Sunday, March 31, 2019

Episode 090 Battle of the Cedars

In the months following the failure of General Montgomery and General Arnold to take Quebec, the northern army in Canada got little attention.  The focus remained on Boston.  After the British Evacuation of Boston in March, with officers bickering in weeks of indecision to send us a new leader, Washington finally got Congress’ approval to send a new leader for the northern army in Canada.

Gen. Thomas Takes Command

General John Thomas was from Massachusetts.  Now in his early 50’s, he had military experience in both King George’s War as well as the French and Indian War.  He had played a leading role in helping the British captured Montreal from the French in 1760.  He was an early patriot and part of the militia army that besieged Boston.  The Massachusetts Provincial Congress made him a lieutenant general, just below Artemas Ward.  When the Continental Army formed in June 1775, Thomas received a commission as a brigadier general.  He almost didn’t take it, as he considered it a demotion.  But Congress did not want to have two major generals from Massachusetts.  General Washington finally convinced him to take the job, and sweetened the deal by making him the most senior brigadier general.

Thomas served as field commander of the army on Dorchester Heights, the occupation of which finally convinced the British to evacuate Boston.  Following that success, Congress promoted Thomas to major general and gave him his first independent command, taking charge of the Continental Army in Canada.

Gen. John Thomas
(from Mass Historical Society)
Congress had told Thomas that his command in Canada would be over 4000 men.  When he finally arrived in late April, he found he had nothing close to that.  Although the Continentals had transferred more soldiers to Canada during the winter, large numbers of them had died of smallpox.  Many more were sick with smallpox or other diseases and unfit for duty.  He found his total force to be less than 2000 men, and only half of them fit for duty.  Even worse, many of the enlistments ended in April, and the men had no interest in remaining under any terms.  Some enlistments had already ended but officers had refused to release the men, making morale even worse.

He also found that most of the officers were fighting among themselves.  The soldiers did not have sufficient food or clothing.  The locals were becoming increasingly hostile to the Continentals, and the British would probably be sending a relief fleets to arrive in the next few weeks.

Thomas, however, was a capable general and not one to back down from a challenge.  He set to work reorganizing his army.  One of the first things he did was transfer General Wooster back to Montreal.  Apparently, Thomas did not have a good opinion of Wooster either.  Thomas was also effective because he was willing to mix with the soldiers and share their burdens.  He mixed with the soldiers so much, that within weeks of his arrival, he contracted smallpox, which sadly would kill him by June.

But in early May, Thomas still hoped to pull off a stunt that would let him break the Siege of Quebec before the British relief fleet arrived.  On the night of May 3rd, sentries in Quebec saw the first relief ship approaching the city.  The British had arranged a secret signal and counter signal to make sure they could identify the fleets.  The defenders in Quebec hoisted their flag and fired five cannon, to indicate they were still in control of the city.  But the ship never gave the counter signal.  With no signal, the defenders began firing on the ship, only to see a small crew abandon the ship and row away in a boat.

Thomas, taking Arnold’s advice, had attempted to use the ship as a fire ship.  The plan was to get it as close to the city as possible, set it on fire, and hope that the burning ship would set the city of Quebec on fire.  But the defenders did not let the boat get close enough.  It soon floated downstream and burned to the water line, doing no damage.

British Fleet Arrives at Quebec

Two days later, on May 5, the first real relief fleet would arrive and finally break the Siege of Quebec.  Upon the ship’s arrival, General Guy Carleton finally took 900 Quebec defenders outside the city walls and dared the patriots to battle on open field. The few hundred Continentals still around Quebec fled without even attempting to mount a token challenge.  They abandoned the artillery placements that Arnold had constructed in the months prior and moved up river.

Port at Quebec (from Wikimedia)
A few days later, General Thomas held a council of war with his officers.  Thomas favored taking a stand a Deschambault, a few miles upriver from Quebec.  The patriots still were not sure  how large the British relief fleet would be.  Most of the fleet had not yet arrived.  General Wooster also favored taking a stand.  But almost all the other officers in attendance voted to retreat further up river to Sorel, where the St. Lawrence River met with the Richelieu River.  That was the patriot line of retreat back to Lake Champlain if the British attacked in force.

Thomas stayed in Deschambault in case the promised artillery arrived soon.  He could make a stand there, and at least command a holding action to delay any British assault.  Meanwhile Arnold, still back in Montreal, wanted to get closer to the front and stop what he saw as a precipitous retreat.  He moved forward to Sorel where most of the patriots from Quebec were going.

The only good news for the patriots at this time was that General William Thompson, newly appointed brigadier general, arrived in Canada with 2000 Continental reinforcements.  While the army now had men, it had no food for them, nor much ammunition.  Even worse, smallpox quickly began to ravage the ranks of the reinforcements, just as it had the men already serving in theater.

The Cedars

Arnold was hedging his bets at this point.  While he was trying to move as many forces as possible forward to confront an expected British advance, he also maintained posts further south to make sure the army had an open line of retreat, should rumors of overwhelming numbers of British reinforcements prove accurate.

With Arnold in Sorel, Colonel Moses Hazen commanded Montreal.  Upon hearing rumors that British garrisons further west had mobilized an attack force of Indians and French volunteers, Hazen dispatched Colonel Timothy Bedel and 400 soldiers to build a stockade at the Cedars.  The Cedars was located about 30 miles upriver and to the west of Montreal.  This would provide a defense against any surprise attack coming from further upriver against Montreal.

Battle of Ceders Map (from Wikimedia)
Bedel’s regiment began work on a stockade, but Bedel himself did not stay on site.  Instead, he left is second in command, Colonel Isaac Butterfield in command while Bedel left to meet with the local Caughnawaga Indian tribe.  He wanted to make sure this local tribe would not cooperate with the British in any attack.

Meanwhile the rumors of an attack force proved true.  A French Canadian named Claude de Lorimier, who served as a British Indian agent left Montreal to meet with Iroquois at Fort  Oswegatchie, a small outpost in western New York still occupied by a small British regular garrison.  Lorimier organized about 200 Iroquois, along with about 40 regulars and 10 local French Canadians, to attack the patriot forces at Montreal.  British Captain George Forster commanded the small brigade.

