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146 A FEDERAL UNION FORMED-QUESTION AS TO COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF.
John's, and garrison it with one hundred of his | a limited time. Such colonies as had not sent Green Mountain Boys. He was foiled in the delegates to Congress, might yet become memattempt by the superior force which had ar- bers of the confederacy by agreeing to its conrived; so he returned to his station at Ticon-ditions. Georgia, which had hitherto hesideroga. tated, soon joined the league, which thus ex
Thus a partisan band, unpractised in the art | tended from Nova Scotia to Florida. of war, had, by a series of daring exploits, and almost without the loss of a man, won for the patriots the command of Lakes George and Champlain, and thrown open the great highway to Canada.
THE second General Congress assembled at Philadelphia on the 10th of May. Peyton Randolph was again elected as president; but being obliged to return, and occupy his place as speaker of the Virginia Assembly, John Hancock, of Massachusetts, was elevated to the chair.
A lingering feeling of attachment to the mother country, struggling with the growing spirit of self-government, was manifested in the proceedings of this remarkable body. Many of those most active in vindicating colonial rights, and Washington among the number, still indulged the hope of an eventual reconciliation, while few entertained, or, at least, avowed the idea of complete independence.
A second "humble and dutiful" petition to the king was moved, but met with strong opposition. John Adams condemned it as an imbecile measure, calculated to embarrass the proceedings of Congress. He was for prompt and vigorous action. Other members concurred with him. Indeed, the measure itself seemed but a mere form, intended to reconcile the half scrupulous; for subsequently, when it was carried, Congress, in face of it, went on to assume and exercise the powers of a sovereign authority. A federal union was formed, leaving to each colony the right of regulating its internal affairs according to its own individual constitution, but vesting in Congress the power of making peace or war; of entering into treaties and alliances; of regulating general commerce; in a word, of legislating on all such matters as regarded the security and welfare of the whole community.
The executive power was to be vested in a council of twelve, chosen by Congress from among its own members, and to hold office for
Congress lost no time in exercising their federated powers. In virtue of them, they ordered the enlistment of troops, the construction of forts in various parts of the colonies, the provision of arms, ammunition, and military stores; while to defray the expense of these, and other measures, avowedly of selfdefence, they authorized the emission of notes to the amount of three millions of dollars, bearing the inscription of "The United Colonies; " the faith of the confederacy being pledged for their redemption.
A retaliating decree was passed, prohibiting all supplies of provisions to the British fisheries; and another, declaring the province of Massachusetts Bay absolved from its compact with the crown, by the violation of its charter; and recommending it to form an internal government for itself.
The public sense of Washington's military talents and experience was evinced in his being chairman of all the committees appointed for military affairs. Most of the rules and regulations for the army, and the measures for defence, were devised by him.
The situation of the New England army, actually besieging Boston, became an early and absorbing consideration. It was without munitions of war, without arms, clothing, or pay; in fact, without legislative countenance or encouragement. Unless sanctioned and assisted by Congress there was danger of its dissolution. If dissolved, how could another be collected? If dissolved, what would there be to prevent the British from sallying out of Boston, and spreading desolation throughout the country?
All this was the subject of much discussion out of doors. The disposition to uphold the army was general; but the difficult question was, who should be commander-in-chief? Adams, in his diary, gives us glimpses of the conflict of opinions and interests within doors. There was a southern party, he said, which could not brook the idea of a New England army, commanded by a New England general. "Whether this jealousy was sincere," writes he, "or whether it was mere pride, and a haughty ambition of furnishing a southern general to command the northern army, I cannot
APPOINTMENT OF COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF.
say; but the intention was very visible to me, that Colonel Washington was their object; and so many of our stanchest men were in the plan, that we could carry nothing without conceding to it. There was another embarrassment, which was never publicly known, and which was carefully concealed by those who knew it: the Massachusetts and other New England delegates were divided. Mr. Hancock and Mr. Cushing hung back; Mr. Paine did not come forward, and even Mr. Samuel Adams was irresolute. Mr. Hancock himself had an ambition to be appointed commander-in-chief. Whether he thought an election a compliment due to him, and intended to have the honor of declining it, or whether he would have accepted it, I know not. To the compliment, he had some pretensions; for, at that time, his exertions, sacrifices, and general merits in the cause of his country, had been incomparably greater than those of Colonel Washington. But the delicacy of his health, and his entire want of experience in actual service, though an excellent militia officer, were decisive objections to him in my mind."
