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Second Continental Congress assembles as Americans capture Fort Ticonderoga

Second Continental Congress assembles as Americans capture Fort Ticonderoga

On May 10, 1775, Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold lead a successful attack on Fort Ticonderoga in upstate New York, while the Second Continental Congress assembles in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The Congress faced the task of conducting a war already in progress. Fighting had begun with the Battle of Lexington and Concord on April 19, and Congress needed to create an official army out of the untrained assemblage of militia laying siege on Boston.

The transformation of these rebels into the Continental Army was assisted by the victory of the Vermont and Massachusetts militia under the joint command of Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold at the British garrison at Ticonderoga on Lake Champlain. Their major achievement was to confiscate enough British cannon to make the Patriot militias into an army capable of an artillery barrage.

Allen and more than 100 of his Green Mountain Boys had already decided to take the fort when Arnold arrived with formal military commissions from Massachusetts and Connecticut and a militia of his own. The Green Mountain Boys were unwilling to follow anyone but Allen into battle, so Allen and Arnold shared command as the Patriot militia surprised and overwhelmed the 50 Redcoats in the isolated garrison, who were completely unaware of the bloodshed in Massachusetts. The cannon seized at Ticonderoga and the next day at Crown Point, also on Lake Champlain, allowed the new Continental Army under General George Washington to drive the British from Boston the following spring.

Ironically, both Allen and Arnold would eventually be accused of treason against the Patriot cause they had served so well in its earliest and neediest moments. Allen avoided conviction for his attempt to reattach Vermont to the British empire in the unstable days of the new republic. Arnold’s name, however, became synonymous with traitor for his attempt to sell the fort at West Point, New York, to the British in 1780.

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US Military History

1534 - Cartier claims the Gulf of St Lawrence for France
1608 - Champlain founds Quebec City
1627 - French merchants found the "Compagnie de la Nouvelle France"
1634 - Trois Rivieres founded
1642 - Montreal founded
1663 - Louis XIV establishes New France as a royal colony
1690 - First British attack on Quebec repulsed by Frontenac
1711 - British capture Quebec
1713 - Treaty of Utrecht: British gain Acadia (Nova Scotia) and Newfoundland
1735 - Completion of the "Chemin du Roi" linking Quebec and Montreal
1745 - Army of New England provincial troops captures Louisburg
1754 - French and Indian War begins
1758 - Capture of Louisburg
1759 - Wolfe captures Quebec
1760 - Amherst captures Montreal
1763 - Treaty of Paris Pontiac's Rebellion Proclamation Act
1768 - Carleton succeeds Murray as Governor of Quebec
1773 - American merchants organize to oppose Quebec Bill

31 March - Passing of the first of the Intolerable (Coercive) Acts
22 June - Quebec Act receives Royal Assent
5 September - First Continental Congress
18 September - Carleton returns to Canada
4 December - Sullivan raids Fort William and Mary
16 December - Rhode Island militia seize Fort George

19 April - War begins at Lexington and Concord
8 May - Green Mountain Boys rendezvous at Bennington
10 May - Second Continental Congress
10 May - Allen and Arnold capture Fort Ticonderoga
12 May - Allen's men capture Crown Point
14 May - Arnold leaves Skenesboro for St Johns
16 May - Arnold captures St Johns
17 May - Allen forced to abandon St Johns
25 June - Schuyler appointed commander of Northern [
27 June - Congress authorizes invasion of Canada
18 July - Schuyler arrives from New York City
24 July - Schuyler sends Brown to Canada
28 August - American forces leave Fort Ticonderoga
4 September - Schuyler joins army at Ile-aux-Noix
5 September - First attempt to capture St Johns
10 September - Second attempt to capture St Johns
12 September - Arnold's expedition leaves Cambridge
16 September - Schuyler hands command over to Montgomery
18 September - Third attempt to capture St Johns
19 September - Arnold's force leaves Newburyport
27 September - Allen captured outside Montreal
17 October - Brown and Easton capture Chambly
27-30 October - Carleton turned back at Longueuil
2 November - St Johns surrenders
3 November - Arnold reaches the St Lawrence
5 November - Montgomery marches on Montreal
11 November - Brown forces Prescott back to Montreal Carleton escapes
13 November - Montgomery enters Montreal Arnold crosses the St Lawrence
15 November - Arnold occupies the Plain of Abraham
19 November - Carleton enters Quebec Arnold retires to Pointe-
2 December - Montgomery arrives at Pointe-aux-Trembles
8 December - Siege of Quebec begins
31 December - Attack on Quebec death of Montgomery

