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Life And Times Of Washington, Volume 2 by John Frederick Schroeder and Benson John Lossing

Part 3 out of 16

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murder? Can it flow from mercenary motives? or can it prompt to cruel

The conduct of the administration, however, received the full
approbation of large majorities, but the triumph these victories in
parliament afforded them was of short duration. The disastrous issue of
an expedition from which the most sanguine expectations had been formed
was soon known, and the mortification it produced was extreme. A
reluctant confession of the calamity was made by the minister and a
desire to restore peace on any terms consistent with the integrity of
the empire found its way into the cabinet.

The surrender of Burgoyne was an event of very great importance in a
political point of view as it undoubtedly decided the French government
to form an alliance with the United States, but it was only one of the
many disasters to the British arms which compelled them to acknowledge
our independence. There remained much to be done. Washington was still
to endure greater hardships and mortifications--to have his patriotism
and disinterestedness more severely tried than ever during the coming
campaigns. We must now return to his dreary camp at Valley Forge.

1. Footnote: The weakness of St. Clair's garrison was partly owing to
its having contributed detachments to the support of Washington's army
in New Jersey.

2. Footnote: "History of the War of Independence." vol. II, p. 280.

3. Footnote: Washington, writing to General Schuyler, clearly presaged
the great and auspicious change in affairs which was soon to take
place: "Though our affairs have for some days past worn a gloomy
aspect, yet I look forward to a happy change. I trust General
Burgoyne's army will meet sooner or later an effectual check, and, as I
suggested before, that the success he has had will precipitate his
ruin. From your accounts, he appears to be pursuing that line of
conduct which, of all others, is most favorable to us--I mean acting in
detachment. This conduct will certainly give room for enterprise on our
part, and expose his parties to great hazard. Could we be so happy as
to cut one of them off, though it should not exceed four, five, or six
hundred men, it would inspirit the people, and do away much of their
present anxiety. In such an event, they would lose sight of past
misfortunes, and urged on at the same time by a regard for their own
security, they would fly to arms, and afford every aid in their power."

4. Footnote: "Life of John Stark," p. 58.

5. Footnote: Mr. Jones, an officer of the British army, had gained the
affections of Miss M'Crea, a lovely young lady of amiable character and
spotless reputation, daughter of a gentleman attached to the royal
cause, residing near Fort Edward, and they had agreed to be married. In
the course of service, the officer was removed to some distance from
his bride, and became anxious for her safety and desirous of her
company. He engaged some Indians, of two different tribes, to bring her
to camp, and promised a keg of rum to the person who should deliver her
safe to him. She dressed to meet her bridegroom, and accompanied her
Indian conductors; but by the way, the two chiefs, each being desirous
of receiving the promised reward, disputed which of them should deliver
her to her lover. The dispute rose to a quarrel, and, according to
their usual method of disposing of a disputed prisoner, one of them
instantly cleft the head of the lady with his tomahawk.

This is the common version of the story found in the histories. Mr.
Lossing, in his Field Book of the Revolution, relying on the traditions
in the neighborhood of the scene, comes to the conclusion that the lady
was accidentally killed by a party of Americans in pursuit of the
Indians who had carried her off. Irving says she was killed by one of
the Indians.

6. Footnote: Colonel Morgan, with his regiment of riflemen, had been
recently sent by Washington to join the northern army. Gates, writing
to Washington, May 226, 1777, says: "I cannot sufficiently thank your
Excellency for sending Colonel Morgan's corps to this army; they will
be of the greatest service to it; for, until the late success this way,
I am told the army were quite panic-struck by the Indians, and their
Tory and Canadian assassins in Indian dress. Horrible, indeed, have
been the cruelties they have wantonly committed upon the miserable
inhabitants, insomuch that all is now fair with General Burgoyne, even
if the bloody hatchet he has so barbarously used should find its way
into his own head."

7. Footnote: Letter of Burgoyne.

8. Footnote: Gordon, in his history of the war, states himself to have
received from General Glover an anecdote showing that all these
advantages were on the point of being exposed to imminent hazard: "On
the morning of the 11th, Gates called the general officers together,
and informed them of his having received certain intelligence, which
might be depended upon, that the main body of Burgoyne's army was
marched off for Fort Edward with what they could take; and that the
rear guard only was left in the camp, who, after a while, were to push
off as fast as possible, leaving the heavy baggage behind. On this it
was concluded to advance and attack the camp in half an hour. The
officers repaired immediately to their respective commands. General
Nixon's, being the eldest brigade, crossed the Saratoga creek first.
Unknown to the Americans, Burgoyne had a line formed behind a parcel of
brushwood, to support the park of artillery where the attack was to be
made. General Glover was upon the point of following Nixon. Just as he
entered the water, he saw a British soldier making across, whom he
called and examined. This soldier was a deserter, and communicated the
very important fact that the whole British army were in their
encampment. Nixon was immediately stopped, and the intelligence
conveyed to Gates, who countermanded his orders for the assault, and
called back his troops, not without sustaining some loss from the
British artillery." Gordon is confirmed by General Wilkinson, who was
adjutant-general in the American army. The narrative of the General
varies from that of Gordon only in minor circumstances.

9. Footnote: The American army consisted of 9,093 Continental troops.
The number of the militia fluctuated, but amounted, at the signature of
the convention, to 4,129. The sick exceeded 2,500 men.




We have already given some details of the sufferings endured by
Washington and his brave soldiers at Valley Forge. One-half the tale is
not told--never will be told; their sufferings were unutterable. A
review of this portion of Washington's life will show that at Valley
Forge not only was a great deal suffered but a great deal was done.
Here the army was hardened from the gristle of youth to the bone and
muscle of manhood. It entered the tents of that dreary encampment a
courageous but disorderly rabble; it left them a disciplined army. But
we must not anticipate events.

This army, which was under the immediate command of Washington, was
engaged through the winter (1777-1778) in endeavoring to stop the
intercourse between Philadelphia and the country. To effect this object
General Smallwood was detached with one division to Wilmington; Colonel
Morgan, who had been detached from Gates's army, was placed on the
lines on the west side of the Schuylkill, and General Armstrong with
the Pennsylvania militia, was stationed near the old camp at White
Marsh. Major Jameson with two troops of cavalry and M'Lane's infantry,
was directed to guard the east and Capt. Henry Lee with his troop, the
west side of that river. General Count Pulaski, who commanded the
horse, led the residue of the cavalry to Trenton, where he trained them
for the ensuing campaign.

One of the first operations meditated by Washington after crossing the
Schuylkill was the destruction of a large quantity of hay which
remained in the islands above the mouth of Darby creek, within the
power of the British. Early in the morning, after his orders for this
purpose had been given (December 22d), Howe marched out in full force
and encamped between Darby and the middle ferry, so as completely to
cover the islands while a foraging party removed the hay. Washington,
with the intention of disturbing this operation, gave orders for
putting his army in motion, when the alarming fact was disclosed that
the commissary's stores were exhausted and that the last ration had
been delivered and consumed.

Accustomed as were the Continental troops to privations of every sort,
it would have been hazarding too much to move them under these
circumstances against a powerful enemy. In a desert or in a garrison
where food is unattainable, courage, patriotism, and habits of
discipline enable the soldier to conquer wants which, in ordinary
situations, would be deemed invincible. But to perish in a country
abounding with provisions requires something more than fortitude; nor
can soldiers readily submit while in such a country to the deprivation
of food. It is not, therefore, surprising that among a few of the
troops some indications of a mutiny appeared. It is much more
astonishing that the great body of the army bore a circumstance so
irritating, and to them so unaccountable, without a murmur.

On receiving intelligence of the fact, Washington ordered the country
to be scoured and provisions for supplying the pressing wants of the
moment to be seized wherever found. In the meantime light parties were
detached to harass the enemy about Darby, where Howe, with his
accustomed circumspection, kept his army so compact and his soldiers so
within the lines that an opportunity to annoy him was seldom afforded
even to the vigilance of Morgan and Lee. After completing his forage he
returned, with inconsiderable loss, to Philadelphia.

