Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

ccdure. The practice on our part would justify it in l778* him. I believe no prisoners have ever been inlisted by us. I am sure none have through compulsion." But in the Massachusetts, a number of the convention troops, upon offering themselves, were inlisted: which occasioned the general's writing, " Burgoyne could hardly suggest a more effectual plan, for plundering us of so much money, reinforcing Mr. Howe with so many men, and preventing us from recruiting a certain number of regiments." All the British deserters sent on from this state as recruits for one regiment,went off to the enemy by the end of March: and of a detachment of sixty of them, which marched to join col. Henley's, only twelve or thirteen reached the camp. Part of the others made their escape and the rest formed a plan for the same purpose, mutinied and were thrown into prison. The conduct of inlisting the convention troops was sufficiently mortifying; but it was far more provoking to observe the backwardness of the states in furnishing the recruits that were wanted. Instead of the army's being reinforced with eight or ten thousand troops, it was scarcely joined by so many hundreds, by the twelfth of April. ,,"

Let us change the subject, and confine ourselves, for a time, more particularly to the proceedings of congress.

On the 19th of January, they resolved to grant a bre-. vet of lieut. col. to the chevalier de Maduit du Pleffis,' as a reward for his services. Gen. Washington recommended him in a letter, adding, that " the gallant con. duct of this young gendeman at Brandywine, Germantown, and at Fort Mercer, (on the Delaware) entides him to the particular notice of congress;" that " he made (everal judicious alterations in the works at Redbank,

i778* bank, and showed great good conduct during the action, in which the Hessians were repulsed -" and that "after the evacuation was determined on, he became the means of saving some valuable artillery and stores, and cheerfully undertook as volunteer the hazardous operation of blowing up the magazine, Sec. without apparatus usually provided upon such occasions;" and concluding with— "he possesses a degree of modesty not always found in men who have performed brilliant actions."

Two days after, congress, on the report from the board of war, respecting the treatment of the American prisoners in New York and Philadelphia, resolved among other things—" That the allowance of two dollars a week to officers, who are prisoners of war to these United States do cease, unless to those officers who may be entitled thereto by any contract made on or before their captivity or surrender; That in return for permission given to purchase provisions of the American commissaries for the use of the enemy's prisoners, gen. Wash-* ington be directed to demand of gen. Howe, liberty to purchase clothing in such places as may be under his power for the use of the American prisoners: That the commissary general of prisoners and his respective deputies, be forthwith directed to call in all the officers and privates belonging to the enemy, and to confine them in such places, and order them to be subsisted and treated in such manner as shall render their situation similar, in all respects, to that of the officers and privates who are prisoners with the enemy; and that they continue this mode of treatment, till such time as a change of conduct on the part of the enemy shall induce congress, or the commander in chief of the armies of these

states,

states, to give directions for a different line of conduct '778. on their part." This threat of retaliation will have little effect upon the British commander; and if no other consideration should prevent, the general humanity of the people would be a bar to its execution. That some different measures ought to be adopted as to the British officers, than what are at present given into, must be admitted upon another account; for they have done much mischief to the American cause. During their captivity, they have formed connections in the country; have confirmed the disaffected; converted many ignorant people; and frightened the lukewarm and timid by their stories of the power of Great Britain.

On the 27th of February, congress resolved, "That whatever inhabitant of these states shall kill, or seize, or take any loyal citizen or citizens thereof, and convey him, her or them, to any place within the power of the enemy, or shall enter into any combination for such purpose, or attempt to carry the same into execution, or hath assisted or shall assist therein; or shall by giving intelligence, acting as a guide, or in any other manner whatever, aid the enemy in the perpetration thereof, he Jhall suffer death by the judgment of a court-martial, , as a traitor, assassin and spy, if the offence be committed within seventy miles of the head quarters of the grand or other armies of these states, where a general officer commands." This resolution has been introduced to show you what a stretch of power congress has been guilty of. They have hereby suspended in particular cases the judicial authority of the Massachusetts state, which is not the feat of war; and subjected certain criminals to a trial by a court-martial, instead of leaving

. / them

r778- them to the laws of the state. At Providence a general officer commands a small army, at the distance of only forty-five miles from Boston. All bodies of sallible men possessed of or claiming power, ought to be narrowly watched, or from good or bad intentions, they will transgress the limits of their constitution, without a real necessity.

Major general Greene was appointed, on the second of March, quarter-master general; but allowed to rer

"*ar* tain his rank in the army. The next day, congress, upon the report of a committee, resolved, "That lieut. gen. Burgoyne, on account of his ill state of health, have leave to embark for England by Rhode-Island, or any more expeditious route, with the officers of his samily and his servants." He is engaged by parole, in cafe the embarkation of the convention troops is prolonged beyond the time apprehended, to return to America upon demand and due notice given, and to re-deliver himself into the power of congress, unless regularly exchanged.

Congress have not lost sight of the importance of having the North River and the passes in the Highlands well secured, so as to render any sudden attempt upon Albany by the same impracticable. Had Sir W. Howe, instead os going by sea to Philadelphia, bent his whole force for the mastering of these, as gen. Washington strongly suspected he would do, the independency of the United States must have tottered 'to the very foundation, if not have been completely subverted. Whether the plan of making the grand diversion southward, originated with the ministry, himself, or a Pennsylvania refugee—by his leaving the troops under Burgoyne to shift for themselves, in cafe the reinforcement from Europe did not arrive in time, the subjugation of the country may be entirely pre- '77g. vented. Gen. Gates was directed, on the 15th of April, APnl to repair forthwith to Fish-kill, and to take the command of all the troops on the North River and in the whole northern - department. He was also to take effectual measures to secure the communication between the eastern and southern states, by maintaining the possession of the river; and for that purpose was empowered to provide gallies, gun-boats, fire rafts, chains, cassoons and cheveaux de Frize, and to erect all necessary fortifications. West Point has for some time been pitched upon as a proper spot; and the troops have begun, and are going on to fortify it. When the works are completed* it will be a much stronger post than fort Montgomery, and is higher up the river, and projects into it. The soldiers, whether militia or continentals, will, according to custom, be employed upon them till finished, without putting the states to any particular charge for labor in erecting them.

Congress were expecting that something would turn up in Europe savorable to America; and were confirmed in their expectation, upon the receipt of a draught of a bill for declaring the intention of the British parliament as to the exercise of their right of imposing taxes on the Americans, as also the draught of a bill to enable the -king to appoint commissioners with powers to treat, consult and agree upon the means of quieting certain disorders within the colonies. These draughts were sent from Philadelphia to gen. Washington, who forwarded them to York Town. On the 22d os April 22* congress took them into consideration, and, observing that they had been industriously circulated in a partial

« ZurückWeiter »