September 9, 1776

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Congress adopts the name “United States of America.”  “Resolved, that in all continental commissions, and other instruments, where, heretofore, the words ‘United Colonies’ have been used, the style be altered for the future to the ‘United States.”

In London, England, William Lee informs C.F.W. Dumas in Pairs that the Declaration of Independence has “totally changed the nature of the contest” and for the British military effort, the Americans required more military stores and experienced officers.

Meanwhile, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, while travelling to meet with the British Peace Negotiators, find themselves sharing a bed and arguing about the nature of the common cold.  John Adams later described the event:  “The Taverns were so full We could with difficulty obtain Entertainment. At Brunswick, but one bed could be procured for Dr. Franklin and me, in a Chamber little larger than the bed, without a Chimney and with only one small Window. The Window was open, and I, who was an invalid and afraid of the Air in the night, shut it close. Oh! says Franklin dont shut the Window. We shall be suffocated. I answered I was afraid of the Evening Air. Dr. Franklin replied, the Air within this Chamber will soon be, and indeed is now worse than that without Doors: come! open the Window and come to bed, and I will convince you: I believe you are not acquainted with my Theory of Colds. Opening the Window and leaping into Bed, I said I had read his Letters to Dr. Cooper in which he had advanced, that Nobody ever got cold by going into a cold Church, or any other cold Air: but the Theory was so little consistent with my experience, that I thought it a Paradox: However I had so much curiosity to hear his reasons, that I would run the risque of a cold. The Doctor then began an harrangue, upon Air and cold and Respiration and Perspiration, with which I was so much amused that I soon fell asleep, and left him and his Philosophy together: but I believe they were equally sound and insensible, within a few minutes after me, for the last Words I heard were pronounced as if he was more than half asleep…. I remember little of the Lecture, except, that the human Body, by Respiration and Perspiration, destroys a gallon of Air in a minute: that two such Persons, as were now in that Chamber, would consume all the Air in it, in an hour or two: that by breathing over again the matter thrown off, by the Lungs and the Skin, We should imbibe the real Cause of Colds, not from abroad but from within. I am not inclined to introduce here a dissertation on this Subject. There is much Truth I believe, in some things he advanced: but they warrant not the assertion that a Cold is never taken from cold air. I have often conversed with him since on the same subject: and I believe with him that Colds are often taken in foul Air, in close Rooms: but they are often taken from cold Air, abroad too. I have often asked him, whether a Person heated with Exercise, going suddenly into cold Air, or standing still in a current of it, might not have his Pores suddenly contracted, his Perspiration stopped, and that matter thrown into the Circulations or cast upon the Lungs which he acknowledged was the Cause of Colds. To this he never could give me a satisfactory Answer. And I have heard that in the Opinion of his own able Physician Dr. Jones he fell a Sacrifice at last, not to the Stone but to his own Theory; having caught the violent Cold, which finally choaked him, by sitting for some hours at a Window, with the cool Air blowing upon him.

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 American History Vacation Packages.

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June 13, 1776

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General Benjamin Lincoln directs the placement of cannon around the harbor.  A short cannonade convinces the British to weigh anchor, inspiring Lincoln to write, “This is the port of Boston again opened by our own authority, after being closed for two years by virtue of an act of the British Parliament.”

Meanwhile, “Mad Anthony” Wayne writes to Benjamin Franklin from Canada:  “After a long March by land and water Variated with Delightful as well as Gloomy prospects we Arrived here the night of the 4th. [?] Instant and on the 7th. it was Agreed in a Council of War to Attack the Enemy at Three Rivers about 47 Miles lower down, whose Strength was Estimated at 3 or 4 Hundred. Genl. Thompson was appointed for this Command, the Disposition was as follows, 4 Attack’s to be made at the same time viz. Col. Maxwell to Conduct the first, myself the Second Col. St. Clair the third and Col. Irvine the 4th. Liet. Col. Hartly the Reserves.

On the same evening We Embarked and Arrivd at Col. St. Clairs Encampment about Midnight. It was Intended that the Attack shou’d be made at the dawn of day. This we found to be Impraketecable, therefore Remained where we were until the 7th. [?] when we took boats to the Number of 1450 Men all Pennslvanis except Maxwells Battalion.  About 2 in the Morning we landed Nine Miles above the town, and after an Hours March day began to Appear, our Guides had mistook the road, the Enemy Discoverd and Cannonaded us from their ships. A Surprise was out of the Question. We therefore put our best face on and Continued our line of March thro’ a thick deep Swamp three Miles wide and after four Hours Arrived at a more Open piece of Ground, amidst the thickest firing of the Shipping when all of a Sudden a large Body of Regulars Marched down in good Order Immediately in front of me to prevent our forming, in Consequence of which I Ordered my Light Infantry together with Capt. Hay’s Company of Rifle men1 to Advance and amuse them whilst I was forming, they began and Continued the Attack with great Spirit until I advanced to Support when I Orderd them to wheel to the Right and left and flank the Enemy at the same time we poured in a well Aimed and heavy fire in front as this:

They Attempted to Retreat in good Order at first but in a few Minutes broke and run in the Utmost Confusion. About this time the Other Divisions began to Immerge from the Swamp except Maxwell who with his was Advanced in a thicket a Considerable Distance to the left, our Rear now becoming our front. At this Instant we Recd. a heavy fire in flank from Muskettry field pieces Howitzers &ca. &ca. which threw us into some Confusion, but was Instantly Remedied. We Advanced in Colums up to their breast Work’s which till then we had not Discovered. At this time Genl. Thompson with Cols. St. Clair Ervine and Hartly were Marching in full view to our Support, Col. Maxwell now began to Engage on the left of me, the fire was so hot he cou’d not mantain his post. The Other troops had Also fired off to the left. My Small Battalion Composed of my own and two Companis of Jersey men under Major Ray amounting in the Whole to About 200 were left exposed to the Whole fire of the Shipping in flank and full three thousand men in front with all their Artilry under the Command of Genl. Burgoine. Our people taking example by others gave way. Indeed it was Imposible for them to stand it longer. Whilst Col. Allen and myself were Employed in Railing the troops Let. Col. Hartly had advanced with the Reserve and bravely Attacked the Enemy from a thiket in a Swamp to the left, this hardiness of his was of the Utmost Consequence to us, we having Rallied about 500 men from the Different Regiments. We now sent to find the Genl. and Other field Officers. At the same time the Rifle men of mine and Irvins kept up a Garding fire on the Enemy. The Swamp was so deep and thick with timber and Underwood that a man 10 Yards in front or Rear cou’d not see the men Drawn up. This was the cause of the Genl. Col. St. Clair Maxwell and Irvine missing us, or perhaps had taken for Granted that we were all cut off. Col. Hartly who lay near retreated by without a Discovery on either side, until he Crossed our line near the left, which caused our people to follow him. Allen and myself were now left on the field with only twenty men and five Officers, the Enemy still Continuing their whole fire from Great and [small?] guns upon us, but afraid to venture from their lines; we thought it prudent to keept them in play by keeping up a small fire in Order to gain time for our people to make good their Retreat, in Consequence of which we Continued about an Hour longer in the field, and then Retired back into the woods which brought us to a Road on the far side of the Swamp. We followed this Road about two Miles where we went from our Small party to the place where our people had interd the Swamp by which means we even Collected 6 or 700 men with whom we Retreated in good Order but without Noureshmint of any kind, the Enemy who were Strong in Number had Detatched in two or three bodies about 1500 men to cut off our Retreat. They way laid and Engaged us again about 9 miles from the field of Battle, they did us little damage we Continued our March, and the third day Almost worn out with fatague Hunger and Dificulties scarcely to be parralleld we arrived here with 1100 men, but Genl. Thompson Col. Irvine Doct. McCalla and Several Officers are prisoners at three Rivers. Col. St. Clair Arrived alone last night their Seperation from the Army (which Appeared Indeed to be lost) was the cause of their Misfortune. I believe it will be Universally Allowed that Col. Allen and myself have saved the Army in Canada.6 Capt. Robinson has proved himself the Soldier and the Gentleman,7 his Conduct has Outgone the most Sanguine hopes of his friends, out of 150 of my own I have lost more than the One Quarter part, together with Slight touch in my Right leg, which is partly well already, we shall have more buisness soon, our people are in high Spirits.”

