“A YEAR FILLED WITH
DEFEAT IN THE SOUTH, 1780
NEW YORK CITY could hardly have been more bleak as 1779 drew to a close. Winter, cold and gray, had turned streets into slush and deposited a blanket of snow on homes and shops. Residents faced a scarcity of fuel and spot food shortages. For the rebel inhabitants, Gotham was a city occupied by a foreign invader. For its Tory residents, mostly refugees from other colonies, the city was a safe haven, but not home. Yet, as seldom during the long years since Saratoga, the hopes of the Loyalists soared in December. As snow swirled and sidewalks iced over, the Tories noticed feverish activity along the waterfront. Troop transports, ordnance vessels, and hospital ships were being outfitted. The British were unmistakably preparing for a campaign. Just before Christmas, company after company of soldiers—some 8,700 men in all— marched through the unkempt streets to board the transports. On Christmas Day, General Clinton and his staff rode to the harbor and boarded a ship of the line. Something big was up. The city buzzed with word that the gathering armada was bound for Charleston, but not even the ships' captains knew the destination of the task force. For security reasons, each of them had been given a sealed envelope revealing where the armada was headed, but they were instructed not to open the packets until the ships were at sea.1
Charleston had long been on the minds of Britain's war planners. Clinton had gone there in 1776 to restore royal rule and Howe, in one of the many plans that he concocted for campaign 1777, had proposed marching through the Chesapeake provinces and on to South Carolina and Georgia following his conquest of Philadelphia. Once Britain's Southern Strategy crystallized in the
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Publication information: Book title: Almost a Miracle: The American Victory in the War of Independence. Contributors: John Ferling - Author. Publisher: Oxford University Press. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 2007. Page number: 409.
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