Robert Tomes.

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

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On hearing of the result of the inva
sion by Tryon, Washington wrote : " I
regret our loss of stores at Danbury, and
the misfortunes of our brave men who
fell, and of those who were wounded.
However, from these latter events we de
rive this consolation, that the sentiments
of the people are still powerfully directed
to liberty, and that no impression of the
enemy, be it ever so sudden and unex
pected, will pass with impunity." Wash
ington was always confident in the up
rightness of the American cause, and nev
er despaired of its final triumph, w T hile
his countrymen remained true to it, how
ever they might be temporarily over
whelmed by the profuse resources of a
powerful enemy.




General Arnold s Gallantry. Applause and Howards. Arnold made a Major-General. He is still dissatisfied. Seeks
Satisfaction from Congress. His Enemies and Friends. Arrival at Headquarters. Reception by Washington. Ho
is justified by tlie Board of War. Unfavorable Aspect of Arnold s Accounts. The Report of Congress intentionally
postponed Washington and the Foreign Officers. Rebuke to Monsieur Malmedy. Monsieur Colerus. Monsieur
Ducoudray. A Rebuke from Congress. The End of Monsieur Ducoudray. Colonel Conway. He is made a Major-
General. First Impressions. Koscinsko. "Try me." Appointed Aid-de-Camp by Washington. His Earlv Life.
French Engineers. "None but Natives." The Washington Guard. All Personal Aggrandizement sternly resist
ed. Description of the Camp and Headquarters at Morris town. General Wayne. Dinner at Washington s Table.
The Company. Alexander Hamilton. Innocent Gayety encouraged. Serious Thoughts. Anxieties. Peculation
The Provincial Attack on Sag Harbor. Meigs s Gallantry. Applauded by Washington.


GENERAL ARNOLD S gallantry was
highly applauded. Congress imme
diately raised him to the rank of a major-
general, and voted him the gift of a horse
" properly caparisoned, as a token of their
admiration of his gallant conduct in the
action against the enemy in their late en
terprise to Danbury, in which General Ar
nold had one horse shot under him and
another wounded." There was, however,
even in these honors conferred by Con
gress, an implied censure, which the irri
table temper of Arnold could not brook.
The date of his commission still kept him
below the five other major-generals whose
elevation had so greatly stirred his angry
spirit. Washington did his best to soothe
the chafed feelings of the man. Conscious
of his merits as a military officer, he gave
him the command of the important post
of guarding the North river at Peekskill.
Arnold was flattered by this tribute to his
worth, but was not appeased. He still
impetuously insisted upon an examina
tion into his conduct; and, declining for
the present the command at Peekskill, he
asked the permission of Washington to

go to Philadelphia and confront Congress
with a statement of his wrongs.

"I arn exceedingly unhappy," wrote
Arnold to Congress, " to find that, after
having made every sacrifice of fortune,
ease, and domestic happiness, to serve my
country, I am publicly impeached of a
catalogue of crimes, which, if true, ought
to subject me to disgrace, infamy, and the
just resentment of my countrymen. Con
scious of the rectitude of my intentions,
however I may have erred in judgment,
I must request the favor of Congress to
point out some mode by which my con
duct and that of my accusers may be in
quired into, and justice done to the inno
cent and injured."

If Arnold had bitter enemies in Con
gress, he also had strong friends. Among
the latter was Richard Henry Lee, of Vir
ginia, who warmly advocated his cause.
In regard to the charges so industriously
circulated against Arnold, Lee wrote:
" One plan now in frequent use is, to as
sassinate the characters of the friends of
America, in every place and by every
means ; at this moment they are reading




May 12,

in Congress a bold and audacious attempt
of this kind against the brave General
Arnold." When Arnold presented him
self at headquarters at Morristown, on his
way to Philadelphia, Washington received
him with marked favor, and so far advo
cated his cause as to give him a letter to
Congress, in which Arnold s claim to be

O /

heard in his own vindication was urged.
Although Washington, with his usual re
serve, withholds all expression of opinion
in regard to a matter not within his own
sphere of observation, he does not hesi
tate to say of Arnold s military
character that " it is universally
known that he has always distinguished
himself as a judicious, brave officer, of
great activity, enterprise, and perseve

The board of war, to whom the charges
were referred, reported that they w r ere
entirely satisfied with Arnold s character
and conduct, which had been " so cruelly
and groundlessly aspersed." Congress
confirmed the report, but did not go fur
ther and elevate Arnold to that priority
of rank among the major-generals which
he claimed as his right, and desired more
than any unsubstantial testimonials of
character. Congress acted with apparent
inconsistency ; but it must be recollected
that, if all admired the military genius
and personal daring of Arnold, there were
also many who considered his moral char
acter at the best equivocal, the tenden
cies of which it behooved them to check.
There was now a test of character by
which Arnold was more severely tried.
His accounts were submitted to Congress,
and these not only presented the irregu

larity of outlay without vouchers, but ex
travagant expenditure in his own favor.
Arnold was known to have been a poor
man, and of no personal pecuniary credit ;
and, therefore, when he claimed an enor
mous balance for money spent from his
private purse, it was naturally inferred
that he was asking what was not his due.
His enemies openly declared that a fraud
was attempted, and his friends hesitated
to defend a man so obviously guilty. The
report of the committee was intentionally
delayed ; for Congress, in the emergency
of the country, did not care to be de
prived of the services of one to whom
none denied the possession of the highest
military qualities, though all deplored his
destitution of moral principle.

Washington was perplexed by the sen
sitiveness of his officers in regard to rank,
but particularly with that of the foreign
gentlemen who came to headquarters in
crowds, expecting to be provided for. " I
take the liberty," he writes to Richard
Henry Lee, "to ask you what Congress
expect I am to do with the many foreign
ers they have at different times promoted
to the rank of field-officers, and, by the
last resolve, two to that of colonels."

There was a Monsieur Malmedy, who
had, on the recommendation of General
Lee,received thecommission of brigadier-
general of the state of lihode Island. 1 le
was subsequently appointed a colonel in
the continental service. This appeared
to him such a descent in rank, that he was
dissatisfied, and so pestered Washington
with his complaints, that he was obliged
to write to him : " Though I wish not to
offend or wound, yet justice both to you



and myself requires that I should plainly
inform you that your scruples and diffi
culties, so often reiterated, and under a
variety of shapes, are exceedingly per
plexing to me, and that I wish them to

A certain Monsieur Golems, too, was
somewhat importunate in his demands ;
and Washington, having made a major of
him, lets him know that, if the appoint
ment does not satisfy, he has no other in
his power, and that if monsieur should
take "a calm and dispassionate view of
things," he would expect no more.

Then comes a Monsieur Ducoudray,
who had been promised by Silas Deane,
the American agent in Paris, the command
of the artillery, with the rank of major-
general. Washington, being well satisfied
with the gallant and able Knox, is not dis
posed to oust him, in order to make way
for the French gentleman, and says, more
over, that " it may be questioned, with
much propriety, whether so important a
command as that of the artillery should
be vested in any but a native, or one
attached by the ties of interest to these
states." It having been reported that
Ducoudray had been appointed a major-
general in the army, with the command
of the artillery, Generals Greene,Sullivan,
and Knox, were so indignant, that each
wrote a letter to Congress, desiring per
mission, if it were so, to resign at once.
Congress had not acted as was rumored ;
and, when that body received the letters
of the American generals,it rebuked them
for an attempt to inlluence its decisions.
Deane s treaty was not ratified, and Du
coudray was accepted only as a volunteer.

All further question about his rank was
settled, a few months after, by a mishap
which terminated his life. While crossino-


the Schuylkill in a flat-bottomed boat, his
horse, an unruly young mare, could not
be controlled by Ducoudray, and plunged
with him into the river, where he was

A great difficulty with these French
officers was, their want of knowledge of
English. This objection could not be
urged against Colonel Conway, who was
an Irishman by birth, although an officer
in the French army. He was therefore
more readily provided for, and appointed
a brigadier-general. He had presented
himself to Washington, and seems to have
made a not unfavorable impression upon
him. " From what I can discover," says
the commander-in-chief, "he appears to
be a man of candor." We shall find that
in this, as in many other cases, first ap
pearances are often deceitful.

Though the feeling of Washington was
naturally more favorably disposed toward
his countrymen, who had everything at
stake, than toward foreigners, who were
for the most part merely military adven
turers, seeking either the pay of the mer
cenary or the satisfaction of a restless am
bition, he was ready to do justice to the
claims of the worthy, come from where
they might. Kosciusko, at the first in
terview, won Washington s confidence.
The noble Pole came to headquarters,
with no better title to consideration than
a host of others, soliciting employment
in the army.

" What do you seek here ?" inquired




" I came to fight as a volunteer for
American independence," replied Kosci-

"What can you do?"

" Try me," was the brief response of
the Pole. Washington was pleased with
his frank and self-reliant bearing, and at
once made him one of his aids-de-camp.

THADDEUS KOSCIUSKO had been well ed
ucated at the military schools of his na
tive country and of France, and his scien
tific acquirements were soon made avail
able in the engineer department, in which
he chiefly served. Of his early life the
romantic story is told that, having eloped
with a young and beautiful girl of a no
ble family, he was overtaken by the fa
ther, who drew his sword and attempted
to wrest his daughter by violence. Kos-
ciusko, finding that he must either kill
the one or give up the other, saved the
father and lost the daughter. On his
departure for America, Doctor Franklin,
who had known him in Paris, commend
ed him by a letter to the notice of Wash
ington, and his own personal qualities ac
complished the rest.

Apart from those officers of note who
afterward fought in the American cause,
there was a number of engineers engaged
in France by Deane, in accordance with
an act of Congress. The services of these
were of the greatest importance, for the
country was naturally deficient in that
particular class of officers.

Washington at this time had not much
faith in foreign aid. " I profess myself,"
he says, " to be of that class who never
built sanguinely upon the assistance of
France, further than her winking at our

supplies from thence for the benefits de
rived from our trade." His chief reliance
was upon his own country and his coun
trymen. In all places of trust he greatly
preferred Americans. When forming his
guard, he wrote to the four colonels from
whose regiments he was to receive the
men, " Send me none but natives." He
was, however, too discreet to offend the
sensibilities of the foreigners, and guards

o ? O

his officers against any intimation of his
preference of natives.

Washington was solicitous about this
guard. He desired that it should be com
posed of men of undoubted integrity, for
during the campaign his baggage, papers,
and other matters of great public import,
would probably be committed to their
sole care. Always mindful, too, of a good
soldierly effect, he wished that his guard
" should look well and be nearly of a size/
and therefore ordered that the men should
neither exceed in stature five feet ten
inches nor fall short of five feet nine inch
es, and be " sober, young, active, and well
made." He wanted, he said, men of good
character, and those " that possess the
pride of appearing clean and soldierlike."

That this was not to gratify his own
personal pride, or to increase his individ
ual importance, was evident even at that
early period, for Washington had rebuked
with severity every tendency among his
officers and men toward worship of him
self, or any separate power or interest of
the state. Two of the new regiments had
been called " Congress s own" and " Gen
eral Washington s Life-Guards;" and Con
gress had, with a quick sensibility to the
danger of such distinctive appellations,




passed a resolve by which they were con
demned as improper, and ordered not to
be kept in use. Washington s fastidious
delicacy in the matter had, however, an
ticipated the action of that body. " I can
assure Congress," he says, " the appella
tion given to the regiments officered by
me was without my consent or privity.
As soon as I heard it, I wrote to several
of the officers in terms of severe repre
hension, and expressly charged them to
suppress the distinction."

We obtain a glimpse of the camp and
headquarters of Washington at Morris-
town, about this time, in the lively ac
count of a visit by Graydon, who during
the winter had been a prisoner in New
York and on Long island, and, having
been released on parole, was now on his
way to his native city of Philadelphia.
While Graydon and his companions were
rambling in a "coal-wagon" along the
road within a few miles of Morristown,
they met Washington on horseback, with
three or four attendants. He recognised
them, and after a salutation, a few words
of courteous congratulation on their re
lease from captivity, and saying he should
return to the camp in a few hours, where
he expected to see them, the general rode
on. Accordingly, in the evening, Gray
don and his friends went to pay their re
spects to Washington, at his marquee.
The chief topic of conversation was nat
urally the probable objects of Sir William
Howe in the coming campaign, and the
American commander requested to hear
from his visitors their opinion, as far as
they could give it consistently with their
parole. One of them answered that he


thought a co-operation with the northern
army, by means of the Hudson river, was
General Howe s purpose. Washington,
however, although he allowed that indi
cations seemed to point in that direction,
w r as of the opinion that the enemy s ob
ject was Philadelphia.

Graydon spent two days in the camp at
Morristown. He found everybody about
headquarters in the most cheerful mood.
The appearance of the army did not, how
ever, seem to justify the good spirits of
the officers. " I had been," says Graydon.
" extremely anxious to see our army.
Here it was, but I could see nothing
which deserved the name. I was told,
indeed, that it was much weakened by
detachments ; and I was glad to find that
there was some cause for the present pau
city of soldiers." The brave and daring
General Wayne was apparently in a high
state of exhilaration, and, notwithstand
ing the drooping of his feathers, and his
faded appearance "in a dingy red coat,
with a black, rusty cravat, and tarnished
laced hat," he could yet crow exultingly.
" He entertained," says Graydon, " the
most sovereign contempt-for the enemy.
In his confident way, he affirmed that the
two armies had interchanged their orii>i-

O o

na.1 modes of warfare : that, for our part,
we had thrown away the shovel, and the
British had taken it up, as they dared not
face us without the cover of an intrench-
ment." The appearance of the soldiers
brought to mind the answer of a gentle
man when asked what was the uniform
of the army. " In general," he said, " it
is blue-and-buff, but by this time it must
be all bull" The period of " all bull "




seemed to be rapidly approaching, from
the " motley, shabby covering" of the sol
diers who, however, like the spirited
Wayne, had not, it is presumed, lost their
pluck with the tarnish of their regimen

There was apparently no want of so
cial enjoyment. Graydon was dined at
Washington s table, where there was a
large company, among which there were
several ladies, Mrs. Washington no doubt
among the rest, for she was at that time
at Morristown. Colonel Alexander Ham
ilton presided, " and he acquitted himself
with an ease, propriety, and vivacity,"
says Graydon, " which gave me the most
favorable impression of his talents and ac
complishments." In the evening, escort
ed by Colonels Tilghman and Hamilton,
both aids of Washington, Graydon was
taken to " drink tea with some of the la
dies of the village," where a part of the
dinner-company was again assembled.

Washington, in fact, did all he could to
encourage the cheerfulness of both offi
cers and men. While, however, he pro
moted innocent pleasures, he was ever
mindful of the seriousness of the cause in
which he was engaged, and took care that
his army should not lose sight of the mor
al influence which it was expected to ex
ercise. In his instructions to the briga
dier-generals, Washington says: "Let vice
and immorality of every kind be discour
aged as much as possible in your brigade ;
and, as a chaplain is allowed to each regi
ment, see that the men regularly attend

O /

divine worship. Gaming of every kind
is expressly forbidden, as being the foun
dation of evil, and the cause of many a

brave and gallant officer s ruin. Games
of exercise for amusement may not only
be permitted, but encouraged."

There were, however, at this time, not
withstanding the mood of appa-

Aftril y,| t

rent cheerfulness in the Ameri
can camp, not a few sources of anxiety.
The remissness in the appointment of
general officers, the resignation of some
of them, the non-acceptance of others,
" and I might add," says Washington, " the
unfitness of a few, joined to the amazing
delay in assembling the troops, and the
abuses which I am satisfied have been
committed by the recruiting-officers, have
distressed me and the service exceeding
ly." To the slow recruiting was to be
added the further trouble of frequent de
sertions. The men were not regularly
paid, and were going off to the enemy.
where at least they were sure of their
wages ; and common soldiers are not, un
der such circumstances, very apt to dis
criminate between a good and a bad cause.
The military chest was nearly exhausted.
"But there is a cause," said Washington,
"which I fear will be found on examina
tion too true, and that is, that the officers
have drawn large sums, under pretence of
paying their men ; but have been obliged,
from extravagance and for other purposes,
to appropriate this money to their own

