Slike strani

The member of Washington's family most deserving of mention at present, was his secretary, Mr. Joseph Reed. With this gentleman he had formed an intimacy in the course of his visits to Philadelphia, to attend the sessions of the Continental Congress. Mr. Reed was an accomplished man, had studied law in America, and at the Temple in London, and had gained a high reputation at the Philadelphia bar. In the dawning of the Revolution he had embraced the popular cause, and carried on a correspondence with the Earl of Dartmouth, endeavoring to enlighten that minister on the subject of colonial affairs. He had since been highly instrumental in rousing the Philadelphians to co-operate with the patriots of Boston. A sympathy of views and feelings had attached him to Washington, and induced him to accompany him to the camp. He had no definite purpose when he left home, and his friends in Philadelphia were surprised, on receiving a letter from him written from Cambridge, to find that he had accepted the post of secretary to the commander-in-chief.

They expostulated with him by letter. That a man in the thirty-fifth year of his age, with a lucrative profession, a young wife and growing family, and a happy home, should suddenly abandon all to join the hazardous fortunes of a revolutionary camp, appeared to them the height of infatuation. They remonstrated on the peril of the step. "I have no inclination,' replied Reed, "to be hanged for half treason. When a subject draws his sword against his prince, he must cut his way through, if he means to sit down in safety. I have taken too active a part in what may be called the civil part of opposition, to renounce, without disgrace, the public cause when it seems to lead to danger; and have a most sovereign contempt for the man who can plan measures he has not the spirit to execute."

Washington has occasionally been represented as cold and reserved; yet his intercourse with Mr. Reed is a proof to the contrary. His friendship toward him was frank and cordial, and the confidence he reposed in him full and implicit. Reed, in fact, became, in a little time, the intimate companion of his thoughts, his bosom counsellor. He felt the need of such a friend in the present exigency, placed as he was in a new and untried situation, and having to act with persons hitherto unknown to him.

In military matters, it is true he had a shrewd counsellor in General Lee; but Lee was a wayward character; a cosmopolite, without attachment to country, somewhat splenetic, and prone to follow the bent of his whims and humors, which often

clashed with propriety and sound policy. Reed, on the con trary, though less informed on military matters, had a strong common sense, unclouded by passion or prejudice, and a pure patriotism, which regarded every thing as it bore upon the welfare of his country.

Washington's confidence in Lee had always to be measured and guarded in matters of civil policy.

The arrival of Gates in camp was heartily welcomed by the commander-in-chief, who had received a letter from that officer, gratefully acknowledging his friendly influence in procuring him the appointment of adjutant-general. Washington may have promised himself much cordial co-operation from him, recollecting the warm friendship professed by him when he visited at Mount Vernon, and they talked together over their early companionship in arms; but of that kind of friendship there was no further manifestation. Gates was certainly of great service, from his practical knowledge and military experience at this juncture, when the whole army had in a manner to be organized; but from the familiar intimacy of Washington he gradually estranged himself. A contemporary has accounted for this, by alleging that he was secretly chagrined at not having received the appointment of major-general, to which he considered himself well fitted by his military knowledge and experience, and which he thought Washington might have obtained for him had he used his influence with Congress. We shall have to advert to this estrangement of Gates on subsequent occasions.

The hazardous position of the army from the great extent and weakness of its lines, was what most pressed on the immediate attention of Washington; and he summoned a council of war, to take the matter into consideration. In this it was urged that, to abandon the line of works, after the great labor and expense of their construction, would be dispiriting to the troops and encouraging to the enemy, while it would expose a wide extent of the surrounding country to maraud and ravage. Beside, no safer position presented itself, on which to fall back. This being generally admitted, it was determined to hold on to the works, and defend them as long as possible; and, in the mean time, to augment the army to at least twenty thousand


Washington now hastened to improve the defences of the camp, strengthen the weak parts of the line, and throw up additional works round the main forts. No one seconded him more effectually in this matter than General Putnam. No

works were thrown up with equal rapidity to those under his superintendence. "You seem, general,' said Washington,


to have the faculty of infusing your own spirit into all the workmen you employ ; "—and it was the fact.

The observing chaplain already cited, gazed with wonder at the rapid effects soon produced by the labors of an army. "It is surprising," writes he, "how much work has been done. The lines are extended almost from Cambridge to Mystic River; very soon it will be morally impossible for the enemy to get between the works, except in one place, which is supposed to be left purposely unfortified, to entice the enemy out of their fortresses. Who would have thought, twelve months past, that all Cambridge and Charlestown would be covered over with American camps, and cut up into forts and intrenchments, and all the lands, fields, orchards, laid common - horses and cattle feeding on the choicest mowing land, whole fields of corn eaten down to the ground, and large parks of well-regulated forest trees cut down for fire-wood and other public uses."

Beside the main dispositions above mentioned, about seven hundred men were distributed in the small towns and villages along the coast, to prevent depredations by water; and horses were kept ready saddled at various points of the widely extended lines, to convey to head-quarters intelligence of any special movement of the enemy.

