February 20, 1777


General Benedict Arnold writes to General Washington about his concern that British prisoners being held by the Americans will spy on behalf of their country.  I was yesterday favd with yours of the 7th instant. It has some how or other generally happened that we have been obliged to send in our prisoners at the most inconvenient times, but when they are brought down for the purpose of Exchange, it seems hard to send them back, especially as they did not fix upon the time themselves. I am so well convinced that the Officers are enabled to do us harm, by staying in the Country and making themselves acquainted with our Situation, that I have ordered Govr Trumbull to send in Eleven that were taken at princetown, If they can be conveyed to any of your posts, and sent in by a Way, in which they will see little of your disposition; it will be better than sending them by land to Kingsbridge. Whenever any Officers go in from your quarter only send me the Return and I will take Care to ask for such in Exchange as have a right to preference from length of Captivity.  If the Accounts we have lately recd of the Reinforcement of the Enemy at Brunswic be true, few can be left at Rhode Island, it is said Lord Peircy has arrived at Amboy within a few days.  The Eastern States have in so many Instances departed from the line of Conduct agreed to in Congress for the inlistment of the new Army that I do not wonder at their stripping the Ships to fill their Regiments, but they will find that as soon as the seamen have spent the Bounty they will run back and get on board the ships again.  If the Enemy will give us time to collect an Army levyed for the War, I hope we shall set ⟨all⟩ our former Errors to rights.”

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June 25, 1776


The Conference of Committees urges its more pacifist associates to military action by declaring that they were fighting for “permanent liberty, to be supported by your government, derived from you, and organized for all and not for the benefit of one man or class or men.”

Off the coast of South Carolina, after spending three weeks getting his fleet across a sandbar, Commodore Peter Parker’s postponed plans to bombard the fort on Sullivan’s Island due to unfavorable wind and tidal conditions.

Benedict Arnold informs General Washington of the continued bad news from Canada and the necessity of retreat:  “By this express, you will receive advice From Genl Schuyler of our evacuateing Canada, an event which I make no doubt (from our distressed situation) you have some time expected, the particulars of Genl Thompsons repulse, & Captivity, as nearly as could be ascertained, have ben transmitted, you. on advice of which, very direct Intelligence that the Enemy were greatly superior to us In numbers, I advised Genl Sullivan to secure his retreat by retireing to St Johns. he was determined to keep his Post at Sorell, If posible & did not retire untill the 14th Inst. at which time the Enemy were as high up with their Ships as the Sorell—The 15th at Night when the Enemy were at Twelve Miles distance from me I quitted Montreal, with my little Garrison of Three hundred Men[.] The whole Army with their Baggage & Cannon, (except three heavy peices left at Chamble), Arived at St Johns the 17th & at the Ile Aux Noix the 18th previous to which it was Determined by a Counsil of Warr, at St Johns that in Our distressed Situation, (One half of the Army Sick & allmost the whole, destitute of Cloathing & every necessary of Life except Salt Pork & Flour) It was not only Imprudent but Impracticable to keep Possession of St Johns.”

In Philadelphia, congress receives continued requests from the Maryland delegation that the vote on Independence be delayed.  Writing to Sam Chase, who continues to try to drum up support for independence, John Adams writes, “Don’t be angry with me,” but informs him that it is not possible for Congress to delay the July 1 discussion of independence.  Such a delay “would hazard Convulsions and dangerous Conspiracies.”  Meanwhile, New York too continues to push for delay.  New York is divided between radicals who agree with Sam Adams and more conservative members who continue to hope for reconciliation.  To many New Yorkers, any declaration of independence is a dangerous and unnecessary step.

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June 19, 1776


In Canada, Benedict Arnold notifies General John Sullivan of his garrison’s successful movement out of Montreal, along with some spirits and molasses seized in that town.

In Boston Harbor an armed Connecticut vessel along with several schooners seize two British ships and take 200 sailors prisoner.

Captain Charles Pond wrote the following letter to General George Washington:  I have the Pleasure of Informing His Excellency of our taking two Prises one A Ship of 250 Tons Burthen the Sloop 35 Tons Bound to Sandy hook the Ship from Glasgow with one Compy of the 42d Regt Who was taken by one of Admiral Hopkins’s fleet who took the Soldiers on Board & Sent the Ship for Rhode Island Soon after was Taken by the Cerberus Frigate & Sent her under Convoy of the Above Sd Sloop for Sandy hook. Remaining on Board the Ship 5 Commission’d officers with 2 Ladies & 4 Privates, Prisoners Total 20.  Stores on Board the Ship Crawford 13 tierces of Beef 11 Do of Pork, 3000 Wt of Bread 4 Puncheons of Rum, 100 barrels of Coal, 10 firkins of Butter 1 Cask of Cheese.  On Board the Sloop 15 Cask of Molasses 2 Chests of Dry Goods 1 Tierce & 1 Barrel of Cags of Powder 1 Case of flints, Some Salt Petre.  The Ship is part of the way In the Inlet but at Present is Aground Pray Send Direction About the Prisoners as I am Short handed.”

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May 10, 1776

Congress recommends to the colonial assemblies and conventions, “Where no government sufficient to the exigencies of their affairs have ben hitherto established, to adapt such government as shall best conduct to the happiness and safety of their constituents in particular, and Americas in general.”


In Rhode Island, John Paul Jones is appointed to command USS Providence.

The Commissioners from Canada (Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Chase, Charles Carroll) inform Congress of a defeat in Montreal  (original spellings retained):  “By Col: Campbell, who arrived here early this morning from Quebeck, we are informed that two men of war, two Frigates and one Tender arrived there early on monday the 6th. instant about eleven o’clock the enemy sallied out, to the number, as is supposed, of one thousand men. Our forces were so dispersed at different posts, that not more than two hundred could be collected together at Head Quarters; this small force could not resist the enemy: all our cannon, five hundred muskets, and about two hundred sick unable to come off have fallen into their hands. The retreat, or rather flight was made with the utmost precipitation and confusion; however Col: Campbell informs us, that he imagines we have lost very few men except the sick abovementioned. Genl. Thomas was last Thursday evening at De Chambeau; at a Council of war it was determined by eleven to three to retreat to the mouth of the Sorel: this day Genl. Arnold goes down here; and if he can get information of the enemy’s real strength and it should be found inconsiderable, perhaps a council of war on reconsideration, may think proper to march the army back to Dechambeau, which is now strengthened by Col: Gratton’s, Burrels, and Sinclair’s regiments. Besides the above losses, one batteau loaded with powder, supposed to contain thirty barrels, and an armed vessel, which the Crew were obliged to abandon, were intercepted by one of the enemy’s frigates. We are afraid it will not be in our power to render our Country any farther services in this Colony: if our army should maintain possession of any considerable part of this country, it will be absolutely necessary to keep some power to controul the military.”

General Lee writes to General Washington from Williamsburg, Virginia:  “My command (as you may easily conceive) is extremely perplexing from the consideration of the vast extent of vulnerable parts of this Country intersected by such a variety of navigable waters, and the expedition with which the Enemy (furnish’d with canvass Wings) can fly from one spot to another—had We arms for the Minute Men and half a dozen good field Engineers—We might laugh at their efforts—but in this article (like the rest of the Continent) We are miserably deficient—Engineers We have but two—and They threaten to resign as it is impossible that They shou’d subsist on a more wretched pittance than Common Carpenters or Brickl[ay]ers can earn—I have written to the Congress intreating ’em to augment the pay—a word from you, woud, I make no doubt, effect it—I wish, My Dr General, You woud send me Capt. Smith on condition the Congress make it worth his while, otherwise I have not the conscience to propose it—I am well pleas’d with your Officers in general, and the Men are good, some Irish Rascals excepted—I have form’d two Companies of Grenadiers to each Regt arm’d with spears of thirteen feet long—their Rifles (for they are all Rifle Men) slung over their Shoulders—their appearance is formidable and the Men are conciliated to the weapon—I am likewise furnishing myself with four ounc’d Rifled Amusets which will carry an infernal distance—the two ounc’d hit a half sheet of Paper at five hundred yards distance—so much for military—a noble spirit possesses the Convention—They are almost unanimous for independence but differ in their sentiments about the mode—two days will decide it—I have the pleasure to inform you that I am extremely well in the opinion of the senatorial part as well as of the People at large—God send me the grace to preserve it—but their Neighbours of Maryland (I mean their council of safety) make a most damnable clamour (as I am inform’d) on the subject of a letter I wrote to the Chairman of the Committee of Baltimore to seize the person and papers of Mr Eden upon the discovery which was communicated to me of his treacherous correspondence with the Secretary of State—it was a measure not only justifiable in the eyes of Gods and Men, but absolutely necessary—the Committee of safety here are indeed as deep in the scrape as myself—the Congress must, and will, I dare say support and vindicate the measure Capt. Greer and his party are upon their March as you order’d, I was a damn’d Blockhead for bringing ’em so far—as their accounts will be intricate—but I hope not so intricate as not to be unriddled—I send you an account of the Money I advanc’d to the different Officers—to Capts. Smith Lunt and Greer—I have taken the liberty to appoint a Serjt Denmark, of the Rifle Battalion to do duty as Ensign—He is a Man of worth and I beg you will confirm his commission—another Serjt of the same Battalion I have promoted to the rank of second Lt in the Artillery of this Province—He is a German—his name Holmer and very deserving—if little Eustace cannot be provided for with you—I cou’d wish if there is a cheap method of doing it, You wou’d send him to me—as I have it in my power to place him and quite doat upon him9—my love to Mrs Washington Gates and her bad half—to Moyland—but Palfrey is a Scoundrel for not writing adieu, My Dr General…”

