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Washington and his Comrades in Arms A Chronicle of the War of Independence by George Wrong

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who lay in strength at the Harlem. That would have been to play
Washington's game. Instead he put the part of his army still on
Long Island in ships which then sailed through the dangerous
currents of Hell Gate and landed at Throg's Neck, a peninsula on
the sound across from Long Island. Washington parried this
movement by so guarding the narrow neck of the peninsula leading
to the mainland that the cautious Howe shrank from a frontal
attack across a marsh. After a delay of six days, he again
embarked his army, landed a few miles above Throg's Neck in the
hope of cutting off Washington from retreat northward, only to
find Washington still north of him at White Plains. A sharp
skirmish followed in which Howe lost over two hundred men and
Washington only one hundred and forty. Washington, masterly in
retreat, then withdrew still farther north among hills difficult
of attack.

Howe had a plan which made a direct attack on Washington
unnecessary. He turned southward and occupied the east shore of
the Hudson River. On the 16th of November took place the worst
disaster which had yet befallen American arms. Fort Washington,
lying just south of the Harlem, was the only point still held on
Manhattan Island by the Americans. In modern war it has become
clear that fortresses supposedly strong may be only traps for
their defenders. Fort Washington stood on the east bank of the
Hudson opposite Fort Lee, on the west bank. These forts could not
fulfil the purpose for which they were intended, of stopping
British ships. Washington saw that the two forts should be
abandoned. But the civilians in Congress, who, it must be
remembered, named the generals and had final authority in
directing the war, were reluctant to accept the loss involved in
abandoning the forts and gave orders that every effort should be
made to hold them. Greene, on the whole Washington's best
general, was in command of the two positions and was left to use
his own judgment. On the 15th of November, by a sudden and rapid
march across the island, Howe appeared before Fort Washington and
summoned it to surrender on pain of the rigors of war, which
meant putting the garrison to the sword should he have to take
the place by storm. The answer was a defiance; and on the next
day Howe attacked in overwhelming force. There was severe
fighting. The casualties of the British were nearly five hundred,
but they took the huge fort with its three thousand defenders and
a great quantity of munitions of war. Howe's threat was not
carried out. There was no massacre.

Across the river at Fort Lee the helpless Washington watched this
great disaster. He had need still to look out, for Fort Lee was
itself doomed. On the nineteenth Lord Cornwallis with five
thousand men crossed the river five miles above Fort Lee. General
Greene barely escaped with the two thousand men in the fort,
leaving behind one hundred and forty cannon, stores, tools, and
even the men's blankets. On the twentieth the British flag was
floating over Fort Lee and Washington's whole force was in rapid
flight across New Jersey, hardly pausing until it had been
ferried over the Delaware River into Pennsylvania.

Treachery, now linked to military disaster, made Washington's
position terrible. Charles Lee, Horatio Gates, and Richard
Montgomery were three important officers of the regular British
army who fought on the American side. Montgomery had been killed
at Quebec; the defects of Gates were not yet conspicuous; and Lee
was next to Washington the most trusted American general. The
names Washington and Lee of the twin forts on opposite sides of
the Hudson show how the two generals stood in the public mind.
While disaster was overtaking Washington, Lee had seven thousand
men at North Castle on the east bank of the Hudson, a few miles
above Fort Washington, blocking Howe's advance farther up the
river. On the day after the fall of Fort Washington, Lee received
positive orders to cross the Hudson at once. Three days later
Fort Lee fell, and Washington repeated the order. Lee did not
budge. He was safe where he was and could cross the river and get
away into New Jersey when he liked. He seems deliberately to have
left Washington to face complete disaster and thus prove his
incompetence; then, as the undefeated general, he could take the
chief command. There is no evidence that he had intrigued with
Howe, but he thought that he could be the peacemaker between
Great Britain and America, with untold possibilities of ambition
in that role. He wrote of Washington at this time, to his friend
Gates, as weak and "most damnably deficient." Nemesis, however,
overtook him. In the end he had to retreat across the Hudson to
northern New Jersey. Here many of the people were Tories. Lee
fell into a trap, was captured in bed at a tavern by a
hard-riding party of British cavalry, and carried off a prisoner,
obliged to bestride a horse in night gown and slippers. Not
always does fate appear so just in her strokes.

In December, though the position of Washington was very bad, all
was not lost. The chief aim of Howe was to secure the line of the
Hudson and this he had not achieved. At Stony Point, which lies
up the Hudson about fifty miles from New York, the river narrows
and passes through what is almost a mountain gorge, easily
defended. Here Washington had erected fortifications which made
it at least difficult for a British force to pass up the river.
Moreover in the highlands of northern New Jersey, with
headquarters at Morristown, General Sullivan, recently exchanged,
and General Gates now had Lee's army and also the remnants of the
force driven from Canada. But in retreating across New Jersey
Washington had been forsaken by thousands of men, beguiled in
part by the Tory population, discouraged by defeat, and in many
cases with the right to go home, since their term of service had
expired. All that remained of Washington's army after the forces
of Sullivan and Gates joined him across the Delaware in
Pennsylvania, was about four thousand men.

Howe was determined to have Philadelphia as well as New York and
could place some reliance on Tory help in Pennsylvania. He had
pursued Washington to the Delaware and would have pushed on
across that river had not his alert foe taken care that all the
boats should be on the wrong shore. As it was, Howe occupied the
left bank of the Delaware with his chief post at Trenton. If he
made sure of New Jersey he could go on to Philadelphia when the
river was frozen over or indeed when he liked. Even the Congress
had fled to Baltimore. There were British successes in other
quarters. Early in December Lord Howe took the fleet to Newport.
Soon he controlled the whole of Rhode Island and checked the
American privateers who had made it their base. The brothers
issued proclamations offering protection to all who should within
sixty days return to their British allegiance and many people of
high standing in New York and New Jersey accepted the offer. Howe
wrote home to England the glad news of victory. Philadelphia
would probably fall before spring and it looked as if the war was
really over.

In this darkest hour Washington struck a blow which changed the
whole situation. We associate with him the thought of calm
deliberation. Now, however, was he to show his strongest quality
as a general to be audacity. At the Battle of the Marne, in 1914,
the French General Foch sent the despatch: "My center is giving
way; my right is retreating; the situation is excellent: I am
attacking." Washington's position seemed as nearly hopeless and
he, too, had need of some striking action. A campaign marked by
his own blundering and by the treachery of a trusted general had
ended in seeming ruin. Pennsylvania at his back and New Jersey
before him across the Delaware were less than half loyal to the
American cause and probably willing to accept peace on almost any
terms. Never was a general in a position where greater risks must
be taken for salvation. As Washington pondered what was going on
among the British across the Delaware, a bold plan outlined
itself in his mind. Howe, he knew, had gone to New York to
celebrate a triumphant Christmas. His absence from the front was
certain to involve slackness. It was Germans who held the line of
the Delaware, some thirteen hundred of them under Colonel Rahl at
Trenton, two thousand under Von Donop farther down the river at
Bordentown; and with Germans perhaps more than any other people
Christmas is a season of elaborate festivity. On this their first
Christmas away from home many of the Germans would be likely to
be off their guard either through homesickness or dissipation.
They cared nothing for either side. There had been much
plundering in New Jersey and discipline was relaxed.

Howe had been guilty of the folly of making strong the posts
farthest from the enemy and weak those nearest to him. He had,
indeed, ordered Rahl to throw up redoubts for the defense of
Trenton, but this, as Washington well knew, had not been done for
Rahl despised his enemy and spoke of the American army as already
lost. Washington's bold plan was to recross the Delaware and
attack Trenton. There were to be three crossings. One was to be
against Von Donop at Bordentown below Trenton, the second at
Trenton itself. These two attacks were designed to prevent aid to
Trenton. The third force with which Washington himself went was
to cross the river some nine miles above the town.

Christmas Day, 1776, was dismally cold. There was a driving storm
of sleet and the broad swollen stream of the Delaware, dotted
with dark masses of floating ice, offered a chill prospect. To
take an army with its guns across that threatening flood was
indeed perilous. Gates and other generals declared that the
scheme was too difficult to be carried out. Only one of the three
forces crossed the river. Washington, with iron will, was not to
be turned from his purpose. He had skilled boatmen from New
England. The crossing took no less than ten hours and a great
part of it was done in wintry darkness. When the army landed on
the New Jersey shore it had a march of nine miles in sleet and
rain in order to reach Trenton by daybreak. It is said that some
of the men marched barefoot leaving tracks of blood in the snow.
The arms of some were lost and those of others were wet and
useless but Washington told them that they must depend the more
on the bayonet. He attacked Trenton in broad daylight. There was
a sharp fight. Rahl, the commander, and some seventy men, were
killed and a thousand men surrendered.

Even now Washington's position was dangerous. Von Donop, with two
thousand men, lay only a few miles down the river. Had he marched
at once on Trenton, as he should have done, the worn out little
force of Washington might have met with disaster. What Von Donop
did when the alarm reached him was to retreat as fast as he could
to Princeton, a dozen miles to the rear towards New York, leaving
behind his sick and all his heavy equipment. Meanwhile
Washington, knowing his danger, had turned back across the
Delaware with a prisoner for every two of his men. When, however,
he saw what Von Donop had done he returned on the twenty-ninth to
Trenton, sent out scouting parties, and roused the country so
that in every bit of forest along the road to Princeton there
were men, dead shots, to make difficult a British advance to
retake Trenton.

The reverse had brought consternation at New York. Lord
Cornwallis was about to embark for England, the bearer of news of
overwhelming victory. Now, instead, he was sent to drive back
Washington. It was no easy task for Cornwallis to reach Trenton,
for Washington's scouting parties and a force of six hundred men
under Greene were on the road to harass him. On the evening of
the 2d of January, however, he reoccupied Trenton. This time
Washington had not recrossed the Delaware but had retreated
southward and was now entrenched on the southern bank of the
little river Assanpink, which flows into the Delaware.
Reinforcements were following Cornwallis. That night he sharply
cannonaded Washington's position and was as sharply answered. He
intended to attack in force in the morning. To the skill and
resource of Washington he paid the compliment of saying that at
last he had run down the "Old Fox."

Then followed a maneuver which, years after, Cornwallis, a
generous foe, told Washington was one of the most surprising and
brilliant in the history of war. There was another "old fox" in
Europe, Frederick the Great, of Prussia, who knew war if ever man
knew it, and he, too, from this movement ranked Washington among
the great generals. The maneuver was simple enough. Instead of
taking the obvious course of again retreating across the Delaware
Washington decided to advance, to get in behind Cornwallis, to
try to cut his communications, to threaten the British base of
supply and then, if a superior force came up, to retreat into the
highlands of New Jersey. There he could keep an unbroken line as
far east as the Hudson, menace the British in New Jersey, and
probably force them to withdraw to the safety of New York.

All through the night of January 2, 1777, Washington's camp fires
burned brightly and the British outposts could hear the sound of
voices and of the spade and pickaxe busy in throwing up
entrenchments. The fires died down towards morning and the
British awoke to find the enemy camp deserted. Washington had
carried his whole army by a roundabout route to the Princeton
road and now stood between Cornwallis and his base. There was
some sharp fighting that day near Princeton. Washington had to
defeat and get past the reinforcements coming to Cornwallis. He
reached Princeton and then slipped away northward and made his
headquarters at Morristown. He had achieved his purpose. The
British with Washington entrenched on their flank were not safe
in New Jersey. The only thing to do was to withdraw to New York.
By his brilliant advance Washington recovered the whole of New
Jersey with the exception of some minor positions near the sea.
He had changed the face of the war. In London there was momentary
rejoicing over Howe's recent victories, but it was soon followed
by distressing news of defeat. Through all the colonies ran
inspiring tidings. There had been doubts whether, after all,
Washington was the heaven-sent leader. Now both America and
Europe learned to recognize his skill. He had won a reputation,
though not yet had he saved a cause.


Though the outlook for Washington was brightened by his success
in New Jersey, it was still depressing enough. The British had
taken New York, they could probably take Philadelphia when they
liked, and no place near the seacoast was safe. According to the
votes in Parliament, by the spring of 1777 Britain was to have an
army of eighty-nine thousand men, of whom fifty-seven thousand
were intended for colonial garrisons and for the prosecution of
the war in America. These numbers were in fact never reached, but
the army of forty thousand in America was formidable compared
with Washington's forces. The British were not hampered by the
practice of enlisting men for only a few months, which marred so
much of Washington's effort. Above all they had money and
adequate resources. In a word they had the things which
Washington lacked during almost the whole of the war.

Washington called his success in the attack at Trenton a lucky
stroke. It was luck which had far-reaching consequences. Howe had
the fixed idea that to follow the capture of New York by that of
Philadelphia, the most populous city in America, and the seat of
Congress, would mean great glory for himself and a crushing blow
to the American cause. If to this could be added, as he intended,
the occupation of the whole valley of the Hudson, the year 1777
might well see the end of the war. An acute sense of the value of
time is vital in war. Promptness, the quick surprise of the
enemy, was perhaps the chief military virtue of Washington;
dilatoriness was the destructive vice of Howe. He had so little
contempt for his foe that he practised a blighting caution. On
April 12, 1777, Washington, in view of his own depleted force, in
a state of half famine, wrote: "If Howe does not take advantage
of our weak state he is very unfit for his trust." Howe remained
inactive and time, thus despised, worked its due revenge. Later
Howe did move, and with skill, but he missed the rapid
combination in action which was the first condition of final
success. He could have captured Philadelphia in May. He took the
city, but not until September, when to hold it had become a
liability and not an asset. To go there at all was perhaps
unwise; to go in September was for him a tragic mistake.

From New York to Philadelphia the distance by land is about a
hundred miles. The route lay across New Jersey, that "garden of
America" which English travelers spoke of as resembling their own
highly cultivated land. Washington had his headquarters at
Morristown, in northern New Jersey. His resources were at a low
ebb. He had always the faith that a cause founded on justice
could not fail; but his letters at this time are full of
depressing anxiety. Each State regarded itself as in danger and
made care of its own interests its chief concern. By this time
Congress had lost most of the able men who had given it dignity
and authority. Like Howe it had slight sense of the value of time
and imagined that tomorrow was as good as today. Wellington once
complained that, though in supreme command, he had not authority
to appoint even a corporal. Washington was hampered both by
Congress and by the State Governments in choosing leaders. He had
some officers, such as Greene, Knox, and Benedict Arnold, whom he
trusted. Others, like Gates and Conway, were ceaseless
intriguers. To General Sullivan, who fancied himself constantly
slighted and ill-treated, Washington wrote sharply to abolish his
poisonous suspicions.

Howe had offered easy terms to those in New Jersey who should
declare their loyalty and to meet this Washington advised the
stern policy of outlawing every one who would not take the oath
of allegiance to the United States. There was much fluttering of
heart on the New Jersey farms, much anxious trimming in order, in
any event, to be safe. Howe's Hessians had plundered ruthlessly
causing deep resentment against the British. Now Washington found
his own people doing the same thing. Militia officers,
themselves, "generally" as he said, "of the lowest class of the
people," not only stole but incited their men to steal. It was
easy to plunder under the plea that the owner of the property was
a Tory, whether open or concealed, and Washington wrote that the
waste and theft were "beyond all conception." There were shirkers
claiming exemption from military service on the ground that they
were doing necessary service as civilians. Washington needed maps
to plan his intricate movements and could not get them. Smallpox
was devastating his army and causing losses heavier than those
from the enemy. When pay day came there was usually no money. It
is little wonder that in this spring of 1777 he feared that his
army might suddenly dissolve and leave him without a command. In
that case he would not have yielded. Rather, so stern and bitter
was he against England, would he have plunged into the western
wilderness to be lost in its vast spaces.

Howe had his own perplexities. He knew that a great expedition
under Burgoyne was to advance from Canada southward to the
Hudson. Was he to remain with his whole force at New York until
the time should come to push up the river to meet Burgoyne? He
had a copy of the instructions given in England to Burgoyne by
Lord George Germain, but he was himself without orders.
Afterwards the reason became known. Lord George Germain had
dictated the order to cooperate with Burgoyne, but had hurried
off to the country before it was ready for his signature and it
had been mislaid. Howe seemed free to make his own plans and he
longed to be master of the enemy's capital. In the end he
decided to take Philadelphia--a task easy enough, as the event
proved. At Howe's elbow was the traitorous American general,
Charles Lee, whom he had recently captured, and Lee, as we know,
told him that Maryland and Pennsylvania were at heart loyal to
the King and panting to be free from the tyranny of the
demagogue. Once firmly in the capital Howe believed that he would
have secure control of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. He
could achieve this and be back at New York in time to meet
Burgoyne, perhaps at Albany. Then he would hold the colony of New
York from Staten Island to the Canadian frontier. Howe found that
he could send ships up the Hudson, and the American army had to
stand on the banks almost helpless against the mobility of sea
power. Washington's left wing rested on the Hudson and he held
both banks but neither at Peekskill nor, as yet, farther up at
West Point, could his forts prevent the passage of ships. It was
a different matter for the British to advance on land. But the
ships went up and down in the spring of 1777. It would be easy
enough to help Burgoyne when the time should come.

It was summer before Howe was ready to move, and by that time he
had received instructions that his first aim must be to cooperate
with Burgoyne. First, however, he was resolved to have
Philadelphia. Washington watched Howe in perplexity. A great
fleet and a great army lay at New York. Why did they not move?
Washington knew perfectly well what he himself would have done in
Howe's place. He would have attacked rapidly in April the weak
American army and, after destroying or dispersing it, would have
turned to meet Burgoyne coming southward from Canada. Howe did
send a strong force into New Jersey. But he did not know how weak
Washington really was, for that master of craft in war
disseminated with great skill false information as to his own
supposed overwhelming strength. Howe had been bitten once by
advancing too far into New Jersey and was not going to take
risks. He tried to entice Washington from the hills to attack in
open country. He marched here and there in New Jersey and kept
Washington alarmed and exhausted by counter marches, and always
puzzled as to what the next move should be. Howe purposely let
one of his secret messengers be taken bearing a despatch saying
that the fleet was about to sail for Boston. All these things
took time and the summer was slipping away. In the end Washington
realized that Howe intended to make his move not by land but by
sea. Could it be possible that he was not going to make aid to
Burgoyne his chief purpose? Could it be that he would attack
Boston? Washington hoped so for he knew the reception certain at
Boston. Or was his goal Charleston? On the 23d of July, when the
summer was more than half gone, Washington began to see more
clearly. On that day Howe had embarked eighteen thousand men and
the fleet put to sea from Staten Island.

Howe was doing what able officers with him, such as Cornwallis,
Grey, and the German Knyphausen, appear to have been unanimous in
thinking he should not do. He was misled not only by the desire
to strike at the very center of the rebellion, but also by the
assurance of the traitorous Lee that to take Philadelphia would
be the effective signal to all the American Loyalists, the
overwhelming majority of the people, as was believed, that
sedition had failed. A tender parent, the King, was ready to have
the colonies back in their former relation and to give them
secure guarantees of future liberty. Any one who saw the fleet
put out from New York Harbor must have been impressed with the
might of Britain. No less than two hundred and twenty-nine ships
set their sails and covered the sea for miles. When they had
disappeared out of sight of the New Jersey shore their goal was
still unknown. At sea they might turn in any direction.
Washington's uncertainty was partly relieved on the 30th of July
when the fleet appeared at the entrance of Delaware Bay, with
Philadelphia some hundred miles away across the bay and up the
Delaware River. After hovering about the Cape for a day the fleet
again put to sea, and Washington, who had marched his army so as
to be near Philadelphia, thought the whole movement a feint and
knew not where the fleet would next appear. He was preparing to
march to New York to menace General Clinton, who had there seven
thousand men able to help Burgoyne when he heard good news. On
the 22d of August he knew that Howe had really gone southward and
was in Chesapeake Bay. Boston was now certainly safe. On the 25th
of August, after three stormy weeks at sea, Howe arrived at
Elkton, at the head of Chesapeake Bay, and there landed his army.
It was Philadelphia fifty miles away that he intended to have.
Washington wrote gleefully "Now let all New England turn out and
crush Burgoyne." Before the end of September he was writing that
he was certain of complete disaster to Burgoyne.

Howe had, in truth, made a ruinous mistake. Had the date been May
instead of August he might still have saved Burgoyne. But at the
end of August, when the net was closing on Burgoyne, Howe was
three hundred miles away. His disregard of time and distance had
been magnificent. In July he had sailed to the mouth of the
Delaware, with Philadelphia near, but he had then sailed away
again, and why? Because the passage of his ships up the river to
the city was blocked by obstructions commanded by bristling
forts. The naval officers said truly that the fleet could not get
up the river. But Howe might have landed his army at the head of
Delaware Bay. It is a dozen miles across the narrow peninsula
from the head of Delaware Bay to that of Chesapeake Bay. Since
Howe had decided to attack from the head of Chesapeake Bay there
was little to prevent him from landing his army on the Delaware
side of the peninsula and marching across it. By sea it is a
voyage of three hundred miles round a peninsula one hundred and
fifty miles long to get from one of these points to the other, by
land only a dozen miles away. Howe made the sea voyage and spent
on it three weeks when a march of a day would have saved this
time and kept his fleet three hundred miles by sea nearer to New
York and aid for Burgoyne.

Howe's mistakes only have their place in the procession to
inevitable disaster. Once in the thick of fighting he showed
himself formidable. When he had landed at Elkton he was fifty
miles southwest of Philadelphia and between him and that place
was Washington with his army. Washington was determined to delay
Howe in every possible way. To get to Philadelphia Howe had to
cross the Brandywine River. Time was nothing to him. He landed at
Elkton on the 25th of August. Not until the l0th of September was
he prepared to attack Washington barring his way at Chadd's Ford.
Washington was in a strong position on a front of two miles on
the river. At his left, below Chadd's Ford, the Brandywine is a
torrent flowing between high cliffs. There the British would find
no passage. On his right was a forest. Washington had chosen his
position with his usual skill. Entrenchments protected his front
and batteries would sweep down an advancing enemy. He had
probably not more than eleven thousand men in the fight and it is
doubtful whether Howe brought up a greater number so that the
armies were not unevenly matched. At daybreak on the eleventh the
British army broke camp at the village of Kenneth Square, four
miles from Chadd's Ford, and, under General Knyphausen, marched
straight to make a frontal attack on Washington's position.

In the battle which followed Washington was beaten by the
superior tactics of his enemy. Not all of the British army was
there in the attack at Chadd's Ford. A column under Cornwallis
had filed off by a road to the left and was making a long and
rapid march. The plan was to cross the Brandywine some ten miles
above where Washington was posted and to attack him in the rear.
By two o'clock in the afternoon Cornwallis had forced the two
branches of the upper Brandywine and was marching on Dilworth at
the right rear of the American army. Only then did Washington
become aware of his danger. His first impulse was to advance
across Chadd's Ford to try to overwhelm Knyphausen and thus to
get between Howe and the fleet at Elkton. This might, however,
have brought disaster and he soon decided to retire. His movement
was ably carried out. Both sides suffered in the woodland
fighting but that night the British army encamped in Washington's
position at Chadd's Ford, and Howe had fought skillfully and won
an important battle.

Washington had retired in good order and was still formidable. He
now realized clearly enough that Philadelphia would fall. Delay,
however, would be nearly as good as victory. He saw what Howe
could not see, that menacing cloud in the north, much bigger than
a man's hand, which, with Howe far away, should break in a final
storm terrible for the British cause. Meanwhile Washington meant
to keep Howe occupied. Rain alone prevented another battle before
the British reached the Schuylkill River. On that river
Washington guarded every ford. But, in the end, by skillful
maneuvering, Howe was able to cross and on the 26th of September
he occupied Philadelphia without resistance. The people were
ordered to remain quietly in their houses. Officers were billeted
on the wealthier inhabitants. The fall resounded far of what Lord
Adam Gordon called a "great and noble city," "the first Town in
America," "one of the Wonders of the World." Its luxury had been
so conspicuous that the austere John Adams condemned the "sinful
feasts" in which he shared. About it were fine country seats
surrounded by parklike grounds, with noble trees, clipped hedges,
and beautiful gardens. The British believed that Pennsylvania was
really on their side. Many of the people were friendly and
hundreds now renewed their oath of allegiance to the King.
Washington complained that the people gave Howe information
denied to him. They certainly fed Howe's army willingly and
received good British gold while Washington had only paper money
with which to pay. Over the proud capital floated once more the
British flag and people who did not see very far said that, with
both New York and Philadelphia taken, the rebellion had at last

Once in possession of Philadelphia Howe made his camp at
Germantown, a straggling suburban village, about seven miles
northwest of the city. Washington's army lay at the foot of some
hills a dozen miles farther away. Howe had need to be wary, for
Washington was the same "old fox" who had played so cunning a
game at Trenton. The efforts of the British army were now
centered on clearing the river Delaware so that supplies might be
brought up rapidly by water instead of being carried fifty miles
overland from Chesapeake Bay. Howe detached some thousands of men
for this work and there was sharp fighting before the troops and
the fleet combined had cleared the river. At Germantown Howe kept
about nine thousand men. Though he knew that Washington was
likely to attack him he did not entrench his army as he desired
the attack to be made. It might well have succeeded. Washington
with eleven thousand men aimed at a surprise. On the evening of
the 3d of October he set out from his camp. Four roads led into
Germantown and all these the Americans used. At sunrise on the
fourth, just as the attack began, a fog arose to embarrass both
sides. Lying a little north of the village was the solid stone
house of Chief Justice Chew, and it remains famous as the central
point in the bitter fight of that day. What brought final failure
to the American attack was an accident of maneuvering. Sullivan's
brigade was in front attacking the British when Greene's came up
for the same purpose. His line overlapped Sullivan's and he
mistook in the fog Sullivan's men for the enemy and fired on them
from the rear. A panic naturally resulted among the men who were
attacked also at the same time by the British on their front. The
disorder spread. British reinforcements arrived, and Washington
drew off his army in surprising order considering the panic. He
had six hundred and seventy-three casualties and lost besides
four hundred prisoners. The British loss was five hundred and
thirty-seven casualties and fourteen prisoners. The attack had
failed, but news soon came which made the reverse unimportant.
Burgoyne and his whole army had surrendered at Saratoga.


John Burgoyne, in a measure a soldier of fortune, was the younger
son of an impoverished baronet, but he had married the daughter
of the powerful Earl of Derby and was well known in London
society as a man of fashion and also as a man of letters, whose
plays had a certain vogue. His will, in which he describes
himself as a humble Christian, who, in spite of many faults, had
never forgotten God, shows that he was serious minded. He sat in
the House of Commons for Preston and, though he used the language
of a courtier and spoke of himself as lying at the King's feet to
await his commands, he was a Whig, the friend of Fox and others
whom the King regarded as his enemies. One of his plays describes
the difficulties of getting the English to join the army of
George III. We have the smartly dressed recruit as a decoy to
suggest an easy life in the army. Victory and glory are so
certain that a tailor stands with his feet on the neck of the
King of France. The decks of captured ships swim with punch and
are clotted with gold dust, and happy soldiers play with diamonds
as if they were marbles. The senators of England, says Burgoyne,
care chiefly to make sure of good game laws for their own
pleasure. The worthless son of one of them, who sets out on the
long drive to his father's seat in the country, spends an hour in
"yawning, picking his teeth and damning his journey" and when
once on the way drives with such fury that the route is marked by
"yelping dogs, broken-backed pigs and dismembered geese."

It was under this playwright and satirist, who had some skill as
a soldier, that the British cause now received a blow from which
it never recovered. Burgoyne had taken part in driving the
Americans from Canada in 1776 and had spent the following winter
in England using his influence to secure an independent command.
To his later undoing he succeeded. It was he, and not, as had
been expected, General Carleton, who was appointed to lead the
expedition of 1777 from Canada to the Hudson. Burgoyne was given
instructions so rigid as to be an insult to his intelligence. He
was to do one thing and only one thing, to press forward to the
Hudson and meet Howe. At the same time Lord George Germain, the
minister responsible, failed to instruct Howe to advance up the
Hudson to meet Burgoyne. Burgoyne had a genuine belief in the
wisdom of this strategy but he had no power to vary it, to meet
changing circumstances, and this was one chief factor in his

Behold Burgoyne then, on the 17th of June, embarking on Lake
Champlain the army which, ever since his arrival in Canada on the
6th of May, he had been preparing for this advance. He had rather
more than seven thousand men, of whom nearly one-half were
Germans under the competent General Riedesel. In the force of
Burgoyne we find the ominous presence of some hundreds of Indian
allies. They had been attached to one side or the other in every
war fought in those regions during the previous one hundred and
fifty years. In the war which ended in 1763 Montcalm had used
them and so had his opponent Amherst. The regiments from the New
England and other colonies had fought in alliance with the
painted and befeathered savages and had made no protest. Now
either times had changed, or there was something in a civil war
which made the use of savages seem hideous. One thing is certain.
Amherst had held his savages in stern restraint and could say
proudly that they had not committed a single outrage. Burgoyne
was not so happy.

In nearly every war the professional soldier shows distrust, if
not contempt, for civilian levies. Burgoyne had been in America
before the day of Bunker Hill and knew a great deal about the
country. He thought the "insurgents" good enough fighters when
protected by trees and stones and swampy ground. But he thought,
too, that they had no real knowledge of the science of war and
could not fight a pitched battle. He himself had not shown the
prevision required by sound military knowledge. If the British
were going to abandon the advantage of sea power and fight where
they could not fall back on their fleet, they needed to pay
special attention to land transport. This Burgoyne had not done.
It was only a little more than a week before he reached Lake
Champlain that he asked Carleton to provide the four hundred
horses and five hundred carts which he still needed and which
were not easily secured in a sparsely settled country. Burgoyne
lingered for three days at Crown Point, half way down the lake.
Then, on the 2d of July, he laid siege to Fort Ticonderoga. Once
past this fort, guarding the route to Lake George, he could
easily reach the Hudson.

In command at Fort Ticonderoga was General St. Clair, with about
thirty-five hundred men. He had long notice of the siege, for the
expedition of Burgoyne had been the open talk of Montreal and the
surrounding country during many months. He had built Fort
Independence, on the east shore of Lake Champlain, and with a
great expenditure of labor had sunk twenty-two piers across the
lake and stretched in front of them a boom to protect the two
forts. But he had neglected to defend Sugar Hill in front of Fort
Ticonderoga, and commanding the American works. It took only
three or four days for the British to drag cannon to the top,
erect a battery and prepare to open fire. On the 5th of July, St.
Clair had to face a bitter necessity. He abandoned the untenable
forts and retired southward to Fort Edward by way of the
difficult Green Mountains. The British took one hundred and
twenty-eight guns.

These successes led the British to think that within a few days
they would be in Albany. We have an amusing picture of the effect
on George III of the fall of Fort Ticonderoga. The place had been
much discussed. It had been the first British fort to fall to the
Americans when the Revolution began, and Carleton's failure to
take it in the autumn of 1776 had been the cause of acute
heartburning in London. Now, when the news of its fall reached
England, George III burst into the Queen's room with the glad
cry, "I have beat them, I have beat the Americans." Washington's
depression was not as great as the King's elation; he had a
better sense of values; but he had intended that the fort should
hold Burgoyne, and its fall was a disastrous blow. The Americans
showed skill and good soldierly quality in the retreat from
Ticonderoga, and Burgoyne in following and harassing them was led
into hard fighting in the woods. The easier route by way of Lake
George was open but Burgoyne hoped to destroy his enemy by direct
pursuit through the forest. It took him twenty days to hew his
way twenty miles, to the upper waters of the Hudson near Fort
Edward. When there on the 30th of July he had communications open
from the Hudson to the St. Lawrence.

Fortune seemed to smile on Burgoyne. He had taken many guns and
he had proved the fighting quality of his men. But his cheerful
elation had, in truth, no sound basis. Never during the two and a
half months of bitter struggle which followed was he able to
advance more than twenty-five miles from Fort Edward. The moment
he needed transport by land he found himself almost helpless.
Sometimes his men were without food and equipment because he had
not the horses and carts to bring supplies from the head of water
at Fort Anne or Fort George, a score of miles away. Sometimes he
had no food to transport. He was dependent on his communications
for every form of supplies. Even hay had to be brought from
Canada, since, in the forest country, there was little food for
his horses. The perennial problem for the British in all
operations was this one of food. The inland regions were too
sparsely populated to make it possible for more than a few
soldiers to live on local supplies. The wheat for the bread of
the British soldier, his beef and his pork, even the oats for his
horse, came, for the most part, from England, at vast expense for
transport, which made fortunes for contractors. It is said that
the cost of a pound of salted meat delivered to Burgoyne on the
Hudson was thirty shillings. Burgoyne had been told that the
inhabitants needed only protection to make them openly loyal and
had counted on them for supplies. He found instead the great mass
of the people hostile and he doubted the sincerity even of those
who professed their loyalty.

After Burgoyne had been a month at Fort Edward he was face to
face with starvation. If he advanced he lengthened his line to
flank attack. As it was he had difficulty in holding it against
New Englanders, the most resolute of all his foes, eager to
assert by hard fighting, if need be, their right to hold the
invaded territory which was claimed also by New York. Burgoyne's
instructions forbade him to turn aside and strike them a heavy
blow. He must go on to meet Howe who was not there to be met. A
being who could see the movements of men as we watch a game of
chess, might think that madness had seized the British leaders;
Burgoyne on the upper Hudson plunging forward resolutely to meet
Howe; Howe at sea sailing away, as it might well seem, to get as
far from Burgoyne as he could; Clinton in command at New York
without instructions, puzzled what to do and not hearing from his
leader, Howe, for six weeks at a time; and across the sea a
complacent minister, Germain, who believed that he knew what to
do in a scene three thousand miles away, and had drawn up exact
instructions as to the way of doing it, and who was now eagerly
awaiting news of the final triumph.

Burgoyne did his best. Early in August he had to make a
venturesome stroke to get sorely needed food. Some twenty-five
miles east of the Hudson at Bennington, in difficult country, New
England militia had gathered food and munitions, and horses for
transport. The pressure of need clouded Burgoyne's judgment. To
make a dash for Bennington meant a long and dangerous march. He
was assured, however, that a surprise was possible and that in
any case the country was full of friends only awaiting a little
encouragement to come out openly on his side. They were Germans
who lay on Burgoyne's left and Burgoyne sent Colonel Baum, an
efficient officer, with five or six hundred men to attack the New
Englanders and bring in the supplies. It was a stupid blunder to
send Germans among a people specially incensed against the use of
these mercenaries. There was no surprise. Many professing
loyalists, seemingly eager to take the oath of allegiance, met
and delayed Baum. When near Bennington he found in front of him a
force barring the way and had to make a carefully guarded camp
for the night. Then five hundred men, some of them the cheerful
takers of the oath of allegiance, slipped round to his rear and
in the morning he was attacked from front and rear.

A hot fight followed which resulted in the complete defeat of the
British. Baum was mortally wounded. Some of his men escaped into
the woods; the rest were killed or captured. Nor was this all.
Burgoyne, scenting danger, had ordered five hundred more Germans
to reinforce Baum. They, too, were attacked and overwhelmed. In
all Burgoyne lost some eight hundred men and four guns. The
American loss was seventy. It shows the spirit of the time that,
for the sport of the soldiers, British prisoners were tied
together in pairs and driven by negroes at the tail of horses. An
American soldier described long after, with regret for his own
cruelty, how he had taken a British prisoner who had had his left
eye shot out and mounted him on a horse also without the left
eye, in derision at the captive's misfortune. The British
complained that quarter was refused in the fight. For days tired
stragglers, after long wandering in the woods, drifted into
Burgoyne's camp. This was now near Saratoga, a name destined to
be ominous in the history of the British army.

Further misfortune now crowded upon Burgoyne. The general of that
day had two favorite forms of attack. One was to hold the enemy's
front and throw out a column to march round the flank and attack
his rear, the method of Howe at the Brandywine; the other method
was to advance on the enemy by lines converging at a common
center. This form of attack had proved most successful eighteen
years earlier when the British had finally secured Canada by
bringing together, at Montreal, three armies, one from the east,
one from the west, and one from the south. Now there was a
similar plan of bringing together three British forces at or near
Albany, on the Hudson. Of Clinton, at New York, and Burgoyne we
know. The third force was under General St. Leger. With some
seventeen hundred men, fully half of whom were Indians, he had
gone up the St. Lawrence from Montreal and was advancing from
Oswego on Lake Ontario to attack Fort Stanwix at the end of the
road from the Great Lakes to the Mohawk River. After taking that
stronghold he intended to go down the river valley to meet
Burgoyne near Albany.

On the 3d of August St. Leger was before Fort Stanwix garrisoned
by some seven hundred Americans. With him were two men deemed
potent in that scene. One of these was Sir John Johnson who had
recently inherited the vast estate in the neighborhood of his
father, the great Indian Superintendent, Sir William Johnson, and
was now in command of a regiment recruited from Loyalists, many
of them fierce and embittered because of the seizure of their
property. The other leader was a famous chief of the Mohawks,
Thayendanegea, or, to give him his English name, Joseph Brant,
half savage still, but also half civilized and half educated,
because he had had a careful schooling and for a brief day had
been courted by London fashion. He exerted a formidable influence
with his own people. The Indians were not, however, all on one
side. Half of the six tribes of the Iroquois were either neutral
or in sympathy with the Americans. Among the savages, as among
the civilized, the war was a family quarrel, in which brother
fought brother. Most of the Indians on the American side
preserved, indeed, an outward neutrality. There was no hostile
population for them to plunder and the Indian usually had no
stomach for any other kind of warfare. The allies of the British,
on the other hand, had plenty of openings to their taste and they
brought on the British cause an enduring discredit.

When St. Leger was before Fort Stanwix he heard that a force of
eight hundred men, led by a German settler named Herkimer, was
coming up against him. When it was at Oriskany, about six miles
away, St. Leger laid a trap. He sent Brant with some hundreds of
Indians and a few soldiers to be concealed in a marshy ravine
which Herkimer must cross. When the American force was hemmed in
by trees and marsh on the narrow causeway of logs running across
the ravine the Indians attacked with wild yells and murderous
fire. Then followed a bloody hand to hand fight. Tradition has
been busy with its horrors. Men struggled in slime and blood and
shouted curses and defiance. Improbable stories are told of pairs
of skeletons found afterwards in the bog each with a bony hand
which had driven a knife to the heart of the other. In the end
the British, met by resolution so fierce, drew back. Meanwhile a
sortie from the American fort on their rear had a menacing
success. Sir John Johnson's camp was taken and sacked. The two
sides were at last glad to separate, after the most bloody
struggle in the whole war. St. Leger's Indians had had more than
enough. About a hundred had been killed and the rest were in a
state of mutiny. Soon it was known that Benedict Arnold, with a
considerable force, was pushing up the Mohawk Valley to relieve
the American fort. Arnold knew how to deal with savages. He took
care that his friendly Indians should come into contact with
those of Brant and tell lurid tales of utter disaster to Burgoyne
and of a great avenging army on the march to attack St. Leger.
The result was that St. Leger's Indians broke out in riot and
maddened themselves with stolen rum. Disorder affected even the
soldiers. The only thing for St. Leger to do was to get away. He
abandoned his guns and stores and, harassed now by his former
Indian allies, made his way to Oswego and in the end reached
Montreal with a remnant of his force.

News of these things came to Burgoyne just after the disaster at
Bennington. Since Fort Stanwix was in a country counted upon as
Loyalist at heart it was especially discouraging again to find
that in the main the population was against the British. During
the war almost without exception Loyalist opinion proved weak
against the fierce determination of the American side. It was
partly a matter of organization. The vigilance committees in each
State made life well-nigh intolerable to suspected Tories. Above
all, however, the British had to bear the odium which attaches
always to the invader. We do not know what an American army would
have done if, with Iroquois savages as allies, it had made war in
an English county. We know what loathing a parallel situation
aroused against the British army in America. The Indians, it
should be noted, were not soldiers under British discipline but
allies; the chiefs regarded themselves as equals who must be
consulted and not as enlisted to take orders from a British

In war, as in politics, nice balancing of merit or defect in an
enemy would destroy the main purpose which is to defeat him. Each
side exaggerates any weak point in the other in order to
stimulate the fighting passions. Judgment is distorted. The
Baroness Riedesel, the wife of one of Burgoyne's generals, who
was in Boston in 1777, says that the people were all dressed
alike in a peasant costume with a leather strap round the waist,
that they were of very low and insignificant stature, and that
only one in ten of them could read or write. She pictures New
Englanders as tarring and feathering cultivated English ladies.
When educated people believed every evil of the enemy the
ignorant had no restraint to their credulity. New England had
long regarded the native savages as a pest. In 1776 New Hampshire
offered seventy pounds for each scalp of a hostile male Indian
and thirty-seven pounds and ten shillings for each scalp of a
woman or of a child under twelve years of age. Now it was
reported that the British were offering bounties for American
scalps. Benjamin Franklin satirized British ignorance when he
described whales leaping Niagara Falls and he did not expect to
be taken seriously when, at a later date, he pictured George III
as gloating over the scalps of his subjects in America. The
Seneca Indians alone, wrote Franklin, sent to the King many bales
of scalps. Some bales were captured by the Americans and they
found the scalps of 43 soldiers, 297 farmers, some of them burned
alive, and 67 old people, 88 women, 193 boys, 211 girls, 29
infants, and others unclassified. Exact figures bring conviction.
Franklin was not wanting in exactness nor did he fail, albeit it
was unwittingly, to intensify burning resentment of which we have
echoes still. Burgoyne had to bear the odium of the outrages by
Indians. It is amusing to us, though it was hardly so to this
kindly man, to find these words put into his mouth by a colonial

I will let loose the dogs of Hell,
Ten thousand Indians who shall yell,
And foam, and tear, and grin, and roar
And drench their moccasins in gore:. . .
I swear, by St. George and St. Paul,
I will exterminate you all.

Such seed, falling on soil prepared by the hate of war, brought
forth its deadly fruit. The Americans believed that there was no
brutality from which British officers would shrink. Burgoyne had
told his Indian allies that they must not kill except in actual
fighting and that there must be no slaughter of non-combatants
and no scalping of any but the dead. The warning delivered him
into the hands of his enemies for it showed that he half expected
outrage. Members of the British House of Commons were no whit
behind the Americans in attacking him. Burke amused the House by
his satire on Burgoyne's words: "My gentle lions, my humane
bears, my tenderhearted hyenas, go forth! But I exhort you, as
you are Christians and members of civilized society, to take care
not to hurt any man, woman, or child." Burke's great speech
lasted for three and a half hours and Sir George Savile called it
"the greatest triumph of eloquence within memory." British
officers disliked their dirty, greasy, noisy allies and Burgoyne
found his use of savages, with the futile order to be merciful, a
potent factor in his defeat.

A horrifying incident had occurred while he was fighting his way
to the Hudson. As the Americans were preparing to leave Fort
Edward some marauding Indians saw a chance of plunder and
outrage. They burst into a house and carried off two ladies, both
of them British in sympathy--Mrs. McNeil, a cousin of one of
Burgoyne's chief officers, General Fraser, and Miss Jeannie
McCrae, whose betrothed, a Mr. Jones, and whose brother were
serving with Burgoyne. In a short time Mrs. McNeil was handed
over unhurt to Burgoyne's advancing army. Miss McCrae was never
again seen alive by her friends. Her body was found and a Wyandot
chief, known as the Panther, showed her scalp as a trophy.
Burgoyne would have been a poor creature had he not shown anger
at such a crime, even if committed against the enemy. This crime,
however, was committed against his own friends. He pressed the
charge against the chief and was prepared to hang him and only
relaxed when it was urged that the execution would cause all his
Indians to leave him and to commit further outrages. The incident
was appealing in its tragedy and stirred the deep anger of the
population of the surrounding country among whose descendants to
this day the tradition of the abandoned brutality of the British
keeps alive the old hatred.

At Fort Edward Burgoyne now found that he could hardly move. He
was encumbered by an enormous baggage train. His own effects
filled, it is said, thirty wagons and this we can believe when we
find that champagne was served at his table up almost to the day
of final disaster. The population was thoroughly aroused against
him. His own instinct was to remain near the water route to
Canada and make sure of his communications. On the other hand,
honor called him to go forward and not fail Howe, supposed to be
advancing to meet him. For a long time he waited and hesitated.
Meanwhile he was having increasing difficulty in feeding his army
and through sickness and desertion his numbers were declining. By
the 13th of September he had taken a decisive step. He made a
bridge of boats and moved his whole force across the river to
Saratoga, now Schuylerville. This crossing of the river would
result inevitably in cutting off his communications with Lake
George and Ticonderoga. After such a step he could not go back
and he was moving forward into a dark unknown. The American camp
was at Stillwater, twelve miles farther down the river. Burgoyne
sent messenger after messenger to get past the American lines and
bring back news of Howe. Not one of these unfortunate spies
returned. Most of them were caught and ignominiously hanged. One
thing, however, Burgoyne could do. He could hazard a fight and on
this he decided as the autumn was closing in.

Burgoyne had no time to lose, once his force was on the west bank
of the Hudson. General Lincoln cut off his communications with
Canada and was soon laying siege to Ticonderoga. The American
army facing Burgoyne was now commanded by General Gates. This
Englishman, the godson of Horace Walpole, had gained by
successful intrigue powerful support in Congress. That body was
always paying too much heed to local claims and jealousies and on
the 2d of August it removed Schuyler of New York because he was
disliked by the soldiers from New England and gave the command to
Gates. Washington was far away maneuvering to meet Howe and he
was never able to watch closely the campaign in the north. Gates,
indeed, considered himself independent of Washington and reported
not to the Commander-in-Chief but direct to Congress. On the 19th
of September Burgoyne attacked Gates in a strong entrenched
position on Bemis Heights, at Stillwater. There was a long and
bitter fight, but by evening Burgoyne had not carried the main
position and had lost more than five hundred men whom he could
ill spare from his scanty numbers.

Burgoyne's condition was now growing desperate. American forces
barred retreat to Canada. He must go back and meet both frontal
and flank attacks, or go forward, or surrender. To go forward now
had most promise, for at last Howe had instructed Clinton, left
in command at New York, to move, and Clinton was making rapid
progress up the Hudson. On the 7th of October Burgoyne attacked
again at Stillwater. This time he was decisively defeated, a
result due to the amazing energy in attack of Benedict Arnold,
who had been stripped of his command by an intrigue. Gates would
not even speak to him and his lingering in the American camp was
unwelcome. Yet as a volunteer Arnold charged the British line
madly and broke it. Burgoyne's best general, Fraser, was killed
in the fight. Burgoyne retired to Saratoga and there at last
faced the prospects of getting back to Fort Edward and to Canada.
It may be that he could have cut his way through, but this is
doubtful. Without risk of destruction he could not move in any
direction. His enemies now outnumbered him nearly four to one.
His camp was swept by the American guns and his men were under
arms night and day. American sharpshooters stationed themselves
at daybreak in trees about the British camp and any one who
appeared in the open risked his life. If a cap was held up in
view instantly two or three balls would pass through it. His
horses were killed by rifle shots. Burgoyne had little food for
his men and none for his horses. His Indians had long since gone
off in dudgeon. Many of his Canadian French slipped off homeward
and so did the Loyalists. The German troops were naturally
dispirited. A British officer tells of the deadly homesickness of
these poor men. They would gather in groups of two dozen or so
and mourn that they would never again see their native land. They
died, a score at a time, of no other disease than sickness for
their homes. They could have no pride in trying to save a lost
cause. Burgoyne was surrounded and, on the 17th of October, he
was obliged to surrender.

Gates proposed to Burgoyne hard terms--surrender with no honors
of war. The British were to lay down their arms in their
encampments and to march out without weapons of any kind.
Burgoyne declared that, rather than accept such terms, he would
fight still and take no quarter. A shadow was falling on the path
of Gates. The term of service of some of his men had expired. The
New Englanders were determined to stay and see the end of
Burgoyne but a good many of the New York troops went off.
Sickness, too, was increasing. Above all General Clinton was
advancing up the Hudson. British ships could come up freely as
far as Albany and in a few days Clinton might make a formidable
advance. Gates, a timid man, was in a hurry. He therefore agreed
that the British should march from their camp with the honors of
war, that the troops should be taken to New England, and from
there to England. They must not serve again in North America
during the war but there was nothing in the terms to prevent
their serving in Europe and relieving British regiments for
service in America. Gates had the courtesy to keep his army where
it could not see the laying down of arms by Burgoyne's force.
About five thousand men, of whom sixteen hundred were Germans and
only three thousand five hundred fit for duty, surrendered to
sixteen thousand Americans. Burgoyne gave offense to German
officers by saying in his report that he might have held out
longer had all his troops been British. This is probably true but
the British met with only a just Nemesis for using soldiers who
had no call of duty to serve.

The army set out on its long march of two hundred miles to
Boston. The late autumn weather was cold, the army was badly
clothed and fed, and the discomfort of the weary route was
increased by the bitter antagonism of the inhabitants. They
respected the regular British soldier but at the Germans they
shouted insults and the Loyalists they despised as traitors. The
camp at the journey's end was on the ground at Cambridge where
two years earlier Washington had trained his first army. Every
day Burgoyne expected to embark. There was delay and, at last, he
knew the reason. Congress repudiated the terms granted by Gates.
A tangled dispute followed. Washington probably had no sympathy
with the quibbling of Congress. But he had no desire to see this
army return to Europe and release there an army to serve in
America. Burgoyne's force was never sent to England. For nearly a
year it lay at Boston. Then it was marched to Virginia. The men
suffered great hardships and the numbers fell by desertion and
escape. When peace came in 1783 there was no army to take back to
England; Burgoyne's soldiers had been merged into the American
people. It may well be, indeed, that descendants of his beaten
men have played an important part in building up the United
States. The irony of history is unconquerable.


Washington had met defeat in every considerable battle at which
he was personally present. His first appearance in military
history, in the Ohio campaign against the French, twenty-two
years before the Revolution, was marked by a defeat, the
surrender of Fort Necessity. Again in the next year, when he
fought to relieve the disaster to Braddock's army, defeat was his
portion. Defeat had pursued him in the battles of the Revolution
--before New York, at the Brandywine, at Germantown. The campaign
against Canada, which he himself planned, had failed. He had lost
New York and Philadelphia. But, like William III of England, who
in his long struggle with France hardly won a battle and yet
forced Louis XIV to accept his terms of peace, Washington, by
suddenness in reprisal, by skill in resource when his plans
seemed to have been shattered, grew on the hard rock of defeat
the flower of victory.

There was never a time when Washington was not trusted by men of
real military insight or by the masses of the people. But a
general who does not win victories in the field is open to
attack. By the winter of 1777 when Washington, with his army
reduced and needy, was at Valley Forge keeping watch on Howe in
Philadelphia, John Adams and others were talking of the sin of
idolatry in the worship of Washington, of its flavor of the
accursed spirit of monarchy, and of the punishment which "the God
of Heaven and Earth" must inflict for such perversity. Adams was
all against a Fabian policy and wanted to settle issues forever
by a short and strenuous war. The idol, it was being whispered,
proved after all to have feet of clay. One general, and only one,
had to his credit a really great victory--Gates, to whom Burgoyne
had surrendered at Saratoga, and there was a movement to replace
Washington by this laureled victor.

General Conway, an Irish soldier of fortune, was one of the most
troublesome in this plot. He had served in the campaign about
Philadelphia but had been blocked in his extravagant demands for
promotion; so he turned for redress to Gates, the star in the
north. A malignant campaign followed in detraction of Washington.
He had, it was said, worn out his men by useless marches; with an
army three times as numerous as that of Howe, he had gained no
victory; there was high fighting quality in the American army if
properly led, but Washington despised the militia; a Gates or a
Lee or a Conway would save the cause as Washington could not; and
so on. "Heaven has determined to save your country or a weak
general and bad counsellors would have ruined it"; so wrote
Conway to Gates and Gates allowed the letter to be seen. The
words were reported to Washington, who at once, in high dudgeon,
called Conway to account. An explosion followed. Gates both
denied that he had received a letter with the passage in
question, and, at the same time, charged that there had been
tampering with his private correspondence. He could not have it
both ways. Conway was merely impudent in reply to Washington, but
Gates laid the whole matter before Congress. Washington wrote to
Gates, in reply to his denials, ironical references to "rich
treasures of knowledge and experience" "guarded with penurious
reserve" by Conway from his leaders but revealed to Gates. There
was no irony in Washington's reference to malignant detraction
and mean intrigue. At the same time he said to Gates: "My temper
leads me to peace and harmony with all men," and he deplored the
internal strife which injured the great cause. Conway soon left
America. Gates lived to command another American army and to end
his career by a crowning disaster.

Washington had now been for more than two years in the chief
command and knew his problems. It was a British tradition that
standing armies were a menace to liberty, and the tradition had
gained strength in crossing the sea. Washington would have wished
a national army recruited by Congress alone and bound to serve
for the duration of the war. There was much talk at the time of a
"new model army" similar in type to the wonderful creation of
Oliver Cromwell. The Thirteen Colonies became, however, thirteen
nations. Each reserved the right to raise its own levies in its
own way. To induce men to enlist Congress was twice handicapped.
First, it had no power of taxation and could only ask the States
to provide what it needed. The second handicap was even greater.
When Congress offered bounties to those who enlisted in the
Continental army, some of the States offered higher bounties for
their own levies of militia, and one authority was bidding
against the other. This encouraged short-term enlistments. If a
man could re-enlist and again secure a bounty, he would gain more
than if he enlisted at once for the duration of the war.

An army is an intricate mechanism needing the same variety of
agencies that is required for the well-being of a community. The
chief aim is, of course, to defeat the enemy, and to do this an
army must be prepared to move rapidly. Means of transport, so
necessary in peace, are even more urgently needed in war. Thus
Washington always needed military engineers to construct roads
and bridges. Before the Revolution the greater part of such
services had been provided in America by the regular British
army, now the enemy. British officers declared that the American
army was without engineers who knew the science of war, and
certainly the forts on which they spent their skill in the North,
those on the lower Hudson, and at Ticonderoga, at the head of
Lake George, fell easily before the assailant. Good maps were
needed, and in this Washington was badly served, though the
defect was often corrected by his intimate knowledge of the
country. Another service ill-equipped was what we should now call
the Red Cross. Epidemics, and especially smallpox, wrought havoc
in the army. Then, as now, shattered nerves were sometimes the
result of the strain of military life. "The wind of a ball," what
we should now call shellshock, sometimes killed men whose bodies
appeared to be uninjured. To our more advanced knowledge the
medical science of the time seems crude. The physicians of New
England, today perhaps the most expert body of medical men in the
world, were even then highly skillful. But the surgeons and
nurses were too few. This was true of both sides in the conflict.
Prisoners in hospitals often suffered terribly and each side
brought charges of ill-treatment against the other. The
prison-ships in the harbor of New York, where American prisoners
were confined, became a scandal, and much bitter invective
against British brutality is found in the literature of the
period. The British leaders, no less than Washington himself,
were humane men, and ignorance and inadequate equipment will
explain most of the hardships, though an occasional officer on
either side was undoubtedly callous in respect to the sufferings
of the enemy.

Food and clothing, the first vital necessities of an army, were
often deplorably scarce. In a land of farmers there was food
enough. Its lack in the army was chiefly due to bad transport.
Clothing was another matter. One of the things insisted upon in a
well-trained army is a decent regard for appearance, and in the
eyes of the French and the British officers the American army
usually seemed rather unkempt. The formalities of dress, the
uniformity of pipe-clay and powdered hair, of polished steel and
brass, can of course be overdone. The British army had too much
of it, but to Washington's force the danger was of having too
little. It was not easy to induce farmers and frontiersmen who at
home began the day without the use of water, razor, or brush, to
appear on parade clean, with hair powdered, faces shaved, and
clothes neat. In the long summer days the men were told to shave
before going to bed that they might prepare the more quickly for
parade in the morning, and to fill their canteens over night if
an early march was imminent. Some of the regiments had uniforms
which gave them a sufficiently smart appearance. The cocked hat,
the loose hunting shirt with its fringed border, the breeches of
brown leather or duck, the brown gaiters or leggings, the
powdered hair, were familiar marks of the soldier of the

During a great part of the war, however, in spite of supplies
brought from both lance and the West Indies, Washington found it
difficult to secure for his men even decent clothing of any kind,
whether of military cut or not. More than a year after he took
command, in the fighting about New York, a great part of his army
had no more semblance of uniform than hunting shirts on a common
pattern. In the following December, he wrote of many men as
either shivering in garments fit only for summer wear or as
entirely naked. There was a time in the later campaign in the
South when hundreds of American soldiers marched stark naked,
except for breech cloths. One of the most pathetic hardships of
the soldier's life was due to the lack of boots. More than one of
Washington's armies could be tracked by the bloody footprints of
his barefooted men. Near the end of the war Benedict Arnold, who
knew whereof he spoke, described the American army as "illy clad,
badly fed, and worse paid," pay being then two or three years
overdue. On the other hand, there is evidence that life in the
army was not without its compensations. Enforced dwelling in the
open air saved men from diseases such as consumption and the
movement from camp to camp gave a broader outlook to the farmer's
sons. The army could usually make a brave parade. On ceremonial
occasions the long hair of the men would be tied back and made
white with powder, even though their uniforms were little more
than rags.

The men carried weapons some of which, in, at any rate, the early
days of the war, were made by hand at the village smithy. A man
might take to the war a weapon forged by himself. The American
soldier had this advantage over the British soldier, that he
used, if not generally, at least in some cases, not the
smooth-bore musket but the grooved rifle by which the ball was
made to rotate in its flight. The fire from this rifle was
extremely accurate. At first weapons were few and ammunition was
scanty, but in time there were importations from France and also
supplies from American gun factories. The standard length of the
barrel was three and a half feet, a portentous size compared with
that of the modern weapon. The loading was from the muzzle, a
process so slow that one of the favorite tactics of the time was
to await the fire of the enemy and then charge quickly and
bayonet him before he could reload. The old method of firing off
the musket by means of slow matches kept alight during action was
now obsolete; the latest device was the flintlock. But there was
always a measure of doubt whether the weapon would go off. Partly
on this account Benjamin Franklin, the wisest man of his time,
declared for the use of the pike of an earlier age rather than
the bayonet and for bows and arrows instead of firearms. A
soldier, he said, could shoot four arrows to one bullet. An arrow
wound was more disabling than a bullet wound; and arrows did not
becloud the vision with smoke. The bullet remained, however, the
chief means of destruction, and the fire of Washington's soldiers
usually excelled that of the British. These, in their turn, were
superior in the use of the bayonet.

Powder and lead were hard to get. The inventive spirit of America
was busy with plans to procure saltpeter and other ingredients
for making powder, but it remained scarce. Since there was no
standard firearm, each soldier required bullets specially suited
to his weapon. The men melted lead and cast it in their own
bullet-molds. It is an instance of the minor ironies of war that
the great equestrian statue of George III, which had been erected
in New York in days more peaceful, was melted into bullets for
killing that monarch's soldiers. Another necessity was paper for
cartridges and wads. The cartridge of that day was a paper
envelope containing the charge of ball and powder. This served
also as a wad, after being emptied of its contents, and was
pushed home with a ramrod. A store of German Bibles in
Pennsylvania fell into the hands of the soldiers at a moment when
paper was a crying need, and the pages of these Bibles were used
for wads.

The artillery of the time seems feeble compared with the monster
weapons of death which we know in our own age. Yet it was an
important factor in the war. It is probable that before the war
not a single cannon had been made in the colonies. From the
outset Washington was hampered for lack of artillery. Neutrals,
especially the Dutch in the West Indies, sold guns to the
Americans, and France was a chief source of supply during long
periods when the British lost the command of the sea. There was
always difficulty about equipping cavalry, especially in the
North. The Virginian was at home on horseback, and in the farther
South bands of cavalry did service during the later years of the
war, but many of the fighting riders of today might tomorrow be
guiding their horses peacefully behind the plough.

The pay of the soldiers remained to Washington a baffling
problem. When the war ended their pay was still heavily in
arrears. The States were timid about imposing taxation and few if
any paid promptly the levies made upon them. Congress bridged the
chasm in finance by issuing paper money which so declined in
value that, as Washington said grimly, it required a wagon-load
of money to pay for a wagon-load of supplies. The soldier
received his pay in this money at its face value, and there is
little wonder that the "continental dollar" is still in the
United States a symbol of worthlessness. At times the lack of pay
caused mutiny which would have been dangerous but for
Washington's firm and tactful management in the time of crisis.
There was in him both the kindly feeling of the humane man and
the rigor of the army leader. He sent men to death without
flinching, but he was at one with his men in their sufferings,
and no problem gave him greater anxiety than that of pay,
affecting, as it did, the health and spirits of men who, while
unpaid, had no means of softening the daily tale of hardship.

Desertion was always hard to combat. With the homesickness which
led sometimes to desertion Washington must have had a secret
sympathy, for his letters show that he always longed for that
pleasant home in Virginia which he did not allow himself to
revisit until nearly the end of the war. The land of a farmer on
service often remained untilled, and there are pathetic cases of
families in bitter need because the breadwinner was in the army.
In frontier settlements his absence sometimes meant the massacre
of his family by the savages. There is little wonder that
desertion was common, so common that after a reverse the men went
away by hundreds. As they usually carried with them their rifles
and other equipment, desertion involved a double loss. On one
occasion some soldiers undertook for themselves the punishment of
deserters. Men of the First Pennsylvania Regiment who had
recaptured three deserters, beheaded one of them and returned to
their camp with the head carried on a pole. More than once it
happened that condemned men were paraded before the troops for
execution with the graves dug and the coffins lying ready. The
death sentence would be read, and then, as the firing party took
aim, a reprieve would be announced. The reprieve in such
circumstances was omitted often enough to make the condemned
endure the real agony of death.

Religion offered its consolations in the army and Washington gave
much thought to the service of the chaplains. He told his army
that fine as it was to be a patriot it was finer still to be a
Christian. It is an odd fact that, though he attended the
Anglican Communion service before and after the war, he did not
partake of the Communion during the war. What was in his mind we
do not know. He was disposed, as he said himself, to let men find
"that road to Heaven which to them shall seem the most direct,"
and he was without Puritan fervor, but he had deep religious
feeling. During the troubled days at Valley Forge a neighbor came
upon him alone in the bush on his knees praying aloud, and stole
away unobserved. He would not allow in the army a favorite
Puritan custom of burning the Pope in effigy, and the prohibition
was not easily enforced among men, thousands of whom bore
scriptural names from ancestors who thought the Pope anti-Christ.

Washington's winter quarters at Valley Forge were only twenty
miles from Philadelphia, among hills easily defended. It is
matter for wonder that Howe, with an army well equipped, did not
make some attempt to destroy the army of Washington which passed
the winter so near and in acute distress. The Pennsylvania
Loyalists, with dark days soon to come, were bitter at Howe's
inactivity, full of tragic meaning for themselves. He said that
he could achieve nothing permanent by attack. It may be so; but
it is a sound principle in warfare to destroy the enemy when this
is possible. There was a time when in Washington's whole force
not more than two thousand men were in a condition to fight.
Congress was responsible for the needs of the army but was now,
in sordid inefficiency, cooped up in the little town of York,
eighty miles west of Valley Forge, to which it had fled. There
was as yet no real federal union. The seat of authority was in
the State Governments, and we need not wonder that, with the
passing of the first burst of devotion which united the colonies
in a common cause, Congress declined rapidly in public esteem.
"What a lot of damned scoundrels we had in that second Congress"
said, at a later date, Gouverneur Morris of Philadelphia to John
Jay of New York, and Jay answered gravely, "Yes, we had." The
body, so despised in the retrospect, had no real executive
government, no organized departments. Already before Independence
was proclaimed there had been talk of a permanent union, but the
members of Congress had shown no sense of urgency, and it was not
until November 15, 1777, when the British were in Philadelphia
and Congress was in exile at York, that Articles of Confederation
were adopted. By the following midsummer many of the States had
ratified these articles, but Maryland, the last to assent, did
not accept the new union until 1781, so that Congress continued
to act for the States without constitutional sanction during the
greater part of the war.

The ineptitude of Congress is explained when we recall that it
was a revolutionary body which indeed controlled foreign affairs
and the issues of war and peace, coined money, and put forth
paper money but had no general powers. Each State had but one
vote, and thus a small and sparsely settled State counted for as
much as populous Massachusetts or Virginia. The Congress must
deal with each State only as a unit; it could not coerce a State;
and it had no authority to tax or to coerce individuals. The
utmost it could do was to appeal to good feeling, and when a
State felt that it had a grievance such an appeal was likely to
meet with a flaming retort.

Washington maintained towards Congress an attitude of deference
and courtesy which it did not always deserve. The ablest men in
the individual States held aloof from Congress. They felt that
they had more dignity and power if they sat in their own
legislatures. The assembly which in the first days had as members
men of the type of Washington and Franklin sank into a gathering
of second-rate men who were divided into fierce factions. They
debated interminably and did little. Each member usually felt
that he must champion the interests of his own State against the
hostility of others. It was not easy to create a sense of
national life. The union was only a league of friendship. States
which for a century or more had barely acknowledged their
dependence upon Great Britain, were chary about coming under the
control of a new centralizing authority at Philadelphia. The new
States were sovereign and some of them went so far as to send
envoys of their own to negotiate with foreign powers in Europe.
When it was urged that Congress should have the power to raise
taxes in the States, there were patriots who asked sternly what
the war was about if it was not to vindicate the principle that
the people of a State alone should have power of taxation over
themselves. Of New England all the other States were jealous and
they particularly disliked that proud and censorious city which
already was accused of believing that God had made Boston for
Himself and all the rest of the world for Boston. The religion of
New England did not suit the Anglicans of Virginia or the Roman
Catholics of Maryland, and there was resentful suspicion of
Puritan intolerance. John Adams said quite openly that there were
no religious teachers in Philadelphia to compare with those of
Boston and naturally other colonies drew away from the severe and
rather acrid righteousness of which he was a type.

Inefficiency meanwhile brought terrible suffering at Valley
Forge, and the horrors of that winter remain still vivid in the
memory of the American people. The army marched to Valley Forge
on December 17, 1777, and in midwinter everything from houses to
entrenchments had still to be created. At once there was busy
activity in cutting down trees for the log huts. They were built
nearly square, sixteen feet by fourteen, in rows, with the door
opening on improvised streets. Since boards were scarce, and it
was difficult to make roofs rainproof, Washington tried to
stimulate ingenuity by offering a reward of one hundred dollars
for an improved method of roofing. The fireplaces of wood were
protected with thick clay. Firewood was abundant, but, with
little food for oxen and horses, men had to turn themselves into
draught animals to bring in supplies.

Sometimes the army was for a week without meat. Many horses died
for lack of forage or of proper care, a waste which especially
disturbed Washington, a lover of horses. When quantities of
clothing were ready for use, they were not delivered at Valley
Forge owing to lack of transport. Washington expressed his
contempt for officers who resigned their commissions in face of
these distresses. No one, he said, ever heard him say a word
about resignation. There were many desertions but, on the whole,
he marveled at the patience of his men and that they did not
mutiny. With a certain grim humor they chanted phrases about "no
pay, no clothes, no provisions, no rum," and sang an ode
glorifying war and Washington. Hundreds of them marched barefoot,
their blood staining the snow or the frozen ground while, at the
same time, stores of shoes and clothing were lying unused
somewhere on the roads to the camp.

Sickness raged in the army. Few men at Valley Forge, wrote
Washington, had more than a sheet, many only part of a sheet, and
some nothing at all. Hospital stores were lacking. For want of
straw and blankets the sick lay perishing on the frozen ground.
When Washington had been at Valley Forge for less than a week, he
had to report nearly three thousand men unfit for duty because of
their nakedness in the bitter winter. Then, as always, what we
now call the "profiteer" was holding up supplies for higher
prices. To the British at Philadelphia, because they paid in
gold, things were furnished which were denied to Washington at
Valley Forge, and he announced that he would hang any one who
took provisions to Philadelphia. To keep his men alive Washington
had sometimes to take food by force from the inhabitants and then
there was an outcry that this was robbery. With many sick, his
horses so disabled that he could not move his artillery, and his
defenses very slight, he could have made only a weak fight had
Howe attacked him. Yet the legislature of Pennsylvania told him
that, instead of lying quiet in winter quarters, he ought to be
carrying on an active campaign. In most wars irresponsible men
sitting by comfortable firesides are sure they knew best how the
thing should be done.

The bleak hillside at Valley Forge was something more than a
prison. Washington's staff was known as his family and his
relations with them were cordial and even affectionate. The young
officers faced their hardships cheerily and gave meager dinners
to which no one might go if he was so well off as to have
trousers without holes. They talked and sang and jested about
their privations. By this time many of the bad officers, of whom
Washington complained earlier, had been weeded out and he was
served by a body of devoted men. There was much good comradeship.
Partnership in suffering tends to draw men together. In the
company which gathered about Washington, two men, mere youths at
the time, have a world-wide fame. The young Alexander Hamilton,
barely twenty-one years of age, and widely known already for his
political writings, had the rank of lieutenant colonel gained for
his services in the fighting about New York. He was now
Washington's confidential secretary, a position in which he soon
grew restless. His ambition was to be one of the great military
leaders of the Revolution. Before the end of the war he had gone
back to fighting and he distinguished himself in the last battle
of the war at Yorktown. The other youthful figure was the Marquis
de La Fayette. It is not without significance that a noble square
bears his name in the capital named after Washington. The two men
loved each other. The young French aristocrat, with both a great
name and great possessions, was fired in 1776, when only
nineteen, with zeal for the American cause. "With the welfare of
America," he wrote to his wife, "is closely linked the welfare of
mankind." Idealists in France believed that America was leading
in the remaking of the world. When it was known that La Fayette
intended to go to fight in America, the King of France forbade
it, since France had as yet no quarrel with England. The youth,
however, chartered a ship, landed in South Carolina, hurried to
Philadelphia, and was a major general in the American army when
he was twenty years of age.

La Fayette rendered no serious military service to the American
cause. He arrived in time to fight in the battle of the
Brandywine. Washington praised him for his bravery and military
ardor and wrote to Congress that he was sensible, discreet, and
able to speak English freely. It was with an eye to the influence
in France of the name of the young noble that Congress advanced
him so rapidly. La Fayette was sincere and generous in spirit. He
had, however, little military capacity. Later when he might have
directed the course of the French Revolution he was found wanting
in force of character. The great Mirabeau tried to work with him
for the good of France, but was repelled by La Fayette's jealous
vanity, a vanity so greedy of praise that Jefferson called it a
"canine appetite for popularity and fame." La Fayette once said
that he had never bad a thought with which he could reproach
himself, and he boasted that he has mastered three kings--the
King of England in the American Revolution, the King of France,
and King Mob of Paris during the upheaval in France. He was
useful as a diplomatist rather than as a soldier. Later, in an
hour of deep need, Washington sent La Fayette to France to ask
for aid. He was influential at the French court and came back
with abundant promises, which were in part fulfilled.

Washington himself and Oliver Cromwell are perhaps the only two
civilian generals in history who stand in the first rank as
military leaders. It is doubtful indeed whether it is not rather
character than military skill which gives Washington his place.
Only one other general of the Revolution attained to first rank
even in secondary fame. Nathanael Greene was of Quaker stock from
Rhode Island. He was a natural student and when trouble with the
mother country was impending in 1774 he spent the leisure which
he could spare from his forges in the study of military history
and in organizing the local militia. Because of his zeal for
military service he was expelled from the Society of Friends. In
1775 when war broke out he was promptly on hand with a contingent
from Rhode Island. In little more than a year and after a very
slender military experience he was in command of the army on Long
Island. On the Hudson defeat not victory was his lot. He had,
however, as much stern resolve as Washington. He shared
Washington's success in the attack on Trenton, and his defeats at
the Brandywine and at Germantown. Now he was at Valley Forge, and
when, on March 2, 1778, he became quartermaster general, the
outlook for food and supplies steadily improved. Later, in the
South, he rendered brilliant service which made possible the
final American victory at Yorktown.

Henry Knox, a Boston bookseller, had, like Greene, only slight
training for military command. It shows the dearth of officers to
fight the highly disciplined British army that Knox, at the age
of twenty-five, and fresh from commercial life, was placed in
charge of the meager artillery which Washington had before
Boston. It was Knox, who, with heart-breaking labor, took to the
American front the guns captured at Ticonderoga. Throughout the
war he did excellent service with the artillery, and Washington
placed a high value upon his services. He valued too those of
Daniel Morgan, an old fighter in the Indian wars, who left his
farm in Virginia when war broke out, and marched his company of
riflemen to join the army before Boston. He served with Arnold at
the siege of Quebec, and was there taken prisoner. He was
exchanged and had his due revenge when he took part in the
capture of Burgoyne's army. He was now at Valley Forge. Later he
had a command under Greene in the South and there, as we shall
see, he won the great success of the Battle of Cowpens in
January, 1781.

It was the peculiar misfortune of Washington that the three men,
Arnold, Lee, and Gates, who ought to have rendered him the
greatest service, proved unfaithful. Benedict Arnold, next to
Washington himself, was probably the most brilliant and
resourceful soldier of the Revolution. Washington so trusted him
that, when the dark days at Valley Forge were over, he placed him
in command of the recaptured federal capital. Today the name of
Arnold would rank high in the memory of a grateful country had he
not fallen into the bottomless pit of treason. The same is in
some measure true of Charles Lee, who was freed by the British in
an exchange of prisoners and joined Washington at Valley Forge
late in the spring of 1778. Lee was so clever with his pen as to
be one of the reputed authors of the Letters of Junius. He had
served as a British officer in the conquest of Canada, and later
as major general in the army of Poland. He had a jealous and
venomous temper and could never conceal the contempt of the
professional soldier for civilian generals. He, too, fell into
the abyss of treason. Horatio Gates, also a regular soldier, had
served under Braddock and was thus at that early period a comrade
of Washington. Intriguer he was, but not a traitor. It was
incompetence and perhaps cowardice which brought his final ruin.

Europe had thousands of unemployed officers some of whom had had
experience in the Seven Years' War and many turned eagerly to
America for employment. There were some good soldiers among these
fighting adventurers. Kosciuszko, later famous as a Polish
patriot, rose by his merits to the rank of brigadier general in
the American army; De Kalb, son of a German peasant, though not a
baron, as he called himself, proved worthy of the rank of a major
general. There was, however, a flood of volunteers of another
type. French officers fleeing from their creditors and sometimes
under false names and titles, made their way to America as best
they could and came to Washington with pretentious claims.
Germans and Poles there were, too, and also exiles from that
unhappy island which remains still the most vexing problem of
British politics. Some of them wrote their own testimonials;
some, too, were spies. On the first day, Washington wrote, they
talked only of serving freely a noble cause, but within a week
were demanding promotion and advance of money. Sometimes they
took a high tone with members of Congress who had not courage to
snub what Washington called impudence and vain boasting. "I am
haunted and teased to death by the importunity of some and
dissatisfaction of others" wrote Washington of these people.

One foreign officer rendered incalculable service to the American
cause. It was not only on the British side that Germans served in
the American Revolution. The Baron yon Steuben was, like La
Fayette, a man of rank in his own country, and his personal
service to the Revolution was much greater than that of La
Fayette. Steuben had served on the staff of Frederick the Great
and was distinguished for his wit and his polished manners. There
was in him nothing of the needy adventurer. The sale of Hessian
and other troops to the British by greedy German princes was met
in some circles in Germany by a keen desire to aid the cause of
the young republic. Steuben, who held a lucrative post, became
convinced, while on a visit to Paris, that he could render
service in training the Americans. With quick sympathy and
showing no reserve in his generous spirit he abandoned his
country, as it proved forever, took ship for the United States,
and arrived in November, 1777. Washington welcomed him at Valley
Forge in the following March. He was made Inspector General and
at once took in hand the organization of the army. He prepared
"Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the
United States" later, in 1779, issued as a book. Under this
German influence British methods were discarded. The word of
command became short and sharp. The British practice of leaving
recruits to be trained by sergeants, often ignorant, coarse, and
brutal, was discarded, and officers themselves did this work. The
last letter which Washington wrote before he resigned his command
at the end of the war was to thank Steuben for his invaluable
aid. Charles Lee did not believe that American recruits could be
quickly trained so as to be able to face the disciplined British
battalions. Steuben was to prove that Lee was wrong to Lee's own
entire undoing at Monmouth when fighting began in 1778.

The British army in America furnished sharp contrasts to that of
Washington. If the British jeered at the fighting quality of
citizens, these retorted that the British soldier was a mere
slave. There were two great stains upon the British system, the
press-gang and flogging. Press-gangs might seize men abroad in
the streets of a town and, unless they could prove that they were
gentlemen in rank, they could be sent in the fleet to serve in
the remotest corners of the earth. In both navy and army flogging
outraged the dignity of manhood. The liability to this brutal and
degrading punishment kept all but the dregs of the populace from
enlisting in the British army. It helped to fix the deep gulf
between officers and men. Forty years later Napoleon Bonaparte,
despot though he might be, was struck by this separation. He
himself went freely among his men, warmed himself at their fire,
and talked to them familiarly about their work, and he thought
that the British officer was too aloof in his demeanor. In the
British army serving in America there were many officers of
aristocratic birth and long training in military science. When
they found that American officers were frequently drawn from a
class of society which in England would never aspire to a
commission, and were largely self-taught, not unnaturally they
jeered at an army so constituted. Another fact excited British
disdain. The Americans were technically rebels against their
lawful ruler, and rebels in arms have no rights as belligerents.
When the war ended more than a thousand American prisoners were
still held in England on the capital charge of treason. Nothing
stirred Washington's anger more deeply than the remark sometimes
made by British officers that the prisoners they took were
receiving undeserved mercy when they were not hanged.

There was much debate at Valley Forge as to the prospect for the
future. When we look at available numbers during the war we
appreciate the view of a British officer that in spite of
Washington's failures and of British victories the war was
serious, "an ugly job, a damned affair indeed." The population of
the colonies--some 2,500,000--was about one-third that of the
United Kingdom; and for the British the war was remote from the
base of supply. In those days, considering the means of
transport, America was as far from England as at the present day
is Australia. Sometimes the voyage across the sea occupied two
and even three months, and, with the relatively small ships of
the time, it required a vast array of transports to carry an army
of twenty or thirty thousand men. In the spring of 1776 Great
Britain had found it impossible to raise at home an army of even
twenty thousand men for service in America, and she was forced to
rely in large part upon mercenary soldiers. This was nothing new.
Her island people did not like service abroad and this
unwillingness was intensified in regard to war in remote America.
Moreover Whig leaders in England discouraged enlistment. They
were bitterly hostile to the war which they regarded as an attack
not less on their own liberties than on those of America. It
would be too much to ascribe to the ignorant British common
soldier of the time any deep conviction as to the merits or
demerits of the cause for which he fought. There is no evidence
that, once in the army, he was less ready to attack the Americans
than any other foe. Certainly the Americans did not think he was

The British soldier fought indeed with more resolute
determination than did the hired auxiliary at his side. These
German troops played a notable part in the war. The despotic
princes of the lesser German states were accustomed to sell the
services of their troops. Despotic Russia, too, was a likely
field for such enterprise. When, however, it was proposed to the
Empress Catherine II that she should furnish twenty thousand men
for service in America she retorted with the sage advice that it
was England's true interest to settle the quarrel in America
without war. Germany was left as the recruiting field. British
efforts to enlist Germans as volunteers in her own army were
promptly checked by the German rulers and it was necessary
literally to buy the troops from their princes. One-fourth of the
able-bodied men of Hesse-Cassel were shipped to America. They
received four times the rate of pay at home and their ruler
received in addition some half million dollars a year. The men
suffered terribly and some died of sickness for the homes to
which thousands of them never returned. German generals, such as
Knyphausen and Riedesel, gave the British sincere and effective
service. The Hessians were, however, of doubtful benefit to the
British. It angered the Americans that hired troops should be
used against them, an anger not lessened by the contempt which
the Hessians showed for the colonial officers as plebeians.

The two sides were much alike in their qualities and were
skillful in propaganda. In Britain lurid tales were told of the
colonists scalping the wounded at Lexington and using poisoned
bullets at Bunker Hill. In America every prisoner in British
hands was said to be treated brutally and every man slain in the
fighting to have been murdered. The use of foreign troops was a
fruitful theme. The report ran through the colonies that the
Hessians were huge ogre-like monsters, with double rows of teeth
round each jaw, who had come at the call of the British tyrant to
slay women and children. In truth many of the Hessians became
good Americans. In spite of the loyalty of their officers they
were readily induced to desert. The wit of Benjamin Franklin was
enlisted to compose telling appeals, translated into simple
German, which promised grants of land to those who should abandon
an unrighteous cause. The Hessian trooper who opened a packet of
tobacco might find in the wrapper appeals both to his virtue and
to his cupidity. It was easy for him to resist them when the
British were winning victories and he was dreaming of a return to
the Fatherland with a comfortable accumulation of pay, but it was
different when reverses overtook British arms. Then many hundreds
slipped away; and today their blood flows in the veins of
thousands of prosperous American farmers.


Washington badly needed aid from Europe, but there every
important government was monarchical and it was not easy for a
young republic, the child of revolution, to secure an ally.
France tingled with joy at American victories and sorrowed at
American reverses, but motives were mingled and perhaps hatred of
England was stronger than love for liberty in America. The young
La Fayette had a pure zeal, but he would not have fought for the
liberty of colonists in Mexico as he did for those in Virginia;
and the difference was that service in Mexico would not hurt the
enemy of France so recently triumphant. He hated England and said
so quite openly. The thought of humiliating and destroying that
"insolent nation" was always to him an inspiration. Vergennes,
the French Foreign Minister, though he lacked genius, was a man
of boundless zeal and energy. He was at work at four o'clock in
the morning and he spent his long days in toil for his country.
He believed that England was the tyrant of the seas, "the monster
against whom we should be always prepared," a greedy, perfidious
neighbor, the natural enemy of France.

From the first days of the trouble in regard to the Stamp Act
Vergennes had rejoiced that England's own children were turning
against her. He had French military officers in England spying on
her defenses. When war broke out he showed no nice regard for the
rules of neutrality and helped the colonies in every way
possible. It was a French writer who led in these activities.
Beaumarchais is known to the world chiefly as the creator of the
character of Figaro, which has become the type of the bold,
clever, witty, and intriguing rascal, but he played a real part
in the American Revolution. We need not inquire too closely into
his motives. There was hatred of the English, that "audacious,
unbridled, shameless people," and there was, too, the zeal for
liberal ideas which made Queen Marie Antoinette herself take a
pretty interest in the "dear republicans" overseas who were at
the same time fighting the national enemy. Beaumarchais secured
from the government money with which he purchased supplies to be
sent to America. He had a great warehouse in Paris, and, under
the rather fantastic Spanish name of Roderigue Hortalez & Co., he
sent vast quantities of munitions and clothing to America.
Cannon, not from private firms but from the government arsenals,
were sent across the sea. When Vergennes showed scruples about
this violation of neutrality, the answer of Beaumarchais was that
governments were not bound by rules of morality applicable to
private persons. Vergennes learned well the lesson and, while
protesting to the British ambassador in Paris that France was
blameless, he permitted outrageous breaches of the laws of

Secret help was one thing, open alliance another. Early in 1776
Silas Deane, a member from Connecticut of the Continental
Congress, was named as envoy to France to secure French aid. The
day was to come when Deane should believe the struggle against
Britain hopeless and counsel submission, but now he showed a
furious zeal. He knew hardly a word of French, but this did not
keep him from making his elaborate programme well understood.
Himself a trader, he promised France vast profits from the
monopoly of the trade of America when independence should be
secure. He gave other promises not more easy of fulfillment. To
Frenchmen zealous for the ideals of liberty and seeking military
careers in America he promised freely commissions as colonels and
even generals and was the chief cause of that deluge of European
officers which proved to Washington so annoying. It was through
Deane's activities that La Fayette became a volunteer. Through
him came too the proposal to send to America the Comte de Broglie
who should be greater than colonel or general--a generalissimo, a
dictator. He was to brush aside Washington, to take command of
the American armies, and by his prestige and skill to secure
France as an ally and win victory in the field. For such services
Broglie asked only despotic power while he served and for life a
great pension which would, he declared, not be one-hundredth part
of his real value. That Deane should have considered a scheme so
fantastic reveals the measure of his capacity, and by the end of
1776 Benjamin Franklin was sent to Paris to bring his tried skill
to bear upon the problem of the alliance. With Deane and Franklin
as a third member of the commission was associated Arthur Lee who
had vainly sought aid at the courts of Spain and Prussia. France
was, however, coy. The end of 1776 saw the colonial cause at a
very low ebb, with Washington driven from New York and about to
be driven from Philadelphia. Defeat is not a good argument for an
alliance. France was willing to send arms to America and willing
to let American privateers use freely her ports. The ship which
carried Franklin to France soon busied herself as a privateer and
reaped for her crew a great harvest of prize money. In a single
week of June, 1777, this ship captured a score of British
merchantmen, of which more than two thousand were taken by
Americans during the war. France allowed the American privateers
to come and go as they liked, and gave England smooth words, but
no redress. There is little wonder that England threatened to
hang captured American sailors as pirates.

It was the capture of Burgoyne at Saratoga which brought decision
to France. That was the victory which Vergennes had demanded
before he would take open action. One British army had
surrendered. Another was in an untenable position in
Philadelphia. It was known that the British fleet had declined.
With the best of it in America, France was the more likely to win
successes in Europe. The Bourbon king of France could, too, draw
into the war the Bourbon king of Spain, and Spain had good ships.
The defects of France and Spain on the sea were not in ships but
in men. The invasion of England was not improbable and then less
than a score of years might give France both avenging justice for
her recent humiliation and safety for her future. Britain should
lose America, she should lose India, she should pay in a hundred
ways for her past triumphs, for the arrogance of Pitt, who had
declared that he would so reduce France that she should never
again rise. The future should belong not to Britain but to
France. Thus it was that fervent patriotism argued after the
defeat of Burgoyne. Frederick the Great told his ambassador at
Paris to urge upon France that she had now a chance to strike
England which might never again come. France need not, he said,
fear his enmity, for he was as likely to help England as the
devil to help a Christian. Whatever doubts Vergennes may have
entertained about an open alliance with America were now swept
away. The treaty of friendship with America was signed on
February 6, 1778. On the 13th of March the French ambassador in
London told the British Government, with studied insolence of
tone, that the United States were by their own declaration
independent. Only a few weeks earlier the British ministry had
said that there was no prospect of any foreign intervention to
help the Americans and now in the most galling manner France told
George III the one thing to which he would not listen, that a
great part of his sovereignty was gone. Each country withdrew its
ambassador and war quickly followed.

France had not tried to make a hard bargain with the Americans.
She demanded nothing for herself and agreed not even to ask for
the restoration of Canada. She required only that America should
never restore the King's sovereignty in order to secure peace.
Certain sections of opinion in America were suspicious of France.
Was she not the old enemy who had so long harassed the frontiers
of New England and New York? If George III was a despot what of
Louis XVI, who had not even an elected Parliament to restrain
him? Washington himself was distrustful of France and months
after the alliance had been concluded he uttered the warning that
hatred of England must not lead to over-confidence in France. "No
nation," he said, "is to be trusted farther than it is bound by
its interests." France, he thought, must desire to recover
Canada, so recently lost. He did not wish to see a great military
power on the northern frontier of the United States. This would
be to confirm the jeer of the Loyalists that the alliance was a
case of the wooden horse in Troy; the old enemy would come back
in the guise of a friend and would then prove to be master and
bring the colonies under a servitude compared with which the
British supremacy would seem indeed mild.

The intervention of France brought a cruel embarrassment to the
Whig patriot in England. He could rejoice and mourn with American
patriots because he believed that their cause was his own. It was
as much the interest of Norfolk as of Massachusetts that the new
despotism of a king, who ruled through a corrupt Parliament,
should be destroyed. It was, however, another matter when France
took a share in the fight. France fought less for freedom than
for revenge, and the Englishman who, like Coke of Norfolk, could
daily toast Washington as the greatest of men could not link that
name with Louis XVI or with his minister Vergennes. The currents
of the past are too swift and intricate to be measured exactly by
the observer who stands on the shore of the present, but it is
arguable that the Whigs might soon have brought about peace in
England had it not been for the intervention of France. No
serious person any longer thought that taxation could be enforced
upon America or that the colonies should be anything but free in
regulating their own affairs. George III himself said that he who
declared the taxing of America to be worth what it cost was "more
fit for Bedlam than a seat in the Senate." The one concession
Britain was not yet prepared to make was Independence. But Burke
and many other Whigs were ready now for this, though Chatham
still believed it would be the ruin of the British Empire.

Chatham, however, was all for conciliation, and it is not hard to
imagine a group of wise men chosen from both sides, men British
in blood and outlook, sitting round a table and reaching an
agreement to result in a real independence for America and a real
unity with Great Britain. A century and a quarter later a bitter
war with an alien race in South Africa was followed by a result
even more astounding. The surrender of Burgoyne had made the
Prime Minister, Lord North, weary of his position. He had never
been in sympathy with the King's policy and since the bad news
had come in December he had pondered some radical step which
should end the war. On February 17, 1778, before the treaty of
friendship between the United States and France had been made
public, North startled the House of Commons by introducing a bill
repealing the tax on tea, renouncing forever the right to tax
America, and nullifying those changes in the constitution of
Massachusetts which had so rankled in the minds of its people. A
commission with full powers to negotiate peace would proceed at
once to America and it might suspend at its discretion, and thus
really repeal, any act touching America passed since 1763.

North had taken a sharp turn. The Whig clothes had been stolen by
a Tory Prime Minister and if he wished to stay in office the
Whigs had not the votes to turn him out. His supporters would
accept almost anything in order to dish the Whigs. They swallowed
now the bill, and it became law, but at the same time came, too,
the war with France. It united the Tories; it divided the Whigs.
All England was deeply stirred. Nearly every important town
offered to raise volunteer forces at its own expense. The
Government soon had fifteen thousand men recruited at private
cost. Help was offered so freely that the Whig, John Wilkes,
actually introduced into Parliament a bill to prohibit gifts of
money to the Crown since this voluntary taxation gave the Crown
money without the consent of Parliament. The British patriot,
gentle as he might be towards America, fumed against France. This
was no longer only a domestic struggle between parties, but a war
with an age-long foreign enemy. The populace resented what they
called the insolence and the treachery of France and the French
ambassador was pelted at Canterbury as he drove to the seacoast
on his recall. In a large sense the French alliance was not an
unmixed blessing for America, since it confused the counsels of
her best friends in England.

In spite of this it is probably true that from this time the mass
of the English people were against further attempts to coerce
America. A change of ministry was urgently demanded. There was
one leader to whom the nation looked in this grave crisis. The
genius of William Pitt, Earl of Chatham, had won the last war
against France and he had promoted the repeal of the Stamp Act.
In America his name was held in reverence so high that New York
and Charleston had erected statues in his honor. When the defeat
of Burgoyne so shook the ministry that North was anxious to
retire, Chatham, but for two obstacles, could probably have
formed a ministry. One obstacle was his age; as the event proved,
he was near his end. It was, however, not this which kept him
from office, but the resolve of George III. The King simply said
that he would not have Chatham. In office Chatham would certainly
rule and the King intended himself to rule. If Chatham would come
in a subordinate position, well; but Chatham should not lead. The
King declared that as long as even ten men stood by him he would
hold out and he would lose his crown rather than call to office
that clamorous Opposition which had attacked his American policy.
"I will never consent," he said firmly, "to removing the members
of the present Cabinet from my service." He asked North: "Are you
resolved at the hour of danger to desert me?" North remained in
office. Chatham soon died and, during four years still, George
III was master of England. Throughout the long history of that
nation there is no crisis in which one man took a heavier and
more disastrous responsibility.

News came to Valley Forge of the alliance with France and there
were great rejoicings. We are told that, to celebrate the
occasion, Washington dined in public. We are not given the bill
of fare in that scene of famine; but by the springtime tension in

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