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and on July 19 the signatures of Xew York's four re-
maining delegates, William Floyd, Philip Livingston,
Francis Lewis and Lewis Morris, were affixed with the
others to the engrossed copy of the immortal document.
The arrival of the British army.— On July 12,
1776, the advance ships of Lord Howe's fleet began to
arrive. Howe's first step was to assure the Americans
that his mission was a peaceful one. Accordingly he
sent a letter by flag of truce addressed to " Mr. Wash-
ington ". The officers who met the boat bearing the
flag coolly told the bearer that they knew no such per-
son, and the interview closed.

Washington recognized as general.— A later re-
quest for an interview with Washington was granted.
An officer from Lord Howe's staff was allowed to land
and was taken into Washington's presence. This time
he was addressed as " excellency " and the letter which
the officer bore was to " George Washington, Esq., etc.,
etc." The messenger, an officer of high rank, in-
formed Washington that Lord Howe and General Howe

Earl Kkuaud IIowk. 17;

Loud William Howe. 1729-1814

240 The British on Long Island [Period VII

were entrusted with very large discretionary powers,
could grant pardons, etc., etc. To this, reply was
made that Americans did not understand that in ask-
ing for the rights of Englishmen they had been guilty
of "crime"; and so the second effort at negotiations
ended in failure. Americans were not asking for par-
don. There had been a time when they asked for
righU; now they were seeking for independence.

Dilliculty in defendiui^ New York. — All this time
England's great fleet lay in the harbor, — 37 men-of-
war and 400 transports, — a magnificent spectacle. On
these transports were more than 30,000 men, to meet
whom Washington could muster less than 17,000
militia, — undisciplined, poorly armed, most of them
entirely inexperienced in war. To make the case still
more difficult, these troops were necessarily scattered
over an area of many miles. The forts on the Hudson
must be held, for with that river in the hands of the
enemy and with absolutely no communication by sea,
the New England colonies would be entirely separated
from the others. Through his tory allies on shore.
Lord Howe knew perfectly the situation there. So
difficult of defence was the city, that the project of
burning and deserting it was seriously discussed.

The Battle of Long Island, 17;6.~Slowly the
month of July and the first half of August passed.
The heat was intense, and daily, in AYashington's scat-
tered camps, the question was asked, " Where will the
attack be made ? "

A British force had been landed on Staten Island;
the remainder were on the transports. On the morn-


Howe's Mistake


Israel Putnam. 1718-1790

iiig of August 22 the booming of cannon from Long
Island told that the hour of conflict had arrived.
Under cover of the fire from their frigates, the
British troops were being
landed at Gravesend. As
rapidly as possible the patriot
regiments were brought in
from their camps about ^^ew
York and pushed out toward
the enemy. General Israel
Putnam was placed in com-
mand of the main line. On
the 27th the final struggle
came. Superior numbers
enabled Howe to detach a force about the flank of the
American lines, and before Washington could even
reach the field the day was lost.

Washington's first battle a defeat. — It was
Washington's first battle and he had been defeated.
The American loss was severe in killed and wounded,
and many were taken prisoners. But one course was
now open. In the night, quietly but skilfully, the
remnant of the army was withdrawn to New York,
and in the morning, the ragged, dispirited column was
put in motion toward the north.

Howe's mistake. — Howe had won a battle, but like
many another commander had sat down afterward and
failed to reap the fruit of it. With a strong reserve
force and a fleet at his command he could easily have
made Washington's now famous retreat impossible.

Again the question came up for solution, " Shall ^ew
York be defended or abandoned?" To decide this a

242 Another Peace Commissiok [Period YII

council of war was called ; ten voted to evacuate,
three to defend. Among the latter was General George
Clinton, who, when New York was threatened, had im-
mediately left congress at Philadelphia and hastened
home to take his place in the ranks of her defenders.

Another peace commission. — Lord Howe's slow-
ness in occupying Xew York can be accounted for only
on the ground of a sincere desire to bring about a set-
tlement of a quarrel in which he had little heart.

