Robert Tomes.

Battles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) online

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cause, and recommended supplies to be
sent to the gallant Stark and his volun
teers. Rhode Island was already repre
sented by Nathaniel Greene, a blacksmith
by trade and a Quaker in religion now,
however, " read out of meeting," for his
warlike propensities. This little prov
ince, notwithstanding, voted an army of
observation, numbering fifteen hundred
men, and invested the bellicose young
" friend" with the chief command. Penn
sylvania held public meetings, appointed
a " committee of safety," with Benjamin
Franklin as its chairman, enrolled volun
teer companies, and expressed the most
patriotic resolutions. The people of New
York, struggling against the adverse in
fluence of a tory assembly, met together
in spite of strong opposition, and united
in an " association for the defence of co
lonial rights," and recommended the ear
ly meeting of a provincial Congress, " to
deliberate on and direct such measures
as may be expedient for our common
safety." At the South, too, each prov

ince Delaware, Virginia, the Carol inas,*
and all was firm for the patriotic cause,
and prepared to act in its defence.

To give unanimity to the action of the
colonists, a second continental Congress
was to be held, at Philadelphia. Wash
ington was at Mount Vernon, preparing
to set out as a delegate to this assembly,
which was to meet in May, when he re
ceived news of the affair at Lexington.

"Washington s feelings," says Irving,
" were of a mingled nature. They may
be gathered from a letter to his friend
and neighbor, George William Fairfax,
then in England, in which he lays the
blame of this deplorable affair on the
ministry and their military agents ; and
concludes with the following words, in
which the yearnings of the patriot give
affecting solemnity to the implied resolve
of the soldier : Unhappy it is to reflect
that a brother s sword has been sheathed
in a brother s breast ; and that the once-
happy and peaceful plains of America are
to be either drenched with blood or in
habited by slaves. Sad alternative ! But
can a virtuous man hesitate in his choice? "
The impression produced in England may
be learned from this record of Walpole
in his journal, after the victories of Con
cord and Lexington were announced :
"Stocks immediately fell. The provin
cials had behaved with the greatest con
duct, coolness, and resolution. One cir
cumstance spoke a thorough determina
tion of resistance. The provincials had
sent over affidavits of all that had passed,
and a colonel of the militia had sworn in

* In North Carolina they even precipitated matters, by a
" Declaration of Independence."



[PART 11

an affidavit that he had given his men
order to fire on the king s troops if the
latter attacked them. It was firmness,
indeed, to swear to having been the first
to begin what the Parliament had named
rebellion ; thus was the civil war begun,
and a victory gained, the first fruits of
which were on the side of the Americans,
whom Lord Sandwich had had the folly
and rashness to proclaim cowards." Let
us, however, pass from what was said to
what was done by the patriots ; for the
purpose of our history is to tell how they
fought, and not what they thought.

When the struggle between the colo
nies and the mother-country became im
minent, the attention of some thoughtful
men in New England was directed to the
probable position of Canada in the com
ing contest. Few doubted but that it
would remain loyal under any circum
stances ; and, with such a disposition, it
wa>s quite evident that Canadian territo
ry would offer to the British a firm hold
ing-ground, upon which they might es
tablish a basis of military operations, and
through which they could do continued
mischief to all the colonies, and particu
larly to New England and New York.
The main route from the Canadas to the
provinces south was over Lake Cham-
plain ; and upon this lake were the two
forts of Ticonderoga and Crown Point,
held each by a British garrison. These,
accordingly, commanded the way. To
acquire them, therefore, was thought of
great importance to the patriot cause by
the wise in counsel. The bold in action
were not wanting to offer to do what was
deemed advisable to be done. The neces

sity of securing Ticonderoga and Crown
Point had been urged by many through
out New England, but Connecticut was
foremost in proposing a plan of action,
and sending out an expedition.

