December 10, 1776

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The Congress prepares and publishes an address to the American people.  It is a plea for military support against the advancing British army.  “What a pity it is then that the rich and populous city of Philadelphia should fall into the enemy’s hands.”

General Washington is uncertain whether General Charles Cornwallis will cross the Delaware above here or below from Trenton.  He also writes to General Charles Lee at Chatham, New Jersey, once again requesting that he join him to save Philadelphia:  “I last night received your favor by Colo. Humpton & were it not for the weak and feeble state of the force I have, I should highly approve of your hanging on the Rear of the Enemy and establishing the Post you mention; But when my situation is directly opposite to what you suppose it to be, and when Genl Howe is pressing forward with the whole of his Army except the Troops that were lately embarked & a few besides left at N. York, to possess himself of Philadelphia, I cannot but request and entreat you & this too by the advice of all the Genl Officers with me, to march and join me with your whole force with all possible expedition. The utmost exertions that can be made, will not be more than sufficient to save Philadelphia, without the aid of your force, I think there is but little if any prospect of doing it. I refer you to the Route Majr Hoops would inform you of. The Enemy are now extended along the Delaware at Several places. By a prisoner who was taken last night, I am told that at Penny Town there are two Battallions of Infantry—3 of Grenadiers, The Hessian Grenadiers, 42d of Highlanders & 2 Others—Their object doubtless is to pass the river above us or to prevent your joining me. I mention this that you may avail yourself of the information. do come on, your arrival may be happy & if it can be effected without delay may be the means of preservg a City whose loss must prove of the most fatal consequence to the Cause of America. I am &c.

pray exert your influence & bring with you All the Jersey Militia you possibly can, Let them not suppose their State is lost or in any danger because the Enemy are pushing thro it. if you think Genl Sinclair or Genl Maxwell would be of Service to command em I would send either.”

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December 6, 1776

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Major General Robertson orders that soldiers are not to pull down houses, fences, or damage the property of any person whatever under severe penalty.

George Washington writes the following letter to John Hancock, the President of the Congress:  “I have not received any intelligence of the Enemy’s movements since my Letter of Yesterday; from every information, they still remain at Brunswic, except some of their parties who are advanced a small distance on this side. to day I shall set out for Princeton myself, unless something should occur to prevent me, which I do not expect.

By a Letter of the 4th Inst. from a Mr Caldwell, a Clergyman & a Staunch friend to the Cause & who has fled from Eliz. Town & taken refuge in the Mountains about Ten miles from thence, I am inform’d that Genl or Lord Howe was expected in that Town to publish pardon & peace. His words are, “I have not seen his Proclamation, but can only say, he gives 60 days of Grace & Pardons from the Congress down to the Committee. No one man in the Continent is to be denied his Mercy.[”] In the language of this Good man, the Lord deliver us from his mercy.”

Major General William Heath writes to George Washington about a citing of General Clinton’s ships travelling toward Rhode Island.  I have Just received Intelligence that on the 4th Instant about Sun sit Seventy Sail of ships of war and Transport with Troops on Board Sailed with a fair Wind Down the Sound towards New England, Probably to Rhode Island.

I have Sent an Express to Governor Trumbull, and to Massachusetts Bay, and have Desired Governor Trumbull to Send an Express to Rhode Island, I have at this Post, Three Regiments of General Parsons’s Brigade and Three of General Clintons, and a number of Convalisents Lame and Rag[g]ed left By General Lee, General Clinton is pushing the obstructions in the River, any orders from your Excellency to move the Troops or any Part of them shall be Instantly obeyed, by him who has the Honor to be with the greatest respect

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 historical vacation packages.

 

 

December 1, 1776

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George Washington writes to Congress on this day that he did not have the troops to stop the enemy at the Raritan River and had started moving stores toward Philadelphia.

British Corporal Thomas Sullivan heard that General Charles Corwallis’ vanguard had reached New Brunswick and found the bridge destroyed and was unable to follow the “enemy” to Princeton.

