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munication with Long Island, where it was chap. IV. determined to form a strong fortified camp for 1776. three thousand men; and to make the defences of the highlands as respectable as possible, which were immediately to be garrisoned by a battalion of regular troops.

General Clinton arrived almost at the same instant with general Lee, but without any troops. He gave out that none were coming; that no hostilities were contemplated against New York, and that he was himself merely on." a visit to his friend Tryon. “ If it be really so,” added general Lee, in his letter containing this communication, “it is the most whimsical piece of civility I ever heard of.” General Clinton did not affect to conceal his objects, but declared that he was to proceed to North Carolina, where he expected the small force he should carry with him would be joined by five regiments from Europe.

The fortifications of New York were prose. cuted with vigour, and captain Parker, finding his threats entirely disregarded, no longer uttered them, but avowed his wish to save a town which contained so many loyal inhabi. tants.

About the middle of February, the severe cold set in, and the ice became sufficiently firm to bear the troops. General Washington was now disposed to execute the bold plan he had formed, of attacking the enemy in Boston.

CHAP. IV. Several considerations concurred in recom1776, mending this hazardous enterprise. There

being no prospect of a sufficient supply of
powder to force them out by regular approaches
and bombardment; the very great importance
attached to a destruction of the present army,
before re-enforcements should arrive from
Europe, an event not to be produced without
the command of the waters, should the town
be taken by regular approaches; the certainty
that he must soon lose the present advantage
afforded by the ice of moving on an extensive
plain, and thereby approaching the town by a
less dangerous direction; the confidence he felt
in the courage of his troops; all disposed him
to risk an immediate assault, although he had
not ammunition to cover the advance of his
army with artillery. A council of war, how-
ever, summoned on the occasion, was almost
unanimous against the measure, and it was
therefore abandoned, though with reluctance.
The want of ammunition for their artillery was
a principal inducement to this opinion. It is
probable, the attempt might not have suc-
ceeded. It must certainly have been attended
with considerable loss. The advice of the
council, however, seems to have been adopted
with regret. In communicating their opinion
to congress, the general observed,“ perhaps
the irksomeness of my situation may have
given different ideas to me, from those which
influence the gentlemen I consulted; and might CHAP. IV.
have inclined me to put more to the hazard 1776.
than was consistent with prudence. If it had
this effect, I am not sensible of it, as I endea-
voured 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 disagreable sensations on account
of my situation; for, to have the eyes of the
whole continent fixed on me, with 'anxious
expectation of hearing 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,
conceal it also from our friends and add to their

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 pos.
sible 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 abandon the town of


CHAP. IV. Since the allowance of a bounty, recruiting 1776. 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 com-
mander in chief called out about six thousand
of the militia of Massachussetts, and thus re:
enforced, 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 this position he hoped,
and was convinced, must bring on a general
action, as the enemy must inevitably attempt
to drive him from it; but if in this he should
be mistaken, he resolved to make the fortifica-
tions of the heights of Dorchester only prepa.
ratory to his seizing and fortifying Nook's hill,
and the points opposite the south end of Boston,
which commanded entirely the harbour, a
great part of the town, and the beach from
which 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 March. 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 con.


Possession taken of the heights of Dorchester,

siderable detachment of the Americans, under CHAP. IV. the command of general Thomas, crossing the 1776. neck from Roxbury, took possession of the po heights without opposition; and though the best escer. ground was so hard as to be almost impenetrable, in consequenee of which they were obliged to avail themselves of fascines and other inaterials 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 embarrassment 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 to strengthen their position. . It was now necessary to dislodge the Amer- March so icans 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 regi. ments, 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

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