original spellings are retained):  “From the hours allotted to Sleep, I will borrow a few moments to convey my thoughts on sundry important matters to Congress. I shall offer them with that sincerety which ought to characterize a Man of candour; and with the freedom which may be used in giving useful information, without incurring the imputation of presumption.

We are now as it were, upon the eve of another dissolution of our Army—the remembrance of the difficulties wch happened upon that occasion last year—the consequences which might have followed the change, if proper advantages had been taken by the Enemy—added to a knowledge of the present temper and Situation of the Troops, reflect but a very gloomy prospect upon the appearance of things now and satisfie me, beyond the possibility of doubt, that unless some speedy, and effectual measures are adopted by Congress; our cause will be lost.

It is in vain to expect that any (or more than a trifling) part of this Army will again engage in the Service on the encouragement offered by Congress—When Men find that their Townsmen & Companions are receiving 20, 30, and more Dollars for a few Months Service (which is truely the case) it cannot be expected; without using compulsion; & to force them into the Service would answer no valuable purpose. When Men are irritated, & the Passions inflamed, they fly hastily, and chearfully to Arms, but after the first emotions are over to expect, among such People as compose the bulk of an Army, that they are influenced by any other principles than those of Interest, is to look for what never did, & I fear never will happen; the Congress will deceive themselves therefore if they expect it.

A Soldier reasoned with upon the goodness of the cause he is engaged in and the inestimable rights he is contending for, hears you with patience, & acknowledges the truth of your observations; but adds, that it is of no more Importance to him than others—The Officer makes you the same reply, with this further remark, that his pay will not support him, and he cannot ruin himself and Family to serve his Country, when every member of the community is equally Interested and benefitted by his Labours—The few therefore, who act upon Principles of disinterestedness, are, comparitively speaking—no more than a drop in the Ocean. It becomes evidently clear then, that as this contest is not likely to be the Work of a day—as the War must be carried on systematically—and to do it, you must have good Officers, there are, in my judgment, no other possible means to obtain them but by establishing your Army upon a permanent footing; and giving your Officers good pay. this will induce Gentlemen, and Men of Character to engage; and till the bulk of your Officers are composed of Such persons as are actuated by Principles of honour, and a spirit of enterprize, you have little to expect from them. They ought to have such allowances as will enable them to live like, and support the Characters of Gentlemen; and not be driven by a scanty pittance to the low, & dirty arts which many of them practice to filch the Public of more than the difference of pay would amount to upon an ample allowe—besides, something is due to the Man who puts his life in his hand—hazards his health—& forsakes the Sweets of domestic enjoyments—Why a Captn in the Continental Service should receive no more than 5/. Curry per day for performing the same duties that an Officer of the same Rank in the British Service receives 10/. Sterlg for, I never could conceive; especially when the latter is provided with every necessary he requires upon the best terms, and the former can scarce procure them at any Rate. There is nothing that gives a Man consequence, & renders him fit for Command, like a support that renders him Independant of every body but the State he Serves.

