Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

ent authorities to form a federal army, were always tardy in time and deficient in the number of men.

On the approach of the inclement season, the army again built themselves huts for winter quarters. Posi tions were chosen the most favourable for the defenco of the American posts, and for covering the country: The army was formed into two divisions. One of these erected huts near West Point, and the other at Morristown in New Jersey. The head quarters of the Commander in Chief were with the last division.

Great distress was felt this winter on account of the deranged state of the American finances. General Green and Colonel Wadsworth, gentlemen in every respect qualified for the duties of their respective sta. tions, were yet at the head of the Quarter Master and Commissary departments, but the credit of the country was fallen, they had not the means to make prompt payment for articles of supply; and they found it impossible to lay up large magazines of provisions, and extremely difficult to obtain supplies to satisfy the temporary wants of the army.

The evil was increased by a new arrangement introduced by Congress into the Commissary department. A fixed salary in the depreciated currency of the country was given to the Commissary General, and he was authorized to appoint a certain number of deputies, whose stipends were also established, and to whom no emolument of office was allowed. Deputies competent to the business could not be obtained upon the terms established by Congress, confusion and de. rangement ensued through the whole department, and in consequence Colonel Wadsworth was constrained to resign his office.

Before the month of January expired, the soldiers were put upon allowance, and before its close, the whole stock of provision in store was exhausted, and there was neither meat nor flour to be distributed to the troops. To prevent the dissolution of the army VOL 1

17

the Commander in Chief was reluctantly driven to very vigorous ineasures. He apportioned upon each county in the state of New Jersey a quantity of meat and flour, according to the ability of each, to be brought into camp in the course of six days. At the same time he wrote to the magistrates, stating the absolute necessity of the measure, and informing them, that unless the inhabitants voluntarily complied with the requisition, the exigency of the case would force him to obtain it by military cxaction. To the honour of the inhabitants of New Jersey, harassed as their country had been, the full quantity of provision required was cheerfully and seasonably afforded.

To Congress General WASHINGTON expressed his sense of the heroick patience with which the troops bore the privations of clothing and provisions through this winter of unusual severity. The extent of these privations will be seen in an extract of a letter written by the Commander in Chief to his friend General Schuyler.

Since the date of my last we have had the virtue and patience of the army put to the severest trial. Sometimes it has been five or six days together without bread; at other times, as many days without meat; and once or twice, two or three days, without either. I hardly thought it possible at one period, that we should be able to keep it together, nor could it have been done, but for the exertions of the magistrates in the several counties of this State, on whom I was obliged to call, expose our situation to them, and in plain terms declare that we were reduced to the alternative of disbanding or catering for ourselves, unless the inhabitants would afford us their aid. I allotted to each county a certain proportion of flour or grain, and a certain number of cattle, to be delivered on certain days, and for the honour of the magistrates, and good disposition of the people, I must add, that my requ sitions were punctually complied with, and in mily counties exceeded. Nothing but this great exertion could have saved the army from dissolution or starving, as we were bereft of every hope from the commissarics. At one time, the soldiers eat every kind of horse food but hay. Buck wheat, common wheat, rye, and Indian corn, composed the meal which made their bread. As an army they bore it with the most heroick patience ; but sufferings like these ac. companied with the want of clothes, blankets, &c. will produce frequent desertion in all armies, and so it happened with us, though it did not excite a single mutiny."

The frost of this winter was excessive. For six weeks together, the waters about New-York were covered with ice, of sufficient thickness to admit the passage of large armies with wagons and the heaviest pieces of artillery. The city, of consequence, in many places, became assailable. The vigilant and active mind of General Washington, with mortification, saw an opportunity to attack his enemy which he was unable to embrace. The British force in New York, in numbers, exceeded his own, and the want of clothing and provision rendered it impossible to move his troops upon an extensive enterprise. An attempt to surprise a post on Staten Island failed.

CHAPTER VII.

amount of Paper Emission-Congress destitute of Means to sup port the WET-Supplies apportioned upon the States-- Exertions of the Commander in Chief-Mutiny in a part of the Army The British make an Excursion into New Jersey-The American Troops bravely resist them-The Court of France promises a Naval and Land Armament to act in America-Preparation to co-operate with it--A French Squadron arrives on the Amerirican Coast-Count Rochambeau lands at Newport with five thousand Men-The American and French Commanders meet at Hartford to settle the Plan of the Campaign-The Second Division of the French Troops fails General Arnold boomes a Traitor-He Corresponds with Major Andre-Andre comes on Shore at West Point-Attempts to return to New York by land -He is taken into Custody by three Militia Men-A Board of General Officers condemn him-He is executed--Letter of Genoral Washington on the State of the Army--Congress adopts a Military Establish nunt for the War--The Army goes into Winter Quarters.

1780. Two hundred millions of dollars in paper currency were at this time in circulation, upon the credit of the United States. Congress had the preceding year solemnly pledged the faith of government not to emit more than this sum. The National Treasury was empty. The requisitions of Congress for money by taxes, assessed by the authority of the States, were slowly complied with, and the supplies of money, in this way obtained, bore no proportion to the expenses of the war.

A novel state of things was in consequence introduced. Congress, the head of the Nation, had no command of the resources of the country. The power cf taxation, and of every coercive measure of government, rested with the State Sovereignties. The only power left with the National Council was, to apportion supplies of provision for the army, as well as recruits of men, upon the several States.

The military establishment for 1780, consisted of thirty-five thousand, two hundred and eleven men. No

portion of these was to be raised by the authority of Congress, but in the whole transaction an absolute dependence was placed on the agency of the States. Upon the States also specifick articles of provision, spirits, and forage, were apportioned for the subsistence of the army. Congress gave assurances that accurate accounts should be kept, and resolved, “ That any State which shall have taken the necessary measures for furnishing its quota, and have given notice thereof to Corgress, shall be authorized to prohibit any Continental Quarter Master, or Commissary from purchasing within its limits."

General Washington greatly lamented the neces sity of managing the war by State authorities. He freely suggested to Congress the defects of their system, defects which would prevent the attainment of competent and seasonable supplies for the troops The estimate, he observed, in all articles was below the ordinary demand, the time of reception was left in a vague manner; and no provision was made for extraordinary exigencies. No means were adopted to obtain for the use of the army any surplus of produce, which a particular State might conveniently supply, beyond its apportionment; but a State under this predicament was authorized to prohibit the National Commissary from purchasing such surplusage, whatever might be the publick wants. To a friend in Congress, he in a private letter thus freely expressed his opinion.

“ Certain I am, that unless Congress speaks in a more decisive tone ; unless they are vested with pow. ers by the several States, competent to the great purposes of the war, or assume them as matter of right and they, and the States respectively act with more energy than they hitherto have done ; that our cause is lost. We can no longer drudge on in the old way. By ill timing the adoption of measures, by delays in the execution of them, or by unwarrantable jealousies, we incur enormous expenses, and derive no benefit

« ZurückWeiter »