ePub 版

fall back to defend his stores, or to advance for the defence of West Point, as circumstances might require. The first months of the year were spent in these desultory operations. The disasters to the south produced no disposition in the north to give up the contest; but the tardiness of congress and of the states; the weakness of government, and the depreciation of the money, deprived Washington of all means of attempting any thing beyond defensive operations.

In this state of langour Marquis de la Fayette arrived from France, with assurances that a French fleet and army inight soon be expected on the coast. This roused the Americans from that lethargy into which they scemed to be sinking. Requisitions on the states for men and money, were urged with uncommon earnestness. Washington, in his extensive correspondence throughout the United States, endearoured to stimulate the public mind to such exertions as the approaching crisis required. In addition to arguments formerly used, he endeavoured on this occasion, by a temperate view of European politics, to convince his. countrymen of the real danger of their independence, if they neglected to improve the advantages they might obtain by a great and manly effort, in conjunction with the succours expected from France. The resolutions of Congress for this purpose were slowly executed. The quotas assigned to the several states were by their respective legislatures apportioned on the several counties and towns. These, divisions were again subdivided into classes, and each class was called upon to furnish a man. This predominance of state systems over those which were national, was foreseen and lamented by the commander in chief. In a letter to a member of the national legislature, he observed, “ that unless Congress spcaks in a more decisive. tone ; un. Jess they are vested with powers 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 hitherto they have done, our cause is lost. We can no longer drudge on 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 bencfit. One statc will comply with a requisition from Congress; another Neglects to do it; a third executes it by halves; and all differ in the manner, the matter, or so much in point of time, that we are always working up hill; and while such a system as the present one, or rather want of one, prevails, we ever shall be unable to apply our strength or resources' to any advantage.

“ This, my dear sir, is plain language to a member of Congress; but it is the language of truth and friendship. It is the result of long thinking, close application, and strict observation. I see one head gradually changing into thirteen ; I see one army branching into thirteen ; and, instead of looking up to Congress as the supreme controuling power of the United States, considering themselves as dependent on their respective states. In a word, I see the power of Congress declining too fast for the consequence and respect which are due to them as the great representative body of America, and am fearsut of the consequences.”

From the embarrassments which cramped the operations of Washington,a partial temporary reliet was obtained from private sources. When Congress could ncither conimand money nor credit for the subsistence of their army, the citizens of Philadelphia formed an association to procure a supply of necessary articles for their suffering soldiers.The sum of three hundred thousand dollars was subscribed in a few days, and converted into a bank, the principal design of which was to purchase provisions for the troops in the most prompt and efficacious manner. The advantages of this institution were great, and particularly enhanced by the critical time in which it was instituted.

The ladies of Philadelphia, about the same time, subscribed large donations for the immediate relief of the suffering soldiers. These supplies, though liberal, were far short of a sufficiency for the army. So late as the 20th of June, General Washington informed Congress that he still laboured under the painful and humiliating embarrassment of having no shirts to deliver to the troops, many of whom were absolutely destitute of that necessary article ; por were they much better supplied with summer overalls.

For the troops to be without clothing at any time, he added, is highly injurious to the service, and distressing to our feelings; but the want will be more peculiarly morti.


fying when they come to act with those of our allies. If it be possibie, I have no doubt immediate measures will be taken to relieve their distress.

“ It is also most sincerely to be wished that there could be some supplies of clothing furnished to the officers. There are a great many whose condition is miserable. This is, in some instances, the case with whole lines. It would be well for their own sakes, and for the public good, if they could be furnished. They will not be able, when our friends come, to co-operate with us, to go on a common routine of duly; and if ihey should, they must from their appearance be lield in low estimation.”

