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to aid the recruiting service, and to push the recruits forward to camp, in small bodies, as they could be made ready.
The army having suffered extremely from the small pox, the General resolved that they should be relieved from the scourge and terror of this disease. Orders were accordingly given to inoculate the continental soldiers in their winter quarters; and places were assigned at which the recruits were to go through the operation, as they successively approached the camp. The business successfully issued, and Sir William did not avail himself of the temporary debility of the American army.
Congress had also admitted the expectation of splendid events, during the winter. In answer to
. a letter, expressing this expectation, the Commander in Chief gave the following account of the state of his army.
MARCH 4.] Could I accomplish the important abject so eagerly wished by Congress, confining the enemy in their present quarters, preventing their gathering supplies from the country, and totally subduing them before they are reinforced, I should be happy indeed. But what prospect or hope can there be, of my effecting so desirable a work at this time? The enclosed return, to which I solicit the most serious attention of Congress, comprehends the whole force I bave in the Jersey. It is but an handful, and bears no proportion, in the scale of numbers, to that of the enemy. Added to this, the major part is made · up of militia. The most sanguine in speculation,
cannot deem it more than adequate to the least valuable purposes of war." The whole number capable of duty was short of three thousand. Two-thirds of these were militia, whose time of service would expire with the month.
During the winter General Spencer planned an expedition against the British troops on Rhode Island. The Commander in Chief advised, that the attempt should not be made without the strongest probability of success. The scheme was relinquished, and the General fully expressed his approbation of it. “ It is right not to risk a miscarriage. Until we get our new army properly established, it is our business to play a cero tain game, and not to depend on the militia for any thing capital.” The weakness of General Washington was concealed from his friends and from his foes, and he was not molested at head quarters by Sir William Howe.
The remonstrances of the Commander in Chief upon the state of the army, had in some degree produced their effect upon Congress. The corps of artillerists was increased to three regiments, and the command of it given to Colonel Knox, who at this time was promoted to be a Brigadiergeneral. A resolution also passed Congress, to raise three thousand cavalry: and General Washington was empowered to establish a corps of engineers. Few, if any, native Americans having been systematically educated to this branch of war, the corps was principally formed of foreigners, and General Du Portail, an officer of distinguished merit, was placed at its head.
[1777. The arrangement of the army gave the Commander in Chief inconceivable trouble. Congress, as the head of the Union, regulated the general military system; but the governments of the several states were in their respective departments sovereign. Indeed the states only possessed coercive power. These raised their proportion of troops, and their agency was blended with that of Congress, in the clothing and support of the men. The state regulations respecting bounty and pay were different, and occasioned jealousies in the army vexatious to the General, and destructive of subordination and discipline. The states which conceived themselves exposed to the invasion of the enemy, discovered an inclination to direct a part of the general force to their security, or to raise state battalions for their defence, and to be at their disposal. General Washington, in his correspondence with Congress, and with the state governments, represented the evils that must ensue, should any discrimination of pay or treatment be made among soldiers of the same army. He also stated, that if the force of the
. country should be placed under different heads, sufficient strength could not be collected to defend any one point; and while the general defence was weakened, it would be impossible, by any disposition of the army, to prevent the partial depredations of the enemy. These embarrassments were happily overruled by the personal influence of the General; and before the campaign opened, the arrangements of the army were brought into order and method.
· The treatment of American prisoners by the British commanders was another source of vexation and difficulty. At the commencement of hostilities, General Gage did not view the Americans as a community contending for their constitutional rights, but as the revolted subjects of his royal master, and the unhappy men, whom the fortune of war placed in his hands, he, without regard to military rank, confined in prison as rebels with common felons. Against a practice militating with common usage, and calculated to increase the miseries of war, General Washington forcibly remonstrated.. In a letter to General Gage, he mentioned, that in his apprehension the obligations of humanity, and the claims of rank, are universally binding, except in the case of retaliation. He expressed “ the hope he had entertained, that they would have induced, on the part of the British General, a conduct more conformable to the rights they gave.
While he claimed the benefit of these rights, he declared his determination to be regulated entirely in his conduct towards the prisoners who should fall into his hands, by the treatment which those in the power of the British General should receive." To this letter a very haughty and insolent answer was given, in which General Gage retorted tbe charge of abuse towards prisoners, and stated, as a mark of British clemency, that the cord was not applied to those of whose imprisonment complaint was made. To this abusive communication, General Washington replied in a manner worthy his character, and which reply, he observed, was “ to close their correspondence, perhaps for ever. He concluded with saying, "if your officers, our prisoners, receive from me a treatment different from what I wished to shew them, they and you will remember the occasion of it.” Accordingly all the British officers in his power were put into close jail, and the soldiers were confined in places of security. Directions were particularly given to subaltern agents, to explain to the sufferers the causes which led to this severity of treatment.
When Howe succeeded to the command of the British army, he admitted American officers to their parole, and consented to an exchange of prisoners; and General Washington gladly resumed his former humane treatment of captives.
The capture of General Lee furnished another cause of irritation on this subject. He had been a British officer, and had engaged in the American service before the acceptance of the resignation of his commission. Sir William Howe for this reason pretended to view him as a traitor, and at first refused to admit him to his parole, or to consider him as a subject of exchange. Congress directed the Commander in Chief, to propose to Sir William Howe to exchange six field officers for General Lee. In case the proposal was rejected, that body resolved, that these officers should be closely confined, and in every respect receive the treatment that General Lee did. The proposition not being acceded to, the resolution of Congress was carried into effect, by the executives of the states, in whose custody the selected