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left wing, and was commanded by General Lee; and the troops at Cambridge formed the centre, and were commanded by General WASHington in person. The forces were deemed incompetent to defend this extended camp, but the situation of the country did not fa vour a more compact arrangement; nor could the neighbouring country be otherwise defended from the depredations of the enemy.
These positions were secured by lines and forts ; and a few companies of men were posted in the towns around Boston Bay, most exposed to annoyance by British armed vessels.
General WASHINGTON found himself embarrassed by the total want of system in every department of the army. In the execution of the duties of his commission, it became necessary to open a correspondence, not only with the Continental Congress, and with most of the Governments of the Colonies, but also with the Committees of all those towns which furnished supplies for the army. In a letter to Con. gress on this subject, he observes,
“I should be extremely deficient of gratitude, as well as justice, if I did not take the first opportunity to acknowledge the readiness and attention which the Congress, and the different Committees have shown, to make every thing as convenient and agreeable as possible ; but there is a vital and inherent principle of delay, incompatible with military service, in transacting business through such various and different channels. I esteem ii my duty, therefore, to represent the inconvenience that must unavoidably ensue from a dopendence on a number of persons for supplies, and submit it to the consideration of Congress, whether the publick service will not be the best promoted by appointing & Commissarv General for the purpose.”
An inquiry into the state of the magazine of powder was among the first cares of General WASHINGTON, and three hundred and three barrels in store was the return made to him. Soon after he discovered, that this return embraced the whole quantity brought into camp, without deducting what had been expended ; and that there remained on hand only sufficient to furnish the army with nine cartridges a man. While the greatest caution was used to keep this alarming fact a secret, the utmost exertions were employed to obtain a supply of this article of absolute necessity in war. Application was made to all the Colonies, and measures were adopted, to import powder into the country. The immediate danger was soon removed by an arrival of a small quantity sent from Elizabethtown, in New Jersey. Under the perplexities which arose from the defect of arms, the want of clothing and magazines, from the want of engineers, and from the confused state of the staff department, the mind of General Washington was, in some measure, cheered by a view of the men who composed his troops. " It requires," says he, in a letter to the President of Congress," no military skill to judge of the difficulty of introducing proper discipline and subordination into an army, while we have the enemy in view, and are daily in expectation of an attack ; but it is of so much iinportance, that every effort will be made that time and circumstances will admit. In the mean time, I have a sincere pleasure in observing that there are materials for a good army; a great number of able bodied men, active, zealous in the cause, and of unquestionable courage.” The details of the departments of the Pay. master, Quartermaster, and Commissary, fell upon General WASHINGTON, and he urged Congress to fill them. Being himself authorised to make the appointments, he called to his assistance the general staff, which is necessary for the regular support and expeditious movements of an army; and assiduously prosecuted plans to organize and discipline his troops.
General Gage had, at his disposal, a force consist ing of eight thousand men, and, by the aid of his shipping, he was enabled to diract it to any point of the extended lines of the Americans, whose army did not amount to more than fourteen thousand and five hundred men. General Washington was fully apprized of his danger, and early summoned the General officers to deliberate upon the expediency of attempting to support their present position, or of taking one in their rear more compact. The council with unanimity advised to remain in their present lines. The reasons in support of this opinion were, the immediate effect which a retrograde movement would have to animate the British, and to depress the American troops; the unfavourable impression that would be made upon thu puhlick mind; the devastation of the fertile country, that must be opened to the enemy, and the difficulty of finding a strong position in the rear. As a precautionary measure, it was determined that they would not take possession of the heights of Dorchester, nor oppose the attempt of General Gage to gain them. In case of an attack and defeat, the heights in Cambridge,* and the rear of the lines in Roxbury, were appointed as places of rendezvous. The enemy was watched with vigilant attention ; and any movements which threatened a distant invasion, were communicated to Congress, and to the Executives of the Provinces particularly exposed.
The enemy had been taught respect for the American army by the battle of Bunker's Hill, and their plans, from that period through the year, were direct. ed to self defence. With little interruption, both armies were employed in strengthening their respective lines and posts. The few skirniishes which took place between smali parties neither in their nature nor their consequences merit notice.
The mere defence of lines did not satisfy the enter. prizing and patriotick mind of General Washington.
to Judge Marshall denominates these heights, “ Welch Mountains.” This name is not known in their vicinity.
With extreme anxiety he noticed the expense of the campaign, without possessing the means of diminishing it
He knew that his country was destitute of revenue, and apprehended that her resources must soon be exhausted. In a few months the army of course would be disbanded, and the enlistment of another he conceived to be extremely difficult, if practicable ; powerful reinforcements to the enemy were, in the Spring, to be expected from England ; and he thought it dr ubtful, whether proportionate strength could be collected in the Colonies to meet them in the field. He conceived it, therefore, of vast importance to the American cause to subdue the army in Boston, before it could be reinforced. An event of this magnitude would unite and animate the Colonies, and convince Great Britain, that America was determined in her opposition to the measures of Parliament. Under these impressions he often reconnoitred the enemy, and collected information of their numbers and strength from every possible source. The attempt to dislodge the British he well knew would be attended with extreme hazard, but it was his opinion, that the probability cf ultimate success, and the great advantages accruing from it, warranted the effort. In a letter to the General Officers, lie stated the questions, to which he desired them to direct their close attention; and after sufficient time had been given for deliberation, he called them into council to determine, whether an attack on Boston should be made. The result was an unanimous opinion," that for the present, at least, the attempt ought not to be made.” To continue the blockade, and to strengthen their lines, was all that remained in their power.
Although the Commander in Chief acquiesced in the decision of the Council, yet it was evident, from his letter to Congress, that he himself felt inclined to risk the attack. Probably this inclination was increased by the wishes of Congress, previously communicated to him.
The scarcity of fresh provisions in Boston induced the enemy to send small parties to collect the stock along the shores of the continent, within protecting distance of their armed vessels. This imposed a heavy bur den upon the towns on the seaboard, in the defence of their property; and the Governours of several of the Colonies were frequent and importunate in their request to General WASHINGTon to detach forces from his army for their protection. He was embarrassed by repeated requisitions of this nature. To make the required detachments, would expose the main army to inevitable destruction; and to deny the requests, would occasion dissatisfactions, which endangered a cause that could be supported only by publick opinion. To relieve him from this embarrassment, Congress passed a resolution, “ That the army before Boston was designed only to oppose the enemy in that place, and ought not to be weakened by detachments for the so curity of other parts of the country.”
General WASHINGTON early gave an example of the humane manner in which he determined to conduct the war. By the representations of individuals from Nova Scotia, Congress was led to suppose that a sinal force from the American army, aided by those inhabit. ants of that Province- who were in the American interest, might surprise a British garrison at Fort Cumberland, at the head of the Bay of Fundy, and possess themselves of valuable military stores, if not retain the country; the measure was, therefore, recommended by that body to their General. On examination he found that the stores were of no magnitudo, and that the expedition would expose the friends of America in that Province to inevitable ruin, from the p' osecutions of their own Government, and he discountenanced the scheme. The attempt was, however, eventually made by a few indiscreet individuals, but it failed, and in