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LIFE OF WASHINGTON.
SUFFERINGS OF THE ARMY AT MORRISTOWN.-RIGOROUS WINTER. DERANGE
MENT OF THE CURRENCY.-CONFUSION IN THE COMMISSARIAT.-IMPRESSMENT OF SUPPLIES.-PATRIOTIC CONDUCT OF THE PEOPLE OF NEW JERSEY. -THE BAY OF NEW YORK FROZEN OVER.—LORD STIRLING'S EXPEDITION AGAINST STATEN ISLAND.-KNYPHAUSEN'S INCURSION INTO THE JERSEYS. -CALDWELL'S CHURCH AT ELIZABETHTOWN BURNT.-CHARACTER OF ITS
PASTOR, -FORAY INTO WESTCHESTER COUNTY.
BURNING OF YOUNG'S
HOUSE IN THE VALLEY OF THE NEPERAN.
TA H E dreary encampment at Valley Forge has
become proverbial for its hardships; yet they L
were scarcely more severe than those suffered by Washington's army during the present winter, while hutted among the heights of Morristown. The winter set in early, and was uncommonly rigorous. The transportation of supplies was obstructed; the magazines were exhausted, and the commissaries had neither money nor credit to enable them to replenish them. For weeks at a time the army was on half allowance; sometimes without meat, sometimes without bread, sometimes without both. There was a scarcity, too, of clothing and blankets, so that the poor soldiers were starving with cold as well as hunger.
Washington wrote to President Reed of Pennsylvania, entreating aid and supplies from that State to keep his army from disbanding. “We have never,” said he, “experienced a like extremity at any period of the war.” *
The year 1780 opened upon a famishing camp. “For a fortnight past,” writes Washington, on the 8th of January, “the troops, both officers and men, have been almost perishing with want. Yet,” adds he, feelingly, “they have borne their sufferings with a patience that merits the approbation, and ought to excite the sympathies of their countrymen.”
The severest trials of the Revolution, in fact, were not in the field, where there were shouts to excite and laurels to be won; but in the squalid wretchedness of ill-provided camps, where there was nothing to cheer and everything to be endured. To suffer was the lot of the revolutionary soldier.
A rigorous winter had much to do with the actual distresses of the army, but the root of the evil lay in the derangement of the currency. Congress had commenced the war without adequate funds, and without the power of imposing direct taxes. To meet pressing emergencies, it had emitted paper money, which, for a time, passed DERANGEMENT OF THE CURRENCY.
* Life of Reed, ii. 189.
currently at par; but sank in value as further emissions succeeded, and that already in circulation remained unredeemed. The several States added to the evil by emitting paper in their separate capacities: thus the country gradually became flooded with a “Continental currency,” as it was called; irredeemable, and of no intrinsic value. The consequence was a general derangement of trade and finance. The Continental currency declined to such a degree, that forty dollars in paper were equivalent to only one in specie.
Congress attempted to put a stop to this depreciation, by making paper money a legal tender, at its nominal value, in the discharge of debts, however contracted. This opened the door to knavery, and added a new feature to the evil.
The commissaries now found it difficult to purchase supplies for the immediate wants of the army, and impossible to provide any stores in advance. They were left destitute of funds, and the public credit was prostrated by the accumulating debts suffered to remain uncanceled. The changes which had taken place in the commissary department added to this confusion. The commissary-general, instead of receiving, as heretofore, a commission on expenditures, was to have a fixed salary in paper currency; and his deputies were to be compensated in like manner, without the usual allowance of rations and forage. No competent agents could be procured on such terms; and the derangement produced