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were obliged by Lee to take a test oath of his own devising, by which they "religiously swore that they would neither directly, nor indirectly, assist the wicked instruments of ministerial tyranny and villainy commonly called the king's troops and navy, by furnishing them with provisions and refreshments." They swore, moreover, to "denounce all traitors before the public authority, and to take arms in defense of American liberty, whenever required by Congress or the provincial authority." Two custom-house officers, and another person, who refused to take the oath, were put under guard and sent to Providence. Having laid out works, and given directions for fortifications, Lee returned to camp after an absence of ten days. Some of his proceedings were considered too high-handed, and were disapproved by Congress. Lee made light of legislative censures. "One must not be trammeled by laws in war-time," said he; “in a revolution all means are legal."
Washington approved of his measures. "I have seen General Lee since his expedition," writes he, "and hope Rhode Island will derive some advantage from it. I am told that Captain Wallace's ships have been supplied for some time by the town of Newport, on certain conditions stipulated between him and the committee. know not what pernicious consequences may result from a precedent of this sort. Other places, circumstanced as Newport is, may follow the example, and by that means their whole fleet and army will be furnished with what it
ous regulations, and such as at another time would appear extraordinary, are now become absolutely necessary for preserving our country against the strides of tyranny, making against it.” *
December had been throughout a month of severe trial to Washington; during which he saw his army dropping away piecemeal before his eyes. Homeward every face was turned as soon as the term of enlistment was at an end. Scarce could the disbanding troops be kept a few days in camp until militia could be procured to supply their place. Washington made repeated and animated appeals to their patriotism; they were almost unheeded. He caused popular and patriotic songs to be sung about the camp. They passed by like the idle wind. Home! home! home! throbbed in every heart. "The desire of retiring into a chimney-corner," says Washington reproachfully, "seized the troops as soon as their terms expired."
Can we wonder at it? They were for the most part yeomanry, unused to military restraint, and suffering all the hardships of a starveling camp, almost within sight of the smoke of their own firesides.
Greene, throughout this trying month, was continually by Washington's side. His letters expressing the same cares and apprehensions, and occasionally in the same language with those of the commander-in-chief, show
* Washington to Gov. Cooke. Sparks, iii. 227.
how completely he was in his councils. He could well sympathize with him in his solicitudes. Some of his own Rhode Island troops were with Arnold in his Canada expedition. Others encamped on Prospect Hill, and whose order and discipline had been his pride, were evincing the prevalent disposition to disband. "They seem to be so sick of this way of life, and so homesick," writes he, "that I fear the greater part of the best troops from our colony will soon go home." To provide against such a contingency, he strengthened his encampment, so that, "if the soldiery should not engage as cheerfully as he expected, he might defend it with a less number." *
Still he was buoyant and cheerful; frequently on his white horse about Prospect Hill, haranguing his men, and endeavoring to keep them in good humor. "This is no time for disgusting the soldiery," would he say, “when their aid is so essential to the preservation of the rights of human nature and the liberties of America."
He wore the same cheery aspect to the commander-inchief; or rather he partook of his own hopeful spirit. "I expect," would he say, "the army, notwithstanding all the difficulties we meet with, will be full in about six weeks."
It was this loyalty in time of trouble, this buoyancy under depression, this thorough patriotism, which won for him the entire confidence of Washington.
The thirty-first of December arrived, the crisis of the
* Greene to Henry Ward.
GLOOMY OPENING OF THE NEW YEAR. 173
army; for with that month expired the last of the old terms of enlistment. "We never have been so weak,
writes Greene, "as we shall be to-morrow, when we dismiss the old troops." On this day Washington received cheering intelligence from Canada. A junction had taken place, a month previously, between Arnold and Montgomery at Point aux Trembles. They were about two thousand strong, and were making every preparation for attacking Quebec. Carleton was said to have with him but about twelve hundred men, the majority of whom were sailors. It was thought that the French would give up Quebec, if they could get the same conditions that were granted to the inhabitants of Montreal.*
Thus the year closed upon Washington with a ray of light from Canada, while all was doubt around him.
On the following morning (January 1st, 1776), his army did not amount to ten thousand men, and was composed of but half-filled regiments. Even in raising this inadequate force, it had been necessary to indulge many of the men with furloughs, that they might visit their families and friends. The expedients resorted to in equipping the army, show the prevailing lack of arms. Those soldiers who retired from service, were obliged to leave their weapons for their successors, receiving their appraised value. Those who enlisted, were required to bring a gun, or were charged a dollar for the use of one
* Letter of Washington to the President of Congress, Dec. 31.
during the campaign. He who brought a blanket was allowed two dollars. It was impossible to furnish uniforms; the troops, therefore, presented a motley appearance, in garments of divers cuts and colors; the price of each man's garb being deducted from his pay.
The detachments of militia from the neighboring provinces which replaced the disbanding troops, remained but for brief periods; so that, in despite of every effort, the lines were often but feebly manned, and might easily have been forced.
The anxiety of Washington, in this critical state of the army, may be judged from his correspondence with Reed. "It is easier to conceive than to describe the situation of my mind for some time past, and my feelings under our present circumstances," writes he on the 4th of January. "Search the volumes of history through, and I much question whether a case similar to ours is to be found, namely, to maintain a post against the power of the British troops for six months together, without powder, and then to have one army disbanded and another raised within the same distance (musket shot) of a reinforced enemy. What may be the issue of the last manoeuvre, time only can unfold. I wish this month were well over our head. We are now left with a good deal less than half-raised regiments, and about five thousand militia, who only stand engaged to the middle of this month; when, according to custom, they will depart, let the necessity of their stay be ever so urgent. Thus, for more