Having now in his hands as prisoners several officers
of the American army, he determined to make one
more effort for peace. For this purpose he chose Gen-
eral Sullivan, asking him to go to Philadelphia and tell
congress that he would be glad to receive a delegation

from that body. Congress
would not officially treat
with Howe, but it agreed to
send a commission to learn
what he had to say. For
this purpose, Dr. Franklin,
John Adams, and Edward
Rutledge were chosen.
They proceeded to Amboy,
Xew Jersey, where Lord
.loHN Adams. 1735-1826 Howc's bargcs wcre Waiting

to carry them to his headquarters on Staten Island.

The interview was a most polite affair. Howe re-
ceived his guests with the greatest courtesy. He spoke
of the regard he felt for Americans since the death of
his elder brother among them, eighteen years before,
on the shore of Lake George. He expressed his strong

1776] New York Dismantled 243

desire to devise some plan by which the mutual suffer-
ings of a protracted war might be averted.

The conversation lasted for four hours, but was as
devoid of results as the former eiforts had been. The
truth again came out that there were but two courses
open to the colonies: one was submission to England,
the other was war. Beyond any doubt Lord Howe
was disappointed. It is reported of him that he paced
his room for hours in deep thought and with a sad
face. Finally his duty as a soldier triumphed. Vig-
orous measures were at once begun, and from that hour
there was no delay in pressing the war.

New York dismantled. — It was now Sept. 12.
The certainty that ISTew York was to be abandoned by
the patriot army led to a scene of wild confusion.
Hundreds of families which had cast in their lot with
the cause of independence still remained. These all
hastily prepared to depart. Homes were abandoned,
the dwellings of the poor and the mansions of the rich

There were sad partings, for old neighbors took
opposite sides and even families were divided. House-
hold effects were carried to the up-river towns or to
the country. Every sott of vehicle or river-craft was
pressed into service. The convention had directed
that everything so far as possible that could be of use
to the enemy should be removed. Even the church
bells were taken down and carted away. In two days
the city presented a scene of desolation hard to imagine.

The final departure. — On Sunday, Sept. 15, the
English began to close in on the northern end of Man-

244 The Final Departure [Period YII

hattan, and the last patriot troops prepared to with-
draw. Along the country roads, where now are New
York's most populous streets, the "ragged continen-
tals " retreated, closely followed by scarlet-coated Brit-
ish. Sharp skirmishes w^ere frequent. An English
force had landed above with the intention of cutting
off the retreat of Washington's rear-guard. There
were too few of them to fight, — too many to be taken.
In this final retreat there were many tragic scenes,
many hair-breadth escapes, and many cases of personal

At the rear of this column was Alexander Hamilton
in command of a battery, with which he did most ex-
cellent service. Conducting the column by side roads
through the woods was Aaron Burr, who knew every
foot of the ground. At her beautiful home on Murray
Hill, Mrs. Murray ^-^ entertained Generals Howe, Clin-
ton, and Cornwallis with wine and cake and gay conver-
sation, while their soldiers rested for two hours among
the shrubbery, and the American rear-guard passed
silently within half a mile. At Harlem Heights the
army went into camp, wet, hungry, weary, disheart-
ened, and night settled down on Xew York in the
hands of the enemy, to remain in their undisputed
possession for seven long, eventful years.


1. New York; Sears, Lee, and Stirling.

2. The defence of New York.

3. Washington in New York.

4. New York elections, 1776, and results.

* The mother of Lindley Murray, the grammarian.

1776] Summary 245

5. The Declaration of Independence; action of New
York; caution of her delegates.

6. Portrait and statue of King George; retaliation.

7. Xames of New York's signers to Declaration.

8. Arrival of British army, 1776.

9. General Howe's correspondence.

10. Reasons for American answer.

11. Proportion and equipment of armies.

12. Landing and battle of Long Island.

13. The great retreat.

14. Howe's second peace commission.

15. New York dismantled.

16. Washington's army retreats from New York.

li/est fhinto^



The First Invasion of New York

Importance of the Hudson.— The struggle for the

possession of the
Hudson necessarily
made New York
the chief battle
ground of the rev-
olution. With great
labor and expense
the river had been
fortified. At the
Palisades was Fort
Lee, and above were
Forts Washington
and Constitution,
Stony Point, Clin-
ton, Independence,
Montgomery, West
Point, AV i 1 1 i a m
Henry, Ticonder-
oga and Crown
Point. To hold all
or as many as pos-
sible was essential
to the American
cause ; their reduc-
tion was necessary
to the English.
Meantime Wash-
ington's little army must be brushed aside.