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May 7, 1776


In Wilmington, Delaware, thirteen Pennsylvania galley attacked the British warships HMS Roebuck and HMC Liverpool.  Both sides suffered minimal damage.  The American fleet forced the British to withdraw.

Benedict Arnold wrote to George Washington to discuss the difficulties he was facing in Canada:  “Your favour of the 3d April I received a few days since & should have Answered by the last Post but was obliged to go to Chambly to give Directions about some Gondeloes building there. I heartily Congratulate you, on the success of your Arms against Boston & am sorry it is not in my power to give you a more pleasing Accot of our Affairs in this Country, which wear no very favourable aspect at present. Genl Thomas arrived here about [      ] days since & has joined the Army before Quebec. General Wooster is disgusted & expected here daily. Our Army Consists of few more than Two thousand Effective Men, & twelve hundred sick & unfit for duty chiefly with the small Pox which is universal in the Country. We have very little Provs. No Cash, & less Credit & until the arrival of the heavy Cannon & two Mortars from Cambridge Our Artillery has been triffling; the Mortars I expect will reach Camp tomorrow & shells can be supplied from three Rivers. I hope they will have the desired Effect. the want of Cash has greatly retarded Our Opperations in this Country. We are fortifying two very Important Posts which Command the River at Richilieu, fifteen Leagues above Quebec and at Jacques Cartier which commands a pass between two Mountains eleven Leagues above Quebec: If succours should arrive before we can possess ourselves of Quebec I hope we shall be able to Maintain these two Posts until a reinforcement Arrives to our Assistance, which we are told are on their way here. these are the only Posts that secure the River, until you approach near Montreal and of so much consequence, that Nothing but superiour numbers will oblige us to abandon them.  I have mounted three 24 Pounders on a Gundaloe & Armed several Battoes, which go down the River tomorrow. these with a schooner mounting Ten Guns & a Gundaloe Mounting One twelve Pounder are all the Force we have in the River. four other Gondaloes are building at Chambly calculated to Mount three heavy pieces of Cannon. but will not be compleated these two weeks. tomorrow I set off for the Army with no very Agreable prospects before me. should the enemy receive any considerable reinforcement soon, I make no Doubt, we shall have our hands full. at any rate we will do all that can be expected from Raw Troops, badly cloathed and fed, & worse paid, & without Dicipline. & trust the event to Providence. We have received advice that the 8th Regt of about 400 Men with a number of Savages are coming down from the Upper Countries. I have Posted 500 Men at the Cedars a Narrow pass 15 Leagues above this place. they have two pieces Cannon & well entrenched by which the Enemy must pass.”

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February 27, 1776


In North Carolina, Patriots defeat loyalists at the Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge.

