Part 7 out of 11
The town did not surrender, the Governor refused to come out and
fight. So seeing the uselessness of his summons Arnold marched away
about twenty miles, and encamped to wait for Montgomery's arrival
from Montreal. He soon arrived. But even with hid men the colonists
only numbered about eight hundred, far too small a company with
which to besiege a fortress such as Quebec. Still they resolved to
take the place by storm.
It was early on the morning of the 1st of January, 1776, that they
made the attempt in the teeth of a blinding snow storm. Arnold
led the assault on one side of the town, Montgomery on the other.
With tremendous dash and bravery the colonists carried the first
barricades, and forced their way into the town. But almost at the
outset Montgomery was killed. A little later Arnold was sorely
wounded, and had to be carried back to the camp. Both leaders gone,
the heart went out of the men, and they retreated, leaving many
prisoners at the hands of the British.
The great assault had failed, but sick and wounded though he was,
Arnold did not lose heart. He still kept up a show of besieging
Quebec. "I have no thought of leaving this proud town, " he said,
"until I first enter it in triumph. I am in the way of my duty and
know no fear." But the only chance of taking Quebec was to take
it in the winter, while the St. Lawrence was closed with ice, so
that the British ships could not reach it with reinforcements and
supplies. Arnold therefore sent to Washington begging for five
thousand troops. Such a number it was impossible for Washington
to spare from his little army, and only a few reinforcements were
sent, most of whom reached Arnold utterly exhausted with their long
tramp through the pathless wilderness. Smallpox, too, became rife
in the camp, so although there at length two thousand men before
Quebec not more that a thousand were fit for duty. Yet what mere
men could do they did.
But winter passed and Quebec remained untaken. Then on April morning
Captain Charles Douglas arrived off the mouth of the St. Lawrence
with a fleet of British ships. He found the river still packed with
ice. But Quebec he knew must be in sore straits. It was no time for
caution, so by way of experiment he ran his flag ship full speed
against a mass of ice. The ice was shivered to pieces, and the good
ship sailed unharmed. For nine days the gallant vessel ploughed
on through fields of ice, but suffering no serious damage, her
stout-hearted captain having no thought but to reach and relieve
the beleaguered city.
His boldness was rewarded. Other vessels followed in his track,
and at their coming the colonists gave up their attempt to conquer
Canada, and marched away.
The attack on Canada had been an utter failure, but Arnold still
clung to the hope of commanding the great waterway from the St.
Lawrence to the Hudson. At Crown Point he began to build ships,
and by the end of September had a little fleet of nine. The British
also busied themselves building ships, and on the 11th of October
a fight between the two fleets took place on Lake Champlain, between
the island of Valcour and the mainland.
The British ships were far larger and more numerous than the
American, indeed in comparison with the British the American boats
were mere cockle shells, but the colonists put up a gallant fight
which lasted five hours, and the sun went down leaving them sadly
shattered but still unbeaten.
The British commander, however, felt sure of finishing them off in
the morning. So he anchored his ships in a line across the southern
end of the channel, between the island and the mainland, thus
cutting off all retreat. But Arnold knew his danger, and determined
to make a dash for freedom. The night was dark and foggy. The British
were so sure of their prey that they kept no watch. So while they
slept one by one the American ships crept silently through their
lines and sped away.
When day dawned the British with wrath and disgust saw an empty
lake where they had expected to see a stricken foe. They immediately
gave chase and the following day they again came up with the little
American fleet, for many of the ships were so crippled that they
could move but slowly. Again a five hours' battle was fought. One
ship, the Washington, struck her flag. But Arnold in his little
Congress fought doggedly on. Then seeing he could resist no more
he drove the Congress and four other small boats ashore in a creek
too narrow for any but the smallest one of the British ships to
follow. Here he set them on fire, and bade his men leap for the
shore, he himself being the last to leave the burning decks. On
land he waited until he was certain that the ships were safe from
capture, and that they would go down with their flags flying. Then he
marched off with his men, and brought them all safely to Ticonderoga.
The attack on Canada had been an utter failure, the little American
fleet had been shattered, save for Ticonderoga the coveted waterway
was in the hands of the British. Had the British commander known it
too he might have attacked Ticonderoga then and there, and taken
it with ease. But Arnold was there, and Arnold had made such a
name for himself by his dash and courage that Carleton did not dare
attack the fort. And contenting himself for the moment with having
gained control of Lake Champlain he turned to attack Canada. Arnold
had failed to take Quebec, and he has lost his little fleet. But
against his failure to take Quebec his countrymen put his wonderful
march through pathless forest; against the loss of the fleet the
fact that but for Arnold it would never have been built at all. So
the people cheered him as a hero, and Washington looked upon him
as one of his best officers.
But Arnold's temper was hot if his head was cool, he was ambitious
and somewhat arrogant. And while he had been fighting so bravely
he had quarreled with his brother officers, and made enemies of
many. They declared that he fought not for his country's honour
but for the glory of Benedict Arnold. So it came about that he did
not receive the reward of promotion which he felt himself entitled
to. When Congress appointed several new Major Generals he was
passed over, and once again, as after the taking of Ticonderoga,
bitterness filled his heart.
Chapter 55 - The Birth of A Great Nation
While these things were happening in the north the British had been
forced to march away from Boston.
At first Washington could do little but keep his army before the
town, for he had no siege guns with which to bombard it. Nor had
he any desire to destroy the town." Burn it," said some, "if that
is the only way of driving out the British." Even John Hancock to
whom a great part of Boston belonged advised this. "Burn Boston,"
he said," and make John Hancock a beggar, if the public good requires
it." But Washington did not attempt to burn it.
After the taking of Ticonderoga and Crown Point however he got guns.
For many of the cannon taken at these forts were put on sledges
and dragged over the snow to Boston. It was Colonel Henry Knox
who carried out this feat. He was a stout young man with a lovely
smile and jolly fat laugh, who greatly enjoyed a joke. He had been
a bookseller before the war turned him into a soldier. And now as
he felled trees, and made sledges, and encouraged his men over the
long rough way he hugely enjoyed the joke of bringing British guns
to bombard the British out of Boston.
When Washington got these guns he quietly one night took possession
of Dorchester Heights, which commanded both Boston town and harbour.
So quick had been his action that it seemed to General Howe, the
British commander, as if the fortifications on Dorchester Heights
had been the work of magic. But magic or no magic they were, he
saw, a real and formidable danger. With siege guns frowning above
both town and harbour it was no longer possible to hold Boston. So
hastily embarking his troops General Howe sailed away to Halifax
in Nova Scotia, and Boston was left in peace for the rest of the
By this time there had been fighting in the south as well as in New
England. For King George had taken it into his stubborn head that
it would be a good plan to attack the southern colonies in spite of
the fact that the war in the north was already more that he could
manage. Sir Peter Parker, therefore, was sent out from England with
a fleet of about fifty ships, and Lord Cornwallis with two thousand
men, to attack Charleston in South Carolina. Howe was also ordered
to send some soldiers southward, and although he could ill spare
them from Boston he sent General Sir Henry Clinton with a small
According to arrangement the troops from Boston and England were
to attack together with the loyalists of the south and the friendly
Indians. But everything was bungled. The fleet, the land force,
the loyalists and the Indians all seemed to be pulling different
ways, and attacked at different times. The assault on Charleston
was a miserable failure, and to the delight of the colonists the
whole British force sailed away to join Howe in the north, and for
more than two years there was no fighting in the southern colonies.
The commander of the colonists in Charleston was General Charles
Lee. He was not really an American at all, but an Englishman, a
soldier of fortune and adventure. He had wandered about the world,
fighting in many lands, and had been in Braddock's army when it
was defeated. He never became an American at heart like some other
Englishmen who fought on their side. He cared little for them, he
cared as little for the cause in which they were fighting, merely
seeing in it a chance of making himself famous, and he had a very
poor opinion of their fighting qualities. He was a tall, spare man
with a hollow-cheeked, ugly face, and a disagreeable manner. He
had a great opinion of himself, and boasted to such purpose that
the Americans believed him to be a military genius. And in this
first tussle with the British in the south he did so well that
their belief in him seemed justified. He seemed to the people a hero
and a genius rolled in one. In all the war after he did nothing to
uphold the fame he gained at Charleston.
South as well as north had now had a taste of war. South as well as
north had seen the British sail away, foiled. Every royal governor
had by this time been driven from his post, and for six months
and more the colonies had practically ruled themselves. What then,
said many, was the use of talking any more about allegiance to the
mother country? It was time, they said, to announce to all the world
that the colonies of America were a free and independent nation.
There was much grave discussion in Congress and throughout the
country. Some patriots, even those who longed most ardently to see
America a free country, thought that it was too soon to make the
claim. Among those was Patrick Henry who had already ranged himself
so passionately on the side of freedom." The struggle is only
beginning," he said," and we are not yet united. Wait till we are
united. Wait until we have won our freedom, then let us proclaim
But by degrees all those who hesitated were won over, and on the
4th of July, 1776, the colonies declared themselves to be free.
Many meetings were held in what has since been called Independence
Hall at Philadelphia. Much discussion there was, but at length the
solemn declaration was drawn up. "We, the Representatives of the
United States of America," so it ran," in General Congress assembled,
appealing to the supreme judge of the world for the rectitude of
our intention, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good
people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these
united colonies are, and of right ought to be, Free and Independent
States." These are but a few words of the long, gravely worded
declaration which was drawn up by Thomas Jefferson, and which is
familiar to every American to this day.
John Hancock was President of Congress at this time, and he was
the first to sign the declaration. Large, and clear, and all across
the page the signature runs, showing, as it were, the calm mind and
firm judgment which guided the hand that wrote. It was not until
a few days later that it was signed by the other members.
It was on the 4th of July that Congress agreed to the declaration,
and so that day has ever since been kept as a national holiday. It
was the birthday of the United States as a Nation. But it was not
until a few days later that the Declaration was read to the people
of Philadelphia from Independence Hall. It was greeted with cheers
and shouts of delight. The old bell upon the tower pealed joyfully,
and swift riders mounted and rode to bear the news in all directions.
The next day it was read at the head of each brigade of the army,
and was greeted with loud cheers.
This Declaration of Independence was a bold deed, it might almost
seem a rash one. For the British army was still in the land, and
the Americans by no means always victorious. But the very fact of
the boldness of the deed made them feel that they must be brave
and steadfast, and that having claimed freedom they must win it.
The Declaration drew the colonies together as nothing else had done,
and even those who had thought the deed too rash came to see that
it had been wise.
Chapter 56 - The Darkest Hour - Trenton and Princeton
In many places the news of the Declaration of Independence and the
news of the victory at Charleston came at the same time, and gave
a double cause for rejoicing. It was the last good news which was
to come for many a long day. Indeed for months misfortune followed
misfortune, until it almost seemed as if the Declaration of
Independence had been the rash and useless action some had held it
By the end of June General Howe sailed southward from Halifax, and
landed on Staten Island southwest of New York, to await the arrival
from England of his brother, Admiral Howe. On July 12th, just eight
days after the declaration of independence, Admiral Howe arrived
with strong reinforcements of ships and men. But before he began
to fight he tried to come to terms with the rebel colonies, and
for a second time free pardon was offered to all who would submit
and own British rule once more. But the Americans were in no mood
to submit, and had no wish for "pardon."
"No doubt," said one, "we all need pardon from heaven, but the
American who needs pardon from his Britannic Majesty is yet to be
So instead of submitting they made ready to fight. The British
also prepared to fight, and the force of the next blow fell upon
New York. There were now more than thirty thousand British troops
gathered here. It was the largest army which had ever been sent
out of England, and King George had never a doubt that this great
force, backed by his unconquerable navy, would soon bring the ten
or twenty thousand ragged, half starved rebels to their knees.
He little knew the men or the man which who he had to deal. The
army was indeed ragged and undisciplined. But as the great Napoleon
said later, "In war the man is everything." And Washington was
soon to show the world what could be done by brave undisciplined
men whose hearts were behind their muskets.
As soon as Washington had gained possession of Boston he left an
old general with a small force to guard it, and transported the
main body of his army to New York, feeling sure that the next attack
would be made there.
Brooklyn Heights on Long Island commanded New York, very much in
the same way as Bunker Hill and Dorchester Heights commanded Boston,
and Washington knew he must keep possession of those heights, if
New York was not to be given up without a blow being struck. He
did not want to give it up without striking a blow, for he feared
the effect on the spirits of the country. So he send General Putnam
with about eight thousand men to occupy the Heights.
In doing this Washington placed his army in a very dangerous position,
for the East River was large enough to allow British war ships to
sail up it and thus cut his army in two. But he could do nothing
else, for if the enemy got possession of the Heights the town was
at his mercy.
Howe was not slow to see this, and, having carefully and secretly
made his plans, he attacked the forces on Brooklyn Heights in the
early morning of August 27th in front, and flank, and rear, all at
One division of the Americans was nearly wiped out, many being killed
and the rest being taken prisoner. A little band of Marylanders
put up a fine but hopeless fight for nearly four hours, the remnant
of them at length taking refuge in the fortifications. To make the
defeat a disaster for the colonists Howe had but to storm these
fortifications. But he refused to do so. Enough had been done for
one day, he said. Bunker Hill had taught the British to beware of
storming heights. A siege would be less costly, thought Howe.
Within the fortifications the colonists were in a miserable plight.
They had little shelter, the rain fell in torrents, and a cold
northeast wind chilled them to the bone. They had nothing to eat
except dry biscuit and raw pork. They were hungry and weary, wet
and cold. Yet one of their miseries was a blessing. For as long as
the northeast wind blew Howe could not bring his ships up the East
River and cut communications between Long Island and New York. For
in those days, it must be remembered, there were no steamers, and
sailing vessels had to depend on wind and tide.
Washington, however, knew his danger. He knew that he must withdraw
from Long Island. So secretly he gave orders that everything which
could be found in the shape of a boat was to be brought to Brooklyn
Ferry. They were soon gathered, and at eight o'clock in the evening,
two days after the battle of Long Island, quickly and quietly the
army was ferried across the wide river to the New York side. All
night the rowers laboured, but the work was by no means finished
when day dawned. The weather, however, still helped the colonists,
for a thick fog settled over the river and hid what was going on
from the British. Wounded, prisoners, cannon, stores, horses, were
all ferried over, and when later in the day the British marched
into the deserted camp they found not so much as a crust of bread.
It was about six in the morning when the last boat put off, and in
it was Washington, the last man to leave. For forty hours he had
hardly been off his horse, and had never for a minute lain down
to rest. He was unwearyingly watchful, and left nothing to chance,
and this retreat is looked upon as one of the most masterly in all
Having abandoned Brooklyn Washington knew that he could not hope
to hold New York against an attack. But for a fortnight neither
Admiral nor General Howe made any attack. Instead they talked once
more of peace. It almost seemed as if Lord Howe were on the side
of the Americans, as indeed he had always said he was, until he
was ordered out to fight against them. "He is either a very slow
officer, or else he is our very good friend," said one of them.
The fortnight which he now wasted gave Washington time to decide
what it was best to do, and when at last the British began the
attack on New York nearly all the stores and cannon had already
been removed to Harlem Heights, about ten miles away at the north
of Manhattan Island. All the troops, too, had gone except about
four thousand under General Putnam, who stayed to keep order, and
look after the removal of the last of the stores. When the attack
came these were very nearly caught. For the regiment who ought
to have guarded the landing place, and have kept the enemy from
advancing until Putnam could retire, ran away as soon as they saw
the red coats.
In vain their officers tried to rally them; panic had seized them,
and they fled like frightened sheep. In the confusion Washington
rode up. He was a man of fiery temper, and now when he saw his men
show such a lack of courage in the face of the enemy he lost all
control. Dashing his had upon the ground, and, drawing his sword,
he bade them cease their cowardly retreat. But even Washington
could not rally the fleeing men. Then his wrath and despair knew no
bounds, and spurring his horse, he rode alone towards the enemy.
Death, he felt, was better than such shame. But one of his officers,
dashing after him, seized his bridle and turned him back to safety.
Meanwhile Putnam was making frantic efforts to gather his men and
march them off to Harlem Heights. It was a day of violent heat,
and as the men struggled on, laden with their baggage, their breath
came short, and the perspiration trickled down their faces. Every
moment they expected to be attacked in the rear.
But the attack did not come. For as Howe and his officers were
passing the pleasant country house of Mrs. Robert Murray a servant
came out to ask them to lunch. It was a tempting invitation on a
hot day, --too tempting to be refused. So a halt was called, and
while Howe and his officers enjoyed a pleasant meal, and listened
to the talk of a clever, handsome lady, Putnam marched his panting
men to safety.
Washington was greatly cast down at what he called the "disgraceful
and dastardly" conduct of some of his troops that day. He knew
that an attack on Harlem Heights must come, and come soon. But what
would be the result? Would his men run away, or would they fight?
"Experience, to my extreme affliction," he wrote sadly, "has
convinced me that this is rather to be wished for than expected.
However, I trust there are many who will act like men, and show
themselves worthy of the blessings of freedom."
Washington had no real cause for fear. Next day the test came,
and the Americans wiped out the memory of the day before. In wave
after wave the British attacked, but again and again the colonists
met them, and at last drove them to their trenches; and there was
joy in the patriot camp.
Howe still pursued the war very slowly. After the battle of
Harlem Heights he left Washington along for nearly a month, during
which time the colonist fortified their camp strongly. But the
commander-in-chief soon became convinced that the place was little
better than a trap, in which Howe might surround him, and force
him to surrender with all his army. So he retreated northward to
White Plains, and the British settled down in New York, which they
held till the end of the war.
And now misfortunes fell thick and fast upon the patriots. They
still held Fort Washington on Manhattan Island, and Fort Lee on the
opposite side of the Hudson, the garrisons of which were under the
command of General Greene. Washington now advised him to abandon
the forts, but did not give him absolute orders to do so. It is
probably that he would have taken his commander's advice had not
Congress interfered and sent orders that Fort Washington was not
to be given up, except as a last necessity. Greene, believing that
it was possible to hold it, tried to obey Congress. But on the
16th of November, after a fierce fight against tremendous odds, the
fort was surrounded, and all the defenders to the number of about
three thousand were taken prisoner.
The loss was a bitter blow to Washington, for the men taken prisoners
were some of his best soldiers. Four days later Fort Lee was also
taken, and although the garrison escaped they left behind them
large stores of food, ammunition, baggage of all sorts, as well as
cannon, which they could ill spare.
Washington now resolved on a retreat towards Philadelphia, and gloom
settled on the ragged little army of patriots. They were weary of
retreats and defeats, and felt that their cause was already lost.
Winter was fast coming on and many shouldered their arms and marched
homeward. And so the once buoyant enthusiastic army melted away to
a hungry and dispirited troop of little more than four thousand.
General Lee had at this time but lately returned from his triumphs
in South Carolina, and he was more boastful and arrogant than ever.
After Washington he was second in command, but he had no doubt
in his own mind that he ought to be first. Now he was not slow to
let others know what he thought. And while Washington, noble and
upright gentleman as he was, trusted Lee as a friend, and believed
in him as a soldier, Lee schemed to supplant him.
Washington had left Lee at North Castle with seven thousand men.
Now he sent him orders to join him at once, so that if he should
have to fight a battle he could have at least some sort of army
to fight with. But Lee pretended to misunderstand. He made excuses
for delay, he argued, and lied, and stayed where he was. Perhaps
he thought that it would be no bad thing if Washington should be
defeated and captured. Then he would be commander-in-chief.
