October 12, 1776

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In Virginia, Thomas Jefferson obtained leave to bring in a bill declaring tenants entail to hold their lands in fee simple.  The laws of entail allow transfer of land to an heir of body, not wives or adopted child and led to large holding interests.

British General Henry Clinton lead a force of 4,000 men up the East River at Throg’s Neck.  General Washington sends a force, not to oppose, but to remove the bridge that connected the neck with the mainland.  The British eventually took it after a few days.

After Benedict Arnold’s escape at Split Rock, New York, General Guy Carleton hastened after them and caught up to them, but Arnold’s USS Congress sailed on to Crown Point.

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October 4, 1776

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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.”

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October 2, 1776

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Thomas Jefferson resigns his seat in Congress to return to Virginia to be a member of the new House of Delegates.

The supply of salt was so short in Lebanon, Connecticut, that the Council of Safety ordered ships to sail at state expense to buy salt wherever it was available.

George Washington writes to the President of Congress, John Hancock, about various matters:  “I have given directions to our Guard Boats and the sentries at our Works at Mount Washington to keep a strict look out in case they attempt to come down the North River, also to Genl Heath at Kingsbridge, that the utmost vigilance may be observed by the Regimts and troops stationed above there, and down towards the East River, that they may intercept them, should they take that Route with a view of crossing to Long Island. I will use every precaution in my power to prevent these parricides from accomplishing their designs, but I have but little hopes of success, as it will be no difficult matter for ’em to procure a passage over some part or other of the Sound.  I have been applied to lately by Colo. Weedon of Virginia for permission to recruit the deficiency of Men in his Regiment out of the Troops composing the flying Camp, informing me at the same time, that some of those from Maryland had offered to engage; Colo. Hand of the Rifle Batallion made a similar application to day: If the Inlistments could be made, they would have this good consequence, the securing of so many in the Service; However as the measure might occasion some uneasiness in their own Corps and be considered as a Hardship by the States to which they belong, & the means of their furnishing more than the Quota exacted from them in the General arrangement, and would make it more difficult for ’em to compleat their own Levies, I did not conceive myself at liberty to authorize It without Submitting the propriety of it to the consideration of Congress and obtaining their opinion, whether It should be allowed or not.  I have inclosed a List of Warrants granted from the 2d to the 30th Ulto inclusive, the only return of the sort, that I have been able to make since the Resolution for that purpose, owing to the unsettled state of our Affairs and my having sent my papers away: You will also receive Sundry Letters &c. from Genl Schuyler, which came under cover to me and which I have the honor of forwarding.  By a Letter just received from the Committee of Safety of the State of New Hampshire, I find a Thousand of their Militia were about to march on the 24th Ulto to reinforce this Army in consequence of the requisition of Congress. previous to their march Gen. Ward writes me, he was obliged to furnish them with 500 lb. of powder and 1000 lb. of Musket Ball,6 and I have little reason to expect that they are better provided with other Articles, than they were with ammunition; in such case they will only add to our present distress, which is already far too great & become disgusted with the service tho’ the time they are engaged for is only till the first of Decemr—This will injure their inlisting for a longer Term, if not wholly prevent it.  From three Deserters who came from the Galatea Man of War about Five days ago, we are informed, that Several Transports had sailed before they left her for England as it was generally reported, in order to return with a supply of provisions, of which they say there is a want. Genl Mercer in a Letter informed me, that Genl Thompson said he had heard they were going to dismiss about a Hundred of the Ships from the service. I am also advised by a Letter, from Mr Derby at Boston of the 26th Ulto that the day before, a Transport Snow had been taken & sent into Piscatawa by a privateer in her passage from N. York to the West Indies—she sailed with Five more under the Convoy of a Man of War in order to bring from thence the Troops that are there to Join Genl Howe—they were all victualled for four months. From this intelligence it would seem, as if they did not apprehend any thing to be meditating against them by the Court of France.  Octor the 3d. I have nothing in particular to communicate respecting our situation, It being much the same as when I wrote last. We had an Alarm this morning a little before Four OClock from some of our Out Sentries who reported that a large body of the Enemy was advancing towards our Lines—this put us in motion, However turned out entirely premature—or at least we saw nothing of them.”

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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.”

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