Robert Tomes.

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

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navigable rivers, the uncertainty of the
enemy s designs and motions, who can fly
in an instant to any spot they choose with
their canvass wings, throw me, and would
throw Julius Cesar, into this inevitable
dilemma, I may possibly be in the north,
when, as Richard says, I should serve my
sovereign in the west. I can only act
from surmise, and I have a very good
chance of surmising; wrong;. I am sorrv

O O */

to grate your ears with a truth, but must
at all events assure you, that the provin
cial Congress of New York are angels of
decision when compared with your coun
trymen, the committee of safety assem

bled at Williamsburgh. Page, Lee, Mer
cer, and Payne are indeed exceptions ;
but from Pendleton, Bland, the treasurer,
and Company, libera nos domine"

When Lee departed for the South, Lord
Stirling was left in command of the troops
at New York. William Alexander was
the genuine name of his "lordship," but
he was always called Lord Stirling by the
Americans, probably to compensate him
for the obstinate resistance to his claim
in Great Britain, where he had made an
unsuccessful effort for a recognition of
his title as earl. He was a great stickler
for the lordship. On one occasion being
present at the execution of a soldier for
desertion, the criminal repeatedly cried
out, "the Lord have mercy on me;" his
lordship, with warmth, exclaimed, " I wont,
you rascal, I wont have mercy on you."*
His father was a Scotchman who had gone
to America to escape the consequences
of having engaged in the unsuccessful
rebellion in behalf of the Pretender in
1715. He settled in New York where
he married the daughter of a fortunate
speculator called "Ready-money Provost,"
and where his son William was born in
1726. The youth had an early inclina
tion for war, and volunteering for the
French and Indian campaign, served as
aid-de-camp to General Shirley. Subse
quently, visiting England, he laid his claim
to the earldom of Stirling before the
house of lords, and upon its not being
allowed, he returned to America, where
his rights to the "lordship" were always
afterward recognised by courtesy. He
now married the daughter of Philip Liv

* Thacher.




ingston, the " second lord of the manor,"
and building " a fine mansion" in New
Jersey, went to live there. On the break
ing out of the difficulties with Great Brit
ain, Lord Stirling joined the popular cause,
and after being appointed colonel of the
first battalion of New Jersey militia, was
finally promoted by Congress to the rank
of brigadier-general. Lee spoke of him
as " Alexander pas le grand, mais le gros"

Stirling being now in command of some
twenty-five hundred men, and continuing
to carry into execution the plans of defence
for New York and Long island which had
been formed by General Lee, awaited the
arrival of the main body of the army.
Washington having sent most of his troops
in two large detachments, the first under
the immediate command of Brigadier-
General Heath, and the second under
Brigadier-General Sullivan, ordered Gen
eral Putnam to New York, to assume the
general command, and to pro
ceed " to execute the plan pro
posed by Major-General Lee for fortifying
the city and securing the passes of the
East and North rivers." Washington
himself did not propose yet to set out
for a week or more.

While Washington had determined to
proceed to New York, and Lee had been
sent to Virginia to meet the expected
operations of the enemy in those quar
ters, Congress was not unmindful of the
important interests at risk in the North.
General Thomas was accordingly ap
pointed to take command of the Ameri
can troops in Canada, where we left them,
as will be recollected, after the repulse
of their assault upon Quebec, encamped

Mar, 29,

within three miles of the walls of the city,
apparently for the winter.

Arnold s small force having received
some additions from a few straggling
soldiers who, in spite of the severity of
the season and the hardships of a long
journey through the snow and over the
frozen rivers, had succeeded in making
their way to the camp, the Americans
were enabled to hold their ground, and
do something, by means of their ice-bat
teries, in keeping up the show of a siege.
Sir Guy Carleton kept within his walls
and showed a degree of caution that could
only be attributed to the distrust of his
own people, whose loyalty was somewhat
dubious, and not to any dread of his ene
my, whose aspect was by no means for
midable. He seemed more desirous of
exercising benevolence than hostility
toward his opponents. He treated his
prisoners with a kindness and generosity,
so great, that no chronicler of the events
of those days has failed to give his testi
mony to the humanity of Governor Carle-
ton. He sent out to the American camp
for the clothes of those held captive in
Quebec, and allowed their friends to send
them money and such necessaries and
luxuries as they might require.

General Wooster passed the whole win
ter in inactivity at Montreal, while Arnold
was encamped before Quebec.
He came at last as the spring
opened, and brought such an addition to
the American force as raised it to the ap
parently respectable number of two thous
and eight hundred and fifty-five ; but one
third at least of these, were prostrate with
small-pox. A girl, who was a nurse in

April 1.




the hospital at Quebec, had some friends
in the American camp, whom she came
oat to visit, and was supposed thus to
have brought the infection among the
troops. The disease soon after broke out
and began to spread, when many of the
men inoculated themselves, and thus be
came disabled for duty. On the arrival,
however, of Wooster, in spite of the con
dition of the troops, something was at
tempted in the way of action, by cannon
ading the enemy, and more vigorous
measures, doubtless, would have followed,
had not Arnold been disabled by an inju
ry to his wounded leg from the fall of his
horse. This accident, which kept him in
bed for a fortnight, was a serious matter
for the Americans, for without Arnold the
soul of the enterprise was gone. With
this misfortune, and with his spirit chafed
at the conduct of Wooster who, being
his superior in command, did not yield
as readily to Arnold s imperiousness as
he would have wished, Arnold asked leave
of absence, which was granted, and he
retired to Montreal. Wooster did nothing
until the arrival of General Thomas to
whom he yielded up the command.

Thomas, on his arrival, was anxious to
attempt something, and he therefore, as
the St. Lawrence was free of ice,
prepared a fire-ship. At the same
time making ready his scaling-ladders, he
drew up his forces with the view of mak
ing an assault. The fire-ship was sent
adrift at night, and floating with the flood-
tide toward Quebec was supposed by the
enemy at first to be a friendly vessel.
As she neared, however, the shipping, her
true character was discovered, and the

May 1,

batteries began to fire upon her. The
crew on board finding that their purpose
was discovered, lighted the train and
took to their boats. The ship was soon
in a blaze, but the sails taking fire, she
lost her headway, and the tide beginning
to ebb, she was carried down the river
and the whole attempt failed.

Next day, General Thomas, disappoint
ed by the failure of his plan, and finding
from the condition of his troops and the
scarcity of provisions that it was use
less to make an assault or to continue
the siege, determined to retreat. When
making preparations to carry out this
purpose, the enemy received a reinforce
ment by the arrival of a squadron from
Great Britain with several hundred troops
on board. Carleton, with this addition
to his troops, sallied out and made an at
tack upon the Americans who, in the con
fusion of their retreat which had already
begun, and being pressed by the enemy,
were forced to fly precipitately and aban
don their baggage, artillery, and stores.
There were a great number of sick among
the provincials, some of whom, with the
small-pox full upon them, strove, ill as
they were, to escape, while others gave
themselves up at once to the assailants,
and were treated by Carleton with his
usual considerate kindness.

The British did not continue the pur
suit far, or they might have totally de
stroyed the provincials. These, however,
continued their flight, night and day, for
a distance of forty-five miles. On reach
ing the mouth of the Sorel they halted,
and being reinforced by the arrival of
several regiments, encamped there for



[PART n.

several days, during which period General
Thomas, who had sickened with the small
pox, died. As he had forbidden his troops,
that they might not be disabled by their
temporary illness, to b inoculated, he
refused himself to take advantage of the
only means then known of protection
against the fatal disease, and thus became
a sacrifice to the severity of military dis
cipline. General Sullivan now succeeded
to the command, superseding Wooster.

Affairs in Canada were a source of
great anxiety to all engaged in the Amer
ican cause. The friendly disposition at
one time evinced by the Canadians seems
greatly to have changed. When General
Montgomery first penetrated into the
country, he readily obtained men, wag
ons, and provisions; and when he was
before Quebec, offers of service were made
to him from a number of parishes, in the
neighboring country. His death, how
ever, added to other occurrences, had
caused such a change in the disposition
of the people, that, as an American offi
cer wrote, " we no longer look upon them
as friends, but, on the contrary, as waiting
an opportunity to join our enemies." The
clergy and landed proprietors had not
been properly conciliated, and they be
came unanimously opposed to the Amer
ican cause, and even while Montreal was
held by our troops, many of the inhabit
ants of consequence were supposed to be
carrying on a correspondence with Carle-
ton at Quebec. "With respect to the
better sort of people, both French and
English," wrote the same officer just
quoted, "seven eights are tories, who
would wish to see our throats cut, and

perhaps would readily assist in doing it."
The Americans were to blame greatly for
this result, for they not only neglected
to conciliate the better classes, but had
ill-used the peasantry. The inhabitants
had been " dragooned at the point of the
bayonet to supply wood for the garrison
at a lower rate than the current price.
For carriages and many other articles
furnished, certificates had been given that
were either not legible or without a sig
nature, and the consequence was that on
being presented they were rejected by
the quartermaster-general." The people
thus deceived became importunate in
their claims, which being only met by
vague promises, they concluded that their
labor and property had been expended
in vain, and had no longer faith in the
united colonies, which they believed bank

Washington shared in this so
licitude about Canada, and wrote
to Schuyler : " The commotions among
the Canadians are alarming. I am afraid
proper measures have not been taken to
conciliate their affections; but rather that
they have been insulted and injured, than
which nothing could have a greater ten
dency to ruin our cause in that country.
For human nature is such, that it will ad
here to the side from whence the best treat
ment is received. I therefore conjure
you, sir, to recommend the officers and
soldiers in the strongest terms to treat
all the inhabitants, Canadians, English.
and savages, with tenderness and respect,
paying them punctually for what they
receive, or giving them such certificates
as will enable them to receive their pay."




Congress, too, was so far impressed with
ihe unfortunate state of affairs in Canada,
and the necessity of a remedy, that it
appointed Dr. Franklin. Samuel Chase,
Charles Carroll of Carrollton, and the
Rev. John Carroll, a Roman catholic priest,
as commissioners to proceed to the North,
with the view of investigating and remov
ing grievances, and conciliating the Cana
dian people. Everything seemed to be
in such an ill condition, in regard to the
military operations in Canada, as almost
to justify the sweeping remark of a trav
eller of those days, who, after descanting
freely upon men and things in that quar
ter, declared over his bottle to some Amer
ican officers who were his chance com
panions at an inn in Albany : " In short,
gentlemen, we have commissioners there
without provisions; quartermasters with
out stores ; generals without troops ; and
troops without discipline, by G d."

General Schuyler was held responsible
by many of the New Englanders for the
disastrous condition of things at the North.
" In a time of adversity," says Irving, who
never fails to say a good word for Schuy
ler, " it relieves the public mind to have
some individual upon whom to charge its
disasters. General Schuyler, at present,
was to be the victim." He was charged
with having neglected to send forward
supplies and reinforcements to the troops
in Canada, and even treason was hinted
at by some of his enemies, in the bitter
ness of their hostility. Schuyler was not
a popular man with the New England
officers, many of whom were of too coarse
a mould to please his somewhat fastidious
tastes. His own associations were aristo

cratic, while theirs were of the true demo
cratic stamp. . He was a stickler for the
respect due to rank ; they, with a dispo
sition to yield to popular majorities, made
common cause with the ranks. He was re
served and formal toward his inferiors;
they, free and " hail fellows" with all, as
they acknowledged no superiority. Schuy
ler had the incidental circumstances of
distinguished birth, and of refinement
and wealth, to give him personal and so
cial importance ; the New England officers
were, for the most part, men of humble
origin, of little education, and, when
drawn from the field or the bench, had
nothing but their military pay. He was
a conventional gentleman ; they made
no pretensions to anything beyond the
rude simplicity of honest manners.

