August 6, 1776

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Congress directs General Philip Schuyler to contact British General John Burgoyne for the purpose of entering a prisoner of war exchange agreement.  By now the members are convinced that Howe will assault New York.

From Port Amboy, Elizabeth, the wife of exiled Governor William Franklin, writes to her father-in-law Benjamin Franklin.  After the outbreak of hostilities, William Franklin’s position had become increasingly perilous.   “At present we only live, as it were, upon Sufferance,” he had written three days after Bunker Hill, “nor is it in our power to mend our Situation.” He managed to hold onto the remnants of his authority longer than most colonial governors, but by the beginning of 1776 the remnants were tatters. In early January he sent a confidential report to Lord George Germain, the new Secretary of State for the American Colonies; the report was intercepted and brought to the local commander of militia, Lord Stirling, who concluded that it endangered the American cause. The Governor’s house was surrounded by soldiers in the middle of the night; his wife was so frightened that he feared for her life. She had no relatives of her own to turn to, and had little support from the Baches and none from her father-in-law. William, distressed as he was for her, stood his ground and held onto office until June. Then, in response to a resolution of Congress urging the establishment of new governments in all the colonies, the New Jersey provincial congress moved to secure his person. On June 19 he was removed from his house, and on the 21st examined before the congress, which recommended that the Continental Congress send him out of the province as soon as possible. On the 26th orders came from Philadelphia to transfer him to Connecticut; he arrived there on July 4, and on giving his parole was lodged in a private house in Wallingford.

She wrote as follows:  Honored Sir, Your Favor by my Son I received Safe, and should have done myself the Honor of answering it by the first Post after, but I have been of late much Indisposed. I am infinitely obliged to you for the 60: Dollars, and as soon as Mr: Pettit Settles his Account with me3 I will punctually repay you.

My Troubles do Indeed lie heavy on my Mind, and tho’ many People may Suffer Still more than I do, yet that does not lessen the Weight of mine, which are really more than so weak a Frame is able to Support. I will not Disstress you by enumerating all my Afflictions, but allow me Dear Sir, to mention, that it is greatly in your Power to Relieve them. Suppose that Mr. Franklin would Sign a Parole not dishonorable to himself, and Satisfactory to Governor Trumbull, why may he not be permitted to return into this Province and to his Family? Many of the Officers that have been taken during the War has had that Indulgence shewn them, and why should it be denied to him? His private Affairs are unsettled, his Family Disstressd and he is living very uncomfortably, and at a great expence, which he can very illy afford at present. Consider my Dear and Honored Sir, that I am now pleading the Cause of your Son, and my Beloved Husband. If I have Said, or done anything wrong I beg to be forgiven. I am with great Respect Honored Sir Your Dutifull and affectionate Daughter”

Franklin ignored her request, and never helped secure the release of his son.

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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 30, 1776

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Now heading the newly created Board of War, John Adams asserts how military stores are of the utmost importance.  “I cannot think the country safe, which has not within itself every material necessary for war and the art of making use of those materials.  I shall not rest eady, then, until we shall have made discoveries of Saltpeter, Sulfur, Flints, Lead, Cannon, Mortars, Ball, Shells, Muskets and Powder in sufficient plenty, so that we may always be sure to having enough of each.”

Maryland’s Royal Governor Robert Eden joins Governor Dunmore in self-imposed exile from the mainland.

Thomas Jefferson responds to the news that he has been reappointed to the Congress with a polite refusal to continue.  “I this day received information that the Convention had been pleased to reappoint me to the office in which I have now the honor to be serving them and through you must beg leave to return them my sincere thanks for this mark of their continued confidence. I am sorry the situation of my domestic affairs renders it indispensably necessary that I should sollicit the substitution of some other person here in my room. The delicacy of the house will not require me to enter minutely into the private causes which render this necessary: I trust they will be satisfied I would not have urged it again were it not necessary. I shall with chearfulness continue in duty here till the expiration of our year by which time I hope it will be convenient for my successor to attend.”  Jefferson is almost certainly alluding to the health of his wife, which was evidently precarious at that time and would only grow worse.  Jefferson was also eager to return to Virginia in order to participate in the drawing-up of the state constitution, a matter which he may well have seen as far more important than anything going on in congress.