But it was Lee who was captured, not Washington. He had in a
leisurely fashion at last begun to move, and on the march he spent
a night at a wayside inn. The British, hearing of his whereabouts,
surrounded the inn and took him prisoner. For more than a year he
remained in their hands, a very comfortable captive, and his army,
under General John Sullivan, marched to join Washington, who was
still retreating southward through New Jersey before the overwhelming
force of the British.
It was weary work retreating. But with masterly generalship, and
untiring watchfulness, Washington avoided a battle, and slipped
through the toils. As the pursued and pursuers neared Philadelphia
something like panic laid hold of the city. All day long the rumble
of wagons might be heard carrying women and children to places of
safety. Congress was hurriedly removed to Baltimore; but hundreds
of men seized their rifles and marched to join the army to fight
for their country in its darkest hour.
But already the worst was over. Washington's army was now well
reinforced. He had the recruits from Philadelphia, he had Lee's
army, and he also had two thousand men sent him by Schuyler from the
north. So he resolved to make a bold bid for fortune. He resolved
to do or die. He gave as the password, "Victory or death," and
in the dark of Christmas night, 1771, he and his men crossed the
Delaware River above the town of Trenton, where the British lay,
together with a large company of the Hessian troops who had been
hired to fight the Americans. The river was full of floating ice,
which made the crossing dangerous and slow. But through the darkness
the men toiled on, fending off the ice blocks as best they could
as they steered their boats through the drifting mass. At length,
after ten hours' labour, they reached the other side without the
loss of one man.
It was four o'clock when the troops started off on their seven-mile
march to Trenton over the snowy ground, the icy wind driving the
sleet and snow in their faces. But by eight o'clock they had reached
Trenton. The British were utterly taken by surprise, and almost at
once the Hessians surrendered.
Having sent his prisoners, to the number of nearly a thousand,
to the other side of the river, Washington took possession of the
town. But he was not long allowed to remain there. For the British
commander, Lord Cornwallis, marched to dislodge him with an army
of eight thousand men.
Washington let him come, and on the 2nd of January, Cornwallis
encamped before Trenton, determined next morning to give battle.
He was sure of victory, and in great spirits. "At last we have run
down the old fox, and we will bag him in the morning," he said.
But Washington was not to be so easily caught. The two armies were
so near that the watchfires of the one could be plainly seen by
the other. All night the American watchfires blazed, all night men
could be heard working at the fortifications. But that was only
a blind. In the darkness Washington and his army quietly slipped
away to Princeton. There he fell upon the British reinforcements,
who were marching to join Cornwallis at Trenton, and put them to
When day came Cornwallis was astonished to find the American camp
empty. And when he heard the firing in the distance he knew what
had happened, and hastily retreated to New York, while Washington
drew off his victorious but weary men to Morristown in New Jersey.
Here for the next few months they remained, resting after their
labours, unmolested by the foe.
Chapter 57 - Burgoyne's Campaign - Bennington and Oriskany
As many of the Americans had foreseen, the British had from the
first formed the design of cutting the colonies in two by taking
possession of the great waterway from the Hudson to the St. Lawrence.
Their plans had been long delayed, but in the spring of 1777, they
determined to carry them out.
General Burgoyne was now in command of the Canadian troops. He was
a genial man of fashion, a writer of plays, and a great gambler.
But he was a brave soldier, too, and his men adored him. For in days
when it was common to treat the rank and file as a little better
than dogs, Burgoyne treated them like reasoning beings.
It was arranged that Burgoyne should move southward with his main
force, by way of Lake Champlain to Ticonderoga, and that a smaller
force should go by Lake Ontario and seize Fort Stanwix. Howe, at
the same time, was in Albany, having, it was to be supposed, swept
the whole country free of "rebels."
It was a very fine plan, but it was not carried out as intended -
because, although Burgoyne received his orders, Howe did not receive
his. For the British minister, who ought to have sent them, went off
on a holiday and forgot all about the matter for several weeks.
When at length he remembered, and sent the order, Howe was far
away from the Hudson, at his old game of trying to run Washington
Burgoyne, however, knew nothing of this and cheerfully set out from
Canada with a well drilled, well equipped, and well fed army of
about eight thousand men, and on the 1st of July reached Ticonderoga.
Since this fort had been taken by Ethan Allen it had been greatly
strengthened, and the Americans believed that now it could withstand
any assault, however vigorous. But while strengthening the fort
itself they failed to fortify a little hill near. They had already
much experience of the danger of heights commanding a town or
fort. But they thought that this hill was too steep and rugged to
be a danger. No cannon, it was said, could ever be dragged up to the
top of it. When the British came, however, they thought otherwise.
They at once saw the value of the hill, and determined that guns
should be dragged up it. For forty-eight hours they worked furiously,
and when day dawned on the 5th of August both men and guns were on
The American commander, St. Clair, saw them with despair in his
heart. Every corner of the fort was commanded by the guns, and the
garrison utterly at the mercy of the enemy. To remain, he knew,
would mean the loss of his whole force. So he resolved to abandon
the fort, and as soon as the sun set the work was begun. Guns and
stores were laden on boats, cannon too heavy to be removed were
spiked, and nearly all the garrison had left when a fire broke out
in the officers' quarters.
The light of the flames showed the British sentinels what was going
on. The alarm was given. The British made a dash for the fort, and
as day dawned on July 6, 1777, the Union Jack was once more planted
upon its ramparts.
Then a hot pursuit began. At the village of Hubbardton the Americans
made a valiant stand, but they were worsted and fled, and five days
later St. Clair brought the remnant of his force into Fort Edward,
where the main army under Schuyler was stationed.
Burgoyne had begun well, and when King George heard the news he
clapped his hands with joy. "I have beat them," he cried, dashing
into the queen's rooms, "I have beat all the Americans." But over
America the loss cast a gloom. St. Clair and Schuyler were severely
blamed and court-martialled. But both were honourably acquitted.
Nothing could have saved the garrison from being utterly wiped out;
and when men came to judge the matter calmly they admitted that
it was better to lose the fort than to lose the fort and garrison
also. Meanwhile Burgoyne was chasing hot-foot after the fugitives.
As he approached, Schuyler abandoned Fort Edward, for it was a mere
shell and impossible of defence for a single day. But as he fell
back, he broke up the roads behind him. Trees were felled and laid
across them every two or three yards, bridges were burned, fords
destroyed. So thoroughly was the work done that Burgoyne, in
pursuit, could only march about a mile a day, and had to build no
fewer than forty bridges in a distance of little more than twenty-four
Besides destroying the roads Schuyler also made the country a desert.
He carried away and destroyed the crops, drove off the sheep and
cattle, sweeping the country so bare that the hostile army could
find no food, and were forced to depend altogether on their own
supplies. Before long these gave out, and the British began to
suffer from hunger.
Burgoyne now learned that at the village of Bennington the patriots
had a depot containing large stores of food and ammunition. These
he determined to have for his own army, and he sent a force of six
hundred men, mostly Germans and Indians, to make the capture.
This old trapper, Captain John Stark, was in command of the American
force at Bennington. He had fought in many battles from Bunker Hill
to Princeton. But, finding himself passed over, when others were
promoted, he had gone off homeward in dudgeon. But now in his country's
hour of need he forgot his grievances and once more girded on his
sword. He led his men with splendid dash and the enemy was utterly
defeated, and Stark was made a brigadier general as a reward. It
was a disaster for Burgoyne, and on the heels of this defeat came
the news that the second force marching by way of Lake Ontario had
also met with disaster at Oriskany near Fort Stanwix.
This force had surrounded Fort Stanwix, and General Nicholas Herkimer
had marched to its relief.
General Herkimer was an old German of over sixty, and although
he had lived all his life in America, and loved the country with
his whole heart, he spoke English very badly, and wrote it worse.
It must have sadly puzzled his officers sometimes to make out his
dispatches and orders. One is said to have run as follows: "Ser,
yu will orter yur bodellyen to merchs Immetdielich do ford edward
weid for das broflesen and amenieschen fied for en betell. Dis yu
will desben at yur berrel." This being translated means:" Sir, you
will order your battalion to march immediately to Fort Edward with
four days' provisions, and ammunition for one battle. This you will
disobey at your peril."
As this doughty old German marched to the relief of Fort Stanwix
he fell into an ambush prepared for him by the famous Indian chief,
Joseph Brant, who, with his braves, was fighting on the side of
the British. A terrible hand to hand struggle followed. The air
was filled with wild yells and still wilder curses as the two foes
grappled. It was war in all its savagery. Tomahawks and knives were
used as freely as rifles. Stabbing, shooting, wrestling, the men
fought each other more like wildcats than human beings. A fearful
thunderstorm burst forth, too. Rain fell in torrents, a raging
wind tore through the tree tops, thunder and lightning added their
terrors to the scene.
For five hours the savage warfare lasted. Almost at the beginning
a ball shattered Herkimer's leg and killed his horse. But the stout
old warrior refused to leave the field. He bade his men take the
saddle from his horse and place it at the root of a great beech
tree. Sitting there he directed the battle, shouting his orders in
his quaint guttural English, and calmly smoking a pipe the while.
They were the last orders he was to give. For, ten days after
the battle he died from his wound, serenely smoking his pipe, and
reading his old German Bible almost to the last.
Soon the noise of the battle was heard at Fort Stanwix, and the
garrison, led by Colonel Marinus Willett, sallied forth to the
aid of their comrades, put a detachment of the enemy to flight,
and captured their stores of food and ammunition, together with
five flags. And now for the first time the Stars and Stripes were
When Washington had taken command of the army there had still been
no real thought of separating from Britain. So for his flag he
had used the British ensign with the Union Jack in the corner. But
instead of a red ground he had used a ground of thirteen red and
white stripes, on stripe for each colony. But when all hope of
reconciliation was gone Congress decided that the Union Jack must
be cut out of the flag altogether, and in its place a blue square
was to be used with thirteen white stars in a circle, one star for
each state, just as there was one stripe for each state.
People, however, were too busy doing other things and had no time
to see to the making of flags. So the first one was hoisted by
Colonel Willett, after the battle of Orskany. He had captured five
standards. These, as victor, he hoisted on the fort. To make his
triumph complete, however, he wanted an American flag to hoist over
them. But he had none. So a soldier's wife gave her red petticoat,
some one else supplied a white shirt, and out of that and an old
blue jacket was made the first American flag to float upon the
This, of course, was only a rough and ready flag, and Betsy Ross,
a seamstress, who lived in Arch Street, Philadelphia, had the honour
of making the first real one. While in Philadelphia Washington and
some members of council called upon Betsy to ask her to make the
flag. Washington had brought a sketch with him, but Betsy suggested
some alterations. So Washington drew another sketch, and there and
then Betsy set to work, and very soon her flag also was floating
in the breeze.
Chapter 58 - Burgoyne's Campaign - Bemis Heights and Saratoga
After all the fierce fighting at Oriskany neither side could claim
a victory. The British had received a check, but were by no means
beaten. Fort Stanwix was still besieged, and unless relief came
must soon fall into the hands of the enemy.
Colonel Gansewoort, the commandant of the fort, therefore now sent to
Schuyler asking for help, and Benedict Arnold, who had but lately
arrived, volunteering for the service, was soon on his way with
twelve hundred men. Arnold was ready enough to fight, as he was. But
he knew that his force was much smaller than that of the British,
and, after some thought, he fell upon a plan by which theirs could
be made less.
A spy had been caught within the American lines, and was condemned
to death. He was an almost half-witted creature, with queer cunning
ways, and the Indians looked upon him as a sort of Medicine Man,
and feared him accordingly. Knowing this, Arnold thought that he
might be useful to him, and promised to spare his life if he would
go to the British camp and spread a report among their Indian allies
that the Americans were coming down upon them in tremendous force.
The man was glad enough to get a chance to escape being hanged, and
his brother being held as hostage, he set out. He acted his part
well. Panting and breathless, with his coat torn in many places
by bullets, and a face twisted with fear, he dashed into the enemy
camp. There he told his eager listeners that he had barely escaped
with his life from the Americans (which was true enough) and that
they were marching towards them in vast numbers, and showed his
bullet-riddled coat as proof of his story.
"How many are they?" he was asked.
In reply the man spread his hands abroad, pointing to the leaves
of the trees and shaking his head as if in awe.
The Indians were greatly disturbed, and began to hold a council. While
they were still consulting, an Indian, friendly to the Americans,
who was in the plot, arrived. He told the same story as the spy,
pointing like him to the numberless trees of the forest when asked
how many of the enemy were coming.
Then another and still another Indian arrived. They all told the
same tale. A mysterious bird had come to warn them, they said, that
the whole valley was filled with warriors.
At length the Indians could bear no more. Already many of their best
warriors had been slain. They would no longer stay to be utterly
wiped out, and they prepared to flee.
In vain the British commander implored them to stay. Bribes, threats,
and promises were all alike useless. At last he offered them "fire
water." For if only he could make them drunk, he thought, they
might forget their fear. But even the much coveted "fire water" had
no power to still their terrors. They refused to drink, and with
clamour and noise they fled.
The panic spread to the rest of the army. Two battalions of white men
followed in the wake of their redskin brothers, and the commander,
deserted by the bulk of his army, was forced to join in the general
It was a humiliating and disorderly flight. The Indians, when they
recovered from their terror, had lost every vestige of respect
for their white brothers. Soon they became insolent, and amused
themselves by playing on their fears. "They are coming! They are
coming!" they would cry whenever the weary fugitives lay down to
rest. Then they would laugh to see the white men leap up again,
fling away their knapsacks and their rifles, so as to make the
greater haste, and stumble onward.
At length the shameful retreat came to an end, and, hungry and
ragged, a feeble remnant of the expedition reached the shores of
Lake Ontario, and passed over into Canada.
Such was the news brought to Burgoyne soon after the defeat at
Bennington. It make his dark outlook darker still. No help could
ever come to him now from the north, and all his hopes were fixed
on Howe's advancing host from the south. But no news of Howe's
approach reached him. Day by day the American force round him
was increasing. Day by day his own was growing weaker. At last
in desperation he decided to risk a battle. For he saw that he
must either soon cut his way through the hostile forces or perish
General Horatio Gates was now in command of the Americans instead
of Schuyler. Gates was nothing of a soldier. Indeed it was said
of him that all throughout the beginning of the war he never so
much as heard the sound of a gun, and that when there was a battle
to the fore he always had business elsewhere. Like Lee he was an
Englishman by birth. And even as Lee had been jealous of Washington
so Gates was jealous of Schuyler, and at last he succeeded in ousting
him. He did so at a good time for himself, for all the hard work
of this campaign was done, and Gates stepped in time to reap the
Burgoyne thought little of Gates, and called him an old woman. So
he was the more ready to give battle. But the Americans were now
so thoroughly aroused that they would have fought well without a
leader. Besides, Arnold was with them, and Arnold they would have
The Americans were strongly entrenched on Bemis Heights, and on
the day of battle Gates would have done nothing but sit still and
let the enemy wear himself out in attacks. But this did not suit
Arnold's fiery temper, and he begged hard to be allowed to charge
the enemy. Bates grudgingly gave him leave, and with a small force
he bore down upon the British. The fight was fierce, and finding
his force too small Arnold sent to Gates asking for reinforcements.
But Gates, although he had ten thousand troops standing idle,
refused to send a man. So, with his always diminishing handful of
troops, Arnold fought on till night fell.
Again neither side could claim a victory. But Burgoyne had lost
nearly six hundred men, and his position was not one whit the
better. Gates took all the credit to himself, and when he sent his
account of the battle to Congress he did not so much as mention
Arnold's name. Out of this, and his refusal to send reinforcements,
a furious quarrel arouse between the two men, and Gates told Arnold
that he had no further use for his services and that he could go.
Arnold, shaken with wrath, would have gone had not his brother
officers with one voice begged him to stay. So he stayed, but he
had no longer any command.
Like a caged and wounded lion Burgoyne now sought a way out of
the trap in which he was. But turn which way he would there was no
escape. He was hemmed in on all sides. So eighteen days after the
battle of Bemis Heights he took the field again on the same ground.
It was a desperate adventure, for what could six thousand worn and
weary men do against twenty thousand already conscious of success?
The British fought with dogged courage. Chafing with impatience
Arnold watched the battle from the heights. He saw how an attack
might be made with advantage, how victory might be won. At length
he could bear inaction no longer, and, leaping on to his horse, he
dashed into the fray.
"Go after that fellow and bring him back," shouted Gates; "he will
be doing something rash."
The messenger sped after him. But Arnold was too quick, and the battle
was well nigh won before Gates' order reached him. As Arnold came
his men gave a ringing cheer, and for the rest of the day he and
Daniel Morgan were the leaders of the battle, Gates never leaving
Where the bullets flew thickest, there Arnold was to be found. The
madness of battle was upon him, and, like one possessed, he rode
through flame and smoke, his clear voice raised above the hideous
clamour, cheering and directing his men.
The fight was fierce and long, but as the day wore on there could
be no more doubt about the end. The British were defeated. Yet so
long as daylight lasted they fought on.
Just as the sun was setting Arnold and his men had routed a party
of Germans, and a wounded German, lying on the ground, shot at
Arnold, killing his horse and shattering his leg - the same leg
which had been wounded at Quebec.
As Arnold fell, one of his men, with a cry of rage dashed at the
German and would have killed him where he lay. But Arnold stopped
him. "For God's sake, don't hurt him." he cried, "he's a fine
fellow." So the man's life was spared.
Arnold's leg was so badly shattered that the doctors talked of
cutting it off. Arnold, however, would not hear of it.
"If that is all you can do for me," he said, "put me on another
horse and let me see the battle out."
But the battle was over, for night had put an end to the dreadful
With this defeat Burgoyne's last hope vanished. To fight again
would be merely to sacrifice his brave soldiers. He had only food
in the camp for a week, and there was still no sign of help coming
from the south. There was nothing left to him but to surrender.
So on October 17th he surrendered to General Gates, with all his
cannon, ammunition, and great stores, and nearly six thousand men.
As his soldiers laid down their arms many of them wept bitterly.
But there was no one there to see or deride their grief. For the
Americans, having no wish to add to the sorrow of their brave foe,
stayed within their lines. Then, as the disarmed soldiers marched
away, Burgoyne stepped out of the ranks, and, drawing his sword,
gave it to General Gates.
"The fortune of war has made me your prisoner," he said.
"It was through no fault of yours," replied Gates, with a grave
courtesy, as he handed back the sword.
Chapter 59 - Brandywine - Germantown - Valley Forge
Washington spent the winter of 1776-7 at Morristown. In May he once
more led his army out, and while the forces in the north, under
Schuyler and then Gates, were defeating Burgoyne, he was holding
his own against Howe's far more formidable army further south.
Howe had spent the winter at New York, which from the time of its
capture to the end of the war, remained the British headquarters.
In the spring he determined to capture Philadelphia, the "revel
capital," and began to march through New Jersey. But in every move
he made he found himself checked by Washington. It was like a game
of chess. Washington's army was only about half the size of Howe's,
so he refused to be drawn into an open battle, but harried and
harassed his foe at every turn, and at length drove Howe back to
Having failed to get to Philadelphia by land, Howe now decided to
go by sea, and , sailing up Chesapeake Bay, he landed in Maryland
in the end of August. But there again he found Washington waiting
for him. And now, although his army was still much smaller than
Howe's, Washington determined to risk a battle rather than give up
Philadelphia without a blow.
With his usual care and genius Washington chose his position well,
on the banks of the Brandywine, a little river which falls into the
Delaware at Wilmington about twenty-six miles from Philadelphia.
On both sides the battle was well fought. But the British army was
larger, better equipped, and better drilled, and they gained the
This defeat made the fate of Philadelphia certain, and Congress
fled once more, this time to Lancaster. Yet for a fortnight longer
Washington held back the enemy, and only on the 26th of September
did the British march into the city. But before they had time to
settle into their comfortable quarters Washington gave battle again,
at Germantown, on the outskirts of Philadelphia.
It was a well contested battle, and at one time it seemed as if it
might end in victory for the Americans. But Washington's plan of
battle was rather a hard one for inexperienced troops to carry out.
They were as brave as any men who ever carried rifles, but they
were so ignorant of drill that they could not even form into column
or wheel to right or left in soldierly fashion. A thick fog, too,
which hung over the field from early morning, made it difficult to
distinguish friend from foe, and at one time two divisions of the
Americans, each mistaking the other for the enemy, fired upon each
But although the battle of Germantown was a defeat for the Americans
it by no means spelled disaster. Another two months of frays and
skirmishes followed. Then the British settled down to comfortable
winter quarters in Philadelphia, and Washington marched his war-worn
patriots to Valley Forge, about twenty miles away.
Wile the Americans had been busy losing and winning battles, Pitt
in England was still struggling for peace and kindly understanding
between Britain and her colonies. "You can never conquer the
Americans," he cried. "If I were an American, as I am an Englishman,
while a foreign troop was landed in my country I would never lay
down my arms, --never, never, never!"
But Pitt talked in vain. For the King was deaf to all the great
minister's pleadings. In his eyes the Americans were rebels who
must be crushed, and Pitt was but the "trumpet of sedition."
But meanwhile all Europe had been watching the struggle of these
same rebels, watching it, too, with keep interest and admiration.
And now soldiers from many countries came to offer help to the
Americans. Among them the best known perhaps are Kosciuszko, who
later fought so bravely for his own land, Poland; and Lafayette,
who took a large share in the French Revolution.
Lafayette was at this time only nineteen. He had an immense admiration
for Washington, and after they met, in spite of the difference in
the their ages, they became lifelong friends, and Lafayette named
his eldest son after Washington.
But the Americans owed more perhaps to Baron von Steuben than to
any other foreigner. Von Steuben was a German, and had fought under
Frederick the Great.
Washington had taken up winter quarters at Valley Forge, which is
a beautiful little valley. But that winter it was a scene of misery
and desolation. The cold was terrible, and the army was ragged and
hungry. The men had neither coats, shirts, nor shoes, and often
their feet and hands froze so that they had to be amputated. For
days at a time they had but one poor meal a day. Even Washington
saw no hope of help. "I am now convinced beyond a doubt," he wrote,
"that unless some great and capital change takes place this army
must inevitably be reduced to one or other of these three things:
starve, dissolve, or disperse."
Much of this misery was due to the neglect and folly of Congress.
It had sadly changed from the brave days of the Declaration of
Independence. It was filled now with politicians who cared about
their own advancement rather than with patriots who sought their
country's good. They refused to see that money, and still more
money, was needed to keep a properly equipped army in the field.
They harassed Washington with petty interference with his plans.
They gave promotion to useless officers against his wishes and
better judgment. There was plenty of food in the country, stores
of clothing were ready for the army's use, but they lay by the
wayside, rotting, because there was no money to pay men to bring
it to the army. Washington wore himself out in fruitless efforts
to awaken Congress to a sense of its duty. And at length, utterly
despairing of any support, weary of seeing his men suffer and
dwindle day by day under the miseries of Valley Forge, he wrote out
his resignation as Commander-in-Chief of the army. And it needed
all the persuasions of his officers to make him tear it up.
It was to this camp of misery at Valley Forge that Baron von Steuben
came. And the ragged, hungry, perishing army he drilled. To these
men, brave enough, but all unused to discipline, he taught what
At first it was by no means easy. For the Baron knew little English
and the men he tried to teach knew not a word of French or German.
So misunderstandings were many, and when one day a young American
officer named Walker, who knew French, came to von Steuben and offered
to act as interpreter he was overjoyed. "Had I seen an angel from
heaven," he cried, "I could not have been more glad."
But even then, between his own mistakes and the men's mistakes,
the Baron was often driven distracted, and lost his temper. Once,
it is said, utterly worn out, he turned the troops over to Walker.
"Come, my friend," he cried, "take them; I can curse them no longer."
But in spite of all hindrances and failings, both men and officers
learned so much from von Steuben that when the terrible winter was
over the army went forth again to fight far more fit to face the
foe than before.
Chapter 60 - War on the Sea
Besides being themselves more fit to fight, the Americans now
received other help, for France joined with America in her struggle
against Britain. And after this the war was not confined to America
only. There was war on the sea, now, as well as on land, and whenever
the British and the French navies met there was fighting.
The Americans themselves also carried the war on to the sea. At
first they had no fleet, but very soon they began to build ships
and before long they had a little fleet of six. Of this fleet Esek
Hopkins was made commander-in-chief. He was an old salt, for he had
been captain of a trading vessel for thirty years. But as a naval
commander he was not a success. He had no knowledge of warfare, he
was touchy, obstinate, and could not get on with Congress, which
he said was a pack of ignorant clerks who knew nothing at all.
The fleet under him only made one cruise. Then he was dismissed,
and was succeeded by James Nicholson, the son of a Scotsman from
As the war went on other vessels were added to the first six. But
the largest was not bigger than a small British cruiser, and in
the end they were nearly all taken, or sunk to prevent them being
taken. Still before their end they fought many gallant fights, and
did some good work for their country.
The first shot of the Revolution on the water was fired by Captain
Abraham Whipple when he chased a tender belonging to the British
cruiser Rose, and captured her. This was, however, not the first
shot the hardy Captain had fired against the British. For in 1772,
before the "Boston Tea Party," even, had taken place, he had seized
and burned the British revenue schooner, Gaspé, in Narragansett
The commander of the Gaspé had been trying to put down smuggling
on the coast of Rhode Island. He stopped all vessels, and examined
even market boats, to see if they had any smuggled goods. This
made the Rhode Island people very angry. They had smuggled as they
liked for a hundred years; the British laws against it seemed to
them mere tyranny; and they looked upon the commander of the Gaspé
as little better than a pirate, who was interfering with their lawful
trade. So when one day the people learned that the Gaspé had gone
aground a few miles from Providence, and could not be got off before
three o'clock in the morning, they determined to attack her.
Abraham Whipple was chosen as captain for the expedition. He and
his men boarded the Gaspé, wounded the captain, overpowered the
crew, and burned the schooner to the water's edge.
When the British commander-in-chief heard of it he was furious,
and he wrote to Whipple.
"Sir," he said, "you, Abraham Whipple, on the 10th of June, 1772,
burned his Majesty's ship the Gaspé, and I will hang you at the
To this Whipple, nothing daunted, replied: "Sir, always catch a
man before you hang him."
Whipple was never caught until 1778, when with his ship the Providence
he tried to relieve Charleston, in South Carolina, which was at
that time besieged by the British. Then he was not hanged, but kept
prisoner until the end of the war.
Lambert Wickes, captain of the Reprisal, was another gallant naval
officer. When Benjamin Franklin was sent as United States ambassador
to France in 1776 he sailed in the Reprisal, which was the first
American warship to visit the shores of Europe.
It might be here interesting to note that besides being minister
to France, Franklin had to look after naval affairs in a general
way. He used his powers with wisdom, and often with great humanity.
Among other things he gave all American naval commanders orders
that they were not to attack the great discoverer, Captain Cook,
no matter in what part of the ocean they might meet him. They were
not merely forbidden to attack him, they were even commanded to
offer him any aid they could. For it would not beseem Americans,
said Franklin, to fight against one who had earned the admiration
of the whole world.
The Reprisal did not return home before it had made its presence
felt. For, having landed Franklin, Wickes cruised about the Bay of
Biscay and the English Channel, capturing many British merchantmen,
and taking them to France, where he sold them.
At this time France was still at peace with Britain, and the
British Government complained bitterly to the French at this breach
of neutrality. They were, therefore, forced to order the American
ships to leave France, and Wickes sailed for home.
On the way the Reprisal was chased by a British warship, and Wickes
only saved himself from capture by throwing his guns overboard. He
thus escaped one danger, however, only to fall into another, and
in a storm off the coast of Newfoundland the Reprisal went down,
and all on board were lost.
But of all the naval commanders on the American side, the Scotsman,
John Paul Jones, was the most famous. He was the son of a gardener,
and was born at Arbigland in Kirkcudbrightshire. From a child he
had been fond of the sea, and when still only a boy of twelve he
began his seafaring life on board a ship trading with Virginia.
For some years he led a roving and adventurous life. Then after a
time he came to live in America, which, he said himself, "has been
my favourite country since the age of thirteen, when I first saw
His real name was John Paul. But he took the name of Jones out of
gratitude to Mr. Jones, a gentleman of Virginia, who had befriended
him when he was poor and in trouble.
When the War of the Revolution broke out Jones was a young man of
twenty-seven, and he threw himself heart and soul into the struggle
on the side of the Americans. He was the first man to receive a naval
commission after the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
He was, too, the first man to break the American naval flag from
the mast. This was not, however, the Stars and Stripes, but a yellow
flag with a pine tree and a rattlesnake, and the words, "Tread on
me how dares."
Jones became famous at once for his deeds of skill and daring, for
it was his sole ambition, he said, "to fight a battle under the
new flag, which will teach the world that the American flag means
something afloat, and must be respected at sea." But he never liked
the yellow flag. It was more fit for a pirate ship, he thought,
than to be the ensign of a great nation, and he it was who first
sailed under the Stars and Stripes, which he hoisted on his little
ship, the Ranger. This was only a vessel of three hundred tons. In
it in November, 1777, he crossed the Atlantic, harried the coasts
of England and Scotland, and then made his way to France.
