The George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress
Time Line: The American Revolution
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- January 3, 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 from Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Springfield,
Mass.: Taber-Prang Art Co., c1900. Reproduction #: (b&w) LC-USZ62-469
April 12, 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, 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, Washington moves his headquarters to Middlebrook, south of Morristown.
June 20, 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, the British evacuate New Brunswick, New Jersey, to Amboy, and then back to Staten
June 27, 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.
July, 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, 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, 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, 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, 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.
standing in uniform with horse in front of tents.
c1858. 1 print.
Halpin, John, fl.
from Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.
August 16, 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, 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, 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
October 3, 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, 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, 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
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, 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.
[Burgoyne's surrender at Saratoga]
c1911. 1 photomechanical print
from Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.
Reproduction #: LC-USZ62-19709(b&w film copy neg.)
October 19, Howe and the British enter Philadelphia. Congress has fled to York,
British General Henry Clinton's Invasion of the Highlands
September 24, General Henry Clinton in New York receives substantial reinforcements of British
regulars and German mercenaries.
October 5, Clinton receives a note from General John Burgoyne who warns him about Horatio Gates's army, which is growing
with additions of militia.
October 6, 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.
October 7, 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.
October 18, 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.
October 23, 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.
The "Conway Cabal" and Valley Forge
November 3, 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
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
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