Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

military influence, became President in 1829; and exercised his power in the same spirit as his predecessor. The term of his administration expired on the 20th December, 1833. On the 19th, he sent in his resignation to the national convention, and in an address to the people, declared, that the long wished for day had arrived when he could retire into private life, where he should remain, unless his sword should be required in the service of his country. On the 22d, the convention, which was engaged in reviewing the constitution of 1828, elected Don Luis José Orbegoso provisional president; and continued its sessions daily until the 18th January, 1834, when it was dispersed, at the point of the bayonet, by Gamarra and his satellite Bermudez! A bloody engagement ensued; Gamarra was driven from Lima, and at the latest dates was almost alone in Arequipa ; and his wife, who had ably supported him in his ambitious aims, had sailed for Chile.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

ART. IV. - The Writings of George Washington, fc. By

JARED SPARKS. Vols. IV. and V. Boston: 1834.

[ocr errors]

We continue our notice of this interesting work with increased satisfaction. The third volume closed with the evacuation of Boston by the British troops, and the removal of the seat of combat to another portion of our country. The present volumes embrace the period of time between the middle of July, 1776, and the 14th of the same month in the year ’78; a space pregnant with most important and exciting incidents. The battles of Long Island, Trenton, and Princeton; of Brandywine, Germantown, and Monmouth; the occupation of Philadelphia; the intrigues carried on against Washington by the faction, commonly called « Conway's Cabal;" the capture of General Lee, and other less celebrated events, which occurred during these two years, well entitle them to the denomination of trying and momentous eras. We shall, in our necessarily rapid notice of these books, follow the plan we before adopted, of selecting such portions of the correspondence and the appendix, as we judge most likely to repay attention. A word or two, however, of general remark, before we proceed.

We are of opinion, that these Letters will exalt, in no inconsiderable degree, the literary reputation of General Washington. He was not, it is true, a very elegant scholar, or what may be called an accomplished writer; his scholastic attainments were, however, respectable; and his correspondence is plain, vigorous, manly, and clear; never verbose or pedantic. As he was a man of few words in conversation, so, in his letters, he never said

[ocr errors]

99

more than enough; but what he wished to say, he uttered to the point; and sometimes with a strength approaching to fire of language. In this respect, he was not

unlike a distinguished British general, whose fortune it has been, on more than one occasion, to hold the helm of state in England, as he has also led her armies to battle. Indeed, the military characters of the Duke of Wellington and General Washington are by no means dissimilar. The great British captain has the same caution and foresight and steadiness of purpose which marked our revolutionary hero : and the invincible firmness and fortitude, in the midst of extreme difficulties, of the one, were as conspicuous as are those of the other. Both were remarkably cool in the hour of danger and of battle; fertile of expedients when thrown upon their resources; and, at the proper time, showed no less of the fire, than of the patient courage of the true soldier. Our general consummated a glorious military career, by a civic administration, equally illustrious; the British warrior has, in his old age, risked his reputation upon the hazard of holding, with a steady hand, the reins of government, at a time when party spirit and principles rage the loudest. “Nemo beatus ante mortem, we may truly repeat-the future of the Duke of Wellington is dark and lowering; but our Washington is beyond and above the vicissitudes of time. He has reaped his reward.

Washington was a very strict disciplinarian. He was so, not merely with regard to the drilling of his troops, but also to their moral habits and manners, and their deportment generally. Or mere militia, he entertained a very humble estimate; and his letters to congress are full of pressing solicitations to form an army of regular troops. Of the importance of a proper and careful selection of officers, knowing the influence they necessarily exert upon the character of the whole army, he spoke frequently and earnestly in his communications to the president of congress. The same views he urged in a letter to Patrick Henry, then Governor of Virginia, in October (5th,) 1776. He said, among other things, “One circumstance, in this important business, ought to be cautiously guarded against; and that is, the soldiers and officers being too nearly on a level. Discipline and subordination add life and vigour to military movements.

