Abbildungen der Seite

together men and supplies, and the spur which an at-1781.
tempt against that place would give to every exertion,
were among the reasons which prompted to the under-
taking, and promised success, unless the enemy should
call a considerable part of their force from the southward.
The French troops were to march toward the North
river as soon as circumstances would permit, leaving
about 200 men at Providence with the heavy stores and
baggage, and


Rhode Idand to secure the works. On the 24th, letters were addressed to the 24 executive powers of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Conr:ecticut and Jersey, requiring among other things, militia to the amount of 6200. Washington enforced the requisition with “ Our allies in this country expect and depend upon being supported by us, in the attempt we are about to make ; and those in Europe will be aftonished, should we neglect the favorable opportunity which is now offered.” The general returned to his head quarters on the 26th. The next day he forwarded this information to the proper persons—« On the calculations I have been able to form, in concert with some of the most experienced French and American officers, the operation in view will require, in addition to the French army, all the continental battalions from New Hampshire to New Jersey to be completed.” He added afterward_" As we cannot count upon the battalions being full, and as a body of militia will moreover be necessary, I have called upon the several states to hold certain numbers in readiness to move within a week of the time I may require them.”

The British 'adjutant general employed one lieut. James Moody, in attempting to intercept Washington's

1987. dispatches. He succeeded repeatedly, though his ef

capes were narrow. He was urged to renew the service after the interview between Washington and Rochambeau had taken place; accordingly, way-laying the mail fome days in the Jerseys, the opportunity offered for his taking and conveying to New York that very bag which contained the letters that were the object of the enterprise.

Preparations were now making for the American arJune 25. my's taking the field; and on the 21st of June they

Inarched for the camp at Peeks-kill. On the ist of July, Washington mentioned in a letter-“ From the 12th of May to this day, we have received only 312 head of cattle, from New Hampshire 30, Massachusetts 230, and Connecticut 52. Unless more strenuous exertions are made to feed the few troops in the field, we must not only relinquish our intended operation, but shall difband for want of subsistence; or which is almost equally to be lamented, the troops will be obliged to seek it for themselves where it can be found.” The next morning about three o'clock, the army marched toward New York with no baggage, but a blanket and clean shirt cach man, and four days provisions cooked. Gen. Lincoln having taken post with four battalions of infantry, and a small detachment of the guards, at no great diftance from fort Independence, was attacked on the 3d by about 1500 royal troops. The body of the American army, which was at hand, marched to support him. Lincoln designed to draw the enemy to a distance from their strong post at Kingsbridge and its dependencies, and thereby to have given Washington and the duke de Lauzun, with the French legion, and Sheldon's dragoons,


the opportunity of turning their Aanks. But it being 1781. apparent that Washington determined to fight at all events, the enemy declined sending out reinforcements, and soon retired within Kingsbridge. The next day the army marched toward White Plains; and on the 6th July the van of the French troops under Rochambeau appeared on the heights about eight o'clock, on the left of the Americans. On the 8th the French encamped near in a line with the Americans, with their left extending toward the Sound. Their whole force consists of more than those who went from Newport; for about the 8th of June, there arrived at Boston, a French 50 gun ship, 3 frigates, and 14 transports, with 1500 men. These marched the 14th of the same month to join their countrymen under Rochambeau. The British having gained the proper intelligence planned an expedition, which would have been very prejudicial to the Americans had it succeeded. The nature and importance of it may be learned from the general orders of July the 17th. “The commander in chief is exceedingly pleased with major gen. Howe, for marching with so much alacrity and rapidity to the defence of the stores at Tarry-town, and repulsing the enemy's shipping from thence. The gatlant behaviour and spirited exertions of col. Sheldon, capt. Hurlblut of the ad regiment of dragoons, capt. lieut. Miles of the artillery, and lieut. Shaylor of the 4th Connecticut regiment, previous to the arrival of the troops, in extinguishing the flames of the vessels which had been set on fire by the enemy, and rescuing the whole of the ordnance and stores from destruction, has the applause of the general.” On the 21st, the general in a letter to the French admiral thus expressed himself


17818" I hope there will be no occasion for a movement to

the southward, for want of force to act against New York, as I Aatter myself the glory of destroying the British squadron at New York is reserved for the king's fleet under your command, and that of the land force at the same place for the allied arms.” At eight o'clock in the evening of the fame day, the American army (exclufive of 20 men to a regiment) and part of the French, marched from their encampments, and continued it with great rapidity and scarce any halt through the night. At four the next morning, they were drawn up in order of battle, while Washington, Rochambeau, all the general officers and engineers reconnoitred the different positions of the enemy's works from right to left. The next morning was also spent in reconnoitring. At four in the afternoon, the troops prepared to march and return to the camp. They arrived at their old ground by halt after twelve.

The states were all this while very dilatory in sending the number of troops required: they were equally culpable as to the quality of those they did fend, which

occasioned a Massachusetts officer to write from camp as July follows on the 26th." A private character, who should

use fraud to get rid of his engagements, would be confidered as a scoundrel; while a collective body do not blush at transactions for which an individual would be kicked out of society. Had the different states honestly complied with the requisitions of congress, we should at this period have had an army in the field equal to any exigence of service. How contrary has been their conduct ! Of the recruits which have come in, to say nozhing of their deficiency in point of number, few of



them will be able, before the expiration of their inlift- 1781. ments, to perform the duties of a soldier. When I have seen boys of a yard and a half long paraded for muster, absolutely incapable of fustaining the weight of a soldier's accoutrements, and have been told that these shadows have been sent as part of the states quota, I have cursed the duplicity of my countrymen, and pronounced them unworthy the blessings of freedom. The army at large considered this conduct of their respective ftates as a vile imposition; and we began to send back the unqualified recruits ; but fo proportionably great was their number, that we were obliged to retain many, who, though they are not at present, yet may in a campaign or two be in some degree serviceable. This is no exaggerated picture. It might, by a deeper colouring, be made a more striking likeness.”

The continental army, by taking a position near New York and its several movements, confirmed Sir H. Clinton in the belief of that intelligence he had procured by the interception of Washington's letters, and led him to withdraw a considerable part of the troops under the command of Cornwallis, as a reinforcement to his own garrifon. This led Washington to observe on the 30th—" From the change of circumstances with which this withdraw will be attended, we shall probably entirely change our plan of operations. I conclude the enemy's capital post will be at Portsmouth.” By great exertions and powerful aids from the Massachusetts and Rhode Isand, the heavy artillery, stores, &c. were brought to the North river in a manner beyond his expectation ; as he himself acknowledged on the 2d of August; but on the fame day he complained "I am not stronger

[ocr errors]




« ZurückWeiter »