Revolutionary War Part 2 U. S. History Mrs. Rieffel
1775: The War Begins The Rides of Paul Revere and William Dawes (4/18) The Battles of Lexington and Concord (4/19) Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys Seize Fort Ticonderoga (5/10) The Second Continental Congress (met in Philadelphia, 5/10) Washington named Commander in Chief (6/15) Battle of Bunker Hill (fought on Breed's Hill) (6/17) Benedict Arnold's failed attack on Quebec (12/30)
Christ Church, with its tall steeple, was an important building in the life of Paul Revere. As a young boy, Paul was a bell-ringer here--- even though his family attended a different church each Sunday and probably did not approve of his job. Later, this was the church that became famous for the two lanterns that gave the signal that the British were coming by sea. Longfellow called this church "The Old North Church", but in Paul's day
it was called Christ Church.
Listen my children and you shall hear Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere, On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five; Hardly a man is now alive Who remembers that famous day and year. He said to his friend, "If the British march By land or sea from the town to-night, Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch Of the North Church tower as a signal light,-- One if by land, and two if by sea; And I on the opposite shore will be, Ready to ride and spread the alarm Through every Middlesex village and farm, For the country folk to be up and to arm."
The Midnight Ride of Whom? Paul Revere became a figure of popular history and legend, however, because of his ride on the night of Apr. 18, 1775, to warn the people of the Massachusetts countryside that British soldiers were being sent out in the expedition that, as it turned out, started the American Revolution. William Dawes and Samuel Prescott also rode forth with the news. Revere did not reach his destination at Concord, but was captured by the British; nevertheless, it is Revere who is remembered as the midnight rider, chiefly because of the poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Actually, Dawes didn't make it to Concord either. When Revere was captured, Dawes got lost in the dark, strange countryside. The only one to complete the mission, as you put it, was Dr. Samuel Prescott, a young M.D. from Concord who had been visiting his girlfriend in Lexington & had met up with Revere and Dawes as they rode out of Lexington towards Concord. He was far more familiar with the landscape and was able to evade the redcoat patrol. Dr. Prescott was 23 years old when he rode to Concord that fateful morning (it was the AM by the time Paul and William Dawes ran into him). He arrived in Concord by 1 AM, and warned the town of the regulars approach. Revere was captured on the way, but Prescott got through with the news. After the war broke out, he joined a privateer as the ship's surgeon, and wound up captured off the coast of Nova Scotia in 1776, with the rest of the crew. He died in prison that year, at the age of 24, and is thereby largely forgotten in our history books. His portion of the midnight ride is arguably more important than the portion that Revere rode.
The War Begins April 19, 1775 As tensions between the colonists and the British grew, a split developed and widened between those taking sides in America as the loyalists (colonists remaining loyal to the king) and the patriots (those opposing British laws). Near midnight, April 18, 1775 General Thomas Gage (British commander-in-chief) sent his soldiers toward Lexington. He wanted to seize patriot arms and ammunition stored in Concord. Paul Revere and William Dawes rode ahead to warn the local minutemen, or patriot volunteers, who would be ready to fight at a moment’s notice. At dawn 70 minutemen met 770 English Redcoats on the village green at Lexington. Militia leader John Parker faces Br. Gen. Pitcairn and 8 minutemen are killed and 11 wounded. The British again engaged in fighting at the bridge north of Concord before retreating to Boston.
General Gage learned of the collection of military stores at Concord and determined to send a force of Redcoats to destroy them. His preparations were made with the utmost secrecy. Yet so alert and ubiquitous were the patriot eyes in Boston that when the picked British force of 700 men set out on the night of April 18, 1775, two messengers, Paul Revere and William Dawes, preceded them to spread the alarm throughout the countryside.
At dawn on the 18th of April when the British arrived at Lexington, the halfway point to Concord, they found a body of militia drawn up on the village green. Some nervous finger whether of British Regular or American militiamen is unknown to this day pressed a trigger . The impatient British Regulars, apparently without any clear orders from their commanding officer, fired a volley, then charged with the bayonet.
It was “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World!
The militiamen dispersed, leaving eight dead and ten wounded on the ground. The British column went on to Concord, destroyed such of the military stores as the Americans had been unable to remove, and set out on their return journey.
By this time, the alarm had spread far and wide, and both ordinary militia and minutemen had assembled along the British route. From behind walls, rocks, and trees, and from houses they poured their fire into the columns of Redcoats, while the frustrated Regulars found few targets for their accustomed volleys or bayonet charges. Only the arrival of reinforcements sent by Gage enabled the British column to get back to the safety of Boston. At day's end the British counted 273 casualties out of a total of 1,800 men engaged; American casualties numbered 95 men, including the toll at Lexington. What happened was hardly a tribute to the marksmanship of New England farmers it has been estimated 75,000 shots poured from their muskets that day but it did testify to a stern determination of the people of Massachusetts to resist any attempt by the British to impose their will by armed force.
Some of the troops deserted and joined the Americans on the way back to Boston. 20 soldiers went unaccounted for.
Militia existed in the colonies long before the American Revolution. With the exception of Pennsylvania, colonies required most able-bodied men to own weapons, to be willing to be called for periodic training, and to defend their communities from attack, primarily by Indians. This was the colonial militia. Minutemen came into being in the wake of the crisis in Boston, in 1774. Essentially, they were a reorganized militia, rid of any vestiges of loyalty to the crown, and trained, far more extensively than they had been previously, so that they could "turn out" at a minute's notice. The Continental Army was an invention of Congress and the command of George Washington. When Washington arrived outside Boston in the aftermath of the battle of Bunker's Hill, he immediately began to train the diverse forces he found there into a regular army. This group became the Continental Army. The militia continued to exist and fight throughout the revolution with mixed results. Continental Army officers tended to deride its effectiveness, probably with reason, at least in the early years of the war. But at Saratoga, in the South, and in New Jersey during a 1780 campaign, they were essential fighting forces. By the end of the war, Washington and others in the Continental command were using the militia as support for the regular army, and they were a crucial component in the ultimate victory.
Other militia forces under Ethan Allen of Vermont and Benedict Arnold of Connecticut seized the British forts at Ticonderoga and Crown Point, strategic positions on the route between New York and Canada. These posts yielded valuable artillery and other military stores. In a bold pre-dawn raid on May 10, 1775 a small group of rebels led by Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold surprise the token force at Ticonderoga.
The commander, roused from sleep supposedly by Allen's famous command to "Surrender in the name of the great Jehovah and the Continental Congress." The cannon that were there will be hauled down to Boston in winter on sledges to put along Boston Heights—pointing at the throat of General Howe.
He became (1778) commander of Philadelphia, after the British evacuation, and there married Peggy Shippen, whose family had Loyalist sympathies. In 1779 he was court-martialed because of disputes with civil authorities. He was cleared of all except minor charges and was reprimanded by Washington; nevertheless he was given (1780) command of West Point. He had already begun his treasonable correspondence with Sir Henry Clinton in New York City, and he arranged to betray West Point in exchange for a British commission and a sum of money. Some of the seeds of his treachery were planted during his recuperation from that wound at Saratoga. Arnold started to become embittered by what he saw as a lack of recognition for his military genius on the part Congress and the Continental Army. Just a year and a half after his gallantry at Saratoga, Arnold offered his services to the British. Specifically, he planned to hand over the keys to West Point, a crucial American fort on the Hudson which Arnold commanded.
The plot quickly unraveled. Arnold's contact with the British army, Major John Andre', was captured by American forces with letters implicating Arnold in his boot. Andre' was hanged. Arnold escaped to the British on a frigate called Vulture ---one vulture receiving another, Thomas Paine wrote in one of his Crisis papers.
In 1781 in the British service he led two savage raids: one against Virginia and the other against New London, CT before going into exile in England and Canada, where he was generally scorned and unrewarded.
