BATTLE OF LONG ISLAND. - When Howe sailed from Boston (in March, 1776), he went to Halifax in Nova Scotia. But Washington was sure New York would be attacked, so he moved the Continental army to that city and took position on the hills back of Brooklyn on Long Island.

He was not mistaken, for to New York harbor in June came General Howe, and in July Clinton from his defeat at Charleston, and Admiral Howe [1] with troops from England. Thus reinforced, General Howe landed on Long Island in August, and drove the Americans from their outposts, back to Brooklyn. [2] Washington now expected an assault, but Howe remembered Bunker Hill and made ready to besiege the Americans, whereupon two nights after the battle Washington crossed with the army to Manhattan Island. [3]

WASHINGTON'S RETREAT. - Washington left a strong force under Putnam in the heart of New York city, and stationed his main army along Harlem Heights. Howe crossed to Manhattan and landed behind Putnam, [4] who was thus forced to leave his guns and tents, and flee to Harlem Heights, where Howe attacked Washington the next day and was repulsed.

So matters stood for nearly a month, when Howe attempted to go around the east end of Washington's line, and thus forced him to retreat to White Plains. Baffled in an attack at this place, Howe went back to New York and carried Fort Washington by storm, taking many prisoners.

Washington meantime had crossed the Hudson to New Jersey, leaving General Charles Lee with seven thousand men in New York state. He now ordered Lee to join him [5]; but Lee disobeyed, and Washington, closely pursued by the British, retreated across New Jersey.

THE VICTORY AT TRENTON, DECEMBER 26, 1776. - On the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River, Washington turned at bay, and having at last received some reënforcements, he recrossed the Delaware on Christmas night in a blinding snowstorm, marched nine miles to Trenton, surprised a body of Hessians, captured a thousand prisoners, and went back to Pennsylvania.

Washington now proposed to follow up this victory with other attacks. But a new difficulty arose, for the time of service of many of the Eastern troops would expire on January 1. These men were therefore asked to serve six weeks longer, and were offered a bounty of ten dollars a man.

ROBERT MORRIS SENDS MONEY. - Many agreed to serve, but the paymaster had no money. Washington therefore pledged his own fortune, and appealed to Robert Morris at Philadelphia. [6] "If it be possible, Sir," he wrote, "to give us assistance, do it; borrow money while it can be done, we are doing it upon our private credit." Morris responded at once, and on New Year's morning, 1777, went from house to house, roused his friends from their beds to borrow money from them, and early in the day sent fifty thousand dollars.

BATTLE OF PRINCETON, JANUARY 3, 1777. - Washington crossed again to Trenton, whereupon Lord Cornwallis hurried up with a British army, and shut in the Americans between his forces and the Delaware. But Washington slipped out, went around Cornwallis, and the next morning attacked three British regiments at Princeton and beat them. He then took possession of the hills at Morristown, where he spent the rest of the winter.

THE ATTEMPT TO CUT OFF NEW ENGLAND. - The British plan for the campaign of 1777 was to seize Lake Champlain and the Hudson River and so cut off New England from the Middle States. To carry out this plan, (1) General Burgoyne was to come down from Canada, (2) Howe was to go up the Hudson from New York and join Burgoyne at Albany, and (3) St. Leger was to go from Lake Ontario down the Mohawk to Albany. [7]

ORISKANY. - Hearing of the approach of St. Leger, General Herkimer of the New York militia gathered eight hundred men and hurried to the relief of Fort Stanwix. Near Oriskany, about six miles from the fort, he fell into an ambuscade of British and Indians, and a fierce hand-to-hand fight ensued, till the Indians fled and the British, forced to follow, left the Americans in possession of the field, too weak to pursue.

Just at this time the garrison of the fort made a sortie against part of the British army, captured their camp, and carried a quantity of supplies and their flags [8] back to the fort.

When news of Oriskany reached Schuyler, the patriot general commanding in the north, he called for a volunteer to lead a force to relieve Fort Stanwix. Arnold responded, and with twelve hundred men hurried westward, and by a clever ruse [9] forced St. Leger to raise the siege and flee to Montreal.

