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the time for which the soldier was engaged, is spent in undoing, what you were aiming to inculcate in the first. “To go into an enumeration of all the evils we have experienced in this late great change of the army, and the expenses incidental to it—to say nothing of the hazard we have run, and must run, between the discharging of one army and the inlistment of another, unless an enormous expense of militia be incurred—would greatly exceed the bounds of a letter. What I have already taken the liberty of saying, will serve to convey a general idea of the matter; and therefore I shall, with all due deference, take the liberty to give it as my opinion, that if the Congress have any rea son to believe that there will be occasion for troops another year, and consequently of another inlistment, they would save money, and have infinitely better troops, if they were, even at a bounty of twenty, thirty, or more dollars, to engage the men already inlisted, till January next; and such others as may be wanted to complete the establishment, for, and dmring the war. I will not undertake to say, that the men can be had on these terms; but I am satisfied that it will never do to let the matter alone, as it was last year, till the time of service was near expiring. The hazard is too great in the first place; in the next, the trouble and perplexity of disbanding one army, and raising another at the same instant, and in such a critical situation as the last was, is scarcely in the power of words to describe, and
such as no man, who has experienced it once, will
• their opinion to Congress, he observed, “Perhaps
the irksomeness of my situation may have given different ideas to me, from those which influence the judgment of the gentlemen whom I consulted, and might have inclined me to put more to hazard than was consistent with prudence. If it had this effect, I am not sensible of it, as I endeavoured to give the subject all the consideration a matter of such importance required. True it is, and I cannot help acknowledging, that I have many disagreeable sensations on account of my situation; for, to have the eyes of the whole continent fixed on me, with anxious expectation of hearing of - some great event, and to be restrained in every military operation, for the want of the necessary means to carry it on, is not very pleasing; especially, as the means ussd to conceal my weakness from the enemy, conceal it also from my friends, and add to their wonder.” t By the last of February, the stock of powder was considerably increased, and the regular army amounted to 14,000 men, which was reinforced by . 6,000 of the militia of Massachusetts. General Washington now resolved to take possession of the heights of Dorchester, in the prospect that this movement would bring on a general engagement with the enemy, under favourable circumstances; or, should this expectation fail, from this position he would be enabled to annoy the ships in the harbour, and the troops in the town. Possessing these heights, he might erect works upon the points of land nearest to the southerly part of Boston, which would command the harbour and a great part of the town, as well as the beach from which an embarkation must be inade, in case the enemy was disposed to evacuate the place. To mask the design, a severe cannonade and bombardment were opened on the British works and lines, for several nights in succession. As soon as the firing began on the night of the 4th of March, a strong detachment marched from Roxbury, over the neck, and, without discovery, took possession of the heights. General Ward, who commanded the division of the army in Roxbury, had, fortunately, provided fascines, before the resolution passed to fortify the place; these were of great use, as the ground was deeply frozen; and, . in the course of the might, the party by great exertions erected works that defended them against
the shot of the enemy. On the next morning, the British manifested surprise and consternation at sight of the American fortifications. Mutual firings took place, but with little effect; and the Americans laboured indefatigably to complete their works. - - On the contingence of an attack upon Dorchester Heights, by a strong force, it had been resolved, that four thousand of the American troops, in boats, should cross Charles river, protected by three floating batteries, and attempt to carry the British posts in Boston, and open the communication by the neck to the American forces in Roxbury. Admiral Shuldham informed General Howe, that the Americans must be dislodged, or he could not remain with his fleet in Boston harbour. In pursuance of this intimation, on the afternoon of the 5th, a detachment consisting of three thousand men fell down to Castle Island, now Fort Independence, a position which would facilitate the attack on the next morning; but a violent storm, during the night, deranged the plan, and before the British were again in readiness to make the at- \ tempt, the American works became too formidable to be assaulted. General Washington, on this occasion, indulged a confident expectation of the success of his plans; and wished the meditated attack upon Dorchester to be made, in the sanguine hope, that the complete conquest of the British troops in Boston would be its ultimate effect; but the storm frustrated his prospects. -
The safety of the British fleet and army, rendered the evacuation of Boston a necessary measure; and the arrangements of the enemy for this purpose, were soon communicated to General Washington. A paper, under the signature of four of the select-men, was sent out by a flag, containing a proposal, purporting to be made by General Howe, that en condition the army was permitted to embark without molestation, the town should be left without injury. The letter was directed to the Commander in Chief, but it did not bear the signature of General Howe, nor bind him to the observance of the condition. General Washington did not, therefore, officially notice it; but he directed the American officer, to whom it was deliwered, to return an answer to the select-men, informing them that their letter had been communicated to his general, and assigning the reasons why it had not been officially noticed; but both the commandcrs appear to have tacitly complied with the conditions. The British army was not annoyed in the preparations to leave their post, nor was Nook’s point fortified. On the 17th, the town was evacuated, and left in a better state than was expected; the houses were not damaged in any great degree; but the British left few public stores of value.
Although Halifax was mentioned, as the destined place of the British armament, yet General Washington apprehended that New York was their object: On this supposition, he detached several brigades of his army to that city, before the evacuation of Boston,