Slike strani




ties of Albany, Dutchess, and Westchester, with directions to the commanding officers, to keep them at hard labor until their further order. They were employed upon the fortifications.

instructions to secure a post where Fort Stan- | gomery by the district committees of the counwix formerly stood, in the time of the French war. As to Schuyler himself, Washington, on his own responsibility, directed him to hold a conference with the Six Nations, and with any others whom he and his brother commissioners on Indian affairs might think necessary, and secure their active services, without waiting further directions from Congress; that body having recently resolved to employ Indian allies in the war, the enemy having set the example.

"We expect a bloody summer in New York and Canada," writes Washington to his brother Augustine," and I am sorry to say that we are not, either in men or arms, prepared for it. However, it is to be hoped, that, if our cause is just, as I most religiously believe, the same Providence which has, in many instances, appeared for us, will still go on to afford its aid." Lord Stirling, who, by Washington's orders, had visited and inspected the defences in the Highlands, rendered a report of their condition, of which we give the purport. Fort Montgomery, at the lower part of the Highlands, wus on the west bank of the river, north of Dunderberg (or Thunder Hill). It was situated on a bank one hundred feet high. The river at that place was about half a mile wide. Opposite the fort was the promontory of Anthony's Nose, many hundred feet high, accessible only to goats, or men expert in climbing. A body of riflemen stationed here, might command the decks of vessels. Fort Montgomery appeared to Lord Stirling a proper place for a guard post. Fort Constitution was about six miles higher up the river, on a rocky island of the same name, at a narrow strait where the Hudson, shouldered by precipices, makes a sudden bend round West Point. A redoubt, in the opinion of Lord Stirling, would be needed on the point, not only for the preservation of Fort Constitution, but for its own importance.

The garrison of that fort consisted of two companies of Colonel James Clinton's regiment, and Captain Wisner's company of minute men, in all one hundred and sixty rank and file. Fort Montgomery was garrisoned by three companies of the same regiment, about two hundred rank and file. Both garrisons were miserably armed. The direction of the works of both forts was in the hands of commissioners appointed by the Provincial Congress of New York. The general command of the posts required to be adjusted. Several persons accused of being "notorious tories," had recently been sent into Fort Mont

In view of all these circumstances, Washington, on the 14th of June, ordered Colonel James Clinton to take command of both posts, and of all the troops stationed at them. He seemed a fit custodian for them, having been a soldier from his youth; brought up on a frontier subject to Indian alarms and incursions, and acquainted with the strong points and fastnesses of the Highlands.

King's Bridge, and the heights adjacent, considered by General Lee of the utmost importance to the communication between New York and the mainland, and to the security of the Hudson, were reconnoitred by Washington on horseback, about the middle of the month; ordering where works should be laid out. Breastworks were to be thrown up for the defence of the bridge, and an advanced work (subsequently called Fort Independence) was to be built beyond it, on a hill commanding Spyt den Duivel Creek, as that inlet of the Hudson is called, which links it with the Harlaem River.

A strong work, intended as a kind of citadel, was to crown a rocky height between two and three miles south of the bridge, commanding the channel of the Hudson; and below it were to be redoubts on the banks of the river at Jeffrey's Point. In honor of the general, the citadel received the name of Fort Washington.

Colonel Rufus Putnam was the principal engineer, who had the direction of the works. General Mifflin encamped in their vicinity, with part of the two battalions from Pennsylvania, to be employed in their construction, aided by the militia.

While these preparations were made for the protection of the Hudson, the works about Brooklyn on Long Island were carried on with great activity, under the superintendence of General Greene. In a word, the utmost exertions were made at every point, to put the city, its environs, and the Hudson River, in a state of defence, before the arrival of another hostile armament.


OPERATIONS in Canada were drawing to a disastrous close. General Thomas, finding it

ET. 44.]




above that place," writes he; "but if General Thompson succeeds at Three Rivers, I will soon remove the ships below Richelieu Falls, and after that, approach Quebec as fast as possible."

"Our affairs here," adds he, "have taken a strange turn since our arrival. The Canadians are flocking by hundreds to take a part with us. The only reason of their disaffection was, because our exertions were so feeble that they doubted much of our success, and even of our ability to protect them.

impossible to make a stand at Point Descham- | Deschambault, and fortify it, so as to make it bault, had continued his retreat to the mouth inaccessible. "The enemy's ships are now of the Sorel, where he found General Thompson, with part of the troops detached by Washington, from New York, who were making some preparations for defence. Shortly after his arrival, he was taken ill with the smallpox, and removed to Chamblee. He had prohibited inoculation among his troops, because it put too many of their scanty number on the sick list; he probably fell a victim to his own prohibition, as he died of that malady on the 2d of June. On his death, General Sullivan, who had recently arrived with the main detachment of troops from New York, succeeded to the command; General Wooster having been recalled. He advanced immediately with his brigade to the mouth of the Sorel, where he found General Thompson, with but very few troops to defend that post, having detached Colonel St. Clair, with six or seven hundred men, to Three Rivers, about fifty miles down the St. Lawrence, to give check to an advanced corps of the enemy, of about eight hundred regulars and Canadians, under the veteran Scot, Colonel Maclean. In the mean time, General Thompson, who was left with but two hundred men to defend his post, was sending off his sick, and his heavy baggage, to be prepared for a retreat, if necessary.

"It really was affecting," writes Sullivan to Washington, "to see the banks of the Sorel lined with men, women, and children, leaping, and clapping their hands for joy, to see me arrive; it gave no less joy to General Thompson, who seemed to be wholly forsaken, and left to fight against an unequal force, or retreat before them."

Sullivan proceeded forthwith to complete the works on the Sorel; in the mean time he detached General Thompson with additional troops to overtake St. Clair, and assume command of the whole party, which would then amount to two thousand men. He was by no means to attack the encampment at Three Rivers, unless there was great prospect of success, as his defeat might prove the total loss of Canada. "I have the highest opinion of the bravery and resolution of the troops you command," says Sullivan in his instructions, " and doubt not but, under the direction of a kind Providence, you will open the way for our recovering that ground which former troops have so shamefully lost." Sullivan's letter to Washington, written at the same time, is full of sanguine anticipation. It was his fixed determination to gain post at

"I venture to assure you, and the Congress, that I can in a few days reduce the army to order, and with the assistance of a kind Providence, put a new face to our affairs here, which a few days since seemed almost impossible."

[ocr errors]

The letter of Sullivan gave Washington an unexpected gleam of sunshine. "Before it came to hand," writes he in reply, "I almost dreaded to hear from Canada, as my advices seemed to promise nothing favorable, but rather further misfortunes. But I now hope that our affairs, from the confused, distracted, and almost forlorn state in which you found them, will change, and assume an aspect of order and success. Still his sagacious mind perceived a motive for this favorable coloring of affairs. Sullivan was aiming at the command in Canada; and Washington soberly weighed his merits for the appointment, in a letter to the President of Congress. "He is active, spirited, and zealously attached to the cause. He has his wants, and he has his foibles. The latter are manifested in his little tincture of vanity, and in an overdesire of being popular, which now and then lead him into embarrassments. His wants are common to us all. He wants experience to move upon a grand scale; for the limited and contracted knowledge, which any of us have in military matters, stands in very little stead." This want was overbalanced, on the part of General Sullivan, by sound judgment, some acquaintance with men and books, and an enterprising genius.

"As the security of Canada is of the last importance to the well-being of these colonies," adds Washington, "I should like to know the sentiments of Congress, respecting the nomination of any officer to that command. The character I have drawn of General Sullivan is just, according to my ideas of him. Congress will therefore determine upon the propriety of





continuing him in Canada, or sending another, the distance of forty-five miles. I am almost as they shall see fit."*

Scarce had Washington despatched this letter, when he received one from the President of Congress, dated the 18th of June, informing him that Major-General Gates had been appointed to command the forces in Canada, and requesting him to expedite his departure as soon as possible. The appointment of Gates has been attributed to the influence of the Eastern delegates, with whom he was a favorite; indeed, during his station at Boston, he had been highly successful in cultivating the good graces of the New England people. He departed for his command on the 26th of June, vested with extraordinary powers for the regulation of affairs in that "distant, dangerous, and shifting scene." "I would fain hope," writes Washington, "his arrival there will give our affairs a complexion different from what they have worn for a long time past, and that many essential benefits will result from it."

certain that victory has declared in our favor, as the irregular firing of the cannon for such a length of time after the small-arms ceased, shows that our men are in possession of the ground."

The letter was kept open to give the particulars of this supposed victory; it closed with a dismal reverse. General Thompson had coasted in bateaux along the right bank of the river at that expanse called Lake St. Pierre, and arrived at Nicolete, where he found St. Clair and his detachment. He crossed the river in the night, and landed a few miles above Three Rivers, intending to surprise the enemy before daylight; he was not aware at the time that additional troops had arrived under General Burgoyne.

After landing, he marched with rapidity toward Three Rivers, but was led by treacherous guides into a morass, and obliged to return back nearly two miles. Day broke, and he was discovered from the ships. A cannonade was opened upon his men as they made their way slowly for an hour and a half through a swamp. At length they arrived in sight of Three Rivers, but it was to find a large force drawn up in battle array, under General Frazer, by whom they were warmly attacked, and after a brief stand thrown in confusion. Thompson attempted to rally his troops, and partly succeeded, until a fire was opened upon them in rear by Nesbit, who had landed from his ships. Their rout now was complete. General Thompson, Colonel Irvine, and about two hundred men were captured, twenty-five were slain, and the rest pursued for several miles through a deep swamp. After great fatigues and suffer

Despatches just received from General Sullivan, had given a different picture of affairs in Canada from that contained in his previous letter. In fact, when he wrote that letter, he was ignorant of the actual force of the enemy in Canada, which had recently been augmented to about 13,000 men; several regiments having arrived from Ireland, one from England, another from General Howe, and a body of Brunswick troops under the Baron Reidesel. Of these, the greater part were on the way up from Quebec in divisions, by land and water, with Generals Carleton, Burgoyne, Philips, and Reidesel; while a considerable number under General Frazer had arrived at Three Rivers, and others, under General Nesbit, lay nearings, they were able to get on board of their them on board of transports.

Sullivan's despatch, dated on the 8th of June, at the mouth of the Sorel, began in his former sanguine vein, anticipating the success of General Thompson's expedition to Three Rivers. "He has proceeded in the manner proposed, and made his attack at daylight, for at that time a very heavy cannonading began, which lasted with some intervals to twelve o'clock. It is now near one P. M.; the firing has ceased, except some irregular firing with cannon, at a considerable distance of time one from the other. At eight o'clock a very heavy firing of small-arms was heard even here, at * Washington to the President of Congress, July 12,


boats, which had been kept from falling into the hands of the enemy. In these they made their way back to the Sorel, bringing General Sullivan a sad explanation of all the firing he had heard, and the alarming intelligence of the overpowering force that was coming up the river.

"This, my dear general," writes Sullivan, in the conclusion of his letter, "is the state of this unfortunate enterprise. What you will next hear I cannot say. I am every moment informed of the vast number of the enemy which have arrived. I have only two thousand five hundred and thirty-three rank and file. Most of the officers seem discouraged, and, of course, their men. I am employed day and night in

ET. 44.]


fortifying and securing my camp, and am determined to hold it as long as a person will stick by me."



He had, indeed, made the desperate resolve THE great aim of the British, at present, was to defend the mouth of the Sorel, but was in- to get possession of New York and the Hudson, duced to abandon it by the unanimous opinion and make them the basis of military operations. of his officers, and the evident unwillingness This they hoped to effect on the arrival of a of his troops. Dismantling his batteries, there-powerful armament, hourly expected, and defore, he retreated with his artillery and stores, signed for operations on the seaboard. just before the arrival of the enemy, and was followed, step by step along the Sorel, by a strong column under General Burgoyne.

At this critical juncture there was an alarm of a conspiracy among the tories in the city and on Long Island, suddenly to take up arms and co-operate with the British troops on their arrival. The wildest reports were in circulation concerning it. Some of the tories were to break down King's Bridge, others were to blow up the magazines, spike the guns, and massacre all the field-officers. Washington was to be killed or delivered up to the enemy. Some of his own body-guard were said to be in the plot.

Several publicans of the city were pointed out, as having aided or abetted the plot. One was landlord of the Highlander, at the corner of Beaver Street and Broadway. Another dis

On the 18th of June, he was joined by General Arnold with three hundred men, the garrison of Montreal, who had crossed at Longueil just in time to escape a large detachment of the enemy. Thus reinforced, and the evacuation of Canada being determined on in a council of war, Sullivan succeeded in destroying every thing at Chamblee and St. Johns that he could not carry away, breaking down bridges, and leaving forts and vessels in flames, and continued his retreat to the Isle aux Noix, where he made a halt for some days, until he should receive positive orders from Washington or General Schuyler. In a letter to Wash-pensed liquor under the sign of Robin Hood. ington, he observes, "I am extremely sorry it was not in my power to fulfil your Excellency's wishes, by leading on our troops to victory." After stating the reason of his failure, he adds, "I think we shall secure all the public stores and baggage of the army, and secure our retreat with very little loss. Whether we shall have well men enough to carry them on, I much doubt, if we don't remove quickly; unless Heaven is pleased to restore health to this wretched army, now, perhaps, the most pitiful one that ever was formed."

Another named Lowry, described as a "fat man in a blue coat," kept tavern in a low house opposite the Oswego market. Another, James Houlding, kept a beer house in Tryon Row, opposite the gates of the upper barracks. It would seem as if a network of corruption and treachery had been woven throughout the city by means of these liquor dealers. One of the most noted, however, was Corbie, whose tavern was said to be "to the south-east of General Washington's house, to the westward of Bayard's Woods, and north of Lispenard's Meadows," from which it would appear that at that time the general was quartered at what was formerly called Richmond Hill; a mansion sur

The low, unhealthy situation of the Isle aux Noix, obliged him soon to remove his camp to the Isle la Motte, whence on receiving orders to that effect from General Schuyler, he ulti-rounded by trees, at a short distance from the mately embarked with his forces, sick and city, in rather an isolated situation. well, for Crown Point.

Thus ended this famous invasion; an enterprise bold in its conceptions, daring and hardy in its execution; full of ingenious expedients, and hazardous exploits; and which, had not unforeseen circumstances counteracted its welldevised plans, might have added all Canada to the American confederacy.

A committee of the New York Congress, of which John Jay was chairman, traced the plot up to Governor Tryon, who, from his safe retreat on shipboard, acted through agents on shore. The most important of these was David Matthews, the tory mayor of the city. He was accused of disbursing money to enlist men, purchase arms, and corrupt the soldiery.

Washington was authorized and requested by the committee to cause the mayor to be apprehended, and all his papers secured. Matthews was at that time residing at Flatbush on




Long Island, at no great distance from General, cannonade the battery at Red Hook; while Greene's encampment. Washington transmitted that was doing, a detachment of the army the warrant of the committee to the general on should land below with cannon, and by a cirthe 21st, with directions that it should "be cuitous march surprise and storm the works on executed with precision, and exactly by one Long Island. The shipping then, with the reo'clock of the ensuing morning, by a careful mainder of the army, were to divide, one part officer." to run up the Hudson, and the other up the East River; troops were to land above New York, secure the pass at King's Bridge, and cut off all communication between the city and country.*

Precisely at the hour of one, a detachment from Greene's brigade surrounded the house of the mayor, and secured his person; but no papers were found, though diligent search was made.

Numerous other arrests took place, and among the number, some of Washington's body-guard. A great dismay fell upon the tories. Some of those on Long Island who had proceeded to arm themselves, finding the plot discovered, sought refuge in woods and morasses. Washington directed that those arrested, who belonged to the army, should be tried by a court-martial, and the rest handed over to the secular power.

According to statements made before the committee, five guineas bounty was offered by Governor Tryon to each man who should enter the king's service; with a promise of two hundred acres of land for himself, one hundred for his wife, and fifty for each child. The men thus recruited were to act on shore, in cooperation with the king's troops when they


[ocr errors]


Corbie's tavern, near Washington's quarters, was a kind of rendezvous of the conspirators. There one Gilbert Forbes, a gunsmith, short, thick man, with a white coat," enlisted men, gave them money, and 16 swore them on the book to secrecy.' ." From this house a correspondence was kept up with Governor Tryon on shipboard, through a "mulatto-colored negro, dressed in blue clothes." At this tavern it was supposed Washington's bodyguards were tampered with. Thomas Hickey, one of the guards, a dark-complexioned man, five feet six inches high, and well set, was said not only to be enlisted, but to have aided in corrupting his comrades; among others, Greene the drummer, and Johnson the fifer.

It was further testified before the committee, that one Sergeant Graham, an old soldier, formerly of the royal artillery, had been employed by Governor Tryon to prowl round and survey the grounds and works about the city, and on Long Island, and that, on information thus procured, a plan of operations had been concerted. On the arrival of the fleet, a man-of-war should

Much of the evidence given was of a dubious kind. It was certain that persons had secretly been enlisted, and sworn to hostile operations, but Washington did not think that any regular plan had been digested by the conspirators. "The matter," writes he, "I am in hopes, by a timely discovery, will be suppressed."+

According to the mayor's own admission before the committee, he had been cognizant of attempts to enlist tories and corrupt Washington's guards, though he declared that he had discountenanced them. He had on one occasion, also, at the request of Governor Tryon, paid money for him to Gilbert Forbes, the gunsmith, for rifles and round-bored guns, which he had already furnished, and for others which he was to make. He had done so, however (according to his account), with great reluctance, and after much hesitation and delay, warning the gunsmith that he would be hanged if found out. The mayor, with a number of others, were detained in prison to await a trial.

Thomas Hickey, the individual of Washington's guard, was tried before a court-martial. He was an Irishman, and had been a deserter from the British army. The court-martial found him guilty of mutiny and sedition, and treacherous correspondence with the enemy, and sentenced him to be hanged.

The sentence was approved by Washington, and was carried promptly into effect, in the most solemn and impressive manner, to serve as a warning and example in this time of treachery and danger. On the morning of the 28th, all the officers and men off duty, belonging to the brigades of Heath, Spencer, Stirling, and Scott, assembled under arms at their respective parades at 10 o'clock, and marched thence to the ground. Twenty men from each brigade, with bayonets fixed, guarded the prisoner to the place of execution, which was a

Am. Archives, 5th Series, vi. 1177.

† Washington to the President of Congress, June 28.

« PrejšnjaNaprej »