June 30, 1776

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Now heading the newly created Board of War, John Adams asserts how military stores are of the utmost importance.  “I cannot think the country safe, which has not within itself every material necessary for war and the art of making use of those materials.  I shall not rest eady, then, until we shall have made discoveries of Saltpeter, Sulfur, Flints, Lead, Cannon, Mortars, Ball, Shells, Muskets and Powder in sufficient plenty, so that we may always be sure to having enough of each.”

Maryland’s Royal Governor Robert Eden joins Governor Dunmore in self-imposed exile from the mainland.

Thomas Jefferson responds to the news that he has been reappointed to the Congress with a polite refusal to continue.  “I this day received information that the Convention had been pleased to reappoint me to the office in which I have now the honor to be serving them and through you must beg leave to return them my sincere thanks for this mark of their continued confidence. I am sorry the situation of my domestic affairs renders it indispensably necessary that I should sollicit the substitution of some other person here in my room. The delicacy of the house will not require me to enter minutely into the private causes which render this necessary: I trust they will be satisfied I would not have urged it again were it not necessary. I shall with chearfulness continue in duty here till the expiration of our year by which time I hope it will be convenient for my successor to attend.”  Jefferson is almost certainly alluding to the health of his wife, which was evidently precarious at that time and would only grow worse.  Jefferson was also eager to return to Virginia in order to participate in the drawing-up of the state constitution, a matter which he may well have seen as far more important than anything going on in congress.

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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 28, 1776

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Convicted of mutiny and sedition, Thomas Hickey, former Life Guard to General George Washington, is hanged near Bowery Lane in New York in front of 20,000 spectators.  Washington hoped the punishment would “be a warning to every soldier in the army” to avoid sedition, mutiny, and other crimes “disgraceful to the character of a soldier and pernicious to his country, whose pay he receives and bread he eats.”  He gave an interesting twist to the assassination attempt.  “And in order to avoid those crimes, the most certain method is to kedp out of the temptation of them and particularly to avoid lewd women, who, by the dying confession of this poor criminal, first led him into practices which ended in an untimely and ignominious death.”

In Charleston, South Carolina, at about 10 a.m. Commordore Peter Parker’s squadron opens fire on Fort Sullivan.  To the surprise of the British, the forts palmetto log wall absorbs the British shot, preventing typical splinter injuries to the garrison.  More suprising is the accurate and effective fire directed by Conlen Moultrie at the British fleet.  Their two largest warships HMS Bristol and HMS Thunder suffered extensive damage and severe crew losses.  Commodore Parker suffers painful physical injuries and the embarrassing loss of his breeches.  Moultire’s attack costs Parker 261 injured and dead.  American casualties are slight.

At the Battle of Fort Sullivan Island, American forces commanded by Colonel William Moultrie has a force of 9 ships, he had 64 killed in action, 131 wounded in action  This battle was considered an American victory.

In Philadelphia, Thomas Jefferson presents a draft of the Declaration of Independence to Congress.

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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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June 26, 1776

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Virginia Governor Dunmore reports to Lord Germain in England that the Gwynn’s Island is his new base, and that if the fever had not killed most of the slaves that flocked to his banner, he would have stayed on the mainland.

In Seneca, South Carolina, Patriot Captain James McCall and a thirty man detachment of South Carolina rangers were snet on a peace mission to the Cherokee Nation.  They were ambushed by the Indians.

In New Jersey, General Sir William Howe and the British fleet arrive off Sandy Hook.

John Adams writes to his wife, attributing the defeat in Canada to smallpox.  “Our Misfortunes in Canada, are enough to melt an Heart of Stone. The Small Pox is ten times more terrible than Britons, Canadians and Indians together. This was the Cause of our precipitate Retreat from Quebec, this the Cause of our Disgraces at the Cedars.—I dont mean that this was all. There has been Want, approaching to Famine, as well as Pestilence. And these Discouragements seem to have so disheartened our Officers, that none of them seem to Act with Prudence and Firmness.  But these Reverses of Fortune dont discourage me. It was natural to expect them, and We ought to be prepared in our Minds for greater Changes, and more melancholly Scenes still. It is an animating Cause, and brave Spirits are not subdued with Difficulties.”

Adams continues to write of his multiplying duties:  “The Congress have been pleased to give me more Business than I am qualified for, and more than I fear, I can go through, with safety to my Health. They have established a Board of War and Ordinance and made me President of it, an Honour to which I never aspired, a Trust to which I feel my self vastly unequal. But I am determined to do as well as I can and make Industry supply, in some degree the Place of Abilities and Experience. The Board sits, every Morning and every Evening.1 This, with Constant Attendance in Congress, will so entirely engross my Time, that I fear, I shall not be able to write you, so often as I have. But I will steal Time to write to you.”

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June 25, 1776

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The Conference of Committees urges its more pacifist associates to military action by declaring that they were fighting for “permanent liberty, to be supported by your government, derived from you, and organized for all and not for the benefit of one man or class or men.”

Off the coast of South Carolina, after spending three weeks getting his fleet across a sandbar, Commodore Peter Parker’s postponed plans to bombard the fort on Sullivan’s Island due to unfavorable wind and tidal conditions.

