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PLANS OF FORTIFICATION.
I own, puzzles me. It is so encircled with deep navigable water, that whoever commands the sea must command the town. To-morrow I shall begin to dismantle that part of the fort next to the town, to prevent its being converted into a citadel. I shall barrier the principal streets, and, at least, if I cannot make it a continental garri · son, it shall be a disputable field of battle." Batteries were to be erected on an eminence behind Trinity Church, to keep the enemy's ships at so great a distance as not to injure the town.
King's Bridge, at the upper end of Manhattan or New York Island, linking it with the mainland, was pronounced by Lee "a most important pass, without which the city could have no communication with Connecticut." It was, therefore, to be made as strong as possible.
Heavy cannon were to be sent up to the forts in the Highlands, which were to be enlarged and strengthened.
In the midst of his schemes, Lee received orders from Congress to the command in Canada, vacant by the death of Montgomery. He bewailed the defenseless condition of the city; the Continental Congress, as he said, not having as yet taken the least step for its security. "The instant I leave it," said he, "I conclude the Pro vincial Congress, and inhabitants in general, will relapse into their former hysterics. The men-ofwar and Mr. Tryon will return to their old station at the wharves, and the first regiments who arrive from England will take quiet possession of the town and Long Island."
It must be observed that, in consequence of
his military demonstrations in the city, the enemy's ships had drawn off and dropped down the bay; and he had taken vigorous measures, without consulting the committees, to put an end to the practice of supplying them with provisions.
"Governor Tryon and the Asia," writes he to Washington, "continue between Nutten and Bedlow's Islands. It has pleased his Excellency, in violation of the compact he has made, to seize several vessels from Jersey laden with flour. It has, in return, pleased my Excellency to stop all provisions from the city, and cut off all intercourse with him, a measure which has thrown the mayor, council, and tories into agonies. The propensity, or rather rage, for paying court to this great man, is inconceivable. They cannot be weaned from him. We must put wormwood on his paps, or they will cry to suck, as they are in their second childhood."
We would observe in explanation of a sarcasm in the above quoted letter, that Lee professed a great contempt for the titles of respect which it was the custom to prefix to the names of men in office or command. He scoffed at them as unworthy of "a great, free, manly, equal commonwealth." "For my own part," said he, "I would as lief they would put ratsbane in my mouth, as the Excellency with which I am daily crammed. How much more true dignity was there in the simplicity of address among the Romans! Marcus Tullius Cicero, Decius Bruto Imperatori, or Caio Marcello Consuli, than to His Excellency Major-general Noodle,' or to the Honorable John Doodle.""
Monotonous State of Affairs before Boston.- Washington Anxious for Action.- Exploit of Putnam.. Its Dramatic Consequences. - The Farce of the Blockade of Boston. An Alarming Interruption. - Distresses of the Besieged. Washington's Irksome Predicament. - His Bold Proposition. - Demur of the Council of War. - Arrival of Knox with Artillery.-Dorchester Heights to be Seized and Fortified. Preparations for the Attempt.
HE siege of Boston continued through the winter, without any striking incident to enliven its monotony. The British remained within their works, leaving the beleaguering army slowly to augment its forces. The country was dissatisfied with the inaction of the latter. Even Congress was anxious for some successful blow that might revive popular enthusiasm. Washington shared this anxiety, and had repeatedly, in councils of war, suggested an attack upon the town, but had found a majority of his general officers opposed to it. He had hoped some favorable opportunity would present, when, the harbor being frozen, the troops might approach the town upon the ice. The winter, however, though severe at first, proved a mild one, and the bay continued open. General Putnam, in the mean time, having completed the new
works at Lechmere Point, and being desirous of keeping up the spirit of his men, resolved to treat them to an exploit. Accordingly, from his “impregnable fortress" of Cobble Hill, he detached a party of about two hundred, under his favorite officer, Major Knowlton, to surprise and capture a British guard stationed at Charlestown. It was a daring enterprise, and executed with spirit. As Charlestown Neck was completely protected, Knowlton led his men across the mill-dam, round the base of the hill, and immediately below the fort; set fire to the guard-house and some buildings in its vicinity; made several prisoners, and retired without loss, although thundered upon by the cannon of the fort. The exploit was attended by a dramatic effect on which Putnam had not calculated. The British officers, early in the winter, had fitted up a theatre, which was well attended by the troops and tories. On the evening in question, an afterpiece was to be performed, entitled, "The Blockade of Boston," intended as a burlesque on the patriot army which was beleaguering it. Washington is said to have been represented in it as an awkward lout, equipped with a huge wig, and a long rusty sword, attended by a country booby as orderly sergeant, in rustic garb, with an old firelock seven or eight feet long.
The theatre was crowded, especially by the military. The first piece was over, and the curtain was rising for the farce, when a sergeant made his appearance, and announced that "the alarm guns were firing at Charlestown, and the
THE BLOCKADE OF BOSTON."
Yankees attacking Buuker's Hill.” At first this was supposed to be a part of the entertainment, until General Howe gave the word, "Officers, to your alarm posts."
Great confusion ensued; every one scrambled out of the theatre as fast as possible. There was, as usual, some shrieking and fainting of ladies; and the farce of "The Blockade of Boston" had a more serious than comic termination.
The London "Chronicle," in a sneering comment on Boston affairs, gave Burgoyne as the author of this burlesque afterpiece, though perhaps unjustly. "General Burgoyne has opened a theatrical campaign, of which himself is sole manager, being determined to act with the provincials on the defensive only. Tom Thumb has been already represented; while, on the other hand, the provincials are preparing to exhibit, early in the spring, Measure for Measure.” ”
The British officers, like all soldiers by profession, endeavored to while away the time by every amusement within their reach; but, in truth the condition of the besieged town was daily becoming more and more distressing. The inhabitants were without flour, pulse, or vegetables; the troops were nearly as destitute. lack of fuel, too, as well as food. broke out, and it was necessary to inoculate the army. Men, women, and children either left the city voluntarily, or were sent out of it; yet the distress increased. Several houses were broken open and plundered; others were demolished by the soldiery for fuel.
There was a The small-pox
General Howe resorted to