October 1: Benjamin Franklin and Robert Morris learn that France will buy arms in the Netherlands and ship them to the West Indies for the Americans. Silas Deane, the agent representing the United States in France, begs the Americans to be more timely in sending letters to France.
October 4: John Adams writes to Abigail Adams about the potential of new governments that are developing, calling them “political experiments,” and realizing that some will fail. He also hopes that some will succeed.
October 5: The Howe brothers travel to Long Island to determine landings in Westchester where they might be able to attack George Washington’s army from the rear.
October 8: Congress moves to step up enlistments of new soldiers for the duration of the war, asking the states to form committees to encourage enlistment and to help appoint officers.
October 11: Congress implores Washington to obstruct the Hudson River to prevent the British from access to the north and to hold the British back using Fort Washington on Manhattan and Fort Lee on the New Jersey shore of the river. The Battle at Valcour Island commences.
October 13: At Throgs Neck, a spit of land in the Bronx between the East River and Long Island Sound, most of British General Howe’s forces are not able to join up with General Clinton’s troops because of poor wind conditions. On Lake Champlain, General Carleton’s fleet catches up with the American flotilla near Crown Point. Benedict Arnold bolts with only three of his fifteen boats.
October 20: The Reverend William McKay preaches at Fort Ticonderoga, exhorting the men to “ do yourselves honor by using the weapons of your warfare with that heroism, firmness, and magnanimity which the cause requires.”
October 21: The Secret Committee of Congress appeals to merchants on the island of Martinique to send woolen goods as the army already could use warm garments and blankets.
October 25: King George III asks for enlistments in the Royal Navy. The Navy continues to impress men from ships in the Thames River.
October 28: British troops move into White Plains, New York. Howe takes Chatterton Hill by force at White Plains and dominates Washington’s position from it.
October 29: The British troops diverted from Howe’s forces in White Plains take Fort Independence at the King’s Bridge in the Bronx, cutting off the escape route of American soldiers still on the island of Manhattan.
Herein reporting a Miraculous Success to the North and its sad Conclusion, the Resourcefulness of John Glover again Displayed, further Disasters & a Narrative of Hardships experienced on the Frontier.
The Fleet That Sailed Out of the Forest
One of the fiercest battles of 1776 was fought with saws, tar, caulking irons and needles. This was the race to build the first fleet on Lake Champlain. Shipbuilder for His Majesty was Sir Guy Carleton. Shipbuilder for Congress was Benedict Arnold, Admiral.
The southern half of the British strategy had proceeded at a successful if leisurely pace. Up north all was a frenzy, as Carleton and Burgoyne pressed their men to get south before the snow flew and to rendezvous with Sir William Howe in Albany. They had had no trouble chasing the ailing Yankees out of Canada, and the American Army was perhaps sicker now. But as the healthy British troops regrouped at St. John’s in southern Canada, word came that at the head of Lake Champlain, the Americans were building a fleet. The British would have to build one, too.
On paper, the Americans had about 5,000 men in and around Ticonderoga plus the sloop Enterprise and schooners Liberty and Royal Savage, captured the year before. Smallpox was hampering the army, and there was hardly a man there who had ever raised a sail except Benedict Arnold. Morale was pitifully low. Colonel Jeduthan Baldwin lamented “I am heartily tired of this Retreating, Ragged, Starved lousey, thievish, Pockey Army in this unhealthy Country.” Moreover, there was, as usual, a command problem. In July, Congress had appointed General Horatio Gates to succeed John Sullivan, who then distinguished himself by having a tantrum.
Gates, 49, was the British-born son of a housekeeper and a minor government official, and a godson of Horace Walpole, a prominent Whig politician and man of letters. His connections and his family’s scrimping had gotten him a commission in the British Army at a young age. He fought and almost died with General Braddock in the French and Indian War and was put on half pay after that war back in England, turning to “guzzling and gaming.” By 1770, convinced he would never advance beyond major, Gates became “a red hot republican.” He wrote to Washington, whom he knew from Fort Duquesne years before, and decided to emigrate to Virginia, where Gates bought a plantation and eventually became Washington’s Adjutant General. Major General Philip...