George Washington Stopped a Battle Midway to Hand Over a Poor Little Dog to Its Owner (Who Happened to be the Enemy) – Truth or Myth?
George Washington Stopped A Battle Midway To Hand Over A Poor Little Dog To Its Owner (Who Happened To Be The Enemy)
This is actually a beautiful true story that shows Washington’s love of dogs and understanding of humans.
It took place during the Revolutionary War when Americans faced British troops led by General William Howe.
In 1777 on October 6th, the Battle of Germantown happened to be going rather badly for the Americans. When, right in the middle of it all, a small terrier wandered the battlefield between British and American lines.
Apparently General Howe’s dog had somehow gotten loose. When Washington’s men discovered the dog they looked at its collar and immediately realized that it belonged to General Howe. They wanted to hold the dog as retribution for all they had suffered at the hands of the British.
Washington however, had a different idea. He took the dog to his tent to brush and feed him. Then, to everyone’s total amazement, he ordered a ceasefire and sent a messenger with the dog and a note to Howe.
Many stories about Washington were invented by his earliest biographer, Parson Weems. However, this lovely anecdote of gallantry and kindness is fully documented, since a draft of the note still exists. It is written in the handwriting of Washington’s aide Alexander Hamilton, and can be found at the Library of Congress, among the Washington Papers.
“General Washington’s compliments to General Howe, does himself the pleasure to return [to] him a Dog, which accidentally fell into his hands, and by the inscription on the Collar appears to belong to General Howe.”
General Howe must have been totally taken aback by Washington’s unexpected gesture, which he is reported to have called “an honorable act of a gentleman.” Following the incident the English general seems to have toned down his vicious pursuit of crushing the Colonists. His heart no longer seemed so set on victory . The British continued to win battles, but Howe intentionally missed some opportunities and showed some restraint in when it came to crushing Washington’s army. The British Crown ordered Howe to “show little compassion to the rebels.” That’s when Howe stepped down and resigned his position.
The lesson we can take away from this story is: Never underestimate love and loyalty, in both dogs and humans.
CLICK TO WATCH A REENACTMENT OF THE BATTLE OF GERMANTOWN
This Reenactment took place on the actual property of the Battle in 1777 and on the exact same day – October 4th. Note footage of the side of The Cliveden Estate. The damage seen was sustained during the Conflict. In addition – the tree you see stood there way back in the 1700s!
7 Myths of the American Revolution You Always Believe Were 100% True
Britain’s leaders made a miscalculation when they assumed that resistance from the colonies, as the Earl of Dartmouth predicted, could not be “very formidable.”
The whole chronicle of colonists who successfully rebelled against tyranny and The Declaration of Independence are taught from childhood. However, the story told is not necessarily 100 percent true. In fact, the War of Independence is shrouded in beliefs that cannot all pass a fact check. Here are some of the most well known myths:
I. England Misunderstood the Challenge and Acted Hastily
During Britain’s long and unsuccessful attempt to crush the American Revolution, it was said that Prime Minister Frederick, Lord North’s government had acted in haste. This is a myth, later to become conventional wisdom—that political leaders had failed to realize the gravity of the challenge.
In fact, almost 20 ministers in the British cabinet, considered resorting to military might as early as January 1774, when London heard about Boston Tea Party.
- December 16, 1773: Protesters had boarded British vessels in Boston Harbor and destroyed cargoes of tea, rather than pay a tax imposed by the English Parliament.) Lord North’s government did not respond impulsively to the news.
- Early 1774: Lengthy debate as to whether or not coercive actions might lead to war and whether Britain win such a war?
- March 1774: Parliament enacted the Coercive Acts (Americans called them, Intolerable Acts). The legislation was only applied to Massachusetts, aimed at punishing the colony’s provocative act. The English closed Boston Harbor until the tea had been paid for.
This was a huge British miscalculation.
September 1774: The First Continental Congress in was convened in Philadelphia. Members voted to embargo British commerce until all the Coercive Acts and British taxes were repealed.
Still, troubling questions were raised by skeptics in the army and navy:
- Was it possible for a Royal Navy to blockade 1,000 miles of coast?
- 1775: What if the colonists mustered about 100,000 citizen-soldiers (almost 4 times the size of the British army)?
- Could the British supply their army when operating thousands of miles from home?
- Was it possible for the British to subdue a rebellion in an area 6 times the size of England comprising of 13 colonies?
- How would the English Army be able to operate far from coastal supply bases, deep in America’s interior?
- How would the cost of such a venture impact Britain? Could it bankrupt the country?
- Would England’s old enemies, Spain and France come to the aid of the American rebels?
- What was the risk of Britain igniting a broader war?
King George III told his ministers that “blows must decide” whether the Americans “submit or triumph.” North’s government agreed. To back down, the ministers believed, would be to lose the colonies. Confident of Britain’s overwhelming military superiority and hopeful that colonial resistance would collapse after one or two humiliating defeats, they chose war.
II. Patriotism Made All Americans Take Up Arms
The term “spirit of ‘76” refers to the colonists’ patriotic zeal and has always seemed synonymous with the idea that every able-bodied male colonist resolutely served, and suffered, throughout the eight-year war.
The early rally to arms was outstanding, to be sure.
- April 19, 1775: The British Army marched out of Boston and messengers on horseback fanned out to raise the alarm across New England. They included the Boston silversmith Paul Revere.
- April 19, 1775: Church bells pealed feverishly to summon militiamen from hamlets all around. The men hurried toward Concord, Massachusetts, where the British regulars planned to destroy a rebel arsenal. Thousands of militiamen arrived in time to fight; 89 men were killed or wounded on that first day of war.
- April 20, 1775: In Massachusetts there were 12 regiments in the field. Quickly Connecticut mobilized a 6,000 man force – 25 percent of its military-age men.
- 7 days later 16,000 men from the 4 New England colonies had a siege army in place outside of British-occupied Boston.
- June, 1775: The New England army was taken over by the Continental Congress. This created a national force – the Continental Army.
- From that day on, men throughout America took up arms. British regulars believed that every able-bodied American male had turned into a soldier.
However, the colonists quickly discovered that military service could be a dangerous and difficult undertaking. Enthusiasm waned as more and more men preferred to stay home.
Washington predicted that “after the first emotions are over,” those who were willing to serve from a belief in the “goodness of the cause” would amount to little more than “a drop in the Ocean.” He was correct. As 1776 progressed, many colonies were compelled to entice soldiers with offers of cash bounties, clothing, blankets and extended furloughs or enlistments shorter than the one-year term of service established by Congress.
- Offers of land bounties and cash quickly became an absolute necessity once Congress mandated that men who enlisted must sign on for 3 years (or the duration of the conflict, whichever came first).
- By the end of 1778 most states were conscripting men as General Washington had urged.
Congress had initially forbidden enlisting African-Americans. However, in 1778, the New England states, and eventually all Northern states, began to do so. In the end, approximately 5,000 blacks bore arms for the United States, which was about 5 percent of the total number of men who serving in the Continental Army. These African-American soldiers made a vital contribution to America’s ultimate victory.
The composition of the Army underwent a radical change due to longer enlistments.
Washington’s troops in 1775-76 had represented a cross section of the free male population. But few who owned farms were willing to serve for the duration, fearing loss of their property if years passed without producing revenue from which to pay taxes. After 1777, the average Continental soldier was young, single, propertyless, poor and in many cases an outright pauper. In some states, such as Pennsylvania, up to one in four soldiers was an impoverished recent immigrant. Patriotism aside, cash and land bounties offered an unprecedented chance for economic mobility for these men. Joseph Plumb Martin of Milford, Connecticut, acknowledged that he had enlisted for the money. Later, he would recollect the calculation he had made at the time: “As I must go, I might as well endeavor to get as much for my skin as I could.” For three-quarters of the war, few middle-class Americans bore arms in the Continental Army, although thousands did serve in militias.
III. Continental Soldiers Were Always Hungry and in Rags
Accounts of shoeless continental army soldiers leaving bloody footprints in the snow or going hungry in a land of abundance are all too accurate. Dr. Albigence Waldo, a Continental Army surgeon, later reported that many men survived largely on what were known as fire cakes (flour and water baked over coals). The Army’s supply system, imperfect at best, at times broke down altogether; the result was misery and want.
But that was not always the case. So much heavy clothing arrived from France at the beginning of the winter in 1779 that Washington was compelled to locate storage facilities for his surplus.
In a long war during which American soldiers were posted from upper New York to lower Georgia, conditions faced by the troops varied widely.
IV. The Militia Were No Help At All
Lexington Green 19th of April 1775 by Don Troiani
The nation’s first settlers adopted the British militia system, which required all able-bodied men between 16 and 60 to bear arms. Some 100,000 men served in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. Probably twice that number soldiered as militiamen, for the most part defending the home front, functioning as a police force and occasionally engaging in enemy surveillance. If a militia company was summoned to active duty and sent to the front lines to augment the Continentals, it usually remained mobilized for no more than 90 days.
After the war, the militia were seen by some Americans as having been largely ineffective. General Washington bolstered this view by stating that a decision to “place any dependence on Militia is assuredly resting on a broken staff.”
In August 1780 at Camden, South Carolina advancing redcoats caused militiamen to panic. They ran for safety after throwing down their weapons. They were responsible for one of the war’s worst defeats.
However, in 1775 militiamen fought at Bunker Hill and along the Concord Road and with outstanding bravery.
- 1776 Christmas night Trenton victory: Militiamen comprised almost 40 percent of soldiers serving under Washington.
- 1777 the vital Saratoga campaign of in New York State: Militiamen made up half the American force.
- 1780: Militiamen contributed substantially to American victories at Kings Mountain, South Carolina
- 1780: Militiamen fought at Cowpens, South Carolina.
- March 1781: The British that they gave up the fight for North Carolina. This happened because Gen. Nathanael Greene cleverly deployed his militiamen in the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, inflicting devastating losses on the enemy.
There’s no doubt that the militia had its shortcomings, however, America could not have won the war without it.
A British general, Earl Cornwallis, wryly put it in a letter in 1781, “I will not say much in praise of the militia, but the list of British officers and soldiers killed and wounded by them…proves but too fatally they are not wholly contemptible.”
George Washington crosses the Delaware River Before the Battle of Trenton (Annual Christmas Day Revolutionary War Reenactment)
V. The War’s Turning Point was Saratoga
On October 17, 1777, British Gen. John Burgoyne surrendered 5,895 men to American forces outside Saratoga, New York. Those losses, combined with the 1,300 men killed, wounded and captured during the preceding five months of Burgoyne’s campaign to reach Albany in upstate New York, amounted to nearly one quarter of those serving under the British flag in America in 1777. This defeat got France to ally itself with the United States.
The Battle of Saratoga (Reenactment 2013)
1st TURNING POINT: Saratoga was one of the turning points of the war but certainly not the only one
2ND TURNING POINT: Washington’s stunning triumphs, revived hopes of victory and allowed recruitment in 1777.
- April 19, 1775: The combined effect of victories along the Concord Road
- June 17, 1775: Bunker Hill near Boston
- Late December 1776: Trenton, New Jersey – Washington’s great victory over a Hessian force of 1000 men
- January 3, 1777: British force defeated at Princeton, New Jersey
3rd TURNING POINT: Congress transformed the Continental Army into a standing army (long term service by volunteers/conscripted regulars). At last, Washington got the army he had hoped for with disciplined, well-trained soldiers who would be more experienced than the men who had served during 1775-76.
4th & FINAL TURNING POINT: The campaign in the South of 1780 and 1781. When they failed to crush the New England rebellion, the British decided to go south in 1778. They called it the Southern Strategy, which at first achieved spectacular results. In well under 2 years, the British:
- Wiped out 3 American armies
- Retook Savannah and Charleston
- Occupied a substantial portion of the South Carolina backcountry
- Killed, wounded, or captured 7,000 American soldiers (This almost equaled British losses at Saratoga)
Lord George Germain, Britain’s American Secretary after 1775, declared that the Southern victories augured a “speedy and happy termination of the American war.”
The colonists were nowhere near broken.
- Mid-1780, American partisan bands struck from within South Carolina’s tangled forests and swamps, ambushing redcoat patrols and supply trains.
- Toward the end of that summer, the British acknowledged that South Carolina (only recently declared pacified), was “in an absolute state of rebellion.” And far worse was still ahead.
- October 1780 – Kings Mountain in South Carolina: Backcountry volunteers and rebel militia destroyed an army of more than 1,000 Loyalists. (That rout made it impossible for Cornwallis to get Loyalists to join the cause)
- January 1781: Cornwallis hoped to cut partisan supply routes by marcing an army of more than 4,000 men to North Carolina.
- Battles at Guilford Courthouse and Cowpens saw an exhausting pursuit of the Army under General Nathanael Greene. Cornwallis lost around 1,700 men, which counted for nearly 40 percent of the troops under his command at the outset of the North Carolina campaign.
- April 1781: Realizing he could not crush the insurgency in the Carolinas, Cornwallis took his army into Virginia, in the hope of severing supply routes linking the lower and upper South. This fateful decision, led Cornwallis to the autumn disaster at Yorktown (he found himself trapped and compelled to surrender more over 8,000 men on October 19, 1781).
