David McCullough


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1776 Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Part II

Chapter 4 Summary: Fateful Summer

Washington’s valiant, but still rugged men were ordered to march toward New York. Even in much inclement weather, they trudged on. This call had been Washington’s, and his alone. The Continental Congress agreed that New York was vital to the whole continent and should be protected. New York was not as welcoming a place as Boston, however, as it was filled with loyalists, many with financial interests in the city.

New York proved a much different town than Boston in other ways too. Although there were numerous churches and one synagogue the men attended, there was also licentious behavior that the officers had to contend with. Drinking and visiting prostitutes brought on syphilis among the troops, and small pox broke out as well. The penalty for such behavior was being shot, but it was difficult to distinguish soldiers from civilians since the New Englanders still had no uniforms.

Washington again established a fine home for himself and Martha, once again the “courtesy” of a wealthy loyalist who had fled. Number 1 Broadway was his main post, however. Washington’s first order of business was to inspect the fortifications of General Lee and Lord Stirling.

Washington and his officers decided that Long Island and Brooklyn in particular was the key to New York and must therefore be defended at all costs. Washington put Nathanael Greene in charge of the troops. The men set to work felling trees and digging ditches around the area. Pleased with their 120 canons, they assigned the men who had no weapons as artillerymen, even though they were inexperienced.

On May 16, Henry Knox, now Greene’s best friend, urged the Continental Congress to declare independence. Washington had 6,923 men fit for duty, but word had it that 17,000 German mercenaries were coming to fight with the number fighting for the British being no fewer than 30,000. More bad news ensued from Canada, and Washington commissioned Joseph Reed to replace Commandant Horatio Gates there.

A threat was received on Washington and his officers’ lives and some of the troops mobbed the towns tarring and feathering, burning and with…

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