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do the duty of officers, until the legislature should have a reasonable time to appoint others, but no longer.
“ We beg leave to assure your Excellency, that we have the highest sense of your ability and virtues; that executing your orders has ever given us pleasure ; that we love the service, and we love our country, but when that country gets so lost to virtue and justice as to forget to support its servants, it then becomes their duty to retire from its service."
This letter of justification was peculiarly embarrassing. To adopt a stern course of proceeding would have hazarded the loss of the Jersey line; an event which would, at the same time, have in. jured the service, and have greatly wounded the feelings of the commander in chief. To take up the subject without doing too much for the actual circumstances of the army, would seem to be doing too little for the occasion. He therefore declined taking any other notice of the letter than to de. clare, through General Maxwell, that while they continued to do their duty, in conformity with the determination they had expressed, he should only regret the part they had taken, and should hope they would perceive its impropriety.
The legislature of New Jersey, alarmed at the decisive step taken by the officers, were at length induced to pay some attention to their situation ;
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they consenting, on their part, to withdraw their remonstrance. In the mean time, they continued to perform their duty as usual; and their march was not delayed by this unpleasant altercation.
In communicating this transaction to Congress, General Washington took occasion to remind that body of his having frequently urged on them, especially in his late conferences at Philadelphia, the absolute necessity of some general and adequate provision for the officers of the army. tition of them," he said, “ would be needless. I shall only observe,” continued the letter, " that the distresses in some corps are so great, either where they were not till lately attached to any particular state, or where the state has been less provident, that officers have solicited even to be supplied with the clothing destined for the com. mon soldiery, coarse and unsuitable as it was. I had not power to comply with the request.
“ The patience of men animated by a sense of duty and honour will support them to a certain point, beyond which it will not go. I doubt not Congress will be sensible of the danger of an ex, treme in this respect, and will pardon my anxiety to obviate it."
Before the troops destined for the grand expe. dition had been put in motion, an enterprise of less extent was undertaken, which was attended with complete success. The settlements of the
Onondagas, one of the nearest hostile tribes of the Six Nations, lying about ninety miles from fort Schuyler, were supposed to be within the reach of a detachment from the garrison of that place. A plan for surprising their towns having been formed by General Schuyler, and approved by the commander in chief, Colonel Van Schaick, assisted by Lieutenant-colonel Willet and Major Cockran, marched from fort Schuyler on the morning of the 19th of April, at the head of between five and six hundred men. Proceeding with great dispatch and secrecy, partly by land and partly by water, Colonel Van Schaick, on the third day of his march, reached the place of his destination.
The utmost address was used in surrounding as many of the settlements as possible at the same time; but the alarm having been given on the first appearance of the Americans, and the towns being of considerable extent,* many of the Indians escaped into the woods. Twelve were killed; and thirty-four, including one white man, were made prisoners. The houses and provisions were consumed by fire, and the horses and other stock were killed. About one hundred guns were bro. ken or otherwise ruined ; and the whole settlement was utterly destroyed. Having completely
* About eight miles.
effected the object of the expedition, the detach, ment returned to fort Schuyler on the sixth day, without having lost a single man. For this handsome display of talents as a partisan officer, the thanks of Congress were voted to Colonel Van Schaick and the officers and soldiers under his command,
The cruelties exercised on the Wyoming and other settlements attacked by the Indians in the course of the preceding campaign, had given a great degree of importance to this expedition; and a deep interest was felt in its success.
The com, mander in chief had bestowed much of his atten. tion on the arrangements necessary to move an army through a wilderness, as well as on the in. terior of the country which was to be the theatre of their operations; and had spared a considerable portion of the regular force, in order to secure the valuable objects expected from the enterprise. Understanding perfectly the character of the ene, my to be encountered, and confident that future quiet depended on the terror excited by present chastisement, his instructions to Sullivan, who commanded the expedition, directed a severity of conduct unusual with General Washington, but which was rendered just by the necessity of resorting to it as a measure of self-defence.
The military strength and situation of the two parties rendered it improbable that any other of
fensive operations could be carried on by the Amę. ricans in the course of the present campaign.
The British army in New York and the adja . cent islands was estimated at nine thousand effective men. To this number was to be added the detachment which had laid waste the lower counties of Virginia under General Mathew, which amounted to two thousand men. The army in Rhode Island was estimated at between five and six thousand. Thus, exclusive of the troops in the southern districts, the army under the command of Sir Henry Clinton was computed at beIween sixteen and seventeen thousand men. This force was rendered the more efficient by the cooperation of a powerful fleet, and the perfect command of the water ; advantages which enabled the general to concentrate it at will, and to direct it against any point where there might be a prospect of attacking to advantage.
The American army was rather inferior to that of the British in real strength. The grand total at all their stations, except in the southern and western country, including officers of every description, amounted to about sixteen thousand. Of these, three thousand were under the command of General Gates in New England; and the re. maining thirteen thousand were stationed on both sides the North river, where they had been cantoned during the winter, and where they yet remain