01 October 2009

New York

The difference in tone, between this chapter and the previous chapter, was very striking. In Boston the American troops had had great luck and blessing with their successes. They won Dorchester Heights, and spirits were buoyed up as they headed out to their next place of battle. In New York, not so much.

As Chapter 4 begins, the American Troops had begun their march from Massachusetts to Rhode Island, through Connecticut and into New York; speed was of the essence and energy was high - high enough to prevail over any doubts or worries the soldiers might have had about what awaited them in New York.

Despite fears to the contrary, the American troops were in New York well before the British arrived. However, things in New York were markedly different than things had been in Boston. In Boston, Washington had the information and, predominantly, the upper hand. Now, the tables were turned and George Washington was "gravely, realistically apprehensive about the magnitude of the enemy force en route. He fretted over when their ships might appear, and how, with no naval strength, to defend a city bounded by navigable rivers on two sides and a harbor of a size sufficient to accommodate the largest fleet imaginable (pg. 117)." Yet, the prevailing attitude of Congress, and the army leaders, was that New York had "vast importance (pg. 118)", and they must make a stand.

Further complicating things, Washington's troops were still disheveled and unruly. Also, there continue to be a lack of understanding of the importance of hygiene and the proper disposal of human waste. Consequently, many of the soldiers got very sick. In addition to hygiene issues, New York offered a brothel district that introduced its own set of problems.

As Washington and his committee began their plans to fortify the city, they opted to build Forts to fortify the area. Inspired by Ritsumei's previous use of maps to help her understand, I also sought out some GoogleMap goodness to help me get a better picture of where these Forts were.

It was decided that if "New York was the key to the continent, then Long Island was the Key to New York, and the key to the defense of Long Island was Brooklyn Heights (pg. 127)." So, the first Fort they completed was Fort Stirling, right along the water:

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Along with Fort Stirling (A), three other forts were underway, to create a line of defense to "check their drive for the river (pg. 127)."

There was Fort Putnam(B):

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Fort Greene (C):

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and Fort Box (D):

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**locations approximate**

On page 135, we read that on July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress voted to "dissolve the connection" with Great Britain and the news reached New York on July 6th.

The timing seemed a little odd to me, what's this about July 2nd, what?? Well, apparently, the Declaration of Independence was signed on the 4th, giving an explanation of the legal separation that was announced two days earlier, thus making it more officially official.

In the last section of Chapter 4, there was an interesting interview that George Washington had with a British messenger.

On July 13th, General Howe sent a letter addressed to "Mr. Washington". He was sent away with the message that there was "no person in [their] army with that address (pg. 144)." Three days later, the messenger returned again, this time the letter was addressed to "George Washington, Esq., etc. etc." Again, it was refused. The following day, via a new messenger, a letter arrived again, and this time Washington, and his council, met with him.

I was fascinated by this interaction; even when Washington had admitted the messenger, he refused to accept the letter:
"The use of "etc., etc." implied everything that ought to follow", the messenger said. "It so does," said Washington, "and anything."
It's clear that Washington understood the importance of protocol and keeping up images; if they were every to be taken seriously, or have a chance at success, it must be all or nothing. It goes on to say, "A letter addressed to a person in a position of public responsibility ought to indicate that sation, Washington said, otherwise it would appear mere private correspondence. He would not accept such a letter."

One last thought I had on this chapter: Near the end, it talks about some movements of British ships. Then, almost as an offhand comment, the author says, "If anyone among the American command saw the return of the two enemy ships from upriver as a sign of trouble, there is no record of it (pg. 153)." Is that foreshadowing of disastrous events to come?


Ritsumei said...

This is cool. I like your use of the maps.

Now, how did I not notice that you posted this??? Guess I'd better get my rear in gear! I'm thinking that I must be a pretty frustrating study-partner right now... or not, what with the show going on.

misskate said...

Heh.. no worries. It is very true that the show has been keeping me busy. There's no way I could have posted anything about any chapters this week :) 'Sides, you're busy too!