Tuesday, November 24, 2009

November 25, 1776

After the Fall of Fort Washington (Nov. 16, 1776) and the capture of nearly 3,000 prisoners by the British, the Continental Army and the state militias try to recruit new soldiers, or spark reenlistment.

On Nov. 25, 1776, a Committee of Congress resolved "That the council of safety of Pensylvania [sic] be requested immediately, to call forth, all the associators in the city of Philadelphia, and its liberties, and in the counties of Philadelphia, Chester, Bucks, and Northampton, to continue in the service of the United States six weeks from the time they join the army, unless sooner discharged by Congress:

"That the volunteers who shall enrol [sic] to serve the United States till the tenth day of March next, shall, nevertheless, be discharged as soon as the situation of public affairs will possibly admit of it; it being the intention of Congress to detain them no longer than the present emergency shall render it absolutely necessary...."

David Hackett Fischer described the Philadelphia Associators in his book, Washington's Crossing. Founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1747 as a voluntary association because Pennsylvania had no militia, the Association elected its own officers and furnished its own weapons.

In 1775, Pennsylvania residents revived the wartime Association as the "Associators of the City and Liberties of Philadelphia." Associators elected their own officers and had a "Committee of Privates" that debating political issues and cared for the families of men at war. Nevertheless, Associators tended to elect the wealthy and socially prominent as their officers. Artist Charles Willson Peale, for instance, was a battalion commander who equipped some of his men and supported their families from his own money.

Fischer's opening chapter features the stories of several distinctive units that rushed to their country's defense in 1775-1776. It is an account worth reading.

Worthington Chauncey Ford, editor, Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789: Volume 6:October 9-December 31, 1776 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1906), 979

David Hackett Fischer, Washington's Crossing (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 25-28
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