The person commanded yields but a reluctant obedience to those, who, he conceives, are undeservedly made his superiors. The degrees of rank are frequently transferred from civil life into the departments of the army. The true criterion to judge by, when past services do not enter into the competition, is, to consider whether the candidate for office has a just pretension to the character of a gentleman, a proper sense of honour, and some reputation to lose." But though his temper and habits led him to require a most rigid observance of all regulations, humanity was a

striking trait in his character. He did all in his power to mitigate the horrors of war; and to lighten its load upon the unfortunate prisoners whom fortune threw into his power, and the inoffensive inhabitants who took no active part in the contest. The exhortations which, from time to time, in the shape of general orders, he addressed to his troops, (and which are regularly recorded in the Orderly Book,) are fine specimens of manly and spirited addresses to the patriotism and honourable feelings of the soldiery; and evince the upright and pure sentiments which animated the bosom of their commander. They will well bear a comparison with the famous bulletins of Napoleon; and although perhaps no single order may be found, which equals in sublimity the celebrated address of the French leader to his men drawn up for battle under the brow of the everlasting Pyramids, yet the motives which Washington holds up to his troops are as superior in real dignity to those propounded by Bonaparte, as the cause of independence is pre-eminent over the unholy desires of ambition. We have culled a few, as specimens of his style in this species of composition. They were issued in 76.

From the Orderly Book, August 1st. It is with great concern, that the General understands that jealousies have arisen among the troops from the different provinces, and reflections are frequently thrown out, which can only tend to irritate each other, and injure the noble cause in which we are engaged, and which we ought to support with one hand and one heart. The General most earnestly entreats the officers and soldiers to consider the consequences; that they can no way assist our enemies more effectually, than by making divisions among ourselves; that the honor and success of the army, and the safety of our bleeding country, depend upon harmony and good agreement with each other; that the provinces are all united to oppose the common enemy, and all distinctions sunk in the name of an American. To make this name honorable, and to preserve the liberty of our country, ought to be our only emulation; and he will be the best soldier and the best patriot, who contributes most to this glorious work, whatever his station, or from whatever part of the continent he may come.

Let all distinctions of nations, countries, and provinces, therefore, be lost in the generous contest, who shall behave with the most courage against the enemy, and the most kindness and good humour to each other. If there be any officers or soldiers so lost to virtue and a love of their country, as to continue in such practices after this order, the General assures them, and is authorized by Congress to declare to the whole army, that such persons shall be severely punished and dismissed from the service with disgrace.'

" From the Orderly Book, August 3d.—That the troops may have an opportunity of attending public worship, as well as to take some rest after the great fatigue they have gone through, the General in future excuses them from fatigue duty on Sundays, except at the ship-yards, or on special occasions, until further orders. The General is sorry to be informed, that the foolish and wicked practice of profane cursing and swearing, a vice heretofore little known in an American army, is growing into fashion; he hopes the officers will, by example as well as influence, endeavour to check it, and that both they and the men will reflect, that we can have little hope of the blessing of Heaven on our arms, if we insult it by our impiety and folly; added to this, it is a vice so mean and low, without any temptation, that every man of sense and character detests and despises it.'

From the Orderly Book, August 23d.The enemy have now landed on Long Island, and the hour is fast approaching, on which the honor and success of this army, and the safety of our bleeding country will depend. Remember, officers and soldiers, that you are freemen, fighting for the blessings of liberty ; that slavery will be your portion, and that of your posterity, if you do not acquit yourselves like

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

men. Remember how your courage and spirit have been despised and traduced by your cruel invaders; though they have found by dear experience at Boston, Charlestown, and other places, what a few brave men, contending in their own land, and in the best of causes, can do against hirelings and mercenaries. Be cool, but determined; do not fire at a distance, but wait for orders from your officers. It is the General's express orders, that if any man attempt to skulk, lie down, or retreat without orders, he be instantly shot down as an example. He hopes no such will be found in this army; but, on the contrary, that every one for himself resolving to conquer or die, and trusting in the smiles of Heaven upon so just a cause, will behave with bravery and resolution. Those, who are distinguished for their gallantry and good conduct, may depend upon being honorably noticed, and suitably rewarded; and if this army will but emulate and imitate their brave countrymen in other parts of America, he has no doubt they will, by a glorious victory, save their country, and acquire to themselves immortal honor."