On May 15, Colonel Bedel received word that there was an British led Indian force headed to attack his regiment at the Cedars.  Rather than return to his regiment and take command, or even warn them, Bedel ran straight to Montreal to inform the command and ask for reinforcements.  Whether this was outright cowardice or an error in judgment, that would be debated later.  For now Bedel’s troops would have to face the enemy without their leader.

Bedel reported that 150 regulars and 500 Indians were getting ready to attack the force at the Cedars.  In fact, the total force was only around 250 total, including only 40 regulars.  Officials in Montreal argued over sending a relief force.  Apparently the two Congressional delegates still in Montreal tried to issue orders.  This led to a fight over authority with the officers in command.  As a result, no relief force left for two days when Major Henry Sherburne took 140 Continental soldiers to support the garrison at the Cedars.  Colonel Bedel started off with the relief column, but then decided he was “too sick” to march and returned to Montreal.

On May 18, the day after Sherburne’s relief force left Montreal, regulars and Iroquois surrounded the stockade at the Cedars.  The defenders outnumbered the attackers and also had two small field cannon to defend their position.  The men had sufficient food and supplies to defend themselves for days.

The British commander, Captain Forster decided to bluff.  Implying that he had a much larger force, he called on the force inside the stockade to surrender immediately, or suffer the full ravages of the attacking Indians.  Almost immediately Colonel Butterfield seemed ready to surrender, but only if the defenders could leave with their arms.  Forster would not agree to the terms and began his attack on the stockade.  Over the course of the day and night, the defenders easily held their position, only one man suffering a minor shoulder wound.

By the next morning though, Colonel Butterfield wanted to surrender.  His junior officers thought this was crazy and debated a mutiny to put a more capable officer in command of the defense.  But before they could do so, Butterfield called for surrender, apparently unnerved at the prospect of being tortured and murdered by Indians.  Forster’s force took the entire garrison prisoner and captured all of their arms, ammunition, food, and supplies.  As the men marched out of the stockade, the Indians stripped them of all valuables, went through their pockets, and took their personal possessions as prizes of war.

Sherburne’s Relief Column

Sherburne’s relief column, which had dwindled from 140 to about 100 men due to illness and posting guards to cover a potential retreat and guard supplies, approached the Cedars on May 19.  Upon hearing the garrison had already surrendered, Sherburne pulled back across the river and waited until the next morning to approach.

When his column did march, the Indians ambushed them in open ground.  The battle raged for about an hour, leading to 28 Continentals killed, and an unknown but apparently much smaller number of Indians killed or wounded.  Sherburne surrendered unconditionally.  The Indians took this to mean they could strip their captors of all their possessions, including their clothes.  There were no regulars with the party, but the Indian Agent Lorimier was with them and had to go to great lengths to keep the Indians from massacring the prisoners.  Later, some accused the Indians of  tomahawking and scalping several prisoners, though whether this really happened is debatable.  It is possible that the Indians just scalped some of the dead after the battle.

Lorimier and the Indians marched the naked prisoners back to a church where the prisoners from the Cedars were being held.  At this point, the Indians decided it was unfair that the Cedars prisoners got to keep their clothes while the relief column did not.  They proceeded to strip the rest of the prisoners of their clothes as well.  Prisoners had to sleep in open fields with no food or clothing, and not allowed fires nor given any food.

Arnold’s Relief Column

General Arnold soon received word of the fall of the Cedars and Sherburne’s relief column.  He feared the British and Indian Brigade would soon descend upon Montreal and capture the city.  Arnold ran back to Montreal where he grabbed every soldier he could find, a total of about 150 men.  As he marched his men toward the Cedars, he collected more soldiers from various outposts, so that is force totaled around 450 by the time he got near the enemy.

Benedict Arnold
On the evening of May 24, Arnold’s cobbled-together regiment heard the drums of the enemy encampment.  Arnold immediately called for a nighttime surprise raid that would scatter the enemy and recapture their comrades.  But his men refused.  They were not a single unit, but were a collection of small groups of soldiers from various places who had never fought together. They did not want to fight Indians at night and in open fields.

Frustrated, Arnold waited until morning, only to find that Captain Forster and his prisoners had retreated during the night. Forster was in a difficult situation.  His original force of 250 men was falling as some of the Indians began to leave with their booty.  He had nearly 500 prisoners and was facing Arnold’s attacking force, which some intelligence had exaggerated was as much as 2500 men.  Forster forced the prisoners to march through swamps and across streams.  At least one drowned and two others were killed after being unable to keep up.

Arnold finally caught up with Forster, who was moving the prisoners from an island to the opposite bank of the river.  Arnold sent a demand that Forster surrender his prisoners.  Instead, Forster sent a reply that if Arnold attacked he would allow the Indians to massacre all the prisoners.  Once Forster departed the island, Arnold moved his forces there, recapturing five prisoners who had been left behind.  Forster used the two cannon he had captured at the Cedars to keep Arnold from attempting a landing on the far bank in face of the enemy.

Forster, realizing he could not fight off Arnold for long, and retain control of all his prisoners, reached a deal with the captured commanders, Butterfield and Sherburne, to release all the prisoners on the promise that they would be exchanged for captured British soldiers of equal rank.  Arnold refused the terms because they held that American prisoners had to take an oath not to take up arms again, while the returned British prisoners would be under no such restriction.  Forster removed the condition of the oath to get an agreement and released his prisoners.


The Indians kept ten of the prisoners to be adopted into their tribes.  Later, the British ransomed and returned eight of the men.  The other two apparently opted to remain living in the tribes that adopted them.  Forster took custody of four officers as hostages to ensure the Americans would release their prisoners as promised.

