At the time the battle of Bunker Hill was fought, Colonel George Washington was living very quietly at Mount Vernon. His brother Lawrence had died, and Mount Vernon was now his home. Washington was very well off: he had a fine estate and plenty of slaves to do the work on it; but when he died, many years later, he took good care to leave orders that all of his slaves should be set free as soon as it could be done.
Congress now made Colonel Washington general, and sent him to Cambridge, a town just outside of Boston, to take command of the American army. It was called the Continental Army because it was raised, not to fight for the people of Massachusetts, but for all the Americans on the continent, north and south. Washington took command of the army under a great elm, which is still standing. There, six months later, he raised the first American flag.
Men now came from all parts of the country to join the Continental Army. Many of them were sharpshooters. In one case an officer set up a board with the figure of a man's nose chalked on it, for a mark. A hundred men fired at it at long distance, and sixty hit the nose. The newspapers gave them great praise for their skill and said, "Now, General Gage, look out for your nose." Washington wanted to drive General Gage and the British soldiers out of Boston, but for months he could not get either cannon or powder. Benjamin Franklin said that we should have to fight as the Indians used to, with bows and arrows. While Washington was waiting, a number of Americans marched against the British in Canada; but the cold weather came on, and they nearly starved to death: our men would sometimes take off their moccasins and gnaw them, while they danced in the snow to keep their bare feet from freezing. At last Washington got both cannon and powder. He dragged the cannon up to the top of some high land overlooking Boston harbor. He then sent word to General Howe, for Gage had gone, that if he did not leave Boston he would knock his ships to pieces. The British saw that they could not help themselves, so they made haste to get on board their vessels and sail away. They never came back to Boston again, but went to New York.
Washington got to New York first. While he was there, Congress, on the 4th of July, 1776, declared the United States independent—that is, entirely free from the rule of the king of England. There was a gilded lead statue of King George the Third on horseback in New York. When the news of what Congress had done reached that city, there was a great cry of "Down with the king!" That night some of our men pulled down the statue, melted it up, and cast it into bullets.
The next month there was a battle on Long Island, just across from New York City; the British gained the victory. Washington had to leave New York, and Lord Cornwallis, one of the British generals, chased him and his little army clear across the state of New Jersey. It looked at one time as though our men would all be taken prisoners, but Washington managed to seize a lot of small boats on the Delaware River and get across into Pennsylvania: as the British had no boats, they could not follow.
Lord Cornwallis left fifteen hundred German soldiers at Trenton on the Delaware. He intended, as soon as the river froze over, to cross on the ice and attack Washington's army. But Washington did not wait for him. On Christmas night (1776) he took a large number of boats, filled them with soldiers, and secretly crossed over to New Jersey. The weather was intensely cold, the river was full of floating ice, and a furious snow-storm set in. Many of our men were ragged and had only old broken shoes. They suffered terribly, and two of them were frozen to death. The Germans at Trenton had been having a jolly Christmas, and had gone to bed, suspecting no danger. Suddenly Washington, with his men, rushed into the little town, and almost before they knew what had happened, a thousand Germans were made prisoners. The rest escaped to tell Lord Cornwallis how the Americans had beaten them. When Washington was driven out of New York, many Americans thought he would be captured. Now they were filled with joy. The battle of Trenton was the first battle won by the Continental Army.
Washington took his thousand prisoners over into Pennsylvania. A few days later he again crossed the Delaware into New Jersey. While Cornwallis was fast asleep in his tent, he slipped round him, got to Princeton, and there beat a part of the British army. Cornwallis woke up and heard Washington's cannon. "That's thunder," he said. He was right; it was the thunder of another American victory. But before the next winter set in, the British had taken the city of Philadelphia, then the capital of the United States. Washington's army was freezing and starving on the hillsides of Valley Forge, about twenty miles northwest of Philadelphia. But good news was coming. The Americans had won a great victory at Saratoga, New York, over the British general, Burgoyne. Dr. Franklin was then in Paris. When he heard that Burgoyne was beaten, he hurried off to the palace of the French king to tell him about it. The king of France hated the British, and he agreed to send money, ships, and soldiers to help us. When our men heard that at Valley Forge, they leaped and hurrahed for joy. Not long after that the British left Philadelphia, and we entered it in triumph.
While these things were happening at the north, the British sent a fleet of vessels to take Charleston, South Carolina. They hammered away with their big guns at a little log fort under command of Colonel Moultrie. In the battle a cannon-ball struck the flag-pole on the fort, and cut it in two. The South Carolina flag fell to the ground outside the fort. Sergeant William Jasper leaped down, and, while the British shot were striking all around him, seized the flag, climbed back, fastened it to a short staff, and raised it to its place, to show that the Americans would never give up the fort. The British, after fighting all day, saw that they could do nothing against palmetto logs when defended by such men as Moultrie and Jasper; so they sailed away with such of their ships as had not been destroyed. Several years later, Charleston was taken. Lord Cornwallis then took command of the British army in South Carolina. General Greene, of Rhode Island, had command of the Americans. He sent Daniel Morgan with his sharpshooters to meet part of the British army at Cowpens; they did meet them, and sent them flying. Then Cornwallis determined to either whip General Greene or drive him out of the state. But General Greene worried Cornwallis so that at last he was glad enough to get into Virginia. He had found North and South Carolina like two hornets' nests, and the further he got away from those hornets, the better he was pleased.
Directions: Answer the following multiple choice questions. Also, answer the following questions on a sheet of paper: