« ZurückWeiter »
regulations, is, on some sudden invasion, to assemble and repel the'enemy, and return to tbeir business again."
The account will shock your humanity; and yet you must be told, that since the conquest of Long-Isiand, the American captives, in several instances, were tied up to be fired at by the royal troops, openly and without censure.*
You will not wish a detention of this letter, that the intelligence from New-York may be brought down to a later period, ft shall therefore be closed with an account of the troops to the Horthvvard, and of some proceedings in the Massachusetts. ■ The return of the troups serving in Canada, under gen. Su!» Hvan, was 1006. When gen. Gates first joined them, the smallpdx raged; hot a cannot was mounted; the vessels were lumbered with 'stores; the men were dispirited with defeat and fatigue; in short, the whole was a scene variegated with every distress and disappointment which can conspire to ruin an army. Gen.' Sullivan left it the 12th of July; when he first joined it iii Canada, it was torn to pieces by sickness and unaccountable occurrences; its present security is thought to be owing to him; afid therefore the field officers addressed him when leaving them; and said, "It is to you, Sir, the public are indebted for the preservation of their property in Canada. It is to you we owe our? safety thus far. Your humanity will call forth the silent tear and grateful ejaculation of the sick; your universal impartiality will force the applause of the wearied soldier." 'With the losses sustained at Quebec, Three Rivers, the Cedars, the consequent retreat from Canada, together with the deaths and desertions which have happened since tire first of April, the northern army lias been diminished upward of 5000, exclusive of 3000 sick. Till these were separated, and sent of? to Fort George, at the head of Lake George, where the general Hospital has been established, the camp itself had the appearance of a general hospital rather than an army. The small-pox had 'infected eveiy thing belonging to it, the cloths, the blankets, the air, the very ground the men walked on. Gen. Gates ex'erted all his powers to prevent this pestilence from tlxing at Skeensborough, to which place the militia ordered to reinforce him, were directed to repair. The army is now at CrownPoint, for a council of general officers unanimously determined to retire from thence, and take post at the strong ground opposite to'the east point of Tyconderoga. By the end of the month
* Sec M'Fingal, a modern Epic Poem, in four cantos, p. 82, Printed at Hartford, in Connecticut, 1781. The Au'hor ia known 10 b: Mr. John, Trumbull, the American Butler for wit »nd humor*
Vol. II. O affairs
affairs began to wear a less gloomy aspect. The fleet upon Lake Champlain increased rapidly. The militia began to come to> Skeensborough. On the 6th of August the general was joined, by 600 trom New-Hampshire; but many, both officers and soldiers, were detained on their march by inoculating, contrary t» orders, through fear of being infected with the small-pox in the natural way. While the army was in Canada, regularity was dispensed with, or neglected; and the ruin of affairs there wa* ascribed by some members of congress to the want of regular returns. Who was general, who quarter-master, who pay-master, who commissary, were important secrets, which all their penetration was never able to discover. Gates has sent them a return, the most systematical, they have seen. The utmost exertions are applied in building galleys and gondolas, to continue a naval superiority upon the lake, whereby to prevent Sir Guy Carkton's penetrating into the United States by way of Ty. The post opposite to it, occupied by the army, has been called Mount Independence, since the declaration of independent leached them; for that was received with the usual applause. -t [Sept. 2.] The Massachusette house of representatives have, in an address to congress, requested that they would form a confederation. [Sept. 14.] They have also chosen gen. Lincola to command the militia ordered to New-York. An attempt which is now making, to fix by an act of the general court, the price of various articles, may be well intended by the generality. The characters of many who are for the measure, are too fair to admit the suspicion of a bad intention. But the measure will at length prove ineffectual for the good meant'to be answered by it, and be productive of great evil. The most conscientious and patriotic will be injured, while the crafty and unprincipled make their advantage of it. Prices of provision, and divers cither articles, like water, will find their own level; and be high, or low, according to the quantity of stock in hand, and the demand that there is for them. But warm theorists will not be easily convinced by any other arguments than those which re,-, &ult from experiments.
Roxbury, Dee. 20, 1776.
