“Turning the Tide of Arms”
War and Reform
General Washington remained optimistic despite the July 1 sighting of Great Britain's vast armada bobbing in the blue, sun-kissed waters off New York, a fleet so large that, to one observer, it “looked like a forest of pine trees with their branches trimmed.” Every shade of rose colored Washington's pronouncements that July. His soldiers, whom he characterized as “Brave Men who love their Country, ” would give a good accounting when the day of battle arrived. “Freemen contending on their own land” would be superior to mechanistic regulars, he stressed. Jefferson and Adams were no less sanguine. Although Jefferson did not believe the British could be prevented from retaking New York, he doubted that the redcoats could advance much beyond the city. The Continentals “will … amuse [the regulars] wherever they shall go, ” he reflected. Adams expected Washington's army to do so well that Great Britain's European rivals would soon recognize the United States. 1
The British were equally confident. Lord George Germain, the American secretary, and virtual secretary of war, anticipated an easy victory. Even General Howe, who habitually saw the glass as half empty, thought the pending campaign would “terminate this expensive War.” 2 He was anxious to fight, something he had not yet had the opportunity to do against Washington.
Washington had little choice but to fight for New York. Congress demanded that the city be defended. It had lavished funds on the army for the past year