With all these drawbacks, there were
not wanting sterling men in the army to
do their duty when called upon. The
bold and successful enterprise of Lieu
tenant-Colonel Meigs gave such proof of
gallantly and ability as to encourage the
most despairing. The British had been




May 21,

Catherine* forage, strain, and other neces-

O O O 7 O /

saries for the army, which were deposited
in large quantities at Sag Harbor, on Long
island. General Parsons, having become
aware of the fact, proposed to make a de
scent and destroy the stores. Lieuten
ant-Colonel Meigs, a spirited officer, who
had served under Arnold in Canada, was
selected to conduct the enterprise. He
accordingly left New Haven with
two hundred and thirty-four men
in thirteen whale-boats and sailed to Guil-
ford. Here he was delayed, as the sound
was so rough, that he could not venture
to cross to Long island. On the 23d, how
ever, early in the afternoon, he embarked
one hundred and seventy of his men, and
sailed from Guilford, accompanied by two
armed sloops. On reaching Southold, in
the evening, where he expected to meet
some of the enemy, Meigs learned that
the troops had left the place two days
before and crossed over to New York.
He was informed, however, that at Sag
Harbor he would probably find a party.
Meigs accordingly made all haste to come
up with them. The distance was fifteen
miles, with a stretch of land, over which
the men were obliged to carry the whale-
boats, before reaching the bay which sep
arates the northern from the southern
branch of the island on which Sag Harbor
is situated.

At midnight, Meigs had reached, with
all his men, the opposite side of the bay,
about four miles from Sag Harbor. Here
he secured his boats in a neighboring

April 24,

wood, and, leaving a party to guard them,
marched on with the remainder of his
force. At two o clock in the morning, he
arrived at the place, and at once
began the attack. The guards
having been bayoneted, Meigs led his men
to the wharf, and commenced the work
of destruction. An armed schooner of
twelve guns, lying off some hundred and
fifty yards or so, opened a fire,Avhich was
continued uninterruptedly for three quar
ters of an hour, but without the least ef

Colonel Meigs never ceased till his pur
pose was fully accomplished, and only
departed after he had destroyed twelve
brigs and sloops, one of which was an
armed vessel of twelve guns, a hundred
and twenty tons of pressed hay, a con
siderable amount of corn and oats, ten
hogsheads of rum, and a large quantity
of merchandise. Moreover, after having
killed six of the enemy, he brought off
ninety prisoners, while he had not a man
killed or even wounded. Meigs with all
his men was back again at Guilford as
early as two o clock on the same after-
ternoon, having been absent only twenty-
five hours, during which time a distance
of ninety miles of land and water had
been traversed. Meigs s gallantry was
publicly acknowledged by General Wash
ington, and rewarded by Congress with
the vote of a sword, as a token of their
sense of the " prudence, activity, enter
prise, and valor," with which he had con
ducted the enterprise.




The Enemy s Bridge. Washington anxious about the North River. Generals Greene and Knox sent to inspect the Forts
on the Hudson. Report in f;ivor of Additional Strength, Chains, and Obstructions. General Putnam despatched to
superintend the Works. Old Put" in Full Activity. Secret Expedition against the British at Kingsbridge. Wash
ington shifts his Encampment to Middlebrook. His Plans. Sir William Howe on the Move Prospect of Action.
Provincials guard the Delaware. Heady for the Enemy. Howe apparently changes his Plans, and makes a New
Move. Washington on the Alert to harass Him. Greene and Magaw attack the British Rear. Howe at Amboy.
He crosses with his Whole Force to Staten Island. All New Jersey in Possession of the Americans. Great Stir in
the Bay of New York. A Junction of Howe with Burgoyne in the North conjectured. Preparations to prevent it.
Washington moves toward the Hudson. Washington at Pompton. Affairs at the North. General Schuyler rein
stated in his Command. General Gates offended. He seeks Redress from Congress. Is rebuked for insulting the
House. General St. Clair at Ticonderoga. Is Burgoyne coming ? Washington s Opinion.


THE designs of the British were
not yet clearly revealed, but it was
believed that Philadelphia was their main
object. They were still busy at work on
the bridge ; and Washington was so fully
persuaded that it was to be used when
finished to cross the Delaware, that he

Online LibraryRobert TomesBattles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) → online text (page 61 of 126)