Forty-five British warships group a few miles off Manhattan Island. These ships are the greatest war machines of their day. Built from over two thousand century old trees, each carries hundreds of soldiers. They’re armed with up to 64 heavy cannons, capable of hurling a canon ball to a target 2 km away.
Another 350 ships have set off to join them. The British plan is to terrify the rebels into submission.
Fifty delegates from the 13 colonies attend a crisis meeting in Philadelphia. Among this newly formed Continental Congress sits Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. They debate high treason for which the penalty is death. Some delegates don’t believe the rebellion stands a chance. But they’re outnumbered five to one. They draft the following:
DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE
‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness’
4 July 1776
The revolutionaries state that their freedom is intrinsic, and not from King George III, or any other ruler. It’s philosophical and political dynamite.
The British reply is military. Eight days later, two gunships open fire on New York City.
The 20,000 people of New York prepare to repel the largest land invasion in American history. Five km north of Wall St, at Kips bay, the rebels dig in.
General George Washington is commander in chief. He’s already driven the British out of Boston.
Among his untrained, volunteer force is a 15 year old, farm boy, Joseph Plum Martin. (The journal he’s keeping is one of the best primary sources on the American Revolution.),
Joseph faces the best equipped army in the world and the largest superpower of its day.
General Washington’s secretary, Joseph Reed is awestruck.
“When I look down, and see the prodigious fleet they have collected, I cannot help but be astonished that a people should come 3000 miles at such risk trouble and expense to rob, plunder and destroy another people because they will not lay their lives and fortune at their feet.”
There are 400 British warships with 32,000 troops ready to fire. The assault begins.