Abbildungen der Seite

the delusive hopes of conquest with which they had been flattered, and suddenly to display the mass of resistance which must yet be encountered. Previous to the reception of this disastrous intelligence the employment of savages in the war had been the subject of severe animadversion. Parliament was assembled on the 20th of November (1777), and, as usual, addresses were proposed in answer to the speech from the throne entirely approving the conduct of the administration. In the House of Lords the Earl of Chatham moved to amend the address by introducing a clause recommending to his majesty an immediate cessation of hostilities and the commencement of a treaty of conciliation, “to restore peace and liberty to America, strength and happiness to England, security and permanent prosperity to both countries.” In the course of the very animated observations made by this extraordinary man in support of his motion, he said: “But, my lords, who is the man that, in addition to the disgraces and mischiefs of war, has dared to authorize and associate to our arms the tomahawk and scalping-knife of the savage ? to call into civilized alliance the wild and inhuman inhabitant of the woods ? to delegate to the merciless Indian the defense of disputed rights and to wage the horrors of his barbarous war against our brethren? My lords, these enormities cry aloud for redress and punishment. Unless thoroughly done away they will be a stain on the national character. It is not the least of our national misfortunes that the strength and character of our army are thus impaired. Familiarized to the horrid scenes of savage cruelty, it can no longer boast of the noble and generous principles which dignify a soldier; no longer sympathise with the dignity of the royal banner nor feel the pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war that makes ambition virtue. What makes ambition virtue? The sense of honor. But is this sense of honor consistent with the spirit of plunder or the practice of murder? Can it flow from mercenary motives? or can it prompt to cruel deeds?"

The conduct of the administration, however, received the full approbation of large majorities, but the triumph these victories in parliament afforded them was of short duration. The disastrous issue of an expedition from which the most sanguine expectations had been formed was soon known, and the mortification it produced was extreme. A reluctant confession of the calamity was made by the minister and a desire to restore peace on any terms consistent with the integrity of the empire found its way into the cabinet.

The surrender of Burgoyne was an event of very great importance in a political point of view as it undoubtedly decided the French government to form an alliance with the United States, but it was only one of the many disasters to the British arms which compelled them to acknowledge our independence. There remained much to be done. Washington was still to endure greater hardships and mortifications — to have his patriotism and disinterestedness more severely tried than ever during the coming campaigns. We must now return to his dreary camp at Valley Forge.



1777, 1778.

XJ E have already given some details of the sufferW i ngs endured by Washington and his brave sol

diers at Valley Forge. One-half the tale is not told — never will be told; their sufferings were unutterable. A review of this portion of Washington's life will show that at Valley Forge not only was a great deal suffered but a great deal was done. Here the army was hardened from the gristle of youth to the bone and muscle of manhood. It entered the tents of that dreary encampment a courageous but disorderly rabble; it left them a disciplined army. But we must not anticipate events.

This army, which was under the immediate command of Washington, was engaged through the winter (17771778) in endeavoring to stop the intercourse between Philadelphia and the country. To effect this object General Smallwood was detached with one division to Wilmington; Colonel Morgan, who had been detached from Gates's army, was placed on the lines on the west side of the Schuylkill, and General Armstrong with the Pennsylvania militia, was stationed near the old camp at White Marsh. Major Jameson with two troops of cavalry and M’Lane's infantry, was directed to guard the east and Capt. Henry Lee with his troop, the west side of that river. General Count Pulaski, who commanded the horse, led the residue of the cavalry to Trenton, where he trained them for the ensuing campaign.

One of the first operations meditated by Washington after crossing the Schuylkill was the destruction of a large quantity of hay which remained in the islands above the mouth of Darby creek, within the power of the British. Early in the morning, after his orders for this purpose had been given (December 22d), Howe marched out in full force and encamped between Darby and the middle ferry, so as completely to cover the islands while a foraging party removed the hay. Washington, with the intention of disturbing this operation, gave orders for putting his army in motion, when the alarming fact was disclosed that the commissary's stores were exhausted and that the last ration had been delivered and consumed.

Accustomed as were the Continental troops to privations of every sort, it would have been hazarding too much to move them under these circumstances against a powerful enemy. In a desert or in a garrison where food is unattainable, courage, patriotism, and habits of discipline enable the soldier to conquer wants which, in ordinary situations, would be deemed invincible. But to perish in a country abounding with provisions requires something more than fortitude; nor can soldiers readily submit while in such a country to the deprivation of food. It is not, therefore, surprising that among a few of the troops some indications of a mutiny appeared. It is much more astonishing that the great body of the army bore a circumstance so irritating, and to them so unaccountable, without a murmur.

On receiving intelligence of the fact, Washington ordered the country to be scoured and provisions for supplying the pressing wants of the moment to be seized wherever found. In the meantime light parties were detached to harass the enemy about Darby, where Howe, with his accustomed circumspection, kept his army so compact and his soldiers so within the lines that an opportunity to annoy him was seldom afforded even to the vigilance of Morgan and Lee. After completing his forage he returned, with inconsiderable loss, to Philadelphia.

That the American army, while the value still retained by paper bills placed ample funds in the hands of government, should be destitute of food in the midst of a State so abounding with provisions as Pennsylvania, is one of those extraordinary facts which cannot fail to excite attention. A few words of explanation seem to be needed to account for such a fact. Early in the war the office of commissary-general had been conferred on Colonel Trumbull, of Connecticut, a gentleman well fitted for that important station. Yet, from the difficulty of arranging so complicated a department, complaints were repeatedly made of the insufficiency of supplies. The subject was taken up by Congress, but the remedy administered served only to increase the disease. The system was not completed till near midsummer, and then its arrangements were such that Colonel Trumbull refused the office assigned to him. The new plan contemplated a number of subordinate officers, all to be appointed by Congress, and neither accountable to nor removable by the head of the department. This arrangement, which was made in direct opposition to the opinion of the Commander-in-Chief, drove Colonel Trumbull from the army. Congress, however, persisted in the system, and its effects were not long in unfolding themselves. In every military division of the continent loud complaints were made of the deficiency of supplies. The armies were greatly embarrassed and their movements suspended by the want of provisions. The present total failure of all supply was preceded by

« ZurückWeiter »