David McCullough


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1776 Chapter 7 Summary & Analysis

Chapter 7 Summary: Darkest Hour

Washington’s men retreated a mere five miles away in the downpour and mud. The men wore rags and many had no shoes.

Perhaps because of so many defeats and failed campaigns, Washington now had many enemies, including General Lee. Washington dictated a letter giving Lee orders and dispatched it through Joseph Reed who wrote another letter to Lee of his own. Reed clearly flattered Lee and told him what he wished to hear—that Lee himself should be commanding the army. He urged Lee to approach the Continental Congress to ask for a change in leadership.

Once again, the New Year was rolling around and Washington worried about his war-weary soldiers. Their commissions were about to expire and the officers feared they would lose the better part of the army, such as it was. Washington’s fears were not unfounded. By the end of August, he had only 3500 troops. In addition to sickness and being tired of battle, Washington not could get the 13 states to send militias the governors wanted their fighters at home to protect themselves. They were not impressed with the progress of the war. Washington dispatched two of his closest men to Pennsylvania and New Jersey to appeal for militiamen, but they were refused.

Admiral Howe and General Clinton were at odds concerning strategies. Howe wanted to continue to pursue the Americans because the army was so ragged and there were so many defectors. Howe wanted to wipe out all the  colonists by overrunning Rhode Island and New Jersey, where many loyalists resided, making it easy to clear the states  of Washington’s forces. Because Clinton had criticized Howe, Howe replaced him with Charles Cornwallis.

Cornwallis was of the British upper crust. Schooled at Eton, he distinguished himself in his military career and seemed to genuinely love his men. (He said so.) Disciplined, he led a sober life and was always concerned for his wife. He was the perfect replacement for Clinton. Cornwallis’ orders were to pursue the rebels to Brunswick and then to stop fifty miles south of Newark. The wet, muddy roads made the trip…

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