Mary A. M Marks.

England and America, 1763 to 1783; the history of a reaction online

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Howe had a reason for the change of plan. When his conduct
was enquired into, in 1779, he rested his defence on two grounds —
one, that he was given a full discretion as to what movements were
advisable; and that he never received any despatch from Lord
George Germaine, suspending this discretion, and explicitly ordering
him to go north to meet Burgoyne ; the other reason was that he
had received certain information during the last winter, from a


provincial officer, which led him to suppose that the whole State of
Pennsylvania was ready to rise for the King. This officer was said
to have been in Philadelphia, but his name was never known. Is
it necessary to suppose he really was in Philadelphia ? What if he
were in New York, a prisoner ? The mention of New York would
then become extremely unadvisable — suspicion would infallibly be
directed to General Charles Lee, and there were the strongest
reasons for not allowing the Americans to suspect he was betray-
ing them. Whether, however, there were two traitors or only one,
during this winter, while Washington was straining every nerve to
obtain Lee's release, Lee was planning the ruin of the American

In all probability Washington saved Lee's life, by refusing to
exchange any prisoners until Lee was recognised as a prisoner of
war, and by threatening that if Lee was sent to England the
British and Hessian officers in his possession should go into close
confinement. By Germaine's order, Lee was three times put on
a ship for England, but Washington's letter arrived and he was
relanded. It would not do to offend the Germans !

In his captivity Lee was "usually writing," and on the 29th of
March, 1777, he laid before the Howes a "plan of reconciliation."

This plan still exists in Lee's own handwriting, and is endorsed
" Mr. Lee's plan." It begins with an apology. Lee believes that
America has no chance of success — and success, if she obtained
it, would be her ruin. But she must give in in the end; and if
Great Britain has sufffered very heavily in making her submit, it
will be the worse for her. So being convinced that Lord and Sir
William Howe will be as moderate as their powers allow — and also
convinced that these ,powers are more ample than they may as
yet make known — he feels bound in conscience to furnish "all the
lights he can."

Sir William Howe had asked for 15,000 more men, to "finish
the war in a year " ; and the chief part of the small reinforcement
given in answer had been sent with Burgoyne to Canada, where-
upon Howe had written to the Secretary of State that his force
was insufficient, and that "the northern expedition must expect
little assistance from him." It is therefore rather a curious co-
incidence that "Mr. Lee's plan" is formed for the force which
Howe actually had with him. "I will suppose," says Lee, "that
besides the troops in Rhode Island, General Howe has 20,000
men fit for service." Here he digresses to express his belief that
the taking of Philadelphia will have no decisive consequences —
Congress will adjourn, and meet somewhere else ; he adds


significantly, " they look to Europe." The thing to be done is to
" unhinge or dissolve the whole system or machine of resistance,
or, in other terms, Congress government.'' This system depends
on the disposition of the provinces of Maryland, Virginia, and
Pennsylvania. If Maryland is reduced, and Virginia prevented
from marching to help Pennsylvania, "the whole machine is
dissolved." The difficulty of passing and repassing the North
River will keep the New Englanders at home — it is not worth
while to meddle with them ; it is enough to protect Rhode Island
and New York from their incursions. Fourteen thousand men will
be more than enough to clear the Jerseys, and take Philadelphia.
Let four thousand more go, half of them up the Potomac and
take Alexandria, and the other half up Chesapeak Bay and take
Annapolis. These two posts are easy to take, and once taken
can easily be made very strong ; and they are only an easy day's
march apart. The Germans will come in rather than "see their
fine farms ravaged." (Frederick County in Maryland, and York
County in Pennsylvania were all German.) Then proclaim

Thus Lee's plan was to paralyse the heart of the Middle

It is not surprising that Howe contented himself with talking
vaguely of the "provincial officer" who misled him with regard to
Pennsylvania. The immediate result of the southern expedition
was the utter ruin of the northern, and the capture of an army ;
the final result was the evacuation of Philadelphia, and the
abandonment of whatever had been gained by two pitched
battles and a score of skirmishes. By 1779 it was obvious to
every man in England that Howe had gone south on a fool's
errand. He had given up a good plan for a foolish one. He
would not have made matters better by confessing that he had
listened to Charles Lee against the judgment of every officer in
the British army.


" It may be asked in England, 'What is the Admiral' doing?' . . . That
he is not supplying us with sheep and oxen, the dinners of the best of us bear
meagre testimony. . . . He is «o/ employing his ships to keep up communication
and intelligence with the King's servants ... for I do not believe General
Gage has received a letter from any correspondent out of Boston these six
weeks. He is intent upon greater objects, you will think ... he is doubtless
. . . laying the towns in ashes that refuse his terms ? Alas ! he is not. British
thunder is diverted or controlled by pitiful attentions and mere Quaker-like
scruples." — General Burgoyiu to Lord George Germaine, Boston, Aug. 20, 1775'

"Accustomed to felling of timber and to grubbing up trees, they are very
ready at earthworks and palisading." — Reflections upon the War in America,
Burgoyne (summer of 1775).

Meanwhile much had happened in Canada.

General Burgoyne was sent to Quebec in the early summer of
1776 — going from England, whither he had returned in the autumn
of 1775 — to act as second in command under Governor Carleton,
in driving the American invaders out of Canada. So gloomy
seemed the prospect of affairs, that in a pamphlet, written just
before leaving England, Burgoyne speaks as though he supposed
it quite possible that Quebec had fallen. He found the town
very much knocked about. Anburey says that many houses had
been destroyed for fuel, or to prevent their harbouring the besiegers ;
others were damaged by shot and shell ; while the lower town had
been set fire to and almost destroyed by the Americans, when
they found they could not hold it. The inhabitants had been
compelled to live in the cellars of their houses during the siege —
"the only place that could afford them the least shelter." All
agreed that only the extraordinary exertions of General Carleton
had saved the town.

With the troops sent out with Burgoyne, the British army in

Canada numbered 12,000 men, of whom about a third were

Hessians or Brunswickers. Burgoyne's record as a soldier was

not important, but it was very romantic. He entered the army

1 " The Admiral " was Samuel Graves. He was soon recalled.


early — then ran away with the Earl of Derby's daughter, and lived
for some years on the Continent, as he was too poor to live in
England in the style befitting his wife's rank.^ When the Seven
Years' War began, he re-entered the service, took part in the
attack on Cherbourg in 1758, and in the unfortunate expedition
against St. Malo in the same year. In 1759 he was selected to
form the two regiments of light dragoons, which were the first light
cavalry introduced into British armies, and the corps was spoken
of as " Burgoyne's Light-Horse." He took part in both the expedi-
tions against Belle Isle in 1760. In 1762 he went to Portugal
with the contingent sent by England to defend that country from
Spain and France, who wished to force her to give up her neutrality,
and enter into their alliance against England. In this campaign
Burgoyne took the town of Valentia d'Alcantara by a very bold
coup-de-main, riding into the square at sunrise before the garrison
dreamed that an enemy was near.

In civil life Burgoyne had also distinguished himself, had
written one or two tolerable plays — one of which was rather
successful — and had made some figure in the House of Commons.
On a few occasions he had voted with Opposition, but was a
supporter of Administration on the question of America. He
spoke and voted against repealing the tea-duty. He had taken
a very great part in the enquiry into the affairs of the East India
Company, and had done his best to expose the iniquities of Clive's
administration. He was vain, and somewhat frivolous, but he had
the instincts of a soldier and a gentleman, and showed a disregard
of worldly advantage where honour was concerned, which goes far
to atone for many of his weaknesses. He perhaps owed his
present appointment as much to Germaine's hatred of Carleton
as to favour to himself. Carleton had offended Germaine —
who never forgot or forgave — by declining to take upon his staff
an incompetent prot'eg'e of the Minister's, and only the favour of
the King prevented Carleton's immediate recall. Burgoyne him-
self was not very eager for a military appointment in America.
He considered negotiation to be his forte, and had tried hard to
get the Ministry to make him Tryon's successor at New York- —
he was convinced that he could have "united that province in
loyalty and obedience," if he might have gone there as Governor
in 1775 with but three or four regiments.

He had with him a large staff of distinguished officers. Seldom
has a General had one more brilliant. He had several English

' In France Burgoyne formed a lasting friendship with the Duke and
Duchess de Choiseul.


and Scottish lords, four members of Parliament, and more than
thirty of his British officers afterwards became general officers.
Phillips, his second in command, commanded the British artillery
at Minden, and was thanked in Prince Ferdinand's General Orders
next day. Brigadier-General Fraser— of the Lovat family, but not,
as has been supposed, a son of old Simon Lovat — was one of the
rising officers in the army. Major Acland, the hot-headed Somerset-
shire Squire, who used to make violent speeches in Parliament
against the rebels, was a brave and generous man, adored by his
young wife, who had followed him to the war. Kingston, once of
Burgoyne's Light-Horse in Portugal, was now his Adjutant-General ;
and not the least excellent of the officers was Lieutenant Schank, a
Scot, already the inventor of the centre-board, who had come to
make the floating bridges which would be wanted if the army was
ever to get to Albany. Of the German officers, the chief was
General Baron von Riedesel, a trusted officer of Prince Ferdinand ;
and under him, Colonel Baum and Colonel Breymann.

There were soon to be others — stranger figures— the strangest
La Come St. Luc, the old Auvergnat frontier-fighter, who began
his career by leading the Iroquois against the English — scalping
them as opportunity offered. He was now in the English service,
a Legislative Councillor, strongly opposed to the Quebec Act.
He was in command of the Ottawas. (It is odd that English
accounts always call them " Savages," while the Americans usually
say "Indians.") Second under St. Luc was another strange
figure — Charles de Langlade, the same who led these very same
nations against poor Braddock on the dreadful day by the

The regiments were even more distinguished than the officers —
they were among the most famous in the British Army. The
2ist (Royal North British Fusileers) fought its first battle at
Bothwell Brig, in 1679, and had been in nearly every important
action since. The 20th began service at the Boyne, and several
others went back to Queen Anne.

At first all went well. Thompson's daring attack on Three
Rivers — on the 8th of June — failed ignominiously ; Fraser defeated
and took him prisoner. Arnold was obliged to abandon the camp
at Sorel, and all that he and Sullivan could do at St. John's and
Chamblde was to destroy what they could not carry away. The
camp at Isle-aux-Noix was so unhealthy that sickness broke out,
and Sullivan crossed Lake Champlain to gain Crown Point. The
battle must now be by water. Both British and Americans set about
getting ready a flotilla to dispute the mastery of Lake Champlain.


Lieutenant Schank built the Inflexible at Quebec. Then she
was taken apart and carried to Chambl^e, then on to St. John's,^
and there put together again. Her keel was laid the second time
on September 2, and by sunset of that day she was as far advanced
as she had been at Quebec. Three hundred carpenters had been
sent for to New York, and though only half the number came,
they worked at such a rate that sometimes trees that in the
morning were growing were forming part of a ship at night.
Carleton had parts of vessels sent from England. Other boats
were dragged overland, or up the rapids of the Sorel, and the
Canadian farmers were compelled to help. If a British fleet
could get the command of Lakes George and Champlain, the
north of New York State would be at their mercy. Before winter
the army might be at Albany, and the rebellion would be cut
in two. But first, Ticonderoga and Crown Point must be taken,
and the utmost exertions could not get the fleet ready before the
end of September. When it was ready there were from twenty
to thirty sail in all. Carleton's flag-ship, the Inflexible, mounted
eighteen 12-pounders — the rest were gun-boats, a gondola and a
flat-bottomed vessel, called a "radeau," and named the Thunderer,
with a battery of six 24-pounders, and twelve 6-pounders, besides
howitzers. He had with him 700 seamen. Burgoyne, as yet
only second in command, went with him. Captain Pringle
superintended the naval operations.

Arnold had stationed his little fleet under cover of Valcour
Island, in the upper part of a deep channel, between the island
and the mainland. He had three schooners, two sloops, three
galleys, and eight gondolas — carrying in all 70 guns, many of them
i8-pounders. On October 11 the British ships, sweeping on with
fair wind, had passed the island before they saw him — anchored
across the strait. Pringle hauled close to the wind, and tried to
beat up the channel, but the wind was against him and the
largest ship could not enter. Arnold was on board his own
largest galley, the Congress. Leaving his line, he advanced
with the other two galleys, and the schooner Royal Savage^
hoping to deal with the smaller British vessels before the larger
could come up. About noon the British opened a brisk fire,
which was returned. In trying to return to the line the Royal
Savage ran aground. The crew set her on fire and abandoned
her. In about an hour Pringle brought all his gun-boats in a
line across the channel. The ships were now within musket-shot.

' St. John's, on the Richelieu, 27 miles south-east of Montreal.
' She wais a captured British ship.


A large body of Indians had been landed on the island to gall
the Americans from shore — their fire did not prove very formidable,
but their war-whoops added to the fury of the fight. It was a
desperate one, and Arnold was in the hottest of it — encouraging
his men, and often pointing the guns himself. So they fought
till evening, when Pringle called off the smaller vessels, and
anchored his squadron across the channel as near as possible to
the Americans, to prevent their escape. But the night was dark
and cloudy — Arnold slipped out through the British line, each
vessel following a light in the stern of the one ahead. By day-
light the flotilla was out of sight. But Arnold was compelled
to anchor off Schuyler's Island — ten miles up the lake — to repair
damages. Here he sunk two gondolas, damaged past patching.
About noon he resumed his retreat, but the wind was now
adverse, his sails were shattered, and his galley and others fell
astern in the course of the next night. So in the morning, when
the sun dispersed the fog that lay on the Lake, they saw the
British fleet in full chase, only a few miles behind — and their
own consorts nearly out of sight, making for Crown Point.

Arnold managed to get within a few leagues of Crown Point
before he was overtaken by the Inflexible, the Carleion, and the
Maria. They poured in a tremendous fire. The Washington —
already shattered in the battle of yesterday — was obliged to
strike. Arnold fought on, till one-third of his men were killed.
Then he ran his five shattered ships on shore, and set fire to them —
remaining on board the Congress till he was sure the British would
not get her colours — when he took to the woods with the remnant
of his men. They reached Crown Point that night — narrowly
escaping an Indian ambush. Arnold's other vessels were there,
but, seeing that it was impossible to hold Crown Point, he burned
all the stores and set sail for Ticonderoga.

Carleton took possession of the ruined fort, but it was too
late now to cross Lake George before winter — his plans had to
wait till next year.


"They, in plain English, are turning me into a kidnapper." — The King to
Lord North, Nov. 14, 1775.

"We have undertaken a war against farmers and farm-houses, scattered
through a wild waste of continent." — A. B. (Quoted by Almon.) Written
before the American account of Trenton arrived.

" What a. dreadful thing it is for such a wicked little imp as man to have
absolute power." — Waif oh to Conway, June, 1776.

When, early in the spring, General Howe had asked for 15,000
more men " to finish the war in a year," Germaine thought this
too many — "persons well-informed on the spot" had told him so.
He promised 4000 more Germans, and told Howe this would make
him 35,000 strong, so his army "would still be equal to his wishes.''
Howe was very angry — especially as Germaine sent these reinforce-
ments by way of Canada. He wrote that the army would be too
weak for rapid success, that the campaign could not begin as early
as his lordship expected, and that the Northern army must expect
little help from him. All the private letters agree in saying that no
one knew where Howe's army was going — for once a secret was
kept. At the end of May, Washington's spies informed him that a
fleet of one hundred sail had left New York and stood out to sea —
also that eighteen fresh transports had arrived with troops in a
foreign uniform. They were the Anspachers. Howe had been wait-
ing for them, and for remounts, and tents, and for the grass to grow.
A reinforcement of British troops came with the Anspachers.
The German levies were falling off, both in quality and quantity —
the Duke of Brunswick's last consignment was so bad that Faucit
would only take 222 of them. He wrote, "I hardly remember to
have ever seen such a parcel of miserable, ill-looking fellows
collected together." The terrible Landgrave found 1449 men to
replace those taken at Trenton, and 300 who had died at New
Brunswick at the end of winter, of "a putrid epidemic." The
Prince of Waldeck got together a scratch collection, picked up in

