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the hangman, and hang up the first man he should detect in the fact, without waiting for further proof for trial. Offenders were punished with four hundred, six hundred, and even one thousand lashes. The wife of a private soldier, convicted of receiving stolen goods, was sentenced to one hundred lashes on her bare back, at the cart's tail, in different parts of the town, and an imprisonment of three months.
Meanwhile, Washington was incessantly goaded by the impatient murmurs of the public, as we may judge by his letters to Mr. Reed. "I know the integrity of my own heart," writes he, on the 10th of February; "but to declare it, unless to a friend, may be an argument of vanity. I know the unhappy predicament I stand in; I know that much is expected of me; I know that, without men, without arms, without ammunition, without anything fit for the accommodation of a soldier, little is to be done; and, what is mortifying, I know that I cannot stand justified to the world without exposing my own weakness, and injuring the cause by declaring my wants; which I am determined not to do, further than unavoidable necessity brings every man acquainted with them.
"My own situation is so irksome to me at times that, if I did not consult the public good more than my own tranquillity, I should long ere this have put everything on the cast of a die. So far from my having an army of twenty thousand men, well armed, I have been here with less than one-half of that number, including sick, furloughed and on command; and those neither armed nor clothed as they should be. In short, my situation has been such that I have been obliged to use art to conceal it from my own officers."
How precious are those letters! And how fortunate that VOL. XIII.-***3
the absence of Mr. Reed from camp should have procured for us such confidential outpourings of Washington's heart at this time of its great trial.
He still adhered to his opinion in favor of an attempt upon the town. He was aware that it would be attended with considerable loss, but believed it would be successful if the men should behave well. Within a few days after the. date of this letter the bay became sufficiently frozen for the transportation of troops. "This," writes he to Reed, "I thought, knowing the ice would not last, a favorable opportunity to make an assault upon the troops in town. I proposed it in council; but behold, though we had been waiting all the year for this favorable event, the enterprise was thought too dangerous. Perhaps it was; perhaps the irksomeness of my situation led me to undertake more than could be warranted by prudence. I did not think so, and I am sure yet that the enterprise, if it had been undertaken with resolution, must have succeeded; without it, any would fail." His proposition was too bold for the field-officers assembled in council (Feb. 16th), who objected that there was not force, nor arms and ammunition sufficient in camp for such an attempt. Washington acquiesced in the decision, it being almost unanimous; yet he felt the irksomeness of his situation. "To have the eyes of the whole continent," said he, "fixed with anxious expectation of hearing of some great event, and to be restrained in every military operation for want of the necessary means of carrying it on, is not very pleasing, especially as the means used to conceal my weakness from the enemy conceal it also from our friends and add to their wonder.'
In the council of war above mentioned, a cannonade and bombardment were considered advisable, as soon as there
should be a sufficiency of powder; in the meantime, preparations might be made for taking possession of Dorchester Heights and Noddle's Island.
At length the camp was rejoiced by the arrival of Colonel Knox, with his long train of sledges drawn by oxen, bringing more than fifty cannon, mortars and howitzers, besides supplies of lead and flints. The zeal and perseverance which he had displayed in his wintry expedition across frozen lakes and snowy wastes, and the intelligence with which he had fulfilled his instructions, won him the entire confidence of Washington. His conduct in this enterprise was but an earnest of that energy and ability which he displayed throughout the war.
Further ammunition being received from the royal arsenal at New York and other quarters, and a re-enforcement of ten regiments of militia, Washington no longer met with opposition to his warlike measures. Lechmere Point, which Putnam had fortified, was immediately to be supplied with mortars and heavy cannon, so as to command Boston on the north; and Dorchester Heights, on the south of the town, were forthwith to be taken possession of. "If anything,' said Washington, "will induce the enemy to hazard an engagement, it will be our attempting to fortify those heights, as, in that event taking place, we shall be able to command a great part of the town and almost the whole harbor." Their possession, moreover, would enable him to push his works to Nook's Hill and other points opposite Boston, whence a cannonade and bombardment must drive the enemy from the city.
The council of Massachusetts, at his request, ordered the militia of the towns contiguous to Dorchester and Roxbury to hold themselves in readiness to repair to the lines at those
places with arms, ammunition and accouterments on receiving a preconcerted signal.
Washington felt painfully aware how much depended upon the success of this attempt. There was a cloud of gloom and distrust lowering upon the public mind. Danger threatened on the north and on the south. Montgomery had fallen before the walls of Quebec. The army in Canada was shattered. Tryon and the tories were plotting mischief in New York. Dunmore was harassing the lower part of Virginia, and Clinton and his fleet were prowling along the coast on a secret errand of mischief.
Washington's general orders evince the solemn and anxious state of his feelings. In those of the 26th of February, he forbade all playing at cards and other games of chance. "At this time of public distress," writes he, "men may find enough to do in the service of God and their country without abandoning themselves to vice and immorality. . . . It is a noble cause we are engaged in; it is the cause of virtue and mankind; every advantage and comfort to us and our posterity depend upon the vigor of our exertions; in short, freedom or slavery must be the result of our conduct; there can, therefore, be no greater inducement to men to behave well. But it may not be amiss to the troops to know that if any man in action shall presume to skulk, hide himself, or retreat from the enemy without the orders of his commanding officer, he will be instantly shot down as an example of cowardice; cowards having too frequently disconcerted the best formed troops by their dastardly behavior."
In the general plan it was concerted that, should the enemy detach a large force to dislodge our men from Dorchester Heights, as had been done in the affair of Bunker's Hill, an attack upon the opposite side of the town should
forthwith be made by General Putnam. For this purpose he was to have four thousand picked men in readiness, in two divisions, under Generals Sullivan and Greene. At a concerted signal from Roxbury they were to embark in boats near the mouth of Charles River, cross under cover of the fire of three floating batteries, land in two places in Boston, secure its strong posts, force the gates and works at the Neck, and let in the Roxbury troops.
The Affair of Dorchester Heights-American and English Letters respecting it-A Laborious Night-Revelations at DaybreakHowe in a Perplexity-A Night Attack meditated-Stormy Weather-The Town to be evacuated-Negotiations and Arrangements-Preparations to Embark-Excesses of the Troops -Boston evacuated-Speech of the Duke of Manchester on the Subject A Medal voted by Congress
THE evening of Monday, the 4th of March, was fixed upon for the occupation of Dorchester Heights. The ground was frozen too hard to be easily intrenched; fascines, therefore, and gabions and bundles of screwed hay were collected during the two preceding nights with which to form breastworks and redoubts. During these two busy nights the enemy's batteries were cannonaded and bombarded from opposite points, to occupy their attention and prevent their noticing these preparations. They replied with spirit, and the incessant roar of artillery thus kept up covered completely the rumbling of wagons and ordnance.
How little the enemy were aware of what was impending we may gather from the following extract of a letter from an officer of distinction in the British army in Boston to his friend in London, dated on the 3d of March: