Almost a Miracle: The American Victory in the War of Independence

By John Ferling | Go to book overview

7
“THIS HOUR OF ADVERSITY”:
TO THE END OF 1776

WASHINGTON'S TATTERED LITTLE ARMY began to run on November 20, the day Cornwallis crossed the Hudson above Fort Lee. It did not stop running for twelve days, until it was in Pennsylvania and the Delaware River lay like a welcome rampart between it and the enemy. Two months earlier neither Washington nor Howe had thought the campaign of 1776 would boil down to this. Both commanders had believed that if the fighting moved beyond Manhattan, it would center around a contest for control of the Hudson River, with Howe attempting to link up with the British army coming south out of Canada. Consequently, throughout the grim struggle for New York, both leaders—but Howe in particular—had impatiently sought word of Carleton's invasion of northern New York.

DURING THE FRANTIC retreat from Canada in the late spring, Benedict Arnold— now a general, having been promoted in January—linked up with Sullivan's main army and fell back to death-infested Isle aux Noix. Once there, Sullivan sent him to break the news to Schuyler of the “sad necessity of Abandoning Canada.”1 Arnold finally located Schuyler late in June at his home in Albany, laid low again by illness. For Arnold, who had endured nearly fifteen months of constant campaigning, it must have been cause for rejoicing to be inside a comfortable dwelling, let alone a mansion. Schuyler welcomed him, providing food and drink, after which he sat up until nearly midnight listening as Arnold, a veritable armory of ideas, discussed the military situation. In the course of that mild summer night the American response to the threat posed by Carleton took shape. Both

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