Robert Tomes.

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

. (page 59 of 126)
Online LibraryRobert TomesBattles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) → online text (page 59 of 126)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

heavy artillery, had moved from Newport,
Rhode Island, and landed at Am
boy. Sir William Howe, too, had
forsaken his snug quarters at New York,
with its convivial delights, and come over
the Hudson. It was now probable that,
with a force of nearly eight thousand men
in New Jersey, and the reinforcements
just landed and marching to join them,
General Howe was "on the point of ma
king some push." Whether his object
was to beat up the American quarters
and extend his own, to make a large for
age and collection of provender of which
the enemy were in great want, or to cross
the Delaware with the view of marching
to Philadelphia, could not be determined.
Washington was on the alert, but nat
urally anxious, when he knew his force
was so small as to be quite unequal to a
successful opposition. Sir William Howe
would surely move forward, thought the

American general, with Philadelphia as
his object. The British were at least ten
thousand strong. The Americans were
only four thousand. The former were
well disciplined, well officered, and well
appointed ; the latter raw militia, badly
officered, and under no government. Gen
eral Howe s numbers, it was true, could
not in any short time be increased. As
for Washington s, "they must be," he said,
" very considerably, and by such troops
as we can have reliance upon, or the game
is at an end." With what propriety, then,
can the enemy miss so favorable an op
portunity of striking a heavy blow at
Philadelphia, from which the Americans
are deriving so many advantages, and the
carrying of which would give such eclat
to the British arms ? " The longer it is
delayed," wrote Washington, who believed
the attack was almost certain, " the bet
ter for us, and happy shall I be if am de

Sir William Howe did not, however, be
lie his reputation for indolence. He can
toned his reinforcements with the rest of




his army at Brunswick and the adjacent
posts, and sat down to contemplate his
magnificent designs for a future campaign.
The Americans, notwithstanding, were vi
gilant, and attentive at their several posts
to guard against surprises ; while every
preparation for resistance was made that
the feeble state of their little army ad
mitted of. Small skirmishes continued ;
and, although in one week a militia-guard
in Monmouth, near the Hook, is taken by
a party of British troops, in the next full
revenge is obtained by the success of Colo
nel Nielson, of Brunswick. This officer,
with a small detachment of militia, sallies
out and takes by surprise Major Stockton,
of General Skinner s corps of New-Jersey
royalists, whom he captures, together with
fifty-nine of his men, and all their arms.

Thus was presented, during the Avhole
winter, " the extraordinary spectacle of a
powerful army, straitened within narrow 7
limits by the phantom of a military force,
and never permitted to transgress those
limits with impunity, in which skill sup
plied the place of means, and disposition
was the substitute for an army."* The
conduct of Washington was everywhere
greatly extolled. Botta, the Italian his
torian of America, expresses the admira
tion with which it was appreciated in Eu
rope :

"Achievements so astonishing gained
for the American commander a very great
reputation, and were regarded with won
der by all nations, as well as by the Amer
icans. Every one applauded the prudence,
the firmness, and the daring, of General
Washington. All declared him the sav-

* Alexander Hamilton.

iour of his country ; all proclaimed him
equal to the most renowned commanders
of antiquity, and especially distinguished
him by the name of the American Falim.
His name was in the mouths of all men,
and celebrated by the pens of the most
eminent writers. The greatest person
ages in Europe bestowed upon him praise
and congratulation. Thus the American
general wanted neither a noble cause to
defend, nor an opportunity for acquiring
glory, nor the genius to avail himself of
it, nor a whole generation of men com
petent and well disposed to render him

Horace Walpole wrote thus to Mann :
"Washington, the dictator,has shownliim-
self both a Fabius and a Camillus. His
march through our lines is allowed to
have been a prodigy of generalship."

In the list of the new major-generals
chosen by Congress, the name of Arnold
had been omitted, although those thus
appointed w r ere all his juniors in rank.
This gave Washington great concern, and
he w r rote to Richard Henry Lee, a mem
ber of Congress from Virginia : " I am
anxious to know whether General Ar
nold s non-promotion w r as owing to acci
dent or design ; and the cause of it. Sure
ly a more active, a more spirited and sen
sible officer, fills no department in yotu
army. Not seeing him, then, in the list
of major-generals, and no mention made
of him, has given me uneasiness; as it is
not to be presumed, being the oldest brig
adier, that he will continue in service un
der such a slight," Fearing the effect of
this neglect upon the irascible temper of

* Quoted by Sparks.




