Slike strani

settlements on the Mohawk. Washington now put Brigadiergeneral James Clinton (the governor's brother) in command of the Northern department.

The state of the army was growing more and more a subject of solicitude to the commander-in-chief. He felt weary of struggling on, with such scanty means, and such vast responsibility. The campaign, which, at its commencement, had seemed pregnant with favorable events, had proved sterile and inactive, and was drawing to a close. The short terms for which most of the troops were enlisted must soon expire, and then the present army would be reduced to a mere shadow. The saddened state

of his mind may be judged from his letters. An ample one addressed to General Sullivan, fully lays open his feelings and his difficulties. "I had hoped," writes he, "but hoped in vain, that a prospect was displaying which would enable me to fix a period to my military pursuits, and restore me to domestic life. The favorable disposition of Spain; the promised succor from France; the combined force in the West Indies; the declaration of Russia (acceded to by other governments of Europe), and humiliating to the naval pride and power of Great Britain); the superiority of France and Spain by sea in Europe; the Irish claims and English disturbances, formed, in the aggregate, an opinion in my breast, which is not very susceptible of peaceful dreams, that the hour of deliverance was not far distant; since, however unwilling Great Britain might be to yield the point, it would not be in her power to continue the contest. But, alas! these prospects, flattering as they were, have proved delusory, and I see nothing before us but accumulating distress.

"We have been half of our time without provisions, and are likely to continue so. We have no magazines, nor money to form




them; and in a little time we shall have no men, if we have no money to pay them. In a word, the history of the war is a history of false hopes and temporary devices, instead of system and economy. It is in vain, however, to look back, nor is it our business to do so. Our case is not desperate, if virtue exists in the people, and there is wisdom among our rulers. But to suppose that this great Revolution can be accomplished by a temporary army, that this army will be subsisted by State supplies, and that taxation alone is adequate to our wants, is in my opinion absurd, and as unreasonable as to expect an inversion in the order of nature to accommodate itself to our views. If it was necessary, it could be proved to any person of a moderate understanding, that an annual army, raised on the spur of the occasion, besides being unqualified for the end designed, is, in various ways which could be enumerated, ten times more expensive than a permanent body of men under good organization and military discipline, which never was nor ever will be the case with new troops. A thousand arguments resulting from experience and the nature of things, might also be adduced to prove that the army, if it is dependent upon State supplies, must disband or starve, and that taxation alone, especially at this late hour, cannot furnish the means to carry on the war."*

We will here add, that the repeated and elaborate reasonings of Washington, backed by dear-bought experience, slowly brought Congress to adopt a system suggested by him for the organization and support of the army, according to which, troops were to be enlisted to serve throughout the war, and all officers who continued in service until the return of peace were to receive half pay during life.

*Writings of Washington, vii., 228.



THE Marquis Lafayette at this time commanded the advance guard of Washington's army, composed of six battalions of light infantry. They were better clad than the other soldiery; in trim uniforms, leathern helmets, with crests of horse-hair. The officers were armed with spontoons, the non-commissioned officers with fusees; both with short sabres which the marquis had brought from France, and presented to them. He was proud of his troops, and had a young man's ardor for active service. The inactivity which had prevailed for some time past was intolerable to him. To satisfy his impatient longings, Washington had permitted him in the beginning of October to attempt a descent at night on Staten Island, to surprise two Hessian encampments. It had fallen through for want of boats, and other requisites, but he saw enough, he said, to convince him that the Americans were altogether fitted for such enterprises.*

* Memoires de Lafayette, T. 1. p. 337.




The marquis saw with repining the campaign drawing to a close, and nothing done that would rouse the people in America, and be spoken of at the Court of Versailles. He was urgent with Washington that the campaign should be terminated by some brilliant stroke. "Any enterprise," writes he, "will please the people of this country, and show them that we do not mean to remain idle when we have men; even a defeat, provided it were not disastrous, would have its good effect."

Complaints, he hinted, had been made in France of the prevailing inactivity. "If any thing could decide the ministry to yield us the succor demanded," writes he, "it would be our giving the nation a proof that we are ready."

The brilliant stroke, suggested with some detail by the marquis, was a general attack upon Fort Washington, and the other posts at the north end of the island of New York, and, under certain circumstaces, which he specified, make a push for the city. Washington regarded the project of his young and ardent friend with a more sober and cautious eye. "It is impossible, my dear marquis," replies he, "to desire more ardently than I do to terminate the campaign by some happy stroke; but we must consult our means rather than our wishes, and not endeavor to better our affairs by attempting things, which for want of success may make them worse. We are to lament that there has been a misapprehension of our circumstances in Europe; but to endeavor to recover our reputation, we should take care that we do not injure it more. Ever since it became evident that the allied arms could not co-operate this campaign, I have had an eye to the point you mention, determined, if a favorable opening should offer, to embrace it: but, so far information goes, the enterprise would not be warranted. It would, in my opinion, be im

as my

prudent to throw an army of ten thousand men upon an island, against nine thousand, exclusive of seamen and militia. This, from the accounts we have, appears to be the enemy's. force. All we can do at present, therefore, is to endeavor to gain a more certain knowledge of their situation, and act accordingly."

The British posts in question were accordingly reconnoitred from the opposite banks of the Hudson, by Colonel Gouvion, an able French engineer. Preparations were made to carry the scheme into effect, should it be determined upon, in which case Lafayette was to lead the attack at the head of his light troops, and be supported by Washington with his main force; while a strong foraging party sent by General Heath from West Point to White Plains in Westchester county, to draw the attention of the enemy in that direction, and mask the real design, was, on preconcerted signals, to advance rapidly to King's Bridge, and cooperate.

Washington's own officers were kept in ignorance of the ultimate object of the preparatory movements. "Never," writes his aide-de-camp, Colonel Humphreys, "never was a plan better arranged, and never did circumstances promise more sure or complete success. The British were not only unalarmed, but our own troops were misguided in their operations." As the plan was not carried into effect, we have forborne to give many of its details.

At this juncture, the Marquis de Chastellux arrived in camp. He was on a tour of curiosity, while the French troops at Rhode Island were in winter-quarters, and came on the invitation of his relative, the Marquis Lafayette, who was to present him to Washington. In after years he published an account of his tour, in which we have graphic sketches of the camp and the command

« PrejšnjaNaprej »