Sunday, January 17, 2021

ARP184 Mischianza & Barren Hill


For the last couple of weeks I talked about the Pennsylvania militia over the winter of 1777-78 and the British occupation of Philadelphia.  The takeaway from that is that it was a mess and that it nearly got itself wiped out during the British attack at Crooked Billet.  The only thing that prevented complete destruction was the militiamen’s ability to run and hide.  

Mischianza Ticket
Over that winter, the Continental Army focused on survival at Valley Forge, with chronic shortages of just about everything.  At the same time, the army drilled under Baron von Steuben, hoping to emerge in the spring as a credible fighting force.

With the Pennsylvania militia dispersed following Crooked Billet, and with the coming of warmer weather, General Washington grew concerned that the British might attempt an offensive on Valley Forge.  To make sure this did not happen, he deployed a division to move closer to Philadelphia in order to keep an eye on British.  He handed this command of the Continentals to Major General Lafayette.

Lafayette’s Command

Recall that the Marquis de Lafayette had been a Continental officer for less than a year.  The nineteen year old French army captain with zero combat experience received a commission as major general based, primarily on his willingness to work without pay and the hope that his family connections with the French Court might help to secure the much needed alliance.

Lafayette, 1773
At first, Lafayette served as an aide to General Washington, certainly an honorable position, but not one normally performed by a major general.  After all, he was serving alongside two colonels: Alexander Hamilton and John Laurens.  Washington genuinely liked the young man, but was not sure he was quite ready to command an army.  At Brandywine, Lafayette showed bravery under fire, and received a battlefield injury.  This helped enhance his reputation both with Washington and the Continental Congress. 

The injury, however, meant that Lafayette spent the next couple of months convalescing up in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.  When he returned to duty in November, Washington assigned him a small independent command.  Lafayette led a minor raid on a British Camp at Gloucester, New Jersey, near Philadelphia.  That was enough to win the command of a division.  After Congress dismissed Major General Adam Stephen for his conduct at Germantown, Washington gave Lafayette command of that division.

After that, Congress assigned Lafayette to lead a new offensive to retake Quebec. The thought was that a French leader might inspire the local Quebecois to rise up against the British and join the movement for independence.  While the mission began with great intentions, it ran smack into the reality that there were no supplies to begin the campaign.  The whole plan fell apart before it even got started.  Lafayette had to return to Valley Forge having accomplished nothing.

With all of that experience, and with the young general no longer a teenager, having had a birthday in the fall, Washington turned over one-third of his active army, about 2200 soldiers, to Lafayette so that he could lead them toward Philadelphia and protect the rest of the army at Valley Forge from a surprise attack.

Continental Leadership

When we consider the Marquis’ meteoric rise to power in the Continental Army, it might be a good idea to consider the entire top leadership of the army at this point.  The army had begun by assigning top leadership posts to men of mixed experience.  The first three years of the war had shaken out many of the bad ones and led to the loss of many good ones.  Lafayette was the 18th major general commissioned by the Continental Congress.

The most senior major general in the army, Artemas Ward, was a New England officer and resigned shortly after the war left New England in the spring of 1776.  The next most senior officer, Charles Lee was a British prisoner of war.  Number three, Philip Schuyler, had lost his command just before the battle of Saratoga and was living at home, although technically still serving.  Number four, Israel Putnam had not inspired much faith as a commander and had been pushed off into an unimportant command in upstate New York.  The next two men, Generals Montgomery and Thomas had both died during the Quebec campaign.  Montgomery was killed in the attack on Quebec.  Thomas died of smallpox. Number seven, General Horatio Gates was still an important commander, but was on the outs with Washington after the circumstances surrounding the Conway Cabal.

Artemas Ward
Number eight, William Heath, had lost Washington’s confidence after a series of botched commands.  At this time, he was in charge of the British prisoners from Saratoga.  The next, Joseph Spencer had resigned in January of 1778 following an investigation into a botched attack on Rhode Island.  Although he was acquitted, the general had had enough of the army.  Spencer had always been more politician than soldier.  He returned to a prominent role in Connecticut politics.  

Number ten, John Sullivan had just faced court martial for his actions at Brandywine and his attack on Staten Island.  However, he still had Washington’s confidence.  Washington had just deployed him to Providence, Rhode Island to replace General Spencer following that resignation.   Some had wanted number eleven, General Nathanael Greene to take that post in Rhode Island, since he was from that state.  However, Washington had recently pressured Greene to take on the role of Quartermaster General of the Continental Army, meaning he was no longer in a position to assume command of soldiers in the field.  

Benedict Arnold had only recently moved up to number twelve on the list.  Recall that Congress had appointed five other major generals in February 1777, skipping over the more senior Brigadier General Arnold.  When it finally granted the commission after Arnold’s leadership at Danbury, Arnold was number seventeen on the list.  Arnold had tried to resign, just before heading off to Saratoga because Congress would not make him more senior.  After his critical role in winning Saratoga, Congress finally granted his request for retroactive seniority, putting him at number twelve on the list.  However, Arnold had severely injured his leg at Saratoga, and that prevented him from assuming any command for the time being.

Number thirteen on the list, William Alexander, aka Lord Stirling, was one of the newest major generals that still had Washington’s favor.  He commanded one of Washington’s divisions.  Four other generals who received their appointments on the same day as Stirling: Thomas Mifflin was the failed quartermaster, who was at this time serving on the Board of War with General Gates.  Arthur St. Clair was court martialed after giving up Fort Ticonderoga.  Although he did not get another field command, he continued to serve as an aide to General Washington.  Adam Stephen, as I just said, had been removed from the army for his performance at Germantown.  Benjamin Lincoln was still respected, but also recovering from injuries after Saratoga.

That brings us to number eighteen, Lafayette, who had made his way to division commander.  Just to round out the list, There were six more major generals by the spring of 1778.  Philip de Coudray had served for about a month before drowning.  Johan de Kalb, who had arrived with Lafayette was now also a division commander.  Robert Howe of North Carolina was serving as commander of the southern department.  Alexander McDougall was running the show in upstate New York, along with Israel Putnam.  Thomas Conway had received his commission in December 1777, and had resigned by April following his tiff with General Washington.  

Friedrich von Steuben

Friedrich von Steuben, who had done such a great job training the soldiers at Valley Forge, finally received recognition in May, 1778 with his own commission as major general, as he continued to serve as inspector general of the army.  Von Steuben would be the last major general to be commissioned for the next two and a half years.  Congress would not commission anyone else until late 1780.

In case you were wondering, that left General William Thompson of Pennsylvania as the senior brigadier in the army.  Thompson, who had been the twelfth brigadier appointed, had been taken prisoner in 1776, just after he received his commission.  He would remain a prisoner until late 1780, hence no promotion. Next was number twenty-one, General John Nixon, who had been so badly wounded at Saratoga that he could never take up a command again. The senior brigadier still on active duty was Samuel Parsons, who originally had been number 24 on the list.  By this time, aside from Thompson and Nixon, all of those above Parsons had been promoted, killed or had resigned.  Parsons was serving in upstate New York.  He would finally break through to major general in October 1780, when Congress finally resumed promotions. So that’s how the Continental leadership stood at that point.