From France Jones set out again with a little fleet of four ships.
His flagship he called Bonhomme Richard, as a compliment both to
France and Franklin. Franklin being the author of "Poor Richard's
Almanac," for which Bonhomme Richard was the French translation.
The Bonhomme Richard was the largest vessel of the American navy,
but it was only a worn-out old East India merchantman, turned into
a man-of-war by having portholes for guns cut in the sides. And,
although, Jones did not know it at the time, the guns themselves
had all been condemned as unsafe before they were sent on board.
The other ships of the squadron were also traders fitted up with
guns in the same way, but were all much smaller than the Bonhomme.
With this raffish little fleet Paul Jones set out to do great
deeds. His bold plan was to attack Liverpool, the great centre of
shipping, but that had to be given up, for he found it impossible
to keep his little squadron together. Sometimes he would only have
one other ship with him, sometimes he would be quite alone. So
he cruised about the North Sea, doing a great deal of damage to
British shipping, catching merchantmen, and sending them to France
At length one afternoon in September, when he had only the Pallas
with him, he sighted a whole fleet of merchantmen off the coast
of England and at once gave chase. The merchantmen were being
convoyed by two British men-of-war, the Serapis and the Countess of
Scarborough, and they at once got between Jones and his prey. Then
the merchantmen made off as fast as they could, and the men-of-war
came on. Presently the captain of the Serapis hailed the Bonhomme
"What ship are you?" he shouted.
"I can't hear what you say," replied Jones, who wanted to get
That made the British captain suspicious. Nearer and nearer the
two vessels drew on to each other.
"Hah," he said, "it is probably Paul Jones. If so there is hot work
Again the Serapis sent a hail.
"What ship is that? Answer immediately, or I shall be obliged to
fire into you."
Paul Jones answered this time - with a broadside - and a terrible
battle began. The carnage was awful. The decks were soon cumbered
with dead and dying. The two ships were so near that the muzzles
of the guns almost touched each other. Both were soon riddled with
shot, and leaking so that the pumps could hardly keep pace with
rising water. Still the men fought on.
Jones was everywhere, firing guns himself, encouraging his men,
cheering them with his voice and his example. "The commodore had
but to look at a man to make him brave," said a Frenchman, who was
there. "Such was the power of one heart that knew no fear."
The sun went down over the green fields of England, and the great
red harvest moon came up. Still through the calm moonlit night the
guns thundered, and a heavy cloud of smoke hung over the sea. Two
of the rotten old guns on the Bonhomme Richard had burst at the
first charge, killing and wounding the gunners; others were soon
utterly useless. For a minute not one could be fired, and the
Captain of the Serapis thought that the Americans were beaten.
"Have you struck?" he shouted, through the smoke of the battle.
"No," cried Jones, "I haven't begun to fight yet."
The next instant the roar and rattle of the musketry crashed forth
again. Both ships were now on fire, and a great hole smashed in
the side of the Bonhomme.
"For God's sake, strike, Captain," said one of his officers.
Jones looked at him silently for a minute. The he answered: "No,"
he cried, "I will sink. I will never strike."
The ships were now side by side, and Jones gave orders to lash
the Bonhomme Richard to the Serapis. He seized a rope himself and
helped to do it. The carpenter beside him, finding the lines tangled
rapped out a sailor's oath.
But Jones was calm as if nothing was happening.
"Don't swear, Mr. Stacy," he said. "We may soon all be in eternity.
Let us do our duty."
Lashed together now the two ships swung on the waves in a death
grapple. The guns on the Bonhomme Richard were nearly all silenced.
But a sailor climbed out on to the yards, and began to throw hand
grenades into the Serapis. He threw one right into the hold, where
it fell upon a heap of cartridges and exploded, killing about twenty
men. That ended the battle. With his ship sinking and aflame, and
the dead lying thick about him, the British captain struck his
flag, and the Americans boarded the Serapis and took possession.
In silence and bitterness of heart Captain Pearson bowed and handed
his sword to Jones. But Jones had only admiration for his gallant
foe. He longed to say something to comfort him, but he looked so
sad and dignified that he knew not what to say. At length he spoke.
"Captain Pearson," he said "you have fought like a hero. You have
worn this sword to your credit, and to the honour of your service.
I hope your King will reward you suitably."
But Captain Pearson could not answer, his heart was still too sore.
Without a word he bowed again and turned away.
While this terrible fight had been going on the Pallas had engaged
the Countess of Scarborough, and captured her, and now appeared,
not much worse for the fight. But the Bonhomme Richard was an
utter wreck, and was sinking fast. So as quickly as possible, the
sailors, utterly weary as they were with fighting, began to move the
wounded to the Serapis. The crew of the British ship, too, worked
with a will, doing their best to save the enemies of the night
before. At length all were safely carried aboard the Serapis, and
only the dead were left on the gallant old Bonhomme Richard.
"To them," says Jones, in his journal, "I gave the good old ship
for their coffin, and in it they found a sublime sepulchre. And the
last mortal eyes ever saw of the Bonhomme Richard was the defiant
waving of her unconquered and unstricken flag as she went down."
So this strange sea-duel was over. The victorious ship went down, and
the victorious captain sailed away in his prize. But the Serapis,
too, was little more than a wreck. Her main mast was shot away.
Her other masts and spars were badly damaged, and could carry but
little sail, and it seemed doubtful if she would ever reach port.
But, after a perilous journey, the coasts of Holland were sighted,
and the Serapis was duly anchored in the Texel.
With deeds like these the little American navy realised Jones'
desire. But beyond that they did little to bring the war to an end.
Far more was done by the privateers, which were fitted out by the
hundred. They scoured the seas like greyhounds, attacking British
merchantmen on every trade route, capturing and sinking as many
as three hundred in one year. This kind of warfare paid so well,
indeed that farming was almost given up in many states, the farmers
having all gone off to make their fortunes by capturing British
As for Paul Jones he never had a chance again of showing his great
prowess. When the war was over he entered the service of Russia,
and became an admiral. He died in Paris in 1792, but for a long time
it was not known where he was buried. His grave was discovered in
1905, and his body was brought to America by a squadron of the navy
which was sent to France for the purpose, and reburied at Annapolis
with the honour due to a hero.
Chapter 61 - The Battle of Monmouth - The Story of Captain Molly
While the Americans were learning endurance in the hard school of
Valley Forge the British were having a gay time in Philadelphia.
The grave old Quaker town rang with song and laughter as never
before. Balls and parties, theatricals and races, followed each
other in a constant round of gaiety. And amid this light-hearted
jollity Howe seemed to forget all about the war.
Had he chosen he could easily have attacked Valley Forge, and crushed
Washington's perishing army out of existence. Or if he grudged
to lose men in an attack, he might have surrounded the Americans,
and starved them into submission. But he did neither. He was too
comfortable in his winter quarters, and had no wish to go out in
the snow to fight battles.
Those in power in England had long been dissatisfied with Howe's
way of conducting the war. Time and again he had seemed to lose his
chance of crushing the rebellion and now this idle and gay winter
in Philadelphia seemed the last straw. Such bitter things indeed
were said of him that he resigned his commission, and went home,
and the supreme command was given to General Clinton.
Now that France had joined with America, Britain was in a very
different position than before. She could no longer afford to send
out large armies such as Howe had been given to subdue the colonies.
For she had to keep troops at home to protect Great Britain from
She had to send ships and men all over the word, to repel the
attacks of the French on her scattered colonies and possessions.
Clinton therefore was left with only an army of about ten thousand.
And with this force he was expected to conquer the country which
Howe had been unable to conquer with thirty thousand.
Clinton knew that his task was a hard one. He saw that the taking of
Philadelphia had been a mistake, and that from a military point of
view it was worthless. So he decided at once to abandon Philadelphia,
and take his army back to New York. And on the morning of the 18th
of June the British marched out. A few days later Congress returned,
and the city settled back to its quiet old life once more.
It was no easy task for Clinton to cross New Jersey in grilling
summer weather, with a small force, an enormous baggage train, and
Washington hanging threateningly about is path, harassing him at
every step. That he did accomplish it brought him no little renown
as a soldier.
For some time, following the advice of his officers, Washington
did not make a general attack on the British. But near the town of
Monmouth he saw his chance, and determined to give battle.
General Lee had by this time been exchanged, and was now again
with Washington's army as second in command, and for this battle
Washington gave him command of an advance party of six thousand
men. With him were Anthony Wayne and Lafayette.
On the morning of the battle Lee's division was in a very good
position. It seemed as if the British might be surrounded with ease,
but when Wayne and Lafayette were about to attack Lee stopped them.
"You do not know British soldiers," he said to Lafayette. "We are
certain to be driven back. We must be cautious."
"That may be so, General," replied Lafayette, "but British soldiers
have been beaten, and may be so again. At any rate, I should like
But for answer, Lee ordered his men to retreat.
At this Lafayette was both angry and astonished, and he hurriedly
sent a message to Washington, telling him that his presence was
The soldiers did not in the least know from what they were retreating,
and they soon fell into disorder. Then suddenly Washington appeared
among them. He was white to the lips with wrath.
"I desire to know, " he said, in a terrible voice, turning to Lee,
"I desire to know, sir, what is the reason--whence arises this
disorder and confusion?"
Lee trembled before the awful anger of his chief. He tried to make
excuses. Then Washington's fury knew no bounds. He poured forth a
torrent of wrath upon Lee till, as one of his officers who heard
him said, "the very leaves shook on the trees." Then halting the
retreating troops, he formed them for battle once more. Later in
the day meeting Lee he sent him to the rear.
