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too, that his present army must soon dissolve, CHAP. 111. and he could not look with unconcern at the - 1775. very critical situation in which that event would place him.
Under these impressions, he thought much ought to be risked, to obtain so desirable an object as the destruction of the army now in Boston; and with this view, he frequently reconnoitred the situation of the enemy, and was assiduous in collecting every information respecting their strength. The result of his observations and inquiries seems to have been, a strong inclination to the opinion, that to carry September. the works of the enemy by storm, though very hazardous, was not absolutely impracticable. He therefore determined to call the attention of his general officers to this subject, and having previously communicated to them in a letter, the points he wished them to consider, they were assembled in council for the purpose of deciding on the meditated attack. They were unanimously of opinion that, “ for the present at least, the attempt ought not to be made." This resolution having been formed, the origi. nal plan of keeping up the blockade, and strengthening the camp, was persevered in.
In the mean time, the distress of the British army, for fresh meat and vegetables, became very considerable. They could not receive these articles in the ordinary mode, from the country; and they could not spare such a num.
CHAP. IV. ber of troops for distant excursions, as might 1775. safely penetrate far enough to obtain adequate
supplies. Some small parties sailed from Boston, probably with this object; but they met, wherever they appeared, with such oppo.. sition from the militia and minute men, as to be obliged to return to their ships, frequently without having obtained such ample supplies as their situation required. To guard against these plundering parties, required a degree of exertion and activity, on the part of the inhab. itants of the seacoast, which they soon found extremely harassing; and the governors of the different colonies were urgent, that detachments from the main army should be ordered to protect them from these predatory incursions. Although it was impossible to spare the troops demanded; yet the refusal to comply with these requests occasioned no inconsiderable degree of irritation. So difficult is it for those who view only a part of a system, to judge rightly of the whole; and so certain is it that the great plans formed for the general safety must be deranged, if partial interferences be permitted. These demands of particular protection were so importunate, and the unavoidable refusal to comply with them was so ill received, that it was deemed necessary by congress, to pass a resolution, declaring that the army before Boston was designed only to oppose the enemy at that place, and ought not to be weakened by
detachments for the security of other parts of CHAP. IV. the country. At Newport, in Rhode Island, 1775. the committee sought to secure the town by entering into a compromise with captain Wallace, who commanded the ships of war on that station, in which it was stipulated that he should be furnished with provisions, on condi. tion of his sparing the town, and committing no depredations on the country. This compromise while it secured those who had entered into it, interfered with the general plan of distressing the enemy, by withholding from them all supplies of provisions, and set an example which it was feared would be followed to a most pernicious extent.
Although, afterwards, the assembly of Rhode Island, in imitation of the other colonies, passed an act for inflicting capital punishment on those who should be convicted of holding any traitorous correspondence with the ministry of Great Britain, or any of their agents; or of supplying the ministerial army, or navy, with provisions or other necessaries; yet they excepted from the operation of this act, those who should furnish supplies of provisions to captain Wallace, under his agreement with the town council of Newport. General Washington at length deemed it necessary to interfere, and to represent in a letter addressed to the governor of that province, the mischief to be apprehended from so dangerous a practice.
CHAP. IV. While the blockade of Boston was thus 1775. perseveringly maintained, and every effort used
to distress the enemy in that place; the transactions on other parts of the continent were calculated to attract the utmost attention.
In July, Georgia had entered into the oppo. sition made to the claims of the British parliament to tax America, and had chosen delegates to represent that province in congress; after which the style of the Thirteen United Colonies' was assumed, and by that title the English provinces confederated, and in arms, were
thenceforward designated. September 5. After a very short recess of one month, con
gress again assembled at Philadelphia. They immediately took under their consideration the state of the colonies, and the letters of the commander in chief. The scarcity of arms and ammunition continued to be an alarming difficulty, which cramped all their military movements, and which their utmost efforts had been unable to remove. They not only applied large sums towards obtaining these articles on continental account, but recommended it to the state conventions, to use all the means in their power to effect the same object. These exertions were not entirely unsuccessful. They had the address to purchase all the powder on the coast of Africa, even within the British forts, without attracting notice; and they seized the magazine in the island of Bermudas, the
inhabitants of which were well disposed to chap. IV. favour the attempt, and were restrained only 1775. by their inability to act efficiently, and by the insecurity of their situation, from making one common cause with the continental colonies. They also made great exertions towards the internal manufacture of gunpowder, and the obtaining within themselves, saltpetre and sulphur, the principal materials in the composition of that all important article. All these measures, however, could not afford adequate supplies, and the danger resulting from the want of an article so vitally essential in war, still continued to be very great.
The importance of a maritime force to the military operations of a country possessing an immense extent of seacoast, must always be felt very sensibly; and the particular attention of the United Colonies was, in a very early period of the contest, directed more immediately to this interesting object, by an event not very unusual in the period of hostilities, but which, at the time, excited no small degree of resentment.
Orders had been issued in his majesty's name to the commanders of his ships of war, to proceed, as in the case of actual rebellion, against those seaport towns and places which were accessible to the king's ships, and in which any troops should be raised or military works erected.