Slike strani

ET. 42.]


friend Edmund Burke, and declared that he had not the “temerity and vanity" to aspire to the aims imputed to him.


suspicions, scoffed at them in a letter to his | tained British forces, and it had become the refuge of all the "tories" of the province; that is to say, of all those devoted to the British government. There was animosity between them and the principal inhabitants, among whom revolutionary principles prevailed. The town itself, almost insulated by nature, and surrounded by a hostile country, was like a place besieged.

"To think myself qualified for the most important charge that ever was committed to mortal man," writes he, "is the last stage of presumption; nor do I think the Americans would, or ought to confide in a man, let his qualifications be ever so great, who has no property among them. It is true, I most devoutly wish them success in the glorious struggle; that I have expressed my wishes both in writing and viva voce; but my errand to Boston was mere curiosity to see a people in so singular circumstances; and I had likewise an ambition to be acquainted with some of their leading men; with them only I associated during my stay in Boston. Our ingenious gentlemen in the camp, therefore, very naturally, concluded my design was to put myself at their head."

The provincial Congress conducted its affairs with the order and system so formidable to General Gage. Having adopted a plan for organizing the militia, it had nominated general officers, two of whom, Artemas Ward and Seth Pomeroy, had accepted.

The executive powers were vested in a committee of safety. This was to determine when the services of the militia were necessary; was to call them forth,-to nominate their officers to the Congress,-to commission them, and direct the operations of the army. Another committee was appointed to furnish supplies to the forces when called out; hence, named the Committee of Supplies.

Under such auspices, the militia went on arming and disciplining itself in every direction. They associated themselves in large bodies, and engaged, verbally or by writing, to assemble in arms at the shortest notice for the common defence, subject to the orders of the committee of safety.

To resume the course of events at Boston. Gage on the 1st of September, before this popular agitation, had issued writs for an election of an Assembly to meet at Salem in October; seeing, however, the irritated state of the public mind, he now countermanded the same by proclamation. The people, disregarding the countermand, carried the election, and ninety of the new members thus elected met at the appointed time. They waited a whole day for the governor to attend, administer the oaths, and open the session; but as he did not make his appearance, they voted themselves a provincial Congress, and chose for president of it John Hancock, a man of great wealth, popular, and somewhat showy talents, and ardent patriotism; and eminent from his social po-cester. sition.

This self-constituted body adjourned to Concord, about twenty miles from Boston; quietly assumed supreme authority, and issued a remonstrance to the governor, virtually calling him to account for his military operations in fortifying Boston Neck, and collecting warlike stores about him, thereby alarming the fears of the whole province, and menacing the lives and property of the Bostonians.

General Gage, overlooking the irregularity of its organization, entered into explanations with the Assembly, but failed to give satisfaction. As winter approached, he found his situation more and more critical. Boston was the only place in Massachusetts that now con

Arrangements had been made for keeping up an active correspondence between different parts of the country, and spreading an alarm in case of any threatening danger. Under the direction of the committees just mentioned, large quantities of military stores had been collected and deposited at Concord and Wor

This semi-belligerent state of affairs in Massachusetts produced a general restlessness throughout the land. The weak-hearted apprehended coming troubles; the resolute prepared to brave them. Military measures, hitherto confined to New England, extended to the middle and southern provinces, and the roll of the drum resounded through the villages.

Virginia was among the first to buckle on its armor. It had long been a custom among its inhabitants to form themselves into independent companies, equipped at their own expense, having their own peculiar uniform, and electing their own officers, though holding themselves subject to militia law. They had hitherto been self-disciplined; but now they




continually resorted to Washington for instruc- | ton and some friends in the aristocracy. Thus tion and advice; considering him the highest authority on military affairs. He was frequently called from home, therefore, in the course of the winter and spring, to different parts of the country to review independent companies; all of which were anxious to put themselves under his command as field-officer.

Mount Vernon, therefore, again assumed a military tone as in former days, when he took his first lessons there in the art of war. He had his old campaigning associates with him occasionally, Dr. Craik and Captain Hugh Mercer, to talk of past scenes and discuss the possibility of future service. Mercer was already bestirring himself in disciplining the militia about Fredericksburg, where he resided.

several years were passed, partly with his family in retirement, partly in London, paying court to patrons and men in power, until, finding there was no likelihood of success, and having sold his commission and half-pay, he emigrated to Virginia in 1772, a disappointed man; purchased an estate in Berkeley County, beyond the Blue Ridge; espoused the popular cause, and renewed his old campaigning acquaintance with Washington.

He was now about forty-six years of age, of a florid complexion and goodly presence, though a little inclined to corpulency; social, insinuating, and somewhat specious in his mauners, with a strong degree of self-approbation. A long course of solicitation; haunting public offices and antechambers, and "knocking about town," had taught him, it was said, how to wheedle and flatter, and accommodate himself to the humors of others, so as to be the boon companion of gentlemen, and "hail fellow well met " with the vulgar.

Lee, who was an old friend and former associate in arms, had recently been induced by him to purchase an estate in his neighborhood in Berkeley County, with a view to making it his abode, having a moderate competency, a claim to land on the Ohio, and the half-pay of a British colonel. Both of these officers, disappointed in the British service, looked forward probably to greater success in the patriot cause.

Lee had been at Philadelphia since his visit to Boston, and had made himself acquainted with the leading members of Congress during the session. He was evidently cultivating an intimacy with every one likely to have influence in the approaching struggle.

Two occasional and important guests at Mount Vernon, in this momentous crisis, were General Charles Lee, of whom we have just spoken, and Major Horatio Gates. As the latter is destined to occupy an important page in this memoir, we will give a few particulars concerning him. He was an Englishman by birth, the son of a captain in the British army. Horace Walpole, whose christian name he bore, speaks of him in one of his letters as his godson, though some have insinuated that he stood in filial relationship of a less sanctified character. He had received a liberal education, and when but twenty-one years of age, had served as a volunteer under General Edward Cornwallis, Governor of Halifax. He was afterwards captain of a New York independent company, with which, it may be remembered, he marched in the campaign of Braddock, in which he was severely wounded. For two or three subsequent years he was with his company in the western part of the province of To Washington the visits of these gentlemen New York, receiving the appointment of bri- were extremely welcome at this juncture, from gade-major. He accompanied General Monck- their military knowledge and experience, espeton as aide-de-camp to the West Indies, and cially as much of it had been acquired in Amergained credit at the capture of Martinico. ica, in the same kind of warfare, if not the Being despatched to London with tidings of very same campaigns in which he himself had the victory, he was rewarded by the appoint- mingled. Both were interested in the popular ment of major to a regiment of foot; and after-cause. Lee was full of plans for the organizawards, as a special mark of royal favor, a tion and disciplining of the militia, and occamajority in the Royal Americans. His promo- sionally accompanied Washington in his attion did not equal his expectations and fancied tendance on provincial reviews. He was deserts. He was married, and wanted some- subsequently very efficient at Annapolis in prothing more lucrative; so he sold out on half-moting and superintending the organization of pay and became an applicant for some profitable the Maryland militia. post under government, which he hoped to obtain through the influence of General Monck

It is doubtful whether the visits of Lee were as interesting to Mrs. Washington as to the



general. He was whimsical, eccentric, and at | He did the same with respect to an independtimes almost rude; negligent also, and slovenly ent company at Richmond. "It is my full in person and attire; for though he had occa- intention, if needful," writes he to his brother, sionally associated with kings and princes, he "to devote my life and fortune to the cause."* had also campaigned with Mohawks and Cossacks, and seems to have relished their "good breeding." What was still more annoying in a well-regulated mansion, he was always followed by a legion of dogs, which shared his affections with his horses, and took their seats WHILE the spirit of revolt was daily gaining by him when at table. "I must have some strength and determination in America, a object to embrace," said he misanthropically. strange infatuation reigned in the British coun"When I can be convinced that men are as cils. While the wisdom and eloquence of worthy objects as dogs, I shall transfer my Chatham were exerted in vain in behalf of benevolence, and become as staunch a philan-American rights, an empty braggadocio, elethropist as the canting Addison affected to vated to a seat in Parliament, was able to capbe."

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In his passion for horses and dogs, Washington, to a certain degree, could sympathize with him, and had noble specimens of both, in his stable and kennel, which Lee doubtless inspected with a learned eye. During the season in question, Washington, according to his diary, was occasionally in the saddle at an early hour following the fox-hounds. It was the last time for many a year that he was to gallop about his beloved hunting-grounds of Mount Vernon and Belvoir.

In the month of March the second Virginia convention was held at Richmond. Washington attended as delegate from Fairfax County. In this assembly, Patrick Henry, with his usual ardor and eloquence, advocated measures for embodying, arming, and disciplining a militia force, and providing for the defence of the colony. "It is useless," said he, "to address further petitions to government, or to await the effect of those already addressed to the throne. The time for supplication is past; the time for action is at hand. We must fight, Mr. Speaker," exclaimed he emphatically; I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms, and to the God of Hosts, is all that is left us!"

Washington joined him in the conviction, and was one of a committee that reported a plan for carrying those measures into effect. He was not an impulsive man to raise the battlecry, but the executive man to marshal the troops into the field, and carry on the war.

His brother, John Augustine, was raising and disciplining an independent company; Washington offered to accept the command of it, should occasion require it to be drawn out.

*Lee to Adams. Life and Works of Adams, ii. 414.

tivate the attention of the members, and in-
fluence their votes by gross misrepresentations
of the Americans and their cause.
This was
no other than Colonel Grant, the same shallow
soldier who, exceeding his instructions, had
been guilty of a foolhardy bravado before the
walls of Fort Duquesne, which brought slaugh-
ter and defeat upon his troops. From mislead-
ing the army, he was now promoted to a station
where he might mislead the councils of his
country. We are told that he entertained
Parliament, especially the ministerial side of
the House, with ludicrous stories of the cow-
ardice of Americans. He had served with
them, he said, and knew them well, and would
venture to say they would never dare to face
an English army; that they were destitute of
every requisite to make good soldiers, and that
a very slight force would be sufficient for their
complete reduction. With five regiments, he
could march through all America!

How often has England been misled, to her cost, by such slanderous misrepresentations of the American character! Grant talked of having served with the Americans; had he already forgotten that in the field of Braddock's defeat, when the British regulars fled, it was alone the desperate stand of a handful of Virginians which covered their disgraceful flight, and saved them from being overtaken and massacred by the savages?

This taunting and braggart speech of Grant was made in the face of the conciliatory bill of the venerable Chatham, devised with a view to redress the wrongs of America. The councils of the arrogant and scornful prevailed; and instead of the proposed bill, further measures

*Letter to John Augustine. Sparks, ii. 405.



of a stringent nature were adopted, coercive of some of the middle and southern colonies, but ruinous to the trade and fisheries of New England.

At length the bolt, so long suspended, fell! The troops at Boston had been augmented to about four thousand men. Goaded on by the instigations of the tories, and alarmed by the energetic measures of the whigs, General Gage now resolved to deal the latter a crippling blow. This was to surprise and destroy their magazine of military stores at Concord, about twenty miles from Boston. It was to be effected on the night of the 18th of April, by a force detached for the purpose.

Preparations were made with great secrecy. Boats for the transportation of the troops were launched, and moored under the sterns of the men-of-war. Grenadiers and light infantry were relieved from duty, and held in readiness. On the 18th, officers were stationed on the roads leading from Boston, to prevent any intelligence of the expedition getting into the country. At night orders were issued by General Gage that no person should leave the town. About ten o'clock, from eight to nine hundred men, grenadiers, light infantry, and marines, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Smith, embarked in the boats at the foot of Boston Common, and crossed to Lechmere Point, in Cambridge, whence they were to march silently, and without beat of drum, to the place of destination.

The measures of General Gage had not been shrouded in all the secrecy he imagined. Mystery often defeats itself by the suspicions it awakens. Dr. Joseph Warren, one of the committee of safety, had observed the preparatory disposition of the boats and troops, and surmised some sinister intention. He sent notice of these movements to John Hancock and Samuel Adams, both members of the provincial Congress, but at that time privately sojourning with a friend at Lexington. A design on the magazine at Concord was suspected, and the committee of safety ordered that the cannon collected there should be secreted, and part of the stores removed.


was hung out of an upper window of the north church, in the direction of Charlestown. This was a preconcerted signal to the patriots of that place, who instantly despatched quick messengers to rouse the country.

In the mean time, Colonel Smith set out on his nocturnal march from Lechmere Point, by an unfrequented path across marshes, where at times the troops had to wade through water. He had proceeded but a few miles when alarm guns, booming through the night air, and the clang of village bells, showed that the news of his approach was travelling before him, and the people were rising. He now sent back to General Gage for a reinforcement, while Major Pitcairne was detached with six companies to press forward, and secure the bridges at Concord.

Pitcairne advanced rapidly, capturing every one that he met, or overtook. Within a mile and a half of Lexington, however, a horseman was too quick on the spur for him, and galloping to the village, gave the alarm that the redcoats were coming. Drums were beaten'; guns fired. By the time that Pitcairne entered the village, about seventy or eighty of the yeomanry, in military array, were mustered on the green near the church. It was a part of the "constitutional army," pledged to resist by force any open hostility of British troops. Besides these, there were a number of lookers on, armed and unarmed.

The sound of drum, and the array of men in arms, indicated a hostile determination. Pitcairne halted his men within a short distance of the church, and ordered them to prime and load.