The Royal Governor, Josiah Martin, had been attempting to create a large Loyalist force, made up of local loyalists as well as Scots settlers, and had permission to raise a regiment that would be known as the Royal Highland Emigrants.  Patriots, on the other hand, had been organizing Continental Army militia units ever since word of the Battles of Lexington and Concord had come to them.   When he became aware of a planned British Army expedition in the area, Governor Martin ordered the Loyalist militia to form in anticipation of their arrival.  Rebels mobilized to prevent this, and blockaded several routes until the Loyalists found themselves forced to confront them at Moore’s Creek Bridge, which is about eighteen miles north of Wilmington.  The Loyalists were poorly armed, but charged across the bridge wielding their swords.  They were met by a barrage of musket fire.  One Loyalist leader was killed and another captured, and the rest of the force ran.  In the following days Loyalists were arrested, and the threat of a large Loyalist regiment was dissipated.

Meanwhile General Benedict Arnold, from Quebec, writes to George Washington regarding army operations.  Dear General – I wrote you the 14th Ulto of Our Situation and prospects, since which nothing of Consequence has Occured, here, The Enemy to the number of abt five hundred have twice Sallied out at Pallace Gate, with Design of seizeing our Field peices, (near the Nunnery) but On Our Troops, Advanceing to Attack them, they made a precipitate retreat, under Cover of their guns—Desertions from the Garrison are frequent by which we learn they are much distres’d for Fuell & must soon Burn their Houses, & Ships—Two Officers taken At St Johns were lately sent with a flagg to the Walls, with a View of geting their familys at liberty, but Were refused admittance, which I am told by several Deserters incensed the Inhabitants very much, and Caused a great uneasiness in the Garrison, who I beleive begin to grow heartily tired of Salt Provissions and Confinement. We have received a reinforcemt, of Four hundred Men, many are daily comeing in I hope in the Course of this month we shall have four Or Five thousand Men—I am fearfull we shall Not be supplied with Shott, Shells Mortars &c. I am therefore prepareing Ladders, for an Assault If necessary—the extensiveness of the works I think will render their Defence impracticable.  I have this minute the Pleasure of your favour of the 27th Ulto, I am greatly Obliged to you for your good wishes, and the Concern, you express for me. Sensable of the Vast Importance of this Country, you may be assured my utmost exertions will not be wanting to effect your wishes, in adding It, to the United Colonies, I am fully of your Opinion, that the Ballance will turn in whose favour it belongs The repeated Successes of Our Raw, undisiplined Troops Over the Flower of the British Army, the many, unexpected and remarkable Occurrences in Our favour Are plain proofs of the Overruleing hand of Providence And Justly Demands Our warmest gratitude to Heaven which I make no Doubt will Crown Our Virtuous efforts with success. No Doubt Administration will exert themselves in sending a large Force this way in the Spring, but if we are fortunate enough to Reduce the City before they arive, I make no Doubt of keeping it, as we shall have the Intrest of the Country in general to which the raiseing Two Regiments of Canadians (which Congress have Ordered) will Not a little Conduce.  I am sorry to inform you Notwithstanding every precaution that could be used the Small Pox has, Crept in among the Troops, we have near One hundred Men in the Hospital, in General it is favourable, very few have died, I have Moved the Inhabitants of the Vicinity of Quebec Into the Country, and hope to prevent it’s spreading Any further.  The Severity of the Climate the Troops, very Illy Clad, & worse paid, the Trouble of Reconceleing matters among the Inhabitants, and Lately, an uneasiness among some of the New York, & other officers, who think themselves neglected In the new Arangement, while, those who deserted the Cause and went home last fall have ben promoted In short the Choice of Difuculties I have had to Encounter has, rendered it so very perplexing that I have often ben at a loss how to Conduct Matters.  As General Schuylers Ill state of health will not permit his Comeing this Way, I was in hopes Genl Lee, or some Experienced Officer, would have ben sent to take the Command here, the Service requires a Person of greater Abilities, and experience, than I can pretend too Genl Wooster writes me his Intention of Comeing Down here, I am afraid he will Not be able to Leave Montreal.  I have the pleasure to inform you my wound is Intirely healed, and I am able to hobble about my Room, tho my leg is a little Contracted & weak. I hope soon to be fit for Action We are waiting, impatiently, expecting to hear of Some Capital Blow, being struck with you

