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French at Newport had been strengthened by the militia from the neighboring country. These tidings disconcerted his plans. He left Admiral Arbuthnot to proceed with his squadron to Newport, blockade the French fleet, and endeavor to intercept the second division, supposed to be on its way, while he with his troops hastened back to New York.
In consequence of their return Washington again withdrew his forces to the west side of the Hudson; first establishing a post and thowing up small works at Dobbs' Ferry, about ten miles above King's Bridge, to secure a communication across the river for the transportation of troops and ordnance, should the design upon New York be prosecuted.
Arnold now received the important command which he had so earnestly coveted. It included the fortress at West Point and the posts from Fishkill to Kings Ferry, together with the corps of infantry and cavalry advanced towards the enemy's line on the east side of the river. He was ordered to have the works at the Point completed as expeditiously as possible, and to keep all his posts on their guard against surprise; there being constant apprehensions that the enemy might make a sudden effort to gain possession of the river.
Having made these arrangements, Washington recrossed to the west side of the Hudson, and took post at Orangetown or Tappan, on the borders of the Jerseys, and opposite to Dobbs' Ferry, to be at hand for any attempt upon New York.
The execution of this cherished design, however,
AN EMBARRASSING DERANGEMENT.
was again postponed by intelligence that the second division of the French reinforcements was blockaded in the harbor of Brest by the British: Washington still had hopes that it might be carried into effect by the aid of the squadron of the Count de Guichen from the West Indies; or of a fleet from Cadiz.
At this critical juncture, an embarrassing derangement took place in the quartermaster-general's department, of which General Greene was the head. The reorganization of this department had long been in agitation. A system had been digested by Washington, Schuyler, and Greene, adapted, as they thought, to the actual situation of the country. Greene had offered, should it be adopted, to continue in the discharge of the duties of the department, without any extra emolument other than would cover the expenses of his family. Congress devised a different scheme. He considered it incapable of execution, and likely to be attended with calamitous and disgraceful results; he therefore tendered his resignation. Washington endeavored to prevent its being accepted. Unless effectual measures are taken,” said he, “to induce General Greene and the other principal officers of that department to continue their services, there must of necessity be a total stagnation of military business. We not only must cease from the preparations for the campaign, but in all probability, shall be obliged to disperse, if not disband the army, for want of subsistence."
The tone and manner, however, assumed by General Greene in offering his resignation, and
the time chosen, when the campaign was opened, the enemy in the field, and the French commanders waiting for coöperation, were deeply offensive to Congress. His resignation was promptly accepted there was a talk even of suspending him from his command in the line.
Washington interposed his sagacious and considerate counsels to allay this irritation, and prevent the infliction of such an indignity upon an officer for whom he entertained the highest esteem and friendship. "A procedure of this kind, without a proper trial," said he, "must touch the feelings of every officer. It will show in a conspicuous point of view the uncertain tenure by which they hold their commissions. In a word, it will exhibit such a specimen of power, that I question much if there is an officer in the whole line that will hold a commission beyond the end of the campaign, if he does till then. Such an act in the most despotic goverment would be attended at least with loud complaints."
The counsels of Washington prevailed; the indignity was not inflicted, and Congress was saved from the error, if not disgrace, of discarding from her service one of the ablest and most meritorious of her generals.
Colonel Pickering was appointed to succeed Greene as quartermaster-general, but the latter continued for some time, at the request of Washington, to aid in conducting the business of the department. Colonel Pickering acquitted himself in his new office with zeal, talents, and integrity, but there were radical defects in the system which defied all ability and exertion.
DESTITUTION OF THE ARMY.
The commissariat was equally in a state of derangement. "At this very juncture," writes Washington (August, 20th), "I am reduced to the painful alternative, either of dismissing a part of the militia now assembling, or of letting them come forward to starve; which it will be extremely difficult for the troops already in the field to avoid. . Every day's experience proves more and more that the present mode of supplies is the most uncertain, expensive, and injurious that could be devised. It is impossible for us to form any calculations of what we are to expect, and, consequently, to concert any plans for future execution. No adequate provision of forage having been made, we are now obliged to subsist the horses of the army by force, which, among other evils, often gives rise to civil disputes, and prosecutions, as vexatious as they are burdensome to the public." In his emergencies he was forced to empty the magazines at West Point; yet these afforded but temporary relief; scarcity continued to prevail to a distressing degree, and on the 6th of September, he complains that the army has for two or three days been entirely destitute of meat. "Such injury to the discipline of the army," adds he, "and such distress to the inhabitants, result from these frequent events, that my feelings are hurt beyond description at the cries of the one and at seeing the other."
The anxiety of Washington at this moment of embarrassment was heightened by the receipt of disastrous intelligence from the south; the purport of which we shall succinctly relate in another chapter.
North Carolina. - Difficulties of its Invasion. - Character of
the People and Country. Sumter, his Character and Story. Rocky Mount. - Hanging Rock. Slow Advance of De Kalb. - Gates takes Command. — Desolate March. - Battle of Camden.- Flight of Gates. Sumter surprised by Tarleton at the Waxhaws. - Washington's Opinion of Militia. His Letter to Gates.
ORD CORNWALLIS, when left in military command at the South by Sir Henry Clinton, was charged, it will be recollected, with the invasion of North Carolina. It was an enterprise in which much difficulty was to be apprehended, both from the character of the people and the country. The original settlers were from various parts, most of them men who had experienced political or religious oppression, and had brought with them a quick sensibility to wrong, a stern appreciation of their rights, and an indomitable spirit of freedom and independence. In the heart of the State was a hardy Presbyterian stock, the Scotch Irish, as they were called, having emigrated from Scotland to Ireland, and thence to America; and who were said to possess the impulsiveness of the Irishman, with the dogged resolution of the Covenanter.
The early history of the colony abounds with instances of this spirit among its people. "They