Robert Tomes.

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

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were much admired, although one seemed
rather low-spirited, from having recently
lost a papoose. When the Indians danced
in company with the American gentle-




men and ladies, both the chiefs and their
squaws kept time with the greatest pre
cision, and showed an example of grace
and dignity by which Washington and
his Virginian friends thought that some
of their New-England associates might

At that time, in fact, in the early days
of anticipated independence, there was
great room for improvement in the man
ners of even the officers. Many of them,
elected by their own troops, allowed them
selves to be treated too much as equals
by the men ; and the captain or the lieu
tenant carried his ideas of behavior from
the ranks, where they were naturally pop
ular, to headquarters, where, under the
strict regime of the formal Washington,
they were not by any means so attrac

Many of the higher officers felt as
Montgomery wrote, from Canada: "1
wish some method could be fallen upon
for engaging gentlemen to serve. A point
of honor, and more knowledge of the
world, to be found in that class of men,
would greatly reform discipline, and ren
der the troops much more tractable.
There were worse faults, however, than
bad manners. Gordon says : " It is a mor
tifying truth that some of the Massachu
setts officers disgrace the colony by prac
tising the meanest arts of speculation.
Every subtlety that avarice can invent,
or rascality carry on, are used to cheat
the public, by men who procured commis
sions, not to fight for the liberty of their
country, but to prey upon its distresses.
The army about to be enlisted will un
doubtedly be better officered."


Want of Officers and Men. Washington s Troubles. The Tailors set to work in the Army. A Spirited Affair. inf
British in search of Beef. The Schooner Lee and Captain Manly. A Capture. Its Welcome in Congress. Anec
dote. " Old Put" acting Godfather to a Big Gun. The Difficulties of Enlistment. The Desertion of the Connecticut
and Massachusetts Men. Arrival of Mrs. Washington. Its Effect at Headquarters. Indian Guests. "Bows and
Scrapes." Ground broken at Lechmere s Point. A Sanguine Colonel. The American Camp unusually prosperous.
Plenty to eat. An American Fleet organized. The Brutal Wallace. His llaids upon the American Coast. His
Conduct at Newport. General Lee sent to Rhode Island. Lee s Conduct. Life and Character of Lee. His Pro


WASHINGTON was in hopes that
his forces might be "better, offi
cered," and strove to effect so desirable
an object, now that he was engaged in
reorganizing the army, in accordance
with the decision of Congress. He was,
however, perplexed not only how to get
" better," but any officers at all, or even

men. As the number of regiments was
to be reduced under the new arrange
ment, and the officers necessarily dimin
ished, Washington was desirous of select
ing those that were best qualified. He
found great difficulty from both officers
and men. The first were clamorous for
high rank ; and the latter were insisting




Nov. 28,

upon being subjected only to the com
mand of those whom they themselves
should choose. After completing his list
of officers, he had hoped to have succeed
ed readily in recruiting his new army out
of his present forces, but was greatly dis
appointed in finding so few disposed to

Colonel Reed had resigned his post, and
was now at Philadelphia ; but Washing
ton, strongly attached to him, kept up
an intimate correspondence, in which he
opened his heart to his former secretary.
K Such dearth of public spirit," he emphat
ically writes to Reed, " and such
want of virtue ; such stockjob
bing, and fertility in all the low arts to
obtain advantage of one kind or another
in this great change of military arrange
ments, I never saw before, and I pray
God s mercy that I may never be witness
to again. What will be the end of these
manoeuvres is beyond my scan. I trem
ble at the prospect. We have been till
this time enlisting about three thousand
five hundred men. To engage these, I
have been obliged to allow furloughs as
far as fifty men to a regiment ; and the
officers, I am persuaded, indulge many
more. The Connecticut troops will not
be prevailed upon to stay longer than
their term, saving those who have enlist
ed for the next campaign, and are mostly
on furlough ; and such a mercenary spirit
pervades the whole, that I should not be
surprised at any disaster that may hap
pen Could I have foreseen what I

have experienced and am likely to expe
rience, no consideration upon earth should
have induced me to accept this command."

