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His bateaux were a league behind, coming up the rapids very slowly. He sent several expresses to hurry them. It was sunset before they arrived and he could embark all his people; in the mean time, his Caughnawaga messengers returned with an answer from the savages. They had five hundred prisoners collected together, they said, at Quinze Chiens, where they were posted; should he offer to land and attack them, they would kill every prisoner, and give no quarter to any who should fall into their hands thereafter.
"Words cannot express my feelings," writes Arnold, "at the delivery of this message. Torn by the conflicting passions of revenge and humanity; a sufficient force to take ample revenge, raging for action, urged me on one hand; and humanity for five hundred unhappy wretches, who were on the point of being sacrificed, if our vengeance was not delayed, pleaded equally strong on the other." In this situation, he ordered the boats to row immediately for the island, whither he had seen the enemy taking their prisoners. Before he reached it, the savages had conveyed them all away, excepting five, whom he found naked, and almost starved, and one or two, whom, being unwell, they had butchered. Arnold now pushed for Quinze Chiens, about four miles distant, on the mainland. Here was the whole force of the enemy, civilized and savage, intrenched and fortified. As Arnold approached, they opened a fire upon his boats, with small-arms, and two brass six-pounders. He rowed near the land, without returning a shot. By this time it was too dark to distinguish any thing on shore, and being unacquainted with the ground, he judged it prudent to return to St. Johns.
Here he called a council of war, and it was determined to attack the enemy early in the morning. In the course of the night, a flag was sent by Captain Forster, with articles for an exchange of prisoners, which had been entered into by him and Major Shelburne. As the terms were not equal, they were objected to by Arnold, and a day passed before they were adjusted. A cartel was then signed, by which the prisoners, consisting of two majors, nine captains, twenty subalterns, and four hundred and forty-three privates, were to be exchanged for an equal number of British prisoners of the same rank, and were to be sent to the south shore of the St. Lawrence, near Caughnawaga, whence to return to their homes. Nine days were allowed for the delivery of the prisoners, during which time hostilities should be suspended.
Arnold, in a letter to the commissioners of Congress then at
Montreal, giving an account of this arrangement, expressed his indignation at the conduct of the king's officers, in employing savages to screen their butcheries, and suffering their prisoners to be killed in cold blood. "I intend being with you this evening," added he, "to consult on some effectual measures to take with these savages, and still more savage British troops, who are still at Quinze Chiens. As soon as our prisoners are released, I hope it will be in our power to take ample vengeance, or nobly fall in the attempt."
The accounts which reached Washington of these affairs were vague and imperfect, and kept him for some days in painful suspense. The disasters at the Cedars were attributed entirely to the base and cowardly conduct of Bedel and Butterworth, and he wrote to Schuyler to have good courts appointed, and bring them, and every other officer guilty of misconduct, to trial.
"The situation of our affairs in Canada," observes he, "is truly alarming. I sincerely wish the next letters from the northward may not contain the melancholy advices of General Arnold's defeat, and the loss of Montreal. The most vigorous exertions will be necessary to retrieve our circumstances there, and I hope you will strain every nerve for that purpose. less it can be done now, Canada will be lost to us forever." While his mind was agitated by these concerns, letters from Schuyler showed that mischief was brewing in another quarter.
Colonel Guy Johnson, accompanied by the Sachem Brant and the Butlers, had been holding councils with the Indians, and designed, it was said, to come back to the Mohawk country, at the head of a British and savage force. A correspondence was carried on between him and his cousin, Sir John Johnson, who was said to be preparing to co-operate with his Scotch dependents and Indian allies.
Considering this a breach of Sir John's parole, Schuyler had sent Colonel Elias Dayton with a force to apprehend him. Sir John, with a number of his armed tenants, retreated for refuge among the Indians, on the borders of the lakes. Dayton took temporary possession of Johnson Hall, placed guards about it, seized upon Sir John's papers, and read them in presence of Lady Johnson, and subsequently conveyed her ladyship as a kind of hostage to Albany.
Shortly afterward came further intelligence of the designs of the Johnsons. Sir John, with his Scotch warriors and In
1 Arnold to the Commis. of Cong., 27th May.
dian allies, was said to be actually coming down the valley of the Mohawk, bent on revenge, and prepared to lay every thing waste; and Schuyler collecting a force at Albany to oppose him. Washington instantly wrote to Schuyler, to detach Colonel Dayton with his regiment on that service, with instructions to secure a post where Fort Stanwix formerly stood, in the time of the French war. As to Schuyler himself, Washington, on his own responsibility, directed him to hold a conference with the Six Nations, and with any others whom he and his brother commissioners on Indian affairs might think necessary, and secure their active services, without waiting further directions from Congress; that body having recently resolved to employ Indian allies in the war, the enemy having set the example. "We expect a bloody summer in New York and Canada," writes Washington to his brother Augustine, and I am sorry to say that we are not, either in men or arms, prepared for it. However, it is to be hoped, that, if our cause is just, as I most religiously believe it, the same Providence which has in many instances appeared for us, will still go on to afford its aid."
