June 13, 1777

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General Arthur St. Clair takes command of Fort Ticonderoga.

Benjamin Franklin sends an exuberant adherent to the American cause to General Washington, despite the fact that Washington is clearly up to his ears with French “officers.”  “The Person who will have the Honour of delivering this to your Excellency, is Monsieur le Baron de Frey, who is well recommended to me as an Officer of Experience and Merit, with a Request that I would give him a Letter of Introduction. I have acquainted him that you are rather overstock’d with Officers, and that his obtaining Employment in your Army is an Uncertainty: But his Zeal for the American Cause is too great for any Discouragements I can lay before him, and he goes over at his own Expence to take his Chance, which is a Mark of Attachment that merits our Regard. He will show your Excellency the Commissions and Proofs of his military Service hitherto, and I beg Leave to recommend him to your Notice.”

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May 29, 1777

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In the opening move of the campaign of 1777, General George Washington’s army marches from Morristown, New Jersey to Middle Brook Valley.

Benjamin Franklin wrote the following letter to George Washington:  “Count Pulawski of Poland, an Officer famous throughout Europe for his Bravery and Conduct in Defence of the Liberties of his Country against the three great invading Powers of Russia, Austria and Prussia, will have the Honour of delivering this into your Excellency’s Hands. The Court here have encouraged and promoted his Voyage, from an Opinion that he may be highly useful in our Service. Mr. Deane has written so fully concerning him, that I need not enlarge: and only add my Wishes that he may find in our Armies under your Excelly. Occasions of distinguishing himself.”

Of the many services Franklin gave to his country, his record of referring individuals from other countries here to help with the cause was exceptional, and included luminaries such as “The Baron” Von Steubon and Thomas Paine.  His referral of Pulaski was another striking example.  Pulaski would fight heroically in the battles of Brandywine and Germantown, but was killed in the Seige of Savannah.

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May 10, 1777

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The 42nd Highlanders repulse a surprise attack by American troops under the command of Major General Adam Stephen.  Stephen with 150 men had 27 killed in action and a large number captured.  The British force had 8 killed and 19 wounded in action.  The Americans were driven off and General Washington was displeased with Stephen’s conduct.

John Adams writes to Abigail:  “The Day before Yesterday, I took a Walk, with my Friend Whipple to Mrs. Wells’s, the Sister of the famous Mrs. Wright, to see her Waxwork. She has two Chambers filled with it. In one, the Parable of the Prodigal Son, is represented. The Prodigal is prostrate on his Knees, before his Father, whose Joy, and Grief, and Compassion all appear in his Eyes and Face, struggling with each other. A servant Maid, at the Fathers command, is pulling down from a Closet Shelf, the choicest Robes, to cloath the Prodigal, who is all in Rags. At an outward Door, in a Corner of the Room stands the elder Brother, chagrined at this Festivity, a Servant coaxing him to come in. A large Number of Guests, are placed round the Room. In another Chamber, are the Figures of Chatham, Franklin, Sawbridge, Mrs. Maccaulay, and several others. At a Corner is a Miser, sitting at his Table, weighing his Gold, his Bag upon one Side of the Table, and a Thief behind him, endeavouring to pilfer the Bag.  There is Genius, as well as Taste and Art, discovered in this Exhibition: But I must confess, the whole Scaene was disagreable to me. The Imitation of Life was too faint, and I seemed to be walking among a Group of Corps’s, standing, sitting, and walking, laughing, singing, crying, and weeping. This Art I think will make but little Progress in the World.  Another Historical Piece I forgot, which is Elisha, restoring to Life the Shunamite’s Son. The Joy of the Mother, upon Discerning the first Symptoms of Life in the Child, is pretty strongly expressed.  Dr. Chevots Waxwork, in which all the various Parts of the human Body are represented, for the Benefit of young Students in Anatomy and of which I gave you a particular Description, a Year or two ago, were much more pleasing to me. Wax is much fitter to represent dead Bodies, than living ones.  Upon a Hint, from one of our Commissioners abroad, We are looking about for American Curiosities, to send across the Atlantic as presents to the Ladies. Mr. Rittenhouse’s Planetarium, Mr. Arnolds Collection of Rareties in the Virtuoso Way, which I once saw at Norwalk in Connecticutt, Narragansett Pacing Mares, Mooses, Wood ducks, Flying Squirrells, Redwinged Black birds, Cramberries, and Rattlesnakes have all been thought of.  Is not this a pretty Employment for great Statesmen, as We think ourselves to be? Frivolous as it seems, it may be of some Consequence. Little Attentions have great Influence. I think, however, We ought to consult the Ladies upon this Point. Pray what is your Opinion?

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March 12, 1777

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Congress convenes in Philadelphia.

Arthur Lee writes the following letter to Benjamin Franklin and Silas Deane in Paris:  “In my return to this place, I receivd the joyful intelligence which I enclose; and in which I congratulat you a thousand and a thousand times. The Congress had removd to Baltimore, and General Putnam was providing for the defence of Philadelphia, before this happy change in the posture of the hostile Army. It is said that the cruelties exercised in the Jerseys, had so exasperated the People, that the Militia fought with irresistible fury. I am afraid Genal. Lee is a prisoner. Upwards of a thousand of the Prisoners in New York have died of famine and cruel treatment.  The barbarity of these Sarracen Invaders went so far as to destroy the Philosophical Apparatus at Princeton College, with the Orrery constructed by Dr. Rittenhouse. The Papers say, that Genl. Howe had removed part of his baggage to Staten Island, and orderd a reinforcement from Rhode Island. There is an account in the Papers of the taking of Elizabeth Town, but that makes the number of Prisoners less than 200 among whom were 80 highlanders. The loss of the enemy in all these rencounters is stated at upwards of 2000, with Artillery, Baggage, and Stores to a considerable amount. I think we may now say the Scales are at least even, and I shall continue all my life to thank General Howe for dividing his Army, from which I always hop’d for the greatest advantages to us.  I am to wait here, an Answer to what I transmitted to Court in consequence of my conference with the Duke of Grimaldi who is to meet me here to-morrow. I have represented that my not going to Madrid will be construed a refusal on the part of Spain to receive a Deputy from the States and may therefore have a very bad effect both in Europe and America. I have askd at the same time for a credit in Holland and expect that to soften the former, they will be more liberal in the latter.4 I send an Account of the late intelligence to Madrid, London and the Hague, desiring Dumas to have it inserted in the Gazettes, and translated into German to be distributed among the german troops, before they embark, with a hint that as the King of G. Britain refuses to settle a Cartel, they may remain Prisoners for life. Surely this will be a good reason for them, especially the Officers to refuse to go. I intended to have written to Mr. Dean and Sir Roger le Grand at Amsterdam to the same purpose, but I perceive by a Letter from the latter, in the post office here, going to Madrid that he is yet in Paris, which makes me suppose they have laid aside or postpond the intended journey. Mr. Carmichael can assist you in contriving to distribute the Account among the german troops, from which I think some good must arise.  It seems to me that something ought to be transmitted to the States General, representing that their agreeing to let the mercenaries notoriously hird to desolate the States of America, have a passage, will be considered as a breach of that strict neutrality which the United States expect from all those nations, who woud wish to remain in Amity with them. Vatel acknowledges that granting such passage has often been warmly[?] remonstrated against; tho he maintains that it is no breach of neutrality, nor any just cause of war. I differ from him so much, that I am willing to have my name put to such a remonstrance. It is a palpable imposition upon common sense to say, that a nation who facilitates the enterprizes of my Enemy against me, preserves a neutrality: The pretence that they woud do the same for us, is incompetent; also why will it not justify the furnishing Arms, Ammunition and Provisions in the way of trade? They both stand upon the same foot, that of contributing directly to my distruction. For in what does he who opens the way to the employment of Arms &c. against me, differ from him who furnishes them?  I had almost forgot to mention that the Ships which brought the news, are the Alexander, Capt. Williamson and the Charlotte Capt. Sinclair from Newberry port. They saild the 4th of Feby. and arrivd at Bilboa the 8th of March.  Please to remember me to Sir Roger and all our friends. If Mr. Dean shoud go to Amsterdam, he will probably meet with a Mr. Paul Wentworth; of whom I woud advise him to be much upon his guard.”