Mischianza

Meanwhile, the British leadership was also undergoing a major change.  General William Howe had tendered his resignation the prior fall, frustrated by London’s failure to provide him with sufficient soldiers to run all the military campaigns that he thought necessary to crush the rebellion.

William Howe
Back in London, as I discussed back in Episode 174, the leadership was dealing with the loss of Burgoyne’s army at Saratoga and the entry of France into the war.  The administration had accepted Howe’s resignation and ordered General Henry Clinton to take command in North America.  In March, Clinton received his orders to take command, send much of his army off to protect the West Indies, and to abandon Philadelphia, 

When General Clinton arrived in Philadelphia in early May, he bought his orders from London and worked with General Howe to transition the leadership.  The two men spent the next couple of weeks discussing the state of affairs and next steps.

Meanwhile, most of the British officers were sorry to see Howe go.  Despite his inability to bring the war to an end, Howe remained a popular leader with the officer corps.  Two junior officers, Captain John André and Captain Oliver De Lancey, raised a collection of 3312 guineas from the rest of the officers to throw a massive farewell party for General Howe.  That would be about $750,000 in inflation-adjusted US dollars.  Of course many people on their own purchased costumes and other items for the event, with total expenses for the party running several million dollars in inflation-adjusted terms. 

 

John André
André called it the Mischianza, which derives its name from the Italian word for medley.  This was supposed to be the party to end all parties.  They scheduled it for May 18, to begin at 4PM and would run until 4AM the following morning.  

Among the events was a regatta of decorated barges down the Delaware River, with cannon salutes.  The lead barge was General Howe, along with his brother Admiral Lord Howe and General Sir Henry Clinton.  Along with them were guests, including General Howe’s mistress Elizabeth Loring.  At least twenty seven barges moved down the Delaware from Knight’s Wharf near Vine street to a point near Old Swedes Church south of the city, about a mile and a half in total.  Accompanying them were at least three bands aboard barges.  As the flotilla passed navy warships or regiments lined up along shore, cannon salutes marked their passage.  When the lead ship reached its destination, all the ships stopped while all the bands played “God Save the King.”  

Next, the honorees and their guests, led by the military marching bands, paraded through the streets to the estate of Joseph Wharton, known as Walnut Grove, just south of the city.  Again they paraded past regiments that lined up to honor their commander and thousands of locals who turned out for the parade.  The group passed under two triumphal arches, one built to honor Admiral Howe, and the other to honor General Howe.  

Walnut Grove, site of the Mischianza
At Walnut Grove, the participants enjoyed a mock tournament of knights, with fourteen young maidens dressed in silk dresses made just for this event.  The knights on horseback also wore white satin garments.  So yeah, there were knights in white satin.  There was a mock jousting tournament where soldiers engaged in pretend jousts and single combat, proclaiming their love for certain young ladies on the stage.

It was here that John André declared his love for a young woman named Peggy.  Many of you who know about André may think this was Peggy Shippen.  In fact, no, it was Peggy Chew, daughter of Benjamin Chew, the colonial Chief Justice whose house had played such a prominent role at the Battle of Germantown. Peggy Shippen and her sister had planned to attend. However, their Quaker father saw the satin costumes that the girls intended to wear and found them indecent.  He forbade his daughters from attending.  Peggy responded by what her father called “a bout of hysteria.”

Following the tournament, the party moved into a grand hall of the home, which was extravagantly decorated for the event using what was described as a “Turkish theme.”  Celebrants enjoyed drinks and light snacks and then enjoyed playing cards for some time with real gold.  Howe’s game of choice was a game called faro.

Mischianza Procession
After dark, guests, along with the whole city, were treated to a fireworks display.  This took place near the victory arches south of town.

At midnight the guests sat down for a grand banquet.  In a city that had been perpetually short on rations, a banquet was especially extravagant.  A band played through the night and Captain André read a poem to honor General Howe.  The celebrations continued until dawn on the 19th, when revelers finally made their way home.

Celebrants aside, most of the locals found the event inappropriate.  Mrs. Henry Drinker, a  Quaker, wrote in her diary: 

This day may be remembered by many from the scenes of folly and vanity promoted by the officers of the army under pretext of showing respect to General Howe. … How insensible do those people appear, while our land is so greatly desolated, and death and sore destruction has overtaken and impends over so many!

Mrs. Drinker was not alone in thinking the extravagance was inappropriate.  Ambrose Searle, secretary to Admiral Lord Howe, wrote in his journal: “Our enemies will dwell upon the folly & extravagance of [the mischianza] with pleasure. Every man of sense among ourselves, though not unwilling to pay a due respect, was ashamed of this mode of doing it.”  That said, it was a night that few would ever forget.

Barren Hill

Just as the British began the Mischianza on the evening of May 18, Lafayette already moved his division out of Valley Forge, crossed the Schuylkill River, and set up camp on Barren Hill, just outside the British lines. Washington had ordered him to “march toward the enemy lines” so that he could provide a buffer for the rest of the army at Valley Forge, to stop any smaller incursions into the area.  He was also supposed to obtain intelligence about enemy movements.  This was Lafayette’s first independent command of any size.

Barren Hill Battlefield
Lafayette’s Continentals forded the Schuylkill River and took a position on a high ground called Barren Hill, near the Schuylkill River.  Washington had advised Lafayette not to camp in one place since the British would almost certainly launch an attack.  Lafayette set up camp on May 18, and the British discovered their new neighbors almost immediately. 

On the evening of May 19, only a few hours after the end of the Mischianza, the British commanders received word of the force under the command of General Lafayette.  They viewed it as an opportunity to capture some prisoners, especially the boy general.  This would be an embarrassment to both America and France.  Within hours, the British and Hessian force turned out, the bulk of the army around Philadelphia, about 16,000 soldiers. Part of the reason for the overwhelming force was that the British hoped that Washington might march from Valley Forge to try to rescue Lafayette’s division.  If he did, it might give the British one final chance to defeat the Continentals entirely before abandoning Philadelphia.

The soldiers deployed in the predawn hours of May 20th, expecting to bag their quarry quickly and return back to the city that same day.  General Howe even made plans for a victory dinner in Philadelphia, hoping to have Lafayette as the guest of honor. 

Lafayette’s position on heights, just east of the Schuylkill River, prevented a retreat from that direction.  The British sent a division of about five thousand soldiers under General James Grant to the north, so that the Continentals could not escape from the direction they came.  They sent another division under the command of General Charles “no flints” Grey to attack the American left flank and keep them pinned against the river.  Meanwhile General Howe was given the honor of personally leading the main force, along with General Clinton, that would assault Barren Hill from the south and demand Lafayette’s surrender.

The capture of General Lafayette and one-third of the Continental Army would have been a crushing blow.  Fortunately for the Continentals, that would not happen.  The Continentals picked the position because the heights gave them a good view of the surrounding area.  Sentries were able to see the British Army marching toward them from far away, even though it was a nighttime advance.  

Gen. Lafayette on Battlefield
Lafayette deployed his Pennsylvania militia, who by this time were back under the command of General James Potter.  General John Lacey had left a few weeks earlier, as I discussed last week.  While that happened, Lafayette sent General Enoch Poor with the bulk of his army along a sunken road that was out of view of the British.  They would move north back to a ford across the Schuylkill River and make their escape.

This escape was dependent on Potter’s Pennsylvania militia putting up enough of a defense to halt the British under General Grant, and prevent them from cutting off the escape route.  Potter, with his 600 militia took one look at the 5000 regulars advancing on him and decided, yeah, I’m not doing this.  His troops scattered into the woods and made their escape without a shot fired.  As Lafayette put it in his report General Potter “thought proper to retire” from the field.

However, Lafayette also remained on the heights with a rearguard.  He ordered a small number of troops to march towards Grant’s regulars, appearing to be the head of a larger column.  This forced Grant to halt his advance and put his men in line for battle.  Another group of British dragoons rode toward the Continental lines, only to run into a company of fifty Oneida Indians who were serving in the Continental Army.  The Indians gave a war whoop as they jumped out of the bushes.  The British dragoons, fearing an Indian ambush, turned and fled.  The Indians then caught up with the escaping column before the British figured out they were such a small force that the British could have easily overrun them.

As the British halted their advance and prepared for battle, Lafayette and the remaining rearguard hightailed it out of there, making their way down the sunken road and across the Schuylkill via a ford to the other side.  The British, finding the Americans had escaped, were not prepared to chase them across the Pennsylvania countryside.  Instead, they withdrew back to the city.  

The Battle of Barren Hill, therefore only led to some very minor skirmishing.  Some reports indicate three Americans were killed and nine British.  Washington was pleased to hear of Lafayette’s escape.  The British leadership were frustrated at their inability to surround and capture this inferior force with its back against the river. 

A few days later, General Howe boarded a ship bound for London, never to return.

Next week: British in Rhode Island conduct several spring raids, which we know collectively as the Mount Hope Bay Raids.

- - -

Next Episode 185 Mount Hope Bay Raids (Available January 24, 2021)



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Further Reading

Websites

Mischianza, Philadelphia: https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/mischianza-philadelphia

John Andre and the Mischianza: http://librarycompany.org/artifacts/meschianza.htm

Bishop, Morris “You Are Invited To A Mischianza” American Heritage Magazine, August 1974 Volume 25 Issue 5: https://www.americanheritage.com/you-are-invited-mischianza

The Battle of Barren Hill: https://www.mountvernon.org/library/digitalhistory/digital-encyclopedia/article/battle-of-barren-hill-1778

“From George Washington to Major General Lafayette, 18 May 1778,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/03-15-02-0152

Free eBooks
(from archive.org unless noted)

Biddle, Henry D. (ed) Extracts from the Journal of Elizabeth Drinker, from 1759 to 1807, A. D., Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1889. 

Lowry, Robert A Complete History of the Marquis de Lafayette, New York: R. Lowry, 1826. 

Mauduit, Israel Strictures on the Philadelphia Mischianza or Triumph Upon Leaving America Unconquered, London: printed for J. Bew, 1779. 

Books Worth Buying
(links to Amazon.com unless otherwise noted)*

Commager, Henry Steele Commager (Ed) and Richard B. Morris (Ed) The Spirit of Seventy-Six: The Story of the American Revolution As Told by Participants, 2002.  

Drury, Bob & Clavin, Tom Valley Forge, Simon & Schuster, 2018.

Jackson, John W. With the British Army in Philadelphia 1777-1778, Presidio Press, 1979. 

Konkle, Burton A. Benjamin Chew, 1722-1810: Head of the Pennsylvania Judiciary System Under Colony and Commonwealth, Univ of Pennsylvania Press, 1932. 

Randall, Willard Sterne Benedict Arnold: Patriot and Traitor, William Morrow & Co, 1990.

Taaffe, Stephen R. The Philadelphia Campaign, 1777-1778, Univ. Press of Kansas, 2003

Ward, Christopher The War of the Revolution, Macmillan, 1952.

* As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


Sunday, January 10, 2021

ARP183 Doan Brothers & Crooked Billet


By the spring of 1778, General Washington had fought off the political attempts to replace him and was ready to put the training of his new army, which had drilled under General Von Steuben all winter, to challenge the British in occupied Philadelphia.

Pennsylvania Militia

The news had arrived in April that France had joined the war against Britain.  Hopes ran high that perhaps French supplies, and soldiers would arrive soon to assist the Continentals.  As a result, Washington did not want to risk his army on an all-out assault on Philadelphia, like Germantown.   Many wanted to wait and see if the French would arrive to supplement an attack that would have a greater chance of victory.  If the British remained in Philadelphia until a French fleet arrived at the Delaware, the British might be trapped.  At that point, a combined American and French attack on the city would have far more impact.  Until the French arrived, that could not happen.

At the same time, Washington was not a man to sit around and do nothing.  British supplies in Philadelphia were dwindling.  Washington focused on efforts to prevent people from the countryside from selling food or other supplies to the British in Philadelphia.  A French fleet in the Delaware Bay might even help to starve out the British.  The Americans left small units near the city to interdict any attempts to bring in food or anything else into the British lines.

Much of the control of these soldiers around Philadelphia was left to the local militia.  The Continentals were struggling to survive at Valley Forge.  The local militia knew the area better and were most useful in such missions as blocking civilians, rather than going into combat against the British.

John Lacey

The man in charge of the Pennsylvania militia north of Philadelphia was General John Lacey.  The young militia general, a Quaker from Bucks County, was not very experienced.  He had been only twenty years old when the war began.  

Gen. John Armstrong

Shortly after fighting broke out at Lexington, Lacey had set aside his Quaker principles to join the local patriot militia.  Coming from a pacifist community, there was little enthusiasm for the military, nor much of a militia tradition.  In January of 1776, Lacey raised a company of 64 men from his community.  That was enough to confer upon him the rank of captain.

Lacey’s company served in the regiment under the command of then-Colonel Anthony Wayne.  The regiment joined the Continental Army and Lacey received a continental commission.  He served under Wayne during the Quebec campaign as the Americans were forced to retreat back to New York.  It is not clear exactly what happened, but Lacey and Wayne had some sort of dispute.  Lacey ended up resigning his commission and returning to Pennsylvania. There, Lacey took a position as a lieutenant colonel in the local militia.  

The war returned to the area as General Howe began his Philadelphia campaign at the end of the summer of 1777.  Colonel Lacey took command of a regiment of militia draftees to go to the support of the state.  Pennsylvania raised about 3000 militiamen for the campaign.  Lacey fought at Germantown and in some smaller skirmishes that fall.  Another militia commander, General John Armstrong, led the militia army during this campaign.  You may recall that Armstrong had command of one of the four divisions that Washington deployed at Germantown.  Lacey also fought under Armstrong at Whitemarsh.

