July 14, 1776: General Correspondence

This Day in the American Revolution

Admiral Richard Howe sends a letter to Washington under a flag of truce in an attempt to open negotiations with the Patriots in New York. However, the message is addressed to “George Washington, Esq.”, which did not recognize his rank as General. One of Washington’s officers, Joseph Reed, tells Howe’s agent that there is no one in the army with that address, and the letter is rejected.

Further Reading:

The omission of GW’s military title from the address prevented delivery of the unfound signed letter on 14 July. In his journal entry for that date, Samuel Blachley Webb wrote: “A Flag of Truce from the fleet appeared, on which Colo. [Joseph] Reed and myself, went down to meet it, about half way between Governors and Staten Islands. Lieutenant [Philip] Brown, of the Eagle, offered a Letter from Lord Howe, directed George Washington Esqr., which on acct. of its direction, we refused to Receive, and parted with the usual Compliments” (Ford, Webb Correspondence and Journals, 1:155; see also ibid., 3:293–94).

Ambrose Serle, who was aboard the Eagle on 14 July, wrote in his journal that Lieutenant Brown “was dispatched with a Flag of Truce to Washington at New York. He was stopped by three Boats at a little Distance from the Town, demanding his Business. Upon being told that he had a Letter from Lord Howe to their Commander, they ordered him to lay to, while one of the Boats went to the Shore for Directions. In a short time, three officers came off, and desired to know to whom the Letter was addressed. They would not touch it, but begged the Lieutenant to read it. As the Address was, To George Washington Esq. &c. &c. &c. they said, there was no such Person among them, and therefore would not receive it. Upon being asked what Address they required, it was answered, that ‘all the World knew who Genl. Washington was since the Transactions of last Summer”’ (Tatum, Serle’s Journal, 31–33).

Source: Founders Online

Happy Halloween!


The Fratricide
George Peck

The morning sun rose bright and clear,
     The birds sang blithely on the bough;
But many an eye held trembling tear,
     And many a one show’d troubled brow.

And there was one, a tear was in her eye,
     As silently she gazed her Henry dear,
Which spoke a language that all words defy—
     That jewel of the heart, a sympathetic tear.

“Oh, Henry, go not out to-day,”
     His good companion cried;
“Can fiends snatch thee from me away?”
     She wept, and sobbed, and sighed.

One moment in each other’s arms entwined
     They stood, as one united strong;
The next saw Henry tread the wild,
     Toward the muster, ‘gainst the wrong.

At what befell that gallant little band,
     Mem’ry would shrink in horror to relate;
How some did fall by cruel savage hand,
     And some had torturing, lingering fate.

But Henry fled Susquehanna’s isle,
     And sought a covert in Monocasy;
And thought himself secure from Indian wile—
     Equally safe from treacherous Tories’ eye.

But hark! he hears crackle and a tread,
     And, looking up, his Tory brother spies;
Then shrinking back instinctively with dread,
     He finds himself perceived, and upward hies.

“Oh, it is you!” the haughty brother said;
     “You are a damned rebel, and not fit for life!”
Then raising up his gun, the fatal bullet sped,
     Making children orphans, a widow of wife.

John Pencil wander’d outcast and alone;
     The Indians shunn’d him—were themselves afraid—
The awful deed soften’d their hearts of stone,
     They thought his company a curse was made.

He tried to flee; Conscience always pursued,
     And found him ev’ry where—asleep, awake;
His brother’s blood was in his soul imbued,
     Himself a fiend, and it a burning lake.

The hungry, ravenous wolves pursued him twice;
     As many time the Indian saved his life;
They thought, “Great Spirit angry” at his vice,
     And would not save again: they came on thrice,

And, seizing him, his limbs from limb they tore,
     And cracked his living bones with bloody jaw,
And quench’d their thirst upon his spouting gore,
     And yet alive, his flesh they tear and gnaw.

Some scatter’d bones, uncover’d in the wood,
     Now mark the spot where died the fratricide;
Where he by living inches served for food,
     Because by him his brother Henry died.

Oh, justice! Retribution, it is right
     That thou shouldst fix upon the soul thy doom,
And on the body exercise thy might,
     And stigmatize the name beyond the tomb.