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indulgent in his habits, and an egoist in warfare; boldly dashing for a soldier's glory rather than warily acting for a country's good. He wanted those great moral qualities which, in addition to military capacity, inspired such universal confidence in the wisdom, rectitude and patriotism of Washington, enabling him to direct and control legislative bodies as well as armies; to harmonize the jarring passions and jealousies of a wide and imperfect confederacy, and to cope with the varied exigencies of the Revolution.
The very retreat which Washington had just effected through the Jerseys bore evidence to his generalship. Thomas Paine, who had accompanied the army from Fort Lee to the edge of Pennsylvania," thus speaks in one of his writings published at the time: "With a handful of men we sustained an orderly retreat for near a hundred miles, brought off our ammunition, all our field-pieces, the greatest part of our stores, and had four rivers to pass. None can say that our retreat was precipitate, for we were three weeks in performing it, that the country might have time to come in. Twice we marched back to meet the enemy, and remained out until dark. The sign of fear was not seen in our camp; and had not some of the cowardly and disaffected inhabitants spread false alarms through the country, the Jerseys had never been ravaged.”
And this is his testimony to the moral qualities of the commander-in-chief, as evinced in this time of perils and hardships. "Voltaire has remarked, that King William never appeared to full advantage but in difficulties and in action. The same remark may be made of General Washington, for the character fits him. There is a natural firmness in some minds, which cannot be unlocked by trifles; but which, when unlocked, discovers a cabinet of fortitude, and I reckon it among those kinds of public blessings which we do not immediately see, that God hath blessed him with uninterrupted health, and given him a mind that can even flourish upon care.'
1 American Crisis, No. 1.
WASHINGTON CLOTHED WITH ADDITIONAL POWERS RECRUITMENT
"BEFORE you receive this letter," writes Washington to his brother Augustine, "you will undoubtedly have heard of the captivity of General Lee. This is an additional misfortune;' and the more vexatious, as it was by his own folly and impru dence, and without a view to effect any good that he was taken. As he went to lodge three miles out of his own camp, and within twenty miles of the enemy, a rascally tory rode in the night to give notice of it to the enemy, who sent a party of light horse that seized him, and carried him off with every mark of triumph and indignity."
This is the severest comment that the magnanimous spirit of Washington permitted him to make on the conduct and fortunes of the man who would have supplanted him; and this is made in his private correspondence with his brother. No harsh strictures on them appear in his official letters to Congress or the Board of War; nothing but regret for his capture, as a loss to the service.
In the same letter he speaks of the critical state of affairs: "If every nerve is not strained to recruit the army with all possible expedition, I think the game is pretty nearly up. . . . You can form no idea of the perplexity of my situation. No man I believe ever had a greater choice of evils and less means to extricate himself from them. However, under a full persuasion of the justice of our cause, I cannot entertain an idea that it will finally sink, though it may remain for some time under a cloud."
Fortunately, Congress, prior to their adjournment, had resolved that "until they should otherwise order, General Washington should be possessed of all power to order and direct all things relative to the department and to the operations of Thus empowered, he proceeded immediately to recruit
three battalions of artillery. To those whose terms were expiring, he promised an augmentation of twenty-five per cent upon their pay, and a bounty of ten dollars to the men for six weeks' service." It was no time," he said, "to stand upon expense; nor in matters of self-evident exigency, to refer to Congress at the distance of a hundred and thirty or forty miles." If any good officers will offer to raise men upon continental pay and establishment in this quarter, I shall encourage them to do so, and regiment them when they have done it. It may be thought that I am going a good deal out of the line of my duty to adopt these measures, or to advise thus freely. A character to lose, an estate to forfeit, the inestimable blessings of liberty at stake, and a life devoted, must be my excuse.
The promise of increased pay and bounties had kept together for a time the dissolving army. The local militia began to turn out freely. Colonel John Cadwalader, a gentleman of gallant spirit, and cultivated mind and manners, brought a large volunteer detachment, well equipped, and composed principally of Philadelphia troops. Washington, who held Cadwalader in high esteem, assigned him an important station at Bristol, with Colonel Reed, who was his intimate friend, as an associate. They had it in charge to keep a watchful eye upon Count Donop's Hessians, who were cantoned along the opposite shore from Bordentown to the Black Horse.
On the 20th of December arrived General Sullivan in camp, with the troops recently commanded by the unlucky Lee. They were in a miserable plight; destitute of almost every thing; many of them fit only for the hospital, and those whose terms were nearly out, thinking of nothing but their discharge. four hundred of them, who were Rhode Islanders, were sent down under Colonel Hitchcock to re-enforce Cadwalader; who was now styled brigadier-general by courtesy, lest the Continental troops might object to act under his command.
