General Washington Moves His Continental Army To New York to Head Off an Anticipated British Invasion in 1776

An important and unpublished primary resource: Caleb Gibbs, Head of the Washington’s Guard, lists the stops and costs of moving men and supplies from Boston to New York

We find record of no similar document ever having reached the market; this one adds important information to the historical record

The Siege of Boston was the opening phase of the Revolutionary War. The siege began on April 19 after the Battles of Lexington and Concord, when the militia from surrounding Massachusetts...

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General Washington Moves His Continental Army To New York to Head Off an Anticipated British Invasion in 1776

An important and unpublished primary resource: Caleb Gibbs, Head of the Washington’s Guard, lists the stops and costs of moving men and supplies from Boston to New York

We find record of no similar document ever having reached the market; this one adds important information to the historical record

The Siege of Boston was the opening phase of the Revolutionary War. The siege began on April 19 after the Battles of Lexington and Concord, when the militia from surrounding Massachusetts communities blocked land access to Boston. The Continental Congress formed the Continental Army from the militia, with George Washington as its Commander in Chief. In June 1775, the British seized Bunker and Breed’s Hills, from which the Continentals were preparing to bombard the city, but their casualties were heavy and their gains were insufficient to break the Continental Army’s hold on land access to Boston. The Americans laid siege to the British-occupied city. In November 1775, Washington sent Henry Knox to bring to Boston the heavy artillery that had been captured at Fort Ticonderoga. The British commander William Howe saw the British position as indefensible and withdrew the British forces in Boston to the British stronghold at Halifax, Nova Scotia, on March 17.

In a letter to the president of Congress, General Washington wrote of his intentions in marching to New York and expressed frustration with Congress for failing to send adequate funds to allow him to pay his troops. On the 11th of March 1776, a General Order announced the march to New York and establishment of his military guard. “The General being desirous of selecting a particular number of men, as a Guard for himself, and baggage, The Colonel, or commanding Officer, of each of the established Regiments, (the Artillery and Riffle-men excepted) will furnish him with four, that the number wanted may be chosen out of them.”

The published papers of Washington note, “From 4 to 13 April GW was on the road from Cambridge to New York. He was accompanied on this journey by his aides-de-camp William Palfrey and Stephen Moylan and the adjutant general of the Continental army, Horatio Gates.. GW, in order “to see and expedite the embarkation of the Troops” going to New York, proceeded on the “lower” road through Providence, Norwich, and New London to New Haven where the two roads met…Because Palfrey neglected to include specific dates in his account and often omitted the names of towns, only a general outline of GW’s journey can be reconstructed from it.” There is no known record of the activities or expenses of the Guard and the supplies it was transmitting.

Autograph document, in the hand of Captain (later Major) Caleb Gibbs, the commander of Washington’s Guard (he took that position on March 12, 1776), back-dated April 4, 1776, “An account of expenses of his Excellency General Washington’s guard, wagons, horses, wagoners, etc… from Cambridge to New York, with several bills.” Washington’s nephew George Lewis became the Guard’s lieutenant. The document lists stops the army made along the way, cities Dedham and Walpole in Massachusetts, Providence in Rhode Island, Plainfield and Norwich in CT, and Long Island and New York, among other locations. It lists the amount of money spent at those stops and, interestingly, the names of taverns and other vendors where the men ate, slept, and refueled their supplies.

This is an important and unpublished document showing the first major movement of the newly formed Continental Army.

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