May 9, 1777

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Congress appoints William Lee as the United States’ representative to Vienna and Berlin.

John Adams writes to Nathaniel Greene about the many causes that were keeping people away from the army, one of which was the “debauchery” to be found there:  “The Indifference of the People about recruiting the Army, is a Circumstance, which ought to make Us, consider what are the Causes of it. It is not, merely the Melancholly, arising from the unfortunate Events of the last Campaign, but the Small Pox, and above all the unhappy State of our Finances, which occasion this Evil. There are other Circumstances, which are little attended to, which contribute, much more than is imagined, to this unfavourable Temper in the People. The Prevalence of Dissipation, Debauchery, Gaming, Prophaneness and Blasphemy, terrifies the best People upon the Continent, from trusting their Sons and other Relations among so many dangerous snares and Temptations. Multitudes of People, who would with chearfull Resignation Submit their Families to the Dangers of the sword, shudder at the Thought of exposing them, to what appears to them, the more destructive Effects of Vice and Impiety. These Ideas would be received by many with Scorn. But there is not the less Solidity in them for that. It is Discipline alone that can Stem the Torrent. Chaplains are of great Use, I believe, and I wish Mr. Leonard might be in the Army, upon such Terms as would be agreable to him, for there is no Man of whom I have a better opinion. But there is So much difficulty in accomplishing any Thing of the Kind, that I wish G. Washington would either appoint him, or recommend him to Congress.  The Utility of Medals, has ever been impressed Strongly upon my Mind. Pride, Ambition, and indeed what a Philosopher would call Vanity, is the Strongest Passion in human Nature, and next to Religion, the most operative Motive to great Actions. Religion, or if the fine Gentlemen please, Superstition and Enthusiasm, is the greatest Incentive, and wherever it has prevailed, has never failed to produce Heroism. If our N. Englandmen were alone, and could have their own Way, a great deal of this would appear. But in their present Situation, I fear We have little to expect from this Principle, more than the Perseverance of the People in the Cause. We ought to avail ourselves then of even the Vanity of Men. For my own Part I wish We could make a Beginning, by Striking a Medal, with a Platoon firing at General Arnold, on Horseback, His Horse falling dead under him, and He deliberately disentangling his Feet from the Stirrups and taking his Pistolls out of his Holsters, before his Retreat. On the Reverse, He should be mounted on a Fresh Horse, receiving another Discharge of Musquetry, with a Wound in the Neck of his Horse.1 This Picture alone, which as I am informed is true History, if Arnold did not unfortunately belong to Connecticutt, would be sufficient to make his Fortune for Life. I believe there have been few such Scenes in the World.”

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March 9, 1777

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American troops under the command of Brigadier General William Maxwell defeated the British at Amboy, New Jersey.

John Adams writes to Nathanael Greene describing both the disappointments and the hopes regarding the army and its generals.  “I am not yet entirely convinced, that We are playing a desperate Game, tho I must confess that my feelings are somewhat less Sanguine than they were last June. This diminution of Confidence is owing to Disappointment. I then expected that the Enemy would have Seen two or three Bunker Hills, between the Point of Long Island and the Banks of the Delaware River. Two or three Such Actions would have answered my Purpose, perhaps one alone.  I have derived Consolation however, from these Disappointments; because the People have discovered a Patience under them, greater than might have been expected. It was not very surprising to me that our Troops Should fly in certain situations, and abandon Lines of such extent, at the sudden Appearance of a formidable Enemy in unexpected Places, because I had learn’d from Marshall Saxe, and from others that Such Behaviour was not only common but almost constant among the best regular Troops. But there was Reason to apprehend, that the People would be Seized with Such a Panick, upon Such a Series of ill success, that in the fright and Confusion whole States would have revolted, instead of a few paltry Individuals. Whereas every State has stood firm, and even the most confused and wavering of them, have gained Strength and improved in order, under all this Adversity. I therefore do not yet despair.  You Say you “are sensible I have not the most exalted Opinion of our Generals.” From this Expression I Suspect, that Some busy Body has been endeavouring to do Mischief, by Misrepresentation. Be this as it may, I am generally So well Satisfied in my own Opinions, as to avow them.  I dont expect to see Characters, either among the Statesmen or the Soldiers of a young and tender State like ours equal to Some, who were bred to the Contemplation of great Objects from their Childhood in older, and more powerfull Nations. Our Education, our Travel, our Experience has not been equal to the Pro­duction of such Characters, whatever our Genius may be which I have no Reason to Suspect to be less than that of any Nation under the sun.  I dont expect to see an Epaminondas, to be sure, because in the opinion of Dr. Swift all the Ages of the World have produced but Six such Characters, which makes the Chances much against our seeing any such. When such shall appear I shall certainly have an exalted opinion.

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untill then, I believe my Opinion of our Generals will continue not very exalted

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Notwithstanding this I have a sincere Esteem of our General Officers taken together as a Body, and believe them upon the whole the best Men for the Purpose that America affords. I think them Gentlemen of as good Sense, Education, Morals, Taste and Spirit as any we can find, and if this Opinion of them is not exalted enough I am Sorry for it but cannot help it. I hope however that my Opinion as well as that of the World in general, will be Somewhat more sublimated, before next Winter. I do assure you that two or three Bunker Hill Battles, altho they might be as unsuccessfull as that was would do it. I lament the Inexperience of all of them and I am Sure they have all Reason to lament mine. But not to disguise my sentiments at all, there are Some of them, particularly from New England that I begin to think quite unequal to the high Command they hold.  It is very true that Success generally marks the Man of Wisdom, and in Some Instances Injustice is done to unsuccessfull Merit: But Still it is generally true that Success is a Mark of Wisdom, and that Misfortunes are owing to Misconduct. The sense of Mankind has uniformly Supported this Opinion and therefore I cannot but think it just. The Same Sense, has uniformly attributed the ill Success of Armies to the Incapacity or other Imperfections of the General Officers, a Truth which I have Sometimes presumed to Hint to some of our General Officers, with whom I could make So free. There Seems to be Justice in this because the Glory of Successfull Wars is as uniformly attributed to them.  I shall join with you, very chearfully, in burying past Errors, and in wishing to concert and execute the most effectual Measures to free America, from her cruel oppressors.  You ask why G. Lee is denyed his Requests? You ask, can any Injury arise? Will it reflect any Dishonour upon Congress. I dont know that it would reflect any dishonour, nor was it refused upon that Principle. But Congress was of Opinion that great In­juries would arise. It would take up too much Time to recapitulate all the Arguments which were used upon occassion of his Letter. But Congress was never more unanimous, than upon that Question. Nobody I believe would have objected against a Conference, concerning his private Affairs or his particular Case. But it was inconceivable that a Conference should be necessary upon Such Subjects. Any Thing relative to those might have been conveyed by Letter. But it appears to be an Artfull Stratagem of the two gratefull Brothers to hold up to the public View the Phantom of a Negotiation, in order to give Spirit and Courage to the Tories, to distract and divide the Whiggs, at a critical Moment, when the Utmost Exertions are necessary to draw together an Army.  The Words of the Count La Tour, upon a similar Occasion, ought to be adopted by Us. ‘Remember that now there is room neither for Repentance, nor for Pardon. We must no longer reason, nor deliberate. We only want Concord and Steadiness.—The Lot is cast. If We prove victorious, We shall be a just free and Sovereign People; if We are conquered, We shall be Traitors, perjured Persons, and Rebels.’  But further. We see what use G. and the two Houses make of the former Conference with Lord How. What a Storm in England they are endeavouring to raise against Us from that Circumstance.  But another Thing. We have undoubted Intelligence from Europe, that the Embassadors and other Instruments of the B. Ministry at foreign Courts made the worst Use of the former Conference. That Conference did Us a great and essential Injury at the french Court you may depend Upon it. Ld How knows it—and wishes to repeat it.  ‘The Princes of the Union were not diligent enough in preparing for War: they Sufferd themselves to be amused with Proposals of Accommodation, they gave the League time to bring together great Forces, and after that, they could no longer brave it. They committed the fault which is very common in civil Wars viz that People endeavour to Save Appearances. If a Party would Save Appearances, they must lie quiet, but if they will not lie quiet, they must push Things to an Extremity, without keeping any Measures. It rarely happens, but that otherwise they are at once both criminal and unfortunate.’ Bailes Life of Gustavus Adolphus.  They meant farther to amuse Opposition in England, and to amuse foreign Nations by this Maneuvre, as well as the Whiggs in America, and I confess it is not without Indignation, that I See Such a Man as Lee Suffer himself to be duped by their Policy So far as to become the Instrument of it, as Sullivan was upon a former occasion. Congress is under no concern about any Use that the disaffected can make of this Refusal. They would have made the worst Use of a Conference. As to any Terms of Peace—look into the Speech to both Houses—the Answers of both Houses—look into the Proclamations.—it is useless to enumerate Particulars which prove that the Howes have no Power but to murder or disgrace Us.  The Retaliation that is to be practiced, on Lees Account, was determined on, when I was absent, So that I can give no Account of the Reasons for that Measure. Yet I have no doubt of the Right. And as to the disagreable Consequences you mention these I hope and presume will not take Place—if they do, they will be wholly chargeable on the Enemy. The End of Retaliation is to prevent a Repetition of the Injury. A Threat of Retaliation is to prevent an Injury, and it seldom fails of its design. In Lees Case, I am confident, it will Secure him good Treatment. If Lees Confinement is not Strict, that of Campbell and the Hessians ought not to be. The Intention was that they should be treated exactly as Lee is.  Our late Promotions may possibly give Disgust: But that cannot be avoided. This delicate Point of Honour, which is really one of the most putrid Corruptions of absolute Monarchy, I mean the Honour of maintaining a Rank Superiour to abler Men, I mean the Honour of preferring a single Step of Promotion to the Service of the Public, must be bridled. It is incompatible with republican Principles. I hope for my own Part that Congress will elect annually all the general officers—if in Consequence of this Some great Men should be obliged at the Years End to go home, and serve their Country in some other Capacity, not less necessary and better adapted to their Genius I dont think the public would be ruined. Perhaps it would be no Harm.  The Officers of the Army, ought to consider that the Rank, the Dignity, and the Rights of whole States, are of more Importance, than this Point of Honour, more indeed than the Solid Glory of any particular officer. The States insist with great Justice and Sound Policy, on having a Share of the General Officers, in Some Proportion to the Quotas of Troops they are to raise. This Princi­ple has occasioned many of our late Promotions, and it ought to Satisfy Gentlemen. But if it does not, they as well as the Public must abide the Consequences of their Discontent. I shall at all Times think myself happy to hear from you, my dear sir, and to give the Utmost Attention to whatever you may suggest. I hope I shall not often trouble you to Read So Long a Lurry of small Talk.”

