“The Miraculous Care Of Providence”

George Washington’s Narrow Escapes

Upon at least five occasions when in great danger from gunfire George Washington remained unscathed. His hat was shot off his head; his clothes were torn; horses were killed beneath him, but the hero was never so much as scratched by a bullet. For this immunity he thanked “Providence.” He also wrote himself down as lucky. Read more »

Triumph At Yorktown

Two hundred years ago everything depended on a French fleet leaving the Indies on time; two American armies meeting in Virginia on time; a French fleet beating a British fleet; a French army getting along with an American one; and a British general staying put.

Long after midnight, October 23, 1781, hoofbeats broke the silence of slumbering Philadelphia’s empty streets. Reeling in the saddle from exhaustion and shaking with malarial chills, Lieutenant Colonel Tench Tilghman, aide to General George Washington, pulled up to ask an elderly German night watchman how to get to the home of Thomas McKean, president of the Continental Congress. Read more »

The Newburgh Conspiracy

Encamped above the Hudson for the last, hard winter of the Revolution, the officers of the Continental Army began to talk mutiny. It would be up to their harried commander to defend the most precious principle of the infant nation—the supremacy of civilian rule .

Sunday, October 27, 1782. Mist and intermittent sheets of cold rain shrouded the granite spine of Butter Hill as it stretched west from the Hudson River above West Point toward the distant Shawangunk mountain range. Farmers, working neat, stonewalled fields, watched the storm without noticing anything unusual along the mountain’s crest. At dusk, however, the rain eased and the mist lifted to reveal something new and strange. High on the mountain hundreds of small lights flickered like fireflies.Read more »

You Are Invited To A Mischianza

Saluting a departing general, the British dazzled Philadelphians with the grandest party the city had ever seen; the tiny army that had toppled the general bided its time nearby

In the spring of 1778 William Howe, commander in chief of His Majesty’s forces in North America, received orders to return to London and justify his actions, or rather his inactions, for he had gained no conspicuous victory in three years of war. He was nearly fifty, plump and rosy, a friend of the gentler arts, the gentler sex. Through the winter of 1777–78 he and his troops had reposed comfortably in Philadelphia while Washington’s hapless little army, freezing and starving, lay vulnerable twentyfive miles away in Valley Forge.Read more »

Men Of The Revolution: 13. John Sullivan

He was Irish, but with neither the proverbial charm nor the luck. Generals are not much known for the former quality, but the latter, as Napoleon suggested, is one no successful commander can be without. And John Sullivan was an officer whom luck simply passed by. Read more »

The Revolution Remembered

Newly Discovered Eyewitness Accounts of the War for Independence

Shortly before the fighting began in 1775 a British officer based in Boston watched the local militia stumble through its paces and wrote home about it. “It is a Masquerade Scene,” he said, “to see grave sober Citizens, Barbers and Tailors, who never looked fierce before in their Lives, but at their Wives, Children or Apprentices, strutting about in their Sunday wigs in stiff Buckles with their Muskets on their Shoulders, struggling to put on a Martial Countenance.Read more »

The Philadelphia Ladies Association

Although it has been disparaged as “General Washington’s Sewing Circle,” this venture was the first nationwide female organization in America

When news that the British had taken Charleston, South Carolina, reached Philadelphia in May of 1780, merchants and government officials reacted to the disaster by taking steps to support the inflated Pennsylvania currency and solicit funds to pay new army recruits. And in a totally unexpected move, the women of Philadelphia emerged from their usual domestic roles to announce their intention of founding the first large-scale women’s association in American history.Read more »

A Hessian Visits The Victors: 1783

While waiting for passage home after the American Revolution had ended, Captain Johann Ewald, a Hessian mercenary who had been fighting in America since 1776, traveled to West Point, then still just a fort. Ewald’s account of his visit gives us an unusual, oblique view of how a professional soldier regarded the tattered crew who had somehow managed to defeat the well-trained, well-equipped British and Hessian forces with whom he had served. Read more »

Shades Of Rebellion

A few years back a Massachusetts hardware salesman named Stuart Goldman bought a trunk which, he believed, had been sealed since 1799. When he opened it, he found the crisp silhouette of the Continental officer at left. The soldier was identified as Major Hugh Maxwell of Charlemont, Massachusetts; the artist, only as “P.C.” Intrigued by his find, Goldman set about tracking down F.C., and eventually learned that the initials stood for Frederick Chapman.Read more »

A Gallant Company

One reason most Americans find greater immediacy in the Civil War than in the Revolution is that the camera came into being during the eighty-odd years between the two conflicts. However skillful his hand, the engraver could not approach the sense of intimacy the lens provides. In the absence of photographic images, the Continental soldiers tend to recede from us, to become one with the defenders of Blenheim, or of Troy. Read more »