Chronology of Events Relating to Pennsylvania: January–February 1776

January 1776


Defeat of the American assault on Quebec involves heavy losses of troops from Pennsylvania.
The Second Continental Congress, sitting in Philadelphia, protests against brutality employed by the British Army in the war against the colonies.

The Pennsylvania Committee of Safety, operating in Philadelphia, begins to vote recommendations for officers to command the 4 battalions of Pennsylvania troops that are to be raised for service in the Continental Army. (One battalion is already in existence.)
Congress chooses the 4 battalion commanders from among 8 names recommended by the Committee.

Because there is a shortage of salt petre (potassium nitrate) for the manufacture of gunpowder, the Committee of Safety appoints a committee to coordinate the production of salt petre.
A sixth Pennsylvania battalion is to be raised by recruitment in Cumberland County.
Thomas Paine’s Common Sense is published in Philadelphia.

The Committee of Safety appoints a committee to determine where gunpowder magazines shall be built.
Congress resolves that its paper money shall be accepted as circulating currency.
Letters are written from the Committee of Safety to the commissioners and assessors of each county respecting the arms and munitions each shall provide for the war.
Congress orders the Committee of Safety to reimburse the colonels of the battalions raised in Pennsylvania for their recruiting expenses.

With the approval of Congress, the Committee of Safety makes an exception to the prohibition against exporting colonial produce, so that the Pennsylvania ships can trade with the West Indies for much-needed gunpowder.

The Committee of Safety advertises its willingness to loan funds to those who will erect gunpowder mills within 50 miles of Philadelphia.

The Committee of Safety forces a private owner to put certain naval and maritime supplies, that he was hoarding, up for sale. The Committee is to have a favored position as purchaser.
The Committee of Safety resolves to recruit 400 men to serve on the Pennsylvania war galleys and ships.
The Committee of Safety resolves to raise a company of matrosses (gunner’s assistants) for service in the anticipated campaign in Canada.
The Committee of Safety resolves to have 50 large wooden cannon carriages built. Also, there is to be a door-to-door solicitation for old linen, to be used in the war effort.

February 1776


A sub-committee of the Committee of Safety returns from New Jersey and recommends defending the Delaware River area by using a battery of artillery mounted on carriages, which will retreat to safety whenever hard-pressed by the British.
As an inducement to increase enlistments, the rules for disposing of the money made from capturing enemy vessels are modified. The Committee of Safety now allows the crews of Pennsylvania warships to share in tine prize money.
The City of Reading begins to receive enemy prisoners captured in Canada: it will remain a prison area.
Thomas Heimberger, gunpowder manufacturer, engages to build a gunpowder mill in Chester County, 33 miles from Chester Springs.
Congress appoints a committee of 5 to consider the letters received from George Washington and Philip Schuyler. Washing­ton’s letters received in Philadelphia today emphasize the military advantages of a formal declaration of independence.
Report of the committee on gunpowder mills is received by the Committee of Safety. Six militias are recommended, to be built subject to specific committee requirements.
The Provincial Assembly, adjourned since November 25, 1775, resumes its sessions.
Thomas Austin is forced to resign from t’he Philadelphia County Committee of Inspection and Observation, because of suspicions that he is disloyal to the Revolutionary cause.
Congress debates a proposal to open the ports for commerce on March 1. 1776. No decision is reached. A vote of approval, it is felt, would mean formal defiance of British rule.
A public oration is held in Philadelphia to honor the death of General Montgomery and others who fell in the attempt to capture Canada.
The Committee of Safety asks the Provincial Assembly to approve raising 2,000 more men to defend Pennsylvania. They are to be organized into one regular battalion, plus a body of riflemen.
Governor John Penn writes to the Pennsylvania Assembly to say that Pennsylvania law is to prevail in Northumberland County, even though Connecticut has seized the area and has now organized it as a Connecticut county.

The Committee of Safety authorizes 2 men – Captain Joseph Coperthwaite and Clement Biddle – to manage the construction of the gunpowder mills in the Philadelphia area.

The Committee of Safety submits a memorial to the Pennsylvania Assembly asking for more funds for the 2,000 who are to be recruited. It also demands a clarification to the status of the military associators.

John Beaton advertises that he will tour Chester County to teach the method of producing salt petre.
The Committee of the City and Liberties of Philadelphia de­cides to call a constitutional convention on April 2.

The Committee of Safety prohibits further private purchase or removal of any firearms now in Philadelphia.
The Committee of Safety appoints a special committee to complete the fortification of Fort Island (later named Fort Mifflin).


Dr. Waddell is chief of Documentary Publications Projects, Bureau of Archives and History, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.