Graydon, in his gossiping memoirs
gives us, probably, a better insight than
more dignified historians, into the true
cause of Schuyler s unpopularity with the
New Englanders. Graydon, then a young
officer of a Pennsylvania regiment, had
been appointed by Congress to carry a
sum of money in specie to Schuyler. He
arrives at Lake George, and gives this
account of his visit to the general :
" Though General Schuyler has been
charged with such haughtiness of demean
or, as to have induced the troops of New
England to decline serving under his
command, the reception we met with,
was not merely courteous but kind. His
quarters being contracted, a bed was pre
pared for us in his own apartment, and
we experienced civilities that were flat
tering from an officer of his high rank.
Though thoroughly the man of business,




he was also a gentleman and a man of
the world ; and well calculated to sustain
the reputation of our army in the eyes
of .the British officers (disposed to depre
ciate it), as is evidenced by the account
given by General Burgoyne of the man
ner in which he was entertained by him
at Albany. But that he should have been
displeasing to the Yankees, I am not at
all surprised : he certainly was at no pains
to conceal the extreme contempt he felt
for a set of officers, who were both a dis
grace to their stations and the cause in
which they acted ! Being yet a stranger
to the character of these men, and the
constitution of that part of our military
force which in Pennsylvania was consid
ered as the bulwark of the nation, I must
confess my surprise at an incident which
took place while at dinner. Beside the
general, the members of his family, and
ourselves, there were at table a lady and
gentleman from Montreal. A New Eng
land captain came in upon some business,
with that abject servility of manner which
belongs to persons of the meanest rank :
he was neither asked to sit or take a glass
of wine, and after announcing his message,
was dismissed with that peevishness of
tone we apply to a low and vexatious in
truder. This man, in his proper sphere,
might have been entitled to better treat
ment; but when presuming to thrust him
self into a situation, in which far other
qualifications than his were required, and
upon an occasion, too, which involved
some of the most important of human
interests, I am scarcely prepared to say
it was unmerited."

Schuyler, however, found a nobler ad

vocate in Washington, who, on sending
to him a letter containing charges against
his conduct, accompanied by documents
which had been received at headquarters
from a committee of Kings county, wrote :
" From these you will readily discover
the diabolical and insiduous acts and
schemes carrying on by the tories and
friends of government, to raise distrust,
dissensions, and divisions among us. Hav
ing the utmost confidence in your integ
rity, and the most incontestable proof of
your great attachment to our common
country and its interests, I could not but
look upon the charge against you with
an eye of disbelief, and seniiments of de
testation and abhorrence ; nor should I
have troubled you with the matter, had
I not been informed that copies were sent
to different committees and to Governor
Trumbull, which I conceived would get
abroad, and that you, should you find
that I had been furnished with them,
would consider my suppressing them as
an evidence of my belief, or at best of
my doubts, of the charges."

On receiving this letter, Schuyler wrote
to Washington, insisting upon a court of
inquiry, and in the meantime some who
had been ready to give credence to the
charges, frankly acknowledged their sus
picions unfounded, although there were
others in whom the feeling against the
New York general continued to rankle.

General Philip Schuyler, of whom we
have said so much, and of whom we shall
have occasion to say more, was born in
Albany, on the 22d of November, 1733.
His family was of colonial distinction.
His grandfather was mayor of Albany,




and proprietor of one of the Dutch man
ors, which descended by the law of prim
ogeniture to John Schuyler his son, and
the father of Philip who, being the eldest
son, inherited the estate, and with unex
ampled generosity divided it with his
brothers and sisters. His mother was
Cornelia Van Cortlandt,a woman of great
force of character, and remarkable for
the graceful dignity of her manners.

Philip Schuyler served during the French
campaign, and won the friendship of the
gallant and young Lord Howe, who fell
at Ticonderoga, He was a prominent
man in the colonial assembly, and an
early advocate of the American cause.
In 1775 he was a delegate to the conti
nental Congress, and in the same year
was appointed third major-general of the
American army.


General Putnam at New York. His Cousin. The Appearance of the Troops. The Officers. Colonel Putnam coming
Home from Market. Alexander Hamilton. His Life. Personal Appearance. His first Acquaintance with General
Greene. Washington at New York. The Provincial Navy. Commodore Hopkins. His Exploits. The Engage
ment between the Alfred and Glasson. The American Squadron puts into New London. Hopkins censured by Con
gress. Washington s Despair of Reconciliation with Great Britain. Perplexities of Business. Uncertainty of the
Enemy s Movements.


