Today it’s hard for us to think of the possibility that our government might ever be forced to flee before an approaching enemy force. But this has, in fact, happened several times in our history, and the first was during the American Revolution.
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
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.
Hear Ye!!! Hear Ye!!!
TEA PARTY for MaryLu Tyndall and J.M. Hochstetler!!! Per random.org (all drawings), our first giveaway winner on the party is Janet Marie Dowell, who is taking home a Tortuga Chocolate Rum cake (via the FB party page), winner of Joan's book Northkill is: Winner of Amish jams is: winner of a paperback book of The Ransom is: Janella Ebook of The Ransome winner is: Tina.