Events in 1777 helped tip Revolution toward patriots

If a newspaper had tried to cover York in the 30-day period in the fall of 1777, its staff would have gone nuts.


From Oct. 15-Nov. 15, 1777, Continental Congress, meeting in York’s Centre Square Courthouse:

1. Learned about the British surrender at Saratoga, N.Y., touted by some as the turning point of the American Revolution.
2. Lost its president, John Hancock, who went back to Massachusetts on furlough.
3. Elected a new president, South Carolinian Henry Laurens.
4. Drafted a Thanksgiving proclamation to observe the decisive victory at the Battle of Saratoga. Up to that point, George Washington’s Continental Congress hadn’t won much, particularly a decisive victory in a major pitched battle. That was the first of seven days of Thanksgiving and Praise in the American Revolution.
5. Lost two more leaders to furlough: the Adams cousins, John and Samuel.
6. Reorganized the department of defense, then called the Board of War. Gen. Horatio Gates, victor at Saratoga, would become its first chairman, showing Congress’ confidence in him and ambivalence toward Washington. Some viewed this as part of a plot, whether real or imagined, to oust Washington and replace him with Gates.
7. Adopted the Articles of Confederation, America’s first framework of government.

The two major pieces of news — the Saratoga victory and Articles of Confederation — helped bring France onto America’s side. The French now knew that the Continental Army could fight on the field, and the Articles proved that Congress could resist fighting among themselves. For background, see (http://www.ydr.com/historicalperspective/ci_4142756 and http://www.ydr.com/historicalperspective/ci_4531875).
To celebrate these and other accomplishments during Continental Congress visit, a celebration is planned for Nov. 12. The year also marks the 30th anniversary of the unveiling of the courthouse replica, an effort led by John Rauhauser, prominent York attorney and future judge. http://www.ydr.com/yorkcountyhistoryfull/ci_4523187
Much is made of the year 1776 as a turning point in the American Revolution.
But more attention should be given to the fall of 1777.
No Articles. No Saratoga. No treaty with France. One can only conjecture how the war’s fortunes would have turned without French support.
And as a journalist, I often wondered about what it would take to cover just the events in that 30-day period, a period that tried men’s souls. It’s beyond imagining.
But perhaps it’s all moot.
As it turned out, the Hall & Sellers Press did not make it here until December 1777. The Pennsylvania Gazette started publishing later that month.
So, there would have been no newspaper to immediately convey the news.

About Jim McClure

Editor of the York Daily Record/Sunday News, ydr.com and its many digital products. East Region Editor, Digital First Media. Journalism/history blogger: yorktownsquare.com. Author or co-author of seven York County, Pa., history books.
This entry was posted in American Revolution, Archives, all posts, Events, Explanations/controversy, Famous York visitors, Local journalism & Web, Local landmarks, People, War. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Events in 1777 helped tip Revolution toward patriots

  1. tom donley says:

    Thanks for this concise coverage. Reading the newspaper or newspapers would have been tough at the time for many York citizens. Even if you could read, one of the newspapers was in German and, I believe, one in English, which would have been tough for the Pennsylvania Germans.

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