페이지 이미지

here passed over. Our business is only with George Wash ington. The fame acquired by him as commander of the Virginia forces, together with his well-known military talents, procured for him the distinguishing appellation of the soldier of America. Those who, before the commencement of hostilities, had looked forward to war as the probable consequence of the disputes between Great Britain and her colonies, anticipated his appointment to the supreme command of the forces of his native country.

As long as he continued a member of congress, he was chairman of every committee appointed by that body to make arrangements for desence. These duties in the senate were soon superseded by more active employment in the field. As soon as the congress of the United Colonies had determined on making a common cause with Massachusetts, against which a British army had commenced hostilities, they appointed, by unanimous vote, George Washington commander-in-chief of all the forces, raised or to be raised, for the defence of the colonies. His election was accompanied with no competition, and followed by no envy: The same general impulse on the public mind, which led the colonies to agree

other particulars, pointed to him as the most proper person for presiding over their armies.

To the president of congress, announcing this appointment, General Washington replied in the following words:

• MR. PRESIDENT, “ Though I am truly sensible of the high honour done me in this appointment, yet I feel great distress, from a consciousness that my abilities and military experience may not be equal to the extensive and important trust. However, as the congress desire it, I will enter upon the momentous duty, and exert every power I possess in their service, and for the support of the glorious cause. I beg they will accept my most cordial thanks, for this distinguished testimony of their approbation.

“ But, lest some unlucky event should happen unfavourable to my reputation, I beg it may be remembered, by every gentleman in the room, that I this day declare, with the utmost sincerity, I do not think myself equal to the command I am honoured with.

“ As to pay, Sir, I beg leave to assure the congress, that

in many


as no pecuniary consideration could have tempted me to accept this arduous employment, at the expense of my domestic ease and happiness, I do not wish to make any profit from it. I will keep an exact account of my expenses ; those I doubt not they will discharge, and that is all I desire.”.

A special commission was made out for him, and at the same time a unanimous resolution was adopted by congress, " That they would maintain and assist him, and adhere to him with their lives and fortunes, for the maintenance and preservation of American Liberty."

Artemas Ward, of Massachusetts, who had commanded the troops before Boston ; colonel Lee, a British officer, who had distinguished himself in Portugal, but had resigned his commission in the service of the king; Philip Schuyler, of New York; and Israel Putnam, of Connecticut, now also before Boston, were appointed to the rank of major-general; and Horatio Gates, who had held the rank of major in the British service, was appointed adjutant-general.

General Washington immediately entered on the duties of his high station. After passing a few days in New York, and making some arrangements with general Schuyler, who commanded there, he proceeded to Cambridge, which was the head-quarters of the American army. On his way thither, he received from private persons and public bodies, the most flattering attention, and the strongest expressions of determination to support him. He received an address from the provincial congress of New York, in which, after expressing their approbation of his elevation to command, they say, • We have the fullest assurances, that, whenever this important contest shall be decided by that fondest wish of each American soul, an accommodation with our mother country, you will cheerfully resign the important deposit committed into your hands, and reassume the character of our worthiest citizen."-'I'he General, after declaring his gratitude for the respect shown to him, added, “ Be assured, that every exertion of my worthy colleagues and myself, will be extended to the re-establishment of peace and harmony between the mothercountry and these colonies. As to the fatal, but necessary operations of war, when we assumed the soldier, we did not lay aside the citizen, and we shall most sincerely rejoice with you in that happy hour, when the re-establishment of American liberty, on the most firm and solid foundations,

shall enable us to return to our private stations in the bosom of a free, peaceful, and happy country.”

A committee from the Massachusetts congress received him at Springfield, about one hundred miles from Boston, and conducted him to the army. He was soon afterwards addressed by the congress of that colony, in the most affectionate manner. In his answer, he said, “ Gentlemen, your kind congratulations on my appointment and arrival, demand my warmest acknowledgments, and will ever be retained in grateful remembrance. In exchanging the enjoyments of omestic life, for the duties of my present honourable but arduous station, I only emulate the virtue and public spirit of the whole province of Massachusetts, which, with a firmness and patriotism without example, has sacrificed all the comforts of social and political life, in support of the rights of mankind, and the welfare of our common country. My highest ambition is to be the happy instrument of vindicating these rights, and to see this devoted province again restored to peace, liberty, and safety."

When General Washington arrived at Cambridge, he was received with the joyful acclamations of the American army. At the head of his troops, he published a declaration, previously drawn up by congress, in the nature of a manifesto, setting forth the reasons for taking up arms. In this, after enumerating various grievances of the colonies, and vindicating them from a premeditated design of establishing independent states, it was added : “ In our own native land, in defence of the freedom which is our birthright, and which we ever enjoyed till the late violation of it, for the protection of our property, acquired solely by the industry of our fore. fathers and ourselves, against violence actually offered, we have taken up arms; we shall lay them down when hostili. ties shall cease on the part of the aggressors, and all danger of their being renewed shall be removed, and not before."

When General Washington joined the American army, he found the British intrenched on Bunker's Hill, having also three floating batteries in Mystic River, and a twentygun ship below the ferry between Boston and Charlestown. They had also a battery on Copse's Hill, and were strongly fortified on the Neck. The Americans were intrenched at Winter Hill, Prospect Hill, and Roxbury, communicating with one another by small posts, over a distance of ten

miles ; nor could they be contracted, without exposing the country to the incursions of the enemy.

The army, placed under the command of Washington, amounted to fourteen thousand five hundred men. Several circumstances occurred, to render this force very inadequate to active operations. Military stores were deficient in camp, and the whole quantity in the country was inconsiderable. On the 4th of August, all the stock of powder in the American camp, and in the public magazines of the four New England provinces, would have made very little more than nine rounds for each man. In this destitute condition, the army remained for a fortnight. To the want of powder, was added a very general want of bayonets, of clothes, of working tools, and a total want of engineers.--Under all these embarrassments, the General observed, that “ he had the materials of a good army, that the men were able bodied, active, zealous in the cause, and of unquestionable courage,' He immediately instituted such arrangements as were calculated to increase their capacity for service. The army was distributed into brigades and divisions, and, on his recommendation, general staff-officers were appointed. Economy, union, and system, were introduced into every department. As the troops came into service under the authority of distinct colonial governments, no uniformity existed among the regiments.--In Massachusetts, the men had chosen their officers, and, rank excepted, were in other respects frequently their equals. To form one uniform mass of these discordant materials, and to subject freemen, animated with the spirit of liberty, and collected for its defence, to the control of military discipline, required patience, forbearance, and a spirit of accommodation. This delicate and arduous duty was undertaken by General Washington, and discharged with great address. When he had made considerable progress in disciplining his army, the terms for which enlistments had taken place were on the point of expiring.–The troops from Connecticut and Rhode Island were engaged only to the first of December, 1775; and no part of the army longer than to the first of January, 1776. The commander-in-chief made early and forcible representations to congress on this subject, and urged them to adopt efficient measures for the formation of a new army. They deputed three of their members, Mr. Lynch, Dr. Franklin, and Mr. Harrison, to repair to the camp, and, in

troops under the command of Washington, to be nearly treble the royal army. This ample force was supposed to be furnished with every thing necessary for the most active operations. Their real numbers, and deficient equipments, were, for obvious reasons, carefully concealed. The ardour and impatience of the public had long since anticipated the expulsion of the British from Boston. Washington was equally ardent, but better informed and more prudent.--He well knew the advantages that would result to the cause in which he was engaged, from some brilliant stroke; nor was he insensible to insinuations made by some, that he was devoid i of energy; and by others, that he wished to prolong his own importance, by continuing the war. He bore these murmurs with patience, but nevertheless, had his eyes directed to Boston, and wished for an opportunity to commence offensive operations. The propriety of this measure was submitted to the consideration of repeated councils of war, who uniformly declared against it.—A hope was nevertheless indulged, that ice, in the course of the winter, would be favourable to an assault. That this opportunity might not be lost, measures were adopted for procuring large reinforcements of militia, to serve until the first of March, 1776. From four to five thousand men were accordingly procured. Contrary to what is usual, the waters about Boston continued open until the middle of February. Councils of war were hitherto nearly unanimous against an assault.-General Washington was less opposed to it than some others; but the want of ammunition for the artillery, together with the great probability of failure, induced him to decline the attempt. In lieu of it, he formed a bold resolution to take a new position, that would compel the British general either to come to an action, or to evacuate Boston. The American army was now stronger than ever. Recruiting for the last two months had been unusually successful. The regular army exceeded fourteen thousand men, and the militia were about six thousand.

Thus reinforced, Washington determined to fortify thre heights of Dorchester, from which he could annoy the ships in the harbour, and the army in the town. To favour the execution of this plan, the town and lines of the enemy were bombarded on the 2d, 3d, and 4th of March. On the night of the 4th, general Thomas, with a considerable detachment, took possession of the heights of Dorchester. By great ex.

« 이전계속 »