« PrejšnjaNaprej »
Had they not practised such foresight, it is to be much doubted whether they could have been in sufficient forwardness. The militia, which were called for from the New-England colonies to assist in some grand operation meant to be undertaken between the first of February and the end of March, collected apace; but the want of arms was prodigious. Every thing was carried on with the utmost expedition; that so the heights might be occupied as soon as possible. The design was no secret, and many were fearful, that general Howe would secure them before the Americans but he could not spare a sufficient force for the purpose. Not only so, but there was neither water nor covering upon the heights; and had a corps been employed by him to gain the possession of them, it would have been in danger of being surrounded, of having its communication cut off, and of being obliged to surrender in less than twenty-four hours, through the severity of the weather.
[Feb. 26.] The Americans had got forty-five batteaus, each to carry eighty men, and two floating batterics, stationed at the mouth of Cambridge river; by the help of these, they meant to rush into the west of Boston, should the enemy make a serious affair of Dorchester. A council of war was called to fix the time for going upon the heights. The quarter master general, colonel Mifflin, was summoned to the council for the first time. He went prepossessed in favor of the night of March the fourth, a friend having reminded him, that probably the action would be the next day; and that it would have a wonderful effect upon the spirits of the New-Englanders, to tell them when about engaging-" remember the fifth of March, and avenge yourselves for the massacre at Boston." When required to give his opinion, he spake in favor of the aforementioned night, and supported it in opposition to the contrary sentiment. of general Gates, who for some reasons deemed it an improper time. After a debate it was carried for that night by a majority of one. It was included, that several regiments of militia from the neighbouring towns, should march in, and do duty for a few days on the lines of Dorchester and Roxbury. Among other preparations which had been making against the day of action, the doctors, surgeons, mates, &c. had been preparing two thousand bandages for broken legs, arms and dangerous wounds.-
Though this circumstance was well known in camp, the men did not appear daunted at the idea of the horrid carnage it imparted. There was a spirit of animation among them, intimating a strong desire of coming to blows with the enemy. To conceal the design of the Americans, and to divert the enemy's attention, a very heavy service of cannon and mortars began to VOL. II. D play
play upon the town, between ten and eleven, on Saturday night, [March 2.] from Cobble Hill, Lechmere's point and Lamb'sdam, a fortified battery at Roxbury. The firing was continued all that, and the two succeeding nights. The first night, two seven inch, and one ten inch, and the congress mortar burst; the last after firing twice or thrice. Till the Saturday night, the enemy did not believe that the continentals had so many war Jike instruments. But Mr. Henry Knox, who was unanimously. elected by congress colonel of the regiment of artillery the 17thof last November, had been to Tyconderoga, and brought from thence and Crown Point across the lakes, while frozen sufficient: to bear cannons, mortars and howitzers, to the number of fiftyand better. Shells, &c. they had got from the king's store at New-York, and out of the ordnance brig. The cannonade: and bombardment did little damage, only shattered some houses and hurt a few soldiers.
[March 4.] All things being ready on Monday; as soon as the evening admits, the expedition goes forward. The covering party of 800 men lead the way; then come the carts with the intrenching tools; after them the main working body of about 1200 under general Thomas: a train of more than 300 carts, loaded with fascines, hay in bundles of 7 or 800 weight, &c. close the martial procession. The bundles of hay are designed for Dorchester neck, which is very low, and exposed to be raked by the enemy; and are to be laid on the side next to them, to cover the Americans in passing and repassing. Every man knows his place and business. The covering party, wher upon the ground, divides; half goes to the point nearest to Bos ton, the other to that next to the castle. All possible silence is observed. But there is no occasion to order the whips to be taken from the waggoners, lest their impatience, and the difficul ty of the roads should induce them to make use of them, and OCcasion an alarm*.. The whips used by the drivers of these ox← carts, are not formed for making much noise, and can give noalarm at a distance. The men in driving their oxen commonly make most noise with their voices; and now a regard to their own safety dictates to them, to speak to their cattle, as they move on, in a whispering note. There are no bad roads to require an. exertion; for the frost having been of long continuance, they are so hard frozen as to be quite good. The wind lies so as to carry what noise cannot be avoided by driving the stakes and picking against the ground, (still frozen above eighteen inches
See the Marquis de Chaftellux's travels in North America, vel. ii. p. 275
deep in many places) into the harbour between the town and the castle, so that it cannot be heard and regarded by any who have no suspicion of what is carrying on especially as there is a continued cannonade on both sides. Many of the carts make three trips some four; for a vast quantitiy of materials have been collected, especially chandeliers and facsines. By ten o'clock a night the troops have raised two forts, one upon each hill, sufficient to defend threm from small arms and grape shot. The night is remarkably mild, a finer for working could not have been sellected out of the three hundred and sixty-five. They continue working with the utmost spirit, till relieved the Tues-day morning. (March 5.) about three. It is so hazy below the height that the men cannot be seen, though it is a bright moonlight night, above on the hills. It is some time after day break before the ministerialists in Boston can clearly discern the new -erected forts. They loom to great advantage, and are thought to be much larger than is really the case. General Howe is astonished upon seeing what has been done; scratches his head and is heard to say, "I know not what I shall do the rebels have done more in one night, than my whole army would have done in months." The admiral informs him, that if the Americans possess those heights he cannot keep one of his majesty's ships in the harbour. A council of war determines to attempt disdodging them.
