On March 6, 1776, General Washington issued the command: "Thursday, the 7th instant, being set apart by the honorable Legislature of this Province as a day of fasting, prayer and humiliation, 'to implore the Lord and Giver of all victory to pardon our manifold sins and wickedness, and that it would please Him to bless the Continental army with His divine favor and protection.'"

 

On July 2, 1776, General Washington addressed his troops:

 

     "The time is now near at hand which must probably determine whether Americans are to be freemen or slaves; whether they are to have any property they can call their own; whether their houses and farms are to be pillaged and destroyed, and themselves consigned to a state of wretchedness from which no human efforts will deliver them. The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army. Our cruel and unrelenting enemy leaves us no choice but a brave resistance, or the most abject submission. We have, therefore, to resolve to conquer or die."

 

On August 27, 1776, British General Howe had trapped General Washington and his 8,000 troops on Brooklyn Heights, Long Island, intending to advance the next morning to crush them. In a desperate move, Washington gathered every boat he could find and spent all night ferrying his army across the East River. When the morning came, there was still a large number of troops dangerously exposed to the British, but fortuitously, the fog did not lift from the river, covering the retreat until all of Washington's army had evacuated! Never again did the British have such a rare chance of winning the war.

 

Major Ben Tallmadge, Washington's Chief of Intelligence, wrote of that morning:

 

     "As the dawn of the next day approached, those of us who remained in the trenches became very anxious for our own safety, and when the dawn appeared there were several regiments still on duty. At this time a very dense fog began to rise [off the river], and it seemed to settle in a peculiar manner over both encampments. I recollect this peculiar providential occurrence perfectly well, and so very dense was the atmosphere that I could scarcely discern a man at six yards distance.... We tarried until the sun had risen, but the fog remained as dense as ever."

 

In the bitter winter of 1776, Washington's volunteer ranks had dwindled to only two thousand badly clothed, poorly fed and ill-equipped soldiers, who were disappearing daily to return to care for their farms. If he did not act quickly, there would be no army left by spring.