October 15, 1776

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In Salem, North Carolina, this day is the Election Day for the delegates to the Provincial Congress.

The Virginia Navy Board orders seven state galleys to proceed immediately with their  vessels  from their station to Portsmouth in order to assist in transporting the Carolina troops up to the Head of Elk, in Maryland.

George Washington, from his headquarters in Harlem Heights, writes to Jonathan Trumball, Sr:  “The movements of the Enemy, their having sent up some of their Ships in the North River, their landing a large proportion, if not the main body of their Army on Frogs Point (or rather Island as it is surrounded by water every flood tide) nine miles above this on the Sound, added to these, the information of deserters, all afford a strong presumption, nay, almost a certainty, that they are pursuing their original plan of getting in our rear and cutting off all our supplies. Our situation here is not exactly the same as it was at New York. It is rather better. However, as we are obliged to divide our force and guard every probable place of attack as well as we can—as most of our Stores are here and about Kings Bridge, and the preservation of the communication with the States on the other side of Hudson’s River a matter of great importance, it will not be possible for me to detach any more assistance than what I have already done for the purpose of securing the passes in the Highlands. I have sent Colo. Tash lately from New Hampshire with his Regiment, upon the business, and as it is of the utmost consequence to possess those passes, and to hold them free and open, I would beg leave to submit to your consideration, whether you can spare any aid upon this interested occasion. I know your exertions already are great, in the Service in this and the Northern Army, and nothing could have induced me to mention this matter to you, were it not for the alarming and melancholy consequences which will result from the Enemy’s possessing themselves of those communications. The Regiment I have ordered up are to receive directions from the Convention, also the Posts they are to occupy, supposing them to be much better acquainted with the places where they should be stationed than I am. If it is in your power to afford any assistance in this instance, you will be pleased to give such instructions to those you send, as you shall judge necessary. I am just dispatching an Engineer to the Convention to throw up some small Works. I have the honor to be with great Esteem Sir your most obedient Servant

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P.S. I have sent two Regiments of the Massachusetts Militia up the River to watch the motion of the Ships and to oppose any landing of men that they may attempt—I am also extending every part of my force that I possibly can towards East and West chester to oppose the Enemy and prevent their effecting their plan of it, if it shall be practicable; but our numbers being far inferior to the demands for men, I cannot answer for what may happen—The best in my power shall be done.”

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October 9, 1776

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John Hancock, President of Congress, writes to General Washington to inform him of the additional “encouragement” congress will provide to convince men to join the army:   “The enclosed Resolves, which I do myself the Honour to forward, will inform you of the ample Provision the Congress have made for the Support of both Officer and Soldier who shall enter into the Service during the War. The Pay of the former is considerably increased, and the latter is to receive annually a compleat Suit of Cloaths, or in Lieu thereof, the Sum of twenty Dollars, should he provide the Suit for himself. This additional Encouragement, besides the twenty Dollars Bounty and fifty Acres of Land formerly granted, the Congress expect, will be theMeans, (if any Thing can) of engaging the Troops during the War.  The Importance, and indeed the absolute Necessity of filling up the Army, of providing for the Troops, and engaging them during the War, having induced Congress to come to the enclosed Resolves, in Obedience to their Commands, I am preparing to forward them with all possible Expedition to the several States.”

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October 8, 1776

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Congress moves to enlist more soldiers for the duration of the war and urges each state to send a committee to the camps to appoint officers and encourage enlistments.

For several months, 297 Charleston citizens had been doing militia duty to protect the town and now find that it had “injured their fortunes.”  They petition the Assembly to establish one or more watch companies to guard the town.

