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Head Quarters near York, October 19, 1781
SIR: I have the Honor to inform Congress, that a Reduction of the British Army under the Command of Lord Cornwallis, is most happily effected. The unremitting Ardor which actuated every Officer and Soldier in the combined Army on this Occasion, has principally led to this Important Event, at an earlier period than my most sanguine Hopes had induced me to expect.
The singular Spirit of Emulation, which animated the whole Army from the first Commencement of our Operations, has filled my Mind with the highest pleasure and Satisfaction, and had given me the happiest presages of Success.
On the 17th instant, a Letter was received from Lord Cornwallis, proposing a Meeting of Commissioners, to consult on Terms for the Surrender of the Posts of York and Gloucester. This Letter (the first which had passed between us) opened a Correspondence, a Copy of which I do myself the Honor to inclose; that Correspondence was followed by the Definitive Capitulation, which was agreed to, and Signed on the 19th. Copy of which is also herewith transmitted, and which I hope, will meet the Approbation of Congress.
I should be wanting in the feelings of Gratitude, did I not mention on this Occasion, with the warmest Sense of Acknowledgements, the very chearfull and able Assistance, which I have received in the Course of our Operations, from his Excellency the Count de Rochambeau, and all his Officers of every Rank, in their respective Capacities. Nothing could equal this Zeal of our Allies, but the emulating Spirit of the American Officers, whose Ardor would not suffer their Exertions to be exceeded.
The very uncommon Degree of Duty and Fatigue which the Nature of the Service required from the Officers of Engineers and Artillery of both Armies, obliges me particularly to mention the Obligations I am under to the Commanding and other Officers of those Corps.
I wish it was in my Power to express to Congress, how much I feel myself indebted to The Count de Grasse and the Officers
of the Fleet under his Command for the distinguished Aid and Support which have been afforded by them; between whom, and the Army, the most happy Concurrence of Sentiments and Views have subsisted, and from whom, every possible Cooperation has been experienced, which the most harmonious Intercourse could afford.
George Washington Was a Master of Deception
The Founding Fathers relied on deceit in championing American independence—and that has lessons for the present.
About the author: Amy Zegart is a contributing writer at The Atlantic. She is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the Freeman Spogli Institute at Stanford University, and the author of the forthcoming book Spies, Lies, and Algorithms: The History and Future of American Intelligence (Princeton University Press).
As we celebrate Thanksgiving weekend, a holiday first declared by George Washington’s presidential proclamation in 1789, it is worth remembering that deception played a pivotal role in America’s birth. Our shining city on the hill owes much to the dark arts. George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and other Founding Fathers are remembered today as virtuous creators of a bold new democracy. But they were also cunning manipulators of their information environment—a side of the founding story that has often been neglected by history.
George Washington’s inability to tell a lie is a lie. That old cherry-tree fable—in which young George admits to his father that he did, indeed, chop down the tree with his hatchet—was invented by a Washington biographer named Mason Locke Weems in 1806 to boost his book sales. In truth, Washington was an avid spymaster with a talent for deception that would remain unequaled by American presidents for the next 150 years. During the Revolutionary War, Washington was referred to by his own secret code number (711), made ready use of ciphers and invisible ink, developed an extensive network of spies that reported on British troop movements and identified American traitors, and used all sorts of schemes to protect his forces, confuse his adversaries, and gain advantage. His military strategy was to outsmart and outlast the enemy, not outfight him. He used intelligence to avoid more battles than he fought, and to trick the British into standing down when standing up could have meant the end of the Continental Army.
Washington began using deception soon after he took command of the Continental Army in 1775. After a summer of skirmishes around Boston, rebel gunpowder was nearly gone Washington’s soldiers had enough only for nine bullets per man. To hide this potentially fatal weakness from the British while he scrambled to get supplies, Washington ordered that fake gunpowder casks be filled with sand and shipped to depots where they would be spotted by British spies. He also ordered a secret paramilitary mission to seize gunpowder stores in Bermuda that failed only because another secret rebel mission had gotten there first but nobody bothered to tell Washington. Throughout the war, Washington wrote reports inflating his troop strength that were designed to fall into the hands of traitors within his own ranks or agents hiding among the British. During the brutal winter of 1777–78 at Valley Forge, with his troops starving, freezing, and dwindling in number, Washington penned fake documents that referred to phantom infantry and cavalry regiments to convince British General Sir William Howe that the rebels were too strong to attack. It worked. Had Howe known the truth and pressed his advantage, the Continental Army might not have survived the winter.
Washington’s deceptions even involved French bread. On August 19, 1781, he confided in his diary, “French bakery to veil our real movements and create apprehensions for Staten Island.” Because French bread was a major source of food for the troops, Washington bet that stationing French bake ovens in New Jersey would help convince British General Sir Henry Clinton that French and American forces were planning to remain in the New York area and attack Staten Island when in fact they were marching south, to attack Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown, Virginia. The deception was convincing, and it helped win the war. Washington was able to muster superior forces and slow British reinforcements, leading to Cornwallis’s surrender at Yorktown. Washington wrote later that victory depended on fooling even his own troops. “Nor were less pains taken to deceive our own Army,” he wrote to Noah Webster in 1788, “for I had always conceived, when the imposition did not completely take place at home, it could never sufficiently succeed abroad.”
Meanwhile, in Paris, Benjamin Franklin secured pivotal French support for the war through a combination of diplomacy and duplicity. Wearing homespun clothes and a coonskin cap, Franklin carefully cultivated his image as a virtuous and simple countryman seeking independence from the domineering British—a ploy that capitalized on French views of the British and made him wildly popular in French social circles. At the same time, Franklin waged a covert propaganda campaign from his Paris basement, where he set up a printing press and wrote articles designed to sway opinion across Europe. A printer by trade, Franklin even imported European paper and type to make his documents look more authentic.
Some of Franklin’s writings were outright lies. In 1777, for example, he wrote a fake letter from a German prince to the commander of mercenary troops fighting with the British in America in which he complains he is being cheated from money owed to him and tells the commander to let wounded soldiers die so the British will pay more. The letter created an uproar in Europe over Britain’s use of mercenaries. In 1782, Franklin created a forgery of a Boston newspaper that included fake local news and even fake advertisements. The main “story” quoted a letter from Captain Samuel Gerrish of the New England militia claiming that the British royal governor of Canada was paying Indian allies for American scalps, and that many of the scalps sold were from women and children. The story was picked up and used by Whig opponents of the war in Britain. Franklin’s use of deception was so skillful, the CIA named him a Founding Father of American intelligence a century later.
America’s revolutionary experience with deception suggests two enduring lessons. The first is that deception almost always unravels. Washington never expected his deceits to last long. They were used to buy time—holding enemies at bay for days, weeks, maybe months. Franklin operated on a longer timetable to influence opinion and secure alliances during the war, but he never assumed his lies would remain intact. In fact, they didn’t we now know that Franklin’s own American delegation in Paris was heavily penetrated by a British agent.
The second lesson is that deception is a dangerous animal, and therefore must be used with great care, to advance a truly just cause. One key difference between the past and the present isn’t the use of half-truths, spin, lies, and deception. It’s their purpose. The Founders knowingly used the dark arts for a noble collective end. Their purpose was to deceive and divide British troops, unify domestic compatriots, and woo French allies to forge a new nation. Their audacious experiment sought to grant much greater political power to the people rather than live under the yoke of a distant king. It was an inspiring and unifying enterprise worthy of the deception it required.
The French Empire, despite the fact that they began colonizing North America in the 16th century, had between only 75,000 and 90,000 colonists living in New France in the mid-1700s.  : 7  However, France was able to control the large colonies of New France (modern-day Canada), Acadia, and the Louisiana Territory with relatively few people by controlling waterways (especially the Saint Lawrence River, the Great Lakes, the Ohio River, and the Mississippi River) and cultivating strong political and economic relationships with powerful Native American nations.  The Ohio Country, an area located roughly between Lake Erie and the Ohio River, became increasingly important to the French throughout the 18th century. As more settlers moved from Montreal, Quebec, and other established French settlements along the St. Lawrence to the newer Louisiana colony, the Ohio Country became an important connection between New France and Louisiana.
British settlers were also expanding into the Ohio Country at this time. The British colonies were far more populated than the French (there were about 1.5 million British subjects living in North America in 1754, meaning that the British outnumbered the French almost twenty to one), and settlers were eager to move over the Appalachian Mountains and into the Ohio Country and other western lands.  : 7,11 Most British traders declared that, despite the facts that the French had been trading in the Ohio Country for years and that more and more displaced Native Americans were moving west from the Atlantic coast every year, the Ohio Country was unsettled, uncharted, and therefore unclaimed land that should be open to all traders.  : 11 The French had no interest in trying to compete with the British for trade in the Ohio Country. Due to their high population and large colonial cities, British traders could offer Native Americans cheaper, higher quality goods than could their French counterparts.  The French therefore set about keeping the British as far away from the Ohio Country as possible.
Authorities in New France became more aggressive in their efforts to expel British traders and colonists from this area, and in 1753 began construction of a series of fortifications in the area.  In previous wars, the Québecois had more than held their own against the English colonials. 
The French action drew the attention of not just the British, but also the Indian tribes of the area. Despite good Franco-Indian relations, British traders became successful in convincing the Indians to trade with them in preference to the Canadiens, and the planned large-scale advance was not well received by all.  The reason for this was that they had to provide them with the goods that the Anglo-American traders had previously supplied, and at similar prices. This proved to be singularly difficult. With the exception of one or two Montreal merchant traders, the Canadians showed a great reluctance to venture into the Ohio country.  In particular, Tanacharison, a Mingo chief also known as the "Half King", became anti-French as a consequence. In a meeting with Paul Marin de la Malgue, commander of the Canadian construction force, the latter reportedly lost his temper, and shouted at the Indian chief, "I tell you, down the river I will go. If the river is blocked up, I have the forces to burst it open and tread under my feet all that oppose me. I despise all the stupid things you have said."  He then threw down some wampum that Tanacharison had offered as a good will gesture.  Marin died not long after, and command of the operations was turned over to Jacques Legardeur de Saint-Pierre. 
Virginians felt that their colonial charter, the oldest in the British colonies, gave them claim to the Ohio Country despite competing claims from Native Americans, the French, and other British colonies. In 1748, wealthy Virginians formed the Ohio Company with the aim of solidifying Virginia's claim and profiting off the speculation of western lands.  : 11 Governor Robert Dinwiddie, the royal governor of Virginia and founding investor in the Ohio Company, sent a twenty-one year old Virginia colonial Lieutenant Colonel George Washington to travel from Williamsburg to Fort LeBeouf in the Ohio Territory (a territory claimed by several of the British colonies, including Virginia) as an emissary in December 1753, to deliver a letter. George Washington's older brothers Lawrence and Augustine had been instrumental in organizing the Ohio Company, and George had become familiar with the Ohio Company by surveying for his brothers as a young man. After a long trek and several near-death experiences, Washington and his party (which included the Mingo sachem, Tanacharison, and the explorer Christopher Gist) arrived at Fort Le Boeuf and met with the regional commander, Jacques Legardeur de Saint-Pierre.  Saint-Pierre politely informed Washington that he was there pursuant to orders, and Washington's letter should have been addressed to his commanding officer in Canada. 
Washington returned to Williamsburg and informed Governor Dinwiddie that the French refused to leave.  Dinwiddie ordered Washington to begin raising a militia regiment to hold the Forks of the Ohio, in present-day Pittsburgh, a site Washington had identified as a fine location for a fortress.  However, unlike the French, Washington and his Virginia regiment could not easily reach the Forks via river. The governor therefore also issued a captain's commission to Ohio Company employee William Trent, with instructions to raise a small force capable of moving quickly through the wilderness and virgin forest that lie between Williamsburg and the Forks. Once there, they were to immediately begin construction of a fortification on the Ohio. Dinwiddie issued these instructions on his own authority, without even asking for funding from the Virginia House of Burgesses until after the fact.  Trent's company arrived on site in February 1754, and began construction of a storehouse and stockade with the assistance of Tanacharison and the Mingos.   In response, the Canadians sent a force of about 500 men, Canadian, French, and Indians under Claude-Pierre Pécaudy de Contrecœur (rumors reaching Trent's men put its size at 1,000). On April 16, they arrived at the forks the next day, Trent's force of 36 men, led by Ensign Edward Ward in Trent's absence, agreed to leave the site.  The Canadians tore down the British works, and began construction of the fort they called Fort Duquesne. 
