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ET. 46.]

CORRESPONDENCE-WILKINSON'S HONOR WOUNDED.

445

that he had been charged by General Washing-| closed letters unmask the villain and evince ton with writing a letter to Major-General my innocence. My lord shall bleed for his Gates, which reflected on the general and the conduct, but it is proper I first see you.”

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The letters enclosed were those between him and Lord Stirling, the exposition of which he alleges ought to acquit him of sinister intention, and stamp the report of his lordship to General Washington with palpable falsehood. Gates writes briefly in reply. "Sir,―The following extract of a letter from General Washington to me will show you how your honor has been called in question; which is all the explanation necessary upon that matter; any other satisfaction you may command."

Then followed the extracts giving the information communicated by Wilkinson to Major McWilliams, Lord Stirling's aide-de-camp.

"I can scarce credit my senses, when I read the paragraph in which you request an extract from a private letter, which had fallen under my observation. I have been indiscreet, my lord, but be assured I will not be dishonor-tract," adds Gates, "I am astonished, if you able."

This communication of Lord Stirling, Wilkinson gives as the first intimation he had received of his being implicated in the disclosure of Conway's letter. When he was subsequently on his way to Yorktown to enter upon his duties as secretary of the Board of War, he learnt at Lancaster that General Gates had denounced him as the betrayer of that letter, and had spoken of him in the grossest language.

"After reading the whole of the above ex

really gave Major McWilliams such information, how you could intimate to me that it was possible Colonel Troup had conversed with Colonel Hamilton upon the subject of General Conway's letters."

According to Wilkinson's story he now proceeded to Yorktown, purposely arriving in the twilight, to escape observation. There he met with an old comrade, Captain Stoddart, recounted to him his wrongs, and requested him to be the bearer of a message to General Gates. Stoddart refused; and warned him that he was running headlong to destruction: "but ruin," observes Wilkinson, "had no terrors for an ardent young man, who prized his honor a thousand fold more than his life, and who was willing to hazard his eternal happiness in its *defence."

"I was shocked by this information," writes he; "I had sacrificed my lineal rank at General Gates's request; I had served him with zeal and fidelity, of which he possessed the strongest evidence, yet he had condemned me unheard for an act of which I was perfectly innocent, and against which every feeling my soul revolted with horror. * * *

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I worshipped honor as the jewel of my soul, and did not pause for the course to be pursued; but I owed it to disparity of years and rank, to former connection and the affections of my own breast, to drain the cup of conciliation and seek an explanation."

The result of these and other considerations, expressed with that grandiloquence on which Wilkinson evidently prided himself, was a letter to Gates, reminding him of the zeal and devotion with which he had uniformly asserted and maintained his cause; "but, sir," adds he, "in spite of every consideration, you have wounded my honor, and must make acknowledgment or satisfaction for the injury."

"In consideration of our past connection, I descend to that explanation with you which I should have denied any other man. The en

He accidentally met with another military friend, Lieutenant-Colonel Ball, of the Virginia line, "whose spirit was as independent as his fortune." He willingly became bearer of the following note from Wilkinson to General Gates:

"Sir, I have discharged my duty to you, and to my conscience; meet me to-morrow morning behind the English church, and I will there stipulate the satisfaction which you have promised to grant," &c.

Colonel Ball was received with complaisance by the general. The meeting was fixed for eight o'clock in the morning, with pistols.

At the appointed time Wilkinson and his second, having put their arms in order, were about to sally forth, when Captain Stoddart made his appearance, and informed Wilkinson

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that Gates desired to speak with him. Where? | lordship. The colonel considered the measure -In the street near the door." The surprise robbed me of circumspection," continues Wilkinson. "I requested Colonel Ball to halt, and followed Captain Stoddart. I found General Gates unarmed and alone, and was received with tenderness but manifest embarrassment; he asked me to walk, turned into a back street, and we proceeded in silence till we passed the buildings, when he burst into tears, took me by the hand, and asked me ‘how I could think he wished to injure me?' I was too deeply affected to speak, and he relieved my embarrassment by continuing: 'I injure you! it is impossible. I should as soon think of injuring my own child.' This language," observes Wilkinson, "not only disarmed me, but awakened all my confidence and all my tenderness. I was silent; and he added, 'Besides, there was no cause for injuring you, as Conway acknowledged his letter, and has since said much harder things to Washington's face.'

"Such language left me nothing to require," continues Wilkinson. "It was satisfactory beyond expectation, and rendered me more than content. I was flattered and pleased; and if a third person had doubted the sincerity of the explanation I would have insulted him." A change soon came over the spirit of this maudlin scene. Wilkinson attended as secretary at the War Office. "My reception from the president, General Gates," writes he, "did not correspond with his recent professions; he was civil, but barely so, and I was at a loss to account for his coldness, yet had no suspicion of his insincerity."

Wilkinson soon found his situation at the Board of War uncomfortable; and after the lapse of a few days set out for Valley Forge. On his way thither he met Washington's old friend, Dr. Craik, and learnt from him that his promotion to the rank of brigadier-general by brevet, had been remonstrated against to Congress by forty-seven colonels. He therefore sent in his resignation, not wishing, he said, to hold it, unless he could wear it to the honor and advantage of his country; "and this conduct," adds he, "however repugnant to fashionable ambition, I find consistent with those principles in which I early drew my sword in the present contest."

At Lancaster, Wilkinson, recollecting his resolve that Lord Stirling "should bleed for his conduct," requested his friend, Colonel Moylan, to deliver a "peremptory message " to his

rather precipitate, and suggested that a suitable acknowledgment from his lordship would be a more satisfactory reparation of the wrong than a sacrifice of the life of either of the parties. "There is not in the whole range of my friends, acquaintance, and I might add, in the universe," exclaims Wilkinson, "a man of more sublimated sentiment, or who combined with sound discretion a more punctilious sense of honor, than Colonel Moylan." Taking the colonel's advice, therefore, he moderated his peremptory message to the following note: "My Lord,—The propriety or impropriety of your communicating to his excellency any circumstance which passed at your lordship's board at Reading, I leave to be determined by your own feelings and the judgment of the public; but as the affair has eventually induced reflections on my integrity, the sacred duty I owe my honor obliges me to request from your lordship's hand, that the conversation which you have published passed in a private company during a convivial hour."

His lordship accordingly gave it under his hand, that the words passed under such circumstances, but under no injunction of secrecy. Whereupon Wilkinson's irritable but easily pacified honor was appeased, and his sword slept in its sheath.

At Valley Forge Wilkinson had an interview with Washington, in which the subject of General Conway's letter was discussed, and the whole correspondence between Gates and the commander-in-chief laid before him.

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"This exposition," writes Wilkinson, unfolded to me a scene of perfidy and duplicity of which I had no suspicion." It drew from him the following letter to Washington, dated March 28th: "I beg you to receive the grateful homage of a sensible mind for your condescension in exposing to me General Gates's letters, which unmask his artifices and efforts to ruin me. The authenticity of the information received through Lord Stirling I cannot confirm, as I solemnly assure your Excellency I do not remember the conversation which passed on that occasion, nor can I recollect particular passages of that letter, as I had but a cursory view of it at a late hour. However, I so well remember its general tenor, that, although General Gates has pledged his word it was a wicked and malicious forgery, I will stake my reputation, if the genuine letter is produced, that words to the same effect will appear."

Er. 46.] WILKINSON'S RESIGNATION CLOSING REMARKS ON THE CONWAY CABAL. 447

A few days afterwards, Wilkinson addressed | ments concerning the cabal, gives it as his the following letter to the President of Congress:

“SI,—While I make my acknowledgments to Congress, for the appointment of secretary to the Board of War and Ordnance, I am sorry I should be constrained to resign that office; but, after the acts of treachery and falsehood in which I have detected Major-General Gates, the president of that board, it is impossible for me to reconcile it to my honor to serve

with him."
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opinion that there is not sufficient evidence to prove any concerted plan of action or any fixed design among the leaders: a few aspiring men like Gates and Mifflin, might have flattered themselves with indefinite hopes, and looked forward to a change as promising the best means of aiding their ambitious views; but that it was not probable they had united in any clear or fixed purpose.*

These observations are made with that author's usual candor and judgment; yet, wanting as the intrigues of the cabal might be in plan After recording this letter in his Memoirs, chief to the public service, inspiring doubts of or fixed design, they were fraught with misWilkinson adds: "I had previously resigned my brevet of brigadier-general, on grounds its commanders and seeking to provoke thei to desperate enterprises. They harassed Washof patriotism; but I still retained sion of colonel, which was never to my knowl-ington in the latter part of his campaign; conedge revoked; yet the dominant influence of tributed to the dark cloud that hung over his General Gates, and the feuds, and factions, and gloomy encampment at Valley Forge, and intrigues which prevailed in Congress and in might have effected his downfall, had he been more irascible in his temper, more at the mercy the army of that day, threw me out of emof impulse, and less firmly fixed in the affecploy." There we shall leave him; it was a kind of retirement which we apprehend he had richly merited, and we doubt whether his country would have been the loser had he been left to enjoy it for the remainder of his

days.

Throughout all the intrigues and manœuvres of the cabal, a part of which we have laid before the reader, Washington had conducted. himself with calmness and self-command, speaking on the subject to no one but a very few of his friends; lest a knowledge of those internal dissensions should injure the service.