On the same day arrived General Gates, with the remnants of four regiments from the Northern army. With him came Wilkinson, who now resumed his station as brigade-major in St. Clair's brigade, to which he belonged. To his Memoirs we are indebted for notices of the commander-in-chief. "When the divisions of Sullivan and Gates joined General Washington,' writes Wilkinson, "he found his numbers increased, yet his difficulties were not sensibly diminished; ten days would disband his corps and leave him 1,400 men, miserably provided
1 Letter to the President of Congress.
in all things. I saw him in that gloomy period; dined with him, and attentively marked his aspect; always grave and thoughtful, he appeared at that time pensive and solemn in the extreme."
There were vivid schemes forming under that solemn aspect. The time seemed now propitious for the coup de main which Washington had of late been meditating. Every thing showed careless confidence on the part of the enemy. Howe was in winter quarters at New York. His troops were loosely cantoned about the Jerseys, from the Delaware to Brunswick, so that they could not readily be brought to act in concert on a sudden alarm. The Hessians were in the advance, stationed along the Delaware, facing the American lines, which were along the west bank. Cornwallis, thinking his work accomplished, had obtained leave of absence, and was likewise at New York, preparing to embark for England. Washington had now between five and six thousand men fit for service; with these he meditated to cross the river at night, at different points, and make simultaneous attacks upon the Hessian advanced posts.
He calculated upon the eager support of his troops, who were burning to revenge the outrages on their homes and families, committed by these foreign mercenaries. They considered the Hessians mere hirelings; slaves to a petty despot, fighting for sordid pay, and actuated by no sentiment of patriotism or honor. They had rendered themselves the horror of the Jerseys, by rapine, brutality, and heartlessness. At first, their military discipline had inspired awe, but of late they had become careless and unguarded, knowing the broken and dispirited state of the Americans, and considering them incapable of any offensive enterprise.
A brigade of three Hessian regiments, those of Raùl,1 Lossberg, and Knyphausen, was stationed at Trenton. Colonel Rahl had the command of the post at his own solicitation, and in consequence of the laurels he had gained at White Plains and Fort Washington. We have before us journals of two Hessian lieutenants and a corporal, which give graphic particulars of the colonel and his post. According to their representations, he, with all his bravery, was little fitted for such an important command. He lacked the necessary vigilance and forecast.
One of the lieutenants speaks of him in a sarcastic vein, and
1 Seldom has a name of so few letters been spelled so many ways as that of this comWe find it written Rall in the military journals before us; yet we adhere to the one hitherto adopted by us, apparently on good authority.
evidently with some degree of prejudice. According to his account, there was more bustle than business at the post. The men were harassed with watches, detachments, and pickets, without purpose and without end. The cannon must be drawn forth every day from their proper places, and paraded about the town, seemingly only to make a stir and uproar.
The lieutenant was especially annoyed by the colonel's passion for music. Whether his men when off duty were well or ill-clad, whether they kept their muskets clean and bright, and their ammunition in good order, was of little moment to the colonel, he never inquired about it, but the music! that was the thing! the hautboys- he never could have enough of them. The main guard was at no great distance from his quarters, and the music could not linger there long enough. There was a church close by, surrounded by palings; the officer on guard must march round and round it, with his men and musicians, looking, says the lieutenant, like a Catholic procession, wanting only the cross and the banner, and chanting choristers.
According to the same authority, Rahl was a boon companion; made merry until a late hour in the night, and then lay in bed until nine o'clock in the morning. When the officers came to parade between ten and eleven o'clock, and presented themselves at head-quarters, he was often in his bath, and the guard must be kept waiting half an hour longer. On parade, too, when any other commander would take occasion to talk with his staff officers and others upon duty about the concerns of the garrison, the colonel attended to nothing but the music - he was wrapped up in it, to the great disgust of the testy lieuten
And then, according to the latter, he took no precautions against the possibility of being attacked. A veteran officer, Major Von Dechow, proposed that some works should be thrown up, where the cannon might be placed, ready against any assault. "Works! pooh-pooh :" - the colonel made merry with the very idea― using an unseemly jest, which we forbear to quote. "An assault by the rebels! Let them come! We'll at them with the bayonet.'
The veteran Dechow gravely persisted in his counsel. "Herr Colonel," said he respectfully, it costs almost nothing; if it does not help, it does not harm." The pragmatical lieutenant, too, joined in the advice, and offered to undertake the work. The jovial colonel only repeated his joke, went away laughing at them both, and no works were thrown up.
The lieutenant, sorely nettled, observed sneeringly :