In March 1754, Governor Dinwiddie sent Washington back to the frontier with orders to "act on the [defensive], but in Case any Attempts are made to obstruct the Works or interrupt our [settlements] by any Persons whatsoever, You are to restrain all such Offenders, & in Case of resistance to make Prisoners of or kill & destroy them". Historian Fred Anderson describes Dinwiddie's instructions, which were issued without the knowledge or direction of the British government in London, as "an invitation to start a war".  Washington was ordered to gather as many supplies and paid volunteers as he could along the way. By the time he left for the frontier on April 2, he had gathered 186 men. 
Contrecœur operated under orders that forbade attacks by his force unless they were provoked. On May 23, he sent Joseph Coulon de Villiers de Jumonville with 35 men to see if Washington had entered French territory, and with a summons to order Washington's troops to leave this summons was similar in nature to the one Washington had delivered to them four months previous.  Sources disagree on the exact composition of Jumonville's force, which may have included French troupes de la marine, Canadian militia, and Indians.  
During the march through the forests of the frontier, Washington received a few more men from another regiment that they met at Winchester.  At this point Captain Trent arrived with news of the advance of the French force under Jumonville. Trent was accompanied by Tanacharison, who promised warriors to assist the British.  To keep Tanacharison's support, Washington decided not to turn back, choosing instead to build a fortification 37 miles (60 km) south of the forks and await further instructions.  The men of the Virginia Regiment built a road through the wilderness as they went, "broad enough to pass with all our Artillery and our Baggage."  This road was essential, not just to allow Washington and his men to move quickly to Fort Duquesne, but to open up the Ohio country to Virginia troops and settlers in the future. The Washington and the Ohio Company had originally hoped to use the Potomac River to travel between the tidewater and the Ohio country however, the Great Falls made such a journey impossible until the completion of the Patowmack Canal in 1803. 
Jumonville Glen Edit
Washington sent out Captain Hog with 75 men to pursue French troops who had threatened to destroy his house and property.  However, shortly after Hog left, Washington called together some young Indians and told them that the French had come to kill Tanacharison, and the Indians also left to pursue the French. That evening, Washington received a message from Tanacharison, who said he had found the French encampment.  Washington decided to attack himself and brought 40 soldiers with him towards Tanacharison's camp. That morning, they met with Tanacharison's 12 Indian warriors, and Washington and Tanacharison agreed to attack the encampment.  Washington ambushed the French, killing 10 to 12, wounding 2 and capturing 21.  Among the dead was Jumonville the exact manner of his death is uncertain, but by several accounts Tanacharison executed Jumonville in cold blood, crushing his head with a tomahawk and washing his hands in Jumonville's brains.  One account, reported by an Indian to Contrecœur, claimed that Jumonville was killed by the Half King while the summons was being read. 
Fort Necessity Edit
After retiring from Jumonville, Washington expected to be attacked.  Tanacharison attempted to convince the Lenape, Shawnee and the Mingo Indians to join the Virginians at Great Meadows. With about 150 Virginians at Great Meadows, they began to construct a fort, which Washington named Fort Necessity. The fort was completed on June 3.  By June 9, the rest of the Virginia Regiment arrived at Great Meadows, excluding Colonel Joshua Fry, who had fallen from his horse, broken his neck and died.  Washington took his place as colonel. A few days later, 100 British regulars under the command of James Mackay arrived, but, instead of making camp with the Virginians, they camped separately outside the fort. 
Red Stone Creek Edit
Washington had heard that there were 500 poorly supplied French troops at Fort Duquesne, and thus he led the 300 Virginians out of Great Meadows on June 16 to widen the road, for he had been unable to convince the other chiefs to assist. They had said that they would also be unable to help the Virginians. Although he had lost Indian support, which made his troops more vulnerable to attack, Washington continued to widen the road towards Red Stone Creek. [ citation needed ]
On June 28, after a council of war, Washington ordered the withdrawal to Great Meadows. That same day 600 French and 100 Indians left Fort Duquesne led by the slain Jumonville's older brother, Louis Coulon de Villiers. In order to keep ahead of the French/Canadian force, the Virginians had to abandon most of their supplies. On July 1, they reached Fort Necessity. 
British preparations Edit
At Fort Necessity, the provision hut was depleted, and there was little shelter from the heavy rain that started to fall on the 2nd.  With the rain, the trenches that Washington had ordered to be dug had turned into streams. Washington realized that he would have to defend against a frontal assault and also realized that it would be difficult because the woods were less than 100 yards away, within musket range, making it possible for a besieging attacker to pick off the defenders.  To improve the defense, Washington ordered his men to cut trees down and to make them into makeshift breastworks. 
As the British worked, Coulon approached Fort Necessity using the road the Virginians had built.  He arrived at Jumonville's Glen early on the morning of July 3. Horrified to find several scalped French bodies, he immediately ordered them to be buried. 
French attack Edit
By 11:00 am on the 3rd of July 1754, Louis Coulon de Villiers came within sight of Fort Necessity.  At this time, the Virginians were digging a trench in the mud. The pickets fired their muskets and fell back to the fort, whereupon three columns of Canadian soldiers and Indians advanced downhill towards the fort.  However, Coulon had miscalculated the location of the fort and had advanced with the fort at his right. As Coulon halted and then redeployed his troops, Washington began to prepare for an attack. 
Coulon moved his troops into the woods, within easy musket range of the fort.  Washington knew he had to dislodge the Canadians and Indians from that position, so he ordered an assault with his entire force across the open field. Seeing the assault coming, Coulon ordered his soldiers, led by Indians, to charge directly at Washington's line.  Washington ordered the men to hold their ground and fire a volley. Mackay's regulars obeyed Washington's command, and supported by two swivel cannons, they inflicted several casualties on the oncoming Indians.  The Virginians, however, fled back to the fort, leaving Washington and the British regulars greatly outnumbered. Washington ordered a retreat back to the fort. 
Coulon reformed his troops in the woods.  The Canadians spread out around the clearing and kept up heavy fire on Fort Necessity. Washington ordered his troops to return fire, but they aimed too high, inflicting few casualties, and the swivel cannon fared no better.  To add to the garrison's troubles, heavy rain began to fall that afternoon, and Washington's troops were unable to continue the firefight because their gunpowder was wet. 
Louis Coulon de Villiers, who did not know when British reinforcements might arrive, sent an officer under a white flag to negotiate.  Washington did not allow the Canadian officer into or near the fort, but sent two of his own men, including his translator Jacob Van Braam, to negotiate. As negotiations began, the Virginians, against Washington's orders, broke into the fort's liquor supply and got drunk.  Coulon told Van Braam that all he wanted was the surrender of the garrison, and the Virginians could go back to Virginia. He warned, however, that if they did not surrender now, the Indians might storm the fort and scalp the entire garrison. 
Van Braam brought this message to Washington, who agreed to these basic terms.  One of Louis Coulon de Villiers' aides then wrote down Coulon's surrender terms and then gave them to Van Braam, who in turn gave them to Washington. Washington, who could not read French, had Van Braam translate it for him, and in the document it said that Jumonville had been "assassinated".  Both Washington and Mackay signed the surrender document. 
Strength report of the Virginia Regiment, July 1, 1754 Edit
|Present and |
fit for duty
On July 4, Washington and his troops abandoned Fort Necessity.  The garrison marched away with drums beating and flags flying, but the Indians and the French began to loot the garrison's baggage on their way out. Washington, who feared a bloodbath, did not try to stop the looting.  The Indians continued to plunder the soldiers until July 5. Washington and his troops arrived back in eastern Virginia in mid-July.  On the 17th, Washington delivered his report of the battles to Governor Dinwiddie, expecting a rebuke, but Washington instead received a vote of thanks from the House of Burgesses and Dinwiddie blamed the defeat not on Washington but on poor supply and the refusal of aid by the other colonies. 
The battlefield is preserved at Fort Necessity National Battlefield, and includes a reconstruction of Fort Necessity.
When news of the two battles reached England in August, the government of the Duke of Newcastle, after several months of negotiations, decided to send an army expedition the following year to dislodge the French.  Major General Edward Braddock was chosen to lead the expedition.  His expedition ended in disaster, and the French remained in control of Fort Duquesne until 1758, when an expedition under General John Forbes finally succeeded in taking the fort. 
Word of the British military plans leaked to France well before Braddock's departure for North America, and King Louis XV dispatched a much larger body of troops to Canada in 1755.  Although they arrived too late to participate in Braddock's defeat, the French troop presence led to a string of French victories in the following years. In a second British act of aggression, Admiral Edward Boscawen fired on the French ship Alcide in a naval action on June 8, 1755, capturing her and two troop ships carrying some of those troops.  Military matters escalated on both North American soil and sea until France and Britain declared war on each other in spring 1756, marking the formal start of the Seven Years' War. 
This War Correspondent Was the First to Report V-E Day — He Was Then Fired for It
Until his death, Kennedy always stated that he never regretted the actions he took on May 6, 1945.
March 24, 2021
“This is Ed Kennedy in Paris. The war is over and I am going to dictate. Germany has surrendered unconditionally,” the war correspondent said, according to an account of the call by Tom Curley, AP’s former president. “That’s official. Make the date[line] Reims and get it out.”
With that wire, Associated Press war correspondent Edward Kennedy landed the biggest scoop of his career — while simultaneously ruining it.
Only able to dictate about 200 words before the connection was lost, Kennedy’s news about the conclusion of the world’s largest and bloodiest conflict traveled with such speed that inquiries were received in Paris even before he was cut off, according to the New York Times.
As one of 17 war correspondents to witness the official German surrender in Reims, France in the early hours of May 7, 1945, Kennedy naturally sought to file posthaste.
However, the news remained embargoed, with military handlers insisting that the momentous occasion be kept secret for several hours. As the correspondents returned to their lodgings at Hotel Scribe in Paris that day, the embargo was extended for 24 hours without explanation.
We were “seventeen trained seals,” Kennedy caustically recalled in his memoir, “Ed Kennedy’s War: V-E Day, Censorship, & the Associated Press.”
The German surrender at Reims, France on May 7, 1945. (Getty Images)
The embargo was not, Kennedy learned, “for security reasons, which might have been an acceptable rationale, but for political reasons… It turned out that Russia’s leader, Joseph Stalin, wanted to stage a signing ceremony of his own to claim partial credit for the surrender, and U.S. officials were interested in helping him have his moment of glory,” writes the Washington Post.
After hearing that the German high command had broadcasted the surrender from its headquarters in Flensburg, Germany on May 7, Kennedy bristled.
“For five years you’ve been saying that the only reason for censorship was men’s lives. Now the war is over. I saw the surrender myself. Why can’t the story go?” he reportedly told a clerk at the hotel’s censor’s office.
The censor replied that he did not have the authority to release Kennedy’s story.
“All right then,” Kennedy retorted. “I give you fair warning here and now: I am going to file it.”
Calling up AP’s London office, the next words Kennedy uttered made history — and was on the wire within minutes.
The retribution for Kennedy was swift, however. Stripped of his credentials, the war correspondent was then ordered home by Allied leadership.
According to General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Kennedy’s suspension was “due to self-admitted deliberate violation of SHAEF regulations and breach of confidence.”
To add insult to injury, the following day Kennedy’s fellow correspondents, perhaps as jealous retribution, condemned his actions with a vote of 54-2, for “the most disgraceful, deliberate and unethical double-cross in the history of journalism.”
On May 10, Robert McLean, the president of the AP board, issued a statement saying AP “profoundly” regretted the story and, after placing Kennedy on an “indefinite suspension,” the news agency quietly parted ways with Kennedy several weeks later.
Despite the public rebuke, the reporter remained adamant that his actions were justified.
Upon his arrival in New York on June 4, Kennedy told a group of reporters that he “would do it again. The war over there was no military security involved, and the people had the right to know.”
