Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

CHAPTER VI.

CAMPAIGN OP 1779.

The distresses of the Ameriean army....Gen. Washington calms the uneasiness in the Jersey line..... Finds great difficulty in supporting his troops and concentrating their force.....Makes a disposition of them with a view to the security of West Point..... Directs an expedition against the Six Nations of Indians, and for the reduction of Stony Point..... Paules Hook taken..... A French fleet, expected to the northward, arrives on the coast of Georgia .... Washington, unequal to offensive operations, retires into winter quarters.

THE years 1779 and 1780, passed away in the northern states without any of those great military exploits which enliven the pages of history ; but they were years of anxiety and distress, which called for all the passive valour, the sound practical judgment, and the conciliatory address, for which Gen. Washington was so eminently distin. guished. The states, yielding to the pleasing delusion that their alliance with France placed their independence beyond the reach of accident, and that Great Britain, despairing of success, would speedily, abandon the contest, relaxed in their preparations for a vigorous prosecution of the war. To these ungrounded hopes Washington opposed the whole weight of his influence. In his correspondence with Congress, the Governors of particular states, and other influential individuals, he pointed out the fallacy of the prevailing opinion that peace was near at hand; and the necessity for raising, equipping, and supporting, a force sufficient for active operations. He particularly urged that the annual arrangements for the army should be made so early that the recruits for the year should assemble at head quarters on the first of January ; but such was the torpor of the pub. lic mind that, notwithstanding these representations, it was as late as the 23d. of January, 1779, when Congress passed resolutions authorizing the commander in chief to reinlist the army ; and as late as the 9th. of the following March, that the requisitions were made on the several states for their quotas. The military establishment for 1780 was later; for it was not agreed upon till the 9th. of February ; nor were the men required before the first of April. Thus, when armies ought to have been in the field, nothing more was done than a grant of the requisite authority for raising them:

The depreciation of the current paper money had advanced so rapidly as to render the daily pay of an officer unequal to his support. This produced serious discontents in the army. An order Was given in May: 1779, for the Jersey brigade to march by regiments to join the western army. In answer to this order a letter was received from Gen. Maxwell, stating that the officers of the first

regiment had delivered to their Colonel a remon. strance, addressed to the legislature of New Jer. sey, in which they declared, that unless their former complaints on the deficiency of pay obtained immediate attention, they were to be considered at the end of three days as having resigned their commissions ; and on that contingency they requested the legislature to appoint other officers in their stead. General Washington, who was strongly attached to the army, and knew their virtue, their sufferings, and also the justice of their com. plaints, immediately comprehended the ruinous consequences likely to result from the measure they had adopted. After serious deliberation, he wrote a letter to. Gen. Maxwell, to be laid before the officers. In the double capacity of their friend and their commander, he made a forcible address both to their pride and their patriotism. “ There is nothing,” he observed, “ which has happened in the course of the war, that has given me so much pain as the remonstrance you mention from the officers of the first Jersey regiment. I cannot but consider it a hasty and imprudent step, which, on more cool consideration, they will themselves condemn. I am very sensible of the inconvenien. ces under which the officers of the army labour, and I hope they do me the justice to believe, that my endeavours to procure them relief are inces. sant. There is more difficulty, however, in satis. fying their wishes, than perhaps they are aware of. Our resources have been hitherto very limited. The situation of our money is no small embarrassment, for which, though there are remedies, they cannot be the work of a moment. Govern

ment is not insensible of the merits and sacrifices of the officers, nor unwilling to make a compensation ; but it is a truth of which a very little observation must convince is, that it is very much straitened in the means. Great allowances ought to be made on this account, for any delay and seeming backwardness which may appear. Some of the states, indeed, have done as generously as was in their power; and if others have been less expeditious, it ought to be ascribed to some pe: culiar cause, which a little time, aided by exam. ple, will remove. The patience and perseverance of the army have been, under every disadvantage, such as do them the highest honour at home and abroad, and have inspired me with an unlimited confidence in their virtue, which has consoled me amidst every perplexity and reverse of fortune, to which our affairs, in a struggle of this nature, were necessarily exposed. Now that we have made so great a progress to the attainment of the end we have in view, so that we cannot fail, without a most shameful desertion of our own interests, any thing like a change of conduct would imply a very unhappy change of principles, and a forgetfulness as well of what we owe to ourselves as to our country. Did I suppose it possible this should be the case, even in a single regiment of the army, I should be mortified and chagrined beyond expression. I should feel it as a wound givent to my own honour, which I consider as embarked with that of the army. But this I believe to be. impossible. Any corps that was about to set an example of the kind, would weigh well the conse

quences ; and no officer of common discernment and sensibility would hazard them. If they should stand alone in it, independent of other consequences, what would be their feelings on reflecting that they had held themselves out to the world in a point of light inferior to the rest of the army ? Or, if their example should be followed, and become general, how could, they console themselves for having been the foremost in bringing ruin and disgrace upon their country ? They would remember that the army would share a double portion of the general infamy and distress ; and that the character of an American officer would become as despicable as it is now glorious.

“I confess the appearances in the present in. stance are disagreeable ; but I am convinced they seem to mean more than they really do. The Jersey officers have not been outdone by any others, in the qualities either of citizens or sold. iers ; and I am confident no part of them would seriously intend any thing that would be a stain on their former reputation. The gentlemen cannot be in earnest ; they have only reasoned wrong about the means of attaining a good end, and, on consideration, I hope and flatter myself they will renounce what must appear improper. At the opening of a campaign, when under marching orders for an important service, their own honour, duty to the public, and to themselves, and a regard to military propriety, will not suffer them to persist in a measure wbich would be a violation of them all. It will even wound their delicacy coolly to reflect, that they have hazarded a step

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »