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[381]

Northern press on the battle.

Upon the receipt of the first exaggerated reports of the retreat from Bull Run, many weak-backed and nervous individuals began to cry out that it was all over with us; that our inferiority, and the superiority of the rebels as soldiers had been so fully established as to render it expedient for us to be thinking as to what terms we would make with tile enemy.

Ever since the receipt of the corrected accounts — by which it appears that the disgraceful panic and flight, which constitute, so far as we are concerned, the only alarming part of the affair at Bull Run, and were limited to a comparatively few frightened individuals, a large part of them teamsters and spectators, who, not content with running away themselves, sought, by their false and scandalous reports, to involve the whole army in the disgrace — ever since the receipt of these corrected accounts, there still remain those upon whom this first disaster casts a shade of sadness and alarm, and who see in it a malign omen as to our future success. For the benefit of these doubting Thomases, we propose, by a brief retrospect of some occurrences in the wars of the Revolution and of 1812, to show that panic, flight, disaster, and a certain proportion of cowards, are to be looked for in all armies and all wars, and that they furnish no presumption at all unfavorable to ultimate success.

Even at the world-renowned battle of Bunker Hill, every common soldier present at which, in the ranks of the United Colonies, has been exalted by a grateful posterity and an, admiring world to the rank of a mythical hero — even in that famous battle, cowardice had its representatives in the colonial ranks. The conduct of several officers on that day was investigated by court-martial, and one, at least, was cashiered for cowardice — a precedent which, if all rumors are true, ought to be followed out in the case of the late fight or panic. An American historian who, in his account of the battle of Bunker Hill, saw fit to state the above fact, was very severely handled for so doing by certain patriotic critics, as if he had cast a shadow over the glories of the day. But history is written, or should be, not so much to exalt the fathers as to instruct the sons, and the above incident in the battle of Bunker Hill may now, for that purpose, be put to good use. Even the heroes of Bunker Hill, it seems, had among them a portion of the same leaven which worked so malignantly at Bull Run.

About the whole early history of the Revolutionary War is a series of disasters, interspersed with a few splendid successes. One of these last was the capture of Montreal and the occupation of nearly the whole of Canada by the forces under Montgomery and Arnold. But this success was only short-lived. Sullivan, though sent with large reinforcements, and aided by the intrepid valor of Wayne, found it impossible to hold the province against the superior force which the opening of the spring enabled the British to throw into the St. Lawrence, and the American army retreated out of Canada, in the emphatic words of John Adams, “disgraced, defeated, discontented, dispirited, diseased, undisciplined, eaten up with vermin, no clothes, beds, blankets, nor medicines, and no victuals but salt pork and flour,” and a scanty supply of those.

The disastrous defeat at Brooklyn, three months later, made a most alarming impression on Washington's army assembled for the defence of New York. When the van of the British crossed from Long Island and landed at Kip's Bay, the troops posted to guard that landing, panic-struck by the late disasters, fled without firing a gun. Two New England brigades, brought up to support them, seized with a like panic, ran away in the most shameful manner, leaving Washington, who had ridden up to view the ground, exposed to capture within eighty paces of the enemy. Then occurred a scene which we wonder that some one of our numerous and gifted artists has not made the subject of a picture. Greatly exasperated at the dastardly conduct of the panic-struck and flying troops, Washington dashed his hat to the ground, exclaiming, “Are these the men with whom I am to defend America?” His attendants turned his horse's head, and hurried him from the field. The occurrence will be found described at length in the Memoirs of Graydon, a Pennsylvania officer, who seems to have been present at it. Yet the very next day these same men sturdily repulsed the enemy, being spurred up to do their duty, by the example of Colonel Knowlton and other brave officers, who sacrificed themselves in their eagerness to show the soldiers how to fight. Afterwards, in the disastrous retreat through the Jerseys, on the victorious day of Trenton, these very regiments covered themselves with glory, and gained the right of standing by Washington and their country through the worst extremes of defeat and danger.

So also upon the occasion of Burgoyne's invasion of New York, a year or two later. At first, his approach spread everywhere terror and dismay. St. Clair fled from Ticonderoga in haste and disorder, and the British, pursuing, captured all his baggage and stores. Of three regiments attacked at Hubbardton, one fled disgracefully, leaving most of their officers to be taken prisoners. The other two, though they made a stout resistance, were broken and dispersed, and a large number of them captured. After a disastrous retreat, or rather flight, Schuyler collected the troops of the Northern army to the number of 5,000 men at Fort Edward, on the Hudson. But he could not make a stand even there, and was obliged to continue his retreat to the mouth of the Mohawk.

The loss of Ticonderoga with its numerous artillery, and the subsequent rapid disasters, came like a thunderbolt on Congress and the

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