The complicated arrangements for raising and supporting the American army, which was voted for the campaign, were so tardily executed, that when the summer was far advanced, Washington was uninformed of the force on which he might rely; and of course could not fix on any certain plan of aperations for the combined armies. In a letter to Congress he expressed his embarrassment in the following words : “ The season is come when we have every reason to expect the arrival of the fleet; and yet for want of this point of primary consequence, it is impossible for me to form a system of co-operation. I have no basis to act upon, and of course were this generous succour of our ally now to arrive, I should find myself in the most awkward, embarrassing and painful situation. The General and the Admiral, as soon as they approach our coast, will require of me a plan of the measures to be pursued, and there ought of right to be one prepared; but circumstanced as I am, I cannot even give them conjectures. From these conside. rations, 1 yesierday suggested to the committee the indis. pensable necessity of their writing again to the states, urging them to give immediate and precise information of the measures they have taken, and of the result. The interest of the states ; the honour and reputation of our councils; the justice and gratitude due to our allies ; all require that I should without delay be erabled to ascertain and inform them what we can or cannot undertake. There is a point which ought now to be determined, on the success of which all our future operations may depend ; on which, for want of knowing our prospects, I can make no decision. For fear of involving the fleet and army of our allies in circumstances which would expose them, if not seconded by us, to material inconvenience and hazard, I shall be compelled to suspend it, and the delay inay be fatal. to our hopes.”

In this state of uncertainty, Washington meditated by night and day on the various contingencies wbich were probable. He revolved the possible situations in which the contending armies might be placed, and endeavoured to prepare for every plan of combined operations which fu. ture contingent events might render advisable.

On the 10th of July the expected French fleet and army appeared on the coast of Rhode Island. The former consisted of seven sail of the line, five frigates, and five smallo er vessels. The latter of six thousand men. The Chevalier Terney and Count Rochambeau, who commanded the fleet and army, immediately transmitted to General Washington an account of their arrival, of their strength, their expectations and orders. At that time not more than one thousand men had joined the American army. A commander of no more than common firmness, would have resigned his commission in disgust, for not being supported by his country:

Very different was the line of conduct adopted by Washington. Trusting that the promised support would be forwarded with all possible despatch, he sent on to the French commanders by the Marquis de la Fayette, definite proposals for commencing the siege of New York. of this he gave information to Congress in a letter, in the following words : “ Pressed on all sides by a choice of difficulties, in a moment which required decision, I have adopted that line of conduct which comported with the dig nity and faith of Congress, the reputation of these states, and the honour of our arms. I have sent on definitive proposals of co-operation to the French General and Admiral. Neither the period of the season, nor a regard to de. cency, would permit delay. "Thc die is cast; and it remaibs with the states either to fulfil their engagements, preserve their credit, and support their independence, or to involve us in disgrace and defeat. Notwithstanding the failures pointed out by the committee, I shall proceed on the supposition that they will ultimately consult their own interest and honour, and not suffer us to fail for the want of means, which it is evidently in their power 10 afford. What


of com

has been done, and is doing by some of the states, confirms the opinion I have entertained of sufficient resources in the country. Of the disposition of the people to subnsit to any arrangement for bringing them forth, I see no reasonable ground 10 doubt. If we fail for want of proper exertions in any o: the governments, I trust the responsibility will fall where it ought, and that I shall stand justified to Congress, my country and th world."

The fifth of the next month, August, was named as the day when the French troops should embark, and the American army assemble in Morrisania, for the purpose mencing their combined operations. Very soon after the arrival of the French fleet, Admiral Greaves reinforced the British naval force in the harbour of New York, with six ships of the line. Hitherto the French had a naval supe. riority. Without it, all prospect of success in the propos. cd attack on New York was visionary; but this being suddenly and unexpectedly reversed, the plan for combined operations became cventual. The British Admiral having now the superiority, proceeded to Rhode Island to attack the French in that quarter.

He soon discovered that the French were perfectly secure from any attack by sea. Sir Henry Clinton, who had returned in the preceding month with his victorious troops from Charleston, embarked about eight thousand of his best men, and proceeded as far as lluntingdon Bay, on Long Island, with the apparent design of concurring with the British fleet in attacking the French force at Rhode island. When this movement took place, Washington set his army in motion, and proceeded to Peekskill. Had Sir Henry Clinton prosecuted what appeared 10 be his design, Washington intended to have attacked New York in his absence. Preparations were made for this purpose ; but Sir Henry Clinton instantly turned about from Iluntingdon Bay toward New York.

In the mean time, the French fleet and army being blocked up at Rhode Island, were incapacitated from co-operating with the Americans. Hopes were nevertheless indulg. eil, that by the arrival of another fleet of his Most Christian Majesty, then in the West Indies, under the command of Count de Guichen, the superiority would be so much in favour of the allies, as to enable them to prosecute their original intention of attacking New York. When the ex.

« 上一頁繼續 »