Chess in 1776
by Bill Wall, 2021

Books by Bill Wall
On July 4, 1776, the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence and the United States of America was born.

On Dec 21, 1776, Benjamin Franklin arrived in Paris and stayed in the Paris suburb of Passy. He lived there for 9 years and played chess with his friends and neighbors.

On Dec 25-26, 1776, General George Washington crossed the Delaware River with his 1,400 troops on the way to Trenton, New Jersey. The 1,500 Hessian troops, camped in and around Trenton, were attacked and decisively defeated by the American Continental Army. The Hessians had supposedly let their guard down to celebrate the Christmas holiday, and the British commander, Colonel Johann Gottlieb Rall (also spelled Rahl) (c. 1726 — December 26, 1776) himself was misled by John Honeyman, a spy of Washington who convincingly posed as a loyalist. According to one account, Rall was busy playing chess (though some say cards) the night before the attack at the home of Trenton merchant Abraham Hunt when he was handed a note from a local Loyalist who'd seen Washington's forces gathering. As not to be distracted from his game, Rall placed the unread note in his coat pocket. While leading his troops in retreat from the Battle of Trenton, Rall was struck by a musket ball. He died later that day from his injuries. The note informing the general of the attack was later found in his coat pocket. The Battle of Trenton is believed to be the turning point of the Revolutionary War. If Rall had not been playing chess and read the note from a spy, George Washington, Nathanael Greene, Henry Knox, James Monroe, John Marshall (future Chief Justice), Alexander Hamilton, and others may have been killed. [sources: American Chess Bulletin, Vol 6, 1909, p.24, Chess Review, 1939, p. 157, Chess Life, Vol 51, 1996, p. 17]

In 1776, Philidor's only daughter (another daughter died in infancy), Elyse Danican Philidor (1776-1819), was born. She later married Louis Barthelemy Pradher (1871-1843) a composer and pianist.

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