Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

rapidity which had been expected. Finding this, CHA|,-1Vone officer from each company was employed l775« to recruit in the country; but the progress Nov. so. made was not such as the public exigencies demanded. The army was dissolving by the expiration of the time for which it had been mlisted, and men in sufficient number were not yet obtained, to take the places of those who, having performed the stipulated duty, insisted on returning home. The impatience to revisit their friends, discovered by the soldiers entitled to a discharge, was so extreme and ungovernable as to overcome all their solicitude for keeping the enemy in a state of blockade, and many of them could not be detained in camp even for ten days, at the end of which period, was expected the arrival of a body of militia which had been ordered to supply their places: nor was it without great difficulty, and some degree of violence, that any of them were prevailed on to remain for that time. This fact, however, did not sufficiently impress on the governments of the United Colonies,

.numbed in a fixed state of torpitude without the symptoms of animation, unless the apprehensions of rendering themselves unpopular among their particular constituents, by an act of vigour for the public service, deserve the name of animation. He charged them with inconsistent and timid conduct, and ascribed it to their torpor, narrow politics, or call it what you will, that the army had been reduced to very great distress"

Chap.iv. that it was possible to rely too much on indivi177s. dual patriotism; and that the American cause, if defended entirely by temporary armies, must be often exposed to the most imminent hazards.

Perceiving the very great difficulty experienced in recruiting the army, and alarmed at a circumstance which wore so serious an aspect, the general recommended it in very earnest

Nov- terms to congress, to try the effect of a bounty, but this proposition was not acceded to until late in January following; and on the last day of December, when all the old troops not engaged on the new establishments were disbanded, only nine thousand six hundred and fifty men had been inlisted for the army of 1776, many of whom were unavoidably permitted to be absent on furlough. Their numbers, however, were considerably augmented during the winter, and, in the mean time, the militia cheerfully complied with the requisitions made on them.

The difficulty of recruiting the army was greatly increased by the danger apprehended from the small pox. Inoculation had not then been generally practised in America, and the fears entertained of the disease were excessive. It raged in Boston, and intelligence was received, that general Gage had caused several persons to be inoculated, and sent into the country for the purpose of spreading the infection. This intelligence was never confirmed, but a belief of its truth was greatly strengthened Chap.iv. by many cases of the disease having occurred 1775. among those who had been permitted to leave the town. This, however, might well have happened although no means had been employed to produce the effect. The report, whether true or false, increased the caution observed in all communications with persons who had been within the lines of the enemy.

Although the close blockade of Boston, and the continued attention it was found necessary to bestow on the organization and discipline of the troops, gave no inconsiderable degree of employment to the general; and although his deficiency in military stores, and the very hazardous operation of renovating a disbanded army in the face of a veteran foe, rendered it% at least, a very bold measure to maintain the position which had been taken, and to make advances upon the enemy; yet he viewed with infinite mortification that semblance of inactivity to which his situation still compelled him to submit. In the commencement of the contest, while the minds of many were yet undetermined, it was of vast importance to secure the public confidence, and it was necessary to pay some attention even to the public caprice. The real difficulties under which he laboured were not generally known. His numbers were greatly exaggerated, and his means for carrying on offensive operations very much magnified.

Chap.iv. Tlic expulsion of the British army from Boston 1775. had been long since anticipated by many, and there were not wanting those, who endeavoured to spread discontent by insinuating that he was desirous of prolonging the war, in order to continue his own importance. To. these symptoms of impatience and discontent, and to the consequences they might produce, he could not be entirely insensible; but it was not in his power to silence such complaints by disclosing to the world his real situation. His views still continued to be directed towards Boston; and congress, to whom the result of the former council on this subject had been communicated, having manifested a disposition favourable towards an attempt on that place; the general officers hadbeen again assembled, and had again advised unanimously against the measure. It seems to have been understood, that fears for the safety of the town might embarrass the measures of the army. Congress, therefore,

who still inclined to favour the enterprise,

number. came to a resolution, "that if general Washington and his council of war should be of opinion that a successful attack might be made on the troops in Boston, he should make it in any manner he might think expedient, notwithstanding the town and property in it might be thereby destroyed."

Whilst waiting for a favourable opportunity to execute this bold plan, the American general availed himself of the occasional aids received Chap.iv. from the militia to advance on the enemy by 1775. taking positions which would',annoy them for^TMkf^ the present, and would favour his ulterior operations. Plowed hill, Cobble hill, and Lechmere's point, were successively occupied and fortified, by which his approaches were carried within half a mile of their works on Bunker's hill, and their floating batteries could no longer maintain the stations they had originally chosen. Floating batteries were also constructed on the part of the Americans, and would unquestionably have aided either offensive or defensive operations.

Hitherto the war, though carried on with the utmost activity of which the means possessed by America would admit, had for its professed object, only a redress of grievances. The language, that it was a war only against a corrupt administration was carefully kept up, and allegiance to the British crown was, as yet, every where avowed. The progress, however, of the public mind towards independence, though slow, was certain; and measures were necessarily taken apparently tending to that object. Among these was the act of establishing temporary governments, in place of that revolutionary system which followed those they had suspended.

The first application on this subject was made by Massachussetts, after which, several

Vol. 1I. N n

« ZurückWeiter »