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marque and reprisal, anticipated any measure of the kind on the part of the General Government, and was pronounced by John Adams "one of the most important documents in history." 1
The British Ministry have, in later days, been exculpated from the charge of issuing such a desolating order as that said to have been reported by Lieutenant Mowat. The orders under which that officer acted, we are told, emanated from General Gage and Admiral Graves. The former intended merely the annoyance and destruction of rebel shipping, whether on the coast or in the harbours to the eastward of Boston; the burning of the town is surmised to have been an additional thought of Admiral Graves. Naval officers have a passion for bombardments.
Whatever part General Gage may have had in this most ill-advised and discreditable measure, it was the last of his military government, and he did not remain long enough in the country to see it carried into effect. He sailed for England on the 10th of October. The tidings of the battle of Bunker's Hill had withered his laurels as a commander. Still he was not absolutely superseded, but called home, "in order," as it was considerately said, "to give his Majesty exact information of everything, and suggest such matters as his knowledge and experience of the service might enable him to furnish." During his absence Majorgeneral Howe would act as commander-in-chief of the colonies on the Atlantic Ocean, and Major general Carleton of the British forces in Canada and on the frontiers. Gage fully expected to return and resume the command. In a letter written to the minister, Lord Dartmouth, the day before sailing, he urged the arrival, early in the spring, of reinforcements which had been ordered, anticipating great hazard at the opening of the campaign. In the mean time he trusted that two thousand troops, shortly expected from Ireland, would enable him " to distress the rebels by incursions along the coast," and " he hoped Portsmouth in New Hampshire would feel the weight of his Majesty's arms." "Poor Gage," writes Horace Walpole, " is to be the scapegoat for what was a reason against employing him—incapacity." He never returned to America.
1 See Life of Gerry, 109.
BOARD OF CONFERENCE.
On the 15th. of October a committee from Congress arrived in camp, sent to hold a conference with Washington, and with delegates from the governments of Connecticut, Ehode Island, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, on the subject of a new organization of the army. The committee consisted of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Lynch of Carolina, and Colonel Harrison of Virginia. It was just twenty years since Washington had met Franklin in Braddock's camp, aiding that unwary general by his sagacious counsels and prompt expedients. Franklin was regarded with especial deference in the camp at Cambridge. Greene, who had never met with him before, listened to him as to an oracle.
Washington was president of the board of conference, and Mr. Joseph Heed secretary. The committee brought an intimation from Congress that an attack upon Boston was much desired, if practicable.
Washington called a council of war of his generals on the subject: they were unanimously of opinion that an attack would not be prudent at present.
Another question now arose. An attack upon the British forces in Boston, whenever it should take place, might require a bombardment: Washington inquired of the delegates how far it might be pushed to the destruction of houses and property. They considered it a question of too much importance to be decided by them, and said it must be referred to Congress. But though they declined taking upon themselves the responsibility, the majority of them were strongly in favour of it; and expressed themselves so when the matter was discussed informally in camp. Two of the committee, Lynch and Harrison, as well as Judge Wales, delegate from Connecticut, when the possible effects of a bombardment were suggested at a dinner table, declared that they would be willing to see Boston in flames. Lee, who was present, observed that it was impossible to burn it unless they sent in men with bundles of straw to do it. "It could not be done with carcasses and red-hot shot. Isle Eoyal," he added, "in the river St. Lawrence, had been fired at for a long time in 1760, with a fine train of artillery, hot shot and carcasses, without effect." 1
1 Life of Dr. Belknap, p. 96. The doctor was present at the abovecited conversation.
The board of conference was repeatedly in session, for three or four days. The report of its deliberations rendered by the committee, produced a resolution of Congress that a new army of twenty-two thousand two hundred and seventy-two men and officers, should be formed, to be recruited as much as possible from the troops actually in service. Unfortunately the term for which they were to be enlisted was to be but for one year. It formed a precedent which became a recurring cause of embarrassment throughout the war.
Washington's secretary, Mr. Eeed, had, after the close of the conference, signified to him his intention to return to Philadelphia, where his private concerns required his presence. His departure was deeply regretted. His fluent pen had been of great assistance to Washington in the despatch of his multifarious correspondence, and his judicious counsels and cordial sympathies had been still more appreciated by the commander-in-chief, amid the multiplied difficulties of his situation. On the departure of Mr. Eeed, his place as secretary was temporarily supplied by Mr. Kobert Harrison of Maryland, and subsequently by Colonel Mifflin; neither, however, attained to the affectionate confidence reposed in their predecessor.
