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

Seymour Burr, Renegade Soldier

While many Americans joined the war effort to free themselves from British rule, others were fighting for their personal freedom. The promise of liberty, however, did not often come from the side of the Patriots. Seymour Burr first turned to the British before he enlisted in the Continental Army. 

As an enslaved African American, the details of Seymour Burr’s early life are fuzzy. An enlistment document indicates that he was born in Guinea, West Africa in either 1754 or 1762. He is said to have been captured around the age of 7, and brought to the colonies via the Atlantic slave trade. By the start of the Revolution, he was enslaved by members of the Burr family in Connecticut, relatives of later vice president Aaron Burr. 

On November 7, 1775, Lord Dunmore, the royal governor of Virginia, signed a proclamation promising freedom to anyone in service to the Patriots, either by enslavement or indentured servitude, who would abandon their masters and enlist in the British army. Within a month, hundreds of enslaved Black men answered Dunmore’s call. This was expanded in 1779 by General Henry Clinton’s Philipsburg Proclamation, which extended the British promise of freedom to any person enslaved by Americans, regardless of their ability to serve in the military. By the end of the war, at least 30,000 enslaved people from Virginia alone had escaped to the British side, along with thousands of others from throughout the colonies. Seymour Burr was almost among them. 

Following Dunmore’s Proclamation, Seymour attempted to escape the Burr household to join the British forces, but was intercepted and returned to his enslavers. Likely fearing a repeat escape or a rebellion in their own home, the Burrs had a proposition for Seymour- if he would fight on behalf of the Patriot army, they would free him once his service was over. Seymour accepted, and enlisted in the Continental Army. He fought at Fort Catskill, and served beside George Washington through the winter of 1777 at Valley Forge. 

Seymour left the army in 1782, at which time he was freed by the Burrs. In 1805, he married a Ponkapoag widow and inherited six acres of her late husband’s land outside of Canton, Massachusetts. He also collected a military pension later in his life. Seymour died on February 17, 1837.

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.

Allan McLane, the Ranger Captain

In a young nation hungry for legends, Allan McLane was primed to go down in history for his bravery and service during the American Revolution.

            Allan McLane was born on August 8, 1746 in Philadelphia, the son of a Scottish merchant who had immigrated to America in 1738. After gallivanting through Europe in his early 20s, Allan settled in Delaware to break into the trading business.

            He fought as a volunteer at Great Bridge, Virginia in December of 1775, then enlisted in Caesar Rodney’s Delaware Regiment as a lieutenant. Earlier that year, Allan officially changed the spelling of his last name from its customary “McLean” or “Maclean” to “McLane”, in order, quote, “to avoid confusion with that renegade Scot serving the Hanoverian King.” He established himself in the Continental Army during the Battle of Long Island by capturing a British patrol, and further during the battles of White Plains and Trenton. For his performance during the Battle of Princeton, he was promoted to captain by George Washington on January 3rd, 1777. He founded his own company in Delaware, returning to the field with nearly 100 soldiers whom he paid and equipped out of his own pocket.

            McLane led foraging parties during the harsh winter at Valley Forge in 1778. Clad in beaver hats, hunting shirts, and breeches made from his wife’s linen tablecloths, Allan and his men diverted supplies from British forces to feed the Continental Army, on one expedition rounding up “1500 fat hogs, 500 head of cattle, [and] 200 head of horses.”

            McLane was one of the first to question Benedict Arnold’s loyalty to the Revolution. He was about a year premature, though, and his concerns were rebuked by Washington. Still, he was greatly valued by the general. Washington once remarked of McLane, “I could not do without him in the light corps- no, not for a thousand pounds.”

In 1779, McLane was sent to serve with Major Henry “Light-Horse-Harry” Lee, under whom he fought gallantly during the Battles of Stoney Point and Paulus Hook. Though McLane is credited as showing great bravery on the front lines of Paulus Hook, official praise went to Lee, with the Continental Congress refusing to pass a resolution recognizing the contributions of Lee’s fellow officers. McLane continued to butt heads with Lee until he appealed to Washington and was transferred south to aid General Benjamin Lincoln. After Lincoln’s surrender during the siege of Charleston, McLane served under Baron Von Steuben, where he was promoted to Major.

In 1781, he was sent to the West Indies to accompany messages from Washington to convince the Comte de Grasse to bring his French fleet to the Chesapeake Bay. On his return voyage, McLane took command of the privateer Congress, which captured British sloop-of-war, the HMS Savage, while en route to New Jersey.

Once back on land, McLane wasted no time in joining Washington’s troops for the Virginia Campaign, fighting in the siege of Yorktown to close out his military career.