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June 29, 1776

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Contrary to most of his colleagues in Congress, Edward Rutledge of South Carolina advocates patience regarding declaring independence.  In a letter to John Jay of New York, Rutledge worries whether he and other conservatives can “effectually oppose” such legislation.  Given the mood in the congress and the belligerent letter that King George wrote to them, it feels as if the tide is turning.

In Staten Island, New York, signals indicate the appearance of General William Howe’s fleet from Halifax, prompting Lieutenant Colonel Smuel Webb to declare “a warm and bloody campaign is the least we may expect, may God grant us a victory and success.”

In South Carolina, inspired by his stunning success in repulsing Commodore Peter Parker’s naval squadron, William Logan sends a gift of hogshead of old Antigua rum to Colonel Moultrie.

Virginia adapts a Constitution as a free Commonwealth.

General Washington writes to John Hancock regarding the precarious state of affairs regarding the numbers of individuals he has under his command:  “I observe the augmentation Congress have resolved to make to the forces destined for the Northern department & the bounty to be allowed such Soldiers as will Inlist for three years. I hope many good consequences will result from these measures, and that from the latter a considerable number of men may be induced to engage in the service.  I should esteem myself extremely happy to afford the least assistance to the Canada department in compliance with the desire of Congress and your requisition, were It in my power, but It is not. The Return which I transmitted yesterday will but too well convince Congress of my Incap[ac]ity in this instance, and point out to them, that the force I now have is trifling, considering the many, and important posts that are necessary & must be supported if possible. But few Militia have yet come in; the whole being about Twelve hundred Including the Two Battallions of this City and One Company from the Jerseys. I wish the delay may not be attended with disagreable circumstances, and their aid may not come too late, or when It may not be wanted. I have wrote, I have done everything I could, to call them in, but they have not come, tho I am told that they are generally willing.”

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June 28, 1776

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Convicted of mutiny and sedition, Thomas Hickey, former Life Guard to General George Washington, is hanged near Bowery Lane in New York in front of 20,000 spectators.  Washington hoped the punishment would “be a warning to every soldier in the army” to avoid sedition, mutiny, and other crimes “disgraceful to the character of a soldier and pernicious to his country, whose pay he receives and bread he eats.”  He gave an interesting twist to the assassination attempt.  “And in order to avoid those crimes, the most certain method is to kedp out of the temptation of them and particularly to avoid lewd women, who, by the dying confession of this poor criminal, first led him into practices which ended in an untimely and ignominious death.”

In Charleston, South Carolina, at about 10 a.m. Commordore Peter Parker’s squadron opens fire on Fort Sullivan.  To the surprise of the British, the forts palmetto log wall absorbs the British shot, preventing typical splinter injuries to the garrison.  More suprising is the accurate and effective fire directed by Conlen Moultrie at the British fleet.  Their two largest warships HMS Bristol and HMS Thunder suffered extensive damage and severe crew losses.  Commodore Parker suffers painful physical injuries and the embarrassing loss of his breeches.  Moultire’s attack costs Parker 261 injured and dead.  American casualties are slight.

At the Battle of Fort Sullivan Island, American forces commanded by Colonel William Moultrie has a force of 9 ships, he had 64 killed in action, 131 wounded in action  This battle was considered an American victory.

In Philadelphia, Thomas Jefferson presents a draft of the Declaration of Independence to Congress.

Join Bow Tie Tours for the Best Historical Walking Tours in Philadelphia.  On Independence Day, join us for our outstanding 7-hour extravaganza that includes admission to Independence Hall, The Museum of the American Revolution.  End it all at City Tavern for a celebratory drink before the fireworks!

June 27, 1776

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Congress resolves to organize rifle regiments in Virginia, New York, and Maryland.  In addition, the members vote for torm a battalion of Germans.

Off the coast of South Carolina, Commodore Peter Parker gives the signal to get underway towards Sullivan’s Island, but is again halted when the wind suddenly shifts to the opposite quarter.