1 January - New England enlistments expire
8 March - First reinforcements reach Arnold
1 April - Wooster finally arrives at Quebec and assumes command
12 April - Arnold leaves to take command at Montreal
19 April - New York and Connecticut enlistments expire
29 April - Franklin, Chase, and Carroll arrive at Montreal
1 May - Thomas arrives at Quebec
2 May - Thomas learns of British relief force
5 May - Thomas orders withdrawal to Deschambaults
6 May - isis and Surprise arrive at Quebec
16 May - Forster captures The Cedars
17 May - Thomas arrives back at Sorel
20 May - Forster ambushes Sherburn near The Cedars
26 May - Negotiations between Forster and Arnold at Quinze Chiens
1 June - Sullivan and Thompson arrive at Chambly with reinforcements
2 June - Thomas dies of smallpox Sullivan assumes command
8 June - Action at Trois Rivieres
9 June - Arnold abandons Montreal
14 June - Sullivan orders withdrawal to lle-aux-Noix
17 June - Arnold joins Sullivan at St Johns
24 June - Sullivan orders abandonment of lle-aux-Noix
4 July - Declaration of Independence
5 July - Schuyler and Gates arrive at Crown Point
7 July - Survivors of Canadian expedition arrive at Crown Point
July-August - Arnold's fleet constructed at Skenesboro
24 August - Arnold's fleet leaves Crown Point
July-September - Carleton's fleet constructed at St Johns
23 September - Arnold's fleet in Valcour Sound
4 October - Carleton's fleet leaves St Johns
11 October - Carleton defeats Arnold at Valcour Island
12 October - Arnold abandons three vessels at Schuyler's Island
13 October - Remains of Arnold's fleet destroyed off Split Rock
14 October - Americans burn and abandon Crown Point
16 October - British troops land to attack Fort Ticonderoga
4 November - Winter forces Carleton back to Canada

June-October - Burgoyne's expedition and Saratoga campaign
November - Congressional committee considers second invasion


Contents

De facto government Edit

The First Continental Congress had sent entreaties to King George III to stop the Coercive Acts they had also created the Continental Association to establish a coordinated protest of those acts, putting a boycott on British goods. The Second Continental Congress met on May 10, 1775, to plan further responses if the British government had not repealed or modified the acts however, the American Revolutionary War had already started by that time with the Battles of Lexington and Concord, and the Congress was called upon to take charge of the war effort.

For the first few months of the war, the patriots carried on their struggle in an ad-hoc and uncoordinated manner. Even so, they had seized numerous arsenals, driven out royal officials in various colonies, and besieged Boston in order to prevent the movement by land of British troops garrisoned there. On June 14, 1775, Congress voted to create the Continental Army out of the militia units around Boston and appointed George Washington of Virginia as commanding general. [5] On July 6, 1775, Congress approved a Declaration of Causes outlining the rationale and necessity for taking up arms in the Thirteen Colonies. Two days later delegates signed the Olive Branch Petition to the king affirming the colonies' loyalty to the crown and imploring the king to prevent further conflict. However, by the time British Colonial Secretary Lord Dartmouth received the petition, King George III had already issued a proclamation on August 23, 1775, in response to the news of the Battle of Bunker Hill, declaring elements of Britain's continental American possessions to be in a state of "open and avowed rebellion". As a result, the king refused to receive the petition. [6]

Georgia had not participated in the First Continental Congress and did not initially send delegates to the Second. Even so, the people of St. John's Parish (present-day Liberty County) sent Lyman Hall to the gathering on their behalf. [7] He participated in debates but did not vote, as he did not represent the entire colony. [8] That changed after July 1775, when a provincial Congress decided to send delegates to the Continental Congress and to adopt a ban on trade with Britain. [4]

The Continental Congress had no explicit legal authority to govern, [9] but it assumed all the functions of a national government, such as appointing ambassadors, signing treaties, raising armies, appointing generals, obtaining loans from Europe, issuing paper money (called "Continentals"), and disbursing funds. Congress had no authority to levy taxes and was required to request money, supplies, and troops from the states to support the war effort. Individual states frequently ignored these requests.

Congress was moving towards declaring independence from the British Empire in 1776, but many delegates lacked the authority from their home governments to take such drastic action. Advocates of independence moved to have reluctant colonial governments revise instructions to their delegations, or even replace those governments which would not authorize independence. On May 10, 1776, Congress passed a resolution recommending that any colony with a government that was not inclined toward independence should form one that was. On May 15, they adopted a more radical preamble to this resolution, drafted by John Adams, which advised throwing off oaths of allegiance and suppressing the authority of the Crown in any colonial government that still derived its authority from the Crown. That same day, the Virginia Convention instructed its delegation in Philadelphia to propose a resolution that called for a declaration of independence, the formation of foreign alliances, and a confederation of the states. The resolution of independence was delayed for several weeks, as advocates of independence consolidated support in their home governments.

