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Colonel Washington's Marriage—His management of the Estate of Mount Vernon—Appointed a Judge of the County Court, and a Member of the Virginia Legislature—Chosen a Member of the first Congress—Appointed Commander in Chief of the American Forces—Arrives at Camp—Arranges the Army—Deficiency of Arms and Ammunition—Colonel Arrold detached to Quebeck– Success of American Cruisers—Evils of temporary enlistments— An attack on the Enemy's Posts meditated—Possession taken of the Heights of Dorchester—Boston evacuated.
1759. Soon after the resignation of his military commission, Colonel WASHINGTON married Mrs. Martha Custis, a young and beautiful widow, who possessed an ample fortune, and who was endowed with those amiable and pleasing accomplishments of mind and manners, which give the best security for happiness in the married state. With her he lived in all the confidence, endearment, and felicity which this relation can produce.
On his estate of Mount Vernon, he extensively engaged in the business of agriculture, and was greatly distinguished for the judgment he displayed in the improvement of his lands. Every branch of business was conducted upo.: system, exact method and economy were observed throughout every department of his household, the accounts of his overseers he weekly inspected, the divisions of his farm were numbered, the expense of cultivation, and the produce of each lot were regularly registered ; and, at one view he could determine the profit or loss of any crop, and ascertain the respective advantages of particular modes of husbandry. He became one of the greatest landholders in North America. Besides other great and valuable tracts, his Mount Vernon estate consisted of nine thousand acres, all under his own management. On which, in one year, he raised seven thousand bushels of wheat, and ten thousand of Indian corn. His domestick and farming establishments were composed of nearly a thousand persons; and the woollen and linen cloth necessary for their use, was chiefly manufactured on the estate.” Order and industry were carried into all his concerns. The authority he exercised over his slaves was blended with great tenderness and humanity, and their affection and gratitude ensured a prompt and cheerful obedience to his commands. Mount Vernon was even the seat of hospitality, and here its rights were liberal ly exercised. Colonel WashingtoN, although exact in requiring the punctual fulfilment of contracts and engagements, yet was diffusive in offices of humanity, and deeds of charity to those of his vicinity who needed his assistance. From the close of the war on the frontiers of Virginia, to the commencement of the revolutionary contest, Colonel WASHINGtoN acted as a Judge of a County Court, and represented his district in the House of Burgesses of his Province. Although never distinguished as a popular speaker, yet the soundness of his judgment, the wisdom of his counsels, and the uniform propriety of his behaviour, secured him the confidence and esteem of all who were acquainted with his character. While a Legislator of Virginia, he took an active part in opposition to the principle assumed by the British Parliament, to tax the American colonies. When it became expedient to train the militia for the defence of those rights, which the country determined never to sacrifice, the independent companies in the Northern part of Virginia chose him their Commander. He was elected a member of the first Congress, which met in Philadelphia in 1774; in which body he had a distinguished agency in the arrangement of the * See “Legacies of WAshing on ” printed at Trenton in 1800.
military resources of the United Provinces. He was the active member of all Committees, to which business of this nature was entrusted. At the commencement of hostilities, Congress deemed it necessary to appoint a Commander in Chief of the American forces. The eminent character of Colonel WASHINGToN pointed him out as the best qualified to unite the confidence of the publick, and successfully to conduct the arduous conflicts of the war. Congress unanimously elected him “General and Commander in Chief of the United Colonies, and of all the forces now raised, and to be raised by them.” When the President of Congress communicated his election, he thus addressed him. “Mr. President, although 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 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. I beg leave, Sir, to assure the Congress, that, as no pecuniary consideration could have tempted me to accept this arduous employment, at the expense of my domestick ease and happiness, I do not wish to make any profit from it. I will keep an exact account of my expenses. These, I doubt not, they will discharge, and that is all I desire.” Congress, when his commission was executed, unanimously and solemnly resolved, to support him
JUNE 15, 1775.
with their lives and fortunes, as the general of their army, in defence of the country. General WashingTon instantly prepared to enter upon the eventful duties of his command. The difficulties which he was to encounter, will clearly appear from a slight view of the state of the country, and of the condition of the army. As a means to repel the encroachments of the British Parliament, the American merchants had generally entered into resolutions, not to import articles of merchandise from Great Britain ; and at the commencement of the war, the country was, in a great degree, destitute of ammunition, and of every material necessa ry to clothe an army, and furnish the men with tents. There were no considerable magazines of provisions, and few tools suitable for the work of fortification The men who composed the army were raised by dif ferent States, on short enlistments, and on different establishments; and they carried into the camp, the feelings and habits formed by their respective pursuits in private life. They were animated by the love of liberty, and possessed the resolution and bravery of hardy yeomanry; but they could not easily be brought to submit to the rigid rules of military subordination and discipline. The authority of Congress and of different Colonies was blended in all the arrangements of the army. These causes occasioned numerous and complicated embarrassments to the Commander in Chief. The appointment of General WASHINgtoN was universally approved. On his journey to head quarters, he met woth the most respectful attention, and received the fullest assurances of assistance and support. He was escorted by companies of volunteers; and, at Springfield, a hundred miles from Boston, a Committee of the Congress of Massachusetts met, and attended him to Cambridge. On his arrival that body presented him an o address, in which they expressed their entire satisfaction with his appointment, and pledged
the most effectual co-operation with his measures, in their power. His answer was well calculated to increase the attachment to his person, and the confidence in his talents, which the publick already entertained. “Gentlemen, your kind congratulations on my appointment and arrival, demand my warmest acknowledgments, and will ever be retained in grateful remembrance. In exchanging the enjoyment of domestick life, for the duties of my present honourable, but arduous situation, I only emulate the virtue and publick spirit of the whole Province of Massachusetts, which, with a firmness and patriotism without an 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.” The British army, at this time, commanded by General Gage, was strongly posted in three divisions; on Bunker's Hill, a mile from the ferry of Charles's River, on Cop's Hill in Boston, and on Roxbury neck. These fortified posts secured the isthmus of Boston, and that of Charlestown, the only avenues by land into those towns. Floating batteries and armed ships, stationed in the waters which surround Boston, supported the positions of the British, and kept open the communication between them. The American army was posted at Roxbury, Cam bridge, and on Winter and Prospect Hills, in front of Bunker's Hill. These positions formed a crescent of twelve miles in extent. After reconnoitring the situation of the enemy, and examining the state of his own army, the General attempted a better organization of the troops. He formed them into three divisions; the division at Roxbury formed the right wing of the army, and was commanded by General Ward; the division on Prospect and Winter Hills composed tho