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the peninsula of Charlestown, and in full view CHAP. IV. of it. A strong intrenchment was also thrown 1775. up at Sewal's farm ; in addition to which, such intermediate points on the river as would admit of the landing of troops, were occupied and strengthened. At Roxbury, where general Thomas commanded, a strong work had been erected on the hill about two hundred yards from the meeting house, which, aided by the difficulties of the ground, was relied on to secure that pass. • The troops from New Hampshire with a regiment from Rhode Island, amounting in the whole to somewhat less than two thousand men, occupied Winter hill. About a thousand men commanded by general Putnam, being a part of the Connecticut line, were on Prospect hill. The residue of the Connecticut troops and nine regiments from Massachussetts, making in the whole between four and five thousand men, were stationed at Roxbury. The remaining troops of Rhode Island were placed at Sewal's farm, and the residue of the forces of Massachussetts Bay at Cambridge, except about seven hundred men who were dispersed along the coast in several small towns, to prevent the casual depredations of the enemy.
Thus the American lines were extended over a very considerable space, nor could they be contracted without opening to the enemy a communication with the country. The comVOL. II.
CHAP. IV. mander in chief made no other immediate 1775.
change in the disposition of the troops, than to arrange and organize them more distinctly. For this purpose the army was thrown into three. grand divisions. That part of it which lay about Roxbury, constituted the right wing, which was now commanded by major general Ward: those troops about Mystic, or Medford river, formed the left; which was placed under the command of major general Lee, who was himself stationed on Prospect hill. The centre division, including the reserve, was under the immediate command of general Washington, whose head quarters were at Cambridge.
The general found himself at the head of about fourteen thousand five hundred men, with which he had to defend this extensive camp, and to continue the blockade of the enemy on the land side. This force was by no means so considerable as the common opinion made it, and a variety of circumstances combined to render it still less efficient, than from its numbers alone might have been expected.
So long had the hope of avoiding open hostilities been indulged, that the time for making preparations to meet them had passed away unemployed, and the neglect could not be remedied. No adequate supplies of military stores had been procured, and there was, really, but a very inconsiderable quantity of CHAP.IV. them in the country. On general Washington's 1775. first arrival in camp, he had ordered a return Deficiency of the ammunition to be made, and the report in arms and stated three hundred and three barrels of powder to be in the stores. A few days after this return, on directing a fresh supply to the troops, the alarming discovery was made, that there were in reality on hand, only nine thousand nine hundred and forty pounds, not more than sufficient to furnish each man with nine cartridges. This mistake in the quantity had been produced by a misapprehension of the committee of supplies, (for the magazines were not yet in the possession of military officers) who, instead of returning the actually existing quantity, reported the whole which had been originally furnished by the province, thereby including in the estimate what had been already expended. The utmost possible exertions were necessary to relieve this essential want. They were made in every direction. All the colonial governments and committees, as well as congress, were applied to, and entreated to send every pound of powder and lead which could be spared. “No quantity however small,” they were assured, “ was beneath notice.” In the mean time every saving was practised, and every effort was used to bring these essential articles into the country. This critical state of things continued for about a fortnight, when the danger resulting from it
CHAP. IV. was in some degree diminished by the arrival 1775. of a small supply of powder sent from Elizabeth
town in New Jersey. The difficulties to be encountered by those who then conducted the affairs of America, may be, in some degree, conjectured from a circumstance attending this transaction. All essential to the general safety, as it apparently was, to replenish with the utmost possible expedition the magazines, of that army, which encamped in the face of the enemy, the committee of Elizabeth town were under the necessity of transmitting privately, and under other pretexts, this necessary aid, lest the people of the neighbourhood should seize and retain it for their own security.
The utmost address was used to conceal from the enemy the alarming deficiency which has been stated; but when it is recollected in how many various directions, and to what various authorities application for assistance was unavoidably made, it will appear scarcely possible that those efforts at secrecy could have been completely successful. It is more probable, that the communications which must have been made to the British general were not credited; and that he could not persuade himself to believe, that a body of troops, circumstanced as was the American army in other respects, would be hardy enough to maintain the position they occupied, if destitute of ammunition. He knew well, that the want of powder must be
rendered still more fatal to them by other wants CHAP. IV. which could not be relieved. That of bayonets 1775. was peculiarly distressing. Their deficiency in this article was very considerable and was of public notoriety.
The people of New England were incomparably better armed than those of any other part of the continent; but even among them this important weapon was very far from being common, and the government had not yet even attempted to lay up magazines of arms to be delivered to their soldiers. The army was also in such need of tents, as to be unavoidably lodged in barracks, instead of encamping in the open field, a circumstance extremely unfavourable to any sudden collection of its force, and not less unfavourable to health and discipline.
As the troops had been raised, not by congress, but by the colonial governments, each of which had a different establishment, no uniformity existed among the regiments. In Massachussetts, the men had chosen their officers, and felt no inferiority to them. Ani. mated with the spirit of liberty, and collected for its defence, they were not immediately sensible of the importance of discipline, nor could they, in an instant, be subjected to its rules. The army was consequently found in a state of almost entire disorganization, and the difficulty of establishing the necessary principles