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perplexity of Jisbanding one army, and raising another at the same instant, and in such a critical situation as the last was, is scarcely in the power of words to describe, and such as no man, who has experienced it once, will ever undergo again.”
Unhappily, the reasons which first induced Congress to adopt the plan of short enlistments, still had influence on that body, and on many of the general officers of the army; nor were they convinced of their errour, but by the most distressing experience.
The ice now became sufficiently strong FEB. 14. for General WASHINGTON to march his
forces upon it, into Boston; and he was himself inclined to risk a eneral assault upon the British posts, although he had not powder to make any extensive use of his artillery ; but his general of ficers in Council voted against the attempt, with whose decision he reluctantly acquiesced. In his coinmunication of their opinion to Congress, he observed, “ Perhaps the irksomeness of my situation may have given different ideas to me, from those which influence the judgment of the gentlemeal whom I consulted, and might have inclined me to put more to hazard than was consistent with prudence. If it had this effect, I am not sensible of it, as I endeavoured to give the subject all the consideration a matter of such impcrtance required. True it is, and I cannot help acknowledging, that I have many disagreeable sensations on account of my situation; for, to have the eyes of the whole continent fixed on me, with anxious ex pectation of hearing of some great event, and to be restrained in every military operation, for the want of the necessary means to carry it on, is not very pleasing ; especially, as the means used to conceal my weakness from the enemy, conceal it also from my friends, and add to their wonder."
By the last of February, the stock of powder was considerably increased, and the regular army amount
ed to 14,000 men, which was reinforced by 6,000 of the militia of Massachusetts. General WASHINGTON now resolved to take possession of the Heights of Dorchester, in the prospect that this movement would bring on a general engagement with the enemy, under fa. vourable circumstances; or, should this expectation fail, from this position he would be enabled to annoy the ships in the harbour, and the troops in the town Possessing these heights, he might erect works upon the points of land nearest to the southerly part of Boston, which would command the harbour and a great part of the town, as well as the beach from which an embarcation must be made, in case the enemy was dis posed to evacuate the place.
To mask the design, a severe cannonade and bombardment were opened on the British works and lines, for several nights in succession. As soon as the firing began on the night of the 4th of March, a strong detachment marched from Roxbury, over the neck, and, without discovery, took possession of the heights. General Ward, who commanded the division of the army in Roxbury, had, fortunately, provided fascines before the resolution passed to fortify the place ; these were of great use, as the ground was deeply frozen ; and, in the course of the night, the party ly uncommon exertions erected works which defended them against the shot of the enemy. On the next morning, the British manifested surprise and consternation at sight of the American fortifications. Mutual firings took place, but with little effect; and the Americans laboured indefatigably to complete their works.
On the contingence of an attack upon Dorchester Heights, by a strong force, it had been resolved, that four thousand of the American troops, in boats, should cross Charles river, protected by three floating batte. ries, and attempt to carry the British posts in Boston, and open the communication by the neck to the Ameriran forces in Roxbury
Admiral Shuldham informed General Howe, that the Americans must be dislodged, or he could not remain with his fleet in Boston harbour. 'In pursuance of this intimation, on the afternoon of the 5th, à de. tachment consisting of three thousand men fell down to Castle Island, now Fort Independence, a position which would facilitate the attack on the next morning but a violent storm, during the night, deranged the plan, and before the British were again in readiness to make the attempt, the American works became too formidable to be assaulted.
General Washington, on this occasion, indulged a confident expectation of the success of his plans; and wished the meditated attack upon Dorchester to be made, in the sanguine hope, that the complete con. quest of the British troops in Boston would be its ultimate effect; but the storm frustrated his prospects.
The safety of the British fleet and army, rendered the evacuation of Boston a necessary measure ; and he arrangements of the enemy for this purpose, were soon communicated to General WASHINGTON. A pa per, under the signature of four of the Selectmen, was sent out by a flag, containing a proposal, purporting to be made by General Howe, that on condition his army was perritted to embark without molestation, the town should be left without injury. The letter was directed to the Commander in Chief, but it did not bear the signature of General Howe, nor bind him to the observance of the condition. General Washing. Ton did not, therefore, officially notice it; but he directed the American officer, to whom it was delivered, to return an answer to the Selectmen, informing them that their letter had been communicated to his Gene ral, and assigning the reasons why it had not been of ficially noticed; but both the commanders appear to have tacitly complied with the conditions. The British army was not annoyed in the preparations to leave their post, nor was Nook's point fortified. On the 17th,
the town was evacuated, and left in a better state than was expected; the houses were not damaged in any great degree; but the British left few publick stores of value.
Although Halifax was mentioned, as the destined place of the British armament, yet General Washing TON apprehended that New-York was their object On this supposition, he detached several brigades of his army to that city, before the evacuation of Boston
General Howe remained a number of days in Nan tasket Road, and the Commander in Chief, when he entered Boston, as a measure of security, fortified Fort Hill.
The issue of the campaign was l.ighly gratifying to all classes; and the gratulation of his fellow-citizens upon the repossession of the metropolis of Massachusetts, was more pleasing to the Commander in Chief than would have been the honours of a triumph. Con gress, to express the publick approbation of the milita ry achievements of their General, resolved, “ That the thanks of Congress, in their own name, and in the name of the thirteen United Colonies, be presented to his Excellency General Washington, and the officers and soldiers under his command, for their wise and spirited conduct in the siege and acquisition of Boston, and that a medal of gold be struck, in commemora. tion of this great event, and presented to his Ex cellency."
In his letter, informing Congress that he had exe cuted their order, and communicated to the army the vote of thanks, he observes, “ They were indeed, at first, a band of undisciplined husbandmen, but it is, under God, to their bravery and attention to their dutv, that I am indebted for that success which has procured me the only reward I wish to rece.ve, the affection and esteem of my countrymen.”
General Washington marches the army to New-York-Fortifica
tions of the City and River-Independence declared-General Howe lands on Staten Island - Interview between General Washington and Colonel Patterson-State of the British and American Forces-Camp at Brooklyn-Battle on Long Island-Retreat from it-The City and Island of New-York evacuated-Mancuvres at White Plains-Fort Washington taken-General Hową invades New-Jersey-Depression of the Americans-Gencral Washington invested with new Powers Success at Trenton, and at Princeton-New-Jersey recovered.
1776. As soon as the necessary arrangements were made in Boston, in the persuasion that the Hudson would be the scene of the next campaign, General Washington marched the main body of his army to New-York, where he arrived himself the 14th of April.
The situation of New-York was highly favourable for an invading army, supported by a superiour naval force. The Sound, the North and East rivers, opened a direct access to any point on Long Island, York Island, or on the continent bordering upon those waters. To the effectual defence of the city, the passage up the rivers must be obstructed by forts and other impediments; and an army was necessary, of force sufficient to man the posts and lines of detence, and to meet the invading foe in the field. Aware of these facts, General WashINGTON doubted the practicability of a successful de fence of New-York. But the importance of the place, and the difficulty which he had already experienced in dislodging an army from a fortified town, open to the protection and supplies of a fleet, inclined him to make the attempt. His own disposition to the measure was strengthened by the wishes of Congress, the opinion of his general officers, and by the expectation of his country. The resolution being formed, he called into action, all the resources in his power, to effect it. His firat care was to put an end to the intercourse, which