Articles

American Revolution Part 2

September 29, 2019


In April 1775 American Militia launched
a devastating attack on the British troops in Boston it was the beginning of
a Revolution against Britain and of a Civil War between American rebels and
Colonials loyal to the crown the British struck back and fought with
discipline and bravery but less than a year later were forced to withdraw
making Boston the first American city lost to King George In 1776 New York was central to the
British administration of its American colonies and a stronghold of American
loyalists here Britain will make a stand if you pick up an American paper today
you can be hard-pressed to find the foreign news section but if you bought
your paper here on Broadway 225 years ago the cobbled streets would have been
British and most of the news in your paper would have been British – most New
Yorkers knew more about what was happening in London six weeks sailing
away than they did about events in neighboring Connecticut when in the
momentous summer of 1776 the 13 disparate colonies declared themselves
independent they also prepared for war the new Continental Congress formed a
regular army under the command of General George Washington and ordered
him to prepare the troops and equipment to defend New York soldiers were
thistime enlisting for a year service and like that it was too long a time for
me at the first trial I wish don’t need to take a priming
before I took upon me the whole coat of paint for a soldier
Joseph plum Martin was a 15 year old Connecticut boy he saw the call to arms
as a way of escaping chores on his grandparents farm he kept a diary of his
adventures one evening I went off with a full
determination to enlist the old bantering began come a few women list I
will says one you have long been talking about it says another
I think side of myself I will not be laughed into it or out of it at any rate
I will act my own pleasure plum Martin was typical of this fledgling army young
naive untrained and pitifully ill-equipped to face the discipline and
experience of British regulars and their German comrades I took up the pen loaded
it with the fatal charge made several mimic imitations of writing my name but
took a special care not to touch the paper with the pen until an unlucky
white who was leaning over my shoulder gave my hand a stroke which caused the
pen to make a woeful scratch on the paper oh he has enlisted said he he has
made his mark he is fast enough now well thought I might as well go through with
the business now plum Martin decided to give army life for six month trial
Congress only required men to enlist for a short time six months or a year and
one of Washington’s real problems was simply keeping an army together often as
soon as a man was trained he’d be heading home to bring in the harvest even so Washington scraped together
19,000 regular soldiers and local volunteers the militia to defend New
York City he had little joy finding recruits in
the city itself it was the heartland of support for the
crowd New Yorkers loved all things British
including the luxury goods that still had to be imported the arrival of the
British fleet drew the crowds and was usually the signal for a shopping spree
fashions silver and Wedgwood China but when 200 ships were sighted off New
York in the summer of 1776 they carried a very different target 30,000 soldiers
from Canada and England the largest seaborne force Britain had ever mustered
to one observer the fleet appeared like a forest of trimmed pine trees the British were led by Admiral Richard
Hammond and his brother General William Howe together they intended to bring the
American rebels back into the embrace of King George the 3rd there’s a conviction
certainly on the part of the how brothers Lord Howe commanding the fleet
and Billy how commanding the army that ultimately this is going to be sorted
out over a glass of Madeira and a bit of cake on board the flagship was the Admiral
secretary and blows so he recorded in his diary the British attitude to the
American rebellion the rebels appeared very numerous and are supposed to be
near 30,000 but from the mode of raising them no great matters are to be expected
especially when they’re loose discipline is considered but the rebels were by no
means representative of all Americans here in New York perhaps two-thirds of
citizens were against independence some felt that it was a betrayal of
allegiance to their king and others feared that they’d lose out financially
with the severing of economic ties with Great Britain the British were determined to
strengthen the Loyalists hand and stop their persecution by the rebels we learned that the pluribus situation
of His Majesty’s faithful subjects how they had been hunted after an shot at in
the woods and swamps to which they had fled for these four months to escape the
savage fury of the rebels with the awesome power of the fleet displayed
General Howe gave Washington a chance to pull back from the brink he didn’t want
to crush men who’d been his allies just thirteen years before in the war against
the French how sent a letter offering peace if the rebels backed down
but General Washington took exception to it
as the address was to George Washington Esquire they said there was no such
person among them and therefore would not receive it standing on ceremony over
titles may seem trivial but it typifies the am pass between the two sides if how
wrote to General Washington then in a sense he was recognizing the Continental
Army and with it America’s right to self-rule he tried to get round the
problem by rear dressing letter to George Washington his squaw etc etc etc
which he said could imply everything Washington replied that it could imply
