Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

warmth than is altogether proper; but they proceed from the overflowing of my heart, in a matter where I conceive this Continent essentially interested. I wrote to you from Albany, and desired you would send a thousand Continental troops of those first proposed to be left with you. This, I understand, has not been done. How the noncompliance can be answered to General Washington, you can best determine.

"I now, Sir, in the most explicit terms, by his Excellency's authority, give it as a positive order from him, that all the Continental troops under your command may be immediately marched to King's Ferry, there to cross the river, and hasten to reënforce the army under him.

“ The Massachusetts militia are to be detained instead of them, until the troops coming from the northward arrive. When they do, they will replace, as far as I am instructed, the troops you shall send away in consequence of this requisition. The General's idea of keeping troops this way does not extend farther than covering the country from any little irruptions of small parties, and carrying on the works necessary for the security of the river. As to attacking New York, that he thinks ought to be out of the question at present. If men could be spared from the other really necessary objects, he would have no objections to attempting a diversion by way of New York, but nothing further.” Vol. ii. pp. 549, 550.

Poor, generous Old Put!” Almost the only strokes of pathos in the volumes, due to private sorrows, are from his rude hand. And they are so touching, because they are so unconscious. October 16, 1777, he writes to Washington a full letter relating to the loss of Fort Montgomery, the surrender of Burgoyne, and his own subsequent dispositions, and concludes as follows, crushing the great grief of his stout heart into a period.

“ The enemy's loss, by the last accounts I have been able to get, is very considerable; not less than a thousand. The two Continental frigates, and the row-galley which lay above Fort Montgomery, were burnt, to prevent their falling into the hands of the enemy, for which I am very sorry, as one, I believe, might have been saved.

“ I have the unhappiness to inform you, that Mrs. Putnam, after a long and tedious illness, departed this life last Tuesday night. With the highest esteem and respect, I am, dear Sir, “ Your most obedient, humble servant.” Vol. ii. p. 6. In December, 1779, while on a visit to his family in Con

necticut, he had an attack of paralysis, on hearing of which, Washington sent him a kind letter.* The first use of his hand in writing was to testify his affection to his General.

“Pomfret, 29 May, 1780. “ DEAR SIR, “I cannot forbear informing your Excellency, by the return of Major Humphreys to camp, of the state of my health, from the first of my illness to the present time.

“After I was prevented from coming on to the army, by a stroke of the paralytic kind, which deprived me, in a great measure, of the use of my right leg and arm, I retired to my plantation, and have been gradually growing better ever since. I have now so far gained the use of my limbs, especially of my leg, as to be able to walk with very little impediment, and to ride on horseback tolerably well. In other respects I am in perfect health, and enjoy the comforts and pleasures of life with as good a relish as most of my neighbors.

“Although I should not be able to resume a command in the army, I propose to myself the happiness of making a visit, and seeing my friends there some time in the course of the campaign. And, however incapable I may be of serving my country, to my latest hour my wishes and prayers will always be most ardent and sincere for its happiness and freedom. As a principal instrument in the hand of Providence for effecting this, may Heaven long preserve your Excellency's most important and valuable life.

“ Not being able to hold the pen in my own hand, I am obliged to make use of another to express with how much regard and esteem, I am, your Excellency's “ Most obedient and very humble servant,

“ ISRAEL PUTNAM. “P. S. I am making a great effort to use my hand to make the initials of my name, for the first time.

I. P."

Vol. ii. p. 457, 458. General Greene sometimes slips in a word about domestic anxieties; but never obtrusively, and only in a way which makes more conspicuous the struggle of the patriot in the subordinating of private feelings.

Of course, this publication has much more variety and dramatic interest than Mr. Sparks's selection from Washington's

* Washington's Writings, vol. vii. p. 101.

writings. But its rare attractiveness of this kind is of less importance than its historical value as the complement of that work. Here are the materials, contributed from various quarters, from day to day, on which Washington made up the judgments announced in his own letters, and embodied in his own measures. Here are some two hundred mirrors, reflecting at so many different angles, the figure of the great man, each contributing its own witness, and all representing the self-same august form and port. Nearly two hundred writers from all parts of the country, addressing him on their own occasions, without a common object or mutual knowledge, testify in every unconscious line, their profound sense of his wisdom, magnanimity, and justice. Arnold bows to these qualities, - Paine recognizes them, - as much as Lafayette and Jay love and revere them. Hamilton is disappointed, but never complains. Henry dissents and opposes, but never thinks of blaming. Knox feels deeply hurt, but does not cease to be respectful and affectionate. Everybody's troubles come to Washington. Sullivan, Schuyler, Montgomery, even Greene,* tease him with the recital of their discomforts and discontents, but the reader perceives that they are ill at ease in troubling him to think of them, who never thinks of himself, and that they are sensible that, after all, his equanimity will no more be shaken by their embarrassments than by his own. Open to advice, close as to expression, until the time for word or action came, – self-possessed and unimpassioned always, — no oracle was ever more oracular than this man among the more sagacious and disinterested of his associates, while the more impetuous or self-seeking never found in the antecedents a pretence for any charge of injustice, and rarely found in the consequences any foundation for a charge of mistake. Nobody, in Congress or in camp, or elsewhere, presumed to match his own wisdom with Washington's, except Gates and his coxcomical set, for a little while; and they could never get up each other's courage high enough to blurt out their crudities to him. The unhappy Conway did all that he could to resist, in himself, the feeble remains of a better nature ; but by and by it triumphed, while death seemed to be