The reporter who observed the bloody Spanish Civil War who covered Eastern Europe and the Balkans who reported on the war in North Africa and who joined the Seventh Army’s invasion of southern France in 1944 suddenly found himself without a job.
Hired as a managing editor by the sympathetic owner of the Santa-Barbara News-Press in California, the new position was surely a step down for the veteran war correspondent.
In 2012, 67 years after Kennedy broke the news of the century, the AP issued a formal apology for its actions.
It was “a terrible day for the AP. It was handled in the worst possible way,” Curley stated. “Once the war is over, you can’t hold back information like that. The world needed to know.”
The apology was accompanied by a push from journalists to award a posthumous Pulitzer Prize to Kennedy. Although nominated for the prize in 2013, the WWII reporter failed to win the award. However, as USA Today notes, “Pulitzer rules don’t prohibit resubmissions,” and there have been several pushes in recent years for Kennedy’s recognition.
Kennedy, who died in 1963 after being struck by a car, did not live to see his vindication.
A monument to Kennedy now stands in Laguna Grande Park in Seaside, California, with the apt inscription: “He gave the world an extra day of happiness.”
Surrender of the British General Cornwallis to the Americans, October 19, 1781
These three documents—a map, a manuscript, and a print—tell the story of the surrender of British commander Charles Cornwallis to American General George Washington. In October 1781, the successful siege of Yorktown, Virginia, by General Washington in effect ended major fighting in the American Revolution. The American Army and allied forces defeated a British force there under Lord Charles Cornwallis, and on October 17, Cornwallis raised a flag of truce after having suffered not only the American attack but also disease, lack of supplies, inclement weather, and a failed evacuation.
The map shows what Yorktown looked like before British military fortification. It displays key roads and buildings, but there are no fortifications or regimental positions shown. The map also features an intriguing endorsement: "You will deliver the town immediately," penned apparently in haste in what appears to be Cornwallis’s hand, meaning it was probably created just before the British captured and began fortifying Yorktown in summer 1781.
On October 6, allied forces under Washington began digging the first siege line, and on October 9 the fighting began. British forces were cut off from their supply lines, and—running out of ammunition, suffering high casualties—Cornwallis attempted to evacuate his troops. The evacuation was thwarted by stormy weather, however. On October 17, Cornwallis was forced to seek a truce and cease-fire to negotiate his army’s surrender.
Cornwallis and Washington began negotiating the terms of British surrender in their correspondence of October 17, 1781. Cornwallis knew that his soldiers had been devastated by continual artillery fire from Knox over several weeks, that Clinton’s reinforcements were weeks from arriving, and that a renewal of hostilities would cause more death and bloodshed. This copy of the final list of terms, known as the Articles of Capitulation, was created by Samuel Shaw, Henry Knox’s aide-de-camp.
The final Articles of Capitulation reflect the concerns and compromises of the two sides over the surrender of British troops and the treatment of loyalists. Article 3 states that: "the garrison of York will march out to a place to be appointed in front of the posts, at two o’clock precisely, with shouldered arms, colors cased, and drums beating a British or German march. They are then to ground their arms, and return to their encampments, where they will remain until they are dispatched to the places of their destination."
A second major bone of contention for the British involved the treatment of loyalists. Washington tacitly acknowledged Cornwallis’s right to facilitate the escape of loyalists and American deserters in Article 8 by allowing Cornwallis unregulated use of the sloop Bonetta for carrying dispatches to British headquarters in New York City: "The Bonetta sloop-of-war to be equipped, and navigated by its present captain and crew, and . . . to be permitted to sail without examination."
On the morning of October 19, Cornwallis signed two copies of the Articles, which were returned to Washington’s headquarters. As if to instruct posterity as to where this victory was really achieved, Washington added a short paragraph at the end: "Done in the trenches before York, October 19th, 1781."
A full transcript is available.
On October 19, 1781, at two o’clock that afternoon, the surrender ceremony commenced. This print, an 1845 lithograph, depicts the surrender at Yorktown. The print shows a defeated Lord Cornwallis surrendering his sword to General Washington. A regal and serious Washington stands with open hands ready to accept Cornwallis’s offering. This transaction, however, was not the one that actually took place. In reality, Cornwallis chose not to participate in the surrender, citing illness and leaving General Charles O’Hara to lead the British troops. Washington, refusing to accept the sword of anyone but Cornwallis, appointed General Benjamin Lincoln to accept O’Hara’s sword. Though Cornwallis did not really present his sword to Washington at the surrender, this print captures, if not a true moment, a patriotic feeling forged by the end of Revolutionary hostilities and the birth of a new nation from the ashes of war.
When Edward Kennedy filed the first bulletin to reach American readers with news of the Germans’ final capitulation in May, 1945, he started a controversy that has remained at the boil ever since among newspapermen. Here for the first time is his complete reply to those who complained that he violated SHAEF’s release agreement and took an unfair advantage over his colleagues. Mr. Kennedy was Chief of the Paris Bureau of the Associated Press and is now Managing Editor of the Santa Barbara News-Press.
July 6-18, 1774
Attends meetings in Alexandria, Virginia, which address the growing conflict between the Colonies and Parliament. Washington co-authors with George Mason the Fairfax County Resolves, which protest the British "Intolerable Acts"--punitive legislation passed by the British in the wake of the December 16th, 1773, Boston Tea Party. The Fairfax Resolves call for non-importation of British goods, support for Boston, and the meeting of a Continental Congress.
July 18, 1774
The Resolves are presented to the public at the Fairfax County Courthouse. Fairfax Resolves
September 5 - October 26, 1774
The First Continental Congress meets in Philadelphia. Washington serves as a delegate from Virginia.
October 9, 1774
While attending the First Continental Congress, Washington responds to a letter from Captain Robert Mackenzie, then in Boston. Mackenzie, a fellow Virginia officer, criticizes the behavior of the city's rebellious inhabitants. Washington sharply disagrees and defends the actions of Boston's patriots. Yet, like many members of Congress who still hope for reconciliation, Washington writes that no "thinking man in all North America," wishes "to set up for independency." George Washington to Robert Mackenzie, October 9, 1774
April 19, 1775
The battles of Lexington and Concord.
Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys, and Benedict Arnold and the Massachusetts and Connecticut militia, take Fort Ticonderoga on the western shore of Lake Champlain, capturing its garrison and munitions.
May 10, 1775
The Second Continental Congress convenes. Washington attends as a delegate from Virginia.
May 18, 1775
Congress learns of the capture of Fort Ticonderoga and that military reinforcements from Britain are on their way to North America.
May 25, 1775
British generals William Howe, Henry Clinton, and John Burgoyne arrive in Boston with reinforcements for military commander Thomas Gage. July 12, Howe's brother Admiral Richard Howe will arrive in North America with a large fleet of warships.
May 26, 1775
Congress resolves to begin preparations for military defense but also sends a petition of reconciliation, the "Olive Branch Petition," to King George III.
June 12, 1775
British General Thomas Gage declares Massachusetts to be in a state of rebellion. He offers amnesty for all who lay down their arms--except for Samuel Adams and John Hancock.
June 14, 1775
Debate begins in Congress on the appointment of a commander in chief of Continental forces. John Hancock expects to be nominated but is disappointed when his fellow Massachusetts delegate, John Adams, suggests George Washington instead as a commander around whom all the colonies might unite. June 15, Washington is appointed commander in chief of the Continental Army. The forces from several colonies gathered in Cambridge and Boston become the founding core of that army.
June 16, 1775
Washington makes his acceptance speech in Congress. As a gesture of civic virtue, he declines a salary but requests that Congress pay his expenses at the close of the war. On July 1, 1783, Washington submits to the Continental Board of Treasury his expense account. George Washington's Revolutionary War Expense Account
June 17, 1775
The battle of Bunker or Breeds Hill.
June 27, 1775
Congress establishes the northern army under the command of Major General Philip Schuyler, and to prevent attacks from the north, begins planning a campaign against the British in Canada.
July 3, 1775
Washington assumes command of the main American army in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where it has been laying siege to British-occupied Boston.
July 4, 1775
Washington issues general orders to the army, announcing that they and those who enlist "are now Troops of the United Provinces of North America," and expressing hope "that all Distinctions of Colonies will be laid aside so that one and the same Spirit may animate the whole, and the only Contest be, who shall render, on this great and trying occasion, the most essential service to the Great and common cause in which we are all engaged." General Orders, July 4, 1775
July 6, 1775
Congress approves and arranges for publication of A Declaration by the Representatives of the United Colonies of North America. , written by Thomas Jefferson and John Dickinson. Unlike Jefferson's Declaration of Independence of a year later, this document blames Parliament primarily and King George III secondarily for the Colonies' grievances.
July 12, 1775
Congress establishes commissions on Indian relations for the north, middle, and southern regions of the Colonies.
July 31, 1775
Congress rejects a proposal for reconciliation from the North Ministry. The proposal is sent to prominent private individuals instead of to Congress and falls short of independence.
Washington establishes a naval force to battle the British off the New England coast and to prey on British supply ships.
August 23, 1775
King George III declares all the Colonies to be in a state of rebellion.George III, King of Great Britain and Ireland. [1802?] 1 print. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Cromek, R. H. (Robert Hartley), 1770-1812, engraver. Reproduction #: (b&w) LC-USZ62-96229
September 6, 1775
Washington's final draft of his "Address to the Inhabitants of Canada" calls for their support in the war for independence. Benedict Arnold will carry the Address on his march through the Maine wilderness to take Quebec. On the same day, Washington calls for volunteers from among his own army to accompany Benedict Arnold and his Virginia and Pennsylvania militia. Address to the Inhabitants of Canada, September 6, 1775 | George Washington's Revolutionary War Expense Account: September 28, 1775, expenses for printing copies of the "Address" by Ebenezer Gray
September 28, 1775
Washington writes the Massachusetts General Court, introducing an Oneida Chief who has arrived at the Continental army encampment in Cambridge. Washington believes he has come "principaly to satisfy his Curiosity." But Washington hopes he will take a favorable report back to his people, with "important Consequences" to the American cause. The Oneidas are members of the Iroquois or Six Nation League of the upper New York region. To preserve their lands from incursions by either side, the League attempts a policy of neutrality. The Revolution, however, causes a civil war among the Iroquois, and the Oneidas are one of the few tribes to side with the Americans. George Washington to Massachusetts General Court, September 28, 1775
October 4, 1775
Washington writes Congress about the treasonous activities of Dr. Benjamin Church. Church, a leading physician in Boston, has been active in the Sons of Liberty, in the Boston Committee of Correspondence, and the Massachusetts Committee of Safety and Provincial Congress. At the same time, however, he has been spying for British military commander of Boston Thomas Gage. In his October 5 letter to Congress, Washington describes how one of Church's letters to Gage was intercepted. Eventually Church is tried by several different courts and jailed. In 1778, he is allowed to go into exile. He is lost at sea on his way to the West Indies. Congress passes more severe penalties for treason as a result of this case. George Washington to Congress, October 5, 1775
October 18, 1775
A British squadron under command of Lieutenant Henry Mowat bombards and burns the Falmouth (Portland, Maine) waterfront after providing inhabitants time to evacuate the area. Washington writes the governors of Rhode Island and Connecticut, October 24, enclosing an account of the attack by a Falmouth citizen, Pearson Jones, and severely criticizing the British for not allowing enough time for inhabitants to remove their belongings. When Mowat briefly comes ashore on May 9, he is captured by Brunswick, Maine, citizens, but they are persuaded by Falmouth town leaders to let him go. Pearson Jones's Account of the Destruction of Falmouth, October 24, 1775
October 24, 1775
Washington writes to the Falmouth, Maine, Safety Committee to explain why he cannot send the detachment from his army they request. Throughout the war, the British attempt to lure Washington into committing his whole army to battles he cannot win, or, into weakening it by sending out detachments to meet British incursions. George Washington to Falmouth, Maine, Safety Committee, October 24, 1775
November 1, 1775
Congress learns of King George's rejection of the Olive Branch Petition, his declaration that the Colonies are in rebellion, and of reports that British regulars sent to subdue them will be accompanied by German mercenaries.