Gen. James Potter
At the end of the fighting season, after the Continentals retreated to Valley Forge, Armstrong received an appointment to serve as one of the Pennsylvania delegates to the Continental Congress.  He turned over command of the militia to General James Potter.  General Potter served as commander for only a few weeks before he requested leave to go home to care for his sick wife.

Potter’s decision to return home was not unusual.  Militia were not expected to remain in the field after an immediate danger had passed.  That was what the Continentals did. With the British now in their winter quarters in Philadelphia and the Continentals settled into Valley Forge, the Pennsylvania militia mostly went home for the winter.  This made perfect sense.  There was no food or shelter to keep an army in the field.  The officers and men could return home, rest up over the winter and feed themselves, then turn out again in the spring when the fighting season began again.

Even so, some militia needed to remain in the field during this time.  In January 1778, the Pennsylvania executive council promoted John Lacey to brigadier general and put him in command of the militia.  Lacey was just 23 years old at the time.  There was, however, not much militia to command.  The militia on active duty had dwindled to under 600 by the time Lacey took command.  The primary mission of those still on duty was interdicting supplies that civilians were attempting to take to Philadelphia for sale.

Lacey received word of his promotion and got word from General Potter to report to his camp.  By the time Lacey arrived, Potter had already left for home and no one was in charge.  There were only sixty men in the camp, guarding guns and equipment for an army of 3000.  Lacey took command and received instructions from General Washington to focus on interdicting commerce into the city.  The state had promised Lacey that he would receive another 1000 militia to support these efforts.  Those promised reinforcements never came.  His total force of about 600 actually fell to under 250 over the next few weeks.

The Doan Brothers

In addition to interdicting food, Lacey’s militia had to deal with emboldened Tories who still roamed through the greater Philadelphia area.  Although the British Army did not venture into Bucks County, many loyalists who lived in the area assumed that the arrival of the British would mean that the patriots would soon be gone.  Many of Tories were either out for revenge for the way they had been treated, or were seeking benefits from the British for showing their loyalty.

Some good examples of these types are a group known as the Doan Gang.  Almost every element of the Doan’s story is disputed.  Some view them as heroic Robin Hood types while others portray them as bloodthirsty outlaws.  As with many things the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.  I want to tell their story because it is interesting.  But my version is simply based on reading the versions of others, many of which have a sketchy provenance.  So please don’t take my interpretation as definitive.

Five Doan brothers, Moses, Aaron, Levi, Mahlon, and Joseph, as well a cousin Abraham formed the core of what became known as the Doan Gang.  Before the war, in 1770, Moses got into a fight with his father and left the family farm in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.  For some time, he lived with a local Indian tribe.  There, he learned to live off the land and got to know the unsettled areas of the county rather well.

According to Doan family lore, the father of the family, Joseph Doan, was a Quaker and a loyalist.  When the patriots took control of Pennsylvania, they demanded that he pay taxes to them.  Doan refused to recognize the taxing authority of these rebels and would not pay.  As a result, the patriots threw the family off of their land and reduced them to poverty. 

Others dispute this story, saying that Pennsylvania records show that it did not seize the farm until near the end of the war.  However, it is possible that the eviction took place years before and the paperwork was filed much later.  

Whatever the reason, Moses opposed the patriot cause and enlisted his brothers and his cousin into a group that would wreak havoc against the patriots.  In July of 1776, shortly after the British landed at Staten Island, Moses and his brother Levi met with General Howe on Staten Island and offered their services as spies.

By some accounts, it was Moses who discovered the failure of the Americans to secure the Jamaica Pass on Long Island and provided the British with that intelligence.  This allowed the British to move behind the Continental lines and easily flank the Americans at the Battle of Brooklyn.  The British nicknamed Moses as “Eagle Spy” for the accuracy of his intelligence.

Another story says that Moses learned of Washington’s crossing of the Delaware on Christmas night, 1776 and rode to see Hessian Colonel Rall in Trenton.  The colonel refused to see Doan, who instead left a note for him about the attack.  According to that story, Rall put the note into his vest pocket and continued playing cards

The Doans also may have worked to free British prisoners.  After British prisoners began disappearing from Lancaster and not being found again, the Americans put an officer into the prison, pretending to be a captured British officer.  After several weeks, he was spirited away from the prison, traveling at night and hiding in the secret rooms of loyalists during the day.  The officer identified the leader of this escape mission as Abraham Doan.  As the group prepared to cross the Delaware River into British-occupied New Jersey, Abraham confronted the officer whom he suspected of not being a real prisoner.  The two men fought, and the officer escaped.  Later, the undercover officer identified the safe houses and arrested 15 people who cooperated in the escape of the British prisoners.  The Doans, once again, escaped capture.

In addition to serving as scouts and agents for the British, the Doans mostly made a living by engaging in home invasions and stealing horses.  There are stories of the gang breaking into houses at night, then beating and threatening the homeowner to give up whatever gold he had hidden on the property.  Those who want to portray the Doans as loyalist heroes say they only went after the property of known supporters of the patriot cause and particularly targeted tax collectors. Others say the attacks were more indiscriminate.

Whatever the truth, the Doans developed a reputation among locals in Pennsylvania as ruthless outlaws.  After the British took Philadelphia, the group focused primarily on stealing horses to sell to the British.  By some accounts, the group stole over 200 horses in the region.  The Doans, whose faces were well known to locals, tended to move only at night, and spent days living in caves or other remote sites where they could avoid detection.

In February 1778, officials in Bucks County raised a posse to capture the Doan gang.  The posse came up empty.  The group was too effective at avoiding detection.

There are many stories that paint Moses Doan as a local hero. One story from this time says that Moses Doan came across a woman from Philadelphia who had snuck out of the city to purchase some flour for her starving family.  Her husband was a patriot who was serving in Valley Forge at the time.  On her return to the city, she encountered Moses Doan and explained her plight.  Despite the fact that she was the wife of a patriot, Moses gave her a purse full of money and warned her that a British guard was just up the road.

Although the woman tried to avoid the British guard, he discovered her and attempted to confiscate the flour.  Doan then reappeared and appealed to the soldier to let her go with her flour.  When the soldier refused, Doan grabbed him by the throat and told the woman to run.  When she was out of sight, he shot the soldier in the head with a pistol and disappeared back into the night.  The death of the soldier brought out a guard to hunt down the killer.  Doan allegedly killed another pursuing soldier and an officer that night as he made his escape.

Another story puts Doan in more of a mixed light.  The gang engaged in a home invasion.  Although the Doans made up the core of their group, many times the gang grew as large as several dozen men.  On this night, one of their company was man by the name of “Foxy Joe”. As the group threatened the life of the homeowner, demanding that he turn over his gold, Foxy Joe made advances on the man’s wife, presumably an attempt to rape her.  Moses discovered the man, beat him nearly to death, and threw him down a flight of stairs.  Afterward Moses apologized to the husband for the incident.  His men were thieves, not rapists.

The Doan Gang continued to harass the people of Bucks County for years after the British left the area.  As I said, some considered them to be loyalists simply stuck on the wrong side of the war.  Others saw them as nothing more than brutal criminals, taking advantage of the chaos of war.  But the legend of the Doans is one that remains a part of local history.

Loyalist Conflict

The Doans, of course, were not the only Tories in the area.  While many were pacifist Quakers, there were others who were willing to resort to violence for King and country.  A key target of the loyalists were patriot leaders and their families. 

When John Lacey became commander of the state militia, loyalists threatened to attack his family and burn his farm. Lacey had to protect, not only his own family but those of other prominent patriots, as well as other potential targets.

Captain Richard Hovendon, who had raised a loyalist group called the Philadelphia Light Dragoons, raided a mill in Bucks County in February.  The group stole or destroyed material that was expected to be made into 500 uniforms for the Continental Army.  The raid also led to the death or capture of several dozen Continental soldiers who were guarding the mill.  Hovendon would go on to serve under Banastre Tarleton during the southern campaign.

General Lacey’s lack of experience contributed to his problems.  There is one letter from General Washington, advising the young General Lacey to keep his guards on the move and not stationed in a fixed location.  Doing so would give the British an easy target and would also allow smugglers to know to avoid that location.  On another occasion, Lacey had to write Washington to inform him that his men accidentally mishandled some cartridges, leading to an explosion, which destroyed six or seven thousand cartridges and injured five of his men.

Also during his first weeks as general, the militia continued to return home.  At one point Lacey reported that he had only 160 men left on duty in the entire region.  This was not entirely Lacey’s fault.  Not only did bad weather keep the men at home.  Pennsylvania had failed to pay the militia that had turned out the prior fall.  This failure to provide promised compensation did nothing to encourage men to turn out again for additional winter duty.

The men who did continue to serve got most of what they needed from the goods they confiscated from people smuggling goods into the city.  This also led to complaint that men were claiming goods were being smuggled, that they simply stole from local farms.

You may recall back in Episode 178 I talked about General Wayne and Commodore Barry distracting the British so they could drive a herd of cattle from New Jersey back to Valley Forge.  As they passed through Bucks County, Lacey was directed to provide a guard.  He did not have the manpower and failed to do so.  The British under Captain Hovendon’s Royal Dragoons managed to steal most of the herd and redirect it to the British in Philadelphia.

By spring, Lacey at least had a few months of experience, and militia began to return to duty in greater numbers.  

Crooked Billet

On April 27th General Lacey was in command of about 400 militia which encamped near Crooked Billet Tavern.  This is near the present town of Hatboro, about sixteen miles north of Philadelphia.  It was close enough to British lines to invite an attack.  The British had frequently raided into this area over the winter.  

Robert Abercromby
Despite this, Lacey kept his militia in camp for several days.  Local Tories informed the British of their location.  Lieutenant Colonel John Graves Simcoe of the Queen’s Loyal Rangers organized an attack party made up primarily of loyalist militia, but also including some regulars.  Simcoe divided an attack force of about 850 men.  The two groups marched out of Philadelphia on the night of April 30th.  Simcoe would attack from the northeast, while a second group under Lieutenant Colonel Robert Abercromby would attack from the southwest.

The militia had put out pickets, who discovered the attackers just before dawn on May 1.  The pickets, however, refused to fire a warning shot, instead hiding to avoid capture themselves.  The two groups descended on the main camp, opening a ruthless attack on the surprised militia.  Lacey attempted to mount a defense, but quickly realized that his men would not stand.  The majority of the outnumbered and surprised militia fled into the woods, abandoning everything to their attackers.

The militia lost about 20% of its force, with 26 killed, 8 wounded and 58 captured.  According to the Americans, the British massacred many of the wounded, including setting men on fire and watching them burn to death.  

Crooked Billet Monu-
ment (Hatfield, PA)
After the battle, Washington ordered an investigation in the murder of prisoners and wounded in order to make a complaint to General Howe.  The lieutenant who had been in command of the pickets was discharged for failure to follow orders.

A little over a week after the battle, General Potter returned from his winter at home, relieving General Lacey of command.  Lacey would continue to hold his militia title as general, but did not seem to serve in any active capacity after that.  A year later, he would turn to politics and served the last three years of the war as the Bucks County Representative to Pennsylvania’s Supreme Executive Council.

The Battle of Crooked Billet largely became forgotten, just another example of the incompetent local militia defeated by professionals.

Bordentown Raid

About a week after the attack at Crooked Billet, the British sent another small expedition across the Delaware River into New Jersey.  The Americans still had several ships and smaller boats upriver in Bordentown, New Jersey.  They also had some small supply depots there. On the night of May 7, the British sent a small raiding party upriver, landing at White Hill, New Jersey (today called Fieldsboro) which landed the next morning. 

This was a search and destroy mission.  The British burned any boats that they found as well as the houses of several leading patriots, as identified by local loyalists.  The Americans got word of the raid and scuttled several boats to prevent them from falling into British hands.  

The local militia also turned out and faced down the British raiders as they marched north to Bordentown.  According to local accounts the militia fired one volley, then turned and ran.  The British continued on into Bordentown.  There, they burned more houses, including that of Joseph Borden, son of the town’s namesake, as well as any ships that the patriots had not already destroyed.

Having satisfied themselves that they had destroyed any enemy property that they were going to find, the British returned to their ship and sailed back to Philadelphia before the end of the day.

The Bordentown raid, sometimes called the battle of Crosswicks Creek, was another minor raid that simply showed again that militia could not stop the regulars, but they still were not afraid to turn out and take pot shots at them.

Next week, The British throw a going-away party for General Howe, and General Lafayette almost gets captured at the Battle of Barren Hill.

- - -

Next Episode 183 Mischianza & Barren Hill 



Contact me via email at mtroy.history@gmail.com

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Further Reading

Websites

Mulcahy, Peter The Doan Outlaws of Bucks County: The Life and Times of the Plumstead Cowboyshttp://haygenealogy.com/hay/sources/gibson/doans.html

Hay, Donna “Moses Doan and Robert Gibson and the Immortality of a Reputation” SAR Magazine, Vol 111, No. 4, Spring 2017 https://www.massar.org/2017/07/19/moses-doan-and-robert-gibson-and-the-immortality-of-a-reputation

Rowe, G. S. “Outlawry in Pennsylvania, 1782-1788 and the Achievement of an Independent State Judiciary.” The American Journal of Legal History, vol. 20, no. 3, 1976, pp. 227–244. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/845115

Lacey, John. “Memoirs of Brigadier-General John Lacey, of Pennsylvania.” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 25, no. 1, 1901, pp. 1–13. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/20085948

Lacey, John, et al. “Memoirs of Brigadier-General John Lacey, of Pennsylvania (Concluded).” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 26, no. 2, 1902, pp. 265–270. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/20086030