With respect to the Men, nothing but a good bounty can obtain them upon a permanent establishment; and for no shorter time than the continuance of the War, ought they to be engaged; as Facts incontestibly prove, that the difficulty, and Cost of Inlistments, increase with time. When the Army was first raised at Cambridge, I am perswaded the Men might have been got without a bounty for the War—after this, they began to see that the contest was not likely to end so speedily as was immagined, & to feel their consequence, by remarking, that to get the Militia In, in the course of last year, many Towns were induced to give them a bounty—Foreseeing the Evils resulting from this and the destructive consequences which unavoidably would follow short Inlistments, I took the liberty in a long Letter written by myself (date not now recollected, as my Letter Book is not here) to recommend the Inlistments for and during the War, Assigning such Reasons for it, as experience has since convinced me were well founded—At that time Twenty Dollars would, I am perswaded, have engaged the Men for this term. But it will not do to look back, and if the present opportunity is slip’d, I am perswaded that twelve months more will Increase our difficulties four fold—I shall therefore take the freedom of givg it as my opinion, that a good Bounty be immediately offered, aided by the proffer of at least 100 or 150 Acres of Land and a Suit of Cloaths & Blankt to each Non Comd Officer & Soldier, as I have good Authority for saying, that however high the Mens pay may appear, it is barely sufficient in the present scarcity & dearness of all kinds of goods, to keep them in Cloaths, much less afford support to their Families—If this encouragement then is given to the Men, and such Pay allowed the Officers as will induce Gentlemen of Character & liberal Sentiments to engage, and proper care & precaution used in the nomination (having more regard to the Characters of Persons, than the number of Men they can Inlist) we should in a little time have an Army able to cope with any that can be opposed to it; as there are excellent Materials to form one out of: but while the only merit an Officer possesses is his ability to raise Men—while those Men consider, and treat him as an equal; & (in the Character of an Officer) regard him no more than a broomstick, being mixed together as one common herd, no order, nor no discipline can prevail—nor will the Officer ever meet with that respect which is essensially necessary to due subordination.

To place any dependance upon Militia, is, assuredly, resting upon a broken staff. Men just dragged from the tender Scenes of domestick life—unaccustomed to the din of Arms—totally unacquainted with every kind of Military skill, which being followed by a want of Confidence in themselves when opposed to Troops regularly traind—disciplined, and appointed—superior in knowledge, & superior in Arms, makes them timid, and ready to fly from their own Shadows. Besides, the sudden change in their manner of living (particularly in the lodging) brings on sickness in many; impatience in all; & such an unconquerable desire of returning to their respective homes that it not only produces shameful, & scandalous Desertions among themselves, but infuses the like spirit in others—Again, Men accustomed to unbounded freedom, and no controul, cannot brooke the Restraint which is indispensably necessary to the good Order and Government of an Army; without which Licentiousness, & every kind of disorder triumphantly reign. To bring men to a proper degree of Subordination is not the work of a day—a Month— or even a year—and unhappily for us, and the cause we are Ingaged in, the little discipline I have been labouring to establish in the Army under my immediate Command, is in a manner done away by having such a mixture of Troops as have been called together within these few Months.

Relaxed, and as unfit as our Rules & Regulations of War are for the Government of an Army, the Militia (those properly so called, for of these we have two sorts, the Six Months Men and those sent in as a temporary aid) do not think themselves subject to ’em, and therefore take liberties which the Soldier is punished for—this creates jealousy—jealousy begets dissatisfactions—and these by degrees ripen into Mutiny; keeping the whole Army in a confused, and disordered State; rendering the time of those who wish to see regularity & good Order prevail more unhappy than Words can describe—Besides this, such repeated changes take place, that all arrangement is set at nought, & the constant fluctuation of things deranges every plan, as fast as adopted.

These Sir, Congress may be assured, are but a small part of the Inconveniences which might be enumerated, & attributed to Militia—but there is one that merits particular attention, & that is the expence. Certain I am that it would be cheaper to keep 50 or 100,000 Men in constant pay than to depend upon half the number, and supply the other half occasionally by Militia—The time the latter is in pay before and after they are in Camp, Assembling & Marching—the waste of Ammunition—the consumption of Stores, which in spite of every Resolution, & requisition of Congress they must be furnished with, or sent home—added to other incidental expences consequent upon their coming, and conduct in Camp, surpasses all Idea; and destroys every kind of regularity & œconomy which you could establish amg fixed and Settled Troops; and will in my opinion prove (if the scheme is adhered to) the Ruin of our Cause.