November 5, 1775
General Orders, Washington reprimands the troops in Cambridge for celebrating the anti-Catholic holiday, Guy Fawkes Day, while Congress and the army are attempting to win the friendship of French Canadian Catholics. He also writes commander of the northern army, Philip Schuyler, on the importance of the acquisition of Canada to the American cause. George Washington, General Orders, November 5, 1775 | George Washington to Philip Schuyler, November 5, 1775
December 31, 1775
Benedict Arnold and Richard Montgomery and their forces join on the St. Lawrence River to attack Quebec. Montgomery has recently taken Montreal and has replaced Philip Schuyler, then weakened by illness, as commander of the northern army. During the attack, Montgomery is killed immediately and Arnold is wounded. The attack fails, but Arnold follows it with a siege of the city, which also fails. On June 18, 1776, Arnold will be the last to retreat from Canada and the still undefeated city of Montreal, then commanded by Sir Guy Carleton. On January 27, Washington will write Arnold to commiserate with him on the failure of the campaign. Arnold is commissioned a brigadier general in the Continental Army on January 10, 1776. George Washington to Benedict Arnold, January 27, 1776Death of General Montgomery at Quebec. c[between 1900 and 1912] 1 negative. Trumbull, John, 1756-1843, artist. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Reproduction #: (b&w) LC-D416-701
January 7, 1776
Washington writes Connecticut governor Jonathan Trumbull from Cambridge. Washington has "undoubted intelligence" that the British plan to shift the focus of their campaign to New York City. The capture of this city "would give them the Command of the Country and the Communication with Canada." He intends to send Major General Charles Lee to New York to raise a force there to defend the City. George Washington to Jonathan Trumbull, January 7, 1776 | George Washington to Charles Lee, January 30, 1776
February 4, 1776
Major General Charles Lee and British General Henry Clinton both arrive in New York City on the same day. Lee writes that Clinton claims "it is merely a visit to his Friend Tryon" [William Tryon, the former royal governor of New York]. "If it is really so, it is the most whimsical piece of civility I ever heard." Clinton claims that he intends heading south where he will receive British reinforcements. Lee writes, "to communicate his plan to the Enemy is too novel to be creditted." Clinton does eventually head south, receiving his reinforcements at Cape Fear on March 12.
March 27, 1776
The British evacuate Boston. Washington writes Congress with the news of this and of his plans for detaching regiments of the Army in Cambridge to New York under Brigadier General John Sullivan, with the remainder of the Army to follow. George Washington to Congress, March 27, 1776
April 4, 1776
Washington leaves Cambridge, Massachusetts with the Army and by April 14 is in New York.
April 17, 1776
Washington writes the New York Committee of Safety. New York has not yet come down decisively on the side of independence, and merchants and government officials are supplying the British ships still in the harbor. Washington, angry at the continued communication with the enemy, asks the Committee if the evidence about them does not suggest that the former Colonies and Great Britain are now at war. He insists that such communications should cease. George Washington to the New York Safety Committee, April 17, 1776
South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia begin campaigns to crush the Overhill Cherokees. The British Proclamation of 1763 limited frontier settlement to the eastern side of the Appalachians to prevent incursions into Indian lands and resulting costly wars. But the Proclamation has not been observed and hostilities between white settlers and Cherokees have grown over the decades. Supplied with arms by the British, the Overhill Cherokees begin a series of raids. State militias respond with expeditions and raids of their own. By the Treaty of DeWitt's Corner, May 1777, the Cherokees cede almost all their land in South Carolina. Similar treaties result in land cessions to North Carolina and Virginia.
June 4, 1776
A British fleet under command of Commodore Sir Peter Parker with Clinton and his reinforcements approaches the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina.
June 28, 1776
The British begin bombardment of Fort Sullivan in Charleston harbor. Failing to take the Fort, the British retreat to New York.
June 29, 1776
General William Howe, and his brother, Admiral Richard Howe, arrive in New York harbor from Boston. In late June, the American army from the campaign against Montreal and Quebec reassembles at Fort Ticonderoga.
July 9, 1776
Washington leads an American Independence celebration in New York City, reading the Declaration of Independence to the troops and sending copies of it to generals in the Continental Army. George Washington to General Artemas Ward, July 9, 1776
July 14, 1776
The Howe brothers attempt to contact Washington to open negotiations, but Washington refuses their letter which is addressed to "George Washington, Esq., etc., etc.," a form of address appropriate for a private gentleman rather than for the commander of an army.
August 20, 1776
British forces, concentrated on Staten Island, cross over to Long Island for the war's first major battle. Washington has approximately 23,000 troops, mostly militia. Commanding Continental officers participating are Lord Stirling (William Alexander), Israel Putnam, John Sullivan, and Nathanael Greene. Howe has approximately 20,000 troops.
August 27, 1776
Howe attacks on Long Island and the American lines retreat. Lord Stirling holds out the longest before surrendering the same day. Robert H. Harrison, one of Washington's aides, writes Congress with news of the day's battle and information on Washington's current whereabouts on Long Island. Robert H. Harrison to Congress, August 27, 1776
August 28-29, 1776
During a heavy night fog, Washington and his army silently evacuate Long Island by boat to Manhattan, escaping almost certain capture by Howe's army.
August 31, 1776
Washington writes Congress about the evacuation and about a forthcoming request from British General William Howe to meet with members of Congress. A formal request from Howe is sent to Congress via captured American general, John Sullivan. A committee made up of Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Edward Rutledge meet with Howe on September 6. But discussions cease when the committee learns that Howe's only offer is that if the rebels lay down their arms, they may await the generosity of the British government. George Washington to Congress, August 31, 1776
September 15, 1776
Howe's army attacks Manhattan at Kip's Bay, where a Connecticut militia unit flees in fear and confusion. Washington writes Congress, calling the rout "disgraceful and dastardly conduct," and describing his own efforts to halt it. On September 16, the same unit redeems itself in the battle of Harlem Heights. In his September 17 general orders, Washington praises the officers and soldiers, noting the contrast to the "Behavior of Yesterday." George Washington to Congress, September 16, 1776 | George Washington, General Orders, September 17, 1776
September 24, 1776
Washington writes Congress on the obstacles to creating a permanent, well-trained Continental Army to face the regulars of the British Army and describes his frustrations in employing local militia units. He closes by acknowledging the traditional fears of a "standing army" in a republic but urges Congress to consider that the war may be lost without one. George Washington to Congress, September 24, 1776
September 26, 1776
Benjamin Franklin, Silas Deane, and Thomas Jefferson are named American commissioners to France by Congress.
October 11-13, 1776
Benedict Arnold wins the naval battle of Valcour Island off Crown Point. A small victory, it nonetheless causes Sir Guy Carleton to delay plans for an invasion from Canada.
October 16, 1776
Washington orders the retreat of the army off Manhattan Island. New York City is lost to the British. British General William Howe wins a knighthood for his successes in the campaign of 1776.
November 16, 1776
Fort Washington and its garrison of 250 men on the east side of the Hudson River fall to the British, commanded by General Charles Cornwallis. Fort Lee, on the west side, is abandoned by the Americans two days later.
November - December 1776
Under command of General Charles Cornwallis, the British invade New Jersey. Cornwallis takes Newark November 28 and pursues Washington and his army to New Brunswick.
December 6, 1776
British General Henry Clinton takes Newport, Rhode Island.
December 7, 1776
Washington's army finishes crossing the Delaware, with the British close behind. Once on the western side of the river, Washington awaits reinforcements. By mid-December, he is joined by Horatio Gates, John Sullivan, and their Continental Army forces. The British establish winter camps in various New Jersey locations, with the Hessians primarily at Bordentown and Trenton, and the British regulars at Princeton.
December 25, 1776
Washington orders readings to the assembled troops from Thomas Paine's The Crisis, with its famous passage, "These are the times that try men's souls." The Crisis had just been published December 23 in Philadelphia.
December 25-26, 1776
During the night, General Washington, General Henry Knox, and troops cross the Delaware in freezing winter weather to launch a surprise attack on British and Hessian mercenaries encamped at Trenton. Early morning, December 26, the attack begins, with Generals Nathanael Greene and John Sullivan leading the infantry assault against the Hessians, commanded by Colonel Johann Rall. After a short battle, Washington's army takes Trenton.George Washington on horseback looking back at troops crossing the Delaware River. Engraving by George S. Lang. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Philadelphia: Samuel Augustus Mitchell, 1825. Reproduction #: (b&w) LC-USZ62-61047
December 27, 1776
Congress gives Washington special powers for six months. He may raise troops and supplies from states directly, appoint officers and administer the army, and arrest inhabitants who refuse to accept Continental currency as payment or otherwise show themselves to be disloyal. Washington acknowledges these extraordinary powers, assuring Congress that he will use them to its honor. George Washington to Congress, January 1, 1777
December 31, 1776
Washington writes Congress with a general report of the state of the troops. Toward the end, he notes that "free Negroes who have served in the Army, are very much dissatisfied at being discarded." To prevent them from serving the British instead, he has decided to re-enlist them. In 1775, Washington had opposed enlisting not just slaves but free blacks as well. His general orders of November 12, 1775, direct that "neither Negroes, Boys unable to bare Arms, nor old men unfit to endure the fatigues of the campaign" are to be recruited. In 1776 and thereafter, he reverses himself on both counts. George Washington, General Orders, November 12, 1775 | George Washington to Congress, December 31, 1775
January 3, 1777
Washington's army captures the British garrison at nearby Princeton. Washington sets up winter quarters at Morristown, New Jersey, where he spends the next several months rebuilding the Continental Army with new enlistments.The Battle of Princeton. George Washington on horseback during the Battle of Princeton. Photograph of painting by John Trumbull. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Springfield, Mass.: Taber-Prang Art Co., c1900. Reproduction #: (b&w) LC-USZ62-469
April 12, 1777
British General Charles Cornwallis opens the 1777 campaign in New Jersey in an attempt to lure Washington and his army out from winter headquarters at Morristown.
April 17, 1777
Washington writes General William Maxwell, commander of the Continental light infantry and also of the New Jersey militia, to ready himself and his troops for the 1777 campaign. George Washington to William Maxwell, April 17, 1777
May 29, 1777
Washington moves his headquarters to Middlebrook, south of Morristown.
June 20, 1777
Washington writes Congress and General Philip Schuyler on the success of the New Jersey militia in forcing the British out of New Jersey and on the general failure of the British to win the inhabitants there back to allegiance to the Crown. George Washington to Congress, June 20, 1777 | George Washington to Philip Schuyler, June 20, 1777
June 22, 1777
The British evacuate New Brunswick, New Jersey, to Amboy, and then back to Staten Island.
June 27, 1777
The Marquis de Lafayette arrives in Philadelphia from France to offer his services to the American cause. He is nineteen years old. He is commissioned a major general by Congress and meets Washington on August 1. He and Washington form a close friendship.
Washington moves his army to the Hudson above the Highlands of New York. The Highlands are a range of hills across the Hudson Valley. American forts built on each side of the Hudson River, a giant thirty-five-ton, 850-link chain, and a series of spiked logs on the river bottom all guard access to the interior of the country.
July 11, 1777
Washington writes Congress requesting that it order Benedict Arnold to join Philip Schuyler in halting British General John Burgoyne's invasion of New York from Canada, which began on June 23.
July 23, 1777
General Sir William Howe sets sail from New York City with approximately 15,000 men. He embarks on a campaign to take Philadelphia, the seat of the Continental Congress. General Henry Clinton remains in command in New York City with British and loyalist forces. Howe and his force land at Head of Elk on Chesapeake Bay August 25.
August 3, 1777
British Colonel Barry St. Leger with a force of British regulars, Canadians, and Indian allies, lays siege to Fort Stanwix (Schuyler) in the western Mohawk Valley. Benedict Arnold and 900 Continentals arrive, forcing St. Leger to retreat back to Canada.
August 6, 1777
The Battle of Oriskany, British Colonel Barry St. Leger and Seneca Indians and loyalists ambush patriot German militia and Oneida Indian allies under command of General Nicholas Herkimer. The hand-to-hand fighting is so severe that St. Leger's Indian allies abandon him in disgust. Herkimer dies of his wounds. The battle brings to a head a long-impending civil war among the nations of the Iroquois League.