Arnold, Washington wrote to entreat him
not to take any hasty steps, and he would
use his best endeavors to remedy any er
ror that might have been committed.

Arnold, after courteously acknowledg
ing Washington s interposition in his be
half, expresses his sense of the wrong he
has suffered by a self-complacent state
ment of his fastidious conscientiousness,
his sensibility to disgrace, and the claims
he has upon his country for his patriotic
services. " My commission," writes Ar
nold, " was conferred unsolicited, and re
ceived with pleasure only as a means of
serving my country. With equal pleas
ure I resign it, when I can no longer serve
my country with honor. The person who,
void of the nice feelings of honor, will
tamely condescend to give up his right,
and retain a commission at the expense
of his reputation, I hold as a disgrace to
the army, and unworthy of the glorious
cause in which we are engaged. When
I entered the service of my country, my
character was unimpeached. I have sac
rificed my interest, ease, and happiness,
in her cause. It is rather a misfortune,
than a fault, that my exertions have not
been crowned with success. I am con
scious of the rectitude of my intentions.
In justice, therefore, to my own charac
ter, and for the satisfaction of my friends,
I must request a court of inquiry into my
conduct ; and, though I sensibly feel the
ingratitude of my countrymen, yet every
personal injury shall be buried in my
zeal for the safety and happiness of my
country, in whose cause I have repeated
ly fought and bled, and am ready at all
times to risk my life."

Washington, who was fully conscious
of Arnold s ability, and had at that time
no reason to doubt the sincerity of his
professions of patriotism, was anxious to
place him in the position to which he was
thought to be entitled. The commander-
in-chief continued to solicit his friends in
Congress to repair the wrong supposed
to have been done to that officer, and re
quested General Greene, who was then
at Philadelphia, to investigate the causes
which had influenced their action. The
only satisfaction obtained was the pro
fessed motive, on the part of the mem
bers of Congress, of proportioning the
general officers to the number of troops
supplied by each state, and the explana
tion that, as Connecticut had already two
major-generals, it was necessary to pass
Arnold by. Washington, in answer to
Arnold s demand for a court of inquiry,
replied that he could not see upon what
ground he could ask it, as no particular
charge was alleged against him. Public
bodies are not amenable for their actions.
They place and displace at pleasure ; and
all the satisfaction that an individual can
obtain, when he is overlooked, is, if inno
cent, a consciousness that he has not de
served such treatment for his honest ex

This was a kind of advice which came
naturally from the upright mind of the
commander-in-chief, but which was far
from calming the perturbed spirit of Ar
nold. The purest air of heaven will only
inllame an angry sore : an appeal to con
science gives no relief to a corrupt heart.
Arnold was obliged to give up all hopes
of a court of inquiry ; but he determined




to visit headquarters, and obtain permis
sion from Washington to proceed to Phil
adelphia, and seek an investigation into
the cause of the treatment which had so
disappointed his ambition and stirred his

There were others besides Arnold who
had been wronged, as they supposed, by
being passed over in the recent appoint
ments by Congress. Washington strove to
soothe the wounded sensibilities of these
latter as he had those of the former. Brig
adier-General Andrew Lewis had reason
to expect promotion to a major-general
ship. He had been disappointed. Wash
ington writes to him: "Let me beseech
you to reflect that the period is now ar
rived when our most vigorous exertions
are wanted ; when it is highly and indis
pensably necessary for gentlemen of abil
ities in any line, but more especially in
the military, not to withhold themselves
from public employment, or suffer any
small punctilios to persuade them to re
tire from their country s service." Gen
eral Lewis, however, did not yield to this
patriotic appeal, but resigned his commis
sion, which was accepted by Congress.
Again, William Woodford, although pro
moted to the rank of brigadier-general,
was named after two of his juniors. In
this instance also, Washington, anticipa
ting a wound to Woodford s feelings, en
deavors to divert him from all personal
considerations, by invoking the generosi
ty of his patriotism. " Trifling punctil
ios," he says, " should have no influence
upon a man s conduct in such a cause,
and at such a time as this. If smaller
matters do not yield to greater, if trifles

Mar, 15,

light as air in comparison with what we
are contending for, can withdraw or with
hold gentlemen from service, when our
all is at stake, and a single cast of the die
may turn the tables, what are we to ex
pect ?"

A remarkable letter, written about this
time by Washington to General
Sullivan, shows the vexations to
which he must have been subjected by
the jealous rivalries and fancied slights
of some of the officers under his command.
" Do not, my dear General Sullivan," says
Washington, "torment yourself any long
er with imaginary slights, and involve
others in the perplexities you feel on that
score. No other officer of rank, in the
whole army, has so often conceived him
self neglected, slighted, and ill treated, as
you have done and none, I am sure, ha^
had less cause than yourself to entertain
such ideas. Mere accidents, things which
have occurred in the common course of
service, have been considered by you as
designed affronts Why these unrea
sonable, these unjustifiable suspicions
suspicions which can answer no other end
than to poison your own happiness, and
add vexation to that of others ? But I
have not time to dwell upon a subject of
this kind. I shall quit it with an earnest
exhortation that you will not suffer your
self to be teased with evils that only ex
ist in the imagination, and with slights
that have no existence at all." Sullivan
was vain, and sensitive, as all vain men
are ; but, as he was a sincere patriot and
a faithful friend of Washington, it is not
doubted but that he took this severe les
son in good part, and benefited by it.


Iii addition to these troubles on the
score of the officers, Washington was
much perturbed by the difficulties and
obstructions which interfered with the
recruiting of his new army. The spring
had already opened ; and yet such was the
delay in the enlistments, that Washing
ton expected to be left on the 15th of
March with only the remains of five Vir
ginia regiments, containing less than five
hundred men ; parts of two or three oth
er continental battalions, "all very weak;"
and some small parties of New-Jersey and
Pennsylvania militia, on which but little
dependence could be put, as they " come

and go when they please The enemy

must be ignorant of our numbers and sit
uation, or they would never suffer us to
remain unmolested, and," adds Washing
ton, " I almost tax myself with impru
dence in committing the secret to paper."

Nor were the recruits who came in so
slowly and in such scant numbers imme
diately available. The small-pox hither
to had created terrible ravages among the
American troops, and Washington was
determined to use the only means then
known to protect them from its fatality.
All the officers and soldiers in the can
tonment at Morristown were now inocu
lated, and each recruit as he came in was
subjected to the same operation. Whole
regiments were thus suffering under the
disease at the same moment. Fortunate
ly, little or no mortality ensued; and " the
disorder Avas so slight," says an annalist,
doubtless with some exaggeration, " that
from the beginning to the end of it there
was not a single day in which they could
not, and if called upon would not, have

turned out and fought the British." If
the inoculated had been able to take the
field, they could not have brought against
their enemy a more formidable powei
than the terrors of the dreadful disease
which presented its horrid front in the
American ranks.

When the new recruits presented them
selves, Washington was perplexed to find
means for equipping them. The old regi
ments, at the expiration of their term of
service, returned home, taking their arms
with them. How to provide the new ar
my was now the question, which was so
embarrassing, that all began to consider
it with dismay, when it was fortunately

*/ /

solved by the arrival of a supply of arms
from France. One ship, escaping all the
vigilance of the British cruisers, had ar
rived at Portsmouth, in New Hampshire,
laden with a cargo consisting of twelve
thousand fusees, one thousand barrels of
powder, and a good stock of blankets and
military stores. Another French vessel
had reached Philadelphia in safety, with
six thousand fusees for the United States,
and five thousand for sale on private ac
count. The whole army could now be
equipped, and there was no longer any
anxiety on the score of arms.

Colonel Joseph Reed s resignation as
adjutant- general, although it was wel
comed by a large number of New -Eng
land men (with whom, in the course of
the sectional jealousies in the army, he
had incurred great unpopularity), was a
serious loss to the service, and a source
of perplexity to Washington. There was
difficulty in finding for that important
office a successor of equal efficiency with



its former active incumbent. President
Hancock wrote to General Gates, propo
sing that he should atmin become the

o O

adjutant-general,, a position to which he
had been appointed on the organization
of the first American army. Gates s as
pirations had in the meanwhile risen to
a greater height. He evidently was not
flattered by Hancock s proposition. His
vexation was ill concealed beneath a pro
fession of willingness to serve, in a letter
which he wrote to Washington : " I own,"
he writes, referring to the letter of the
president of Congress, " I was surprised
at the contents ; and the more so, as it
was not preceded by one on the same
subject from your excellency. Unless it
is vour earnest desire that such a meas-


ure should directly take place, I could by
no means consent to it."

Washington wrote to General Gates in
answer : " Although I often wished in se
cret that you could be brought to resume
the office of adjutant-general,! never even
hinted it, because I thought it might be
disagreeable to you, for the reason which
you yourself mention that you com
manded last campaign at the second post
upon this continent and that therefore
it might be looked upon by you as a deg
radation. But you can not conceive the
pleasure I feel when you tell me that, if
it is my desire that you should resume
your former office, you will with cheer
fulness and alacrity proceed to Morris-
town. Give me leave to return you my
sincere thanks for this mark of your at
tention to a request of mine which, now
you give me an opening, I make, and at
the same time assure you that I look up-


on your resumption of the office of adju
tant-general as the only means of giving
form and regularity to our new army."
The frank and direct manner in which
Washington took Gates at his word might
have been supposed to greatly embarrass
that officer, who was not disposed to re
strain his ambition within the narrow
bounds of a subordinate position. The
timely appointment of the command of
the northern army at Ticonderoga, how
ever, relieved him from the apparent di
lemma in which his own professions, and
Washington s sincere belief in them, had
placed him. Still, there is reason to be
lieve that General Gates had anticipated
this means of escape from his unpleasant
situation, and that he was eagerly await
ing the command which he now received
when offering his services to Washington
in the humbler position. Timothy Pick
ering, of Massachusetts, became the new

Gates was indebted to the irascibility
of General Schuyler for his new appoint
ment. Schuyler had involved himself in
a quarrel with Congress. His enemies
had been industrious, and made various
charges against him. He insisted upon
resigning his commission, but Congress
would not accept his resignation. The
surgeon of his army, a Doctor Striger, had
been removed from his office; whereat
Schuyler is greatly angered, and writes
to Congress : " As Doctor Striger had my
recommendation to the office he had sus
tained, perhaps it was a compliment due
to me that I should have been advised of
the reason of his dismission." Colonel Jo
seph Trumbull had insinuated that Gen-



eral Schuyler had suppressed a commis
sion intended for his brother, whereupon
the angry commander writes to Congress,
complaining of the base insinuation, and
says : " I hope Congress will not enter
tain the least idea that I can tamely sub
mit to such injurious treatment. I ex
pect they will immediately do what is in
cumbent on them on the occasion. Un
til Mr. Trumbull and I are upon a footing,
I can not do what the laws of honor and
a regard to my own reputation render
indispensably necessary. Congress can
put us on a par by dismissing one or the
other from the service." ::: Congress would
not gratify this pugnacious desire of the
general, whereupon he is vexed to ex
ceeding wrath, and tells them " I really
feel myself deeply chagrined on the oc
casion. I am incapable of the meanness
he [Colonel Trumbull] suspects me of;
and I confidently expected that Congress
would do me that justice which it was in
their power to give, and which I humbly
conceive they ought to have done."

For awhile Congress passed these com
munications over in silence, but finally
its offended dignity vindicated itself by a
resolution, in which certain passages in
Schuyler s letters were pronounced "ill
advised and highly indecent," and by the
appointment of Gates to supersede Schuy-
ler in the command of the northern army.
The latter, however, lost none of his ar
dor in behalf of his country s cause ; and,
as a major-general of the army, he con
tinued to serve with undiminished inter
est and energy. Stationed at Philadel
phia, he was busily engaged in fortifying

* Quoted by Irving.