Congress, however, decided the prisoner exchange was unacceptable.  It refused to release any prisoners, even though the Americans had already been returned.  They did this over the objections of Washington and other officers, who pointed out, correctly, that it would make future prisoner exchanges almost impossible if one side would not keep its word.  But since it was much harder to replace captured British regulars than Continentals, refusing exchanges, probably worked out better for the patriots.  Even so, it meant thousands of prisoners would suffer and die under miserable prison conditions.

Eventually, the British returned the four officers that had been held hostage.  I have not found out what terms or circumstances led to to their release, or exactly when that happened. But they, like many other officers felt betrayed by Congress’ refusal to accept the terms for the negotiated prisoner exchange.

Colonels Bedel and Butterfield both faced courts martial for their behavior.  Washington, who almost never said anything bad about a fellow officer called their conduct “base and cowardly.”  John Adams, who was never shy about criticizing anyone, called it “the first stain upon American arms.”

Given the combat conditions of the time, the courts martial had to be put off for several months.  After all, the British were still in the process of invading from Canada.  For the moment, everyone had to fight.  The hearings would have to come later.

In August, a court martial found found Bedel guilty of quitting his post when he ran back to Montreal rather than to his regiment when he heard of the enemy’s approach.  Bedel blamed his behavior on fuzzy thinking due to his illness.  He was suffering from a mild attack of smallpox after being inoculated.  He claimed this affected his admittedly poor judgment.  Even so, the court martial ordered him dismissed from the army, though he was permitted to rejoin the army a little over a year later.

Butterfield, who had surrendered the Cedars without much of a fight to an inferior force faced court martial for cowardice.  The court found him guilty and dismissed him from the army permanently.

John Phillip De Hass
The one other outcome of the incident was that Arnold, surprise surprise, made a few more enemies. Before returning to Montreal, Arnold ordered Colonel John Philip De Haas to burn a local Indian village, possibly for its cooperation with the marauders.  After Arnold left, De Haas decided not to burn the village, as it might provoke a new Indian uprising.  When Arnold learned about the refusal to obey his direct order, he was outraged.  De Haas would go on to become a general, but remained on Arnold’s bad side for the remainder of the war.

Colonel Moses Hazen had also served under Arnold during the attempted rescue of the Cedars garrison.  Hazen had been among the officers who refused to back Arnold’s attempts to attack the enemy aggressively.  During the arguments, the men exchanged insults and became lifelong enemies.  Arnold, who had written several positive comments about Hazen up until this point, now believed the man was not fit for command.  Although Hazen would also become a Continental general, Arnold wanted nothing more to do with him, and apparently the feeling was mutual.

The battle of the Cedars, as it came to be known, was another stain on the reputation of the northern army. It would not be the last defeat as the British pushed the patriots out of Canada and reclaimed that territory for the King.

Next Week: I’m going to step back from the battles raging around the continent to take a look at the state constitution movement that is easing the colonies into independent states.

- - -

Next  Episode 91: State Constitution, Part 1

Previous Episode 89: Washington Moves to New York

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Further Reading


Hamilton, Edward. General John Thomas, Massachusetts Historical Society,
Third Series, Vol. 84 (1972), pp. 44-52 (free to read online, requires registration).

Battle of the Cedars (Les Cèdres):

The Battle of the Cedars:

Dacus, Jeff "Brigadier General John De Haas: A Bad Example to Others" Journal of the American Revolution (April 2015):

Video, Miller, Ken British and Hessian Prisoners in the Revolutionary War, (C-Span, 2015):

Swain, David The Timothy Bedel Papers and Andrew Park Pamphlet (Nov. 2010):

Free eBooks
(from unless noted)

An Authentic narrative of facts relating to the exchange of prisoners taken at the Cedars, London: T. Cadell, 1777

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

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

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.

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.

Everest, Allan S. Moses Hazen and the Canadian Refugees in the American Revolution. Syracuse University Press, 1976. Also available as free download at: (book recommendation of the week).

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

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

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

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

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Episode 089: Washington Moves to New York

At the end of March 1776, General Washington was still enjoying the adulation of expelling the last large British force in the 13 colonies.  General Howe had sailed his army from Boston to Halifax to await his brother, Admiral Howe, and his other reinforcements.

Washington Prepares his Defense

Washington knew that a strike would be coming, but still did not know where or when.  Washington was on defense now, and had to figure out where he needed defenses.

In his letters to Congress in April and May, Washington guessed that Howe might attack at Quebec, New York, or both.  He also had to worry about Clinton’s force down in the Carolinas.  With less than 10,000 Continentals to defend New York and only about 2000 for Quebec, he really did not have enough troops to defend either properly.  His hope was to force Howe to attack well entrenched positions where, like Bunker Hill, the regulars would take far more casualties than the Continentals.

His only other hope was for large numbers of local militia to turn out in each area to augment the Army.  In Canada, this had proven impossible.  Similarly in New York far fewer locals were willing to turn out and fight for the cause.  Much larger populations were either loyalist or simply unwilling to risk their necks for the cause.  Before battle came, Washington’s ranks would swell to around 20,000.  However, these added militia proved very disappointing in battle and convinced Washington of the need for a larger well trained Continental army if  he ever hoped to win the war.

Washington seemed convinced that Howe would be headed to New York, though he continued to write letters indicating he could not be sure.

Lee Begins Defense of New York

Back in January 1776, Washington had sent Gen. Charles Lee to New York.  Lee, who was third in command of the army, was getting bored at the Siege of Boston.  He wanted an independent command and was not shy about writing to Congress about it.

Lee had a hard time treating Washington as a superior.  Remember, Lee had known Washington since the two men fought together under General Braddock in 1754.  At that time, Lee was a lieutenant in the regular army and had command authority over Washington in the Virginia militia.  In the intervening decades, Lee had wracked up experience fighting in Europe for Britain and other countries, while Washington had sat around Virginia as a farmer and politician.  Lee was generally respectful toward Washington as his commander.  But anyone who talked to Lee for more than five minutes had to realize he considered himself superior to Washington as an officer and military strategist.  He seemed to be biding his time until everyone else realized the same thing and replaced Washington with Lee as commander of the army.