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February 13, 1777

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Benjamin Franklin is beseeched by a Elizabeth Wright to do what he can to help a young man who was being detained by the British as a traitor.  Your known Goodness of Heart and Generosity in Releiving and Suckouring the injured or oppres’d has Emboldned me to trouble you with the Case of Mr. Plat now a Prisoner in Newgate, On a charge of High Treason Comitted in America, that thro your Means or influence his Frinds may be made acquaintd with his Situation in order that they may take some Precautions for his being acquited, or at least, that he may Receive some Remittances for his Support in His Disagreable Unhappy Confinement, which I am apprehensive will be of some Continuence, as I fear this new Act that is now passing, is made allmost on Purpose to Detain Him with Several Others Nearly in the same Situation, Without Bail or Tryall as Prisoners of Warr, to be Confined in the Severeest Maner, in Goals, or Dungeons, as Criminals and God only knows where it may End, Perhaps Hang’d. Wee was intimately Acquainted with Mr. Plat in New York of Which Place He is A Native. His Father was A Merchant There a Man of Fortune and unspotted Reputation and He Himself is a very Amiable young Man, and A Credit to His Country. His Uncle of the same Name, no Doubt Sir, you are Acquainted with, As He is One of the Members of the Congress.8 About 3 years Ago Mr. Plats Father setled Him in Georgia at His own Request, where he Purchased 5000 Acres of Land, intending to turn Planter, but meeting with some Obstructions with Regard to Negros to Stock His Farm He Entred into Trade And became much known and Esteemed in Georgia as A Worthy Young Man. His Father Came from New York to see him and unfortunately Died whilest on the Vissit. His Mother A Brother and two Sisters are now on Long Island and have not heard from Him since He wrote them an Account of his Fathers Death. The 13th of Jully 1775 there Arived A Vessel in Savanah Harbour Commanded by A Captain Maitlord, Laden with Goods and some Powder and Arms from Merchants in England Consignd to their Correspondents, Merchants in Georgia. The People of Georgia at that Time had just formd a Congress amongst themselves and began as well as the Other Provinces to be Divided into Liberty and tory Partys. The Merchants to whom the Goods were Consigned were of these different Oppinions. A Stoppage of Trade then takeing Place and Goods being rather Scarce the Congress Previous to the Arival of the Vessel Purchased the Goods of the Merchants at An Advanced Price, but rather against the Will of those of them who were in the opposition to the Congress, in Consequence of which the others fearing there might be any obstruction to the Landing the Goods or that Possibly a Mob might be Rais’d to Destroy or Prevent the Congress from obtaining them, applied to Mr. Plat with two other Gentleman to go on board the Vessel which Lay some Miles off and see that She was safe brought up to the Town and that none of the Goods should be Landed till Her Arival There. They gave them an order to the Captn. and Mate to Receive and Entertain them in the best Maner on Board. But they seeing the Captn. aterwards in Town shew’d Him the order, and as He was not going on Board again just then He gave them an order to the Mate, much to the same Purpose as the other, viz., to Receive and treat them well, and was very Polite and Friendly. But by what hapned afterwards it appears that He was rather Averse to the Congress haveing the Cargo. They staid on Board 6 Days, saw the Vessel brought up to the Town and Nothing Landed Except some Horses for Governor Campbell at Charlestown south Carolina. They then went on shore thought no more of it and Another Commite was sent in their stead, who Landed the Cargo. After Captn. Maitland had Cleard his Vessel in Georgia he set sail with a Cargo from thence for Jamaica and soon after Mr. Plat went as Merchant in a Vessel of His own which He had fitted out for the same Port leaving his Partner to superintend his Business and Property in the Mean time. After his Arival in Jamaica He saw Captain Maitland There who was Exceeding Friendly to Him and invited Him to Make His home on Board His ship whilest He staid in Kingston. This offer He Declined but they frequently fell in Company with Each other and allways upon the footing of Friendship for about 8 weeks when they hapned one Evening to Meet in A Coffee House in a good deal of other Company amongst which was Captain Miller of New York, with several other Captains. Some of them had got a little heated with the Liquor and one Amongst the rest, gave as a Toast “Damnation to all Americans” to which Mr. Plat Reply’d, that No Gentlemen of Honour or Goodness could drink such a Toast as it was Repugnant to the Rules of Society, on which the other grew warm as well as some of the Company, and Mr. Plat fearing A Quarrel imediately Withdrew. Captain Maitland who by this time had grown warm with the Liquor and Conversation soon after His Departure, Cryd out “That Damnd fellow was one of them on Board my Ship at Georgia with an order from the Congress and Landed the Powder and Arms for them.” Most of the Company was Exceedingly Pleasd at the Discovery and the next Day Reported it all over the town, not omiting the Governor Sir Bassil Keith1 who imediately sent word to Captain Maitland that He ought to come and Exhibit an information against Mr. Plat. The Captn. having grown sober again was Exceedingly Sorry for what he had said and sent word to Mr. Plat that He wish’d he would absent Himself or Leave the Place. Elce He must be obliged to Comply with the Governors Comands. Mr. Plat Amazed, tho’ indiffirent, at his information returnd Answer that His Business did not suit him to leave the Place at that Time, that He had nothing to dread from any information He Could make against Him, and that He was at liberty to act as he thought Proper in the Case. Mr. Plat was at that Time haveing Disposed of his Vessel and Cargo fitting out another for Turtling and fishing before His Return to Georgia. As He Lay off in the River Prepared to Sail the Admiral’s Boat Came allong Side and Askd for Mr. Plat the Captain Reply’d that He was on Board on which they imediately seiz’d the Vessel and Crew alledging it was on account of An information of Captain Maitlands against Mr. Plat, before the Governor. Mr. Plats Captain and Crew were set at Liberty about 3 weeks afterward, but Mr. Plat was Confind in Irons and for a fortnight Debard from Seeing or writeing to Any of His Friends, and treated with the greatest insolence and indignities by the Sailors. He was afterwards Permited to write to His Friends on shore who Procured for him a Habeas Corpus on which He was brought to Trial on the affadavit of Captn. Maitland His Mate and 3 of His Men who deposed that he had been on Board their Vessel in Georgia with an order from the Congress and Landed for them the Powder and Arms which the Governor Deem’d Rebelion and Treason but finding it rather Difficult to Prove He Deliverd Him intirely into the Admiral Gaytons Hands2 who was both His Prosecuter and Goalor. Mr. Plat had a Negro Boy which with his own Cloaths they had when His Vessel was seiz’d Permitted Him to keep. Him He was oblidged to sell in order to defray the Expences of His tryal. Mr. Plats Council Pleaded that at the Time these goods Arived in Georgia that Province was not Declared in Rebelion, as this hapned in July and that Declaration was not made till in the fall and that as to Seizing His Vessel, the Act3 intitled them to Seize American Privateers and did not Extend to A Private Vessel which had been cleard out for Turtling and Fishing. The admirals Council made their Cheif Plea wich was addressing themselves to the Judge, Pleas your Honour if your Honour should set the Prisoner at Liberty it will cost the Admiral 6000 Pound Damages for falce imprisoment to which the Judge Reply’d “Well I acquit the Prisoner of the Charges laid to Him but Return Him on Board as an Able Bodied Seaman to do Duty in Consequence of a late Act that all Masters and Mariners so taken, should serve on Board His Majestys frigates in His Majesty’s Service. To this it was answerd that Mr. Plat was neither Master nor Mariner but Merchant on Board His own Vessel, that this the Captain and crew could Prove. But this Assertion was Evaded and he was again Caried on Board the Admirals Ship and from thence Remov’d to several others and after some time sent home by the Admiral under Pretence of tryal in England in order Chiefly to Secure Himself from Prosecution, which He fear’d had Mr. Plat been set at Liberty. He arived at Portsmouth after having been A Prisoner 10 Months and sent to London for A Habeas, obtain’d it but there was the greatest Precautions taken in order to Render it inefectual. He was Remov’d with the greatest Expedition into Another Vessel, but He still Persisting in desire to be Brought to Tryall, 2 of Sir Johnfeildin[g’s Men?] Was sent for Him to Portsmouth. He wa[s brought] to Town and Carry’d before Him but He not ch[oosing] to Medle with so intricate a Cause He was Carryd before another Majistrate and Comanded to Prison, with a charge of Treason tending to Piracy on the written affadavit of two of Captn. Maitlands Sailors Previously Prepared by Council and not appearing to Confront Him in a new, and diffirent Maner from that at Jamaica. A Copy of it Refused Him, and the Comitment wrote in such a Maner that his tryall Cannot be brought on till the Kings Pleasure wich no doubt according to this New Act will not be during the Warr unless He could be Exchanged for some English Prisoner. I could not help wishing you sir and his Uncle knew his situation, as it Distresses us Exceedingly tho he himself is Exceeding chearful under it and says that if it can in any respect conduce to the good of his country he shall bear it with Pleasure Even tho his Life was Required of him.”

