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THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE.
ginia, John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, and Robert R. Livingston of New York - was chosen to draw up a declaration embodying that resolution. Thomas Jefferson did the work. On the Fourth of July, 1776, John Hancock, President of Congress, signed the Declaration of American Independence in that bold, decided hand which “the king of England could read without spectacles.” Then the patriots of Philadelphia rang the “Lib
NE IN PHILADA BY ORDER OF THE AS erty Bell ” in the Old State
PASS & STOW House till it nearly cracked with the joyous peal. In New York City the people pulled down a gilded lead statue of the king and melted it up into bullets.
Later, the representatives of the colonies added their names to the Declaration. That com- Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Philadelphia. pleted the work; the thirteen British colonies had ceased to exist; in their place stood a new nation — the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, — your country and mine.
(It was cracked in 1835 while tolling for the death
of Chief Justice Marshall.)
168. Summary - George III. endeavored to tax the colonists against their will, and in violation of their rights as English subjects. They resisted, and finally took up arms in their defence. The king refused to listen to the demands of the Americans, hired a foreign army to subdue the people, and so drove them, at last, to separate from Great Britain and to declare themselves independent.
2. THE WAR OF INDEPENDENCE, FROM JULY 4, 1776, TO THE
VICTORY OF SARATOGA, 1777. 169. What the British hoped to do in New York. - Driven out of Boston and defeated at Fort Moultrie the British determined to strike their next blow at New York. Their plan was to get possession of the city and of the Hudson River. They could then prevent the New England colonists and those south of New York from giving each other any help; for our force on land was small.
We had no vessels of war to attack the enemy by sea. If the British were successful in thus cutting the colonies in two, they could then send a large force against Boston or Philadelphia, whichever they thought best, and feel sure that the people of the two sections could not unite to defend either.
170. Washington's Preparations to receive the British; Fort Washington and Fort Lee. — Washington foresaw this design of the enemy and prepared for it. When General Howe, with his brother, Lord Howe, commander of the English fleet, reached New York in the summer (1776) they found Washington in possession of the city. Furthermore, they found, to their disappointment, that they could not send their ships up the Hudson so easily as they had hoped, for the Americans had built two forts expressly to prevent it. One of these was Fort Washington, on the upper part of Manhattan Island, on the bank of the Hudson; the other was Fort Lee, nearly opposite, on the Jersey shore. Between these two forts vessels had been sunk, so that if any of the enemy's ships tried to go up the river they would first be checked by the sunken vessels, and next, they would be exposed to the cross fire from the cannon of both forts.
1 See map of New York City and vicinity, page 154.
THE BATTLE OF LONG ISLAND.
171. The Two Armies; the Battle of Long Island. — But the British were confident that they could win the day. Howe and his brother were experienced military commanders. They had the aid of Clinton and Cornwallis, both of whom were good generals, and over thirty thousand well-armed soldiers
men who fought for a living — while Washington had less than eighteen thousand, most of whom knew nothing of war, while many had no muskets fit to fight with. On the other hand, Washington had the advantage of position. He not only held the city and the
forts on the Hudson, but he had possession of Brooklyn Heights on Long Island directly opposite the city on the south. General Howe, with his army, was on Staten Island. He saw that if he could take Brooklyn Heights, and plant his cannon there, he could drive Washington out of New York, just as
Washington, by seizing Dorchester Heights, had driven him out of Boston.?
General Putnam was in command of the Heights with a force of nine thousand men. Believing that the British meant to attack him, he sent about half his force to meet the enemy. The British, twenty thousand strong, or nearly five to one of the Americans, came across from Staten Island and landing on the southwestern shore of Long Island began their march toward the Heights. They soon met and defeated the little army sent against them in what was called the battle of Long Island (August 27, 1776). They then got ready to besiege Putnam.
Putnam with his whole army would certainly have been captured if it had not been for Washington's energy and skill. During the
1 See note 2, page 162. Cornwallis, though he fought against us, was strongly opposed to the war, and believed that the Americans were right in protesting against taxation so long as they were denied representation.
2 See Paragraph 165.
8 Each side lost about 400 in killed and wounded; but over 1000 Americans were taken prisoners. Many of these prisoners died from their sufferings in the British prison pens.
night a dense fog came up. Washington took advantage of it and succeeded in getting all the men across the river in boats to New York. In the morning, when the British commander stretched out his hand to take the “nest of rebels," as he called it, he got the nest indeed, but it was empty — the birds had flown.
172. Washington retreats Northward; Fort Washington taken; Lee's Disobedience. — Washington was now forced to abandon New York and retreat up the east side of the river. The British ships passed Fort Washington and Fort Lee. Washington had, however, fortified West Point, the strongest place on the Hudson, so as to prevent the enemy from going up to Albany. Meanwhile a deserter had carried plans of Fort Washington to the British commander. He now knew just where to strike, and took the fort with three thousand prisoners. It was a terrible blow. Washington, who was now on the west bank of the river, could not hold his ground against Lord Cornwallis, for he had left quite a large force of his best soldiers on the east side of the Hudson under command of General Charles Lee, and when Washington ordered him to come over and join him, Lee wilfully disobeyed.
173. Fort Lee taken ; Washington retreats across the Delaware ; General Lee captured. - It was of no use for the Americans to try to hold Fort Lee now that the fort opposite was taken. Cornwallis threatened to attack it and it was abandoned. Washington with his small force now began to retreat across New Jersey. He broke down bridges after he had crossed them;
1 West Point, on the west bank of the Hudson in the Highlands, 45 miles above New York. See Map, page 169.
2 General Charles Lee was a native of Wales. He had been an officer in the British army, but had left that service, come to this country, and had obtained the rank of major-general in the American army. He was in no way connected with the Lees of Virginia. While he was in command on the Hudson he was trying to prejudice Congress against Washington, in hope of getting his place. Later he showed himself to be utterly unprincipled and treacherous.