The Jealousies of a standing Army, and the Evils to be apprehended from one, are remote; and in my judgment, situated & circumstanced as we are, not at all to be dreaded; but the consequence of wanting one, according to my Ideas; formed from the present view of things, is certain, and inevitable Ruin; for if I was called upon to declare upon Oath, whether the Militia have been most Serviceable or hurtful upon the whole I should subscribe to the latter. I do not mean by this however to arraign the Conduct of Congress, in so doing I should equally condemn my own measures (if I did not my judgment) but experience, which is the best criterion to work by, so fully, clearly, and decisively reprobates the practice of trusting to Militia, that no Man who regards order, regularity, & Œconomy; or who has any regard for his own honour, character, or peace of Mind, will risk them upon this Issue.

No less Attention should be paid to the choice of Surgeons than other Officers of the Army. they should undergo a regular examination; and if not appointed by the Director Genl & Surgeons of the Hospital, they ought to be subordinate to, and governed by his directions—the Regimental Surgeons I am speaking of—many of whom are very great Rascals, countenancing the Men in sham Complaints to exempt them from duty, and often receiving Bribes to Certifie Indispositions with a view to procure discharges or Furloughs; but independant of these practices, while they are considered as unconnected with the Genl Hospital there will be nothing but continual Complaints of each other—The director of the Hospital charging them with enormity in their drafts for the Sick; & they him, for denying such things as are necessary—In short there is a constant bickering among them, which tends greatly to the Injury of the Sick; and will always subsist till the Regimental Surgeons are made to look up to the Director Genl of the Hospital as a Superior—whether this is the case in regular Armies, or not, I cannot undertake to say; but certain I am there is a necessity for it in this, or the Sick will suffer. the Regimental Surgeons are aiming, I am perswaded, to break up the Genl Hospital, & have, in numberless Instances, drawn for Medicines—Stores—&ca in the most profuse and extravagent manner, for private purposes.

Another matter highly worthy of attention, is, that other Rules and Regulation’s may be adopted for the Government of the Army than those now in existence, otherwise the Army, but for the name, might as well be disbanded—For the most atrocious offences (one or two Instances only excepted) a Man receives no more than 39 Lashes, and these perhaps (thro the collusion of the Officer who is to see it inflicted) are given in such a manner as to become rather a matter of sport than punishment; but when inflicted as they ought, many hardend fellows who have been the Subjects, have declared that for a bottle of Rum they would undergo a Second operation—it is evident therefore that this punishment is inadequate to many Crimes it is assigned to—as a proof of it, thirty and 40 Soldiers will desert at a time; and of late, a practice prevails (as you will see by my Letter of the 22d) of the most alarming nature; and which will, if it cannot be checked, prove fatal both to the Country and Army—I mean the infamous practice of Plundering, for under the Idea of Tory property—or property which may fall into the hands of the Enemy, no Man is secure in his effects, & scarcely in his Person; for in order to get at them, we have several Instances of People being frieghtned out of their Houses under pretence of those Houses being ordered to be burnt, & this is done with a view of siezing the Goods; nay, in order that the Villainy may be more effectually concealed, some Houses have actually been burnt to cover the theft.

I have with some others used my utmost endeavours to stop this horrid practice, but under the present lust after plunder, and want of Laws to punish Offenders, I might almost as well attempt to remove Mount Atlas—I have ordered instant corporal Punishment upon every Man who passes our Lines, or is seen with Plunder that the Offender might be punished for disobedience of Orders; and Inclose you the proceedings of a Court Martial held upon an Officer, who with a Party of Men had robbd a House a little beyond our Lines of a number of valuable Goods; among which (to shew that nothing escapes) were four large Peer looking Glasses—Womens Cloaths, and other Articles which one would think, could be of no Earthly use to him—He was met by a Major of Brigade who ordered him to return the Goods as taken contrary to Genl Orders, which he not only peremptorily refused to do, but drew up his Party and swore he would defend them at the hazard of his Life; on which I orderd him to be Arrested, and tryed for Plundering, Disobedience of Orders, and Mutiny; for the Result, I refer to the Proceedings of the Court; whose judgment appeared so exceedingly extraordinary, that I ordered a Reconsideration of the matter, upon which, and with the assistance of a fresh evidence, they made Shift to Cashier him.

I adduce this Instance to give some Idea to Congress of the Currt Sentimts & general run of the Officers which compose the present Army; & to shew how exceedingly necessary it is to be careful in the choice of the New sett even if it should take double the time to compleat the Levies—An Army formed of good Officers moves like Clock work; but there is no Situation upon Earth less enviable, nor more distressing, than that Person’s who is at the head of Troops, who are regardless of Order and discipline; and who are unprovided with almost every necessary—In a word, the difficulties which have forever surrounded me since I have been in the Service, and kept my Mind constantly upon the stretch—The Wounds which my Feelings as an Officer have received by a thousand things which have happened, contrary to my expectation and Wishes—the effect of my own conduct, and present appearance of things, so little pleasing to myself, as to render it a matter of no Surprize (to me) if I should stand capitally censured by Congress—added to a consciousness of my inability to govern an Army composed of such discordant parts, and under such a variety of intricate and perplexing circumstances, induces not only a belief, but a thorough conviction in my Mind, that it will be impossible unless there is a thorough change in our Military System for me to conduct matters in such a manner as to give Satisfaction to the Publick, which is all the recompense I aim at, or ever wished for.

Before I conclude I must appologize for the liberties taken in this Letter and for the blots and scratchings therein—not having time to give it more correctly. With truth I can add, that with every Sentiment of respect & esteem I am Yrs & the Congresses Most Obedt & Most H. Servt – Go: Washington”

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 our Philadelphia Gettysburg Tour.  Or, for the true history buffs, contact us about taking part in our American History Vacation Packages.  Our new historical podcast, “The Constitution – Episode One,” is now available.

 

 

 

September 22, 1776

15ac9725-19a4-4241-b182-419c36a67f19

The British execute Captain Nathan Hale for espionage without a trial, creating America’s first widely acclaimed martyr.

Nathan Hale was a Yale graduate who joined a Connecticut militia and served in the siege of Boston.  Hale accepted a commission as first lieutenant in the 7th Connecticut Regiment under Colonel Charles Webb of Stamford. The following Spring, they joined the Continental Army’s effort to prevent the British from taking New York City.  It is believed that Hale was part of daring band of patriots who captured an English sloop filled with provisions from right under the guns of British man-of-war.

General Washington was desperate to know where the British planned to invade Manhattan Island, writing on September 6, 1776:  “We have not been able to obtain the least information on the enemy’s plans.”  Washington sought a spy to penetrate the British lines at Long Island to get information, and Nathan Hale was the only volunteer.

Fellow officer Captain William Hull attempted to talk him out it, but Hale responded:  “I wish to be useful, and every kind of service necessary to the public good becomes honorable by being necessary. If the exigencies of my country demand a peculiar service, its claim to perform that service are imperious.”  On September 21, 1776, Hale was captured by the “Queen’s Rangers” commanded by an American loyalist, Lieut. Col. Robert Rogers.  General William Howe ordered him to be hanged the next morning.  Hale wrote a letter to his mother and brother, but the British destroyed them.   He asked for a Bible, but was refused.  Nathan Hale was marched out and hanged from an apple-tree in Rutgers’s orchard, near the present streets of East Broadway and Market in New York City.

The Essex Journal stated of Nathan Hale, February 13, 1777:  “At the gallows, he made a sensible and spirited speech; among other things, told them they were shedding the blood of the innocent, and that if he had ten thousand lives, he would lay them all down, if called to it, in defense of his injured, bleeding Country.”

Nathan Hale drew inspiration for his last words “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country” from the well-known English play “Cato,” written by Joseph Addison in 1712.  (Hale had been involved in theater while a student at Yale):  “How beautiful is death, when earn’d by virtue!  Who would not be that youth? What pity is itThat we can die but once to serve our country.”

Cato was a favorite of George Washington’s as well, and he had it performed for his soldiers at Valley Forge.

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 the Gettysburg tour.  Or, for the true history buffs, contact us about taking part in our American History Vacation Packages.