The battle of Long Island occurred on the 27th August, '76. Washington had his head-quarters in the city of New York, where the main army was posted; and a considerable detachment was encamped at Brooklyn, protected by military works. The British were in great force on Long Island, and had also a large fleet in New York harbour, their object being the gradual expulsion of the Americans from the city, and if possible from the state. General Greene was entrusted with the command of our troops on the Island; he had superintended the erection of the works, and become familiar with the ground. To his illness, the unfortunate issue of the battle is, in great measure, ascribed. Putnam was sent by Washington to supply the vacancy; and he took the command without the previous information as to details, which was so highly necessary. This general, too, from his advanced age, had lost much of the promptitude, energy, and military address, which had marked his early years. Putnam did not advance beyond the lines at Brooklyn; in fact, no individual officer had command in the engagement. Lord Stirling and General Sullivan commanded distinct detachments; and both these officers fell into the hands of the enemy. Owing to this circumstance, no detailed official account of the action was ever furnished to Washington. The disparity of force was very great. The number of our troops who took part in the action was about 5000; the rest of the army, say, 3500 men, remaining within the lines. The British mustered 17,000 regular troops, well supplied with field-pieces and every other military appointment. The result was a natural one; though the Americans behaved with great gallantry. Washington immediately repaired to the scene of action, and the opinion of his council concurring with his own,

it was determined to evacuate Long Island. The retreat was performed with great ability, and without loss: and was pronounced by General Greene to be the best effected retreat he ever read or heard of, considering the difficulties.

It is known that our army, shortly afterwards, abandoned the city of New York to the superior force of the enemy, and posted itself

upon the Heights of Haerlem. A skirmish ensued between

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

a detachment of the troons and some of the enemy, who attempted a landing on the shore of the East River, above the city, under cover of the fire of their ships. The cowardly behaviour of some of the brigades is said to have excited Washington in a remarkabie manner. The note of Mr. Sparks, alluding to the incident, is as follows:

“The conduct of General Washington on this occasion has been described, as not being marked by his usual self-command. In writing from Haerlem Heights to a friend, General Greene said:

—We made a miserable, disorderly retreat from New York, owing to the disorderly conduct of the militia, who ran at the appearance of the enemy's advanced guard. Fellows's and Parsons's brigades ran away from about fifty men, and left his Excellency on the ground within eighty yards of the enemy, so vexed at the infamous conduct of the troops, that he sought death rather than life.'~MS. Letter, September 17th. Dr. Gordon relates the incident nearly in the same way, though a little enlarged, and, as he was in camp soon afterwards, he probably derived his information from a correct source. "The General's attempts to stop the troops were fruitless, though he drew his sword and threatened to run them through, cocked and snapped his pistols. On the appearance of a small party of the enemy, not more than sixty or seventy, their disorder was increased, and they ran off without firing a single shot, and left the General in a hazardous situation, so that his attendants, to extricate him out of it, caught the bridle of his horse, and gave him a different direction.'—Gordon's History, Vol. II.

p.

327.” Washington himself describes the occurrence, in his letter to the President of Congress of the 16th September, *76.

“As soon as I heard the firing, I rode with all possible despatch towards the place of landing, when, to my great surprise and mortification, I found the troops that had been posted in the lines, retreating with the utmost precipitation, and those ordered to support them (Parsons's and Fellows's brigades) flying in every direction, and in the greatest confusion, notwithstanding the exertions of their generals to form them. I used every means in my power to rally and get them into some order; but my attempts were fruitless and ineffectual; and on the appearance of a small party of the enemy, not more than sixty or seventy, their disorder increased, and they ran away in the greatest confusion, without firing a single shot.”

Washington gradually removed his army from Haerlem Heights to White Plains, retreating, though with a bold front, before the far superior force of the enemy. During the whole of this harassing period, he endured great personal labour, being continually on horseback. On the 12th of November, '76, he passed over to Jersey. Here commenced the most trying and critical period of the whole revolutionary war; and at no time were the heroic patience and ardent patriotism of the Commander-in-chief more conspicuous. We shall mention, in a general way, some of the principal causes which rendered the prospects of the contest so very dismal.

All the States were extremely inattentive in levying their quotas of men. Naturally perhaps, each was, also, more careful of her own safety than of her neighbour's, and not over-willing to send troops beyond her own borders. The militia system, which then prevailed, was totally unsuited to the exigency of the crisis. The periods for which the militia was enlisted were very short; and when they expired, no inducement could secure

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »