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ther directions will be given when it arrives. I am sure I shall not be mistaken in expecting a prompt and cheerful obedience.”
This letter 'made a deep impression upon the minds of the officers, but did not fully produce the desired effect. In an address to the Commander in Chief, they expressed their unhappiness, that any act of theirs should occasion him pain; but in justification of the measure they had adopted, they pleaded that their state government had paid no attention to their repeated petitions, that they were themselves loaded with debts, and that their families were starving. “ At length,” said they, “ we have lost all confidence in our Legislature. Reason and experience forbid that we should have any. Few of us have private fortunes ; many have families who are already suffering every thing that can be received from an ungrateful country. Are we then to suffer all the inconveniences, fatigues and dangers of a military life, while our wives and our children are perishing for want of common necessaries at home; and that without the most distant prospect of reward, for our pay is only nominal? We are sensible that your Excellency cannot wish nor desire this from us.
“ We are sorry that you should imagine we meant to disobey orders. It was and still is our determination to march with our regiment, and to do the duty of officers, until the Legislature shall have a reasonable time to appoint others, but no longer.
“ We beg leave to assure your Excellency that we have the highest sense of your ability and vir
tue, that executing your orders has ever given us pleasure ; we love the service, and we love our country; but when that country gets so lost to virtue and justice as to forget to support its servants, it then becomes their duty to retire from its service.”
This attempt in the officers to justify their conduct placed General Washington in a very critical and delicate situation. Severe measures, he apprehended, would probably drive the whole Jersey brigade from the service; and to assume the exercise of the powers of Commander in Chief, and then recede without producing the effect, must bazard his own authority, and injure the discipline of the army. Under these embarrassing circumstances, he prudently resolved to take no further notice of this address, than to notify to the officers, through General Maxwell, that while they continued to do their duty, he should only regret the step they had taken, and hope that they themselves would perceive its impropriety.
This alarming transaction, the General communicated to Congress, and at the same time reminda ed them of his repeated and urgent intreaties in behalf of his officers. Some general provision for them he now recommended as a measure of absolute necessity.
" The distresses in some corps," he observed, are so great, either where they were not until lately attached to any particular state, or where the state has been less provident, that officers have solicited even to be supplied with the clothing destined for the common
soldiers, coarse and unsuitable as it was. I had not power to comply with the request.
“ The patience of men animated by a sense of duty and honour, will support them to a certain point, beyond which it will not go. I doubt not Congress will be sensible of the danger of an extreme in this respect, and will pardon my anxiety to obviate it."
The regiment marched agreeably to orders, and the officers withdrew their remonstrance. The Legislature took measures for their relief, and they continued in the service.
The situation of the hostile armies not favouring active operations, General Washington planned an expedition into the Indian country. His experience while he commanded the troops of Virginia in the French war, convinced him, that the only effectual method to defend the frontiers from the destructive invasion of Indian foes, is to carry the war into their own country. To retaliate in some measure, the cruelties the Indians had inflicted on the Americans, and to deter them from their repetition, General Sullivan, the commanding officer, was ordered, on this occasion, to exercise a degree of severity which, in the usual operations of war, was abhorrent to the humane disposition of the Commander in Chief. In the course of the summer months, General Sullivan successfully prosecuted the plan, and destroyed the Indian towns upon the northern boundary of the state of New York.
The disposable force of Sir Henry Clinton this
year consisted of between sixteen and seventeen thousand men.
The troops under the immediate command of General Washington amounted to about sixteen thousand. A view of the numbers of the two hostile armies is sufficient to shew, that offensive operations against the strong posts of the British, were not in the power of General Washington. The marine force, by which these posts were supported, facilitated the designs of the British commander in predatory expeditions upon the American shores and rivers ; but in the middle states, the campaign passed away without any military operations upon a large scale. The American General posted his troops in a situation the most favourable to protect the country from the excursions of the enemy, and to guard the high lands on the north river. These high lands were the object of the principal maneuvres of the opposing generals, and the scene of some brilliant military achievements.
West Point was now the chief post of the Americans on the Hudson. Here was their principal magazine of provisions and military stores. It was situated upon the western side of the river, in the bosom of the mountain, was difficult of approach, and its natural strength had been in-. creased by fortifications, although they were not completed. Lower down at the foot of the mountain is King's ferry, over which passes the great road from the eastern to the middle states. This ferry is commanded by the points of land on the two shores. The point on the west side is high, rough ground, and is called Stony Point, That
on the east side is a low neck of land projecting into the river and denominated Verplank's Point. On each shore General Washington had erected fortifications, and a small garrison under the command of a captain was placed in Verplank.
Sir Henry Clinton, on the last of May, moved with the greater part of his force up the river towards these posts. On his approach Stony Point was evacuated ; but the celerity of his movements obliged the garrison at Verplank to surrender themselves prisoners of war. The possession of King's ferry could not have been the sole object of Sir Henry's movement, his force was much greater than this purpose required. The possession of West Point was probably the ultimate design of the expedition ; but the excellent disposition of the American troops defeated this intention of the British Commander. Having fortified the positions of Stony Point and Verplank, and placed garrisons in them, Sir Henry returned with his army to New York.
The Americans were subjected to great inconvenience by the loss of King's ferry. To North river, they were necessitated to take a route by the way of Fish Kill, through a rough and mountainous country, and the transportation of heavy articles for the army by this circuitous road became very tedious.
General Washington was induced by a variety of motives to attempt the recovery of Stony and Verplank points. The very attempt would recal the British detachments that were out on predatory expeditions. Success in the plan would give re