General Washington has settled his plan of defence and of fence. Boston is so surrounded on every land side by neighbouring hills, that nothing can take place on the wharves or next to the water, but it may be noted by the help of glasses. Proper signals having been agreed on, by means of the hills, which are in view one of another, intelligence can be conveyed instantly from Dorchester heights to Ruxbury, and from Roxbury to Cambridge and so the reverse. This mode of communicating information is the speediest and safest. General Washington's plan is, in case any number of the enemy leave Boston to attack the heights and are defeated, to communicate such defeat by the proper signal, when 4000 provincials are to cross over from Canibridge side, and attempt the town in the confusion. that the regulars will be under. The boats are prepared, and the men paraded ready to embark. General Sullivan conimands the first division, and general Green the second. Gen. Heath objected to the command when offered, and remains in perfect safety with the troops left in Cambridge. The whole force which the commander in chief now has, including all the militia, is not much short of 20,000.
All is hurry and bustle in Boston. General Howe orders the ladders in town to be cut to ten feet lengths, that they may be fit for scaling. A large body of troops are to embark on board the transports, and to proceed down the harbour, with a view of landing in the hollow between the furtherest of the two fortified hills and the castle. The men are observed by one, at whose door they are drawn up before embarking, to look in general, pale and dejected; and are heard to say, "It will be another Bunker's Hill affair, or worse"-they have adopted the prevailing mistake of Bunker's for Breed's Hill. Some show great resoJution and boast of what they will do with the rebels. When these troops, amounting to about 2,000, and designed to be under the command of lord Percy, are upon the wharves, and passing in the boats to the transports, the Americans expect they are intended for an immediate attack, clap their hands for joy, and wish them to come on. General Washington happens at that instant to be on one of the heights; thinks with his men; and says to those who are at hand," Remember it is the fifth of March, and avenge the death of your brethren." It is instantly asked by such as are not near enough to hear," What says the general?" His words are given in answer. They fly from man to man through all the troops upon the spot, and add fuel to the martial fire already kindled, and burning with uncommon intenseness. The surrounding hills and elevations about Boston, affording a secure view of the ground on which the contending parties are expected to engage, are alive with the numerous spectators that throng them. A more interesting and bloody scene is apprehended to be just upon commencing, than what presented at Charlestown. They wait, as do the troops, officers and privates, the morning through; and till far into the afternoon, when they are convinced of the tide's being so far ebbed, that no attack can be made by general Howe on the Tuesday, which indeed is not his intention, for he is preparing to do it on the Wednesday. The transports go down in the evening toward the castle, a floating battery is also towed down, but the wind is unfavorable, and before they reach their destination blows up fresh, and forces three of the vessels ashore on Governor's Island. A storm succeeds at night, such as few remember ever to have heard; and toward morning it rains excessively hard.
[March 6.] The design of general Howe was hereby frustrated, and a deal of bloodshed providentially prevented. A council of war, was called in the morning, and agreed to evacuate the town as soon as possible. The time that had been gained by the Americans for strengthening their works, before any attempt could be now made upon them, took away all hope of
success; which would have been more precarious than expected by reason of colonel Mifflin's having advised to, and provided a large number of barrels, filled with stones, gravel and sand, that were placed round the works, to be rolled down and break the lines of any hostile advancing troops, when ascending the hills. He is entitled to much praise for all his exertions, and particularly for his conduct on this occasion. There was a full supply of teams and other requisites for the service; and though the men were for a while without cover, and suffered from the rain and cold, yet before Thursday evening he had a number of barracks up; they having been framed beforehand, and brought upon the ground on Monday night. [March 7.] There was a general hurry and confusion in Boston; both troops and tories were as busy as possible in preparing to quit the town, and to carry off all they could of their military stores and valuable effects. The number of transports and vessels was short of what were wanted. In the beginning of last November, gen. Howe received a letter from lord Dartmouth, advising to the evacuation of Boston, and the remeval of his troops to New-York. He excused himself by pleading he had not sufficient shipping. He was now obliged to evacuate with fewer.
[March 8.] A flag was sent out from the select men, acquainting general Washington with the intention of the troops, and that general Howe was disposed to leave the town standing, provided he could retire uninterrupted by the country. General Washington brought himself under no obligation; but expressed himself in words which admitted of a favorable construction, and intimated his good wishes for the town's-people. He was at a loss to know where it was that general Howe intended going; and though inclined to believe it was Halifax, yet to guard against the evil of a mistake, while the British were preparing to be gone, he sent off the riflemen by land to New-York, to assist in securing that city.
[March 9.] General Howe issued a proclamation, ordering all woollen and linen goods to be delivered to Crean Brush, esq. be they in whose hands they might. [March 10.] Sundry shops belonging to persons in the country, were broke open and all the goods, of whatever sort or kind, taken by the said Brush and put on board ship to be conveyed away. The next day shops were stripped by him of all their goods, though the owners were in town. [March 12.] There was a licentious plundering of shops, stores and dwelling-houses, by soldiers and sailors, carrying destruction wherever they went: what they could not carry away they destroyed. The next day the same scenc. were renewed though expressly forbid in orders, and the