Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

some measure to discipline them before the campaign opened. “The plan I would propose,” says the General in the address, “ is that each state be informed by Congress annually of the real deficiency of its troops, and called upon to make it up, or such less specific number as Congress may think proper, by a draught. That the men draughted join the army by the first of January the succeeding year. That from the time the draughts join the army, the officers of the states from which they come, be authorised and directed to use their endeavours to inlist them for the war, under the bounties granted to the officers themselves and the recruits, by the act of the 23d of January last, viz. ten dollars to the officer for each recruit, and two hundred to the recruits themselves. That all state, county and town bounties to draughts, if practicable, be intirely abolished, on account of the uneasiness and disorders they create among . the soldiery, the desertions they produce, and for other reasons which will readily occur. That on or before the first of October annually, an abstract or return similar to the present one be transmitted to Congress, to enable them to make their requisitions to each state with certainty and precision. This I would propose as a general plan, to be pursued; and I am persuaded that this or one nearly similar to it, will be found the best now in our power, as it will be attended with least expense to the public, will place the service on the footing of order and certainty, and will be the

[ocr errors]

only one that can advance the general interest to any great extent.” . This judicious plan was never carried into effect, Congress did not make the requisition until February, and the states were not called upon to bring their recruits into the field before the first of April. Thirteen foreign states exercising their respective independent authorities to form a federal army, were always tardy in time and deficient in the number of men. On the approach of the inclement season, the army again built themselves huts for winter quarters. Positions were chosen the most favourable for the defence of the American posts, and for covering the country. The army was formed into two divisions. One of these erected huts near West Point, and the other at Morristown in New Jersey. The head quarters of the Commander in Chief were with the last division. Great distress was felt this winter on account of the deranged state of the American finances. General Green and Colonel Wadsworth, gentlemen in every respect qualified for the duties of their respective stations, were yet at the head of the quarter master and commissary departments; but the credit of the country was fallen, they had not the means to make prompt payment for articles of supply, and they found it impossible to lay up large magazines of provisions, and extremely difficult to obtain supplies to satisfy the temporary wants of the army. The evil was increased by a new arrangement introduced by Congress into the commissary department. A fixed salary in the depreciated currency of the country was given to the commissary general, and he was authorised to appoint a certain number of deputies, whose stipends were also established, and no emolument of office was allowed. Deputies competent to the business could not be obtained upon the terms established by Congress, confusion and derangement ensued through the whole department, and in consequence Colonel Wadsworth was constrained to resign his office. - - - - Before the month of January expired, the soldiers were put upon allowance, and before its close, the whole stock of provision in store was exhausted, and there was neither meat nor flour to be distributed to the troops. To prevent the dissolution of the army, the Commander in Chief was reluctantly driven to very vigorous measures. He apportioned upon each county in the state of New Jersey a quantity of meat and flour, according to the ability of each, to be brought into camp in the course of six days. At the same time he wrote to the magistrates, stating the absolute mecessity of the measure, and informing them, that unless the inhabitants voluntarily complied with the requisition, the exigency of the case would force him to obtain it by military exaction. To the honour of the inhabitants of New Jersey, harassed as their country had been, the full quantity of provision required was cheerfully and seasonably afforded. * * * * * To Congress General Washington expressed his sense of the heroic patience with which the

[ocr errors]

troops bore the privations of clothing and provisions through this winter of unusual severity. The extent of these privations will be seen in an extract of a letter written by the Commander in Chief to his friend General Schuyler. | “Since the date of my last we have had the virtue and patience of the army put to the severest trial. Sometimes it has been five or six days together without bread; at other times, as many days without meat; and once or twice, two or three days, without either. I hardly thought it possible at one period, that we should be able to keep it together, nor could it have been done, but for the exertions of the magistrates in the several counties of this state, on whom I was obliged to call, expose our situation to them, and in plain terms declare that we were reduced to the alternative of disbanding or catering for ourselves, unless the inhabitants would afford us their aid. I allotted to each county a certain proportion of flour or grain, and a certain number of cattle, to be delivered on certain days, and for the honour of the magistrates, and good disposition of the people, I must add, that my requisitions were punctually complied with, and in many counties exceeded. Nothing but this great exertion could have saved the army from dissolution or starving, as we were bereft of every hope from the commissaries. At one time, the soldiers eat every kind of horse food but hay. Buck wheat, common wheat, rye, and Indian corn composed the meal which made their bread. As an army they bore it with the most heroic patience; but sufferings like these, accompanied with the want of clothes, blankets, &c. will produce frequent desertion in all armies, and so it happened with us, though it did not excite a single mutiny.” The frost of this winter was excessive. For six weeks together, the waters about New York were covered with ice, of sufficient thickness to admit the passage of large armies with waggons and the heaviest pieces of artillery. The city, of consequence, in many places, became assailable. The vigilant and active mind of General Washington, with mortification, saw an opportunity to attack his enemy which he was unable to embrace. The British force in New York, in numbers, exceeded his own, and the want of clothing and provision rendered it impossible to move his troops upon an extensive enterprise. An attempt to surprise a post on Staten Island failed.

« ZurückWeiter »