* Vol. ii. p. 164.

[graphic]

standing by his bed, and the humble expiation of his fault made the best possible record of its grossness.

“Philadelphia, 23 July, 1778 “ SIR, “ I find myself just able to hold the pen during a few minutes, and take this opportunity of expressing my sincere grief for having done, written, or said, any thing disagreeable to your Excellency. My career will soon be over; therefore justice and truth prompt me to declare my last sentiments. You are in my eyes the great and good man. May you long enjoy the love, veneration, and esteem of these States, whose liberties you have asserted by your virtues.” Washington's Writings, vol. v. p. 517.

The Appendixes contain a mass of new and highly interesting matter. The first, which is the longest, consisting of nearly a hundred pages, relates to the operations in Canada from August, 1775, to the final expulsion of the American forces from that province, in the autumn of the following year. The extraordinary resource and vigor shown by Arnold in the expedition through the wilderness, from Fort Western to the St. Lawrence, with the extreme hardships which nothing but the confidence of his troops in their commander enabled them to bear,— the desperate gallantry and disastrous issue of Montgomery's night attack on Quebec, — the occupation of the upper country, — the shifting hopes and fears, adhesion and hostility of the inhabitants, — the tragical events following the defeat at the Cedars, — the succession of seeming accidents which, from time to time, brightened and obscured the prospects of the expedition, making them one day seem almost sure and another well-nigh hopeless, - compose a tale the like of which, for animated and varied interest, is rarely found in history. Montgomery's is a stirring name. His earlier fortunes, his heroic persistence through the preliminary difficulties of the campaign, his generous Irish nature, the place and manner of his fall, invest it with an interest much warmer than esteem. It seems an outrage now to couple Arnold's name with his. But at the date of their storming of Quebec, who could say which of them was the worthier ? Sound, wounded, or half-starved, - in bivouac or in hospital, in field or in council, on land or on shipboard, wherever Arnold was, there was contrivance, valor, method, and efficiency. Colonel Ward, who (then a Captain in the Rhode Island line) was of the party up the Kennebec, was asked how it was that the men kept their spirits up, when they were reduced to making soup of their moose-skin moccasins. He said, every man felt sure that Arnold would get them through.

The first Appendix to the second volume, tells the story of the operations of Charles Lee, in the spring and summer of 1776, in Virginia and South Carolina, including the repulse of the British squadron from Sullivan's Island, by Colonel Moultrie and Colonel Thompson, on the 28th of June. The following letter to the President of Congress, at the close of the campaign, is a graver specimen, than most, of Lee's epistolary style.

* Savannah, 24 August, 1776.

[ocr errors]

“ Your letter, with the thanks of the Congress, reached me at Petersburg. The approbation of the freely chosen Delegates of a free and uncorrupt people, is certainly the highest honor that a man of any sentiment can be ambitious of; and I shall consider it as a fresh stimulus to excite my zeal and ardor in the glorious cause in which I am engaged. May the God of Righteousness prosper your arms in every part of the Empire, in proportion to the justice with which they were taken up! Once more let me express the high satisfaction and happiness I feel in this honorable testimony ; and once more let me assure the United States of America, that they cannot meet with a serrant, whatever may be his abilities, animated with a greater degree of ardor and enthusiasm for their safety, prosperity, and glory.

“ The present state of this Province, its strength and weakness, I shall transmit to the Board of War, according to the directions I have received. Be persuaded, Sir, that I am, with the greatest respect," &c. Vol. ii. p. 510.

The second Appendix to the same volume (in which Brockholst Livingston, who but lately was worthily moving among us in the sanctity of the judicial ermine, figures as the youthful aid of St. Clair,) represents the vicissitudes of the Northern campaign of 1777, when New England and New York were building their breastwork against Burgoyne. St. Clair falls back from Ticonderoga. Seth Warner musters on the

« ZurückWeiter »