Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

His pa

dent to change the general of this army, and the Commander in Chief was requested to nominate a successor to General Schuyler. Through delicacy he declined this nomination; but never did the semblance of envy at the good fortune of General Gates, whom Congress appointed, appear in any part of General Washington's conduct. triotism induced him to aid this subordinate General by every means in his power, and the successes of the northern army filled his heart with undissembled joy.

This magnanimity was not in every instance repaid. The brilliant issue of the northern campaign in 1777, cast a glory around General Gates, and exalted his military reputation. During his separate command, some parts of his conduct did not correspond with the ingenuousness and delicacy with which he had been treated by the Commander in Chief. - After the action of the 19th of September, when it was ascertained that General Gates's force was superior to that of the British General, and was increasing, General Washington apprehended that General Gates might return him Colonel Morgan's corps, whose services he greatly needed while the enemy was marching through Pennsylvania : but unwilling absolutely to order the return of Morgan, he stated that General Howe was pressing him with a superior force, and left General Gates to act in the concern according to his discretion. General Gates retained the corps, and mentioned as his reason, “ Since the action of the 19th, the enemy have kept the ground they occupied on the morning of that day

and fortified the camp. The advance sentries of my pickets are posted within shot, and opposite those of the enemy. Neither side has given ground an inch. In this situation your Excellency would not wish me to part with the corps the army of General Burgoyne is most afraid of.” He neglected to inform the Commander in Chief of his subsequent successes over the enemy.

When the intelligence of the surrender of the British army reached head quarters, the Commander in Chief dispatched Colonel Hamilton, one of his aids, to General Gates, to state his own critical situation, and make known his earnest wishes, that reinforcements should be forwarded to him with the utmost expedition. . Colonel Hamilton found that General Gates had retained four brigades at Albany, with a design to attack Ticonderoga in the course of the next winter. With difficulty and delay he obtained an order to move three brigades.

Colonel Hamilton was also charged with a similar message to General Putnam in the highlands, and directed to accelerate the movement of reinforcements from that post ; but General Put-. nam, in view of an attempt upon New York, discovered a disposition to retain under his command that portion of the northern army which had been sent to the highlands. Colonel Hamilton was necessitated to borrow money of General Clinton, Governor of the state of New York, to fit the troops of General Putman to begin their march.

These obstructions and delays in the execution of General Washington's orders, prevented his

being reinforced in season to attack Lord Cornwallis while in New Jersey, and probably occasioned the loss of Fort Mifflin and Red Bank.

The different termination of the campaigns of 1777 at the north and in the middle States, furnished the ignorant and factious part of the community with an opportunity to clamour against the Commander in Chief. Their murmurs emboldened several members of Congress, and individual gentlemen in different parts of the United States, to adopt measures to supplant General Washington, and to raise General Gates to the supreme command of the American armies.

In prosecution of this scheme, pieces artfully written were published in newspapers in different places, tending to lessen the military character of General Washington, and to prepare the public for the contemplated change in the head of the military department. Generals Gates and Mifflin, and Brigadier Conway, entered into the intrigue. Conway was an Irishman, who had been in the service of France, and on the recommendation of Mr. Silas Deane was commissioned by Congress. The influence of the party in Congress opposed to General Washington, appears by a number of the public transactions of that body. A board of war was instituted, and General Gates placed at its head; Conway was raised over every other brigadier, and appointed inspector of the army. .

These machinations to tarnish the character of the Commander in Chief were known to him, but he silently noticed their operation. The good of his country was with him paramount to all other

considerations, and he stifled his just indignation, and left his reputation to rest on its own merits, lest the open dissension of the civil and military ministers of the revolution should endanger the public interest.

At length the presumption of his enemics forced him into an expression of his feelings on the subject. The following correspondences give a general view of the progress of their measures. Mr. Lawrens, President of Congress, in a private letter, communicated to the General information of an anonymous complaint laid before him, in his official capacity, containing high charges against General Washington, to which he replied :

“ I cannot sufficiently express the obligation I feel towards you, for your friendship and politeness upon an occasion in which I am so deeply interested. I was not unapprised that a malignant faction had been for some time forming to my prejudice, which, conscious as I am of having ever done all in my power to answer the important purposes of the trust reposed in me, could not but give me some pain on a personal account; but my chief concern arises from an apprehension of the dangerous consequences which intestine dissensions may produce to the common cause.

". As I have no other view than to promote the public good, and am unambitious of honours not founded on the approbation of my country, I would not desire in the least degree to suppress a free spirit of inquiry into any part of my conduct, that even faction itself

may

deem reprehensible. The anonymous paper handed you, exhibits

[ocr errors]

many serious charges, and it is my wish that it may be submitted to Congress. This I am more inclined to, as the suppression, or concealment, may possibly involve you in embarrassments hereafter, since it is uncertain how many, or who, may be privy to the contents.

My enemies take an ungenerous advantage of me. They know the delicacy of my situation, and that motives of policy deprive me of the defence I might otherwise make against their insidious attacks. They know I cannot combat their insinuations, however injurious, without disciosing secrets it is of the utmost moment to conceal. But why should I expect to be exempt from cen- . sure, the unfailing lot of an elevated station? Merit and talents, which I cannot pretend to rival, have ever been subject to it. My heart tells me it has been my upremitted aim to do the best which circumstances would permit; yet I may have been very often mistaken in my judgment of the means, and may, in many instances, deserve the imputation of error.”

To a friend in New England, who expressed, by letter, his anxiety in consequence of a report that he was about to resign his commission, he wrote:

I can assure you that no person ever heard me drop an expression that had a tendency to resignation. The same principles that led me to embark in the opposition to the arbitrary claims of Great Britain, operate with additional force at this day ; nor is it my desire to withdraw my services while they are considered of importance in the present contest; but to report a design of this

« ZurückWeiter »