October 11, 1776

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Moravians recorded:  “All day soldiers marched through, returning from the expedition with General Rutherford; Colonel Armstrong, who had been with the General, was also here.  Acccording to him they burned the middle towns of the Cherokee, ruined about 2,000 acres of corn, and killed some of the Indians, and took others prisoner.”

Because of General Guy Carleton’s release of American prisoners in Canada, Congress releases all the Canadian prisoners.

Congress urges General Washington to obstruct the Hudson River and hold the British at Fort Washington in New York and Fort Lee in New Jersey.

The fleet under General Guy Carleton surprises the American fleet lying near Valcour Island.  Benedict Arnold’s fleet is trounced by the professionally manned 84 gun fleet.  The British outnumbered the Americans by 2 to 1.

John Adams has good news for Abigail:  “I suppose your Ladyship has been in the Twitters, for some Time past, because you have not received a Letter by every Post, as you used to do.—But I am coming to make my Apology in Person. I, Yesterday asked and obtained Leave of Absence. It will take me till next Monday, to get ready, to finish off a few Remnants of public Business, and to put my private Affairs in proper Order. On the 14th. day of October, I shall get away, perhaps. But I dont expect to reach Home, in less than a fortnight, perhaps not in three Weeks, as I shall be obliged to make stops by the Way.”

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October 8, 1776

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Congress moves to enlist more soldiers for the duration of the war and urges each state to send a committee to the camps to appoint officers and encourage enlistments.

For several months, 297 Charleston citizens had been doing militia duty to protect the town and now find that it had “injured their fortunes.”  They petition the Assembly to establish one or more watch companies to guard the town.

John Adams writes to Abigail telling her, not only how much he treasures her letters, but also with his analysis of the recent military action in New York:  “I ought to acknowledge with Gratitude, your constant Kindness in Writing to me, by every Post. Your favour of Septr. 29. came by the last. I wish it had been in my Power, to have returned your Civilities with the same Punctuality, but it has not.  Long before this you have received Letters from me, and Newspapers containing a full Account of the Negociation. The Communication is still open and the Post Riders now do their Duty and will continue to do so.  I assure you, We are as much at a Loss, about Affairs at New York, as you are. In general, our Generals were out generalled on Long Island, and Sullivan and Stirling with 1000 Men were made Prisoners, in Consequence of which, and several other unfortunate Circumstances, a Council of War thought it prudent to retreat from that Island, and Governors Island and then from New York. They are now posted at Haarlem about 10 or 11 Miles from the City. They left behind them some Provisions, some Cannon and some Baggage.  Wherever the Men of War have approached, our Militia have most manfully turned their backs and run away, Officers and Men, like sturdy fellows—and their panicks have sometimes seized the regular Regiments.  One little skirmish on Montresors Island, ended with the Loss of the brave Major Henley, and the disgrace of the rest of the Party. Another Skirmish, which might indeed be called an Action, ended in the defeat and shamefull flight of the Enemy, with the Loss of the brave Coll. Knowlton on our Part. The Enemy have Possession of Paulus Hook and Bergen Point, Places on the Jersy side of the North River.  By this Time their Force is so divided between Staten Island, Long Island, New York, Paulus Hook and Bergen Point, that, I think they will do no great Matter more this fall, unless the Expiration of the Term of Inlistment of our Army, should disband it. If our new Inlistments fill up, for Soldiers during the War, We shall do well enough.—Every Body must encourage this.  You are told that a Regiment of Yorkers behaved ill, and it may be true, but I can tell you that several Regiments of Massachusetts Men have behaved ill, too.  The Spirit of Venality, you mention, is the most dreadfull and alarming Enemy, that America has to oppose. It is as rapacious and insatiable as the Grave. We are in the Fasce Romuli, non Republica Platonis. This predominant Avarice will ruin America, if she is ever ruined. If God almighty does not interpose by his Grace to controul this universal Idolatry to the Mammon of Unrighteousness, We shall be given up to the Chastisements of his Judgments. I am ashamed of the Age I live in.  You surprise me with your Account of the Prayers in publick for an Abdicated King, a Pretender to the Crown. Nothing of that Kind is heard in this Place, or any other Part of the Continent, but New York and the Place you mention. This Practice is Treason against the State and cannot be long tolerated.  I lament the Loss of Soper, as an honest, and usefull Member of Society.  Dont leave off writing to me—I write as often as I can.”

