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movement to ascend the Hudson, but anchored off Staten Island, where they landed their troops, and the hillsides were soon whitened with their tents.
In the frigate “Greyhound,” one of the four ships which first arrived, came General Howe. He had preceded the fleet, in order to confer with Governor Tryon, and inform himself of the state of affairs. In a letter to his government he writes: "I met with Governor Tryon on board of a ship at the Hook, and many gentlemen, fast friends of government, attending him, from whom I have the fullest information of the state of the rebels. We passed the Narrows with three ships of war, and the first division of transports, landed the grenadiers and light infantry, as the ships came up, on this island, to the great joy of a most loyal people, long suffering on that account under the oppression of the rebels stationed among them; who precipitately fled on the approach of the shipping. There is great reason to ex
pect a numerous body of the inhabitants to join the army from the province of York, the Jerseys, and Connecticut, who, in this time of universal oppression, only wait for opportunities to give proofs of their loyalty and zeal." *
Washington beheld the gathering storm with an anxious
* Governor Tryon, in a letter dated about this time from on board of the "Duchess of Gordon," off Staten Island, writes: "The testimony given by the inhabitants of the island, of loyalty to his majesty, and attachment to his government, I flatter myself will be general throughout the province as soon as the army gets the main body of the rebels between them and the sea; which will leave all the back country open to the command of the king's friends, and yield a plentiful resource of provisions for the army, and place them in a better situation to cut off the rebels' retreat when forced from their stronghold."-Am. Archives, 5th Series, i. 122.
eye, aware that General Howe only awaited the arrival of his brother, the admiral, to commence hostile operations. He wrote to the President of Congress, urging a call on the Massachusetts government for its quota of Continental troops; and the formation of a flying camp of ten thousand men, to be stationed in the Jerseys, as a central force, ready to act in any direction as circumstances might require.
On the 2d of July, he issued a general order, calling upon the troops to prepare for a momentous conflict which was to decide their liberties and fortunes. Those who should signalize themselves by acts of bravery would be noticed and rewarded; those who proved craven would be exposed and punished. No favor would be shown to such as refused or neglected to do their duty at so important a crisis.
First Appearance of Alexander Hamilton-His Early Days-General Hugh Mercer in command of the Flying Camp-Declaration of Independence Announced to the Army-Downfall of the King's Statue
ABOUT this time we have the first appearance in the military ranks of the Revolution of one destined to take an active and distinguished part in public affairs; and to leave the impress of his genius on the institutions of the country.
As General Greene one day, on his way to Washington's headquarters, was passing through a field-then on the outskirts of the city, now in the heart of its busiest quarter, and known as "the Park"-he paused to notice a provincial company of artillery, and was struck with its able performances, and with the tact and talent of its commander. He was a mere youth, apparently about twenty years of age;
small in person and stature, but remarkable for his alert and manly bearing. It was Alexander Hamilton.
Greene was an able tactician, and quick to appreciate any display of military science; a little conversation sufficed to convince him that the youth before him had a mind of no ordinary grasp and quickness. He invited him to his quarters, and from that time cultivated his friendship.
Hamilton was a native of the island of Nevis, in the West Indies, and at a very early age had been put in a counting. house at Santa Cruz. His nature, however, was aspiring. "I contemn the groveling condition of a clerk to which my fortune condemns me," writes he to a youthful friend, "and would willingly risk my life, though not my character, to exalt my station. . . . I mean to prepare the way for futurity. I am no philosopher, and may be justly said to build castles in the air; yet we have seen such schemes succeed, when the projector is constant. I shall conclude by saying, I wish there was a war.”
Still he applied himself with zeal and fidelity to the duties of his station, and such were the precocity of his judgment and his aptness at accounts that, before he was fourteen years of age, he was left for a brief interval, during the absence of the principal, at the head of the establishment. While his situation in the house gave him a practical knowledge of business and experience in finance, his leisure hours were devoted to self-cultivation. He made himself acquainted with mathematics and chemistry, and indulged a strong propensity to literature. Some early achievements of his pen attracted attention and showed such proof of talent that it was determined to give him the advantage of a regular education. He was accordingly sent to Elizabethtown, in the Jerseys, in the autumn of 1772, to prepare, by a course of
studies, for admission into King's (now Columbia) College, at New York. He entered the college as a private student in the latter part of 1773, and endeavored, by diligent application, to fit himself for the medical profession.
The contentions of the colonies with the mother country gave a different direction and impulse to his ardent and aspiring mind. He soon signalized himself by the exercise of his pen, sometimes in a grave, sometimes in a satirical manner. On the 6th of July, 1774, there was a general meeting of the citizens in the "Fields," to express their abhorrence of the Boston Port Bill. Hamilton was present, and, prompted by his excited feelings and the instigation of youthful companions, ventured to address the multitude. The vigor and maturity of his intellect, contrasted with his youthful appearance, won the admiration of his auditors; even his diminutive size gave additional effect to his eloquence.
The war, for which in his boyish days he had sighed, was approaching. He now devoted himself to military studios, especially pyrotechnics and gunnery, and formed an amateur corps out of a number of his fellow-students and the young gentlemen of the city. In the month of March, 1776, he became captain of artillery in a provincial corps, newly raised, and soon, by able drilling, rendered it conspicuous for discipline.
It was while exercising his artillery company that he attracted, as we have mentioned, the attention of General Greene. Further acquaintance heightened the general's opinion of his extraordinary merits, and he took an early occasion to introduce him to the commander-in-chief, by whom we shall soon find him properly appreciated.
A valuable accession to the army, at this anxious time, was Washington's neighbor and former companion in arms,
Hugh Mercer, the veteran of Culloden and Fort Duquesne. His military spirit was alert as ever; the talent he had shown in organizing the Virginia militia, and his zeal and efficiency as a member of the committee of safety, had been properly appreciated by Congress, and on the 5th of June he had received the commission of brigadier-general. He was greeted by Washington with the right hand of fellowship. The flying camp was about forming. The committee of safety of Pennsylvania were forwarding some of the militia of that province to the Jerseys, to perform the service of the camp until the militia levies, specified by Congress, should arrive. Washington had the nomination of some Continental officer to the command. He gave it to Mercer, of whose merits he felt sure, and sent him over to Paulus Hook, in the Jerseys, to make arrangements for the Pennsylvania militia as they should come in; recommending him to Brigadier-general William Livingston as an officer on whose experience and judgment great confidence might be reposed.
Livingston was a man inexperienced in arms, but of education, talent, sagacity, and ready wit. He was of the New York family of the same name, but had resided for some time in the Jerseys, having a spacious mansion in Elizabethtown, which he had named Liberty Hall. Mercer and he were to consult together, and concert plans to repel invasions; the New Jersey militia, however, were distinct from the flying camp, and only called out for local defense. New Jersey's greatest danger of invasion was from Staten Island, where the British were throwing up works, and whence they might attempt to cross to Amboy. The flying camp was therefore to be stationed in the neighborhood of that place.
"The known disaffection of the people of Amboy," writes Washington, "and the treachery of those on Staten Island,