Abbildungen der Seite

The whole number of continental soldiers employed during the war was 231,971, of whom Massachusetts alone furnished 67,907. The whole number of militia called into service has been estimated at 56,163, although there are good grounds for believing that it was somewhat larger.

I have already alluded to the privations and sufferings of the army of the Revolution. It is difficult to speak of them without, at least, an appearance of exaggeration : and yet the testimony is so uniform, the details are so minute and so authentic, that the strongest coloring would fall short of the dark reality. These sufferings began with the beginning of the war, and continued to the end of it. During the first winter, soldiers thought it hard that they often had nothing to cook their food with ; but they found before its close that it was harder still to have nothing to cook. Few Americans had ever known what it was to suffer for want of clothing; but thousands, as the war went on, saw their garments falling by piecemeal from around them, till scarce a shred remained to cover their nakedness. They made long marches without shoes, staining the frozen ground with the blood from their feet. They fought battles with guns that were hardly safe to bear a half-charge of powder. They fought, or marched, or worked on intrenchments, all day, and laid them down at night with but one blanket to three men. And thus in rags, without shoes, often without bread, they fought battles and won campaigns. They marched from the banks of the Hudson to the banks of the Brandywine, — hung upon the flank of the victorious British ; and when the enemy thought themselves firmly in possession of Philadelphia, fell suddenly upon their right wing at Germantown, and nearly cut off half their army. They marched from the Hudson to the southern extremity of Virginia, and took Cornwallis prisoner in Yorktown. They crossed rivers on the ice of northern winters, and made campaigns under the sun of southern summers. In the beginning, they had been paid with some degree of regularity; but as financial embarrassments increased, they found it almost impossible to get their pay even in the almost worthless continental paper. As they looked forward to the continuation of the war, how often must their hearts have sunk within them at the anticipation of all the suffering it would bring with it. ' As they looked forward to the return of peace, what fears and misgivings must have assailed them at the thought of going pennyless, and often, too, with constitutions undermined by privation and disease, to look for new homes and new means of support in a world to which they had become strangers.

The condition of the officers was scarcely better than that of the men. They, too, had suffered cold and hunger; they, too, had been compelled to do duty without sufficient clothing; to march and watch and fight without sufficient food. We are told of a dinner at which no officer was admitted who had a whole pair of pantaloons; and of all the invited there was not one who did not fully establish his claims to admission.

And yet the history of this army contains the record of only three partial mutinies: the revolt of the Pennsylvania line in January, 1781, followed in a few days by that of the New Jersey line; and the attempt to coerce Congress by another body of Pennsylvanians in 1783 ; — for the transient outbreaks of one or two regiments can hardly be termed a mutiny. The Pennsylvania line claimed their pay and discharge upon the ground that they had enlisted for three years, and that the three years had expired; and, even in the heat of the revolt, denounced and gave up the emissaries whom the British commander had sent among them to buy them back to England. All of these revolts were repressed without actual collision. The spirit of subordination to an authority of their own creating was too deeply rooted in the American mind to be forgotten long, even when men felt themselves most aggrieved.

Not that there were not vices and vicious men in the army: not that drunkenness, and profanity, and the other forms of evil which prevail where many men are gathered together and the purifying influences of domestic life suspended, were not to be found in some measure among these men

also : but neither could they have borne what they bore, or done what they did, if by far the greater part of them had not been as sound at heart as they were strong in will.

To the officers, Congress, after much discussion and delays that savored equally of impolicy and ingratitude, had voted half-pay for life. It is painful to think of the long opposition to the claims of men who, besides risking their lives in battle and their health in the hardships of camp, were necessarily cut off, during their most vigorous years, from every other method of providing for themselves or their families. To some minds the army seems always to have presented itself as an object of apprehension. In strengthening it against the enemy they were still disturbed by the fear of strengthening it against the people. Forgetting that the men who composed it came directly from the body of citizens, and must sooner or later return to it, they feared that the ties by which long service would bind them to their officers might prove stronger than the ties by which they were bound to their families. History troubled them with visions of Cæsars and Cromwells ; and like too many who misapply her lessons, they failed to see how utterly unlike were the “ Thirteen Colonies” to the dregs of Romulus or the England of Charles the First. They erred where sensible men daily err, by applying to one class of circumstances the principles which they have de

duced from a class radically different. The idea of building up a standing army in a country of vast extent, thinly peopled, sturdily independent, too strongly attached to their local institutions to be willing to sacrifice them to the certain prospect of immediate advantage and under the stimulant of immediate danger, accustomed to self-government, and jealously sensitive to the least encroachment upon their rights, ought never to have found admission into a sound mind. Yet it not only found admission to some, but took such deep root therein as to make them systematically unjust towards. the best and most faithful advocates of their common liberties. It was, in a great measure, this feeling, combined with a morbid attachment to State rights, or rather an imperfect conception of the vital importance of a real union, that delayed the formation of an army for the war till the moment for forming it cheaply and readily was past. It was this feeling which, under the plausible show of strengthening the dependence of the army upon Congress, kept the officers in much feverish anxiety about the rules of promotion. It was this feeling which led John Adams to talk seriously about an annual appointment of generals; and both the Adamses to draw nigh to Gates as a man who, in some impossible contingency, was to be set up against Washington.

It is not surprising, therefore, that to minds tinged with these suspicions, the idea of half-pay

« ZurückWeiter »