John Adams writes to Abigail telling her, not only how much he treasures her letters, but also with his analysis of the recent military action in New York:  “I ought to acknowledge with Gratitude, your constant Kindness in Writing to me, by every Post. Your favour of Septr. 29. came by the last. I wish it had been in my Power, to have returned your Civilities with the same Punctuality, but it has not.  Long before this you have received Letters from me, and Newspapers containing a full Account of the Negociation. The Communication is still open and the Post Riders now do their Duty and will continue to do so.  I assure you, We are as much at a Loss, about Affairs at New York, as you are. In general, our Generals were out generalled on Long Island, and Sullivan and Stirling with 1000 Men were made Prisoners, in Consequence of which, and several other unfortunate Circumstances, a Council of War thought it prudent to retreat from that Island, and Governors Island and then from New York. They are now posted at Haarlem about 10 or 11 Miles from the City. They left behind them some Provisions, some Cannon and some Baggage.  Wherever the Men of War have approached, our Militia have most manfully turned their backs and run away, Officers and Men, like sturdy fellows—and their panicks have sometimes seized the regular Regiments.  One little skirmish on Montresors Island, ended with the Loss of the brave Major Henley, and the disgrace of the rest of the Party. Another Skirmish, which might indeed be called an Action, ended in the defeat and shamefull flight of the Enemy, with the Loss of the brave Coll. Knowlton on our Part. The Enemy have Possession of Paulus Hook and Bergen Point, Places on the Jersy side of the North River.  By this Time their Force is so divided between Staten Island, Long Island, New York, Paulus Hook and Bergen Point, that, I think they will do no great Matter more this fall, unless the Expiration of the Term of Inlistment of our Army, should disband it. If our new Inlistments fill up, for Soldiers during the War, We shall do well enough.—Every Body must encourage this.  You are told that a Regiment of Yorkers behaved ill, and it may be true, but I can tell you that several Regiments of Massachusetts Men have behaved ill, too.  The Spirit of Venality, you mention, is the most dreadfull and alarming Enemy, that America has to oppose. It is as rapacious and insatiable as the Grave. We are in the Fasce Romuli, non Republica Platonis. This predominant Avarice will ruin America, if she is ever ruined. If God almighty does not interpose by his Grace to controul this universal Idolatry to the Mammon of Unrighteousness, We shall be given up to the Chastisements of his Judgments. I am ashamed of the Age I live in.  You surprise me with your Account of the Prayers in publick for an Abdicated King, a Pretender to the Crown. Nothing of that Kind is heard in this Place, or any other Part of the Continent, but New York and the Place you mention. This Practice is Treason against the State and cannot be long tolerated.  I lament the Loss of Soper, as an honest, and usefull Member of Society.  Dont leave off writing to me—I write as often as I can.”

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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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September 28, 1776

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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.

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September 27, 1776

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The South Carolina House sends a report to President Rutledge that opposed the idea of forcing captured Indians into slavery.  They argued that the idea would hurt future relations and encourage Indians to retaliate in a similar fashion.

General George Washington transmits to Congress that the British military force in Canada is 8,000 men, one 18 gun ship, two brigs, three schooners, gondolas, bateaux, and artillery companies and about 100 cannon, the finest ever sent from England.

Richard Henry Lee writes to Thomas Jefferson to inform him that he has been chosen, along with Benjamin Franklin and Silas Deane to travel to France in order to convince the French to join the efforts of the colonies.  “I should have written to you before now if I had not been uncertain about finding you at home, as the distance was great, and the meeting of our Assembly approaching. All the material events that have happened since you left us are to be found related pretty faithfully in the public papers, which I suppose are regularly conveyed to you.

