July 7, 1776

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John Hancock sends the Declaration of Independence to the New York Convention meeting in White Plains with a letter that closes, “The important consequences to the American States from this Declaration of Independence, considered as the ground and foundation of a future government, will naturally suggest the propriety of proclaiming it in such a manner that the people may be universally informed of it.”  He sends the same letter to Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island.

At a conference at Fort Pitt, a Mingo chief, just returned from a meeting at Niagara, advised the Virginians and Pennsylvanians that the Indians did not wish to fight, but would prevent either the English or the Americans from crossing their lands.

In Crown Point, New York, General Philip Schuyler withdraws his Northern Army and moves toward Ticonderoga.

In New York, George Washington writes to New York’s Governor Trumbull, “The situation of our affairs calls aloud for the most vigorous exertions and nothing else will be sufficient to avert the impending blow.  General Howe has already about 10,000 men.”

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June 16, 1776

george-washington-writing-at-his-desk-by-candlelightIn Quebec, Canada, Benedict rnold’s men fought a rear guard action against the British and continued their retreat.

General Washington writes to General Schuyler regarding numerous matters:  “The Account of Mr Deane is variant from Col. Kirkland’s, but Yet they both seem to agree in the most material Point, Vizt That some Parts of our Frontiers are to feel the Effects of the Savage Resentment which the Friends of Government have been industrously trying to call forth against Us. You have done well in Your Message to the six Nations; the sooner a Conference can be held the better, & I think the most Vigorous Exertions necessary to secure a Post as You mention where Fort Stanwix formerly stood, & below that, as intimated in my last—If You can Effect these, I am hopefull all their Attempts in that Quarter will be unavailing.

I have ordered a Ton of Powder, half a Ton of Lead, five Thousand Flints, some Cannon, Intrenching Tools & a Dozen Whip Saws & files to be immediately sent You, which You will receive in two or three Days, with a List of them & Every other Article sent from hence at this Time.  I have inclosed You Copy of an Invoice of Goods now in the Hands of Mr Robert Henry in Albany, which he offered the Quarter Master Genl this Week on moderate Terms, as the Quarter Master informs Me—It certainly will be proper that You purchase them or such of them, as will suit the Army in Canada, & It will be less troublesome & expensive than sending Articles from hence, supposing they can be procured. I wish You to get Every Thing You want & that Can be had Either in Albany or Its Vicinity rather than to send here for them, I am really so immersed in Buisiness & have such a Variety of Things to attend to, That I scarcely know which way to turn Myself, Perhaps if You make a strict Inquiry, You may Obtain not only more Goods, but Other Necessaries.  The Indians are here, just returned from Philadelphia—I will communicate to them Your Wishes for their Return & Give Direction that Every Mark of Respect be shewn them by those who go with them.  I have requested the Paymaster, to procure, if possible, as Much hard Money as will discharge Mr Blake’s Claim.  How he will succeed I cannot tell; If he can get It, It shall be forwarded as soon as a proper Conveyance can be had. In Regard to a Person to superintend the Building of Gondolas & other Carpenters to carry on the Work I refer You to my Letter of the 9th & shall only add, that they cannot be now had, Every one Qualified for the Buisiness being Employed here.  The Intelligence contained in General Sullivan’s Letter is extremely pleasing & I sincerely wish his most sanguine Hopes may be more than answered. If the Affection of the Canadians can be Engaged & he seems to have no Doubt of It, It will be of much Importance & probably the Means of our retreiving our Misfortunes in that Quarter.  I find from General Arnold’s Letter to General Sullivan, Col. Bedel, Majr Butterfield & Captn Young are gone to the Sorel for Trial.9 If their Conduct was as bad & Infamous as represented, It will surely meet with an Exemplary Punishment. Men who will not discharge the Duty they owe their Country from Principle, must be influenced to It by Other Motives, or at least prevented from betraying our most Valuable Rights by a Cowardly & disgraceful Behaviour.

Inclosed You have an Extract of a Letter I received by last Nights Post from General Ward, from which we may reasonably Conjecture that the rest of the Transports which sailed with the One taken, will not be long before they arrive10—It seems Evident they expected to find General Howe at Boston & I am hopefull some Others under this Idea will fall into our Hands. There are also Accounts in Town of two or three Valuable Prizes more being taken to the Eastward, one with several light Cannon, Another a West India Man homeward bound with a Quantity of Dollars & sugars—But I fear, tho’ the Accounts seem particular, that they want Confirmation, as General Ward mentions Nothing of them.”

