Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

One was on the neck between Boston and Roxbury, near the British fortifications, when some of their barracks were burnt. And one at the light-house, where some Americans attempted to injure the light, that it might be of no benefit to the British vessels. At this time, companies and parts of companies of militia, were stationed at Braintree, Scituate, the gurnet in Plymouth bay, and other places on the sea board.

Among the acts of the first general court, a law was passed for the appointment of justices of the courts of common pleas, justices of the peace, sheriffs, and other civil officers: and the commissions of persons who had been appointed by the governor and former council were declared to be vacated and null Justices of the superior court were not appointed till November. These were John Adams, William Cushing, N. P. Sargeant, R. T. Paine, and William Reed. Sargeant, Paine, and Reed declined ; and Jedediah Foster and James Sullivan were appointed soon after.

Application was made in October to the continental congress for a reimbursement for expenses, in men's wages, provisions, and military stores. Massachusetts had then paid, for provisions and military articles, £10,000, from April to August ; £65,000 for wages, and for clothing, £16,000. Besides the army at and near Cambridge, those on the seaboard at different places amounted to nearly two thousand. The general congress advanced £133,000.

At this period, there was little expectation of being again united to Great Britain; though all hope was not yet extinguished of such an event. If the councils of Pitt, and other British statesmen of his views could prevail, there would be cause to expect a reunion. It would have been more difficult, probably, to adjust the dispute than ten, and even five years before. But the spirit and measures of administration left little to hope ; and the British nation generally supported the ministry in its policy towards America. It was necessary, therefore, to continue preparations for the defence and welfare of the country. It was an object to have Canada on the side of the other colonies, or to prevent any injury from a union of the British and Indians in that territory. Massachusetts assisted in the expedition into that country, planned by congress under General Montgomery; and General Washington sent twelve hundred troops from Cambridge, in September, by the way of Kennebec River, to assist in the reduction of Quebec. This enterprise proved unsuccessful. Montgomery was fortunate, indeed, in taking Montreal and some other places ; but when he proceeded to Quebec, he had but few troops; the city was strongly fortified; he made the attack without sufficient preparations; and fell in the first onset.

It was soon perceived that armed vessels might be of great benefit, by taking British transports with provisions and military stores sent from England and Ireland for the army in Boston. Some private vessels had already captured several large ships with valuable cargoes. The general court voted £50,000 for this purpose; and several ships and brigs were fitted out in the latter part of 1775. The British small vessels sent out from Boston for plunder on the coasts, were by this means prevented doing the injury which they intended to the inhabitants, or obtaining the supplies needed for the troops in the capital. Captain Manly, of Marblehead, was distinguished for his bravery and enterprise on this occasion.

Orders were issued in the fall, for enlisting men for one year to serve in the continental army. Though this order was agreeable to a vote or request of the general congress, each state was to furnish a particular number, according to its population. The term, for which the men then in camp had enlisted would expire with the present year: and it was requisite to have the new troops on the spot the first of January. The enlistment proceeded very slowly; and at the latter part of December only a small portion required had engaged for the succeeding campaign. The general court immediately gave orders to reenlist those then in the camp for three months, and until men for the year could be procured. At this time, General Washington requested five thousand of the militia, and they were called in, at very short notice; and, on the first of January, 1776, he made a requisition for six regiments of militia, which were also immediately put under his command. He was then meditating an attack on the enemy in Boston, and the other troops under him did not exceed nine thousand. For A great part of the winter, Massachusetts furnished between eleven and twelve thousand men of the American army.

It was the opinion of the people generally, at this time, and of many members of congress, and of the general court of Massachusetts, that an attack on the British in Boston would be proper, and might be successful. The public feeling is often excited without good reasons, or a correct view of facts, according to which a just decision can be formed. The people judge according to their wishes, rather than mature reflection. They thought more might have been done for six or eight months, and with a number of troops much larger than the British.