Several members of the assembly of
Connecticut got up the enterprise, but
kept it a secret, as it might not have
been safe to intrust a knowledge to those
who, however patriotically disposed, had
not yet declared themselves boldly for
war. Money was obtained, and a few
volunteers enlisted in Connecticut and
Massachusetts. The projectors of the un
dertaking, however, looked for the main
staple of their force to the "Green-mount
ain boys" of the "New-Hampshire grants."
This territory was then a wild region : it
is now the state of Vermont. In those
early days it was settled by a few hardy
men, who joined to the strong attach
ment of the farmer to his land, the wild
and fierce characteristics of the forest-
borderer. The territory in their posses
sion was derived from New Hampshire.
New York, however, claimed the title,
which was confirmed, on appeal, by royal
authority. The latter province then at
tempted to eject the settlers of the " New-
Hampshire grants," but found itself re
sisted by a band of resolute fellows who
called themselves " The Green-mountain
boys." The legislature of New York now
outlawed these bold resistants,and offered
a reward for their apprehension.

Ethan Allen, born in Connecticut, but
living from childhood among the Green
mountains, was the chosen leader of these
" New-Hampshire grant" outlaws. He ad
vised arming and defiance : his followers




adopted his counsel, and pledged them
selves to resist New York to the death.
Allen was bold almost to fierceness, a
natural contemner of authority, yet one
Avho, with all his reputed disregard of
traditional religious opinion, was of the
strictest integrity. "An anecdote is re
lated of him," says Lossing, " which illus
trates the purity of his principles. He
owed a citizen of Boston sixty pounds,
for which he gave his promissory note.
It was sent to Vermont for collection.
It was inconvenient for Allen to pay,
and the note was put in suit. Allen em
ployed a lawyer to attend the court, and
have the judgment postponed until he
could raise the money. The lawyer de
termined to deny the genuineness of the
signature, as the readiest method of post
poning the matter, for in that case a wit
ness at Boston would have to be sent for.
When the case was called, it happened
that Allen was in a remote part of the
courthouse, and to his utter astonishment
heard his lawyer gravely deny the sig
nature of the note. With long and fierce
strides he rushed through the crowd, and,
confronting the amazed lirnb of the law,
rebuked him in a voice of thunder : Mr.
, I did not hire you to come here
and lie ! That is a true note I signed
it I ll swear to it and I ll pay it! I
want no shuffling ; I want time. What
I employed you for was to get this busi
ness put over to the next court ; not to
come here and lie and juggle about it !
The result was, the amicable postpone
ment of the claim, arranged between the
two lawyers."

The style of the man as a speaker

for he had some pretensions to a rude
eloquence is described as that of "a
singular compound of local barbarisms,
scriptural phrases, and oriental wildness
and, though unclassic and sometimes un-
grammatical, highly animated and forci
ble." And Washington said there was
" an original something in him which
commanded admiration."

The small force collected together in
Connecticut and Massachusetts now rap
idly pushed on to join the " Green-mount-
ain boys," who readily flocked to the call
of their old leader, Ethan Allen. Castle-
ton was the rendezvous, and here soon
the whole force was gathered, amounting
to two hundred and seventy, all of whom,
with the exception of forty, were " Green-
mountain boys." Now a council-of-war
was held. On the road, the small Con
necticut detachment had met with one
who was apparently a countryman, from
whom they had gathered such an account
of the formidable position of things in Ti-
conderoga, that their hearts almost failed
them. This incident was laid before the
council, and was thus reported by the
witnesses : While they were on their way,
they fell in with one who appeared to be
an undesigning, honest traveller. They
addressed him. " From whence carne
you ?" " From Ty" (so Ticonderoga was
called, for shortness) ; " left it yesterday,"
at such an hour. " Has the garrison re
ceived any reinforcements?" "Yes; I
saw them : there were a number of artil
lerymen and other soldiers." " What are
they doing ? Are they making fascines ?
" Fascines ? I do n t know what you call
fascines. They are tying up sticks and


brush in bundles, and putting them where
the walls are down."

This account so alarmed many of the
party, that there was some thought of re
turning ; and it was only determined by
a majority of one, that they should push
on. And well they did; for the "coun
tryman" was a shrewd fellow, affecting
not to know anything, and yet knowing
enough to deceive, by giving such infor
mation as he thought would save the
British forts, and which information was
very far from the truth. Ethan Allen
was no sooner appointed to command the
whole expedition, by the council of offi
cers at Castleton, than there came one,
in great haste, to dispute the honor with
him. This was Benedict Arnold.

