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[292] congress the ruinous imperfections of their mili-
Chap. LIX.} 1776. Feb.
tary system. To the vast numbers of mercenary troops that were to come over in spring to reenforce his enemy, he could indulge no hope of opposing any thing better than fleeting bands of undisciplined men, ill-clad, and poorly armed. In this dark period his own spirit never drooped. Once when the bay, west of Boston, was frozen over, he would have led his army across the ice into the town, if the spirit of the soldiers and the advice of the officers had left him room to hope success; but ever holding it indispensable to make a bold attempt against the British, he persevered in his purpose to break up their ‘nest’ and drive them out of Boston, though he had in reserve but one hundred barrels of powder.

The army in Boston consisted of nearly eight thousand rank and file, beside officers and the complements of the ships of war. The young men who held commissions, were full of ingenious devices to amuse the common soldiers and to relieve the wearisomeness of their own hours. The Old South meeting house was turned into a riding school for the light dragoons; Faneuil Hall became a playhouse, where the officers appeared as actors on the stage; they even attempted balls and planned a masquerade. The winter was mild; so that navigation was not interrupted, and provisions were imported in abundance from Ireland and England, from Barbados and Antigua. Thus they whiled away the time in their comfortable quarters, without a thought of danger, awaiting early summer, and large reinforcements, preparatory to their removal to New York.

The possession of Dorchester Heights would give

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