New York 1776 (from Bowery Boys History)
Washington seemed to have an amazing knack for letting his subordinates shine, even when it might mean his own replacement.  When Congress decided to give Lee an independent command in New York, Washington backed the plan.  Indeed, he encouraged it.  Before taking command, Lee spent a few weeks in Connecticut recruiting about 1200 soldiers to take with him to New York.

Part of his mission was to begin building defenses in anticipation of an assault by sea.  But his first job was making sure the Tories in and around New York did not create their own threat.  Although radicals like Isaac Sears still controlled New York City for the patriots, many Tories were waiting quietly for things to change.  There was still a British fleet in the harbor, along with Governor William Tryon, though they did not dare step foot on land.  New Yorkers feared that Lee’s presence with his New England regiments would convince the British fleet to fire on the city, possibly burning it to the ground.

When word reached the Continentals that General Henry Clinton had left Boston for New York, they decided Lee needed to get down there, despite any protests, and make sure Clinton was not going to try to take the city.  He needed to discover Clinton’s intentions.

Lee figured there was nothing like the direct approach, so he wrote Clinton a letter and had it delivered to Clinton’s ship in New York Harbor.  Lee and Clinton had been old friends in the regular army where they served together for years.  The fact that Lee was now a traitor and one of the commanding generals in an army that Clinton was tasked to destroy, did not seem to bother either of them.  Clinton assured Lee that he was only there to confer with the royal governor, that he only had a few companies with him and had no intention of landing.  He was headed down to the Carolinas to meet up with General Cornwallis and the regiments he was bringing over to retake the Carolinas.

All of this was true, but really Clinton, just write a letter outlining your entire plan and send it to the enemy?  Even Lee seemed skeptical when he forwarded the information to Washington.  What kind of General would do that?  But that’s exactly what Clinton did.

Lee immediately set about testing the resolve of the British Navy.  He brought his 1200 Connecticut soldiers into the city, along with another 1000 from New Jersey.  He dismantled the artillery battery at the harbor, right under the nose of the Navy.  The British had threatened to level the city if the patriots took the guns.  But Lee took them and they did nothing.  Lee also cut off Governor Tryon’s ability to send and receive letters from his ship in the harbor.

Charles Lee (from Wikimedia)
While Lee was an aggressive military figure, he definitely lacked Washington’s political skills.  Lee never asked for anything.  He ordered it.  Like other British officers I've discussed in the past, Lee considered civilian government officials as his subordinates, there to follow his orders.  The New York Provincial Congress was in no mood to take orders from this outsider.  Lee and the Congress started an intense feud that got really personal, really fast.

It probably would have become a problem had not Congress decided to transfer Lee out of the city.  In February, Congress tapped Lee to take command of the Northern Army in Canada.  Then, a few weeks later, Congress changed its mind and gave Lee an new command: the Southern Department.  Lee would be responsible for the defense of Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia.  Since Lee knew Clinton was headed to that region with a fairly sizable army, he was happy to have an independent command that would soon give him a chance to show off his military prowess.  By the end of March, Lee was on his way south, taking up a new headquarters in Williamsburg, Virginia.

This was about the same time Washington was chasing Howe’s army out of Boston, meaning Washington would be free to take over the defense of New York himself.

Washington Takes Command at NY

The British had evacuated Boston in mid-March.  Over several weeks in late March and early April, as Washington became increasingly confident that Howe really was leaving Massachusetts for Halifax, he shipped more and more of his army to New York.

As soon as General Lee left, General William Alexander, also known as Lord Stirling took command.  Stirling was born and raised in New York, but settled in New Jersey as an adult.  He had a Scottish claim to a noble title, hence the title Lord Stirling, though the British House of Lords had refused to accept that claim.  When the Revolution began, Stirling, who had no military experience, became a militia colonel when he used his personal wealth to outfit a regiment of New Jersey militia.  In January 1776, he made a name for  himself when he and his men boarded several small fishing vessels, sailed to a British supply vessel near New York Harbor and captured it.

Seen as a rising star, on March 1, Congress promoted Sterling as one of six officers, as new brigadier generals in the Continental Army.  A few days later upon Lee’s departure from the City, he found himself in command at New  York city.  His command was short lived though.

Lord Stirling (from Smithsonian)
On March 21, Stirling had to turn over command to William Thompson, who was appointed General on the same day as Stirling but designated as more senior to him.  The Irish born Thompson was at least a veteran of the French and Indian War, who had lived in Pennsylvania.  Col. Thompson had commanded a Pennsylvania Rifle Company at the Siege of Boston, where he apparently impressed Congress enough to make General.

A week later, General William Heath arrived from Boston to take command trom Thompson.  Heath had been one of the original Brigadiers which Congress appointed back in June of 1775.  He had been a militia offer in Massachusetts and had been a General in the Massachusetts Provincial Army.  Heath had seen some action at the very end of the British retreat from Concord and had distinguished himself during the Siege of Boston.

Heath’s command also lasted only about a week before Major General Israel Putnam arrived in New York.  I’ve already discussed Putnam’s considerable activities during the Siege of Boston and at Bunker Hill.  But even General Putnam only lasted in command for just over a week until Washington himself arrived to assume command on April 13.

I went through all those quick changes in command to give some idea of the chaos as the Continental Army slowly migrated to New York.  Also, all of the generals I just mentioned are going to play important roles in the coming weeks and months.

Defending New York

As we think of the sprawling metropolis of New York today, it is  hard to image the area in 1776.  The entire region had a population of around 25,000 - smaller than Philadelphia at the time.  New York City was only the very lower tip of Manhattan Island, then called York Island.  Most of what is north of what we know today as Canal Street was farmland and unpopulated forest.  Across the East River, what we call today Brooklyn, was mostly a few large country estates.  The actual village of Brooklyn was a few miles inland and consisted of less than a dozen houses and an old Dutch Church.  There were no bridges, only ferries, to cross the Hudson or East Rivers.