Platt was ultimately released in 1778 and married Elizabeth.

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February 1, 1777

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General Washington issues orders to try to combat the practice of competition between the units for soldiers, particularly as it encourages some to join as many different units as possible but never to serve:  “The General positively forbids all recruiting Officers whatever, giving a greater bounty for men, or making them any other promises, than what is particularly mentioned in the Resolve of Congress for that service;1 nor does he admit of officers inlisting men out of one State, to serve in another, unless they are of the Additional Battalions, the Congress’s own Regt, or the Train of Artillery, without special Orders issued for that purpose; great inconvenience and injustice arising therefrom, and necessary to be prevented.”

Thomas Walpole writes to Benjamin Franklin to describe feelings from England regarding the war.  “If Lord Chatham was in a state of health capable of comfort I know nothing would give him so much as your testimony of his conduct on the opening of the important crisis to which the two Countrys have been driven, and I will communicate to him your observation as soon as a fit opportunity offers. Lord Camden sends you his best compliments and laments heartily with me that the restoration of peace is at so great a distance as you seem to apprehend.

All those who are friends to both Countrys think they have much reason to complain of the neglect with which they have been treated by America, in not having been made acquainted in some authentick manner with her real views and circumstances at the opening of this unhappy rupture, nor with a true representation of the events which have followed. The want of which advices it is thought has not been less prejudicial to the reputation of America in the eyes of the rest of Europe than in the public opinion here, as the friends of both Countrys have thus been deprived of all means of refuting the tales which have been imposed on the world by the artifice of Administration and which have principally contributed to the delusion of the people of England.  But these considerations are of small importance compared to that of the declaration of Independence extending itself not only to the renunciation of all Allegiance but even to all connection with this Country in preference to any other. This measure so taken reduced the friends to the liberties of America to the single argument of resisting the War against her upon local considerations of a ruinous expence to the Nation in prosecuting a plan of Conquest which in its issue must be considered as very uncertain, and altho’ we should be successfull, would be probably in its consequences prove[d?] more burdensome than profitable. May I add also that Shutting the door so fast against a reconciliation with this Country may make American Alliances with other Powers more difficult or give these at least a considerable advantage in negotiation.  These are the complaints of friends and my reflections upon them, but all I fear too late for any usefull correction or possible remedy, and all a person of my very small importance in these great matters dares to add is that he would think no office too mean, nor any endeavours above his ambition which could tend to put a stop to our dreadfull civil contentions. To expatiate further upon them with you Sir would be as if I doubted of the benevolence of your disposition being equal to your other great talents.”

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January 19, 1777

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Congress reprints the Declaration of Independence with the names of all the signers.

John Adams, as he does his best to make it home to Braintree, takes note of the attitudes of the citizenry in a letter to Abigail:  “There is too much Ice in Hudsons River to cross it in Ferry Boats and too little to cross it, without, in most Places, which has given Us the Trouble of riding up the Albany Road as far as this Place, where We expect to go over on the Ice, but if We should be dissappointed here, We must go up as far as Esopus about fifteen miles farther.  This, as well as Fish-kill is a pretty Village. We are almost wholly among the Dutch—Zealous against the Tories, who have not half the Tranquillity here that they have in the Town of Boston, after all the Noise that has been made about N. York Tories.  We are treated with the Utmost Respect, wherever We go, and have met with nothing like an Insult, from any Person whatever. I heard ten Reflections, and twenty Sighs and Groans, among my Constituents to one here.  I shall never have done hoping that my Countrymen will contrive some Coup de main, for the Wretches at Newport. The Winter is the Time. Our Enemies have divided their Force. Let Us take Advantage of it.”

Benjamin Franklin responds to a letter from Juliana Ritchie which warned Franklin about a number of conjectures, including the possibility that his valet was a British spy.  “Madam, I am much oblig’d to you for your kind Attention to my Welfare, in the Information you give me. I have no doubt of its being well founded. But as it is impossible to discover in every case the Falsity of pretended Friends who would know our Affairs; and more so to prevent being watch’d by Spies, when interested People may think proper to place them for that purpose; I have long observ’d one Rule which prevents any Inconvenience from such Practices. It is simply this, to be concern’d in no Affairs that I should blush to have made publick; and to do nothing but what Spies may see and welcome. When a Man’s Actions are just and honourable, the more they are known, the more his Reputation is increas’d and establish’d. If I was sure therefore that my Valet de Place was a Spy, as probably he is, I think I should not discharge him for that, if in other Respects I lik’d him.  The various Conjectures you mention concerning my Business here, must have their Course. They amuse those that make them, and some of those that hear them; they do me no harm, and therefore it is not necessary that I should take the least Pains to rectify them. I am glad to learn that you are in a Situation that is agreeable to you, and that Mr. Richie was lately well. My Daughter and her Children were so when I left them, but I have lost my dear Mrs. Franklin now two Years since.”

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