The nation's first capital was Philadelphia, then the great metropolis of North America with a population of more than 40,000. In December 1776, however, in the face of advancing British forces, the Continental Congress hurriedly adjourned to Baltimore (capital #2). The delegates were not enthusiastic about Baltimore, a muddy burg of 6,000; one ungraciously described it as an "extravagant hole." They were only too happy to return to Philly in March 1777 when the military situation stabilized.
Matters deteriorated anew in September. With Philadelphia at the point of capture, Congress again bolted, this time heading for Lancaster, Pennsylvania (capital #3). There it met for exactly one day before deciding the Brits were still too close for comfort. The delegates forthwith repaired to York (capital #4), which was safely on the other side of the Susquehanna River.