That the American army, while the value still retained by paper bills
placed ample funds in the hands of government, should be destitute of
food in the midst of a State so abounding with provisions as
Pennsylvania, is one of those extraordinary facts which cannot fail to
excite attention. A few words of explanation seem to be needed to
account for such a fact. Early in the war the office of
commissary-general had been conferred on Colonel Trumbull, of
Connecticut, a gentleman well fitted for that important station. Yet,
from the difficulty of arranging so complicated a department,
complaints were repeatedly made of the insufficiency of supplies. The
subject was taken up by Congress, but the remedy administered served
only to increase the disease. The system was not completed till near
midsummer, and then its arrangements were such that Colonel Trumbull
refused the office assigned to him. The new plan contemplated a number
of subordinate officers, all to be appointed by Congress, and neither
accountable to nor removable by the head of the department. This
arrangement, which was made in direct opposition to the opinion of the
Commander-in-Chief, drove Colonel Trumbull from the army. Congress,
however, persisted in the system, and its effects were not long in
unfolding themselves. In every military division of the continent loud
complaints were made of the deficiency of supplies. The armies were
greatly embarrassed and their movements suspended by the want of
provisions. The present total failure of all supply was preceded by
issuing meat unfit to be eaten. Representations on this subject had
been made to the Commander-in-Chief and communicated to Congress. That
body had authorized him to seize provisions for the use of his army
within seventy miles of headquarters and to pay for them in money or in
certificates. The odium of this measure was increased by the failure of
government to provide funds to take up these certificates when
presented. At the same time the provisions carried into Philadelphia
were paid for in specie at a fair price. The temptation was too great
to be resisted. Such was the dexterity employed by the inhabitants in
eluding the laws that notwithstanding the vigilance of the troops
stationed on the lines they often succeeded in concealing their
provisions from those authorized to impress for the army and in
conveying them to Philadelphia. Washington, urged on by Congress,
issued a proclamation requiring all the farmers within seventy miles of
Valley Forge to thresh out one-half of their grain by the 1st of
February and the rest by the 1st of March, under the penalty of having
the whole seized as straw. Many farmers refused, defended their grain
and cattle with muskets and rifle, and, in some instances, burnt what
they could not defend.

It would seem that Washington had a sufficiently heavy burden upon his
shoulders in the harassing cares and anxieties of his position, and
that he might have been spared from trials of another sort to which he
was exposed at this time, but Washington experienced what every great
and good man must expect to meet with in an envious and malicious
world. Thus far, apparently, little else than ill-success had attended
the military exploits of the Commander-in-Chief. He had been compelled
to retreat continually before a powerful enemy. New York and
Philadelphia had been lost, and there was almost nothing of a brilliant
or striking character in what had transpired during the war under
Washington's immediate direction. On the other hand, the victory at
Saratoga had thrown a lustre around Gates' name which far outshone for
the time the solid and enduring light of Washington's noble and
patriotic devotion to his country. It was the first great victory of
the war and it was a victory which necessarily had a most important
effect upon the future prospects of the United States. No wonder, then,
that restless and envious men should make invidious comparisons between
the hero of Saratoga and the Commander-in-Chief. No wonder that
Washington should suffer from detraction and the intrigues of
dissatisfied and scheming men, to whom his unsullied virtue, purity,
and integrity were invincible obstacles to every design of theirs to
promote selfish or ambitious ends.

A direct and systematic attempt was made to ruin the reputation of
Washington, and from the name of the person principally concerned this
attempt is known by the title of Conway's Cabal. General Gates and
General Mifflin of the army and Samuel Adams and others in Congress had
more or less to do with this matter. Gates and Mifflin had taken
offense at not receiving certain appointments during the siege of
Boston, and were at no time well disposed toward Washington; Conway, a
restless, boastful, and intriguing character, had always been
distrusted by Washington, and he knew it. Some of the New England
members do not seem ever to have cordially liked Washington's
appointment as Commander-in-Chief, and now, when the capture of
Burgoyne had been effected by the northern army without the
intervention of Washington the malcontents ventured to assume a bolder
attitude. Anonymous letters were freely circulated, attributing the
ill-success of the American arms to the incapacity or vacillating
policy of Washington and filled with insinuations and exaggerated
complaints against the Commander-in-Chief. [1]

Washington was not unaware of what his enemies were attempting, but it
was not till after the victory of Saratoga that the matter assumed a
definite shape. The success of the northern army, which in fact was
chiefly due to Schuyler, so elated Gates that he seemed to adopt the
views of those other members of the cabal who were disposed to favor
his aspirations to the office of commander-in-chief. He even ventured
to do what few men ever dared, to treat Washington with disrespect.
After the victory of the 7th of October (1777) had opened to him the
prospect of subduing the army of Burgoyne, he not only omitted to
communicate his success to Washington, but carried on a correspondence
with Conway, in which that officer expressed great contempt for the
Commander-in-Chief. When the purport of this correspondence, which had
been divulged by Wilkinson to Lord Stirling, became known to
Washington, he exploded the whole affair by sending the offensive
expressions directly to Conway, who communicated the information to
Gates. [1] Gates demanded the name of the informer in a letter to
Washington, far from being conciliatory in its terms, which was
accompanied with the very extraordinary circumstance of being passed
through Congress. Washington's answer completely humbled him.

It pointed out the inconsistencies and contradictions of Gates' defense
and showed him that Washington had penetrated his whole scheme and
regarded it with lofty contempt. In a subsequent letter Gates besought
him to bury the subject in oblivion.

Meantime, Washington's enemies in Congress were bold and active. A new
Board of War was created, of which Gates was appointed the president,
and Mifflin, who was of the party unfriendly to Washington, was one of
its members. Conway, who was probably the only brigadier in the army
that had joined this faction, was appointed Inspector-general and was
promoted above senior brigadiers to the rank of major-general. These
were evidences that if the hold which the Commander-in-Chief had taken
of the affections and confidence of the army and nation could be
loosened, the party in Congress disposed to change their general was
far from being contemptible in point of numbers. But to loosen this
hold was impossible. The indignation with which the idea of such a
change was received, even by the victorious troops who had conquered
under Gates, forms the most conclusive proof of its strength. Even the
northern army clung to Washington as the savior of his country.

These machinations to diminish the well-earned reputation of Washington
made no undue impression on his steady mind, nor did they change one of
his measures. His sensibilities seem to have been those of patriotism,
of apprehension for his country, rather than of wounded pride. [2]

His desire to remain at the head of the army seemed to flow from the
conviction that his retaining that station would be useful to his
country, rather than from the gratification his high rank might furnish
to ambition.

When he unbosomed himself to his private friends, the feelings and
sentiments he expressed were worthy of Washington. To Mr. Laurens, [3]
the President of Congress, and his private friend, who, in an
unofficial letter, had communicated an anonymous accusation made to
him, as President, containing heavy charges against the Commander-in-Chief,
he said. "I cannot sufficiently express the Obligation I feel toward you
for your friendship and politeness upon an occasion in which I am deeply
interested. I was not unapprised that a malignant faction had been for
some time forming to my prejudice, which, conscious as I am of having
ever done all in my power to answer the important purposes of the trusts
reposed in me, could not but give me some pain on a personal account;
but my chief concern arises from an apprehension of the dangerous
consequences which intestine dissensions may produce to the common

"As I have no other view than to promote the public good, and am
unambitious of honors not founded in the approbation of my country, I
would not desire in the least degree to suppress a free spirit of
inquiry into any part of my conduct that even faction itself may deem
reprehensible. The anonymous paper handed you exhibits many serious
charges and it is my wish that it may be submitted to Congress. This I
am the more inclined to as the suppression or concealment may possibly
involve you in embarrassment hereafter since it is uncertain how many
or who may be privy to the contents.

"My enemies take an ungenerous advantage of me. They know the delicacy
of my situation and that motives of policy deprive me of the defense I
might otherwise make against their insidious attacks. They know I
cannot combat their insinuations, however injurious, without disclosing
secrets it is of the utmost moment to conceal. But why should I expect
to be free from censure, the unfailing lot of an elevated station?
Merit and talents which I cannot pretend to rival have ever been
subject to it. My heart tells me it has been my unremitted aim to do
the best which circumstances would permit. Yet I may have been very
often mistaken in my judgment of the means and may in many instances
deserve the imputation of error."

