Abbildungen der Seite

to the hazard than was consistent with prudence. If it had this effect, I am not sensible of it, as I endeavoured to give the subject all the consideration a matter of such importance required. True it is, and I cannot help acknowledging, that I have many disagreeable sensations on account of my situation ; for to have the eyes of the whole Continent fixed on me, with anxious expectation of some great event, and to be restrained in every military operation for want of the necessary means to carry it on, is not very pleasing ; especially as, the means used to conceal my weakness from the enemy, conceals it also from our friends, and adds to their wonder.”

Towards the latter end of February, there were. various appearances among the British troops in Boston, indicating an intention to evacuate that place. In the opinion that New York must be, their object, General Washington pressed General Lee to hasten, as much as possible, the fortifications around that city, and his preparations to receive. the enemy; but as these appearances might be entirely deceptive, and he had now received a. small supply of powder, he determined to prosecute with vigour a plan he had formed, to force. General Howe either to come to an action, or to abandou the town of Boston.

Since the allowance of a bounty, recruiting had been rather more successful. The effective regular



force, engaged for the year, now amounted to something more than fourteen thousand men. In addition to these troops, the Commander in Chief called out about six thousand of the militia of Massachussetts; and thus reinforced, he determined to take possession of, and fortify the heights of Dorchester, from whence it would be in his power greatly to annoy the ships in the harbour, and the soldiers in the town. The taking of this position he hoped, and was convinced, must bring on a general action, as the enemy would inevitably attempt to drive him from it; but if in this he should be mistaken, he resolved to make the fortifications of the heights of Dorchester only preparatory to his seizing and fortifying Nook's Hill, and the points opposite the south end of Boston, which entirely commanded the harbour, a great part of the town, and the beach from whence an embarkation must take place in the event of a retreat,

To facilitate the execution of this plan, and in pursuance of the advice given in a council of war, a heavy bombardment and cannonade on the town and lines of the enemy was commenced on the evening of the second of March, from the forts, which was repeated the two succeeding nights. On the night of the fourth, immediately after the firing had begun, a considerable detachment of the Americans under the command of General Thomas, crossing the Neck from Roxbury, took


possession of the heights without opposition; and though the ground was so hard as to be almost impenetrable, in consequence of which they were obliged to avail themselves of fascines, and other materials carried to the place, yet, by very great activity and industry through the night, the works were so far advanced by the morning, as in a great degree to cover them from the shot of the enemy. When day-light disclosed their operations to the British, a considerable degree of enibarrassment appeared, and an ineffectual fire was commenced on the party in possession of the heights, 'who opened in turn a battery on them, and continued with unremitting labour tostrengthen their position.

It was now necessary to dislodge the Americans from the heights, or to evacuate the town; and the British General, as had been foreseen, determined to embrace the former part of the alternative. Lord Percy, with part of five regiments, and the grenadiers, and light infantry, amounting to about three thousand men, was ordered on this service; and the next day the troops were embarked, and fell down to the castle, in order to proceed from thence up the river to the intended scene of action; but they were scattered by a furious storm, which disabled them from prosecuting the enterprise at that time; and before they could again be in readiness for the attack, the works were made so strong, that it was thought unadvisable to attempt to force them, and the evacuation of the town was resolved on.)


In the expectation that the flower of the Britislı troops would be engaged in the attack on the heights of Dorchester, General Washington had concerted a plan for availing himself of that occasion to attack the town of Boston itself. Four thousand chosen men were held in readiness to embark at the mouth of Cambridge River, on a signal to be given, if the enemy should be out in such force, as to justify an opinion that an attack on the town might be made with a good prospect of success. These troops were to embark in two divisions, the first to be led by Brigadier General Sullivan, the second by Brigadier General Green, and the whole to be under the command of Major General Putnam. The boats were to be preceded by three floating batteries, which were to keep up a heavy fire on that part of the town where the troops were to land. It was proposed that the first division should land at the powder-house, and gain possession of Bacon Hill; the second at Barton's Point, or a little south of it, and after secure ing that post, to join the other division, and force the enemy's works and gates, so as to give admission to the troops from Roxbury...

Had this plan succeeded, the British army in Boston must have been entirely destroyed. Of its success General Washington entertained the most


sanguine hopes, and very greatly regretted the storm which defeated the proposed attack on the heights of Dorchester, and consequently the residue of his plan, the execution of which was 'entirely dependent on that attack. [ The General soon received information of the determination of the enemy to evacuate Boston. A paper, signed by some of the select men of the town, and brought out with a flag, stated the fact, and was accompanied with propositions said to be made on the part of General Howe, but not signed by him, relative to the security of the town, and the peaceable embarkation of his army. As this letter was not addressed to the Commander in Chief, nor authenticated by the signature of General Howe, nor by any act obligatory on liim, it was thought improper that General Washington should directly notice it, and it was determined that the officer to whom it was delivered, should return an answer, stating the reasons whý a niore particular regard was not paid to it. .

: In the mean time, the determination to continue to advance on the enemy, and to secure Nook's Hill; was changed. The reason assigned for abandoning this plan was, that it was not deemed advisable, now that the evacuation of Boston was certain, to press the retreating army too closely ; because their embarkation could not be prevented, and a longer delay would give farther time to strengthen New York, which the General still


« ZurückWeiter »