July 6-18, attends meetings in Alexandria, Virginia, which address the growing conflict between the Colonies and Parliament. Washington co-authors with George Mason the Fairfax County Resolves, which protest the British "Intolerable Acts"--punitive legislation passed by the British in the wake of the December 16th, 1773, Boston Tea Party. The Fairfax Resolves call for non-importation of British goods, support for Boston, and the meeting of a Continental Congress.
July 18, the Resolves are presented to the public at the Fairfax County Courthouse.
September 5 - October 26, the First Continental Congress meets in Philadelphia. Washington serves as a delegate from Virginia.
October 9, while attending the First Continental Congress, Washington responds to a letter from Captain Robert Mackenzie, then in Boston. Mackenzie, a fellow Virginia officer, criticizes the behavior of the city's rebellious inhabitants. Washington sharply disagrees and defends the actions of Boston's patriots. Yet, like many members of Congress who still hope for reconciliation, Washington writes that no "thinking man in all North America," wishes "to set up for independency.
January 7, Washington writes Connecticut governor Jonathan Trumbull from Cambridge. Washington has "undoubted intelligence" that the British plan to shift the focus of their campaign to New York City. The capture of this city "would give them the Command of the Country and the Communication with Canada." He intends to send Major General Charles Lee to New York to raise a force there to defend the City.
February 4, Major General Charles Lee and British General Henry Clinton both arrive in New York City on the same day. Lee writes that Clinton claims "it is merely a visit to his Friend Tryon" [William Tryon, the former royal governor of New York]. "If it is really so, it is the most whimsical piece of civility I ever heard." Clinton claims that he intends heading south where he will receive British reinforcements. Lee writes, "to communicate his plan to the Enemy is too novel to be creditted." Clinton does eventually head south, receiving his reinforcements at Cape Fear on March 12.
March 27, the British evacuate Boston. Washington writes Congress with the news of this and of his plans for detaching regiments of the Army in Cambridge to New York under Brigadier General John Sullivan, with the remainder of the Army to follow.
April 4, Washington leaves Cambridge, Massachusetts with the Army and by April 14 is in New York.
April 17, Washington writes the New York Committee of Safety. New York has not yet come down decisively on the side of independence, and merchants and government officials are supplying the British ships still in the harbor. Washington, angry at the continued communication with the enemy, asks the Committee if the evidence about them does not suggest that the former Colonies and Great Britain are now at war. He insists that such communications should cease.
June, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia begin campaigns to crush the Overhill Cherokees. The British Proclamation of 1763 limited frontier settlement to the eastern side of the Appalachians to prevent incursions into Indian lands and resulting costly wars. But the Proclamation has not been observed and hostilities between white settlers and Cherokees have grown over the decades. Supplied with arms by the British, the Overhill Cherokees begin a series of raids. State militias respond with expeditions and raids of their own. By the Treaty of DeWitt's Corner, May 1777, the Cherokees cede almost all their land in South Carolina. Similar treaties result in land cessions to North Carolina and Virginia.
June 4, a British fleet under command of Commodore Sir Peter Parker with Clinton and his reinforcements approaches the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina.
June 28, the British begin bombardment of Fort Sullivan in Charleston harbor. Failing to take the Fort, the British retreat to New York.
June 29, General William Howe, and his brother, Admiral Richard Howe, arrive in New York harbor from Boston. In late June, the American army from the campaign against Montreal and Quebec reassembles at Fort Ticonderoga.
July 9, Washington leads an American Independence celebration in New York City, reading the Declaration of Independence to the troops and sending copies of it to generals in the Continental Army.
July 14, the Howe brothers attempt to contact Washington to open negotiations, but Washington refuses their letter which is addressed to "George Washington, Esq., etc., etc.," a form of address appropriate for a private gentleman rather than for the commander of an army.
August 20, British forces, concentrated on Staten Island, cross over to Long Island for the war's first major battle. Washington has approximately 23,000 troops, mostly militia. Commanding Continental officers participating are Lord Stirling (William Alexander), Israel Putnam, John Sullivan, and Nathanael Greene. Howe has approximately 20,000 troops.
August 27, Howe attacks on Long Island and the American lines retreat. Lord Stirling holds out the longest before surrendering the same day. Robert H. Harrison, one of Washington's aides, writes Congress with news of the day's battle and information on Washington's current whereabouts on Long Island.
August 28-29, during a heavy night fog, Washington and his army silently evacuate Long Island by boat to Manhattan, escaping almost certain capture by Howe's army.
August 31, Washington writes Congress about the evacuation and about a forthcoming request from British General William Howe to meet with members of Congress. A formal request from Howe is sent to Congress via captured American general, John Sullivan. A committee made up of Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Edward Rutledge meet with Howe on September 6. But discussions cease when the committee learns that Howe's only offer is that if the rebels lay down their arms, they may await the generosity of the British government.
September 15, Howe's army attacks Manhattan at Kip's Bay, where a Connecticut militia unit flees in fear and confusion. Washington writes Congress, calling the rout "disgraceful and dastardly conduct," and describing his own efforts to halt it. On September 16, the same unit redeems itself in the battle of Harlem Heights. In his September 17 general orders, Washington praises the officers and soldiers, noting the contrast to the "Behavior of Yesterday."
September 24, Washington writes Congress on the obstacles to creating a permanent, well-trained Continental Army to face the regulars of the British Army and describes his frustrations in employing local militia units. He closes by acknowledging the traditional fears of a "standing army" in a republic but urges Congress to consider that the war may be lost without one.
September 26, Benjamin Franklin, Silas Deane, and Thomas Jefferson are named American commissioners to France by Congress.
October 11-13, Benedict Arnold wins the naval battle of Valcour Island off Crown Point. A small victory, it nonetheless causes Sir Guy Carleton to delay plans for an invasion from Canada.