BENNINGTON. - Burgoyne set out in June, captured Ticonderoga, and advanced to the upper Hudson. As he came southward, the sturdy farmers of Vermont and New York began to gather on his flank, and collected at Bennington many horses and large stores of food and ammunition. As Burgoyne needed horses, he sent a force of Hessians to attack Bennington. But Stark, with his Green Mountain Boys and New Hampshire militia, met the Hessians six miles from town, surrounded them on all sides, beat them, and took seven hundred prisoners and quantities of guns and some cannon (August 16).

SARATOGA. - These defeats were serious blows to Burgoyne, around whose army the Americans had been gathering. He decided, however, to fight, crossed the Hudson, and about the middle of September attacked the Americans at Bemis Heights, and again on the same ground early in October. [10] He was beaten in both battles and on October 17 was forced to surrender at Saratoga.

BATTLE OF BRANDYWINE. - What, meantime, had Howe been doing? He should have pushed up the Hudson to join Burgoyne. But he decided to capture Philadelphia before going north, and having put his army on board a fleet, he started for that city by sea. Not venturing to enter the Delaware, he sailed up Chesapeake Bay and two weeks after landing found Washington awaiting him on Brandywine Creek, where (September 11, 1777) a battle was fought and won by the British. Among the wounded was Marquis de Lafayette, [11] who earlier in the year had come from France to offer his services to Congress.

PHILADELPHIA OCCUPIED. - Two weeks later Howe entered Philadelphia in triumph. [12] Congress had fled to Lancaster, and later went to York, Pennsylvania. Washington now attacked Howe at Germantown (just north of Philadelphia), but was defeated and went into winter quarters at Valley Forge, where the patriots suffered greatly from cold and hunger. [13]

RESULT OF THE CAMPAIGN. - The year's campaign was far from a failure. [14] The surprise at Trenton and the victory at Princeton showed that Washington was a general of the first rank. The defeats at Brandywine and Germantown did not dishearten the army. The victory at Saratoga was one of the decisive campaigns of the world's history; for it ruined the plans of the British [15] and secured us the aid of France.

HELP FROM FRANCE, 1778. - In 1776 Congress commissioned Benjamin Franklin, Arthur Lee, and Silas Deane to go to France and seek her help. France, smarting under the loss of Louisiana and Canada (1763), would gladly have helped us; but not till the victories at Trenton, Princeton, Oriskany, and Saratoga could she feel sure of the ability of the Americans to fight. Then the French king recognized our independence, and in February, 1778, made with us a treaty of alliance and went to war with Great Britain.

The effect of the French alliance was immediate. France began to fit out a fleet and army to help us. Hearing of this, Clinton, who had succeeded Howe in command at Philadelphia, left that city with his army and started for New York.

MONMOUTH, JUNE 28, 1778. - Washington decided to pursue, and as Clinton, hampered by an immense train of baggage, moved slowly across New Jersey, he was overtaken by the Americans at Monmouth. Charles Lee [16] was to begin the attack, and Washington, coming up a little later, was to complete the defeat of the enemy. But Lee was a traitor, and having attacked the British, began a retreat which would have lost the day had not Washington come up just in time to lead a new attack. The battle raged till nightfall, and in the darkness Clinton slipped away and went on to New York.

Washington now crossed the Hudson, encamped at White Plains, and during three years remained in that neighborhood, constantly threatening the British in New York. [17]

BEGINNING OF THE NAVY. - More than three years had now passed since the fight at Lexington, and here let us stop and review what the Americans had been doing at sea. At the outset, the colonists had no warships at all. Congress therefore (in December, 1775) ordered thirteen armed vessels to be built at once, bought merchant ships to serve as cruisers, and thus created a navy of thirty vessels before the 4th of July, 1776. [18]

Eight of the cruisers were quickly assembled at Philadelphia, and early in January, 1776, Esek Hopkins, commander in chief, stepped on board of one of them and took command. As he did so, Lieutenant John Paul Jones hoisted a yellow silk flag on which was the device of a pine tree and a coiled rattlesnake and the motto "Don't tread on me." This was the first flag ever displayed on an American man-of-war. Ice delayed the departure of the squadron; but in February it put to sea, went to the Bahama Islands, captured the forts on the island of New Providence, and carried off a quantity of powder and cannon.

CAPTAIN BARRY. - Soon afterward another cruiser, the sixteen-gun brig Lexington, Captain John Barry, [19] fell in with a British armed vessel off the coast of Virginia, and after a sharp engagement captured her. She was the first prize brought in by a commissioned officer of the American navy.

THE CRUISERS IN EUROPE. - In 1777 the cruisers carried the war into British ports and waters, across the Atlantic. The Reprisal (which had carried Franklin to France), under Captain Wilkes, in company with two other vessels, sailed twice around Ireland, made fifteen prizes, and alarmed the whole coast. [20] Another cruiser, the Revenge, scoured British waters, and when in need of repairs boldly entered a British port in disguise and refitted.

In 1778 John Paul Jones, [21] in the Ranger, sailed to the Irish Channel, destroyed four vessels, set fire to the shipping in a British port, fought and captured a British armed schooner, sailed around Ireland with her, and reached France in safety.

The next year (1779) Jones, in the Bonhomme Richard (bo-nom' re-shar'), fell in with the British frigate Serapis off the east coast of Great Britain, and on a moonlight night fought one of the most desperate battles in naval history and won it.


THE FRIGATES. - Of the thirteen frigates ordered by Congress in 1775, only four remained by the end of 1778. Some were captured at sea, some were destroyed to prevent their falling into British hands, and one blew up while gallantly fighting. Of the cruisers bought in 1775, only one remained. Other purchases at home and abroad were made, but three frigates were captured and destroyed at Charleston in 1779, and by the end of the year our navy was reduced to six vessels. During the war 24 vessels of the navy were lost by capture, wreck, or destruction. The British navy lost 102.

THE PRIVATEERS. - So far we have considered only the American navy - the warships owned by the government. Congress also (March, 1776) issued letters of marque, or licenses to citizens to fit out armed vessels and make war on British ships armed or unarmed; and the sea soon swarmed with privateers fitted out, not only by citizens but also by the states. The privateers were active throughout the war, and took hundreds of prizes.


1. After the British left Boston, Washington moved his army to Long Island, where he was attacked by the British and driven up the Hudson to White Plains.

2. Later in the year (1776), Washington crossed the Hudson and retreated through New Jersey to Pennsylvania; then he turned about, won the battles of Trenton (December 26, 1776) and Princeton (January 3, 1777), and spent the rest of the winter in New Jersey.

3. The British plan for the campaign of 1777 was to cut off New England from the Middle States; Burgoyne was to come down from Canada and meet Howe, who was to move up the Hudson.

4. Burgoyne lost several battles, and was forced to surrender at Saratoga (October 17, 1777).

5. Howe put off going up the Hudson till too late; instead, he defeated Washington at Brandywine Creek (September 11, 1777), and captured Philadelphia. Washington then attacked Howe at Germantown, was defeated, and spent the winter at Valley Forge.

6. After Burgoyne's surrender, France recognized our independence (February, 1778) and joined us in the war.

7. Fearing a French attack on New York, the British left Philadelphia (June, 1778); Washington followed and fought the battle of Monmouth; but the British went on to New York, and for three years Washington remained near that city.

8. Congress, in December, 1775, created a little navy; but some of these vessels never got to sea; others under Hopkins and Barry won victories during 1776.

9. In 1777 the cruisers were sent to British waters and under Wilkes and others harried British coasts.

10. In 1778 Paul Jones sailed around Ireland and in 1779 he won his great victory in the Bonhomme Richard.


[1] Admiral Howe now wrote to Washington, offering pardon to all persons who should desist from rebellion; he addressed the letter to "George Washington, Esq.," and sent it under flag of truce. The messenger was told there was no one in the army with that title. A week later another messenger came with a paper addressed "George Washington, Esq. etc. etc." This time he was received; and when Washington declined to receive the letter, explained that "etc. etc." meant everything. "Indeed," said Washington, "they might mean anything." He was determined that Howe should recognize him as commander in chief of the Continental army, and not treat him as the leader of rebels.

[2] Many of the prisoners taken in this and other battles were put on board ships anchored near Brooklyn. Their sufferings in these "Jersey prison ships" were terrible, and many died and were buried on the beach. From these rude graves their bones from time to time were washed out. At last in 1808 they were taken up and decently buried near the Brooklyn navy yard, and in 1873 were put in a vault in Washington Park, Brooklyn.

[3] While Washington was near New York, a young man named Nathan Hale volunteered to enter the British lines on Long Island to procure information greatly needed. As he was returning he was recognized by a Tory kinsman, was captured, tried as a spy, and hanged. His last words were: "I regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."

[4] When Howe, marching across Manhattan Island, reached Murray Hill, Mrs. Lindley Murray sent a servant to invite him to luncheon. The army was halted, and Mrs. Murray entertained Howe and his officers for two hours. It was this delay that enabled Putnam to escape.

[5] Charles Lee was in general command at Charleston during the attack on Fort Moultrie, and when he joined Washington at New York, was thought a great officer. Lee was jealous, hoped to be made commander in chief, and purposely left Washington to his fate. Later Lee crossed to New Jersey and took up his quarters at Basking Ridge, not far from Morristown, where the British captured him (December 13, 1776).

[6] Robert Morris was born at Liverpool, England, but came to Philadelphia as a lad and entered on a business career, and when the Revolution opened, was a man of means and influence. He signed the non-importation agreement of 1765, and signed the Declaration of Independence, and at this time (December, 1776) was a leading member of Congress. A year later, when the army was at Valley Forge, he sent it as a gift a large quantity of food and clothing. In 1781 Morris was made Superintendent of Finance, and in order to supply the army in the movement against Yorktown, lent his notes to the amount of $1,400,000. In 1781 he founded the Bank of North America, which is now the oldest bank in our country. After the war Morris was a senator from Pennsylvania. He speculated largely in Western lands, lost his fortune, and from 1798 to 1802 was a prisoner for debt. He died in 1806.

[7] Read the story of Jane McCrea in Fiske's American Revolution, Vol. I, pp. 277-279.

[8] These flags were hoisted on the fort and over them was raised the first flag of stars and stripes ever flung to the breeze. Congress on June 14, 1777, had adopted our national flag. The flag at Fort Stanwix was made of pieces of a white shirt, a blue jacket, and strips of red flannel. The day was August 6.

[9] The story runs that several Tory spies were captured and condemned to death, but one named Cuyler was spared by Arnold on condition that he should go to the camp of St. Leger and say that Burgoyne was captured and a great American army was coming to relieve Fort Stanwix. Cuyler agreed, and having cut what seemed bullet holes in his clothes, rushed into the British camp, crying out that a large American army was at hand, and that he had barely escaped with life. The Indians at once began to desert, the panic spread to the British, and the next day St. Leger was fleeing toward Lake Ontario.

[10] The second battle is often called the battle of Stillwater. Shortly before this Congress removed Schuyler from command and gave it to Gates, who thus reaped the glory of the whole campaign. In both battles Arnold greatly distinguished himself. He won the first fight and was wounded in the second.

[11] Lafayette was a young French nobleman who, fired by accounts of the war in America, fitted out a vessel, and despite the orders of the French king escaped and came to Philadelphia, and offered his services to Congress. With him were De Kalb and eleven other officers. Two gallant Polish officers, Pulaski and Kosciusko, had come over before this time. Kosciusko had been recommended to Washington by Franklin, then in France; he was made a colonel in the engineer corps and superintended the building of the American fortifications at Bemis Heights. After the war he returned to Poland, and long afterward led the Poles in their struggle for liberty.

[12] An interesting novel on this period of the war is Dr. S. W. Mitchell's Hugh Wynne.

[13] At Valley Forge Baron Steuben joined the army. He was an able German officer who had seen service under Frederick the Great of Prussia, and had been persuaded by the French Minister of Foreign Affairs to come to America and help to organize and discipline the army. He landed in New Hampshire late in 1777, and spent the dreadful winter at Valley Forge in drilling the troops, teaching them the use of the bayonet, and organizing the army on the European plan. After the war New York presented Steuben with a farm of 16,000 acres not far from Fort Stanwix. There he died in 1794.

[14] Certain officers and members of Congress plotted during 1777 to have Washington removed from the command of the army. For an account of this Conway Cabal read Fiske's American Revolution, Vol. II, pp. 34-43.

[15] Great Britain now sent over commissioners to offer liberal terms of peace, - no taxes by Parliament, no restrictions on trade, no troops in America without consent of the colonial assemblies, even representation in Parliament, - but the offer was rejected. Why did the commissioners fail? Read Fiske's American Revolution, Vol. II, pp. 4-17, 22-24.

[16] Lee had been exchanged for a captured British general, and came to Valley Forge in May. From papers found after his death we know that while a prisoner he advised Howe as to the best means of conquering the states. For his conduct in the battle and insolence to Washington after it, Lee was suspended from the army for one year, but when he wrote an insolent letter to Congress, he was dismissed from the army.

[17] A French fleet of twelve ships, under Count d'Estaing, soon arrived near New York. It might perhaps have captured the British fleet in the harbor; but without making the attempt D'Estaing went on to Newport to attempt the capture of a British force which had held that place since December, 1776. Washington sent Greene and Lafayette with troops to assist him, the New England militia turned out by thousands, and all seemed ready for the attack, when a British fleet appeared and D'Estaing went out to meet it. A storm scattered the vessels of the two squadrons, and D'Estaing went to Boston for repairs, and then to the West Indies.

[18] Six of the thirty never got to sea, but were captured or destroyed when the British took New York and Philadelphia. Our navy, therefore, may be considered at the outset to have consisted of 24 vessels, mounting 422 guns. Great Britain at that time had 112 war vessels, carrying 3714 guns, and 78 of these vessels were stationed on or near our coast.

[19] John Barry was a native of Ireland. He came to America at thirteen, and at twenty-five was captain of a ship. At the opening of the war he offered his services to Congress, and in February, 1776, was given command of the Lexington. After his victory Barry was transferred to the 28-gun frigate Effingham, and in 1777 (while blockaded in the Delaware), with 27 men in four boats captured and destroyed a 10-gun schooner and four transports. For this he was thanked by Washington. When the British captured Philadelphia, Barry took the Effingham up the river to save her; but she was burned by the British. At different times Barry commanded several other ships, and in 1782, in the Alliance, fought the last action of the war. In 1794 he was senior captain of the navy, with the title of commodore. He died in 1803.

[20] When these ships returned to France with the prizes, the British government protested so vigorously that the Reprisal and the Lexington were seized and held till security was given that they would leave France. The prizes were ordered out of port, were taken into the offing, and then quietly sold to French merchants. The Reprisal on her way home was lost at sea. The Lexington was captured and her men thrown into prison. They escaped by digging a hole under the wall, and were on board a vessel in London bound for France, when they were discovered and sent back to prison. A year later one of them, Richard Dale, escaped by walking past the guards in daylight, dressed in a British uniform. He never would tell how he got the uniform.

[21] John Paul, Jr., was born in Scotland in 1747. He began a seafaring life when twelve years old and followed it till 1773, when he fell heir to a plantation in Virginia on condition that he should take the name of Jones. Thereafter he was known as John Paul Jones. In 1775 Jones offered his services to Congress, assisted in founding our navy, and in December, 1775, was commissioned lieutenant. He died in Paris in 1792, but the whereabouts of his grave was long unknown. In 1905, however, the United States ambassador to France (Horace Porter) discovered the body of Jones, which was brought with due honors to the United States and deposited at the Naval Academy at Annapolis. Porter's account of how the body was found may be read in the Century Magazine for October, 1905. Jones is the hero of Cooper's novel called The Pilot.

[22] The wording on the medal may be translated as follows: "The American Congress to John Paul Jones, fleet commander - for the capture or defeat of the enemy's ships off the coast of Scotland, Sept. 23, 1779."