Washington too has hopes that General Philip Schuyler’s health might soon improve enough so that he can provide assistance to Arnold.  “Dear Sir – Last Night I received your Favor of the 14th Instant by Mr Bennet, inclosing a general Return of the Artillery & Military Stores in our possession in Canada.  It gives me great pleasure to hear that you are improving in your Health, before long I sincerely hope you will be so recovered as to be able to go to the Army in Canada, where I am convinced you are much wanted, and wou’d be of the highest Service at this important Crisis; I doubt not of there being a good Deal of Confusion and Disorder in that Quarter: which I flatter myself wou’d in a great Measure subside and be composed by your presence. It is natural enough that Mr Walker’s Resentment should be up for the Wrongs he has suffered; It is incident to Humanity, but yet the passions of Individuals ought never to prevail so far as to injure the State.  I am sorry to find that the Quantity of Artillery and Military Stores is so small and inconsiderable as appears by the Return, I had hoped that you were better provided with the former, and also with much more Ammunition than what you have, particularly powder and that the Distresses no where else were equal to mine for Want of this capital Necessary—Wou’d Fortune but give you possession of Quebec, then wou’d our Wants be mostly supplied—May she smile propitious and your virtuous Struggles be crowned with Success—The Reduction of this Fortress would be attended with Consequences of the most happy and salutary Nature to our great Cause, and as General Arnold with a Handful of Men has been able to maintain the Blockade, I look forward with a pleasing Confidence to the Day when you being properly reinforced will oblige it to surrender.”

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January 27, 1776

unknown-7In an attempt to maintain the friendship and trust of Indian tribes, Congress votes to allow the import of 40,000 pounds worth of their trade goods.

In Fort Johnson, North Carolina, the HMS Scorpion was ordered to attack the Patriots at Fort Johnson.  The Scorpion fired 26 rounds and retired.  The HMS Cruizer tried to get close but was unsuccessful.  Both ships received rifle fire from both sides of the river until they left.

Meanwhile, learning that Benedict Arnold has been injured at the Battle of Quebec, General Washington writes a letter evincing his concern and great respect:  “On the 17 Inst. I received the melancholy account of the unfortunate attack on the City of Quebec, attended with the fall of General Montgomery, and Other Brave Officers & men, & your being wounded—This unhappy affair affects me in a very sensible manner, & I sincerely condole with you upon the occasion[.] But in the midst of distress, I am happy to find that suitable Honor[s] were paid to the remains of Mr Montgomery, & our Officers & Soldiers who have fallen into their hands, treated with kindness & humanity.

Haveing received no Intelligence later than the Copy of your Letter of the 2d to Genl Wooster, I would fain hope that you are not in a worse situation than you then were, tho I confess I have greatly feared that those misfortunes would be succeeded by others, on account of your unhappy condition & the dispireted state of the Officers & men If they have not, I trust when you are joined by three Regiments now raising in this & the Governments of Connecticut & New Hampshire—& two others ordered by the Congress from Pensylvania & the Jerseys, with the men already sent of by Col. Warner, that these misfortunes will be done away, and things resume a more favourable & promising appearance than ever.

I need not mention to you the great importance of this place, & the consequent possession of all Canada in the Scale of American affairs—you are well apprized of it—to whomsoever It belongs, in there favour probably, will the Ballance turn—If It is in ours, Success I think will most certainly crown our virtuou⟨s⟩ struggles—If It is in theirs, the contest at best, will be doubtfull, hazardous and bloody. the glorious work must be accomplished in the course of this Winter, Otherwise It will become difficult, most probably, Impracticable—For Administration knowing that It will be impossible ever to reduce us to a state of Slavery & arbitrary rule without It will certainly send a large reinforcement there in the Spring—I am fully convinced, that your exertions will be invariab⟨ly⟩ directed to this Grand Object, & I already view the approachg day, when you & your brave followers will enter this Importt Fortress with every honor & triumph attendant on victory & conquest, then will you have added, the only link wanting in the great chain of Continental union & Render the freedom of your Country secure.

Wishing you a Speedy recovery & the possession of those Laurels, which your bravery & perseverance justly merit, I am Dr Sir &c.”

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