1777 (The People's Chronology)
The Battle of Princeton January 3 gives General Washington a victory over three British regiments under General Cornwallis (see 1776). Thomas Paine's pamphlet "Common Sense II" appears 10 days later and predicts, "The United States of America will sound as pompously [meaning importantly] in the world or in history as The Kingdom of Great Britain." Many New Jerseyites have renounced their support of Washington and taken oaths of loyalty to the Crown, some have fled to British-occupied New York, but last year's victory at Trenton has persuaded thousands to re-embrace the cause of independence; some of them attack British and Hessian troops in retaliation for depredations that have included theft, murder, and rape; the colony has what amounts to civil war from the Ramapo Mountains to Cape May, thousands on both sides lose their lives and property.
Congress embitters Benedict Arnold February 19 by promoting to the rank of major general five brigadier-generals who are all junior in rank to Arnold. General Washington immediately demands an explanation, noting Arnold's extraordinary leadership abilities, but Congress responds that Connecticut already has two major generals. Having dissuaded Arnold from resigning, Washington deploys his small force throughout the area surrounding Morristown, New Jersey, to make it appear that he has more men, tricks the British into thinking he has 12,000 instead of 3,000, harasses British foraging parties with skirmishers and snipers, and uses the same methods against the enemy near Kings Bridge in northern Manhattan. New Yorker Alexander Hamilton, now 22, organized a company at the outbreak of hostilities 2 years ago; Washington makes him his aide-de-camp and personal secretary (see 1781). Former colonial governor William Tryon receives permission to command a Loyalist force and conducts raids in Connecticut, but General Arnold defeats him April 27 at Ridgefield, even though his hastily mustered band of 500 colonials is outnumbered four to one.
English-born Declaration of Independence signer Button Gwinnett is named president of Georgia following the death of the colony's governor. The Scottish-born military commander in the colony Lachlan McIntosh, 52, exchanges words with Gwinnett over responsibility for the failure of an expedition against British posts in Florida, the two men fight a duel May 16, both are wounded, and Gwinnett dies of his wounds at his Savannah home May 19 at age 41 (approximate).
The 2,000-man American garrison at Fort Ticonderoga on Lake Champlain abandons the outpost the evening of July 5 after observing the British move cannon up Mount Defiance that overlooks the fort and hearing news that superior British forces under General John Burgoyne are approaching; Burgoyne easily defeats the Continentals July 7 at Hubbarton, Vermont. He has sailed down Lake Champlain from Canada with a force of 7,000 British regulars and Hessian mercenaries with a view to sealing off New England and ending the rebellion. Some 400 Iroquois braves have been helping him find his way through 23 miles of dense forest to the Hudson River, but the going has been slow. About 2,000 women and children accompany his army, dysentery and other illnesses plague his men, as do flies and snakes; the mile-long train of carts and pack animals can cover less than one mile per day, building bridges and causeways as it advances.
The murder of colonist Jane McCrea helps rally Americans against the British. One of Burgoyne's lieutenants, David Jones, has been courting the 22-year-old orphaned daughter of a Presbyterian minister, whom he has known since childhood; she has been living with her oldest brother at Fort Edward, on the Hudson south of Fort Ticonderoga, and despite his pleas she elects to stay behind when most of the rebel sympathizers leave Fort Edwards for Albany. Visiting her friend Sarah McNeil on the morning of July 27, she finds Mrs. McNeil frantically packing for the journey to Albany. A band of Iroquois arrives at the McNeil house, they turn Mrs. McNeil over to the British, but Jane McCrae's body is later found naked on a hill not far away. She has been scalped (the Indians later present her three-foot-long blonde scalp to the British), shot four times, and bears numerous stab wounds. News of her death spreads quickly throughout New England and creates an outcry at London. Edmund Burke rises in the House of Commons to demand that the British Army stop using Indian agents, and thousands of colonists whose sympathies were uncertain are now moved to support the cause of the Revolution. Alarmed by propaganda that their wives and daughters might suffer the fate of Jane McCrea, men flock to the colors of General Benedict Arnold and General Horatio Gates, now 49; they cut down trees to impede the British advance, the Iroquois desert Burgoyne, he has trouble finding his way without them, but General Philip Schuyler evacuates Fort Edwards July 29 and the British take it as they finally reach the Hudson.
The Second Continental Congress votes July 31 to accept the services of French captain of dragoons Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, marquis de Lafayette, who was orphaned 6 years ago but left with a princely fortune. Continental Congress envoy Silas Deane has persuaded the 19-year-old Lafayette to join the American cause, Louis XIV forbade the young man to pursue his plan, but Lafayette has escaped from custody, picked up a little English en route to America, landed in South Carolina, hurried to Philadelphia, and been given the rank of major general (see Lafayette, 1779).
American militiamen under the command of General Nicholas Herkimer, 49, check the British in their march down the Mohawk Valley en route to Albany. Lt. Col. Barry St. Leger has left Montreal June 23 with the aim of meeting General Burgoyne, reached Oswego on Lake Ontario by way of Niagara July 25, and immediately begun an offensive with an army of about 340 British regulars, plus 650 Canadians and Loyalists and more than 1,000 Indians under the command of Mohawk chief Joseph Brant. An Oneida has told Herkimer of the British advance July 30, St. Leger has little in the way of artillery (two six-pound cannon, two two-pounders, and four mortars), but he lays siege August 3 to Fort Stanwix (Fort Schuyler, later Rome); its American garrison hauls up a flag of stars and stripes made from red, white, and blue fabric found inside the fort. General Herkimer receives word of the British advance and gathers a force of 800 men and boys from settlements and farms in the valley; the Americans hold fast August 6 at Oriskany Creek, but General Herkimer suffers a mortal leg wound in battle, having walked into a trap set by Brant about six miles from Fort Stanwix. The encounter ends indecisively, but St. Leger's Indian allies have no heart for hand-to-hand combat in heavy rain, they hear that a Continental Army contingent under the command of Benedict Arnold is on its way to relieve Fort Stanwix, and they force the Loyalists to withdraw.
General Burgoyne hears that there are fresh horses at Bennington and sends a contingent of 700 mounted Hessian soldiers under the command of Lt. Col. Friedrich Baum to procure them. The Hessians arrive August 16 and encounter about 1,800 Americans under Captain John Stark, who receives help from Colonel Seth Warner in attacking the Hessians and their Loyalist supporters; Baum speaks no English, he is shot in the stomach, and his men are killed or captured; the British abandon their siege of Fort Stanwix August 22 at the approach of Benedict Arnold, St. Leger withdraws westward, and Continental Army troops march back to Fort Ticonderoga in September under the command of Colonel John Brown, but although they outnumber the British five to one, surround the fort, and mount cannon on Fort Defiance, they cannot force the garrison to surrender and the British will hold the fort and control Lake Champlain for the rest of the war.
Continental Army and British forces meet halfway between New York and Montreal September 19 in the First Battle of Saratoga (Bemis Heights); the redcoats march into a clearing on Freeman's farm on the only road to Albany, encounter a 7,000-man force of Americans, and quickly come under fire from Daniel Morgan's riflemen, sustaining heavy losses but holding their ground. American reinforcements arrive and General Burgoyne sends frantic appeals for reinforcements to General Howe at New York, but Howe has loaded his 18,000-man army onto ships at New York and sent them to Delaware Bay.
Redcoats under the command of General Charles Grey, 48, defeat Anthony Wayne, 32, at Paoli, Pennsylvania, September 20 as General Washington rushes troops to defend Philadelphia. A British army defeats Washington September 22 at the Battle of Brandywine Creek near Philadelphia; General Lafayette is wounded in that encounter but soon secures the command of a division. Polish nobleman Kazimierz Pulaski, 30, serves as Washington's aide and is given command of a cavalry brigade in recognition of his valor at Brandywine; he was outlawed by the Russians after the partition of his country 5 years ago and has been recruited by envoy Silas Deane.
General Howe occupies Philadelphia September 26 but finds that the Continental Congress has fled; he defeats General Washington at Germantown October 6. The losses at Brandywine and Germantown raise questions about General Washington's abilities as the Continental Congress regroups at York, Pennsylvania.
The Second Battle of Saratoga (Bemis Heights) October 7 gives the Americans a decisive victory over General Burgoyne, whose 5,000 redcoats are outnumbered at least two to one. Continental Congress envoy Silas Deane has succeeded in obtaining a shipment of eight cargoes of French arms, and they have been of great value to the Americans. General Gates has refused to leave his tent; the popular General Benedict Arnold has advanced in violation of Gates's orders, notices that Burgoyne's second-in-command (Brig. Gen. Simon Fraser, 48) is riding his horse behind the enemy lines and encouraging his men, orders New Jersey-born sharpshooter Timothy Murphy, 26, to "Get Fraser," and Murphy fires his long-rifle from a distance of 300 yards, mortally wounding Fraser, demoralizing the British, and inspiring Arnold's men to defeat them, although Arnold himself has his horse shot from under him and sustains a wound; General Burgoyne surrenders with his entire force October 17, marches his troops to Boston, and embarks for England, never to resume the war. Some of the politicians who were forced to flee Philadelphia 10 days earlier conspire with disgruntled officers to replace General Washington with General Gates.
The British have only 300 troops west of the Alleghenies; their commander is Henry Hamilton, governor of North America, at Fort Detroit; and he encourages his Native American allies to massacre American settlers in what later will be Kentucky, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan, allegedly paying for scalps while providing the Shawnee and other tribesmen with muskets, gunpowder, and blankets. The Virginia Legislature gives George Rogers Clark, now 25, the rank of lieutenant colonel of militia and sends him west with a force of 175 men (see 1778).
John Paul Jones embarks for France November 1 aboard his ship Ranger with news of the victory at Saratoga. Now 30, the Scottish-born naval commander adopted his surname in his early 20s after killing a mutineer in Tobago and taking flight to avoid imprisonment before coming to trial. He was in Virginia when the revolution broke out in 1775, cast his lot with the Americans, was commissioned first lieutenant in the Continental Navy, and has served aboard Esek Hopkins's flagship Alfred. Commodore Hopkins has been suspended from command of the Continental Navy in March (see 1776); he will be dismissed from the naval service in January of next year. Jones pauses to take two prizes en route to France (see 1778).
The British secure control of the Delaware River in November.
The Articles of Confederation adopted by the Second Continental Congress at York, Pennsylvania, November 15 provide that at least nine states must consent to all important measures, requires unanimous consent for any changes in the articles, provides no way for the central government to coerce recalcitrant states into compliance with congressional decisions, and denies Congress any power to tax or to regulate trade. Congress submits the articles to the 13 states for ratification, makes the first of several requisitions of funds, to be paid by the states in paper money, and authorizes confiscation of Loyalists' estates.
George Washington leads his 11,000 ragged troops into Valley Forge outside British-held Philadelphia December 14 to spend the winter. At least 2,000 are barefoot, more than 1,000 have sustained battle wounds, many are dying, and Washington has to build from scratch on barren ground what amounts to the fourth largest city in America, using barns and churches as makeshift hospitals.
Portugal's Brazil annexes Maranhão as the Spanish and Portuguese settle their differences over their South American colonies. The Portuguese move the capital of Brazil from Bahia to Rio de Janeiro.
Portugal's José Manuel dies February 24 at age 61 after a 27-year reign. He has been insane since 1774 and his chief minister, José de Carvalho e Mello, marqués de Pombal, has employed a reign of terror to break the power of the nobility and the Church, reformed the military, straightened out the nation's finances, established trade companies with monopolistic powers to encourage industry, and tried to improve education. Now 78, he is dismissed March 5 by José Manuel's widow, Marianna Victoria, who takes power as Maria I and reopens the case of the 1758 Távoras conspiracy. Restitution will be made to most of the nobles whose property was confiscated in the case, Pombal will be found guilty of unjudicial acts, and he will be exiled. The queen's feebleminded daughter Maria Francisca, 43, will reign until 1816 (she was married at 26 to the king's dimwitted brother, her uncle, who will die in 1787, and she will go insane in 1792).
