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cers to head-quarters, and invited a delegation of the General Court to be present, to adopt measures for the defense and support of the lines. The result of their deliberations was an order that three thousand of the minute men and militia of Massachusetts, and two thousand from New Hampshire, should be at Cambridge by the tenth of December, to relieve the Connecticut regiments, and supply the deficiency that would be caused by their departure, and by the absence of others on furlough.
With this arrangement the Connecticut troops were made acquainted, and, as the time of most of them would not be out before the 10th, they were ordered to remain in camp until relieved. Their officers assured Washington that he need apprehend no defection on the part of their men; they would not leave the lines. The officers themselves were probably mistaken in their opinion of their men, for on the 1st of December, many of the latter, some of whom belonged to Putnam's regiment, resolved to go home immediately. Efforts were made to prevent them, but in vain; several carried off with them their arms and ammunition. Washington sent a list of their names to Governor Trumbull. "I submit it to your judgment," writes he, "whether an example should not be made of these men who have deserted the cause of their country at this critical juncture, when the enemy are receiving reinforce ments?"
We anticipate the reply of Governor Trumbull, received several days subsequently. "The
late extraordinary and reprehensible conduct of some of the troops of this colony," writes he, "impresses me, and the minds of many of our people, with great surprise and indignation, since the treatment they met with, and the order and request made to them, were so reasonable, and apparently necessary for the defense of our common cause, and safety of our rights and privileges, for which they freely engaged."
We will here add, that the homeward-bound warriors seem to have run the gauntlet along the road; for their conduct on quitting the army drew upon them such indignation, that they could hardly get anything to eat on their journey, and when they arrived at home they met with such a reception (to the credit of the Connecticut women be it recorded), that many were soon disposed to return again to the camp.1
On the very day after the departure homeward of these troops, and while it was feared their example would be contagious, a long, lumbering train of wagons, laden with ordnance and military stores, and decorated with flags, came wheeling into the camp escorted by continental troops and country militia. They were part of the cargo of a large brigantine laden with munitions of war, captured and sent in to Cape Ann by the schooner Lee, Captain Manly, one of the cruisers sent out by Washington. "Such universal joy ran through the whole camp," writes an officer
as if each one grasped a victory in his own hands."
1 See Letter of Gen. Greene to Samuel Ward. Am. Ar chives, 4th Series, vol. iv.
PUTNAM AND THE PRIZE MORTAR. 117
Beside the ordnance captured, there were two thousand stand of arms, one hundred thousand flints, thirty thousand round shot, and thirty-two tons of musket balls.
"Surely nothing," writes Washington, "ever came more apropos."
It was indeed a cheering incident, and was eagerly turned to account. Among the ordnance was a huge brass mortar of a new construction, weighing near three thousand pounds. It was considered a glorious trophy, and there was a resolve to christen it. Mifflin, Washington's secretary, suggested the name. The mortar was fixed in a bed; old Putnam mounted it, dashed on it a bottle of rum, and gave it the name of "Congress." The shouts which rent the air were heard in Boston. When the meaning of them was explained to the British, they observed, that "should their expected reinforcements arrive in time, the rebels would pay dear in the spring for all their petty triumphs."
With Washington, this transient gleam of nautical success was soon overshadowed by the conduct of the cruisers he had sent to the St. Lawrence. Failing to intercept the brigantines, the object of their cruise, they landed on the island of St. John's, plundered the house of the governor and several private dwellings, and brought off three of the principal inhabitants prisoners; one of whom, Mr. Callbeck, was president of the council, and acted as governor.
These gentlemen made a memorial to Washington of this scandalous maraud He instantly
ordered the restoration of the effects which had been pillaged: of his conduct towards the gentlemen personally, we may judge by the following note addressed to him by Mr. Callbeck.
"I should ill deserve the generous treatment which your Excellency has been pleased to show me, had I not the gratitude to acknowledge so great a favor. I cannot ascribe any part of it to my own merit, but must impute the whole to the philanthrophy and humane disposition that so truly characterize General Washington. Be so obliging, therefore, as to accept the only return in my power, that of my most grateful thanks.”1
Shortly after the foregoing occurrence, information was received of the indignities which had been heaped upon Colonel Ethan Allen, when captured at Montreal by General Prescott, who, himself, was now a prisoner in the hands of the Americans. It touched Washington on a point on which he was most sensitive and tenacious, the treatment of American officers when captured; and produced the following letter from him to General Howe: ·
"SIR, We have just been informed of a circumstance which, were it not so well authenticated, I should scarcely think credible. It is that Colonel Allen, who, with his small party, was defeated and made prisoner near Montreal, has been treated without regard to decency, humanity, or the rules of war; that he has been thrown into irons, and suffers all the hardships inflicted upon common felons.
1 Sparks. Washington's Writings, vol. iii. p. 194.
"I think it my duty, sir, to demand, and do expect from you, an eclaircissement on this subject. At the same time, I flatter myself, from the character which Mr. Howe bears as a man of honor, gentleman, and soldier, that my demand will meet with his approbation. I must take the liberty, also, of informing you that I shall consider your silence as a confirmation of the report, and further assuring you, that whatever treatment Colonel Allen receives, whatever fate he undergoes, such exactly shall be the treatment and fate of Brigadier Prescott, now in our hands. The law of retaliation is not only justifiable in the eyes of God and man, but absolutely a duty, which, in our present circumstances, we owe to our relations, friends, and fellow-citizens.
"Permit me to add, sir, that we have all here the highest regard and reverence for your great personal qualities and attainments, and the Americans in general esteem it as not the least of their misfortunes, that the name of Howe, a name so dear to them, should appear at the head of the catalogue of the instruments employed by a wicked ministry for their destruction."
General Howe felt acutely the sorrowful reproach in the latter part of the letter. It was a reiteration of what had already been expressed by Congress; in the present instance it produced irritation, if we may judge from the reply.
In answer to your letter, I am to ac quaint you that my command does not extend to