Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

by this, however, to arraign the conduct of Congress ; in so doing, I should equally condemn my own mea. sures, if not my judgment; þut experience, which is the best. criterion to work by, so fully, clearly, and de. cisively, reprobates the practice of trusting to miitia, that no man who regards order, regularity, and economy, or who has any regard for his own honour, charac. ter, or peace of mind, will risk them upon militia."

« Before I knew of the late resolutions of Congress which you did me the honour to enclose in your letter of the 24th, and before I was favoured with the visit of your committee, I took the liberty of giving you my sentiments on scveral points which seemed to be of importance.

“ I have no doubt but that the committee will make such report of the state and condition of the army as will induce Congress to believe that nothing but the most vigorous exertions can put matters upon such a footing, as to give this continent a fair prospect of suc. cess. Give me leave to say, sir, I say it with due deference and respect, (and my knowlcdge of the facts, added to the importance of the cause, and the stake I hold in it, must justify the freedom) that your affairs are in a more unpropitious way than you seem to ap. prehend.

“ Your army, as mentioned in my last, is upon the eve of its political dissolution. True it is, you have voted a larger one in lieu of it; but the season :3 late, and there is a material difference between voting battalions and raising men. In the latter there are more difficulties than Congress seem aware of, which makes it my duty (as I have been informed of the prevailing sentiments of this army) to inform them, that, unless the pay of the officers, (especially that of the field offi. cers) be raised, the chief part of those that are worth retaining will leave the service at the expiration of the present term ; as the soldiers will also, if some greater encouragement, be not offered them, than twenty dol. lars, and one hundred acres of land.

“ Nothing less, in my opinion, than a suit of clothes annually given to each non-commissioned officer and soldier, in addition to the pay and bounty, will avail; and I question whether that will do, as the enemy from the information of one John Marsh, who, with six othicer, was taken by our guards, are giving ten pounds boubuy for recruits, and have got a battalion under Major Rodgers, ncarly completed upon Long Island.

“ Nor will less pay, according to nay judgment, than I have taken the liberty of mentioning in the enclosed estimate, retain such officers as we could wish to have continued; the difference per month in each battalion would amount to bette. than one hundred pounds; to this may be added the pay of the staff officers; for it is presumable they will also require an augmentation, but being few in number, the sum will not be greatly increased by them, and consequently is a matter of no great moment; but it is a matter of no small impor. tance to make the soveral offices desirable. When the pay and establishment of an officer once become ohjects of interested attention, the sloth, negligence, and even disobedience of orders, which at this time but too generally prevail, will be purged off. But while the. service is viewed with indifference; while the officer conceives that he is rather conferring than receiving an obligation; there will be a total relaxation of all order and discipline, and cvery thing will move heavi. jy on, to the great detriment of the service, and inex. pressible trouble and vexation to the General.

• The critical situation of our affairs at this tiine will justify my saying, that no time is to be lost in making fruitless experiments. An unavailing trial of u inonth, to get an army, upon the terins proposed, may render it impracticable to do it at ali, and prove fetal to our cause, as I am not sure whether anv rubs

in the way of our enlistments or unfavourable turn in our affairs, may not prove the means of the enemy's recruiting men faster than we do. To this may be added the inextricable difficulty of forming one corps out of another, and arranging matters with any degree of order, in the face of an enemy who are watching for advantages.

" At Cambridge last year, where the officers (and more than a sufficiency of them) were all upon the spot, we found it a work of such extreme difficulty to know their sentiments (each having some terms to propose) that I despaired, once, of getting the arrangement completed, and do suppose that at least a hundred alterations took place before matters were finally adjusted; what must it be then under the present regulation, where the officer is to negotiate this matter with the state he comes from, distant, perhaps, two or three hundred miles ; some of whom, withvut any license from me, set out to make personal application, the moment the resolution got to their hands ? What kind of officers these are, I leave Congress to judge.

“If an officer of reputation (for none other should be applied to be asked to stay, what answer can he give ? But in the first place, that he does not know whether it be at his option to do so; no provision heing made in the resolution of Congress, even recommendatory of this measure, consequently, that it rests with the state he comes from, (surrcunded, perhaps, with a variety of applications, and influenced perhaps with local attachments) to determine whether he can be provided for, or not. In the next place, if he be an officer of merit, and knows that the state he comes from is to furnish more battalions than it at present has in the service, he will scarcely, after two years' faithful services, think of continuing in the rank he now bears, when new creations are to be made and

Voi. I.

men appointed to offices (no ways superiour in merit, and ignorant of service perhaps) over his head.

"A Committee sent to the army from each state may, upon the spot, fix things with a degree of propriety and certainty, and is the only method I can see, of bringing measures to a decision with respect to the officers of the army; but what can be done in the mean time towards the arrangement in the country, I know not. In the one case, you run the hazard of losing your officers; in the other of encountering delay ; unless some method could be devised of forwarding both at the same instant.

“Upon the present plan, 1 plainly foresee an intervention of time between the old and new army, which must be filled with militia, if to be had, with whom no man, who has any regard for his own reputation, can undertake to be answerable for consequences. I shall also be mistaken in my conjectures, if we do not lose the most valuable officers in this army, under the present mode of appointing them; consequently, if we have an army at all, it will be composed of materials not only entirely raw, but if uncommon pains be not taken, entirely unfit; and I see such a distrust anå jealousy of military power, that the Commander in Chief has not an opportunity, even by recommendation, to give the least assurances of reward for the most essential services.

"In a word, such a cloud of perplexing circumstances appears before me, without one flattering hope that I am thoroughly convinced, unless the most vigo. rous and decisive exertions bo immediately adopted to remedy these evils, that the certain and absolute long of our liberties will be the inevitable consequence; as one unhappy stroke will throw a powerful weight into the scale against us, and enable General Howe to recruit his army as fast as we shall ours; numbers being disposed, and many actually doing so already. Some of the inost probable remedies, ard such as experience has brought to my more intimate knowledge, I have takun the liberty to point out, the rest I beg leave to submit to the consideration of Congress.

" I ask pardon for taking up so much of their time with my opinions, but I should betray that trust which they and my country have reposed in me, were I to be silent upon matters so extremely interesting."

General Howe too well understood the duty of a commander to attempt to storin the strong camp of his opponent. He adopted the plan of transporting his army above King's bridge and forming an encampment in rear of General Washington's lines. This maneuvre, he expected, wouid either occasion the American Commander hastily to abandon his encampment, or oblige him to hazard a general engagement under circumstances which would render a defeat absolute ruin. To facilitate this design, he fortified M'Gowan's hill for the defence of the city. Three frigates passed up the North river without injury from the fire of Forts Washington and Lee, and without impediment from the chevauxdefrise that had been

sunk in the river. The great body of troops Oct 19. on York Island was embarked in flat bot

tomed boats, conveyed through Hurl Gate, and landed at Frog's Neck, near West Chester.

General WASHINGTON fully comprehended the plan of the Rritish Commander, and immediately adopted measures to defeat it. The bridges were removed from the only road, in which the British columns could march from Frog's Neck to the American encampment, the ground being rough and in many places intersected by stone walls. The road itself was broken up, guns were mounted upon heights the most favourable to annoy approaching troops, and detachments were sent out to act in front of the enimy, and to check his progress. As General Howe prosecuted his scheme, It became evident to the American General Officers,

« ZurückWeiter »