George Washington grew increasingly exasperated with the Continental Congress' inability to help him as he and the army were being chased from New York and through New Jersey in the fall of 1776. Congress, however, had more than a few problems of its own. The Declaration of Independence had shown that representatives of the thirteen colonies could come to an agreement on a single vital issue. But always crucial to Congressional thinking was the problem of how to create an effective union, without creating an overpowering central government like England's. The Articles of Confederation were introduced in Congress in July of 1776 as a means to this end. For the next year, the issue of how the states would govern themselves was arduously debated in Philadelphia before it was finally passed in 1777. Another 4 years went by before these same articles were ratified by all the states. Conducting and financing the war, establishing a foreign policy and finding allies to the cause were paramount considerations to the 2nd Continental Congress. To finance the war, Congress resorted to issuing paper money and certificates promising future payment for goods and services. Both were quickly and steeply devalued.
A post-independence cartoon. America as a horse bucking its British rider.
Battle for Bunker Hill June 17, 1775 In Massachusetts, the patriot army was growing. Thousands of rebels poured into New England ready to drive the British out of the colonies, and more specifically, out of Boston. The rebel army took position on Breed's Hill near Boston on June 16, 1775. Led by Col. William Prescott and Gen Israel Putnam, they also intended to take neighboring Bunker Hill. The British, however, attacked on June 17 before these plans were completed. Although the resulting battle was for Bunker Hill, the fighting took place on Breed's Hill. The British attacked the hilltop on three separate charges, with one coming as close as forty yards before the patriots opened fire. The rebels did not flee the hill until they had run out of bullets. Though the British won, about 1,000 redcoats were killed, most of them were not easily replaced officers.
The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker Hill, June 17, 1775 by John Trumbull
Breed’s Hill June 17, 1775 To conserve ammunition, they were told by Prescott:, “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes!”
Boston Harbor: Royal American Magazine, January, 1774. A view of Boston Harbor with several ships of war. Paul Revere line engraving.
1776: The Year of Independence Paine's "Common Sense" published (1/15) The British evacuate Boston (3/17) Richard Henry Lee proposes Independence (6/7) Declaration of Independence adopted (7/4) Declaration of Independence signed (8/2) Arrival of 30,000 British troops in New York harbor British win the Battle of Long Island (Battle of Brooklyn) (8/27-30) British occupy New York City (9/15) British win the Battle of Harlem Heights (9/16) Benedict Arnold defeated at Lake Champlain (10/11) American retreat at the Battle of White Plains (10/28) British capture Fort Washington, NY and Fort Lee, NJ (11/16) Washington Crosses the Delaware and captures Trenton (12/25)
Although talk of breaking with England had been started, still it took a wildly successful pamphlet by unknown writer, Thomas Paine to push the collective consciousness toward independence. Common Sense spoke in plain English to the hundreds of thousands of Americans who read it. "We have it in our power to begin the world anew," Paine wrote.
Thomas Paine inspired the American Revolution with a prose that spoke directly to the people. Common Sense was devoured and debated by Americans in taverns, reading clubs, parlors and street corners. The American Crisis, Number 1 , the first in a series of essays meant to boost morale and exhort the revolution, has perhaps the most famous opening sentence in American literature: "These are the times that try men's souls." The Crisis inspired the Patriots to continue their struggles For these works, Paine neither asked for nor received a dime in compensation. He donated all proceeds from the sale of these pamphlets to the revolutionary cause.
The Declaration of Independence, 4 July 1776 John Trumbull
FERRIS: DECLARATION, 1776. 'The Declaration Committee': Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson meeting at Jefferson's lodgings on the corner of Seventh and (High) Market Streets in Philadelphia to review a draft of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. After a painting by J.L.G. Ferris.
Virginian Thomas Jefferson is credited with principal authorship of the document, with help from John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman and Robert Livingston. The document affirms Congress' July 2 decision to part with Great Britain.
The first draft of Jefferson's Declaration of Independence—already edited by John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman and Robert Livingston—was presented before Congress on June 28. 39 revisions were made on the text before it was adopted on the 4th of July, 1776.
