« ZurückWeiter »
for him the most exalted respect. His answer * was well calculated to keep up the favourable impressions which had been made, the preservation of which was so essential to the success of that very arduous contest into which the United Colonies had now entered.
The first moments after his arrival in camp were employed by the Commander in Chief in reconnoitring the enemy, and examining the strength and situation of the American troops.
. The main body of the British army, under the immediate command of General Howe, was entrenching itself strongly on Bunker's Hill, about a mile from Charlestown, and about half a mile in advance of the works which had been thrown up by the Americans on Breed's Hill.
Three floating batteries lay in Mystic River, near the camp; and a twenty gun ship below the ferry between Boston and Charlestown. There was also on the Boston side of the water, on Cops, or Cope's Hill, a strong battery, which had very much annoyed the provincials while in possession of Breed's Hill, and which now served to cover and strengthen the post held by the enemy on Bunker's Hill. The other division of the British army was deeply intrenched, and strongly fortified on Roxbury Neck. These two divisions secured the only avenues leading from the country into the two peninsulas of Boston and Charlestown, and with the facilities given by the entire command of the waters, could very readily communicate with and support each other. They constituted the whole force of the enemy, except the light horse, and an inconsiderable body of infantry stationed in Boston.
* The answer given by General Washington to this warm and flattering address commenced in the following terms :
« Gentlemen, "Your kind congratulations on my appointment and arrival demand my warmest acknowledgments, and will be ever retained in grateful remembrance. In exchanging the enjoyments of domestic life for the duties of my present honourable but arduous station, I only emulate the virtue and public spirit of the whole province of Massachussetts, which, with a firmness and patriotism without example, has sacrificed all the comforts of social and political life, in support of the rights of mankind, and the welfare of our common country. My highest ambition is to be the happy instrument of vindicating these rights, and to see this devoted province again restored to peace, liberty, and
The American army lay on both sides of Charles River. Its right occupied the high grounds about Roxbury, from whence it extended towards Dorchester, and its left was covered by Mystic or Medford River, a space of at least twelve miles.
Intrenchments were thrown up on Winter and Prospect Hills, something more than a mile from that division of the enemy which lay on the peninsula of Charlestown, and in full view of it. A strong intrenchment was also thrown up at Sewal's farm; in addition to which, such intermediate points on the river as would admit of the landing of troops, were occupied and strengthened. At Roxbury, where General Thomas commanded, à strong work had been erected.on the hill, about two hundred yards from the meeting house, whichi, aided by the difficulties of the ground, was relied on to secure that pass.
The troops from New Hampshire, with a regiment from Rhode Island, amounting in the whole to somewhat less than two thousand men, occupied Winter Hill. About a thousand men, commanded by General Putnam, being a part of the Connecticut line, were on Prospect Hill; the residence of the Connecticut troops, and nine regiments from Massachussetts, making in the whole between four and five thousand men, were stationed at Roxbury. The remaining troops of Rhode Island were placed at Sewal's farm, and the residue of the forces of Massachussetts at Cambridge, except about seven hundred men, who were dispersed along the coast in several small towns, to prevent the casual depradations of the enemy.
Thus the American lines were extended over a very considerable space, nor could they be contracted without opening to the enemy a communication with the country. The commander in chief made no other immediate change in the disposition of the troops, than to arrange
organize them more distinctly. For this purpose the army was thrown into three grand divisions. That part of it which lay about Roxbury, constituted the right wing, which was now commanded by Major General Ward : those troops about Mystic, or Medford River, formed the left; which was placed under the command of Major General Lee, who was himself stationed on Prospect lill: the centre division, including the reserve, was under the immediate command of General Washington, whose head quarters were at Cambridge.
The General found himself at the head of about fourteen thousand five hundred men, with whom he had to defend this extensive camp, and to 'continue the blockade of the enemy on the land side. This force was by no means so cunsiderable as the common opinion made it, and a variety of circumstances combined to render it still less eificient, than from its numbers alone might have been expected.
So long had the hope of avoiding open hostilities been indulged, that the time for making preparations to meet them had passed away unemployed, and the neglect could not be remedied. No adequate supplies of military stores had been procured, and there was really but a very inconsiderable quantity of them in the country, On General Washington's first arrival in camp, he had ordered a return of the ammunition to be made, and the report stated three hundred and three barrels of powder to be in the stores. A few days after this Ieturn, on directing a fresh supply to the troops;
the alarming discovery was made, that there were in reality on hand only nine thousand nine hundred and forty pounds, not more than sufficient to furnish each nian with nine cartridges. This mistake in the quantity had been produced by a misapprehension of the committee of supplies, (for the magazines were not yet in the possession of military officers,) who, instead of returning the actual existing quantity, reported the whole which had been originally furnished by the province, thereby including in the estimate what had been already expended. The utmost possible exertions were necessary to relieve this essential want. They were made in every direction. All the colonial governments and committees, as well as Congress, were applied to, and intreated to send every pound of powder and lead which could be spared. “No quantity, however small," they were assured, “was beneath notice.” In the mean time every saving was practised, and every effort was used to bring these essential articles into the country. This critical state of things continued for about a fortnight, when the danger resulting from it was in some degree diminished by the arrival of a small supply of powder sent from Elizabeth Town in New Jersey. The difficulties to be encountered by those who they conducted the affairs of America, may be, in some degree, conjectured from a circumstance attending this transaction. All essenX2