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CHAP. IV. solidity of his judgment, the steady firmness -- 1775. 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 the 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 n 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 experience, might not be equal to the extensive and important 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 this distinguished testimony of their approbation, and then added,
........“ But lest some unlucky event should happen unfavourable to my reputation, I beg it'
See Note, No. XV. at the end of the volume,
may be remembered by every gentleman in the CHAP. IV. room, that I this day declare with the utmost 1775. 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 unani. mously entered 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 Cam
* 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 mr. Horatio Gates, who had held the rank of a major in the British service, was appointed adjutant general.
CHAP. Iv. bridge, which was the head quarters of the 1775. American army.
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 him 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 Arrives at 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. Immediately after
*. 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 cheerfully resign the important deposit committed into your hands, and reassume the character of our worthiest citizen."
his arrival, an address was presented to him CHAP. IV. from the representatives, breathing for him the 1775. most cordial affection, and testifying 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 July 3. 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 strength and the immediate command of general Howe, was of the two intrenching itself strongly on Bunker's hill, about a mile from Charlestown, and about half a
* 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 situation, 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 safety.
CHAP. IV. mile in advance of the works which had been 1775. 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 Cop's 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 sup. port each other. They constituted the whole force of the enemy, except the light horse, and an inconsiderable body of infantry stationed in Boston. .
The American army lay on both sides of Charles river. Its right occupied the high grounds about Roxbury, from whence it ex. tended 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