Smith, Charles Harper. "General Lacey's Campaign in 1778", Bulletin of the Historical Society of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, Volume II (1941), No. 4, pp. 261–296 https://hsmcpa.org/images/thebulletin/1941vol2no4.pdf

Radbill, Kenneth A. “QUAKER PATRIOTS: THE LEADERSHIP OF OWEN BIDDLE AND JOHN LACEY, JR.” Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies, vol. 45, no. 1, 1978, pp. 47–60. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/27772496

Zanine, Louis J. “BRIGADIER GENERAL JOHN LACEY AND THE PENNSYLVANIA MILITIA IN 1778.” Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies, vol. 48, no. 2, 1981, pp. 129–142. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/27772737

Verenna, Thomas THE FOLLIES OF GENERAL JOHN LACEY AND THE PENNSYLVANIA MILITIA IN 1778” Journal of the American Revolution, April 8, 2015. https://allthingsliberty.com/2015/04/the-follies-of-general-john-lacey-and-the-pennsylvania-militia-in-1778

Zellers-Frederick, Andrew A. Close Call at Crooked Billet: https://www.historynet.com/close-call-crooked-billet.htm

Revolutionary War Sites in Bordentown, New Jersey: https://www.revolutionarywarnewjersey.com/new_jersey_revolutionary_war_sites/towns/bordentown_nj_revolutionary_war_sites.htm

Free eBooks
(from archive.org unless noted)

Brooke, Henry K. Annals of the Revolution: Or, A History of the Doans. John B. Perry, 1843 (Google Books).

Davis, W. W. H. The History of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia: Grant, Faires, & Rodgers 1876. 

Rogers, John P The Doan Outlaws, or, Bucks County's Cowboys in the Revolution, Doyelstown Democrat, 1895. 

Lacey, John “Memoirs of Brigadier-General John Lacey, of Pennsylvania” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 1901: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, & Part 6

Simcoe, John Graves A Journal of the Operations of the Queen's Rangers: from the end of the year 1777, to the conclusion of the late American War, Exeter, 1789. 

Books Worth Buying
(links to Amazon.com unless otherwise noted)*

Drury, Bob & Clavin, Tom Valley Forge, Simon & Schuster, 2018.

Jackson, John W. With the British Army in Philadelphia 1777-1778, Presidio Press, 1979. 

Rogers, Jennifer Hidden History of Bucks County, The History Press, 2019

Taaffe, Stephen R. The Philadelphia Campaign, 1777-1778, Univ. Press of Kansas, 2003

* As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.



 

Sunday, January 3, 2021

ARP182 Occupied Philadelphia


As I mentioned back in Episode 160, General Howe’s British Army entered Philadelphia on September 26, 1777.  Prior to the occupation, Philadelphia had been not only the seat of the Continental Congress, it was also the largest city British North America.   It had a population of about 40,000, compared to 25,000 for New York City and 15,000 for Boston.  General Howe hoped that its capture would finally bring the rebels to their senses, or at least win him some praise in London.

In the end, the capture accomplished not much of anything beyond being a career-ender for the British commander of North America.  The army found itself surrounded by a hostile enemy, with a great deal of difficulty keeping its own army properly supplied.  Benjamin Franklin’s comment about Philadelphia having captured General Howe must have rung true for many British leaders.

Defending the City

Having occupied the city, the British began setting up defenses.  The British had slipped past the Continental Army to enter the city without having a major battle after Brandywine.  The Continentals, however, were still in the field. An attack on the city was not out of the question.

Captain John Montresor, Howe’s engineer, took responsibility for the defenses.  He proposed building a series of ten redoubts along a line north of the city, connected by defensive lines which stretched from the Delaware River on the east to the Schuylkill River on the west.  Each redoubt sat along a road that led into the city.  Montresor later added two additional redoubts just north of the main defensive line to serve as outposts which could alert the main body in the event of an attack.  Montresor surveyed the proposed defensive line with General Cornwallis, who gave final approval.

The next problem was actually building the defenses.  The soldiers had to be ready for combat, so the work fell on the civilian population.  The call for laborers led to almost no volunteers.  Most of the city’s remaining population was Quaker, which had religious proscriptions against working on military projects.  Beyond that, the work was hard and the pay was terrible.  General Cornwallis had to threaten to conscript the locals before he could finally get about 200 men to work on the project.  That was only about half of the amount they wanted.  As a result, the construction took many weeks before any of the defenses were even close to ready for a garrison.

Further slowing the project was that Captain Montresor was also tasked with helping to open up the Delaware River.  For weeks after the British occupation, the Americans still held forts below Philadelphia.  This prevented the navy from reaching the city.  Howe could not bring any supplies up the river until the British took control.  So, in addition to defending against a land attack from the north, the British still had to assist the navy to the south in removing the forts along the Delaware.

John Montresor
The British initially left the bulk of the army in and around Germantown where most of the soldiers slept in tents.  General Howe personally made his first headquarters at the home belonging to the family of James Logan.  This was about one mile south of Germantown.  Several weeks after the Battle of Germantown the British pulled back so that almost all of the army was in or near the Philadelphia city limits.  General Howe took up residence within the city as well.

Even after the failed Continental effort to capture Germantown, American attacks on the British lines continued.  Americans would send in small forces at night.  The men would get within range of a British camp and fire on them at dawn.  The men would then retreat before the British could deploy a detachment to capture them.  The purpose of this was not to take any ground.  It was simply to keep the British and Hessian soldiers nervous and on edge.

Washington encamped his army at Whitemarsh, only a few miles from Germantown. He remained there until December, meaning the British could never really let down their guard.  The main Continental army was only a few hours’ march away.  Once the Continentals pulled back to Valley Forge, there was a little more relief.  However, the Continentals and militia still sent raids on occasion to keep the pickets on edge.

Housing the Soldiers

With the city secured militarily, the next important issue was housing.  Howe’s regulars and Hessians totaled about 15,000 men.  There were a few thousand more camp followers: women and children who were families of the soldiers.  Even so, over 25,000 people had fled the city before the British had entered.  Overcrowding was not the problem, at least not like it had been in New York City when the British occupied it a year earlier.

Ball at Gen. Howe HQ 1777
Most homes, however, remained occupied.  While many men had left to fight with the Continental army, their wives and children often remained behind.  About three-fourths of the civilian population were women and children.  Housing soldiers among the civilian population was always a delicate issue.

Officers took the best houses downtown.  The families would be relegated to a few rooms in the house while the officer and his staff made use of most of it.  Most officers were relatively polite and paid rent to the owner.  The benefit of having an officer also meant that soldiers were less likely to vandalize or rob the home.  Even so, many residents only took in these boarders reluctantly and without having much choice it the matter.

Initially, most soldiers stayed in tents or huts that they constructed. However, the occupation moved into winter, most enlisted soldiers were moved into houses, primarily those vacated by patriot families who had fled the city.  Units were billeted together so that officers could keep tabs on their men and form up the companies and regiments quickly if needed.

