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CHAPTER IV. Colonel Washington appointed Commander in Chief
of the American Forces--Arrives at Cambridge -Strength and Disposition of the two Armies Deficiency of the Americans in Arms and Ammunition- Falmouth burned-Success of the American Cruizers-Distress of the British from tho Want of Fresh Provisions-Difficulty of reenlisting the Army- Plans for attacking Boston - Possession taken of the Heights of Dorchester
Army-Planos Difficul from the
FROM the period of his marriage, the attentions of
Colonel Washington, who had retired to Mount Vernon, were for several years principally directed to the management of his estate, which had now become considerable, and which he greatly improved. He continued, however, a most respected member of the legislature of his country, in which he took an early and a decided part in the opposition made to the principle of taxation' asserted by the British Parliament. He was chosen by the independent companies formed through the northern parts of Virginia, to command them; and was elected a member of the first Congress that met at Philadelphia, in which body he was very soon distinguished as the soldier of America. He was placed on all those committees whose duty it was to make .6
arrangements for defence; and when it became necessary to appoint a commander in chief, his military character, the solidity of his judgment, the steady firmness of his temper, the dignity of his person and deportment, the confidence inspired by his patriotism and integrity, and the independence of his circumstances, combined with that policy which actuated New England, and induced a wish to engage the southern colonies cordially in a war, to designate him in the opinion of all as the person to whom the destinies of his country should be confided.
He was unanimously chosen “General and Commander in Chief of the army of the United Colonies, and all the forces now raised or to be raised by them *,”
When, the next day, the President communicated this appointment to him, he modestly answered, that though truly sensible of the high honour done him, yet he felt great distress, from a consciousness that his abilities and military esperience might not be equal to the extensive and important
* Artemus Ward, of Massachussetts, who had commanded the troops before Boston ; Colonel Lee, a British officer, who had distinguished himself in Portugal, but had resigned his commission in the service of the king; Philip Schuyler, of New York; and Israel Putnam, of Connecticut, now also before Boston ; were appointed to the rank of major-generals; and Afr. Horatio Gates, who had held the rank of a major in the British service, was appointed adjutant-general.
trust. However, as the Congress desired it, he would enter upon the momentous duty, and exert every power he possessed in their service, and for support of the glorious cause. He begged them to accept his cordial thanks for thi, distinguished testimony of their approbation, and then added, * But lest some unlucky event should happen unfavourable to my reputation, I beg it may be re.membered by every gentleman in the room, that I this day declare, with the utmost sincerity, I do not think myself equal to the command I am honoured with.”
He declined all compensation for his services, and avowed an intention to keep an exact account of his expenses, which he should rely on Congress to discharge."
A special commission was made out for him *, and a solemn resolution was unanimously entered
* 66 The delegates of the United Colonies of New Hampshire, Massachussetts’ Bay, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, the counties of Newcastle, Kent, and Sussex on Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Caro. lina, and South Carolina ;
" To George Washington, Esq. « We, reposing special trust and confidence in your patriotism, yalour, conduct, and fidelity, do, by these presents, constitute and appoint you to be General and Commander in Chief of the army of the United Colonies, and of all the forces now raised,
into, declaring, that Congress would maintain, 'assist, and adhere to him as the General and Commander in Chief of the forces raised, or to be raised, for the maintenance and preservation of American liberty, with their lives and fortunes.
He prepared, without delay, to enter upon the arduous duties of his station; and having passed a few days in New York, where General Schuyler commanded, and where several very important arrangements were to be made, he proceeded with the utmost dispatch to Cambridge, which was the head quarters of the American army.
or to be raised by them, and of all others who shall voluntarily offer their service, and join the said army for the defence of American liberty, and for repelling every hostile invasion there. of. And you are hereby invested with full power and authority to act as you shall think for the good and welfare of the service.
« And wedo hereby strictly charge and require all officers and soldiers under your command, to be obedient to your orders, and diligent in the exercise of their several duties.
“And we also enjoin and require you to be careful in execut. ing the great trust reposed in you, by causing strict discipline and order to be observed in the army, and that the soldiers be duly exercised and provided with all convenient necessaries. .
“And you are to regulate your conduct in every respect by the rules and discipline of war, (as herewith given you,) and punctually to observe and follow such orders and directions from time to time as you shall receive from this or a future Congress of these United Colonies, or Comınittee of Congress.
* This commission to continue in force until revoked by this or a future Congress.”
As As all orders of men concurred in approving his appointment, all concurred in expressing the satisfaction that event had given them, and their determination to afford nim the most entire support; yet the address from the provincial Congress of New York seemed to disclose some jealousy, even at that time, entertained of the danger* to which liberty was exposed from a military force ; and the very expression of their confidence, that he would return, when peace should be restored, to the walks of private life, betrayed their fears, that so much power once acquired might not readily be parted with. .
Massachussetts manifested more than usual solicitude to demonstrate the respect entertained for their General. A committee of the Congress of that province waited to receive him at Springfield, on the confines of the colony, about one hundred miles from Boston, and to escort him to the army. Immecliately after his arrival, an address was presented to him from the representatives, breathing for him the most cordial affection, and testifying
* After expressing their joy at his appointment, the address proceeds to say, “ We have the fullest assurances, that whenever this important contest shall be decided by that fondest wish of every American soul, an accommodation with our mother country, you will chearfully resign the important deposit committed into your hands, and re-assume the character of our worthiest citizen.”