The Pennsylvania Campaign of 1777 - North American Colonies

Taken from The British Empire in the Nineteenth Century (1898) by Edgar Sanderson

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In the first days of 1777, a masterly device, which deceived Cornwallis, gave Washington another victory at Princeton, and his conduct of affairs at this period is said to have won the highest praise from Frederick the Great. The Pennsylvania campaign of this year included a defeat for Washington at Brandywine, the loss of Philadelphia, and another defeat of Washington at Germantown. Then came the terrible winter passed by the American leader and his beaten and disheartened troops at Valley Forge, north-west of Philadelphia. In bitter cold, scantily clad and fed, shoeless, sick, the men were sustained by the heroic courage of their general, strong in the sublime faith inspired by the cause which he held to be that of justice, and were ready to take the field in the spring with the new hopes derived from the capitulation of Burgoyne in October, 1777, and the adhesion of France.

The surrender at Saratoga, between Lake Champlain and New York, where General Burgoyne, with nearly 6000 men, laid down his arms to overwhelming numbers under General Gates, was one of the decisive events of modern history. Franklin, already renowned for his diplomatic skill, had been despatched to France, and the chief European rival of Great Britain now acknowledged the independence of the "United States", a title assumed at a Congress held in November, 1777, and sent out a fleet, with troops on board, to help the " rebels " against King George.

In February, 1778, a bill was passed through the British Parliament, formally renouncing the claim to tax the colonies, and naming commissioners to treat for peace. Lord North, however, was again too late, for in that same month France concluded an alliance with the new nation beyond the Atlantic. The Americans would not now listen to any overtures which did not recognize their political severance. It was in April of the same year that the historic scene, recorded by the brush of the Boston painter, Copley, in his ill-named "Death of Chatham", occurred in the House of Lords. The Duke of Richmond moved to recognize the independence of the States, and the great British champion of colonial rights, protesting with such vehemence as was left to his enfeebled frame "against the dismemberment of this ancient and noble monarchy", sank down in the fit which, a few weeks later, was followed by his death in one of the most gloomy periods of the fortunes of the land which he loved so well. … continue reading »

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