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Chapter 44:

America Awaits the king's decision.

August, September, 1775.

the duties of Washington were more various and
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burdensome than ever devolved upon a European commander. In the absence of an organized continental government, and with a most imperfect one in Massachusetts, it fell on him to take all thought for his army, from its general direction to the smallest want of his soldiers. Standing conspicuous before the world, with apparently no limiting authority at his side, he made it his rule, as a military chief, to obey most scrupulously the directions of the civil power, which, from its inchoate character, was feeble and uncertain, prompt to resolve rashly, destitute of system, economy, and consistent perseverance. In his intercourse with the neighboring colonial governments, whose good will was his main resource, he showed the same deference to their laws, the same courtesy to their magistrates; and his zeal to give [61] effectiveness to his power, never hurried him beyond
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his self-prescribed bounds.

Congress had voted him five hundred thousand dollars, in its rapidly depreciating paper, but the persons who were to sign the bills were dilatory; and in a scene of confusion and discord, without money, without powder, without artillery, without proper arms, he was yet expected to organize victory and drive the British from Boston.

By the fourth of August the army was already formed into three grand divisions, at Roxbury, Cambridge, and Winter Hill, under the respective command of Ward, Lee, and Putnam. Each division consisted of two brigades, each brigade of about six regiments; but Washington was still unable to return the fire of the enemy, or do more than exchange a few shot by scouting parties; for when, with considerable difficulty, he obtained an accurate return of the amount of powder on hand, he found much less than half a ton; not more than enough to furnish his men with nine rounds of cartridge. The extremity of danger could not be divulged, even while he was forced to apply in every direction for relief. To Cooke, the governor of Rhode Island, he wrote on the fourth of August, for every pound of powder and lead that could possibly be spared from that colony; no quantity, however small, was beneath notice; the extremity of the case called loudly for the most strenuous exertions, and did not admit of the least delay. He invoked the enterprise of John Brown and other merchants of Providence; he sent an address to the inhabitants of Bermuda, from which island a vessel, under Orde of Philadelphia, actually brought off a hundred barrels [62] of powder. His importunate messages were extended

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even to New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania; and for his aid those colonies readily left themselves bare, till small supplies could arrive from South Carolina and Georgia.

In all his wants, Washington had no safe trust but in the spirit of the country, and that never failed him. Between the twenty fifth of July and the seventh of August, fourteen hundred riflemen, a greater number than congress had authorized, arrived in the camp. A company from Virginia had Daniel Morgan for its captain, one of the best officers of the revolution. His early life was so obscured by poverty, that no one remembered his parents or his birth-place, or if he had had sister or brother. Self-supported by his daily labor, he was yet fond of study, and selftaught, he learned by slow degrees to write well. Migrating from New Jersey, he became a wagoner in Virginia in time to witness Braddock's expedition. In 1774 he again saw something of war, having descended the Ohio with Dunmore. The danger of his country called him into action, which was his appropriate sphere. In person he was more than six feet high and well proportioned; of an imposing presence; moving with strength and grace; of a hardy constitution that defied fatigue, hunger, and cold. His open countenance was the mirror of a frank and ingenuous nature. He could glow with intensest anger, but passion never mastered his power of discernment, and his disposition was sweet and peaceful, so that he delighted in acts of kindness, never harbored malice or revenge, and made his house the home of cheerfulness and hospitality. His courage was not an idle quality; [63] it sprung from the intense energy of his will, which

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bore him on to do his duty with an irresistible impetuosity. His faculties were only quickened by the nearness of danger, which he was sure to make the best preparations to meet. An instinctive perception of character assisted him in choosing among his companions those whom it was wise to betrust; and a reciprocal sympathy made the obedience of his soldiers an act of affectionate confidence. Wherever he was posted in the battle field, the fight was sure to be waged with fearlessness, good judgment, and massive energy. Of all the officers whom Virginia sent into the war, next to Washington, Morgan was the greatest; equal to every occasion in the camp or before an enemy, unless it were that he knew not how to be idle or to retreat. In ten days after he received his commission, he attracted to himself from the valley a company of ninety six young backwoodsmen. His first lieutenant was John Humphreys; his second, William Heth; his sergeant, Charles Porterfield. No captain ever commanded braver soldiers, or was better supported by his officers; in twenty one days they marched from Winchester in Virginia to Cambridge.

In Maryland Michael Cresap, then just thirty three years old, on receiving notice by the committee of Frederick, to raise a company, despatched a messenger beyond the Alleghanies, and at his bidding two and twenty of his old companions in arms, leaving behind them their families and their all, came swift as a roe or a young hart over the mountains. From the east side, so many volunteered that he could pick his men; and with light step and dauntless spirit they marched to the siege of Boston. Cresap moved [64] among them as their friend and father; but he was

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not destined to take a further part in the war. Driven by desperate illness from Washington's camp, he died on his way home at New York, where he was buried with honor as a martyr. The second Maryland company was commanded by Price, whose lieutenant was Otho Holland Williams.

Of the eight companies from Pennsylvania, William Thompson was colonel. The second in command was Edward Hand, a native of Ireland, who had come over as a surgeon's mate. One of the captains was Hendricks, long remembered for his stateliness of person, his mild and beautiful countenance, and his heroic soul.

The alacrity with which these troops were raised, showed that the public mind heaved like the sea from New England to the Ohio and beyond the Blue Ridge. On the fourteenth of June congress first authorised their enlistment, and in less than sixty days twelve companies were in the camp, having come on foot from four to eight hundred miles. The men, painted in the guise of savages, were strong and of great endurance; many of them more than six feet high; they wore leggins and moccasons, and an ash-colored hunting shirt with a double cape; each one carried a rifle, a hatchet, a small axe, and a hunter's knife. They could subsist on a little parched corn and game, killed as they went along; at night, wrapped in their blankets, they willingly made a tree their canopy, the earth their bed. The rifle in their hands sent its ball with unerring precision, a distance of two or three hundred yards. Their motto was ‘liberty or death.’ They were the first troops [65] raised under the authority of the continental con-

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gress, and they formed the best corps in the camp. Accustomed to the wild independence of the backwoods, they yet gave an example of subordination, discipline and vigilance. Enlisted for a year only, many of them, both officers and men, continued in the service during the war, and distinguished themselves in almost every field. They taught the observing Frederic of Prussia to introduce into his service light bodies of sharp shooters, and their example has modified the tactics of European armies.

On the twenty ninth of July, a party of riflemen got behind the guard which the British had advanced on the side of Charlestown, and before it could be supported, killed two men and took five prisoners.

The New England men were not wanting in daring. On the ninth of August the Falcon was seen from Cape Ann in chase of two schooners bound to Salem. One of these was taken; a fair wind wafted the other into Gloucester harbor. Linzee, the captain of the Falcon, followed with his prize, and, after anchoring, sent his lieutenant and thirty six men in a whaleboat and two barges to bring under his bow the schooner that had escaped. As the bargemen, armed with muskets and swivels, boarded her at her cabin windows, men from the shore fired on them, killing three and wounding the lieutenant in the thigh. Upon this Linzee sent his prize and a cutter to cannonade the town. The broadside which followed did little injury, and the Gloucester men kept up a fight for several hours, till, with the loss of but two, they took both schooners, the cutter, the barges, and every man in them. Linzee lost thirty five men, [66] or half his crew. The next day he warped off, carry-

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ing away no spoils except the skiff, in which the wounded lieutenant had been brought away.

Meantime Gage endeavored to terrify the Americans and cheer his own soldiers, by foretelling the coming of thousands of Russians and Hessians and Hanoverians. Performing no one act of courage during the summer, he vented his ill humor on his unhappy prisoners; throwing officers of high rank indiscriminately into a felon's jail, to languish of wounds and even to undergo amputation. Pleading for ‘kindness and humanity’ as the ‘joint rule for their treatment of prisoners,’ Washington remonstrated; but Gage scorned to promise reciprocity to rebels, for any ‘barbarity’ shown to British prisoners menaced ‘dreadful consequences,’ and further replied: ‘Britons, ever preeminent in mercy, have overlooked the criminal in the captive; your prisoners, whose lives by the laws of the land are destined to the cord, have hitherto been treated with care and kindness; indiscriminately it is true, for I acknowledge no rank that is not derived from the king.’ Consulting with Lee, Washington, who knew Gage from the day when his want of presence of mind lost the battle on the Monongahela, rejoined: ‘I shall not stoop to retort and invective. You affect, Sir, to despise all rank not derived from the same source with your own. I cannot conceive one more honorable than that which flows from the uncorrupted choice of a brave and free people, the purest source and original fountain of all power. Far from making it a plea for cruelty, a mind of true magnanimity would comprehend and respect it.’ Towards his supercilious adversary, Washington [67] professed the purpose of retaliation, as he sent the

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British officers who were his prisoners into the interior; but he privately countermanded the order, and allowed them liberty on parole. The lenity was ill requited. One of them, Stanhope by name, was base enough to forfeit his honor.

The arrival of reenforcements and recruits could not inspirit Gage to venture outside of his lines. His pent up troops, impaired by skirmishes, desertions, and most of all by sickness, were disheartened by their manifestly ‘disadvantageous situation.’ His own timorousness, presaging ‘a long and bloody war,’ figured to itself the maritime powers of Europe taking possession of some of the provinces, and a southern governor falling a prey to negroes. He even confessed to Dartmouth, that he had fears for his own safety; that nothing could justify his risking an attack; that even to quit Boston safely would require the greatest secrecy.

Washington was all the while more closely investing the town. In the night following the twenty sixth of August, with a fatigue party of a thousand, a guard of twenty four hundred, he took possession of Ploughed Hill. On the next day, Gage began a cannonade, which, for the need of powder, could not be returned. On Monday the twenty eighth, the British were seen drawn up on Bunker Hill, and Washington, notwithstanding his want of ammunition, offered battle by marching five thousand men to Ploughed Hill and Charlestown road. Silence was observed on both sides, till three in the afternoon; when it appeared that the British would not accept the challenge. But three days later, Gage enjoyed [68] the triumph of cutting down the Boston liberty tree;

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and when marauding expeditions returned with sheep and hogs and cattle, captured from islands and along shore, the bells were rung as for a victory.

Washington, on his side, was eager to take every advantage which his resources warranted. He could hardly spare a single ounce of powder out of the camp; yet notwithstanding present weakness, he saw in the courage and patriotism of the country the warrant of ultimate success. Looking, therefore, beyond the recovery of Boston, he revolved in his mind how the continent might be closed up against Britain. He rejected a plan for an expedition into Nova Scotia; but learning from careful and various inquiries that the Canadian peasantry were well disposed to the Americans, that the domiciliated Indian tribes desired neutrality, he resolved to direct the invasion of Canada from Ticonderoga; and by way of the Kennebec and the Chaudiere, to send a party to surprise Quebec, or at least to draw Carleton in person to its relief, and thus lay open the road to Montreal.

Solicitations to distribute continental troops along

the New England shore, for the protection of places at which the British marauding parties threatened to make a descent, were invariably rejected. The governor of Connecticut, who, for the defence of that province, desired to keep back a portion of the newly raised levies, resented a refusal, as an unmerited neglect of a colony that was foremost in its exertions; but the chief explained with dignity, that he had only hearkened to an imperative duty; that he must prosecute great plans for the common safety; that the campaign could not depend on the piratical [69] expeditions of two or three men-of-war; while the
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numerous detachments, which would be required to guard the coast, would amount to the dissolution of the army.

From his arrival in Cambridge, ‘his life was one continual round of vexation and fatigue.’ In September the British were importing fuel for the winter, so that there was no reason to expect their voluntary removal; yet the time of the service of his army was soon to expire, the troops of Connecticut and Rhode Island being engaged only to the first of December, those of Massachusetts only to the end of the year; and no provision had been made for filling their places. The continental currency, as well as that of all the provinces, was rapidly depreciating, and even of such paper money the military chest was exhausted, so that the paymaster had not a single dollar in hand. The commissary general had strained his credit for subsistence for the army to the utmost; so had Mifflin, who in August had been appointed quarter-master general, from confidence in his integrity, his activity, and his independence on the men and the governments of New England. The greater part of the troops submitted to a necessary reduction from their stated allowance with a reluctance bordering upon mutiny. There were no adequate means of storing wood against the cold weather, or procuring blankets and shelter. Washington would gladly have attempted to strike some decisive blow; but in September, his council of war agreed unanimously, that an attack on Boston was not to be hazarded. The country expected tidings of the rout and expulsion of the British; although the continuing deficiency of powder, [70] which exceeded his worst apprehensions, com-

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pelled him to inactivity, from a cause which he was obliged to conceal from the public, from the army, and even from most of the officers.

Under every discouragement from the conflicting rules and agreements, laws and usages, of separate colonies, he toiled to form an army which he yet knew must fall away from him before victory could be achieved; and ‘braving the shafts of censure, and pledging a soldier's fame which was dearer to him than life,’ he silently submitted to the reproach of having adopted from choice the system of inaction, at which his soul revolted.

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