Abbildungen der Seite

these orders many have attributed a stroke of apoplexy, of which he died, on the 11th of July, 1774, about a year before the time of which we are treating.

His son and heir, Sir John Johnson, and his sons-in-law, Colonel Guy Johnson and Colonel Claus, felt none of the reluctance of Sir William to use harsh measures in support of royalty. They lived in a degree of rude feudal style in stone mansions capable of defence, situated on the Mohawk River and in its vicinity; they had many Scottish Highlanders for tenants ; and among their adherents were violent men, such as the Butlers of Tryon county, and Brant, the Mohawk sachem, since famous in Indian warfare. They had recently gone about with armed retainers, overawing and breaking up patriotic assemblages, and it was known they could at any time bring a force of warriors in the field.

Becent accounts stated that Sir John was fortifying the old family hall at Johnstown with swivels, and had a hundred and fifty Eoman Catholic Highlanders quartered in and about it, all armed and ready to obey his orders.

Colonel Guy Johnson, however, was the most active and zealous of the family. Pretending to apprehend a design on the part of the New England people to surprise and carry him off, he fortified his stone mansion on the Mohawk, called Guy's Park, and assembled there a part of his militia regiment, and other of his adherents, to the number of five hundred. He held a great Indian council there, likewise, in which the chiefs of the Six Nations recalled the friendship and good deeds of the late Sir William Johnson, and avowed their determination to stand by and defend every branch of his family.

As yet it was uncertain whether Colonel Guy really intended to take an open part in the appeal to arms. Should he do so, he would carry with him a great force of the native tribes, and might almost domineer over the frontier.

Tryon, the governor of New York, was at present absent in England, having been called home by the ministry to give an account of the affairs of the province, and to receive instructions for its management. He was a tory in heart, and had been a zealous opponent of all colonial movements, and his talents and address gave him great influence over

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

an important part of the community. Should he leturn with hostile instructions, and should he and the Johnsons co-operate, the one controlling the bay and harbour of New York and the waters of the Hudson by means of ships and land forces; the others overrunning the valley of the Mohawk and the regions beyond Albany with savage hordes, this great central province might be wrested from the confederacy, and all intercourse broken off between the eastern and southern colonies.

All these circumstances and considerations, many of which came under discussion in the course of this military journey, rendered the command of New York a post of especial trust and importance, and determined Washington to confide it to General Schuyler. He was peculiarly fitted for it by his military talents, his intimate knowledge of the province and its concerns, especially what related to the upper parts of it, and his experience in Indian affairs.

At Newark, in the Jerseys, Washington was met on the 25th by a committee of the provincial Congress, sent to conduct him to the city. The Congress was in a perplexity. It had in a manner usurped and exercised the powers of Governor Tryon during his absence, while at the same time it professed allegiance to the crown which had appointed him. He was now in the harbour, just arrived from England, and hourly expected to land, Washington, too, was approaching. How were these double claims to ceremonious respect happening at the same time to be managed?

In this dilemma a regiment of militia was turned out, and the colonel instructed to pay military honours to whichever of the distinguished functionaries should first arrive. Washington was earlier than the governor by several hours, and received those honours. Peter Van Burgh Livingston, president of the New York Congress, next delivered a congratulatory address, the latter part of which evinces the cautious reserve with which, in these revolutionary times, military power was intrusted to an individual:—

"Confiding in you, sir, and in the worthy generals imme diately under your command, we have the most flattering hopes of success in the glorious struggle for American liberty, and the fullest assurances that whenever this important contest shall be decided by that fondest wish of each American soul, an accommodation with our mother country, you wiH cheerfully resign the important deposit committed into your hands, and reassume the character of our worthiest citizen."

The following was Washington's reply, in behalf of himself and his generals, to this part of the address :—

"As to the fatal, but necessary operations of war, when we assumed the soldier, we did not lay aside the citizen; and we shall most sincerely rejoice with you in that happy hour, when the establishment of American liberty on the most firm and solid foundations, shall enable us to return to our private stations, in the bosom of a free, peaceful, and happy country."

The landing of Governor Tryon took place about eight o'clock in the evening. The military honours were repeated, he was received with great respect by the mayor and common council, and transports of loyalty by those devoted to the crown. It was unknown what instructions he had received from the ministry, but it was rumoured that a large force would soon arrive from England, subject to his directions. At this very moment a ship of war, the Asia, lay anchored opposite the city; its grim batteries bearing upon it, greatly to the disquiet of the faint-hearted among its inhabitants,

In this situation of affairs Washington was happy to leave such an efficient person as General Schuyler in command of the place. According to his instructions, the latter was to make returns once a month, and oftener, should circumstances require it, to Washington, as commander-in-chief, and to the Continental Congress, of the forces under him, and the state of his supplies; and to send the earliest advices of all events of importance. He was to keep a wary eye on Colonel Guy Johnson, and to counteract any prejudicial influence he might exercise over the Indians. With respect to Governor Tryon, Washington hinted at a bold and decided line of conduct. "If forcible measures are judged necessary respecting the person of the governor, I should have no difficulty in ordering them, if the Continental Congress were not sitting; but as that is the case, and the seizing of a governor quite a new thing, I must refer you to that body for direction."

Had Congress thought proper to direct such a measure, Schuyler certainly would have been the man to execute it.

At New Yerk, Washington had learned all the details of

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

the battle of Bunker's Hill; they quickened his impatience to arrive at the camp. He departed, therefore, on the 26th, accompanied by General Lee, and escorted as far as Kingsbridge, the termination of New York Island, by Markoe's Philadelphia light horse, and several companies of militia.

In the mean time the provincial Congress of Massachusetts, then in session at Watertown, had made arrangements for the expected arrival of Washington. The students of Harvard College having returned home on the breaking out of hostilities, the house of the president of that institution, at Cambridge, had been fitted up as head-quarters for the commander-in-chief and a temporary residence of Lee. The Congress had likewise sent on a deputation which met Washington at Springfield, on the frontiers of the province, and provided escorts and accommodations for him along the road. Thus honourably attended from town to town, and escorted by volunteer companies and cavalcades of gentlemen, he arrived at Watertown on the 2nd of July, where he was greeted by Congress with a congratulatory address, in which, however, was frankly stated the undisciplined state of the army he was summoned to command. An address of cordial welcome was likewise made to General Lee.

The ceremony over, Washington was again in the saddle, and escorted by a troop of light horse and a cavalcade of citizens, proceeded to the head-quarters provided for him at Cambridge, three miles distant. As he entered the confines of the camp the shouts of the multitude and the thundering of artillery gave note to the enemy beleaguered m Boston of his arrival.

His military reputation had preceded him and excited great expectations. They were not disappointed. His personal appearance, notwithstanding the dust of travel, was calculated to captivate the public eye. As he rode through the camp, amidst a throng of officers, he was the admiration of the soldiery and of a curious throng collected from the surrounding country, Happy was the countryman who could get a full view of him to carry home an account of it to his neighbours. "I have been much gratified this day with a view of General Washington," writes a contemporary chronicler. "His excellency was on horseback, in company with several military gentlemen. It was not difficult to distinguish him from all others. He is tall and well proportioned, and his personal appearance truly noble and majestic."a

The fair sex were still more enthusiastic in their admiration, if we may judge from the following passage of a letter written by the intelligent and accomplished wife of John Adams to her husband: "Dignity, ease and complacency, the gentleman and the soldier, look agreeably blended in him. Modesty marks every line and feature of his face. Those lines of Dryden instantly occurred to me:

"Mark his majestic fabric! He's a temple
Sacred by birth, and built by hands divine;
His soul's the deity that lodges there;
Nor is the pile unworthy of the God."

With Washington, modest at all times, there was no false excitement on the present occasion; nothing to call forth emotions of self-glorification. The honours and congratulations with which he was received, the acclamations of the public, the cheerings of the army, only told him how much was expected from him; and when he looked round upon the raw and rustio levies he was to command, "a mixed multitude of people, under very little discipline, order, or government," scattered in rough encampments about hill and dale, beleaguering a city garrisoned by veteran troops, with ships of war anchored about its harbour, and strong outposts guarding it, he felt the awful responsibility of his situation, and the complicated and stupendous task before him. He spoke of it, however, not despondingly nor boastfully and with defiance; but with that solemn and sedate resolution, and that hopeful reliance on Supreme Goodness, which belonged to his magnanimous nature. The cause of his country, he observed, had called him to an active and dangerous duty, but he trusted that Divine Providence, which wisely orders the affairs of men, would enablehim to discharge it with fidelity and success. 8

2 Thacher.— Military Journal.

8 Letter to Governor Trumbull.—Sparks, iii., 31.

« ZurückWeiter »