A History of America
Just around the time that the Declaration of Independence was being drafted and approved the British moved a large naval armada into the waters off New York City consisting of 30 battle ships equipped with canons, 300 supply ships and about 40,000 total troops. They eventually sent some of these ships up the Hudson river firing in a show of strength which induced sending General George Washington to have talks with the British, which didn’t bear any fruit.
Near the end of August in 1776 the armies of British and U.S. forces clashed on Long Island, New York, with a bitter defeat for General Washington who fled with his troops across the river into New York City, Brooklyn Heights, Manhattan and Harlem, then eventually inland to the West.
While General Howe of the British forces was chasing after and battling American General Washington, Ben Franklin and John Adams were meeting with his brother Admiral Howe on Staten Island in another failed peace mission.
Washington’s army was too small (and he was having problems attracting enlistment’s), sometimes out of control (plundering was rampant among American soldiers who were robbing homes behind the backs of Washington and other officers) and the soldiers were not confident enough about the outcome of this war (or the need for it) to make a total commitment.
Initially Washington considered offering a bounty of $20 to each soldier but eventually began talks with President of the Continental Congress John Hancock to see if a grant of land and some clothing in addition to the small payment amount could be arranged for each soldier who was not a commissioned officer.
Add to this fact that the Army, itself, was not well equipped with uniforms, weapons (the British had destroyed many armories around the states prior to outbreak of fighting) and footgear.
Now with one defeat after another morale was big consideration. Certainly every solider worried that we might not win this war and that the British might take harsh action against any man who raised a weapon against the soldiers now on their soil, which also included a lot of German mercenaries.
The British army had a long history with strong training. Mercenaries, of course, are quite good at what they do, which is fight, kill and possibly die for a salary – hence you have to be good at fighting to survive long enough to enjoy your rewards!
By the fall Nathan Hale was caught spying on British troops and executed just after uttering his famous phrase of “I regret I have but one life to give for my country.” Franklin, Jefferson and Deane were sent abroad to secure alliances, support and financing from foreign countries such as France. The inexperienced U.S. Navy also experienced major losses to the British war fleet on Lake Champlain, while Washington’s army was heading westward after defeats in Manhattan and Harlem. A fire in New York City left 300 building in rubble. Things were not going well at all...
By the turn of 1776 into 1777 was approaching Howe had captured Fort Washington in Manhattan and Fort Lee in New Jersey, while Cornwallis was cashing General Washington across the Delaware river. Thomas Paine, now with the Washington Army, tells everyone in his writings to praise those men who have stuck with the battle and Albigence Waldo, a surgeon with the Washington Army at Valley Forge, tells of how supplies are low: ” All at our Several Posts. Provisions and Whiskey very scarce. Were Soldiers to have plenty of Food and Rum, I believe they would Storm Tophet... “ When there is food it’s tainted with “burnt leaves and dirt.” On other nights: “What have you for your dinner boys? "Nothing but Fire Cake and Water, Sir."
Then on Christmas night in 1776 Washington takes his troops back across the Delaware and on to Trenton, New Jersey, where they surprise the German mercenaries employed by the British and after one hour take 1,000 captives with only six American soldiers wounded (one of whom was James Monroe). This victory boosts morale of the American troops who then go on to another victory at Princeton, New Jersey just after the start of the new year.
The winter, however, is harsh and between those men whose enlistment was up or those who just deserted, Washington’s army dwindles in rank until the springtime when new troops arrive giving him close to 10,000 men.
Elsewhere, Benedict Arnold defeats the British in Connecticut, but this would be among the last of the victories through spring and summer. British troops march in from Canada and take the much needed supply depot at Fort Ticonderoga on Lake Champlain as Gen. Burgoyne's troops march on towards Albany in a plan to cut off the region from the rest of the states.
This great plan, however, never materialized as British Gen. Howe decides to go after Philadelphia rather than go up state New York. Howe made some inroads with the Battle of Brandywine Creek, however both he and Washington’s respective armies suffer many causalities. This action forced Congress to abandon Philadelphia and relocated in York. Gen. Burgoyne's troops near Albany also suffer a defeat when the 800 German mercenaries they send out were wiped out by U.S. “regulars” from Massachusetts along with Vermont militiamen in the Battle of Bennington. At the Battle of Saratoga, General Gates and General Arnold from the American forces kill 600 British regular troops under the command on Gen. Burgoyne, who days later surrenders his entire 6,000 troop army to Gates. These troops are put on ships and sent back to England, but the conflict is far from being over...
Part 1 Colonization of the New World | Part 2: Towards Indepdence