Slike strani
PDF
ePub

85

to return and resume the command. In a letter written to the minister, Lord Dartmouth, the day before sailing, he urged the arrival, early in the spring, of reinforcements which had been ordered, anticipating great hazard at the opening of the campaign. In the mean time he trusted that two thousand troops, shortly expected from Ireland, would enable him "to distress the rebels by incursions along the coast," and " he hoped Portsmouth in New Hampshire would feel the weight of His Majesty's arms." "Poor Gage," writes Horace Walpole, "is to be the scape-goat for what was a reason against employing himincapacity." He never returned to America.

On the 15th of October a committee from Congress arrived in camp, sent to hold a conference with Washington, and with delegates from the governments of Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, on the subject of a new organization of the army. The committee consisted of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Lynch of Carolina, and Colonel Harrison of Virginia. It was just twenty years since Washington had met Franklin in Braddock's camp, aiding that unwary general by his sagacious counsels and prompt expedients. Franklin was regarded with especial deference in the camp at Cambridge. Greene, who had never met with him before, listened to him as to an oracle.

BOARD OF CONFERENCE.

Washington was president of the board of conference, and Mr. Joseph Reed secretary. The committee brought an intimation from Congress that an attack upon Boston was much desired, if practicable.

Washington called a council of war of his generals on the subject; they were unanimously of the opinion that an attack would not be prudent at present.

Another question now arose. An attack upon the British forces in Boston, whenever it should take place, might require a bombardment; Washington inquired of the delegates how far it might be pushed to the destruction of houses and property. They considered it a question of too much importance to be decided by them, and said it must be referred to Congress. But though they declined taking upon themselves the responsibility, the majority of them were strongly in favor of it; and expressed themselves so, when the matter was discussed informally in camp. Two of the committee, Lynch and Harrison, as well as Judge Wales, delegate from Connecticut, when the possible effects of a bombardment were suggested at a dinner table, declared that they would be willing to see Boston in flames. Lee, who was present, observed that it was impossible to burn it unless they sent in men with bundles of straw to do it. "It could not be done with carcasses and red-hot shot. Isle Royal," he added, "in the river St. Lawrence, had been fired at for a long time in 1760, with a fine train of artillery, hotshot and carcasses, without effect." 1

The board of conference was repeatedly in session, for three or four days. The report of its deliberations rendered by the committee, produced a resolution of Congress, that a new army of

1 Life of Dr. Belknap, p. 96. The doctor was present at the above-cited conversation.

REED RETURNS HOME.

87

twenty-two thousand two hundred and seventytwo men and officers, should be formed, to be recruited as much as possible from the troops actually in service. Unfortunately the term for which they were to be enlisted was to be but for one year. It formed a precedent which became a recurring cause of embarrassment throughout the

war.

Washington's secretary, Mr. Reed, had, after the close of the conference, signified to him his intention to return to Philadelphia, where his private concerns required his presence. His departure was deeply regretted. His fluent pen had been of great assistance to Washington in the dispatch of his multifarious correspondence, and his judicious counsels and cordial sympathies had been still more appreciated by the commanderin-chief, amid the multiplied difficulties of his situation. On the departure of Mr. Reed, his place as secretary was temporarily supplied by Mr. Robert Harrison of Maryland, and subsequently by Colonel Mifflin; neither, however, attained to the affectionate confidence reposed in their predecessor.

We shall have occasion to quote the correspondence kept up between Washington and Reed, during the absence of the latter. The letters of the former are peculiarly interesting, as giving views of what was passing, not merely around him, but in the recesses of his own heart. No greater proof need be given of the rectitude of that heart, than the clearness and fullness with which, in these truthful documents, every thought and feeling is laid open.

CHAPTER VII.

Measures of General Howe. Desecration of Churches. Three Proclamations. Seizure of Tories. - Want of Artillery. Henry Knox, the Artillerist. His Mission to Ticonderoga. Reënlistment of Troops. Lack of Public Spirit. Comments of General Greene.

[ocr errors]

HE measures which General Howe had adopted after taking command in Boston, rejoiced the royalists, seeming to justify their anticipations. He proceeded to strengthen the works on Bunker's Hill and Boston Neck, and to clear away houses and throw up redoubts on eminences within the town. The patriot inhabitants were shocked by the desecration of the Old South Church, which for more than a hundred years had been a favorite place of worship, where some of the most eminent divines had officiated. The pulpit and pews were now removed, the floor was covered with earth, and the sacred edifice was converted into a ridingschool for Burgoyne's light dragoons. To excuse its desecration, it was spoken of scoffingly as a "meeting-house, where sedition had often been preached."

The North Church, another "meeting-house," was entirely demolished and was used for fuel. "Thus," says the chronicler of the day, "thus are

HOWE'S THREE PROCLAMATIONS.

89

our houses devoted to religious worship, profaned and destroyed by the subjects of His Royal Majesty." 1

About the last of October, Howe issued three proclamations. The first forbade all persons to leave Boston without his permission under pain of military execution; the second forbade any one, so permitted, to take with him more than five pounds sterling, under pain of forfeiting all the money found upon his person and being subject to fine and imprisonment; the third called upon the inhabitants to arm themselves for the preservation of order within the town; they to be commanded by officers of his appointment.

Washington had recently been incensed by the conflagration of Falmouth; the conduct of Governor Dunmore who had proclaimed martial law in Virginia, and threatened ruin to the patriots, had added to this provocation; the measures of General Howe seemed of the same harsh character, and he determined to retaliate.

"Would it not be prudent," writes he to Governor Trumbull of Connecticut, "to seize those tories who have been, are, and we know will be active against us? Why should persons who are preying upon the vitals of their country, be suffered to stalk at large, whilst we know they will do us every mischief in their power?'

..

In this spirit he ordered General Sullivan, who was fortifying Portsmouth, "to seize upon such persons as held commissious under the crown, and were acting as open and avowed enemies to their

1 Thacher's Military Journal, p. 50.

« PrejšnjaNaprej »