On June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee offered a resolution before the Congress declaring the colonies independent. He also urged Congress to resolve "to take the most effectual measures for forming foreign Alliances" and to prepare a plan of confederation for the newly independent states. [10] Lee argued that independence was the only way to ensure a foreign alliance since no European monarchs would deal with America if they remained Britain's colonies. American leaders had rejected the divine right of kings in the New World, but recognized the necessity of proving their credibility in the Old World. [11]

Congress formally adopted the resolution of independence, but only after creating three overlapping committees to draft the Declaration, a Model Treaty, and the Articles of Confederation. The Declaration announced the states' entry into the international system the model treaty was designed to establish amity and commerce with other states, and the Articles of Confederation established "a firm league" among the thirteen free and independent states. These three things together constituted an international agreement to set up central institutions for conducting vital domestic and foreign affairs. [10] Congress finally approved the resolution of independence on July 2, 1776. They next turned their attention to a formal explanation of this decision, the United States Declaration of Independence which was approved on July 4 and published soon thereafter.

Provisional government Edit

The Congress moved from Philadelphia to Baltimore in the winter of 1776 to avoid capture by British forces who were advancing on Philadelphia. Henry Fite's tavern was the largest building in Baltimore Town at the time and provided a comfortable location of sufficient size for Congress to meet. Its site at the western edge of town was beyond easy reach of the British Royal Navy's ships should they try to sail up the harbor and the Patapsco River to shell the town. Congress was again forced to flee Philadelphia at the end of September 1777, as British troops occupied the city they moved to York, Pennsylvania and continued their work.

Congress passed the Articles of Confederation on November 15, 1777, after more than a year of debate, and sent it to the states for ratification. Approval by all 13 states was required for the establishment of the constitution. Jefferson's proposal for a Senate to represent the states and a House to represent the people was rejected, but a similar proposal was adopted later in the United States Constitution. One issue of debate was large states wanting a larger say, nullified by small states who feared tyranny. The small states won and each state had one vote. [12] Another revolved around the issue of western land claims states without such claims wanted those with claims to yield them to Congress. As written, western land claims remained in the hands of the individual states. Congress urged the states to give their assent quickly, and most did. [13] The first to ratify was Virginia on December 16, 1777 12 states had ratified the Articles by February 1779, 14 months into the process. [14] The lone holdout, Maryland, finally ratified the Articles on February 2, 1781, doing so only after Virginia relinquished its claims on land north of the Ohio River to Congress. [13]


Contents

In September 1775, early in the American Revolutionary War, the American Continental Army embarked on an invasion of Quebec. The invasion ended in disaster in July 1776, with the army chased back to Fort Ticonderoga by a large British army that arrived in Quebec in May 1776. A small Continental Navy fleet on Lake Champlain was defeated in the October 1776 Battle of Valcour Island. The delay required by the British to build their fleet on Lake Champlain caused General Guy Carleton to hold off on attempting an assault on Ticonderoga in 1776. Although his advance forces came within three miles of Ticonderoga, the lateness of the season and the difficulty of maintaining supply lines along the lake in winter caused him to withdraw his forces back into Quebec. [7]

British forces Edit

General John Burgoyne arrived in Quebec in May 1777 and prepared to lead the British forces assembled there south with the aim of gaining control of Ticonderoga and the Hudson River valley, dividing the rebellious provinces. [8] The British Infantry involved included 9th, 20th, 21st, 24th, 47th, 53rd, 62nd Regiments of Foot, King's Loyal Americans, and Queen's Loyal Rangers. The British force also consisted of a sizable Hessian force consisting of Prinz Ludwig's Dragoons and Specht's, Von Rhetz's, Von Riedesel's, Prinz Frederich's, Erbprinz's, and Breyman's Jäger regiments. [9]

Most of these forces had arrived in 1776, and many participated in the campaign that drove the American army out of Quebec. [10]

The total size of Burgoyne's regular army was about 7,000. [1] In addition to the regulars, there were about 800 Indians, and a relatively small number of Canadiens and Loyalists, who acted primarily as scouts and screening reconnaissance. [2] The army was also accompanied by more than 1,000 civilians, including a pregnant woman, and Baroness Riedesel with her three small children. Including these non-military personnel, the total number of people in Burgoyne's army was more than 10,000. [11]

Burgoyne and General Carlton re-sited the troops at Fort Saint-Jean, near the northern end of Lake Champlain, on 14 June. By 21 June, the armada carrying the army was on the lake, and they had arrived at the unoccupied Fort Crown Point by 30 June. [12] The Indians and other elements of the advance force laid down such an effective screen that the American defenders at Ticonderoga were unaware of either the exact location or strength of the force moving along the lake. [13] While en route, Burgoyne authored a proclamation to the Americans, written in the turgid, pompous style for which he was well-known, and frequently criticized and parodied. [14]

American defenses Edit

American forces had occupied the forts at Ticonderoga and Crown Point since they captured them in May 1775 from a small garrison. In 1776 and 1777, they undertook significant efforts to improve the defenses surrounding Ticonderoga. A peninsula on the east side of the lake, renamed Mount Independence, was heavily fortified. To the north of old Fort Ticonderoga, the Americans built numerous redoubts, a large fort at the site earlier French fortifications, and a fort on Mount Hope. A quarter-mile long floating bridge was constructed across the lake to facilitate communication between Ticonderoga and Mount Independence. [15]

Command at Ticonderoga went through a variety of changes early in 1777. Until 1777, General Philip Schuyler had headed the Continental Army's Northern Department, with General Horatio Gates in charge of Ticonderoga. In March 1777 the Continental Congress gave command of the whole department to Gates. Schuyler protested this action, which Congress reversed in May, at which point Gates, no longer willing to serve under Schuyler, left for Philadelphia. Command of the fort was then given to General Arthur St. Clair, who arrived only three weeks before Burgoyne's army. [16]

The entire complex was manned by several under-strength regiments of the Continental Army and militia units from New York and nearby states. A war council held by Generals St. Clair and Schuyler on 20 June concluded that "the number of troops now at this post, which are under 2,500 effectives, rank and file, are greatly inadequate to the defense", and that "it is prudent to provide for a retreat". [17] Consequently, plans were made for retreat along two routes. The first was by water to Skenesboro, the southernmost navigable point on the lake. The second was overland by a rough road leading east toward Hubbardton in the New Hampshire Grants (present-day Vermont). [18]

The American force only consisted of two regiments, three composite units, and other undermanned corps Francis’ and Marshall's Massachusetts Regiments, and Hale's, Cilley's and Scammell's New Hampshire Continentals. [9]

Sugar Loaf Edit

A height called Sugar Loaf (now known as Mount Defiance) overlooked both Ticonderoga and Independence, and large cannons on that height would make the fort impossible to defend. This tactical problem had been pointed out by John Trumbull when Gates was in command. [19] It was believed to be impossible for the British to place cannons on the heights, even though Trumbull, Anthony Wayne, and an injured Benedict Arnold climbed to the top and noted that gun carriages could probably be dragged up. [20]

The defence, or lack thereof, of Sugar Loaf was complicated by the widespread perception that Fort Ticonderoga, with a reputation as the "Gibraltar of the North", had to be held. [16] Neither abandoning the fort nor garrisoning it with a small force (sufficient to respond to a feint but not to an attack in strength) was viewed as a politically viable option. Defending the fort and the associated outer works would require all the troops currently there, leaving none to defend Sugar Loaf. [21] Furthermore, George Washington and the Congress were of the opinion that Burgoyne, who was known to be in Quebec, was more likely to strike from the south, moving his troops by sea to New York City. [22]

Following the war council of 20 June, Schuyler ordered St. Clair to hold out as long as he could, and to avoid having his avenues of retreat cut off. Schuyler took command of a reserve force of 700 at Albany, and Washington ordered four regiments to be held in readiness at Peekskill, further down the Hudson River. [23]

British advance Edit

On 1 July, General St. Clair was still unaware of the full strength of Burgoyne's army, which lay just 4 miles (6.4 km) away. Burgoyne had deployed Fraser's advance force and right column on the west side of the lake, hoping to cut off the defences at Mount Hope. Riedesel and the German column were deployed on the east side of the lake, where their objective was Mount Independence and the road to Hubbardton. Burgoyne gave the order to advance on 2 July. [24]

On the morning of 2 July, St. Clair decided to withdraw the men occupying the defence post at Mount Hope, which was exposed and subject to capture. The detachment there set fire to the works and retreated to the old French lines (so called because they were the site of the French defence in the 1758 Battle of Carillon), getting away not long before the arrival of Burgoyne's advance guard. That afternoon, a company of British soldiers and Indians came toward those lines, but not near enough to do significant damage, and opened fire. St. Clair ordered his men to hold their fire until the enemy was closer, but James Wilkinson fired at a British soldier, spurring the untrained defenders to follow suit. The soldier Wilkinson fired at fell, and the British troops fled. When the man was captured, it turned out he was uninjured, and that he had fallen down because he was drunk. Through the deception of placing him with a man posing as a captured Loyalist, St. Clair learned the nature of the opposing forces. [25]

Fraser's advance forces occupied Mount Hope on 3 July. Burgoyne ordered some of the scouts and Indians over to the east side of the lake for reconnaissance ahead of the German column, and brought some of the Germans over to the west side. Some of the British camp was placed close enough to the American lines that they were harassed by gunfire. This did not prevent the British from making repairs to the bridges on the portage road between Ticonderoga and Lake George. [26]

British engineers discovered the strategic position of Sugar Loaf, and realized that the American withdrawal from Mount Hope gave them access to it. [25] Starting on 2 July, they began clearing and building gun emplacements on top of that height, working carefully to avoid notice by the Americans. They spent several days drawing some of their larger guns up the slope. Burgoyne's objective was to spring the trap only when Riedesel's Germans were in position to cut off the American retreat. [27]

American retreat Edit

On 4 July, the Americans held a quiet celebration with some toasts to commemorate the previous year's Declaration of Independence. [28] That night the British lost their element of surprise when some Indians lit fires on Sugar Loaf, alerting the Americans to their presence there. [29] On the morning of 5 July, St. Clair held a war council in which the decision was made to retreat. Since their position was completely exposed, they delayed departure until nightfall, when their movements would be concealed. [28] In a conversation with one of his quartermasters, St. Clair observed that he could "save his character and lose the army" by holding the fort, or "save the army and lose his character" if he retreated, giving a clear indication of the political reaction he was expecting to his decision. [29]

All possible armaments, as well as invalids, camp followers, and supplies were loaded onto a fleet of more than 200 boats that began to move up the lake toward Skenesboro, accompanied by Colonel Pierse Long's regiment. [30] Owing to a shortage of boats, four invalids were left behind, as were the very largest cannons and a variety of supplies—everything from tents to cattle. [31] The rest of the army crossed to Mount Independence and headed down the Hubbardton road, which Riedesel's forces had not yet reached. A handful of men were left at the pontoon bridge with loaded cannons to fire on British attempts to cross it, but they were drunk when the British arrived the next morning. [32]

The British occupied the forts without firing a single shot, and detachments from Fraser's and Riedesel's troops set out in pursuit of the retreating Americans on the Hubbardton road, while Burgoyne hurried some of his troops up the lake toward Skenesboro. [33]

At least seven Americans were killed and 11 wounded in skirmishing prior to the American retreat. [6] British casualties were not tallied, but at least five were killed in skirmishes. [5]

The Americans made good time on the Hubbardton road. Most of the force reached Castleton—a march of 30 miles (50 km)—on the evening of 6 July. [34] The British pursuit resulted in the Battle of Hubbardton when they caught up with the rear guard on the morning of 7 July, but this enabled the main American body to escape, eventually joining forces with Schuyler at Fort Edward. [35] The smaller American force that had fled by boat to Skenesboro fought off Burgoyne's advance force in the Battle of Fort Anne, but was forced to abandon equipment and many sick and wounded in skirmishing at Skenesboro. [36]

The confrontation at Ticonderoga did not substantially slow Burgoyne's advance, but he was forced to leave a garrison of more than 900 men in the Ticonderoga area, and wait until 11 July for the dispersed elements of his army to regroup at Skenesboro. [37] He then encountered delays in traveling the heavily wooded road between Skenesboro and Fort Edward, which General Schuyler's forces had effectively ruined by felling trees across it and destroying all its bridges in the swampy terrain. [38] Burgoyne's campaign ultimately failed and he was forced to surrender after the Battles of Saratoga. [39] General Gates reported to Governor George Clinton on 20 November that Ticonderoga and Independence had been abandoned and burned by the retreating British. [40]

Political and public outcry Edit

The political and public outcry after the withdrawal was significant. The Congress was appalled, and criticized both Schuyler and St. Clair for the loss. John Adams wrote, "I think we shall never be able to defend a post until we shoot a general", and George Washington said it was "an event of chagrin and surprise, not apprehended nor within the compass of my reasoning". [35] Rumors circulated that St. Clair and Schuyler were traitors who had taken bribes in exchange for the retreat. [41]

Schuyler was eventually removed as commander of the Northern Department, replaced by General Gates the fall of Ticonderoga was among the reasons cited. [42] St. Clair was removed from his command and sent to headquarters for an inquiry. He maintained that his conduct had been honorable, and demanded a review by court martial. [43] The court martial was not held until September 1778 due to political intrigues against Washington St. Clair was completely exonerated, [44] although he was never given another field command. [45] Schuyler was also cleared of any wrongdoing by a court martial. [44]

The news made headlines in Europe. King George is reported to have burst into the chambers of the scantily clad Queen, exclaiming, "I have beat them! I have beat all the Americans!" [41] The French and Spanish courts were less happy with the news, as they had been supporting the Americans, allowing them to use their ports, and engaging in trade with them. The action emboldened the British to demand that Spain and France close their ports to the Americans this demand was rejected, heightening tensions between the European powers. [46]


The Capture of the Fort

The actual capture of Fort Ticonderoga was anti-climatic. Very few men were garrisoned at the fort, only one sentry unit was on watch duty and the rest of the men were asleep.

The Green Mountain Boys easily surrounded the fort and captured it without much effort. The British within the walls of the fort had no idea that the Battles of Lexington and Concord had even taken place.

Once captured Benedict Arnold led a detachment and captured a fort at Crown Point and would lead a raid on Fort Saint-Jean.

Eventually around 400 Green Mountain Boys would arrive at Fort Ticonderoga and they were unruly at best. They seized the liquor stores and plundered the fort repeatedly.

Arnold disagreed with their plunders and even had words with Ethan Allen about it. However, he was not recognized as a commander, therefore, his words did not matter to them. Arnold and Allen&rsquos words were so harsh that at times guns were drawn.


The second US continental congress

Tensions between the American Colonists and Britain were running high in 1775. Britain imposed a series of new taxes and regulations on the Colonies that many Colonists believed were intolerable. Bostonians called the last of these new punitive actions the &ldquoIntolerable&rdquo Acts due to the extreme requirements placed on the city of Boston.

The First Continental Congress (1774) met in Philadelphia primarily to draft an official colonial response to the Coercive Acts. The group created the Continental Association to provide a unified protest of the Coercive Acts and to implement an economic boycott of British goods throughout the colonies. The assembly decided to meet again in 1775 to assess if further actions were needed.

By the time the Second Continental Congress met in May 1775, the Battles of Lexington and Concord were fresh on the minds of many Americans and Britain increased its military presence in Boston. The Second Continental Congress began on the same day that American forces captured Fort Ticonderoga from the British.

The Second Continental Congress realized the agenda of this Congress would be must different from the First Congress. John Hancock presided over the Congress and over notable figures like John Adams, Ben Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson. The group was divided from the beginning over what to do with the broken relationship with Britain. One group, led by John Dickinson, supported working for reconciliation and Congress attempted to do so with the &ldquoOlive Branch Petition&rdquo. King George promptly rejected the Colonial call for a change of policies. A second document, the &ldquoDeclaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking up Arms&rdquo was published and was the first official warning that pursuing independence from Britain might be necessary.

The other group was comprised of Patriots and Moderates who assumed the damage to the relationship between America and Britain was too great and independence as well as war was likely on the horizon. By June, the Congress decided it was time to create the Continental Army under the leadership of George Washington. Charles Lee, Philip Schuyler, Artemus Ward, and Israel Putnam were appointed as generals to assist Washington.

Congress created a Colonial currency by issuing paper money. The currency called &ldquoContinentals&rdquo was backed by borrowing from banks and other nations. States began issuing their own currency too. The result was high inflation as the competing


The Second Continental Congress – May 10, 1775

The Second Continental Congress was a meeting of delegates from the Thirteen Colonies in America which united in the American Revolutionary War. It convened on May 10, 1775, with representatives from 12 of the colonies in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania shortly after the Battles of Lexington and Concord, succeeding the First Continental Congress which met in Philadelphia from September 5 to October 26, 1774. The Second Congress functioned as a de facto national government at the outset of the Revolutionary War by raising armies, directing strategy, appointing diplomats, and writing petitions such as the Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms and the Olive Branch Petition. All thirteen colonies were represented by the time the Congress adopted the Lee Resolution which declared independence from Britain on July 2, 1776, and the congress agreed to the Declaration of Independence two days later.

Afterward, Congress functioned as the provisional government of the United States of America through March 1, 1781. During this period, its achievements included: Successfully managing the war effort drafting the Articles of Confederation, the first U.S. constitution securing diplomatic recognition and support from foreign nations and resolving state land claims west of the Appalachian Mountains.

Many of the delegates who attended the Second Congress had also attended the First. They again elected Peyton Randolph to serve as President of the Congress and Charles Thomson to serve as secretary. Notable new arrivals included Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania and John Hancock of Massachusetts. Within two weeks, Randolph was summoned back to Virginia to preside over the House of Burgesses Hancock succeeded him as president, and Thomas Jefferson replaced him in the Virginia delegation. The number of participating colonies also grew, as Georgia endorsed the Congress in July 1775 and adopted the continental ban on trade with Britain.


The Siege of Fort Ticonderoga (1777)

If everything had gone according to General John Burgoyne’s plan, 1777 would have been the year the British Empire put an end to the rebellion in its North American colonies.

In August 1776, an army of 32,000 British soldiers under the command of General William Howe, carried across the Atlantic the largest fleet in British naval history, had driven George Washington and the Continental Army out of New York City, then out of New York entirely. While Washington had kept the nascent American cause alive with dramatic victories at Trenton and Princeton, his position remained precarious.

A portrait of John Burgoyne, circa 1766. Wikimedia Commons

Back in London, General John Burgoyne proposed a plan for the campaign of 1777 that would crush Washington’s army and cut out the heart of the rebellion. Howe would advance his army up the Hudson River from New York City, while Burgoyne would move south from Canada with a second force. These two armies would crush Washington between them and link up at Albany, destroying the rebel army and cutting off New England, the heart of the rebellion, from the rest of the Thirteen Colonies.

General Burgoyne and his army of nearly 8,000 British regulars, Hessians, American Loyalists, and Native Americans began their campaign in mid-June. The first obstacle that Burgoyne would have to overcome was the American defenses at the southern end of Lake Champlain, around Fort Ticonderoga.

In 1777, Fort Ticonderoga was already a historic location. The fort had been constructed by the French in 1755, during the French and Indian War. In 1758 British troops tried and failed to capture the fort in the bloodiest battle fought in North America until the Civil War. The British succeeded in taking possession of the fort the next year when the French abandoned it and retreated north into Canada. In May of 1775 Fort Ticonderoga was captured by Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys militia. Artillery from the fort was transported south during the winter of 1775 and placed on high ground outside Boston in March of 1776, which forced the British to evacuate the city.

Fort Ticonderoga was the Americans’ first line of defense against a British invasion from Canada. In addition to the fort itself and the French Lines, the old entrenchments outside the fort left over from the battle in 1758, the Americans had also constructed fortifications on Mount Independence on the other side of Lake Champlain. Burgoyne and his army would have to overcome these positions in order to continue their advance south towards Albany.

A painting of Arthur St. Clair, made in the early 1780s. Wikimedia Commons

Burgoyne commanded nearly 8,000 men, while the Americans under General Arthur St. Clair numbered around 2,000. To capture Fort Ticonderoga and Mount Independence, Burgoyne split his army in two. A force of German troops, mostly from Brunswick and Hesse-Hanau and commanded by Major General Friederich Baron von Riedesel, landed on the east side of Lake Champlain. Their goal would be to surround Mount Independence and cut off the military highway that ran from Fort Ticonderoga, across a bridge over Lake Champlain, and south into New Hampshire. On the west side of the lake, the redcoats advanced to surround and besiege Fort Ticonderoga.

The Hessian advance was slowed by difficult terrain, but the British made fast progress. On July 2, soldiers from Brigadier Simon Fraser’s Advance Corps captured the outermost American positions at Mount Hope. Over the next three days, the British troops surrounded Fort Ticonderoga on its landward side. On July 5, British troops occupied the summit of Sugar Loaf Hill. This piece of high ground overlooked both Fort Ticonderoga and Mount Independence, but it had been left unfortified by the Americans. General St. Clair had not sent troops to guard Sugar Loaf Hill because there was no source of freshwater available to men camped on the summit.

Cannons mounted on Sugar Loaf Hill could dominate the American positions, but placing artillery on Sugar Loaf Hill would require cutting a road up the forested hillside, and manhandling the heavy cannons to the summit. British Major General William Philips famously claimed that, “Where a goat can go, a man can go, and where a man can go, he can drag a gun.”

A painting of British troops on Lake Champlain near Fort Ticonderoga. British Library

When the Americans in Fort Ticonderoga spotted British troops and campfires on the summit of Sugar Loaf Hill, General St. Clair ordered the immediate evacuation of the fort and Mount Independence, to be carried out that night. Supplies, wounded soldiers, and noncombatants were loaded onto a fleet of boats, which set sail up Lake Champlain to the port of Skenesboro. The garrison of the fort retreated across the bridge over the lake and linked up with the garrison of Mount Independence. The army marched south and by the next morning, they had reached Castleton (in modern-day Vermont). The British were unaware that the Americans had abandoned their positions until the morning of July 6. Burgoyne left a small garrison to occupy Fort Ticonderoga and began pursuing the retreating Americans.

When news of Fort Ticonderoga’s fall reached London, King George III is said to have burst into his wife’s bedroom and exclaimed, “I have beat them! I have beat all the Americans!” Yet Burgoyne’s success would be short-lived. The British were unable to catch the American force before it joined up with reinforcements further south. Many of the American soldiers who escaped the siege of Fort Ticonderoga would eventually take part in the Battles of Saratoga, where Burgoyne was defeated and forced to surrender.


Contents

De facto government Edit

The First Continental Congress had sent entreaties to King George III to stop the Coercive Acts they had also created the Continental Association to establish a coordinated protest of those acts, putting a boycott on British goods. The Second Continental Congress met on May 10, 1775, to plan further responses if the British government had not repealed or modified the acts however, the American Revolutionary War had already started by that time with the Battles of Lexington and Concord, and the Congress was called upon to take charge of the war effort.

For the first few months of the war, the patriots carried on their struggle in an ad-hoc and uncoordinated manner. Even so, they had seized numerous arsenals, driven out royal officials in various colonies, and besieged Boston in order to prevent the movement by land of British troops garrisoned there. On June 14, 1775, Congress voted to create the Continental Army out of the militia units around Boston and appointed George Washington of Virginia as commanding general. [5] On July 6, 1775, Congress approved a Declaration of Causes outlining the rationale and necessity for taking up arms in the Thirteen Colonies. Two days later delegates signed the Olive Branch Petition to the king affirming the colonies' loyalty to the crown and imploring the king to prevent further conflict. However, by the time British Colonial Secretary Lord Dartmouth received the petition, King George III had already issued a proclamation on August 23, 1775, in response to the news of the Battle of Bunker Hill, declaring elements of Britain's continental American possessions to be in a state of "open and avowed rebellion". As a result, the king refused to receive the petition. [6]

Georgia had not participated in the First Continental Congress and did not initially send delegates to the Second. Even so, the people of St. John's Parish (present-day Liberty County) sent Lyman Hall to the gathering on their behalf. [7] He participated in debates but did not vote, as he did not represent the entire colony. [8] That changed after July 1775, when a provincial Congress decided to send delegates to the Continental Congress and to adopt a ban on trade with Britain. [4]

The Continental Congress had no explicit legal authority to govern, [9] but it assumed all the functions of a national government, such as appointing ambassadors, signing treaties, raising armies, appointing generals, obtaining loans from Europe, issuing paper money (called "Continentals"), and disbursing funds. Congress had no authority to levy taxes and was required to request money, supplies, and troops from the states to support the war effort. Individual states frequently ignored these requests.

Congress was moving towards declaring independence from the British Empire in 1776, but many delegates lacked the authority from their home governments to take such drastic action. Advocates of independence moved to have reluctant colonial governments revise instructions to their delegations, or even replace those governments which would not authorize independence. On May 10, 1776, Congress passed a resolution recommending that any colony with a government that was not inclined toward independence should form one that was. On May 15, they adopted a more radical preamble to this resolution, drafted by John Adams, which advised throwing off oaths of allegiance and suppressing the authority of the Crown in any colonial government that still derived its authority from the Crown. That same day, the Virginia Convention instructed its delegation in Philadelphia to propose a resolution that called for a declaration of independence, the formation of foreign alliances, and a confederation of the states. The resolution of independence was delayed for several weeks, as advocates of independence consolidated support in their home governments.

On June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee offered a resolution before the Congress declaring the colonies independent. He also urged Congress to resolve "to take the most effectual measures for forming foreign Alliances" and to prepare a plan of confederation for the newly independent states. [10] Lee argued that independence was the only way to ensure a foreign alliance since no European monarchs would deal with America if they remained Britain's colonies. American leaders had rejected the divine right of kings in the New World, but recognized the necessity of proving their credibility in the Old World. [11]

Congress formally adopted the resolution of independence, but only after creating three overlapping committees to draft the Declaration, a Model Treaty, and the Articles of Confederation. The Declaration announced the states' entry into the international system the model treaty was designed to establish amity and commerce with other states, and the Articles of Confederation established "a firm league" among the thirteen free and independent states. These three things together constituted an international agreement to set up central institutions for conducting vital domestic and foreign affairs. [10] Congress finally approved the resolution of independence on July 2, 1776. They next turned their attention to a formal explanation of this decision, the United States Declaration of Independence which was approved on July 4 and published soon thereafter.

Provisional government Edit

The Congress moved from Philadelphia to Baltimore in the winter of 1776 to avoid capture by British forces who were advancing on Philadelphia. Henry Fite's tavern was the largest building in Baltimore Town at the time and provided a comfortable location of sufficient size for Congress to meet. Its site at the western edge of town was beyond easy reach of the British Royal Navy's ships should they try to sail up the harbor and the Patapsco River to shell the town. Congress was again forced to flee Philadelphia at the end of September 1777, as British troops occupied the city they moved to York, Pennsylvania and continued their work.

Congress passed the Articles of Confederation on November 15, 1777, after more than a year of debate, and sent it to the states for ratification. Approval by all 13 states was required for the establishment of the constitution. Jefferson's proposal for a Senate to represent the states and a House to represent the people was rejected, but a similar proposal was adopted later in the United States Constitution. One issue of debate was large states wanting a larger say, nullified by small states who feared tyranny. The small states won and each state had one vote. [12] Another revolved around the issue of western land claims states without such claims wanted those with claims to yield them to Congress. As written, western land claims remained in the hands of the individual states. Congress urged the states to give their assent quickly, and most did. [13] The first to ratify was Virginia on December 16, 1777 12 states had ratified the Articles by February 1779, 14 months into the process. [14] The lone holdout, Maryland, finally ratified the Articles on February 2, 1781, doing so only after Virginia relinquished its claims on land north of the Ohio River to Congress. [13]


Watch the video: Fort Ticonderoga (December 2021).