Sunday, May 19, 2019

Episode 097: A Coup in Philadelphia

So far in my story, I have not given much focus to Philadelphia, beyond discussions of the Continental Congress itself.  The city plays a key role in the revolution, beyond simply hosting Congress. I touched on this a little when I talked about the adoption of various state constitutions, but it is such an important topic, that I thought it worth devoting an episode to how a political coup in Philadelphia turned Pennsylvania from a conservative colony that leaned Tory, into a radical patriot state that looked much more like New England, all in a matter of weeks.

Pennsylvania Politics

To understand this change, it is important to understand Pennsylvania politics of the time. Before and during the Revolution, Philadelphia was the largest city in British North America.  Pennsylvania, was one of the last colonies to be created in America, and the only one not touching the Atlantic Ocean.  It was mostly an inland wilderness.  Despite its late start and geographic limitations, it quickly became a major trading center with a large and growing population.

William Penn, of course, founded Pennsylvania when King Charles II gave him the land in settlement of a debt that he owed to Penn’s father, Admiral William Penn.  As an aside, Pennsylvania was named after the father, Admiral Penn, not his son, the founder.  The colony populated rapidly due to the availability of cheap land and Pena’s promise of religious freedom.  Penn advertised heavily in the German states, and got a large German speaking population to settle there. Penn was a Quaker and wanted to create a colony that would provide a haven for the Society of Friends.

William Penn
(from National Park Service)
By the 1760’s, Quakers had become a minority in the colony. The Quakers, however, dominated the colony’s politics, mostly because they never altered voting districts to account for changes in population.  The areas in and around Philadelphia held a disproportionate number of seats.  During the French and Indian War, many Quakers had left government, not wanting to participate in a war, which violated the pacifist tenants of their religion.

During this same period, a political split divided the colonial leadership. William Penn’s son Thomas Penn, had become proprietor after his father’s death in 1718.  Thomas never really got along with the Quaker leadership.  In 1751, Thomas moved back to England.  He converted to the Anglican Church a few years later.  In 1756, in an attempt to oust Quakers who still dominated the colony’s politics, Penn petitioned Parliament to require an oath of loyalty for members of all colonial assemblies  Since Quakers could not take oaths, they would not be able to serve.  Although this attempt failed, it widened a political schism between the Penn family and the Quaker leadership.

The Quakers, supported by others such as Benjamin Franklin and Joseph Galloway, started pushing for an end to rule by the Penn family and to get a royal charter.  This is what happened to the only other proprietary colony, North Carolina.  The King dissolved the charter and took direct control of the colony, appointing a royal governor.  Many leaders from underrepresented areas opposed this move and wanted to retain the proprietors. John Dickinson was a notable member of this faction.

That whole fight over the charter dominated politics in the late 1750’s and early 1760’s.  It was only when the hostility toward Parliament’s attempts to tax the colonies that the push for a royal colony faded and the issue of Parliamentary taxation took front seat.  Once it did, coalitions began to realign. Quaker leaders could not condone revolution against the King.  Others, in the “royal colony” coalition, jumped into the tax protest movement wholeheartedly.

Charles Thomson

One of those men was Charles Thomson. If you have heard of Thomson at all, it is probably as secretary of the Continental Congress.  Before he had that job, he was an active radical leader in Philadelphia politics.

Thomson is really an interesting character who largely gets overlooked.  It’s worth giving a little background on him.  Thomson was born in Ulster Ireland in 1729.  His mother died when he was around nine, his father took his six children to Pennsylvania to begin a new life.  His father, though, got sick and died during the voyage.  Charles and his siblings got distributed to various families, possibly as indentured servants.  Charles ran away after learning that he would be apprenticed as a blacksmith.  He wanted to get an education.

Charles Thomson (from Wikimedia)
With the assistance of his brother and others, he enrolled in a school at the New London Academy in Pennsylvania.  There, he received a classical education.  At age 21, with some assistance from Benjamin Franklin, Thomson began work as a tutor at the Philadelphia Academy in 1751.  He followed Franklin into the anti-proprietary political faction. During the French and Indian War, he served as secretary at the negotiations for the Treaty of Easton.  Afterwards, he wrote a book: An Enquiry into the Causes of the Alienation of the Delaware and Shawenese Indians from the British Interest. Thomson strenuously opposed the Proprietor’s Indian policies.  They would only lead to future wars between colonists and native tribes.

Thomson really began to radicalize after passage of the Stamp Act in 1765.  He became a leading organizer of the Sons of Liberty in Philadelphia. In October, he was part of a committee that visited John Hughes to convince (some would use the word threaten) him to resign his appointment as stamp agent for Pennsylvania.

He was active on committees of correspondence, which helped get him known to patriot radicals across the continent.  During the tea crisis, he worked closely with Joseph Reed, and Thomas Mifflin to prevent any merchants in Philadelphia from receiving any tea from the East India company shipments.  Unlike Boston, the Philadelphia radicals were able to get the ships to turn around and sail back to London.  Philadelphia, therefore, avoided the wrath leveled at Boston for destroying tea.

Even so, Thomson continued as a radical leader in 1774, fighting against the coercive acts by helping to organize petitions and boycotts.  His radical leadership later caused John Adams to refer to Thomson as the "Samuel Adams of Philadelphia."  Thomson was also part of the conspiracy I discussed back in Episode 43 to get the conservatives in Pennsylvania to agree to host the First Continental Congress.

As a well respected patriot with good writing skills, but not enough stature to become a delegate, Thomson became the recording secretary for the First Continental Congress.  He would continue in that role with the Second Continental Congress and the Confederation Congress, all the way through 1789.

So in early 1776, Thomson, as secretary, had full knowledge of everything happening in Congress, but was also still a local radical leader in the city, with mobs of radical patriots available as needed.

The Assembly

In many colonies, royal governors had suspended colonial legislatures that had tried to engage in activities against crown policy.  This had led to patriots setting up shadow provincial legislatures in defiance of royal authority.  Pennsylvania never had that problem.  The proprietary governor John Penn did not prevent the assembly from meeting.  He kept a low profile and mostly allowed politics to follow its own course.

Street Protest (Benjamin Franklin Historical Society)
The Pennsylvania Assembly itself remained pretty conservative.  The Quaker leadership stressed as part of their religious foundation that they should not resist government policies or question the leadership in London.  At most, colonists should submit petitions requesting changes.  Trade embargoes and other efforts to force policy changes were simply unacceptable.  The notion of taking up arms against British soldiers was completely out of the question.

Over the early 1770’s though, Quakers found themselves in an increasingly untenable situation.  If they did not support trade embargoes and other patriot efforts to protect colonial rights, they were seen as traitors to the colony.  As a result, many Quakers simply withdrew from politics.  They did not run for reelection and did not speak out in newspapers or public meetings.  Other conservatives took their place. Some were former Quakers.  Others were Anglicans who were also traditionally loyal to the King and who were still willing to speak out.  Many replacements though were also willing to back the patriots.

