September 12, 1776

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The Maryland Convention resolves that no vessel owned by a resident of Maryland could sail without a license from the Council of Safety and they must take an oath that no part of the cargo belongs to a subject of King George.

A petition signed by seven generals urged General George Washington to summon a Council to reconsider the decision to stay and fight for possession of New York City. He did so and the Council of War voted that withdrawal was “not only prudent but absolutely necessary.”

Brigadier General George Clinton writes the following in regards to the defense of Newark, New Jersey:  “In Consequence of a Motion made in a late Counsel of Genl Officers (in which Contrary to former Determination) it was advised that the City of Newyork shoud be evacuated & that the Disposition of the Army shoud be changed & that those who adhered to the former Opinion shoud assign their Reasons for defending the City as one of those I now begg leave to lay before your Excellency the following.  1st Tho’ the City of Newyork if attacked & Bombarded both by Sea & Land may perhaps not be defensible yet the ⟨h⟩eights contiguous to & which Command it in my Opinion are & in this I am warranted by the Extensive & strong Works erected there last Spring & Summer[.] The whole Island is broken Land very capable of Defence[.] By the Genl Return our Numbers far exceed the Enemy & tho we have many Sick yet suposing them to have none our Fit for Duty is equal to or may exceed the whole Number they can bring to Action leaving only small Numbers to defend Long & Staten Islands. The City is of great Value in itself yet its Importance is much enhanced when we consider if possessed by the Enemy it furnishes them with a safe Harbour through the Winter for their Fleet Barracks & good Quarters for their Troops add to this A Safe & Happy Assylum for the disafected by which their army will (In all probability) be greatly Recruited.  2d The City & Posts near it if possessed by the Enemy may be so strengthned [(]& the Works nearly compleated for them) considering the Advantages they already have in the Possession of Long Island as to render it with a few Men only defensible agt any Force we can send against it of Consequence their Possession of the City will not tend much to weaken or divide their Army (One Capital Reason given for evacuating the City.).  3dly If the City & Posts near it are evacuated Paulus Hook & Other Works on the Jersy Shore must of Course also fall into the Hands of the Enemy and almost the whole Eastern Extent of that State lay exposed to the Ravages of our Cruel Enemy from whence they may with Ease & safety draw great Supplies for their Army.  4thly The same Reasons which are given for abandoning the City &c. will hold for our retreating before the Enemy to the Highlands—They have the Command of the Water. They can transport their Army from Place to Place by Water with much more Expedition than we can ours by Land this is our Misfortune & shoud they (possessed of the City which will at all Times afford them a safe & commodious Retreat) move their Army or Part of it up the Sound to Mamarioneck or even farther Eastward they may with almost equal Ease draw a Chain of Works across to the North River & cut off our Communication with the Country as they coud by the last Disposition of our Army.  5thly The Reason urged most Strongly by those who advised the evacuating the City &ca was that by holding the City our Army so disposed as to secure a Retreat to the Country must be divided & of Course we must fight the Enemy by Detachments & this the best Writers say is Dangerous I am not much Read in the Art of War Common Reason however teaches me that if the Enemy attacks the Country in various Places by Parties too strong for the Militia we must detach Parts of our Army to such Places to defend them or suffer the Inhabitants to be plundered & ruined And I will readilly submit to the World to determine whether a Country if unprotected by our Army will readilly draw out their Militia to reinforce it leaving their Famillies without any Degree of Defence or Safety. But  6thly Was there any Weight in the Reason the Disposition of the Army advised by those Gentlemen almost equally divides it with the former & one single Movement of the Enemy up the Sound will necessarilly throw our Divissions farther a Part—We are to hold Fort Washington on the Island to secure this the Highlands near Colo. Morris’s & Bourdetts Ferry And the Heights North & East of King’s Bridge & the whole of this Arangement must depend on the Obstruction in Hudson’s River opposite Fort Washington being sufficient to prevent the Enemy passing up the River in which I have no Faith—The Works at Bourdets Ferry are in my Opinion not Tenable if the Enemy are possessed of Newyork they may approach it with Ease & carry it by a Regular Seige—It is commanded by a Neighbouring height—We can have no Army there to fight them without our weakning that in this Quarter. Those Works once in the Enemys Possession they command Fort Washington & their Fleet will the River in which Case they form their intended Junction with the Northern Army & lay the whole State under Contribution nor shall we [be] able to pass the River to give any Succor to the States of New Jersy or Pensylvania.  Upon the whole our Army is superior to theirs—We have near 30000 including Sick—their utmost Number dont exceed 25000—We are possessed of Strong Works to abandon them & fly before an Inferior Number of the Enemy will enspirit them & dishearten our Soldiery & the Country which latter will look upon their Army no longer as their Defence—We will with Justice loose their Confidence & support—They will abandon the Cause & We cant without their Aid Support it.  Having in a Counsel of General Officers joined in Opinion with a large Majority that the City of Newyork ought not be evacuated by our Troops & that the following Disposition of the Army woud be proper for the Defence of the City or Heights which are contiguous to & command it, The Island & for securing a Communication with the Country, towit, 5000 Men for the City & Posts near it 6000 to be posted at or near Harlem & 9000 At the Heights near King’s Bridge & Fort Washington & the most advantageous Posts near the later Place & that Bridges of Communication shoud be immediately thrown across Harlem River And being afterwards in Consequence of a Representation in Writing directed to your Excellency subscribed by 7 or 8 Genl Officers (all of whom were present at the former Counsel & most of them agreed to in above Opinion) summoned to attend a Second Counsel for the Purpose of reconsidering the Question & for re[s]cinding the former Resolution with.”

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September 4, 1776

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British Ambassador to Versailles, Lord David Stormont, sends a gloomy report to London that a powerful French fleet would soon sail for the West Indies.  The capable, energetic Governor of St. Domingo, M Dennery, has agreed to serve one more year and will continue his pro-American policies.

On board ship, Lord Dunmore notifies Lord Germain that the lack of watering places and the ravages of disease which reduced his force to 108 effective rank-and-file forced him to abandon Virginia and move to New York where he could provide the Howe brothers with intelligence on the southern states.  London authorities were highly critical of Dunmore’s conduct since the eruption of the colonial difficulties, especially the policy enlisting Negro slaves as soldiers

George Washington writes to the President of Congress, John Hancock:  “Since I had the Honor of addressing you on the 2d Our affairs have not undergone a change for the better, nor assumed a more agreable aspect than what they then wore. The Militia under various pretences of sickness &c. are daily diminishing & in a little time I am persuaded, their number will be very inconsiderable.  On Monday night a Forty Gun Ship passed up the Sound between Governor’s & Long Island & Anchored in Turtle bay. In her passage she received a discharge of Cannon from our Batteries but without any damage & having a favourable wind & Tide soon got out of their reach. Yesterday morning I dispatched Majr Crane of the Artillery with Two Twelve pounders & a Howitz to annoy her, who hulling her several times forced her from that Station & to take shelter behind an Island where she still continues.1 There are several other Ships of War in the sound with a good many Transports or Store Ships, which came round Long Island, so that that communication is entirely cut off. The Admiral with the main body of the Fleet is close in with Governor’s Island.  Judging It expedient to guard against every Contingency as far as our peculiar situation will admit, and that we may have resources left, If obliged to abandon this place, I have sent away & am removing above Kingsbridge All our Stores that are unnecessary & that will not be immediately wanted.”

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August 27, 1776

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On Long Island, General Sir Guy Clinton’s troops begin to roll up the unprotected left flank, and General John Sullivan is pinned down by frontal attacks until he is forced to surrender.  On the right General James Grant was surrounded on three sides and ordered his soldiers to retreat to Brooklyn Heights.  The British Victory is rapid and complete.

In Brooklyn, and American force under General George Washington, with approximately 1700 men faced General Charles Cornwallis with an estimated 10,000 men.  The Americans were forced to evacuate.  Marylanders under Colonel Mordecai Gist distinguished themselves.

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August 15, 1776

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General Nathaniel Greene informs General George Washington that on the previous evening the Hessian troops had disembarked on Staten Island.  His own troops, busy removing livestock and grain and dismantling mills, were, he felt in excellent spirits and confident of putting up a good fight.  Without doubt, the most ominous information for Washington was the fact that Greene, a most promising General, had fallen victim to raging fever.

An Independent Milita Company, led by Captain Dennis Gauge, while on patrol near Roanoke attacked a British foraging party.   The British were all killed or captured.

George Washington, awaiting events in New York, writes to President of Congress, John Hancock:  “As the situation of the Two Armies must engage the attention of Congress and lead them to expect, that, each returning day will produce some Important Events, This is meant to Inform them that Nothing of Moment has yet cast up. In the Evening of Yesterday there were great movements among their Boats and from the Number that appeared to be passing and repassing about the Narrows, we were Induced to beleive they Intended to land a part of their force upon Long Island, but having no report from Genl Greene, I presume they have not done It.”

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August 3, 1776

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In view of the serious threat to New York and its own shores, the State Convention in New Brunswick, New Jersey, resolves to fine all able-bodied men who refuse to bear arms.

General Horatio Gates feels reassured that the energetic Benedict Arnold would be responsible for building and commanding the fleet in order to oppose the inevitable invasion from Canada.

Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Tupper commanding 5 small boats attacked 5 British ships that passed up the Hudson River from Staten Island and anchored at the Tappan Sea.  The attack failed.  HMS Phoenix and HMS Rose were involved.

John Adams writes to his wife, Abigail (original spelling retained):  Went this Morning to the Baptist Meeting, in Hopes of hearing Mr. Stillman, but was dissappointed. He was there, but another Gentleman preached. His Action was violent to a degree bordering on fury. His Gestures, unnatural, and distorted. Not the least Idea of Grace in his Motions, or Elegance in his Style. His Voice was vociferous and boisterous, and his Composition almost wholly destitute of Ingenuity. I wonder extreamly at the Fondness of our People for schollars educated at the Southward and for southern Preachers. There is no one Thing, in which We excell them more, than in our University, our schollars, and Preachers. Particular Gentlemen here, who have improved upon their Education by Travel, shine. But in general, old Massachusetts outshines her younger sisters, still. In several Particulars, they have more Wit, than We. They have Societies; the philosophical Society particularly, which excites a scientific Emulation, and propagates their Fame. If ever I get through this Scene of Politicks and War, I will spend the Remainder of my days, in endeavouring to instruct my Countrymen in the Art of making the most of their Abilities and Virtues, an Art, which they have hitherto, too much neglected. A philosophical society shall be established at Boston, if I have Wit and Address enough to accomplish it, sometime or other.—Pray set Brother Cranch’s Philosophical Head to plodding upon this Project. Many of his Lucubrations would have been published and preserved, for the Benefit of Mankind, and for his Honour, if such a Clubb had existed.  My Countrymen want Art and Address. They want Knowledge of the World. They want the exteriour and superficial Accomplishments of Gentlemen, upon which the World has foolishly set so high a Value. In solid Abilities and real Virtues, they vastly excell in general, any People upon this Continent. Our N. England People are Aukward and bashfull; yet they are pert, ostentatious and vain, a Mixture which excites Ridicule and gives Disgust. They have not the faculty of shewing themselves to the best Advantage, nor the Art of concealing this faculty. An Art and Faculty which some People possess in the highest degree. Our Deficiencies in these Respects, are owing wholly to the little Intercourse We have had with strangers, and to our Inexperience in the World. These Imperfections must be remedied, for New England must produce the Heroes, the statesmen, the Philosophers, or America will make no great Figure for some Time.

Our Army is rather sickly at N. York, and We live in daily Expectation of hearing of some great Event. May God almighty grant it may be prosperous for America.—Hope is an Anchor and a Cordial. Disappointment however will not disconcert me.  If you will come to Philadelphia in September, I will stay, as long as you please. I should be as proud and happy as a Bridegroom.”