The plan of foreign treaty is just finished, and yourself, with Doctor Franklin, and Mr. Deane now in France, are the Trustees to execute this all important business. The great abilities and unshaken virtue, necessary for the execution of what the safety of America does so capitally rest upon, has directed the Congress in their choice; and tho ambition may have no influence in this case, yet that distinguished love for your country that has marked your life, will determine you here. In my judgement, the most emminent services that the greatest of her sons can do America will not more essentially serve her and honor themselves, than a successful negotiation with France. With this country, every thing depends upon it, and if we may form a judgement of what is at a distance, the dispositions of that Court are friendly in a high degree, and want only to be properly acted upon, to be wrought into fixt attachment and essential good. We find ourselves greatly endangered by the Armament at present here, but what will be our situation the next campaign, when the present force shall be increas[ed] by the addition of 20 or 30 thousand Russians with a larg[e] body of British and Irish troops? I fear the power of America will fail in the mighty struggle And the barbarous hand of despotism will extirpate libe[rty] and virtue from this our native land; placing in th[eir] stead slavery, vice, ignorance, and ruin. Already these foes of human kind have opened their Courts of Justice (as they call them) on Long Island, and the first frui[ts] of their tender mercies, are confiscation of estates, and condemnation of Whigs to perpetual imprisonment.  The idea of Congress is, that yourself and Dr. Frank[lin] should go in different Ships. The Doctor, I suppose, will sail from hence, and if it is your pleasure, on[e] of our Armed Vessels will meet you in any River in Virginia that you choose.”

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September 26, 1776

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Congress elected Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and Silas Deane commissioners to France and ordered the strictest secrecy to be observed on all aspects of Franco-American negotiations.

The Pennsylvania Assembly declares illegal and dangerous the Convention’s ordinacnes, which taxed non-Associators and permitted judges to imprison without a jury trial.

Rufus Putnam writes to George Washington, requested that he permit him to create a Corps of Engineers:  “I Hope the Importence of the Subject will be a Sufficient appollogie for the Freedom I take in adressing your Exelency at this time. I have long Wondered that no Corps of Engeneers was yet Established. the Number of Works to be Executed; the Nesesity of Dispatch in them; the Imposability for a Common hand to be made at once to Comprehend what they ought to do. with out a Core of Engeneers is Established the Works Never will be properly Executed nor don in a Reasonable time. and I Cannot give my Ideas of Such a Core and there duty Better then In the Words of Mr Maigrets Speaking of there Subordinary Disepline. he Sais “the first part of this Disepline Consists of the divition of one Corps Into Several. and the Subdivition of the Latter into Still less.[”] again “in the Construction of places that Corps of Workmen are Devided into Several others Who are Called Bands. the officers of Each of those Companys Should be Engeneers. and tis a Leading Circumstance to the Success of any action that the Soldiers and there officers Should be acquainted with Each other Before hand. and tis from the Engeneers that the former are to Recive ordors for the Works of attack; defence; and Construction of places. tis Evedent that the latter ought to be Charged With the Conduct and Command of them. Engineers are the Natural officers of Workmen. ancient and Constent Useage has Confirmed the practice.[”] again “if teachers Ware appointed to Each of these principle Corps Such a Number of Hopefull youth might be formed as would be a grate Benifit to the Service. these Work men are properly Speeking Soldiers or Rather Both one and tother. there Business Being Either Fighting or Working as ocation Requiers. the first Excersize to be taught them is the use of there arms; the Next is to keep them to there Business. the third kind of Exercise is the Instructing them in the Several forms Dementions and Properties of Works.[”] again “all Workmen Imployed in Buildings of any kind may Serve Very well for Works of Fortification.[”] again “by this means you may have good Miners and Sappers in abundence who in time of Seages may Ease the Engineers and Even Supply the Want of them up on ocation.[”] two years Experance has fully Convinced me Sir that till the Engineers are Rendered Intependent of any other Department for there Artificers till they have Miners and Sappers or persons Seperate from the Common Feteague men to take Care of Sinking the Ditch properly laying the turf well And to Build the parrapet with its propper Talus. I Say till this is don No Engineer will be able to Execute his Works Well nor do them in a Reasonable time[.] the Service has already Suffered much and will Continu So to do till Some Such Corps as What I have mentioned is Established and to Convince your Exeleny that I have no Intristed motives but the Common good in this adress; I Beg leave to Quit the Department Sence the army are or may be So well Suplyed with Reguler Bread Engineers.”

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.