« ZurückWeiter »
expedition to be not entirely without hazard, Chap.m. he had, in the morning, detached lord Percy, 1775. with sixteen companies of foot, a corps of marines, and two pieces of artillery, to support lieutenant colonel Smith. This seasonable re-enforcement reached Lexington about the time of the arrival of the retreating party, and with their field pieces, kept the provincials at a distance, and gave the grenadiers and light inlantry time to breathe. But as soon as they recommenced their march, the attack was' recommenced also, and an irregular but very galling fire was kept up on either flank, as well as in front and rear, from the stone fences which abound in that quarter, until they arrived about sunset on the common of Charlestown. From thence, they immediately passed over the neck to Bunker's hill, where they remained secure for the night, under the protection of their ships of war, and early next morning crossed over Charlestown ferry to Boston.
In this action, the loss of theBritish in killed, Avounded, and prisoners, was two hundred and seventy three, while that of the provincials did not exceed ninety. However trivial this affair may have been in itself, it was, in its consequences, of the utmost importance. It was the commencement of a long and obstinate war, and it had no inconsiderable influence on that war, by increasing the confidence which the Americans felt in themselves, and encouraging
Chap, in. opposition by the hope of its being successful. 1775. It supported the opinion which had been taken up with some degree of doubt, that courage and patriotism were ample substitutes for any deficiency in the knowledge of tactics, and that their skill, as marksmen, gave them a great superiority over their adversaries.
Although the previous state of things had been such, as plainly to render the commencement of hostilities unavoidable, each party seemed anxious to throw the blame on its opponent. The British officers alleged that they were fired on from a stone wall, before they attacked the militia company at Lexington, while, on the part of the Americans, numerous depositions were taken, all proving that, both at Lexington and the bridge near Concord, the first fire was received by them. The statements made by the Americans are rendered probable, not only by the testimony which supports them, but by other circumstances. The company, of militia at Lexington did not exceed in numbers, one ninth of the enemy; and it can scarcely be conceived, that in the perilous situation in which they were placed, their friends would have provoked their fate, by commencing a fire on an enraged soldiery. It is also a circumstance of no inconsiderable weight, that the Americans had uniformly sought to cover their proceedings with the letter of the law, and even after the affair at Lexington, they had at the
bridge beyond Concord, made a point of receiv- Chap, m. ing the first fire. It is probable, that the orders 1775. given by general Gage prohibited the detachment under lieutenant colonel Smith, from attacking the provincials, unless previously assaulted by them; but it seems almost certain that such orders, if given, were disobeyed.
The provincial congress, desirous of manifesting the necessity under which the militia had acted, transmitted to their agents, the depositions which had been taken relative to the late action, with a letter to the inhabitants of Great Britain, stating that hostilities had been commenced against them, and detailing the circumstances which had attended that event.
But they did not confine themselves to ad- vote of dresses. They immediately passed a vote for««t;f°r
• » A raising men.
raising thirteen thousand six hundred men in Massachusetts, to be commanded by general Ward, and for calling on New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, for their respective quotas of troops, so as to complete an army of thirty thousand men for the common defence. They also authorized the receivergeneral to borrow one hundred thousand pounds on the credit of the colony, and to issue securities for the repayment thereof with an interest of six per cent.
The neighbouring colonies hastened to furnish the men required of them; and, in the mean time, such numbers voluntarily assembled
VOL. II. D d
Chap. Hi. that many were dismissed in consequence of a 1775. defect of means to subsist them in the field. The king's troops were now themselves closely blocked up in the peninsula of Boston, and their communication with the country entirely cut off.
On receiving intelligence of the battle of Lexington, the people of the city and province of New York, appeared to hesitate no longer. The general spirit of the colonies obtained there also the ascendency. Yet the royal party remained very formidable, and it was deemed advisable to march a body of Connecticut troops into the neighbourhood, with the ostensible purpose of protecting the town against some British regiments daily expected from Ireland, but with the real design of encouraging and strengthening their friends.
About the same time, that active spirit which, at the commencement of hostilities, seemed, in so remarkable a degree, to have pervaded New England, manifested itself in an expedition of considerable merit.
The possession of Ticonderoga and Crown Point, and the command of lakes George and Champlain, were objects of essential importance in the approaching conflict. It was well known that these posts were very weakly defended, and it was believed that the feeble garrisons remaining in them, were the less to be dreaded, because they were in a state of perfect security, entirely unapprehensive of an Chap.Ui . attack from any quarter whatever. Under these 1775. impressions, some gentlemen of Connecticut, at the head of whom were messrs. Deaney Wooster, and Parsons, formed the bold design of seizing these fortresses by surprise; and borrowed, on their individual credit, a small sum of money from the legislature of the colony, to enable them to carry on the enterprise. As success depended absolutely on secrecy and dispatch, it was determined not to encounter the delay, and danger of discovery, which would attend their waiting to receive the sanction of congress: and it was deemed most advisable to proceed immediately with a sufficient quantity of ammunition, in the confidence that the number of men, necessary for the expedition, might be raised with more advantage, among the hardy mountaineers inhabiting the country that bordered on the lakes. For this purpose, about forty volunteers set out from Connecticut towards Bennington, where the authors of the expedition proposed meeting with colonel Ethan Allen, and engaging him to head their enterprise, and to raise the men, which would be required to aid them in its execution.