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May 24, 1776

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After conferring with General Washington, Horatio Gates, and Thomas Mifflin, Congress votes to inform the commanding officer in Canada to “contest every foot of the ground” and especially prevent the enemy from ascending the St. Lawrence River.

Regarding Canada, General Washington wrote to General Schuyler:  “Inclose your Excellency an Estimate of the Men necessary to be employed in transporting and guarding the provisions between Albany and Canada, but if Flour can be procured there, nearly one half of the Number of Men mentioned for the Batteau Service may be dispensed with, when a considerable Stock is laid in, but even then I shall not have Numbers sufficient with Van Schaick’s and Wynkoop’s to clear Wood Creek cut the Roads, repair Tyconderoga, and do the Variety of Work necessary in this Quarter, I must therefore beg for a Reinforcement.1

Two Mohawk Indians came on the 21st to the Landing at the North End of Lake George and after enquiring what News, and where the commanding officer at Tyconderoga kept they said they were going to see him, but they soon took another Rout to the Westward—We suppose these to be some of the Indians who went with Sir John Johnson, we have small scouting parties out, but if we should discover them we are unable to send after them, as we have so few Men here.

Mr McNeil, who left St John’s on Friday last informs me that the 8th Regiment, and a Number of Indians were coming down the St Lawrence, and that a Reinforcement was ordered to Colonel Bedel, who is at the Cedars, and that Warner’s Green Mountain Boys were also to go up there.  As Tyconderoga is to be repaired an Engineir will be wanted, and none is to be procured here.  Having not received a Line from Mr Price to advise me of what Flour can be procured in Canada, I have thought it expedient, least the Army should suffer, to order up a Quantity: about three hundred Barrels are gone on since the 13th Instant & 1191 of pork, 115 of which reached St John’s on the 17th in the Morning and I believe about a like Quantity arrived there on each of the four succeeding Days, so that all my Fears of the army’s Starving are vanished.  I have this afternoon experienced a very severe Fit of the ague—I was in Hopes it had taken its Farewell for this Season—I shall vigorously attack it with the Bark, and hope to eradicate it by that Means.  If such a Number of British and foreign Troops are destined for Canada as is said, more of our’s will be wanted there, & very soon too.”

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May 23, 1776

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In Boston, representatives to the General Assembly are instructed to advise the Massachusetts delegation in Congress that the colony will support a Declaration of Independence “with their lives and the remnant of their fortunes.”

From Albany, General Schuyler writes to George Washington. “I found It impossible to leave Town to Day as I had intended, It is lucky That I did not, for I just now received an Express from Fort George advising me that amongst the Nails I had ordered from Canada there were very few of those wanted for the Bottoms of the Boats; This Account has plunged me into almost Inextricable Difficulty, as I can procure only four hundred Weight in this Town, I have set Every Blacksmith at Work to make what they can, I shall still fall greatly short, and beg the Favor of You to order up fifteen Cask of 24d. Nails as Many of 10d. and a like Quantity of 8d.; A New York Carpenter must be employed in Chusing them, as they go by different Names in different Colonies, I could wish that they were sent up in a Pettiauger fitted with as Many Oars as possible, and under the Care of an Officer and a Party of Good Oarsmen.  The Troops are so slow in getting from here, Altho’ General Sullivan does all in his Power to move them, That I shall be under the Necessity of sending on Provisions from Fort George, before they arrive there, which will necessarily detain some of them until a Number of Boats are built, equal to those which Carry the Provisions.  By a Letter from Colo: Hazen I find they are extreamly short of Pork in Canada and the Amazing Quantity of Baggage the Troops carry with them will put It out of my Power to forward any more from hence until they are past.  Read’s which moved Yesterday took Eight Batteaus, Starks, which has been Embarking their Baggage all Day with the Activity of Snails, will carry Something more, Nor can I prevail on them to leave any Part of It behind.  I shall leave this in the Morning and hope to reach Lake George to Morrow Night, where I am much wanted and from where I shall again do Myself the Honor to write You.”