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August 2, 1776

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Members of congress signed the engrossed copy of the Declaration of Independence.

Samuel Cooper writes to John Adams:  “The Small Pox is an Enemy more terrible in my Imagination, than all others. This Distemper will be the ruin, of every Army from New England if great Care is not taken. I am really Sorry that the Town of Boston attempted to clear itself of the Infection.2 I cannot but wish, that an innoculating Hospital, was set up in every Town in New England. But if this is not done, I am Sure that Some Hospitals, ought to be erected in Some convenient Places.  Between you and me, I begin to think it Time for our Colony to think a little more highly of itself.—The military operations have been at least as well conducted, under our own Officers, when left to themselves, as any others. You and several others of my best Friends have been pressing for a Stranger to command in Boston, and from two political Motives, I have been pressing for it too. The one was this, the People, and the Soldiery, at Boston, would not be so likely to respect, a General from among themselves, as a Stranger, the other was that the People of the Southern and middle Colonies, would have more Confidence in one of their own Officers, than in one from New England. And in Case of any Thing Unlucky I had rather hear them groan for one of their own, than scold or curse at a New England man.  The Reverse of Fortune in Canada, and the Arrival of the Hallifax Fleet, at Sandy Hook have now, removed all Expectation of having such an Officer Sent to Boston as We wished and therefore I wish that some Massachusetts Man, could command at Boston.”

In Congress, a proposal for term limits is drafted which will ultimately be passed:  “To prevent every danger which might arise to American freedom by continuing too long in office the members of the Continental Congress, to preserve to that body the confidence of their friends, and to disarm the malignant imputations of their enemies It is earnestly recommended to the several Provincial Assemblies or Conventions of the United colonies that in their future elections of delegates to the Continental Congress one half at least of the persons chosen be such as were not of the delegation next proceeding, and the residue be of such as shall not have served in that office longer than two years. And that their deputies be chosen for one year, with powers to adjourn themselves from time to time and from place to place as occasions may require, and also to fix the time and place at which their Successors shall meet.”

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July 17, 1776

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The third time is the charm!  Learning of General Washington’s repeated refusals to accept letters addressed to “George Washington Esq., etc. etc.” the Congress commends him, stating he “acted with a dignity becoming his station” and directed all American commanders to receive only letters addressed to them “in the characters they respectfully sustain.”  Today Washington receives a letter addressed to “His Excellency, General Washington,” with a request that he meet with Lieutenant Colonel James Patterson, the adjutant general of General William Howe.  Washington agreed to meet with him on July 20th,  at Henry Knox’s headquarters at 1 Broadway, near the water.

In a letter written to Elbridge Gerry, Major Joseph Thompson, from Northampton, Massachusetts, advocated death to all Tories.  “Can we subsist, did any state ever subsist without exterminating traitors?  No one thing made the Declaration of Independence indispensably necessary more than cutting off traitors.”

John Adams writes to Isaac Smith regarding his family and their inoculations.  “Your Letter of the Eighth contains Intelligence of an interesting Nature to the Public as well as to me, and my Family in particular.—The Small Pox is so terrible an Enemy that it is high Time to subdue it.—I am under the greatest Obligation to you, Sir, and Mrs. Smith for your kind Offer of the Accommodations of your House to Mrs. Adams and my Children. I shall be very, very anxious, untill I hear further, and if it was possible I would be in Boston as soon as an Horse could carry me. But this is the most unlucky Time, that ever happened. Such Business is now before Us, that I cannot in Honour and in duty to the public, stir from this Place, at present. After a very few Months, I shall return: But in the mean Time, I shall suffer inexpressible distress, on Account of my Family. My only Consolation is that they have no small Number of very kind Friends.  We are in hourly Expectation of some important Event at New York. We hope there will be a sufficient Number of Men there, to give the Enemy a proper Reception. But am sorry the Massachusetts have not sent along some of their Militia, as requested.”  Indeed, the small pox becomes a much more powerful enemy throughout the war than the England ever come close to being.  Soon it will become a requirement that all soldiers who have not yet been vaccinated first go through the procedure prior to active duty.

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