Mercy Otis Warren writes to her friend Abigail Adams, voicing the concerns all parents of their time lived with.  “It is A Long time since I had the Happiness of hearing from my Braintree Friends. Dos my dear Mrs. Adams think I am Indebted a Letter. If she dos Let her Recollect A Moment and she will find she is mistaken. Or is she so wholly Engrossed with the Ideas of her own Happiness as to think Little of the absent. Why should I Interrupt for a moment if this is the Case, the Vivacity and Cheerfulness of Portia Encircled by her Children in full health (her kind Companion sharing this felicity,) to Look in upon her Friend in this hour of solitude, my Husband at Boston, my Eldest son abscent, my other four at an Hospital Ill with the small pox, my Father on a bed of pain Verging fast towards the Closing scene, no sisters at hand nor Even a Friend to step in and shorten the tedious hour. I feel with the poet, ’poor is the Friendless Master of a World.’ But before I quit talking of myself I must tell you that the Lovely Image of Hope still spreads her silken Wing, and Resting on her pinion I sooth myself into tranquility and peace amidst this Group of painful Circumstances. A few days will make a very material Change in the feelings of my Heart. It may be filled with the Highest sentiments of Gratitude for the preservation and Recovery of my Children, with their Father siting by my side partaking the Delight. Or! I May—My pen trembles. I have not the Courage to Reverse the scene. I Leave the Theme, When you in unison with my soul shall Have Breathed a sigh that your Friend may be prepared for Every designation of providence.”

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November 25, 1776

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British Colonel Guy Johnson, Indian Superintendent in New York, reports to Lord Germain in England that the Indians have kept their promises to him of last year and that he had sent an officer in disguise to the Six Nations.

In New York, William Franklin writes in a letter to his wife in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, regarding their son going to Paris with his father, Benjamin, “if the old gentleman has taken the boy with him, I hope it is only to put him in some foreign university, which he seemed anxious to do when he spoke to me last about his education.”  William and Benjamin are at odds, since William has chosen to support the British in the conflict.

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November 23, 1776

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George Washington has 5,410 troops with him.  Enlistments for 2,060 will expire on December 1st.  Congress sent Washington a supply of blank commissions to issue at headquarters.  Washington writes the following letter to John Hancock, President of the Congress:  “I have not yet heard that any Provision is making to supply the place of the Troops composing the Flying Camp, whose departure is now at hand. The situation of our Affairs is truly critical & such as requires uncommon exertions on our part. From the movements of the Enemy & the information we have received, they certainly will make a push to possess themselves of this part of the Jersey. In order that you may be fully apprized of our Weakness and of the necessity there is of our obtaining early Succours, I have by the advice of the Genl Officers here, directed Genl Mifflin to wait on you. he is intimately acqu[ainte]d with our circumstances and will represent them better, than my hurried state will allow. I have wrote to Genl Lee to come over with the Continental Regiments immediately under his command; those with Genl Heath, I have ordered to secure the Passes, through the Highlands; I have also wrote to Govr Livingston requesting of him such aid as may be in his power, and would submit it to the consideration of Congress, whether application should not be made for part of the Pensylvania Militia to step forth at this pressing time.

Menawhile, in New York City, British General Orders assign troops for winter residence, order the outlines of old Fort Washington leveled and usable construction materials to be sent to New York.

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November 16, 1776

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General Washington began the day at Fort Lee with Generals Greene and Putnam, trying to get reinforcements to Fort Washington.

The Battle of Fort Washington takes place.  American troops were under Colonel Robert Macaw; he had 2,967 troops, 53 killed in action, 96 wounded n action, and a disastrous 2818 captured!  British General William Howe has 8,000 troops, 78 killed in action, 374 wounded in action, Hessians have 272 wounded in action and 58 killed in action.

The blame will fall on Greene and Washington for allowing so many troops to reman and to be captured.

While the British were attacking Fort Washington, Lord Hugh Perry and a column of men drove the American pickets from Harlem Cove.  Once accomplished, the British launched an attack on old Harlem Heights.

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November 14, 1776

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The St. James Chronicle in London carried an item stating, “The very identical Dr Franklin, whom Lord Chatham so much caressed, and used to say, he was proud in calling his friend, is now at the head of the rebellious North America.

Reports in Congress that  British fleet is sailing south causes concern.  The Board of War authorizes the Marine Committee to defend the Delaware River.  The ships were actually headed back to England.

George Washington, who had arrived at Fort Lee on the 13th, writes the following letter to John Hancock, President of the Congress:  “I have the honor to inform you of my arrival here Yesterday and that the whole of the Troops belonging to the States which lay South of Hudsons River and which were in New York Government have passed over to this side, except the Regiment lately Colo. Smalwoods, which I expect is now on their march.  That they may be ready to check any incursions the Enemy may attempt in this Neighbourhood, I intend to quarter them at Brunswic, Amboy, Eliz. Town, New Ark and about this place, unless Congress should conceive it necessary for any of them to be stationed at or more contiguous to Philadelphia. in such case they will be pleased to signify their pleasure. There will be very few of them after the departure of those who were engaged for the Flying Camp and which is fast approaching. The disposition I have mentioned seems to me well calculated for the end proposed and also for their accomodation.  The movements and designs of the Enemy are not yet understood. Various are the opinions and reports on this Head. From every information, the whole have removed from Dobb’s Ferry towards Kings bridge and it seems to be generally beleived on all hands, that the investing of Fort Washington is one object they have in view. But that can employ but a small part of their force. whether they intend a Southern expedition, must be determined by Time. to me there appears a probability of It, and which seems to be favoured by the advices we have, that many Transports are wooding and watering. General Green’s Letter would give you the substance of the intelligence brought by Mr Mersereau from Staten Island in this instance, which he received before It came to me.  Inclosed you have Copies of Two Letters from Genl Howe and of my Answer to the first of them. The Letter alluded to and returned in his last was One from myself to Mrs Washington of the 25 Ulto from whence I conclude that All the Letters which went by the Boston Express have come to his possession. You will also perceive, that Genl Howe has requested the return of Peter Jack, a servant to Major Stewart, to which I have consented as he was not in the military line and the requisition agreable to the custom of War. This Servant having been sent to Philadelphia with the Waldeckers and other Prisoners, I must request the favor of you to have him conveyed to Genl Greene by the earliest Opportunity in order that he may be returned to his master.  Before I conclude, I beg leave not only to suggest but to urge the necessity of increasing our Field Artillery very considerably. Experience has convinced me, as It has every Gentleman of discernment in this Army, that while we remain so much inferior to the Enemy in this Instance, we must carry on the War under infinite disadvantages, and without the smallest probability of success. It has been peculiarly owing to the situation of the Country where their Operations have been conducted, and to the rough and strong Grounds we possessed ourselves of and over which they had to pass, that they have not carried their Arms by means of their Artillery to a much greater extent. When these difficulties cease, by changing the Scene of Action to a level champaign Country, the worst of consequences are justly to be apprehended. I would therefore with the concurrence of all the Officers whom I have spoke to upon the Subject, submit to the consideration of Congress, whether immediate measures ought not to be taken for procuring a respectable Train. It is agreed on all hands, that each Batallion should be furnished at least with Two peices, and that a smaller number than 100—of 3 lb. 50 of 6 lb. & 50—of 12 lb. should not be provided in addition to those we now have—besides these, if some 18 & 24 pounders are ordered, the Train will be more serviceable & compleat. The whole should be of Brass for the most Obvious reasons. they will be much more portable—not half so liable to burst, and when they do, no damage is occasioned by it, and they may be cast over again. The Sizes before described should be particularly attended to, if they are not, there will be great reason to expect mistakes and confusion in the charges in Time of Action, As it has frequently happened in the best regulated Armies. The disparity between those I have mentioned, and such as are of an Intermediate size, is difficult to discern. It is also agreed, that a Regiment of Artillerists with approved and experienced Officers should be obtained if possible, and some Engineers of known reputation and abilities. I am sorry to say, too ready an indulgence has been had to several appointments in the latter instance, and that men have been promoted, who seem to me, to know but little if any thing of the business. Perhaps this Train &c. may be looked upon by some, as large & expensive; true it will be so, but when it is considered that the Enemy, having effected but little in the course of the present Campaign, will use their utmost efforts to subjugate us in the next, every consideration of that sort should be disregarded, and every possible preparation made to frustrate their unjust and wicked attempts. How they are to be procured, is to be inquired into. That we cannot provide them among ourselves or more than a very small proportion, so trifling as not to deserve our notice, is evident; therefore I would advise, with all immaginable deference, without any abatement of our own internal exertions, application should be immediately made to such Powers as can & may be willing to supply them. They cannot be obtained too early, if soon enough, and I am told they may be easily had from France & Holland.  Mr Trumbull, the Comy Genl has frequently mentioned to me of late, the inadequacy of his pay to his trouble and the great risk he is subject to on account of the large Sums of Money which pass through his Hands. He has stated his case with a view of laying it before Congress and obtaining a more adequate compensation. My Sentiments upon the Subject are already known, but yet I shall take the liberty to add, that I think his complaint to be well founded and that his Pay considering the important duties and risks of his Office by no means sufficient, and that the footing he seems to think it should be upon himself, appears just and reasonable.  A Proposition having been made long since to Genl Howe and agreed to by him for an Exchange of Prisoners in consequence of the Resolutions of Congress to that effect, I shall be extremely happy if you will give directions to the Committees and those having the charge of Prisoners in the Several States, South of Jersey to transmit me proper Lists of the names of All the Commissioned Officers and of the Ranks & the Corps they belong to—also the Number of the non Commissioned and Privates & their respective Regiments. You will perceive by his Letter he supposes me to have affected some delay or to have been undmindfull of the proposition I had made.  I propose to stay in this neighbourhood a few days, in which time I expect the designs of the Enemy will be more disclosed and their Incursions be made in this quarter or their Investiture of Fort Washington if they are intended.”

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.