Robert Tomes.

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

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ing through the gates upon the American
rearguard under Cap tain Dearborn, forced
it to surrender. He was thus so com
pletely hemmed in, and cut off from all
reinforcement, that he offered no further



resistance, and yielded himself up with
his men to the enemy.

Arnold now resumed the command,
and determined, in spite of the severity
of a Canadian winter, and the mere hand
ful of troops left him, to blockade the city,
and await reinforcements. He was en
couraged in this resolution by the appa
rent distrust in which Caiieton, the Brit
ish commander, seemed to hold his own
strength ; for, after his success within the
town, he did not even attempt to pursue
the remnant of Americans beyond the
walls. Arnold, however, anticipating a
pursuit, had withdrawn his men to a dis
tance of three miles from Quebec, and
there, hastily fortifying himself, awaited
an expected attack.

The loss of the Americans in this un
successful attack was heavy, being about
one hundred and sixty killed and wound
ed, while that of the enemy amounted to
only twenty. The patriots mourned, in
the death of Montgomery, one of the
bravest and purest of the defenders of
their cause. The enemy respected his
character; and Carleton eulogized his
worth, and reverently ordered his remains


to be buried with military honors in a sol
dier s grave. M Pherson and Cheesman,
his two aids-de-camp, who had fallen with
their commander, were men of spirit,
whose loss was grieved, as is always that
of the young and the brave. Cheesman
is supposed to have had a presentiment
of approaching death, and on the day of
the fatal struggle had dressed himself
with even more than the usual care of the
youthful officer. As he prepared to go
out, he thrust some gold pieces into his
pocket, saying laughingly, " This will in
sure me a decent burial."

The continental Congress rewarded Ar
nold for his persevering courage and skill
while leading his troops through the wil
derness, and his gallantry at Quebec, by
promoting him to the rank of a brigadier-
general. The other officers proved their
merit by their conduct during that night s
struggle at Quebec ; and there was hard
ly one whose name we shall not afterward
find memorable in the subsequent history
of the battles of the Revolution. They
need no tribute but the record of their
names: Morgan, Dearborn, Meigs, Greene,
Lamb, Oswald, Thayer, and Potsfield.





Inactivity of the American Camp at Cambridge. Washington s Anxieties. Gage summoned to England. Succeeded
in Command by Howe. Howe s Plans for Incursions on the Coasts. The Burning of Falmouth. American Priva
teers. Howe increases his Fortifications. Churches turned into Barracks and Stables. Harsh Proceedings of Howe
against the Patriots. Retaliation. A Committee of Congress visits the American Camp. Benjamin Franklin.
An Attack upon Boston considered in Council. Franklin takes Occasion to collect a Debt. Treason in the American
Camp. Washington laughs. Doctor Church s Trial. His Condemnation and Subsequent Fate. A Small Ameri
can Fleet fitted out. The Various Fortunes of the Vessels. Sickness in the American Camp. A Visit from some
Indian Gentlemen. Comparison with some of the New-England Gentry.


WASHINGTON, in the movement
against Canada, in which he took
a great interest, found some relief for his
forced inactivity at Cambridge. Here,
however, in his camp, although desirous
by " some decisive stroke" to drive the
enemy from Boston, he could do nothing,
as the condition of his troops was such
as not to justify any offensive operations.
Still, he had been so importuned to ac
tivity, that he determined to call a coun
cil of war, and consult upon the expedi
ency of making an immediate attack on
Boston. It was, however, unanimously
agreed " that it was not expedient to
make the attempt at present." The state
of the army was certainly not very en
couraging. The time of service of many
of the troops would soon expire, and they
already anticipated their liberty by a free
indulgence in their own caprices, and a
general disobedience of orders. " My sit
uation," wrote Washington, " is inexpres
sibly distressing ; to see the win
ter fast approaching upon a na
ked army, the time of their service within
a few weeks of expiring, and no provis
ion yet made for such important wants.
Added to these, the military chest is to-

Sept, 21,

tally exhausted ; the paymaster has not
a single dollar in hand. The commissary-
general assures me he has strained his
credit for the subsistence of the army to
the utmost. The quartermaster-general
is precisely in the same situation ; and
the greater part of the troops are in a
state riot far from mutiny, upon the de
duction from their stated allowance."