October 16, Washington orders the retreat of the army off Manhattan Island. New York City is lost to the British. British General William Howe wins a knighthood for his successes in the campaign of 1776.
November 16, Fort Washington and its garrison of 250 men on the east side of the Hudson River fall to the British, commanded by General Charles Cornwallis. Fort Lee, on the west side, is abandoned by the Americans two days later. November-December, under command of General Charles Cornwallis, the British invade New Jersey. Cornwallis takes Newark November 28 and pursues Washington and his army to New Brunswick.
December 6, British General Henry Clinton takes Newport, Rhode Island.
December 7, Washington's army finishes crossing the Delaware, with the British close behind. Once on the western side of the river, Washington awaits reinforcements. By mid-December, he is joined by Horatio Gates, John Sullivan, and their Continental Army forces. The British establish winter camps in various New Jersey locations, with the Hessians primarily at Bordentown and Trenton, and the British regulars at Princeton.
December 25, Washington orders readings to the assembled troops from Thomas Paine's The Crisis, with its famous passage, "This is the time to try men's souls." The Crisis had just been published December 23 in Philadelphia.
December 25-26, during the night, General Washington, General Henry Knox, and troops cross the Delaware in freezing winter weather to launch a surprise attack on British and Hessian mercenaries encamped at Trenton (Read about the Battles of Trenton and Princeton). Early morning, December 26, the attack begins, with Generals Nathanael Greene and John Sullivan leading the infantry assault against the Hessians, commanded by Colonel Johann Rall. After a short battle, Washington's army takes Trenton.
December 27, Congress gives Washington special powers for six months. He may raise troops and supplies from states directly, appoint officers and administer the army, and arrest inhabitants who refuse to accept Continental currency as payment or otherwise show themselves to be disloyal. Washington acknowledges these extraordinary powers, assuring Congress that he will use them to its honor.
December 31, Washington writes Congress with a general report of the state of the troops. Toward the end, he notes that "free Negroes who have served in the Army, are very much dissatisfied at being discarded." To prevent them from serving the British instead, he has decided to re-enlist them. In 1775, Washington had opposed enlisting not just slaves but free blacks as well. His general orders of November 12, 1775, direct that "neither Negroes, Boys unable to bare Arms, nor old men unfit to endure the fatigues of the campaign" are to be recruited. In 1776 and thereafter, he reverses himself on both counts.
January 3, Washington's army captures the British garrison at nearby Princeton (Read about the Battles of Trenton and Princeton). Washington sets up winter quarters at Morristown, New Jersey, where he spends the next several months rebuilding the Continental Army with new enlistments.
April 12, British General Charles Cornwallis opens the 1777 campaign in New Jersey in an attempt to lure Washington and his army out from winter headquarters at Morristown.
April 17, Washington writes General William Maxwell, commander of the Continental light infantry and also of the New Jersey militia, to ready himself and his troops for the 1777 campaign.
May 29, Washington moves his headquarters to Middlebrook, south of Morristown.
June 20, Washington writes Congress and General Philip Schuyler on the success of the New Jersey militia in forcing the British out of New Jersey and on the general failure of the British to win the inhabitants there back to allegiance to the Crown.
June 22, the British evacuate New Brunswick, New Jersey, to Amboy, and then back to Staten Island.
June 27, the Marquis de Lafayette arrives in Philadelphia from France to offer his services to the American cause. He is nineteen years old. He is commissioned a major general by Congress and meets Washington on August 1. He and Washington form a close friendship.
July, Washington moves his army to the Hudson above the Highlands of New York. The Highlands are a range of hills across the Hudson Valley. American forts built on each side of the Hudson River, a giant thirty-five-ton, 850-link chain, and a series of spiked logs on the river bottom all guard access to the interior of the country.
July 11, Washington writes Congress requesting that it order Benedict Arnold to join Philip Schuyler in halting British General John Burgoyne's invasion of New York from Canada, which began on June 23.
July 23, General Sir William Howe sets sail from New York City with approximately 15,000 men. He embarks on a campaign to take Philadelphia, the seat of the Continental Congress. General Henry Clinton remains in command in New York City with British and loyalist forces. Howe and his force land at Head of Elk on Chesapeake Bay August 25.
August 3, British Colonel Barry St. Leger with a force of British regulars, Canadians, and Indian allies, lays siege to Fort Stanwix (Schuyler) in the western Mohawk Valley. Benedict Arnold and 900 Continentals arrive, forcing St. Leger to retreat back to Canada.
August 6, the Battle of Oriskany, British Colonel Barry St. Leger and Seneca Indians and loyalists ambush patriot German militia and Oneida Indian allies under command of General Nicholas Herkimer. The hand-to-hand fighting is so severe that St. Leger's Indian allies abandon him in disgust. Herkimer dies of his wounds. The battle brings to a head a long-impending civil war among the nations of the Iroquois League.
August 16, in the Battle of Bennington, where Burgoyne has sent a detachment to forage for much needed supplies, the American Brigadier General John Stark and local militia kill or capture nearly 1,000 of Burgoyne's 7,000 troop invading army, further slowing British invasion plans.
September 3, in the Battle of Brandywine, Howe and Washington clash, with major engagements near Birmingham Meeting House Hill. Washington is forced to retreat.
September 19-21, Washington's army is camped about twenty miles from Germantown, where Howe is concentrated for his invasion of Philadelphia. The British inflict 1000 casualties in a night attack on General Anthony Wayne's Brigade near Paoli's Tavern. The attack on Wayne is led by British General Charles Grey, called "No Flint" Grey because of his preference for the bayonet over the musket. The "Paoli Massacre" becomes an American rallying cry among Continental troops. Wayne requests a court martial to clear his name of any dishonor, a not unusual request. Washington's general orders of November 1, 1777, report the court's favorable decision.
October 3, at 7pm in the evening, Washington's forces begin the march to Germantown, where Washington hopes to encircle Howe's army. Commanding 8,000 Continentals and 3,000 militia are Generals Adam Stephen, Nathanael Greene, Alexander McDougall, John Sullivan, Anthony Wayne, and Thomas Conway.
October 4, Washington's forces are defeated at Germantown. One wing marches down the wrong road, and General Conway's brigade inadvertently alerts the British to the impending attack. In the course of battle, Wayne and Stephen's men fire upon each other in confusion. Greene's retreat is mistakenly taken by the rest of the troops as a signal for a general retreat. Washington writes Congress an account of the battle, attempting to allay Congress's and his own disappointment by describing it as "rather unfortunate than injurious" in the large scale of things.
October 6, Washington responds to a letter from British General William Howe, who has written about the destruction of mills belonging to "peaceable Inhabitants" during the recent engagement. Howe allows that Washington probably did not order these depredations but requests that he put a stop to them. Washington responds heatedly, citing depredations by the British in Charles Town, Massachusetts, which was burned at the beginning of the war, and of other instances. In a short additional letter of the same date, Washington writes Howe that his pet dog has fallen into American hands and he is returning him. Washington and Howe correspond regularly in the course of the War, most often about prisoner exchanges.
October 17, British General John Burgoyne surrenders at Saratoga, to General Horatio Gates, the new commander of the northern army. The "Convention of Saratoga," negotiated by Gates, allows Burgoyne's army of 5,871 British regulars and German mercenaries to return to England and Europe on the promise that they will not fight in North America again. Congress finds various reasons for not allowing Burgoyne's army to leave, for fear that its return to England or the Continent will free an equal number of other troops to come to North America to fight. Burgoyne's army will be detained in various locations in Massachusetts and then settled on a tract of land in Virginia near Charlottesville. In September 1781, the "Convention Army" is removed to Maryland because of Cornwallis's invasion of Virginia. At the close of the War, Burgoyne's army has dwindled to a mere 1,500 due to escapes, desertions, but most significantly to the number of the troops deciding to stay and settle in America.
October 19, Howe and the British enter Philadelphia. Congress has fled to York, Pennsylvania.
The "Conway Cabal" and Valley Forge
November 3, General Lord Stirling (William Alexander) of New Jersey writes Washington, enclosing a note that recounts General Thomas Conway's criticisms of Washington and of Conway's preference for Horatio Gates as commander in chief of the Continental Army. October 28, Gates's aide, James Wilkinson, had incautiously related the matter over drink in a tavern in Reading, where Stirling was also staying. Washington writes Conway, November 9, tersely informing him of his knowledge of the affair.
In the wake of his victory over Burgoyne, Horatio Gates, the "Hero of Saratoga," has been appointed by Congress as the head of a reorganized Board of War. Thomas Conway is appointed Inspector General of the Army. December 13, Conway visits Washington and his troops at winter quarters at Valley Forge. There the troops have been suffering severe hardships and to some critics they no longer resemble an organized army. After exchanges between Conway and Congress, and Washington and Congress, the Board's Congressional members decide to visit Valley Forge. Carrying out a thorough investigation, the Board places blame on Congress and Thomas Mifflin, quartermaster general, for the low condition of the Army at Valley Forge. Washington writes Lafayette December 31, 1777, and Patrick Henry, February 19 and March 28, 1778. Washington describes the conditions at Valley Forge as at times "little less than a famine."
British General Henry Clinton's Invasion of the Highlands
September 24, General Henry Clinton in New York receives substantial reinforcements of British regulars and German mercenaries.
October 5, Clinton receives a note from General John Burgoyne who warns him about Horatio Gates's army, which is growing with additions of militia.
October 6, Clinton and his forces attack and take Fort Montgomery and make a bayonet attack on Fort Clinton. Both forts are on the west side of the Hudson River. The Highlands region is commanded by Israel Putnam, a Continental major general. The forts are commanded by newly elected governor of New York, George Clinton, and his brother, James, both of whom are distant cousins of British General Henry Clinton. George and James Clinton and most of the forts' defenders manage to escape.
October 7, American troops burn Fort Constitution on the east side of the Hudson River and depart. George Clinton and Israel Putnam decide to retreat north with the remnant of their troops. British Major General John Vaughn, Commodore Sir James Wallace, and former royal governor of New York, William Tryon, and their forces continue up the Hudson River. October 14, they burn the shipyards of Poughkeepsie, and a number of small villages and large houses, among the latter that of William Livingston, governor of New Jersey.
October 18, the British force which began its invasion up the Hudson River reaches Albany. There, Major General John Vaughn learns of Burgoyne's surrender at Saratoga the previous day.
October 23, British forces under Major General Vaughn begin their return back down the Hudson River to New York City, and in early November they evacuate the Highlands and the forts they have captured there.
January 2, Washington forwards to governor Nicholas Cooke a letter from General James Varnum advising him that Rhode Island's troop quota should be completed with blacks. Washington urges Cooke to give the recruiting officers every assistance. In February, the Rhode Island legislature approves the action. Enlisted slaves will receive their freedom in return for their service. The resulting black regiment, commanded by white Quaker Christopher Greene, has its first engagement at the battle of Rhode Island (or, Newport) July 29-August 31, where it holds off two Hessian regiments. The regiment also fights at the battle of Yorktown. Slaves enlisted in the Continental Army typically receive a subsistence, their freedom, and a cash payment at the end of the war. Slaves and free blacks rarely receive regular pay or land bounties. In 1777, the New Jersey militia act allows for the recruitment of free blacks but not slaves, as does Maryland's legislature in 1781. On March 20, 1781, New York authorizes the enlistment of slaves in militia units, for which they receive their freedom at the end of the war. Virginia rejects James Madison's arguments for enlisting slaves in addition to free blacks, but many enlist anyway, presenting themselves for freedom after the war.
