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starving as they are, we cannot enough admire CHAP. VI. the incomparable patience and fidelity of the 1778. soldiery, that they have not been ere this time excited by their sufferings to a general mutiny and dispersion. Strong symptoms, however, of discontent have appeared in particular instances, and nothing but the most active efforts every where can long avert so shocking a catastrophe. : “Our present sufferings are not all. There is no foundation laid for any adequate relief hereafter. All the magazines provided in the states of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland, and all the immediate additional supplies they seem capable of affording, will not be sufficient to support the army more than a month longer, if so long. Very little has been done to the eastward, and as little to the southward, and whatever we have a right to expect from those quarters, must necessarily be very remote, and is indeed more precarious than could be wished. When the aforementioned supplies are exhausted, what a terrible crisis must ensue, unless all the energy of the continent be exerted to provide a timely remedy?
“Impressed with this idea, I am, on my part, putting every engine to work, that I can possibly think of, to prevent the fatal consequences we have so great reason to apprehend. I am calling upon all those whose stations and influence enable them to contribute aid on so VOL. III.
CHAP. VI. important an occasion; and from your well
known zeal, I expect every thing within the compass of your power; every thing that the abilities and resources of the state over which you preside will admit. I am sensible of the disadvantages it labours under from having been so long the scene of war, and that it must be exceedingly drained by the great demands to which it has been subject. But though you may not be able to contribute materially to our relief, you can, perhaps, do something towards it, and any assistance, however trifling in itself, will be of great moment at so critical a juncture, and will conduce to keeping the army together, . until the commissary's department can be put upon a better footing, and effectual measures concerted to secure a permanent and competent supply. You will be the best judge of the me. thods you can take; but if you can devise any means to procure a quantity of cattle, or other kind of flesh, for the use of this army, to be at camp in the course of a month, you will render a most essential service to the common cause."!
Happily for America there was in the cha. racter of Washington, something which enabled him, notwithstanding the discordant materials of which his army was composed, to attach both his officers and soldiers so strongly to his person, that no distress could weaken their affection, nor impair the respect and veneration in which he was held by them. To this senti. ment is greatly to be attributed the preservation
of a respectable military force, under circum- CHAP. VI. stances but too well calculated for its dissolu- 1778. tion.
Through this severe experiment on their fortitude, the native Americans in general per. severed steadily in the performance of their duty; but the conduct of the Europeans in general, who constituted a considerable part of the army, was much less laudable; and at no period of the war, was desertion so frequent as during this winter. With the aid of those in: habitants .who were friendly to the ancient government, they eluded the vigilance of the light parties who watched the roads, and great numbers escaped into Philadelphia with their arms. These were not the only recruits made by the British army in the course of the winter. .. The disaffected joined them, in such numbers as to add very sensibly to their strength.
In a few days, the army was rescued by the great exertions that have been mentioned, from the famine with which it had been threatened, and sufficient supplies of provisions were laid up in camp. * It was perceived that the difficulties
* The general orders issued after the restoration of plenty to the camp, constitute one of the many evidences given by the American general, of his endeavours to reconcile the army to the most excessive hardships, and to diminish those hardships in their estimation; while his utmost efforts were employed with congress to prevent them, and all his own feelings were harrowed by their magnitude.
Chap. VI. which had produced such melancholy effects, 1778. were created more by the want of due exertion
in the commissary department, and by the
After supplying the immediate wants of the army, and destroying the forage in the islands, general Wayne was detached to the Jersey shore, for the purpose of securing the cattle on the castern banks of the Delaware, and of destroying the forage which could not be removed.
These strong measures produced relief for the moment, and were certainly justified by
the pressing wants of the army. But voluntary CHAP. VI. contracts formed the only solid source of per- 1778. manent supply, which could safely be relied on. In Connecticut, these were made to a very great extent, and fat cattle were soon furnished abundantly from that state. Even this source of supply, however, had nearly been dried up by one of those unwise measures, which can only be suggested by inexperience, and a superficial consideration of the most interesting subjects. Mistaking a real depreciation, for the extortion of avarice on the wants of the public, an attempt was made under the recommendation of congress, to limit prices by law; and this limitation, if persisted in, would once more have produced a famine in camp. On the representations from the commissary department, congress was at length made sensible of the mischievous tendency of their resolutions for the regulation of prices, and they recommended to the several state legislatures a repeal of all laws on that subject.
About the beginning of February, the terms of the militia of Pennsylvania who were sta. tioned on the northeast of the Schuylkill to prevent the communication of the country peo. ple with Philadelphia, expired; and general Lacy, who had succeeded general Potter in that command, was left with less than one hun. dred men. A variety of accidents, to which plans, depending for their execution entirely on