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May 22, 1776

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The Maryland Convention adopts resolutions stating that the people had the “sole and exclusive right to regulate internal affairs and police” of the colony; and the Convention could reject oppressive acts of Parliament; all royal authority was now fatally abolished, and people no longer had to take an oath of allegiance to Great Britain.  The recently reelected delegation to Congress, however, was instructed to abstain from any measures leading to independence without the express authority of the Convention.

A total of 100 Americans are taken prisoner in Quinze Chenes, Quebec.

Congress votes to give General Philip Schuyler authority to take any measures for supplying the troops in Canada with provisions.

John Adams writes to Abigail about affairs, both public and private:  “When a Man is seated, in the Midst of forty People some of whom are talking, and others whispering, it is not easy to think, what is proper to write. I shall send you the News-Papers, which will inform you, of public Affairs, and the particular Flickerings of Parties in this Colony.  I am happy to learn from your Letter, that a Flame is at last raised among the People, for the Fortification of the Harbour. Whether Nantaskett, or Point Alderton would be proper Posts to be taken I cant say. But I would fortify every Place, which is proper, and which Cannon could be obtained for.

Generals Gates and Mifflin are now here. Gen. Washington will be here tomorrow—when We shall consult and deliberate, concerning the Operations of the ensuing Campain.  We have dismal Accounts from Europe, of the Preparations against Us. This Summer will be very important to Us. We shall have a severe Tryal of our Patience, Fortitude and Perseverance. But I hope we shall do valiantly and tread down our Enemies.  I have some Thoughts of petitioning the General Court for Leave to bring my Family, here. I am a lonely, forlorn, Creature here. It used to be some Comfort to me, that I had a servant, and some Horses—they composed a Sort of Family for me. But now, there is not one Creature here, that I seem to have any Kind of Relation to.  It is a cruel Reflection, which very often comes across me, that I should be seperated so far, from those Babes, whose Education And Welfare lies so near my Heart. But greater Misfortunes than these, must not divert Us from Superiour Duties.  Your Sentiments of the Duties We owe to our Country, are such as become the best of Women, and the best of Men. Among all the Disappointments, and Perplexities, which have fallen to my share in Life, nothing has contributed so much to support my Mind, as the choice Blessing of a Wife, whose Capacity enabled her to comprehend, and whose pure Virtue obliged her to approve the Views of her Husband. This has been the cheering Consolation of my Heart, in my most solitary, gloomy and disconsolate Hours. In this remote Situation, I am deprived in a great Measure of this Comfort. Yet I read, and read again your charming Letters, and they serve me, in some faint degree as a substitute for the Company and Conversation of the Writer.  I want to take a Walk with you in the Garden—to go over to the Common—the Plain—the Meadow. I want to take Charles in one Hand and Tom in the other, and Walk with you, Nabby on your Right Hand and John upon my left, to view the Corn Fields, the orchards, &c.

Alass poor Imagination! how faintly and imperfectly do you supply the Want of original and Reality!  But instead of these pleasing Scaenes of domestic Life, I hope you will not be disturbed with the Alarms of War. I hope yet I fear.”

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April 18, 1776

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The Irish transport ship Isabella arrives at Cape Fear, New York, and is greeted by American militiamen.

Congress sends General Washington the following approbation regarding his army’s outlasting the enemy in Boston:  “The Honorable the Continental Congress have been pleased to direct the Thanks of the United Colonies to be presented to the Officers, and Soldiers of their Army; who with unremitted Courage, and Perseverance, surmounted every Effort of the enemy, and every Obstacle of that severe Climate, in persisting for eleven Months, in the Blockade, and Seige of Boston, and finally forcing their Enemies to make a shameful and precipitate Retreat, from that once devoted town.”

