On October 19, 1775, New York Governor Tryon fled the city and took refuge in the harbor, first on the British ship Halifax, then later on the Duchess of Gordon [1] [2] [3]. The book "The First Conspiracy" describes how he coordinated spies and resistance from those ships.

Why could the Patriots (American revolutionaries) not somehow neutralize Tryon? Was it military strength, did they just not have sophisticated notions of counter-intelligence and guerrilla warfare, or some other reason?

EDIT: Timeline, for discussion.

  • April 1775: British and militia forces clash
  • June 1775: Continental Congress establishes the Continental Army (June 14), and appoints George Washington commander (June 15).
  • October 19, 1775: Tryon flees to the Halifax
  • July 4, 1776: Declaration of Independence is adopted.
  • 4
    Remember that in 1775, independence had not been declared. For many, the conflict was about getting "their" government to see reason on certain issues. It was not yet an all-out conflict.
    – user15620
    Jan 23, 2020 at 3:38
  • 1
    @GorttheRobot Interesting point!
    – dfrankow
    Jan 23, 2020 at 18:01
  • @GorttheRobot At least to my eyes, you have the beginning of an answer; such an action did not align with their motivation/goals/objectives at the time. Care to move the comment to the answer section? On the other hand you'll have to address why they formed a Continental Army, but were unwilling to use force to stop Tryon.
    – MCW
    Jan 23, 2020 at 18:28
  • @dfrankow Note from your first wiki link, He arrived back in New York on 25 June 1775 after the American Revolutionary War had begun. Isaac Sears returned in July from the Continental Congress with orders to put Tryon under arrest, but George Washington had ordered Philip Schuyler, the commander in New York, to leave Tryon alone. Tyron was left alone under orders of Washington, not out of inability to deal with him.
    – justCal
    Jan 23, 2020 at 18:49
  • @dfrankow What are you asking about? What did Govery Tryon do from the ships in New York Harbor, and why do you think that the Continental Congress should have tried to stop him? Or do you mean why didn't they try to capture Governor Tryon? I note that Halifax was a sloop of war, while the Duchess of Gordon was a merchant ship. A warship might have more powerful artillery than an entire land army, and a merchant ship might carry enough cannons to smash any attempt to board it with boats, so Tyron might have been invulnerable in the harbor.
    – MAGolding
    Jan 23, 2020 at 19:00

1 Answer 1


Why could George Washington and the revolutionaries not stop Governor Tryon in New York Harbor?

Short Answer
The Patriots were divided into factions. The more radical factions wanted to arrest Governor Tryon, but the more moderate faction in this case lead by George Washington basically stopped them. Washington was waiting on the Continental Congress to clearly authorize the war before he was going to take the provocative step of arresting a British Hero and Governor of NY. Tyron fled to the British ship Halifax in Oct 1775. George Washington didn't get his "authorization" from congress until July 4, 1776 in the Declaration of Independence.

Detailed Answer
The question shouldn't be whether the revolutionaries could stop Governor Tryon in New York prior to October 19, 1775 when he fled into the harbor. The question should be why they didn't.

Governor Tryon had just returned from England June 25, 1775, In July of 1775, the Continental Congress had issued orders to Isaac Sears for the arrest of Governor Tryon. George Washington who had just been appointed the Commander and Chief of the Continental Army (June 19, 1775) interceded and commanded Issac Sears to stand down.

First Who was Governor Tryon... Tryon was a former British General who had been the Governor North Carolina for six years (1765 to 1771.) during the War of Regulation. He was known to many patriots as a brutal and oppressive British official, while known to the British as a hero who had already put down one colonial rebellion.

Who was Isaac Sears a privateer from the French and Indian War, who nursed a personal grievance against the British since the Sugar and Molasses Acts 1773 ruined his lucrative West Indian trade.

Isaac Sears was part of the more radical Patriot Faction itching for a war with Britain. George Washington represented a more moderate faction, willing to go to war, but also willing to wait for the Continental Congress to make a clear declaration authorizing hostile actions. To Washington's perspective that had not happened yet by July 1775 and would not happen until the Declaration of Independence July 4, 1776.

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