• Today's Daily Devotion
British Fleet
The British were coming. The British were coming. But where were they coming to? To New York, of course. “Flushed with the idea of superiority after the evacuation of ...

British Fleet

The British were coming. The British were coming. But where were they coming to? To New York, of course.

Flushed with the idea of superiority after the evacuation of Boston, the Americans desire decisive action. Nothing is more sought for by us,” Gen. William Howe proclaimed, describing his emboldened determination.

When Howe left Boston in March 1776, he was down but not out. After taking refuge in Nova Scotia, he chose New York as his aim that summer. And just as the Continental Congress finalized the Declaration of Independence, General Howe arrived on Staten Island. “General Howe, as you have heard, is arrivd at New York [July 4th]. He has brought with him from 8 to 10,000 troops,” Samuel Adams chronicled in a letter to a friend on July 12th. “Lord Howe [the general’s brother] arrivd the last Week, and the whole Fleet is hourly expected. The Enemy landed on Staten Island.”

Local residents watched in both awe and horror as the British military filled New York’s waters with endless white sails. When would the ships stop coming? And how many would there be when the last ship arrived? The British fleet was a show of force unlike anything Americans had ever seen. “When the British come in the summer of 1776 it’s like Star Wars. It’s the Empire Strikes Back. It’s the Death Star,” described author and historian Evan Thomas in an interview for The History Channel Presents: The American Revolution, 2006.

Both sides understood New York’s strategic significance. New York’s islands were America’s geographical fulcrum. If the British controlled New York, they could push the patriots off balance and barricade the Revolution. If the Continental army secured New York, America might win the war by autumn.

For many on Staten Island and Long Island, the emotional impact of seeing endless white sails was more powerful than any Declaration of Independence. They were ready to declare their allegiance to the side that was most likely to manage the gallows. With the king’s authority behind him, Howe tapped this fountain of fear. He offered pardons to anyone who would take an oath to the crown. Thus, many New York loyalists received British troops with “great demonstrations of joy.”

For George Washington and his army of ten thousand, the arrival of the British was an unfolding reality in the summer of 1776. They had no idea how many British were coming or how long it would take before they all arrived. The process was so incremental that the Continentals could not understand the size or scope of what they were facing. Each day brought more anxiety than the day before. They had no idea when the battle would come.

Sometimes great fleets sail into life slowly, bringing anxiety, fear, and apprehension. It’s often hard to comprehend the size of an incremental giant.


Father, give me insight to comprehend the colossal fleets that sail into my life or the lives of others. Help me to have faith to face these giants.

“There are three things that are too amazing for me, four that I do not understand: the way of an eagle in the sky, the way of a snake on a rock, the way of a ship on the high seas, and the way of a man with a maiden”

(Proverbs 30:18, 19).

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