Scottish Jacobite Sir John Murray (of Broughton) dies at Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, December 6 at age 59. Ostracized since 1746 as a traitor even by his wife, he has long since become deranged.
Bavaria's elector Maximilian III dies December 30 without heirs. Charles Theodore, the elector Palatine, is his legal heir (but see 1778).
The British East India Company's court of directors at London orders that George Pigot, 1st Baron Pigot (of Patshul), be restored to his position as governor of Madras, but Pigot dies at Madras May 11 at age 58 before the order arrives. Four of the men responsible for his imprisonment last year will be tried in 1779 and fined £1,000 each; corruption in India's public service will continue.
Vietnam's Tay Son Rebellion continues as the Nguyen brothers overthrow the southern regime at Hue and kill almost the entire seigneurial family (see 1771). Prince Nguyen Anh, 15, escapes the carnage (see 1782).
Human Rights, Social Justice
New York adopts a constitution that takes voting rights away from women, even those who own property (see New Jersey, 1776; Massachusetts, 1780).
San Jose is founded by Spanish conquistadors in California's Santa Clara Valley to raise food for their garrisons at Monterey and San Francisco (see 1769). They plant orchards in the oak-studded grasslands, and the area will remain basically agricultural for 170 years.
Six Attempts at a Symbolic Method in the Theory of Pure Reason (Sechs Versuch einer Zeichenkunst in der Vermunftlehre) by mathematician-astronomer-physicist-philosopher Johann H. Lambert amounts to an elegant and notationally efficient calculus (he is evidently unaware that it duplicates to a large extent some of the calculus published by Gottfried W. Leibniz nearly a century ago). Lambert dies at Berlin September 25 at age 49 (a measurement of light intensity will be named the lambert in his honor).
Physiologist Albrecht von Haller dies at his native Bern December 12 at age 69.
General Washington obtains congressional approval in January to inoculate the entire Continental Army against smallpox, which in some cases is further spread by inoculation (see 1776). The Continental Congress blames physician-in-chief John Morgan for high mortality rates and dismisses him, and although he will be absolved by General Washington and the Congress of any wrongdoing in 1779 he will not recover from his disgrace (see vaccination, 1796).
Ergotism kills 8,000 in France's Sologne district, where rye has become infected with the deadly fungus parasite Claviceps purpura (see 1720; 1816).
The College of New Jersey at Princeton suffers at the hands of British and Continental troops, both of whom are quartered at different times in the 21-year-old Nassau Hall. President John Witherspoon has signed the Declaration of Independence and is powerless to prevent the redcoats and colonials from damaging various structures along with the Rittenhouse Orrery during and after the Battle of Princeton.
The first official version of the Declaration of Independence appears in January at Baltimore, bearing the names of all signatories. Having fled to Baltimore from Philadelphia in December, the Continental Congress has commissioned local printer Mary Katherine Goddard, 38, to print the document. Her brother William started the city's first newspaper, the Maryland Journal, 3 years ago, and has brought Mary in to run it while he served time in debtor's prison (he has gone broke trying to organize the colonial postal service). She is Baltimore's postmaster and its only printer, running not merely the newspaper but also the print shop, operating the presses herself. She pays post riders to have the Declaration delivered throughout the colonies.
Nonfiction: The Lives of the Poets (Prefaces, Biographical and Critical, to the Works of the English Poets) by Doctor Johnson, who has been asked by some London booksellers to write a brief work but has begun one that will grow to fill 10 volumes by 1781 plus 56 volumes of poetry.
Painting: The Watering Place by Thomas Gainsborough; Still Life with Military Trophies, Still Life with Plums and a Lemon, and Bust of Minerva by Anne Vallayer-Coster.
