Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

provincials in the late action of Breed's Hill. The other division of the British army was strongly posted at Roxbubury. These two positions, together with the fleet and armed vessels, covered the town of Boston, and the corps de reserve which commanded that station. : General Washington posted his army in three divisions, to watch the motions of the enemy, and check his opera, tions. The first, under the command of General Ward, was strongly posted at Roxbury, and commanded the right. s The second was posted at Cambridge under the immediate command of his excellency, and supported the centre, and the third was strongly intrenched upon Prospect Hill, under the command of Major General Lee, and supported the left. All the intermediate points of attack, between Cambridge and Roxbury, or Cambridge and Charlestown, were strongly guarded by General Putnam and others, who had under their several commands about 3000 men. Thus posted upon this extensive line, General Washington saw himself exposed to an attack from a regular, well appointed British army, in full supply of every thing essen-, tial to the service, and calculated to ensure victory, and success ; excepting that consciousness of a just, and righta, eous cause, which fired the breast of every true born son of liberty, that filled the ranks of the American army; which had displayed itself so recently, and so fully at the. battle of Bunker's Hill, and which they knew was ready to display itself again upon the first attack.'

Thus fortified, thus intrenched under cover of the ardent spirit of patriotism and a righteous cause, the American army nobly surmounted all their embarrassments, and held their enemy in a state of siege. The whole battalion of rifle corps, which Congress on the 14th and 22d of June, ordered to be raised in Virginia, and Pennsylvania, were

raised, accoutred, and marched to the army; where they · were embodied on the 7th of August. Such was the spirit

Vol. III.

18

of patriotism of the day, that all this had been effected in

less than two months ; many of the troops marched from :-500 to 1000 miles, and all without one cent of advance from the continental treasury.

The next attention of the commander in chief was directed to the supplies of the army, and while he pressed the various committees of safety in the several colonies for such supplies of powder, as could possibly be obtained, and forwarded to the army, he covered his exposed situation by disclosing to the enemy his weakness in that point so freely, as to render it incredible, and lead him to suspect a treacherous design to draw him into an engagement, which might prove the ruin of his army. This stratagem prevailed, until a small supply of powder was. received from Elizabeth-town, in New Jersey, and even this was privately conveyed out of that colony, lest the people should have opposed the measure, and reseryed the powder for their own exigencies. The army were generally destitute of bayonets, which the state of the country could not readily supply; and barracks with all their pernicious effects on cleanliness, and discipline, were substituted in the American encampments in place of tents, then not to be obtained...is

At the head of such an army, thus embarrassed, the general in chief entered upon the arduous duties of his command; the service of many of the troops was to expire in November, and the longest service did not exceed the last of December; and had not patriotism supplied the place of discipline, and the fire of liberty the want of military stores, this army would at least have existed only in name, and the rights and the liberties of America, would have fallen a sacrifice to their enemies at the very threshold of the war.

This remark may be fully illustrated by the following extract' from General Washington's letter to Congress, soon after he joined the army.

561 should be extremely deficient in gratitude, as well as justice, if I did not take the first opportunity to acknowledge the readiness, and attention which the Con. gress, and different committees have shown to make every thing as convenient, and agreeable as possible; but there is a vital delay, incompatible with military service, in transacting business through such various, and different channels. . I esteem it my duty therefore, to represent the inconvenience that must unavoidably ensue, from a dependence on a number of persons for supplies, and submit it to the consideration of Congress, whether the public service will not be best promoted by appointing a commissary general for that purpose."

[ocr errors]

mit itt

* The embarrassments arising from the want of engineers, clothes, camp untensils, and tools necessary to the operations of an army, were all severely felt, together with that disaffection amongst the officers that was occasioned by the congressional appointments ; yet all these were obviated in the mind of the general in chief, by the reflection that “he possessed a great number of men, able bodied, active, zealous in the cause, and of unquestionable courage, which constituted the materials of a good army.” 9. The force of the enemy at Boston, &c. was now aug. mented by a reinforcement from England, and amounted to about 8,000. men. General Washington now called a council of war to settle a general plan of operations, in which it was unanimously agreed to maintain their present position, and in case of their being forced from their present lines, by the enemy, it was resolved that the

Welsh Mountains, near Cambridge, and the rear of the lines at Roxbury, be the place - of rendezvous ; at the same time a line of express horses, and videt boats were established, to watch and communicate intelligence of the motions of the enemy, to all parts of the army...

In this state of things, General Washington saw the necessity of commencing more serious, and vigorous operations against the enemy, before the services of any part of the army began to expire, and he therefore having fully reconnoitered the positions of the enemy in person, proposed to commence an attack upon their lines, by an attempt to carry the town of Boston by storm, and thus destroying the British army before another reinforcement should arrive. The general .conimunicated his views to the several officers by letter, for mature and deliberate consideration, and then assembled them in council to decide on the measure. They met accordingly, and decided unanimously,“ that for the present at least, the attempt ought not to be made,” and the blockade was continued.

This blockade proved very distressing to the British," by cutting off the forage, and supplies of fresh meat, and other comforts and conveniences, necessary to such an army.

On the first of August, it was ascertained, that the enemy had lost in various ways, about 2500 of his original force, since the 19th of April, and from this it was most, probably concluded by the general council of war; that: the enemy might so diminish before spring, as to become more vulnerable, and fall an easy prey to the American arms, before the spring recruits should arrive. . '..

Pressed by this siege, the enemy scoured the adjacent! coast, together with that of the neighbouring colonies, to obtain supplies ; this led the several governors to press the commander in chief, so often and so urgently for dere

tachments from the army before Boston, to assist in the defence of their coast, as to render it necessary for Con. gress to pass a resolve, “ that the army before Boston was destined only to oppose the enemy at that place, and ought not to be weakened by detachments for the security of other parts of the country."

Strange as it may appear, that these patriotic sons of liberty should have given occasion for such a resolve in Congress, at so early il day in the war; yet the town of Newport went one step further, and actually stipulated with Captain Wallace, commander of the British ships of war on that station, to supply him with provisions, &c. upon conditions that he should spare the town, and adjacent country. This agreement was carried into effect, and formed an article of exception in the resolves of the assembly of Rhode Island, in which they, in conjunction with the other colonies, denounce as traitors, and felons, all such as shall be convicted of holding correspondence with the enemy'; or of supplying the ministerial army, or navy, with provisions, or other necessaries. General Washington saw the tendency, as well as the immediate ill effects arising from such a policy, and addressed a letter to the governor of Rhode Island accordingly.

In July Georgia joined the confederacy, and America then took the title of the 66 Thirteen United Colonies."

I have omitted the proceedings of Carolina, particularly upon the news of the Lexington battle, that the proceedings of Congress and the operations of the war might not be interrupted ; a general sketch of their proceedings may not be uninteresting in this place.

South Carolina, immediately upon the tidings that blood had been shed by the British at Lexington, convened her provincial congress, consisting of 172 members, June 1st, by a summons from her general committee, and chose. Henry Laurens, Esq. President.”.

« ZurückWeiter »