THE American army having providentially escaped from Long-Island, gen. Sullivan was immediately sent upon parole, with a verbal message from lord Howe to the congress; importing, that though he could not at present treat with them in that character, yet he was very desirous of'having a conference with some of the members, whom he would consider as private gentlemen. He informed them that he, with the general, had full powers to compromise the dispute between Great-Britain and America, upon terms advantageous to both—that he wished a compact might be settled at a time, when no decisive blow was struck, and neither party could say that it was compelled to enter into such agreement—that, were they disposed to treat, many things which they had not yet asked, might and ought to •be granted—and that, if upon the conference, they found any ■probable ground of an accommodation, the authority of congress would be afterward acknowledged to render the treaty complete." The general arrived at congress with this message on the 2d of September; and was desired to reduce it to writing. They received a letter at the same time from gen. Washington, acquainting them with the removal of the army from Long-Island. On the 5th, gen. Sullivan was requested to inform lord Howe, "that congress being the representatives of the free and independent states of America, they cannot with propriety send any of their members to confer with his lordship in their private characters, but that ever desirous of establishing peace on reasonable terms, they will send a committee of their body to know whether he has any authority to treat with persons authorised by congress for that purpose in behalf of America, and what that authority is, and to hear such propositions as he shalL think fit to make respecting the same. The next day they elected by ballot, for their committee, Messrs. Franklin, John Adams, and Edward Rutledge. Eight days after, the committee met lord Howe, upon Statcn-Island, opposite to Amboy, where his lordship received and entertained them with the utmost politeness; the committee in their report, summed up the account of the conference, by mentioning that it did not appear to them, that his lordship's commission contained any other authority of importance than was contained in the act of parliament; for that as to the power of enquiring into the state ot America, which his lordship mentioned
tioned to them, and of conferring and consulting with any persons the commissioners might think proper, and representing the result to the ministry, they apprehended any expectation from: the effect of such power would have been too precarious for America to have relied upon, had she still continued in her state of dependence. Thus the hopes of negociation by the commissioners ended. The friends to independency rejoiced that it was brought to so happy a conclusion. They almost trembled lest it should prove insnaring and something should take place under it, which, in the present distressed circumstance of their military affairs, might demolish the fabric they were erecting. It served to gain time for recovering from the shock occasioned by the losses sustained on Long-Island. If it delayed the operations of gen. Howe, it answered another valuable purpose; and it is hard otherwise to account for his delay. The committee managed with great dexterity; and maintained the dignity of congress. Their sentiments and language became their character. His lordship was explicitly and authoritively assured, that neither the committee, nor the congress which sent them, had authority. to treat in any other capacity than as independent states. Hist lordship had “no instructions on that subject.” The Americans must therefore fight it out, and trust in God for success... ." General Washington's situation, after evacuating Long-Island, was truly distressing. The check which the detachment had sustained, dispirited too great a proportion of the troops, and filled their minds with apprehension and dispair. The militia were dismayed, intractable and impatient to return. Great numbers went off, by companies at a time, by half regiments, and in some instances, almost by whole ones. The flying camp was too literally such. Whole battalions of them ran off from Powle's (the mode of spelling Pauls two hundred years back”) Hook and the height of Bergen, upon the firing of a broadside from a man of war, when no one was hurt by it. An entire disregard of that order and subordination necessary to the well-being of an army, made his condition still more alarming ; and occasioned a want of confidence in the generality of the troops. The number of men fit for duty, taken in the main body and all the out posts, was for some days under 20,000; but the militia, too contemptible to merit the name of soldiers, with the new levies, alike despicable, composed more than a third of the army. The militia did inexpressible damage, by telling the other troops—“all is gone—the regulars must overcome.”
* See queen Elizabeth's bible, printed 1572, for Jugg, in Powle's Church
By such language the men became more and more disheartened. What is said of the militia is not peculiar to those from any one state : as to their intractableness, and disregard of order and subordination, it is common to all militia, and must be generally expected; for men who have been free, and never subject to restraint or any kind of controul, cannot, in a day, be taught the necessity, or be taught to see the expediency of strict discipline. Within nine days after the evacuation, the number of the sick, by the returns, formed one quarter of the whole army.
Such were circumstances, that they demanded the greatest harmony possible among the troops ; whereas no small animosity prevaied between those of the nothern and southern states, oc~ casioned by general and illiberal reflections freely dealt out at head quarters. It was not countenanced by the commander in' chief; but the adjudant general assiduously endevoured to make and promote it; so that his excellency, in order to remedy it in seme measure, appointed David Henley, esq. deputy adjutant general. The day this appointment was announced to the army in, general orders, the 6th of September, a letter was written to a member of congress, which says, "The infamous desertions, the shameless ravages, seditious speeches and mutinous behaviour which prevail in your army, call in the loudest language for a reform- The militia here are only an armed rabble, and all the troops are without discipline. If the congress does not raise an army for three years or duiing the contest, all the best officers will quit it. Had we been wise to engage the men, at first, during the war, we should now have had an army to have met British troops on an equal footing. As to having recourse to a militia, it is a most wretched subterfuge, experience has demonstrated they will not stand fire. Fhey will not fight from home. Men must learn to fight as they learn any thing else. We have an exceeding good commander in chief, who is not wanting in intrepidity, nor the truest patriotism. I wish him more able counsellors and spirited assistants. Be assured, Sir, that our men have in a great measure, lost that virtue which first engaged them to tight, and are sinking into an army of mercenaries."
.One lieutenant colonel Zeidwitz was tried for writing a letter to the late governor Tryon, wherein he declared his attachment to the royal cause, and promised his service upon certain conditions: he was sentenced to be cashiered, and rendered incapable of any future military command. This strange sentence was owing to a militia brigadier general, and others of a similar judgment* who being members of the court, said "it was only an attempt to correspond ; " and so the fellow escaped.