In a letter to Patrick Henry he gives his closing observations concerning them. "I cannot precisely mark the extent of their views; but it appeared in general, that General Gates was to be exalted on the ruin of my reputation and influence. This I am authorized to say, from undeniable facts in my own possession, from publications, the evident scope of which could not be mistaken, and from private detractions industriously circulated. General Mifflin, it is commonly supposed, bore the second part in the cabal; and General Conway, I know, was a very active and malignant partisan; but I have good reason to believe that their machinations have recoiled most sensibly upon themselves."

An able and truthful historian, to whose researches we are indebted for most of the docu

* Wilkinson's Memoirs, vol. 1., p. 409.

tions of the people. As it was, they only tended to show wherein lay his surest strength. Jealous rivals he might have in the army, bitter enemies in Congress, but the soldiers loved

him, and the large heart of the nation always

beat true to him.

NOTE.

The following anecdote of the late Governor Jay, one of our purest and most illustrious statesmen, is furnished to us by his son Judge Jay :—

Shortly before the death of John Adams, I was sitting alone with my father, conversing about the American Revolution. Suddenly he remarked, 'Ah, William! the history of that Revolution will never be known. Nobody now alive knows it but John Adams and myself.' Surprised at such a declaration, I asked him to what he referred? He briefly replied, 'The proceedings of the old Congress.' Again I inquired, 'What proceedings?' He answered, 'Those against Washington; from first to last there was a most bitter party against him.' As the old Congress always sat with closed doors, the public knew no more of what passed within than what it was deemed expedient to disclose.

CHAPTER XXXI.

DURING the winter's encampment in Valley Forge, Washington sedulously applied himself to the formation of a new system for the army.

* Sparks' Writings of Washington. Vol. v., Appendix -where there is a series of documents respecting the Conway cabal.

448

REFORMS IN THE ARMY-SCARCITY IN THE CAMP.

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At his earnest solicitation Congress appointed | any kind of flesh, and the rest three or four a committee of five, called the Committee of days. Naked and starving as they are, we canArrangement, to repair to the camp and assist not enough admire the incomparable patience him in the task.* Before their arrival he had and fidelity of the soldiery, that they have not collected the written opinions and suggestions been, ere this, excited by their suffering to a of his officers on the subject, and from these, general mutiny and desertion." and his own observations and experience, had prepared a document exhibiting the actual state of the army, the defects of previous systems, and the alterations and reforms that were necessary. The committee remained three months with him in camp, and then made a report to Congress founded on his statement. The reforms therein recommended were generally adopted. On one point, however, there was much debate. Washington had urged that the pay of the officers was insufficient for their decent subsistence, especially during the actual depreciation of the currency; and that many resignations were the consequence. He recommended not only that their pay should be increased, but that there should be a provision for their future support, by half pay and a pensionary establishment; so as to secure them from being absolutely impoverished in the service of their country.

This last recommendation had to encounter a great jealousy of the army on the part of Congress, and all that Washington could effect by strenuous and unremitted exertions, was a kind of compromise, according to which officers were to receive half pay for seven years after the war, and non-commissioned officers and privates eighty dollars each.

The committee, in their report, declared that the want of straw had cost the lives of many of the troops. Unprovided with this, or materials to raise them from the cold and wet earth, sickness and mortality have spread through their quarters in an astonishing degree. Nothing can equal their sufferings, except the patience and fortitude with which the faithful part of the army endure them." A British historian cites as a proof of the great ascendency of Washington over his " raw and undisciplined troops," that so many remained with him throughout the winter, in this wretched situation and still more wretched plight; almost naked, often on short allowance, with great sickness and mortality, and a scarcity of medicines, their horses perishing by hundreds from hunger and the severity of the

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season.

He gives a striking picture of the indolence and luxury which reigned at the same time in the British army in Philadelphia. It is true, the investment of the city by the Americans rendered provisions dear and fuel scanty; but the consequent privations were felt by the inhabitants, not by their invaders. The latter revelled as if in a conquered place. Private houses were occupied without rendering comThe reforms adopted were slow in going into pensation; the officers were quartered on the operation. In the mean time, the distresses principal inhabitants, many of whom were of of the army continued to increase. The sur- the Society of "Friends; some even transrounding country for a great distance was ex-gressed so far against propriety as to introduce hausted, and had the appearance of having their mistresses into the quarters thus oppres been pillaged. In some places where the in- sively obtained. The quiet habits of the city habitants had provisions and cattle they denied were outraged by the dissolute habits of a it, intending to take them to Philadelphia, camp. Gaming prevailed to a shameless dewhere they could obtain greater prices. The gree. A foreign officer kept a faro bank, at undisturbed communication with the city had which he made a fortune, and some of the corrupted the minds of the people in its vicin- young officers ruined themselves. age. "This State is sick even unto the death," said Gouverneur Morris.

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"During the whole of this long winter of riot and dissipation," continues the same The parties sent out to forage too often re-writer, "Washington was suffered to remain turned empty-handed. "For some days past there has been little less than a famine in the camp," writes Washington, on one occasion. "A part of the army has been a week without

*Names of the committee-General Reed, Nathaniel Folsom, Francis Dana, Charles Carroll, and Gouverneur Morris.

undisturbed at Valley Forge, with an army not exceeding five thousand effective men; and his cannon frozen up and immovable. A nocturnal attack might have forced him to a disadvantageous action or compelled him to a disastrous retreat, leaving behind him his sick, cannon, ammunition, and heavy baggage. It

ET. 46.]

EXPLOIT OF HENRY LEE-LETTER FROM GENERAL LEE.

might have opened the way for supplies to the city, and shaken off the lethargy of the British army. In a word," adds he, "had General Howe led on his troops to action, victory was in his power and conquest in his train."* Without assenting to the probability of such a result, it is certain that the army for a part of the winter, while it held Philadelphia in siege, was in as perilous a situation as that which kept a bold front before Boston, without ammunition to serve its cannon.

On one occasion there was a flurry at the most advanced post, where Captain Henry Lee (Light-horse Harry) with a few of his troops was stationed. He had made himself formidable to the enemy by harassing their foraging parties. An attempt was made to surprise him. A party of about two hundred dragoons, taking a circuitous route in the night, came upon him by daybreak. He had but a few men with him at the time, and took post in a large store-house. His scanty force did not allow a soldier for each window. The dragoons attempted to force their way into the house. There was a warm contest. The dragoons were bravely repulsed, and sheered off, leaving two killed and four wounded. "So well directed was the opposition," writes Lee to Washington, "that we drove them from the stables, and saved every horse. We have got the arms, some cloaks, &c., of their wounded. The enterprise was certainly daring, though the issue of it very ignominious. I had not a soldier for each window."

Washington, whose heart evidently warmed more and more to this young Virginian officer, the son of his "lowland beauty," not content with noticing his exploit in general orders, wrote a note to him on the subject, expressed with unusual familiarity and warmth. "My dear Lee," writes he, "although I have given you my thanks in the general orders of this day, for the late instance of your gallant behavior, I cannot resist the inclination I feel to repeat them again in this manner. I needed no fresh proof of your merit to bear you in remembrance. I waited only for the proper time and season to show it; those I hope are not far off. * * * Offer my sincere thanks to the whole of your gallant party, and assure them, that no one felt pleasure more sensibly, or rejoiced more sincerely for your and their escape, than your affectionate," &c.

* Stedman.

449

"His

In effect, Washington not long afterwards strongly recommended Lee for the command of two troops of horse, with the rank of major, to act as an independent partisan corps. genius," observes he, "particularly adapts him to a command of this nature; and it will be the most agreeable to him of any station in which he could be placed."

It was a high gratification to Washington when Congress made this appointment; accompanying it with encomiums on Lee as a brave and prudent officer, who had rendered essential service to the country, and acquired distinguished honor to himself and the corps he commanded.

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About the time that Washington was gladdened by the gallantry and good fortune of Light-horse Harry," he received a letter from another Lee, the captive general, still in the hands of the enemy. It had been written nearly a month previously. "I have the strongest reason to flatter myself," writes Lee, "that you will interest yourself in whatever interests my comfort and welfare. I think it my duty to inform you that my situation is much bettered. It is now five days that I am on my parole. I have the full liberty of the city and its limits; have horses at my command furnished by Sir Henry Clinton and General Robertson; am lodged with two of the oldest and warmest friends I have in the world, Colonel Butler and Colonel Disney of the forty-second regiment. In short, my situation is rendered as easy, comfortable, and pleasant as possible, for a man who is in any sort a prisoner."

Washington, in reply, expressed his satisfaction at learning that he was released from confinement, and permitted so many indulgences. "You may rest assured," adds he, "that I feel myself very much interested in your welfare, and that every exertion has been used on my part to effect your exchange. This I have not been able to accomplish. However, from the letters which have lately passed between Sir William Howe and myself, upon the subject of prisoners, I am authorized to expect that you will return in a few days to your friends on parole, as Major-General Prescott will be sent in on the same terms for that purpose."

Difficulties, however, still occurred; and General Lee and Colonel Ethan Allen were doomed for a few months longer to suffer the annoyance of hope deferred.

The embarkation of General Burgoyne and

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