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A STANDING ARMY NEEDED.
ten times more expensive than a permanent body of men under good organization and military discipline, which never was nor ever will be the case with new troops. A thousand arguments resulting from experience and the nature of things, might also be adduced to prove that the army, if it is dependent upon State supplies, must disband or starve, and that taxation alone, especially at this late hour, cannot furnish the means to carry on the war." *
We will here add, that the repeated and elaborate reasonings of Washington, backed by dear-bought experience, slowly brought Congress to adopt a system suggested by him for the organization and support of the army, according to which, troops were to be enlisted to serve throughout the war, and all officers who continued in service until the return of peace were to receive half pay during
* Writings of Washington, vii. 228. VOL. 19.-14
THE MARQUIS LAFAYETTE AND HIS LIGHT INFANTRY,--PROPOSES A BRILLIANT
STROKE. - PREPARATIONS FOR AN ATTACK ON THE BRITISH POSTS ON NEW YORK ISLAND.-VISIT OF THE MARQUIS OF CHASTELLUX TO THE AMERICAN CAMP.-WASHINGTON AT HEAD-QUARTERS.-ATTACK ON THE BRITISH POSTS GIVEN UP.-STARK FORAGES WESTCHESTER COUNTY.-EXPLOIT OF TALLMADE ON LONG ISLAND.
HE Marquis Lafayette at this time commanded
the advance guard of Washington's army, comSi posed of six battalions of light infantry. They were better clad than the other soldiery: in trim uniforms, leathern helmets, with crests of horse-hair. The officers were armed with spontoons, the non-commissioned officers with fusees; both with short sabres which the marquis had brought from France, and presented to them. He was proud of his troops, and had a young man's ardor for active service. The inactivity which had prevailed for some time past was intolerable to him. To satisfy his impatient longings, Washington had permitted him in the beginning of October to attempt a descent at night on Staten Island, to surprise two Hessian encampments. It had fallen through for want of boats, and other requisites, but he saw enough, he said, to convince
A BRILLIANT STROKE PROPOSED.
him that the Americans were altogether fitted for such enterprises. *
The marquis saw with repining the campaign drawing to a close, and nothing done that would rouse the people in America, and be spoken of at the court of Versailles. He was urgent with Washington that the campaign should be terminated by some brilliant stroke. “Any enterprise," writes he, “will please the people of this country, and show them that we do not mean to remain idle when we have men ; even a defeat, provided it were not disastrous, would have its good effect.”
Complaints, he hinted, had been made in France of the prevailing inactivity. “If anything could decide the min. istry to yield us the succor demanded,” writes he, “it would be our giving the nation a proof that we are ready.”
The brilliant stroke, suggested with some detail by the marquis, was a general attack upon Fort Washington, and the other posts at the north end of the island of New York, and, under certain circumstances, which he specified, make a push for the city.
Washington regarded the project of his young and ardent friend with a more sober and cautious eye. “It is impossible, my dear marquis,” replies he, “to desire more ardently than I do to terminate the campaign by some happy stroke ; but we must consult our means rather than our wishes, and not endeavor to better our
* Memoires de Lafayette, tom. i. p. 337.
affairs by attempting things, which for want of success may make them worse. We are to lament that there has been a misapprehension of our circumstances in Europe; but to endeavor to recover our reputation, we should take care that we do not injure it more. Ever since it became evident that the allied arms could not coöperate this campaign I have had an eye to the point you mention, determined, if a favorable opening should offer, to embrace it: but, so far as my information goes, the enterprise would not be warranted. It would, in my opinion, be imprudent to throw an army of ten thousand men upon an island, against nine thousand, exclusive of seamen and militia. This, from the accounts we have, appears to be the enemy's force. All we can do at present, therefore, is to endeavor to gain a more certain knowledge of their situation, and act accordingly.”
The British posts in question were accordingly reconnoitered from the opposite banks of the Hudson, by Colonel Gouvion, an able French engineer. Preparations were made to carry the scheme into effect, should it be determined upon, in which case Lafayette was to lead the attack at the head of his light troops, and be supported by Washington with his main force; while a strong foraging party sent by General Heath from West Point to White Plains in Westchester County, to draw the attention of the enemy in that direction and mask the real design, was, on preconcerted signals, to advance rapidly to King's Bridge, and coöperate.
VISIT OF DE CHASTELLUX.
Washington's own officers were kept in ignorance of the ultimate object of the preparatory movements. “Never," writes his aide-de-camp, Colonel Humphreys, “never was a plan better arranged, and never did circumstances promise more sure or complete success. The British were not only unalarmed, but our own troops were misguided in their operations.” As the plan was not carried into effect, we have forborne to give many of its details.
At this juncture, the Marquis de Chastellux arrived in camp. He was on a tour of curiosity, while the French troops at Rhode Island were in winter-quarters, and came on the invitation of his relative, the Marquis Lafayette, who was to present him to Washington. In after years he published an account of his tour, in which we have graphic sketches of the camp and the commanders. He arrived with his aides-de-camp on the afternoon of November 23d, and sought the head-quarters of the commander-in-chief. They were in a large farm-house, There was a spacious tent in the yard before it for the general, and several smaller tents in an adjacent field for his guards. Baggage wagons were arranged about for the transportation of the general's effects, and a number of grooms were attending to very fine horses belonging to general officers and their aides-de-camp. Everything was in perfect order. As De Chastellux rode up, he observed Lafayette in front of the house, conversing with an officer, tall of stature, with a mild and noble coun