October 20, 1781: General Washington informed the Continental Army that “the glorious event” would send “general Joy [to] every breast” in America. Across the sea, Lord North reacted to the news as if he had “taken a ball in the breast,” reported the messenger who delivered the bad tidings. “O God,” the prime minister exclaimed, “it is all over.”
The Battle of Guilford Courthouse (2016 Reenactment)
VI. George Washington: A Brilliant Strategist & Tactician. Really?
The widely held view has been that the General Washington’s military greatness consisted largely in his “formation of extensive and masterly plans” and a “watchful seizure of every advantage.”
Actually, none understood his limitations better than George Washington himself who, on the eve of the New York campaign in 1776, confessed to Congress his “want of experience to move on a large scale” and his “limited and contracted knowledge . . . in Military Matters.” The general’s missteps showed his failings as a strategist.
- The Continental Army was routed in its first test on Long Island in August 1776. This occurred in part because Washington did not properly reconnoiter. He also tried to defend too large an area for the size of his army.
- In the November the loss of Fort Lee in New Jersey and Fort Washington on Manhattan Island were defeats that cost the colonists more than 25 percent of the army’s soldiers, weaponry, and military stores. This was at least partially due to Washington’s nearly disastrous inability to make quick decisions.
- In an attempt to prevent the loss of Philadelphia, during 1777 in the fall, Washington committed his entire army when Gen. William Howe took over Pennsylvania.
- Washington again froze with indecision in September during the Battle of Brandywine.
- Washington was also painfully slow to grasp the significance of the war in the Southern states, basically committing troops to that theater only after Congress ordered him to do so. By then, it was too late to prevent the surrender of Charleston in May 1780. As a result there were losses among American troops in the South.
- 1780 & 1781: Washington miscalculated the potential regarding the British in Virginia.
During the war most decision-making took place out of public view and even Congress was unaware that the French, not Washington, had formulated the strategy that led to America’s triumph.
VII. Britain was Unable to Win the War
There were those in Britain who, once the revolutionary war was lost, said it had been unwinnable. Obviously, admirals and generals defending their reputations, the idea of preordained defeat was appealing. The same goes for patriots who found it painful and extremely hard to admit defeat. If it was true that nothing could be done to begin with, then Lord North could only be blamed for leading the country into a conflict where victory was not possible, not for having lost the war.
The truth is that England could have won the war.
In 1776 there was an great opportunity for a decisive English victory in the battle for New York. The Americans and the French were not yet allies. Washington’s and most of his lieutenants, as well as he himself, were amateurs, and Continental Army soldiers were untried.
In New York City, in upper Manhattan, on Harlem Heights, and Long Island, a large part of the American Army was trapped by Gen. William Howe who could have administered a fatal blow. However, General How was to cautious and slow to act, which allowed Washington to slip away.
Even in 1777 England could still have prevailed, after London had formulated a sound strategy, calling for Howe and his large force that included a naval arm, to advance up the Hudson River. At Albany they would join General Burgoyne, who intended to invade New York from Canada. By taking the Hudson, Britain could cut New England off from the other nine states, causing the Americans to incur catastrophic losses. Howe opted to move against Pennsylvania instead, believing that Burgoyne needed no assistance. He was obsessed by a desire to capture Philadelphia the home of the Continental Congress. Although Howe took Philadelphia, he accomplished little, while Burgoyne suffered total defeat at Saratoga.
The myth that Britain had no hope of victory post 1777, constitutes another myth of this war, namely that two years into its Southern Strategy, Britain could likely reclaim territory within its once-large American empire.
Early in 1781:
- Washington warned that his army was “exhausted” and the citizenry “discontented.”
- According to John Adams France would not remain in the war beyond 1781 partially due to mounting depth, and not having seen a single victory.
- Both Washington and Adams assumed that without the United States and France scoring a decisive victory in 1781, the outcome of the war would be determined at a conference of Europe’s great powers.
- Britain had only to avoid decisive losses in 1781 in order to keep this great empire, which would have encircled the tiny United States.
- However, in Yorktown Cornwallis’ stunning defeat in October cost Britain all but Canada.
The Treaty of Paris, signed on September 3, 1783, ratified the American victory and recognized the existence of the new United States. General Washington, addressing a gathering of soldiers at West Point, told the men that they had secured America’s “independence and sovereignty.” The new nation, he said, faced “enlarged prospects of happiness,” adding that all free Americans could enjoy “personal independence.” The passage of time would demonstrate that Washington, far from creating yet another myth surrounding the outcome of the war, had voiced the real promise of the new nation.
Featured image: YouTube