WHAT ABOUT THE CONTINENTAL ARMY ON JULY 4, 1776?
The story of Thomas Jefferson's painstaking authorship of the Declaration of Independence, and John Hancock's renowned signature of approval, are known to every school child in America. Yet, no mention is made of the Continental Army's plight that July. What was their story?
Following the battles of Lexington, Concord, Bunker Hill, and Dorchester Heights, General George Washington became aware that the British would evacuate Boston and regroup in Halifax, Canada. There, they would make plans to take New York City and control of the Hudson River to cut New England off from the rest of the colonies.
Determined to foil the attempt, Washington urgently marched the Continental Army to New York. There was no time to waste in preparing for the arrival of the enemy.
Meanwhile, in the South, British warships assembled in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina with plans to take Charleston and Savannah and simultaneously get a firm hold of the South. In response, Washington sent a portion of his Continental troops. The British were unsuccessful in this attempt, and instead sailed the warships North to put full focus on the pending campaign in New York.
For Washington and his army all was at stake. Then, a smallpox outbreak took down a substantial portion of his troops. The constant lack of supplies, food, and pay dismayed the troops strong enough to fight. Desertions became rampant.
Though Washington and his generals had, for many months, urged Congress for a formal declaration of separation from the Mother Country, the situation now before them was dire. Establishing that Independence was always a long-shot. Now, it appeared impossible.
British Admiral Richard Howe arrived in New York Harbor with a portion of his fleet and the British Army on June 29. Shortly after, 175 more British warships arrived.
On July 9, a copy of the Declaration of Independence arrived in New York from Philadelphia. Washington read it to his troops and sent copies to his generals. It proved to encourage the men. Perhaps now, as an officially declared new nation, other countries would show their respect by way of support. Perhaps now, each new state within this newly established union would take it upon themselves to properly equip and support the troops in the field.
Anticipating the British attack to be on Long Island, Washington put Gen. Nathanael Greene in command of strengthening the fortification at Brooklyn Heights, and implementing tactics for it's defense. Greene was ready -- even establishing the patrol of the lesser used road, Jamaica Pass, to keep on top of any British movement.
The Continental Army waited for the imminent attack. Days turned into weeks. As the British increased their strength --45 more ships and 3,000 more troops by mid-August. Upon viewing the British Warships, a Continental solider declared "All London is afloat!
General Nathanael Greene remained diligent in patrolling the back roads to fend off a surprise attack at Brooklyn Heights.
The troops had recovered from the pox. All was in readiness...
(Museum of the American Revolution)