Benedict Arnold informs General Washington of the continued bad news from Canada and the necessity of retreat:  “By this express, you will receive advice From Genl Schuyler of our evacuateing Canada, an event which I make no doubt (from our distressed situation) you have some time expected, the particulars of Genl Thompsons repulse, & Captivity, as nearly as could be ascertained, have ben transmitted, you. on advice of which, very direct Intelligence that the Enemy were greatly superior to us In numbers, I advised Genl Sullivan to secure his retreat by retireing to St Johns. he was determined to keep his Post at Sorell, If posible & did not retire untill the 14th Inst. at which time the Enemy were as high up with their Ships as the Sorell—The 15th at Night when the Enemy were at Twelve Miles distance from me I quitted Montreal, with my little Garrison of Three hundred Men[.] The whole Army with their Baggage & Cannon, (except three heavy peices left at Chamble), Arived at St Johns the 17th & at the Ile Aux Noix the 18th previous to which it was Determined by a Counsil of Warr, at St Johns that in Our distressed Situation, (One half of the Army Sick & allmost the whole, destitute of Cloathing & every necessary of Life except Salt Pork & Flour) It was not only Imprudent but Impracticable to keep Possession of St Johns.”

In Philadelphia, congress receives continued requests from the Maryland delegation that the vote on Independence be delayed.  Writing to Sam Chase, who continues to try to drum up support for independence, John Adams writes, “Don’t be angry with me,” but informs him that it is not possible for Congress to delay the July 1 discussion of independence.  Such a delay “would hazard Convulsions and dangerous Conspiracies.”  Meanwhile, New York too continues to push for delay.  New York is divided between radicals who agree with Sam Adams and more conservative members who continue to hope for reconciliation.  To many New Yorkers, any declaration of independence is a dangerous and unnecessary step.

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June 23, 1776

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In Philadelphia, the Provincial Conference of Committees urges the people to “select qualified patriots to the Convention, who shall know the ideas and sentiments of their constituents, and, above all, assure the timid and fearful of the high purpose of the Congress.”

In Charleston, South Carolina, Commodore Peter Parker notifies General Sir Henry Clinton that he would land on the mainland tomorrow on the flood tide if the wind was from the south.  Parker and his fleet were thwarted by a sandbar for nearly two weeks.

Meanwhile, John Adams writes to Cotton Tufts about the dramatic events going on in Philadelphia as the colonies debate the declaring independence.  Adams had argued long and hard for months, and perhaps even he was surprised but the slow yet steady progress his arguments (as well as events) had made upon the others.  “You mention Independence and Confederation. These Things are now become Objects of direct Consideration. Days, and Times, without Number, have been spent upon these Subjects, and at last a Committee is appointed to prepare a Draught of Confederation, and a Declaration that these Colonies [are] free States, independent of all Kings, Kingdoms, Nations, People, or States in the World. . . .”  As we have seen in prior posts, Adams has requested that Thomas Jefferson take on the job of writing the initial draft of the Declaration.  “There has been the greatest Scarcity of News for the last Fortnight, which has ever happened since the War commenced. . . . I make it a constant Practice to transmit to my Family, all the News Papers, where I presume you get a Sight of them. You will find by them, the Course of political Causes and Effects in this Colony. The Assembly [were] necessitated to rescind their Instructions, and [became] so obnoxious, and unpopular, among the Inhabitants their own Constituents for having ever passed them, as to be obliged to die away, without doing any Thing else, even without Adjourning, and give Place to a Conference of Committees and a Convention. Every Part of the Colony is represented in this Conference which is now sitting, and is extremely unanimous, spirited, zealous, and determined. You will soon see Pensilvania, one of the most patriotic Colonies.”  John Adams and cousin Sam deserve some credit for this, having helped to encourage a mob to gather and angrily replace the Pennsylvanian delegates who voiced the timid proposals of reconciliation.  “New Jersey is in a similar Train. The Delaware Government the same.  Maryland is a little beside itself I think, but presently it will blaze out like a Fire ship or a Volcano.”  Adams is every day hectoring Maryland delegate Samuel Chase to get his colony in line.  However, they felt powerless to act, since the Maryland Convention had adjourned on May 25 without determining their position.  Samuel Chase has returned to Maryland to persuade the colony’s leader to call their convention back into session and to endorse independence.  Although he has been able to drum up considerable support, the members of the provincial convention have now ordered the Maryland delegates in Philadelphia to return to Maryland to attend the convention, but not to leave congress until they receive a guarantee that they will not take up the question of independence until they return.  This may be a hard sell, as congress has already agreed to take up Richard Henry Lee’s resolution, and those seeking independence, such as Adams, smell victory in the air and are in no mood to delay.

Adams continues  to describe New York and its lack of gravitas.  “New York still acts in Character, like a People without Courage or sense, or Spirit, or in short any one Virtue or Ability. There is neither Spunk nor Gumption, in that Province as a Body. Individuals are very clever. But it is the weakest Province in point of Intellect, Valour, public Spirit, or any thing else that is great and good upon the Continent. It is incapable of doing Us much good, or much Hurt, but from its local situation. The low Cunning of Individuals, and their Prostitution plagues Us, the Virtues of a few Individuals is of some Service to Us. But as a Province it will be a dead Weight upon any side, ours or that of our Enemies.”

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