Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

nity presented to strike a decisive blow at the British detachment in Virginia, and to obtain the person of Arnold. In pursuance of this scheme, the General detached the Marquis La Fayette to Virginia with twelve hundred of the American infantry : at the same time he requested the co-operation of the French from Rhode Island. The commanding officers gladly embraced the opportunity to engage in active services, that might prove advantageous to their American al.

lies.

On the death of Admiral Ternay, at Newport, the command of the fleet devolved on Destonches. In compliance with the request of General Washington,

he sailed with his whole squadron for the March 8.

10. Chesapeak, having eleven hundred land troops on board. The British Admiral Arbuthnot having repaired the damages sustained by the storm, ini. mediately followed the French, and on the 25th an action took place between the two liostile fleets. The battle ended without loss to either fleet, but the fruits of victory were on the side of the English. The joint expedition was frustrated, the French returned to Newport, and Arnold was rescued from the fate which he merited.

The winter of 1781 in a degree renewed the privations and sufferings of the American army. The men were badly clothed and scantily fed; and they had served almost a year without pay. Without murmuring they long endured their accumulated distresses. But the fortitude of the firmest men may be worn down. Dis heartened by their sufferings, despairing of relief, and dissatisfied, that their country did not make more ef: fectual exertions for their support, the spirit of mutiny broke out with alarming appearances.

The Pennsylvania line stationed at Morristown, with the exception of three regiments, revolted. On a con. certed signal, the non-commissioned officers and pri. vates turned out with their arms, and announced the design of marching to the seat of Congress, there to demand a redress of their intolerable grievances. The wutiny defied opposition. In the attempt to quell it, une cfficer was killed, and several dangerously wound. ed. General Wayne, in a threatening attitude, drew his pistol, the mutineers presented their bayonets to his breast and said, “ General, we love and respect you, but if you fire, you are a dead man. We are not going to the enomy, on the contrary if they were now to come out, vou should see us fight under your orders with as much alacrity as ever ; but we will no longer be amused, we are determined on obtaining what is our just due.” Thirteen hundred of them, under officers of their own election, marched in order for Princeton with their arms and six field pieces. They committed no oth:r act of violence, than to demand of the inha bitants provisions for their necessary support.

Congress sent a Committee of their own body to confer with them. They demanded the redress of their grievances as the basis of accommodation. Sir Henry Clinton sent out agents to invite them to his standard, promising them more advantageous terms than those demanded of Congress. They with indig nation rejected his proposals, and delivered over his emissaries to General Wayne, who hanged them as spies. President Reed offered the mutineers a purse of a hundred guineas as a reward for the surrender of the British emissaries. This they refused, declaring that " what they had done was only a duty they owed their country, and they neither desired, nor would receive any reward but the approbation of that country, for which they had so often fought and bled.”

The Council of Pennsylvania appointed Mr. Reed, their President, and Goneral Potter, a Committee to compromise with the soldiery, to whom the gentlemen from•Congress transferred their powers. The Committee felt themselves compelled to yield more to the demands of these soldiers in a state of mutiny, than

would have retained them quietly in their ranks, had the government of Pennsylvania seasonably attended to their pressing wants. Most of the artillerists, and many of the infantry were discharged, because their time of service was vaguely expressed in the ordera under which they had enlisted. The residue received surloughs for forty days; and the whole lino wes, for this period, absolutely dissolved.

T'he evil did not rest with the troops of Pennsylva: nia. Some of the Jersey brigade at Pompton caught their complaining spirit, and imitated their mutinous example. The mutineers were mostly foreigners, and they made the same claims upon the country, which had been granted to the Pennsylvania line.

The former instance of mutiny had taken place at a distance from head quarters, and General WashingTon, upon serious deliberation, had resolved, not to hazard his authority as Commander in Chief, in tho attempt to bring the revolters to order by the influence of his personal character; but to leave the delicate transaction with the civil government of the state, and he was satisfied with the result. But he perceived the importance of arresting the progress of a spirit, which threatened the dissolution of his army. Relying on the firmness and patriotism of the New-England battalions, which were composed almost exclusively of native Americans, he determined to reduce the Jersey revolters to unconditional subjection. General Howe was detached on this service, which he promptly performed. Two or three of the ringleaders were executed on the spot, and complete subordination was restored in the brigade.

The mutiny was suppressed, but causes of unoasi ness remained, and these were not confined to the army. The money received into the national treasury from taxes imposed by state authorities, bore no pro. portion to the publick expense. The magazines were exhausted, and the states were so deficient in fur

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

nishing provisions for the army, that supplies of every description were of necessity obtained by impressment Publick credit being gonc, the certificates of property in this manner taken, were considered of little value, and general uncasiness and murmuring ensued. These evi's threatened the destruction of the army, and the Joss of the American cause, unless a vital reinedy was specdily applied to the publick discase.

The Court of London became intimately acquainted with the interiour situation of the United States, and in consequence entertained sanguine expectations of a completo conquest of the States south of the Hudson The letters of Lord George Germaine to Sir Henry Clinton, which were written at this period, urged him in the strongest language, to embrace the favourablo opportunity to disperse the remnant of General Wash. Ington's army, and to push his conquest of the revolcea colonies.

The spring of 1781 opened a gloomy prospect to the Commander in Chief. Congress had made a requisition upon the several states for an army consisting of thirty-seven thousand men. In May, the states, from New-Jersey to New-Hampshire inclusive, had not in the field more than seven thousand infantry. Tho men were generally new recruits, and time had not been given to discipline them. The cavalry and artillery, at no period during the nampaign, amounted to one thousand men. Supplies of provisions were greatly deficient, and the soldiers were alnıost naked, the clothing for the army, expected from Europe, not having arrived. The Quarter Master's department had neither funds nor credit, and the transportation of stores could be made only by impressments, aided by a military forco. Measures of this violent nature ex. cited great uneasiness among the inhabitants; and General WASHINGTON expected that actual resistance would be made to them. These difficulties had been Coreseen by the Commander in Chief, and he had made

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

every possible exertion to obviate them. He had repeatedly made known the urgent wants of the army to Congress and to the states, and had sent officers of the greatest influence into the respective governments to enforce his statements.

The mind of General Washington sunk not under his embarrassments. He had fully reflected upon the dangers incident to his situation, and his resolution rose to meet them. While pondering upon his desperate prospects, he received the grateful intelligence, that the government of France had loaned the United States six millions of livres, a part of which sum was advanced in arms and clothing for the army; and a part paid to the draughts of General WASHINGT077. Information was also given, that this government had resolved to employ a respectable fleet in the American seas the next summer.

The plan of vigorous operations was resuined, and It was determined by General Washington and the French commanders, that New-York should be the first object of their attack. On this occasion the Commander in Chief addressed letters to the Executives of the New-England states, and of New-Jersey, earnestly calling upon them to fill up their battalions, and to furnish their quotas of provision.

The near prospect of terminating the war animated these States to unusual exertions. The number of men indeed fell short of the requisition of Congress; but effectual measures were adopted to supply the army with provisions. Under the system of state requisition, meat, spirit, and salt were drawn from New England. A convention of delegates froin these states met at Providence and adopted a system of nionthly supplies, through the campaign. As soon as this plan could be carried into operation, the supplies of those articles were regular and competent.

Requisitions of flour were made from New York, New-Jersey, and Pennsylvania. New-York and New

« ZurückWeiter »