October 17, 1776

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It is reported to the South Carolina and American Gazette that the sailing men of war have left North Carolina and are on their way to New York.  It is probable that there are no British ships between Pennsylvania and East Florida.

The proposed new Pennsylvania Constitution is considered unsatisfactory by many.  Christopher Marshall wrote, “Went to Philosophical Hall, being called by invitation tickets where met a large number of respectable citizens in order to consider of a mode to set aside sundry improper and unconstitutional rules laid down by the late convention, in what they called their Plan or Frame of Government

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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 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 11, 1776

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Moravians recorded:  “All day soldiers marched through, returning from the expedition with General Rutherford; Colonel Armstrong, who had been with the General, was also here.  Acccording to him they burned the middle towns of the Cherokee, ruined about 2,000 acres of corn, and killed some of the Indians, and took others prisoner.”

Because of General Guy Carleton’s release of American prisoners in Canada, Congress releases all the Canadian prisoners.

Congress urges General Washington to obstruct the Hudson River and hold the British at Fort Washington in New York and Fort Lee in New Jersey.

The fleet under General Guy Carleton surprises the American fleet lying near Valcour Island.  Benedict Arnold’s fleet is trounced by the professionally manned 84 gun fleet.  The British outnumbered the Americans by 2 to 1.

John Adams has good news for Abigail:  “I suppose your Ladyship has been in the Twitters, for some Time past, because you have not received a Letter by every Post, as you used to do.—But I am coming to make my Apology in Person. I, Yesterday asked and obtained Leave of Absence. It will take me till next Monday, to get ready, to finish off a few Remnants of public Business, and to put my private Affairs in proper Order. On the 14th. day of October, I shall get away, perhaps. But I dont expect to reach Home, in less than a fortnight, perhaps not in three Weeks, as I shall be obliged to make stops by the Way.”

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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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October 6, 1776

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Since the Battle of Harlem Heights on September 16, General William Howe concentrates on constructing a line across Manhattan from today’s Bloomingdale’s to Hell’s Gate, and Washington builds three lines at Harlem Heights.

George Washington writes to Lund Washington at Mount Vernon about his desire to have burned New York City, and his delight over the fact that, despite being unable to give the order due to Congress’s decision, “some good fellow” had taken matters into his hand and burned much of New York down anyway.  “Had I been left to the dictates of my own judgment, New York should have been laid in Ashes before I quitted it—to this end I applied to Congress, but was absolutely forbid—that they will have cause to repent the Order, I have not a moments doubt of, nor never had, as it was obvious to me (covered as it may be by their Ships) that it will be next to impossible for us to dispossess them of it again as all their Supplies come by Water, whilst ours were derived by Land; besides this, by leaving it standing, the Enemy are furnished with warm & comfortable Barracks, in which their whole Force may be concentred—the place secured by a small garrison (if they chuse it) having their Ships round it, & only a narrow Neck of Land to defend—and their principal force left at large to act against us, or to remove to any other place for the purpose of harrassing us. this in my judgment may be set down amg one of the capitol errors of Congress.

Their Motives for sending Deputies to hear Lord Howes proposals were, in my opinion, tolerably well founded—they had no Idea of treating with him otherwise than as Independant States—they declared so, previous to the appointing of their Commissioners—But as Lord Howe, a thorough paced Courtier, had taken uncommon pains to signify at all times, and upon all occasions, that he was vested with full powers to accomodate matters upon better terms than the Americans ever had askd, and became more importunate, as our Indifference Increased, it had the effect intended by him, on three classes of People. Our open and avowed Enemys, together with the Officers and Soldiers of their Army, were exasperated at it, from a conviction that our Aim, at the beginning, was Independance; the Neutrals had this doctrine so strongly inculcated into them by the Tories, that they began to adopt the same Sentiments & wonderd that we would not accept of more than we asked—whilst it remaind necessary to convince the third class who were really friendly, but great sticklers for the powers of, and the advantages to be derived from the long expected Commissioners, that the whole was a falacy, calculated to deceive, as I suppose they now are; since it evidently appears that Lord Howe had nothing more to propose than that, if we would Submit, his Majesty would consider whether we should be hung or not. If this meeting shd have a bad effect with foreign Powers, who may be unacquainted with the inducements to it, it will be unlucky.

In speaking of New York, I had forgot to mention that Providence—or some good honest Fellow, has done more for us than we were disposed to do for ourselves, as near One fourth of the City is supposed to be consumed. however enough of it remains to answer their purposes.”

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.