December 12, 1777

George Washington

A parol boat sent out from the HMS Emerald, anchored in the PotomacRiver, is captured by local militia while on guard duty.

George Washington writes to William Shippen regarding the care of the armies sick and injured:  “In answer to your Favor of today, I cannot think Princeton underthe present situation of affairs by any means a proper place for the sick.Should they remain there they would be liable to be taken. At the same time, Ido not wish you to precipitate their removal in such a manner as to endangerthem. In respect to the Hospitals at Easton & Bethelem, I also am ofOpinion, that they should be removed. But these, as their situation is not sodangerous, may be deferred till the last. We must keep the Sick always in theRear of the Army, or they will be subject to captivity. As to Colonel Nichola& his Corps I shall have no Objection to their being at the Hospitals, ifthere is no Resolution of Congress assigning them to other duty. Colonel Nichola will know if this is the case.”

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

December 11, 1777

General Cornwallis

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

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

December 10, 1777

Samuel B. Webb

An American raid by Colonel Samuel B. Webb and his regimenton Long Island is foiled by British ships. Webb and his regiment are captured.

In the Continental Congress, George Rogers Clark presents hisplan to capture Detroit.

Nathan Rice writes a congratulatory letter to John Adams for his return to Braintree, perhaps unaware that already Adams has beeninformed that he is to leave his family once again, this time to go toFrance.  Rice also writes about theupcoming Massachusetts Constitution, which is being formed:  “Permit me to congratulateyou on your return to your family and frends, of which I am advertised by the weekly Gazette.  It must afford not less satisfaction to the state in general to have your presence and council at this critical period, on the transactions of which depend its future happiness andtranquility—than it does to your family and private connections, to imbraceafter a tedious absence, the tender companion kind parent, and generous Friend.

When I hold up to view the welfare, and prosperity of the continent in general, to those of a single state or family—I’m at a loss whether most to rejoice at your return to Massachusetts or regret your absence from Congress.

It will ever remain asingular mark of honor to you, and a convincing proof of your Patriotism and attachment to the liberty and happiness of Mankind that no sinister views orprivate concerns, could call your attention from Congress untill you had notonly effected the union of the Colonies, but formed a plan which will both confirm that union and render it indissoluble—that being now sent forth for the acceptance of the states. God grant it may meet their speedy and hearty approbation.

The public (of whose gratitude however I do not entertain the most exalted idea) must ever acknowledge the great services you have rendered them; and however you may not think convenient to contribute further to their happiness in that exalted station you have ever held since the commencment of the dispute, yet the samevirtuous principle and generous sentiments, which have heitherto stimulated you to further the cause of mankind in general will still induce you to serve that state with which you are particularly connected, and which now in an important manner calls for the exertion of your abilities.

A Constitution is now forming—a supreme Majistrate is to be appointed—a post of the greatest honorand importance to be confered on an individual. The popular manner in which this is to be done is perhaps the best which at this crisis could have been adopted: Caprices and trifleing accidents too often actuate and govern the populace. Alarmed at this truth, I felt the most sencible pleasure on the news of  your arrival in Boston persuaded that your prudence and advice would prevent the many dangerous extravagancies of so popular a measure. Happy must it be for the good people of Massachusetts should they make chose of  [left blank] the gentleman to whom they are so greatly indebted, and who without pomp or pageantry, superiour to the wiles of a courtier or the applause of individuals would study to promote the happiniss and gain the approbation of his countrymen by a steady adhearance to the principles of vir[tue and] justice.”

Meanwhile,George Washington, having suffered yet another defeat, this time at Whitemarsh,must now make plans to gather his troops and march them to winterquarters.  He sends out the followingGeneral Order:  “The army to march at four o’clock in the morning from the right—ASubaltern from each regiment and a Captain from each brigade, under the commandof a Field Officer from the line, are to assemble at General Knox’s quarters in the morning and remain ’till the Army moves off the ground, and then see that all stragglers in the camp, and its environs, are collected and marched after it—They are also to see that no baggage, entrenching tools or other articlesare left, or that they are, secured under proper guards taken from the Pennsylvania Militia, by application to the commanding officer thereof.”

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 Warbuffs, come see Gettysburg. 