To some, Jefferson's language sounds like a
creed for future generations of Americans.
Others wonder if his stirring words will apply
to all Americans, or just those most directly
served by the all-white, all-male, all-propertied
members of the 2nd Continental Congress. “The well-fed, well-read, well-bred, and well-wed”
guys who will invent the new government.
Ben Franklin offered wit and serious revisions: “life, liberty, and property”….was changed to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” since it sounded more noble and less greedy!
The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness . --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. --Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refuted his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good. He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them. He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only. He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures. He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people. He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within. He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands. He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers. He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries. He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance. He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures . He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation: For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us: For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States: For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world: For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent: For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury: For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences: For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments: For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever. He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people. He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation. He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands. He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions. In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people. Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred. to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends. We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. --And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
New Hampshire: Josiah Bartlett , William Whipple, Matthew Thornton Massachusetts : John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry Rhode Island: Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery Connecticut: Roger Sherman , Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott New York: William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris New Jersey: Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark Pennsylvania: Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross Delaware: Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean Maryland: Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton Virginia: George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton North Carolina: William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn South Carolina: Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton Georgia: Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton
There, on July 9, Washington had the Declaration read to the army. Afterwards, revelers in the city pulled down the statue of George III, which resided in New York's bowling green, and subsequently melted George and his horse into several thousand lead balls for Continental army muskets. The first official printer of the Declaration, designated by the Congress some months later, was a woman, Mary Katherine Goddard of Baltimore. Goddard edited the Maryland Journal and had been in the printer's trade for over ten years when Congress called upon her services.
Pulling Down the Statue of King George III, N.Y.C., ca. 1859
Artist Johannes A. S. Oertel, working in the mid-nineteenth century, provides an imagined depiction of the destruction of George III’s statue in Bowling Green, the first victim of New Yorkers’ reaction to hearing news of the Declaration of Independence.
Oertel places women, children and Native Americans among what eyewitnesses recorded as a rowdy crowd of soldiers and civilians. No true image of the statue itself survives. However, contemporary descriptions inform us that the King was sculpted in Roman garb, not the eighteenth-century royal dress shown in the painting.
Nathan Hale is probably the best known but least successful American agent in the War of Independence. He embarked on his espionage mission into British-held New York as a volunteer, impelled by a strong sense of patriotism and duty.
But dedication was not enough. Captain Hale had no training experience, no contacts in New York, no channels of communication, and no cover story to explain his absence from camp-only his Yale diploma supported his contention that he was a "Dutch schoolmaster."
He was captured while trying to slip out of New York with papers in his shoes, was convicted as a spy and went to the gallows on September 22, 1776.
Witnesses to the execution reported the dying words that gained him immortality:
"I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."
He was 21 and he left behind a fiancée named Alicia Adams, whose last words as an aged Granny were, “Where’s Nathan?”
John Paul Jones is famous in the United States as the 'Father of the American Navy'.
The 'Serapis' had superior fire powder and Jones had to maneuver skillfully to bring his ship alongside and lash her to the 'Serapis'.
During the dreadful 3 1/2 hour fight on a millpond sea, the 'Alliance', part of Jones' squadron, fired at the 'Bonhomme Richard ,' holing her so badly that she later sank. Over half of the crews of the two ships, including Jones himself, were either killed or wounded and many men were horribly burned. Challenging Serapis , Jones deftly maneuvered Bonhomme Richard alongside the larger British vessel and lashed the two ships together. With the muzzles of their guns touching, the two warships fired into each other's insides. Although his smaller vessel was on fire and sinking, Jones rejected the British demand for surrender; "I have not yet begun to fight," he replied. More than three hours after the bloody battle began, Serapis surrendered, and Jones took command of it.
Jones had to transfer his crew to the 'Serapis' and together with her sister ship the 'Pallas' which had captured the 'Scarborough' he sailed to the Texel in Holland with over 500 prisoners.
In 1700, there were about 250,000 Europeans and African Americans in the colonies. By 1775, that number had increased 10-fold to 2.5 million. This huge increase was due in part to a prolific birth rate and in part to a steady flow of immigrants into the country. The most concentrated period of migration to America occurred in the fifteen years prior to the American Revolution, when approximately 220,000 new faces arrived on the eastern seaboard. About 85,000 of these were African Americans. Scotch-Irish, Scots, English and Germans constituted the bulk of the remaining immigrants. The 13 British colonies in which they arrived were different in a variety of ways. Congregational churches dominated New England, while Anglicans were prevalent in Virginia. Quakers settled Pennsylvania and Catholics were tolerated primarily in Maryland and Pennsylvania.
The great majority of African Americans lived, and were enslaved, in the southern colonies, though slavery itself was practiced north and south. In Virginia, in 1790, slaves numbered about 300,000. At approximately the same time, a majority of South Carolina was African American.
Over 5,000 African American men will participate in the Revolution. Although women and African-Americans will play important roles in the Revolution, the rights will mainly go to middle class white men.
George Washington's crossing of the Delaware River in December 1776 and the resulting destruction of the Hessian garrison of Trenton and defeat of a British brigade at Princeton. 918 captured, 106 killed—Johann Rall among them in Trenton.
(1816-68), German-born historical painter. Chiefly known for his painting of Washington Crossing the Delaware (1851), one of his several works depicting scenes from American history, Leutze settled in the United States in 1859 after being commissioned by Congress to paint a mural for the U.S. Capitol.
Called Westward Ho the Course of Empire Takes Its Way, the allegorical mural represents the settlement of the frontier.
The image that he had in mind is one of the folk-memories that most Americans share. It represents an event that happened on Christmas night in 1776, when a winter storm was lashing the Delaware Valley with sleet and snow. In our mind's eye, we see a great river choked with ice, and a long line of little boats filled with horses, guns, and soldiers. In the foreground is the heroic figure of George Washington.
The painting is familiar to us in a general way, but when we look again its details take us by surprise. Washington's small boat is crowded with thirteen men. Their dress tells us that they are soldiers from many parts of America, and each of them has a story that is revealed by a few strokes of the artist's brush. One man wears the short tarpaulin jacket of a New England seaman; we look again and discover that he is of African descent. Another is a recent Scottish immigrant, still wearing his Balmoral bonnet. A third is an androgynous figure in a loose red shirt, maybe a woman in man's clothing, pulling at an oar.
At the bow and stern of the boat are hard-faced western riflemen in hunting shirts and deerskin leggings. Huddled between the thwarts are farmers from Pennsylvania and New Jersey, in blanket coats and broad-brimmed hats. One carries a countryman's double-barreled shotgun. The other looks very ill, and his head is swathed in a bandage. A soldier beside them is in full uniform, a rarity in this army; he wears the blue coat and red facings of Haslet's Delaware Regiment. Another figure wears a boat cloak and an oiled hat that a prosperous Baltimore merchant might have used on a West Indian voyage; his sleeve reveals the facings of Smallwood's silk-stocking Maryland Regiment. Hidden behind them is a mysterious thirteenth man. Only his weapon is visible; one wonders who he might have been.
The dominant figures in the painting are two gentlemen of Virginia who stand tall above the rest. One of them is Lieutenant James Monroe, holding a big American flag upright against the storm. The other is Washington in his Continental uniform of buff and blue. He holds a brass telescope and wears a heavy saber, symbolic of a statesman's vision and a soldier's strength. The artist invites us to see each of these soldiers as an individual, but he also reminds us that they are all in the same boat, working desperately together against the wind and current. He has given them a common sense of mission, and in the stormy sky above he has painted a bright prophetic star, shining through a veil of cloud.
Most Americans recognize this image, and many remember its name. It is Washington Crossing the Delaware , painted by Emanuel Leutze in 1850. Today it hangs in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. Visitors who are used to seeing it in reproduction are startled by its size, twelve feet high and twenty feet wide.
