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tunities which were destined to develop into Yorktown. He had longed to go to the south before, and had held back only because he felt that the main army and New York were still the key of the position, and could not be safely left. Now, while planning the capture of New York, he asked in a letter whether the enemy was not more exposed at the southward and therefore a better subject for a combined attack there. Clearness and precision of plan as to the central point, joined to a perfect readiness to change suddenly and strike hard and decisively in a totally different quarter, are sure marks of the great commander. We can find them all through the correspondence, but here in May, 1780, they come out with peculiar vividness. They are qualities arising from a wide foresight, and from a sure and quick perception. They are not the qualities of a slow or heavy mind.
On June 1st came the news of the surrender of Charleston and the loss of the army, which was followed by the return of Clinton to New York. The southern States lay open now to the enemy, and it was a severe trial to Washington to be unable to go to their rescue; but with the same dogged adherence to his ruling idea, he concentrated his attention on the Hudson with renewed vigilance on account of Clinton's return. Adversity and prosperity alike were unable to divert him from the control of the great river and the mastery of the middle States until he saw conclusive victory elsewhere fairly within his grasp. In the
same unswerving way he pushed on the preparations for what he felt to be the coming of the deci, sive campaign and the supreme moment of the war. To all the governors went urgent letters, calling on the States to fill their lines in the continental army, and to have their militia in readiness.
In the midst of these anxieties and preparations, the French arrived at Newport, bringing a wellequipped army of some five thousand men, and a small fleet. They brought, too, something quite as important, in the way of genuine good-will and full intention to do all in their power for their allies. After a moment's hesitation, born of unlucky memories, the people of Rhode Island gave De Rochambeau a hearty welcome, and Washington sent him the most cordial greeting. With the greeting went the polite but earnest request for immediate action, together with plans for attacking New York; and, at the same time, another urgent call went out to the States for men, money, and supplies. The long looked-for hour had arrived, a fine French army was in Newport, a French fleet rode in the harbor, and instead of action, immediate and effective, the great event marked only the beginning of a period of delays and disappointment, wearing heart and nerve almost beyond endurance.
First it appeared that the French ships could not get into New York harbor. Then there was sickness in the French army. Then the British menaced Newport, and rapid preparations had to be
made to meet that danger. Then it came out that De Rochambeau was ordered to await the arrival of the second division of the army, with more ships; and after due waiting, it was discovered that the aforesaid second division, with their ships, were securely blockaded by the English fleet at Brest. On our side it was no better; indeed, it was rather
There was lack of arms and powder. The drafts were made with difficulty, and the new levies came in slowly. Supplies failed altogether, and on every hand there was nothing but delay, and ever fresh delay, and in the midst of it all Washington, wrestling with sloth and incoherence and inefficiency, trampled down one failure and disappointment only to encounter another, equally important, equally petty, and equally harassing.
On August 20th he wrote to Congress a long and most able letter, which set forth forcibly the evil and perilous condition of affairs. After reading that letter no man could say that there was not need of the utmost exertion, and for the expenditure of the last ounce of energy. In it Washington struck especially at the two delusions with which the people and their representatives were lulling themselves into security, and by which they were led to relax their efforts. One was the belief that England was breaking down; the other, that the arrival of the French was synonymous with the victorious close of the war. Washington demonstrated that England still commanded the sea, and that as long as she did so there was a great advantage on her side.
She was stronger, on the whole, this year than the year before, and her financial resources were still ample. There was no use in looking for victory in the weakness of the enemy, and on the other hand, to rely wholly on France was contemptible as well as foolish. After stating plainly that the army was on the verge of dissolution, he said : “ To me it will appear miraculous if our affairs can maintain themselves much longer in their present train. If either the temper or the resources of the country will not admit of an alteration, we may expect soon to be reduced to the humiliating condition of seeing the cause of America, in America, upheld by foreign
The generosity of our allies has a claim to all our confidence and all our gratitude, but it is neither for the honor of America, nor for the interest of the common cause, to leave the work entirely to them."
It must have been bitter to Washington above all men, with his high dignity and keen sense of national honor, to write such words as these, or make such an argument to any of his countrymen. But it was a work which the time demanded, and he did it without flinching. Having thus laid bare the weak places, he proceeded to rehearse once more, with a weariness we can easily fancy, the old, old lesson as to organization, a permanent army, and a better system of administration. This letter neither scolded, nor bewailed, nor desponded, but it told the truth with great force and vigor. It, of course, had but slight
results, comparatively speaking, still it did something, and the final success of the Revolution is due to the series of strong truth-telling letters, of which this is an example, as much as to any one thing done by Washington. There was need of some one, not only to fight battles and lead armies, but to drive Congress into some sort of harmony, spur the careless and indifferent to action, arouse the States, and kill various fatal delusions, and in Washington the robust teller of unwelcome truths was found.
Still, even the results actually obtained by such letters came but slowly, and Washington felt that he must strike at all hazards. Through Lafayette he tried to get De Rochambeau to agree to an immediate attack on New York. His army was on the very eve of dissolution, and he began with reason to doubt his own power of holding it together longer. The finances of the country were going ever faster to irremediable ruin, and it seemed impossible that anything could postpone open and avowed bankruptcy. So, with his army crumbling, mutinous, and half starved, he turned to his one unfailing resource of fighting, and tried to persuade De Rochambeau to join him. Under the circumstances, Washington was right to wish to risk a battle, and De Rochambeau, from his point of view, was equally so in refusing to take the offensive, unless the second division arrived or De Guichen came with his fleet, or the English force at New York was reduced.