December 8, 1777

George Washington and his men at Battle of White Marxhg

In the morning, British generals and engineers analyzed the American positions tosee if they could exploit any part of their defenses.  To the astonishment of the British, the Americans, and historians ever since, Howe chose to withdraw and return to Philadelphia.  He had been successful in thetwo major skirmishes during the previous two days, but he had not gotten as fararound the American flank as he had hoped and his provisions were running low.  Also, as the now disparaged song goes, “Baby, It’s cold outside.”  The troops had left their tents and gear in Philadelphia.

At 2:00 pm, the British began their withdrawal,lighting numerous campfires—as Washington had done three days earlier—toconceal their movements. An American reconnaissance party, led by Capt. McLane,discovered that Howe was marching back down Old York Road into Philadelphia and communicated this information back to Washington. Morgan’s troops harassedthe enemy’s rear, in particular Grey’s column, which was hindered by the weightof the artillery that it was transporting. A contingent of Hessians formed tooppose them with their fieldpieces and Morgan’s troops retreated. The British arrived in Philadelphia later that day.  Washington would begin thinking about Winter Quarters.

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

December 6, 1777

Emlen House, which was Washington’s Headquarters during Battle of Whitmarsh

The second day of the Battle of Whitemarsh passes with thetwo armies watching each other across the Wissahickon Valley.  General Howe is hoping that Washington willleave his positions to attack the British, but Washington is holding back inorder to see what move the British will make. By the end of the day, Howe decided to go forward on the 7thg with aflanking movement toward Jenkintown and Cheltenham Township, while MajorGeneral Charles Grey’s forces woud create a distraction by attacking theAmerican center.  This is a familiartactic of Howe’s that Washington should be not only used to, but expecting atthis point. 

Meanwhile, in Paris, France, French foreign minister Count Charles de Vergennes responds positively to the American suggestions of amilitary alliance in the wake of the American victory at Saratoga.

Join us at Bow Tie Tours for Philadelphia’s BestHistorical Walking Tours.  Our “Independence Tour Extraordinaire” includes tickets to Independence Hall, aswell as numerous other sites, such as 2nd National Bank, GraffHouse, Carpenter Hall, and Christ Church. If you are interested in learning about George Washington, join us forour Valley Forge Tour.  For those interested in the Civil War, come see Gettysburg

December 5, 1777

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

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

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

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

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

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

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, GraffHouse, Carpenter Hall, and Christ Church. If you are interested in learning about George Washington, join us forour Valley Forge Tour.  For those interested in the Civil War, come see Gettysburg

December 3, 1777

From the very start, Charles Lee has felt no doubt that, despite what story might need to be peddled for public consumption, that he, and not George Washington, was the man who should be leading the army.  His pedigree, education, and level of experience clearly exceeded that of the man who had been given the position.  Lee never felt any compunction in peddling his personal theories to members of congress and other leaders about how he felt the army should be run, and the revolution conducted.

In this letter, sent in December 3rd, Charles Lee explains his theories to Benjamin Franklin – 

Dear Sir,
I am very happy that my letter to Lord Thanet meets with your approbation. I send you here some crude notions of what ought be adopted.
1st  A solemn league and covenant defensive and offensive to be taken by every man in America, particularly by those in or near the Sea Port Towns; all those who refuse, to have their estates confiscated for the public use, and their persons remov’d to the interior par[t of] the Country with a small pension res[erved?] for their subsistance.
2dly  New York to [be] well fortify’d and garrison’d or totally destroy’d.
3dly  No Regiments to be rais’d f[or any?] particular local purposes, but one general g[reat?] Continental Army adequate to evry purpose. South Carolina may be excepted from its distance and peculiar circumstances.
4thly.  The Regiments to be exchang’d those who are rais’d in one Province to serve in another rather than in their own, viz. the New Englanders in New York the N. Yorkers in New England and so on. This system will undoubtedly make ’em better Soldiers.
5thly.  A general Militia to be establishd and the regular Regiments to be formd by drafts from the Militia or their substitutes.
6thly.  A certain portion of lands to be [assign]ed to evry Soldier who serves one campaign [a d]ouble portion to him who serves two, and so on.
7thly.  A strong flying camp to be kept about Hampton Bay, another about Annapolis and Charles Town in S. Carolina to be well watch’d and guarded.6
8thly.  The greatest [pains?] to be taken and no expence to be spar’d in securing the Indians to our interest.
These measures may appear bold but I am sure they will be efficacious and decisive decision is the onset[?] of success.

By pushing for militias instead of a regular standing army, Lee has made himself popular among the pro-democracy Whig elements in Congress.  This popularity is growing due to George Washington’s recent military defeats.

Join us at Bow Tie Tours for Philadelphia’s BestHistorical Walking Tours.  Our “Independence Tour Extraordinaire” includes tickets to Independence Hall, as well as numerous other sites, such as 2nd National Bank, GraffHouse, Carpenter Hall, and Christ Church. If you are interested in learning about George Washington, join us forour Valley Forge Tour.  For Civil Warbuffs, come see Gettysburg

December 2, 1777

 

 

David Bushnell, inventor of the submarine “The Turtle” creates a minefield of gunpowder kegs to harass British shipping.

“The Turtle” is the first submarine.  Bushnell came up with the idea while studying at Yale in 1775.  While at Yale he proved that gunpowder could be exploded under water.  He followed up by creating the first time bomb.  He then combined these ideas with his building of the Turtle, which was designed to attack ships by attaching a time bomb to their hulls while using a hand powered drill and ship auger to penetrate the hulls.  Its first use was in an attack on September 6.  However, on that date it failed to destroy the 64 gun ship, HMS Eagle, that was its target.

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, you will never forget our Gettysburg Tour, which is offered in either one-day or two-day packages.

 

 

 

 

December 1, 1777

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Choosing Winter Quarters is never an easy matter, particularly not in the circumstances in which George Washington currently sees himself, militarily and politically.  Some believe he should be staying close to Philadelphia in order to continue to fight the British.  Others believe he should leave the region entirely and seek a village or town with where they can be sure to secure food and shelter.  Washington seems to have been far more concerned about military concerns – i.e., finding one last way to strike a blow at the British before the winter comes – then he was concerned about winter quarters.  His military concerns were at least, in part, due to the heavy criticism he had been receiving of late and the activities of those who sought to have him replaced by a general with more military experience and education, such as General Horatio Gates.  (For the moment, Washington had no need to worry about Charles Lee as he had been captured by the British.)  We will continue to discuss Washington’s decision to go to Valley Forge in the next couple weeks.  In order to truly gain an appreciation for the Valley Forge experience, however, you should join us for our Valley Forge Tours, which continue to operate.  After all, they didn’t let the snow stop them, so why should you?

General John Armstrong writes the following letter to George Washington:  “I beg leave to recommend, that as early as it may be Safe to make such movement, the Army may pass Over the Scuilkill & take for Some time a position on that Side.  With respect to Winter Quarters for the Army—The longer I consider the measure pointed out in the back Villiages of this State, the more inadmissable that Step appears to be, as by the large lattitude thereby given the Enemy thro’ the Winter & early part of the Spring, every doleful & pernitious consequence must be expected—The hearts of good-men thro’ all the States depressed, and this State in particular, little less than Sacrificed to the whole without real necessity! Amongst the innumerable evils resulting from that Situation, the impossition of the Oaths of Allegiance & an end to Government & the future aids of the Militia thro’ a great part of the State, must inevitably follow.  I’m therefore of opinion that in proper time, part of your Army Take possession of Wilmington, and the residue form a Chain from thence to Downingstown & perhaps the White Horse on the Lancaster road, at these two Some Cover may be had, and Hutts with Some use of Houses in the intermediate Space—these are the best Out lines that appears to me, which may be corrected and better determined when the Army is on that Side. And am with perfect respect, Yr Excellencys Most Obedt humbe Servt…John Armstrong”

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.

 

 

 

July 5, 1777

220px-ArthurStClairOfficialPortrait-restored

American Major General Arthur St. Clair is not able to continue holding defense of Fort Ticonderoga and evacuates, leaving substantial supplies behind.  During this time, the British occupy an undefended Mount Defiance, which overlooks Fort Ticonderoga.

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.