By the time Washington arrived in the city, much of the population had already left.  Tories had no interest in ending up refugees, having to abandon all their property and run for their lives.  Most had packed up and left town before it became a problem.  Many others simply did not want to be in a war zone.  Before long, the civilian population would drop to around four thousand.

Brooklyn, 1776 (from Wikimedia)
The British found New York a more desirable headquarters, not only because it had a larger Tory population in the surrounding area, but because it would be impossible for anyone to hold the city without controlling the waterways around it.  New York Harbor could serve as shelter to dozens of large naval vessels.  The Hudson and East Rivers were large enough to accommodate the largest ships of the line well upriver.

Without any real navy, Washington realized he needed to do something to prevent the British Navy from surrounding the island and landing wherever they wished.  Washington followed the basic plans that General Lee had initiated months earlier.  But Lee had already told Washington, that they had no realistic chance of holding New York.  Because the British controlled the seas, they could easily land wherever they wanted and overwhelm any resistance.  The best the patriots could hope for was to force the British to attack entrenched positions and pay a terrible price to take the land, much like they did at Bunker Hill.  But there were no guarantees that General Howe would fall for that a second time.

Before Lee arrived, New York had only Fort George, at the very southern tip of the island, today known as Battery Park.  Thinking the British might attempt a direct assault, Lee destroyed some of the defensive walls there and build defensive embankments with cannon a little further inland.  The idea was that if the British landed under the cover of their navy cannons, they would enter a killing zone as soon as they tried to move off the shore and into the town.

Lee and his successors built a series of defensive embankments throughout the city.  They also established Fort Washington and Fort Constitution (later renamed Fort Lee) on the Hudson River north of town.  Fort Washington sat on the New York side and Fort Constitution on the New Jersey side.  The idea was that any enemy ship trying to move up the Hudson would have to pass through an artillery barrage from both sides of the river.

Lee also established Fort Putnam, on the east side of the East River to deter any enemy ships from trying to move up the East River.

The British might try a direct assault on Manhattan.  But the other likely line of attack would be to land on Long Island, move over land into Brooklyn, then attempt an assault across the East River supported by the Navy.  To prevent such an attack, the Continentals established a line of defense at the Gowanus Heights, a hilly region in the middle of Brooklyn / Long Island that provided the best natural line of defense.  The Continentals would deploy much of their army along this line, especially guarding the passes through the heights to block any British advance from that direction.

After Lee’s departure, Washington left Putnam with primary responsibility for setting up defenses in the city.  General Nathanael Greene oversaw the building of defenses on Long Island.

Washington Visits Congress

Even though Washington was leading an army preparing to defend against the largest military invasion any of them had ever seen, he decided to take a few weeks to visit Congress in Philadelphia.  On May 21, George and Martha set off for Philadelphia.  Washington was so concerned that something might happen in New York while he was away, that he arranged for horses to be standing ready at regular intervals between Philadelphia and New York.  If something happened, he could ride back at a gallop, changing for fresh horses every few miles.

Which the Washingtons arrived in Philadelphia they found a place to stay on Chestnut street only a block from the State House, what would later be known as Independence Hall.  To make room for the General and his wife, the landlord had to kick out their current border.  Thomas Jefferson had to pack his bags and find some other place to stay for a few weeks.

While in Philadelphia, Washington sat for a portrait with Charles Willson Peale.  This was not the first time, nor the last time that Washington would sit for Peale, who painted dozens of Washington portraits.  Martha Washington had a less pleasant time in the city.  She got an inoculation for smallpox, which at the time gave the recipient a limited version of the disease for several weeks or even months.  Since she was spending time with the army the risk of getting full blown smallpox was too high to ignore.

Washington’s main purpose, of course, in coming to Philadelphia, was to confer with Congress.  Sadly, we don’t have a good record of what they discussed exactly as Washington did not appear before the full Congress, which recorded its proceedings in the Journal.  But much of the discussion was over strategy, and specifically whether the army should attempt to hold New York against a British attack (the answer was yes).

Congress was heavily involved at this time in debating independence, so that was almost certainly a topic of conversation as well.  But I’m going to get into the details of that whole debate in a future episode.

Betsy Ross presents flag to George Washington (from Wikimedia)
Of greater relevance to Washington was the creation of a Congressional Board of War to oversee war strategy.  The Board consisted of 14 members, one from each colony, and Virginia for some reason got two.  The Board selected John Adams as its chairman, making him effectively the first Secretary of War.  Feeling out of his depth, Adams immediately wrote to friends in Massachusetts to ask them to search the Harvard library for any books on military strategy.  Apparently a career as a country lawyer did not prepare Adams to run an army.  Of course, Washington, also wanted to buy some books on military strategy after he received his appointment as Commander of the Army.  None of these guys were experienced professionals in the military.

 By some unverifiable accounts, Washington also met with Betsy Ross during this visit to discuss the design of a new American flag.  According to Ross family lore, Washington, along with Robert Morris and George Ross, met with Betsy.  Morris and Ross were both Pennsylvania delegates.  Morris was a wealthy Philadelphia merchant.  George Ross was Betsy’s uncle.

The story itself may be apocryphal as the only evidence is a claim by Betsy’s grandson decades after her death. He claimed it was part of the family’s oral history.  If it happened at all, it probably happened about a year later in 1777.  But it would be in keeping with Washington’s character to take a personal interest in the flag’s design, given how much personal focus he had put into the design of uniforms and other details.

In any event, Washington returned to New York, leaving Philadelphia on June 5, and arriving back in New York the following day.  The army had been rife with rumors that Washington had gone to Congress to resign his commission.  Therefore, his officers and men met his return with especially strong celebration.

As it turned out, the British did not do much of anything during Washington’s absence.  It would be months before Howe’s army could get its act together and begin the invasion.  Washington would have many more months to prepare his defenses.