Meanwhile, John Adams takes the time to write to two of his children.  To his daughter, Nabbie, he writes as follows:  “My dear Daughter,  I cannot recollect the tenderness and dutiful affection you expressed for me, just before my departure, without the most sensible emotion, approbation, and gratitude. It was a proof of an amiable disposition, and a tender feeling heart.  But my dear child, be of good cheer; although I am absent from you for a time, it is in the way of my duty; and I hope to return, some time or other, and enjoy a greater share of satisfaction in you and the rest of my family, for having been absent from it for so long a time.  I learned in a letter from your mamma, that you was learning the accidence. This will do you no hurt, my dear, though you must not tell many people of it, for it is scarcely reputable for young ladies to understand Latin and Greek—French, my dear, French is the language, next to English—this I hope your mamma will teach you. I long to come home, but I believe it will be a great while first. I don’t know when, perhaps not before next Christmas. My love to your mamma and your brothers, and the whole family.  I am your affectionate father…” To his son, John Quincy Adams, he writes : “My dear Son, I thank you for your agreable Letter of the Twenty fourth of March.  I rejoice with you that our Friends are once more in Possession of the Town of Boston, and am glad to hear that so little damage is done to our House.  I hope you and your Sister and Brothers will take proper Notice of these great Events, and remember under whose wise and kind Providence they are all conducted. Not a Sparrow falls, nor a Hair is lost, but by the Direction of infinite Wisdom. Much less are Cities conquered and evacuated. I hope that you will all remember, how many Losses, Dangers, and Inconveniences, have been borne by your Parents, and the Inhabitants of Boston in general for the Sake of preserving Freedom for you, and yours—and I hope you will all follow the virtuous Example if, in any future Time, your Countrys Liberties should be in Danger, and suffer every human Evil, rather than Give them up.—My Love to your Mamma, your Sister and Brothers, and all the Family.  I am your affectionate Father…”

John Quincy Adams will eventually travel with his father to France, and be appointed to high office by President Washington.  He shall become President of the United States, making up the first father-son presidential team, only to be followed by George Herbert Walker Bush and George W. Bush.

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Sex and History

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“That ol’ Betsy Ross…”

Few characters of the revolution bring about as much controversy as Betsy Ross.  Did she truly sew the first American flag based on the instructions of Robert Morris and General Washington, or was that simply an amusing fictional anecdote she used to entertain her children on cold nights?  Did she really run around with Benjamin Franklin?

One of the more intriguing stories comes from David Hackett Fischer in his book, Washington’s Crossing.  Fischer’s book is about the historic Battle of Trenton, which began with a daring cross over the Delaware River on a freezing Christmas night of 1776.  Surprise was of the essence, and one person who might well have squelched the entire operation was Colonel von Donop, who had been ordered to travel with his men to Bordentown, a mere six miles from Trenton where he could be of assistance if Colonel Rall was in need of it.  Had he been around to help fight off the rebel attack, perhaps our history would have been a different one.

But he wasn’t there.  Instead, he was in Mount Holly, in the arms of an unknown patriot belle.  “All the women removed from the Town,” wrote Margaret Morris, “except one widow of our acquaintance.”  According to Jager Captain Ewald, who was there with Donop, “The colonel, who was exceedingly devoted to the fair sex, had found in his quarters the exceedingly beautiful young widow of a doctor.  He wanted to set up his rest quarters in Mount Holly, which to the misfortune of Colonel Rall, he was permitted to do.”  Colonel von Donop stayed with the widow on December 23rd, and was convinced to remain on Christmas night as well.  Wrote Captain Ewald, “This great misfortune, which surely caused the utter loss of the thirteen splendid provinces of the Crown of England, was due partly to…the fault of Colonel Donop, who was led by the nose to Mount Holly by Colonel Griffin, and detained there by love…Thus the fate of entire Kingdoms often depends upon a few blockheads and irresolute men.”

“Just who was this “exceedingly beautiful young widow” asks Fischer.  “In December 1776, there was a young and very beautiful young widow, a ‘Free Quaker’ strongly sympathetic to the American cause, who lived in Philadelphia, had family connections in Gloucester County, New Jersey, was married there, and often went back and forth.  She was acquainted with Margaret Morris, and also with George Washington.  Her name was Betsy Ross.  One historian, Joseph Tusstin, has raised the possibility she may have been the mysterious widow of Mount Holly.  Her husband, John Ross, who had died in 1776, came from Gloucester County and may have been related to Doctor Alexander Ross, who was a physician practicing at Mount Holly in 1776.”

Many people point out that Betsy Ross may receive credit for an act she never committed, that of sewing the first American flag.  On the other hand, it is possible that she does not receive credit for an act that could dwarf the other one in importance – that of using her body to secure the victory at Trenton, which altered the tenor of the entire war.

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