1776] Battle of Harlem Heights 247

Battle of Harlem Heights, 1776.— The lull sig-
nificance of this engagement has never been half ap-
preciated. On the part of the British, it was an effort
to expel Washington from Manhattan island before he
could fortify. On Washington's part it was an effort
to retrieve the disaster of Long Island. The battle was
fought on Sept. 16 among the rocky forests of Harlem
Heights, embracing that territory now included be-
tween 125th and 150th streets in Xew York city. The
Americans had 4,000 men, the English 6,000, — small
forces as armies are reckoned now, but enough to make
this, among the battles of the revolution, a serious

The English suffered much more severely than the
Americans, and in the end were driven from the field.
Washington now had time to withdraw all military sup-
plies, while from that time forward his raw levies were
soldiers, feeling themselves, man for man, more than
a match for the British regulars opposed to them.

For three weeks Washington's army occupied its
position on this battle-field unmolested, while all the
city to the south was in the hands of the enemy.

New York's first great lire, 1776. — It was during
these weeks that Xew York city was visited with its
first great conflagration. In the night of Sept. 21,
while the wind was blowing a gale from the south, a
fire started from a house in which there was a drunken
carousal. It spread rapidly to the north and west,
crossed Broadway, and consumed many of the finest
buildings in the city, among them Trinity church and
the Charity school. When morning dawned, nearly all
the city west of Broadway was in ruins.

248 :Nathan Hale [Period VII

The story of Nathan Hale. — On the morning
after the fire, Sei3t. 22, Nathan Hale, the spy, was
brought to Xew York, a prisoner. It was necessary
for Washington to know something of the movements
and plans of Lord Howe. For this dangerous errand,
Nathan Hale, a young captain in a Massachusetts
regiment, volunteered. He was but twenty-one years
of age, handsome, talented, a graduate of Yale col-
lege, in every way a most promising young man. Dis-
guised as a country school teacher he made his way to
Connecticut, crossed to Long Island, visited the Eng-
lish army lying there, obtained all the needed informa-
tion, and was well on his way back to Washington's
headquarters when he was detected. When brought
before Lord Howe he frankly admitted his character
and position in the American army, and received his
sentence as became a christian soldier. By the officer
in charge of his guard, one Cunningham, he was denied
a Bible, for which he had asked; and the letters which
he had written to his mother and his sweetheart were
torn and burned before his eyes. His brave heart did
not fail when the hour of his execution came, and his
last words, " I only regret that I have but one life to
lose for my country," have since his day inspired many
an American soldier.

Death of Governor Colden. — On the day of

Nathan Hale's capture, the venerable Dr. Colden
passed away at his country seat near Flushing, Long
Island. For many years he had been identified with
the history of our State. At the outbreak of the

1776] Loss OF THE Lower Hudson 249

revolution he retired to his country home, and took no
further active interest in public affairs.

From Harlem Heights to White Plains, 1776.

— Early in October Howe began his movement up the
Hudson. He had failed to drive the American army
from its position; he now proposed get in the rear of
it. Had Washington obligingly sat still, that feat could
easily have been accomplished.

The obstructions which had been placed in the Hud-
son were removed, and Howe's army moved northward
on its transports, its frigates always conveniently near.
The first attempt to make a landing was successfully
resisted. The next day, Oct. 13, the landing was
effected. Washington was already there with his camp
strongly entrenched. A few days later, Oct. 29, Lord
Howe made an unsuccessful attempt to dislodge Wash-
ington from his position at W^hite Plains, but, it being
evident that the place would not long be tenable, the
Americans withdrew to the heights of Xorth Castle.

Loss of Fort Washington. — Still hoping to main-
tain a foot-hold on Manhattan Island, Washington had
strongly fortified Fort Washington (now 183d street),
and left there a garrison of 2,800 men under command
of a trusted officer. Colonel Robert Magaw. On the
night of Xov. 2, a traitor. Adjutant William Demont,
left the fort and took to Lord Howe a full descrijjtion
of the works, with the strength of the garrison and
plans for its capture. Magaw made a brave defence
but was finally obliged to capitulate.

250 Operations ox Lake Champlain [Period VII

The loss of Fort Washington involved the fall of
Fort Lee opposite and opened the lower Hudson to the
passage of British ships. This virtually closed opera-
tions in Xew York for the winter.