his own domain or kidnapped from his neighbours — 20 Waldeckers,



23 Suabians, 91 from Cassel, and so on; and kept them locked
up in the Schloss of Hamelin lest they should desert. Germany
was getting tired of the grenadier-market, and several Princes
were refusing passage, and even claiming the recruits as their own.
The Anspachers had so little stomach to the fight that they could
not be trusted to carry their own weapons — they had to be driven
by armed jagers ; and at Ochsenfurt-am-Main, where they were to
embark, they tried to bolt, and several were shot down in an
orchard by the jagers. Some of the details of the infamous affair
would be incredible if they did not rest on the testimony of the
contrivers of the business. The Catholic Princes in particular
discouraged the service ; and the two most powerful Sovereigns of
Germany, Frederick the Great and Maria Theresa, were resolving
to put a stop to it. There could be no stronger proof that Great
Britain was exhausting her own resources than this desperate
attempt to buy up fighting-men from anywhere and everywhere.

But the King had allies more fatal than these. He was now
sending detailed orders for the enlistment of Indians in Canada
— by their help operations were to be "extended." The only
difficulty was that the Indians wanted their own leaders. They
preferred fighting without any white men looking on, and raising
objections to their methods of practising the art of war. Germaine,
by the King's command, was urging greater severity ; the King
wanted Boston and the other ports of New England to be
destroyed by the fleet. But "Black Dick" did not care for this
sort of fighting.^

Towards the end of May "a great stir among the shipping"
was reported to Washington. It was evident that some important
movement was preparing — but what? No one knew where the
British were going. It looked like an expedition by water.
Washington, who had been planning "a stroke" for Putnam —
the surprise of Fort Independence — was obliged to give up all
idea of it, and concentrate his whole attention on the Jerseys.
Was Howe going up the Hudson to co-operate with Carleton and
Burgoyne ? This seemed to Washington so obviously the thing to
do, that he could not bring himself to believe Howe meant
anything else. Or would he at last try for Philadelphia? For

' When Lord Howe was plagued by Englishmen settled in the Southern
Colonies who had been stripped, and applied for letters of marque to cruise
against the rebels, he sternly replied, " Will you never have done with oppressing
these poor people ? Will you never give them an opportunity of seeing their
error?" He gave great offence by this. Eventually letters of marque were


this, too, Washington must be prepared. So far as he could, he
strengthened all his posts, and ordered all his General officers to be
on the alert. Already he had sent Greene, Knox, and Wayne to
examine the fortifications of the posts in the Highlands. These
generals were all for a boom, or chain — to go across the Hudson
from Fort Montgomery to Antony's Nose, and be protected by
two ships and two row-galleys. ^^jPutnam also had a great fancy
for booms and obstructions. Washington did not much believe
in them — he was rather for looking to the passes. In particular,
to one pass which he had noticed last year — " a wild and rugged
pass on the west side of Hudson, round Bull Hill, a rocky, forest-
clad mountain at the entrance of Peekskill Bay." He thought it
most important to see that the enemy could not take possession of
this pass, before the garrison of Fort Montgomery could assemble
to oppose them. That Fort was so important — a Major-General's
post — that Washington had offered it to Arnold ; but Arnold
declined — he must be in Philadelphia to settle his accounts, for
his enemies had put about reports touching his integrity. So
Washington gave him a letter to the President of Congress,
bearing witness to his military character, and countenancing his
complaints.i He appointed Brigadier-Generals George Clinton
and McDougall to the command of the Forts, and towards the
end of May removed his own camp to Middlebrook, ten miles
from Brunswick,^ to a strong position among the hills behind the
village. It commanded a wide view of the country — the road to
Philadelphia, and the course of the Raritan. Howe could not
move without his knowing it. Washington's whole force was now
about 7500 men, from all States south of Hudson, formed into
48 regiments and 10 brigades.

It was believed in New York that Howe was going to bring off
Cornwallis, " who begins to be closely pressed by Mr. Washington
on all sides." The writer of a private letter says that Howe was
greatly chagrined at being obliged to leave Jersey; "it was the
darling wish of his heart to march through Jersey to Philadelphia "
— no doubt to wipe out the memory of his disappointment in
1776. The writer adds, "No one can tell where General Howe
intends to go." He is not sanguine, though he does not think
Washington can do anything. Howe "may ravage, and desolate

Online LibraryMary A. M MarksEngland and America, 1763 to 1783; the history of a reaction → online text (page 52 of 69)