the southern bank of the Delaware, and
in reorganizing the 3ommissary depart

Early in the spring, while Washington
was still at Morristown, young ALEXANDER
HAMILTON became one of his aids-de-camp,
and was received into what is technically
called his "family." General Greene, as
we have seen, had been early struck with
the skill of the youthful captain of artil
lery, and had spoken of him with admi
ration to the commander-in-chief. Wash
ington, too, at White Plains, and during
the perilous retreat through New Jer
sey, had noticed the art with which, in
the one instance, he had directed the con
struction of the works, and, in the other,
the daring and skill with which he had
brought his guns to bear upon the pur
suing enemy. Young as he was, being
only twenty years of age, Hamilton had
already become a marked man. He had
acquired a reputation as a writer, and
Washington gladly availed himself of his
fluent pen. Colonel Harrison (" the old
secretary," as he was always termed) be
ing now employed in other service, the
new aid-de-camp took his place. As the
commander-in-chief never allowed any
idlers about him, he took care that the
industry and capacity of his young sec
retary should be put thoroughly to the
test ; and that they were, and proved
equal to the trial, no one has ever doubt
ed. It was left, however, for an aspiring
descendant and biographer, not conten
with the greatness of his distinguished
parent, to claim for him that which be
longs to Washington himself

The two other members of the chief s



[PART n.

military family at this time were Colonels
Meade and Tench Tilghman, both men of
gallant spirit and gentlemanly bearing.
Colonel Robert H. Harrison, the former
secretary, although frequently employed
in other service, was still a constant wri
ter at headquarters. He looked with ad
miration upon his youthful successor,
whom he styled " the little lion." Wash
ington himself is said to have often in
dulged in the fond expression of "my

boy" when speaking of Hamilton, to whom
he became warmly attached, and whose
great abilities and sterling integrity he
did not fail fully to appreciate. Hamil
ton is described at this time as " a youth,
a mere stripling, small, slender, almost
delicate in frame." His vivacity made
him the favorite companion of the young,
while his ripe intelligence and great in
tellectual powers won for him the regard
of the old.


The Enemy in Canada. Ticonderoga or Philadelphia 1 Washington and Congress. General Howe suffers a Collapse
Grand Schemes. Disappointment. Pennsylvania now his Object. Invasion by Sea. Possible Co-operation in the
Future with Forces in Canada. Preparations of the Enemy for the Campaign. Howe tries his Strength. An Attack
upon Pcekskill proposed. A Ruse. Its Success. The British Fleet and Transports up the Hudson. The Landing.
Retirement of General M Dougall. The Enemy burn and destroy. They are checked by Willett. The Loss.
The Liveliness of the British in New Jersey. Boundbrook taken. General Lincoln makes good his Retreat. The
Expedition to Danhury. The People aroused to Arms. General Arnold to the Rescue. The Enemy reach Danhury.
The Militia march out as the British march in. Fire and Rapine. Revenge provoked. Terrible Result. Depart
ure of the Enemy from Danbury. They are attacked by the Provincials. Fall of General Wooster. Arnold in Dan
ger. He saves himself by a Timely Shot. Governor Tryon hurries away with the British. Harassed on the Route.
Embarkation. The Struggle and Loss. Life and Character of Wooster. Washington hopeful.


IT was thought probable that du
ring the winter, the British forces
in Canada, under Sir Guy Carleton and
General Burgoyne, taking advantage of
the frozen lakes, would make a vigorous
attack upon Ticonderoga. To provide
against it, the fifteen new battalions to
be supplied by Massachusetts were or
dered, as fast as they were raised, to be
forwarded to the North. The spring was
now opening, however ; the attack by the
British had not been made ; and it was
conjectured that, secure in the possession
of the lakes, the greater part of the ene
my s force would be drawn from Canada,

by the St. Lawrence, and that Ticonder
oga, at least for the present, would be dis
regarded. Washington and his general
officers were persuaded that the deter
mined resolution of the British was to
take possession of Philadelphia as soon as
the roads, after the spring thaw, became
passable for their artillery and wagons.

Washington considered it a waste of
power to send so many troops to Ticon
deroga, and acccordingly ordered eight
of the battalions originally intended for
that post to be sent to Peekskill, on the
Hudson river. A concentration of force

Online LibraryRobert TomesBattles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) → online text (page 59 of 126)