We shall have occasion to quote the correspondence kept up between Washington and Eeed, during the absence of the latter. The letters of the former are peculiarly interesting, as giving views of what was passing, not merely around him, but in the recesses of his own heart. No greater proof need be given of the rectitude of that heart, than the clearness and fulness with which, in these truthful documents, every thought and feeling is laid open.
Measures of General Howe—Desecration of Churches—Three Proclamations—Seizure of Tories—Want of Artillery—Henry Knox, the Artillerist—His Mission to Ticonderoga—Re-enlistment of Troops— Lack of Public Spirit—Comments of General Greene.
The measures which General Howe had adopted after taking command in Boston, rejoiced the royalists, seeming to justify their anticipations. He proceeded to strengthen
the works on Bunker's Hill and Boston Neck, and to clear away houses and throw up redoubts on eminences within the town. The patriot inhabitants were shocked by the desecration of the Old South Church, which for more than a hundred years had been a favourite place of worship, where some of the most eminent divines had officiated. The pulpit and pews were now removed, the floor was covered with earth, and the sacred edifice was converted into a riding-school for Burgoyne's light dragoons. To excuse its desecration, it was spoken of scoffingly as a "meeting-house, where sedition had often been preached."
The North Church, another "meeting-house," was entirely demolished and used for fuel. "Thus," says a chronicler of the day, "thus are our houses devoted to religious worship, profaned and destroyed by the subjects of his royal majesty."1
About the last of October Howe issued three proclamations. The first forbade all persons to leave Boston without his permission under pain of military execution; the second forbade any one, so permitted, to take with him more than five pounds sterling, under pain of forfeiting all the money found upon his person and being subject to fine and imprisonment; the third called upon the inhabitants to arm themselves for the preservation of order within the town; they to be commanded by officers of his appointment.
Washington had recently been incensed by the conflagration of Falmouth; the conduct of Governor Dunmore, who had proclaimed martial law in Virginia, and threatened ruin to the patriots, had added to his provocation; the measures of General Howe seemed of the same harsh character, and he determined to retaliate.
"Would it not be prudent," writes he to Governor Trumbull of Connecticut, " to seize those tories who have been, are, and we know will be active against us? Why should persons who are preying upon the vitals of their country, be suffered to stalk at large, whilst we know they will do us every mischief in their power?"
In this spirit he ordered General Sullivan, who was
1 Thacher's Military Journal, p. 50.
fortifying Portsmouth, "to seize upon such persons as held commissions under the crown, and were acting as open and avowed enemies to their country, and hold them as hostages for the security of the town." Still he was moderate in his retaliation, and stopped short of private individuals. "For the present," said he, " I shall avoid giving the like order with regard to the tories of Portsmouth; but the day is not far off when they will meet with this, or a worse fate, if there is not a considerable reformation in their conduct."1
The season was fast approaching when the bay between the camp and Boston would be frozen over, and. military operations might be conducted upon the ice. General Howe, if reinforced, would then very probably "endeavour to relieve himself from the disgraceful confinement in which the ministerial troops had been all summer." Washington felt the necessity, therefore, of guarding the camps wherever they were most assailable; and of throwing up batteries for the purpose. He had been embarrassed throughout the siege by the want of artillery and ordnance stores, but never more so than at the present moment. In this juncture, Mr. Henry Knox stepped forward, and offered to proceed to the frontier forts on Champlain in quest of a supply.
Knox was one of those providential characters which spring up in emergencies, as if they were formed by and for the occasion. A thriving bookseller in Boston, he had thrown up business to take up arms for the liberties of his country. He was one of the patriots who had fought on Bunker's Hill, since when he had aided in planning the defences of the camp before Boston. The aptness and talent here displayed by him as an artillerist, had recently induced Washington to recommend him to Congress for tie command of the regiment of artillery in place of the veteran Gridley, who was considered by all the officers of the camp too old for active employment. Congress had not yet acted on that recommendation: in the mean time Washington availed himself of the offered services of Knox in the present instance. He was, accordingly, instructed to
1 Letter to William Palfrey. Sparks, iii. 158.