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February 6, 1777

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The HMS Soleby captured the sloop USS Speedwell and sent it to Jamaica, the following day the Solebay captured the schooner USS Hope and the brig USS Fortune, Solebay captured four ships in three days, sent all to Jamaica.

“The Secret Committee,” headed by Benjamin Franklin, signs a contract with John and Nicholas Brown to obtain material for uniforms, etc.:  “The Browns will procure in Europe 10,000 good blankets at approximately 4s. 6d. to 5s. sterling apiece; 9,200 yards of blue and brown broadcloth for uniforms and 800 yards of different colors for facings, most of the cloth, being for privates, at about 4s. sterling per yard and the rest, for officers, at 6s.; ten tons of lead; 250 stands of good arms such as are used by French infantry; and fifty 100-pound barrels of good gunpowder. Gov. Cooke will value the vessels and estimate their hire or the freight to be paid on the goods exported and imported.6 The Browns are hereby advanced $24,000 for which they will be accountable to the committee. Signed for the Browns by Josiah Hewes, who has their power of attorney, and for the committee by Franklin, John Alsop, Josiah Bartlett, Joseph Hewes, Francis Lewis, and Samuel Ward

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January 21, 1777

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General John Burgoyne submits a plan to the government designed to isolate New England from the other colonies.

General Washington writes to Brigadier General Philemon Dickinson about a disturbing phenomenon among the troops:  “Genl Putnam communicated to me last Night the disagreeable Account that Lt. Colo. Preston’s party of Militia from Cumberland County in this State has deserted him; This practise in the Militia so generally prevails, that unless some effectual Check can be speedily applied I apprehend the most fatal Consequences. The Mischief is not confined to the Desertion alone, They stay ’till they are properly equipped to render essential Service, and by that Means plunder the Public of the Necessaries that were at first otherwise intended & would be better applied.  Now I recommend to you That you call immediately into service (by such Ways as you think best) at least one third of all the Militia of this State, making it generally known amongst them that they must come prepared to stay ’till the first of April, unless sooner discharged by Authority—It will occur to them That nothing but their most vigorous Exertion at this Time will enable me to oppose any design of the Enemy, & that therefore they ought to continue with me ’till relieved by the Regular Troops now raising—I mean however that every possible Indulgence should be shewn to those Men who have been in actual Service & were regularly discharged; and that no Excuse shall be admitted for those who have shamefully remained at Home when their everything was at Stake.”

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December 9, 1776

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Governor Trumbull asks:  “Is America to be lost?”  He opens a strong plea to Massachusetts urging the New England states to meet to discuss their finances, defense, and “to bring about a general reformation of the people.”  In the meantime, the state begins moving militia and supplies to Rhode Island to counter the arrival of the British fleet.

General Henry Clinton informed Lord Germain in London that he had landed his troops and was in the possession of this city “without the least opposition.”

In the meantime, George Washington writes to Congress about his movements and his concern for the defense of Philadelphia.  “I did myself the honor of writing to you Yesterday, and informing you that I had removed the Troops to this Side of the Delaware, soon after, the Enemy made their Appearance, and their Van entered, just as our Rear Guard quitted.  We had removed all our Stores except a few Boards. From the best Information, they are in two Bodies, one, at and near Trenton, the other some Miles higher up, and inclining towards Delaware, but whether with intent to cross there, or throw themselves between Genl Lee and me is yet uncertain.  I have this Morning detatched Lord Stirling with his Brigade to take post at the different landing places, and prevent them from stealing a March upon us from above, for I am informed if they cross at Coriels Ferry or thereabouts, they are as near to Philadelphia as we are here. From several Accounts, I am led to think, that the Enemy are bringing Boats with them, if so, it will be impossible for our small Force to give them any considerable Opposition in the Passage of the River, indeed they make a Feint at one place, and by a sudden Removal carry their Boats higher or lower before we can bring our Cannon to play upon them.

Under these Circumstances, the Security of Philadelphia should be our next Object. From my own Remembrance, but more from Information (for I never viewed the Ground) I should think that a Communication of Lines and Redoubts might soon be formed from the Delaware to Schuylkill on the North Entrance of the City. The Lines to begin on the Schuylkill side about the Heights of Springatsbury and run Eastward to Delaware upon the most advantagious and commanding Grounds. If something of this kind is not done, the Enemy might, in Case any Misfortune should befall us; march directly in and take Possession. We have ever found that Lines, however slight are very formidable to them, they would at least give a Check till people could recover of the Fright and Consternation that naturally attends the first Appearance of an Enemy.

In the mean time every Step should be taken to collect Force not only from Pennsylvania but from the most neighbourly States, if we can keep the Enemy from entering Philadelphia and keep the Communication by Water open, for Supplies, we may yet make a Stand, if the Country will come to our Assistance, till our new Levies can be collected.  If the Measure of fortifying the City should be adopted, some Skillful person should immediately view the Grounds and begin to trace out the Lines and Works. I am informed there is a French Engineer of eminence in Philadelphia at this time.”

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December 5, 1776

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In New York a British officer writes about the 5,000 American prisoners being held.  “Many of them are such ragamuffins as you never saw in your life.  I cannot give you a better idea of them than by putting you in mind of Falstaff’s recruits, or poor Ton in King Lear, and yet they have strained every nerve to cover their nakedness by dismantling all the beds.”