They then advanced at double quick time. The major, riding forward, waved his sword, and ordered the rebels, as he termed them, to disperse. Other of the officers echoed his words as they advanced: "Disperse, ye villains! Lay down your arms, ye rebels, and disperse!" The orders were disregarded. A scene of confusion ensued, with firing on both sides; which party commenced it, has been a matter of dispute. Pitcairne always maintained that, finding the militia would not disperse, he turned to order his men to draw out, and surOn the night of the 18th, Dr. Warren sent round them, when he saw a flash in the pan off two messengers by different routes to give from the gun of a countryman posted behind a the alarm that the king's troops were actually wall, and almost instantly the report of two or sallying forth. The messengers got out of three muskets. These he supposed to be from Boston just before the order of General Gage the Americans, as his horse was wounded, as went into effect, to prevent any one from leav- was also a soldier close by him. His troops ing the town. About the same time a lantern | rushed on, and a promiscuous fire took place,

ET. 43.]



though, as he declared, he made repeated sig- | third. The patriots returned the fire with nals with his sword for his men to forbear. spirit and effect. The British retreated to the main body, the Americans pursuing them across the bridge.

The firing of the Americans was irregular, and without much effect; that of the British was more fatal. Eight of the patriots were killed, and ten wounded, and the whole put to flight. The victors formed on the common, fired a volley, and gave three cheers for one of the most inglorious and disastrous triumphs ever achieved by British arms.

Colonel Smith soon arrived with the residue of the detachment, and they all marched on towards Concord, about six miles distant.

The alarm had reached that place in the dead hour of the preceding night. The church bell roused the inhabitants. They gathered together in anxious consultation. The militia and minute men seized their arms, and repaired to the parade ground, near the church. Here they were subsequently joined by armed yeomanry from Lincoln, and elsewhere. Exertions were now made to remove and conceal the military stores. A scout, who had been sent out for intelligence, brought word that the British had fired upon the people at Lexington, and were advancing upon Concord. There was great excitement and indignation. Part of the militia marched down the Lexington road to meet them, but returned, reporting their force to be three times that of the Americans. The whole of the militia now retired to an eminence about a mile from the centre of the town, and formed themselves into two battalions.

About seven o'clock the British came in sight, advancing with quick step, their arms glittering in the morning sun. They entered in two divisions by different roads. Concord is traversed by a river of the same name, having two bridges, the north and the south. The grenadiers and light infantry took post in the centre of the town, while strong parties of light troops were detached to secure the bridges, and destroy the military stores. Two hours were expended in the work of destruction without much success, so much of the stores having been removed, or concealed. During all this time the yeomanry from the neighboring towns were hurrying in with such weapons as were at hand, and joining the militia on the height, until the little cloud of war gathering there numbered about four hundred and fifty.

About ten o'clock, a body of three hundred undertook to dislodge the British from the north bridge. As they approached, the latter fired upon them, killing two, and wounding a

By this time all the military stores which could be found had been destroyed; Colonel Smith, therefore, made preparations for a retreat. The scattered troops were collected, the dead were buried, and conveyances procured for the wounded. About noon he commenced his retrograde march for Boston. It was high time. His troops were jaded by the night march, and the morning's toils and skirmishings.

The country was thoroughly alarmed. The yeomanry were hurrying from every quarter to the scene of action. As the British began their retreat, the Americans began the work of sore and galling retaliation. Along the open road, the former were harassed incessantly by rustic marksmen, who took deliberate aim from behind trees, or over stone fences. Where the road passed through woods, the British found themselves between two fires dealt by unseen foes, the minute men having posted themselves on each side among the bushes. It was in vain they threw out flankers, and endeavored to dislodge their assailants; each pause gave time for other pursuers to come within reach, and open attacks from different quarters. For several miles they urged their way along woody defiles, or roads skirted with fences and stone walls, the retreat growing more and more disastrous; some were shot down, some gave out through mere exhaustion; the rest hurried on, without stopping to aid the fatigued, or wounded. Before reaching Lexington, Colonel Smith received a severe wound in the leg, and the situation of the retreating troops was becoming extremely critical, when, about two o'clock, they were met by Lord Percy, with a brigade of one thousand men, and two field-pieces. His lordship had been detached from Boston about. nine o'clock by General Gage, in compliance with Colonel Smith's urgent call for a reinforcement, and had marched gayly through Roxbury to the tune of "Yankee Doodle," in derision of the "rebels." He now found the latter a more formidable foe than he had anticipated. Opening his brigade to the right and left, he received the retreating troops into a hollow square; where, fainting and exhausted, they threw themselves on the ground to rest. His lordship showed no disposition to advance upon their assailants, but contented himself with

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