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"Your Excellency," writes Arnold, "may possibly think we have been tardy in our march, as we have gained so little; but when you consider the badness and weight of the bateaux, and large quantities of provisions, etc., we have been obliged to force up against a very rapid stream, where you would have taken the men for amphibious animals, as they were a great part of the time under water: add to this the great fatigue in the portage, you will think I have pushed the men as fast as they could possibly bear."
The toils of the expedition up the Kennebec River had indeed been excessive. Part of the men of each division managed the boats part marched along the banks. Those on board had to labor against swift currents; to unload at rapids, transport the cargoes, and sometimes the boats themselves, for some distance on their shoulders, and then to reload. They were days in making their way round stupendous cataracts; several times their boats were upset and filled with water, to the loss or damage of arms, ammunition, and provisions.
Those on land had to scramble over rocks and precipices, to struggle through swamps and fenny streams; or cut their way through tangled thickets, which reduced their clothes to rags. With all their efforts, their progress was but from four to ten miles a day. At night the men of each division encamped together.
By the time they arrived at the place whence the letter was written, fatigue, swamp fevers and desertion had reduced their numbers to about nine hundred and fifty effective men. Arnold, however, wrote in good heart. "The last division," said he, "is just arrived; three divisions are over the first carryingplace, and as the men are in high spirits, I make no doubt of reaching the river Chaudiere in eight or ten days, the greatest difficulty being, I hope, already past."
He had some days previously despatched an Indian, whom he considered trusty, with a letter for General Schuyler, apprising him of his whereabouts, but as yet had received no intelligence either of, or from the general, nor did he expect to receive any until he should reach Chaudiere Pond. There he calculated to meet the return of his express, and then to determine his plan of operations.
BRITISH IN BOSTON SEND OUT CRUISERS DEPREDATIONS OF CAPTAIN WALLACE ALONG THE COAST TREASON IN THE CAMP ARREST OF DR. CHURCH - HIS TRIAL AND FATE-CONFLAGRATION OF FALMOUTH IRRITATION THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY FITTING OUT OF VESSELS OF WAR EMBARKATION OF GENERAL GAGE FOR ENGLAND COMMITTEE FROM CONGRESS CONFERENCES WITH WASHINGTON RESOLUTIONS OF CONGRESS TO CARRY ON THE WAR RETURN OF SECRETARY REED TO PHILADELPHIA.
WHILE the two expeditions were threatening Canada from different quarters, the war was going on along the seaboard. The British in Boston, cut off from supplies by land, fitted out small armed vessels to seek them along the coast of New England. The inhabitants drove their cattle into the interior, or boldly resisted the aggressors. Parties landing to forage were often repulsed by hasty levies of the yeomanry. of ravage and violence occurred. Stonington was cannonaded, and further measures of vengeance were threatened by Captain Wallace of the Rose man-of war, a naval officer, who had acquired an almost piratical reputation along the coast, and had his rendezvous in the harbor of Newport, domineering over the waters of Rhode Island.1
About this time there was an occurrence, which caused great excitement in the armies. A woman, coming from the camp at Cambridge, applied to a Mr. Wainwood of Newport, Rhode Island, to aid her in gaining access to Captain Wallace, or Mr. Dudley, the collector. Wainwood, who was a patriot, drew from her the object of her errand. She was the bearer of a letter from some one in camp, directed to Major Kane in Boston; but which she was to deliver either to the captain or the collector. Suspecting something wrong, he prevailed upon her to leave it with him for delivery. After her departure he opened the letter. It was written in cipher, which he could not read. He took it to Mr. Henry Ward, secretary of the colony. The latter, apprehending it might contain treasonable information to the enemy, transmitted it to General Greene, who laid it before Washington.
1 Governor Trumbull to Washington. Sparks' Corresp. of the Rev., 1., 27.
A letter in cipher, to a person in Boston hostile to the cause, and to be delivered into the hands of Captain Wallace the nautical marauder! - there evidently was treason in the camp; but how was the traitor to be detected? The first step was to secure the woman, the bearer of the letter, who had returned to Cambridge. Tradition gives us a graphic scene connected with her arrest. Washington was in his chamber at head-quarters, when he beheld from his window, General Putnam approaching on horseback, with a stout woman en croupe behind him. He had pounced upon the culprit. The group presented by the old general and his prize, overpowered even Washington's gravity. It was the only occasion throughout the whole campaign, on which he was known to laugh heartily. He had recovered his gravity by the time the delinquent was brought to the foot of the broad staircase in head-quarters, and assured her in a severe tone from the head of it, that, unless she confessed every thing before the next morning, a halter would be in readiness for her.
So far the tradition; his own letter to the President of Congress states that, for a long time, the woman was proof against every threat and persuasion to discover the author, but at length named Dr. Benjamin Church. It seemed incredible. He had borne the character of a distinguished patriot; he was the author of various patriotic writings; a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives; one of the committee deputed to conduct Washington to the army, and at present he discharged the functions of surgeongeneral and director of the hospitals. That such a should be in traitorous correspondence with the enemy, was a thunderstroke. Orders were given to secure him and his papers. On his arrest he was extremely agitated, but acknowledged the letter, and said it would be found, when deciphered, to contain nothing criminal. His papers were searched, but nothing of a treasonable nature discovered. "It appeared, however, on inquiry," says Washington, that a confidant had been among the papers before my messenger arrived."
The letter was deciphered. It gave a description of the army. The doctor made an awkward defence, protesting that he had given an exaggerated account of the American force, for the purpose of deterring the enemy from attacking the American lines in their present defenceless condition from the want of powder. His explanations were not satis
factory. The army and country were exceedingly irritated. In a council of war he was convicted of criminal correspondence; he was expelled from the Massachusetts House of Representatives, and the Continental Congress ultimately resolved that he should be confined in some secure jail in Connecticut, without the use of pen, ink, or paper; "and that no person be allowed to converse with him, except in the presence and hearing of a magistrate or the sheriff of the county.'
His sentence was afterward mitigated on account of his health, and he was permitted to leave the country. He embarked for the West Indies, and is supposed to have perished
What had caused especial irritation in the case of Dr. Church, was the kind of warfare already mentioned, carried on along the coast by British cruisers, and notoriously by Captain Wallace. To check these maraudings, and to capture the enemy's transports laden with supplies, the provinces of Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut, fitted out two armed vessels each, at their own expense, without seeking the sanction or aid of Congress. Washington, also, on his own responsibility, ordered several to be equipped for like purpose, which were to be manned by hardy mariners, and commanded by able sea captains, actually serving in the army. One of these vessels was despatched as soon as ready, to cruise between Cape Ann and Cape Cod. Two others were fitted out with all haste, and sent to cruise in the waters of the St. Lawrence, to intercept two unarmed brigantines which Congress had been informed had sailed from England for Quebec, with ammunition and military stores. Among the sturdy little New England seaports, which had become obnoxious to punishment by resistance to nautical exactions, was Falmouth (now Portland), in Maine.
On the evening of the 11th of October, Lieutenant Mowat, of the royal navy, appeared before it with several armed vessels, and sent a letter on shore, apprising the inhabitants that he was come to execute a just punishment on them for their "premeditated attacks on the legal prerogatives of the best of sovereigns." Two hours were given them, "to remove the human species out of the town," at the period of which, a red pendant hoisted at the main-topgallant mast-head, and a gun, would be the signal for destruction.
The letter brought a deputation of three persons on board. The lieutenant informed them verbally, that he had orders from Admiral Graves to set fire to all the seaport towns between
Boston and Halifax; and he expected New York, at the present moment, was in ashes.
With much difficulty, and on the surrendering of some arms, the committee obtained a respite until nine o'clock the next morning, and the inhabitants employed the interval in removing their families and effects. The next morning the committee returned on board before nine o'clock. The lieutenant now offered to spare the town on certain conditions, which were refused. About half-past nine o'clock the red pendant was run up to the mast-head, and the signal gun fired. Within five minutes several houses were in flames, from a discharge of carcasses and bombshells, which continued throughout the day. The inhabitants,standing on the heights, were spectators of the conflagration, which reduced many of them to penury and despair." One hundred and thirty-nine dwelling houses, and two hundred and twenty-eight stores, are said to have been burned.1 All the vessels in the harbor, likewise, were destroyed or carried away as prizes.
Having satisfied his sense of justice with respect to Falmouth, the gallant lieutenant left it a smoking ruin, and made sail, as was said, for Boston, to supply himself with more ammunition, having the intention to destroy Portsmouth also.2
The conflagration of Falmouth was as a bale fire throughout the country. Lieutenant Mowat was said to have informed the committee at that place, that orders had come from England to burn all the seaport towns that would not lay down and deliver up their arms, and give hostages for their good behavior.3 Washington himself supposed such to be the case. "The desolation and misery," writes he, "which ministerial vengeance had planned, in contempt of every principle of humanity, and so lately brought on the town of Falmouth, I know not how sufficiently to commiserate, nor can my compassion for the general suffering be conceived beyond the true measure of my feelings."
General Greene, too, in a letter to a friend, expresses himself with equal warmth. "O, could the Congress behold the distresses and wretched condition of the poor inhabitants driven from the seaport towns, it must, it would, kindle a blaze of indignation against the commissioned pirates and licensed robbers. . . . People begin heartily to wish a declaration of independence." +
1 Holmes's Annals, ii., 220.
2 Letter of P. Jones,
S Letter from General Greene to Governor Cooke.