Soon the battle was raging fiercely. Some of the hottest fighting
took place round the American artillery, which was commanded by
General Knox. The guns were doing deadly work, yet moving about
coolly amidst the din and smoke of battle, there might be seen a
saucy young Irish girl, with a mop of red hair, a freckled face,
and flashing eyes. She was the wife of one of the gunners, and so
devoted was she to her husband that she followed him even to battle,
helping him constantly with his gun. His comrades looked upon her
almost as one of the regiment, and called her Captain Molly, and
she wore an artilleryman's coat over her short red skirt, so that
she might look like a soldier.
Captain Molly was returning from a spring nearby with a bucket full
of water, when her husband, who was just about to fire, was killed
by a shot from the enemy. The officer in command, having no one to
take his place, ordered the gun to be removed.
Molly saw her husband fall, heard the command given, and she dropped
her bucket and sprang to the gun.
"Bedad no," she cried. "I'll fire the gun myself, and avenge my
It was not the first time that Molly had fired a gun. She was with
her husband at Fort Clinton, when it was taken by the British. As
the enemy scaled the walls the Americans retreated. Her husband
dropped his lighted match and fled with the rest. But Captain
Molly was in no such haste. She picked up the match, fired the gun,
and then ran after the others. Hers was the last gun fired on the
American side that day.
Now all the long day of Monmouth she kept her gun in action,
firing so skillfully and bravely, that all around were filled with
admiration, and news of her deeds was carried through the army.
Even Washington heard of them.
Next day he ordered her to be brought to him, and there and then he
made her a sergeant, and recommended her for an officer's pension
for life. But now that her husband was dead Molly's heart was no
longer with the army. Soon after the battle of Monmouth she left
it, and a few years later she died.
All through the long summer day of pitiless heat the battle raged.
Again and again the British charged. Again and again they were thrown
back, and at length were driven across a ravine. Here Washington
would have followed, but the sun went down, and darkness put an
end to the fight.
Washington, however, was determined to renew the battle next day,
and that night the army slept on the field. He himself slept under
a tree, sharing a cloak with Lafayette. But the battle was never
renewed, for during the night Clinton marched quietly away. When
day dawned he was already too far off to pursue, and at length he
got safely into New York.
This was the last great battle to be fought in the northern states,
and a few weeks later Washington took up his quarters on White
Plains. There for nearly three years he stayed, guarding the great
waterway of the Hudson, and preventing the British from making any
further advance in the north.
Chapter 62 - The Story of a Great Crime
For his strange conduct at the battle of Monmouth General Lee was
court-martialled, and deprived of his command for one year. Before
the year was out, however, he quarreled with Congress, and was
expelled from the army altogether. So his soldiering days were
done, and he retired to his farm in Virginia. He was still looked
upon as a patriot, even if an incompetent soldier. But many years
after his death some letters that he had written to Howe were found.
These proved him to have been a traitor to the American cause. For
in them he gave the British commander advice as to how the Americans
cold best be conquered.
Thus his strange conduct at the battle of Monmouth was explained.
He had always given his voice against attacking the British on
their way to New York. And doubtless he thought that if Washington
had been defeated, he could have proved that it was because his
advice had not been followed. If in consequence Washington's command
had been taken from him, he would have been made commander-in-chief
and cold have easily arranged terms of peace with the British.
But his plans miscarried. He lived to see American victorious, but
died before peace was signed.
Lee was a traitor. But he had never been a real American. He had
taken the American side merely for his own glory, and had never
done anything for it worthy of record. But now a true American, one
who had fought brilliantly and gallantly for this country, turned
traitor, and blackened his fair name, blotting out his brave deeds
for all time.
When the Americans took possession of Philadelphia again Benedict
Arnold was still too crippled by his wound to be able for active
service. So the command of Philadelphia was given to him.
There he soon got into trouble. He began to live extravagantly,
and grew short of money. He quarreled with the state government,
and with Congress, was accused of inviting loyalists to his house,
of getting money by dishonest acts, and of being in many ways untrue
to his duty. He also married a beautiful young loyalist lady, and
that was another offence.
Arnold was arrogant and sensitive. He grew restive under all these
accusations, and demanded an enquiry. His demand was granted,
and a court-martial, although acquitting him of everything except
imprudence, sentenced him to be reprimanded by the Commander-in-chief.
Washington loved his high-spirited, gallant officer, and his
reprimand was so gentle and kind that it seemed more like praise
than blame. But even Washington's gracious words chafed Arnold's
proud spirit. He was hurt and angry. He had deserved well of
his country, and he was reprimanded. He had fought gallantly, and
had been passed over for others. He had been twice wounded in his
country's service, and he was rewarded by jealousy, caviling, and
Soon these feelings of bitterness turned to thoughts of treachery,
when exactly is not known. But turn they did, and Arnold began in secret
to write letters to General Clinton, the British commander-in-chief.
In the summer of 1780, his wound still making him unfit for active
service, Arnold was given command of the fortress of West Point,
which guarded the approaches to the Hudson Valley. This fortress
he agreed to betray into the hands of the enemy, and thus give them
command of that valley for which Burgoyne had made such a gallant
and hopeless fight. For a long time Arnold carried on a secret
correspondence with Major André, a British officer, and at length
a meeting between them was arranged. One September night Arnold
waited until all was still and dark in the fort. Then stealthily
he crept forth and reached in safety a clump of trees on the bank
of the Hudson just beyond the American lines. Here he lay waiting.
Soon through the darkness the British warship, the Vulture, crept
up the river. Presently Arnold heard the soft splash of oars, and
in a few minutes Major André stepped ashore.
For hours the two conspirators talked until at length all details
of the plot were settled. But day had dawned before Arnold returned
to West Point, and André set out to regain the Vulture, with plans
of the fort, and all other particulars hidden in his boots. By
this time, however, the batteries on shore had begun to fire upon
the ship, and André, finding it impossible to get on board, decided
to go back to New York by land.
It was a dangerous journey, but for a little while he crept on
unseen. Then suddenly his way was barred by three Americans, and
he found himself a prisoner.
"Have you any letters?" asked his captors.
"No," he answered.
They were not satisfied with his answer, and began to search him.
But finding nothing they were just about to let him go when one of
them said, "I'm not satisfied, boys. His boots must come off."
André made every kind of excuse to prevent them taking off his boots.
They were hard to pull off, he said, and it would take a long time.
He was already late, so he begged them not to hinder him more. But
the more unwilling he was to take off his boots, the more determined
were his captors that they should come off.
So they forced him to sit down, his boots were pulled off, and the
Only one of the three Americans could read. He seized the papers
and glanced hastily over them.
"By heaven," he cried, "he is a spy!"
It was in vain that André now begged to be set free. First he tried
persuasion, and when that failed he tried bribery. But his captors
would not listen, and marched him off to headquarters.
Arnold was just about to sit down to breakfast, with some other
officers as his guests, Washington being expected every minute to
join them, when a letter was handed to him, telling him that a spy
had been captured. It was an awful moment for Arnold. If André was
captured then all too surely his own treachery was known. He could
not stay to face the disgrace. But he made no sign. He calmly folded
the letter, and put it in his pocket. Then saying that he had been
suddenly called to the fort, he begged his guests to excuse him, and
went out, and mounting the horse of the messenger who had brought
the letter, he sped away, never staying his flight until he was
safe aboard the Vulture.
Very soon after Arnold had escaped Washington arrived. And when the
traitorous papers which had been found in André's possession were
placed in his hands he was overcome with grief.
"Arnold is a traitor, and has fled to the British," he said. "Whom
can we trust now?"
As he spoke the tears ran down his cheeks, bitter tears rung from
his noble soul at the thought of this "one more devil's-triumph
and sorrow for angels."
The chief sinner had escaped. But he had left his fellow conspirator
to pay his debt. For a spy could expect no mercy. André was young,
brave, and gay. He had such winning ways with him that even his
captors came to love him, and they grieved that such a gay young
life must be brought to a sudden and dreadful end. His many friends
did their best to save him. But their efforts were all in vain.
Nothing could alter the fact that he was a spy caught in the act,
and the punishment was death.
So one morning André was led out to die. He begged to shot as a
soldier, and not hanged like a felon. But even that was denied him.
Calm and brave to the end he met his death.
When Arnold's treachery was known a cry of rage rang through the
country. Yet in spite of his foul deed people could not quite forget
how nobly he had fought. "Hang him," they cried, "but cut off the
leg that was wounded at Saratoga first!"
Arnold, however, was beyond their vengeance, safe in the British
lines. There he at once received a commission, and turned his sword
against his own country.
Thus a brave man cast his valour in the dust, and made his name a
scorn and a by-word. But who shall say that the men who belittled
his deeds, and followed him with jealousy and carping, were wholly
Chapter 63 - A Turning Point in the World's History
After nearly four years' fighting the British had utterly failed
to subdue the rebel colonies. They had lost one whole army, had
poured out treasures of blood and money, and all they had in return
was New York and the coast town of Newport. Besides this they were
at war with half Europe. For in 1779 Spain declared war against
Britain, more indeed from anger against the British than from any
love of the Americans. The following year Holland also declared
war against Britain, who thus found herself surrounded by foes.
Still, in spite of all, the British stuck doggedly to their task
of conquering the Americans. But as Pitt had told them again and
again, it was an impossible task. At length, having failed to make
any impression in the north they decided to change the seat of war
and attack the weaker colonies in the south.
Here for a time they were more successful. Georgia was overrun,
then South Carolina, and Charleston, which had made such a brave
defence at the beginning of the war, surrendered to the British,
with all its stores of food and ammunition.
Things were going badly for the patriots in the south, and Gates,
who was still looked upon as a hero, because Burgoyne had surrendered
to him, was sent to take command. Now he had a chance to prove of
what stuff he was made. He proved it by being utterly defeated at
the battle of Camden.
