David McCullough


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1776 Chapter 6 Summary & Analysis

Part III: The Long Retreat

Chapter 6 Summary: Fortune Frowns

To everyone’s rejoicing, Nathanael Greene finally recovered. Moreover, he had a plan—bring the troops back together to avoid being cut further off or outflanked by the British, and then burn New York. The reasoning was that most of the people living in New York were Tories anyway, and why should they leave such wonderful bed and lodging for the British troops. However, the Continental Congress would have nothing to do with burning New York.

On September 9, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Edward Rutledge agreed to a meeting with Lord Howe. The meeting came to naught, but it did buy Washington’s troops’ precious time. Washington and his war council decided to move all the troops, save Putnam’s, to King’s Bridge. On Saturday the 14th, the Congress ordered the troops to abandon the city.

The British, however, were again on the move. Against General Henry Clinton’s wishes, the Howe brothers insisted that the landing take place at Kip’s Bay. Just one day before the Americans’ retreat was finished, the canons and the invasion started from three frigates stationed there. The remaining Americans fled under the superior firepower—all save the furious George Washington who rode within 100 yards of the battle brandishing a pistol or his sword, threatening to slay deserters.

According to legend, an ardent patriot, Mrs. Mary Murray, delayed the British surge for two hours by inviting William Howe to tea. She might have saved many of the American soldiers. In all likelihood, it was a legend though, because the real Mary Murray was a woman in her 50s with 12 children. Nevertheless, the British accomplished their goal—taking of New York—and were pleased with the overall lack of bloodshed.

The Americans, having gotten used to being routed, got lucky on September 16. When word came of the enemy’s approach, General Washington sent Connecticut rangers out to reconnoiter. Washington ordered Thomas Knowlton and his men to counter attack. The battle grew exponentially, with the British committing a full 5,000 men, but the Americans took the day—chasing the redcoats for what seemed like three miles.

Washington had to…

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