Sunday, February 24, 2019

Episode 085: Dorchester Heights





When we last left Cambridge at the end of January 1776, Colonel Henry Knox had successfully returned with the cannon from Fort Ticonderoga.  But Washington and his generals still did not have a clear plan in place for how to use them.

How to Attack Boston

For months, Washington had been arguing for a direct assault on Boston.  He proposed a plan where wanted to have the army row across Boston Harbor in small boats, land in the face of enemy fire, and then assault the town.  His generals convinced him that this would be suicide.  Even if the soldiers did not break and run in the face of deadly artillery from the British Army and Navy, they would be cut to pieces before they could reach the shore.  Even if they somehow reached the shore and surprised the enemy, an urban combat battle much like Quebec but on a larger scale would almost certainly result in the capture or massacre of the Continentals.

On February 13, 1776, the British launched an evening raid across the ice, attacking Dorchester Neck.  Col. Alexander Leslie led several hundred regulars on the The raid burned a few houses, captured a few unlucky sentries, and then retreated back to Boston before the Continentals could react. This raised the concern that it was a prelude to a full British assault on Dorchester Heights.

A few days later, on February 16, Washington held another council of war with his generals. With the harbor frozen, he proposed  to march the army across the ice in a direct assault on Boston.  Again, all of his his generals resisted such a battle, arguing that it would be suicide.  Washington, usually calm and restrained, was clearly frustrated that he could not convince his generals to engage in a frontal attack.

Artemas Ward (from Wikimedia)
Over these same months, General Artemas Ward, the army’s second in command had argued that the best strategy would be to occupy Dorchester Heights.  This was high ground consisting of two hills on a peninsula just south of Boston.  Placing artillery on the heights, would give the Continental Army the ability to bombard the army in Boston as well as the navy in the harbor.  They would be at that elevation, the British would not be able to return fire effectively.  It would force the British to come out of Boston, either over the heavily fortified neck, or conduct a water landing then retake the heights by force.  Even if they could take the heights, it would almost certainly be at a terrible cost, making the battle of Bunker Hill look small in comparison.  The charge up the hill would not just be against militia with muskets.  The British would face a line of Continental canon.

The British had considered trying to capture the heights in summer of 1775.  It was the planned assault to take Dorchester that motivated the patriots to occupy Bunker and Breed’s Hills to the north and provoke that battle instead. After those losses, British General Gage and following his departure, General Howe did not want to risk another horrific loss trying to occupy Dorchester Heights.  Instead, they used threats to intimidate the Continentals from occupying it, leaving it a valuable no man’s land for months.

With spring approaching though, and now with a pile of heavy cannon to mount on the heights, the Continental generals agreed that it was time to occupy Dorchester Heights.  With a twist.  Washington agreed to occupy Dorchester.  If the British moved out of Boston to the south to attack Dorchester, Washington wanted to use that distraction to have his army row across the harbor from the north sending his army directly into Boston.  The council of war generally agreed to this plan.  One strong dissenter was General William Heath who thought that even if Howe sent half his army to attack Dorchester, there would still be thousands of entrenched British infantry and hundreds of army and navy cannon blasting away at militia trying to row across a mile and a half of open water to attack the city.  Heath was sure it would be a disaster and a bloodbath.  But everyone seemed to think they had to do something, and this was the best plan that drew a consensus.  The first step would be occupying Dorchester Heights.

Making a Plan

The problem was how to do it.  Mounting cannon on the heights could take weeks, or even months with the ground frozen solid.  There was no easy way to dig entrenchments without the enemy seeing what they were doing and sending out an army to take the heights before the Continentals were ready to defend it.

To tackle this problem. General Heath reached out to Rufus Putnam, a Massachusetts native and cousin of General Israel Putnam.  Rufus Putnam had worked with British engineers during the French and Indian War, but was not what you would call an expert in the science of military engineering.  After meeting with Washington to discuss the plan, Putnam decided to stop by Heath’s house on his way home.  While visiting, Putnam noticed a book on Heath’s table by a British Military Engineer called Attack and Defense of Fortified Places.

Rufus Putnam (from Wikimedia)

Putnam asked if he could borrow the book but Heath refused, saying he never lent out his books.  Putnam pointed out that Heath had stuck him with this job despite his lack of knowing anything about military engineering.  Now he had to build a fortification and Heath had the only book around that might explain how he could do it.  Really? You won’t let me read it? Finally, Heath agreed and let Putnam borrow the book.

A few pages in, Putnam saw the solution to his problem.  His men could not dig entrenchments in the frozen soil.  However, the book suggested building “chandeliers”.  In the terms of 18th century military engineering, a chandelier was a wooden frame.  Once built, the defenders filled the frame with sticks and branches, then covered the whole thing with dirt.  This created a defensive wall that would stop most bullets.

The soldiers could pre-build the chandeliers, then carry them up to Dorchester Heights at night, fill in the sticks and dirt, then mount the cannons.  With enough men, they could build a credible defensive wall and mount cannon in a matter of hours.

Putnam took the plan to Washington, who also conferred with Colonel Knox.  Of course, Knox would have to man the artillery once mounted there.  Washington also conferred  with Colonel Richard Gridley, still the Continental Army’s chief engineer.  All agreed it was a sound plan and supported it.  The only added suggestion was to add barrels filled with dirt or rocks as part of the defenses.  In addition to providing cover, if the British tried to storm the hill, the Continentals could roll the barrels  down on them, killing some and breaking up the attacking lines.

Preparations

Even with a plan, it would not be easy to execute.  The first step was to put hundreds of men to work building the wooden frames.  They also set to work building 45 flat bottomed boats, which could carry 80 men each.  Washington planned to use these for his assault on Boston.  With all this work, the British would almost certainly know the Continentals were up to something.  Next, the chandeliers would have be carried across Dorchester Neck, in plain view of the enemy.  If the British realized the Continentals were planning to occupy Dorchester Heights, they could rush out and storm the heights before the defenders were ready.
Chandelier packed with Fascines (from Salina Baker)

To avoid this problem, the Continentals set up large hay bales to block the road from view in Boston.  To cover the sound, they planned to start a cannonade against Boston from other locations.  This, they hoped, would distract the regulars and prevent them from hearing the sounds of hundreds of carts hauling equipment and guns up to the heights.

