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had deterred the re-enforcements ordered to CHAP. III. their aid, from coming to their assistance, and 1775. had probably prevented their receiving proper * supplies of ammunition.,
In this enterprise, about three thousand men composing the flower of the British army were engaged, and high encomiums were bestowed on the resolution they manifested. Their killed and wounded amounted, according to the returns of general Gage, to one thousand and fiftyfour....an immense proportion of the number engaged in the action. Notwithstanding the danger of their retreat over Charlestown neck, the loss of the Americans was stated at only four hundred and fifty men, including the killed, wounded, and missing. Among the former, was doctor Warren, a gentleman greatly beloved and regretted, who fell just after the provincials began their retreat from the breast work.
The colonial force engaged in this action was stated through the country at fifteen hundred; by some it has been supposed to have amounted to four thousand.
Although the ground was lost, the Americans claimed the victory. Their confidence in themselves was greatly increased; and it was universally asked, how many more such triumphs the British army could afford ?
The enemy had been treated too roughly in theaction to attempt further offensive operations, and they contented themselves with seizing and
CHAP. III. fortifying Bunker's hill, which secured to 1775. them the peninsula of Charlestown, in which,
however, they remained as closely blockaded as in that of Boston.
The Americans were very greatly elated by the intrepidity their raw troops had displayed, and the execution which had been done by them in this engagement. Their opinion of the superiority of veterans over men untrained to the duties of a soldier, sustained no inconsiderable diminution, and they fondly cherished the belief, that courage and dexterity in the use of fire arms would bestow advantages amply compensating the want of discipline. Unfortunately for their country this course of thinking was not confined to the soldiers. It seems to have extended to those who guided the public councils, and to have contributed to the adoption of a system which, more than once, brought the cause for which they had taken up arms to the brink of ruin. They did not distinguish sufficiently between the momentary efforts of a few brave men, brought together by a high sense of the injuries with which their country was threatened, and carried into action while under the influence of keen resentments; and that continued suffering, those steady persevering exertions, which must be necessary to bring so serious and so important a contest to a happy termination. Nor did they examine with suf. ficient accuracy nor allow sufficient influence to several striking circumstances attending the CHAP. III. battle which had been fought. It is not easy 1775. to read the accounts given of that action with out being persuaded, that had the Americans on Breed's hill been supplied with ammunition and properly supported, had the re-enforcements ordered to their assistance actually entered the peninsula, as soldiers in habits of obedience would have done, and displayed the same heroic courage which was exhibited by their countrymen engaged in defence of the works; the assailants must have been defeated, and the flower of the British army cut to pieces. It ought also to have been remarked that, while the many were prevented by the danger which presented itself to them, from executing the orders they had received, only the few, who were endowed with more than a usual portion of bravery, encountered that danger; and that it is not by the few great victories are to be obtained, or a country to be saved.
Amidst these preparations for war, the voice of peace was yet heard. Allegiance to the king was still acknowledged, and a lingering hope remained that an accommodation was not impossible. The petition voted to his majesty was full of professions of duty and attachment; and a letter to the people of England, in which they are conjured, by the endearing appellations of friends, countrymen, and brethren, to prevent the dissolution of “that connexion, which VOL. II.
CHAP. TIL the remembrance of former friendships, pride 1775. in the glorious achievements of common ances
tors, and affection for the heirs of their virtues, had heretofore maintained.” In all their addresses, they disclaimed the idea of indepen. dence, and profess themselves to consider a union with England, on constitutional principles, as the greatest blessing which could be bestowed on them.
But Britain had determined to maintain, by force, the legislative supremacy of parliament; and America had determined, by force, to repel the claim.
Colonel Washington appointed commander in chief of the American forces....Arrives at Cambridge.... Strength and disposition of the two armies....Deficiency of the Americans in arms and ammunition ....Falmouth burnt.... Success of the American cruisers....Distress of the British from the want of fresh provisions.... Difficulty of re-enlisting the army....Plans for attacking Boston.... Possession taken of the heights of Dorchester....Boston evacuated.
FROM the period of his marriage, the atten. 1775. tions of colonel Washington, who had retired to Mount Vernon, were for several years principally directed to the management of his estate, which had now become considerable, and which he greatly improved. He continued, however, a most respected member of the legis. lature of his country, in which he took an early and a decided part in the opposition made to the principle of taxation, asserted by the British parliament. He was chosen by the independent companies formed through the northern parts of Virginia, to command them, and was elected a member of the first congress which met at Philadelphia, in which body, he was very soon distinguished as the soldier of America. He was placed on all those committees whose duty it was to make arrangements for defence, and when it became necessary to appoint a commander in chief, his military character, the