The split between proprietary and royal factions in the colony faded away.  Men who were on opposite sides of that fight, found themselves working together.  For example, Joseph Galloway, who had favored a royal charter along with men like Benjamin Franklin and Charles Thomson, now found himself increasingly at odds with his former allies as he found himself more closely allied with the Tories.  John Dickinson, who had been a supporter of proprietary government and a political opponent of Franklin and Thomson, now found himself increasingly allied with his former opponents as they all embraced the patriot movement.

All legislators, of course, were elected politicians.  Those who wanted to continue in their seats had to reflect the will of the voters.  To push the assembly in the right direction, Philadelphia radicals formed local unelected groups to lobby the legislature for the changes.  Many radical elements lived outside Philadelphia, in the more rural areas to the north and west.  Within the city, one of the most radical groups was the city’s mechanics.  These were skilled artisans and workmen that made up much of the workforce.  They were already organized in trade groups.  Under the leadership of Charles Thomson, they spoke loudly in support of trade embargoes and enforcing them on the merchants.  The mechanics also used their political power to demand the creation of increasingly larger committees.  There was Committee of 19, then 43, then 66, then 100.  These committees sought to create a more reasonable political balance since the Assembly was still unfairly weighted in favor of conservative districts in and around Philadelphia.

The committees focused on enforcement of trade restrictions, using mob pressure to intimidate or punish those who refused to comply.  After Lexington and Concord, the committees began to form militia, known as Associators.  Unlike New England or the southern colonies, Pennsylvania had almost no militia tradition.  What little they had existed in local communities on the western frontier, where Indian attacks posed much more risk.  Even these militia did not normally receive much support from the Quaker government back east.

In April 1775, news of fighting in Massachusetts resulted in groups, most prominently the mechanics, demanding that the colony form militia units for the defense of their rights.  The Committee of 66 took an active role in organizing and training an active militia.  Within weeks, the patriots had 30 new militia companies.  The Committee requested that the Assembly, allocate £50,000 in new currency to fund the new army.

The Assembly had funded militia in the past.  In the 1750’s it had allocated funds for defense of western territories before and during the French and Indian War.  Using militia, however, in obvious defiance of royal authority, however, would be far more controversial.  Around this same time, the Assembly rejected the Governor’s proposal to accept Lord North’s compromise offer, something the Continental Congress had already rejected.  Even while it rejected diplomatic compromise, the Assembly was not quite ready to hand over £50,000 to an extra-legal committee that was forming its own army.  However, it did agree, to allocate £2000 for expenses already incurred and another £5000 for future costs. The Assembly did seem willing to accommodate at least some patriot demands.

Funding aside, there was some fighting between radicals and moderates in late 1775 over the militia.  Radicals viewed paying a small subsection of the colony to remain in ranks for an extended period of time as a “standing army” which was a sign of tyranny.  They argued that all able bodied men in the colony should be required to participate in the militia.  This, of course, was a real problem for Quakers and other pacifist groups with religious objections.  It was the subject of heated debates for many months.  The Assembly refused to act on radical demands.  The militia remained a body of paid volunteers.


But the debate of militia paled in comparison to the debate that began at the end of 1775.  As you may recall back in Episode 81, this was about the time Thomas Paine published Common Sense.  The debate over independence became the topic of discussion in Pennsylvania as it was in all other colonies. The issue of independence seemed to upset many Quakers even more than the idea of universal military service.

On January 20, 1776, the Society’s Elders issued a public declaration which said in part “the setting up and putting down kings and governments, is God’s peculiar prerogative; for causes best known to himself: And it is not our business to have any hand or contrivance therein: . . . but to pray for our king, and the safety of our nation, and good of all men: That we may live a quiet and peaceable life, in all godliness and honesty; under government which God is pleased to set over us.”

Pennsylvania State House (from Wikimedia)
There was no way to finesse or compromise on independence.  There was no way the Assembly would support it.  Independence horrified Quakers and other conservatives in the state.  It formed a split among the many solid patriots.  Leaders like John Dickinson and Robert Morris had been outspoken advocates of strictly enforced trade embargoes and creating militia.  But they balked at independence.  These were men who thrived under the colonial system. Many feared they could not defeat Britain militarily and would be hanged as traitors.  Even if Pennsylvania did win somehow independence, they had no idea how much chaos and disorder would arise from the lack of a central government to keep the crazies in line.

The hard core radicals, however, pushed even harder to get Pennsylvania to support independence.  The Patriot Committee of 100 still contained a mix of leaders across the political spectrum.  In February, patriots held elections for a new Committee of 100.  This Committee was made up of many more working class patriots who were much more enthusiastic about independence.  Many more moderate patriots like Morris and Dickinson got kicked off the Committee.

This new radical Committee of 100 began making more demands on the legislature for militia funds and support for independence.  The Assembly, however, would not roll over.  The Committee did get them to agree to some redistricting, giving some of the western and more radical districts more representation in the Assembly.  But it still was not enough to get majority support for independence in the Assembly.

The colony held Assembly elections in May to fill new seats.  Radicals seeking independence fought a bitter contest for more radical representatives, most of their candidates lost.  This was a combination of strong turnout by Quakers to oppose radical candidates, combined with the fact that many radicals had joined militia units to go help defend New York City.  There were no absentee ballots at this time.

Most historians seem to think that the population was pretty evenly split at this time.  Even though the elections favored the moderates, in the days following the elections, a couple of events turned momentum in favor of the radicals.  First, Pennsylvanians received word that King George had hired 20,000 mercenaries to crush the rebellion.  Use of foreign mercenaries greatly outraged colonists.  If the King would use outsiders, many colonists dropped reservations about declaring independence and bringing France in on their side.  Second, the British warship Roebuck and Liverpool sailed up the Delaware River and engaged in a firefight with colonial gunships.  Although it was turned away, it brought home the reality that war was coming to Pennsylvania.

Sensing momentum on their side and unable to get the Assembly to act, the radicals tried another tactic.  On May 20, a few days after the Continental Congress passed its resolution for the colonies to form new governments, 4000 radicals appeared in front of the State House, what we today call Independence Hall.  While the Continental Congress was meeting on the first floor, the Pennsylvania Assembly met on the second floor.

The radical mob, which listened to speeches by some radical delegates, including Thomas McKean wanted not only independence, but a new government for Pennsylvania.  They called for a constitutional convention to replace the Assembly.  The Committee of 100 then called for an election of delegates to a convention.  What legal basis did the committee have for this? Well none really.  They were simply counting on the people to support it and for the government to have no power to obstruct it.

Although momentum seemed to be in favor of the radicals, the leaders set up the convention to ensure the result.  First, they gave equal representation to each county.  This gave far more power to the less populated western counties where radical sentiment was far more popular.  Second, they required all delegates to forswear allegiance to the king and to support whatever government the people chose.  Third, opened up voting to any male over the age of 21 who had been assessed for taxes.  With no minimum property requirement, this increased the voter pool from 50% to 90% across the State.

The Assembly, seeing this attack on its power appointed a committee to evaluate whether they should change their instructions to the delegates on independence.  The head of the Committee was none other than John Dickinson, himself a delegate and one of the leading opponents of independence.  The new instructions were muddled, it did not require the delegates to oppose independence, but did not require them sot support it either.  Since a majority of the Pennsylvania delegation still opposed independence, it did not seem to change the outcome.  Clearly, though the actions of the patriots to create an extra-legal convention and force their issue, despite having lost the recent elections, made this change possible.

By July, the delegation was still four to three against independence. We will see how that plays out next week when I discuss the Continental Congress’ vote on independence.

- - -

Next  Episode 98: Voting for Independence (Available May 26, 2019)

Previous Episode 96: The Battle for Sullivan's Island

Click here to donate
American Revolution Podcast is distributed 100% free of charge. If you can chip in to help defray my costs, I'd appreciate whatever you can give.  Make a one time donation through my PayPal account. Also, see the very bottom of this page to see how you can support this podcast by making purchases you would make anyway on Amazon.  Thanks, Mike Troy

Click here to see my Patreon Page
You can support the American Revolution Podcast as a Patreon subscriber.  This is an option for people who want to make monthly pledges.  Patreon support will give you access to Podcast extras and help make the podcast a sustainable project.  Thanks again!

Further Reading


Pennsylvania History:

Quakers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey:

Thayer, Theodore, The Quaker Party of Pennsylvania, 1755-1765:

Wendel, Thomas "The Keith-Lloyd Alliance: Factional and Coalition Politics in Colonial Pennsylvania" The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 1967:

Charles Thomson:

Society of Friends Testimony on resistance to government:

Fea, John The Pennsylvania Constitution VIDEO, C-Span, 2017.

Free eBooks
(from unless noted)

Harley, Lewis R. The Life of Charles Thomson: Secretary of the Continental Congress and Translator of the Bible From the Greek, G.W. Jacobs & Co. 1900.

Sharpless, Isaac A History of Quaker Government in Pennsylvania, Vol 2, Leach (1900).

Books Worth Buying
(links to unless otherwise noted)*

Fleming, Thomas 1776: Year of Illusions, New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1975.

Ryerson, Richard Alan The Revolution Is Now Begun: The Radical Committees of Philadelphia, 1765-1776, Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1978.

Selsam, J. Paul The Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776: A Study in Revolutionary Democracy, Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1936.

* This site is a registered Amazon Associate.  Please help support this site by purchasing any of these books, or any other Amazon product, via the links on this site.  If you start by clicking on a book link above and then browse to buy something completely different on Amazon, American Revolution Podcast will get credit for your purchase.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Episode 096: The Battle of Sullivan’s Island

Way back in Episode 82 we left Gen. Henry Clinton off the coast of North Carolina, awaiting the arrival of an army of loyalists who never came, and a fleet carrying regulars from Britain who took forever to arrive.   In January 1776, Clinton had left British occupied Boston headed South.

Collecting an Army

He stopped first in New York.  In New York Harbor, Clinton conferred with several royal governors who had been ousted, but who were sure that if the army raised its standard, thousands of their loyalist subjects would flock to support the King.  This was also the visit that I mentioned back in Episode 83 when Lord Drummond attempted to get Clinton to meet with Peace Commissioners from the Continental Congress.  Clinton refused.

Sir Henry Clinton
(from Wikimedia)
This was also the same visit I mentioned in Episode 89 when Clinton simply told his old friend Charles Lee, now serving as a general with the enemy in the Continental Army, that he was planning to head down to the Carolinas and lead an attack there.  After that conversation, Lee got himself transferred to command a southern army to oppose Clinton.  So Clinton: no more revealing your plans to the enemy, ok?

After a lengthy stay, Clinton made his way down to Cape Fear in North Carolina, where he expected to find an army of loyalists from the Carolina backcountry.  London had promised to send several regiments of regulars led by Gen. Cornwallis, who would become Clinton’s second in command.

Com. Peter Parker

Carrying the regulars would be a naval fleet under the command of Commodore Peter Parker. This was long before Parker received a bite from a radioactive spider, so he had no special superpowers at this time, only decades of naval experience.  The 55 year old Commodore was son of Admiral Christopher Parker.  Peter joined the navy in 1735, at age 13 or 14.  He served under Admiral Vernon, along with George Washington’s older brother Lawrence, in the West Indies during the War of Jenkins’ Ear.  He saw considerable action in the War of Austrian Succession and the Seven Years War, before retiring from active service in 1763.

A decade later, when trouble in the colonies created a need to increase the active navy, officials encouraged Parker to rejoin active service, granting him a knighthood and promoting Sir Peter to the rank of Commodore.  Later Parker would become an admiral and would later serve as a patron to a young up and coming officer named Horatio Nelson.

Plan of Attack

But for now, Commodore Parker would share command with General Clinton.  Parker carried plans from Lord George Germain back in London.  The plan had been to have Clinton and Cornwallis meet at Cape Fear.  They would deploy their 2000 regulars and provide arms to the loyalists.  Once the regulars restored order in North Carolina, as well as Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia, they would leave the Loyalists in charge, and meet up with Gen. Howe in New York.  I’m not sure when Germain wrote those orders, but he expected the whole mission to be wrapped up in time for Clinton, Cornwallis, and Parker to join General Howe some time that spring.  Given that Clinton did not even receive these orders until May, chances of having everything done before summer were nill.  But given that Howe was running behind schedule as well, Clinton did not think he needed to be in any special hurry to get back to New York.

Sir Peter Parker
(from Wikimedia)
Clinton had arrived in March.  By then, the rebels had already crushed the loyalists at Moore’s Creek Bridge, meaning there would be no loyalist army for Clinton to lead.  Clinton found himself sitting off the coast, with only a few companies of men that he brought with him. General Cornwallis finally arrived on May 3, but thanks to stormy weather, the fleet continued to arrive slowly over the next few weeks, some not arriving until June.

In the meantime, soldiers had to remain aboard ship.  They could not land anywhere without doing battle with the locals.  The British conducted a series of coastal raids, mostly to collect food and supplies.  But the men were getting sick with so much time aboard ship.  Some of them were beginning to die of scurvy because of the lack of fresh vegetables.

Without loyalists rallying to their standard, there was not much Clinton’s forces could do.  Even if they captured some town or territory, they knew they had to leave soon to assist Howe in New York.  Without loyal local forces to leave in charge, any victory would have been pointless.

While waiting for more ships to find their way to the rendezvous at Cape Fear, Clinton and Parker tried to find some place they could have a military success.  Parker indicated that London thought Charleston, South Carolina was particularly important.  Clinton also received a message from Howe, saying there was no hurry to return and also indicated the importance of securing Charleston.

Clinton deployed a ship to reconnoiter Charleston from the sea.  The officers reported back that the rebels were building a fort on Sullivan’s Island at the mouth of Charleston Harbor.  At the time of the survey, the fort was still under construction and not ready for an attack.  Up until then, Clinton seemed in favor of establishing a secure outpost on the Virginia coast.  Parker though, persuaded him of the value of taking Sullivan’s Island.  Even if they did not have the resources to capture all of Charleston, taking the fort before it was finished would prevent the rebels from securing Charleston Harbor, and would provide the British with a launching point for a later attack against the city.

By the end of May, Clinton received updated orders from Lord Germain that if he was not going to engage in any military operations, he might as well head north and begin linking up with Howe.  Clinton did not want to give up his independent command without having accomplished anything.  He held a council of war to decide what action they might take.  The council approved the attack on Sullivan’s Island.  The fleet weighed anchor had headed south to Charleston.  By June 1, the first British ships anchored outside Charleston Harbor.

Charles Lee Moves South

While General Clinton and the British fleet slowly moved toward Charleston.  Continental General Charles Lee slowly made his way down to defend it.  After Lee informed Congress about General Clinton’s plans, Congress directed Lee to head a southern command to stop Clinton.  Lee spent some time in Philadelphia, then moved south, making waves wherever he went.  In Baltimore, he ordered the arrest of Royal Governor Robert Eden.  The Annapolis Committee of Safety challenged his authority to make such an arrest.  While they argued about it, Governor Eden jumped aboard a ship and sailed back to London.  Lee then set up headquarters in Williamsburg.  There, he commandeered a building at William and Mary College that had been set aside for a military hospital, setting off more local protests.  He also arrested and burned the homes of some Tory leaders.  He ordered the removal of other less influential Tories away from the coast.  The Provincial Congress eventually supported all these moves, but the imperious manner in which Lee acted, bothered many patriot leaders.

By late May, Lee left for Charleston after determining that Clinton would likely attack there soon.  Lee actually did not arrive until June 4, a few days after the British fleet appeared outside Charleston Harbor.  It still is not clear to me why the British just sat there and did not attack.  They were still awaiting the arrival of some ships, but still had plenty for the attack.  Instead, they did little before beginning the attack four weeks after arrival.  This only gave their men time to get hungrier and sicker while the patriots improved their defenses.

Preparing the Defense

Lee brought with him 1900 Continentals to supplement the local militia.  One of Lee’s first steps was to assert command over all militia and anything else he might need in defense of Charleston.

After observing and evaluating the defenses, Lee decided that they should abandon Sullivan’s Island.  The wooden walls would not stand long against artillery fire.  More importantly, the fort did not have a back wall yet.  If the navy sailed around the fort, they could wipe out the defenders, who would have nowhere to hide.  There was also no way to retreat from the island if the British overran it.

Sullivan's Island (from Wikimedia)
The defenders had a total of 31 cannon on Sullivan’s Island Another 15 patriot guns sat across the harbor at Fort Johnson.  Compare that to the roughly 270 guns among the 50 British ships that were prepared to attack.  Given the incomplete defenses, the smaller number of guns, and the lack of a line of retreat, it’s easy to understand why General Lee thought they should not try to hold Sullivan’s Island.

Lee would not get his way though.  President of South Carolina, John Rutledge, argued that he commanded the state militia.  South Carolina had created a new Constitution in March.  Before that, Rutledge had been a member of the Continental Congress.  He was not ready to turn over command of his militia to Lee and the Continental Army like colonials had done with the regulars in earlier wars.  Rutledge sent a note out to Fort Sullivan’s commander saying that General Lee thought they should abandon the island. The commander, however, should not do so without an order from Rutledge, and that he would rather cut off his right hand than issue such an order.

Lee attempted to build a pontoon bridge to the island, using barrels and wood planks.  This would at least provide a line of retreat if needed.  But when he tried to send 200 soldiers over the bridge, it broke apart.

Out on Sullivan’s Island, Col. William Moultrie commanded a group of over 400 militia.  They had 31 cannons and about 10,000 pounds of powder, a good amount for the patriots, but not really enough for a multi-day artillery battle.

On June 7, British General Clinton sent a messenger under a flag of truce to the patriot lines.  A militiaman fired on the messenger who returned without delivering the message.  The next day, patriot leaders had to send an apology to General Clinton for firing on a flag of truce and allowed him to send a messenger the following day.  Clinton’s message though, was a nonstarter.  It simply called on the rebels to lay down their arms and surrender.  That was not going to happen.

The Battle

That same day, June 8, General Clinton along with Cornwallis landed 2200 regulars on Long Island, just to the north of Sullivan’s Island.  The British plan was to ford the men across a shallow sand bar to Sullivan’s Island.  They would then march down to the south end of the Island and attack Fort Sullivan from behind.

Moultrie Flag at Fort Sullivan
(from British Battles)
When General Lee got word of this, he sent a note to Col. Moultrie to have him move two of his field cannons to the north end of the island.  They would use these to prevent any British landing.  It took two days for Moultrie to get the note, but he still had time to move the cannon into place before the slow moving British attempted any assault.  Lee also ordered Moultrie to continue building up the back wall of the fort to defend against an assault.  Moultrie never got around to that.  Lee himself was focused on the defense of the town of Charleston.  He feared Clinton could march his army from Long Island to make a direct land assault on Charleston, bypassing the island defenses entirely.  But the swampy land between Long Island and Charleston would have made any direct assault impossible.

More than a week passed before anything else happened.  Clinton planned to move slowly and deliberately, not relying at all on speed or surprise.  On June 17, Clinton made his first attempt to ford soldiers across to Sullivan’s Island.  He discovered, to his frustration that the sandbar at low tide was not 18 inches as expected, but more than 7 feet deep.  His army could not cross the ford to get to Sullivan’s Island.

By this time, the patriots had over 6500 soldiers.  Most of these remained with Lee at Charleston, his 1900 Continentals, as well as around 4000 South Carolina regulars and militia.  Then there were Moultrie’s 400 defenders on Sullivan’s island, and a few other crews on surrounding islands.   Lee remained primarily concerned about a direct assault on Charleston.  He did not realize the British only had the limited goal of seizing Sullivan’s Island.  Lee still considered the island indefensible.  Although the fort could have accommodated 1000 defenders, Lee would not send over any more troops.  He figured anyone there would simply be killed or taken prisoner, no need to add to those losses.

