Page images





[ocr errors]

contractors had prevailed for some to despair by their lorig continued time and finally became so notorious sufferings, deserted their colors and as to constitute a scandal. As far joined the British at Philadelphia. back as 1776, John Adams had writ. The majority of these, however, were ten to his wife: “ There is too much foreigners who had entered the

ption even in this infant age of American service,* the Americans our republic. Virtue is not in persevering and preferring starvafashion. Vice is not infamous. * * * tion rather than violate the faith they The spirit of venality you mention is had pledged to their the most dreadful and alarming Undoubtedly, had Howe not reenemy America has to oppose. It is mained inactive at this time and had as rapacious and insatiable as the he been of an enterprising nature, the grave. * * * This predominant American army could easily have avarice will ruin America if she is been annihilated. Without military ever ruined. * * * I am ashamed stores, in a half-starved condition, of the age I live in." * Hence it was most of the troops sick and in the that the hospital resembled more a hospital, and the other half hardly morgue than a refuge for the sick, for able to stand because of frost-bitten those who entered were more likely feet, the army could have offered to emerge dead than cured. Conse- little resistance to Howe's well-fed, quently, the hospital became the well-clothed, and well-equipped vetterror of the army, the soldiers erans. Howe said that he “ did not preferring to take their chances in attack the intrenched situation at the cold open air rather than to be Valley Forge, a strong point during buried alive in the midst of the dead. the severe season, although every

Probably few can imagine the thing was prepared with that intenhardships through which the Ameri- tion, judging it imprudent until the can army passed in the course of this season should afford a prospect of winter, and the soldiers are to be reaping the advantages that ought to much admired for the firmness with have resulted from success in that which they bore their sufferings. It measure, but having good informacould hardly be hoped that under the tion in the spring that the enemy had circumstances there would be no desertion, and considering the fact * Trevelyan, American Revolution, vol. iv., p. also that the Loyalists were holding

† See The Examination of Joseph Galloway out large inducements to those who (Balch's ed.); Ford's ed. of Washington's Writwould abandon the American cause.

ings, vol. vi. pp. 253, 257,258, 261-262, 267, 286,

358, 361, 379, 381, 436, 437; Bolton, The Private Consequently, a small number, driven

Soldier under Washington, p. 240; Drake, Life of

Knox, pp. 55–56; Van Tyne, Loyalists of the * C. F. Adams (ed.), Letters of John Adams American Revolution, p. 157; Greene, Life of Addressed to his Wife, vol. i., pp. 166, 171. Greene, vol. i., pp. 536–541.



strengthened the camp by additional commerce.” Pennsylvania passed an works, and being certain of moving act against forestalling and another him from thence when the campaign regulating the supply of wagons for should open, he dropped thoughts of transporting impressed provisions to an attack." * Washington said that camp.* if Howe had attacked the army, the Probably the chief reason for the Americans could not even have re- deficiency of food and other supplies treated, because means of transporta in a country abounding with provition were lacking.t On February 1, sions was the confusion prevailing in 1778, more than 4,000 troops were in the commissary department. In the capable of any kind of service for lack earlier stages of the war, the office of clothing, and the condition of the of commissary-general had been conbalance was but little better, so that ferred upon Colonel Joseph Trumout of 11,000 or 12,000 men in the bull of Connecticut, who was uncamp, Washington could have mus- doubtedly well fitted for that positered 5,000 fit for duty only with the tion, but so difficult was the task of greatest difficulty.

arranging this complicated departWashington therefore addressed ment that even before the Valley energetic remonstrances to Congress Forge experience the army was comand to the various States, and these pelled to go without much needed had some effect, though not in the supplies. Congress had early conmeasure that Washington expected. sidered the subject, but the remedy The convention of the eight Northern applied served only to increase the States that Congress had recom- disease, and when the system sugmended met at New Haven and gested by Congress was instituted, agreed upon a scale of prices at which its arrangements were such that Col-. provisions and clothing should be onel Trumbull resigned his position furnished to the army. “Some of in that department and retired to the states attempted, by legislation, private life. This was due chiefly to to enforce the New Haven scale of the fact that subordinate officers were prices generally; but these attempts accountable to Congress, and not to proved no more successful than for- the head of the department, that mer ones of the same sort. Recourse officer having no authority over them. was also had, with the same object in Though Washington had opposed the view, to internal embargoes, which establishment of such a system, Conproved a great embarrassment to gress persisted, and it was not long


* See Carrington, Battles of the Revolution, p. 402; General Howe's Narrative, p. 30.

† Ford's ed. of Washington's Writings, vol. viii., p. 504.

Hildreth, History of the United States, vol. iii., p. 232.

† Trevelyan, American Revolution, vol. iv., pp. 292–293.