Arnold, fresh from Connecticut, where
the expedition against Ticonderoga and
Crown Point was the subject of talk
among the patriots, no sooner arrived at
Boston and not finding much there at
that moment for the occupation of his busy
activity than he laid before the Massa
chusetts committee of safety a proposi
tion for an attack upon the British forts.
He was readily listened to w r hen he spoke
of the dismantled condition of Ticonder
oga, its great stock of cannon and milita
ry stores, and of how easily it might be
taken, defended as it was by only two-
score men. The committee approved of
his proposition, and appointed him colo
nel, with the authority to raise four hun
dred men. Arnold, however, knowing
that Allen was before him, did not wait
for recruits, but pushed on and arrived
at Ca-stleton with a single servant. Here
he showed his Massachusetts commission,

and claimed the supreme command ; but,
finding that the men, who were mostly
u Green-mountain boys," insisted upon be
ing led by their old commander, Allen,
he was fain to content himself with the
position of second.

One Captain Noah Phelps now came
in with certain intelligence in regard to
Ticonderoga, This bold fellow had dis
guised himself as a rustic laborer, and had
gone into the fort, requesting to be shaved
by the barber of the garrison. Suspect
ing nothing, he w r as readily admitted ;
and, as he was searching for the man of
the razor, he went all about the fort, pry
ing into every nook and corner, and ask
ing, with the affected greenness of a coun
tryman, all sorts of questions. After
spending the better part of the day thus,
and getting rid of his beard at the hands
of the barber, he left, and returned to his
fellow-patriots, with the fullest informa
tion of what he had seen and heard. It
was determined to make the attack at
once, and the adventurous Noah Phelps
undertook to guide the party to the fort.

On the 9th of May, Allen began
his march, and reached Lake Cham-
plain, at a point opposite to Ticonderoga,
in the middle of the night. There were
but few boats to be had, but Allen was
too impatient to wait until more could
be obtained ; so he and Arnold, with
eighty-three men, crossed at once. When
on the other side, it was suggested that
they should await the arrival of the rest
of the force ; but Allen would not listen
to it for a moment, and declared that he
was for striking a blow on the instant,
" It is a desperate attempt, I know," said




he, " and I ask no man to go against his
will. I will take the lead, and be the
first to advance. You that are willing
to follow, poise your firelocks !" Every
firelock was "poised."

The fort stood upon a height above
them, and they now rapidly climbed the
hill, with Phelps and a farmer s lad they
had picked up, guiding the way. On
reaching the top, a sentry on the outer
wall snapped his fusee at Allen, and then
retreated within. A dispute now took
place between Arnold and Allen. The
former " became assuming, and swore he
would go in first; the other swore he
should not." At last it was agreed that
they should go in together ; so Allen and
Arnold entered the port leading to the
fort side by side. It was in the early
gray of the morning, as they si
lently marched in, followed by
their handful of men. A soldier on guard
struck at one of the officers, but was soon
brought to his knees by a blow from Al
len s sword upon the head, and forced to
beg for quarter.

As the provincials, with a loud shout,
rushed into the parade within the walls,
the garrison came flying out, and were
easily made prisoners. Allen now made
his way (with the aid of the farmer s lad,
who knew every turn in and out of the
fortress) to the quarters of Captain Dela-
place, the commander, who was still in
bed. Allen gave a thundering rap at the
door with the hilt- of his sword, which at
once aroused Delaplace, who came out
half-dressed, " with the frightened face of
his pretty wife peering over his shoulder,"
and demanded, with an air and tone of

May 10,

affected firmness, what the disturbance
meant. Allen insisted upon his instant
surrender. " By what authority ?" asked
Delaplace. " In the name of the Grea
Jehovah and the continental Congress !"
was the memorable answer, rounded off
with the usual oath of the leader of the
wild " mountain-boys." It is true, at that
moment there was no continental Con
gress ; and it might be very questionable
whether a profane character like Allen
could justly claim divine authority : but
there was the provincial force in posses
sion, to which their leader had only to
point, which settled the matter, and put
an end at once to all questions. Dela
place had nothing else left him but to
surrender ; and accordingly Ticonderoga
was immediately given up, with all its
effects, including the captain with his for
ty men, and a large stock of artillery and
military stores.

