Tea Party winners: Roseanna M. White's winner is Debbie Wilder, Denise Weimer's print copy of Widow goes to Andrea Stephens, Debra E. Marvin's winners for Ebook collection are Cheryl Baranski and Rachel Koppendrayer, Carrie Fancett Pagels' ebook collection goes to Joan Arning and paperback to Connie, Gina Welborn's winner is Regina Fujitani, Gabrielle Meyer's paperback copy of A Mother in the Making is Teri Geist DiVincenzo
Thursday, August 23, 2012
When Congress Fled
Delegates to the Second Continental Congress—which after the passage of the Declaration of Independence became the Congress of the fledgling United States—met at the Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia, now known as Independence Hall. In the fall of 1776, the British drove Washington’s battered army out of New York, all the way across New Jersey to Trenton, and finally, in early December, across the Delaware River into Pennsylvania. Terrified that British General William Howe would pursue Washington across the Delaware and push all the way to Philadelphia, residents of the city began to flee in panic, and on December 12, Congress also evacuated.
On December 20, the delegates reconvened at the Henry Fite House in Baltimore, Maryland, where they remained until late February 1777. The largest building in Baltimore at the time, the Fite House was originally built as a tavern in 1770 and eventually burned down in 1904. During its brief use by Congress, it became known as Congress Hall and later as Old Congress Hall. Thus Baltimore became the nation’s capital for a two-month period. While meeting here on December 27, 1776, Congress conferred upon George Washington “extraordinary powers for the conduct of the Revolutionary War,” making him essentially a military dictator. Thankfully he proved to be worthy of their trust by always deferring to Congress’s control.
Instead of attacking Philadelphia, however, Howe settled into winter quarters, and Congress returned to the city on March 4, 1777. They continued to meet at the Pennsylvania State House until September 19, 1777, after Washington’s defeat at Brandywine Creek, which left Philadelphia once again vulnerable to British attack. In book 4 of my American Patriot Series, Crucible of War, I included the scenes of panic that took place while the American and British armies essentially played a chess match, while Howe progressively tightened the noose around Philadelphia. I was delighted to find a number of eyewitness accounts of those tense days to lend accuracy and vividness to my descriptions.
According to an account by loyalist resident Sarah Fisher, “ . . . two nights ago the city was alarmed about two o’clock with a great knocking at people’s doors & desiring them to get up, that the English had crossed the Swedes ford at 11 o’clock & would presently be in the city. . . . wagons rattling, horses galloping, women running, children crying, delegates flying, & altogether the greatest consternation, fright & terror that can be imagined. Some of our neighbors took their flight before day, & I believe all the Congress moved off before 5 o’clock, but behold when morning came, it proved a false alarm. The English had only made their appearance opposite the Swedes ford, & some of our people whose fears had magnified it into a reality that they had crossed brought the alarm to town, & terror & dismay spread itself amongst them. Thus the guilty fly when none pursue.”
On the patriot side, congressional delegate John Adams wrote that “At 3 this Morning [September 19] was waked by Mr. Lovell, and told that the Members of Congress were gone, some of them, a little after Midnight. That there was a letter from Mr. Hamilton Aid de Camp to the General, informing that the Enemy were in Poss[essio]n of the Ford and the Boats, and had it in their power to be in Philadelphia, before Morning, and that if Congress was not removed they had not a Moment to loose. Mr. Merchant and myself arose, sent for our Horses, and, after collecting our Things, rode off after the others.”
On September 27 Congress convened at the courthouse in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, then removed to York, Pennsylvania, where they held their first meeting at the courthouse on September 30. In November, Congress approved the Articles of Confederation at York and submitted them to the States for ratification. The Articles went into effect on March 1, at which time Congress became the Congress of the Confederation. After the British withdrew from Philadelphia in June 1778, Congress reconvened at College Hall in Philadelphia on July 2 before once more making their home at the State House.
Considering the internal strife taking place in so many countries today, the United States has experienced very few disruptions of our government due to war since our inception. We truly have been extraordinarily blessed to have God’s hand of protection over us, and I pray that this nation will never turn away from the One who has given us such favor.
Now, since I inadvertently posted a day late, I’m offering a surprise drawing for those who stop by to comment. I just received my first copies of Crucible of War a couple of days ago, and those who make a comment on this post will be entered in a drawing for a free copy! The ebook edition is already available, but the print edition doesn’t release until September 3. You have until Friday at midnight to leave a comment, and please specify whether you’d like the ebook edition (Kindle, Nook, or CBD) or the print edition.