« PrejšnjaNaprej »
MILITARY REFORMS PROPOSED.
their separate capacities, the business of supporting the army. This produced a great inequality in the condition of the troops ; according to the means and the degree of liberality of their respective States. Some States furnished their troops amply, not only with clothing, but with many comforts and conveniencies; others were more contracted in their supplies; while others left their troops almost destitute. Some of the States, too, undertook to make good to their troops the loss in their pay caused by the depreciation of the currency. As this was not general, it increased the inequality of condition. Those who fared worse than others were incensed, not only against their own State, but against the confederacy. They were disgusted with a service that made such injurious distinctions. Some of the officers resigned, finding it impossible, under actual circumstances, to maintain an appearance suitable to their rank. The men had not this resource. They murmured and showed a tendency to seditious combinations.
These, and other defects in the military system, were pressed by Washington upon the attention of Congress in a letter to the President: “It were devoutly to be wished,” observed he, “that a plan could be devised by which every thing relating to the army could be conducted on a general principle, under the direction of Congress. This alone can give harmony and consistency to our military establishment, and I am persuaded it will be infinitely conducive to public
* Washington's Writings, Sparks, vol. vii. p. io
In consequence of this letter it was proposed in Congress to send a committee of three of its members to head-quarters to consult with the commander-in-chief, and, in conjunction with him, to effect such reforms and changes in the various departments of the army as might be deemed necessary. Warm debates ensued. It was objected that this would put too much power into a few hands, and especially into those of the commander-in-chief; “ that his influence was already too great ; that even his virtues afforded motives for alarm; that the enthusiasm of the army, joined to the kind of dictatorship already confided to him, put Congress and the United States at his mercy ; that it was not expedient to expose a man of the highest virtues to such temptations."
The foregoing passage from a despatch of the French minister to his government, is strongly illustrative of the cautious jealousy still existing in Congress with regard to military power, even though wielded by Washington.
After a prolonged debate, a committee of three was chosen by ballot; it consisted of General Schuyler and Messrs. John Mathews, and Nathaniel Peabody. It was a great satisfaction to Washington to have his old friend and coadjutor, Schuyler, near him in this capacity, in which, he declared, no man could be more useful, “from his perfect knowledge of the resources of the country, the activity of his temper, his fruitfulness of expedients and his sound military sense.”+
The committee on arriving at the camp found the
* Washington's Writings, Sparks, vol. vii. p. 15. † Washington to James Duane, Sparks, vii. 34.
ARRIVAL OP LAFAYETTE.
disastrous state of affairs had not been exaggerated. For five months the army had been unpaid. Every department was destitute of money or credit; there were rarely provisions for six days in advance; on some occasions the troops had been for several successive days without meat; there was no forage; the medical department had neither tea, chocolate, wine, nor spirituous liquors of any kind.
“ Yet the men, said Washington, “ have borne their distress in general, with a firmness and patience never exceeded, and every commendation is due to the officers for encouraging them to it by exhortation and example. They have suffered equally with the men, and, their relative situations considered, rather more.” Indeed, we have
' it from another authority, that many officers for some time lived on bread and cheese, rather than take any of the scanty allowance of meat from the men.*
To soothe the discontents of the army, and counteract the alarming effects of the depreciation of the currency, Congress now adopted the measure already observed by some of the States, and engaged to make good to the Continental and the independent troops the difference in the value of their pay caused by this depreciation; and that all moneys or other articles heretofore received by them, should be considered as advanced on account, and comprehended at their just value in the final settlement.
At this gloomy crisis came a letter from the Marquis de Lafayette, dated April 27th, announcing his arrival at Boston. Washington's eyes, we are told,
* Gen. William Irvine to Joseph Reed. Reed's Memoirs, vol. i. p. 201.
were suffused with tears as he read this most welcome epistle, and the warmth with which he replied to it, showed his affectionate regard for this young nobleman. “I received your letter," writes he, “ with all the joy that the sincerest friendship could dictate, and with that impatience which an ardent desire to see you could not fail to inspire.
* I most sincerely congratulate you on your safe arrival in America, and shall embrace you with all the warmth of an affectionate friend when you come to head-quarters, where a bed is prepared for you."
He would immediately have sent a troop of horse to escort the marquis through the tory settlements between Morristown and the Hudson, had he known the route he intended to take; the latter, however, arrived safe at head-quarters on the 12th of May, where he was welcomed with acclamations, for he was popular with both officers and soldiers. Washington folded him in his arms in a truly paternal embrace, and they were soon closeted together to talk over the state of affairs, when Lafayette made known the result of his visit to France. His generous efforts at court had been crowned with success, and he brought the animating intelligence, that a French fleet, under the Chevalier de Ternay, was to put to sea early in April, bringing a body of troops under the Count de Rochambeau, and might soon be expected on the coast to co-operate with the American forces; this, however, he was at liberty to make known only to Washington and Congress.
Remaining but a single day at head-quarters, he hastened on to the seat of government, where he met 1780.] REDUCTION OF NEW YORK MEDITATED.
the reception which his generous enthusiasm in the cause of American Independence had so fully merited. Congress, in a resolution on the 16th of May, pronounced his return to America to resume his command a fresh proof of the disinterested zeal and persevering attachment which had secured him the public confidence and applause, and received with pleasure a "tender of the further services of so gallant and meritorious an officer.”
Within three days after the departure of the marquis from Morristown, Washington, in a letter to him, gave his idea of the plan which it would be
for the French fleet and army to pursue on their arrival upon the coast. The reduction of New York he considered the first enterprise to be attempted by the co-operating forces. The whole effective land force of the enemy he estimated at about eight thousand regulars and four thousand refugees, with some militia, on which no great dependence could be placed. Their naval force consisted of one seventy-four gun-ship, and three or four small frigates. In this situation of affairs the French fleet might enter the harbor and gain possession of it without difficulty, cut off its communications, and, with the co-operation of the American army, oblige the city to capitulate. He advised Lafayette, therefore, to write to the French commanders, urging them, on their arrival on the coast, to proceed with their land and naval forces, with all expedition, to Sandy Hook, and there await further advices ; should they learn, however, that the expedition under Sir Henry Clinton had returned from the South to New York, they were to proceed to Rhode Island.