everything or anything and the letter remained unanswered they
have uniformly blocked up every avenue to peace and there now seems no
alternative but war and bloodshed which must lay at the door of these unhappy
people you can see why the British picked New York in addition to its
loyalist power base it’s got one of the best and deepest natural harbors in the
world and as a collection of islands it favors a Navy something the Americans
didn’t have although the city has grown up a bit its geography is still clear
old New York was on the tip of Manhattan Island south of Wall Street on the right
is the East River with Long Island on the far side over there is the mighty
Hudson which separates Manhattan from the New Jersey mainland if the British
could gain control of Manhattan they could sail a hundred miles up the Hudson
into the heart of rebel territory in 1776 transport between the islands of
New York was by boat Washington had no idea where Howe was
going to attack so he took the risky decision to split his forces he left
some to guard Manhattan and fired the rest over the East River to the Brooklyn
Heights on Long Island you can still see why Washington wanted
the Brooklyn Heights they’re the ideal artillery position to protect Manhattan
a cannonball went much further if it was fired downhill and heavy guns up here
could reach all the way to the coast equally if Howe had control of the
position he could shoot right across Manhattan as far as the Hudson River on
the far side and make it quite impossible for the Americans to stay in
the city the American fortifications on Brooklyn Heights were protected from
behind by a five-mile stretch of wooded hills dissected by small roads the
Americans guarded the three main passes but overlooked the distant Jamaica Pass
House plan was brilliantly conceived and perfectly executed while decoy attacks
were made on the main roads the bulk of the army slipped round through the
Jamaica pass realizing it they risk being cut off from their fortifications
on the Brooklyn Heights most of the Americans fled through swamps and creeks the rebels abandoned every spot as fast
I should say faster than the Kings troops advanced upon them one of their
officers did indeed make an attempt to form a considerable line of them in a
plowed field but they had scarce formed when down clean the troops upon the
ground and the poltroon ran in the most brutal disgraceful and precipitous
manner at the very first fire Joseph promotin was among reinforcements
sent to Long Island by the time we arrived the enemy had
driven our men into the Creek when they came out of the water and mud to us
looking like Water Rats it was a truly pitiful sight many of them were killed
in the pond more were drowned some of us went into the water after and took out a
number of corpses and a great many arms that were sunk
those Americans who made it back to Brooklyn were expecting another attack
almost by the hour they were sitting targets with the East River behind them
and the British in front incredibly there was no attack how was hesitating
on the third night Washington was rode across from Manhattan to supervise a
secret evacuation it might almost have been the inspiration for Dunkirk with
the help of local boatman all the American army with its equipment and
guns was ferried across to Manhattan under the cover of a timely sea fog when the Redcoats finally arrived there
was barely a trace of the rebels house delay was so surprising that one
American commander commented how must be our friend or no general so why did how
hesitate perhaps he was remembering his losses at one key Hill the year before
or perhaps he was hoping that Washington would surrender so that he wouldn’t have
to crush the rebellion by force making reconciliation impossible in any event
he didn’t show that killer instinct and lost a good opportunity of bringing the
war to a swift if bloody conclusion the naval superiority of the British had
given them a great advantage in the battle for New York so the Americans
decided to target British ships by stealth from below this is the turtle
the world’s first combat submarine designed by David Bushnell of
Connecticut it was used to attack British shipping in New York Harbor it’s
an ingenious thing with just rule enough for one Submariner there are two hand
propellers to enable it to move backwards and forwards and up and down
to maneuver beneath an enemy vessel inside there’s a call bobbing up and
down in a tube to register depth and it was lit by phosphorescent funghi this
spike was to be screwed into the hull of an enemy vessel the turtle would then
disengage leaving this keg of explosives attached the enemy by rope there were
some sort of timing device the turtles maiden voyage was on the 6th of
September 1776 its plucky sailor was Ezra Lee he got right underneath the
British flagship HMS Eagle but hit metal not wood and couldn’t attach the bomb he
had to jettison it and it caused a huge explosion
this gave the British such a scare that they shifted the whole fleet but New
York fell as the Americans pulled out of Manhattan fire engulfed the city since Paul’s Chapel on Broadway was
barely saved from the conflagration it’s thicker the Reverend John hull says
that it has a remarkable place in American history the church was knew
that it had just been built in 1766 and the great fire 1776 destroyed most of
what was then the city of New York everything from this point down to the
lower end of Manhattan the citizens of New York so highly regarded this
structure and we’re so proud of it that they assembled bucket brigades and
surrounded it and prevented this particular church st. Paul’s Chapel from
burning recently the chapel survived another
tragedy the collapse of the Twin Towers right beside it for Reverend Howard st.
Paul stands as a symbol of religious tolerance in America in striking
contrast to the state religion of Imperial Britain yet another source of
friction between the colonists and the mother country America had been exposed
to religion not just through established churches not just through state churches
such as the Church of England or the Roman Catholic Church in continental
Europe but had learned its religion from traveling itinerant preachers and it was
an environment in in which each individual was free to choose for
himself the faith that he would follow we could say that all armies believe
that God is on their side do you think that the Revolution was really did
absolutely my impression is that in the case of Washington as in the case of
most of the rest of his colleagues his comrades-in-arms at that time that faith
an ongoing personal relationship with God was deeply held deeply important
absolutely fundamental to them in to carrying on of their public duties
faith in God and faith in the cause will be tested to the limit
following the retreat from New York that green mass over there is Central Park
and it gives a good idea of what this part of Manhattan used to look like
during their retreat the Americans were using Indian tracks
down the right hand side of the park and the British were just a spitting
distance away on the other but how didn’t cut off the retreat some
witnesses suggest that he was preoccupied with looking for suitable
winter quarters Billy how is a brave man and no fool but he’d let another golden
opportunity of trap in Washington slip through his fingers on a ship in New York Harbor add more
house secretary saw the American retreat as cowardice
nothing terrifies these people more than the apprehension of being surrounded
well they will not fight it any raids and it’s there short of a Retreat
retreat certainly wasn’t a dirty word as far as George Washington was concerned
given the strength of his opponent it was a positive military strategy he was
like a boxer ducking and weaving trying to avoid the knockout blow he rarely
attacked and tried to accept battle only on his own terms he knew that his best
chance of winning the war was to build up the strength of his own army and
gradually wear down the enemy Army on a foreign soil
but the retreat from Manhattan was panicky and disorganized to Washington’s
anger many raw recruits abandoned vital supplies ammunition tents food and
clothing it left them little with which to face the coming winter a no safe
place to rest for long Joseph plumb Martin was becoming
disillusioned with army life it now began to be cool weather especially the
nights to have to lie on the cold and often wet ground without a blanket and
with nothing but thin summer clothing was tedious
I’ve often while upon guard lain on one side until the upper side smarted with
cold then turned that side down to the place warmed by my body and let the
other take its turn at smarting perhaps it would rain all night like a flood
well that could be done in that case was to lie down
take the musket in our arms place the lock between our thighs and weather it
out the americans surrendered fort washington and three thousand men they
retreated into new jersey and abandoned fort lee and more supplies they
commandeered food and clothing from the locals but found them unsupported many
didn’t want to take science others were deeply opposed to the revolution the
inhabitants here were almost entirely what were termed Tories an old lady of
whom I often procured milk used always when I went to her house to give me a
lecture about my opposition to good King George she had always said she told me
that the regulars would make us fly like pigeons I was not afraid of her
poisoning the milk she had not wit enough to think of such a thing nor
resolution enough to do it the Continental Army fell back through New
Brunswick and Princeton the Redcoats pursuing them said it was
like a game of hide-and-seek winter fighting was unusual in the 18th
century and on the 14th of December how called off the hunt and retired to
New York City with his officers it was the signal for ten days of parties and
balls to celebrate the Christmas season it also gave him the chance to spend
some time with his mistress the wife of his prison commissioner a ditty ran sir
William he’s snug as a flea lay all this time as snoring nor dreamt of harm as he
lay warm in bed with mrs. Loring things weren’t so cozy for Washington’s army
they didn’t have enough food clothes boots or shelter morale was at rock
bottom and there were so many desertions that washington had to post guards to
prevent people from leaving his army was down to 5,000 men and soon he would have
no army at all enlistments were coming to an end plum
Martin was one of the first to be released here ends my first campaign I
learned something of a soldier’s life enough I thought to keep me at home for
the future indeed I was then fully determined to rest easy with the
knowledge I had acquired in the affairs of the army but the ease of a winter
spent at home caused me to alter my mind the 31st of December just a few weeks
away was the release date for most of his troops Washington told his brother
that unless a new army could be enlisted the game would pretty much be up he had
to do something spectacular to prove that the army was worth reviving or
watch the revolution crumble it was just a question of when and where the
Americans with the British and their German allies in pursuit didn’t stop
running until they’d passed Trenton and crossed the Delaware into Pennsylvania
where they felt safe to stop as soon as Washington reached the Delaware
he seized or destroyed all the boats for miles around this prevented the British
from following him and also gave him transport for surprise attack these are
40-foot Durham boats normally used for transporting Pig on to Philadelphia as
cargo boats they were ideal for moving cannon horses and men Trenton was now occupied by German
troops known as Hessians they were formidable professional soldiers hired
by George the third from his royal relatives in Germany the Hessians were
particularly hated by the Americans who regarded them as mercenaries interfering
in a fine war they were under the command of Colonel
Johann Ram the moment was right while the Hessians
were celebrating Christmas Washington’s men were being primed for a
counter-offensive as they waited across the Delaware
officers read them especially written speech by Thomas Paine to remind them
what they were fighting for it was called American crisis these are the
times the try men’s souls the summer soldier and the sunshine
patriot will in this crisis shrink from the service of his country but he that
stands it now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman
but the Americans were betrayed a spy took a warning to Colonel row up and
help us lay your shoulders to the wheel let it be told to the future world that
in the depth of winter when nothing but hope and virtue could survive that the
city and country alarmed at one common danger came forth to meet and repulse
the letter wound rail of an attack that very night but he decided to finish his
game before reading it my cowardice and submission the sad if
round read the note now Washington’s plan would be ruined the American army
faced potential disasters slavery without hope our homes turned into
barracks and bawdy houses for the Hessians with a future race to provide
for whose fathers we shelled out of look on this picture and weep over it and if
there remains one thoughtless wretch who believes it not let him suffer it
unbelievable growl ranked late into the night he
didn’t read the note Washington planned three simultaneous crossings of the
Delaware but even the journey presented huge risks the 25th of December was a
filthy night with lashing sleet the river was swollen and full of small ice
floes which crashed into the boats as they crossed it was so dangerous that
only Washington’s men got across he would fight the battle at half-strength
this crossing has become enshrined in American history the Americans marched
into Trenton as it was getting light hours later than planned but they still
managed to surprise the guards Rao who was sleeping heavily after a night of
heavy drinking could hardly be roused this monument was built to commemorate
the spot where Washington’s troops placed their cannon from this height you can see the clear
line of fire the cannons had down old king and old queen streets as the
Hessians poured out of their lodgings to meet the attack they were bowled over
like skittles within an hour the Hessians had surrendered and the
Americans took 900 prisoners Colonel Rall was mortally wounded the
Americans suffered only a handful of casualties Trenton was a small victory
but it was crucial it showed that the Americans still had the ability to
inflict real damage on their enemies Washington now had a victory but did he
have an army his men were counting the hours to their discharge the general
begged them to stay but not one man came forward the Revolution was hanging in
the balance and law that can be reasonably expected but your country is
at stake the waves your houses and all that you hope there you have warned
yourselves out with fatigues and hardships and we know not how to spare
you we are facing the crisis which is to decide our destiny his men answered the call it was perhaps
Washington’s most important achievement so far the Continental Army would
survive these small successes generated new enthusiasm for the cause at home and
abroad the kings of France and Spain funded the smuggling of weapons and
equipment to the Americans although wary of publicly encouraging
the overthrow of a fellow monarch they wanted the British to be beaten the
American army had a new momentum the following year 1777 the British
campaign shifted away from the populated areas around New Jersey northwards to
Canada I’m travelling along the mighty Hudson
River which flows all the way from Lake Champlain to New York City it’s one of
the best trodden war paths in the whole of North America the British hoped that
if they could control this waterway they could cut off the rebellious states of
New England like Massachusetts and Connecticut they already had Canada they
already had New York City now they wanted to join the dots in between the
British would first down from Canada into the wilderness country of upper New
York State a wild land of remote towns and American Indian communities the leader of this campaign was General
John Burgoyne as well as a soldier Burgoyne was a successful playwright and
gambler he’d wagered 50 guineas at his London club that he’d returned
victorious from America within a year there’s always a little bit of the actor
was a little bit of the mountebank in Johnny Burgoyne
there’s always a bit of a bluff and a bit of a flourish and he’s never quite
going to be able to put this complicated campaign together but Gowen was given
powers to act independently of his superior in New York William how much to
the latter’s annoyance the rivalry between commanders proved to be a