February 6, the Franco-American Treaty of Amity and Commerce is signed in Paris. Since 1776, the French government has been secretly providing Congress with military supplies and financial aid. March 13, the French minister in London informs King George III that France recognizes the United States. May 4, Congress ratifies the Treaty of Alliance with France, and further military and financial assistance follows. By June, France and England are at war. The American Revolution has become an international war.
February 18, Washington addresses a letter to the inhabitants of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia, requesting cattle for the army for the period of May through June. Washington writes them that the "States have contended, not unsuccessfully, with one of the most Powerful Kingdoms upon Earth." After several years of war, "we now find ourselves at least upon a level with our opponents."
February 23, Baron Wilhelm Ludolf Gerhard Augustin Steuben, a volunteer from Germany, arrives at Valley Forge with a letter of introduction from the President of Congress, Henry Laurens. Congress publishes his military training manual, which he has had translated into English. He trains a model company of forty-seven men at Valley Forge and then proceeds to the general training of the army. Congress commissions Steuben a major general and makes him an inspector general of the Continental Army. Steuben becomes an American citizen after the war.
March 1, Congress orders the Board of War to recruit Indians into the Continental Army. March 13, Washington writes the Commissioners of Indian Affairs on how he thinks he may employ the Indians recruited.
March 8, Lord Germain (George Sackville), Colonial Secretary in London, sends British General Henry Clinton orders for a change of direction in the conduct of the war. The British are to focus on the south, where Germain estimates loyalists to be more numerous. Actions in the north are to be limited to raids and blockades of the coast. May 8, Clinton will replace General Sir William Howe as commander of British forces in North America.
April, the British government sends the Carlisle Commission to North America. The Commission is made up of the Earl of Carlisle (Frederick Howard), William Eden, and George Johnston, and their secretary. Parliament has repealed all laws opposed by the American colonies since 1763. The Commission is instructed to offer home rule to the Colonies and hopes to begin negotiations before Congress receives news of the Franco-American Treaty (which it does on May 8). Congress ratifies the Treaty and ignores the Commission. April 22, Congress resolves not to engage in negotiations on terms that fall short of complete independence. Late in 1778, the Commission returns to England.
May-June, British General Henry Clinton begins to move the main part of the British army from Pennsylvania to New York via New Jersey. Washington's army, also located in Pennsylvania, gives chase.
June 18, Washington sends six brigades ahead and on June 21 he crosses the Delaware River with the rest of the army. By June 22, the British are in New Jersey, and Benedict Arnold is fast approaching the twelve-mile long baggage train that makes up the end of Clinton's marching army.
June 28, the Battle of Monmouth Courthouse. Washington's army catches up with Clinton's. The one-day battle is fought to a stalemate, both armies exhausted by the day's unusual heat. But Washington is impressed with the performance of the American troops against the well-trained veteran British regulars. Clinton and his army continue on to New York, while Washington establishes camp at White Plains.
June 29, Washington writes in his general orders of the day about the success of the New Jersey militia in "harrassing and impeding their [the British] Motions so as to allow the Continental Troops time to come up with them" before the battle of Monmouth Courthouse. German Captain John Ewald, fighting for the British, in his Diary of the American War: A Hessian Journal (New Haven and London, 1979), observes during the march through New Jersey that the "whole province was in arms, following us with Washington's army, constantly surrounding us on our marches and besieging our camps." "Each step," Ewald writes, "cost human blood." From now on, Washington begins to employ local militia units in this manner more often.
July 3, loyalist Colonel John Butler with local troops and Seneca Indian allies invades Wyoming Valley, north of the Susquehanna River, and attacks at "Forty Fort." In the frontier war along the New York and Pennsylvania frontier, Onandagas, Cayugas, Senecas, and Mohawks of the Iroquois League ally with the British. Joseph Brant (Joseph Fayadanega), a Mohawk war chief educated in English missionary schools and an Anglican convert, has significant influence among British government and military leaders. Oneidas and Tuscororas ally with the Americans. Washington writes Philip Schuyler, a member of the Indian commission for the northern department.
July 4, George Rogers Clark defeats the British and captures Kaskaskia near the Mississippi River. Clark has been organizing the defense of the sparsely settled Kentucky region against British and Indian ally raids. In October 1777, Clark puts before Virginia governor Patrick Henry a plan to capture several British posts in the Illinois country, of which Kaskaskia is one. Clark and about 175 men take the fort and town, which is inhabited mainly by French settlers. Clark convinces them and their Indian allies on the Wabash River to support the American cause. The British continue to hold sway at Fort Detroit, commanded by Lieutenant Governor Henry Hamilton, and Clark spends the next several years attempting to dislodge him. Washington writes governor of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson, December 28, 1780, in support of Clark's efforts to take Fort Detroit.
July-August, Charles Hector, Comte d'Estaing and his French fleet plan to participate with General John Sullivan in a combined assault on the British position in Newport, Rhode Island. Sullivan's troops are delayed and d'Estaing's fleet is battered by a hurricane after an indecisive battle. He withdraws to Boston and later sails for the Caribbean Islands where he attacks British islands.
November 9, British General Henry Clinton sends approximately 3,000 troops south under Lieutenant Colonel Archibald Campbell, and a fleet under command of Admiral Hyde Parker is assembled to coordinate an invasion of South Carolina and Georgia with General Augustine Prevost and his regular and loyalist troops in Florida. Campbell and his troops land at Savannah in late December.
November 14, Washington writes Henry Laurens, president of the Continental Congress, confidentially, about a plan for a French campaign against the British in Canada that Lafayette very much wants to lead. In 1759, during the Seven Years War, the French had been driven out of Canada by the British and American colonial forces. Washington has become personally attached to the young Lafayette. But he is also aware of the eagerness of all the French officers serving with the American cause to regain Canadian territories. Washington expresses concerns about the future independence of the American republic should European powers retain a strong presence in North America: a French presence able to "dispute" the sea power of Great Britain, and Spain "certainly superior, possessed of New Orleans, on our Right."
November, Washington detaches General Lachlan McIntosh from Valley Forge to command the western department of the Ohio country where bitter frontier war has erupted. McIntosh establishes Fort McIntosh on the Ohio River, 30 miles from Pittsburgh, and Fort Laurens, further west, as bases from which to launch campaigns against British and Shawnee, Wyandot, and Mingo allies operating out of Fort Detroit. After bitter warfare, McIntosh is forced to abandon the forts in June of 1779.
January 29, Augusta, the capital of Georgia, falls to British forces. General Benjamin Lincoln, whose army is camped at Purysburg, South Carolina, sends a detachment toward Augusta and on February 13, the British evacuate the town.
February 25, Congress directs Washington to respond to British, Indian, and loyalist attacks on frontier settlements in New York and Pennsylvania. Washington sends out an expedition under command of General John Sullivan. Sullivan's forces include William Maxwell and a New Jersey brigade, Enoch Poor and a New Hampshire brigade, and Edward Hand and Pennsylvania and Maryland troops. After a series of savage raids and counter-raids between the British and the Americans, including an encounter with British Indian ally Joseph Brant and his Mohawks, and Captain Walter Butler (John Butler's son) and his loyalists, the expedition returns home on September 14. Forty Iroquois villages and their extensive farms lands and crops have been destroyed. The Iroquois soon return, resettle, and rejoin the British in an retaliatory invasion in the northwest.
March 3, British Major James Mark Prevost defeats Brigadier General John Ashe and his force at Briar Creek, Georgia. In response, Benjamin Lincoln and the southern army cross into Georgia. Lincoln's and Prevost's forces move back and forth between Georgia and South Carolina in an attempt to engage each other, but eventually summer heat and illness bring both armies to a standstill.
March 20, Washington responds to Henry Laurens's March 16th letter on the possibility of raising a black regiment for the defense of the south. Washington writes Laurens that he would rather wait till the British first raise such regiments before the Americans do so. He also expresses some general reservations. But "this is a subject that has never employed much of my thoughts," and he describes his opinions as "no more than the first crude Ideas that have struck me upon the occasion." Henry Laurens is from South Carolina. Previously president of Congress, he is serving on a committee charged with forming a plan of defense for the south. The committee issues its report March 29, urging the formation of regiments of slaves for the defense of the south, for which Congress will compensate slaveowners and the slaves will receive their freedom and $50. Henry Laurens's son, John Laurens is appointed to raise the regiments. South Carolina and Georgia reject Congress's recommendation (see entry under July 10, 1782 below). Successive commanders of the southern army, Benjamin Lincoln and Nathanael Greene, support the formation of slave regiments in the south but to no avail.
May 28, British General Henry Clinton launches another campaign up the Hudson River. On May 30, New York Governor George Clinton orders out the militia. June 1, the British take Stony Point and Verplank's Point on either side of the river.
June 21, Spain declares war on Great Britain.
June 30, William Tryon, former royal governor of New York, and 2,600 loyalists and British regulars on forty-eight ships raid Fairport, New Haven, and Norwalk, Connecticut. Tryon wants to prosecute a war of desolation against rebel inhabitants. On July 9, he orders most of Fairfield burned because its militia shot at the British from within their houses, and on July 11 he burns Norwalk. British General Henry Clinton, probably reluctant to endorse Tryon's theories of warfare, never gives him an independent command again.
July 16, Anthony Wayne and his force of light infantry force the British out of Stony Point, and August 18-19 Major Henry Lee takes the British post at Paulus Hook. Neither of these positions are maintained after their capture, but they are morale boosters in a war that has become a stalemate.
September 27, Washington writes state governors Jonathan Trumbull (Connecticut), George Clinton (New York), and William Livingston (New Jersey) about reports of the arrival of a French Fleet and of the necessity of preparing the militia and raising food supplies, especially flour.
October 4, Washington writes Congress and Comte d'Estaing, who is with his fleet off Georgia or in the West Indies. To Congress, Washington summarizes his efforts at organizing a cooperative effort with the French fleet to attack the British. To d'Estaing, Washington writes that "New York is the first and capital object, upon which every other is dependant," its capture likely to be a severe blow to the British. In his long letter to d'Estaing, Washington writes that he has "not concealed the difficulties in the way of a cooperation," but has the "highest hopes of its utility to the common cause" and its contribution to ending the war victoriously.
October 19, the Americans and Comte d'Estaing's fleet make a combined assault on British-held Savannah, Georgia. The assault fails, and d'Estaing and the fleet sail for France before the hurricane season begins. The French government assembles troops and another fleet for a return to North America.
December 26, British General Henry Clinton and Admiral Marriot Arbuthnot set sail from New York City with fourteen warships, ninety transports, and approximately 8500 troops for an invasion of Charleston, South Carolina.
January 15, at Washington's urging, Major General Stirling crosses the ice with 3000 men to attack the British force on Staten Island, commanded by General Wilhelm von Knyphausen. Stirling is forced to retreat without attacking because of the severe cold. Throughout the early winter Washington orders raids on British forces left in New York.
February 1, British Major John Simcoe leads two hundred of his Rangers in a foray into New Jersey. His original aim is to lure Washington out from Morristown and capture him. But Knyphausen, commanding in Clinton's absence, orders Simcoe to confine himself to raids. Simcoe reaches Woodbridge but is forced to turn back by the militia. In March, the British continue to raid New Jersey in the so-called "forage wars," keeping American inhabitants and militia in a constant state of emergency.
April 2, Washington writes Congress, reporting on intelligence he has received about movements of further British troops south. The "weak state of our force there and unhappily in this quarter also, have laid me under great embarrassments, with respect to the conduct that ought to be pursued." He estimates the Continental Army to be at a strength of 10,000, of which 2,800 have completed their term of service and more at the end of April. Nonetheless, Washington intends to send Maryland and Delaware Continental regiments to the aid of the south.
April 6, George Washington's general orders contain an account of the Major General Benedict Arnold's conviction by the Executive Council of Pennsylvania on two of four charges of malfeasance while Arnold was military governor of Philadelphia. Washington's general orders contain the reprimand he is required to make by the Council. The reprimand recognizes Arnold's "distinguished services to his Country" but describes his conduct in one of the two charges for which he was found guilty "peculiarly reprehensible, both in a civil and military view."
June 17, British General Henry Clinton returns to New York City from the south.
June 23, General Wilhelm von Knyphausen and Clinton attempt to lure Washington's army out of Morristown. Knyphausen attacks Nathanael Greene, Philemon Dickinson, and their Continental and militia forces on June 23 at Springfield. Springfield is burned but the British abandon their position there the same day. Washington expects yet another invasion up the Hudson with West Point as a particular target. He writes Congress about the engagement at Springfield and to General Robert Howe with instructions on safeguarding West Point.
July 11, the long-expected French squadron arrives in Newport, Rhode Island, with 5,000 troops under the command of Lieutenant General Jean Baptiste Donatien de Vigneur, Comte de Rochambeau. Rochambeau declines Washington's suggestion of an immediate attack on New York. The ships and troops remain in Newport until June 1781, when they will move toward Washington's encampment in Westchester County, preparatory to a cooperative engagement with the Americans against the British.
September 25, Benedict Arnold, commander of West Point, flees to the British ship Vulture in the Hudson River. He has been planning to defect to the British and has learned that his British contact, Major John André, has been captured and that Washington is due to arrive at West Point to review the fort and its garrison. Washington, Henry Knox, Lafayette, and aide Colonel Alexander Hamilton arrive not knowing the cause of Arnold's absence and proceed with a review of the fort. They discover Arnold's defection.
In a letter to Congress the next day, Washington notes that the militia who had captured Major André had been offered a "large sum of money for his release, and as many goods as they would demand, but without any effect." In his September 26 general orders, Washington tells the officers and troops that "Great honor is due to the American Army that this is the first instance of Treason of the kind where many were to be expected from the nature of the dispute, and nothing is so bright an ornament in the Character of the American soldiers as their having been proof against all the arts and seductions of an insidious enemy." Washington also writes George Clinton, governor of New York, and John Laurens about Arnold's defection to the British.
November 27, Washington writes General Anthony Wayne about depredations on the civilian populace by the Continental army. The army is often ill-supplied and sometimes starving. But Washington urges Wayne to protect the "persons and properties of the inhabitants....They have, from their situation, borne much of the burthen of the War and have never failed to relieve the distresses of the Army, when properly called upon." Washington declares that these robberies "are as repugnant to the principles of the cause in which we are engaged as oppressive to the inhabitants and subversive of that order and discipline which must Characterize every well regulated army." His November 6 general orders note the "disorderly conduct of the soldiers" with passes.
December 20, Benedict Arnold, now a brigadier general in the British army, departs New York City with 1600 men. He plans to invade Virginia.
The War in the South
On April 8, British General Henry Clinton summons General Benjamin Lincoln to surrender before beginning bombardment of Charleston, South Carolina. Lincoln responds with a declaration to fight to the last. April 13, the British begin bombarding the town, and on April 14, Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton and his Legion and loyalist militia defeat Isaac Huger's troops at the battle of Monck's Corner outside the town. Having sealed the American army in the city, on May 8 Clinton sends another summons to surrender. Lincoln again refuses and the next evening, after further summons by Clinton, the army, according to German mercenary for the British, Captain Johann von Ewald, "shouted 'Hurrah' three times," opened fire, and all the city's church bells rang out in a seeming frenzy of futile resistance. Lieutenant Governor Christopher Gadsden, who had earlier opposed surrender, now requests that Lincoln do so to save the much damaged city from further destruction. Gadsden is supported by two petitions by citizens.
May 12, General Benjamin Lincoln surrenders Charleston, South Carolina, to British General Henry Clinton. German mercenary for the British, Captain Johann von Ewald, notes upon surrender that the "garrison consisted of handsome young men whose apparel was extremely ragged, and on the whole the people looked greatly starved." Officers are confined on land, while enlisted soldiers are held in prison ships in the harbor. A Virginia Continental regiment on its way to aid Charleston gets as far as the Santee River before learning of the surrender and then turns back to North Carolina. Clinton's proclamation to the citizens of South Carolina calls for a declaration of allegiance to the Crown. (Johann von Ewald, Diary of the American War: A Hessian Journal [New Haven and London: 1979].)
June 5, Henry Clinton sails back to New York, leaving General Charles Cornwallis in command with orders to move into the interior of South Carolina and to finish subduing the south.
June 11, Washington writes Connecticut governor, Jonathan Trumbull, that the capture of Charleston may force the British to "dissipate their force." In a June 14 letter to James Bowdoin, governor of Massachusetts, Washington writes that the loss or "Something like it seems to have been necessary, to rouse us...."
July 25, American General Horatio Gates arrives in Coxe's Mill, North Carolina, to take command of a reconstituted southern army. The Maryland and Delaware Continental regiments sent by Washington have arrived under command of Baron Johann de Kalb. Two-thirds of Gates's army will consist of Virginia and North Carolina militia.
August 16, the Battle of Camden, South Carolina. Gates's army marches to Camden in hope of surprising the British there but instead runs into them by mistake. De Kalb is mortally wounded, and after heavy fighting Gates is forced to retreat by Lord Rawdon and Cornwallis and their forces. Of the approximately 4,000 American troops, only about 700 are left to rejoin Gates at Hillsboro. Washington writes Thomas Jefferson, governor of Virginia, with news of the heavy loss.
August 20, General Francis Marion and militia attack a British detachment, rescuing the Maryland regiment captured at Camden.
September 8, British General Charles Cornwallis begins his invasion of North Carolina.
October 10, Washington writes Thomas Jefferson, governor of Virginia, on the state of the Army and on British General Cornwallis's severity in his progress through the south. Washington refers to a letter Cornwallis has written to a fellow British officer, a transcript of which Washington has received, in which Cornwallis outlines punishments for rebels. [The text of Cornwallis's letter is reproduced in annotation in the transcription linked to this document.] Washington closes his letter to Jefferson with a full history of Benedict Arnold's defection to the British.
October 7, the Battle of King's Mountain in North Carolina. Cornwallis sends Major Patrick Ferguson ahead of him to raise loyalist troops in North Carolina. Prior to the march to King's Mountain, Ferguson sends a threatening message ahead that he will lay waste to the land if its inhabitants do not cease resistance. This so angers southern militia that they quickly raise a force and brutally defeat Ferguson and his troops. With King's Mountain, Cornwallis begins to realize that loyalist sentiment has been overestimated in British plans to subdue the south. Washington writes Abner Nash, governor of North Carolina, about the "success of the militia against Col Ferguson."
December 2, Nathanael Greene replaces Horatio Gates as commander of the American southern army. He assumes command in Charlotte, North Carolina. His officers are Brigadier General Daniel Morgan, Lieutenant Colonel William Washington (a cousin of George Washington), and Lieutenant Colonel Henry Lee and his Legion. When Greene arrives in the south, he is appalled at the brutality and extent of the civil war between patriots and loyalists.
January 1, the Pennsylvania Continentals mutiny. Washington orders the New Jersey Continentals to march to position themselves between the mutinying troops and the British on Staten Island. Nonetheless, British General Henry Clinton learns of the mutiny and on January 3 gets messengers through to the Pennsylvania Continentals. But the mutineers turn the messengers over to Congress and they are hung as British spies.
January 3, Washington writes Anthony Wayne with news of the mutiny of the Pennsylvania Continentals. He worries that if Congress removes itself from Philadelphia, apart from the "indignity," it may provoke the mutineers to "wreak their vengeance upon the persons and properties of the citizens,...." In his January 7 letter to Henry Knox, Washington gives him instructions on where and how to obtain the supplies and necessities that he hopes will appease the mutineers. Washington describes to Knox the "alarming crisis to which our affairs have arrived by a too long neglect of measures essential to the existence of an Army,...." (See below on the mutiny of the New Jersey Continentals January 20)
January 5, Benedict Arnold invades Richmond, Virginia, and Governor Thomas Jefferson and government officials are forced to flee.
January 16-17, General Daniel Morgan and Lieutenant Colonel William Washington defeat British Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton's Legion at Cowpens, South Carolina. Tarleton escapes and is pursued unsuccessfully by William Washington and a company on horseback. The expression "Tarleton's Quarter," used by American soldiers during War, refers to the British officer's practice of not giving any, even in surrender. (William Washington is a cousin of George Washington.)
January-March, Nathanael Greene (who took command of the Southern Army at Charlotte, North Carolina, December 2, 1780) leads General Charles Cornwallis and his forces on a chase through South and North Carolina.
Greene's path avoids engagements that he cannot win, exhausts Cornwallis and his army, and dangerously lengthens their supply lines. January - February, Greene and Cornwallis race to the Dan River on the Virginia border, with Cornwallis failing to catch up in time to cut off Greene and Colonel Otho Williams and their forces. February 14, Greene and Williams cross the Dan River into Virginia. Washington's March 21 letter to Greene congratulates him on saving his baggage "notwithstanding the hot pursuit of the Enemy," and assures him that his "Retreat before Lord Cornwallis is highly applauded by all Ranks and reflects much honor on your military Abilities."
January 20, the New Jersey Continentals mutiny. Washington, fearing the total dissolution of the Army, urges severe measures. He is less excusing of this mutiny because, as he writes in a circular letter to the New England state governors, Congress has been working to redress the Continental Army's grievances. Washington orders Robert Howe from West Point to suppress the mutiny and to execute the most extreme ringleaders. Howe forms a court martial that sentences three leaders to be shot by twelve of their fellow mutineers. Two are executed and one pardoned. On January 27, Washington writes the Congressional committee formed to respond to the soldiers' grievances that "having punished guilt and supported authority, it now becomes proper to do justice" and urges the committee to provide the much needed redress
March 1, the Articles of Confederation are ratified by Maryland, the last state to ratify, and can now go into effect. The Articles had been sent to the states for ratification in 1777.
May 21-22, Washington and the Comte de Rochambeau, commander of the French army in Rhode Island, meet in Wethersfield, Connecticut, and agree to appeal to Admiral Francois Joseph Paul, Comte de Grasse, to come north for a combined operation.
May 24, British General Charles Cornwallis encamps with troops on the Virginia plantation of William Byrd.
June 4, British Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton nearly captures Thomas Jefferson at Monticello. Jefferson, governor of Virginia, and other state officials flee to the Shenandoah Valley.