- - -

Next  Episode 90: Battle of the Cedars 

Previous Episode 88: British War Plans for 1776

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.
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


Incivility in a Civil War, Loyalists, Tories, and Neutrals, by Stefan Bielinski:

Reinke, A.A. "Occupation of New York City by the British, 1776" The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 1, No. 2 (1877), pp. 133-148:

The New York Campaign:

1776 American Revolutionary War Forts & Defenses Constructed In & Around New York City:

Gunther, Steven The American Defense of Long Island, 1776: Destined for Failure, Marine Corps University Master's Paper:

Free eBooks
(from unless noted)

Edwards, George W. New York as an Eighteenth Century Municipality, 1731-1776, New York: Columbia University Press, 1917

Force, Peter American Archives, Series 4, Vol 5, Washington US Government Printing Office, 1837.

Flick, Alexander C. Loyalism in New York During the American Revolution, New York, The Columbia University Press, 1901.

Fraser, Georgia The Stone House of Gowanus, scene of the battle of Long Island, New York: Witter and Kintner, 1909.

Johnston, Henry The Campaign of 1776 Around New York and Brooklyn, Brooklyn: Long Island Historical Society, 1878.

Mather, Federic The Refugees of 1776 from Long Island to Connecticut, Albany, NY: J.B. Lyon Co. 1913.

Schwab, John C. The Revolutionary History of Fort Number Eight on Morris Heights, New York City, New Haven, Conn., Priv. print. 1897. 

Books Worth Buying
(links to unless otherwise noted)

Bliven, Bruce Under the Guns: New York, 1775-1776, New York: Harper & Rowe, 1972.

Daughan, George C. Revolution on the Hudson: New York City and the Hudson River Valley in the American War of Independence, New York: W.W. Norton & Co. 2016.

Ellis, Joseph Revolutionary Summer: The Birth of American Independence, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013.

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

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

Schecter, Barnet The Battle for New York, New York: Walker Publishing, 2002 (book recommendation of the week).

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Episode 088 British War Plans for 1776

Two weeks ago, we said goodbye to Gen. Howe’s army as they evacuated Boston for Halifax.  At the same time Washington began redeploying the Continental Army to face wherever the British Army struck next, presumably New York City.  Last week, we popped in on the Americans around Quebec, also waiting to see what the British would do next.

British go “all-in” with Military Option

Back in London, the North Ministry had spent the winter preparing for full scale warfare.  After the battles and Lexington and Concord, and later Bunker Hill, it became clear to all that the colonials were not going to back down with a small show of force.  If Britain wanted to keep the American colonies they would have to hit them hard and with everything they could muster.  Today I want to go over the war planning and deployments that will take us all the way through 1776.

Lord Germain (from Wikimedia)
In London, King George III had become actively involved in the planning and policy making for the war.  Unlike the first and second King Georges, George III sought a more active role in actually governing Britain, not just sitting as a figurehead mostly focused on his ancestral home in the German state of Hanover.

King George had given his full support to Prime Minister, Lord North who you may recall won an overwhelming victory in the 1774 elections, meaning he would not have call another election until 1780.  Although there were no formal parties in British politics.  Everyone referred to North and his political allies as Tories.  The opposition party used the term Whig.  In 1775, North had replaced his step-brother, Lord Dartmouth with Lord Germain as Secretary of State for American Affairs.  Germain was much more on board with the idea that the Americans needed to feel more military strength and less attempted accommodation if they were ever going to resolve the ongoing disputes.  Germain’s view aligned much more closely with that of North and King George.

Raising a Serious Army

Gone were the days when British officers bragged they could conquer all of America with 5000 soldiers.  The Americans had proven they were not pushovers, and the American population was in the millions.  Raising an army with which to overwhelm the colonies was no easy task.  A few decades later, we will see the Napoleonic wars which involved millions of soldiers fighting and dying.  But in 1776, the King did not have the ability to send the entire population off to war.  Armies tended to be small and expensive to run.  Remember that only one year earlier, Gen. Gage had requested 10,000-20,000 reinforcements.  Lord Dartmouth all but laughed at him.  Those numbers were unthinkable.

In 1775 before they really began to gear up for the war, Great Britain maintained an army of less than 50,000 soldiers worldwide, less than 40,000 if you only count infantry.  The bulk of these were needed in Britain.  They kept 12,000 soldiers in Ireland, which was always ready to rebel if there were no soldiers to keep them in submission.  The government garrisoned another 15,000 in England in order to suppress possible domestic rebellions or deter any invasion from Europe.  They already had about 8000 in America.  The other 10,000 or so were spread all over the world, defending outposts in Gibraltar, the West Indies, Africa, and many other colonies.
Hessian Soldier (from Kokomo Herald)

The British could not deploy large numbers of soldiers from existing outposts without risking an uprising in those places.  So when the North Ministry proposed sending around 40,000 soldiers to America, they needed some serious recruitment.  These soldiers would also cost a lot of money.  Remember, the whole reason we were in this mess was because the government was still paying off debts from the last war and did not want to keep raising domestic taxes.  Now they had to raise more taxes and go deeper into debt in order to control colonies that were supposed to reduce taxes and debt.  But they figured, a short term show of force would lead to decades of submission and payment of colonial taxes, so it would pay off in the long run.

As I discussed before, the Ministry increased recruiting at home, mostly in Ireland and Scotland.  They also hired mercenaries from abroad, mostly from the German states, including the bulk of them from Hesse-Cassal and Brunswick.

The army buildup also necessitated a naval build up.  Britain had never before sent so large a force so far overseas.  Transporting and supplying the troops would be a major undertaking for the navy.  Britain also had to go on a shipbuilding and ship buying binge to support the army.

The numbers vary depending on sources, but generally, the Ministry planned to send about 32,000 troops to New York and about 8000 to Quebec.  About a quarter of the troops sent to New York were German mercenaries, what most people call Hessians.  The force in Canada included about 3000 German mercenaries, primarily from Brunswick.

As I’ve mentioned before, the use of German mercenaries provoked outrage in the colonies.  They accused the King of bringing outsiders into a family feud, treating the colonists as a foreign enemy.  It became one of the justifications for the Declaration of Independence.  If the King treats us as a foreign enemy, then we owe him no allegiance.