British weakness there’s one key difference over the command structure
during this war Washington is in command throughout now as well as being a good
military strategist he’s quite a political animal as well but it does
mean that from the American point of view there is one directing brain which
is able to see the whole campaign through that’s not the case with the
British there’s never a single British directing brain start to finish Berg
Owen wanted how to push up from New York as far as Albany while he pushed down
from Canada through Indian Territory with the war on their doorstep many
tribes would rather have stayed out of a British civil war were forced to take
science professor Colin Calloway believes that the revolution was a
disaster for American Indians almost every Indian community I think is split
by the Civil War the Cherokees divided over it the Iroquois Confederacy splits
over it you have divisions within Indian villages about which side to support and
the issues that make them divide the issues are I think survival they’re all
looking for what’s the best route to take in this very difficult situation
where do our allegiances lie and where do our best interests lie and what are
our chances of coming out of this with our way of life intact 500 American
Indians joined Burgoyne as Scouts for his army he exploited their fearsome
reputation by publishing a proclamation threatening to unleash them on disloyal
citizens in Fort Ticonderoga Burgoyne’s arrogance disgusted American dr. James
Thatcher from the Pampas manner in which he has arrayed his titles we are letter
suppose that he considers them as more than a match for all the military
strength which we might bring against him by John Burgoyne Esquire Lieutenant
General of His Majesty’s forces in America Colonel of the Queen’s regiment
of like dragoons governor of Fort William etc etc etc the British Ministry
not satisfied with the disgraceful expedient of hiring foreign mercenaries
resort also to the savages of the wilderness here was the image of the
British government unleashing these terrible warriors on people who after
all were British subjects and that was something that needed some explaining
now of course the whole notion of what constituted savage and civilized warfare
was pretty muddy and many Indian people regarded the
the Europeans whether they be French British or Americans as the perpetrators
of uncivilized warfare as they fought by such different laws by June Burgoyne’s
Indian scouts were approaching Fort Ticonderoga it appeared to be a
formidable American stronghold defending the narrowest part of Lake Champlain 23
year-old dr. Thatcher who was billeted there was confident bergen’s army would
not get past the fault the utmost exertions are now being made to
strengthen our works at Ticonderoga Mount independence directly across from
Ticonderoga is strongly fortified and well supplied with artillery a
communication between these two places is maintained by a floating bridge it is
supposed to be admirably adapted to the double purpose of a communication as
well as an impenetrable barrier to any vessel who might attempt to pass our
works the Americans held both sides of the lake but they hadn’t bothered to
fortify that height called Mount defiance considering that it was too
steep for artillery Burgoyne senior artillery officer was Major General
William Phillips described as honest industrious and irascible he told
Burgoyne that we’re a goat can go a man can go and where a man can go he can
drag a gun it took the British two days to get to 12 pounder cannon up there it is with astonishment that we find the
enemy have taken over Mount defiance which from its height and proximity
completely overlooked in command all our works at Ticonderoga a situation of our
garrison is viewed as critical and alarming the whole garrison fled the
British ships smashed through the floating bridge in Ticonderoga was taken
with hardly a shot being fired the abandonment of Ticonderoga has
occasioned the greatest surprise and alarm no event could be more severely
felt throughout our country and our army nor more unexpected this disaster has
given to our cause a dark and gloomy aspect but while it was a severe blow to
American morale the loss of Ticonderoga actually worked in their favor
Burgoyne’s close pursuit lured him away from the waterways where he was mobile
into the virgin forests of New York State he attempted a 25-mile shortcut to reach
the Hudson but it was to take him a month he was hampered by a huge retinue
of camp followers 500 women and children and officers wives in coaches right up
to the Crimean War which is almost a century ahead the Redcoat goes on
campaign with mrs. Redcoat often not misses in any literal legal sense but
BER Goins Army comes here with its wives and followers and mistresses and
hangers-on Thomas ann-marie a leftenant in bergen’s
army recorded their terrible journey the watery lands and marshes were so
numerous we had to construct no less than 40 bridges by which to pass them
and over one morass was a bridge two miles in length the British not only had
to contend with nature but also with sabotage from an enemy familiar with its
environment I know real parallels between the
American War of Independence and Vietnam I was in America during the Vietnam War
and it always strikes me that that any army operating away from home in country
which it really doesn’t know he’s always at a disadvantage it has to bring its
supplies from other continent it’s never really in control of even its own
supporters it controls in the daytime it controls them as far as its own
artillery reaches but it’s always at the mercy of a tougher harder better
organized opposition which gets at its supporters when it can’t defend them the
deeper Burgoyne pressed on the more extreme his difficulties became his
supply line from Canada was stretched to the limit he had to leave men behind to
protect it reducing his army to less than five thousand men but iron also
found that he couldn’t control his Indian allies they insisted on their
right to scalp victims even though it harmed the British cause they seized the
head of the disabled or dead enemy and placing one of their feet on its
neck plus their left hand in the hair by which means they extend the skin which
covers the top of the head then with the other hand draw their scalping knife if
the hair is short and they have no purchase with their knife they stoop and
strip it off with their teeth there was a wave of public revulsion when the
Indians killed and scalped a young American woman who is supposed to be
under their protection Jane McCray was loyal to the British and
engaged to one of Burgoyne’s own officers her death was a propaganda coup
for the Americans and their way back to Burgoyne’s camp a quarrel arose to
determine who should hold possession of the fair prize during the controversy
one of the monsters struck his tomahawk into her skull and immediately stripped
her of her scalp the death of Jayne McRae fueled a
long-running saga at the time Patriots declaimed angrily about
Britain’s savage allies and subsequent commentators maintained that it
triggered a flood of recruiting actually Congress was already doing its level
best to raise men to stop her going and I doubt if this tragedy had any real
impact but it certainly had an impact in the years that followed and Jayne McRae
was depicted as a martyr to a cause to which she’d never personally subscribed
this defining image of Indian savagery during the revolution was painted in
1804 after America had won its independence after turning its back on
the British Empire America was looking westwards to build an empire of its own
on Indian land anti-indian sentiment help justify this action and that
painting and that story typify door epitomize for many people what Indians
did during the revolution they committed mayham like this
murdered innocent women and children they fought against the new nation at
the moment of its birth at the moment of Liberty having done that they could not
complain therefore on the new nation having established itself said there’s
no place for you here by late summer Virgo and zombie had
reached the Hudson the river runs along the edge of that woodlot bogan crossed
it on to this side and destroyed his boat bridge behind him cutting his
humble ichael cord with Canada his men were now on half rations with supplies
enough for just a month success was now dependent on reinforcements and supplies
from the Sun but contact was proving difficult
the Second World War American commander Omar Bradley said that Congress makes a
mana general but communications makes him a commander that was the essence of
the British problem in 1777 late in the day Burgoyne received a message telling
him that Howe had moved south to Pennsylvania leaving General Henry
Clinton in New York Burgoyne was counting on relief from Clinton despite
the uncertainty of messages getting through Howe in Philadelphia Clinton in
New York State and burr going up here all had their plans and their ambitions
if Bergeron had retreated when he had the chance
his intact army could still have posed a threat to American strategy but there
are times and there’s nothing so stupid as a gallant officer Burgoyne could not
conceive of retreat even if pressing on sacrificed his long-suffering soldiers
at Saratoga he ordered them up onto the heights to attack a newly formed
northern army under the command of general Horatio Gates the British faced
nine thousand Americans double their own force the Redcoats had learned to fear the
American Rifleman the country’s legendary marksman who used the range
and accuracy of their rifles to snipe at the enemy from deep cover the riflemen had a distinctive private
signal to communicate at Saratoga Colonel Daniel Morgan’s
Rifle Corps intercepted the British picking off their officers to folder
troops into confusion the rifleman claims 600 victims that day but riflemen were also among the most
vulnerable troops in the field while an infantryman armed with a musket could
reload three or four times a minute and fix a bandit for handle and fighting a
rifle took a four minute to reload and it had no bang if rushed after firing
the rifleman was defenseless Saratoga was the first battle in which
the Americans adopted the European tactic of using infantryman to protect
riflemen the loin was surprised by the tenacity
and discipline of the American army the action went backwards and forwards all
day like waves on a sea the Americans were content to leave the
battlefield to the British that night gates knew that without urgent supplies
Burgoyne’s army was crippled all he had to do was wait
after three weeks and no sign of Kenton Burgoyne made a final fruitless attack
he was forced to surrender or starve but going negotiated a gentlemanly surrender
with gates that allowed him to take his army home terms that were later broken
they toasted George Washington and they toasted King George yet Burgoyne was
oblivious to the serious impact his defeat would have on the war Saratoga
did more than remove a small piece from the military chessboard it sent out a
clear political message here in America where the loyalists were disheartened
