Slike strani

am very sensible," writes he, “ that at first view the project may appear hazardous, and its success must depend on the concurrence of many circumstances; but we are in a situation which requires us to run all risks. .... Enterprises which appear chimerical, often prove successful from that very circumstance. Common sense and prudence will suggest vigilance and care, where the danger is plain and obvious; but where little danger is apprehended, the more the enemy will be unprepared, and, consequently, there is the fairest prospect of success.”

Day after day elapsed without the arrival of any supplies; for in these irregular times, the munitions of war were not readily procured. It seemed hardly possible that the matter could be kept concealed from the enemy. Their works on Bunker's Hill commanded a full view of those of the Americans on Winter and Prospect hills. Each camp could see what was passing in the other. The sentries were almost near enough to

There was furtive intercourse occa. sionally between the men. In this critical state, the American camp remained for a fortnight; the anxious commander incessantly apprehending an attack. At length, a partial supply from the Jer. seys put an end to this imminent risk. Washington's secretary, Reed, who had been the confi. dant of his troubles and anxieties, gives a vivid expression of his feelings on the arrival of this relief. “ I can hardly look back without shụd. dering, at our situation before this increase of our stock, Stock did I say? it was next to nothing,




Almost the whole powder of the army was in the cartridge-boxes."1

It is thought that, considering the clandestine intercourse carried on between the two camps, intelligence of this deficiency of ammunition on the part of the besiegers must have been conveyed to the British commander ; but that the bold face with which the Americans continued to maintain their position made him discredit it.

Notwithstanding the supply from the Jerseys, there was not more powder in camp than would serve the artillery for one day of general action. None, therefore, was allowed to be wasted; the troops were even obliged to bear in silence an occasional cannonading. “Our poverty in ammu. nition," writes Washington, "prevents our making a suitable return."

One of the painful circumstances attending the outbreak of a revolutionary war is, that gallant men, who have held allegiance to the same govern. ment, and fought side by side under the same flag, suddenly find themselves in deadly conflict with each other. Such was the case at present in the hostile camps. General Lee, it will be recollected, had once served under General Burgoyne, in Portugal, and had won his brightest laurels when detached by that commander to surprise the Spanish camp, near the Moorish castle of Villa Velha. A soldier's friendship had ever since existed between them, and when Lee had heard at Philadelphia, before he had engaged in the Amer

1 Reed to Thomas Bradford. Life and Correspondence rol i. p. 118.

ican service, that his old comrade and commander was arrived at Boston, he wrote a letter to him giving his own views on the points in dispute be tween the colonies and the mother country, and inveighing with his usual vehemence and sarcastic point, against the conduct of the court and ministry. Before sending the letter, he submitted it to the Boston delegates and other members of Congress, and received their sanction.

Since his arrival in camp he had received a reply from Burgoyne, couched in moderate and courteous language, and proposing an interview at a designated house on Boston Neck, within the British sentries, mutual pledges to be given for each other's safety.

Lee submitted this letter to the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts, and requested their commands with respect to the proposed interview. They expressed, in reply, the highest confidence in his wisdom, discretion, and integrity, but questioned whether the interview might not be regarded by the public with distrust ; “á people contending for their liberties being naturally disposed to jealousy.” They suggested, therefore, as

means of preventing popular misconception, that Lee on seeking the interview, should be accompanied by Mr. Elbridge Gerry; or that the advice of a council of war should be taken in a matter of such apparent delicacy.

Lee became aware of the surmises that might be awakened by the proposed interview, and wrote a friendly note to Burgoyne declining it.

A correspondence of a more important character


[ocr errors][merged small]



[ocr errors]


took place between Washington and General Gage. It was one intended to put the hostile services on a proper footing. A strong disposition had been manifested among the British officers to regard those engaged in the patriot cause as malefactors, outlawed from the courtesies of chivalric warfare. Washington was determined to have a full understanding on this point. He was peculiarly sensitive with regard to Gage. They had been companions in arms in their early days; but Gage might now affect to look down upon him as the chief of a rebel army. Washington took an early opportunity to let him know, that he claimed to be the commander of a legitimate force, engaged in a legitimate cause, and that both himself and his army were to be treated on a footing of perfect equality. The correspondence arose from the treatment of several American officers.

“I understand," writes Washington to Gage, “ that the officers engaged in the cause of liberty and their country, who by the fortune of war have fallen into your hands, have been thrown indiscriminately into a common jail, appropriated to felons ; that no consideration has been had for those of the most respectable rank, when languishing with wounds and sickness, and that some have been amputated in this unworthy situation. Let your opinion, sir, of the principles which actuate them, be what it may, they suppose that they act from the noblest of all principles, love of freedom and their country. But political principles, I conceive, are foreign to this point. The obligations arising from the rights of humanity and claims

of rank are universally binding and extenstieg except in case of retaliation. These, I should have hoped, would have dictated a more tender treatment of those individuals whom chance or war had put in your power. Nor can I forbear suggesting its fatal tendency to widen that unhappy breach which you, and those ministers under whom you act, have repeatedly declared your wish to see forever closed. My duty now makes it necessary to apprise you that, for the future, I shall regulate all my conduct towards those gentlemen who are, or may be, in our possession, exactly by the rule you shall observe towards those of ours, now in your custody.

"If severity and hardships mark the line of your conduct, painful as it may be to me, your prisoners will feel its effects. But if kindness and humanity are shown to us, I shall with pleasure consider those in our hands only as, unfortunate, and they shall receive from me that treatment to which the unfortunate are ever entitled."

The following are the essential parts of a letter from General Gage in reply :


“ SIR, — To the glory of civilized nations, humanity and war have been compatible, and humanity to the subdued has become almost a general system. Britons, ever preëminent in mercy, have outgone common examples, and overlooked the crimical in the captive. Upon these principles your prisoners, whose lives by the law of the land are destined to the cord, have hitherto been treated with care and kindness, and more

« PrejšnjaNaprej »