General Ward took charge of building the chandeliers and other prefabricated defenses that would be carried up to the heights.  Washington invited Colonel Thomas Mifflin, who was at this time Quartermaster General, to assist with logistics.  Mifflin proposed the night of March 4th for the occupation.  That way, if the British attacked the following day, it would be the anniversary of the Boston Massacre.  Others, thought that date was a mistake.  It’s not clear why, but possibly because it was a full moon, making it easier for the British to spot the work.  In any event, the council decided to adopt the date by a single vote.

Occupying the Heights

Colonel Knox had his artillery begin an attack on Boston on the night of March 2.  The plan was to continue the bombardment on the next two nights, so that by the night of March 4, the British would be focused on the artillery, but not find it so unusual that they would suspect it was being use to cover the sounds of thousands of infantrymen occupying Dorchester Heights and installing the chandeliers and mounting the cannon.

The Continentals still did not have much gunpowder, making their cannons of limited use.  The British Navy at New York had been blockading the harbor.  But they cut a deal, allowing merchant vessels to enter there in exchange for New York providing them with fresh food to feed the sailors. Taking advantage of this, the patriots smuggled in 3000 pounds of gunpowder on February 29.  They then hauled the powder overland on wagons up to Washington’s army, just in time for use in this action.

Map of Boston during Siege, 1776 click to zoom (from Reddit)
But even that amount of powder would not last long with artillery.  Since the first night was mostly about rousing the enemy, they fired a total of only around two dozen shots into Boston.  Sadly, the patriots did more harm to themselves than the enemy.  Knox’s inexperienced artillerymen destroyed three mortars and one cannon through improper use.  A British officer in Boston noted no significant damage to anything.  Of course, the barrage triggered a response from the regulars who used their own artillery to bombard Continental camps for several hours.

The next night, March 3, Knox’s artillery once again fired on Boston.  At least this time they did not damage any of their own weapons.  Once again, the British responded.  When the Continentals opened up again on the third night, March 4, the British again returned fire, but did not suspect anything else would be different that night.

The night of March 4, turned out to be an exceptional choice.  It would not be the last time that an unusual weather occurrence helped the patriots.  A bright moon helped the patriots with their labors in getting the defenses in place on Dorchester Heights.  But the bright moon did not help the British detect them, as a haze fell over the harbor, preventing the regulars from seeing much of anything across the water.

Col. Mifflin arranged for 350 ox carts to pull all the equipment up the heights beginning shortly after sundown.  They next sent 800 soldiers to occupy the heights, just to sit there with muskets and watch for any attack from the regulars in Boston.  Half of them sat near shore, watching for an attack from Castle Island.  The other half watched for an attack from Boston Neck.

Washington gave the task of emplacing all the artillery and entrenchments to Gen. John Thomas who organized 1200 more troops to do the work.  Washington himself appeared on the heights to encourage the men and see that everything went according to plan.  Colonels Knox and Gridley also worked on site, making sure everything was installed where it was planned.

But remember, occupying the heights was only half of Washington’s plan.  Washington fully expected the British to discover the occupation, either that night or certainly by morning, and that they would then scramble to launch an offensive force out of Boston to take the heights.  As soon as they did that, Washington had 4000 soldiers under the command of General Israel Putnam, ready to launch two raiding parties under the command of Generals Greene, and Sullivan.  These men would row across Boston Harbor, landing on the north side of town, fight their way through the city and link up with the soldiers on the south side commanded by General Ward at Roxbury.  For the moment, these men were just sitting and waiting for a signal that the regulars were attacking Dorchester Heights.

Dorchester Heights (from Twitter Boston NPS)
The plan seemed to move along with no significant problems.  By 10:00 PM, they had established two forts on the heights, and continued with the installation of chandeliers along the line.  Several hours before dawn, everything was in place and ready to go.  In total, if you count the guards, the men building the fortifications and those hauling the material to the site, there were a little over 3000 men involved.

Now, you may remember during the battle of Bunker Hill, no one made any attempt to relieve the men who built the entrenchments overnight, nor did anyone set up supply lines to bring them food and ammunition.  The Continentals did not make that same mistake at Dorchester.  In the morning, 3000 fresh troops came up to replace the men who had spent all night building the defenses.  But it turned out the men who did the digging did not want to let the next shift get the glory of going to battle.  Most of the night shift stayed on the heights as well, leading to as many as 6000 defenders.  By morning, the Continental Army was fully embedded on the heights, with all the infantry and artillery they needed to repulse any assault.

British Reaction

In Boston, General Howe, had received intelligence from deserters that the Continentals were planning something on Dorchester, but he did not know the date or other details.  Rather than act proactively, Howe waited until they actually did something.  He would then assault the heights while they were building the defenses.

During the night, while the Continentals secretly built the defenses, at least one officer in Boston detected activity and reported to his superior that the rebels were occupying the heights.  That superior was General Francis Smith, the same man who had led the original expedition to Lexington the previous April.  General Smith had always been a “follow orders” kind of officer, who did not grab the initiative or act with great energy.  In this case, he decided he would take up the matter with General Howe in the morning.

When dawn broke, the regulars were shocked to see not one, but two fully-built forts, and a line of entrenchments, complete with cannon, built on the top of Dorchester Heights.  According to one account, Howe said it would have taken his army months to complete such an emplacement.  Howe’s chief engineer estimated it must have taken 15,000-20,000 men to build those works overnight.

The British immediately turned their artillery fire on the new defenses but found that they were too high for them to hit effectively, either from Boston or from ships in the harbor.  At the same time, the Continentals could lob shots into the city or at naval vessels in the harbor unopposed.

Dorchester Heights
(from Twitter SW O'Connell)
Despite the entrenchments being pretty well in place, Howe launched a contingent of soldiers that morning to take the heights.  British General Valentine Jones loaded a force of just over 1200 men into boats to take them over to the Dorchester Peninsula.  They planned to attempt a water landing, in the face of cannon, musket, and rifle fire, then form up and charge the hills, defended by as many as 6000 patriots.  In other words, the British would have only a fraction of the force they had an Bunker Hill, and faced a much larger force supplemented by artillery.  This really seemed like a suicide mission.

Fortunately for the British attackers, the weather once again intervened.  High winds kicked up and prevented the force from being able to land before high tide that morning.  Once the tide was coming out, it would be even harder to effect a landing.  So, they got the force to Castle Island and planned a nighttime attack during the next high tide, just after midnight.  But the storm kicked up again even worse with hurricane force winds preventing any landing.

The following day, wind and rain continued, making a landing still nearly impossible.  Howe convened a council of war, at which just about every officer argued against an attack.  The rebels had had another 24 hours to make their defenses even stronger and there was no realistic way they were going to take the heights.