August 16, 1777
In the Battle of Bennington, where Burgoyne has sent a detachment to forage for much needed supplies, the American Brigadier General John Stark and local militia kill or capture nearly 1,000 of Burgoyne's 7,000 troop invading army, further slowing British invasion plans.
September 11, 1777
In the Battle of Brandywine, Howe and Washington clash, with major engagements near Birmingham Meeting House Hill. Washington is forced to retreat.
September 19-21, 1777
Washington's army is camped about twenty miles from Germantown, where Howe is concentrated for his invasion of Philadelphia. The British inflict 1000 casualties in a night attack on General Anthony Wayne's Brigade near Paoli's Tavern. The attack on Wayne is led by British General Charles Grey, called "No Flint" Grey because of his preference for the bayonet over the musket. The "Paoli Massacre" becomes an American rallying cry among Continental troops. Wayne requests a court martial to clear his name of any dishonor, a not unusual request. Washington's general orders of November 1, 1777, report the court's favorable decision. George Washington, General Orders, November 1, 1777[Anthony Wayne, full-length portrait, standing in uniform with horse in front of tents.] c1858. 1 print. Halpin, John, fl. 1849-1867, engraver. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Reproduction #: (b&w) LC-USZ62-99093
October 3, 1777
At 7pm in the evening, Washington's forces begin the march to Germantown, where Washington hopes to encircle Howe's army. Commanding 8,000 Continentals and 3,000 militia are Generals Adam Stephen, Nathanael Greene, Alexander McDougall, John Sullivan, Anthony Wayne, and Thomas Conway. George Washington, General Orders, October 3, 1777
October 4, 1777
Washington's forces are defeated at Germantown. One wing marches down the wrong road, and General Conway's brigade inadvertently alerts the British to the impending attack. In the course of battle, Wayne and Stephen's men fire upon each other in confusion. Greene's retreat is mistakenly taken by the rest of the troops as a signal for a general retreat. Washington writes Congress an account of the battle, attempting to allay Congress's and his own disappointment by describing it as "rather unfortunate than injurious" in the large scale of things. George Washington to Congress, October 5, 1777
October 6, 1777
Washington responds to a letter from British General William Howe, who has written about the destruction of mills belonging to "peaceable Inhabitants" during the recent engagement. Howe allows that Washington probably did not order these depredations but requests that he put a stop to them. Washington responds heatedly, citing depredations by the British in Charles Town, Massachusetts, which was burned at the beginning of the war, and of other instances. In a short additional letter of the same date, Washington writes Howe that his pet dog has fallen into American hands and he is returning him. Washington and Howe correspond regularly in the course of the War, most often about prisoner exchanges. George Washington to William Howe, October 6, 1777 | George Washington to William Howe, October 6, 1777
October 17, 1777
British General John Burgoyne surrenders at Saratoga, to General Horatio Gates, the new commander of the northern army. The "Convention of Saratoga," negotiated by Gates, allows Burgoyne's army of 5,871 British regulars and German mercenaries to return to England and Europe on the promise that they will not fight in North America again. Congress finds various reasons for not allowing Burgoyne's army to leave, for fear that its return to England or the Continent will free an equal number of other troops to come to North America to fight. Burgoyne's army will be detained in various locations in Massachusetts and then settled on a tract of land in Virginia near Charlottesville. In September 1781, the "Convention Army" is removed to Maryland because of Cornwallis's invasion of Virginia. At the close of the War, Burgoyne's army has dwindled to a mere 1,500 due to escapes, desertions, but most significantly to the number of the troops deciding to stay and settle in America.
October 19, 1777
Howe and the British enter Philadelphia. Congress has fled to York, Pennsylvania.
September 24 - October 23, 1777
British General Henry Clinton's Invasion of the Highlands
General Henry Clinton in New York receives substantial reinforcements of British regulars and German mercenaries.
Clinton receives a note from General John Burgoyne who warns him about Horatio Gates's army, which is growing with additions of militia.
Clinton and his forces attack and take Fort Montgomery and make a bayonet attack on Fort Clinton. Both forts are on the west side of the Hudson River. The Highlands region is commanded by Israel Putnam, a Continental major general. The forts are commanded by newly elected governor of New York, George Clinton, and his brother, James, both of whom are distant cousins of British General Henry Clinton. George and James Clinton and most of the forts' defenders manage to escape.
American troops burn Fort Constitution on the east side of the Hudson River and depart. George Clinton and Israel Putnam decide to retreat north with the remnant of their troops. British Major General John Vaughn, Commodore Sir James Wallace, and former royal governor of New York, William Tryon, and their forces continue up the Hudson River. October 14, they burn the shipyards of Poughkeepsie, and a number of small villages and large houses, among the latter that of William Livingston, governor of New Jersey.
The British force which began its invasion up the Hudson River reaches Albany. There, Major General John Vaughn learns of Burgoyne's surrender at Saratoga the previous day.
British forces under Major General Vaughn begin their return back down the Hudson River to New York City, and in early November they evacuate the Highlands and the forts they have captured there.
November 3, 1777
The "Conway Cabal" and Valley Forge
General Lord Stirling (William Alexander) of New Jersey writes Washington, enclosing a note that recounts General Thomas Conway's criticisms of Washington and of Conway's preference for Horatio Gates as commander in chief of the Continental Army. October 28, Gates's aide, James Wilkinson, had incautiously related the matter over drink in a tavern in Reading, where Stirling was also staying. Washington writes Conway, November 5, tersely informing him of his knowledge of the affair. George Washington to Thomas Conway, November 5, 1777
In the wake of his victory over Burgoyne, Horatio Gates, the "Hero of Saratoga," has been appointed by Congress as the head of a reorganized Board of War. Thomas Conway is appointed Inspector General of the Army. December 13, Conway visits Washington and his troops at winter quarters at Valley Forge. There the troops have been suffering severe hardships and to some critics they no longer resemble an organized army. After exchanges between Conway and Congress, and Washington and Congress, the Board's Congressional members decide to visit Valley Forge. Carrying out a thorough investigation, the Board places blame on Congress and Thomas Mifflin, quartermaster general, for the low condition of the Army at Valley Forge. Washington writes Lafayette December 31, 1777, and Patrick Henry, February 19 and March 28, 1778. Washington describes the conditions at Valley Forge as at times "little less than a famine." George Washington to Lafayette, December 31, 1777 | George Washington to Patrick Henry, February 19, 1778 | George Washington to Patrick Henry, March 28, 1778
January 2, 1778
Washington forwards to governor Nicholas Cooke a letter from General James Varnum advising him that Rhode Island's troop quota should be completed with blacks. Washington urges Cooke to give the recruiting officers every assistance. In February, the Rhode Island legislature approves the action. Enlisted slaves will receive their freedom in return for their service. The resulting black regiment, commanded by white Quaker Christopher Greene, has its first engagement at the battle of Rhode Island (or, Newport) July 29-August 31, where it holds off two Hessian regiments. The regiment also fights at the battle of Yorktown. Slaves enlisted in the Continental Army typically receive a subsistence, their freedom, and a cash payment at the end of the war. Slaves and free blacks rarely receive regular pay or land bounties. In 1777, the New Jersey militia act allows for the recruitment of free blacks but not slaves, as does Maryland's legislature in 1781. On March 20, 1781, New York authorizes the enlistment of slaves in militia units, for which they receive their freedom at the end of the war. Virginia rejects James Madison's arguments for enlisting slaves in addition to free blacks, but many enlist anyway, presenting themselves for freedom after the war. George Washington to Nicholas Cooke, January 2, 1778
February 6, 1778
The Franco-American Treaty of Amity and Commerce is signed in Paris. Since 1776, the French government has been secretly providing Congress with military supplies and financial aid. March 13, the French minister in London informs King George III that France recognizes the United States. May 4, Congress ratifies the Treaty of Alliance with France, and further military and financial assistance follows. By June, France and England are at war. The American Revolution has become an international war.
February 18, 1778
Washington addresses a letter to the inhabitants of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia, requesting cattle for the army for the period of May through June. Washington writes them that the "States have contended, not unsuccessfully, with one of the most Powerful Kingdoms upon Earth." After several years of war, "we now find ourselves at least upon a level with our opponents." George Washington to the Inhabitants of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia, February 18, 1778
February 23, 1778
Baron Wilhelm Ludolf Gerhard Augustin Steuben, a volunteer from Germany, arrives at Valley Forge with a letter of introduction from the President of Congress, Henry Laurens. Congress publishes his military training manual, which he has had translated into English. He trains a model company of forty-seven men at Valley Forge and then proceeds to the general training of the army. Congress commissions Steuben a major general and makes him an inspector general of the Continental Army. Steuben becomes an American citizen after the war.
March 1, 1778
Congress orders the Board of War to recruit Indians into the Continental Army. March 13, Washington writes the Commissioners of Indian Affairs on how he thinks he may employ the Indians recruited. George Washington to Philip Schuyler, James Duane, and Volkert Douw, March 13, 1778Die helden der revolution. [between 1850-1890] 1 print. Girsch, Frederick, 1821-1895, artist. General Washington standing with Johann De Kalb, Baron von Steuban, Kazimierz Pulaski, Tadeusz, Lafayette, John Mulenberg, and other officers during the Revolutionary War. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Reproduction #: LC-USZC4-3359(color film copy transparency)
March 8, 1778
Lord Germain (George Sackville), Colonial Secretary in London, sends British General Henry Clinton orders for a change of direction in the conduct of the war. The British are to focus on the south, where Germain estimates loyalists to be more numerous. Actions in the north are to be limited to raids and blockades of the coast. May 8, Clinton will replace General Sir William Howe as commander of British forces in North America.
The British government sends the Carlisle Commission to North America. The Commission is made up of the Earl of Carlisle (Frederick Howard), William Eden, and George Johnston, and their secretary. Parliament has repealed all laws opposed by the American colonies since 1763. The Commission is instructed to offer home rule to the Colonies and hopes to begin negotiations before Congress receives news of the Franco-American Treaty (which it does on May 8). Congress ratifies the Treaty and ignores the Commission. April 22, Congress resolves not to engage in negotiations on terms that fall short of complete independence. Late in 1778, the Commission returns to England.
British General Henry Clinton begins to move the main part of the British army from Pennsylvania to New York via New Jersey. Washington's army, also located in Pennsylvania, gives chase.
June 18, 1778
Washington sends six brigades ahead and on June 21 he crosses the Delaware River with the rest of the army. By June 22, the British are in New Jersey, and Benedict Arnold is fast approaching the twelve-mile long baggage train that makes up the end of Clinton's marching army.
June 28, 1778
The Battle of Monmouth Courthouse. Washington's army catches up with Clinton's. The one-day battle is fought to a stalemate, both armies exhausted by the day's unusual heat. But Washington is impressed with the performance of the American troops against the well-trained veteran British regulars. Clinton and his army continue on to New York, while Washington establishes camp at White Plains.
June 29, 1778
Washington writes in his general orders of the day about the success of the New Jersey militia in "harrassing and impeding their [the British] Motions so as to allow the Continental Troops time to come up with them" before the battle of Monmouth Courthouse. German Captain John Ewald, fighting for the British, in his Diary of the American War: A Hessian Journal (New Haven and London, 1979), observes during the march through New Jersey that the "whole province was in arms, following us with Washington's army, constantly surrounding us on our marches and besieging our camps." "Each step," Ewald writes, "cost human blood." From now on, Washington begins to employ local militia units in this manner more often.
