« ZurückWeiter »
universally throughout the continent; was highly gratifying to e congress.
It was now generally expected that the ensuing spring would be the season of commencing hostilities, and the most indefatigable diligence was used by the colonies to be fully prepared against such a formidable enemy. Lists of all the fencible men were made out in each colony, and especially of those who had served in the former war; of whom they had the satisfaction to find two thirds! were still alive, and able to bear arms. Magazines of arms were collected, and money was provided for the payment of troops.
In vain the governors of the different provinces endeavoured to put a stop to these proceedings by their proclamations ; the Rubicon was passed, the fatal period was now arrived ; and the more the servants of government attempted to repress the spirit of the Americans, the more violent were their exertions.
At this time the inhabitants of Boston were reduced to great distress. The British troops, (now commonly called the enemy,) we were in absolute possession of it; the inhabitants were kept as *i prisoners, and might be made accountable for the conduct of the
whole colonies ; various were the means contrived to relieve the latter from their disagreeable situation. It was proposed to remove the inhabitants altogether, but this was impracticable without the governor's consent: others recommended burning the town, after valuing the houses, and indemnifying the proprietors ; but this was found equally impracticable ; it was at last resolved to wait for some favourable opportunity, as the garrison'was not very numerous, and not being supplied with necessaries by the inhabitants, might soon be obliged to leave the place.
The friends of the British government attempted to do something in opposition to the voice of the people; but after a few ineffectual meetings and resolutions, they were utterly silenced, and obliged to yield to superior numbers. Matters had now proceeded so far that the Americans, without further ceremony, seized on the military stores belonging to government. This first commenced at Newport in Rhode Island, where the inhabitants cars ried off forty pieces of cannon, appointed for the protection of the place; and on being asked the reason of this proceeding, replied, is that the people had seized them, lest they should be made use of against themselves ;' after this the assembly met, and resolved that ammunition and warlike stores should be purchased with the public money.
New Hampshire followed the example of Rhode Island, and seized a small fort for the sake of the powder and military stores it contained. In Pennsylvania, however, a convention was held, which expressed an earnest desire of reconciliation with the mother country; though at the same time in the strongest manner declaring, that they were resolved to take up arms in defence of their just rights, and defend, to the last, their opposition to the late acts of Parliament; and the people were exhorted to apply
themselves with the greatest diligence to the prosecution of such manufactures, as were necessary for their defence and subsistence; such as salt, salt-petre, gun-powder, steel, &c. This was the universal voice of the colonies, New-York only excepted. The assembly of that province, as yet ignorant of the fate of their last remonstrance, refused to concur with the other colonies in their determination, to throw off the British yoke: their attachment was nevertheless, very faint, and by the event, it appeared, that a perseverance of the measures which the ministry had adopted, was sufficient to unite them to the rest.
In the beginning of February the provincial congress met at Cambridge, and as no friends to Britain could now find admit. tance into that assembly, the only consideration was how to make proper preparations for war. Expertness in military discipline was earnestly recommended, and several military institutions established : among which that of the minute-men was most remark. able. These were chosen from the most active and expert among the militia ; and their business was to keep themselves in constant readiness, at the call of their officers; from which perpetual di. ligence they derived their appellation.
It was now thought that a very slight occasion would bring on hostilities, for both parties were so much exasperated by a long course of reproaches, and literary warfare, that they were filled with the utmost inveteracy against each other, :
On the twenty-sixth of February, 1775, general Gage, having been informed that a number of field pieces had been brought up to Salem, dispatched a party to seize them. Their road was obstructed by a river, over which was a draw-bridge. This the people had pulled up, and refused to let down: upon which the soldiers seized a boat to ferry them over, but the people cut out her bottom. Hostilities would immediately have commenced had it not been for the interposition of a clergyman, who represented to the military, on the one hand, the folly of opposing such num. bers; and to the people on the other, that as the day was far spent, the military could not execute their design, so that they might, without any fear, leave them in the quiet possession of the drawbridge. This was complied with ; and the soldiers, after having remained some time at the bridge, returned without executing their orders.
The next attempt was attended with more serious consequences. General Gage understanding that a large quantity of ammunition and military stores, had been collected at Concord, about twenty miles from Boston, and where the provincial congress was sitting, sent a detachment, under the command of colonel Smith and major Pitcairn, to destroy the stores; and, as was reported, to seize Hancock and Adams, two leading men of the congress.
They set out before day break, on the nineteenth of April, marching with the utmost silence, and securing every one they met with upon the road, that they might not be discovered : bat, notwithstanding all their care, the continual ringing of the bells
and firing of guns as they went along, soon gave them notice, that the country was alarmed : about five in the morning they had reached Lexington, fifteen miles from Boston, where the militia of the place were exercising. A British officer called out to them to disperse; but as they still continued in a body, he advanced and discharged his pistol, and ordered his men to fire ; who instantly obeyed, and killed and wounded several of the militia; the detachment then proceeded to Concord, where, having destroyed the stores, they were encountered by the Americans ; and a scuffle ensued, in which several fell on both sides.
The purpose of their expedition being accomplished, it was necessary for the king's troops to retreat, which they did through a continual fire kept upon them from Concord to Lexington. Here their ammunition was totally expended; and they would have been unavoidably cut off, had not a considerable reinforcement, commanded by lord Percy, met them. The Americans, however, continued the attack with great fury, and galled the British from behind stone fences, as they retreated : and had it not been for two field pieces, which lord Percy brought with him,
the whole detachment would still have been in the utmost en danger.
The impetuosity of the Americans being thus checked, the British made good their retreat to Boston, with the loss of two hundred and fifty killed and wounded ; that of the Americans, about
The spirits of the Americans were raised by this engagement, and the power of Britain became less formidable in their view; they now meditated nothing less than the total expulsion of the troops froin Boston. An army of twenty thousand men was assembled ; a line of encampment was formed from Roxbury to Mystic, through a space of about thirty miles; and here they were soon after joined by a large body of Connecticut troops, under the command of general Putnam, an old officer of great braa very and experience. By this formidable force was the town of Boston shut up. General Gage, however, had so strongly forti. fied it, that the enemy, powerful as they were, feared to make the attack.
But towards the end of May a considerable reinforcement have ing arrived, with the generals, Howe, Burgoyne, and Clinton, he was soon enabled to attempt something of consequence : and this the boast of the provincials seemed to render necessary: Some skirmishing in the meantime, happened in the islands lying off Boston harbour; in which the Americans had the advantage, and burnt an armed schooner. Nothing decisive, however, took place, tiil the seventeenth of June. In the neighbourhood of Charle town, a place on the northern shore, opposite the peninsula on which Boston stands, is an high ground, called Bunker’s-hill, which overlooks and commands the whole town of Boston. On the sixteenth, the provinciais took possession of this place; and worked with such indefatigable industry, that, to the astonishment VOL. 11.
of their enemies, they had before day-light, almost completed a redoubt, with a strong entrenchment, reaching half a mile eastward, as far as the river Mystic.
After this, they were obliged to sustain a heavy and incessant fire from the ships, and floating batteries, with which Charles. town neck was surrounded ; as well as the cannon that could reach the place from Boston. In spite of all opposition, they continued their work, and finished it before mid-day. A consider. able body of foot was then landed at the foot of Bunker's-hill, under the command of generals Howe, and Pigot; the former being appointed to attack the lines, and the latter the redoubt. The Americans having the advantage of the ground, as well as of entrenchments, poured down upon the British such incessant vollies, as threatened the whole body with destruction ; and general Howe was for some time left almost alone ; all his officers being either killed or wounded.
The provincials in the mean time, had taken possession of Charlestown, so that general Pigot was obliged to contend with them in that place, as well as those in the redoubt. The consequence was, that he was overmatched ; his troops were thrown into disorder, and he would, in all probability, have been defeated, had not general Clinton advanced to his relief: upon which the attack was renewed with fresh fury, so that the provincials were driven beyond the neck that leads to Charlestown.
In the heat of the engagement, the British troops, in order to deprive the enemy of a cover, set fire to Charlestown, which was totally consumed, and, eventually, the Americans were obliged to retreat over Charlestown neck, which was incessantly raked by the fire of the Glasgow man of war, and several floating batteries. The loss on the side of the British was computed at one thousand; among whom were nineteen officers killed, and seventy wounded. The loss of the Americans did not exceed five hundred.
This was a dear-bought victory to the British. The Ameri. cans boasted that the advantage lay on their side, as they had so weakened the enemy, that they durst not afterwards move out of their entrenchments. This being the first time the provincials were in actual service, it must be owned they behaved with great spirit; and, by no means merited the appellation of cowards, with which they were so often branded in Britain. In other places the same rletermined spirit appeared,
Lord North's conciliatory scheme was utterly rejected by the assemblies of Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, and afterwards, in every other province. The affray at Lexington determined the colony of New York, which had hitherto continued to waver ; and, as the situation of New-York rendered it unable to resist an attack from the sea, it was resolved, before the arrival of a Bri. tish fleet, to secure the military stores, send off the women and children, and to set fire to the city, if it was still found incapable of defence,
The exportation of provisions was every where prohibited, particularly to the British fishery on the banks of Newfoundland, or to such other colonies in America, as should adhere to the British interest. Congress resolved on the establishment of an army, and of a large paper currency, in order to support it.
In the inland northern colonies, colonels Easton and Ethan Allen, without receiving any orders from Congress, or communi: čating their design to any body, with a party of two hundred and fifty men, surprised the forts of Crown-point and Ticonderoga, and those that formed a communication betwixt the colonies and Canada. On this occasion two hundred cannon fell into their hands, some brass field-pieces, mortars and military stores, together with two armed vessels, and materials for the construction of others.
After the battle of Bunker's-hill, the provincials erected fortifications on the heights which commanded Charlestown, and strengthened the rest in such a manner, that there was no hope of their being driven from thence; at the same time, their boldness and activity astonished the British officers, who had been accustomed to entertain a mean and unjust opinion of their courage.
The troops shut up in Boston, were soon reduced to distress. They were obliged to attempt carrying off the cattle on the islands before Boston, which produced frequent skirmishes; but the provincials, better acquainted with the navigation of the shores, landed on the islands, and destroyed or carried off whatever was of any use, burned the light house at the entrance of the harbour, and took prisoners the workmen employed to repair it, as well as a party of marines sent to protect them. Thus the garrison was reduced to the necessity of sending out armed ves. sels, to make prizes indiscriminately of all that came in their way, and of landing in different places, to plunder for subsistence, as well as they could.
The Congress in the mean time continued to act with vigour. Articles of confederation, and perpetual union were drawn up, and solemnly agreed to; by which they bound themselves and their posterity for ever, as follows.
1. Each colony was to be independent within itself, and to retain an absolute sovereignty in all domestic affairs.
2. Delegates to be annually elected, to meet in Congress, at such time and place as should be enacted in the preceding Congress.
3. This assembly, should have the power of determining war, or peace, making alliances; and in short, all that power which sovereigns of states usually claim as their own.
4. The expenses were to be paid out of the common treasury, and raised by a poll-tax on males between 16 and 60, the proportion to be determined by the laws of the colony.
5. An executive council to be appointed to act in place of the congress during its recess.
prore ed with
after 7 deter ed to *** Je to me ival of TE WORD und einen