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Chap. Vii. mittees to co-operate with him in removing the 1776. stock and grain in the small islands near the coast; which, if permitted to remain, would inevitably fall into their hands; but this wise precaution had been only in part executed, and general Howe soon obtained partial supplies for himself and army.
The effect, with which the British arms had been opposed in New England, had demonstrated to administration the very serious complexion of the war, and the necessity of employing in it a force vastly more considerable, than they had originally supposed could possibly be required. In addition therefore to the national troops, they had subsidized about thirteen thousand Hessians and Waldeckers, and it was also determined to employ a powerful fleet in this important service.
As had been foreseen by general Washington, the great effort was now to be made on the Hudson. A variety of considerations suggested the policy of transferring the seat of war to this part of the continent. Such is the formation of the country on the sea board, being divided into islands assailable in every direction by a maritime force, that it requires for defence against a conjoint attack by land and water, not only complete fortifications, but a very formidable army also. The same causes which render this part of the United States so vulnerable to an invading enemy commanding the sea, secure that enemy in the possession of it, after Chap.vh. it has been acquired. It must always be found 1776. extremely difficult to drive even an inferior army from this post, without first obtaining a naval superiority.
The British general was invited to New York, not only by the facility with which that position could be taken and retained, but by the great and superior advantages it offered in the prosecution of the war. Long island, of the secure possession of which he could not entertain a doubt, unless his force should be insufficient to make any impression whatever on America, was a very fertile country, abounding in provisions; and would of itself furnish large supplies to his army. From this post too it was optional with him to carry the war* eastwardly into New England, northwardly into the state of New York, or westwardly into the Jerseys and Pennsylvania; or, if too weak to attempt the conquest of either, he could retire into a place of security, and either harass the American army, and the adjacent country, or carry on expeditions against distant parts of the continent. In fact, it enabled him to command perfectly his own operations, and to choose the scene of action. The possession of the Hudson too, would open to him the most direct communication with Canada, and enable him very greatly to interrupt the intercourse between the eastern and southern states. In
Vol. r1. 3 H
eHap,vn. addition to these circumstances, he would
1776. cover his friends, who in turn would recruit
his army, and supply it with those necessaries,
the want of which he had severely experienced
The command of the fleet destined for this service was intrusted to lord Howe, the brother of the general; and they were both , constituted commissioners for restoring peace to the colonies, and granting pardons, with such exceptions as they should think proper to make. Lord Howe, who had been detained some time in England soliciting an enlarge, . . ment of his powers as commissioner, arrived at Halifax about a fortnight after his brother had left that place, and lost no time in proceeding after him to Staten island, which he reached jaiynT the twelfth of July.1
General Washington soon received evidence of the difficulty attending his efforts to present this important river from an enemy, possessing so powerful a fleet as was now to act against him. Two frigates passed his batteries without injury, and sailed up towards the highlands, the passes of which were of essential importance, and were very weakly defended, hwas apprehended that on board these frigates migb1 be a small body of troops, and arms for the numerous disaffected of that country, with jvliose aid, sudden possession might be taken Chap.vh. of these important positions. It was impos- 1776. sible still further to weaken the army at New York for the defence of these passes, and therefore the militia were called upon to maintain them. The frigates, however, did not make the attempt which was apprehended from them; but, by retaining this station, they cut off the communication by water, between the army at New York and that at Ticonderoga. To remove this interruption, a plan was formed to set the frigates on fire by means of a fire-ship. This plan, though considerable address and courage were manifested in the attempt, failed in the execution; and only a tender was burnt. The frigates returned, but this fact demonstrated a truth which the general had before believed, that a ship with a fair wind would pass his batteries at pleasure, unless stopped before them by obstacles in the channel.
Notwithstanding the declaration of independence had now been made, lord Howe determined, while the troops from Europe were arriving, to try the influence of the powers for
pacification which had been committed to him.
He sent on shore, by a flag, a circular letter, J"'r "dated off the coast of Massachussetts, addressed severally to the late governors under the crown, enclosing a declaration which he requested them to make public; and which announced to the
Chap.Vii. people his authority to grant pardons to any 1776. number or description of persons, who, during the tumult and disasters of the times, might have deviated from their just allegiance, and who might be willing, by a speedy return to their duty, to reap the benefits of the royal favour; and to declare any colony, town, port, or place, in the peace and under the protection of the crown, and excepted from the penal provisions of the act of parliament prohibiting all trade and intercourse with the colonies. This letter also contained assurances that the meritorious services of all persons who should aid and assist in restoring public tranquility in the colonies, or in any parts thereof, would be duly considered.
These papers were immediately transmitted joiyia. by the commander in chief to congress, who resolved that they should " be published in the several gazettes, that the good people of the United States might be informed of what nature were the commissioners, and what the terms, with the expectation of which, the insidious court of Britain had sought to amuse and disarm them; and that the few who still remained suspended by a hope founded either in the justice or moderation of their late king, might, now at length be convinced, that the valour alone of their country is to save its liberties." About the same time that these papers were put into circulation, lord Howe sent, with a flag, a letter addressed to "George Washington