Arnold, \vith his usual uneasy longing
for power, insisted impetuously upon the
command of Ticonderoga being given to
him ; but was forced to yield to Allen,
who had the advantage of being second
ed by the predominating majority of his
" Green-mountain boys," with whom he
was so great a favorite. Arnold, how
ever, protested, and sent a letter of com
plaint to the Massachusetts committee.
The rest of the force now coming up from
the lake, they were detached to take pos
session of Crown Point, in which they
succeeded without firing a gun. It sur
rendered on the 12th of May, being al
most without defence, as the garrison
numbered only a dozen men, under the
command of a sergeant. Its hundred




cannon and various stores were, however,
a timely addition to the meager supplies
of the provincials.

Arnold s restlessness now found vent
in an enterprise that was concocted in
council at Ticonderoga. A small detach
ment, composed of some thirty men, had
been sent to Skenesborough, to secure
the son of Major Skene, who was an ar
dent royalist, and a man of large wealth
and influence, by which he was enabled
greatly to serve the cause to which he
was devoted. They had succeeded in
taking young Skene by surprise, while
out shooting. Otherwise, they might
have had tough work in effecting their
object; for Skene was quite a lord in his
way, with his numerous tenants and ne
groes, who were ready to do his bidding
at all hazards, and to defend him and
his family to the death. The provincials
seized the son known, as well as his fa
ther, as a Major Skene his strong stone-
house and fortress, a number of his de
pendants and slaves, and his boats, among
which there was a good-sized schooner.
They likewise made another capture, of
which they had but little expectation. It
was that of the elder Skene s wife, who
had not accompanied her husband, as
might naturally have been expected, to
England, where he had gone. On ran
sacking the great stone-house, they found
the mistress of the mansion in the cellar.
She had been there, it seems, many years.
The good lady, however, was dead, and
had been so for a long time ; but her hus
band, having a strong attachment to an
annuity which was to be continued to
her " while she remained above-ground,"

had taken care to secure the object of his
affection, by keeping his wife s body out
of the grave. The provincials reveren
tially removed the remains, and buried
them behind the great stone-house.

It was now determined that Arnold
should lead the men who had been so
successful at Skenesborough, and, em
barking them on the boats which they
had captured, sail with them down Lake
Champlain, and take St. Johns, a Cana
dian post on the river Sorel. Arnold him
self, who had been a sailor in early days,
took command of the schooner, and with
a fair wind succeeded in outsailing the
batteaux, which were left so far behind,
that he had landed and captured the place
with his small advance-party before the
rest could come up. Arnold, now learn
ing that the troops from Canada were
coining, destroyed what he could not car
ry away, and, taking with him an armed
vessel and some military stores, set sail
up the lake again. He had not got far,
when he was met by Ethan Allen and
his men, in the slow-moving batteaux.
Arnold exultingly saluted his rival com
mander with a broadside of cannon, which
Allen returned with a volley of musketry
from his militia. An interview on board
Arnold s royal "man-of-war" of seventy
tons folio wed, when Allen was informed of
the particulars of the late success. The
latter then determined to continue his
course for St. Johns, and make an at
tempt to hold it. He was, however, fore
stalled by a superior British force, and
had to turn back to Ticonderoga. :i:

* This account is derived from Irving, who gives rathe"-
a different version from other writers.




The second continental Congress
assembled in Philadelphia on the
10th of May. Almost the first subject
which came before them was, the state of
things in Massachusetts. In the attitude
of the British government toward that
province, they saw a subversion of its
charter, and advised the organization of
a government which might restore, as far
as possible, the former laws of Massachu
setts. The Congress, however, so far as
sumed a conciliatory tone, as to resolve
upon another petition to the British
throne. The New-Englanders,with whom
the spirit of independence was rife, op
posed all further efforts at conciliation ;
and John Adams was among the foremost
to denounce them as "imbecile." The
petition to the king was, however, car
ried. Still, the Congress continued to
act as if the colonies were already inde
pendent, and proceeded to deliberate up
on measures of offence and defence as if
they constituted a separate nation.

That the people of New England were
in arms to resist the British government,
was a fact that could not be concealed ;
and that their interest was the common
interest of the whole country, every one
felt, and determined to sustain it. The
question now came up, as to who should
be commander-in-chief to lead the forces
which were fast gathering to the rescue
of their country. There was no little jeal
ousy, even at this early period, between
the North and the South. The Massa
chusetts men were greatly in favor of
Hancock, of Boston, and he himself un
doubtedly aspired to the high position.
Colonel Washington was the choice of the

South. That great man, however, mod
estly thought not of himself, but of his
country only. John Adams now, with
the consent of most of the New-England-
ers, made a concession to the southern
provinces, by proposing Mr. George Wash
ington, " a gentleman whose skill and ex
perience as an officer, whose independent
fortune, great talents, and excellent uni
versal character, would command the ap
probation of all America, and unite the
cordial exertions of all the colonies bet
ter than any other person in the Union."
As soon as Adams had uttered these
words, " Mr. Washington, who happened
to sit near the door.... with his usual mod
esty, darted into the library-room."

There were many New-Englanders op
posed to this nomination, and one who
was particularly chagrined. It was Han
cock, who was sitting at that time as
president of the Congress, in the absence
of Peyton Randolph, who had returned
to Virginia, to preside at the assembly of
his own province. Adams says : " While
I was speaking on the state of the colo
nies, the army at Cambridge, and the en
emy, Hancock heard me with pleasure ;
but when," he adds, " I came to describe
Washington for the commander, I never
remarked a more sudden and striking
change of countenance. Mortification
and resentment were expressed as forci
bly as his face could exhibit them."

The election was delayed for a few
days, in consequence of the opposition ;
when, finally, GEORGE WASHINGTON was
unanimously chosen command
er-in-chief of the provincial for
ces. On his election beino; announced

Juiie 15,



[PART n.

Washington arose and modestly said, af
ter thanking the Congress for the honor
conferred upon him: "Lest some un
lucky event should happen unfavorable
to my reputation, I beg it may be remem
bered, by every gentleman in the room,
that I this day declare, with the utmost
sincerity, I do not think myself equal to
the command I am honored with. As to
pay, I beg leave to assure the Congress
that, as no pecuniary consideration could
have tempted me to accept this arduous
employment, at the expense of my do
mestic ease and happiness, I do not wish
to make any profit of it. I will keep
an exact account of my expenses. These
I doubt not they will discharge, and that
is all I desire."

In the congressional resolution to ap
point a commander-in-chief, a provision
was made for his support to the amount
of five hundred dollars a month. The
army which had been gathering, princi
pally from the various parts of New Eng

land, was now formally adopted by the
continental Congress ; and a commander-
in-chief having been appointed, they pro
ceeded to organize the whole military
staff. Artemas AYard was chosen second
in command, Charles Lee the third, Phil
ip Schuyler the fourth, and Israel Putnam
the fifth, all with the rank of major-gen
eral. Seth Pomeroy, Richard Montgom
ery, David Wooster, William Heath, Jo
seph Spencer, John Thomas, John Sulli
van, and Nathaniel Greene, were the eight
appointed as brigadier-generals. Horatio
Gates had the same rank, with the espe
cial function of adjutant-general. There
was a good deal of opposition to the ap
pointment of Lee and Gates, but Wash
ington s earnest advocacy secured their
elections. They were both Englishmen,
and were looked upon with suspicion as
military adventurers, more concerned
about their own private interests than
the public good of a country to which
they were comparatively strangers.


The Provincial Camp before Boston. Men and Officers. The Country round. Charlestown and Boston : their Aspect.-
The British reinforced. Burgoyne, Clinton, and Howe. Gage s Proclamation. Indignation of the People. Breed s
and Bunker s Hills. Taken Possession of by the Provincials. The Fortifications. Colonel Prescott. His Martial
Air. Character. The Labors and Anxieties of the Night on Bunker s Hill. The Morning. The Surprise of the
British. The Bombardment of the Works by the British Ships. Colonel Prescott encourages his Men. The British
Troops prepare to attack. Activity of Putnam. Lord Howe. His Character. The Preparations for the Struggle.
The Excitement of the People. The Stir in the Provincial Camp. Putnam on the Move.


Online LibraryRobert TomesBattles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) → online text (page 20 of 126)