July 3, 1778
Loyalist Colonel John Butler with local troops and Seneca Indian allies invades Wyoming Valley, north of the Susquehanna River, and attacks at "Forty Fort." In the frontier war along the New York and Pennsylvania frontier, Onandagas, Cayugas, Senecas, and Mohawks of the Iroquois League ally with the British. Joseph Brant (Joseph Fayadanega), a Mohawk war chief educated in English missionary schools and an Anglican convert, has significant influence among British government and military leaders. Oneidas and Tuscororas ally with the Americans. Washington writes Philip Schuyler, a member of the Indian commission for the northern department. George Washington to Philip Schuyler, July 22, 1778Joseph Fayadaneega, called the Brant, the Great Captain of the Six Nations [ca. 1776] 1 print. Smith, John Raphael, 1752-1812, engraver. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Reproduction #: (color)LC-USZC4-4913
July 4, 1778
George Rogers Clark defeats the British and captures Kaskaskia near the Mississippi River. Clark has been organizing the defense of the sparsely settled Kentucky region against British and Indian ally raids. In October 1777, Clark puts before Virginia governor Patrick Henry a plan to capture several British posts in the Illinois country, of which Kaskaskia is one. Clark and about 175 men take the fort and town, which is inhabited mainly by French settlers. Clark convinces them and their Indian allies on the Wabash River to support the American cause. The British continue to hold sway at Fort Detroit, commanded by Lieutenant Governor Henry Hamilton, and Clark spends the next several years attempting to dislodge him. Washington writes governor of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson, December 28, 1780, in support of Clark's efforts to take Fort Detroit. George Washington to Thomas Jefferson, December 28, 1780
July - August 1778
Charles Hector, Comte d'Estaing and his French fleet plan to participate with General John Sullivan in a combined assault on the British position in Newport, Rhode Island. Sullivan's troops are delayed and d'Estaing's fleet is battered by a hurricane after an indecisive battle. He withdraws to Boston and later sails for the Caribbean Islands where he attacks British islands.
November 9, 1778
British General Henry Clinton sends approximately 3,000 troops south under Lieutenant Colonel Archibald Campbell, and a fleet under command of Admiral Hyde Parker is assembled to coordinate an invasion of South Carolina and Georgia with General Augustine Prevost and his regular and loyalist troops in Florida. Campbell and his troops land at Savannah in late December.
November 14, 1778
Washington writes Henry Laurens, president of the Continental Congress, confidentially, about a plan for a French campaign against the British in Canada that Lafayette very much wants to lead. In 1759, during the Seven Years War, the French had been driven out of Canada by the British and American colonial forces. Washington has become personally attached to the young Lafayette. But he is also aware of the eagerness of all the French officers serving with the American cause to regain Canadian territories. Washington expresses concerns about the future independence of the American republic should European powers retain a strong presence in North America: a French presence able to "dispute" the sea power of Great Britain, and Spain "certainly superior, possessed of New Orleans, on our Right." George Washington to Henry Laurens, November 14, 1778
Washington detaches General Lachlan McIntosh from Valley Forge to command the western department of the Ohio country where bitter frontier war has erupted. McIntosh establishes Fort McIntosh on the Ohio River, 30 miles from Pittsburgh, and Fort Laurens, further west, as bases from which to launch campaigns against British and Shawnee, Wyandot, and Mingo allies operating out of Fort Detroit. After bitter warfare, McIntosh is forced to abandon the forts in June of 1779.
January 29, 1779
Augusta, the capital of Georgia, falls to British forces. General Benjamin Lincoln, whose army is camped at Purysburg, South Carolina, sends a detachment toward Augusta and on February 13, the British evacuate the town.
February 25, 1779
Congress directs Washington to respond to British, Indian, and loyalist attacks on frontier settlements in New York and Pennsylvania. Washington sends out an expedition under command of General John Sullivan. Sullivan's forces include William Maxwell and a New Jersey brigade, Enoch Poor and a New Hampshire brigade, and Edward Hand and Pennsylvania and Maryland troops. After a series of savage raids and counter-raids between the British and the Americans, including an encounter with British Indian ally Joseph Brant and his Mohawks, and Captain Walter Butler (John Butler's son) and his loyalists, the expedition returns home on September 14. Forty Iroquois villages and their extensive farms lands and crops have been destroyed. The Iroquois soon return, resettle, and rejoin the British in an retaliatory invasion in the northwest. George Washington to John Sullivan, March 6, 1779
March 3, 1779
British Major James Mark Prevost defeats Brigadier General John Ashe and his force at Briar Creek, Georgia. In response, Benjamin Lincoln and the southern army cross into Georgia. Lincoln's and Prevost's forces move back and forth between Georgia and South Carolina in an attempt to engage each other, but eventually summer heat and illness bring both armies to a standstill.
March 20, 1779
Washington responds to Henry Laurens's March 16th letter on the possibility of raising a black regiment for the defense of the south. Washington writes Laurens that he would rather wait till the British first raise such regiments before the Americans do so. He also expresses some general reservations. But "this is a subject that has never employed much of my thoughts," and he describes his opinions as "no more than the first crude Ideas that have struck me upon the occasion." Henry Laurens is from South Carolina. Previously president of Congress, he is serving on a committee charged with forming a plan of defense for the south. The committee issues its report March 29, urging the formation of regiments of slaves for the defense of the south, for which Congress will compensate slaveowners and the slaves will receive their freedom and $50. Henry Laurens's son, John Laurens is appointed to raise the regiments. South Carolina and Georgia reject Congress's recommendation (see entry under July 10, 1782 below). Successive commanders of the southern army, Benjamin Lincoln and Nathanael Greene, support the formation of slave regiments in the south but to no avail. George Washington to Henry Laurens and Thomas Burke, March 18, 1779 | George Washington to Henry Laurens, March 20, 1779
May 28, 1779
British General Henry Clinton launches another campaign up the Hudson River. On May 30, New York Governor George Clinton orders out the militia. June 1, the British take Stony Point and Verplank's Point on either side of the river.
June 21, 1779
Spain declares war on Great Britain.
June 30, 1779
William Tryon, former royal governor of New York, and 2,600 loyalists and British regulars on forty-eight ships raid Fairport, New Haven, and Norwalk, Connecticut. Tryon wants to prosecute a war of desolation against rebel inhabitants. On July 9, he orders most of Fairfield burned because its militia shot at the British from within their houses, and on July 11 he burns Norwalk. British General Henry Clinton, probably reluctant to endorse Tryon's theories of warfare, never gives him an independent command again.
July 16, 1779
Anthony Wayne and his force of light infantry force the British out of Stony Point, and August 18-19 Major Henry Lee takes the British post at Paulus Hook. Neither of these positions are maintained after their capture, but they are morale boosters in a war that has become a stalemate.
September 27, 1779
Washington writes state governors Jonathan Trumbull (Connecticut), George Clinton (New York), and William Livingston (New Jersey) about reports of the arrival of a French Fleet and of the necessity of preparing the militia and raising food supplies, especially flour. George Washington, Circular Letter, September 27, 1779
October 4, 1779
Washington writes Congress and Comte d'Estaing, who is with his fleet off Georgia or in the West Indies. To Congress, Washington summarizes his efforts at organizing a cooperative effort with the French fleet to attack the British. To d'Estaing, Washington writes that "New York is the first and capital object, upon which every other is dependant," its capture likely to be a severe blow to the British. In his long letter to d'Estaing, Washington writes that he has "not concealed the difficulties in the way of a cooperation," but has the "highest hopes of its utility to the common cause" and its contribution to ending the war victoriously. George Washington to Congress, October 4, 1779 | George Washington to Comte d'Estaing, October 4, 1779
Tthe Americans and Comte d'Estaing's fleet make a combined assault on British-held Savannah, Georgia. The assault fails, and d'Estaing and the fleet sail for France before the hurricane season begins. The French government assembles troops and another fleet for a return to North America.
December 26, 1779
British General Henry Clinton and Admiral Marriot Arbuthnot set sail from New York City with fourteen warships, ninety transports, and approximately 8500 troops for an invasion of Charleston, South Carolina.
January 15, 1780
At Washington's urging, Major General Stirling crosses the ice with 3000 men to attack the British force on Staten Island, commanded by General Wilhelm von Knyphausen. Stirling is forced to retreat without attacking because of the severe cold. Throughout the early winter Washington orders raids on British forces left in New York.
February 1, 1780
British Major John Simcoe leads two hundred of his Rangers in a foray into New Jersey. His original aim is to lure Washington out from Morristown and capture him. But Knyphausen, commanding in Clinton's absence, orders Simcoe to confine himself to raids. Simcoe reaches Woodbridge but is forced to turn back by the militia. In March, the British continue to raid New Jersey in the so-called "forage wars," keeping American inhabitants and militia in a constant state of emergency.
April 2, 1780
Washington writes Congress, reporting on intelligence he has received about movements of further British troops south. The "weak state of our force there and unhappily in this quarter also, have laid me under great embarrassments, with respect to the conduct that ought to be pursued." He estimates the Continental Army to be at a strength of 10,000, of which 2,800 have completed their term of service and more at the end of April. Nonetheless, Washington intends to send Maryland and Delaware Continental regiments to the aid of the south. George Washington to Congress, April 2, 1780
April 6, 1780
George Washington's general orders contain an account of the Major General Benedict Arnold's conviction by the Executive Council of Pennsylvania on two of four charges of malfeasance while Arnold was military governor of Philadelphia. Washington's general orders contain the reprimand he is required to make by the Council. The reprimand recognizes Arnold's "distinguished services to his Country" but describes his conduct in one of the two charges for which he was found guilty "peculiarly reprehensible, both in a civil and military view." George Washington, General Orders, April 6, 1780
June 17, 1780
British General Henry Clinton returns to New York City from the south.
June 23, 1780
General Wilhelm von Knyphausen and Clinton attempt to lure Washington's army out of Morristown. Knyphausen attacks Nathanael Greene, Philemon Dickinson, and their Continental and militia forces on June 23 at Springfield. Springfield is burned but the British abandon their position there the same day. Washington expects yet another invasion up the Hudson with West Point as a particular target. He writes Congress about the engagement at Springfield and to General Robert Howe with instructions on safeguarding West Point. George Washington to Congress, June 25, 1780 | George Washington to Robert Howe, June 25, 1780
July 11, 1780
The long-expected French squadron arrives in Newport, Rhode Island, with 5,000 troops under the command of Lieutenant General Jean Baptiste Donatien de Vigneur, Comte de Rochambeau. Rochambeau declines Washington's suggestion of an immediate attack on New York. The ships and troops remain in Newport until June 1781, when they will move toward Washington's encampment in Westchester County, preparatory to a cooperative engagement with the Americans against the British.
September 25, 1780
Benedict Arnold, commander of West Point, flees to the British ship Vulture in the Hudson River. He has been planning to defect to the British and has learned that his British contact, Major John André, has been captured and that Washington is due to arrive at West Point to review the fort and its garrison. Washington, Henry Knox, Lafayette, and aide Colonel Alexander Hamilton arrive not knowing the cause of Arnold's absence and proceed with a review of the fort. They discover Arnold's defection.
In a letter to Congress the next day, Washington notes that the militia who had captured Major André had been offered a "large sum of money for his release, and as many goods as they would demand, but without any effect." In his September 26 general orders, Washington tells the officers and troops that "Great honor is due to the American Army that this is the first instance of Treason of the kind where many were to be expected from the nature of the dispute, and nothing is so bright an ornament in the Character of the American soldiers as their having been proof against all the arts and seductions of an insidious enemy." Washington also writes George Clinton, governor of New York, and John Laurens about Arnold's defection to the British. George Washington to Congress, September 26 | George Washington to George Clinton, September 26, 1780 | George Washington, General Orders, September 26, 1780 | George Washington to John Laurens, October 13, 1780Genl. Lafayette's departure from Mount Vernon 1784 [between 1840 and 1860] 1 print. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Reproduction #: (b&w) LC-USZ62-2264
George Washington (his family standing on the portico in the background) shaking hands with General Lafayette as Lafayette's carriage waits.
November 27, 1780
Washington writes General Anthony Wayne about depredations on the civilian populace by the Continental army. The army is often ill-supplied and sometimes starving. But Washington urges Wayne to protect the "persons and properties of the inhabitants. They have, from their situation, borne much of the burthen of the War and have never failed to relieve the distresses of the Army, when properly called upon." Washington declares that these robberies "are as repugnant to the principles of the cause in which we are engaged as oppressive to the inhabitants and subversive of that order and discipline which must Characterize every well regulated army." His November 6 general orders note the "disorderly conduct of the soldiers" with passes. George Washington to Anthony Wayne, November 27, 1780 | George Washington, General Orders, November 6, 1780
December 20, 1780
Benedict Arnold, now a brigadier general in the British army, departs New York City with 1600 men. He plans to invade Virginia.