General Greene was disposed to think
the commander-in-chief somewhat incon
siderate in his judgment of the New-Eng-
landers, and wrote : " His excellency has
been taught to believe the people here
a superior race of mortals ; and finding
them of the same temper and disposi
tions, passions and prejudices, virtues and
vices of the common people of other gov
ernments, they sank in his esteem."

Washington, however, perplexed as he
was, steadily resolved to overcome all ob
stacles, and reorganize an army. He was
desirous, too, of giving his men more of
the appearance of soldiers, and issued an
order in which he recommended the non
commissioned officers and- soldiers to lay
out their money in shirts, shoes, stock
ings, and a good pair of leather breeches,
and not in coats and waistcoats, as it was
intended that the new army should be
clothed in uniform ; to effect which, the
order declared that the Congress would
lay in goods upon the best terms they
could be obtained anywhere for ready
money, and that they would be sold to
the troops without any profit, and thus
enable each soldier to get a uniform coat
and waistcoat cheaper than any other
kind. The written order then closed with
the notice that " a number of tailors will
be immediately set to work to make regi
mentals for those brave men who are wil
ling at all hazards to defend their inval
uable rights and privileges."

Notwithstanding Washington s com
plaints of the backwardness of his troops
generally in re-enlisting, he had occasion
to be gratified by the spirited conduct of
some of them in a slight affair which oc-




Nov. 9,

curred with the enemy. Some four hun
dred British soldiers, under Lieutenant-
Colonel Clark,landed on Phipps s
farm, at Lechmere s point, with
a view of making a raid upon the cattle
there, for the benefit of the half-starved
troops and people in Boston, where such
was the scarcity of provisions, that beef,
mutton, and pork, had risen to one shil
ling and a penny halfpenny sterling the
pound ; geese ten shillings and fowls five
shillings apiece ; while half a guinea was
asked for a dozen of eggs. Owing to the
high tide which overflowed the causeway
that led from the camp, and prevented
the Americans from crossing, the British
were left for an hour or more without in
terference, when they employed them
selves shooting the cattle, with the view
of making off with the carcasses. Colonel
Thompson, with a regiment of American
riflemen, was ordered to displace the in
vaders. The tide was still high, but the
Colonel ordered his troops to the attack ;
and the men for the most part (though
some hesitated) plunged readily into the
water breast-high, and waded a quarter
of a mile in the face of a fire from a man-
of-war and several floating batteries, which
covered the British marauders. As the
Americans advanced, the enemy hastened
to their boats, with a booty of ten cows,
but leaving two of their men killed by
the fire of the riflemen, whose alacrity on
the occasion was highly extolled by Wash
ington, though he reprimanded the back
wardness of others, and some of the offi
cers for the unmilitary appearance and
conduct of their regiments. A Major
Mifflin, who "flew about as though he

Nov. 30,

would have raised a whole army," came
in for a large share of the honor of the
day by his active gallantry.

The whole camp was IIOAV in a high
tide of cheerful excitement, in conse
quence of the success of Captain
Manly with his armed schooner
the Lee. Several British vessels had al
ready been captured and taken safely in
to harbor, when, as he was cruising on
the coast, Manly fell in with and took
the brig Nancy, an ordnance-ship from
Woolwich, full of everything in the great
est abundance that was necessary for
camps and artillery. There was found
on board a large brass mortar, of a new
construction ; two thousand muskets ; sev
eral pieces of fine brass cannon ; one hun
dred thousand flints ; thirty thousand
round shot ; thirty tons and more of mus
ket-shot ; plenty of powder, and "all man
ner of tools, utensils, and machines."

This anecdote illustrates the welcome
with which this capture was received. The
naval committee of the Congress was in
secret session, deliberating on the means
of obtaining certain small articles which
were indispensable to the equipment of
vessels-of-war, but which were not to be
had in the country, when a clamor for
admittance at the door interrupted the
proceedings. Admittance was denied, but
the intruder insisted on entering. The
door was finally opened, when a gentle
man appeared, with an inventory of the
stores found in the captured brig Nancy,
and among which were the very articles
wanted. When the fact was ascertained,
Mr. Adams arose and exclaimed with his
wonted earnestness : " We must succeed



[PART n.

Providence is with us we must suc

The Nancy was carried into Cape Ann,
and her cargo conveyed thence to the
camp at Cambridge. Great was the ex
ultation on its arrival. " Such universal
joy," writes an officer, " ran through the
whole camp as if each grasped victory in
his hand. To crown the glorious scene,
there intervened one truly ludicrous
which was, Old Put mounted on the large
mortar, which was fixed in its bed for the
occasion, with a bottle of rum in his hand,
standing parson to christen, while God
father Mifflin gave it the name of Con
gress. The huzzas on the occasion, I
dare say, were heard through all the ter
ritories of our most gracious sovereign in
this province."

The " huzzas on the occasion" were at
any rate heard in Boston, where the offi
cers spitefully remarked that, "should
their expected reinforcements arrive in
time, the rebels would pay dear in the
spring for all their petty triumphs." Man
ly continued his successes on the coast
until he became a terror to every Brit
ish vessel. A man-of-war was sent out in
pursuit of him, but he escaped by run
ning his vessel ashore in Gloucester har
bor, where the enemy, after firing broad
side after broadside at him, was obliged
by the spirit of Manly s crew, aided by
the inhabitants, to leave him, after the
British ship had lost nearly one half of
its men. Manly got his schooner afloat
soon after, and again sailed on a cruise.

Washington was still greatly annoyed
by the conduct of his troops in regard
to re-enlistment. The Connecticut regi

ments refused to serve after their time,
Avhich would soon expire, unless they re
ceived a bounty. This was refused, and
they became mutinous, declaring that
they would quit the camp. Washington,
to meet the emergency, determined to
make a requisition upon the general court
of Massachusetts for reinforcements. This
body, in answer to the demand, promptly
voted that three thousand of the minute-
men of Massachusetts and two thousand
of New-Hampshire should be called out
and ordered to present themselves in the
camp 011 the 10th of December. This
was the period at which the service of
most of the Connecticut troops would ex
pire, and they were ordered to remain
until then. Their officers confidently ex
pressed their belief that not a man would
disobey ; but they were disappointed and
greatly chagrined to find that the order
had hardly been given out, when the men
began to desert.

" Yesterday morning," writes Washing
ton, " most of them resolved to
leave the camp ; many went offj
and the utmost vigilance and industry
were used to apprehend them ; several
got away with their arms and ammuni
tion." They had suffered greatly, it is
true, from the intensity of the cold, and
the want of necessities with which they
ought to have been better supplied. The
army, however, and the country were not
disposed to justify, under any circum
stances, the desertion of their cause in
the time of its agony ; and as the desert
ers made their straggling way to Con
necticut, they were hooted and treated
with other significant marks of opprobri-

Dec, 2,




inn, in every town and village through
which they passed. They were not se
cure from reproach even at their own
firesides ; and the scolding of wives, and
the averted glances of sweethearts, drove
and shamed many a deserter back again
to duty.

That the Connecticut men were not
alone in their reluctance to serve al
though more recreant than others, by
their open desertion appears from the
records of the time. " The Massachusetts
people," says a chronicler, "show as much
backwardness as the others. In short,
they expect to be hired, and that at a
very high price, to defend their own lib
erties ; and choose to be slaves unless
they can be bribed to be freemen. Quid
facit libertas, cum sola pecunia regnat ? Ho w
must it afflict General Washington to
observe in the present crisis so little of
that patriotic spirit which he was taught
to believe was the characteristic of the
Massachusetts people, and on which he
relied greatly for support ! . . . .

" While burdened with an apprehen
sion that he might possibly be deserted,
he could recollect the severity of the sea
son, and the distresses of his fellow-crea
tures at a distance, and wrote to the gen
tleman with whom he had intrusted the
management of his concerns at Mount
Vernon; Let the hospitality of the house
be kept up with respect to the poor. Let
no one go hungry away. If any of this
kind of people should be in want of corn,
supply their necessities, provided it does
net encourage them in idleness. I have
no objection to your giving my money
in charity, when you think it will be well



bestowed. I mean it is my desire that
it should be done. You are to consider
that neither myself nor wife are now in
the way to do these good offices. "

His wife, as this letter indicates, was
now with Washington at headquarters,
where she had arrived on the llth of De
cember, with her son John Parke
Custis. The coming in of the "gen
eral s lady" was quite an event in the
camp ; and the plain New-England pro
vincials did not fail to remark upon the
grand style of the Virginian dame, who
drove into Cambridge with a chariot-and-
four, with negro postillions in scarlet-and-
white liveries. Her presence greatly en
livened headquarters, and invitations to
dinner with the general became more fre
quent after she began to rule the house
hold. Her example, too, had a cheering
influence upon others of the " best socie
ty" of the camp; and party succeeded par
ty, night after night, during the gloomy
month of December. Adjutant-General
Mifflin, who, though bred up with the for
malities of Quakerism, had received a
dash of liveliness from a residence in
France, was prominent among the gayest
of the officers, and provoked the conviv
iality of the camp by frequent invitations
to supper and dinner. "I dined," says
John Adams, " at Colonel Mifflin s, with
General Washington and lady, and a vast
collection of other company, among whom
were six or seven sachems and warriors
of the French Caughnawaga Indians,
with their wives and children. A savage
feast they made of it, yet were very po
lite in the Indian style. I was introduced
to them by the general as one of the



[PART 11.

Dec. 13,

grand council at Philadelphia, which made
them prick up their ears. They came
and shook hands with me, and made
many low bows and scrapes."*

Massachusetts and New Hampshire had
come nobly to the rescue on the desertion
of the Connecticut regiments, and the re
cruits came in rapidly from these prov
inces. Washington was quite inspirited,
and wrote : " I have the satisfac
tion to tell you that things wear
a better complexion here than they have
done for some time past. The army is
filling up. The barracks go on well. Fire
wood comes in. The soldiers are made
comfortable and easy. Our privateers
meet with success in bringing in vessels
that were going to the relief of Boston."
Washington, reinforced with new troops,
and encouraged by the better spirit of
the men, was enabled now to proceed
vigorously with his defences.

The American general carried his ap
proaches to within half a mile of Boston,
and broke ground at Lechrnere s point.
The enemy did not attempt any hinder-
ance, and allowed the Americans to pro
ceed with their works for several days
without firing a shot. This puzzled Wash
ington, who could not understand their
object, unless it was to lull him into a fatal
security. He was, however, on the alert,
for it only increased his vigilance, and in
duced him to fortify all the advances to

* Irving, who quotes this extract, remarks upon the
" bows and scrapes" with which Adams states the Indians
received him, that it is a kind of homage never paid by an
Indian warrior. If, however, Irving admits the " shaking
of hands," he might concede to the savages the further
progress in civilized politeness of "bows and scrapes," es
pecially on calling to mind that the Indians were French

the camp, and to guard any approaches
upon the ice. He was in hourly expec
tation of an attack. The work contin
ued, notwithstanding ; and the men had
succeeded in constructing a causeway
over the marsh, nearly to Lechmere s
point, when the enemy s ships and batte
ries at last began to fire. The Americans
were driven away, with one man wound
ed, and did not renew their labors until
the next morning, when the British man-
of-war was forced by the artillery in the
camp to shift its moorings. The British
batteries, however, still played upon the
spot ; but the men, growing familiar with
the bombs which were bursting and scat
tering the dirt over them, and learning
how to dodge them as the sentinels cried
out, " A shot !" continued their labors :
so that, in spite of the snow, the frozen
ground, and the dangerous proximity of
the enemy, there were soon two redoubts
built on Lechmere s point, with a cause
way and a covered approach leading to
them. " Give us powder and authority,"
says an enthusiastic colonel, " I say give
us these, and Boston can be set in flames."
So important did he, as in fact all his
comrades, esteem these new works.

Everything seemed now unusually pros
perous in the camp. The soldiers were
supplied with abundant food getting
corned beef and pork four days, fresh beel
two days, and salt fish one day, in the
week ; a quart of spruce-beer, or an equiv
alent in molasses daily, in the way of li
quid refreshment ; and fair proportions
of such delicacies as rice, Indian meal,
hog s lard, and butter, on stated occasions.
A spectator describes the appearance of




the American camp with enthusiasm :
"About two months ago," he says, "I
visited the camps at Roxbury and Cam
bridge. The lines of both are impregna
ble; with forts (many of which are bomb
proof) and the redoubts, supposing them
to be all in a direction, are about twenty
miles; the breastworks of a proper height,
and in many places seventeen feet in
thickness ; the trenches wide and deep in
proportion, before which lay forked im
pediments ; and many of the forts, in ev
ery respect, are perfectly ready for bat
tle. The whole, in a word, the admira
tion of every spectator ; for verily their
fortifications appear to be the works of
seven years, instead of about as many
months. At these camps are about twen
ty thousand men. The generals and other
officers, in all their military undertakings,
solid, discreet, and courageous ; the men
daily raving for action, and seemingly
devoid of fear. There are many floating-
batteries, and batteaux in abundance ;
besides this strength, ten thousand mili
tia are ordered in that government to
appear on the first summons. Provisions
and money there are very plenty, and
the soldiers faithfully paid. The army
in great order, and very healthy, and
about six weeks ago lodged in com
fortable barracks. Chaplains constantly
attend the camps morning and night;
prayers are often offered up for peace
and reconciliation, and the soldiers very
attentive. The roads at the time I viewed
the camps were almost lined with spec
tators, and thousands with me can declare
the above respecting the camps to be a
just description."

Dec, 13.

Congress had determined upon the or
ganization of a fleet, and had or
dered five ships of thirty-two
guns, five of twenty-eight, and three of
twenty-four, to be built; but while these
were in process of construction, the coasts
of New England suffered greatly from
the British cruisers. The American pri
vateers were on the alert, but being of
small force and few r in number, were (al
though some continued to give a good
account of themselves) unable to effect
much against the powerful English squad
ron, which continued its depredations
along the coast from the St. Lawrence to
the bay of New York. Rhode Island had
been a great sufferer, and now called up
on Washington for aid to protect her har
bors from the severe exactions of a Brit
ish naval captain, Wallace.

Wallace was a brutal fellow, who had
been long on the coast, and was notori
ous in America, even before the war, for
his coarseness and insolence. Being asked
once by the mistress of a boarding-house
in Philadelphia, where he happened to be
a lodger, if he would be helped to a dish
before her, Wallace replied, "Damrne,
madam, it is to be supposed that at a pub
lic table every man has a right to help
himself, and this I mean to do !" The
poor woman, with tears in her eyes,
begged the brute s pardon. On another
occasion, Wallace got as much as he gave,
from a cool Quaker with whom at dinner
he had made very free, twitting him about
his broad brim, and theeiny and iliouing him
very familiarly. The Friend bore it very
patiently until after dinner, when he at
length ventured to say to his persecutor:



[PART n.

" Captain, thee has made very free with
me, and asked me a great many ques
tions, which I have endeavored to answer
to thy satisfaction. Wilt thou now per
mit me to ask thee one in my turn ?"-
" Oh, by all means !" exclaimed the cap
tain, " anything thee please, friend ; what
is it?" "Why, then, I wish to be in
formed what makes thee drink so often :
art thou really dry every time thou car-
riest the liquor to thy mouth ?" The cap-
tain,drunk as he was,felt this home thrust,
frowned savagely, and, swearing a loud
curse, asked, "What! do you think I am
like a hog, only to drink when I am dry ?"
The fellow was as cruel in disposition as
he was coarse and violent in manner.

This Wallace had stationed his vessel-
of-war off Newport, where he would land
his sailors and marines, to make depreda
tions upon the inhabitants. A party of
these marauders had lately gone ashore,
and, not satisfied with killing and carry
ing off the cattle, had broken into, plun
dered, and finally burned, some of the
houses. It was also feared by the Rhode-
Islanders that the British admiral at Bos
ton was about sending a large naval force,
with the view of subjecting, by the con
nivance of the tory residents, the whole
island to British military rule.

The governor of Rhode Island, in soli
citing the aid of Washington, had sug
gested that Lee might be sent; and he
accordingly was ordered to Newport with
several companies of riflemen, which were
joined on the march by a considerable
number of militia. Lee was the very
man for the emergency ; his usual faults
of character became merits on the occa

sion. His self-willed temper made him
prompt in the execution of his measures.
He entered Newport, and at once sum
moned before him all persons known or
suspected of giving countenance to the
enemy. He then forced them to take an

Online LibraryRobert TomesBattles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) → online text (page 29 of 126)