Join us at Bow Tie Tours for the best walking and driving tours in Philadelphia.  If battles (such as the one described above) are your thing, then you’ll want to join us for one of our driving/battle tours such as Valley Forge, Washington’s Crossing, Brandywine, and Monmouth.  Bow Tie Tours is the only Philadelphia tour company that offers all of these tours.

Finally, if you are looking for the ultimate July 4th Celebration this year, contact us and we will set you up with a tour given by Benjamin Rush that you will never forget!

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 7, 1776

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Richard Henry Lee of Virginia introduces to Congress three resolutions, total independence from Britain, the formation of foreign alliances, and preparation of a plan of colonial confederation.  This is a dramatic and world changing moment!  John Adams seconds the resolutions, which is as follows:  “Resolved That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.  That it is expedient forthwith to take the most effectual measures for forming   foreign Alliances. That a plan of confederation be prepared and transmitted to   the respective Colonies for their consideration and approbation.  Resolved that it is the opinion of this Committee tha[t] the first Resolution be postponed to this day three weeks and that in the mean time least any time should be lost in case the Congress agree to this resolution a committee be appointed to prepare a Declaration to the effect of the said first resolution.”

In Newburyport, Massachusetts, the American privateer U.S.S. Yankee Hero was attacked by HMS Melford and a small group of ships, commanded by Captain John Burr.  Outnumbered 4 to 1 the Yankee Hero surrendered after a two-hour fight.

Join us at Bow Tie Tours to see the place where this resolution was offered to congress!  We also offer the best battlefield tours in the area, including the battles of Washington’s Crossing/Trenton/Princeton, The Battle of Brandywine, and the Battle of Monmouth.

Chasing George – Washington’s Crossing Part One

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Hawthorne said that history is biography.  True, but it is also geography.  Buddhists read all of the Buddha’s saying and read biographical texts, but they also often feel the need to travel to the Bodhi Tree in order to see the spot where he attained enlightenment.  This doesn’t make a lot of sense, logically speaking.  After all, the point is that you don’t need anything to gain enlightenment, and that you can do it anywhere.  Finding the spot where the Buddha came to this realization is answering a basic human need, to get closer to an event and achieve time-travel by seeing the actual places and looking at the actual objects that played a role.  Reading about history feeds the intellect, but experiencing it feeds the senses.  The entire purpose of Bow Tie Tours is to use everything at our disposal to help you to feel history, rather than to just know it.

John Adams said that the real revolution happened in the hearts and minds of the American people before a shot was fired.  As Stephen Covey put it, every invention or action happens twice – first in your mind during the planning stage, then in reality during the action stage.  If the revolution had occurred prior to 1775, we still had to go through the burdensome and often tragic experience if convincing the British that this revolution had indeed occurred.  When you try to make a great change there is usually somebody trying to stop it, and the American Revolution was no exception.  The British had no intention of allowing the Colonies to be “free” without putting up a fight.  This, to them, would mark the beginning of the end of the British Empire.  Bow Tie Tours now offers a series of premier battlefield tours, which include Washington’s Crossing/Trenton, the Battle of Brandywine, Valley Forge, and the Battle of Monmouth.  If you are interested in really coming to an understanding of the American Revolution by attending some or all of these tours, give us a call at 610-642-2410, or take a look at our website.

In the meantime, let us return to 1776.  The war between the British and the American colonies has been going on since April of 1775.  The British Army is the best trained and best equipped army in the world.  King George III has been moved to anger over the colonial actions, most specifically and most recently the Boston Tea Party and the drafting of an impudent Declaration of Independence.  There are 30,000 British troops in America by June of 1776.  Beyond that, England has contracted for 17,000 Hessian troops from the Prince of Hesse Cassel.

There could hardly be a greater disparity between armies.  Congress, fearful of a standing army’s ability to hijack the revolution, has authorized the raising of regiments only for limited periods of time.  Very few of these men had any military experience and officers were either appointed by congress or the states, or elected by their militia units; neither of these processes proved to be effective.  Many of these officers, said Washington, were “not worth the bread they ate.”   The British had no standardized weaponry and no standardized clothing.  There was no established quartermaster, no network of vendors enabled to supply the army.  The army was, in modern terms, faking it until they make it.  And it was becoming increasingly questionable whether they would ever indeed make it.  The rebels had no standardized weaponry and no standardized clothing.  There was no established quartermaster and no network of vendors were in existence to supply the army.

The most glaring defect came from the Congress’s inability to raise funds.  Their options were to print money or borrow money.  Printing it was easier than borrowing it – there were not a lot of foreign entities willing to put money into such a risky venture – but the printing of more Congressional money was of limited value.

At the start, it had looked like things might work out.  It was a ragtag group of farmers and merchants who had not only stood up to the British of Lexington (or at least been willing to shoot at them from behind) and ultimately vanquished them.  (Well, they left, didn’t they?)  In those heady days of March, 1776, all good things looked possible as the Bostonians watched the British sail away from Boston, defeated by the actions of a fat bookseller who had managed to bring cannons all the way from Saratoga, where Washington saw to it that they were placed on hills most likely to give the British difficulties.  Maybe they could defeat the British after all.  Who needed regular armies, or money, or uniforms.  The Americans would pull it off with heart, grit, and determination.

Well, maybe not.  March of 1776 had been great, but the perceived good fortunes of the American army did not last long.  Since that time there had been numerous trials, tribulations, hardships, and defeats.  Demoralizing defeats, the kind of defeats that made you question fundamental things, such as the foundation of the army and, more importantly, its General.  Was Washington the right guy?

As much as Bunker Hill had provided hope and optimism, so too did the Battle of Long Island turn into a sodden wake-up-call.  Unsure of British plans, Washington had divided his army to defend both New York and Long Island, and then divided it again to confront the British at Brooklyn Heights.  England’s General Howe planned what would become his signature action when he used the Hessians to demonstrate and hold the colonials on the American right while sending British regulars around the left flank.  Howe  had personally witnessed the horrors of a frontal assault at the Battle of Bunker Hill (a mistaken title for a battle that actually involved the nearby Breed’s Hill) where all twelve of his staff officers were killed or wounded.  From that point on he would avoid frontal attacks whenever possible.

Since General Sullivan’s force had failed to guard the road around their left flanks, the British moved to the American rear virtually unimpeded.  Rebels were forced to retreat through a swamp where many drowned.  General Sullivan and Stirling were both captured along with 1000 others; 310 were estimated killed.

Washington and his army seemed trapped on Long Island.  With the help of Colonel John Glover’s Marblehead Mariners, they were able to escape in a dramatic amphibious attack.  However, as Winston Churchill would later say after a similarly dramatic escape at Dunkirk, “Wars are not won on evacuations.”

If the Battle of Long Island was distressing, the British attack at Kip’s Bay was even more disturbing.  While it was only a skirmish involving little losses, the Connecticut militia, which was required to defend the shallow trenches, had fled in a manner Washington would describe as “disgraceful and disorderly.”

Next was the Battle of White Plains, in which Howe once again used the same type of flanking activity that had been successful at Long Island.  General Washington perceived that his men stationed at Fort Washington were in danger of being captured, but instead of ordering General Greene to withdraw the troops from the front, he made orders that were vague and discretionary, perhaps in the hope that Greene would himself order the withdrawals and suffer the political ramifications from congress.  Instead, Greene chose to stay, and the results were disastrous, with 2818 Americans surrendered and 53 men killed.

The more important loss here was in the confidence that had so far been accorded Washington.  The New York campaign told a bleak story – 4,400 men captured, 500 men killed, 3698 men left, either due to expiring enlistments or desertions.  Where was the country and the Congress to place its faith?  The soldiers had all too often acted like untrained rabble running from the first hint of danger and the generals – Washington first and foremost – had sometimes come across as rank amateurs.  John Adams would memorably put it this way in a letter to his wife, Abigail:  “In general, our Generals were out generalled on Long Island.”

(We will continue the story of Washington’s Crossing the Delaware this week.  By the way, special thanks to Wilson Dorward, our expert on military aspects of the Revolutionary War.  Much of these articles owe thanks to the research he did on our Washington Crossing the Delaware Tour, although any mistakes are my own.)  DC