General Washington writes to John Hancock about the situation in Canada:  “I this morning received by Express Letters from Genls Schuyler & Arnold, with a Copy of one from Genl Sullivan to the former and also of Others to Genl Sullivan, of all which I do myself the honor to transmit you Copies. they will give you a further account of the melancholy situation of our affairs in Canada, and shew that there is nothing left to save our Army there, but evacuating the Country. I am hopefull Genl Sullivan would retreat from the Isle au noix without waiting for previous orders for that purpose, as from Genls Schuyler and Arnolds Letters, It is much to be feared by remaining there any considerable time his retreat would be cut off or at best be a matter of extreme difficulty. I would observe to Congress that It is not in my power to send any Carpenters from hence, to build the Gondola’s & Gallies, Genl Arnold mentions, without taking them from a work equally necessary if not more so here of the same kind, and submit It to them whether It may not be advisable, as It is of great importance to us to have a number of these Vessels on the Lake, to prevent the Enemy passing, to withdraw the Carpenters for the present from the frigates building up the North River & detach them immediately with all that can be got at Philadelphia for that purpose & carrying on those here.”

Meanwhile, Joseph Hawley writes to General Washington to suggest that men currently stationed in Boston be sent to Canada, where (he believes) they can be of more use.  “For God’s Sake! If it is possible Let all Ward’s People be instantly orderd to Canada or to Some place where they are More Needed than they are here—Pray Sr Consider that they are Officerd Armed and equipd in all respects—Every thing is to do for the Militia—Our People will fight here pro Aris & focis—But very few of them (Believe Me) will be got to Canaday this year—I Pray your Excellency to Pardon My troublesome repetitions of this Matter to you—I am here and See the true state and posture of affairs.”

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June 26, 1776

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Virginia Governor Dunmore reports to Lord Germain in England that the Gwynn’s Island is his new base, and that if the fever had not killed most of the slaves that flocked to his banner, he would have stayed on the mainland.

In Seneca, South Carolina, Patriot Captain James McCall and a thirty man detachment of South Carolina rangers were snet on a peace mission to the Cherokee Nation.  They were ambushed by the Indians.

In New Jersey, General Sir William Howe and the British fleet arrive off Sandy Hook.

John Adams writes to his wife, attributing the defeat in Canada to smallpox.  “Our Misfortunes in Canada, are enough to melt an Heart of Stone. The Small Pox is ten times more terrible than Britons, Canadians and Indians together. This was the Cause of our precipitate Retreat from Quebec, this the Cause of our Disgraces at the Cedars.—I dont mean that this was all. There has been Want, approaching to Famine, as well as Pestilence. And these Discouragements seem to have so disheartened our Officers, that none of them seem to Act with Prudence and Firmness.  But these Reverses of Fortune dont discourage me. It was natural to expect them, and We ought to be prepared in our Minds for greater Changes, and more melancholly Scenes still. It is an animating Cause, and brave Spirits are not subdued with Difficulties.”

Adams continues to write of his multiplying duties:  “The Congress have been pleased to give me more Business than I am qualified for, and more than I fear, I can go through, with safety to my Health. They have established a Board of War and Ordinance and made me President of it, an Honour to which I never aspired, a Trust to which I feel my self vastly unequal. But I am determined to do as well as I can and make Industry supply, in some degree the Place of Abilities and Experience. The Board sits, every Morning and every Evening.1 This, with Constant Attendance in Congress, will so entirely engross my Time, that I fear, I shall not be able to write you, so often as I have. But I will steal Time to write to you.”

Learn more about the events of 1776 by joining Bow Tie Tours for one of our award winning historical walking tours.  Join us for our July 4th Celebration, a 7-Hour Extravaganza that takes you into the rooms where Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, and where Congress signed it.  See the chair Washington sat in during the Constitutional Convention, and the dais from which performed the first peaceful transfer of power from one president to another.  See where Benjamin Franklin flew his kite, where Alexander Hamilton first met Mariah Reynolds.  The bank that was the result of a titanic struggle between competing ideological forces that brought about our two party system.  The tent where George Washington slept.  This will be a July 4th you will never forget, and you will be joined by Dr. Benjamin Rush, a Signer of the Declaration of Independence who can tell you these things from personal experience.  Tickets are limited, so contact us now for this rare opportunity.