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colonies, met at Philadelphia. They adopted several resolutions, and prepared addresses to the King and both houses of Parliament, and to the people of Great Britain and Canada.
To these addresses and resolutions prepared by Congress, the assembly of New York refused to give their assent. On the contrary, they addressed an exceedingly loyal and humble letter to the King, in which they represented their grievances, but without seeming much afflicted by them. They were undoubtedly influenced to this course, by Governor Tryon, a man of very popular manners, and artful insinuating address, who had the skill, to mould the assembly to his will.
This step of New York exerted a very important influence upon the future destiny of the colonies ; for the British Ministry were upon the point of yielding to their just demands, when the news of the defection of New York reached
Stimulated by this, they continued that course of aggression, which ultimately led to the establishment of our liberties.
Governor Tryon sailed for England in April, 1774, and returned in June, 1775.
In April, 1775, a provincial convention was convened at New York, and elected delegates to the 2d Congress, which assembled at Philadelphia in May, 1775.
The news of the battle of Lexington, (Mass,) on the 19th of April the same year, caused great excitement in the city of New York. At the desire of the committee of observation, a committee of superintendence was elected by the citizens, consisting of 100 of the most respectable citizens; and the arms in the city arsenal, and others about to be shipped to Boston, were seized.
Ticonderoga, Crown Point, and Skenesborough, (now Whitehall,) were captured in May, by Colonels Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold, and the entire command of Lake Champlain obtained.
Governor Tryon returned, in June, from England and was welcomed by the citizens; but his strenuous exertions to promote the royal cause, soon rendered him unpopular, and in October, considering his personal safety endangered, he took refuge on board the Asia, a ship of war lying in the harbor.
On the 22d of May, 1775, a provincial Congress was convened at New York, and efficient measures were taken for the military organization, and defence of the country. Two regiments were authorized to be raised, bounties were offered for the manufacture of gunpowder and muskets in the province, fortifications were projected at Kingsbridge and the Highlands, and Philip Schuyler and Richard Montgomery were recommended to the Continental Congress for appointment, the first as a Major General, and the second as Brigadier General.
Upon the adjournment of this Congress in September, for a month, they delegated their powers to a committee of safety, composed of three members from the city, and one, from each of the other counties.
Generals Schuyler and Montgomery, at the direction of Congress, undertook an expedition against Quebec, which, though
at first, promising a favorable result, finally terminated unfortunately, in the death of Montgomery, and the repulse of the army,
Many of the inhabitants of Tryon county espoused the side of the mother country, under the direction of Sir John Johnson, son of Sir Wiil am, already mentioned, and made preparations to fight against the colony. General Schuyler was ordered by Congress to disarm them; and calling out the Albany militia, who rallied around his standard to the umber of 3000, he proceeded into that county, and dispersed about 600 loyalists. The loyalists on Long Island also entrenched themselves, but were disarmed, and their leaders secured, by the Jersey militia. These events occurred in the winter of 1775.
July 9th, 1776, the provincial Congress met at White Plains, and took the title of “ The Representatives of the State of New
York.” On the first day of their meeting, they received the Declaration of Independence, and immediately passed a resolution, approving it. Soon after, they enacted a law, that all persons, residing in the state, and enjoying the protection of its laws, who should be found guilty of aiding its enemies, should suffer death.
THE STATE OF NEW YORK.
In July, 1776, General Howe, and Admiral Howe, his brother, the British commanders of the land and naval forces, arrived at Staten Island. The inhabitants, at once, took the oath of allegiance to the British Crown, and, together with a considerable number of loyalists, from New Jersey and Long Island, were embodied as a part of the British forces.
At this period, the troops under Washington were unaccustomed to discipline, not well clothed, nor prepared for efficient military duty; and consequently not to be relied upon, in a direct battle with the highly disciplined, and well appointed troops of England. From this fact, General Washington determined not to risk a general action, until his forces, by constant military exercise, and occasional skirmishes with the enemy, should acquire greater confidence in their own prowess.
It would have been fortunate, had he beer, able to maintain this position; but unhappily, in a conflict on Brooklyn Heights, on the 27th of August of this year, in which, at first, only a portion of the army were engaged, the entire troops finally became enlisted, and the Americans were routed with severe loss both in killed and prisɔners. As the result of this unfortunate battle, Washington was compelled to evacuate New York city, and retreat towards Philadelphia, with one division of his army, while the other made its way northward, along the banks of the Hudson. This event took place on the 12th of September, 1776. Previous to Washington's evacuating the city of New York, the public stores were removed to Dobb's ferry.
On the 15th of September, the American General attempted to oppose the landing of the British forces, at Kip's and Turtle bays, but unsuccessfully, and with shameful demonstrations of cowardice on the part of the American soldiery. On the 16th of September occurred the battle of Harlaem heights, in which, though but few troops were engaged, the action was close, and the Americans recovered their courage and spirit. Washington having retreated into Westchester Co., a partial action took place at White Plains, on the 28th of October, in which the Americans suffered some logs.
Forts Washington and Lee, the former on the upper part of New York Island, the latter nearly opposite on the Jersey shore, were garrisoned by the Americans; but by too small a force to resist successfully the British troops; and on the 16th of November, after a closely contested action, in which the enemy met with a severe loss, the American garrison was compelled to surrender. With the remnant of his army, dispirited and disheartened, Washington retreated towards Philadelphia; but soon after, by his bold attack upon the Hessian forces at Trenton, he infused new courage into his troops, retrieved his own reputation, and turned the tide of war.
Amid all the discouragements under which the cause of liberty labored, the New York provincial Congress did not despair. On the 23d of December, 1776, they put forth an address to the people, the production of the gifted, patriotic, and pure minded Jay, which was admirably adapted to encourage and animate the zeal of the friends of freedom.
In May, 1777, Colonel Meigs, by a well devised and happily executed enterprise, took possession of, and destroyed a large quantity of the enemy's stores at Sag Harbor, L. I., and captured ninety men. This enterprise was accomplished with a force of only 234 men. Congress voted him a sword, for this gallant exploit.
In January, 1777, the territory known as the New Hampshire grants, assumed the title of the State of Vermont, and soon after adopted a constitution. On the 12th of March, a constitution, for the state of New York, was reported by a committee of the provincial Congress, which, on the 20th of April, 1777, was adopted.
A few of its more important provisions should be here noticed. They were, 1st, the requirement of a property qualification in the electors and the elected. 2d, The appointing power was vested in the Governor, and a council, of four persons, chosen from the senate. By this council, sheriffs, coroners, justices of the peace, judges, both of the superior and inferior courts, mayors and recorders of the cities, and all the officers of state, were appointed. This immense amount of patronage, thus thrown into the hands of five individuals, proved a very serious evil. 3d, The Governor was invested with the power of proroguing the legislature when he saw fit. This constitution was revised and amended in 1821.
On the 23d of March, 1777, a detachment of 800 British troops landed at Peekskill, and set fire to the principal storehouses there; but finding that a large force of Americans were approaching, they retreated. On the 26th of April, Governor Tryon, with 2000 troops, tories and regulars, proceeded to Danbury, Ct., and burned eighteen houses, and a quantity of stores; but was attacked by the Americans, and compelled to retire with considerable lose.
Under the new constitution, George Clinton was elected Governor; but, being at that time in the service of Congress, he did not meet the assembly, at its session. John Jay was appointed Chief Justice, C. R. Livingston, Chancellor, John Morin Scott, Secretary of State, and Comfort Sands, Auditor General.
At the adoption of the state constitution, there were fourteen counties in the state, viz. New York, Richmond, King's, Queen's, Suffolk, Westchester, Dutchess, Orange, Ulster, Albany, Tryon, Charlotte, Cumberland, and Gloucester. The last two, together with part of Albany and Charlotte counties, were within the limits of the present state of Vermont. The first six were mostly under the dominion of the British, the Highlands being the limit, and were governed by General Tryon till 1778, when he was succeeded by General Robertson. The British had garrisoned most of the border posts, from which they kept up a sanguinary and relentless warfare, upon the settlers, during the whole struggle.
General Schuyler and Rev. Mr. Kirkland were, about this time deputed to hold a conference with the Iroquois, who, under the instigation of Sir John, and Colonel Guy Johnson, and the Butlers, as well as the famous Indian chief Brant, were making serious ravages on the frontier settlements. As the result of this conference, the Oneidas remained faithful to the Americans, while the remainder of the tribes, under the influence of the Johnsons, took up arms, on the side of the British.
Determined to leave nothing undone, to effect the entire subjugation of the rebel colonies, the English Ministers sent out a well appointed army, the flower of the English soldiery, together with a numerous body of German troops,
under the command of General Burgoyne, an experienced officer, of known bravery, and of high reputation.
General Burgoyne was directed to start from Quebec, and, scouring the country with his Indian allies, to effect a junction with Howe, at some point on the Hudson. As this would cut off all communication between New England and the other colonies, it was thought, that the work of subduing that section, would be comparatively easy.
For the purpose of effecting this object, General Burgoyne detached Colonel St. Leger, with 1600 regular troops, tories, and Indians, to harass and destroy the frontier settlements. St Leger arrived, without opposition, before Fort Schuyler, which he besieged.
Meantime, he despatched Sir John Johnson, with a body of
tories and Indians, against General Herkimer, who was advancing to the aid of Colonel Gansevoort, the commander of the fort. They met at Oriskany. Herkimer's force was small and undisciplined. The battle was a severe one; Herkimer was wounded at the first fire; but the British were obliged to withdraw, defeated. Soon after, by a successful artifice, Arnold compelled St. Leger to raise the siege of Fort Schuyler, and retreat into Canada, with the loss of his Indian allies.
Burgoyne had pursued his march, with the main body of his army, thus far, in triumph; but soon, his fortune began to change. The Americans, under General Schuyler, had obstructed his progress, from Lake Champlain to the Hudson, by felling trees, destroying the roads, &c., so that he was necessarily a long time employed, in the transportation of his artillery and stores.
Finding that these were not sufficient, to last through the campaign, he dispatched Colonels Baum and Breyman, with more than 1500 chosen troops, to obtain stores at Bennington. These were met, and defeated, on the 16th of August, 1777, by the Green Mountain boys, under General Stark, and Colonel Warner, and over 1000 killed, wounded, and taken prisoners. This loss materially impeded Burgoyne's progress, disheartened his army, and prepared the way for his defeat and surrender.
On the 19th of September, a fierce and bloody battle was fought between the American forces, under General Gates, (who had now succeeded General Schuyler,) and Burgoyne's army, which resulted in severe loss on both sides, and the maintenance of their ground by both armies. - The loss of the British, however, was much the largest. In this contest, General Arnold and Colonel Morgan distinguished themselves, by acts of the most daring personal bravery.
Burgoyne now fortified his position, and sent to Sir Henry Clinton, for reinforcements and supplies. The American army also entrenched themselves strongly, on Bemis' Heights, Saratoga Co. On the 7th of October, Burgoyne, finding his stores failing, and receiving no intelligence from Sir Henry Clinton, resolved to attack the American entrenchments, and attempt to force his passage through to the Hudson. The battle was a severe one, but he was defeated, with the loss of 200 killed and wounded, and about the same number taken prisoners.
On the 17th of the same month, after repeated attempts to escape from his perilous position, finding himself surrounded on every side by a victorious enemy, General Burgoyne surrendered to General Gates, his entire army, consisting of 5792 men, together with 5000 stands of arms, 42 field pieces, and large quantities of ammunition. This splendid victory did much towards achieving our nation's independence.
On the 17th of November following, Congress adopted the ar