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Plan formed by Congress and the French Minister for the incasion of Canada and Nova Scotia – General Washington's objections to it—Delinquency of the United States to prepare for the approaching Campaign—The exertions of the General —His Letter on the State of the Nation–The Remonstrance of Officers belonging to the New Jersey Brigade to the Legislature of that State-Letters of the Commander in Chief on the Subject—Expedition against the Indians under General Sullivan—He destroys their Towns — The American Army posted for the Defence of the High Lands on the North River, and for the protection of the Country against the Incursions of the British–Sir Henry Clinton moves up the IIudson, takes Possession of Stony and Verplank Points, and Förtifies then —Arrangements made for assaulting these Posts- General IWayne carries Stony Point by storm—The attack upon Perplank fails–Congress vote their Thanks to General Washington and to the brave Troops employed in this service–They vote General Wayne a Medal—Evils of short Inlistinents— Plan of the Generals to remedy theni–The Army in two Divisions erect Huts for Winter Quarters, one near West Point, and the other at Morristown in New Jersey.—The Troops suffer through the scarcity of Provisions — Colonel Wadsworth resigns his Office-Confusion in the Commissary's Department—The Commander in Chief is necessitated to apportion supplies of Meat and Flour upon the Counties of New Jersey–The Winter excessively cold, and the Waters around New York frozen over; but the Commander in Chief is too weak to avail himself of this opportunity to assail the British Posts—Expedition to Staten Island fails.
1779.] THE emancipation of Canada had ever been an important object with Congress. By its incorporation with the revolted colonies, the boundaries of the United States would be greatly enlarged, and the country delivered from the destruction and terror of war from the northern tribes of Indians. *In the winter of 1777-8, an expedition for this purpose had been settled with the Marquis de la Fayette, and in its prosecution he repaired to Ticonderoga. Wanting then the means to accomplish the design, it was relinquished. During the succeeding autumn the scheme was resumed under the auspices of the French minister. The plan embraced the conquest of Canada, Nova Scotia and all their dependencies. It was to be carried into effect by the joint operations of distinct detachments of Americans, acting in different points, and all co-operating with a French fleet and army on the river Saint Lawrence.
This lofty scheme of military operations had been adopted in Congress without consulting with the Commander in Chief, or any American officer. It was to be communicated to the French coust by the Marquis de la Fayette, and his influence, with that of the French Minister, was to be employed to induce his government to adopt their part of the expedition. In October the plan was communicated to General Washington, he was desired to give Congress his opinion upon it, and to enclose it with his comments to the Marquis. The General had already revolved in his mind an expedition against the British posts in Upper Canada, with the intention to be prosecuted the next season, on the contingence that the British army should be withdrawn from the United States. Struck with the extravagance of the plan of Congress, instead of complying with their requisition, he wrote to them, stating in strong terms his objections to the scheme. He mentioned the impolicy of entering into any engagements with the court of France to execute a combined system of operation, without a moral certainty of being able to execute the part assigned to America.
It was, the General observed, morally certain in his mind, that if the English should maintain their posts on the continent, it would be impracticable to furnish the men, or the necessary stores and provisions for the expedition. “If I rightly understand the plan,” he remarked, “it requires for its execution, twelve thousand and six hundred rank and file. Besides these, to open passages through a wilderness, for the march of the several bodies of troops, to provide the means of long and difficult transportation by land and water, to establish posts of communication for the security of our convoys, to build and man vessels of force necessary for acquiring a superiority on the lakes; these and many other purposes peculiar to these enterprises, will require a much larger proportion of artificers, and persons to be employed in manual and laborious offices than are usual in military operations.” The aggregate number, he observed, requisite for the contemplated expedition, added to the force necessary to be kept in the field to restrain depredation from the British posts at New York, would make nearly double the men necessary, to any number P
which, with all their efforts, the United State were ever yet able to raise. - : The experience of the General taught him, that it would be as difficult to furnish the necessary supplies of provisions as to raise the men. “ The scene of our operations has hitherto been in the heart of the country furnishing our resources, which of course facilitated the drawing them out. We shall then be carrying on the war at an immense distance, in a country wild and uncultivated, incapable of affording any aid, and great part of it hostile. We cannot, in this case, depend on temporary and occasional supplies as we have been accustomed; but must have ample magazines laid up before hand. The labour and expense in forming these, and transporting the necessary stores of every kind for the use of the troops, will be increased to a degree that can be more easily conceived than described. The transportation must be a great part of the way through deserts affording no other forage than herbage; and from this circumstance our principal provisions of the flesh kind, must be salted, which greatly increase the difficulty, both of providing and transporting.” Supplies upon this scale, he conceived, greatly exceeded the resources of the country, and in policy and honour, Congress could not promise to furnish them. . . . . Serious doubts rested upon the mind of the General, whether France would execute the part of . the Canada expedition assigned to her. The superiority of the British fleet was evident. The court of London would be made acquainted with
the scheme, and a superior British fleet might prevent the French squadron detached on this service, from entering the river St. Lawrence, or destroy it after its entrance, or the British garrisons in Canada might be reinforced, and rendered superior to the assailing armament. In an expedition consisting of several distinct parts, General Washington thought it unreasonable to expect that exact co-operation among the different detachments which would be necessary for mutual support; of consequence, the divisions might be defeated in detail, and after all the expense, the expedition miscarry. The consequences of a failure, which were much to be deprecated, would be the misapplication of the French force; the ruin of the detachments employed in the expedition, and jealousy and disaffection between France and the United States. The letter of the Commander in Chief, Congress referred to a committee. In their report, this committee admit his objections to be weighty, but still advise to the prosecution of the plan. Congress accepted the report, and again requested the General to write fully on the subject to the Marquis, and to Dr. Franklin, then the American Minister at the court of Versailles. Congress probably felt themselves already pledged by their conversation with the Marquis and the French Minister, and possibly they thought that measures had already been adopted in France to carry the plan into execution. General Washington was greatly perplexed by the perseverance of Congress in this measure. All