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express carried a letter from him to the New York Convention, at that time holding its sessions at White Plains, in Westchester County, apprising it of the impending danger. His immediate solicitude was for the safety of Forts Constitution and Montgomery.
Fortunately, George Clinton, the patriotic legislator, had recently been appointed brigadier-general of the militia of Ulster and Orange Counties. Called to his native State by his military duties in this time of danger, he had only remained in Congress to vote for the Declaration of Independence, and then hastened home. He was now at New Windsor, in Ulster County, just above the Highlands. Washington wrote to him on the afternoon of the 12th, urging him to collect as great a force as possible of the New York militia for the protection of the Highlands against this hostile irruption, and to solicit aid, if requisite, from the western parts of Connecticut. "I have the strongest reason to believe," added he, "it will be absolutely necessary, if it were only to prevent an insurrection of your own tories.”
Long before the receipt of Washington's letter, Clinton had been put on the alert. About nine o'clock in the morning of the 13th an alarm gun from his brother at Fort Constitution thundered through the echoing defiles of the mountains. Shortly afterward two river sloops came to anchor above the Highlands, before the general's residence. Their captains informed him that New York had been attacked on the preceding afternoon. They had seen the cannonade from a distance, and judged from the subsequent firing that the enemy's ships were up the river as far as King's Bridge.
Clinton was as prompt a soldier as he had been an intrepid legislator. The neighboring militia were forthwith
put in motion. Three regiments were ordered out; one was to repair to Fort Montgomery; another to Fort Constitution; the third to rendezvous at Newburg, just above the Highlands, ready to hasten to the assistance of Fort Constitution, should another signal be given. All the other regiments under his command were to be prepared for service at a moment's notice. In ordering these hasty levies, however, he was as considerate as he was energetic. The colonels were directed to leave the frontier companies at home, to protect the country against the Indians, and some men out of each company to guard against internal enemies.
Another of his sagacious measures was to send expresses to all the owners of sloops and boats twenty miles up the west side of the river, to haul them off, so as to prevent their grounding. Part of them were to be ready to carry over the militia to the forts; the rest were ordered down to Fort Constitution, where a chain of them might be drawn across the narrowest part of the river, to be set on fire, should the enemy's ships attempt to pass.
Having made these prompt arrangements, he proceeded, early in the afternoon of the same day, with about forty of his neighbors, to Fort Constitution; whence, leaving some with his brother, he pushed down on the same evening to Fort Montgomery, where he fixed his headquarters, as being nearer the enemy, and better situated to discover their mo tions.
Here, on the following day (July 14), he received Washington's letter, written two days previously; but by this time he had anticipated its orders and stirred up the whole country. On that same evening two or three hundred of the hardy Ulster yeomanry, roughly equipped, part of one of the regiments he had ordered out, marched into Fort Mont
gomery, headed by their colonel (Woodhull). Early the next morning five hundred of another regiment arrived, and he was told that parts of two other regiments were on
"The men," writes he to Washington, "turn out of their harvest fields to defend their country with surprising alacrity. The absence of so many of them, however, at this time, when their harvests are perishing for want of the sickle, will greatly distress the country. I could wish, therefore, that a less number might answer the purpose."
On no one could this prompt and brave gathering of the yeomanry produce a more gratifying effect than upon the commander-in-chief; and no one could be more feelingly alive, in the midst of stern military duties, to the appeal in behalf of the peaceful interests of the husbandman.
While the vigilant Clinton was preparing to defend the passes of the Highlands, danger was growing more imminent at the mouth of the Hudson.
New York has always been a city prone to agitations. That into which it was thrown on the afternoon of the 12th of July, by the broadsides of the "Phoenix" and the "Rose,' was almost immediately followed by another. On the same evening there was a great booming of cannon, with clouds of smoke, from the shipping at anchor at Staten Island. Every spyglass was again in requisition. The British fleet were saluting a ship of the line, just arrived from sea. She advanced grandly, every man-of war thundering a salute as she passed. At her foretop masthead she bore St. George's flag. "It is the admiral's ship!" cried the nautical men on the lookout at the Battery. "It is the admiral's ship!" was echoed from mouth to mouth, and the word soon flew throughout the city, "Lord Howe is come!"
Precautions against Tories-Secret Committees-Declaration of Lord Howe-His Letter to the Colonial Governors-His Letter to Washington Rejected-Interview between the British Adjutant-General and Colonel Reed-Reception of the AdjutantGeneral by Washington-The "Phoenix" and "Rose" in the Tappan Sea and Haverstraw Bay-Arming of the River Yeomanry-George Clinton at the Gates of the Highlands
LORD HOWE was indeed come, and affairs now appeared to be approaching a crisis. In consequence of the recent conspiracy, the Convention of New York, seated at White Plains, in Westchester County, had a secret committee stationed in New York, for the purpose of taking cognizance of traitorous machinations. To this committee Washington addressed a letter, the day after his lordship's arrival, suggesting the policy of removing from the city and its environs, "all persons of known disaffection and enmity to the cause of America"; especially those confined in jail for treasonable offenses; who might become extremely dangerous in case of an attack and alarm. He took this step with great reluctance; but felt compelled to it by circumstances. The late conspiracy had shown him that treason might be lurking in his camp. And he was well aware that the city and the neighboring country, especially Westchester County, and Queen's and Suffolk Counties, on Long Island, abounded with "tories," ready to rally under the royal standard whenever backed by a commanding force.
In consequence of his suggestion, thirteen persons, in confinement for traitorous offenses, were removed to the
jail of Litchfield, in Connecticut. Among the number was the late mayor; but as his offense was not of so deep a dye as those whereof the rest stood charged, it was recommended by the President of the Convention that he should be treated with indulgence.
The proceedings of Lord Howe soon showed the policy of these precautions. His lordship had prepared a declaration, addressed to the people at large, informing them of the powers vested in his brother and himself as commissioners for restoring peace; and inviting communities as well as individuals who, in the tumult and disasters of the times, had deviated from their allegiance to the crown, to merit and receive pardon, by a prompt return to their duty. It was added that proper consideration would be had of the services of all who should contribute to the restoration of public tranquillity.
His lordship really desired peace. According to a contemporary, he came to America "as a mediator, not as a destroyer," and had founded great hopes in the efficacy of this document in rallying back the people to their allegiance; it was a sore matter of regret to him, therefore, to find that, in consequence of his tardy arrival, his invitation to loyalty had been forestalled by the Declaration of Independence.
Still it might have an effect in bringing adherents to the royal standard; he sent a flag on shore, therefore, bearing a circular letter, written in his civil and military capacity, to the colonial governor, requesting him to publish his address to the people as widely as possible.
We have heretofore shown the tenacity with which Wash
*Letter of Mr. Dennis de Berdt to Mr. Joseph Reed. Am. Archives, 5th Series, i. 372.