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country against the strides of tyranny, making against it.” 1
December had been throughout a month of severe trial to Washington ; during which he saw his
army dropping away piecemeal before his eyes. Homeward
face was turned as soon as the term of enlistment was at an end. Scarce could the disbanding troops be kept a few days in camp until militia could be procured to supply their place. Washington made repeated and animated appeals to their patriotism ; they were almost unheeded. He caused popular and patriotic songs to be sung about the camp. They passed by like the idle wind. Home ! home! home! throbbed in every heart. “ The desire of retiring into a chimney-corner,” says Washington reproachfully, “ seized the troops as soon as their terms expired.”
Can we wonder at it? They were for the most part yeomanry, unused to military restraint, and suffering all the hardships of a starveling camp, almost within sight of the smoke of their own firesides.
Greene, throughout this trying month, was continually by Washington's side. His letters expressing the same cares and apprehensions, and occasionally in the same language with those of the commander-in-chief, show how completely he was in his councils. He could well sympathize with him in his solicitudes. Some of his own Rhode Island troops were with Arnold in his Canada expedition. Others encamped or Pros.
1 Washington to Gov. Croke. Sparks, üi. 227.
pect Hill, and whose order and discipline had been his pride, were evincing the prevalent disposition to disband. “ They seem to be so sick of this
way of life, and so homesick," writes he, " that I fear the greater part of the best troops from our colony will soon go home.” vide against such a contingency, he strengthened his encampment, so that, “ if the soldiery should not engage as cheerfully as he expected, he might defend it with a less number.” 1
Still he was buoyant and cheerful; frequently on his white horse about Prospect Hill, haranguing his men, and endeavoring to keep them in good humor. “This is no time for disgusting the soldiery,” would he say, 6 when their aid is so essential to the preservation of the rights of human nature and the liberties of America."
He wore the same cheery aspect to the commander-in-chief; or rather he partook of his own hopeful spirit. “I expect,” would he say, “ the army, notwithstanding all the difficulties we meet with, will be full in about six weeks."
It was this loyalty in time of trouble, this buoyancy under depression, this thorough patriotism, which won for him the entire confidence of Washington.
The thirty-first of December arrived, the crisis of the army; for with that month expired the last of the old terms of enlistment.
“ We never have been so weak," writes Greene, “as we shall be to-morrow, when we dismiss the old troops." On this day Washington received cheering intel
1 Greene to Henry Ward.
ligence from Canada. A junction had taken place, a month previously, between Arnold and Montgomery at Point aux Trembles. They were about two thousand strong, and were making every preparation for attacking Quebec. Carleton was said to have with him but about twelve hundred men, the majority of whom were sailors. It was thought that the French would give up Quebec, if they could get the same conditions that were granted to the inhabitants of Montreal.1
Thus the year closed upon Washington with a ray of light from Canada, while all was doubt around him.
On the following morning (January 1st, 1776), his army did not amount to ten thousand men, and was composed of but half-filled regiments. Even in raising this inadequate force, it had been necessary to indulge many of the men with furloughs, that they might visit their families and friends. The expedients resorted to in equipping the
ariny, show the prevailing lack of arms. Those soldiers who retired from service, were obliged to leave their weapons for their successors, receiving their appraised value. Those who enlisted, were required to bring a gun, or were charged a dollar for the use of one during the campaign. He who brought a blanket was allowed two dollars. It was impossible to furnish uniforms; the troops, therefore, presented a motley appearance, in garments of divers cuts and colors; the price of each man's garb being deducted from his pay.
1 Letter of Washington to the President of Congress, Dec. 31
GLOOMY OPENING OF THE NEW YEAR. 149
The detachments of militia from the neighboring provinces which replaced the disbanding troops, remained but for brief periods ; so that, in despite of every effort, the lines were often but feebly manned, and might easily have been forced.
The anxiety of Washington, in this critical state of the army, may be judged from his cor. respondence with Reed. " It is easier to conceive than to describe the situation of my mind for some time past, and my feelings under our pres. ent circumstances," writes be on the 4th of Jan. uary.
“ Search the volumes of history through, and I much question whether a case similar to ours is to be found, namely, to maintain a post against the power of the British troops for six months together, without powder, and then to have one army disbanded and another raised within the same distance (musket shot) of a rein
What may be the issue of the last maneuver,
time only can unfold. I wish this month were well over our head. We are now left with a good deal less than halfraised regiments, and about five thousand militia, who only stand engaged to the middle of this month ; when, according to custom, they will de part, let the necessity of their stay be ever so urgent. Thus, for more than two months past, I have scarcely emerged from one difficulty before I have been plunged in another. How it will end, God, in his great goodness, will direct. I am thankful for his protection to this time. We are told that we shall soon get the army com.
pleted, but I have been told so many things which have never come to pass, that I distrust everything."
In a subsequent letter to Mr. Reed, he reverts to the subject, and pours forth his feelings with confiding frankness. What can be more touching than the picture he draws of himself and his lonely vigils about his sleeping camp? “The re
6 flection on my situation and that of this army, produces many an unhappy hour, when all around me are wrapped in sleep. Few people know the predicament we are in on a thousand accounts ; fewer still will believe, if any disaster happens to these lines, from what cause it flows. I have often thought how much happier I should have been, if, instead of accepting the command, under such circumstances, I had taken my musket on my shoulder and entered the ranks; or, if I could have justified the measure to posterity and my own conscience, had retired to the back country and lived in a wigwam. If I shall be able to rise superior to these and many other difficulties, which might be enumerated, I shall most religiously believe that the finger of Providence is in it, to blind the eyes of our enemies; for surely if we get well through this month, it must be for want of their knowing the disadvantages which we labor under."
Recurring to the project of an attack upon Boston, which he had reluctantly abandoned in deference to the adverse opinions of a council
6 Could I have foreseen the difficulties which have come upon us; could I have known