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ner maintained through the winter months. Washington had deemed it feasible to attack the city in boats, and more than once brought forward a project for that purpose, but was checked by the unanimous opinion against it of his officers in a council of war. Besides the deficient supply of powder, and the other difficulties of his situation which have elsewhere been explained, he had also to strive against the evils resulting from the short periods of enlistment. These evils were such that, as Washington declares, no person who had not witnessed them could form an idea of their extent. He adds: "It takes you two or three months to bring new men "acquainted with their duty: it takes a longer time to bring "a people of the temper and genius of these into such a sub"ordinate way of thinking as is necessary for a soldier. Be"fore this is accomplished the time approaches for their dis"missal, and you are beginning to make interest for their "continuance for another limited period; in the doing of "which you are obliged to relax in your discipline, in order "as it were to curry favour with them. Thus the latter part "of your time is employed in undoing what the first was ac"complishing!" Washington found also that the patriotism of New England, which he had admired at a distance, was by no means so conspicuous when closely viewed. Thus he charges the Connecticut troops with "scandalous conduct," observing of them that "a dirty mercenary spirit pervades "the whole." And of Massachusetts he remarks: "Notwith"standing all the public virtue which is ascribed to these "people, there is no nation under the sun, thatlever came "across, which pays greater adoration to money than they "do." And again, in another place: "Such a dearth of "public [spirit] and want of virtue; such stock-jobbing and "fertility in all the low arts to obtain advantages of one "kind or another in this great change of military manage"ment, I never saw before, and pray God I may never De "witness to again!"*
* Letters to Joseph Reed, Nov. 28. 1775, February 1, and 10. 177«,
No wonder if at that time, under such circumstances and with such coadjutors, this great man regretted — never indeed the cause he had espoused — but sometimes the rank he had accepted. — "Could I have foreseen what I have, "and am like to, experience, no consideration upon earth "should have induced me to accept this command. A regi"ment, or any subordinate department, would have been "accompanied with ten times the satisfaction — perhaps ten "times the honour."
Meanwhile the English, enclosed in Boston, had to encounter evils of another kind. The small-pox raged among them, and so ill-contrived was the commissariat that, notwithstanding their command of the sea, their supplies, both of food and fuel, were neither plentiful nor constant. It became impossible to supply fresh meat or vegetables even to the sick and wounded. It became necessary in some cases to pull down houses, that the timber might be used for firing. Many perplexities moreover arose in the mind of their General. It seemed to him that considering the enemy's works around the bay, and the thorough disaffection in the province, Boston would be a most unfavourable point from whence to issue in the ensuing spring, and begin the campaign against the insurgents. It seemed to him far preferable that the army should be embarked and directed towards New York, where means of transport were plenty, where the friends of the King were numerous, and where his standard might best be raised. Such had also been the opinion of his predecessor in office, General Gage.* The Ministry in London, impressed by views such as these from so concurring and so competent advisers, gave their assent to them, authorizing Howe to remove the troops from Boston when
and to the President of Congress, Dec. 4. 1775. Most of those passages or epithets have been excluded from Mr. Sparks's compilation.
* Despatch of General Gage to the Earl of Dartmouth, July 24. 1775. See also Lord Barrington's Life by the Bishop of Durham (p. 140.), by which it appears that so early as November 12. 1774, the Secretary at War had suggested to the Cabinet whether the troops and their General "should "not be directed to leave a place where at present they can do no good "and may do harm."—How just a foresight of Lexington and Bunker's Hill I ever he might judge it expedient. His own inferior officers, unapprised of this design, were rather disposed to murmur at the neglect of England. Thus writes one of them: "For "these last six weeks or near two months we have been "better amused than could possibly be expected in our "situation. We had a theatre, we had balls, and there is "actually a subscription on foot for a masquerade. England "seems to have forgot us, and we endeavoured to forget "ourselves." *
Such was the state of things at Boston when early in March, the rigour of the cold having somewhat abated, General Washington, having received large reinforcements, roused his troops to offensive operations. He began to throw up works on Dorchester Heights, facing the city on the side opposite to Charleston, and commanding the British lines on Boston Neck. Thus it became necessary for the British commander either to dislodge the enemy or to evacuate the place. General Howe, as we have seen, was not unprepared for the latter alternative; nevertheless he deemed it ignominious to give way at once before the advancing "rebels," and determined on an immediate attack, being, as he states, encouraged in this hazardous enterprise by the ardour of his troops. The vanguard, consisting of several regiments, was already embarked, and fell down to Castle William, from whence the descent was to be made. Thus a general action seemed close at hand, to be fought on the anniversary of that event most unjustly and wrongfully termed the Massacre of Boston. That event was fresh in the minds of the enemy, and a cry of "Remember the fifth of "March!" ran along the American lines. At this crisis the intended combatants were parted by a higher power than their own. A most violent storm arose, scattering the British boats, and rendering their attempt impracticable. By the time that it could be renewed the works on Dorchester Heights had so much advanced and had grown so strong that, as General Howe conceived, they could no longer be
* Letter, March 3. 1776. American Archives, vol. v. p. 425.
1776. THE BRITISH TROOPS LEAVE BOSTON. 87
assailed with anyprospectof success. Accordingly reverting to his first idea, he made hasty preparations to embark the troops and evacuate the town. Here again he had to strive against the shameful negligence which at that period pervaded the whole civil administration of the British military service. Thus writes one of his officers: "When the trans"ports came to be examined they were void of both provisions ''and forage. If any are got on board to-day, it will be as "much as can be done. Never were troops in so disgraceful "a situation; and that not in the least our own fault, or owing "to any want of skill or discretion in our commanders, "but entirely owing to GreatBritain being fast asleep. I pity "General Howe from my soul!" *
No compact or convention of any kind passed between the British and American commanders; but, through the mediation of the "SelectMen" of Boston, there was in some degree a tacit understanding, that if during the embarkation the troops were not molested, the town should not be injured. During this interval, however, Castle William was wholly dismantled, and in great part demolished. On the morning of the 17th the last of the British troops embarked, and that same afternoon Boston was entered by General Israel Putnam and the American vanguard. Washington himself visited the town next day, and found himself enthusiastically welcomed. The British fleet however, with the troops on board, remained ten days longer in Nantasket Roads, ^s it proved they were only completing the preparations for their voyage, but Washington might reasonably apprehend that they designed a parting blow. His apprehensions on this subject were increased by the moderate esteem in which he held the men of Massachusetts. Thus he writes: "I am taking every "precaution I can to guard against the evil; but we have a "kind of people to deal with who will not fear danger till the "bayonet is at their breast; and then they are susceptible "enough of it." **
* See the American Archives, vol. v. p. 426.
"To Joseph Reed, March 25. 177*. Washington's army at this time,
Having with much ado made the ships seaworthy, General Howe set sail, directing his course to Halifax, which he designed as the head quarters of his army until the reinforcements from England should arrive. From the grievous deficiencies of the transport service he had been compelled to leave behind a large amount of stores and ordnance, and to spike many excellent pieces of artillery. On the other hand he had taken with him, at their own urgent request, above a thousand of the inhabitants of Boston, who had espoused the cause of the parent state, and who dreaded on that account the vengeance of their countrymen. Before they had embarked they had, as Washington informs his brother, publicly declared that "if they thought the most "abject submission would procure them peace they never "would have stirred."* Indeed throughout this contest, and amidst all the qualities displayed by the Americans — many of those qualities being entitled to high respect and commendation — there was none certainly less amiable than their merciless rancour against those among them who adhered to the Koyal side. In reference to those, a ferocious saying came to be current in America, that though we are commanded to forgive our enemies, we are nowhere commanded to forgive our friends.** In reference to them true Jedburgh justice was more than once administered—first the punishment, then the accusation, and last of all the evidence! In reference to them, the most ordinary feelings of compassion were suspended. Even so generous and exalted a mind as Washington's does not always form an exception to this remark. Thus in the letter to his brother, from which I just now quoted, he speaks of the exiles from Boston in
by the Adjutants return, amounted to 21,800 men, of which number however 2,700 were sick. (Life, by Sparks, p. 175.) Howe's troops by their Provision Returns were only 7,579 besides the men in hospital, amounting to between five and six hundred more. (American Archives, vol. v. p. 489.)
* Letter to John Augustine Washington, March 31. 1776, as printed in the American Archives.
** Qrahame's History, vol. iv. p. 321. Mr. Grabame does not seem to be aware that this saying is quoted by Bacon in his Essay on Revenge, and ascribed to the Invention of Cosmo Duke of Florence.