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September 26, 1776

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Congress elected Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and Silas Deane commissioners to France and ordered the strictest secrecy to be observed on all aspects of Franco-American negotiations.

The Pennsylvania Assembly declares illegal and dangerous the Convention’s ordinacnes, which taxed non-Associators and permitted judges to imprison without a jury trial.

Rufus Putnam writes to George Washington, requested that he permit him to create a Corps of Engineers:  “I Hope the Importence of the Subject will be a Sufficient appollogie for the Freedom I take in adressing your Exelency at this time. I have long Wondered that no Corps of Engeneers was yet Established. the Number of Works to be Executed; the Nesesity of Dispatch in them; the Imposability for a Common hand to be made at once to Comprehend what they ought to do. with out a Core of Engeneers is Established the Works Never will be properly Executed nor don in a Reasonable time. and I Cannot give my Ideas of Such a Core and there duty Better then In the Words of Mr Maigrets Speaking of there Subordinary Disepline. he Sais “the first part of this Disepline Consists of the divition of one Corps Into Several. and the Subdivition of the Latter into Still less.[”] again “in the Construction of places that Corps of Workmen are Devided into Several others Who are Called Bands. the officers of Each of those Companys Should be Engeneers. and tis a Leading Circumstance to the Success of any action that the Soldiers and there officers Should be acquainted with Each other Before hand. and tis from the Engeneers that the former are to Recive ordors for the Works of attack; defence; and Construction of places. tis Evedent that the latter ought to be Charged With the Conduct and Command of them. Engineers are the Natural officers of Workmen. ancient and Constent Useage has Confirmed the practice.[”] again “if teachers Ware appointed to Each of these principle Corps Such a Number of Hopefull youth might be formed as would be a grate Benifit to the Service. these Work men are properly Speeking Soldiers or Rather Both one and tother. there Business Being Either Fighting or Working as ocation Requiers. the first Excersize to be taught them is the use of there arms; the Next is to keep them to there Business. the third kind of Exercise is the Instructing them in the Several forms Dementions and Properties of Works.[”] again “all Workmen Imployed in Buildings of any kind may Serve Very well for Works of Fortification.[”] again “by this means you may have good Miners and Sappers in abundence who in time of Seages may Ease the Engineers and Even Supply the Want of them up on ocation.[”] two years Experance has fully Convinced me Sir that till the Engineers are Rendered Intependent of any other Department for there Artificers till they have Miners and Sappers or persons Seperate from the Common Feteague men to take Care of Sinking the Ditch properly laying the turf well And to Build the parrapet with its propper Talus. I Say till this is don No Engineer will be able to Execute his Works Well nor do them in a Reasonable time[.] the Service has already Suffered much and will Continu So to do till Some Such Corps as What I have mentioned is Established and to Convince your Exeleny that I have no Intristed motives but the Common good in this adress; I Beg leave to Quit the Department Sence the army are or may be So well Suplyed with Reguler Bread Engineers.”

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.

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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September 3, 1776

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A resolution in Congress directs Virginia, North Carolina, and Rhode Island to send troops to reinforce General Washington.  A second resolution directs General Washington to refrain from any damage to New York if he must abandon the city.  This is in response to Washington’s request to be able to burn New York down in order to make it useless to the enemy.

President John Hancock writes to the Assemblies of North and South Carolina and Georgia, urging the return of delegates to Congress.  The matters before the Congress are “of the utmost importance to the welfare of America” and the States should be fully represented.Major General William Heath writes to General Washington:  “Dear General – I find many of the Soldiers belonging to the Battalions, that suffered the Most, in the late Action on Long Island much Dispirited, & often uttering Expressions that they have lost their Officers, lost their Blankets, & have no money, & the like, I could wish that your Excellency would just think of the matter, & if the Paymaster has Money in the Treasury, that they may be paid—I am confident that at this Time it would answer a very good purpose, & if agreeable to your Excellency, should be glad that I might have it in my power to inform them, that it shall soon be done.  Genl Clinton acquaints me that near one half of the Detachment, from his Brigade which are at Mount Washington are sick, & principally for the want of Covering, on which Account they have suffered much, he sollicits that your Excellency would order a Battalion (or part of one) to that post who have Tents, or if you should not think that proper, that his Men at that post may have Tents allowed them of which he says there are a number in the Store.  I have without Loss of time in Consort with General Clinton been endeavouring to effect what your Excellency was pleased to hint in your last, I think our Prospect appears promising.  I consider our present Situation on several accounts, one that requires the Exertions of all the Abilities of the most able Generals—a well connected Plan must connect & direct our opperations—I ever have been, I still am confident that we may defeat the Enemy; but Art & Stratagem must be our pole Star, & Vigilance & Alertness our Compass.  As great numbers of the Troops are daily marching from the City, & taking post in places where it will be impossible for them suddenly to erect Bake Houses, I beg leave to suggest to your Excellency, whether it would not be highly expedient, to keep all the Bakers in the City, baking of hard Bread, which may be easily conveyed a little back, & may prove of vast advantage—at some critical Time. I have the honor to be with great Respect your Excellency’s most humble Servt…”

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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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July 30, 1776

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Debate on the “Articles of Confederation” continues.  On the subject of voting in Congress, Dr. Franklin argues that for the smaller colonies to have an equal vote, they should have to give equal money and men.  John Witherspoon, however, fears that “smaller states will be oppressed by the great ones.”  The following discussion takes place in regards to how African Americans should be treated in this new confederation (according to notes taken by John Adams) –

“Chase. Moves that the Word, White, should be inserted in the 11. Article. The Negroes are wealth. Numbers are not a certain Rule of wealth. It is the best Rule We can lay down. Negroes a Species of Property—personal Estate. If Negroes are taken into the Computation of Numbers to ascertain Wealth, they ought to be in settling the Representation. The Massachusetts Fisheries, and Navigation ought to be taken into Consideration. The young and old Negroes are a Burthen to their owners. The Eastern Colonies have a great Advantage, in Trade. This will give them a Superiority. We shall be governed by our Interests, and ought to be. If I am satisfied, in the Rule of levying and appropriating Money, I am willing the small Colonies may have a Vote.

Wilson. If the War continues 2 Years, each Soul will have 40 dollars to pay of the public debt. It will be the greatest Encouragement to continue Slave keeping, and to increase them, that can be to exempt them from the Numbers which are to vote and pay…. Slaves are Taxables in the Southern Colonies. It will be partial and unequal. Some Colonies have as many black as white…. These will not pay more than half what they ought. Slaves prevent freemen cultivating a Country. It is attended with many Inconveniences.

Lynch. If it is debated, whether their Slaves are their Property, there is an End of the Confederation. Our Slaves being our Property, why should they be taxed more than the Land, Sheep, Cattle, Horses, &c. Freemen cannot be got, to work in our Colonies. It is not in the Ability, or Inclination of freemen to do the Work that the Negroes do. Carolina has taxed their Negroes. So have other Colonies, their Lands.

Dr. Franklin. Slaves rather weaken than strengthen the State, and there is therefore some difference between them and Sheep. Sheep will never make any Insurrections.

Rutledge…. I shall be happy to get rid of the idea of Slavery. The

Slaves do not signify Property. The old and young cannot work. The Property of some Colonies are to be taxed, in others not. The Eastern Colonies will become the Carriers for the Southern. They will obtain Wealth for which they will not be taxed.”  This is a discussion that will continue on, through the Constitutional Convention in 1787 and beyond.  General Washington informed British General William Howe that Congress had authorized a “General Exchange of prisoners, to those of equal rank.   Soldier for soldier, sailor for sailor, and citizen for citizen.”  A particular mention, he noted, was made of Colonel Ethan Allen, who would be exchanged for any officer.

Join us at Bow Tie Tours for Philadelphia’s Best Historical Walking Tours.  To learn more about George Washington, take our take our Valley Forge Tour.  Or, enjoy our four-hour “Independence Tour Extraordinaire,” which includes tickets to Independence Hall.  If your interest lies in the Civil War, you will not want to miss out on our extraordinary Gettysburg Tour.  Finally, if you are a huge history fan, please check out our exciting American History Vacation Packages, which include week-long excursions to learn about George Washington or Thomas Jefferson.