Lord Stirling, who, by Washington's orders, had visited and inspected the defences in the Highlands, rendered a report of their condition, of which we give the purport. Fort Montgomery, at the lower part of the Highlands, was on the west bank of the river, north of Dunderberg (or Thunder Hill). It was situated on a bank one hundred feet high. The river at that place was about half a mile wide. Opposite the fort was the promontory of Anthony's Nose, many hundred feet high, accessible only to goats, or men expert in climbing. A body of riflemen stationed here, might command the decks of vessels. Fort Montgomery appeared to Lord Stirling the proper place for a guard post.
Fort Constitution was about six miles higher up the river, on a rocky island of the same name, at a narrow strait where the Hudson, shouldered by precipices, makes a sudden bend round West Point. A redoubt, in the opinion of Lord Stirling, would be needed on the point, not only for the preservation of Fort Constitution, but for its own importance.
The garrison of that fort consisted of two companies of Colonel James Clinton's regiment, and Captain Wisner's company of minute men, in all one hundred and sixty rank and file. Fort Montgomery was garrisoned by three companies of the same regiment, about two hundred rank and file. Both garrisons were miserably armed. The direction of the works of both forts was in the hands of commissioners appointed by the Pro
vincial Congress of New York. The general command of the posts required to be adjusted. Several persons accused of being "notorious tories," had recently been sent into Fort Montgomery by the district committees of the counties of Albany, Dutchess and Westchester, with directions to the commanding officers, to keep them at hard labor until their further order. They were employed upon the fortifications.
In view of all these circumstances, Washington, on the 14th of June, ordered Colonel James Clinton to take command of both posts, and of all the troops stationed at them. He seemed a fit custodian for them, having been a soldier from his youth; brought up on a frontier subject to Indian alarms and incursions, and acquainted with the strong points and fastnesses of the Highlands.
King's Bridge, and the heights adjacent, considered by General Lee of the utmost importance to the communication between New York and the mainland, and to the security of the Hudson, were reconnoitred by Washington on horseback, about the middle of the month; ordering where works should be laid out. Breastworks were to be thrown up for the defence of the bridge, and an advanced work (subsequently called Fort Independence) was to be built beyond it, on a hill commanding Spyt den Duivel Creek, as that inlet of the Hudson is called which links it with the Harlem River.
A strong work, intended as a kind of citadel, was to crown a rocky height between two and three miles south of the bridge, commanding the channel of the Hudson; and below it were to be redoubts on the banks of the river at Jeffrey's Point. In honor of the general, the citadel received the name of Fort Washington.
Colonel Rufus Putnam was the principal engineer, who had the direction of the works. General Mifflin encamped in their vicinity, with part of the two battalions from Pennsylvania, to be employed in their construction, aided by the militia.
While these preparations were made for the protection of the Hudson, the works about Brooklyn on Long Island were carried on with great activity, under the superintendence of General Greene. In a word, the utmost exertions were made at every point, to put the city, its environs, and the Hudson River, in a state of defence, before the arrival of another hostile armament.
RETREAT OF GENERAL THOMAS HIS DEATH- GENERAL SULLIVAN SCENE ON THE SOREL SANGUINE EXPECTATIONS WASHINGTON'S OPINION OF SULLIVAN'S CHARAC
TER -GATES APPOINTED TO THE COMMAND IN CANADA
RE-ENTHOMPSON CAPTURED RETREAT OF SULLIVAN CLOSE OF THE INVASION OF CANADA.
OPERATIONS in Canada were drawing to a disastrous close. General Thomas, finding it impossible to make a stand at Point Deschambault, had continued his retreat to the mouth of the Sorel, where he found General Thompson with part of the troops detached by Washington, from New York, who were making some preparations for defence. Shortly after his arrival, he was taken ill with the small-pox, and removed to Chamblee. He had prohibited inoculation among his troops, because it put too many of their scanty number on the sick list; he probably fell a victim to his own prohibition, as he died of that malady on the 2d of June.
On his death, General Sullivan, who had recently arrived with the main detachment of troops from New York, succeeded to the command; General Wooster having been recalled. He advanced immediately with his brigade to the mouth of the Sorel, where he found General Thompson with but very few troops to defend that post, having detached Colonel St. Clair, with six or seven hundred men, to Three Rivers, about fifty miles down the St. Lawrence, to give check to an advanced corps of the enemy of about eight hundred regulars and Canadians, under the veteran Scot, Colonel Maclean. In the mean time General Thompson, who was left with but two hundred men to defend his post, was sending off his sick and his heavy baggage, to be prepared for a retreat, if necessary. "It really was affecting,' "writes Sullivan to Washington,
the banks of the Sorel lined with men, women and children, leaping and clapping their hands for joy, to see me arrive; it gave no less joy to General Thompson, who seemed to be wholly forsaken, and left to fight against an unequal force or retreat before them."
Sullivan proceeded forthwith to complete the works on the Sorel; in the mean time he detached General Thompson with additional troops to overtake St. Clair, and assume command of