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Divisions in congress.... Letters from general Washington
on the state of public affairs.... Invasion of Georgia.... General Howe defeated by the British under colonel Campbell, who takes possession of Savannah....Sunbury surrenders to general Prevost.... The state of Georgia reduced....General Lincoln takes the command of the southern army....Major Gardner defeated by general Moultrie....Insurrection of the tories in South Carolina, who are defeated by colonel Pickens.... Ash surprised, and defeated by Prevost.... Prevost compels Moultrie to retreat....Lincoln attacks the British at the ferry, but without success.... Invasion of Virginia by general Mathews.
W e have perceived that in the course of 1779. the preceding year, operations of great magni. tude, requiring large supplies of men and money, had been meditated against Canada without any just estimate of the resources of the government; and that congress was, with infinite difficulty, prevailed upon to relinquish
CHAP. I. them. Having reluctantly given up these grand 1779. and extensive views of conquest, the remaining
objects, though of the utmost importance, seemed insufficient to call forth the energies of the nation, and a general languor appeared to diffuse itself through all the civil depart. ments. The alliance with France was believed to have secured independence; and a confidence that the enemy could no longer prosecute the war with any reasonable hope of success, prevented those exertions which were practicable, but which it was painful to make. Believing what they wished, the contest seemed drawing to its close, and the means to ensure its suc. cessful termination were too unpleasant to be employed, but in the last necessity. This temper was seen and deplored by the commander in chief, who incessantly combated the opinion that Great Britain was about to relinquish the contest, and insisted that only great and vigorous exertions on the part of America could terminate the war.
The wretched policy of short enlistments, into which many causes had combined to betray the American governments, had been persevered in until it was no longer in their power to correct its mischiefs. The enthusiasm felt at the commencement of the contest, under the influence of which all personal considerations were overlooked, and the common cause was deemed the cause of each individual, liad
in a great measure passed away, and had been CHAP. I. succeeded by calculations of a colder but more 1779. lasting character. When, at length, the resolution was formed to enlist an army for the war, the power to execute it no longer existed. Few were found, who would engage voluntarily in the service, and coercion was an expedient at. tended with too much hazard to be extensively employed. Apprehensions of danger were en. tertained from forcing men into the army for three years, or during the war; and the vacant ranks were scantily supplied with draughts for nine, twelve, and eighteen months. The evil therefore still continued; and except that the old officers remained, almost a new army was to be raised for every campaign.
The commander in chief, always provident for the future, was uniformly earnest in his representations to congress and to the several states on this important subject. His letters continually and urgently pressed them to take timely measures for supplying the places of those who were leaving the service. But the means adopted were so much more slow and ineffectual in their operation than was expected by those who devised them, that the season for action never found the preparations of America completed; and the necessity of struggling against superior numbers was almost perpetual.
The pleasing delusion that the war was over, to which the public mind delighted to surrender
CHAP. I. itself, made no impression on the judgment of 1779. Washington. Viewing objects through a more
correct medium, he perceived that Britain had yet much to hope, and America much to fear from a continuance of hostilities. The com. missioners were about to return; and he was extremely apprehensive of the impression which the divisions and apparent inertness of the United States would make upon them ;...an impression which they would certainly communicate to their government. These consi. derations increased his anxiety in favour of early and vigorous preparations for the next campaign. Yet it was not until the 23d of January 1779, that congress passed the resolu. tion authorizing the commander in chief to reenlist the army, nor, until the ninth of the fol. lowing March, that the requisition was made on the several states for their quotas. The bounty offered by the first resolution being found insufficient to bring men into the field, the government of the union was again under the necessity of resorting to the states. Thus, at a season when the men ought to have been in camp, the measures for raising them were still to be adopted; and of consequence, the public service was exposed to infinite hazard and injury from such delays.
About this period, several circumstances conspired to foment those pernicious divisions and factions in congress, which, in times of
greater danger, patriotism would, most prob. CHAP. I. ably, have silenced.
1779. The diplomatic characters employed in Eu. rope had reciprocally criminated each other, and some of them had been recalled. Their friends in congress supported their respective divisions in interests with considerable animation; and at length, Mr. Deane who, at a very early period had been employed in France, and who had been concerned in negotiating the treaties of alliance and of commerce with his most chris. tian majesty, published a manifesto, in which he arraigned before the bar of the public, the conduct, not only of those concerned in foreign negotiations, but of the members of congress themselves.
The irritation excited by these and other contests was not a little increased by the appearance of an extract from a letter published in New York, as having been written by Mr. Laurens, the president of congress, to governor Huiston of Georgia. During the invasion of that state, this letter was said to have been found among the papers of the governor. In it, Mr. Laurens had unbosomed himself with the unsuspecting confidence of a person com. municating to a friend the inmost operations of his mind. In a moment of gloom, probably produced by what he deemed the inattention of congress to objects of infinite magnitude, he had expressed himself with a degree of se.