Today in History: September 26
The Winter of Discontent
On September 26, 1777, British troops marched into Philadelphia and occupied the city forcing the Continental Congress, meeting in the Pennsylvania State House (later renamed Independence Hall), to flee to the interior of Pennsylvania. General Washington and his army had battled the British south of Philadelphia at Brandywine Creek on September 11. That evening, Washington sent a letter to the Continental Congress reporting the outcome:
Sir: I am sorry to inform you that in this day's engagement, we have been obliged to leave the enemy masters of the field. Unfortunately the intelligence received of the enemy's advancing up the Brandywine, and crossing at a Ford about six miles above us, was uncertain and contradictory, notwithstanding all my pains to get the best…our loss of men is not, I am persuaded, very considerable, I believe much less than the enemy's…. Notwithstanding the misfortune of the day, I am happy to find the troops in good spirits; and I hope another time we shall compensate for the losses now sustained.
The Marquis La Fayette was wounded in the leg, and Genl. Woodford in the hand. Divers other Officers were wounded, and some Slain, but the number of either cannot now be ascertained…
P. S. It has not been in my power to send you earlier intelligence; the present being the first leisure moment I have had since the action.
Washington's attempts to hold the British outside of Philadelphia failed. While the British occupied the city, Washington and his army took up winter quarters at Valley Forge. Supplies and morale were low as the troops braved the snow and near starvation. The soldiers of the War for Independence endured bleak times at Valley Forge.
In a studio recording of a speech initially delivered at a Valley Forge commemorative ceremony, Speaker of the House Champ Clark paid tribute to the suffering of the brave men there:
Here in the winter of discontent, our fortunes sank to the lowest point. But from this place, Washington went forth conquering, and to conquer, and to become the foremost man of all the world.
"At Valley Forge,"
speech by Speaker of the House Champ Clark, circa 1918-20.
American Leaders Speak: Recordings from World War I and the 1920 Election
In the spring of 1778, the British hastily left Philadelphia for New York City concerned that the new alliance between the French and Americans would result in a French blockade of the Delaware River. Washington pursued, marching his men to the Jersey coast where the war continued.
Learn more about Continental Congress and the Revolutionary War:
- See the special presentation To Form a More Perfect Union: An Introduction to the Congressional Documents in Documents from the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, 1774-1789.
- Search on Valley Forge in the George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, 1741-1799. See, for example, a map showing the original plan for the defense of the Valley Forge Camp, dating from late 1777 or early 1778.
- See Volume IX and Volume X of the Journals of the Continental Congress in A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774-1785.
- View A Guide to the American Revolution, 1763-1783 to locate materials relating to the American Revolution on the Library's Web site as well as on external sites. View a bibliography with selections for both general and younger readers.
- Primary Documents in American History links to many of the most important documents in American history including Washington's Commission as Commander in Chief and the Declaration of Independence.
- Search the Today in History Archive on Revolutionary War. Read, for example, about General Cornwallis' surrender at Yorktown.
Jonathan Chapman, born in Leominster, Massachusetts, on September 26, 1775, came to be known as "Johnny Appleseed." Chapman earned his nickname because he planted nurseries and individual apple trees across 100,000 square miles of midwestern wilderness and prairie—resulting in settlers' planting their own orchards.
The first record of Chapman's presence in the Midwest dates to 1801 when he was known to be on the Ohio River transporting bushels of apple seeds from western Pennsylvania for his nurseries. Chapman's first apple-tree nursery was along the Allegheny Valley in northwestern Pennsylvania; he then ventured into central and northwestern Ohio and to eastern Indiana. Chapman scouted routes that he thought pioneers would settle and planted his seedlings ahead of the new settlements.
Chapman lived in Mansfield, Ohio, for about twenty years. Years before the Homestead Act he acquired about 1,000 acres of farmland in Mansfield through a local homestead arrangement. Chapman used the land to develop apple-tree nurseries. His reputation as a conservationist, a brave frontiersman, and as an eccentric (in dress and well as mannerisms) grew, as did stories of his kindness to animals and his heroic exploits.
Chapman was an ambulant man. Each year he traveled hundreds of miles on foot—wearing clothing made from sack cloth and carrying a cooking pot that he is said to have worn like a cap. His travels took him through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois, and Indiana.
As a member of the New Church, or, Church of the New Jerusalem, (Swedenborgian), he left sections of Swedenborgian tracts at cabins that he visited and preached "God has made all things for good."
In about 1830, Chapman also acquired land in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he planted a nursery that produced thousands of seedling apple trees that he sold, traded, and planted elsewhere. Chapman passed away at the age of seventy. Every September, when apples are ripe, Fort Wayne hosts an annual festival to commemorate the life of Johnny Appleseed.
Legend and folklore has transformed Johnny Appleseed into a folk hero—the patron saint of horticulture.
- Search across the American Memory collections of photographs and prints on the term apples for a wide variety of related images.
- Search on apple in Historic American Sheet Music: 1850-1920 for sheet music with an apple theme.
- Read "Johnny Appleseed, A Pioneer Hero" in The Nineteenth Century in Print: Periodicals for more information on this folk hero.
- Search the American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1940 interviews on the term apple to find information on apple picking, instructions on how to peel apples, a recipe for apple dumplings, and much more. These life histories were written by the staff of the Folklore Project of the Federal Writers' Project for the U.S. Works Progress (later Work Projects) Administration (WPA). This Library of Congress collection includes 2,900 documents representing the work of over 300 writers from 24 states.
- Search on Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois, or Indiana in Map Collections to see early maps of the towns visited by Johnny Appleseed. Follow the instructions presented with each map to zoom in on details such as houses, fields, horse drawn carts, bridges, and much more.
- Search on the keyword apple in the collection Tending the Commons: Folklife and Landscape in Southern West Virginia to see photos and to hear audio selections concerning apples. Listen to, for example, Old Apple Orchards on Drews Creek and view Joe, Age 11, Molly Mooching in Ben Burnside's Old Apple Orchard or Wolf Rivers Apple Tree behind Elsie Rich's House.