On the evening of June 27, Lee decided to relieve Colonel Moultrie of command and send over a Continental officer to take control of Fort Sullivan.  More than likely, once htat officer was in command, we would order a withdrawal from the island.  But before Lee could replace Moultrie, the British finally acted.

Battle of Fort Sullivan (from British Battles)
On the morning of June 28, the British Navy began its bombardment of Fort Sullivan.  Parker’s attack, however quickly ran into problems. First, Parker had two ships lobbing bombs and mortars into the center of Fort Sullivan from a distance.  Because he anchored the ships too far away, they had to use larger amounts of powder.  The loads were so large that they ended up destroying the deck of one of the ships, taking it out of commission.  Also, the explosives lobbed into the fort mostly sank into the soft sand before exploding, thus greatly reducing their destructive effect.

Next, Parker sent four of his largest ships, with a total of over 150 cannon, to level the fort walls.  Again, the British met with frustration,  The walls of green palmetto logs were soft wood, with about 16 feet of sand and mud in between the inner and outer walls.  British cannonballs simply pushed through the logs, which did not splinter, and sank into the sand, doing almost no damage.

During the naval attack, Clinton attempted to use boats to move his troops from Long Island to Sullivan’s Island.  However, the patriot defenders used their two cannon to fire on the landing craft. On the mainland, Continentals also used cannon to put the British landing craft in a deadly crossfire.  Since the British did not have enough boats to overwhelm the defenders, the attack broke and the regulars returned to Long Island.  After that one attempted assault, Clinton gave up on any attack by the army and sat out the rest of the battle.

British Navy firing on Fort Sullivan (from British Battles)
The defenders at Fort Sullivan returned fire against an overwhelming cannonade that lasted all day.  But they took surprisingly few casualties.  Moultrie’s biggest fear was running out of ammunition.  He had to slow down his return fire to conserve powder.

Around noon, Parker ordered three of his ships to pass around behind the fort so they could fire on defenders where the walls remained incomplete.  This too ended in frustration as the ships could not get over a sandbar.  Two of the ships retreated, but one of them, the Acteon got stuck there and had to be burned the following morning.  The patriots actually boarded the burning ship, fired some of its cannon at the enemy, removed some supplies, and abandoned it only minutes before the powder magazine exploded.  The Navy did not attempt again to get around behind the fort.  Instead, they continued to batter the front, which was proving useless.

In the afternoon, Lee rowed out to Sullivan’s Island to see how things were going.  I think he expected to see soldiers ready to flee the field.  Instead, he found dogged defenders not having much problem defending the fort.  After a fifteen minute inspection, he returned back to Charleston.

Fort Moultrie Flag (from Wikimedia)
During the battle, Moultrie flew a now famous blue flag with a white crescent moon and the word Liberty written on it.  At one point the British shot down the flag, but the defenders quickly raised it again.  Later this would become known as the Moultrie flag.

The firing continued until around 9:30 PM.  Later that evening, the British fleet pulled back to a safe distance.  The defenders of Fort Sullivan suffered only 12 dead and 25 wounded, despite the British expending over 34,000 pounds of powder.  Later, more than 7000 British cannonballs would be dug out of Sullivan’s Island.


The British had lost one ship entirely, the Acteon, and had many other damaged.  They suffered 63 dead and 157 wounded.  Parker himself received a minor knee injury.  Royal Governor William Campbell also received a leg wound.  Campbell had intended to sit his government on Sullivan’s Island and become a rallying point for Tories.  Instead, his wound would contribute to his death two years later.
William Moultrie
(from Wikimedia)

Clinton remained on Long Island for another week or two as he and Parker decided what to do next. Instead of renewing the fight, they packed up and sail for New York, where they would rejoin General Howe’s army.  Clinton especially would spend much of the next year trying to explain why the loss at Sullivan’s Island really wasn’t his fault and that he didn’t even want to attack there in the first place.

As the commander of Fort Sullivan, William Moultrie became an instant hero.  South Carolina renamed Fort Sullivan, Fort Moultrie in his honor.  He would receive a commission as a general in the Continental Army later that year.  Charles Lee, despite the fact that the patriots won only by continually defying his orders, also received credit for the victory.  This credit would only stoke his ego and contribute to his view that he should replace Washington as Commander of the Continental Army.

In fact, Lee was right about Fort Sullivan being indefensible.  The patriots won only because of three things that no one foresaw, the fort walls being virtually indestructible against cannon fire, the inability of Clinton to get his army from Long Island to Sullivan Island due to deep water, and the inability of Parker to get his ships behind the fort due to shallow water.  Had any one of these three things gone differently, the battle would have almost certainly been a British victory.  Of course, whether the British could have held the island as an outpost without committing way too many resources there is another question.

But we won’t have to answer that question because Sullivan’s Island became an unqualified patriot victory and an embarrassing British defeat.

- - -

Next  Episode 97: A Coup in Philadelphia

Previous Episode 95: Battle of Trois-Rivières (Three Rivers)

Click here to donate
American Revolution Podcast is distributed 100% free of charge. If you can chip in to help defray my costs, I'd appreciate whatever you can give.  Make a one time donation through my PayPal account. Also, see the very bottom of this page to see how you can support this podcast by making purchases you would make anyway on Amazon.  Thanks, Mike Troy

Click here to see my Patreon Page
You can support the American Revolution Podcast as a Patreon subscriber.  This is an option for people who want to make monthly pledges.  Patreon support will give you access to Podcast extras and help make the podcast a sustainable project.  Thanks again!

Further Reading


Lord Cornwallis:

Sir Peter Parker

Stacy, Kim R. “The Land Battle for Sullivan's Island, Charles Town, South Carolina, June - July 1776.” Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research, vol. 92, no. 371, 2014, pp. 189–209.

Battle of Sullivan’s Island:

Battle of Sullivan’s Island:

Bragg, C.L. "Why the British Lost the Battle of Sullivan’s Island" Journal of the American Revolution, Sept. 2016:

Free eBooks
(from unless noted)

Bearss, Edwin The Battle of Sullivan’s Island and the Capture of Fort Moultrie, National Park Service, 1968 (from

Carrington, Henry Battles of the American Revolution, 1775-1781, A.S. Barnes & Co. 1876.

Dallas, George A Biographical Memoir of the Late Sir Peter Parker, Longman Hurst, 1815 (Parker’s description of the Battle of Sullivan’s Island in Appendix I).

Drayton, John Memoirs of the American Revolution: From its Commencement to the Year 1776, inclusive, as relating to the state of South-Carolina, Vol 2, A.S. Miller, 1821.

Gibbes, Robert Documentary History of the American Revolution, consisting of letters and papers relating to the contest for liberty chiefly in South Carolina, Vol 2, 1764-1782, D. Appleton, 1855.

The Defense of Sullivan’s Island, 28 June 1776, excerpt from Gen. William Moultrie's Memoirs of the American Revolution, David Longworth, 1802.

Ross, Charles (ed) Correspondence of Charles, First Marquis Cornwallis, Vol 1, John Murray, 1859.

Books Worth Buying
(links to unless otherwise noted)*

Bragg, C.L. Crescent Moon Over Carolina: William Moultrie and American Liberty, Univ. of South Carolina Press, 2013 (book recommendation of the week).

Fleming, Thomas 1776: Year of Illusions, New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1975.

Lumpkin, Henry From Savannah to Yorktown: The American Revolution in the South, Univ. of South Carolina Press, 1981.

Mazzagetti, Dominick Charles Lee: Self Before Country, Rutgers Univ. Press, 2013.

Russell, David Lee The American Revolution in the Southern Colonies, McFarland Publishing, 2000.

Willis, Sam The Struggle for Sea Power: A Naval History of the American Revolution, W.W. Norton & Co. 2016

* This site is a registered Amazon Associate.  Please help support this site by purchasing any of these books, or any other Amazon product, via the links on this site.  If you start by clicking on a book link above and then browse to buy something completely different on Amazon, American Revolution Podcast will get credit for your purchase.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Episode 095: Battle of Trois-Rivières (Three Rivers)

We last left Canada back in Episode 90 with the arrival of the first British reinforcements arriving in Quebec in May 1776.  Even before the main force arrived, the Continentals, then under the command of General John Thomas, began their retreat up the St. Lawrence River to Sorel.  There, the St. Lawrence River meets with the Richelieu River, providing a water route back to Lake Champlain and New York.

General Thomas had just arrived in Canada himself, bringing reinforcements.  But Thomas, and most of his reinforcements quickly contracted smallpox.  By mid-May, Thomas himself was incapacitated and blinded by the disease.  General David Wooster resumed command of Continental forces.

Burgoyne’s Relief Force

As the Continentals retreated, the British relief force continued to arrive in Quebec.  London had sent General Johnny Burgoyne, the general we met back in Boston when he served as fourth in command behind Generals Gage, Howe, and Clinton.  Burgoyne had returned to London in late 1775 because Boston was miserable, he had nothing to do there, and he wanted to return to take care of his sick wife in London.

Gen. John Burgoyne
(from Wikimedia)
While in London, Burgoyne briefed all the top officials in the North Ministry about the situation in America, and what they needed to do to fix everything.  Although the main British force would be headed to New York, London also sent a large relief force to retake Canada.  The ministry put Burgoyne at the head a force of about 8000 soldiers, roughly 5000 regulars and 3000 German mercenaries, mostly from Brunswick.

The first relief ships began to arrive in Quebec in early May, but the bulk of the force did not arrive with Burgoyne until early June.  Once they arrived, the more senior General Guy Carleton assumed overall command, with Burgoyne serving as second in command.  Secretary of State George Germain had intended that Burgoyne lead the army, but his letter to Carleton on this point never arrived.

With the 8000 reinforcements, along with the militia and others already defending Quebec, the combined British force reached between 11,000 and 12,000 men.  The sight of an overwhelming number of British inspired many local Indian tribes to mobilize in support of the British, as well as many French Canadians to join local militias also backing the British authorities.  By some estimates, when you add in sailors, Indian allies, and other support, the entire body reached nearly 20,000.

Even before all the reinforcements arrived, Carlton began to deploy his forces up the St. Lawrence River.                 

Sullivan’s Relief Force

To contest the British, Washington sent another 3000 Continentals under the command of General John Sullivan.  General Thomas finally died from smallpox on June 2 near Fort Chambly on the Richelieu River, the same day General Sullivan arrived.  Because Thomas had been too sick too command for weeks, General Wooster had overall command, which he now turned over to Sullivan.

Wooster had been annoyed since he first got his commission as a brigadier general, thinking he should have been a major general.  Now, after being replaced a second time as commander in Canada, Wooster decided to call it quits.  In July, he resigned his commission and returned to Connecticut.  There, he would resume his role as a major general in the Connecticut Militia.

John Sullivan

The new commander, General Sullivan had to contend with more than just an overwhelming enemy.  Most of his army was dying of smallpox and most of his officers hated each other.

Gen. John Sullivan
(From Wikimedia)
Sullivan was himself the son of indentured servants from Ireland who had settled in New Hampshire.  Sullivan’s low background made him as touchy as anyone about perceived slights or disrespect.  He had made a career as a lawyer.  He grew rich but had a reputation for being especially aggressive in foreclosing on people’s homes and collecting debts.

Mostly because of his wealth and prominence in the community, and a friendship with Royal Governor John Wentworth, Sullivan received a commission as a major in the New Hampshire militia and served in the New Hampshire Assembly.  He soon sided with the patriots though and served as a delegate to the First Continental Congress.

In December 1774, Sullivan participated in the raid on Fort William and Mary that I discussed way back in Episode 51.  This helped give him credibility as a soldier when he returned to the Second Continental Congress.  When it came time to pick Generals, Sullivan became part of the first group of brigadier generals in the new Continental Army.

Sullivan served unremarkably, but also without embarrassing himself, during the Siege of Boston.  Now Washington gave him his first real test by trusting him with an independent command in Canada.

Thompson Advances on Three Rivers

Sullivan did not know just how large a force he was facing in Canada.  Even if his entire army had been fit for duty, the 5000-6000 men faced a force more than double their size.  The fact was though, that more than half of his force was unfit for duty, mostly thanks to smallpox, which continued to ravage the army.

Undeterred, Sullivan committed a large portion of his army to Trois-Rivières, which I am going to call Three Rivers, its English name.  Three Rivers sat on the St. Lawrence River, between Quebec where the British were still landing, and Sorel, from which the Continentals were still retreating down toward New York.

Sullivan did not anticipate a simple holding action though.  His letters from the time indicate he planned to defeat the British at Three Rivers, then move his invasion force back down the river to Quebec where he would finally capture the city for the Continental Army.

Sullivan deployed General William Thompson with most of his recently arrived reinforcements to retake Three Rivers from the British.

Thompson is someone else I’ve mostly ignored up until now.  He had joined the fight at Cambridge a year earlier as the head of a Pennsylvania rifle company.  Thompson had not really impressed Washington, since control of the rifle companies became one of his main discipline headaches.

Even so, Thompson’s riflemen successfully fended off a very minor British attack in November 1775, which brought him to the notice of Congress.  Pennsylvania’s Quaker tradition left it with few leaders suited for military command.  But Congress hoped to represent all the colonies and Pennsylvania was by far the largest State without a general in the army.  In March 1776, despite Washington’s reservations, Congress Commissioned Thompson as a brigadier general.  Two months later, Washington deployed Thompson along with Gen. Sullivan to help retake Canada.

Map of Quebec Campaign (from The History Junkie)
Thompsons regimental leaders included some impressive names.  Colonels Anthony Wayne and Arthur St. Clair would both rise to be generals in their own rights.  Many years after the Revolution ended, St. Clair would rise to command the entire US Army.  Also among Thompson’s men was Captain James Wilkinson, who would also eventually command the entire US Army.

Tasked to take Three Rivers, on the night of June 7, Gen. Thompson took a force of nearly 2000 Continentals on a night march designed to surprise the relatively small British force there.   His forces would arrive at the town the following morning. There, Lt. Colonel Simon Frasier commanded about 1000 regulars, with another 1000 in reserve, mostly still aboard ships in the river.

Thompson and his Pennsylvania soldiers were new to the area and really did not know the land.  They hired a local French Canadian guide who was either highly incompetent, or more likely deliberately trying to sabotage their attack.  The men had planned to take a trail through the forest where their presence would be hidden from any British ships moving along the river.  Instead, the guide convinced them to take the road along the river to clear a house that he claimed contained an enemy outpost.  When they arrived, the house was empty.

Rather than track back for several miles to take the trail they wanted, the guide suggested they cut through the forest and connect up with the trail.  General Thompson’s force set off, only to find themselves getting stuck in a swamp.  Thompson began to question his faith in his guide, and decided to turn around and go back to the river.  At the river, an enemy ship spotted them.  It opened fire, and then moved down river to alert the main British forces.

The Continental battalion continued to struggle forward, despite losing the element of surprise.  They waded through a swamp, sometimes waist deep before finally arriving on the outskirts of Three Rivers.

There, they found a relatively small detachment British waiting for them, already lined up for battle, supported by field artillery, and supplemented with Indian warriors.
Anthony Wayne
(from US History)

Continental Colonel Wayne immediately launched an attack against both flanks of the enemy lines.  His attack against the smaller British advance force caused them to break and run.  But the British reserves, counterattacked and pushed back Wayne’s regiment.  By this time, other Continental regiments had emerged from the swamp and joined the attack.  Both sides fought furiously, but the British had the better ground, and were supported by artillery on ships in the river.

Wayne attempted to rally his soldiers, only to find that most had already abandoned him.  He had only about twenty soldiers as he finally decided to retreat back into the swamp. Wayne then maintained a rear guard action, firing on the enemy before falling back in order to give time for the main body of Continentals to escape. If Wayne’s bravery sounds impressive, you have to remember that our records of this battle come mostly from Wayne’s own reports.  So while he probably did perform well that day, he also had every incentive to make himself sound every bit hero and put all of his actions in the best possible light.

On the field, the Continentals had lost between 30 and 50 dead, we only have a British estimate to go on, and another 30 or so wounded.  The British only lost eight dead and nine wounded.  Over the rest of the day, the British attempted to capture the scattered retreating Continentals, taking over 200 prisoners, including General Thompson.

Most of the force made its way back to General Sullivan and the main army at Sorel.  Many of them staggered in after days in the woods and swamps.

British commander General Carleton arrived at Three Rivers that evening to congratulate his officers and men on their victory.  To the disappointment of many, Carleton ordered his army not to pursue the retreating enemy.  It’s not entirely clear why, but one officer noted that Carleton commented that he did not want to feed that many prisoners, that he did not want to see them starve in a Quebec prison, and that their arrival back at the Continental Army would only demoralize the enemy.

The British would soon parole General Thompson, but under the terms of his parole, he could not returned to duty until exchanged for a British officer of equal rank.  Thompson would spend the next four years in Pennsylvania complaining to anyone who would listen about how Congress was dragging its feet on exchanging him.  His complaining eventually led to Congress issuing him a letter of censure as well a successful libel suit from a delegate.

I’ve never seen any documentation on this point, but I suspect that Washington did not want the General back and was happy to keep him sidelined on parole.  Finally, in 1780 Thompson would be exchanged for a German officer who had been captured at Saratoga in 1777 and who had also been on parole for several years.  Even then, he would never return to active duty and would die a year later in 1781 from natural causes, still living at home in Pennsylvania.

Sullivan Retreats From Canada

Despite the loss of Three Rivers and General Thompson, General Sullivan remained committed to holding Sorel and attempting some sort of counterattack. Meanwhile, General Benedict Arnold had seen the writing on the wall and had been planning to evacuate Montreal since early May.  General Arnold realized, even if his commander did not, that there was no realistic chance of holding Canada.  The Continentals would have to retreat back into New York and try to prevent the British from establishing a hold on Lake Champlain.

Arnold realized that his small force in Montreal would be cut off from New York if the British seized Sorel.  He meant not to get trapped there just because the new commander had some delusion that he was going to recapture Canada.

To assist with the retreat, Arnold had confiscated clothing, supplies, and just about anything else of value to the army from the merchants in Montreal.  He promised them that they would be repaid and marked all the goods he packed up with each merchant’s name.  He then order an officer named Major Scott to oversee the transfer of the supplies to Fort Chambly.  There, the commander Colonel Moses Hazen refused to accept receipt of the goods.  It is not clear exactly why.  It could be that he objected to the confiscation of goods from his fellow Canadians.  It could also be because he just hated Arnold and wanted to annoy him.

Fort Chambly (from Wikimedia)
Scott left the items along the river bank outside of Fort Chambly.  Of course, the unattended valuables were soon looted and disappeared.  If Hazen’s goal was to annoy Arnold, he definitely succeeded on that score.  Arnold who had already had words with Hazen for his refusal to obey orders, and who had regularly gotten in trouble for allegations of misappropriated property, was livid that Hazen had allowed property under Arnold’s responsibility to be stolen.  The incident would lead to a court martial.  But before we get to that, the Continental Army had to escape from the British now bearing down on them at Sorel.

British Lt. Colonel Frasier, fresh off his victory against the Continentals at Three Rivers, continued to move his brigade up the St. Lawrence toward Sorel in mid June.  Sullivan remained firm that he would defend Sorel or die trying.  Meanwhile Arnold was busy moving troops up the Richelieu River toward Lake Champlain where his fleet still on the lake could transport everyone back down to Crown Point and Ticonderoga.  He did a great job of transporting all the sick and wounded, as well as military supplies back to safety.  Arnold even had the partially built British ship still in dock at Chambly, disassembled and shipped south.

While Sullivan worked on his plan to defeat the British, Arnold saw that the enemy could bypass Sorell, and march overland to capture Fort Chambly, thus cutting off Sullivan’s line of retreat.  Finally, on June 13, Sullivan sighted Lt. Colonel Frasier’s advance forces moving on his lines at Sorel.  Sullivan held a Council of War at which everyone pretty much said he was an idiot if he planned to stay and fight.  Reluctantly, Sullivan approved a withdrawal, and moved his army south in the face of the enemy back to Fort Chambly.

The next day, Gen. Burgoyne landed 4000 regulars and field cannon at Sorel.  Another 4000 were on their way up the St. Lawrence River.  Somehow, Arnold was back in Montreal when the British took Sorel.  Carleton took part of the fleet upriver toward Montreal.  But unfavorable winds slowed his approach, giving Arnold time to escape and make his way back overland through Indian infested forests to reach Fort St. Jean.

At St. Jean, Arnold reconnected with Sullivan, who had destroyed Fort Chambly on his way south.  The British moved slowly and deliberately, retaking ground, but avoiding any possible ambush.  As a result, the Continentals had time to remove or destroy just about anything of value.  Among other things, Arnold burned Hazen’s house, which Hazen agreed was the proper course of action.  Still, Arnold must have secretly enjoyed that.

Sullivan again called a Council to discuss forming a last stand at St. Jean, but again his officers voted him down.  They were in no condition to fight.  The army moved further south to Isle Aux Noix near the New York border.  There, Sullivan said he would retreat no further without orders from a superior.

Arnold held the rear of the escaping army at St. Jean.  He remained on horseback until he could see the enemy approaching. He removed his saddle, and shot his horse to deny it to the enemy.  He then boarded the last boat south, back to Isle Aux Noix.

Fort St. Jean (from Wikimedia)
By mid-June the Continental Army encamped at Isle Aux Noix while General Sullivan wrote letters to everyone trying to avoid blame for losing Canada.  He sent General Arnold to meet personally with General Philip Schuyler in Albany to justify his retreat and to request further orders.  Schuyler and Arnold agreed that it made sense to pull the army back to Ticonderoga and Crown Point, and to focus on keeping the enemy from establishing a navy on Lake Champlain.  Isle Aux Noix was a swamp.  The army was now not only dying of smallpox but taking a heavy hit from malaria as well.  More than half of the 5200 men in the Northern Army were unfit for duty

There was no way to sail ships up the Richelieu River rapids, so British General Carleton would have to disassemble ships, carry the parts to St. Jean, and reassemble them there.  That would take months.  During that time, Arnold would build up his own navy on the Lake so that he could prevent Carleton’s march south to retake Crown Point and Ticonderoga.

Schuyler also received word that Congress had already decided to relieve Sullivan of command. Sullivan would return to New York, and Gen. Horatio Gates would take command of the Northern Army.  This was good news for Arnold.  He actually still liked Gates at this point.  But Gates and Schuyler disliked each other, leading to more conflict and infighting that the Army really didn’t need.  Sullivan attempted to resign his commission, but was persuaded to stay and serve Washington at the Battle of Long Island.

The Continental Army moved back to Crown Point and Ticonderoga.  As expected, Carleton did not pursue immediately, but took slow and decisive action to capture Lake Champlain.  Both armies would have several months to prepare for the next offensive.

Next Week: The British suffer a surprising defeat in South Carolina at the Battle of Sullivan’s Island.

- - -

Next  Episode 96: The Battle of Sullivan's Island

Previous Episode 94: War at Sea, Battle of Turtle Gut Inlet

Click here to donate
American Revolution Podcast is distributed 100% free of charge. If you can chip in to help defray my costs, I'd appreciate whatever you can give.  Make a one time donation through my PayPal account. Also, see the very bottom of this page to see how you can support this podcast by making purchases you would make anyway on Amazon.  Thanks, Mike Troy

Click here to see my Patreon Page
You can support the American Revolution Podcast as a Patreon subscriber.  This is an option for people who want to make monthly pledges.  Patreon support will give you access to Podcast extras and help make the podcast a sustainable project.  Thanks again!

Further Reading


Gen. John Sullivan:

Gen. William Thompson:

Battle of Three Rivers:

Battle of Three Rivers:

Free eBooks
(from unless noted)

Amory, Thomas C. The Military Services and Public Life of Major-General John Sullivan, J. Munsell, 1868.

Carrington, Henry B. Battles of the American Revolution, 1775-1781, A.S. Barnes & Co, 1876.

Coffin, Charles The Life and Services of Major General John Thomas, New York: Egbert, Hovey & King, 1844.

Codman, John Arnold’s Expedition To Quebec,  New York, MacMillan Co., 1901..

Hill, George Benedict Arnold: A Biography, Boston: E.O. Libby & Co. 1858.

Kingsford, William The History of Canada, Vol. 6,  Toronto: Roswell & Hutchinson, 1887.

Smith, Justin Our Struggle for the Fourteenth Colony: Canada, and the American Revolution, Vol. 2, New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1907.

Sparks, Jared (ed) The Library of American Biography, Vol. 3,  Little & Brown, 1844 - Includes The Life of John Sullivan, by Oliver Peabody.

Winsor, Justin (ed) Arnold's expedition against Quebec. 1775-1776: The Diary of Ebenezer Wild, Cambridge: John Wilson & Son, 1886.

Withington, Lothrop (ed) Caleb Haskell's diary. May 5, 1775-May 30, 1776. A revolutionary soldier's record before Boston and with Arnold's Quebec expedition, Newburyport: W.H. Huse, 1881.

Würtele, Fred C. Blockade of Quebec in 1775-1776 by the American revolutionists (les Bastonnais) Vol 1) Quebec: Daily Telegraph Job Printing House, 1905.

Würtele, Fred C. Blockade of Quebec in 1775-1776 by the American revolutionists (les Bastonnais) Vol 2) Quebec: Daily Telegraph Job Printing House, 1906.

Books Worth Buying
(links to unless otherwise noted)*

Anderson, Mark The Battle for the Fourteenth Colony: America’s War of Liberation in Canada, 1774–1776, University Press of New England, 2013.

Cubbison, Douglas R. The American Northern Theater Army in 1776, Jefferson, NC: Macfarland & Co. 2010.

Fleming, Thomas 1776: Year of Illusions, New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1975.

Hatch, Robert Thrust for Canada, New York: Houghton-Mifflin, 1979.

Martin, James Benedict Arnold: Revolutionary Hero, New York: NYU Press, 1997.

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

* This site is a registered Amazon Associate.  Please help support this site by purchasing any of these books, or any other Amazon product, via the links on this site.  If you start by clicking on a book link above and then browse to buy something completely different on Amazon, American Revolution Podcast will get credit for your purchase.