Some of these troops were already in North America and the rest did not come over all at once.  General Cornwallis had taken several regiments to the Carolinas where he met up with General Clinton.  But they knew they had to rejoin General Howe in New York within a few months.  About 8000 were already there, Howe’s occupying army in Boston and then in Halifax.  Still, it was a huge and costly logistical problem to get the troops into place and to supply them once there.

Admiral Richard Howe

Getting such a large force across the Atlantic was unprecedented.  Britain had never sent such a large force so far away.  Indeed, no country would have such a large trans-Atlantic crossing again until the end of the age of sail, and World War I.

Transport and support of the army would require a massive fleet  Britain would commit over 150 ships, more than half its fleet, to the American mission.   The Ministry decided the new fleet would need a new commander, they appointed Admiral Richard Howe.

Admiral Howe came from British aristocracy.  His father was a Viscount and member of Parliament.  His mother was the illegitimate child of King George I.  Even so, Howe did not have a particularly comfortable life.  His father had money troubles.  To help get him solvent, Howe, received an appointment as Governor of Barbados, which paid £7000/yr, a very lucrative sum a the time.  It meant that family had to pack up and move to the West Indies.  As with so many Europeans that moved to the West Indies, Gov. Howe served for less than three years before he caught a tropical disease and died in 1735.  Richard was only nine years old at the time.  The family moved back to London where Richard’s older brother George inherited his father’s title.

Richard had only a prominent family name.  That was good enough to get a naval commission as an ensign at age 14.  Howe earned a reputation as a no-nonsense officer and later commander.  He served in the War of Austrian Succession and the Seven Years War, including a prominent role in the famous battle of Quiberon Bay.  By the end of the Seven Years War he had been promoted to commodore.

Richard’s real road for advancement came in a way he almost certainly did not want.  In 1758, his older brother George died in America during the assault on Fort Carillon that I discussed back in Episode 10.  Since George had no children, Richard inherited the family title, making him a viscount and a peer.

A the end of the war in 1763, Lord Howe received an appointment as a Lord Commissioner of the Admiralty, part of the Admiralty Board.  He also served Treasurer of the Navy beginning in 1765. In 1770, he moved up to rear admiral and deployed as Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Fleet in November 1770.

Richard Howe (from Wikimedia)
By the time the American conflict reached its crisis point, Lord Howe sat as a well respected legislator, administrator, and combat officer.  He seemed ideally suited to take command of the North American station in 1776.  But beyond his reputation, Howe had one other thing going for him.  His little brother General William Howe, had just become the army’s Commander for North America.

The British Army and Navy commanders had consistently fought with one another in North America, and in most other stations.  General Gage and Admiral Graves had a notorious feud which only got worse each year.  The current relationship between General Howe and Admiral Shuldham was a little better, but still not great.  Each branch had its own separate duties and priorities.  Each reported back to a different command structure.  Neither wanted to take a secondary role to the other.  Perhaps having two commanders who were brothers, would aid in the necessary cooperation between the army and navy.  In February 1776, Admiral Lord Howe received his promotion to Vice Admiral and received his orders to take command of naval forces in North America.

War and Diplomacy

The one big concern that the ministry must have had was whether the Howe brothers would pursue the proper strategy.  Both General Howe and Admiral Howe had opposed a hard line position against the colonies for years.  Both brothers served in the House of Commons.  Even though Admiral Howe was a Viscount, his peerage was in Ireland, which did not qualify him for the House of Lords.  He would receive an Earldom nearly a decade later and sit in the House of Lords then, but in the 1770’s Lord Howe sat in Commons as a representative of Dartmouth.

In Parliament, both Howes had opposed the Ministry’s hard line policies against the American colonies.  They opposed the Intolerable Acts in 1774 and argued for accommodation rather than confrontation.

Prime Minister Lord North, Secretary of State Lord Germain, and King George all clearly favored a much more aggressive approach, using military might rather than political accommodation to resolve the disputes.  Germain was probably the most aggressive, or at least the most outspoken proponent of a hard-line policy.  He advocated using the navy to bombard cities along the coast, and to have the army sack and loot the countryside.  The idea was to show the colonists what life was like when they rejected the protection of the King.  Once they had a taste of this, they would happily return to obedience and accept a few small taxes as the price of their peace and prosperity.

The Howes, however, supported the liberal views of the minority Whigs, men like William Pitt, Isaac Barre, and Edmund Burke.  The colonists had reasonable complaints that the ministry could accommodate.  The whole point of colonies were to bring wealth to the mother country.  When the colonies were happy, Britain thrived on the colonial trade.  These fights not only destroyed that profitable trade, but threatened to drive Britain into deeper debt with military costs to crush the colonial protests.  Further, using brutal tactics against the colonists would only push more of the population into the patriot cause.  The Howes saw the war as a civil war between family.  It only made the Empire look more weak and divided to the real enemy, France.

General Howe had pledged to his constituents that he would oppose serving in any military role in America.  He saw the plan as short sighted and wrong headed.  Richard Howe, did not speak as bluntly, but generally shared his brother’s views.

Both Howe brothers were especially sympathetic with the Americans.  They deeply appreciated the act of respect that Massachusetts had given them. The colony had created a memorial at Westminster for their older brother George after his death in battle in 1758.  Richard had also been on friendly terms with Benjamin Franklin during Franklin’s years in London.  The two of them found a great deal of agreement in colonial policy.

The Howe brothers’ views on colonial policy were not unique or even unusual among many top officers.  At least one source I read indicated there were more than 100 officers more senior to Howe when he took his command in America.  Many of these were probably older officers who had no interest in facing the rigors of war.  But a great many of them objected to going to war against their fellow subjects.  In the end, the Howe brothers both received orders to go to America and accepted them.  But one had to wonder how hard they would prosecute the war, and especially the hard-line policies which the Ministry seemed to prefer.

In the end, the Ministry decided that the Howe brothers would do their duty.  They would be the best suited to command the massive invasion planned to subdue the colonies.

Plan of Attack

Officials in London did debate the best way to end the rebellion.  Even within the majority who supported war over diplomacy, or at least some show of war to strengthen diplomatic negotiations, there were diverse opinions.  Some favored not using the Army at all.  The Navy could cut off all transatlantic trade.

Not having soldiers in the colonies was an interesting idea.  Colonists would have no target to vent their anger.  There would be no risk of another firefight like Lexington and Concord.  There would be no massive cost of an occupying army.  The navy would simply capture all trading vessels and confiscate them.  This would hopefully cover most of the costs.  More importantly, the colonies would simply suffer from a lack of necessary imports.  Quality of life would diminish.  People would blame the patriot leaders for their problems.  Eventually divisions between colonies, or even within colonies would arise, leading to chaos and possibly even bloodshed.  The people would eventually beg for the return of royal authority to restore order and allow prosperity to return.

Johnny Burgoyne
(from Wikimedia)
It was an interesting proposal.  However, that is essentially the strategy that Britain tried to treat the US during the Napoleonic wars.  It did not work then, and probably would not have worked in the 1770’s.  Instead, the Ministry backed the plan to send the massive invasion fleet along with a huge army that would shock and awe the colonists.  A few decisive battles would prove the military might of Britain.  Faced with military domination, the colonists would come to their senses, accept the authority of the King and Parliament, and agree that loyal obedience was better for all than rebellion.

Though the troop levels were unprecedented, the overall strategy was nothing new, nor much of a surprise to anyone.  Even 40,000 soldiers could not be everywhere to quell a population of about 2.5 million.  New England, for the moment, seemed ungovernable.  Instead, the army would focus on New York and Canada.  Gen. Howe, who still had the support of the administration after the evacuation of Boston, would command the force at New York.  Supporting Gen. Howe would be his older brother, Admiral Lord Howe,  The combined fleet under Howe would work with the Army.  It was hoped that with the two brothers in command, the traditional Army-Navy rivalry would not cause too many problems.

While the Howes took New York, General Burgoyne would return with the fleet to Quebec to break the siege there.  Burgoyne’s reinforcements would then fall under the command of the more senior General Carleton.  The forces in Canada would work their way down into New York, across Lake Champlain, retaking all the towns and forts that the Continental Northern Army had conquered.  Eventually, the Canadian force and the Howe’s main force from New York would link up along the Hudson River.  This would cut off and isolate New England from the rest of the colonies.

From there, British forces would regain control of all the central and southern colonies, where officials believed there were still large numbers of loyalists waiting to turn out and support the King.  They only needed an army to rally around.  Regulars could also rely on loyal Indian tribes, and possibly even slaves to help crush the rebels.  Once local Tories were in control, the main body of regulars could move on to other colonies.

New England would be isolated and cut off from all trade, or invaded once the other regions were pacified.  But more likely, they would all surrender once they saw the full power of the British military in action.

Peace Commission

In the early months of 1776, the North Ministry, along with the active input of the King, worked to establish a Peace Commission.  Admiral Howe insisted that this be part of the effort to retake America.  This would not be like earlier efforts to compromise with the colonists and find a mutually acceptable political solution.  The Ministry had accepted that military might would be the only way to get the rebellious colonists to accept who was in charge.  But once British control became obvious to all, the King wanted to be merciful in allowing the rebels back into the protection of the Empire.

The Peace Commission’s authority went through great debate.  Admiral Howe, Lord North, Lord Germain, and Lord Dartmouth, who while no longer Secretary of State still sat in the Cabinet as Lord Privy Seal, all threatened to resign.  But the King kept everyone in line.  The contentious debate was over how much authority the give the Peace Commissioners.  Could they promise to repeal taxes, or acts of Parliament?  Could they broker new political solutions or negotiate changes to royal charters?  In the end, the answer to all of these was “no.” The hardliners won the debate. The Peace Commissioners could only offer pardons to those who gave up and accepted obedience to the King and his government.  Any changes would have to wait until after military might reasserted sovereign authority.

Admiral Howe who remained politically opposed to the attempt to defeat the colonies militarily, still insisted that he and his brother General Howe have the authority as Peace Commissioners.  After defeating the enemy in battle, they could then be magnanimous in victory by offering pardons and bringing the war to a quick victory  Both Howes wanted to use this authority to bring a diplomatic resolution to the conflict, even if they did not have authority to make any political reforms.  When Admiral Howe set sail for America in May 1776, he carried these instructions for himself and his brother.

Whatever political concerns they had, the Ministry trusted them to do their duty well.  The Howe brothers would carry out London’s plan of attack.

Next week: as the Howe brothers prepare to invade New York, we take a look at General Washington’s preparations to stop them.

- - -

Next  Episode 89: Washington Moves to New York

Previous Episode 87: Canada Spring, 1776

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.
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


British Army at Outbreak of the Revolution:

Admiral Lord Richard Howe:

Peace Commission of the Howes:

Free eBooks
(from unless noted)

Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts Report on the manuscripts of Mrs. Stopford-Sackville, of Drayton House, Northamptonshire Vol. 2, Hereford: Hereford Press, 1910
(includes Germain’s correspondence related to America).

Barrow, John The Life Of Richard, Earl Howe, London: John Murray,1838

Donne, W. Bodham (ed) The Correspondence of King George the Third with Lord North from 1768 to 1783, Vol 1, London: John Murray, 1867.

Johnston, Henry The Campaign of 1776 Around New York and Brooklyn, Brooklyn: Long Island Historical Society, 1878.

Books Worth Buying
(links to unless otherwise noted)

Saxon, Gerald Brown The American Secretary: The Colonial Policy of Lord George Germain, 1775-1778, Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan Press, 1963.

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

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

O'Shaughnessy, Andrew The Men Who Lost America: British Leadership, the American Revolution, and the Fate of the Empire, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013.

Watson, J. Steven The Reign of George III 1760-1815, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1960.

Whiteley, Peter Lord North: The Prime Minister Who Lost America, London: Hambledon Press, 1996 (book recommendation of the week).