Following these events, came the long, weary retreat
through Xew Jersey, the stirring battles at Trenton
and Princeton, and the sad winter at Morristown,
where Washington's army dwindled to a handful of
half -clothed, unpaid, but resolute men.

Arnold on Lake Cliamplain^ 1776. — With New
York City, the bay and lower Hudson in the hands of
the British, it was considered certain that an invasion
would also be made from Canada.

To provide against this, General Gates had been
placed in command of the northern department; the
remnant of the force which had escaped from Quebec
was retained at Ticonderoga. Small re-inforcements
were sent to their support, and Arnold was placed in
command, with instructions to prepare such a fleet as
he was able, to resist the enemy if possible, and if not,
to retard him as much as possible.

By the middle of August he had ready a little squad-
ron consisting of one sloop, three schooners, and five
gondolas, carrying all told, 45 guns. With these he
set out to meet the expected enemy. At Windmill
Point he anchored his vessels in a line across the lake
and waited. A small scouting party which he sen,t
out was attacked and repulsed with considerable loss.
Already short of men to defend his position, he retired
to Valcour Island, when he determined to give battle.

177G] A Glorious Eetreat 251

On Oct. 11 the enemy nnder Carleton appeared with a
formidable force; one large
ship, two schooners, a large
raft, one gondola, 20 gun-
boats, four longboats and 44
smaller boats loaded with
supplies. With the flotilla
were 1,700 seamen well

It was a desperate odds,
but Arnold never counted
Sir Guy cakleton. ir24-i808 numbers. The battle began
at noon and lasted until five o'clock, when the British
retired. It was a fortunate respite, for Arnold's little
fleet was nearly annihilated, and at least one-half its
defenders were killed or wounded.

In the night, all that remained were skilfully re-
moved to Schuyler's Island, farther up the lake, where
two days later the battle was renewed. In the end,
nothing was left of Arnold's fleet but the sloop and
four gondolas. These he ran into a small creek ten
miles from Crown Point. Then setting them on fire
with their flags still flying, he defended them until
they were enveloped in flames, when with his little
band of survivors he retreated to Crown Point.

Pursued by Indians, and unable to hold even that
post, on the following night Arnold retired to Ticon-
deroga. He had been defeated; but for the British, it
was like their victory at Bunker Hill, — all the glory
clung to the vanquished.

Carleton retired down the lake and the first invasion
of Xew York was at an end.

252 Midnight of the Eeyolution [Period VII

Defence of the Hudson. — In the year 1776, two
vessels ordered by congress were built at Poughkeepsie
in the continental ship-yards of Van Zandt, Lawrence,
and Tudor. These were the '^ Montgomery ^\ 24 guns,
and the " Congress^ \ 28 gans.

This company also built the great " booms " across
the Hudson, one at Anthony's Xose, the entrance to
the Highlands, and the other at West Point. These
"booms" were immense iron chains borne on floats
made of pitch-pine logs sharpened at both ends. Parts
of these are still preserved at AVest Point and Xewburg.

British prisons. — One of the sad features of war
is the lack of care given to prisoners. The lot of the
soldier in active service is hard; but the fate of the
prisoner of war is usually much harder.

Early in the revolution arrangements for exchange
of prisoners were made, but unfortunately the British
still held many, as the Americans had few to give in
exchange. The Americans taken at Quebec were
treated with great kindness, but Xew York became a
city of prisons, containing more than 5,000 men who
had been taken in the operations about Xew York and
by British privateers.

Many were confined in churches, under conditions
which soon made them charnel-houses. Worse than
the churches were the damp warehouses where men
spent the winter without fires or blankets or suitable
food. But more dreadful than all other places were
the prison ships at Wallabout, where in old, rotten
hulks, men never saw the light of day, and died, feel-
ing that they were forgotten of God and man.

1777] Disaster kxit them closer 253

The midnight of the revolution^ 1776-1777. —

When the new year dawned there seemed for the
Americans scarcely a ray of hope. Howe had indeed
been driven from Boston, but he had taken Xew York,
— a more important position. In many small engage-
ments the Americans had held a much larger force at
bay. They had won some insignificant victories under
circumstances which proved their valor. But Wash-
ington had been driven from Xew York, and the enemy
held sway over the entire vicinity.

There was then little prospect of European inter-
vention. Nowhere was there an organized, disciplined,
paid army, capable of making offensive warfare. In
the cantonments about Morristown, X. J., and in the
forts that guarded the Hudson and the northern lakes,
the ragged remnant of the American army awaited the
spring. In Philadelphia, congress "advised'' and
hoped. The Xew York convention kept up a form of
government and made it respected. To the observer
there was not one sign of promise.

Still deep in the hearts of the people burned the un-
quenchable fires of patriotism; and while England
planned with the opening of spring to make what was
thought to be her last, decisive campaign, the undis-
mayed colonists were knitting still closer the bonds of
union, and laying deeper and broader the foundations
of that free government to which they had pledged
their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.


1. Forts on Hudson.

2. Battle of Harlem Heights.

254 Summary [Period VII

3. New York's great fire, 1776; story of Nathan

4. Ex-Governor Golden.

5. The retreat to White Plains and North Gastle.

6. Fort Washington taken.

7. Arnold on Lake Ghamplain.

8. Defence of the Hudson; importance of.

9. British prisons.

10. Midnight of the revolution.


The CoNSTiTL'Tiox of 1T7?

New York a severe sufferer. — On no other colony
had the war pressed so heavily as upon Xew York.
Shut off completely from the sea, her chief city al-
ready ruined and in the hands of the enemy, threatened
with invasion both from Canada and from the sea-
board, with thousands of hostile savages dwelling
within her borders, with a large tory element keeping
the enemy constantly informed of every intended
movement, the winter was indeed a night of gloom.
Yet at Kingston, almost within hearing of the drums
of the enemy, her convention of representatives pre-
pared for the coming struggle and framed the govern-
ment of the future State in sublime confidence that
independence would yet be achieved.

Migrations of the conveiitioii. — While active mil-
itary operations were being carried on in Xew York
city and in its vicinity, the convention had of neces-
sity been a migratory body. From the city it had re-
moved successively to White Plains, to Harlem, to
Kingsbridge, to Phiiipse Manor, to Fishkill, and
finally to Kingston.

To the faithful, patriotic labors of this legislative
body, Xew Y^ork owes much. As the successor of the
old colonial assembly and the Xew York colonial con-


256 The Constitution of 17?7 [Period VII

gress, it conducted the affairs of the colony safely
through a most critical period of our history, and, as
its final act, established the first constitution of the
State at Kingston, in 1777.

The constitution of 1777.— The convention hav-
ing by a solemn resolution declared that the " reasons
assigned by the continental congress for declaring
the united colonies free and independent States are
cogent and conclusive ", appointed a committee to pre-
pare a form of government.

This committee, appointed Aug. 1, 1770, was com-
posed of the following members:

John Jay, John Sloss Hobart, William Smith, Wil-
liam Duer, Gouverneur Morris, Eobert R. Livingston,
John Browne, John Morin Scott, Abraham Yates, Jr.,
Henry Wisner, Samuel Townsend, Charles DeWitt,
Robert Yates.

The committee took until March 12, 1777, for the
preparation of this great document, and on that day
reported New York's first constitution. This was dis-
cussed by the convention until April 20, when it was
adopted. The framers of this constitution affirmed
the sovereignty of the people, the freedom of every
citizen from any interference whatsoever except by
authority of the people, and declared that the object
of government was the safety and happiness of the

Jay, Livingston, Morris. — The constitution was
really the work of three very young men. These
were Jay, who was thirty-two, Livingston who was
thirty, and Morris who was but twenty-five years of


Jay, Livingsto:n^, Morris


.lOHN Jay. 1745-1829

age. These men were from the wealthiest families

in the State, and each
had received the best edu-
cation the times afforded.
Had they not chosen t o
peril their lives and to sac-
rifice their fortunes in the
cause of liberty, they would
have been certain of royal
favor and great political

The constitution having
been adopted, the next step was to publish it to the

people. For this purpose,
the ringing of the church
bell called them together,
and standing upon a barrel
in front of the courthouse
Egbert Benson, the secretary,
proceeded to read in a clear,
full voice the immortal docu-
ment. Three thousand copies
were ordered printed for gen-
eral distribution.

Egbert Benson. 1746-1883

Its provisions.— Although the constitution of 1777

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