Washington -- and many other Americans -- refused to let the Revolution die. Even as the British and Germans spread their troops across New Jersey, the people of the colony began to rise against them. George Washington saw his opportunity and seized it. On Christmas night, as a howling nor'easter struck the Delaware Valley, he led his men across the river and attacked the exhausted Hessian garrison at Trenton, killing or capturing nearly a thousand men. A second Battle of Trenton followed within days. The Americans held off a counterattack by Lord Cornwallis's best troops, then were almost trapped by the British force. Under cover of night, Washington's men stole behind the enemy and struck them again, defeating a brigade at Princeton. The British were badly shaken. In twelve weeks of winter fighting, their army suffered severe damage, their hold on New Jersey was broken, and their strategy was ruined.
Washington had had to make the grand play—he needed re-enlistments or he would have to fold.
- George Washington and his beleaguered Continental Army are spending a grim holiday season on the road. Four long months of harassment and battle with the British Army have left the 6,000 rebels tired, footsore and hungry. To make matters worse for Washington, he can expect more than half of his volunteers to drift home by the New Year, their enlistments up.
An evaporating army is just the latest in a long string of misfortunes to beset Washington. Since the signing of the Declaration of Independence in July, American forces have been mostly on their heels. The sobering sight of a huge British fleet in New York harbor in the wake of the celebration was the first indication that the road to American independence would be no promenade for the Continentals. Washington and his troops were subsequently swept off Long Island, and chased the length of Manhattan. The disaster in New York was capped by American defeats at Forts Washington and Lee on the Hudson. The Continental Army has subsequently limped through New Jersey, on the road to its present encampment here on the Delaware River, close to nearby Trenton , and a brigade of 1000 Hessians garrisoned there. Through all of this, Washington supporters could be forgiven for wondering what Congress has been doing to relieve the abject condition of the army. While much criticism has been leveled at Washington's pitiful defense of New York, the general's friends insist that the current state of the army would be dramatically improved if Congress would put aside its bickering over the pros and cons of a standing army and find a way to keep the Continentals in the field. Meanwhile observers are speculating that Washington will have to shelve his dream of a "European-style" army disciplined enough to effectively engage the British regulars in field combat. Already the sense is that new tactics are evolving. "Unless we are absolutely forced into," Washington wrote recently, "we shall avoid a large battle. With the fate of America at stake, our job is to prolong this war as much as possible." Inspiration for the cause was recently provided by the brilliant pamphleteer Thomas Paine. Paine, who's essay "Common Sense" helped inspire the colonials to independence a year ago, recently penned another essay, "The Crisis," which Washington subsequently ordered read to his troops. Said to have been written on a drumhead, Paine's opening refrain has a stirring beat of its own: "These are the times that try men's souls. . ." It is doubtful, however, whether Paine's words alone will be enough to invigorate the American cause. The sense here is that Washington needs to take a gamble. He desperately needs a victory to hold his troops together, and to keep the hopes of the revolution alive. Meanwhile, the Hessian force across the Delaware is preparing a sumptuous Christmas feast . . .
The Hessians' services were bought and paid for by George III, who simply did not have enough soldiers in his own army to supply the needs of his commanders in America. German soldiers had served many European nations in a similar fashion for years, but they were not true mercenaries. Most of the Hessians received no compensation for their services beyond their daily bread. It was the Prince of Hesse-Cassel, Frederick II, who made off like a bandit in his dealings with George III. He sold the services of 12,000 Hessians to the English at [sterling]7 4s. a head. In total, nearly 30,000 German soldiers fought for the British in North America. Once there, they discovered a thriving German-American community of almost 200,000 people. For many Hessians, the possibilities in this rich, new land with its growing German population was a great enticement to desertion—a fact that Americans worked hard to promote with promises of free land for Hessians willing to switch sides.
An estimated 5,000 Germans stayed in this country, when their fellow countrymen returned home.