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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 superintendence of General Greene. In a word, the utmost exertions were made at every point, to put the city, its environs, and the Hudson River, in a state of defense, before the arrival of another hostile armament.
Retreat of General Thomas. - His Death. General Sullivan in Command. - Scene on the Sorel.-Sanguine Expectations of Sullivan. - Washington's Opinion of Sullivan's Character. Gates appointed to the Command in Canada. - Reinforcements of the Enemy. - Reverses. - Thompson captured. Retreat of Sullivan. Close of the Invasion of Canada.
PERATIONS in Canada were drawing to a disastrous close. General Thomas,
finding it impossible to inade a stand at Point Deschambault, had continued his retreat to the mouth of the Sorel, where he found General Thompson with part of the troops detached by Washington, from New York, who were making some preparations for defense. Shortly after his arrival, he was taken ill with the small-pox, and removed to Chamblee. He had prohibited inoculation among his troops, because it put too many of their scanty number on the sick list; he probably fell a victim to his own prohibition, as he died of that malady on the 2d of June.
On his death, General Sullivan, who had recently arrived with the main detachment of troops from New York, succeeded to the command General Wooster having been recalled. He advanced immediately with his brigade to the mouth
of the Sorel, where he found General Thompson with but very few troops to defend that post, having detached Colonel St. Clair, with six or seven hundred men, to Three Rivers, about fifty miles down the St. Lawrence, to give check to an advanced corps of the enemy of about eight hundred regulars and Canadians, under the vet eran Scot, Colonel Maclean. In the mean time General Thompson, who was left with but two hundred men to defend his post, was sending off his sick and his heavy baggage, to be prepared for a retreat, if necessary. "It really was affecting," writes Sullivan to Washington, "to see the banks of the Sorel lined with men, women, and children, leaping and clapping their hands for joy, to see me arrive; it gave no less joy to General Thompson, who seemed to be wholly forsaken, and left to fight against an unequal force or retreat before them."
Sullivan proceeded forthwith to complete the works on the Sorel; in the mean time he detached General Thompson with additional troops to overtake St. Clair, and assume command of the whole party, which would then amount to two thousand He was by no means to attack the encampment at Three Rivers, unless there was great prospect of success, as his defeat might prove the total loss of Canada. "I have the highest opinion of the bravery and resolution of the troops you command," says Sullivan in his instructions, and doubt not but, under the direction of a kind Providence, you will open the way for our recovering that ground which former troops have so shame fully lost."
Sullivan's letter to Washington, written at the same time, is full of sanguine anticipation. It was his fixed determination to gain post at Deschambault, and fortify it so as to make it inaccessible. "The enemy's ships are now above that place," writes he; "but if General Thompson succeeds at Three Rivers, I will soon remove the ships below Richelieu Falls, and after that, approach Quebec as fast as possible."
"Our affairs here," adds he, "have taken a strange turn since our arrival. The Canadians are flocking by hundreds to take a part with us. The only reason of their disaffection was, because our exertions were so feeble that they doubted much of our success, and even of our ability to protect them.
"I venture to assure you, and the Congress, that I can in a few days reduce the army to order, and with the assistance of a kind Providence, put a new face to our affairs here, which a few days since seemed almost impossible."
The letter of Sullivan gave Washington an unexpected gleam of sunshine. "Before it came to hand," writes he in reply, "I almost dreaded to hear from Canada, as my advices seemed to promise nothing favorable, but rather further misfortunes. But I now hope that our affairs, from the confused, distracted, and almost forlorn state in which you found them, will change, and assume an aspect of order and success." Still his saga
cious mind perceived a motive for this favorable coloring of affairs. Sullivan was aiming at the command in Canada; and Washington soberly
weighed his merits for the appointment, in a let ter to the President of Congress. "He is active, spirited, and zealously attached to the cause. has his wants, and he has his foibles.
The latter are manifested in his little tincture of vanity, and in an over-desire of being popular, which now and then lead him into embarrassments. His wants He wants experience to
are common to us all.
move upon a grand scale; for the limited and contracted knowledge, which any of us have in military matters, stands in very little stead.” This want was overbalanced, on the part of General Sullivan, by sound judgment, some acquaintance with men and books, and an enterprising genius.
"As the security of Canada is of the last importance to the well-being of these colonies," adds Washington, "I should like to know the sentiments of Congress, respecting the nomination of any officer to that command. The character I have drawn of General Sullivan is just, according to my ideas of him. Congress will therefore determine upon the propriety of continuing him in Canada, or sending another, as they shall see fit." 1
Scarce had Washington dispatched this letter, when he received one from the President of Congress, dated the 18th of June, informing him that Major-general Gates had been appointed to command the forces in Canada, and requesting him to expedite his departure as soon as possible. The appointment of Gates has been attributed to the
Washington to the President of Congress, July 12, 1776