April 8 - December 2, 1780
The War in the South
British General Henry Clinton summons General Benjamin Lincoln to surrender before beginning bombardment of Charleston, South Carolina. Lincoln responds with a declaration to fight to the last. April 13, the British begin bombarding the town, and on April 14, Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton and his Legion and loyalist militia defeat Isaac Huger's troops at the battle of Monck's Corner outside the town. Having sealed the American army in the city, on May 8 Clinton sends another summons to surrender. Lincoln again refuses and the next evening, after further summons by Clinton, the army, according to German mercenary for the British, Captain Johann von Ewald, "shouted 'Hurrah' three times," opened fire, and all the city's church bells rang out in a seeming frenzy of futile resistance. Lieutenant Governor Christopher Gadsden, who had earlier opposed surrender, now requests that Lincoln do so to save the much damaged city from further destruction. Gadsden is supported by two petitions by citizens.
General Benjamin Lincoln surrenders Charleston, South Carolina, to British General Henry Clinton. German mercenary for the British, Captain Johann von Ewald, notes upon surrender that the "garrison consisted of handsome young men whose apparel was extremely ragged, and on the whole the people looked greatly starved." Officers are confined on land, while enlisted soldiers are held in prison ships in the harbor. A Virginia Continental regiment on its way to aid Charleston gets as far as the Santee River before learning of the surrender and then turns back to North Carolina. Clinton's proclamation to the citizens of South Carolina calls for a declaration of allegiance to the Crown. (Johann von Ewald, Diary of the American War: A Hessian Journal [New Haven and London: 1979].)
Henry Clinton sails back to New York, leaving General Charles Cornwallis in command with orders to move into the interior of South Carolina and to finish subduing the south.
Washington writes Connecticut governor, Jonathan Trumbull, that the capture of Charleston may force the British to "dissipate their force." In a June 14 letter to James Bowdoin, governor of Massachusetts, Washington writes that the loss or "Something like it seems to have been necessary, to rouse us. " George Washington to Jonathan Trumbull, June 11, 1780 | George Washington to James Bowdoin, June 14, 1780
American General Horatio Gates arrives in Coxe's Mill, North Carolina, to take command of a reconstituted southern army. The Maryland and Delaware Continental regiments sent by Washington have arrived under command of Baron Johann de Kalb. Two-thirds of Gates's army will consist of Virginia and North Carolina militia.
The Battle of Camden, South Carolina. Gates's army marches to Camden in hope of surprising the British there but instead runs into them by mistake. De Kalb is mortally wounded, and after heavy fighting Gates is forced to retreat by Lord Rawdon and Cornwallis and their forces. Of the approximately 4,000 American troops, only about 700 are left to rejoin Gates at Hillsboro. Washington writes Thomas Jefferson, governor of Virginia, with news of the heavy loss. George Washington to Thomas Jefferson, September 21, 1780
General Francis Marion and militia attack a British detachment, rescuing the Maryland regiment captured at Camden.
British General Charles Cornwallis begins his invasion of North Carolina.
Washington writes Thomas Jefferson, governor of Virginia, on the state of the Army and on British General Cornwallis's severity in his progress through the south. Washington refers to a letter Cornwallis has written to a fellow British officer, a transcript of which Washington has received, in which Cornwallis outlines punishments for rebels. [The text of Cornwallis's letter is reproduced in annotation in the transcription linked to this document.] Washington closes his letter to Jefferson with a full history of Benedict Arnold's defection to the British. George Washington to Thomas Jefferson, October 10, 1780
The Battle of King's Mountain in North Carolina. Cornwallis sends Major Patrick Ferguson ahead of him to raise loyalist troops in North Carolina. Prior to the march to King's Mountain, Ferguson sends a threatening message ahead that he will lay waste to the land if its inhabitants do not cease resistance. This so angers southern militia that they quickly raise a force and brutally defeat Ferguson and his troops. With King's Mountain, Cornwallis begins to realize that loyalist sentiment has been overestimated in British plans to subdue the south. Washington writes Abner Nash, governor of North Carolina, about the "success of the militia against Col Ferguson." George Washington to Abner Nash, November 6, 1780
Nathanael Greene replaces Horatio Gates as commander of the American southern army. He assumes command in Charlotte, North Carolina. His officers are Brigadier General Daniel Morgan, Lieutenant Colonel William Washington (a cousin of George Washington), and Lieutenant Colonel Henry Lee and his Legion. When Greene arrives in the south, he is appalled at the brutality and extent of the civil war between patriots and loyalists.George Washington's letterbook copy of Benjamin Lincoln's April 21, 1780, letter to Sir Henry Clinton expressing a willingness to discuss terms of surrender of Charleston. George Washington Papers. News from America, or the Patriots in the dumps. 1776 Dec. 1] Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Reproduction #: (color) LC-USZC4-5291
January 1, 1781
The Pennsylvania Continentals mutiny. Washington orders the New Jersey Continentals to march to position themselves between the mutinying troops and the British on Staten Island. Nonetheless, British General Henry Clinton learns of the mutiny and on January 3 gets messengers through to the Pennsylvania Continentals. But the mutineers turn the messengers over to Congress and they are hung as British spies.
January 3, 1781
Washington writes Anthony Wayne with news of the mutiny of the Pennsylvania Continentals. He worries that if Congress removes itself from Philadelphia, apart from the "indignity," it may provoke the mutineers to "wreak their vengeance upon the persons and properties of the citizens. " In his January 7 letter to Henry Knox, Washington gives him instructions on where and how to obtain the supplies and necessities that he hopes will appease the mutineers. Washington describes to Knox the "alarming crisis to which our affairs have arrived by a too long neglect of measures essential to the existence of an Army. " (See below on the mutiny of the New Jersey Continentals January 20) George Washington to Anthony Wayne, January 3, 1781 | George Washington to Henry Knox, January 7, 1781
January 5, 1781
Benedict Arnold invades Richmond, Virginia, and Governor Thomas Jefferson and government officials are forced to flee.
January 16-17, 1781
General Daniel Morgan and Lieutenant Colonel William Washington defeat British Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton's Legion at Cowpens, South Carolina. Tarleton escapes and is pursued unsuccessfully by William Washington and a company on horseback. The expression "Tarleton's Quarter," used by American soldiers during War, refers to the British officer's practice of not giving any, even in surrender. (William Washington is a cousin of George Washington.)
Nathanael Greene (who took command of the Southern Army at Charlotte, North Carolina, December 2, 1780) leads General Charles Cornwallis and his forces on a chase through South and North Carolina.
Greene's path avoids engagements that he cannot win, exhausts Cornwallis and his army, and dangerously lengthens their supply lines. January - February, Greene and Cornwallis race to the Dan River on the Virginia border, with Cornwallis failing to catch up in time to cut off Greene and Colonel Otho Williams and their forces. February 14, Greene and Williams cross the Dan River into Virginia. Washington's March 21 letter to Greene congratulates him on saving his baggage "notwithstanding the hot pursuit of the Enemy," and assures him that his "Retreat before Lord Cornwallis is highly applauded by all Ranks and reflects much honor on your military Abilities." George Washington to Nathanael Greene, March 21, 1781
January 20, 1781
The New Jersey Continentals mutiny. Washington, fearing the total dissolution of the Army, urges severe measures. He is less excusing of this mutiny because, as he writes in a circular letter to the New England state governors, Congress has been working to redress the Continental Army's grievances. Washington orders Robert Howe from West Point to suppress the mutiny and to execute the most extreme ringleaders. Howe forms a court martial that sentences three leaders to be shot by twelve of their fellow mutineers. Two are executed and one pardoned. On January 27, Washington writes the Congressional committee formed to respond to the soldiers' grievances that "having punished guilt and supported authority, it now becomes proper to do justice" and urges the committee to provide the much needed redress. George Washington to the Committee for Resolving the Grievances of the New Jersey Line, January 27, 1781
March 1, 1781
The Articles of Confederation are ratified by Maryland, the last state to ratify, and can now go into effect. The Articles had been sent to the states for ratification in 1777.
May 21-22, 1781
Washington and the Comte de Rochambeau, commander of the French army in Rhode Island, meet in Wethersfield, Connecticut, and agree to appeal to Admiral Francois Joseph Paul, Comte de Grasse, to come north for a combined operation.
May 24, 1781
British General Charles Cornwallis encamps with troops on the Virginia plantation of William Byrd.
June 4, 1781
British Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton nearly captures Thomas Jefferson at Monticello. Jefferson, governor of Virginia, and other state officials flee to the Shenandoah Valley.
July 6, 1781
The French army and its commander Rochambeau, join Washington and his army at Dobb's Ferry, New York. Washington plans a combined assault on the British on Manhattan Island. August 14, he learns that the French fleet, consisting of 34 warships with transports carrying 3200 troops will be arriving in the Chesapeake from the West Indies under the command of Admiral Francois Joseph Paul, Comte de Grasse, and will be available for a combined effort until October 19.
September 18, 1781
Washington, Rochambeau, and de Grasse, meet on the Ville de Paris at Hampton Roads. September 28, their combined forces are arranged for battle against British General Charles Cornwallis at Yorktown.
October 14, 1781
The Americans and French begin bombarding Yorktown. October 16, Cornwallis orders about 1,000 of his troops to attempt an escape across the York River.
October 17, 1781
Cornwallis offers a white flag and negotiations for surrender begin at Moore House in Yorktown.
October 19, 1781
Cornwallis's army surrenders. Washington asks Benjamin Lincoln to receive the surrender. Lincoln had been forced to surrender to British General Henry Clinton at Charleston May 13, 1780. Cornwallis, who is reportedly ill, designates Brigadier General Charles O'Hara to perform the formal surrender in his place. Tradition has it that as the British lay down their arms, their army band played an old Scottish tune adapted to the nursery rhyme, "The World Turned Upside Down."
October 19, 1781
A British fleet leaves New York harbor to come to the aid of Cornwallis in Virginia. Having arrived too late, the fleet hovers about the area for a few days and returns home October 28-30.
October 25, 1781
Washington's general orders declare that free blacks in the area in the wake of the battle of Yorktown should be left to go where they please, while slaves who have followed the British army must be returned to their owners. But the confusion of war allows some slaves an opportunity to gain their freedom in a variety of ways. Some slaves represent themselves as free, while others offer themselves as servants to French and American officers. Washington's general orders indicate that there were difficulties in returning slaves to their pre-war status. George Washington, General Orders, October 25, 1781
November 5, 1781
John Parke ("Jacky") Custis, Washington's stepson, dies of camp fever at Yorktown.
July 10, 1782
Washington writes his former aide Colonel John Laurens. Laurens has failed in his attempt to get permission from the Georgia legislature to raise a regiment of slaves and Washington attributes this to the "selfish Passion" of the legislature. Laurens has been attempting to raise such a regiment since 1779, first in his native South Carolina, then in Georgia. Laurens is killed by the British in a skirmish on August 25, 1782. He is one of the last officer casualties of the war. George Washington to John Laurens, July 10, 1782
August 19, 1782
The Battle of Blue Licks, in the Appalachian west, the British and their Indian allies, the Wyandot, Ottawa, Ojibwa, Shawnee, Mingo, and Delaware inflict heavy casualties and force the retreat of Daniel Boone and the Kentucky militia. In response, George Rogers Clark leads Kentucky militia on an expedition against the British into Ohio country. These are often considered the last formal engagements of the Revolutionary War.
March 13, 1783
Washington addresses mutinous Continental officers at Newburgh, New York. Their pay long in arrears, the officers fear that their pensions will also be unpaid. In December 1782, representative officers from each state's Continental line had sent a petition to Congress insisting on immediate payment and suggesting the substitution of lump sums for pensions. The officers, most of whom are at the army's headquarters at Newburgh, learn that Congress has rejected the petition. Washington calls a meeting of representative officers and staff and delivers a speech and reads an extract from Congress. Referring to the glasses he must wear to read the extract, he says, "Gentleman, you must pardon me. I have grown gray in your service and now find myself growing blind." Washington's gesture defuses the crisis. After he retires from the scene the officers adopt resolutions affirming their loyalty to Congress. March 18, Washington writes Congress an account of the proceedings of the previous days and argues on behalf of the officers' grievances. George Washington to Congress, March 18, 1783
April 18, 1783
Washington's General Orders to the officers and troops of the Continental Army announce the "Cessation of Hostilities between the United States of America and the King of Great Britain." He congratulates the Army, noting that those who have performed the "meanest office" have participated in a great drama "on the stage of human affairs." "Nothing now remains but for the actors of this mighty Scene to preserve a perfect, unvarying, consistency of character through the very last act to close the Drama with applause and to retire from the Military Theatre with the same approbation of Angells and men which have crowned all their former vertuous Actions." George Washington, General Orders, April 18, 1783
April 23, 1783
Washington sends Sir Guy Carleton a copy of the proclamation on the cessation of hostilities. He describes the proclamation as having been received by him from the "Sovereign Power of the United States." Carleton has been appointed by the British government to negotiate the cessation of hostilities and the exchange and liberation of prisoners. George Washington to Guy Carleton, April 21, 1783
November 2, 1783
In Washington's Farewell Orders to the Continental Army, he writes that the "disadvantageous circumstances on our part, under which the war was undertaken can never be forgotten." George Washington, Farewell Orders to the Armies of the United States, November 2, 1783
December 4, 1783
Washington formally parts from officers at Fraunces Tavern, New York City. December 23, at Annapolis where Congress is located, Washington submits his resignation of his military commission as commander in chief. His willing resignation of his military powers and his return to private life are considered striking since democratic republics are thought to be especially vulnerable to military dictatorship. Washington becomes as famous for his willingness to relinquish command as for his successful conduct of it in the War.
December 24, 1783
Washington arrives at Mount Vernon. Something of a "celebrity" after the war, Washington receives letters of approbation from England and Europe as well as from people within the newly formed United States. His acknowledgments of these letters and thoughts on his recently acquired fame can be found in Series 2, Letterbook 11. In this letter to Henry Knox, Washington writes about the heavy burden of correspondence this attention has generated. George Washington to Henry Knox, January 5, 1785
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The Yorktown Campaign ensured American efforts to win independence from Great Britain would end in success, and elevated General George Washington's notoriety as a result of his role directing the victory. Washington's Continental Army, substantially aided by French land and naval forces, surrounded the British southern army under the command of General Charles, Earl of Cornwallis.
The resulting siege at Yorktown forced Cornwallis' surrender and compelled the start of serious negotiations that ended in recognition of American independence at the Peace of Paris. Washington's fame grew to international proportions having wrested such an improbable victory, interrupting his much desired Mount Vernon retirement with greater calls to public service.
By 1781, Washington's already substantial worries over the health, pay, and morale of his Continental Army stationed outside of New York City were worsened by the success of Cornwallis' southern campaign. Cornwallis' tactical victory at Guilford Courthouse (March 15, 1781) left the Americans destitute of funds, soldiers, and morale. Additionally, former Major General Benedict Arnold, a newly crowned British Brigadier after the attempted surrender of his command at West Point, prepared for Cornwallis' arrival by destroying precious Continental supplies in Virginia. Washington could only watch and wait for an opportunity to attack New York, or wait for a British mistake.
The opportunity presented itself when Cornwallis entrenched his army at Yorktown and Gloucester Point on the peninsula of Virginia's York and James Rivers, with the expectation of reinforcement or evacuation. Washington abandoned his preference for action against New York City upon the advice of French Lieutenant General Jean-Baptiste-Donatien de Vimeur, Comte de Rochambeau, and proceeded south against Cornwallis. Washington and Rochambeau swiftly moved southwards while coordinating with elements of the Continental Army located in Virginia under the command of Major General Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, and the French Navy under Admiral Francois Joseph Paul, Comte de Grasse. Lafayette fixed Cornwallis in place while de Grasse kept control of Chesapeake Bay, preventing British naval assistance through his victory at the Battle of the Capes (September 5, 1781). In the process, Washington's combined Franco-American army transported from Head of Elk to the lines outside Yorktown.
On September 14, 1781, as reported by Captain Benjamin Bartholomew, "his Excellency Genrl. Washington arrived at 5:00 P.M. when there was twenty one pieces of Canon fired, he review'd the Troops." 1 Washington's southward journey included a visit to his beloved Mount Vernon, his first since the war began six years earlier, before arriving outside Yorktown to supervise the construction of the Franco-American lines. With the opening of forty-one Allied guns on October 9, 1781, Cornwallis' position, already tenuous, was made so indefensible that surrender negotiations started less than a week later on October 17.
The surrender of over 7,000 British troops on October 19, 1781 did not end the war. The end came in 1783 after Washington moved back to New York City, with the Peace of Paris signed by a British government installed largely as a result of Washington's victory. Victory at Yorktown, however, brought Washington the increased political clout needed to avert a potential officers' rebellion at Newburgh, conduct the remainder of the war, and after a short retirement to Mount Vernon was the logical choice to oversee the Constitutional Convention and become the first President of the United States.
Russell S. Perkins
1. Benjamin Bartholomew, "14 September 1781," Marching to Victory: Capt. Benjamin Bartholomew&rsquos Diary of the Yorktown Campaign, May 1781 to March 1782, ed. E. Lee Shepard (Richmond, VA: Richmond Historical Society, 2002), 22.
Bartholomew, Benjamin. Marching to Victory: Capt. Benjamin Bartholomew&rsquos Diary of the Yorktown Campaign, May 1781 to March 1782 ed. E. Lee Shepard. Richmond, VA: Virginia Historical Society, 2002.
Ellis, Joseph J. His Excellency: George Washington. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004.
Ketchum, Richard M. Victory at Yorktown: The Campaign that Won the Revolution. New York: Henry Holt, 2004.
History LessonA mural at George Washington High School in San Francisco depicts the future founding father on the battlefield during the French and Indian War, including the Jumonville incident at top left. The mural is one of 13 painted on the school walls as part of a New Deal project. Others in the series show Washington as a slave owner, among other roles. The murals were slated to be destroyed after a committee of students, faculty, artists, historians and Native Americans said the paintings glorified colonization and white supremacy. The city’s board of education initially voted to paint over the murals, but hundreds of academics and preservationists protested and signed a petition. Richard Walker, a UC Berkeley professor emeritus who leads the Living New Deal project, insisted that the murals had been designed to show “uncomfortable facts” about the nation’s first president. In August, the school board voted to cover the paintings rather than destroy them. (Jim Wilson / The New York Times / Redux)
The chief warrior complained that after he and his fellow Ohio Iroquois escorted Washington from their encampment in Logstown to Fort LeBoeuf in 1753, Washington “left us there, came through the Woods, and never thought it worth his while to come to Logs Town, or near us and give us any Account of the Speeches that passed between him and the French at the Fort which he promised to do.” Washington had seemed more interested in making his report to Governor Dinwiddie than cultivating Indian allies.
The chief warrior had also witnessed the French takeover of Trent’s Fort in April 1754. He reported that the British had surrendered meekly in the face of 600 French marines and militia—the largest European military force that had yet been seen in the Ohio River Valley. But the chief warrior noted that Tanaghrisson, the “Half King,” had tried to stir up conflict during the surrender, warning the French not to trespass on Ohio Iroquois lands, where he had given permission for the English to build a trading post. Tanaghrisson had even pushed a French officer, and “a Scuffle” ensued. If cooler heads had not prevailed, the chief warrior told the group, “they would not have left one Frenchman alive upon the spot.”
This telling of the story offers an important new angle on the origins of the Jumonville affair. It indicates that the French had humiliated Tanaghrisson, dealing with him as an English puppet and exposing his lack of influence. After the incident, Tanaghrisson’s band of 80 to 100 men, women and children had fled the area, taking refuge with their British allies to the east. Tanaghrisson had a vendetta against a particular French officer named Michel Pépin, also known as La Force. Only a few weeks earlier, La Force had spoken at Tanaghrisson’s settlement of Logstown, threatening his band of Ohio Iroquois that “You have but a short Time to see the Sun, for in Twenty Days You and Your Brothers the English shall all die.” By the end of May 1754, when Tanaghrisson reported to Washington that a French “armey” was on its way to “strike the first English they see,” Tanaghrisson believed that the French—especially the feared La Force—were plotting to kill him and his followers.
The three parties met amid a perfect storm of misunderstandings. The Ohio Iroquois band believed they were being pursued by the French. The French considered themselves diplomats, delivering a summons to the British to leave French lands—much like the summons Washington had delivered to the French some months earlier. And the British were advancing with the information they’d gathered from Tanaghrisson and others, believing the French were coming for them with violent intentions.
A re-enactor dressed as a French marine walks through Jumonville Glen at Fort Necessity. (Allison Shelley)
When it comes to the battle itself, the chief warrior’s account surpasses all other eyewitness accounts in its level of tactical detail. In particular, no other account provides as much insight on how Indian warriors guided the young Washington in his first combat action—an ambush. The Indians directed him to “go up the Hill, straight to the French where they were, not above fifty Yards off, when they must come in Sight of the French Camp below them.”
While the warriors sent the Virginian toward the rocky precipice, the Indians descended into the hollow: “The Half King with his Warriors went to the left to intercept them if they should go that Way, and Monacatootha with another young Warrior Cherokee Jack went to the Right.”
One line from the chief warrior’s speech struck me above all others: “Col. Washington begun himself and fired and then his people.” Washington himself always took responsibility for ordering his company to open fire, but the chief warrior’s report takes this even further, claiming that Washington literally fired the first shot. Perhaps it was a signal to his soldiers and his Indian allies to commence the attack, or perhaps he was taking aim at a French adversary. Either way, if true, it heightens Washington’s moral responsibility in the whole affair.
The chief warrior contended that the French traded volleys with the English, “two or three Fires of as many Pieces as would go off, being rainy Weather.” The French “having taken to their Heels and running, happening to run the Way the Half King was with his Warriors, eight of them met with their Destiny by the Indian Tomayhawks.” The stunned French survivors fled back in the opposite direction, only to run headlong into Monacatootha and Cherokee Jack, who presented the prisoners to Washington, adding that “we had blooded the Edge of his Hatchet a little.”
One Frenchman, named Monceau, managed to slip into the woods and spread news of the skirmish. The rest were now prisoners huddled near the British, hoping that they would not be tomahawked. Three Virginians were wounded—a strong indication that the French had managed to return fire earlier in the battle. One Virginian had been killed.
The chief warrior, however, revealed what Washington failed to report about one of his casualties—that the Virginians “unluckily shot their own Man,” who had gotten ahead of their lines in the chaos of battle.
The chief warrior’s account mentions La Force numerous times, but never Ensign Jumonville—an omission that supports the notion that the Iroquois were more focused on the hated La Force. His account also says nothing of the French reading any summons. It does relate that the Half King angrily shouted at La Force: “You came after me to take my Life and my Children.” He then raised his tomahawk over La Force, declaring, “Now I will let you see that the Six Nations can kill as well as the French.” But according to the chief warrior, La Force took refuge behind Washington, who “interposed” and prevented his death.
Immediately following the skirmish, Tanaghrisson sent French scalps to various Native groups to announce his deed. But if Tanaghrisson had expected this to somehow galvanize Ohio Indians against the French and restore his own authority, he had woefully misjudged the geopolitics of the entire Ohio Valley. By 1754, Ohio Shawnees had already declared “perpetual war” against the English, while other Delaware and Iroquois bands were firmly committed to the French alliance.
Jumonville Glen, the site of the pivotal battle, is now part of Fort Necessity National Battlefield. The boulders in the foreground are called Washington’s Rocks. (Allison Shelley)
The chief warrior’s speech also described what happened after the battle. Washington and his men eventually returned to the Great Meadows, where they began building a fort. According to the chief warrior, Tanaghrisson had encouraged Washington to fortify elsewhere. No Indian warrior wanted to fight a European-style battle in what Tanaghrisson called “that little thing upon the Meadow.” But Washington had few options.
On July 3, 1754, Fort Necessity, as it was called, was attacked by a group of 600 Frenchmen and about 100 of their Indian allies seeking vengeance. The group’s commander, Capt. Louis Coulon de Villiers, was Jumonville’s older brother. Washington’s side suffered severe casualties. The British accepted French terms for an honorable surrender of the post.