But they did not consider, that the American army was composed of undisciplined troops, and had a scanty portion of military articles. General Washington was sensible of the expectation and feelings of the people. He held a council of war on the subject, but the officers advised against an attack. But Colonel Knox, who was sent early in the winter to Albany, to provide means for transporting the remainder of cannon taken on the lake, returned in February. And the commander-inchief again summoned a meeting of the officers, to consider the expediency of an expedition against the enemy in the capital. Many were still opposed; but he was anxious himself, that an attempt should be made, and he knew that he might be charged with inaction, if he did not make an effort on the occasion. It would be desperate to attempt to enter Boston by land over the neck, for the place was strongly fortified by the British, and the pass very narrow. The only way would be to pass on the ice to the west part of Boston, or to the common. The plan was settled, to pass over from Cambridge and Brookline, in two divisions, under Generals Sullivan and Greene, and General Putnam to command the whole expedition. After the arrival of the cannon, and this plan was matured, the weather was so mild as to render its execution impracticable.*

When this plan failed, it was determined to take possession of the heights in the north part of Dorchester, the nearest spot to Boston not in possession of the British. A detachment was sent from the division at Roxbury, under General Thomas, on the night of the 4th of March. A heavy cannonade had been kept up from the American camp, for several days, to divert the attention of the enemy. By the morning a sufficient breastwork was thrown up, which surprised the British in Boston, as much as that on Breed's Hill, in Charlestown, on the 17th of June. The enemy were fully aware of their exposure, both in Boston, and in the harbor, from this fortress; and concluded that they must drive the American troops from the heights, or leave their station. A plan was formed to attack the fort, but a storm prevented the enterprise: and on the 17th of March, the British troops and fleet departed from Massachusetts; except that several of the armed vessels remained in the lower harbor of Boston for some weeks later. A great part of the British navy had left Boston before this time, and proceeded to New York, and thence to South Carolina. Those who left Boston on the 17th of March, went to Halifax; and soon after to New York, with the regular troops, composing the army intended to subdue the colonies,

* “It is not in the pages of history,” said Washington in a letter, at this time,“ to furnish a case like this: to maintain a post for six months, within musket shot of the enemy, without ammunition; and at the same time, to disband an army and recruit another, within that distance of twelve thousand disciplined and regular troops."

[ocr errors]

CHAPTER XIX.

General Washington, with the American army, proceeds to New York

Address of the General Court and people of Boston, to WashingtonGeneral Thomas ordered to Canada with several regiments—The expedition unsuccessful—Death of General Thomas Declaration of Independence-War in the Middle States—Tories—Militia discipline-Style of writs altered-Calls for the Militia--Great efforts to recruit the ArmyPaper money depreciates-Laws for the relief of the people, and against monopolies—Military affairs at and near New York-Washington proceeds to Delaware - Battle of Trenton and Princeton-Success of Americans under Washington-Enlistments for 1777–Difficulty of raising men for three years—Large bounties given-Massachusetts' Regiments-New emission of paper-High taxes-Attack on Rhode Island, and on St. Johns, in Nova Scotia.

GENERAL WASHINGTON left Cambridge soon after the departure of the British, with a great part of the American army, for New York, where it was supposed the enemy would make their next attack. The general court requested him to leave six regiments, for the defence of Boston and vicinity, in the apprehension that the British might return, after the American troops were withdrawn. He consented that three regiments should remain, which was as great a portion of the army as could well be spared. Some had already been ordered to Canada, under General Thomas; and the residue would be necessary to check the British at New York, if they should visit that place. The troops left for the defence of Boston and the seaboard, were put under command of General Ward. And three other regiments were soon after raised by the general court, to provide an adequate protection.

Before General Washington left Massachusetts, he was addressed by the representatives, declaring their entire approbation of his conduct, and their admiration of his prudence and firmness in the arduous office he sustained. The inhabitants of Boston also addressed him, when he marched into the town, after the British had left it, and assured him of their confidence in his wisdom and patriotism. The troops ordered to Canada, were chiefly from Massachu

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »