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Army shut up in Boston, that King George's red-coats were obliged to leave the city — evacuate it, is the military word — and, in March, 1776, Washington was in possession of the town in which the British had declared they would crush the rebellion and conquer the rebels.
This was Washington's first success, and it showed the world that the Americans “meant business,” that they were not to be easily overcome by the trained soldiers and generals of King George, and that the Commander of the Continental Army was a born leader of men, and knew how to go to work to win.
But none knew better than did that Commander how
hard the winning would be. His troops had yet to meet the British soldiers in the open field and, after the evacuation of Boston, England began to find out that if America was to be whipped into obedience, there must be plenty of men sent over to do the whipping. But England could not spare enough of her own soldiers, and so she tried to hire fighters from other nations. She tried to hire twenty thousand Russian soldiers, but failed; then she tried to get some from Holland, and failed. But, at last, she hired from certain states of Germany called the Hesses, first eighteen thousand men, and then more and more, until, before the Revolution was over, nearly thirty thousand of these hired soldiers, or mercenary troops, called A HESSIAE “ Hessians,” were brought over the sea to fight, in the armies of England, the freemen of America. Many Englishmen were indignant at this hiring of foreign soldiers to shoot down their relations in America, and you may be sure it did not increase America's love for L England.
The first lot of Hessians sailed into New York harbor in August, 1776, and joined the army of Sir William Howe, who thus had a force of nearly thirty thousand men to face Washington's poor little army of scarcely ten thousand men. The battle that had to follow took place at Brooklyn on Long Island, on the twenty-seventh of August, 1776. It was, of course, a total defeat for the Americans. It could not be otherwise. And when Lord Howe, the British general, had
defeated the Americans, killed a great many, taken a great .. many prisoners, and driven the rest within their entrenchments at Brooklyn, he said: “To-morrow evening will bring the feet up the river and, with an army on one side of the
rebels and our ships on the other, we will 'bag' the whole army and crush the rebellion.”
But the trouble with Lord Howe, as with the other British generals, was that he did not understand Washington. The American leader expected to be defeated. He knew that his troops must be drilled into an army before they
could successfully face the soldiers of King George, and it was this patient courage that George Washington showed, in the midst of defeat and danger, all through the Revolution, that was one of the things that made him great. So, while he gathered his defeated army within the lines at Brooklyn, he saw through Lord Howe's plan to capture him, and without waiting for the too-confident British general to try his plan, he determined to save his army by a retreat to New York. It was a dangerous experiment. If the British knew that he was trying to escape them, they would swarm down upon his little army and capture or destroy it. So he went to work carefully. He got together all the boats he could, marched his men about, as if he meant to get them ready for a battle the next day, and then, silently and swiftly, got them down to the river. Here the boats, with the fishermen soldiers of a Marblehead regiment at the oars, were rowed over and over again ; the fog shut them out from view, and before morning the soldiers were all ferried over, Washington crossing in the last boat. He had saved his army and showed the thing that makes a great general — knowing how to retreat as well as how to fight. For a successful retreat is sometimes quite as much a victory as is a successful battle
It was much the same with what follows. By this time America had spoken. The thirteen colonies, through their representatives in Congress, had declared that they would no longer acknowledge King George as their ruler, nor En
gland as their governing power, but that they were, “and of right ought to be, free and independent states.” This was done in a paper called the Declaration of Independence, drawn up in Independence Hall in Philadelphia, when Congress was in session, and issued on the fourth of July, 1776,
a little over a month before the disastrous battle of Brooklyn.
I think most American boys and girls are dissatisfied because George Washington did not sign the Declaration of Independence. He was the greatest American; that was America's greatest deed. Why should he not have signed it?