Although Howe had received reinforcements all winter, he was also losing men at a fair clip due to smallpox and other diseases.  He also had allowed Gen. Clinton to leave with some of his regulars to go conquer the Carolinas.

General Howe had maybe 6000 men ready for duty.  Even if he sent all of them against Dorchester, it probably would not have been enough to dislodge an entrenched enemy.  At the same time, and all out attack would encourage Washington to launch his invasion of Boston from the north side of the harbor.  There was just no way for Howe to win this one.

A frustrated General Howe agreed with the council of war that an attack would never work.  He admitted he only planned to order the attack for the honor of the army.  Now, accepting that plan was a pointless waste of lives in a no-win situation, Howe called off the attack completely.

This may have been a good thing for the Continentals too.  If Howe had launched his attack against Dorchester, Washington likely would have launched his ill-conceived amphibious attack on Boston.  The regulars almost certainly would have cut down that 4000 man attack force, leading to a terrible defeat for Washington.  It might even have led to his dismissal as Commander in Chief.  None of that happened though.  When Howe called of his attack, Washington called off his as well.

No attack though, meant Howe was stuck in a situation where the rebels could fire on the army and navy at will without the British being able to return fire effectively.  Well before all this happened, Howe had determined that the army should evacuate Boston and move down to New York as the center of operations.  Howe had hoped to make that move in a few more months, later in the spring, and after more reinforcements arrived from Britain.  Now he would have to move up that timetable.  He would also have to evacuate under the embarrassment of an amateur rebel army having out maneuvered him and forcing his retreat.

- - -

Next Episode 86: The Evacuation of Boston

Previous Episode 84: The Battle of Moore's Creek Bridge



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Further Reading

Websites

What forced the British to Leave Boston? http://historyofmassachusetts.org/what-forced-british-leave-boston

Baker, Salina The Taking of Dorchester Heights, 2018: https://salinabakerauthor.com/2018/03/02/the-taking-of-dorchester-heights

Dorchester Heights, National Park Service: https://www.nps.gov/bost/learn/historyculture/dohe.htm

Council of War Feb. 16, 1776: https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/03-03-02-0229

Letter from Lt. Col. Rufus Putnam, to George Washington  Feb. 11, 1776 re: Dorchester Heights: https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/03-03-02-0214

Free eBooks
(from archive.org unless noted)

Blake, Francis Dorchester Neck. (Now South Boston.) The raid of British troops, February 13, 1776,
Boston: David Clapp & Son, 1899.

Brooks, Noah Henry Knox, a Soldier of the Revolution, New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1900.

Buell, Rowena (ed) The Memoirs of Rufus Putnam, Boston: Houghton & Mifflin Company, 1903.

Dana, Elizabeth Elery (ed) John Barker diary - The British in Boston, 1774-1776, Cambridge: Harvard Univ Press, 1924.

Drake, Francis The Life and Correspondence of Henry Knox, Boston: Samuel B. Drake, 1873.

Force, Peter American Archives, Series 4, Vol 4, Washington 1837.

Force, Peter American Archives, Series 4, Vol 5, Washington 1837.

French, Allen The Siege of Boston, New York: Macmillan, 1911.

Frothingham, Richard History of the Siege of Boston, Boston: CC Little & J. Brown, 1851.

Martyn, Charles The life of Artemas Ward, the first commander-in-chief of the American Revolution, New York: Artemas Ward, 1921.

Muller John The Attack and Defence of Fortify'd Places, Woolwich: Royal Academy of Artillery, 1757 (Google Books).

Neeser, Robert (ed) The despatches of Molyneux Shuldham, vice-admiral of the Blue and commander-in-chief of His Britannic Majesty's ships in North America, January-July, 1776, New York: Naval Historical Society, 1913.

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

Beck, Derek The War Before Independence: 1775-1776, Naperville, Ill: Sourcebooks, 2016.

Fleming, Thomas 1776: Year of Illusions, New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1975 (book recommendation of the week).

Lockhart, Paul The Whites of Their Eyes, New York: Harper Collins, 2011.

McCullough, David 1776, New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005.

Philbrick, Nathaniel Bunker Hill: A City, A Siege, A Revolution, New York: Penguin Books, 2013.

Puls, Mark Henry Knox: Visionary General of the American Revolution, New York: St. Martin's Press, 2010.

Smith, David Whispers Across the Atlantick: General William Howe and the American Revolution, Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2017.

* 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, February 17, 2019

Episode 084: The Continental Navy Raids the Bahamas




The Continental Congress had authorized a Continental Navy back in October of 1775, as I discussed back in Episode 75.  A real navy, though was more of a dream than a reality.  Aside from the ships that Arnold had captured on Lake Champlain, and a handful of ships George Washington had purchased or rented, which remained under army control, the Continental Congress had no ships.  Several colonies had launched their own ships, mostly to attack and capture merchant ships supplying the regulars.  Many privateers were raiding British ships as well.  This was actually quite helpful in capturing supplies and denying them to the British Army.  But none of this was under the command of Congress, and no colony nor privateer had anything that could go up against a British naval fleet or even one of its larger ships of the line.

That did not seem to discourage anyone.  Congress decided to start building a navy and wanted to put it to use as soon as possible.  Congressional delegate Stephen Hopkins of Rhode Island sat on the Naval Committee.  When it came time to select a fleet commander, Stephen thought is brother Esek Hopkins would be the best man for the job.

Esek Hopkins

On December 22, 1775, Congress appointed Esek Hopkins Commander in Chief of the Continental Navy.  Now I don’t know about you, but when I think Revolutionary war navy, I think John Paul Jones or John Barry.  Esek Hopkins is almost a non-entity in any book about the Revolution.  But he commanded the navy for over two years, and was the only man ever named Commander in Chief of the navy during the war.

Hopkins was born and raised in Rhode Island.  His great grandfather, Thomas Hopkins, had been one of the founding members of the Rhode Island colony.  Like many Rhode Islanders at the time, Esek lived most of his life at sea.  He captained a fleet of merchant ships and lived a pretty comfortable life as a merchant trader.  His life got even more comfortable when he married the daughter of another wealthy Rhode Island merchant.

Esek Hopkins (from Wikimedia)
During the French and Indian War, Hopkins captained a privateer ship, capturing numerous French and Spanish ships as prizes.  The fact that they were not actually at war with Spain at the time did not seem to bother anyone but the Spanish.  Hopkins grew even wealthier from all the prize money.