This defeat was a bitter blow. Never since before the battle of
Trenton had the patriot cause seemed so much in danger. But the
dark days passed, and once more the Americans began to win instead
of lose battles. South Carolina was re-conquered, and Cornwallis,
who was commander-in-chief of the British army in the south, retired
into Virginia, and occupied Yorktown.
Just at this time Washington learned that a French fleet was sailing
for Chesapeake Bay, and he determined to make a grand French-American
attack on the British in the south. He made his plans very secretly,
and leaving General Heath with four thousand men to guard the
Hudson, he marched southwards, moving with such quickness that he
had reached the Delaware before Clinton in New York knew what he
was about. His army now consisted of two thousand Americans, and
four thousand French, and this was the only time throughout the
war that French and Americans marched together.
On the 6th of October the siege of Yorktown began. It was soon seen
that its defenses were of no use against the seventy heavy siege
guns of the allied army, and the surrender of Cornwallis was only
a matter of time - for he was caught in a trap, just as Burgoyne
had been. He could not escape to the south, for Lafayette barred the
way to the Carolinas. He could not escape by sea, for the French
and British fleets had fought a battle at the entrance of Chesapeake
Bay, in which the British ships had been so badly damaged that they
were obliged to sail to New York to refit. He could not escape to
the north or the east, for Washington's army shut him in.
Still for a few days the British made a gallant stand. But their
ammunition was running short, their defenses were crumbling to
bits, and on the 19th of October, almost four years to a day after
Burgoyne's surrender to Gates, Cornwallis surrendered to Washington.
Two days later the British soldiers marched out with flags furled,
while the bands played a tune called "The World Turned Upside Down."
To them indeed the world must have seemed turned upside down, for
the all-conquering British had been conquered at last, and that by
a nation of farmers unskilled in war. Yet they may have found some
comfort in the thought that after all they had been beaten by their
equals, by men of their own race.
On either side there was the same grit and endurance, the same
love of fair play. But added to that the Americans had fought for
a great cause. Their hearts were in it, as the hearts of the British
had never been. This was their great advantage. This nerved their
For two years after this Clinton still held New York, but there was
no more fighting between the regular armies, and the surrender of
Cornwallis may be said to have ended the war. When Lord North heard
the news he was distracted with grief. He dashed wildly up and down
the room, waving his arms and crying over and over again, "O God,
it is all over, it is all over."
As for King George, he would not admit that it was all over, and
he swore he would rather give up his crown than acknowledge the
States to be free. But at length he, too, had to give way, and the
treaty of peace was signed in Paris in November, 1782. This Peace,
however, was only a first step, for Europe was still at war,
and it was difficult to settle matters. But in September of the
following year the real peace was signed, and the United States were
acknowledged to be free. By this treaty Florida was given back to
Spain, the Mississippi was made the western boundary, and the Great
Lakes the northern boundary of the United States.
Thus a new great power came into being, and as an English historian
has said, "the world had reached one of the turning points of its
Part VII STORIES OF THE UNITED STATES UNDER THE CONSTITUTION
Chapter 64 - Washington First In War, First In Peace
After the peace was signed in September, 1783, all the British
soldiers left America, and Washington felt that his work was done.
So he resolved to give up his post as commander-in-chief, and go
back to his pleasant Virginian home.
He was glad at the thought of going back to the home he loved, yet
sad at the thought of saying farewell to his officers. For eight
years they had worked for him faithfully, together they had faced
dark days, together they had been through deep waters. And now
that victory was won, Washington's heart was filled with love and
It was at Faunces's Tavern in New York that Washington met his
officers for the last time. When he came into the long, low room
where they were all gathered, he was so moved that he could not
speak. Silently he went to the table and filled a glass with wine.
Raising it, he turned to the men who stood as silently about him,
and with an effort, commanding his voice he spoke.
"With a heart full of love and gratitude," he said, "I now take
leave of you, most devoutly wishing that your latter days may be
as prosperous and happy as your former ones have been glorious and
Then having drunk to the toast he set the glass down.
"I cannot come to each of you to take my leave," he said brokenly,
"but shall be obliged if each of you will come and take me by the
The General who was nearest to Washington then turned to him and
silently grasped his hand.
With tears in his eyes, Washington put his arms about him and
kissed him. And thus one after the other his officers silently said
good-bye, no one of them trusting himself to speak.
Then still in silence, they followed him to the boat which was to
carry him on the first part of his way to Annapolis where Congress
was assembled, and where he was to lay down his sword.
His journey was like a royal progress. In every town and village
through which he passed the people gathered to cheer and bless
him. So he reached Annapolis. There before Congress he resigned
his commission. Then with a sigh of relief, a simple citizen once
more, he mounted his horse and rode homewards.
But now the colonies which had wrung themselves free from the rule
of Britain were not altogether happy. They called themselves the
United States, but there was little union. Before the Revolution
there had been much jealousy between the various states. For
a time, indeed, in the heat of the struggle, they had forgotten
these differences. But now that the struggle was over, and peace
had come, these jealousies appeared again. Each state had its
own government, its own taxes, its own money. So there was great
confusion. But no state wanted to give up any of its privileges,
and it seemed hopeless to institute one Central Government, for each
state thought only of itself, and each one was afraid of giving
Congress too much power lest it should usurp the power of the state
The states quarreled with each other about their boundaries, some
of them made absurd claims to vast territory on the strength of
their royal charters, quite forgetting that these charters were
now done away with. There were riots everywhere, indeed, never was
the State in such danger of shipwreck as now at its very beginning.
Washington from his quiet retreat at first watched the struggle
anxiously, but not despairingly. "Everything will come right,
at last," he said. "My only fear is that we shall lose a little
As time went on, however, he grew more anxious. "I think we have
opposed Great Britain," he said, "and have arrived at the present
state of peace and independency, to very little purpose, if we
cannot conquer our own prejudices."
But Washington had no real need to fear. The men who had fought for
their freedom proved themselves worthy of it, and in May, 1787, a
meeting of all the states was called at Philadelphia.
Of this Convention, as it was called, Washington was chosen President.
It was no easy post, nor was the business for which the members of
the Convention were called together a simple business. They had,
indeed, a very great task to perform, the task of forming a new
constitution or mode of government, which all states would accept.
It was not easy to please every one, and also do thoroughly good
work. So for four months the Convention sat, discussing this and
that, listening now to one side, now to another, weighing, judging
But at length the thing was done. In the same hall where the Declaration
of Independence had been signed the Constitution had been framed.
Then the delegates went home and a copy of the Constitution was
sent to each state.
It had been agreed that nine states must accept the Constitution
before it could become law. The question now was whether nine
would accept it or not. Many hesitated a long time. For it seemed
to them that this new Constitution which was going to unite all
the states into one was going also to give far too much power into
the hands of a few people. It would be a case of tyranny over again,
many feared. And, having suffered so much to free themselves from
one tyranny, they were not ready to place themselves under a second.
But others at once saw the need of a strong central government and
accepted the new Constitution whole-heartedly and almost at once.
Delaware had the honour of coming first early in December, 1787,
but before the month was gone two more states, Pennsylvania and New
Jersey, followed the good example. A week or so later came Georgia
and then Connecticut. After a good deal of hesitation Massachusetts
also came into line; then Maryland and South Carolina.
Only one more state was now needed to make the union safe. Would
that one state come in, the friends of union asked themselves, and
they worked their hardest to make people think as they did.
At length their efforts were rewarded and New Hampshire made the
ninth, and just four days later the great State of Virginia also
came in. New York soon followed and only North Carolina and Rhode
Island remained out of the Union. But in time they, too, came in,
Rhode Island last of all, and not for fully a year after the first
President had been chosen, and the government organised.
The new government required that there should be a Congress to look
after the affairs of the nation, with two houses, something after
the fashion of the British Parliament. It also required that there
should be a President at the head of everything.
There was little doubt as to who should fill that place. George
Washington, the man who had led the army to victory, was the man
chosen to be first President of the United States.
Other people were indeed voted for, but Washington had more than
twice as many votes as John Adams, who came next to him. The others
were simply nowhere. So Washington was made President and Adams
But Washington had no wish to be President. He was too old, he said
(he was only fifty-seven) and besides he was not even a statesman
but a soldier. The people, however, would not listen to him. "We
cannot do without you," they said. "There is no use framing a new
government if the best man is to be left out of it."
So to the entreaties of his friends Washington yielded. But it was
with a heavy heart, for he greatly doubted his own powers.
"In confidence I tell you," he wrote to an old friend, "that my
movement to the chair of government will be accompanied by feelings
not unlike those of a culprit who is going to the place of his
But whatever he felt, his journey to New York was not like that of
a criminal, but rather like that of a king. From far and near the
people crowded to see him pass. They raised triumphal arches, they
scattered flowers at his feet, they sang chants and hymns in his
honour. From first to last it was one long triumph. When he reached
New York bells rang and cannon boomed, the streets were gay with
flags, and crowded with people, and as he passed along cheer upon
cheer thundered and echoed over the city.
Next day, the 30th of April, 1789, Washington took his place as
President of the United States.
At nine o'clock in the morning the churches were thronged with
people praying for the welfare of their President. By twelve these
same people were all crowding to the Federal Hall eager to be
present at the great ceremony. Soon the space in front of the hall
was one closely packed mass of people; every window and balcony
was crowded also, and people were even to be seen on the roofs.
A little after noon Washington reached the hall, and as he stepped
out on to the balcony a cheer of welcome burst from the gathered
thousands. Again and again they cheered, again and again Washington
bowed in acknowledgement. He was greatly touched; tears stood in
his eyes, and at length utterly overcome he sat down.
Suddenly a deep hush fell upon the swaying crowd and after a slight
pause Washington rose again. Then in the grave silence the voice
of Robert R. Livingston, the Chancellor of New York, could clearly
"Do you," he asked, "solemnly swear that you will faithfully execute
the office of President of the United States, and will to the best
of your ability preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of