« PrejšnjaNaprej »
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 Butterfield, 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. Unless 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
*Arnold to the Commis. of Cong., 27th May.
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 the 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 Indian allies, was said to be actually coming down the valley of the Mohawk, bent on revenge, and preparing to lay everything 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, 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 defenses 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 Antony'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 a 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 Provincial 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.
VOL. XIII.—** *5
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 reconnoitered 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 defense 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 Harlaem 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 superintend