Spy Letters of the American Revolution -- From the Collections of the Clements Library
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February 10 British and French sign the Treaty of Paris, ending The French and Indian War. The French and Indian War was a part of the Seven Years War (1756-1763), an imperial struggle between England, France and Spain. The war ended in 1763 with the Treaty of Paris and the redistribution of European colonies. The cost of the war left a huge national debt hanging over the government of Britain which young George III was left to resolve as best he could. 
King George III.  Click for larger view.
King George III
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March 22 The Stamp Act was passed by Parliament, igniting a major cause of the American Revolution -- taxation without representation.  The act levied a tax on all newspapers, legal documents, pamphlets, almanacs, playing cards and dice by requiring that they bear a stamp.  The money from the tax was to be used to pay for the defense of the colonies.  American opposition was intense, merchants refused to buy British goods, stamp agents were threatened and official stamps were destroyed. 

Summer Secret organizations known as the Sons of Liberty, based on a term used by Colonel Isaac Barre in a speech against the Stamp Act in the House of Commons, formed in the provincial towns to lead the protest against the Stamp Act and other unpopular British legislature.

October 7-25 Delegates from nine of the thirteen colonies gathered in New York City to formally protest the Stamp Act.  After huge public outrage, the Stamp Act was repealed on March 18, 1766.  However, on the same day, Parliament passes the Declaratory Act, asserting the right of Parliament to make any laws it wished regarding the American colonies. 

The Funeral of Mss Ann Stamp. Click for larger view.
The Repeal, or the Funeral of 
Miss Anne Stamp
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October 1 British troops arrived in Boston to quell the growing unrest in the American colonies.
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March 5 Building tension between American colonists and British troops came to a head after a day of rioting in Boston.  British officers, surrounded by an angry mob, fired into the crowd killing 3 men outright and mortally wounding 2 others.  The Boston governor, Lt. Gov. Hutchinson, avoided further confrontation by removing all British troops to islands in Boston harbor. 
The Boston Massacre. Click for larger view.
The Bloody Massacre 
Engraving by Paul Revere
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May 10 The Tea Act was passed in Parliament to save the East Indian Company, a British company based in England's Indian colonies, from bankruptcy.  The act remitted all British duties on tea while retaining the tax on tea exported to America, enabling the company to cut its prices and undersell colonial competition.  The British company's unfair advantage led to the near destruction of the American tea merchants trade.

December 16 In protest over the Tea Act, members of the Sons of Liberty dressed as Indians boarded three British ships in Boston harbor and threw the valuable tea overboard.

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May 13 General Thomas Gage replaced Hutchinson as Governor of Boston. 

June 2 Parliament passed the Quartering Act, requiring American colonists to provide shelter to British troops and horses when requested.

September 5 - October 25 Twelve colonies, all but Georgia, sent 56 delegates to Philadelphia to participate in the First Continental Congress.  The purpose of the First Continental Congress was to debate and plan a unified response to British policy and actions.  It was the first time many of these influential men had met face to face. 

September General Gage, the Governor of Boston, responded to increased threats of violence from the American colonists by fortifying Boston Neck, the thin spit of land connecting Boston to the mainland.  This move effectively cut the city of Boston off from the rest of Massachusetts, placing the city under siege.

October General Gage dissolved the Massachusetts General Court in attempt to thwart colonial power over Massachusetts.  Members of the court reconvened as the Massachusetts Provincial Congress and voted to recruit 12,000 men for a militia (composed of American minutemen -- colonists prepared to fight the British on a minute's notice) and purchase 5,000 muskets and bayonets.

Bostonians in Distress.  Click for larger view.
The Bostonians in Distress
November 1774
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March 25 Patrick Henry delivered his "give me liberty or give me death" speech to the Virginia Assembly in Richmond. 

March 30 - April 5 General Gage ordered his troops on a practice march around Boston.  The Massachusetts Provincial Congress at Concord viewed the British march as an act of open hostility. They issued formal grievances against the British government and adopted fifty-three articles of war against the British army. 

April 18 General Gage planned a secret night march on Concord to seize the colonists' store of weapons. Paul Revere immediately rode out over Boston Neck towards Lexington to warn John Hancock and Samuel Adams, fellow members of the Sons of Liberty.  After Revere reached Lexington, he went to Concord where he was caught and questioned by six British officers.  The officers left Revere horseless and stranded near Lexington. 

April 19 In Lexington, 130 minuteman, warned by Paul Revere, met the British troops in attempt to stop the army from reaching Concord.  The American patriots were outnumbered and began to disperse.  However, a shot was fired and the British troops killed eight colonists and wounded ten.  The British troops continued for Concord where they were met by 150 minuteman. The fighting was light and plagued by the lack of discipline of the patriot minuteman.  The British troops withdrew back to Boston after a mostly ineffectual search for hidden patriot weapons.  The patriot minuteman raced ahead of the British army, hiding behind trees, rocks, houses and barns alongside the roads.  The British army made an easy target for patriot snipers as they marched in straight lines in their red uniforms.  The British troops returned to the safety of the Bunker and Breed's hills outside Charlestown, protected by the gunner ships lying in the Charles River. 

April Click here to view the letter When Paul Revere did not immediately return home from his "Midnight Ride", Rachel Revere wrote a letter to her husband, Paul Revere, sending him 125 pounds and her prayers for his safety. Rachel Revere asked Benjamin Church, a member of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress and Sons of Liberty, to deliver her letter and money to her husband.  Unbeknownst to Rachel and other members of the Sons of Liberty, Benjamin Church was a British loyalist and delivered her letter to General Gage instead. 

April 23 The Massachusetts Provincial Congress called up 30,000 new militiamen and contacted other New England colonies requesting their help in raising the necessary troops to fight the British.

May 6 Click here to view the letterBenjamin Thompson, a well-known American colonist and scientist, wrote an unidentified member of  General Gage's staff a letter with a secret message written in invisible ink.  In the letter, Thompson detailed the movements of the Rebel Army and complained about his treatment at the hands of the "deluded people" who rise against the king. 

May 10  Benedict Arnold and Ethan Allen raised a troop of 83 men and storm Fort Ticonderoga, capturing 50 officers and 100 cannons. The Second Continental Congress convened in Philadelphia.  All thirteen colonies were represented. 

June 15  George Washington was named Commander-in- Chief of all the American troops by the Continental Congress. 

June 17 American militiamen approached Bunker Hill at night to build fortifications by digging trenches and raising walls.  The British tried unsuccessfully to stop the colonists from their ships in the Charles River.  British troops were also sent in formation to attack the militiamen.  They are repelled twice by the colonists, suffering heavy causalities.  By the third attempt, the American militia had run out of ammunition and were killed or captured.  The British won the battle, but at a heavy cost, raising the hopes of the American colonists.

The Battle of Lexington.  Click for larger view.
The Battle of Lexington

A View of the Town of Concord.  Click for larger view.
A View of the Town of Concord


Battle of Bunker Hill.  Click for larger view.
Battle of Bunker Hill
Battle of Bunker Hill.  Click for larger view.
Battle of Bunker Hill
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February 27  The patriots defeated the Loyalists at Moore's Creek Bridge. 

March 7  The British evacuated Boston after 2000 men, led by John Thomas and aided by heavy cannonade, occupied the city during the night of March 4-5. 

March - May  France and Spain arranged to secretly provide support to Britain's rebellious colonists through fictitious companies. 

June 11  Congress appointed a committee to produce a declaration of independence. Within the committee, consisting of Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Robert R. Livingston, and Roger Sherman, Jefferson was appointed to prepare a draft of the declaration. Jefferson's draft, with minor changes suggested by committee members, was debated in Congress on July 2 and July 3. 

July 4  The amended Declaration of Independence was approved without dissent. The declaration was first publicly proclaimed on July 8 in Philadelphia, and was read before George Washington and his troops on July 9 in New York City. 

August 27  After William Howe evacuated Boston, he decided New York City should be his base of operations. On August 27, Howe and his 20,000 forces defeated the patriots on Long Island. 

September 11  William Howe and his brother Richard Howe met with Congressional representatives at Staten Island. They were appointed peace commissioners by the king, but were instructed not to negotiate unless all extralegal congresses and conventions were dissolved. The meeting was fruitless. 

September 15  The British occupied New York City. 

September 22  American spy Nathan Hale was executed in New York City. 

December 26  George Washington mounted a surprise attack on Hessian troops at Trenton by crossing the icy Delaware. He returned to Pennsylvania with his prisoners, crossed the river a third time, and reoccupied Trenton on December 30.

The Declaration of Independence.  Click for larger view.
of Independence

William Howe.  Click for larger view.
William Howe

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January 3  William Howe sent troops toward Trenton and Princeton after he heard about the Trenton defeat. George Washington's troops, however, gained a victory at Princeton. 

July 17 Click here to view the letter  William Howe sent a letter to John Burgoyne to tell him that he would invade Philadelphia rather than move up the Hudson River to join John Burgoyne's northern army. 

July 23 William Howe embarked from New York with 15,000 troops, sailed up Chesapeake Bay, and landed at the Head of Elk on August 23.  In the meantime, George Washington and his 10,500 men chose a defensive position on the eastern side of Brandywine Creek. 

August 10 Click here to view the letterHenry Clinton sent a letter to John Burgoyne expressing his concerns about William Howe's movements, his lack of troops, and his intention to move up the Hudson if British reinforcements arrived to assist Burgoyne. 

September 11William Howe defeated the American troops, under George Washington, at the Battle of Brandywine.  The American army was forced toward Philadelphia. 

September 26 William Howe and his troops occupied Philadelphia. Congress left Philadelphia on September 19 for Lancaster, and fled to York on September 30. 

October 4 George Washington began a movement toward William Howe's main encampment at Germantown. Losses were heavy on both sides. 

October 7  The patriots won the Second Battle of Freeman's Farm against Burgoyne.  Burgoyne retreated toward Saratoga, where he eventually surrendered.  On October 17, Burgoyne's army laid down their arms according to the terms of the Saratoga Convention

December 19 George Washington's army retired to winter quarters at Valley Forge.

John Burgoyne.  Click for larger view.
John Burgoyne

Map of Saratoga.  Click for larger view.

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February 6  The United States and France signed an alliance.  The treaty included 1)  most favored nation status and 2)  an alliance in case of war between France and  Britain. 

April 12  The Earl of Carlisle led a commission to make peace with the United States.  On February 17, Lord North proposed in the British Commons to repeal the Tea and Coercive Acts,  impose no new taxes on the colonies, and create a peace commission to prevent the United States from ratifying a treaty with the French.  When the Earl of Carlisle arrived in Philadelphia, he learned that Congress considered anyone an enemy who made peace with the commission.  The commissioners moved to New York after the British evacuated Philadelphia and returned to England on November 27. 

May 8 Sir Henry Clinton replaced William Howe as Commander-in-Chief of the British forces in America. 

June 18  The British evacuated Philadelphia and moved across New Jersey towards New York, because Clinton was concerned about the arrival of French fleets.  George Washington pursued Clinton's troops as they left Philadelphia.  After nearly failing, Washington stopped Clinton's attack at the Battle of Monmouth.  Washington then led his troops north.  On July 30, he set up camp at White Plains, above New York City and Clinton's new headquarters. 

August   The loyalist spy, Ann Bates, was sent to spy on Washington's troops in White Plains, New York to ascertain Washington's plans for Rhode Island..

July 29 - August 29  French and American troops mounted a joint operation against the British garrison in Newport, Rhode Island. 

August 31  American troops, under the leadership of General John Sullivan, and the French troops, led by the Marquis de Lafayette, withdrew as Clinton sent a great number of men and ships to Rhode Island.

December 29  Sir Henry Clinton decided to attack the South, because he thought he could gain more loyalist support there.  General Robert Howe landed near Savannah, Georgia and captured the town. 

Sir Henry Clinton. Click for larger view.
Sir Henry Clinton
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January 6 - June 19 The British made progress in the South against the Americans.  On March 3, the British were victorious at Briar Creek, Virginia.  On May 10, the British captured and set fire to Portsmouth and Norfolk, Virginia. 

May 10 Click here to view the letterJohn André wrote a letter to Joseph Stansbury about how Benedict Arnold should act as a spy for the British. 

May 31 - September 15 The British made progress in the North against the Americans, but the Americans also won some battles.  In May, Sir Henry Clinton led 6,000 men up the Hudson River and seized American forts at Stony Point and Verplanek's Point.  The British also preyed on the coast of Connecticut.  However on July 15, American forces recaptured Stony Point.  Patriot forces also defeated bands of loyalists and Native Americans who were attacking settlements in New York and Pennsylvania. 

June 21 Spain entered the war against Great Britain.  Although Spain initially opposed American independence, when the British refused to cede Gibraltar to Spain, Spain sealed an agreement with France to enter the war. 

June 27 George Washington wrote Benjamin Tallmadge and the Culpers a letter discussing the prospect of another aid, George Higday.  Unfortunately the letter was captured, so Higday was not able to help. 

August 14  Congress proposed terms of peace with the British, including independence and British evacuation of American territories.  After long debate about the terms, Congress named John Adams negotiator on September 27. 

September 3 - October 28  A French fleet and American troops unsuccessfully tried to capture Savannah, Georgia. 

October 11-25  The British abandoned Rhode Island.

Benedict Arnold.  Click for larger view.
Benedict Arnold
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February 11 - May 12  Sir Henry Clinton attacked Charleston, South Carolina.  After defeating patriots heavily,  Clinton left for New York on June 5 and placed the British General Charles Cornwallis in charge on the area.  Patriots continued to stage resistance. 

July 11  Comte de Rochambeau landed in Newport, Rhode Island with a strong naval fleet and 5,000 French troops to assist the patriots' cause.  George Washington planned to combine his army with Rochambeau's and attack Sir Henry Clinton in New York, but the attack never materialized. 

July 12 Click here to view the letterBenedict Arnold wrote a coded letter to John André, in which he provided the British with key military information about the patriots. 

July 15 Click here to view the letter Benedict Arnold wrote a coded letter to John André, in which he offered to surrender West Point to the British for 20,000 pounds. West Point was a key American fort on the Hudson River. 

September 21  Benedict Arnold met with John André on the west bank of the Hudson River to inform the British about the weak points of West Point. 

September 23  Three American militiamen apprehended John André as he was returning from a secret meeting with Benedict Arnold.  Benedict Arnold's plot to sell West Point was uncovered.  Benedict Arnold fled to safety in New York City.

September 29 Click here to view the letter John André wrote Henry Clinton a letter about his capture. 

October 2 John André was hanged as a British spy.

The Capture of John Andre.  Click for larger view.
The Capture of John André

Washington's Headquarters at Tappan.  Click for larger view.
Washington's Headquarters
where Andre was tried

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January 1  The Pennsylvania Line mutinied.  Half of the patriot veterans grew angry when recruiters offered money to new enlistees.  The veterans seized their arms, wounded officers, and quit their camp. On January 20, the New Jersey Line mutinied. 

March 1  The Articles of the Confederation were ratified. Although proposed on November 17, 1777, Maryland had refused to ratify it.  The Articles of Confederation provided for a Congress like the one in existence at the time.  Each state had one vote, with delegates appointed by the state legislature.  Congress could pass resolutions and enact ordinances, but it did not have any courts to enforce its orders, nor did it have a stable executive department. 

May 21  George Washington and Comte de Rochambeau agreed to attack New York jointly with the support of Comte de Grasse's French West Indian fleet. 

May 29 Click here to view the letter George Washington wrote to his dentist, Dr. Baker, about having teeth cleaning utensils sent to him, since he could not make it to Philadelphia any time soon. 

July 5  Rochambeau's French troops moved from Rhode Island to join Washington's troops above New York. 

August 14  Washington received a letter from Comte de Grasse that he would leave the West Indies on August 13 to join American troops in Chesapeake Bay.  Washington decided to abandon the attack on New York and prepared to march to Virginia instead. 

August 15 Click here to view the letterBaron Ottendorf briefed Sir Henry Clinton about  "Miss Jenny's Deposition." Miss Jenny had spied on the American and French preparations to attack Sir Henry Clinton's headquarters in New York City. 

August 30 - October 19  The Yorktown Campaign.   On August 30, Comte de Grasse had set up a naval blockade around Yorktown.  By joining forces with Lafayette, he trapped the British General Cornwallis on land.  De Grasse sent ships to pick up Washington's and Rochambeau's troops in Chesapeake Bay.  With  9,000 American and 7,800 French troops, the allied army seized Cornwallis at Yorktown between September 14 and 24.  On September 30, Cornwallis abandoned the outer line of fortifications.  After a desperate attempt to escape across the York River, Cornwallis opened up negotiations on October 17.  Afterwards, Washington wanted to go back and capture New York, but de Grasse went back to the West Indies with his fleet.

American General and Rifelman.  Click for larger view.
American General and Rifle-man
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March 20  Lord Rockingham replaced Lord North as prime minister of Great Britain and began peace negotiations with America. As a result of Cornwallis' army  being captured by American forces and the French defeating the British in the West Indies in 1781 and 1782, Great Britain's desire for peace was augmented. 

April 4 Sir Guy Carleton arrived in America to succeed Sir Henry Clinton as British commander. As peace negotiations began Carleton moved all of the British forces toward the shores of New York, to ready for departure.

September 27 Formal negotiations of peace began in Paris, France. Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, and John Adams negotiated for  the Americans, and Richard Oswald, a wealthy merchant, represented the British.

November 30 Americans and British sign a preliminary peace treaty in Paris. The American negotiators disobey Congress's instructions to consult with the French about the treaty because of fears that France's support of Spain would cause great restrictions to America's territorial borders . 

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January 20 Effective date of articles of peace between Britain and France and Britain and Spain. The treaty between Britain and the US could not go into effect until the British came to an agreement with France and Spain. 

February 4 Britain proclaimed a cessation of hostilities and a general armistice was finally made. 

April 15  Although there was much criticism of the negotiators not consulting the French, Congress received the document from Paris and ratified the provisional treaty. 

April 26 7,000 Loyalists, some of the last of the almost 100,000 total who left, sailed from New York  to England, Europe and Canada. 

September 3 Peace Treaty between British and United States is signed in Paris. The important provisions of the treaty were: 1. Britain recognizes US as an independent country. 2. the boundaries were set as the St. Croix River dividing Maine and Nova Scotia, the St. Lawrence-Atlantic watershed divide, the 45th parallel, a line through the great Lakes and connecting waterways, a line from lake Superior to the Mississippi dividing Canada and the US, a line through the middle of the Mississippi River south to the 31st parallel dividing the US and Spanish Louisiana, and the 31st parallel, the Apalachicola, and St. Mary's River as the boundary with Spanish Florida. 3. US maintained rights to fish in parts of Canada. 4. all debts due to creditors of either country were validated 5. Hostilities were to cease. 

June 13  U.S. army disbanded.  Without waiting for Washington's official certificates to arrive, most of the army left for their homes. A small group of men waited with Washington for the British to evacuate New York City. 

November 25 British leave New York City.  Early in the afternoon of the 25th the last British troops left the docks of New York City.  Washington and George Clinton entered the city. 

December 23 Washington appeared before the Congress in Annapolis, Maryland and resigned as Commander in Chief.

George Washington.  Click for larger view.
George Washington

Map of New York City. Click for larger view.
Map of New York City

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