« PreviousContinue »
CHAP. V. purpose of transporting the troops to the scene 1776. of action. He was also directed to have the St.
Lawrence, above and below Quebec, explored, in order to fix on proper places to oppose by armed boats or otherwise, an enemy attempting to enter the country by that river. To complete the nine battalions voted for this service, one from Pennsylvania, and one from New Jersey were ordered to march immediately to Albany, two others were to be formed of the troops already with Montgomery; and the remaining number to be raised, one in Pennsylvania, and the others in New England and New York.
Whilst congress were thus adopting means for the preservation of a colony believed to be
already annexed to the union, the melancholy January 17. intelligence was received, of the disaster of
the 31st December. The necessity of making great exertions now became apparent. It was resolved that the utmost possible dispatch in forwarding re-enforcements, ought to be used, as well for the relief of their friends, as for the better security of the liberties, not only of that colony, but of all the United Colonies. Expresses were dispatched to expedite the bat. talions ordered from Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and the committee of safety in the former province was requested to obtain in Philadelphia, a sufficient number of blankets to enable the men to move in that inclement season. The colonial governments were urged
to use all possible means for raising as speedily CHAP. V. as possible, the battalions voted a few days 1776. before for Canada, and a bounty of six dollars and two thirds of a dollar, was allowed to each man who would inlist for that service, if furnished with a stand of arms, which was to remain his own property; and four dollars were offered to every person who would inlist without arms. The respective conventions too were requested to collect all the specie they could by any means obtain for the use of the Canadian army. These measures for re-enforcing the northern army were in some degree accelerated by having been anticipated by the commander in chief.*
The service in Canada was deemed of too February 17. much importance to be intrusted to colonel, now brigadier general Arnold, or to general Wooster, and the health of general Schuyler would not admit of his proceeding to Quebec. General Lee, an officer standing high in the public opinion, was ordered to take command of the army in that province. To remove the complaints respecting the want of heavy artil.
* On the first intelligence received in the camp at Boston, of the fate of Montgomery, general Washington, though extremely delicate respecting the assumption of power, without waiting for the orders of congress, had immediately requested the New England governments to raise several regiments to re-enforce that army. This measure was approved by congress.
Chap. v. lery, the government of New York was re. 1776. quested to supply him with cannon not exceed
ing twelve pieces, and one or more mortars, if to be had, as also with balls, shells, and other necessaries for the siege or assault of Quebec. But before general Lee could enter on this service, the opposite extreme of the union was so threatened by the enemy, that the destination of this officer was changed, and he was ordered to take command in the southern department. Brigadier general Thomas, lately created a major general, who had commanded with reputation at Roxbury, and concerning whose military capacity a very favourable opinion had been formed, was appointed to Canada.
In the hope of exciting universally in that province the sentiments which prevailed through the United Colonies, and of forming with it a perfect union, mr. Franklin, mr. Chase, and mr. Carrol were deputed as commissioners with full powers on this subject, and with instructions to establish a free press. These com. missioners were instructed to assure the people that they would be permitted to adopt such form of government as would be agreeable to them. selves, to exercise freely all the rights of conscience, and to be considered as a sister colony, governed by the same general system of mild and equal laws which prevailed in the other colonies; with only such local differences as
each might deem conducive to its own happi. CHAP. V. ness. They were also instructed to inquire 1776. into the conduct of the American officers and soldiers, and to correct any irregularities offen. sive to the people, of which they might have been guilty.
Congress seem to have entertained respecting the Canadians, the opinion expressed by general Washington in a letter to general Schuyler, “ that the province could only be secured by laying hold of the affections of the people, and engaging them heartily in the common cause." With respect to individuals who had suffered for their adherence to the Americans, they pursued the same magnanimous policy which had been adopted with regard to general Lee and and others.... they indemnified the sufferers.
In the mean time Arnold maintained, under all his difficulties, the blockade of Quebec. The re- Blockade enforcements ordered by congress were of ne- continuech cessity slow in arriving. The great distance of the march, and the difficulty and delay in fitting the soldier for the extreme severity of the winter in that cold region, made it impracticable even for those battalions which were already raised, and which, on the first intelligence of the disaster of the 31st of December, had been ordered to his assistance, to reach him until the spring. Aware of the urgency of his situation, they were pressed forward in small detachments, as fast as they could possibly be prepared; but
CHAP. V. such were the difficulties to be surmounted, that 1776. they could do little more than supply the places
of the discharged, and keep up the show of an army, incapable of efficient service. From the first of January to the first of March, his effectives had never exceeded seven hundred, and had often been as low as five hundred men. In March, re-enforcements arrived in greater numbers, and the army was increased to a total of seventeen hundred; but many of them were sick. The small-pox had made its way into camp, and every attempt to remove it was rendered ineffectual by the soldiers, who, disregarding all orders, procured themselves privately to be inoculated.
In order to render in any degree effectual the blockade of Quebec, this small army, which occupied the island of Orleans and both sides of the St. Lawrence, was unavoidably spread over a circuit of twenty-six miles, and divided by three ferries. About fourteen hundred of them, were inlisted to serve only until the 15th of April, and no hope was entertained that they could be prevailed on to continue for a longer time. Under these circumstances the establishment of exact discipline was impossible. Great irregularities and waste of public stores prevailed; and, notwithstanding the earnest and explicit directions both of congress and general Washington, continually enforced by general Schuyler, the Canadians were often injured and