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Henry Clinton Letter to John Burgoyne, with Mask, August 10, 1777

Mask letter. Henry Clinton to John Burgoyne

Mask letter. Henry Clinton to John Burgoyne

Other, Clements_GoldStar_001
 
Document Description
Henry Clinton letter to John Burgoyne, with mask, August 10, 1777
 
Transcription
You will have heard, Dr Sir I doubt not long before this can have reached you that Sir W. Howe is gone from hence. The Rebels imagine that he is gone to the Eastward. By this time however he has filled Chesapeak bay with surprize and terror.
 Washington marched the greater part of the Rebels to Philadelphia in order to oppose Sir Wm's. army. I hear he is now returned upon finding none of our troops landed but am not sure of this, great part of his troops are returned for certain. I am sure this countermarching must be ruin to them. I am left to command here, half of my force may I am sure defend everything here with much safety. I shall therefore send Sir W. 4 or 5 Bat [tallio] ns. I have too small a force to invade the New England provinces; they are too weak to make any effectual efforts against me and you do not want any diversion in your favour. I can, therefore very well spare him 1500 men. I shall try some thing certainly towards the close of the year, not till then at any rate. It may be of use to inform you that report says all yields to you. I own to you that I think the business will quickly be over now. Sr. W's move just at this time has been capital. Washingtons have been the worst he could take in every respect.  sincerely give you much joy on your success and am with great Sincerity your [ ]  HC

[With the mask it reads:]
Sir. W. Howe is gone to the Chesapeak bay with the greatest part of the army. I hear he is landed but am not certain. I am left to command here with too small a force to make any effectual diversion in your favour. I shall try something at any rate. It may be of use to you. I own to you I think Sr W's move just at this time the worst he could take. Much joy on your success.
 
 
Questions
How does the mask reveal the true nature of the letter?
Why does the letter sound so dramatic in the retelling of events that General Howe may or may not have caused in Chesapeak Bay?
“Washington marched the greater part of the Rebels to Philadelphia in order to oppose Sir Wm's. army. I hear he is now returned upon finding none of our troops landed but am not sure of this…I am sure this countermarching must be ruin to them” Do you think this part of the letter is true when compared to the mask letter? Why? Why not?
What does the letter writer mean when he states Sr. W’s move has been capital?
 
Historical Challenges
Consider what may have happened if the Patriot cause died after the unsuccessful battle on Manhattan Island.  Do you think the mask was a creative cover for the true meaning of the letter? (Explain)
 
Interdisciplinary Connections
ELA: Create you own "mask" letter.
 
Resources
Allen, Thomas B. (2007) George Washington Spymaster: How the Americans Outspied the British and Won the Revolutionary War. National Geographic Children’s books.
Schecter, Barnet (2002) The Battle for New York. Walker and Company.
 
 

Historical Context
On September 15, 1776, General William Howe’s Redcoat Army invaded Manhattan Island.  George Washington’s Continental Army had managed to escape after their defeat at the Battle of Brooklyn earlier that month.  They left New York in Loyalist hands, and retreated north to Harlem Heights.  To control New York had been Howe’s primary motivation due to its strategic location at the mouth of the Hudson River.  It would be, for the British, the only way they could prevent American rebellion.  As it turned out they completely underestimated the Patriot passion for freedom.
The role of intelligence and counterintelligence had a significant impact on how George Washington’s Continental Army won the war. Spies and counterspies, invisible ink, codes and ciphers that contained covert missions within secret messages were used. Members of the Culper Ring, the "mole" in the Sons of Liberty, and women spies fighting secretly behind Patriot and Loyalist battle lines were important information gatherers and transmitters. Washington's spymaster role reveals a completely different side of America’s first president.
 
 
Essential Question
Were masks an effective way to conceal the hidden meaning of letters? Why?
 
 
Check for Understanding
Divide students into small groups of 4.  Each group will analyze and discuss the letter from General Henry Clinton.  Review text based evidence prior to the mask, and compare text with the mask.  The groups should discuss then write a summary on similarities and differences of the letter in contrast to the letter with mask.