GENERAL PUTNAM had arrived at
New York and went busily to work
at once, carrying out the plans of Lee in
fortifying the exposed points of the island,
and disciplining the troops. His cousin,
Colonel Rufus Putnam, had been, in want
of a better, appointed to the head of the
engineer department, and though, like
the general, an illiterate man, seemed, as
Washington said, " tolerably well quali
fied for conducting that business." Gray-
don says, " Mr. Putnam might have been
a good practical artist, though misterming
the Gorge the George? The same viva
cious writer gives us an account of the
troops gathered in New York at that
time. " They were," he says, " chiefly
from the eastern provinces. The appear
ance of things was not much calculated

to excite sanguine expectations in the
mind of a sober observer. Great num
bers of people were indeed to be seen,
and those who are not accustomed to the
sight of bodies under arms are always
prone to exaggerate them. But this pro
pensity to swell the mass had not an
equal tendency to convert it into soldiery;
and the irregularity, want of discipline,
bad arms, and defective equipment in all
respects, of this multitudinous assemblage,
gave no favorable impression of its prow

The eastern battalions, especially, seem
ed to have offended the eye of the young
military aspirant. The ranks were un
promising, and particularly the officers,
" who were in no single respect distin
guishable from their men, other than in

26 6


[PART u.

the colored cockades, which, for this very
purpose, had been prescribed in general
orders; a different color being assigned
to the officers of each grade." So far from
aiming at a deportment which might
raise them above their privates, and thence
prompt them to due respect and obedience
to their commands, the object was by hu
mility, to preserve the existing blessing
of equality : an illustrious instance of
which was given by Colonel Putnam, the
chief engineer of the army, and no less
a personage than the cousin of the ma
jor-general of that name. " What," says
a person meeting him one day with a
piece of meat in his hand, "carrying home
your rations yourself, colonel !" " Yes,"
says he, " and I do it to set the officers a
good example."

There were, however, other officers
who better pleased the fastidiousness of
our annalist ; those of New York, for ex
ample, among whom was Alexander Ham
ilton. Hamilton at that time was barely
twenty years of age, and had not only
shown that ardor of youthful spirit and
genius which always excites a sympathetic
glow of appreciation among the young,
but had w r on, by the premature manli
ness of his character and judgment, the
respect of the old. Hamilton was born
on the West Indian island of Nevis. His
father was a Scotch trading captain of
the name of Hamilton. His mother, a
Creole woman, of Spanish or French ori
gin. The child, not over carefully watched
by parental solicitude, was left to wander
very much at his will. On one occasion
he had strayed into the counting-house
of a distinguished merchant, who was so

much struck by the lively and precocious
parts of the boy, that he proposed to
" make his fortune for him." The benev
olence of the merchant met with no re
sistance from his natural guardians, and
young Hamilton was accordingly taken
by him into his counting-house. Child
as he was, he made such rapid progress
in the knowledge of business, that in the
temporary absence of the "head of the
firm," he was left sole manager of its con
cerns, at the age of fourteen. From the
West Indies he was sent to assume a more
important station in the New York branch
of his patron s establishment. His remark
able talents and the great zeal he had
shown for study induced his generous
friends to give him the benefit of a clas
sical education. He was accordingly put
to school at Elizabethtown, and thence,
in 17 73, admitted into King s, now Colum
bia college, with the view of preparing
for a medical education. Young Ham
ilton had an early taste for literature,
and, by frequent clever articles, some
times lively and sometimes severe, writ
ten on the exciting political topics of the
day, showed a natural power and acquired
great facility as a writer.

Yet a student, he had an occasion to
prove that he could speak as well as write.
A meeting of the New York whig citizens
had been called together to express their
indignation at the new blow of British
tyranny which had fallen upon the New
Englanders in the shape of the Boston
port-bill. Naturally self-reliant and with
his confidence in his own powers, stimu
lated by the warmth of his interest in the
popular cause, young Hamilton, then hard-


ly seventeen years of age, ventured to

Online LibraryRobert TomesBattles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) → online text (page 34 of 126)