July 6, the French army and its commander Rochambeau, join Washington and his army at Dobb's Ferry, New York. Washington plans a combined assault on the British on Manhattan Island. August 14, he learns that the French fleet, consisting of 34 warships with transports carrying 3200 troops will be arriving in the Chesapeake from the West Indies under the command of Admiral Francois Joseph Paul, Comte de Grasse, and will be available for a combined effort until October 19.
September 18, Washington, Rochambeau, and de Grasse, meet on the Ville de Paris at Hampton Roads. September 28, their combined forces are arranged for battle against British General Charles Cornwallis at Yorktown.
October 14, the Americans and French begin bombarding Yorktown. October 16, Cornwallis orders about 1,000 of his troops to attempt an escape across the York River.
October 17, Cornwallis offers a white flag and negotiations for surrender begin at Moore House in Yorktown.
October 19, Cornwallis's army surrenders. Washington asks Benjamin Lincoln to receive the surrender. Lincoln had been forced to surrender to British General Henry Clinton at Charleston May 13, 1780. Cornwallis, who is reportedly ill, designates Brigadier General Charles O 'Hara to perform the formal surrender in his place. Tradition has it that as the British lay down their arms, their army band played an old Scottish tune adapted to the nursery rhyme, "The World Turned Upside Down."
October 19, a British fleet leaves New York harbor to come to the aid of Cornwallis in Virginia. Having arrived too late, the fleet hovers about the area for a few days and returns home October 28-30.
October 25, Washington's general orders declare that free blacks in the area in the wake of the battle of Yorktown should be left to go where they please, while slaves who have followed the British army must be returned to their owners. But the confusion of war allows some slaves an opportunity to gain their freedom in a variety of ways. Some slaves represent themselves as free, while others offer themselves as servants to French and American officers. Washington's general orders indicate that there were difficulties in returning slaves to their pre-war status.
November 5 John Parke ("Jacky"), Washington's stepson, dies of camp fever at Yorktown.
May 22, 1782, After receiving a letter from one of his officers, Lewis Nicola, suggesting that Washington become King of the United States, Washington writes back to Nicola rebuking him for suggesting that a monarchy be established in America rather than a republic. Washington commands Nicola "to banish these thoughts from your mind, and never communicate, as from yourself, or anyone else, a sentiment of the like nature."
July 10, Washington writes his former aide Colonel John Laurens. Laurens has failed in his attempt to get permission from the Georgia legislature to raise a regiment of slaves and Washington attributes this to the "selfish Passion" of the legislature. Laurens has been attempting to raise such a regiment since 1779, first in his native South Carolina, then in Georgia. Laurens is killed by the British in a skirmish on August 25, 1782. He is one of the last officer casualties of the war.
August 19, the Battle of Blue Licks, in the Appalachian west, the British and their Indian allies, the Wyandot, Ottawa, Ojibwa, Shawnee, Mingo, and Delaware inflict heavy casualties and force the retreat of Daniel Boone and the Kentucky militia. In response, George Rogers Clark leads Kentucky militia on an expedition against the British into Ohio country. These are often considered the last formal engagements of the Revolutionary War.
March 13, Washington addresses mutinous Continental officers at Newburgh, New York (Read Washington's speech to the officers). Their pay long in arrears, the officers fear that their pensions will also be unpaid. In December 1782, representative officers from each state's Continental line had sent a petition to Congress insisting on immediate payment and suggesting the substitution of lump sums for pensions. The officers, most of whom are at the army's headquarters at Newburgh, learn that Congress has rejected the petition. Washington calls a meeting of representative officers and staff and delivers a speech and reads an extract from Congress. Referring to the glasses he must wear to read the extract, he says, "Gentleman, you must pardon me. I have grown gray in your service and now find myself growing blind." Washington's gesture defuses the crisis. After he retires from the scene the officers adopt resolutions affirming their loyalty to Congress. March 18, Washington writes Congress an account of the proceedings of the previous days and argues on behalf of the officers' grievances.
April 18, Washington's General Orders to the officers and troops of the Continental Army announce the "Cessation of Hostilities between the United States of America and the King of Great Britain." He congratulates the Army, noting that those who have performed the "meanest office" have participated in a great drama "on the stage of human affairs." "Nothing now remains but for the actors of this mighty Scene to preserve a perfect, unvarying, consistency of character through the very last act; to close the Drama with applause; and to retire from the Military Theatre with the same approbation of Angells and men which have crowned all their former vertuous Actions."
April 23, Washington sends Sir Guy Carleton a copy of the proclamation on the cessation of hostilities. He describes the proclamation as having been received by him from the "Sovereign Power of the United States." Carleton has been appointed by the British government to negotiate the cessation of hostilities and the exchange and liberation of prisoners.
June 8, On the occasion of the disbanding of the Continental Army, George Washington sends a "Circular Letter" to all the States (Read about the Constitutional Convention). In this famous letter, Washington enumerated the weaknesses of the existing government, which had caused him and his troops such hardship during the War of Independence. He urged the states to establish "a supreme power to regulate and govern the general concerns of the confederated republic."
November 2, in Washington's Farewell Orders to the Continental Army, he writes that the "disadvantageous circumstances on our part, under which the war was undertaken can never be forgotten."
December 4, Washington formally parts from officers at Fraunces Tavern, New York City.
December 23, at Annapolis where Congress is located, Washington submits his resignation of his military commission as commander in chief. His willing resignation of his military powers and his return to private life are considered striking since democratic republics are thought to be especially vulnerable to military dictatorship. Washington becomes as famous for his willingness to relinquish command as for his successful conduct of it in the War.
December 24, Washington arrives at Mount Vernon. Something of a "celebrity" after the war, Washington receives letters of approbation from England and Europe as well as from people within the newly formed United States. In a letter to Henry Knox, Washington writes about the heavy burden of correspondence this attention has generated.