McLane retired from the army at the end of 1781, but his service to his country did not end there. He was a delegate at the Delaware convention of 1787, where he voted to ratify the new United States Constitution on December 7th. Allan also served as a judge for the Delaware Court of Common Pleas and as privy counselor to the governor. Furthermore, he was an avid Federalist and abolitionist. McLane was appointed by Washington as the first United States Marshal of Delaware in 1789, a position he accepted with some trepidation given his financial situation. He had spent most of his personal fortune during the Revolution, and had hoped for a more profitable position in the new government. Still, he took on the role for nearly a decade, while also serving as Speaker of the 16th Delaware General Assembly from 1791 to 1793. 

            Finally in 1797, Washington came through with a higher paying position for McLean. He was appointed the Customs Collector of the Port of Wilmington, an office he held until his death on May 22, 1829. He was 83 years old.

            Of the fourteen children Allan had with his wife Rebecca, only three lived to adulthood. His son, Louis (named for King Louis XVI of France), would carry on his father’s commitment to the American experiment by serving as a member of President Andrew Jackson’s Cabinet.

Project Update – July 2020

Project Update – July 2020

Hello and happy 4th of July, friends and fellow patriots! We at Flagbearer Games wanted to give a “State of the Game” about the core Nations & Cannons ruleset, our roadmap moving forward, and other projects in the pipeline.

I’m Pat Mooney, founder and project lead here at Flagbearer. Nations & Cannons is a passion project for us, sustained entirely by our followers and whatever resources we can scrape together when we’re not working on our day jobs. I don’t need to tell you that times are tough—like many small teams, we’ve been hit pretty hard by Covid-19 and had to suspend work for several months this spring.

With everything that’s going on today, those immortal words sung (perhaps apocryphally) by the defeated soldiers at Yorktown—“The world turn’d upside down”—feel more appropriate than ever. As a teacher, a historian, and a game designer, I’ve never thought a Civics education more important than it is right now.

Our plan’s always been to make the Core Rules of Nations & Cannons freely available for educators, librarians, and municipal programs—not to mention our fans! While there’s a lot of material available on our site, we’re still not quite finished. Enter the roadmap.


Flagbearer has been quietly working on Nations & Cannons for a year and a half, waiting to start public outreach in a big way until we had a ruleset we were proud of. After hundreds of hours of playtesting, more revisions than I can count, and enough copy edits to drive my layout team up a wall, here are the major milestones before us:

Summer, 2020

  • Exhaustively researched descriptions for all six character Roles, as well as a Timeline discussing the major beats of the American Revolution and the key moments of our signature characters
  • A final draft on game mechanics, including new Gambits, features, and an entirely reworked Firebrand class
  • Community-lead test material and final balance feedback
  • VTT integrations and character tokens for playing Nations & Cannons online*
  • Professional gamemastering services offered through hosted through Demiplane (educational planning for kids, as well as sessions just-for-fun!)

Fall, 2020

  • Downloadable form-fillable Character Sheet PDFs for Nations & Cannons characters
  • Work begins on a campaign of 24 adventure modules that span the entire Revolutionary War, including
  • The “Invasion of Canada” introductory adventure, set during Benedict Arnold’s doomed expedition in 1775*
  • Our first print run, a 90-page booklet including the Core Rules + the Enemy Roster and “Invasion of Canada” chapters*

Winter, 2020/21

  • Outreach and event coordination with select educators, around designing curriculum materials to help supplement Nations & Cannons in- and outside-of the classroom
  • Project planning and Kickstarter preparation for a full, 350-page Nations & Cannons hardcover including expanded historical material, hundreds of new enemies, and all-new items, feats, subclasses, and gambits
  • Ongoing adventure module releases, published digitally and in limited print runs every 1-3 months*

*Available as a reward at certain Patreon levels


We’ve got a lot of plans in the works here, and I can’t tell you how excited our team is to get to work. These are still uncertain times, of course, but personally all I can say is that I’m 100% committed to seeing Nations & Cannons thrive. If you’ll indulge another cliché—in the late hours of 1776, Thomas Paine wrote “These are the times that try men’s souls.” His American Crisis spoke of a great upheaval, but also a resolute message of hope for those who would stay the course. Just days later, George Washington crossed the Delaware. And well, we all know how that turned out.

Oh, and if you’re at all interested, my game Revolutionary Choices has just entered a public testing period. Sponsored by the American Revolution Institute of the Society of the Cincinnati, Revolutionary Choices is a 100% free educational strategy game for web and (soon-to-be) mobile. I’ll be doing an AMA on r/Games at 2 PM EST today. Stop by if you want to ask a question!