and the Patriots elated and back in Britain where the wars opponents said
they’d seen this coming all along most of all Saratoga delighted the French a
waning superpower humiliated by British victory in the Seven Years War and
persuaded them to enter the conflict it has always been a civil war now it was a
world war as well this fledgling army young naive
untrained and pitifully ill-equipped to face the discipline and experience of
British regulars and their German comrades I took up the pen
loaded it with the fatal charge made several mimic imitations of writing my
name but took a special care not to touch the paper with the pen until an
unlucky white who was leaning over my shoulder gave my hand a stroke which
caused the pen to make a woeful scratch on the paper oh he has enlisted said he
he has made his mark he is fast enough now well thought I might as well go
through with the business now plum Martin decided to give army life for six
month trial Congress only required men to enlist for a short time six months or
a year and one of Washington’s real problems was simply keeping an army
together often as soon as a man was trained he’d be heading home to bring in
the harvest even so Washington scraped together
19,000 regular soldiers and local volunteers the militia to defend New
York City he had little joy finding recruits in
the city itself it was the heartland of support for the
crown New York has loved all things British including the luxury goods that
still had to be imported they arrived with a British fleet drew the crowds and
was usually the signal for a shopping spree fashions silver and Wedgwood China but when 200 ships were sighted off New
York in the summer of 1776 they carried a very different carbon 30,000 soldiers
from Canada and England the largest seaborne force Britain had ever mustered
to one observer the fleet appeared like a forest of trimmed pine trees the British were led by Admiral Richard
Hammond and his brother General William Howe together they intended to bring the
American rebels back into the embrace of King George the 3rd there’s a conviction
certainly on the part of the how brothers Lord Howe commanding the fleet
and Billy how commanding the army that ultimately this is going to be sorted
out over a glass of Madeira and a bit of cake onboard the flagship was the Admirals
secretary and blows so he recorded in his diary the British attitude to the
American rebellion the rebels appeared very numerous in April 1775 American
militia launched a devastating attack on the British troops in Boston it was the
beginning of a revolution against Britain and of a civil war between
American rebels and Colonials loyal to the crown
the British struck back and fought with discipline and bravery but less than a
year later were forced to withdraw making Boston the first American city
lost to King George in 1776 New York was central to the
British administration of its American colonies and a stronghold of American
loyalists here Britain will make a stand if you pick up an American paper today
you can be hard-pressed to find the foreign news section but if you bought
your paper here on Broadway it’s 225 years ago the cobbled streets would have
been British and most of the news in your paper would have been British –
most New Yorkers knew more about what was happening in London six weeks
sailing away than they did about events in neighboring Connecticut when in the
momentous summer of 1776 the 13 disparate colonies declared themselves
independent they also prepared for war the new Continental Congress formed a
regular army under the command of General George Washington and ordered
him to prepare the troops and equipment to defend New York soldiers were
thistime enlisting for a year’s service and in like that it was too long a time
for me at the first trial I wished only to take a priming before I
took upon me the whole coat of paint for a soldier
Joseph plum Martin was a 15 year old Connecticut boy he saw the call to arms
as a way of escaping chores on his grandparents farm he kept a diary of his
adventures one evening I went off with a full
determination to enlist the old bantering began come a few will enlist i
will says one you have long been talking about it says another
I think side of myself I will not be laughed into it or out of it at any rate
I will act my own pleasure plum Martin was typical Anton from the New Jersey
mainland if the British could gain control of Manhattan they could sail a
hundred miles up the Hudson into the heart of rebel territory in 1776 transport between the islands of
New York was by boat Washington had no idea where Howe was
going to attack so he took the risky decision to split his forces he left
some to guard Manhattan and found the rest over the East River to the Brooklyn
Heights on Long Island you can still see why Washington wanted
the Brooklyn Heights they’re the ideal artillery position to protect Manhattan
a cannonball went much further if it was fired downhill and heavy guns up here
could reach all the way to the coast equally if Howe had control of the
position he could shoot right across Manhattan as far as the Hudson River on
the far side and make it quite impossible for the Americans to stay in
the city the American fortifications on Brooklyn Heights were protected from
behind by a five-mile stretch of wooded hills dissected by small roads the
Americans guarded the three main passes but overlooked the distant Jamaica Pass
House plan was brilliantly conceived and perfectly executed while decoy attacks
were made on the main roads the bulk of the Army’s slip round through the
Jamaica pass realizing it they risked being cut off from their fortifications
on the Brooklyn Heights most of the Americans fled through swamps and creeks the rebels abandoned every sports as
fast I should say faster than the Kings troops advanced upon them one of their
officers did indeed make an attempt to form a considerable line of them in a
plowed field but they had scarce formed when down clean the troops upon the
ground and the poltroon ran in the most brutal disgraceful and precipitous
manner at the very first fire Joseph Pam Martin was among
reinforcements sent to Long Island by the time we arrived the enemy had
driven our men into the Creek when they came out of the water and mud to us
looking like Water Rats it was a truly pitiful sight many of them were killed
in the pond more were drowned some of us went into the water after and took out a
number of corpses and a great many arms that were sunk
those Americans who made it back to Brooklyn were expecting another attack
almost by the hour they were sitting talking and are supposed to be near
30,000 but from the mode of raising them no great matters are to be expected
especially when they’re loose discipline is considered but the rebels were by no
means representative of all Americans here in New York
perhaps 2/3 of citizens were against independence some felt that it was a
betrayal of allegiance to their king and others feared that they lose out
financially with the severing of economic ties with Great Britain the British were determined to
strengthen the Loyalists hand and stop their persecution by the rebels we learned the deplorable situation of
His Majesty’s faithful subjects how they had been hunted after and shot at in the
woods and swamps to which they had fled for these four months to escape the
savage fury of the rebels with the awesome power of the fleet displayed
General Howe gave Washington a chance to pull back from the brink he didn’t want
to crush men who’d been his allies just 13 years before in the war against the
French how sent a letter offering peace if the rebels backed down
but General Washington took exception to it as the address was to George
Washington Esquire they said there was no such
person among them and therefore would not receive it standing on ceremony over
titles may seem trivial but it typifies the am pass between the two sides if how
wrote to General Washington then in a sense he was recognizing the Continental
Army and with it America’s right to self-rule he tried to get round the
problem by rear dressing letter to George Washington his squire etc etc etc
which he said could imply everything Washington replied that it could imply
everything or anything and the letter remained unanswered they
have uniformly blocked up every avenue to peace there now seems no alternative
but war and bloodshed which must lay at the door of these unhappy people you can
see why the British picked New York in addition to its loyalist power base it’s
got one of the best and deepest natural harbors in the world and as a collection
of islands it favors a Navy something the Americans didn’t have although the
city has grown up a bit its geography is still clear old New York was on the tip
of Manhattan Island south of Wall Street on the right is the East River with Long
Island on the far side over there is the mighty Hudson which separates man habits
with the East River behind them and the British in front incredibly there was no
attack how was hesitating on the third night
Washington was rode across from Manhattan to supervise a secret
evacuation it might almost have been the inspiration for Dunkirk with the help of
local boatman all the American army with its equipment and guns was ferried
across the Manhattan under the cover of a timely sea fog when the Redcoats finally arrived there
was barely a trace of the rebels house delay was so surprising that one
American commander commented how must be our friend or no general so why did how
hesitate perhaps he was remembering his losses at Bunker Hill the year before or
perhaps he was hoping that Washington would surrender so that he wouldn’t have
to crush the rebellion by force making reconciliation impossible in any event
he didn’t show that killer instinct and lost a good opportunity of bringing the
war to a swift if bloody conclusion the naval superiority of the British had
given them a great advantage in the battle for New York so the Americans
decided to target British ships by stealth from below this is the turtle
the world’s first combat somewhere in designed by David Bushnell of
Connecticut it was used to attack British shipping in New York Harbor it’s
an ingenious thing we’ve just room enough for one Submariner there are two
Hand Crank propellers to enable it to move backwards and forwards and up and
down to maneuver beneath an enemy vessel inside there’s a cork bobbing up and
down in a tube to register depth and it was lit by phosphorescent funghi this
spike was to be screwed into the hull of an enemy vessel the turtle would then
disengage leaving this keg of explosives attached the enemy by rope there were
some sort of timing device the turtles maiden voyage was on the 6th of
September 1776 it’s plucky sailor was as really he got
right underneath the British flagship HMS Eagle but hit metal not wood and
couldn’t attach the bomb he had to jettison it and it caused a huge expert
this gave the British such a scare that they shifted the whole fleet but New
York fell as the American

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