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"Remember St. Bartholomew!' was passed from man to man."
But the fighting never came. The British troops were made ready, then a gale arose and they could not cross the bay. The next day it rained in torrents, and the next day it was too late. The American intrenchments frowned threateningly above the town, and began to send in certain ominous messengers in the shape of shot and shell. The place was now so clearly untenable that Howe determined to evacuate it. An informal request to allow the troops to depart unmolested was not answered, but Washington suspended his fire and the British made ready to withdraw. Still they hesitated and delayed, until Washington again advanced his works, and on this hint they started in earnest, on March 17th, amid confusion, pillage, and disorder, leaving cannon and much else behind them, and seeking refuge in their ships.
All was over, and the town was in the hands of the Americans. In Washington's own words, “ To maintain a post within musket-shot of the enemy for six months together, without powder, and at the same time to disband one army and recruit another within that distance of twenty-odd British regiments, is more, probably, than ever was attempted.” It was, in truth, a gallant feat of arms, carried through by the resolute will and strong brain of
The troops on both sides were brave, but the British had advantages far more than compensating for a disparity of numbers, always slight and often more imaginary than real. They had
twelve thousand men, experienced, disciplined, equipped, and thoroughly supplied. They had the best arms and cannon and gunpowder. They commanded the sea with a strong fleet, and they were concentrated on the inside line, able to strike with suddenness and overwhelming force at any point of widely extended posts. Washington caught them with an iron grip and tightened it steadily until, in disorderly haste, they took to their boats without even striking a blow. Washington's great abilities, and the incapacity of the generals opposed to him, were the causes of this result. If Robert Clive, for instance, had chanced to have been there the end might possibly have been the same, but there would have been some bloody fighting before that end was reached. The explanation of the feeble abandonment of Boston lies in the stupidity of the English government, which had sown the wind and then proceeded to handle the customary crop with equal fatuity.
There were plenty of great men in England, but they were not conducting her government or her armies. Lord Sandwich had declared in the House of Lords that all “ Yankees were cowards," a simple and satisfactory statement, readily accepted by the governing classes, and flung in the teeth of the British soldiers as they fell back twice from the bloody slopes of Bunker Hill. Acting on this pleasant idea, England sent out as commanders of her American army a parcel of ministerial and court favorites, thoroughly second-rate men, to
whom was confided the task of beating one of the best soldiers and hardest fighters of the century. Despite the enormous material odds in favor of Great Britain, the natural result of matching the Howes and Gages and Clintons against George Washington ensued, and the first lesson was taught by the evacuation of Boston.
Washington did not linger over his victory. Even while the British fleet still hung about the harbor he began to send troops to New York to make ready for the next attack. He entered Boston in order to see that every precaution was taken against the spread of the smallpox, and then prepared to depart himself. Two ideas, during his first winter of conflict, had taken possession of his mind, and undoubtedly influenced profoundly his future course. One was the conviction that the struggle must be fought out to the bitter end, and must bring either subjugation or complete independence. He wrote in February : “ With respect to myself, I have never entertained an idea of an accommodation, since I heard of the measures which were adopted in consequence of the Bunker's Hill fight;" and at an earlier date he said: “I hope my countrymen (of Virginia) will rise superior to any losses the whole navy of Great Britain can bring on them, and that the destruction of Norfolk and threatened devastation of other places will have no other effect than to unite the whole country in one indissoluble band against a nation which seems to be lost to every sense of virtue and those
feelings which distinguish a civilized people from the most barbarous savages.”. With such thoughts he sought to make Congress appreciate the probable long duration of the struggle, and he bent every energy to giving permanency to his army, and decisiveness to each campaign. The other idea which had grown in his mind during the weary siege was that the Tories were thoroughly dangerous and deserved scant mercy. In his second letter to Gage he refers to them, with the frankness which characterized him when he felt strongly, as “execrable parricides," and he made ready to treat them with the utmost severity at New York and elsewhere. When Washington was aroused there was a stern and relentless side to his character, in keeping with the force and strength which were his chief qualities. His attitude on this point seems harsh now when the old Tories no longer look very dreadful. But they were dangerous then, and Washington, with his honest hatred of all that seemed to him to partake of meanness or treason, proposed to put them down and render them harmless, being well convinced, after his clear-sighted fashion, that war was not peace, and that mildness to domestic foes was sadly misplaced.
His errand to New England was now done and well done. His victory was won, everything was settled at Boston; and so, having sent his army forward, he started for New York, to meet the harder trials that still awaited him.
SAVING THE REVOLUTION.
AFTER leaving Boston, Washington proceeded through Rhode Island and Connecticut, pushing troops forward as he advanced, and reached New York on April 13th. There he found himself plunged at once into the same sea of difficulties with which he had been struggling at Boston, the only difference being that these were fresh and entirely untouched. The army was inadequate, and the town, which was the central point of the colonies, as well as the great river at its side, was wholly unprotected. The troops were in large measure raw and undrilled, the committee of safety was hesitating, the Tories were virulent and active, corresponding constantly with Tryon who was lurking in a British man-of-war, while from the north came tidings of retreat and disaster. All these harassing difficulties crowded upon the comrander-in-chief as soon as he arrived. To appreciate him it is necessary to understand these conditions and realize their weight and consequence, albeit the details seem petty. When we comprehend the difficulties, then we can see plainly the greatness of the man who quietly and silently took