General Charles Lee was at that time in Philadelphia. His former visit had made him well acquainted with the leading members of Congress. The active interest he had manifested in the cause was well known, and the public had an almost extravagant idea of his military qualifications. He was of foreign birth, however, and it was deemed improper to confide the supreme command to any but a native-born American. In fact, if he was sincere in what we have quoted from his letter to Burke, he did not aspire to such a signal mark of confidence.
The opinion evidently inclined in favor of Washington; yet it was promoted by no clique of partisans or admirers. More than one of the Virginia delegates, says Adams, were cool on the subject of this appointment; and particularly Mr. Pendleton, was clear and full against it. It is scarcely necessary to add, that Washington in this, as in every other situation in life, made no step in advance to clutch the impending honor.
"yet," adds he, "as I had reason to believe this was a point of some difficulty, I had no hesitation to declare, that I had but one gentleman in my mind for that important command, and that was a gentleman from Virginia, who was among us and very well known to all of us; a gentleman, whose skill and experience as an officer, whose independent fortune, great talents, and excellent universal character, would command the approbation of all America, and unite the cordial exertions of all the colonies better than any other person in the Union. Mr. Washington, who happened to sit near the door, as soon as he heard me allude to him, from his usual modesty, darted into the libraryroom. Mr. Hancock, who was our president, which gave me an opportunity to observe his countenance, while I was speaking on the state of the colonies, the army at Cambridge, and the enemy, heard me with visible pleasure; but when I came to describe Washington for the commander, I never remarked a more sudden and striking change of countenance. Mortification and resentment were expressed as forcibly as his face could exhibit them."
"When the subject came under debate, several delegates opposed the appointment of Washington; not from personal objections, but because the army were all from New England, and had a general of their own, General Artemas Ward, with whom they appeared well satisfied; and under whose command they had proved themselves able to imprison the British army in Boston; which was all that was to be expected or desired."
The subject was postponed to a future day. In the interim, pains were taken out of doors to obtain a unanimity, and the voices were in general so clearly in favor of Washington, that the dissentient members were persuaded to withdraw their opposition.
On the 15th of June, the army was regularly adopted by Congress, and the pay of the commander-in-chief fixed at five hundred dollars a month. Many still clung to the idea, that in all these proceedings they were merely opposing the measures of the ministry, and not the authority of the crown, and thus the army before Boston was designated as the Continental Army, in contradistinction to that under General Gage, which was called the Ministerial Army.
Adams, in his diary, claims the credit of bringing the members of Congress to a decision. Rising in his place, one day, and stating briefly, but earnestly, the exigencies of the case, he moved that Congress should adopt the army at In this stage of the business Mr. Johnson, of Cambridge, and appoint a general. Though Maryland, rose, and nominated Washington for this was not the time to nominate the person, the station of commander-in-chief. The elec
APPOINTMENT OF WASHINGTON-OTHER APPOINTMENTS.
tion was by ballot, and was unanimous. It
Notwithstanding Mr. Mifflin's objection to having Lee ranked under Ward, as being beneath his dignity and merits, he himself made no scruple to acquiesce; though, judging from his supercilious character, and from circumstances in his subsequent conduct, he no doubt considered himself vastly superior to the provincial officers placed over him.
At Washington's express request, his old friend, Major Horatio Gates, then absent at his estate in Virginia, was appointed adjutant-gen
"There is something charming to me in the conduct of Washington," writes Adams to a friend; a gentleman of one of the first fortunes upon the continent, leaving his delicious retirement, his family and friends, sacrificing his ease, and hazarding all, in the cause of his country. His views are noble and disinterested. He declared, when he accepted the mighty trust, that he would lay before us an exact account of his expenses, and not accept a shilling of pay."
Four major-generals were to be appointed. Among those specified were General Charles Lee and General Ward. Mr. Mifflin, of Philadelphia, who was Lee's especial friend and admirer, urged that he should be second in command. "General Lee," said he, "would serve cheerfully under Washington; but considering his rank, character, and experience, could not be expected to serve under any other. He must be aut secundus, aut nullus.”
Adams, on the other hand, as strenuously objected that it would be a great deal to expect that General Ward, who was actually in command of the army in Boston, should serve under any man; but under a stranger he ought not to serve. General Ward, accordingly, was elected the second in command, and Lee the third. The other two major-generals were Philip Schuyler, of New York, and Israel Putnam, of Connecticut. Eight brigadier-generals were likewise appointed; Seth Pomeroy, Richard Montgomery, David Wooster, William Heath, Joseph Spencer, John Thomas, John Sullivan, and Nathaniel Greeno.
Adams, according to his own account, was extremely loth to admit either Lee or Gates into the American service, although he considered them officers of great experience and confessed abilities. He apprehended difficulties, he said, from the "natural prejudices and virtuous attachment of our countrymen to their own officers." "But," adds he, considering the earnest desire of General Washington to have the assistance of those officers, the extreme attachment of many of our best friends in the southern colonies to them, the reputation they would give to our arms in Europe, and especially with the ministerial generals and army in Boston, as well as the real American merit of both, I could not withhold my vote from either."
The reader will possibly call these circumstances to mind when, on a future page, he finds how Lee and Gates requited the friendship to which chiefly they owed their appointments.
In this momentous change in his condition, which suddenly altered all his course of life, and called him immediately to the camp, Washington's thoughts recurred to Mount Vernon, and its rural delights, so dear to his heart, whence he was to be again exiled. His chief concern, however, was on account of the distress it might cause to his wife. His letter to her on the subject is written in a tone of manly tenderness. "You may believe me," writes he, "when I assure you, in the most solemn manner, that, so far from seeking this appointment, I have used every endeavor in my power to avoid it, not only from my unwillingness to part with you and the family, but from a consciousness of its being a trust too great for my capacity; and I should enjoy more real happiness in one month with you at home, than I have the most distant prospect of finding abroad, if my stay were to be seven times seven years. But as it has been a kind
LETTERS OF WASHINGTON-NATURE OF THE AMERICAN ARMY.
"I shall rely confidently on that Providence which has heretofore preserved, and been bountiful to me, not doubting but that I shall return safe to you in the Fall. I shall feel no pain from the toil or danger of the campaign; my unhappiness will flow from the uneasiness I know you will feel from being left alone. I therefore beg that you will summon your whole fortitude, and pass your time as agreeably as possible. Nothing will give me so much sincere satisfaction as to hear this, and to hear it from your own pen."
And to his favorite brother, John Augustine, he writes: "I am now to bid adieu to you, and to every kind of domestic ease, for a while. I am embarked on a wide ocean, boundless in its prospect, and in which, perhaps, no safe harbor is to be found. I have been called upon by the unanimous voice of the colonies, to take command of the continental army; an honor I neither sought after, nor desired; as I am thoroughly convinced that it requires great abilities, and much more experience than I am master of." And subsequently, referring to his wife: "I shall hope that my friends will visit, and endeavor to keep up the spirits of my wife as much as they can, for my departure will, I know, be a cutting stroke upon her; and on this account alone I have many disagreeable sensations."
On the 20th of June, he received his commission from the president of Congress. The following day was fixed upon for his departure for the army. He reviewed previously, at the request of their officers, several militia companies of horse and foot. Every one was anxious to see the new commander, and rarely has the public beau ideal of a commander been so fully answered. He was now in the vigor of his days, forty-three years of age, stately in person, noble in his demeanor, calm and dignified in his deportment; as he sat his horse, with manly grace, his military presence delighted every eye, and wherever he went, the air rang with acclamations.
WHILE Congress had been deliberating on the adoption of the army, and the nomination of a commander-in-chief, events had been
thickening and drawing to a crisis in the excited region about Boston. The provincial troops which blockaded the town prevented supplies by land, the neighboring country refused to furnish them by water; fresh provisions and vegetables were no longer to be procured, and Boston began to experience the privations of a besieged city.
On the 25th of May, arrived ships of war and transports from England, bringing large reinforcements under Generals Howe, Burgoyne, and Henry Clinton, commanders of high reputation.
As the ships entered the harbor, and the "rebel camp was pointed out, ten thousand yeomanry beleaguering a town garrisoned by five thousand regulars, Burgoyne could not restrain a burst of surprise and scorn. "What!" cried he, "ten thousand peasants keep five thousand king's troops shut up! Well, let us get in, and we'll soon find elbow-room."
Inspirited by these reinforcements, General Gage determined to take the field. Previously, however, in conformity to instructions from Lord Dartmouth, the head of the war department, he issued a proclamation (12th June), putting the province under martial law, threatening to treat as rebels and traitors all malcontents who should continue under arms, together with their aiders and abettors; but offering pardon to all who should lay down their arms, and return to their allegiance. From this proffered amnesty, however, John Hancock and Samuel Adams were especially excepted; their offences being pronounced "too flagitious not to meet with condign punishment."
This proclamation only served to put the patriots on the alert against such measures as might be expected to follow, and of which their friends in Boston stood ready to apprise them. The besieging force, in the mean time, was daily augmented by recruits and volunteers, and now amounted to about fifteen thousand men distributed at various points. Its character and organization were peculiar. As has well been observed, it could not be called a national army, for, as yet, there was no nation to own it; it was not under the authority of the Continental Congress, the act of that body recognizing it not having as yet been passed, and the authority of that body itself not having been acknowledged. It was, in fact, a fortuitous assemblage of four distinct bodies of troops, belonging to different provinces, and each having a leader of its own election. About ten
PROJECT OF THE AMERICANS TO SEIZE UPON BREED'S HILL.
thousand belonged to Massachusetts, and were | at Roxbury and Dorchester, forming the right under the command of General Artemas Ward, wing of the army; while the left, composed in whose head-quarters were at Cambridge. An- a great measure of New Hampshire troops, other body of troops, under Colonel John Stark, stretched through Medford to the hills of Chelalready mentioned, came from New Hampshire. sea. Rhode Island furnished a third, under the command of General Nathaniel Greene. A fourth was from Connecticut, under the veteran Put
These bodies of troops, being from different colonies, were independent of each other, and had their several commanders. Those from New Hampshire were instructed to obey General Ward as commander-in-chief; with the rest, it was a voluntary act, rendered in consideration of his being military chief of Massachusetts, the province which, as allies, they came to defend. There was, in fact, but little organization in the army. Nothing kept it together, and gave it unity of action, but a common feeling of exasperated patriotism.
The troops knew but little of military discipline. Almost all were familiar with the use of fire-arms in hunting and fowling; many had served in frontier campaigns against the French, and in "bush-fighting" with the Indians; but none were acquainted with regular service or the discipline of European armies. There was a regiment of artillery, partly organized by Colonel Gridley, a skilful engineer, and furnished with nine field-pieces; but the greater part of the troops were without military dress or accoutrements; most of them were' hasty levies of yeomanry, some of whom had seized their rifles and fowling-pieces, and turned out in their working clothes and homespun country garbs. It was an army of volunteers, subordinate through inclination and respect to officers of their own choice, and depending for sustenance on supplies sent from their several towns.
Such was the army spread over an extent of ten or twelve miles, and keeping watch upon the town of Boston, containing at that time a population of seventeen thousand souls, and garrisoned with more than ten thousand British troops, disciplined and experienced in the wars of Europe.
In the disposition of these forces, General Ward had stationed himself at Cambridge, with the main body, of about nine thousand men and four companies of artillery. Lieutenant-General Thomas, second in command, with five thousand Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island troops, and three or four companies of artillery,
It was a great annoyance to the British officers and soldiers, to be thus hemmed in by what they termed a rustic rout with calico frocks and fowling-pieces. The same scornful and taunting spirit prevailed among them, that the cavaliers of yore indulged toward the Covenanters. Considering Episcopacy as the only loyal and royal faith, they insulted and desecrated the "sectarian" places of worship. One was turned into a riding school for the cavalry. and the fire in the stove was kindled with books from the library of its pastor. The Provincials retaliated by turning the Episcopal church at Cambridge into a barrack, and melting down its organ-pipes into bullets.
Both parties panted for action; the British through impatience of their humiliating position, and an eagerness to chastise what they considered the presumption of their besiegers; the Provincials through enthusiasm in their cause, a thirst for enterprise and exploit, and, it must be added, an unconsciousness of their own military deficiencies.
We have already mentioned the peninsula of Charlestown (called from a village of the same name), which lies opposite to the north side of Boston. The heights, which swell up in rear of the village, overlook the town and shipping. The project was conceived in the besieging camp to seize and Occupy those
A council of war was held upon the subject. The arguments in favor of the attempt were, that the army was anxious to be employed; that the country was dissatisfied with its inactivity, and that the enemy might thus be drawn out to ground where they might be fought to advantage. General Putnam was one of the most strenuous in favor of the
Some of the more wary and judicious, among whom were General Ward and Dr. Warren, doubted the expediency of intrenching themselves on those heights, and the possibility of maintaining so exposed a post, scantily furnished, as they were, with ordnance and ammunition. Besides, it might bring on a general engagement, which it was not safe to risk.
Putnam made light of the danger. He was confident of the bravery of the militia if intrenched, having seen it tried in the old French