Sunday, September 20, 2015

Washington Travels From Philadelphia to Cambridge - II

   Before continuing with Washington's travels, it should be noted that amongst the nine companies of New York militia which met and escorted Washington into New York city on Sunday, June 25th, 1775 was a unit that called itself  the "Corsicans." They wore short green coats and leather caps with
King's College (Columbia) circa 1770
the inscription "Freedom or Death" on them. One of the privates in the Corsicans was a twenty year old student at King's College (Columbia). The student claimed to be eighteen but had shaved two years off of his age when a teenager on the Caribbean island of Nevis, probably to make it easier to gain an apprenticeship. Alexander Hamilton was already well-known amongst New York Whigs, having published several pamphlets supporting their cause. MGen Philip Schuyler was to be Hamilton's future father-in-law and, of course, Washington would be his mentor. Interestingly, there are no contemporary accounts indicating that Hamilton was introduced to Washington or Schuyler during Washington's visit. Perhaps no one considered it to be remarkable at the time.
   Given the news about Bunker Hill that Washington received on Sunday, it would seem that he would be anxious to proceed on his journey and assume command of the Continental Army located outside of Boston. In the Monday morning of June 26th, he drafted instructions to Schuyler, who was to take command of New York's defenses and the Continental troops in the state,  to consult with the Continental Congress as to what action he should take concerning Governor Tryon. Interestingly, Washington authorized Schuyler to report directly to Congress. The chain of command would not flow through Cambridge on to Philadelphia on subjects that required a prompt decision. Schuyler, thus, could operate independently of Washington when, in Schuyler's judgement, that was expedient.

   While Washington was occupied drafting Schuyler's instructions, he sent his aide, Lt Col Mifflin out shopping for some wine, some stationary, and a trunk. Two representatives of the New York Provincial Congress  arrived wishing to present an address to Washington and inquired as to what time would be convenient for him to receive it. As anxious as he was to depart, Washington could not refuse this request and set 2:30 as the time of the meeting. After receiving the address, Washington responded as follows:

Gentlemen, at the same time that with you I deplore the unhappy necessity of such an appointment as that with which I am honored, I cannot but feel sentiments of the highest gratitude for this affecting instance of distinction and regard. May your every wish be realized in the success of America at this important and interesting period; and be assured that every exertion of my worthy colleagues and myself will be equally extended to the reestablishment of Peace and Harmony between the Mother Country and the Colonies. As to the fatal, but Necessary, Operations of War. When we assumed the Soldier, we did not lay aside the Citizen, & new shall most sincerely rejoice with you in that happy hour, when the establishment of  American Liberty on the most firm and solid foundations, shall enable us to return to our private Stations in the bosom of a free, peaceful, & happy country.
   As incongruous this may sound to our ears 240 years later, Washington summarized the feelings of the overwhelming majority of Patriots and how they would express what they were fighting for in June 1775.
   Finally, Washington, accompanied by the two Major Generals, aides, and the Light Troop of Philadelphia cavalry, as well as by a contingent of New York militia and civilian New Yorkers set out once again for Cambridge.
Macomb Mansion, circa 1880
    Washington only got to Kingsbridge, New York (The Bronx) that day before he stopped, some fourteen miles above the city. Most likely he stayed over night at Cox's (Cock) tavern, a well-known tavern on the old Albany road originally constructed in 1669.
Loosing Field Book of the Revolution
Its owner, John Cox (Cock) was a well known Whig sympathizer who buried the head from the statue of King George II famously torn down in April 1775 in lower New York. The tavern was not the better of two taverns located in Kingsbridge but was more conveniently situated for the route Washington would take the following day. The tavern was purchased in 1797 by General Alexander Macomb, thus its designation.
   On Tuesday, June 27th 1775, Washington headed for New Haven, Connecticut, crossing Dyckman's Bridge taking the "road to Connecticut."  MGen Schuyler accompanied him as far as New Rochelle, New York where he and Washington conferred with David Wooster, head of the Connecticut militia whose units were incorporated into the Continental Army in mid-June 1775. Wooster was given a commission as a Brigadier General in the Continental Army. At the request of the New York Provincial Congress, the sixty-five year old Wooster had marched Colonel David Waterbury's 5th Connecticut Regiment south into New York to protect it from any British expedition. Schuler left the conference at about 10 AM to return to assume his duties defending New York.

   The Light Cavalry Troop of Philadelphia went no further than New Rochelle where they turned back for New York City.

Thaddeus Burr by John Singleton Copley,
 circa 1760
We do not know where Washington and his party spent the evening of the 27th of June but a local history indicates that he was "entertained" at the home of Thaddeus Burr in Fairfield, Connecticut, fifty miles north of Kingsbridge. .( The Burr family was prominent in Fairfield and Aaron Burr, Jr was a cousin of Thaddeus. Aaron Burr Sr. moved from Fairfield to Newark, NJ and Aaron Jr spent many a day at cousin Thaddeus' home and considered him somewhat of a surrogate father.) This means that Washington either took refreshment or spent the night there, or both. I think it is quite likely that Washington did, indeed, spend the night as the guest of Mr. Burr. The forty year old Thaddeus Burr was a man of wealth who owned a number of estates, a staunch patriot, and was a life long friend of John Hancock, the President of the Continental Congress. Hancock visited Burr frequently at Fairfield and Burr spent most of his winters in Boston. In fact when Hancock was returning from Philadelphia, he married Dorothy Quincy on September 28th, 1775 at Burr's home. Hancock must have mentioned to Washington that his old friend had a home and estate on the road to Cambridge.

   Unfortunately, Burr's home was later burned by the British. On July 7, 1779, British troops, under the command of the previously mentioned Governor Tryon of New York, landed at Fairfield and burned the town to the ground. 97 homes, to include the Burr estate, were burned. The devastation was so great that a decade later, Washington, when visiting the town, noted that the devastation could still be seen and the chimneys of burned houses were still standing. A few weeks after the burning, Hancock visited his old friend and, according to local legend, advised him that he would provide all of the glass for the building of a new home if Burr would build an exact replica of Hancock's mansion on Beacon Hill in Boston. The house, built in 1790, is still standing and is now a museum owned by the town of Fairfield. I doubt  this Georgian style home resembles John  Hancock's Beacon Hill mansion .
Thaddeus/Eunice Burr House, Fairfield, CT (1790)

   On June 28th, 1775, Washington and his party reached New Haven, only 30 miles from Fairfield.  Washington's approach was known in advance and some Yale students who had formed a volunteer
Issac Beers Tavern
militia company asked Washington if he would review them. Washington agreed to this and among the student militia, some 100 strong, was a young Noah Webster, the lexicographer, who marched playing either the fife or the drum.  Two other companies of militia made arrangements to muster the following morning and escort Washington out of town. Washington stayed overnight at the Beers tavern, (no longer standing). The Beers tavern was where, on April 20th, 1775, Benedict Arnold, as captain of the Governor's Foot Guard, rode his horse up to the tavern door, and demanded that the Town Selectman turn over the keys to the powder house. This started Benedict Arnold's rise to prominence. (Check the Index Page for my posts on Benedict Arnold).

   Washington was reportedly chafing at the slow progress he was now making but felt that he could not ignore theses requests on his time. At this point Washington could take one of three routes to Cambridge. All were titled the King's Highway. We know it as the Boston Post Road and parts of it are still labeled such today.( I take a part of the Upper Boston Post Road when I visit my sister in Western Massachusetts.)

The King's Highway (Boston Post Road)
    Washington chose to take the Upper Post Road which was the fastest, the most popular, had the fewest river crossings,, and reportedly had the finest taverns of all three routes on it.

Elizabeth Deane, 1760
By Joseph Trumbull
On June 29th, 1775, Washington set out for Wethersfield some 35 miles away and just south of Hartford, with the Yale student militia company and the other two militia companies escorting him for several miles out of  New Haven reportedly as far as "neck bridge." Washington noted that the summer had been dry in the lower Connecticut Valley and along the northern shore of Long Island Sound, but observing, with admiration, "a great deal of delightful country...covered with a very different manner to what our lands in Virginia are." At New London, which he had visited in 1756, Washington saw some familiar faces and houses, and, at Wethersfield, he dined with Elizabeth Deane, the wife of Silas Deane, prominent patriot, who was serving as a delegate to the Continental Congress and who Washington had gotten to know quite well  It is also believed that Washington spent the night at the Deane home. The Deane home still stands in Wethersfield and is being restored to its original condition. A piazza original to the house is missing. Washington was carrying the following letter from Silas to his wife Elizabeth :

Philadelphia Jun22,1775. This will be handed to you by his Excellency, General Washington in company with General Lee, and retinue. Should they lodge a night in Wethersfield, you will accommodate their horses, servants, &c, in the best manner at the tavern, and their retinue will likely go on to Hartford.

Silas Deane House
   On his way to Wethersfield, Washington stopped in Durham, Ct, some 20 miles south, and met with then Captain Jeremiah Wadsworth, who would in 1778 be selected Commissary General of the Continental Army, probably to discuss provisions for the army since Wadsworth had already been appointed to purchase certain provisions for the Connecticut militia. Washington also stopped at John Swathal's tavern, perhaps to obtain some fresh horses. Wadsworth claimed in his diary that he furnished Washington a horse which Washington used to draw his carriage
Jeremiah Wadsworth and son, 1780
John Trumbull

   The next morning, Friday,  Jun 30, 1775, Washington set out for Springfield where he was to meet up with the delegation sent to meet him by the Massachusetts Provincial Congress. Washington's party traveled up the west side of the Connecticut River entering Massachusetts at Agawam, crossed the Westfield River into West Springfield and took the lower ferry across the Connecticut River into Springfield.

To Be Continued




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