« ZurückWeiter »
WASHINGTON APPLIES TO THE STATE LEGISLATURES FOR AID. SUBSCRIPTIONS
OF THE LADIES OF PHILADELPHIA.—GATES APPOINTED TO COMMAND THE
AQİPPREHENSIVE that the next move of the
enemy would be up the Hudson, Washington
resumed his measures for the security of West Point; moving towards the Highlands in the latter part of June. Circumstances soon convinced him that the enemy had no present intention of attacking that fortress, but merely menaced him at various points, to retard his operations, and oblige him to call out the militia ; thereby interrupting agriculture, distressing the country, and rendering his cause unpopular. Having, therefore, caused the military stores in the Jerseys to be removed to more remote and secure places, he countermanded by letter the militia, which were marching to camp from Connecticut and Massachusetts.
He now exerted himself to the utmost to procure from the different State Legislatures their quotas and supplies
for the regular army. “The sparing system,” said he, “has been tried until it has brought us to a crisis little less than desperate.” This was the time by one great exertion to put an end to the war. The basis of everything was the completion of the continental battalions to their full establishment; otherwise, nothing decisive could be attempted, and this campaign, like all the former, must be chiefly defensive. He warned against those “indolent and narrow politicians, who, except at the moment of some signal misfortune, are continually crying, all is well, and who to save a little present expense, and avoid some temporary inconvenience, with no ill designs in the main, would protract the war, and risk the perdition of our liberties.”*
The desired relief, however, had to be effected through the ramifications of general and State governments, and their committees. The operations were tardy and unproductive. Liberal contributions were made by individuals, a bank was established by the inhabitants of Philadelphia to facilitate the supplies of the army, and an association of ladies of that city raised by subscription between seven and eight thousand dollars, which were put at the disposition of Washington, to be laid out in such a manner as he might think “ most honorable and gratifying to the brave old soldiers who had borne sc great a share of the burden of the war.”
* Letter to Governor Trumbull. Sparks, vii. 98.
ARRIVAL OF A FRENCH FLEET.
The capture of General Lincoln at Charleston had left the Southern department without a commander-in-chief. As there were likely to be important military operations in that quarter, Washington had intended to recommend General Greene for the appointment. He was an officer on whose abilities, discretion, and disinterested patriotism he had the fullest reliance, and whom he had always found thoroughly disposed to act in unison with him in his general plan of carrying on the war. Congress, however, with unbecoming precipitancy, gave that important command to General Gates (June 13th), without waiting to consult Washington's views or wishes.
Gates, at the time, was on his estate in Virginia, and accepted the appointment with avidity, anticipating new triumphs. His old associate, General Lee, gave him an ominous caution at parting. “Beware that your Northern laurels do not change to Southern willows!”
On the 10th of July a French fleet, under the Chevalier de Ternay, arrived at Newport, in Rhode Island. It was composed of seven ships of the line, two frigates and two bombs, and convoyed transports on board of which there were upwards of five thousand troops. This was the first division of the forces promised by France, of which Lafayette had spoken. The second division had been detained at Brest for want of transports, but might soon be expected.
The Count de Rochambeau, lieutenant-general of the royal armies, was commander-in-chief of this auxiliary
force. He was a veteran, fifty-five years of age, who had early distinguished himself, when colonel of the regiment of Auvergne, and had gained laurels in various battles, especially that of Kloster Camp, of which he decided the success. Since then, he had risen from one post of honor to another, until intrusted with his present important command.*
Another officer of rank and distinction in this force, was Major-general the Marquis de Chastellux, a friend and relative of Lafayette, but much his senior, being now fortysix years of age. He was not only a soldier, but a man of letters, and one familiar with courts as well as camps.
Count Rochambeau's first despatch to Vergennes, the French Minister of State (July 16th) gave a discouraging picture of affairs. “Upon my arrival here," writes he, “ the country was in consternation, the paper money had fallen to sixty for one, and even the government takes it up at forty for one. Washington had for a long time only three thousand men under his command. The arrival of the Marquis de Lafayette, and the announcement of succors from France, afforded some encouragement; but the tories, who were very numerous, gave out that it was only a temporary assistance, like that of Count D’Estaing. In describing te you our reception at this place, we shall show you the feeling of all the inhabitants of the continent. This town is of consider
* Jean Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, Comte de Rochambeau, was born at Vendome, in France, 1725.
able size, and contains, like the rest, both whigs and tories. I landed with my staff, without troops; nobody appeared in the streets; those at the windows looked sad and depressed. I spoke to the principal persons of the place, and told them, as I wrote to General Washington, that this was merely the advanced guard of a greater force, and that the king was determined to support them with his whole power. In twenty-four hours their spirits rose, and last night all the streets, houses, and steeples were illuminated, in the midst of fire-works, and the greatest rejoicings. I am now here with a single company of grenadiers, until wood and straw shall have been ccllected; my camp is marked out, and I hope to have the troops landed to-morrow.”
Still, however, there appears to have been a lingering feeling of disappointment in the public bosom. “The whigs are pleased," writes De Rochambeau, “but they say that the king ought to have sent twenty thousand men, and twenty ships to drive the enemy from New York; that the country was infallibly ruined; that it is impossible to find a recruit to send to General Washington's army, without giving him one hundred hard dollars to engage for six months' service, and they beseech His Majesty to assist them with all his strength. The war will be an expensive one; we pay even for our quarters, and for the land covered with the camp."*
* Sparks. Writings of Washington, vii. 504.