During the 1760’s Hopkins was elected to several minor posts in Rhode Island, though he seemed to resign them all after short periods, presumably because he returned to sea. His involvement in government probably came about more by the fact that his brother, Stephen Hopkins, was Governor of Rhode Island for much of the 1750’s and 60’s.

By the early 1770’s Esek was in his 50’s and ready to spend more time at home.  He served in he colonial assembly and clearly sided with the patriots as the split with Britain grew.  In 1772, his son was a leader in the force that sank the British ship Gaspee that I discussed way back in Episode 36.

Following the battle of Lexington, Rhode Island put itself on a war footing.  Hopkins serving in the colonial legislature at the time, helped with the development of colonial defenses and in October 1775, took a position as General in the Rhode Island Army.

During this time, he arranged a settlement with the captain of the British Navy ship Rose to provide the British ships with food in exchange for them not destroying the town of Newport.  He also began seizing the property and estates of several prominent Tories in the colony, turning over the confiscated property to the colonial government to help pay for the war effort.

Two months after becoming a general, Hopkins received Congress’ request in December 1775 that he become Commander and Chief of the new Continental Navy.  Some people refer to him as Commodore, others as Admiral, but whatever title you use, he was the head guy in charge of the navy, just as Washington was in charge of the army.  Despite the fact that he had only two months experience as an army officer, and zero experience in any navy, Hopkins accepted and prepared to travel to Philadelphia to assume his new command.

Launching a Navy

Now the term “navy” might be a bit much for what Commodore Hopkins commanded.  Individual colonies did not want to give up the ships they had outfitted to defend their own coastlines and harass British shipping.  Privateers were in no hurry to join a navy where they would have to take orders from someone else, and not be allowed to keep as much prize money as they currently enjoyed.

The Columbus (from Wikimedia)
So Congress spent much of the winter of 1775-76 purchasing merchant vessels and outfitting them as best they could to serve as combat vessels.  Congress had authorized building more ships, but they were nowhere near ready in early 1776 when Commodore Hopkins received his first orders to set sail.  His fleet consisted of eight ships.  The largest, the Columbus with 36 guns.  The next largest, the flagship Alfred had 24 guns, followed by the 16 gun Cabot , the 14 gun Andria Doria, and the 12 gun Providence.  The three smallest ships, the ten gun Hornet and the Wasp and Fly with 8 guns each were named after insects, supposedly because they were so small they could only serve to be a nuisance to the enemy in battle.  By comparison, a British ship of the line had at least 60 guns, and there were at least 130 ships of the line in the British Navy at the time.

The fleet left Philadelphia in February 1776.  If you have been paying attention, you may recall that British General Clinton was headed south at the same time.  Clinton had a contingent of British ships to meet up with General Cornwallis and another fleet.  The combined fleet planned to capture the Carolinas and restore Tory control of those colonies.  You may also recall that Lord Dunmore in Virginia had burned Norfolk in January and remained with another British fleet controlling the Chesapeake bay and operating out of Portsmouth, Virginia.

The Mosquito and Fly (from Navy History & Heritage)
Any of these fleets were more than a match for the 8 ships and 130 Marines commanded by Hopkins.  Dunmore had at least six naval vessels, most of which were much larger than anything the Continentals had, and also had at least 400 Marines.  Clinton and Cornwallis’ fleets consisted of dozens of ships and thousands of soldiers.  In just about any confrontation, the best case scenario for the Continental Navy would be to run away successfully and not be sunk or captured.

Despite the odds, Congress instructed Hopkins to go forth and take out the British navy.  His first mission was to take his fleet to the Chesapeake Bay and take out the naval fleet there.  After winning that fight, he should proceed immediately to the Carolinas to take out the huge fleet of the coast, which was probably 20 times the size of his fleet.  After defeating them, Hopkins was to proceed north and take out the fleet in Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island.  They even authorized him to break up his fleet of eight ships and send them to different locations in order to cover more territory.  While they were at it, I’m not sure why they didn’t just order him to sail over to London and capture the King.  The orders were so out of touch with reality, that Hopkins must have shaken his head in disbelief.

The instructions included a statement:

Notwithstanding these particular orders, which it is hoped you will be able to execute, if bad wind or stormy weather, or any other unforeseen accident or disaster disable you to do so, you are then to follow such courses as your best judgment shall suggest to you as most useful to the American cause and to distress the enemy by all means in your power.

Gadsden Flag (from Wikimedia)
Congress’ Marine Committee wrote these orders on January 5, so Hopkins must have had time to confer with the committee before setting sail in late February.  If he thought the orders were unrealistic, you would think he’d confer with them and get some changes to his instructions.  But there does not appear to be any evidence that he did so.

On February 17, Hopkins took his fleet out of Philadelphia and out toward the open seas.  Departure had been delayed a few weeks because the Delaware river was still frozen and the fleet could not get out.  As the ships set sail Hopkins instructed Lt. John Paul Jones to hoist the new flag, a yellow flag with a rattlesnake on it, and the phrase, “Don’t Tread on Me.”

South Carolina Delegate Christopher Gadsden had taken a copy of the flag home to South Carolina.  That was how the fleet and the defenders of Charleston Harbor would recognize each other as friends if the fleet made it there.  The flag is often known as the Gadsden Flag.

To the Bahamas

Apparently Hopkins had no intention of obeying his orders.  Some historians have indicated that perhaps he had secret orders, or made the decision once at sea given weather conditions and the position of the enemy.  But the facts don’t seem to bear out these theories.  Before leaving port, Hopkins issued orders to each captain that if they became separated from the fleet, that they should rendezvous at a small island called Abacco in the Bahamas, which seems really out of the way, like over 700 miles, for raids on the Chesapeake or the Carolinas.

Battle of Nassau (from Wikimedia)
Within two days, two of the fleet's smallest ships, the Hornet and the Fly got separated from the fleet.  Actually, it turned out that they crashed into each other and had to return to shore for repairs.  Hopkins took the remainder of the fleet straight to Abacco, where they arrived on March 1.  There, the marines captured some small local boats and used them to make their way inconspicuously toward Nassau, on the island of New Providence.  Nassau, then as now was the capital of the Bahamas.  Two forts defended the town but no garrison of regulars.  Defense relied on militia.  Since Nassau had been settled years earlier by many New Englanders, they were sympathetic to the patriot cause.

At the site of 200 Continental Marines invading the city on March 2, the Bahama militia fired off a few shots and then almost immediately fled the smaller Fort Montague and took up defenses in the larger Fort Nassau.  That evening, Hopkins issued a public letter to the people of Nassau saying they were only there to collect stores from the forts belonging to the British government.  If the people put up no resistance, he would not burn the town nor loot any private property.  The locals apparently took up the deal.  The next morning, when the marines marched to the fort, the militia left, and the Governor turned over the keys to the fort.

The navy collected a large cache of military supplies, including 88 cannon, nearly 10,000 cannonballs, and 23 barrels of gunpowder.  It was so much stuff, that it took nearly two weeks to load it onto ships.  Part of the delay was the fact the the sailors and marines had also captured a large cache of rum and proceeded to get drunk for several days.  Even with that delay, they loaded everything onto their ships.

Map of New Providence (from Naval History & Heritage)
They even had to commandeer another local ship to carry it all home.  True to his promise not to take private property, Hopkins later returned the ship to its owners and paid for its use.  Unfortunately for the patriots, they missed out on what they needed most.  The Governor had removed about 150 barrels of gunpowder from Fort Nassau before the marines entered.  He secreted the barrels onto a civilian sloop which sailed away with the valuable cargo.

The Continental Navy also took the governor and a few other top leaders as prisoners of war and brought them back to North America.  While they were loading supplies, the Fly, one of the two ships that had gotten lost as they left Philadelphia, finally arrived.  The Captain reported that it had been able to catch up after making minor repairs.  The other ship the Hornet, had suffered greater damage and remained in port in South Carolina.

On March 18, the seven ships of the fleet, along with the borrowed merchant vessel set sail for Providence, Rhode Island.  There, they could offload the military supplies so that they could travel by wagon to General Washington in Cambridge.  They did not know it, but by the time they left the Bahamas, Washington had already broken the siege and the British had evacuated the city.

Battle At Sea (Block Island)

On the way back, on April 4, as the fleet passed the coast of Long Island New York, they encountered a British Navy ship, the Hawk, a small six gun tender ship which surrendered easily.  The next day, they encountered another ship, the Bolton with eight guns, and captured it as well.  The day after that, they sighted a larger ship the 20 gun Glasgow, along with a smaller tender ship.  The ships opened fire on each other, leading to a battle that lasted several hours.  The captain of the Glasgow, realizing he was outnumbered and outgunned, eventually made a run for it and escaped capture, leaving only the smaller tender ship as a prize.

The patriots took several casualties.  Captain Hopkins of the Cabot, Commodore Hopkins’ son, was seriously wounded, along with seven others on his ship.  Four men on the Cabot died in battle.  The Cabot, which had been the first ship in the assault, took the brunt of the casualties.  Overall the fleet suffered 10 killed and 14 wounded, with only one killed and three wounded on the Glasgow.

After this, the fleet continued on to Rhode Island where they offloaded their captured goods and Commodore Hopkins had the chance to send a report to Congress.

Investigations and Courts Martial

Initially, Hopkins received congratulations for his successful mission and enjoyed celebrations for the raid on the Bahamas.  But within days, the praise began to turn to criticism.  Why hadn’t the fleet been able to capture the Glasgow? It was a single 20 gun ship going up against seven vessels.

Now in all fairness, the Glasgow was a fast new well designed ship of war.  It was not a converted merchant vessel.  It also had a highly experienced crew going up against a patriot fleet that had never fought a sea battle before.  Just based on lack of experience, I have to give the patriots a break on letting this one escape.

The Alfred (from Museum of US Navy)
Others were not as forgiving though.  Two Captains, Whipple of the Columbus and Hazard of the Providence were accused of being insufficiently aggressive during the fighting, leading to courts martial of both men.  Amazingly, Whipple sat on the panel that court martialed Hazard, and Hazard sat on the panel that court martialed Whipple.  The courts acquitted Whipple but relieved Hazard of his command, leading to the promotion of now Captain John Paul Jones.

Next, Hopkins had to deal with his sailors.  Typically upon returning from a mission a crew would be paid.  But as usual, Congress was short on cash and making excuses.  Over 200 crewmen had to leave for medical care, smallpox among other things, ravaging the crew.  Hopkins could not recruit a new crew as any able sailor was making far more money aboard a privateer, plus he had a better chance of actually getting paid what he was promised.  So Hopkins could not set sail again as he could not recruit sailors for his fleet.

By May, Hopkins learned that many in Congress were upset by the fact that he had refused to follow orders and had not bothered to do anything about the British fleets in the Chesapeake and off the Carolina coast.  Southern delegates were already predisposed not to like a New England commander.  Ignoring the military needs of the southern States to bring back a bunch of arms to New England, and disregarding orders in the process, did not endear him to the southerners.

Congress wanted Hopkins to set sail again, to attack the British in the Chesapeake and also to raid Halifax.  But with Hopkins unable to raise a crew for his fleet, he could not comply with the orders.  The Continental Congress did not want excuses, it wanted results.  They soon called him back to Philadelphia for hearings related to Hopkins’ refusal to follow orders when he raided the Bahamas, and his failure to capture the Glasgow despite having a much larger fleet.

Many hoped the hearings would end in Hopkins being dismissed.  However, his supporters among New England delegations helped prevent dismissal.  Congress did censure him though, before returning him to command of the fleet, now based in Rhode Island.  I can’t image the censure did much for his morale, and it certainly left a mark on his reputation that weakened his command authority.

Conclusion

Hopkins would remain in command of the Navy until 1778.  I’ll discuss the reasons he left in a later episode.  But following his initial raid on the Bahamas, Hopkins accomplished very little.  He could never recruit enough sailors to man all of his ships.  He could not get the undivided support of Congress.  The British Navy now focused on keeping his ships locked up in Narragansett Bay.  There would not be any more major naval actions over the next few years.  Individual vessels would still harass the British, but they were really doing nothing more than what the privateers were already doing.

For those of you hoping for lots more stories of naval exploits, sorry, you’ll have to wait for the next war.

- - -

Next Episode 85: Dorchester Heights

Previous Episode 83: Continental Congress Winter 1776



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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


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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

Websites 

Rhode Island’s Esek Hopkins – Rodney Dangerfield of the American Revolution: http://www.newenglandhistoricalsociety.com/rhode-islands-esek-hopkins-rodney-dangerfield-of-the-american-revolution

Letter from Committee of Congress to Commodore Hopkins, Jan. 18, 1776:
http://amarch.lib.niu.edu/islandora/object/niu-amarch%3A101440

New Providence Expedition: http://www.awiatsea.com/Narrative/New%20Providence%20Expedition.html

Revolutionary War, Battle of Nassau: http://www.defensemedianetwork.com/stories/the-nassau-raid-americas-first-jointspecial-operation

Battle off Block Island http://www.awiatsea.com/Narrative/Battle%20of%20Block%20Island.html

Proceedings of a Court-Martial on John Hazard, Commander of the sloop Providence, May 8, 1776: http://amarch.lib.niu.edu/islandora/object/niu-amarch%3A99526

Proceedings of Court-Martial on Abraham Whipple, Commander of the Columbus, May 6, 1776: http://amarch.lib.niu.edu/islandora/object/niu-amarch%3A90046


Free eBooks
(from archive.org unless noted)

Journals of Congress, Vol 1, (contains minutes of First Continental Congress and first year of the Second Continental Congress.

Beck, Alverda (ed) The Letter Book of Esek Hopkins, Commander-in-Chief of the United States Navy, 1775-1777, Providence: Rhode Island Historical Society, 1932.

Field, Edward Esek Hopkins, Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Navy During the American Revolution, 1775 to 1778, Providence: Preston and Rounds Co., 1898.

Force, Peter American Archives, Series 4, Vol 4, Washington, 1837.

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

Beeman, Richard R. Our Lives, Our Fortunes and Our Sacred Honor: The Forging of American Independence, 1774-1776, New York: Basic Books, 2013.

McGrath, Tim Give Me a Fast Ship: The Continental Navy and America's Revolution at Sea, Caliber, 2014.

Nelson, James George Washington’s Secret Navy, McGraw-Hill, 2008.

Willis, Sam The Struggle for Sea Power: A Naval History of the American Revolution, New York: 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, February 10, 2019

Episode 083: Continental Congress, Winter 1776




As I mentioned when I last focused on the Continental Congress back in Episode 75, Congress remained in continuous session after returning in September 1775.  Some members would come and go, but since congressional committees were effectively serving as both the legislative and executive branches, members had lots of work to do.

What I may not have made clear earlier was that everything Congress was doing was a secret.  Congress did not meet in open sessions.  From time to time they might make some public pronouncement, such as mourning the death of Gen. Montgomery in Canada, but no one outside of Congress had a good idea what they were doing.

Independence on the Horizon

Like the country at large though, most of Congress seemed to be moving toward acceptance of American independence.  Thomas Paine’s publication of Common Sense sped popular support for independence.  Even so, more conservative patriots in Congress, like John Dickinson, John Jay, James Wilson, and others refused to accept that independence would be the ultimate goal.

James Wilson is not a founding father you hear much about.  He mostly comes up in trivia questions as one of only six men to sign both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.  He also would become one of the first Justices to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court.  He was a Philadelphia lawyer.  In 1774, during the First Continental Congress, Wilson had published a pamphlet with the exciting title of Considerations on the Nature and Extent of the Legislative Authority of the British Parliament.  Even at the time, it was not exactly a best seller, largely overshadowed by Thomas Jefferson’s A Summary View of the Rights of British America.

James Wilson (from Wikimedia)
The work did help establish Wilson as a credible legal scholar trying to protect colonial rights.  In the First Continental Congress, Wilson was probably considered a moderate.  By 1776 though, he was a conservative, not because his views changed, but because majority opinion had moved considerably to the left.  Conservatives in 1774 by 1776 were considered Tories and enemies of freedom.  Moderates in 1774 were, by this time, the new conservatives.  They were men like Wilson who still supported fighting against taxation, but were not quite ready to call for independence.

By 1776 though everyone was reading Paine’s Common Sense.  They watched New England and Canada dive into all out war, and they had heard the King’s declaration that the colonies were in rebellion, making clear he was not going to reign in Parliament and settle this dispute peacefully.  Very quickly, the choice was becoming submission or independence.  If you did not jump on the independence bandwagon, you were getting left behind.

In early 1776 Wilson attempted to get on that bandwagon by drafting An Address to the Inhabitants of the Colonies which I admit in the broad scheme of things is pretty forgettable.  It ended with a line about how their second wish would be to continue with Britain, but their first wish was freedom.  In other words, even the conservatives in Congress were reaching the conclusion that if they had to choose between independence and submission, they were willing to go with independence.

Many of the conservatives thought this address would be helpful.  But by the time it circulated through Congress, most thought it did not go far enough.  The independence faction was getting ready to push for an all out call for independence.  In the end, Congress tabled Wilson’s address without a vote and moved on to other things.  Even so, they still did not seem to be debating independence openly in Congress.  The movement still only showed itself in private letters and personal conversations among the delegates.

Peace Negotiation Attempt

The conservatives continued to hope that London would send a Peace Commission to negotiate a reasonable settlement to the crisis.  While this would happen in 1778, it was too little, too late by then.

Instead, in December 1775, Lord Drummond arrived in Philadelphia.  Drummond was a Scottish noble who had settled in New Jersey a few years earlier.  In 1774, he had traveled back to London to discuss possible peace overtures with Lord North.  No one asked him to do it.  He just appointed himself as a peace emissary to see if he could get the two sides talking toward some sort of compromise.

Drummond spoke with Prime Minister North about possible terms to end what was at that time, still just tension between England and the colonies.  Although he had no credentials to speak on behalf of anyone, he did have the most important thing in British government, family connections.  Drummond was a related to then Secretary of State Dartmouth, who helped him to connect with Dartmouth’s step brother, Lord North.

Much of what Drummond’s proposed ended up in the Conciliatory Proposition that Parliament sent to Congress in early 1775 and which I discussed back in Episode 50.  But North had been unwilling to provide any specific protections in that offer.  That, and the fact that it reached Congress after Lexington and Concord, meant it was too little too late.

Drummond did not give up though.  At the end of 1775, he returned to America in hopes of getting Congress to send peace commissioners to London.  Almost immediately the radicals arrested him for being a Tory.  They quickly paroled him on the condition he stay out of public affairs.  Drummond violated that condition by reaching out to some of the more conservative members of Congress, men like James Wilson, John Jay and James Duane, to discuss the idea of peace terms where the colonies would get certain limited protections from internal taxation.