The army was distributed by Washington into three grand divisions. One, forming the right wing, was stationed on the heights of Roxbury. It was commanded by Major-General Ward, who had under him Brigadier-Generals Spencer and Thomas. Another, forming the left wing under Major-General Lee, having with him Brigadier-Generals Sullivan and Greene, was stationed on Winter and Prospect Hills; while the centre, under Major-General Putnam and Brigadier-General Heath, was stationed at Cambridge. With Putnam was encamped his favorite officer Knowlton, who had been promoted by Congress to the rank of major for his gallantry at Bunker's Hill.

At Washington's recommendation, Joseph Trumbull, the eldest son of the governor, received on the 24th of July the appointment of commissary-general of the continental army. He had already officiated with talent in that capacity in the Connecticut militia. "There is a great overturning in the camp as to order and regularity," writes the military chaplain ; "new lords, new laws. The generals Washington and Lee are upon the lines every day. New orders from his excellency are

read to the respective regiments every morning after prayers. The strictest government is taking place, and great distinction is made between officers and soldiers. Every one is made to know his place and keep it, or be tied up and receive thirty or forty lashes according to his crime. Thousands are at work every day from four till eleven o'clock in the morning."

Lee was supposed to have been at the bottom of this rigid discipline; the result of his experience in European campaigning. His notions of military authority were acquired in the armies of the North. Quite a sensation was, on one occasion, produced in camp by his threatening to cane an officer for unsoldierly conduct. His laxity in other matters occasioned almost equal scandal. He scoffed, we are told, "with his usual profaneness," at a resolution of Congress appointing a day of fasting and prayer, to obtain the favor of Heaven upon their cause. "Heaven,' he observed, 66 was ever found favorable to strong battalions." 1

Washington differed from him in this respect. By his orders the resolution of Congress was scrupulously enforced. All labor, excepting that absolutely necessary, was suspended on the appointed day, and officers and soldiers were required to attend divine service, armed and equipped and ready for immediate action.

Nothing excited more gaze and wonder among the rustic visitors to the camp, than the arrival of several rifle companies, fourteen hundred men in all, from Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia; such stalwart fellows as Washington had known in his early campaigns. Stark hunters and bush fighters; many of them upward of six feet high, and of vigorous frame; dressed in fringed frocks, or rifle shirts, and round hats. Their displays of sharp shooting were soon among the marvels of the camp. We are told that while advancing at quick step, they could hit a mark of seven inches diameter, at the distance of two hundred and fifty yards.2

One of these companies was commanded by Captain Daniel Morgan, a native of New Jersey, whose first experience in war had been to accompany Braddock's army as a wagoner. He had since carried arms on the frontier and obtained a command. He and his riflemen in coming to the camp had marched six hundred miles in three weeks. They will be found of signal efficiency in the sharpest conflicts of the revolutionary war.

1 Graydon's Memoirs, p. 138.

2 Thacher's Military Journal, p. 37.

While all his forces were required for the investment of Boston, Washington was importuned by the Legislature of Massachusetts and the Governor of Connecticut, to detach troops for the protection of different points of the sea-coast, where depredations by armed vessels were apprehended. The case of New London was specified by Governor Trumbull, where Captain Wallace of the Rose Frigate, with two other ships-of-war, had entered the harbor, landed men, spiked the cannon, and gone off threatening future visits.

Washington referred to his instructions, and consulted with his general officers and such members of the Continental Congress as happened to be in camp, before he replied to these requests; he then respectfully declined compliance.

In his reply to the General Assembly of Massachusetts, he stated frankly and explicitly the policy and system on which the war was to be conducted, and according to which he was to act as commander-in-chief. "It has been debated in Congress and settled," writes he, "that the militia, or other internal strength of each province, is to be applied for defence against those small and particular depredations, which were to be expected, and to which they were supposed to be competent. This will appear the more proper, when it is considered that every town and indeed every part of our sea-coast, which is exposed to these depredations, would have an equal claim upon this army.

"It is the misfortune of our situation which exposes us to these ravages, and against which, in my judgment, no such temporary relief could possibly secure us. The great advantage the enemy have of transporting troops, by being masters of the sea, will enable them to harass us by diversions of this kind; and should we be tempted to pursue them, upon every alarm, the army must either be so weakened as to expose it to destruction, or a great part of the coast be still left unprotected. Nor, indeed, does it appear to me that such a pursuit would be attended with the least effect. The first notice of such an excursion would be its actual execution, and long before any troops could reach the scene of action, the enemy would have an opportunity to accomplish their purpose and retire. It would give me great pleasure to have it in my power to extend protection and safety to every individual; but the wisdom of the General Court will anticipate me on the necessity of conducting our operations on a general and impartial scale, so as to exclude any just cause of complaint and jealousy."

His reply to the Governor of Connecticut was to the same

« PrejšnjaNaprej »