1776 – Washington refuses the British general’s letter of reconciliation


On August 30, 1776, General George Washington gives the New York Convention three reasons for the American retreat from Long Island. That same day, he rejects British General William Howe’s second letter of reconciliation.

With Howe and a superior British force having recently landed at Long Island—they handed the Continentals a humiliating defeat at the Battle of Brooklyn Heights on August 27—Washington gave these reasons for his decision to retreat: the need to reunite his forces, the extreme fatigue of his soldiers and the lack of proper shelter from the weather.

For his part, Howe had attempted to reconcile with the Patriots before blood was spilled, but had been rejected by Washington because he had failed to use Washington’s title of “general” when addressing the letter. Even after beating the Continentals at Brooklyn Heights, Howe looked for a peaceful resolution, allowing Washington and his army to escape by boat to Manhattan and sending yet another letter to Washington through American General John Sullivan. Washington refused to accept the missive, but gave Sullivan permission to deliver it to Congress in Philadelphia.

On September 11, Benjamin FranklinJohn Adams and other congressional representatives accepted Howe’s offer and reopened talks on Staten Island. The negotiations fell through when the British refused to accept American independence as a condition for peace.