His idea was that colonies would provide some reasonable contribution toward the cost of their military protection but would raise the money themselves, however they liked, and would have some constitutional protection that London could not shake them down for unlimited cash whenever it wanted.  Parliament would retain authority over trade, but would not use that as an excuse to raise cash through customs duties.  Obviously, there were a lot of details left to resolve, but some conservative members of Congress thought it might be the only chance they had to work out a deal instead of continuing a highly destructive war.

In the end, Lord Drummond got a couple of delegates to travel up to New York covertly to get a better idea of whether this really was a genuine back channel overture from North.  Was North trying to negotiate a peaceful solution? or was this just some guy trying to make a name for himself, trying to broker a deal nobody wanted?  At the time, Gen. Henry Clinton was on his way south, planning to retake the Carolinas.  He met with Drummond and other intermediaries on behalf of the delegates.  Clinton, though, was getting ready for war.  He was not even authorized to negotiate any peace settlement.  Clinton suspected they simply wanted to know his war plans or delay his mission and he blew them off.  With that, the Delegates returned to Philadelphia to get on with other matters.

Dunmore though, hopeful that the delegates would agree to go to London, sent a letter to Gen. Howe in Boston asking for safe passage.  He sent the letter to General Washington with the request that he forward it to Howe.  Instead, Washington opened the letter read it, and sent it back to Congress with a note that said he thought Dunmore was attempting to divide the patriot effort and that someone should do something about it.

When Dunmore returned to Philadelphia, he was arrested for violating the terms of his parole. In March, Congress debated sending a delegation to London, but decided against it. Dunmore agreed to leave the colonies and finally was allowed to sail to Bermuda in April.  In the end, nothing came of the attempted peace negotiations, although Drummond will be back for further attempts later in our story.

Blame for Canada

In January and February of 1776, Congress was mostly focused on the prosecution of the war.  The loss of most of the northern army on January 1 at Quebec was the first major defeat for the patriots.  It was hard to blame Gen. Richard Montgomery, who was by this time a national hero after dying in battle.  Similarly, Gen. Benedict Arnold, wounded in battle and struggling to maintain the siege of Quebec had hero status as well.  So, many in Congress looked to blame Gen. Philip Schuyler, commander of the Northern Army and in charge of overall strategy in that theater.

Schuyler had been trying to support the army in Canada, but was also focused on the Indian problem in New York.  British Indian Agent Guy Johnson was gathering up arms and ammunition and trying to convince the Iroquois and neighboring tribes that perhaps they should stop being neutral and help the King put down this rebellion.

Schuyler assembled 3000 NY militia in January, to make a show of strength against the Iroquois.  At the same time, he met with Iroquois leaders to assure them that the militia were not there to attack them.  Rather, they were just going to stop Johnson and the few foolish locals who had joined up with him.  The effort worked.  The militia captured cache of arms and ammunition that Johnson had assembled, and arrested about 100 Scottish Highlanders who were prepared to fight for King and country.  They dispersed anyone considering any organized effort against the patriot movement.  But all this effort also meant that for the month following the loss at Quebec, Schuyler was not giving his full attention to the problems in Canada.

David Wooster
(from Wikimedia)
In Montreal, Gen. David Wooster, got even more frustrated that his pleas for soldiers, guns, and money were falling on deaf ears back in Albany.  Wooster and Schuyler already did not like each other very much, but tried to be professional and work together as best they could.  But when Wooster publicly criticized Schuyler for paroling some Tories who were now causing him trouble back in and around Montreal, Schuyler decided he had had enough.  He dashed off a letter to Congress saying he could not work with Wooster anymore and that one of them had to go.

Before that letter even reached Congress, however, the delegates had come to the same conclusion.  One of them had to go.  Schuyler probably assumed that the junior Wooster would go.  But the delegates decided Schuyler would go.  Well, not actually go.  Congress instructed Schuyler to retain command of New York.  But they gave command of Canada to Gen. Charles Lee.  As you may recall, Lee was third in command of the Continental Army, behind only Artemas Ward and Washington himself.  Lee had been twiddling his thumbs in Cambridge and telling just about anyone who would listen how he could do a much better job than just about anyone anywhere.  Giving him an independent command in Canada, Congress thought, would give Lee a chance to put up or shut up.  The British looked like they would secure Canada within the next few months.  Perhaps Lee could do a better job than Schuyler.  Meanwhile they sent Schuyler from Albany to New York City, where he could prepare for the possible British invasion there.

Then, a few weeks, later, Congress reversed themselves.  Part of the reversal may have been objections raised by the New York Delegation, who saw their General being treated unfairly. I think Washington objected to the changes, though he seems so polite and accommodating in his written correspondence that it’s sometimes hard to tell.  But Washington really wanted Lee in charge of New York City.  He respected Lee’s ability to set up defensive lines and was sure the British would attack there once they left Boston.

So Lee went to New York City and Schuyler stayed in Albany.  However, he did not get Canada back under his command.  Instead, Congress promoted Brigadier General John Thomas to Major General and sent him to command Canada.   Thomas would replace Gen. Wooster, who just about everyone seemed to dislike by this point.  Wooster ended up returning to Connecticut and commanding the local militia.

All of this made very clear that Congress was not going to sit back and let Washington manage the army.  Congress would direct what Generals went where and maintained close control of the army.  Washington, determined not to become the next Cromwell, would make suggestions, or express concerns, but he would always follow Congress’ orders without complaint, even if he had personal misgivings.

Silas Deane Goes to France

To the extent delegates were looking at diplomacy, it was not with Britain.  Rather, they wanted better relations with France.  As I mentioned back in Episodes 71 and 75, France had already sent Bonvouloir to feel out the idea of better relations with the colonies.  Everyone realized that if they were going to defeat Britain militarily, they would need a major European power at least to supply them with guns, ammunition, and other supplies.  Ideally, that other power would go to war with Britain directly and force London to focus on problems beyond the colonies.

France, the age old enemy of Britain, was certainly the most obvious choice in such a plan.  To see if there was a possibility of making this happen, Congress sent its first envoy to Paris.  Of course, it could not be an official envoy.  The colonies were still governed by Britain.  If France recognized an envoy, that would be tantamount to recognizing American independence, which would probably force Britain to declare war on France.

Instead, the envoy would go posing as a private merchant, looking to make deals to buy trade goods to sell to the Indians in America.  Even that, of course, violated British trade laws, but I guess it was good enough cover to argue France was not getting involved directly in the war.

Congress’ first envoy to France was Silas Deane, a delegate from Connecticut.  Dean had been an active member of Connecticut politics for years, and had served as a delegate to the First and Second Continental Congress.  By all appearances, he was a committed patriot, strongly supporting the attack on Ticonderoga in the spring of 1775, and playing a major role in the creation of the Continental Navy.  He also performed a great deal of behind the scenes work on Committees of Correspondence.

Silas Dean (from Wikimedia)
Sadly for Mr. Deane, he had made some enemies back in Connecticut when he supported Connecticut’s Israel Putnam for major general rather that David Wooster, also from Connecticut.  And I’m becoming more and more convinced that Wooster was a pain in the butt for just about everyone associated with him.  He had lots of political friends in Connecticut, but just about nothing else going for him.  When Wooster only got offered a commission as a mere brigadier general in the Continental Army, he pouted and almost didn’t take it, preferring to remain a major general in the Connecticut militia.  It probably would have been much better for everyone if he had refused the commission.  But he did take it and would prove to be a disaster for the next year before he finally had enough and quit.

Anyway, Deane did not back Wooster, so Wooster’s political friends had Deane recalled from Congress at the end of 1775.  The delegates in Philadelphia valued Deane’s work and did not want to lose him. So they decided he would be a good choice to send to Paris and feel out any possible chances of an alliance, or at least assistance.  Like just about anyone who got a significant appointment during the war, Deane seemed highly underqualified.  He had never been further from his home in Connecticut than his visits to Philadelphia.  He did not speak French and had no real diplomatic experience.

Despite all that, on March 2, 1776, Congress commissioned Deane to go to France.  The Commission itself was rather vague, but Deane’s quiet discussions with other delegates were more specific.

They hoped he would able to purchase, on credit, arms, supplies, and uniforms for a 25,000 man Continental Army.  They gave him $200,000 in paper Continental currency to buy trade goods for Indians that Congress hoped to keep on their side during the war.  They also hoped he could make contact with the French foreign minister, the comte de Vergennes and begin discussions to see if France would recognize American Independence, if they declared independence, and to see if they would consider trade agreements or even an alliance.

Now all of this was a risky venture.  First, Deane had to cross the Atlantic and avoid the British Navy.  He was engaged in treason, meaning the British could have hanged him if they caught him.  Second, there was no guarantee the French might not decide it was to their advantage to stay on Britain’s good side and just turn him over the the British.

Even if none of that happened, Deane acted essentially as a private citizen in France with no diplomatic recognition.  Anything he bought on credit was on his personal credit, meaning he could possibly lose everything he owned and get tossed into debtor’s prison if Congress chose not to back his deals.

Despite the risks, Deane took the job and actually did pretty well at it.  He made contact with the French ministry through back channels and for the second half of 1776 covertly sent a continual stream of supplies to America.  This supply line grew considerably in 1777 and became critical to the war effort.

I don’t want to get into all the details now, but after several years, another envoy Arthur Lee, accused Deane of mismanaging French aid and pocketing some for himself.  Eventually, these charges were proven false, but not until long after Deane had died.  Sadly, he suffered from this damaged reputation even though he performed a critical service for his country.  But that mess is years in the future.  For now, Deane began the covert relationship between France and America that would make France America’s oldest ally.  I will definitely circle back to Deane in future episodes.

More Money

While I’m discussing Congress, I should also mention that in February 1776, Congress authorized the printing of another $4 million in paper currency to finance the war effort.  Everyone continued to question whether this money would ever be worth anything, leading to continued inflation.

- - -

Next Episode 84: Continental Navy Raids the Bahamas

Previous Episode 82: Battle of Moore's Creek Bridge



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

Websites

Considerations on the Nature and Extent of the Legislative Authority of the British Parliament, by James Wilson:  http://www.constitution.org/jwilson/legislative_authority_british_parliament.html

An Address to the Inhabitants of the Colonies, by James Wilson: https://wisc.pb.unizin.org/jzps601s2017/chapter/james-wilson-an-address-to-the-inhabitants-of-the-colonies

Failure of a Mission: The Drummond Peace Proposal of 1775, by Milton Klein, Huntington Library Quarterly, Vol. 35, No. 4 (1972), pp. 343-380:  http://www.jstor.org/stable/3817055 (free to read online, registration required).

Letter from Thomas Lynch to George Washington, Jan. 16, 1776, discussing Lord Drummond:
http://amarch.lib.niu.edu/islandora/object/niu-amarch%3A99696

Franklin, Benjamin Report to Congress on forces in Canada, Feb, 1776: https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Franklin/01-22-02-0211

Silas Deane embarks on secret mission to France: http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/silas-deane-embarks-on-secret-mission-to-france

Covart, Elizabeth "Silas Deane, Forgotten Patriot" Journal of the American Revolution (2014): https://allthingsliberty.com/2014/07/silas-deane-forgotten-patriot

Silas Deane Online Documents: http://www.silasdeaneonline.org/documents.htm

Free eBooks
(from archive.org unless noted)

Journals of Congress, Vol 1, (contains minutes of First Continental Congress and first year of the Second Continental Congress.

Journals of the Continental Congress, Vol. 3, Sept. 21-Dec. 30, 1775, Washington: US Gov’t Printing Office 1905.

Journals of the Continental Congress, Vol. 4  Jan. 1 - June 4, 1776, ashington: US Gov’t Printing Office 1904.

Clark, George L. Silas Deane, a Connecticut Leader in the American Revolution, New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1913.

Force, Peter American Archives, Series 4, Vol 4, Washington, DC: 1837.

Lossing, Benson The Life and Times of Philip Schuyler, Vol 1 and Vol 2, New York: Mason Brothers,1872-73.

StillĂ© Charles,  Beaumarchais and the "lost million". A chapter of the secret history of the American revolution, Philadelphia: self-published, 1890.

Tuckerman, Bayard Life of General Philip Schuyler, 1733-1804, New York: Dodd, Mead & Co. 1903.

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

Beeman, Richard R. Our Lives, Our Fortunes and Our Sacred Honor: The Forging of American Independence, 1774-1776, New York: Basic Books, 2013.

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

Isaacson, Walter Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, New York, Simon & Schuster, 2003.

McCullough, David John Adams, New York, Simon & Schuster, 2001.

Meacham, John Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, New York: Random House, 2012.

Montross, Lynn The Reluctant Rebels, New York: Harper & Brothers, 1950 (Book recommendation of the week)

Morgan, Edmund Benjamin Franklin, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001.

Peterson, Merrill (ed) The Portable Thomas Jefferson, New York: Penguin Books, 1975.

* 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.