Nor were these the only troubles against
which Washington had to contend. All
New England was disaffected toward him,
because he refused to send out detach
ments from his army to protect the towns
along the coast from the marauding par
ties of the enemy. " I would like to ex
tend protection to all," he said, " but the
numerous detachments necessary to rem
edy the evil would amount to a dissolu
tion of the army, or make the most im
portant operations of the campaign de
pend upon the piratical expeditions of
two or three men-of-war and transports."
The British, in the meantime, with their
small cruisers, were doing a good deal of
mischief by sailing into the harbors and
helping themselves to supplies, of which
they stood greatly in need. The local
militia, however, soon became watchful,




and so well able to defend themselves,
that the enemy were often disappointed,
and seldom succeeded in their object with
out a hard and bloody struggle.

The British troops in Boston were not
more actively occupied than the besieg
ers without. A change, however, in the
chief command was an event which ex
cited no little interest. Governor Gage
was recalled, and sailed for England on
the 10th of October, leaving Gen
eral Howe as his successor. Howe
was in favor (as Gage had been) of an
evacuation of Boston, and in his despatch
es to the government advised large rein
forcements, and a transfer of military op
erations to New York. In the meantime,
he prepared to " distress the rebels by in
cursions along the coast." With this view,
one of his first acts was, to send out a
small armed squadron, under a Lieuten
ant Mo watt, against Falmouth (now Port
land), the authorities of which had given
great offence by preventing the sailing
of a ship loaded with some tories and
their property. Mowatt appeared before
the town in the night, and, sending word
to the inhabitants that he would allow
them two hours to remove themselves,
determined to burn it. A committee of
citizens was immediately appointed to
confer with the lieutenant, who told them,
on their arrival on board his ship, that
his orders were to fire every town on
the coast between Boston and Halifax,
and that he had no alternative but obe

A respite was, however, at the earnest
solicitation of the citizens, granted until
the next morning, when the committee

again made their appearance, and prayed
that their town might be spared. Mow
att offered to do so, provided they would
send him off four carriage-guns, deliver
up all their arms and ammunition, and four
prominent citizens as hostages. These
conditions were, however, considered too
dishonorable to comply with. The com
mittee then returned on shore, and the
lieutenant hoisted his signal for the at-
tack to commence. The squadron now
began to throw its bombs into the town,
and the firing continued until the close
of the day, when most of the houses were
destroyed. The burning of Falmouth
spread an alarm all over the New-Eng
land coast, but produced no disposition
to submit to British arms. The indigna
tion it excited, in fact, only served to give
greater intensity to the resistance of the
patriots. " Oh," wrote General Greene,
" could the Congress behold the distres
ses and wretched condition of the poor in
habitants driven from the seaport towns,
it would kindle a blaze of indignation
against the commissioned pirates and li
censed robbers People," he adds, " be
gin heartily to wish a declaration of in

Howe, in his despatch to the govern
ment, " hoped Portsmouth, in New Hamp
shire, would feel the weight of his majes
ty s arms;" and the inhabitants of that
place, as well as of Newport, in Rhode
Island, were in daily expectation of being
served as had been the people of Falmouth.
The patriots now began, under an act of
the general court of Massachusetts, to fit
out privateers for the defence of the sea-
coast, and were soon able to take revenge




upon the British cruisers for their cruel

Although Howe had resolved upon
keeping quiet at present within Boston,
he took care to find w r ork for his men.
He strengthened his fortifications on Bun
ker s and Breed s hills, where General
Clinton had now the command, and add
ed to those on Charlestown neck, where
he set six hundred men to labor. Within
the city, houses were pulled down to clear
space for the exercise of the troops ; re
doubts were built on the common ; and
the meetinghouse "where sedition had
been often preached" was made K a riding-
house for the light dragoons."

How r e did not confine himself to in
sulting those of the patriots still left in
Boston, but persecuted them with all the
rigor of martial law. In his proclama
tions he spoke of some who had escaped
to Cambridge as those who had "lately
absconded to join his majesty s enemies,
assembled in open rebellion," and declared
his determination to punish with " mili
tary execution" any who should attempt
to follow their example. Those who suc
ceeded he pronounced traitors, who were
to be treated accordingly by a " seizure
of their goods and effects." These harsh
proceedings led to retaliation on the part
of the patriots ; and, by a general order
from Washington, those officers of gov
ernment known to be devoted to the
throne were seized and imprisoned.

Congress having appointed a commit
tee to visit the camp at Cambridge, and
confer with Washington and the various
delegates from the provinces of New Eng
land in regard to the reorganization of

Oct. 15,

the army, the three gentlemen
who composed it now arrived.
These were, Benjamin Franklin, of Penn
sylvania ; Thomas Lynch, of South Caro
lina ; and Colonel Benjamin Harrison, of
Virginia. Franklin was regarded by all
as an example of prudence and an oracle
of wisdom. " I had the honor," says Gen
eral Greene, of Ehocle Island, " to be in
troduced to that very great man Doctor
Franklin, whom I viewed with silent ad
miration during the whole evening," and
adds, in his enthusiastic rhetoric, " Atten
tion watched his lips and conviction closed
his periods." The conference committee
immediately began their sessions, with
Washington as president, and Joseph
Reed as secretary. The first question
was, the new organization of the army ;
and the satisfactory result was, the adop
tion of a plan for the enlistment, for one
year, of twenty-six regiments, of eight
companies each, besides riflemen and ar
tillery, based upon the respective capaci
ties of the colonies as stated by the dele
gates. This would give an effective force
of twenty-two thousand, two hundred and
seventy-two men and officers, whom it was
proposed, as far as possible, to recruit from
those already in service, that the army
might not be altogether composed of un
disciplined and inexperienced troops.

The subject of the inactivity of the
present army now came up, and the pro
priety of an immediate attack on Boston
was discussed. Washington formally put
the question as to whether he should at
tack the British, at the expense of the
destruction of the city. The delegates
preferred that so important a matter




should be left to the decision of Congress.
A council of his officers had been previ
ously held, at which Washington declared
he had summoned them in consequence
of having learned that Congress desired
an attack upon Boston, if practicable.
Their opinions are best given in their
own words :

GENERAL GATES. " That under present
circumstances it is improper to attempt

GENERAL GREENE. " That it is not prac
ticable, under all circumstances ; but, if
ten thousand men could be landed at Bos
ton, thinks it is."

GENERAL SULLIVAN. " That at this time
it is improper. The winter gives a more
favorable opportunity."

GENERAL HEATH. " Impracticable at

GENERAL THOMAS. " Of the same opin

GENERAL PUTNAM. "Disapproves of it
at present."

GENERAL LEE. " Is not sufficiently ac
quainted witli the men, to judge ; there
fore thinks it too great a risk."

GENERAL WARD. "Against it."

Such were the opinions of the gener
als, with whom Washington also agreed ;
but the delegates, although hesitating to
decide upon the question, were for the
most part in favor of an attack. Doctor
Belknap dined with a party of general
officers and gentlemen belonging to the
various committees, when the absorbing
topic naturally became the subject of
after-dinner conversation. The doctor
tells us that Lynch, Harrison, and Wales,
wished to see Boston in flames. Lee told

them it was impossible to burn it unless
they sent men in with bundles of straw
on their backs to do it. He said it could
not be done with carcass and hot shot;
and instanced the Isle Royal, in St. Law
rence river, "which was fired at in 1760
a long time, with a fine train of artillery,
hot shot, and carcasses, without effect."

The delegates now returned home.
Their presence had given increased en
couragement to the patriots in arms.
Franklin s devotion to the public inter
ests was especially appreciated, as his
comprehensive policy and systematic bu
siness-habits enabled him to suggest plans
that were not only grand, but feasible.
He had an opportunity, moreover, of at
tending to a little private business, and
succeeded in obtaining from the Massa
chusetts general court the sum of eigh
teen hundred and fifty-four pounds ster
ling, as payment in full of his services
while acting as agent in England for the
colony. " The doctor might," says a con
temporary, "have liked specie, at the time
such grants were made, better than the
present paper-money; but his foresight
will undoubtedly transform the latter into
some solid substance !" Franklin, how
ever, had to make, from the handsome
sum which he was paid, a deduction of
one hundred pounds in favor of a com
mittee "appointed to wait upon him with
in a day or two, being the amount of a
sum sent by several persons in England,
for the relief of those Americans who were
wounded in the battle of Lexington, and
of the widows and children of those who
were there slain."

The greatest consternation was created



[PART 11.

in the camp at Cambridge, by the sup
posed discovery of a treasonable
Oct. 15, f , .,,

correspondence 01 a hitherto un
suspected patriot with the enemy. Early
in July, a woman presented herself at
Newport, to a Mr. Wainwood, with a let
ter, which she wished him to aid her in
conveying to Captain Wallace, the British
officer in command of the man-of-war off
the harbor. Wainwood, who was a patri
ot, was suspicious of any correspondence
with the enemy; but, concealing his
thoughts, he prevailed upon the woman
to leave the letter with him. She was
induced to do so, and Wainwood imme
diately advised with a friend, upon whose
recommendation the letter was broken
open, and found to be written in charac
ters entirely unintelligible. Thus the
matter remained until Wainwood, having
received a note from the woman, inqui
ring about the disposition of the letter,
had his suspicions reawakened, and it was
then determined to send it to Washing

The woman, on again presenting her
self in the camp, was arrested. " Tradi
tion," says Irving, "gives us a graphic
scene connected with her arrest. Wash
ington was in his chamber at headquar
ters, when he beheld from his window
General Putnam approaching on horse
back, with a stout woman en croupe be
hind him. He had pounced upon the
culprit. The group presented by the old
general and his prize, overpowered even
Washington s gravity. It was the only
occasion throughout the whole campaign
on ^hicli he was known to laugh hearti
ly. He had recovered his gravity by the

time the delinquent was brought to the
foot of the broad staircase in headquar
ters, and assured her, in a severe tone
from the head of it, that unless she con
fessed everything before the next morn
ing, a halter would be in readiness for

The woman for a long time resisted
every attempt to extort the truth from
her; but finally she confessed that the
letter had been given to her by Doctor
Church, of whom, in fact, she was said to
be the " kept mistress." Church was a
prominent man among the patriots, being
a member of the Massachusetts house of
representatives, and surgeon-general of
the army-hospitals. On being arrested,
and confronted with the charge of trea
sonable correspondence with the enemy,
he was greatly agitated, and showed ev
ery mark of guilt. The letter having
been successfully deciphered, and found
to contain little beyond an exaggerated
account of the American force, the doc
tor wrote to Washington a vindication of
himself, stating that his object was mere
ly to use his efforts in bringing about an
accommodation of the dispute with the
mother-country, and that he was entirely
innocent of any traitorous design. He
was now brought before a coun
cil of war, which, unable to sat
isfy itself of his innocence, unanimously
decided upon referring the matter to the

The legislature of Massachusetts then
"summoned Church before the bar of the
house, and the doctor made a long speech
in his defence. He endeavored to evade
the censure of the house, by insisting that

Get, 23,




Oct. 27,

as the affair would be before an

other court, where the matter
must have a final issue, should the house
proceed to expel him, it would have a
fatal effect whenever a final judgment
was to be given on his conduct. He
made the most solemn appeal to Heaven
that the letter was written with the de
sign of procuring some important intelli
gence. He observed that there was not


a single paragraph in it which contained
information that could hurt the Ameri
cans ; and that the exaggerated accounts
of their force, strength, and unanimity,
tended to dishearten the enemy and keep
them quiet, a,t a time when the Ameri
cans, for want of powder, were poorly
able to have withstood a vigorous attack.
" If the force of rhetoric and the powers
of language," says a contemporary, "if
the most pathetic arts of persuasion, en
forced by all the ingenuity, sense, and
spirit of the doctor, could have made him
innocent, he would have appeared spot
less as an angel of light." The house,
however,w r as not convinced, and expelled
him. Congress inflicted the punishment,
resolving " that he be close confined in
some secure jail in Connecticut, without
the use of pen, ink, and paper, and that
no person be allowed to converse with
him, except in the presence and hearing
of a magistrate or the sheriff of the coun
ty." The doctor was accordingly clapped
into the jail at Norwich, whence he was
subsequently released, on the plea of ill
health, and removed to Boston, where his
personal liberty was given him on his
parole, backed by a surety of one thou
sand pounds, that he would hold no cor

respondence with the enemy, or leave
the colony without permission. He was
eventually allowed to depart for the West
Indies, but the vessel in which he sailed
was never heard of afterward.

The legislative assemblies of the vari
ous New-England provinces had author
ized at an early period the fitting out of
small armed vessels; and several w r ere
now in commission, doing effective ser
vice in protecting the coasts against the
British cruisers. Washington, having re
ceived instructions from Congress to en
deavor to capture the transports laden
with supplies for the army at Boston, and
especially " two north country built ships
with military stores," began to fit out a
small fleet, and succeeded toward the end
of October in having six schooners in com
mission. These were the Lynch, Captain
Broughton, and the Franklin, Captain
Sellman, which were ordered to the St.
Lawrence ; the Lee, Captain Manly, the
Warren, Captain Adams, the Washington,
Captain Martindale, and the Harrison,
Captain Coit, sent to cruise about the
coast. Washington felt a great interest in
this humble naval movement as a means
of obtaining supplies, for he writes, " I am
in very great want of powder, lead, mor
tars indeed, of most sorts of military
stores." Efforts had been made, and not
without success, to supply the army with
ammunition, but still the quantity fell
short of what would be needed in a pro
tracted campaign. The manufacture oi
saltpetre had been commenced in every
colony, and powder-mills had been erect
ed at Philadelphia and New York. A
! hundred barrels of gunpowder had also




been received from Bermuda, by a cou
ple of coasting-schooners, the crews of
which had succeeded in landing on that
island in the night, and rifling the maga
zine, at some distance from the town, of
its contents. Some of the inhabitants,
with a favorable disposition toward the
American patriots, were supposed to have
connived at or aided in the proceeding ;
and Congress responded to their friend
liness by this grateful resolve : " That the
inhabitants of Bermuda appear friendly
to the cause of America, and ought to be
supplied with such a quantity of the prod
uce of these colonies as may be necessa
ry for their subsistence and home con

Washington s little fleet was not en
tirely successful. One or two were lost,
from the inexperience of the officers ; and
another was taken by the enemy, and the
captain and crew sent to England. The
Lee, however, under Captain Manly, vin
dicated the "pine-tree flag"- for this,
which was composed of a white ground,
a pine-tree in the middle, and the motto
" We appeal to Heaven," was the stand
ard hoisted upon the floating batteries,
and adopted by the colonial fleet. We
shall see, in the progress of events, the
fortunate result of Manly s cruise.

There was a good deal of suffering in
the camp at Cambridge, from sickness,
which a chronicler of the times quaintly
accounts for : " Many of the Americans,"
says he, " have sickened and died of the
dysentery, brought upon them, in a great
measure, through an inattention to clean
liness. When at home, their female rela
tions put them upon washing their hands

and faces, and keeping themselves neat
and clean ; but, being absent from such
monitors, through an indolent, heedless
turn of mind, they have neglected the
means of health, have grown filthy, and
poisoned their constitution by nastiness."
The weather, too, was becoming very
cold ; and the soldiers, with insufficient
barracks, and a want of wood, were great
ly exposed. Several regiments were
obliged to keep the field, and some were
tented in bleak positions upon the high
tops of hills, where it was difficult to drag
up what supplies of fuel they could get.
The camp, however, with all this suf
fering of the soldiers, and their by no
means presentable condition, if we are to
believe the chronicler just quoted, was
cheered by the presence of " gentlemen,
ladies, and others, from neighboring and
distant colonies, attracted by curiosity."
A number of native gentlemen, too, ar
rived : these were Indian chiefs, who had
come to see and judge for themselves how
far the stories which they had heard iu
their own wigwams of the quarrel of the
Americans with King George were true.
Washington received them at headquar
ters with great consideration, and they
were entertained by him and his officers
with a banquet and a ball. Two of the
Indians had with them their squaws, who
were remarkably well -looking women,
making all allowance for their very dark
complexions. They both joined their
husbands at the ball at headquarters, and

Online LibraryRobert TomesBattles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) → online text (page 28 of 126)