Swedish chemist K. W. Scheele undertakes studies with silver salts that advance rudimentary knowledge of photography (see Schulze, 1727; Wedgwood, 1802).
Theater: Storm and Stress (Sturm und Drang) by Friedrich von Klinger 4/1 at Leipzig (von Klinger will move to St. Petersburg in 1780, enter the Russian army, be elevated to the nobility, and, in 1790, marry an illegitimate daughter of Catherine II (the Great); initially entitled Confusion (Wirrwarr), his play's new title will provide the name for a German literary movement headed by Goethe and Schiller; The School for Scandal by Richard Brinsley Sheridan 5/1 at London's Theatre Royal in Drury Lane that Sheridan has been managing for the past year: "Here's to the maiden of bashful fifteen;/ Here's to the widow of fifty;/ Here's to the flaunting, extravagant queen,/ And here's to the housewife that's thrifty" (Sheridan's Lady Teazle is modeled on the political power broker Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire); Irish-born actress Elizabeth Farren, 28, makes her London debut in the role of Kate Hardcastle in a revival of Oliver Goldsmith's 1773 comedy She Stoops to Conquer. Farren will play lead parts at the Drury Lane and Haymarket theaters for the next 20 years; Percy by Hannah More 10/12 at London's Covent Garden Theatre; Irish actress Dorothea Jordan turns 16 in November and makes her stage debut at Dublin playing the role of Phoebe in Shakespeare's 1600 comedy As You Like It.
Poet-playwright Aleksandr Petrovich Sumarokov dies in poverty at Moscow October 12 (October 1 Old Style) at age 59, having lost favor with Catherine II (the Great).
First performances: Concerto No. 9 for Pianoforte and Orchestra in E flat major by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, in January at Salzburg; Concerto for Three Pianofortes and Orchestra in F major by W. A. Mozart 10/22 at Augsburg.
Architecture, Real Estate
Russian esthete Count Aleksandr Stroganoff, 44, sends his talented 18-year-old serf Andrei Voronikhin to Moscow to study painting and architecture. Heir to one of Russia's greatest fortunes (and possibly Voronikhin's father), the count has lived at Paris and will bring Voronikhin back to St. Petersburg, where the youth will study alongside the count's legitimate son Paul under a French tutor recommended by Denis Diderot. Veronikhin will be freed on the tutor's recommendation in 1786, study at Paris, and become one of Russia's greatest architects.
Continental Army officer Loammi Baldwin, 33, is invalided home to Woburn, Massachusetts, surveys land for a canal near Wilmington, Massachusetts, and discovers a seedling apple tree whose fruit is so tasty that he cuts scions for grafting to his own trees and next year will have trees that will bear what will become known as the Baldwin apple. Also called the Pecker, the Woodpecker, and Steele's Red Winter, the Baldwin will become the most widely cultivated winter apple in the East.
George Washington finds food scarce at Valley Forge. General Howe has captured his salt stocks, his commissary has supposedly collected enough meat to last 8 months but actually has enough only for 8 days. German-born gingerbread baker Christopher Ludwick, 57, of Philadelphia has devised equipment to bake bread for the Continental Army and refuses any compensation for his services.
An advertisement published at Boston promotes "Hannon's Best CHOCOLATE, Marked upon each Cake J. Hn. Warranted Pure, and ground exceeding fine. Where may be had any Quantity, from 50 wt. to a ton, for Cash or cocoa, at his Mills in Milton. N.B. If the Chocolate does not prove good the Money will be returned" (see 1764; 1779).
Gray Poupon mustard is introduced at Dijon, France, by Maurice Gray, whose secret formula will make his product popular for more than 2 centuries. He has obtained financial backing from a man named Poupon to set up shop and will invent automatic, steam-operated mustard-making machines.
Bass Ale is introduced at Burton-upon-Trent by English entrepreneur William Bass, who has purchased a brewery in the town and will produce a few hundred barrels per year, a number that will grow to nearly 1 million barrels as the family company's products gain popularity worldwide.