General Washington writes to Congress that he is moving supplies and men across the Delaware to Pennsylvania protected by a rear guard in Princeton commanded by Lord William Stirling (William Alexander) and General Adam Stephens.  He then made a long plea for a standing army instead of the militia:  I shall now, having removed the greatest part of the above Articles, face about with such Troops as are here fit for service, and march back to Princeton and there govern myself by circumstances and the movements of Genl Lee. At any event the Enemy’s progress may be retarded by this means, if they intend to come on, & the Peoples fears in some measure quieted, if they do not. Sorry I am to observe however, that the frequent calls upon the Militia of this State—the want of exertion in the Principal Gentlemen of the Country—or a fatal supineness and insensibility of danger, till it is too late to prevent an evil, that was not only foreseen, but foretold, have been the causes of our late disgraces. If the Militia of this State had stepped forth in Season, and timely notice they had, we might have prevented the Enemy’s crossing the Heckenseck, although without some previous notice of the time & place it was impossible to have done this at the North River. We might with equal probability of success, have made a stand at Brunswic on the Rariton; but as both these Rivers were fordable in a variety of Places, (knee deep only) it required many men to defend the passes & these we had not. At Heckenseck our force was insufficient, because a part was at Elizabeth Town, Amboy & Brunswick, guarding a Coast which I thought most exposed to danger—and at Brunswic, because I was disappointed in my expectation of Militia, and because on the day of the Enemy’s approach, and probably the occasion of it, the term of the Jersey & Maryland Brigades service expired, neither of which would consent to stay an hour longer.

These among Ten thousand other Instances might be adduced to shew the disadvantages of Short inlistments & the little dependance upon Militia in times of real danger; But as yesterday cannot be recalled, I will not dwell upon a Subject which no doubt has given much uneasiness to Congress, as well as extreme pain and anxiety to myself. My first wish is, That Congress may be convinced of the impropriety of relying upon the Militia, and of the necessity of raising a larger standing Army than what they have voted. The saving in the article of Stores, Provisions and in a thousand other things, by having nothing to do with Militia unless in cases of extraordinary exigency, & such as could not be expected in the common course of events, would amply support a large Army, which well officered would be daily improving, instead of continuing a destructive, expensive, disorderly Mob.

I am clear in Opinion, that if 40,000 Men had been kept in constant pay since the first commencement of Hostilities, and the Militia had been excused doing duty during that period, the Continent would have saved Money. When I reflect on the losses we have sustained for want of good Troops, the certainty of this is placed beyond a doubt in my mind. In such case the Militia, who have been harrassed & tired by repeated calls upon them, and farming & manufactures in a manner suspended, would upon any pressing emergency have run with alacrity to Arms, Whereas the cry now is, they may be as well ruined in one way as another, & with difficulty are obtained. I mention these things to shew, that in my Opinion, if any dependance is placed in the Militia another year, Congress will be deceived. When danger is a little removed from them, they will not turn out at all—When it comes Home to ’em, the well affected instead of flying to Arms to defend themselves, are busily employed in removing their Families & Effects, whilst the disaffected are concerting measures to make their submission & spread terror & dismay all around to induce others to follow the example. daily experience & abundant proofs warrant this information.”

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Sexual Harassment Allegations Come to Light!

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Betsy Walker has come forth with allegations that Thomas Jefferson, after assuring her husband that he would look in on her while he was away conducting a treaty with a nearby Indian tribe, did sexually harass and attempt to seduce her.  After slipping her an ode to the efficacy of free love, Jefferson was relentless in his attempts.  On one occasion, Jefferson had come to her house to play cards.  After she went to bed he “pretended to be sick, complained of a headache & left the gentlemen…Instead of going to bed….he stole into my room….”  Jefferson was “repulsed with indignation & menaces of alarm and ran off.”

Thomas Jefferson has admitted to the charges Betsy Walker has made, and apologizes for any pain he may have caused.  “I plead guilty…that when young and single I offered love to a handsome lady.  I acknowledge its incorrectness .”   We are still attempting to discover whether or not this was a singular and unique event, although several women (including Sally Hemings, Maria Cosway, Angelica Schuyler, and others) have indicated that this may be a pattern with Mr. Jefferson.

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