Things looked bleak for George Washington and the Continental Army in the summer of 1776. British forces, under General Sir William Howe, landed troops on Staten Island on July 3rd — just one day after the Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia.
George Washington wrote, in a letter to Major General Artemas Ward dated July 4th,:
The Distress we are in for want of Arms induces me again to urge your sending on all such as can possibly be spared with the greatest expedition, The enemy have landed under cover of their Ships and taken possession of Staten Island–from which in all probability they will soon make a decent upon Us, the Arms would have sent to Norwich and from there by Water to this place provided there is no Risque, otherways by Land…
In his new book, Revolutionary Summer: The Birth of American Independence, historian and author Joseph Ellis takes an in-depth look at the military and political figures who played key roles in the events of the pivotal summer of 1776. Of General Washington, he says, “…this is the weakest moment in his career; this is the one he doesn’t want to remember…” Ellis goes on to argue that the summer of 1776 is when Washington realizes that he doesn’t need to win the war, he needs to not lose it, for American independence to stick.
Stay tuned! Mount Vernon will be posting more videos from our sit down with historian and author Joseph Ellis on our website.