The army also took charge of any public buildings and churches.  In New York, most churches other than Anglican churches, became stables or hospitals.  In Philadelphia, much the same thing happened, with the exception that Quaker Meeting Houses were respected as part of the attempt to retain local support.  There was a Catholic Church and a Lutheran Church remained in operation for Hessian soldiers.  The State House, what we today call Independence Hall, became a prison for captured officers as well as a hospital for enemy prisoners

While there were conflicts and disputes over housing, the army settled into the city with relative comfort.

Feeding an Army

In addition to housing, food was an immediate concern for the army occupying Philadelphia.  The army took the city in late September.  It took another two months before the navy could clear the Delaware River.  Until that happened, the army had no source for food or other supplies other than what it could obtain locally.

General Howe had experience in New York fighting the forage wars with patriots in New Jersey over supplies.  But in New York, the British controlled Long Island, which provided much of the food they needed. They also had easy access to anything that ships could bring to the city.

In Philadelphia, the British only controlled an area a few miles around the city.  As I mentioned in an earlier episode, one of the first things the British did was send a large raiding party out toward Darby.  Soldiers collected food and hay, sufficient to last them through most of the winter.  With these supplies secured, there was little danger of going hungry.

The British also had another important tool to obtain food.  They had specie, that is gold and silver.  Although the Americans tried to surround the city and prevent farmers from bringing anything into the city, the lure of gold and silver payment in these particularly hard times, led many farmers to sneak their products into the British lines for sale.  The Continental paper money was becoming more and more worthless each day.  Farmers were not willing to rely on it.  Sales to the British meant payments with real money.

Patriots disparaged these activities as greed.  Farmers were being unpatriotic by letting the Continental Army starve at Valley Forge, while trying to feed the British in exchange for money.  Sure, in one sense, this was greed, and certainly was unpatriotic.  But these farmers were not wealthy men.  They had their own families to feed.  Many of them were hit hard by the war and were suffering deprivation themselves.  The desire to be compensated for the intense labor it took to grow and harvest crops, or to raise animals is not an unreasonable one.  Whatever we think of the morality of it, the reality is that most people tend to act out of self-interest, and that British gold provided the incentive that the farmers needed.

As a result, the British army did not really suffer from serious food shortages during the occupation, at least not when compared to the deprivations of the Continental soldiers at Valley Forge.  For the British, there was some tightening of rations before the navy could get up the Delaware, and again in late spring when supplies became tight again.  

The civilian population in Philadelphia did not fare as well.  Civilians did not have access to military stores, and did not always have the money to buy things at market. Prices often soared as people tried to profit from shortages due to the difficulties in bringing food into Philadelphia.  As a result, the civilian population tended to go hungry, rather than the soldiers. 

One area that was a constant source of need was firewood.  This was the main way to heat the buildings in the city. It was also a necessity for cooking.  The army burned through 800 cords of wood each week.  Soldiers could earn extra pay by volunteering for wood-cutting crews that wiped out virtually all the trees near the city by the end of the winter.  By April, hay also fell into short supply as well.  Again though, this was felt most harshly by the civilian population still in Philadelphia.

Local Support

A big part of capturing Philadelphia was the British hope that it would convince most Americans of the hopelessness of the patriot cause.  Public opinion mattered.  The British needed to recruit local loyalists to rebuild government and local militias to hold an area once the regulars were ready to move on.

Joseph Galloway
In December of 1777, General Howe appointed Joseph Galloway as Superintendent of Police.  Now, like other colonial cities, Philadelphia did not have a police force as we understand that term today.  That was a mid-19th century invention.  This was more of a city supervisor job.

Galloway was a Philadelphia native.  He had served as speaker of the Pennsylvania Assembly and had been a political ally and friend of Benjamin Franklin.  He had attended the First Continental Congress, but never supported independence.  When things moved too radically in that direction, Galloway threw in his lot with the loyalists.  In December, 1776, he traveled to British-occupied New York and offered his assistance to General Howe.  Galloway worked with Howe to bring the British army from New York to Philadelphia.  His reward was becoming the civilian commander of the city.  This gave Galloway the responsibility to enforce military edicts within Philadelphia. 

Part of his duties were keeping a tight control on all imports into the city.  Of particular importance were potential black market items such as liquor.  Any imports of liquor or even storage of large amounts of liquor had to be reported.  Anything not reported could be seized as contraband.  The sale of large amounts of liquor was banned. 

Other items in short supply were similarly limited.  Salt in large quantities had to be registered and could not be sold, except in small quantities for personal use.  Prices for the sale of food were set at fixed rates to prevent profiteering.  Attempts to sell above those rates could result in confiscation of one’s stock and arrest.  Merchants had to be licensed to sell food or tobacco.  Part of the reason the army kept track of such goods was that it enabled the leadership to compel the owners to deliver goods to the army as needed.  

Regulations also prohibited buying produce, meat, or other goods for purposes of resale.  Many enterprising merchants tried to meet farmers outside of town to purchase their goods and sell them at inflated prices.  To prevent this, purchases for the purposes of resale were banned.  Farmers had to sell their own goods at market. While there were great restrictions on commerce, at least the merchants could count on payment in specie for their goods, not paper like the Continentals offered.

The British also hoped to raise local regiments to supplement the army.  General Howe offered enlistment bonuses, plus a promise of fifty acres of land for two years’ service.  Local military recruiters tried to encourage young men to enlist.  Once again though, efforts met with disappointment.  Most of those in the area who still opposed the patriot movement were pacifists who would not enlist under any terms.  In fact, as I already mentioned, the army even had trouble finding workers to provide labor as civilian contractors. 

Andrew Allen
One attempt was to raise the Provincial Loyalist Corps of Pennsylvania.  To give some support to the regiment, General Howe agreed to serve personally as the regimental colonel.  However, the practical command went to William Allen, a son of the former Chief Justice of Pennsylvania.  Allen had some military command experience, but it came in a way you might not expect. He had served as a lieutenant colonel in the Continental Army.  His brother Andrew had served in the Continental Congress and on the Pennsylvania Committee of Safety.  Like others, though, the Allen brothers thought the movement had gone too far when Congress declared independence.  William Allen resigned his commission and traveled to New York to offer General Howe his services.

Allen was raising a loyalist regiment from locals around Philadelphia.  The regiment hoped to raise 400 soldiers.  This was not an optimistic number since most regiments began with a strength of at least 500.  In the end, they did not even raise half of the number hoped for.  Within months, about one-fourth of the 172 men who had first mustered had already deserted.  There were several other attempts to raise regiments.  Some recruits came from captured prisoners who agreed to serve.  Others were Continental deserters who were tired of starving at Valley Forge. Still others were escaped slaves who hoped that military service might improve their position within society.

The end result, however, was nowhere near the force that could be left behind to keep control of Philadelphia once the regulars had pacified the region and moved on.  Once again, promises of a loyalist army to rise up once regulars showed the flag proved to be a wishful fantasy.  In the end, the failure to recruit locals is what doomed the campaign to becoming a strategic failure.

Prisoners of War

Another large portion of the city’s population was prisoners of war.  The British had captured hundreds of prisoners at Brandywine, Germantown and in other engagements.  These, combined with deserters who abandoned the Continental army, led to thousands of prisoners.  Along with the military prisoners, were civilians who had been arrested in the city under suspicion of having engaged in activities in support of the patriot cause.

Walnut Street Prison
To oversee the prisoners, General Howe brought in William Cunningham.  This is the same man who had a reputation for abuse of prisoners in New York. Cunningham continued his sadistic abusive operations on a new group of victims in Philadelphia.  After receiving many complaints, Cunningham did leave Philadelphia, only to resume his post in New York. This was, at least, a relief for Philadelphia prisoners who saw much of the more open abuse leave with Cunningham.

Even if abuse slackened, deprivation still took its toll.  The primary housing for these prisoners was at the Walnut Street Prison just behind Independence Hall.  As in New York, the conditions were terribly overcrowded. Food rations were often at starvation levels.  Of course, disease broke out among the prisoners leading to many deaths from the deplorable conditions.

Thousands of men died and are buried across the street in what is now called Washington Square.  Today, only a few memorial stones serve as a reminder of the thousands of soldiers buried in mass graves beneath the park.

Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson
Perhaps one reason the death rate was not higher was that a number of civilians took an active effort to bring food and supplies to the prison.  There is one newspaper article of a person identified only as a “free negro woman” who used two of her hard-earned dollars as a laundress to buy the ingredients to make a pot of broth and buy some bread which she distributed to the prisoners.  Another local woman Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson who was married to a British officer, also led efforts to provide for the prisoners. After the Americans recaptured Philadelphia, Fergusson would face charges of treason and have her property confiscated.  However the numerous witnesses that attested to her support of the prisoners allowed her to recover her confiscated property eventually. 

Another reason more did not die was that the Americans had agents on hand for the prisoners in Philadelphia almost right away.  Thomas Franklin, a local Quaker (and no relation to Benjamin) served as an effective advocate for the prisoners during the British occupation.

A final explanation for why more did not die in Philadelphia, was that the British were only in  the city for less than a year. Sadly for the prisoners, most of them were shipped to New York when the British left, only to die in New York prisons or prison ships..

Many officers were held as prisoners in the State House, or what we call today Independence Hall.  Although conditions were a little better there, men were still crowded, left underfed, and without basic needs.  The British also used the hall for wounded Americans, who were left there with minimal medical treatment.

The British were reluctant to grant parole to most officers because they were so close to the American lines.  Escape was a great temptation. At one point, the army had to hire women to search females leaving the city.  It seems that some Americans were attempting to escape from Philadelphia dressed in women’s clothes.  Guards were given orders to shoot to kill anyone attempting to escape.  

One officer was released after a local Quaker, John Roberts, put up a £100 bond to guarantee his good behavior.  When the officer fled the city, Roberts was forced to pay the bond.  After the British left the city Roberts was unable to recover his money because the radicals had him executed for treason.

The British would remain in Philadelphia until June 1778.  And I’ll cover that departure in a future episode.  

Next week though, I want to talk about a group of loyalist outlaws known as the Doan Gang, as well as a skirmish that took place in May: the Battle of Crooked Billet.

- - -

Next Episode 183 The Doan Gang & Crooked Billet 



Contact me via email at mtroy.history@gmail.com

Follow the podcast on Twitter @AmRevPodcast

Join the Facebook group, American Revolution Podcast: https://www.facebook.com/groups/132651894048271

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Further Reading

Websites

The British in Philadelphia https://www.ushistory.org/march/phila/britishphila_1.htm

Sullivan, Aaron “In but not of the Revolution: Loyalty, Liberty, and the British Occupation of Philadelphia” Dissertation, Temple Univ. 2014: https://digital.library.temple.edu/digital/api/collection/p245801coll10/id/276077/download

Coleman, John M. “Joseph Galloway and the British Occupation of Philadelphia” Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies, Vol. 30, No. 3, July, 1963, pp. 272-300 https://journals.psu.edu/phj/article/download/22953/22722

Secrest, Jeremy "British Policy Towards Loyalists in the Philadelphia Campaign, 1777-1778" School of Advanced Military Studies, 2017: https://apps.dtic.mil/sti/pdfs/AD1039927.pdf

Mishoff, Willard O. “Business in Philadelphia during the British Occupation, 1777-1778.” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 61, no. 2, 1937, pp. 165–181. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/20087037

Fisher, Darlene Emmert. “SOCIAL LIFE IN PHILADELPHIA DURING THE BRITISH OCCUPATION.” Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies, vol. 37, no. 3, 1970, pp. 237–260. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/27771875

Rightmyer, Nelson Waite. “Churches under Enemy Occupation: Philadelphia, 1777-8.” Church History, vol. 14, no. 1, 1945, pp. 33–60. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/3161021

Wiener, Frederick Bernays. “The Military Occupation of Philadelphia in 1777-1778.” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, vol. 111, no. 5, 1967, pp. 310–313. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/986047

A History of the Royal Provincial Corps of Pennsylvania Loyalists:  http://royalprovincial.com/military/rhist//paloyal/pal1hist.htm

Free eBooks
(from archive.org unless noted)

Cuthbert, Anthony "Assessment of Damages Done by the British Troops during the Occupation of Philadelphia, 1777-1778" The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 1901.

Reed, John Ford Campaign to Valley Forge, July 1, 1777-December 19, 1777, Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1965 (borrow only).

Trussell, John B. B. Jr. The Battle of Germantown, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1974. 

Books Worth Buying
(links to Amazon.com unless otherwise noted)*

Buchanan, John The Road to Valley Forge: How Washington Built the Army that Won the Revolution, Wiley, 2004

Drury, Bob & Clavin, Tom Valley Forge, Simon & Schuster, 2018.

Harris, Michael C. Germantown: A Military History of the Battle for Philadelphia, October 4, 1777, Savas Beatie, 2020.

Jackson, John W. With the British Army in Philadelphia 1777-1778, Presidio Press, 1979. 

Johnson, Donald Occupied America: British Military Rule and the Experience of Revolution, Univ. of Penn Press, 2020. 

McGuire, Thomas J. The Philadelphia Campaign, Vol. 2, Stackpole Books, 2007.

McGuire, Thomas J. The Surprise of Germantown: Or, the Battle of Cliveden, October 4th, 1777, Thomas Pubs, 1996.

Sullivan, Aaron The Disaffected: Britain's Occupation of Philadelphia During the American Revolution, Univ. of Penn. Press, 2019 (book recommendation of the week).

Reed, John Ford Campaign to Valley Forge, July 1, 1777-December 19, 1777, Pioneer Press, 1980 (orig. Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1965).

Taaffe, Stephen R. The Philadelphia Campaign, 1777-1778, Univ. Press of Kansas, 2003

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