STARVATION IN CAMP; WASHINGTON'S PROCLAMATION. 75 before difficulties began to unfold such requisitioned provisions in themselves. This was manifested in money if he had it, or, if not, in public every military division on the con- certificates. But Washington experitinent. Never had the armies been enced much difficulty in obtaining able to operate as Washington wished, these provisions, because Congress because their movements were al- failed to provide funds to take up ways hampered by a lack of supplies, these certificates when presented. provisions, ammunition, etc. The On the other hand, the British in sufferings at Valley Forge were Philadelphia were only too willing to simply the inevitable outcome of a pay a fair price in specie for such totally inefficient system.

goods as the people in the surroundMatters finally came to such a pass ing country brought in. As a result, that even meat unfit to be eaten was the temptation was too great for the issued, and soon no meat at all was country people to resist,* and they to be had. On one occasion Wash- eluded the troops which Washington ington wrote: “ For several days sent out to gather these provisions, there has been little less than a and instead conveyed them to Philafamine in camp. A part of the army delphia. Washington, therefore, at have been a week without any flesh, the urgent request of Congress, isand the rest three or four days. sued a proclamation requiring all Naked and starving as they are, we farmers within seventy miles of cannot enough admire the incompar- Valley Forge to thresh out one-half able patience and fidelity of the sol- of their grain by the 1st of February diers, that they have not been ere this and the other half by the 1st of excited by their sufferings to a gen- March, under the penalty that unless eral mutiny and dispersion. Strong this were done, the whole would be symptoms, however, of discontent- seized as straw. Many of the farmment have appeared in particular in- ers, however, refused to accede to stances; and nothing but the most this demand and in many cases deactive efforts everywhere can long fended their grain and their cattle avert so shocking a catastrophe."* with their rifles, in some instances Washington, on a number of occa- even going so far as to burn the grain sions, made representations on this then ripening in the fields. subject to Congress, and that body had Washington was filled with anguish authorized him to seize provisions for at the condition of the army, but what the use of the army within seventy gave him more pain was the example miles of headquarters and to pay for set by some of the officers, who openly

declared that they would resign their * Sparks, Life of Washington, pp. 255-256 ; Irving, vol. iii., p. 400; Trevelyan, American Revolu * Van Tyne, Loyalists in the Revolution, pp. tio, vol. iv., pp. 294–295.




commissions unless conditions were are not to learn that, however ignorant of that soon remedied. Many of them had

happy art in your own person, the bulk of us bi

peds know well how to balance solid pudding already left the army to enter upon against empty praise. There are other things, my more lucrative employment,* chiefly

dear sir, beside virtue which are their own re

ward." * because the paper money had so depreciated that the officers were not Washington urged that Congress only unable to live up to their station, grant half pay to the officers but could not even provide the the war, either for life or for a certain necessities of life. Their private re- specified time.t In doing so, he dissources had become exhausted; many claimed any personal interest as to had become involved in debt; and it how this matter might be settled, but was evident that unless this situation he said that it was easy to talk about were remedied, the army would be patriotism and to cite a few examples deprived of the majority of its most from ancient history of great enterefficient officers. Washington put prises carried to a successful concluforth every effort to bring about a sion by patriotism alone; but those change in the affairs of the army, who thought that a long and bloody exerting all his influence to persuade war could be carried on for any great the officers to remain in the service. length of time simply by individual He also urged Congress to take some sacrifices were laboring under a great step to meet the emergency. In reply delusion; that it was necessary to to one of. Washington's letters re- deal with men as they are and not as garding the resignations of officers they ought to be; that love of country under these trying circumstances, had been a strong point in the greater Gouverneur Morris said:

part of the operations up to the "We are going on with the regimental arrange

present time, but that to continue the ments as fast as possible, and I think the day contest on this basis was utterly imbegins to appear with respect to that business. Had our Saviour addressed a chapter to the rulers

possible; and that it would be necesof mankind, as he did many to the subjects, I sary to give the officers and soldiers am persuaded his good sense would have dictated

some incentive for a continuance of this text: Be not wise over much. Had the sev. eral members who compose our multifarious body their services so that they might not been only wise enough, our business would long altogether abandon the cause. I since have been completed. But our superior abili.

At first the members of Congress ties, or the desire of appearing to possess them, lead us to such exquisite tediousness of debate that were much opposed to granting the most precious moments pass unheeded away. Washington's rou

: Washington's requests, many deem* * * As to what you mention of the extraordinary demeanor of some gentlemen, I cannoting them not only extraordinary and but agree with you that such conduct is not the most honorable. But, on the other hand, you must allow that it is the most safe, and certainly you

* Roosevelt, Gouverneur Morris, p. 84.

† See Sparks, Life of Washington, pp. 258–263. * Sparks' ed. of Washington's Writings, vol. v., I Sparks' ed. of Washington's Writings, vol. V., pp. 305, 312, 313, 322, 351, vol. vi., p. 168.

p. 323.

« PreviousContinue »