While Washington expressed himself in these modest terms to a personal
friend, he assumed a much bolder and higher tone to the dastardly
enemies who were continually thwarting his designs and injuring the
public service by their malignity and incapacity. These were public
enemies to be publicly arraigned. Seizing the occasion to which we have
already referred, when the army was unable to march against the enemy
for want of provisions, he sent to the President of Congress the
following letter which, of course, like the rest of his correspondence,
was to be read to the whole house. It is severer than any he had ever
written: "Full as I was in my representation of the matters in the
commissary's department yesterday, fresh and more powerful reasons
oblige me to add that I am now convinced beyond a doubt that unless
some great and capital change suddenly takes place in that line this
army must inevitably be reduced to one or other of these three
things--to starve, dissolve, or disperse in order to obtain
subsistence. Rest assured, sir, that this is not an exaggerated
picture, and that I have abundant reason to suppose what I say.

"Saturday afternoon receiving information that the enemy in force had
left the city and were advancing toward Darby with apparent design to
forage and draw subsistence from that part of the country, I ordered
the troops to be in readiness that I might give every opposition in my
power, when, to my great mortification, I was not only informed but
convinced that the men were unable to stir on account of a want of
provisions, and that a dangerous mutiny begun the night before, and
which with difficulty was suppressed by the spirited exertions of some
officers, was still much to be apprehended from the want this article.

"This brought forth the only commissary in the purchasing line in this
camp and with him this melancholy and alarming truth, that he had not a
single hoof of any kind to slaughter and not more than twenty-five
barrels of flour! From hence form an opinion of our situation when I
add that he could not tell when to expect any.

"All I could do under these circumstances was to send out a few light
parties to watch and harass the enemy, whilst other parties were
instantly detached different ways to collect, if possible, as much
provisions as would satisfy the pressing wants of the soldiers; but
will this answer? No, sir. Three or four days of bad weather would
prove our destruction. What then is to become of the army this winter?
And if we are now as often without provisions as with them what is to
become of us in the spring when our force will be collected, with the
aid perhaps of militia, to take advantage of an early campaign before
the enemy can be reinforced? These are considerations of great
magnitude, meriting the closest attention, and will, when my own
reputation is so intimately connected with and to be affected by the
event, justify my saying that the present commissaries are by no means
equal to the execution of the office, or that the disaffection of the
people surpasses all belief. The misfortune, however, does in my
opinion proceed from both causes, and though I have been tender
heretofore of giving my opinion or of lodging complaints, as the change
in that department took place contrary to my judgment and the
consequences thereof were predicted, yet finding that the inactivity of
the army, whether for want of provisions, clothes, or other essentials
is charged to my account, not only by the common vulgar but by those in
power, it is time to speak plain in exculpation of myself. With truth
then I can declare that no man, in my opinion, ever had his measures
more impeded than I have by every department of the army. Since the
month of July we have had no assistance from the Quartermaster-General,
and to want of assistance from this department the Commissary-General
charges great part of his deficiency. To this I am to add that
notwithstanding it is a standing order (often repeated) that the troops
shall always have two days' provision by them, that they may be ready
at any sudden call, yet scarcely any opportunity has ever offered of
taking advantage of the enemy that has not been either totally
obstructed or greatly impeded on this account, and this, the great and
crying evil, is not all. Soap, vinegar, and other articles allowed by
Congress we see none of, nor have we seen them, I believe, since the
battle of Brandywine. The first, indeed, we have little occasion
for--few men having more than one shirt, many only the moiety of one,
and some none at all. In addition to which, as a proof of the little
benefit from a clothier-general, and at the same time as a further
proof of the inability of an army under the circumstances of this to
perform the common duties of soldiers, we have, by a field return this
day made, besides a number of men confined to hospitals for want of
shoes and others in farmers' houses on the same account, no less than
2,898 men now in camp unfit for duty because they are barefoot and
otherwise naked. By the same return it appears that our whole strength
in Continental troops, including the eastern brigades, which have
joined us since the surrender of General Burgoyne, exclusive of the
Maryland troops sent to Wilmington, amounts to no more than 8,200 in
camp fit for duty; notwithstanding which, and that since the 4th inst.,
our number fit for duty, from the hardships and exposures they have
undergone, particularly from the want of blankets, have decreased near
2,000 men, we find, gentlemen, without knowing whether the army was
really going into winter quarters or not (for I am sure no resolution
of mine would warrant the remonstrance), reprobating the measure as
much as if they thought the soldiers were made of stocks or stones, and
equally insensible to frost and snow; and, moreover, as if they
conceived it easily practicable for an inferior army, under the
disadvantages I have described ours to be--which are by no means
exaggerated--to confine a superior one, in all respects well appointed
and provided for a winter's campaign, within the city of Philadelphia,
and to cover from depredation and waste the States of Pennsylvania,
Jersey, etc. But what makes this matter still more extraordinary in my
eye is that these very gentlemen, who were well apprised of the
nakedness of the troops from ocular demonstration, who thought their
own soldiers worse clad than others and advised me near a month ago to
postpone the execution of a plan I was about to adopt, in consequence
of a resolve of Congress for seizing clothes, under strong assurances
that an ample supply would be collected in ten days, agreeably to a
decree of the State (not one article of which, by the by, is yet come
to hand), should think a winter's campaign and the covering of their
States from the invasion of an enemy so easy and practicable a
business. I can assure those gentlemen that it is a much easier and
less distressing thing to draw remonstrances in a comfortable room, by
a good fireside, than to occupy a cold, bleak hill, and sleep under
frost and snow without clothes or blankets. However, although they seem
to have little feeling for the naked and distressed soldiers, I feel
superabundantly for them, and from my soul pity those miseries which it
is not in my power either to relieve or to prevent."

This letter must have convinced Washington's implacable enemies in
Congress that he had no thoughts of conciliating them. He despised and
defied them. Its effect on those who were friendly to him would
necessarily be inspiriting. His bold attitude justified their reliance
on his moral courage and enabled them to demand the enactment of those
measures which were necessary for the preservation of the army and the
successful assertion of the country's independence.

It is probable that this letter gave the finishing stroke to the Conway
Cabal. While Gates and Mifflin denied that they had ever desired or
aimed at Washington's removal from the office of Commander-in-Chief and
sought to recover his confidence, Conway himself, who was still
inspector-general, after denying any design to remove Washington, still
maintained an offensive attitude toward him, wrote impertinent letters
to him, and persisted in intriguing against him with Congress. But he
found himself foiled in all his ambitious and factious designs, and he
had become excessively unpopular in the army. He felt at last that he
was in a false position; we shall presently see how his career in this
country terminated.

Washington's conduct through the whole period of the Conway Cabal,
which lasted several months, is highly characteristic of the man. While
he regarded it with contempt, so far as he was personally concerned, he
felt annoyed and distressed at the injury which it was inflicting on
the public service. When the moment was come for unmasking the
conspirators, by informing Conway that he was aware of their designs,
he applied the match which was to explode the whole plot and cover its
originators with shame and confusion. This he did in a quiet,
business-like way because the public service required it. Congress,
having committed itself by promoting his enemies, could not at once
retract, but the officers themselves made haste to escape from public
indignation by denials and apologies, and the final effect of the
Conway Cabal was to establish Washington more firmly than ever in the
confidence and affection of the whole country. [4]

His situation, however, was by no means enviable. His army was much
attached to him, but weakened by disease, and irritated by nakedness
and hunger, it was almost on the point of dissolution. In the midst of
the difficulties and dangers with which he was surrounded Washington
displayed a singular degree of steady perseverance, unshaken fortitude,
and unwearied activity. Instead of manifesting irritable impatience
under the malignant attacks made on his character he behaved with
magnanimity, and earnestly applied to Congress and to the legislative
bodies of the several States for reinforcements to his army in order
that he might be prepared to act with vigor in the ensuing campaign.

But to recruit and equip the army was no easy task. The great
depreciation of paper money rendered the pay of the soldiers inadequate
to their support, and consequently it was not likely that voluntary
enlistment would be successful, especially since the patriotic ardor of
many had begun to cool by the continuance of the war, and all knew that
great hardships and dangers were to be encountered by joining the army.
The pay even of the officers, in the depreciated paper currency, was
wholly unequal to the maintenance of their rank. Some of them who had
small patrimonial estates found them melting away, while their lives
were unprofitably devoted to the service of their country, and they who
had no private fortune could not appear in a manner becoming their
station. A commission was a burden, and many considered the acceptance
of one as conferring rather than receiving a favor--a state of things
highly disadvantageous to the service, for the duties of an office
scarcely reckoned worth holding will seldom be zealously and actively
discharged. There was reason to apprehend that many of the most
meritorious officers would resign their commissions, and that they only
who were less qualified for service would remain with the army.

Congress, moved by the remonstrances of Washington, and by the
complaints with which they were assailed from every quarter, deputed a
committee of their body to reside in camp during the winter, and in
concert with the general to examine the state of the army and report on
the measures necessary to be taken for placing it in a more respectable
condition. The members of this committee were Francis Dana, General
Reed, Nathaniel Folsom, Charles Carroll, and Governeur Morris. On their
arrival at Valley Forge Washington submitted to them a memoir, filling
fifty folio pages, exhibiting the existing state of the army, the
deficiencies and disorders, and their causes, and suggesting such
reforms as he deemed necessary. Upon this document the plan for
improving the efficiency of the army was formed and communicated to
Congress by the committee, who remained in camp nearly three months.
Congress approved of their proceedings and adopted their plan, but they
legislated so slowly that the effect of their proceedings was hardly
felt before the month of April (1778).

Among the reforms recommended by the committee, called the "Committee
of Arrangement," who were sent to the camp, none met with so much
opposition in Congress as that which provided for increasing the pay of
the officers and soldiers of the army. Hitherto there had been no
provision made for officers after the war should end, and the pay which
they were actually receiving being in depreciated Continental bills was
merely nominal. To the effect of this state of things in the army we
have already adverted. It was most disastrous. Washington was desirous
that Congress should make provision for giving officers half pay for
life, or some other permanent provision, and increasing the inducements
for soldiers to enlist. A party in Congress opposed this as having the
appearance of a standing army, a pension list, and a privileged order
in society.

In a letter to Congress Washington said: "If my opinion is asked with
respect to the necessity of making this provision for the officers I am
ready to declare that I do most religiously believe the salvation of
the cause depends upon it, and without it your officers will moulder to
nothing, or be composed of low and illiterate men, void of capacity for
this or any other business.

"Personally, as an officer, I have no interest in their decision,
because I have declared, and I now repeat it, that I never will receive
the smallest benefit from the half-pay establishment, but as a man who
fights under the weight of a proscription, and as a citizen, who wishes
to see the liberty of his country established upon a permanent
foundation, and whose property depends upon the success of our arms, I
am deeply interested. But all this apart and justice out of the
question, upon the single ground of economy and public saving, I will
maintain the utility of it, for I have not the least doubt that until
officers consider their commissions in an honorable and interested
point of view, and are afraid to endanger them by negligence and
inattention, no order, regularity, or care either of the men or public
property, will prevail."

The following passages, from a letter addressed to a delegate in
Congress from Virginia, exhibit the view Washington took at the time of
public affairs and the spirit and eloquence with which he pleaded the
cause of the country and the army.

"Before I conclude there are one or two points more upon which I will
add an observation or two. The first is the indecision of Congress and
the delay used in coming to determinations on matters referred to them.
This is productive of a variety of inconveniences, and an early
decision, in many cases, though it should be against the measure
submitted, would be attended with less pernicious effects. Some new
plan might then be tried, but while the matter is held in suspense
nothing can be attempted. The other point is the jealousy which
Congress unhappily entertain of the army, and which, if reports are
right, some members labor to establish. You may be assured there is
nothing more injurious or more unfounded. This jealousy stands upon the
commonly received opinion, which under proper limitations is certainly
true, that standing armies are dangerous to a State. The prejudices in
other countries have only gone to them in time of peace, and these from
their not having in general cases any of the ties, the concerns, or
interests of citizens, or any other dependence than what flowed from
their military employ; in short, from their being mercenaries,
hirelings. It is our policy to be prejudiced against them in time of
war, though they are citizens, having all the ties and interests of
citizens, and in most cases property totally unconnected with the
military line.

"If we would pursue a right system of policy, in my opinion, there
should be none of these distinctions. We should all, Congress and army,
be considered as one people, embarked in one cause, in one interest,
acting on the same principle and to the same end. The distinction, the
jealousies set up, or perhaps only incautiously let out, can answer not
a single good purpose. They are impolitic in the extreme. Among
individuals the most certain way to make a man your enemy is to tell
him you esteem him such. So with public bodies, and the very jealousy
which the narrow politics of some may affect to entertain of the army,
in order to a due subordination to the supreme civil authority, is a
likely means to produce a contrary effect--to incline it to the pursuit
of those measures which they may wish it to avoid. It is unjust because
no order of men in the thirteen States has paid a more sacred regard to
the proceedings of Congress than the army, for without arrogance or the
smallest deviation from truth it may be said that no history now extant
can furnish an instance of an army's suffering such uncommon hardships
as ours has done, and bearing them with the same patience and
fortitude. To see men without clothes to cover their nakedness, without
blankets to lie on, without shoes (for the want of which their marches
might be traced by the blood from their feet), and almost as often
without provisions as with them, marching through the frost and snow,
and at Christmas taking up their winter quarters within a day's march
of the enemy, without a house or hut to cover them till they could be
built, and submitting without a murmur, is a proof of patience and
obedience which in my opinion can scarcely be paralleled."

Such representations as these could not fail to produce some effect
even on the minds of those who were opposed to the measures which
Washington proposed. Still the action of Congress was, as usual,
dilatory. After a great deal of discussion a vote was passed by a small
majority to give the officers half pay for life. This vote was
reconsidered, and it was finally agreed that the officers should
receive half pay for seven years after the close of the war, or that
each noncommissioned officer and soldier, who should continue in the
army till the close of the war, should receive a bounty of $80.

We have anticipated the order of time in order to dispose finally of
this matter which was not terminated till the spring of 1778.

During the winter Howe confined his operations to those small
excursions that were calculated to enlarge the comforts of his own
soldiers, who, notwithstanding the favorable dispositions of the
neighboring country, were much distressed for fuel and often in great
want of forage and fresh provisions. The vigilance of the parties on
the lines, especially on the south side of the Schuylkill, intercepted
a large portion of the supplies intended for the Philadelphia market,
and corporal punishment was frequently inflicted on those who were
detected in attempting this infraction of the laws. As Capt. Henry Lee,
called in the army "Light Horse Harry," was particularly active, a plan
was formed late in January to surprise and capture him in his quarters.
An extensive circuit was made by a large body of cavalry who seized
four of his patrols without communicating an alarm. About break of day
the British horse appeared, upon which Captain Lee placed his troopers
that were in the house at the doors and windows, who behaved so
gallantly as to repulse the assailants without losing a horse or man.
Only Lieutenant Lindsay and one private were wounded. The whole number
in the house did not exceed ten. That of the assailants was said to
amount to 200. They lost a sergeant and three men, with several horses
killed, and an officer and three men wounded. The result of this
skirmish gave great pleasure to Washington who had formed a high
opinion of Lee's talents as a partisan. He mentioned the affair in his
orders with strong marks of approbation, and in a private letter to the
captain testified the satisfaction he felt. For his merit through the
preceding campaign Congress promoted him to the rank of major and gave
him an independent partisan corps, to consist of three troops of horse.

While the deficiency of the public resources, arising from the alarming
depreciation of the bills of credit, manifested itself in all the
military departments, a plan was matured in Congress and in the Board
of War, without consulting the Commander-in-Chief, for a second
irruption into Canada. It was proposed to place the Marquis de
Lafayette at the head of this expedition and to employ Generals Conway
and Stark as the second and third in command.

This was a measure planned by those who were not friendly to
Washington; and one of its objects was to detach Lafayette from his
best and dearest friend and bring him over to the Conway party.
Lafayette would have declined the appointment, but Washington advised
him to accept it, probably foreseeing how the affair would terminate.

The first intimation to Washington that the expedition was contemplated
was given in a letter from the President of the Board of War of the
24th of January (1778), enclosing one of the same date to the Marquis,
requiring his attendance on Congress to receive his instructions.
Washington was requested to furnish Colonel Hazen's regiment, chiefly
composed of Canadians, for the expedition, and in the same letter his
advice and opinion were asked respecting it. The northern States were
to furnish the necessary troops.

Without noticing the manner in which this business had been conducted
and the marked want of confidence it betrayed, Washington ordered
Hazen's regiment to march toward Albany, and Lafayette proceeded
immediately to the seat of Congress at Yorktown. At his request he was
to be considered as an officer detached from the army of Washington, to
remain under his orders, and Major-General the Baron de Kalb was added
to the expedition; after which Lafayette repaired in person to Albany
to take charge of the troops who were to assemble at that place in
order to cross the lakes on the ice and attack Montreal.

On arriving at Albany he found no preparations made for the expedition.
Nothing which had been promised being in readiness, he abandoned the
enterprise as impracticable. Some time afterward Congress also
determined to relinquish it, and Washington was authorized to recall
both Lafayette and De Kalb.

While the army lay at Valley Forge the Baron Steuben arrived in camp.
This gentleman was a Prussian officer who came to the United States
with ample recommendations. He had served many years in the armies of
the great Frederick, had been one his aides-de-camp, and had held the
rank of lieutenant-general. He was well versed in the system of field
exercise which the King of Prussia had introduced, and was qualified to
each it to raw troops. He claimed no rank and offered his services as a
volunteer. After holding a conference with Congress he proceeded to
Valley Forge.

Although the office of inspector-general had been bestowed on Conway,
he had never entered on its duties, and his promotion to the rank of
major-general had given much umbrage to the brigadiers who had been his
seniors. That circumstance, in addition to the knowledge of his being
in a faction hostile to the Commander-in-Chief, rendered his situation
in the army so uncomfortable that he withdrew to Yorktown, in
Pennsylvania, which was then the seat of Congress. When the expedition
to Canada was abandoned he was not directed, with Lafayette and De
Kalb, to rejoin the army. Entertaining no hope of being permitted to
exercise the functions of his new office, he resigned his commission
about the last of April and, some time afterward, returned to France.

On his resignation the Baron Steuben, who had, as a volunteer,
performed the duties of inspector-general much to the satisfaction of
the Commander-in-Chief and of the army, was, on the recommendation of
Washington, appointed to that office, with the rank of major-general,
without exciting the slightest murmur.

This gentleman was of immense service to the American troops. He
established one uniform system of field exercise, and, by his skill and
persevering industry, effected important improvements through all ranks
of the army during its continuance at Valley Forge.

While it was encamped at that place several matters of great interest
engaged the attention of Congress. Among them was the stipulation in
the convention of Saratoga for the return of the British army to
England. Boston was named as the place of embarkation. At the time of
the capitulation the difficulty of making that port early in the winter
was unknown to General Burgoyne. Consequently, as some time must elapse
before a sufficient number of vessels for the transportation of his
army could be collected, its embarkation might be delayed until the
ensuing spring.

On being apprised of this circumstance, Burgoyne applied to Washington,
desiring him to change the port of embarkation and to appoint Newport,
in Rhode Island, or some other place on the Sound instead of Boston,
and, in case this request should not be complied with, soliciting, on
account of his health and private business, that the indulgence might
be granted to himself and suite. Washington, not thinking himself
authorized to decide on such an application, transmitted it to
Congress, which took no notice of the matter further than to pass a
resolution "That General Washington be directed to inform General
Burgoyne that Congress will not receive or consider any proposition for
indulgence or altering the terms of the convention of Saratoga, unless
immediately addressed to their own body." The application was
accordingly made to Congress, who readily complied with the request in
so far as it respected himself personally, but refused the indulgence
to his troops, and ultimately forbade their embarkation.

Congress watched with a jealous eye every movement of the convention
army and soon gave public indications of that jealousy. Early in
November they ordered General Heath, who commanded in Boston, "to take
the name, rank, former place of abode, and description of every person
comprehended in the convention of Saratoga, in order that, if afterward
found in arms against the United States, they might be punished
according to the law of nations." Burgoyne showed some reluctance to
the execution of this order, and his reluctance was imputed to no
honorable motives.

If the troops had been embarked in the Sound they might have reached
Britain early in the winter, where, without any breach of faith,
government might have employed them in garrison duty and been enabled
to send out a corresponding number of troops in time to take an active
part in the next campaign. But if the port of Boston were adhered to as
the place of embarkation, the convention troops could not, it was
thought, sail before the spring, and, consequently, could not be
replaced by the troops whose duties they might perform at home till
late in the year 1778. This circumstance, perhaps, determined Congress
to abide by Boston as the port of embarkation, and in this their
conduct was free from blame. But, by the injuries mutually inflicted
and suffered in the course of the war, the minds of the contending
parties were exasperated and filled with suspicion and distrust of each
other. Congress placed no reliance on British faith and honor, and, on
the subject under consideration, gave clear evidence that on those
points they were not over-scrupulous themselves.

On arriving in Boston the British officers found their quarters
uncomfortable. This probably arose from the large number of persons to
be provided for and the scarcity of rooms, fuel, and provisions,
arising from the presence of the whole captured army. But the officers
were much dissatisfied, and, after a fruitless correspondence with
Heath, Burgoyne addressed himself to Gates and complained of the
inconvenient quarters assigned his officers as a breach of the articles
of capitulation. Congress was highly offended at the imputation and
considered or affected to consider the charge as made with a view to
justify a violation of the convention by his army as soon as they
escaped from captivity. A number of transports for carrying off the
convention troops was collected in the Sound sooner than was expected,
but that number, amounting only to twenty-six, the Americans thought
insufficient for transporting such a number of men to Britain in the
winter season, and inferred that the intention could only be to carry
them to the Delaware and incorporate them with Howe's army. They also
alleged that a number of cartouche-boxes and other accoutrements of war
belonging to the British army had not been delivered up, agreeably to
the convention, and argued that this violation on the part of the
British released Congress from its obligations to fulfill the terms of
that compact.

On the 8th of January (1778), Congress resolved "to suspend the
embarkation of the army till a distinct and explicit ratification of
the convention of Saratoga shall be properly notified by the court of
Great Britain to Congress." Afterward the embarkation of the troops was
delayed or refused for various reasons, and that part of the convention
remained unfulfilled. The troops were long detained in Massachusetts;
they were afterward sent to the back parts of Virginia and none of them
were released but by exchange.

Mrs. Washington, as usual, visited her illustrious consort in his
quarters at Valley Forge during the winter. Writing from thence to a
friend in Boston, she says: "I came to this place some time about the
1st of February (1778), where I found the General very well. The
General's apartment is very small; he has had a log cabin built to dine
in, which has made our quarters much more tolerable than they were at
first." To those American citizens who are now reaping the rich fruits
of Washington's toils and sufferings in his country's cause, these few
lines are very suggestive. One cannot help contrasting the luxurious
habitations of the present generation with that log hut of the Father
of his Country at Valley Forge, to which the addition of another log
hut to dine in was considered by his consort a very comfortable
appendage. We should remember these things.

The effect of the news of Burgoyne's surrender, which reached Europe in
the autumn of 1777, could not be otherwise than highly favorable to the
cause of American independence. Our envoys in France, Dr. Franklin,
Silas Deane, and Arthur Lee had long been soliciting an alliance with
France. But the cautious ministers of Louis XVI, although secretly
favoring our cause and permitting supplies to be forwarded by
Beaumarchais, and the prizes of our ships to be brought into their
ports and sold, had hitherto abstained from openly supporting us, lest
our arms should finally prove unsuccessful. But the surrender of a
large army to Gates and the firm attitude of Washington's army,
besieging Howe in Philadelphia, as they had previously besieged him in
Boston, gave a new turn to French policy and disposed the ministry of
Louis to treat for an alliance with the new republic.

On the other hand, the British court was in a state of utter
consternation. The war began to assume a more portentous aspect, and
the British ministry, unable to execute their original purpose, lowered
their tone and showed an inclination to treat with the Colonies on any
terms which did not imply their entire independence and complete
separation from the British empire. In order to terminate the quarrel
with America before the actual commencement of hostilities with France,
Lord North introduced two bills into the House of Commons. The first
declared that Parliament would impose no tax or duty whatever, payable
within any of the Colonies of North America, except only such duties as
it might be expedient to impose for the purposes of commerce, the net
produce of which should always be paid and applied to and for the use
of the Colonies in which the same shall be respectively levied, in like
manner as other duties collected under the authority of their
respective Legislatures are ordinarily paid and applied; the second
authorized the appointment of commissioners by the Crown, with power to
treat with either the constituted authorities or with individuals in
America, but that no stipulation entered into should have any effect
till approved in Parliament. It empowered the commissioners, however,
to proclaim a cessation of hostilities in any of the Colonies; to
suspend the operation of the Non-intercourse Act; also to suspend,
during the continuance of the act, so much of all or any of the acts of
Parliament which have passed since the 10th day of February, 1763, as
relates to the Colonies; to grant pardons to any number or description
of persons, and to appoint a governor in any Colony in which his
Majesty had heretofore exercised the power of making such appointment.
The duration of the act was limited to the 1st day of June, 1779.

These bills passed both Houses of Parliament, and as about the time of
their introduction ministry received information of the conclusion of
the treaty between France and the Colonies, they sent off copies of
them to America, even before they had gone through the usual
formalities, in order to counteract the effects which the news of the
French alliance might produce. Early in March, the Earl of Carlisle,
George Johnstone, and William Eden, Esqs., were appointed commissioners
for carrying the acts into execution, and the celebrated Dr. Adam
Ferguson, then professor of moral philosophy in the University of
Edinburgh, was nominated their secretary. The commissioners sailed
without delay for America. But the present measure, like every other
concession in the course of this protracted contest, came too late.
What was now offered would at one time have been hailed in America with
acclamations of joy and secured the grateful affection of the
Colonists. But circumstances were now changed. The minds of the people
were completely alienated from the parent state and their spirits
exasperated by the events of the war. Independence had been declared,
victory had emblazoned the standards of Congress, and a treaty of
alliance with France had been concluded.

On the 16th of December (1777) the preliminaries of a treaty between
France and America were agreed on, and the treaty itself was signed at
Paris on the 6th of February, 1778--an event of which the British
ministry got information in little more than forty-eight hours after
the signatures were affixed. The principal articles of the treaty were:
That if Britain, in consequence of the alliance, should commence
hostilities against France, the two countries should mutually assist
each other; that the independence of America should be effectually
maintained; that if any part of North America still professing
allegiance to the Crown of Britain should be reduced by the Colonies it
should belong to the United States; that if France should conquer any
of the British West India Islands they should be deemed its property;
that the contracting parties should not lay down their arms till the
independence of America was formally acknowledged, and that neither of
them should conclude a peace without the consent of the other.

Lord North's conciliatory bills reached America before the news of the
French treaty and excited in Congress considerable alarm. There were a
number of Loyalists in each of the Colonies; many, though not
unfriendly to the American cause, had never entered cordially into the
quarrel, and the heavy pressure of the war had begun to cool the zeal
and exhaust the patience of some who had once been forward in their
opposition to Britain. Congress became apprehensive lest a disposition
should prevail to accept of the terms proposed by the British
government, and the great body of the people be willing to resign the
advantages of independence, in order to escape from present calamity.

The bills were referred to a committee, which, after an acute and
severe examination, gave in a report well calculated to counteract the
effects which it was apprehended the terms offered would produce on the
minds of the timid and wavering. They reported as their opinion that it
was the aim of those bills to create divisions in the States; and "that
they were the sequel of that insidious plan, which, from the days of
the Stamp Act down to the present time, hath involved this country in
contention and bloodshed; and that, as in other cases, so in this,
although circumstances may at times force them to recede from their

[missing text]

of the British fleets and armies and the acknowledgment of American
independence. At the same time the bills were published, together with
the action of Congress on the subject, and dispersed throughout the
country. This decisive stand was taken before it was known that a
treaty had been concluded with France.

The British commissioners, Carlisle, Johnstone, and Eden, charged with
negotiating and reconciliation on the basis of Lord North's bills, did
not arrive until (June, 1778) six weeks after drafts of the bills had
been published by Governor Tryon and rejected by Congress. On their
arrival at New York, Sir Henry Clinton, who had succeeded Howe as
Commander-in-Chief, requested a passport for Dr. Ferguson, the
secretary of the commissioners, to proceed to Yorktown and lay certain
papers before Congress.

Washington, not deeming the matter within his province, declined until
he could have the instruction of Congress, who sustained him in
refusing the passport. The commissioners, impatient of delay, sent on
the papers through the ordinary medium of a flag, addressed to the
President of Congress.

The commissioners offered in their letter to consent to an immediate
cessation of hostilities by sea and land; to agree that no military
force should be kept up in the Colonies without the consent of
Congress, and also both to give up the right of taxation and to provide
for a representation in Parliament. They promised to sustain and
finally pay off the paper money then in circulation. Every inducement
short of the recognition of independence was held out to lead the
Colonists to return to their allegiance. But if, when relying upon
their own strength alone, they had refused to listen to such overtures,
they were not likely to do so now that they were assured of the support
of France. By order of Congress the President of that body wrote as
follows to the commissioners: "I have received the letter from your
Excellencies, dated the 9th instant, with the enclosures, and laid them
before Congress. Nothing but an earnest desire to spare the further
effusion of human blood could have induced them to read a paper
containing expressions so disrespectful to his Most Christian Majesty,
the good and great ally of these States, or to consider propositions so
derogatory to the honor of an independent nation. The acts of the
British Parliament, the commission from your sovereign, and your letter
suppose the people of these States to be subjects of the Crown of Great
Britain and are founded on the idea of dependence, which is utterly
inadmissible. I am further directed to inform your Excellencies that
Congress are inclined to peace, notwithstanding the unjust claims from
which this war originated, and the savage manner in which it hath been
conducted. They will, therefore, be ready to enter upon the
consideration of a treaty of peace and commerce not inconsistent with
treaties already subsisting, when the King of Great Britain shall
demonstrate a sincere disposition for that purpose. The only solid
proof of this disposition will be an explicit acknowledgment of these
States or the withdrawing his fleets and armies."

The British commissioners remained several months in the country and
made many and various attempts to accomplish the objects of their
mission, but without success.

They were compelled to return to England baffled and disappointed. Thus
the Americans, as an eloquent historian suggests, steady in their
resolutions, chose rather to trust to their own fortune, which they had
already proved, and to the hope they placed in that of France, than to
link themselves anew to the tottering destiny of England; abandoning
all idea of peace, war became the sole object of their solicitude. Such
was the issue of the attempts to effect an accommodation and thus were
extinguished the hopes which the negotiation had given birth to in
England. It was the misfortune of England to be governed by ministers
who were never willing to do justice until they were compelled by main
force. Their present concessions, as on all previous occasions, came
too late.

We have had frequent occasion to notice the embarrassments and
mortifications to which Washington was subjected by the interference of
Congress in those executive matters which should have been left
entirely under his own control. This was particularly injurious to the
public service in their conduct with respect to the treatment and
exchange of prisoners. Much correspondence on this subject took place
between Washington and Howe during the winter when the army was at
Valley Forge, and whenever the generals were on the eve of arranging an
exchange Congress would interfere and prevent it. Washington had been
compelled, by his sense of justice and humanity, to censure Howe for
his treatment of American prisoners. An order hastily given out by the
Board of War exposed Washington himself, without any fault of his own,
to a similar censure from Howe. The circumstances, as related by
Marshall, were these:

"General Washington had consented that a quartermaster, with a small
escort, should come out of Philadelphia, with clothes and other
comforts for the prisoners who were in possession of the United States.
He had expressly stipulated for their security, and had given them a
passport. While they were traveling through the country, information
was given to the Board of War that General Howe had refused to permit
provisions to be sent in to the American prisoners in Philadelphia by
water. This information was not correct. General Howe had only
requested that flags should not be sent up or down the river without
previous permission obtained from himself. On this information,
however, the board ordered Lieutenant-Colonel Smith immediately to
seize the officers, though protected by the passport of Washington,
their horses, carriages, and the provisions destined for the relief to
the British prisoners, and to secure them until further orders, either
from the Board or from the Commander-in-Chief.

"Washington, on hearing this circumstance, dispatched one of his aids
with orders for the immediate release of the persons and property which
had been confined; but the officers refused to proceed on their
journey, and returned to Philadelphia. [10]

"This untoward event was much regretted by Washington. In a letter
received some time afterwards, Howe, after expressing his willingness
that the American prisoners should be visited by deputy commissaries,
who should inspect their situation and supply their wants, required, as
the condition on which this indulgence should be granted, 'that a
similar permit should be allowed to persons appointed by him, which
should be accompanied with the assurance of General Washington, that
his authority will have sufficient weight to prevent any interruption
to their progress, and any insult to their persons.' This demand was
ascribed to the treatment to which officers under the protection of his
passport had already been exposed.

"Washington lamented the impediment to the exchange of prisoners, which
had hitherto appeared to be insuperable, and made repeated but
ineffectual efforts to remove it. Howe had uniformly refused to proceed
with any cartel unless his right to claim for all the diseased and
infirm, whom he had liberated, should be previously admitted.

"At length, after all hope of inducing him to recede from that high
ground had been abandoned, he suddenly relinquished it of his own
accord, and acceded completely to the proposition of Washington for the
meeting of commissioners, in order to settle equitably the number to
which he should be entitled for those he had discharged in the
preceding winter. This point being adjusted, commissioners were
mutually appointed, who were to meet on the 10th of March (1778), at
Germantown, to arrange the details of a general cartel.

"Washington had entertained no doubt of his authority to enter into
this agreement. On the 4th of March, however, he had the mortification
to perceive in a newspaper a resolution of Congress, calling on the
several States for the amounts of supplies furnished the prisoners,
that they might be adjusted according to the rule of the 10th of
December, before the exchange should take place.

"On seeing this embarrassing resolution, Washington addressed a letter
to Howe, informing him that particular circumstances had rendered it
inconvenient for the American commissioners to attend at the time
appointed, and requesting that their meeting should be deferred from
the 10th to the 21st of March. The interval was employed in obtaining a
repeal of the resolution.

"It would seem probable that the dispositions of Congress, on the
subject of an exchange, did not correspond with those of Washington.
From the fundamental principle of the military establishment of the
United States at its commencement, an exchange of prisoners would
necessarily strengthen the British much more than the American army.
The war having been carried on by troops raised for short times, aided
by militia, the American prisoners, when exchanged, returned to their
homes as citizens, while those of the enemy again took the field.

"Washington, who was governed by a policy more just, and more
permanently beneficial, addressed himself seriously to Congress, urging
as well the injury done the public faith and his own personal honor, by
this infraction of a solemn engagement, as the cruelty and impolicy of
a system which must cut off forever all hopes of an exchange, and
render imprisonment as lasting as the war. He represented in strong
terms the effect such a measure must have on the troops on whom they
should thereafter be compelled chiefly to rely, and its impression on
the friends of those already in captivity. These remonstrances produced
the desired effect, and the resolutions were repealed. The
commissioners met according to the second appointment; but, on
examining their powers, it appeared that those given by Washington were
expressed to be in virtue of the authority vested in him, while those
given by Howe contained no such declaration. This omission produced an
objection on the part of Congress; but Howe refused to change the
language, alleging that he designed the treaty to be of a personal
nature, founded on the mutual confidence and honor of the contracting
generals, and had no intention either to bind his government or to
extend the cartel beyond the limits and duration of his own command.

"This explanation being unsatisfactory to the American commissioners,
and Howe persisting in his refusal to make the required alteration in
his powers, the negotiation was broken off, and this fair prospect of
terminating the distresses of the prisoners on both sides passed away
without effecting the good it had promised.

"Some time after the failure of this negotiation for a general cartel,
Howe proposed that all prisoners actually exchangeable should be sent
into the nearest posts, and returns made of officer for officer of
equal rank, and soldier for soldier, as far as numbers would admit; and
that if a surplus of officers should remain, they should be exchanged
for an equivalent in privates.

"On the representations of Washington, Congress acceded to this
proposition so far as related to the exchange of officer for officer
and soldier for soldier, but rejected the part which admitted an
equivalent in privates for a surplus of officers, because the officers
captured with Burgoyne were exchangeable within the powers of Howe.
Under this agreement an exchange took place to a considerable extent;
but as the Americans had lost more prisoners than they had taken,
unless the army of Burgoyne should be brought into computation, many of
their troops were still detained in captivity."

The British army held possession of Philadelphia during the winter and
the following spring; but they were watched and checked during the
whole time by the Americans. They were not quite so closely besieged as
in Boston, but they were quite as effectually prevented from
accomplishing any military purpose. They sent out occasional foraging
parties, who were fiercely attacked by Washington's detachments, and
almost always purchased their supplies with blood. But Howe never made
an attack on Washington's camp. Doctor Franklin, when he heard in Paris
that General Howe had taken Philadelphia, corrected his informant very
justly. "Say, rather," said the acute philosopher, "that Philadelphia
has taken General Howe." The capture of Philadelphia, as we have
already taken occasion to remark, was perfectly useless--in fact, worse
than useless--to the British arms. It only provided winter quarters to
an army which would have been more comfortable and secure in New York;
and it held them beleaguered at a remote point when their services were
greatly needed to aid Burgoyne and save his army from capture. In point
of fact, Philadelphia did take Howe; and Washington kept him out of the
way and fully employed until Burgoyne had fallen, and by his fall had
paved the way to the French alliance and to the ruin of the British
cause in America.

1. Footnote: The cool contempt expressed in Washington's letter to
Conway is one of the most curious features of this affair. It reads as
follows: "To Brigadier-General Conway: Sir--A letter which I received
last night contained the following paragraph: 'In a letter from General
Conway to General Gates, he says, "Heaven has determined to save your
country, or a weak general and bad counsellors would have ruined it."'
I am, sir, your humble servant."

2. Footnote: Marshall

3. Footnote: John Hancock, who succeeded Peyton Randolph as president
of Congress, retired on the 29th of October, 1777. His successor was
Henry Laurens, of South Carolina.

4. Footnote: The correspondence relating to the Conway Cabal is given
entire in the Appendix to the fifth volume of Sparks' "Writings of
Washington." It is very curious and interesting. Among other letters
are anonymous ones addressed to Patrick Henry, Governor of Virginia,
and to Mr. Laurens, President of Congress, full of slanders against

5. Footnote: Previous to this affair, Captain Lee, in his frequent
skirmishes with the enemy, had already captured at least a hundred of
their men.

6. Footnote: General Conway, after his resignation, frequently indulged
in expressions of extreme hostility to the Commander-in-Chief. These
indiscretions were offensive to the gentlemen of the army. In
consequence of them, he was engaged in an altercation with General
Caldwalader, which produced a duel, in which Conway received a wound
supposed for some time to be mortal. While his recovery was despaired
of, he addressed the following letter to General Washington:

PHILADELPHIA, July 23d, 1778.

SIR--I find myself just able to hold the pen during a few minutes, and
take this opportunity of expressing my sincere grief for having done,
written, or said, any thing disagreeable to your excellency. My career
will soon be over; therefore, justice and truth prompt me to declare my
last sentiments. You are, in my eyes, the great and good man. May you
long enjoy the love, veneration, and esteem of these States, whose
liberties you have asserted by your virtues. I am, with the greatest
respect, sir,

Your excellency's most obedient humble servant, THS. CONWAY.

7. Footnote: Gordon says: "May 13, 1778. General Burgoyne landed at
Portsmouth. On his arrival at London, he soon discovered that he was no
longer an object of court favor. He was refused admission to the royal
presence; and from thence experienced all those marks of being in
disgrace, which are so well understood, and so quickly observed by the
retainers and followers of courts."

8. Footnote: As early as the month of April, 1776, Turgot had said to
the ministers of Louis XVI--"The supposition of the absolute separation
between Great Britain and her Colonies seems to me infinitely probable.
This will be the result of it; when the independence of the Colonies
shall be entire and recognized by the English themselves, a total
revolution will follow in the political and commercial relations
between Europe and America; and I firmly believe that every other
mother-country will be forced to abandon all empire over her Colonies,
and to leave an entire freedom of commerce with all nations, to content
herself with partaking with others in the advantages of a free trade,
and with preserving the old ties of friendship and fraternity with her
former colonists. If this is an evil, I believe that there exists no
remedy or means of hindering it; that the only course to pursue is to
submit to the inevitable necessity, and console ourselves as best we
may under it. I must also observe, that there will be a very great
danger to all such powers as obstinately attempt to resist this course
of events; that after ruining themselves by efforts above their means,
they will still see their Colonies equally escape from them, and become
their bitter enemies, instead of remaining their allies." Memoire de M.
Turgot, a l'occasion du Memoire remis par M. le Compte de Vergennes sur
la maniere dont la France at l'Espagne doivent envisager les suites de
la querelle entre la Grande Bretagne et ses Colonies. In "Politique de
tous les Cabinets de l'Europe pendant les Regnes to Louis XV. et de
Louis XVI." Par L.P. Segue l'aine.

9. Footnote: The commissioners published their final manifesto and
proclamation to the Americans on the 3d of October, and on the 10th.
Congress issued a cautionary declaration in reply. No overtures were
made to the commissioners from any quarter, and not long after they
embarked for England. Thacher, in his "Military Journal," states that
"Governor Johnstone, one of the commissioners, with inexcusable
effrontery, offered a bribe to Mr. Reed, a member of Congress. In an
interview with Mrs. Ferguson at Philadelphia, whose husband was a
Royalist, he desired she would mention to Mr. Reed, that if he would
engage his interest to promote the object of their commission, he might
have any office in the Colonies in the gift of his Britannic majesty,
and ten thousand pounds in hand. Having solicited an interview with Mr.
Reed, Mrs. Ferguson made her communication. Spurning the idea of being
purchased, he replied that he was not worth purchasing, but such as he
was, the King of Great Britain was not rich enough to do it."

10. Footnote: They alleged that their horses had been disabled, and the
clothing embezzled.



For prosecuting the campaign of 1778 Washington had not been provided
with an adequate force. The committee of Congress who visited the army
at Valley Forge had agreed that the army should consist of about 40,000
men, besides artillery and horse. In May (1778) the army, including the
detachments at different places, was found to amount only to 15,000,
with little prospect of increase. At Valley Forge Washington had
11,800. The British army at this time numbered 33,000. With such odds
the plan of operations for this season must necessarily be defensive.

From the position which Washington had taken at Valley Forge, and from
the activity and vigilance of his patrols, the British army in
Philadelphia was straitened for forage and fresh provisions. A
considerable number of the people of Pennsylvania were well affected to
the British cause and desirous of supplying the troops, while many more
were willing to carry victuals to Philadelphia, where they found a
ready market and payment in gold or silver, whereas the army at Valley
Forge could pay only in paper money of uncertain value. But it was not
easy to reach Philadelphia nor safe to attempt it, for the American
parties often intercepted and took the provisions without payment and
not unfrequently chastised those engaged. The first operations on the
part of the British, therefore, in the campaign of 1778, were
undertaken in order to procure supplies for the army. About the middle
of March a strong detachment, under Lieutenant-Colonel Mawhood, made a
foraging excursion for six or seven days into Jersey, surprised and
defeated the American parties at Hancock's and Quinton's bridges on
Always creek, which falls into the Delaware to the south of Reedy
Island, killed or took fifty or sixty of the militia prisoners, and
after a successful expedition returned to Philadelphia with little

A corps of Pennsylvania militia, daily varying in number, sometimes not
exceeding fifty, sometimes amounting to 600, under General Lacey, had
taken post at a place called Crooked Billet, about seventeen miles from
Philadelphia on the road to New York, for the purpose of intercepting
the country people who attempted to carry provisions to the British
army. Early on the morning of the 4th of May, Colonel Abercrombie and
Major Simcoe, with a strong detachment, attempted to surprise this
party, but Lacey escaped with little loss, except his baggage, which
fell into the hands of the enemy.

On the 7th of May the British undertook an expedition against the
galleys and other shipping which had escaped up the Delaware after the
reduction of Mud Island, and destroyed upward of forty vessels and some
stores and provisions. The undisputed superiority of the British naval
force and the consequent command of the Delaware gave them great
facilities in directing a suitable armament against any particular
point, and the movements of the militia, on whom Congress chiefly
depended for repelling sudden predatory incursions and for guarding the
roads to Philadelphia, were often tardy and inefficient. The roads were
ill guarded, and the British frequently accomplished their foraging and
returned to camp before an adequate force could be assembled to oppose

To remedy these evils--to annoy the rear of the British troops in case
they evacuated Philadelphia, which it was now suspected they intended
to do, and also to form an advanced guard of the main army--Lafayette,
with upward of 2,000 chosen men and six pieces of artillery, was
ordered to the east of the Schuylkill, and took post on Barren Hill,
seven or eight miles in advance of the army at Valley Forge. Sir
William Howe immediately got notice of his position and formed a plan
to surprise and cut him off. For that purpose a detachment of 5,000 of
the best troops of the British army, under General Grant, marched from
Philadelphia on the night of the 20th of May and took the road which
runs along the Delaware and consequently does not lead directly to
Barren Hill. But after advancing a few miles the detachment turned to
the left, and proceeding by White Marsh passed at no great distance
from Lafayette's left flank and about sunrise reached a point in his
rear where two roads diverged, one leading to the camp of the marquis,
the other to Matson's ford, each about a mile distant. There General
Grant's detachment was first observed by the Americans, and the British
perceived by the rapid movements of some hostile horsemen that they
were seen. Both Lafayette's camp and the road leading from it to
Matson's ford were concealed from the British troops by intervening
woods and high grounds. General Grant spent some time in making
dispositions for the intended attack. That interval was actively
improved by Lafayette, who, although not apprised of the full extent of
his danger, acted with promptitude and decision. He marched rapidly to
Matson's ford, from which he was somewhat more distant than the British
detachment, and reached it while General Grant was advancing against
Barren Hill in the belief that Lafayette was still there. The Americans
hurried through the ford leaving their artillery behind, but on
discovering they were not closely pursued some of them returned and
dragged the field pieces across the river; a small party was also sent
into the woods to retard the progress of the British advanced guard, if
it should approach while the artillery was in the ford.

On finding the camp at Barren Hill deserted General Grant immediately
pursued in the track of the retreating enemy toward Matson's ford. His
advanced guard overtook some of the small American party, which had
been sent back to cover the passage of the artillery, before they could
recross the river and took or killed a few of them, but on reaching the
ford General Grant found Lafayette so advantageously posted on the
rising ground on the opposite bank and his artillery so judiciously
placed that it was deemed unadvisable to attack him. Thus the attempt
against Lafayette failed, although the plan was well concerted and on
the very point of success. In the British army sanguine expectations of
the favorable issue of the enterprise were entertained, and in order to
insure a happy result a large detachment, under General Grey, in the
course of the night took post at a ford of the Schuylkill, two or three
miles in front of Lafayette's right flank, to intercept him if he
should attempt to escape in that direction, while the main body of the
army advanced to Chestnut Hill to support the attack, but on the
failure of the enterprise the whole returned to Philadelphia.

General Grant's detachment was seen by Washington from the camp at
Valley Forge about the time it was discovered by the troops at Barren
Hill, alarm guns were fired by his order to warn Lafayette of his
danger, and the whole army was drawn out to be in readiness to act as
circumstances might require. The escape of the detachment was the cause
of much joy and congratulation in the American and of disappointment
and chagrin in the British army.

That a strong detachment of hostile troops should pass at a small
distance from Lafayette's flank and gain his rear unobserved seems to
argue a want of due vigilance on the part of that officer, but a
detachment of the Pennsylvania militia had been posted at a little
distance on his left and he relied on them for watching the roads in
that quarter. The militia, however, had quitted their station without
informing him of their movement, and consequently his left flank and
the roads about White Marsh remained unguarded.

This was the last enterprise attempted by Sir William Howe. Soon after
he resigned the command of the army. So far back as the month of
October in the preceding year he had requested to be relieved from the
painful service in which he was engaged. On the 14th of April, 1778, he
received the King's permission to resign, but at the same time he was
directed, while he continued in command, to embrace every opportunity
of putting an end to the war by a due employment of the force under his
orders. In the beginning of June after having received, in a triumphal
procession and festival, a testimony of the approbation and esteem of
the army he sailed for England, leaving the troops under the care of
Sir Henry Clinton as his successor.

Sir William Howe has been much blamed for inactivity and for not
overwhelming the Americans, but he was at least as successful as any
other general employed in the course of the war. He was cautious and
sparing of the lives of his men. In his operations he discovered a
respectable share of military science, and he met with no great
reverses. They who blame him for want of energy may look to the history
of Generals Burgoyne and Cornwallis for the fate of more enterprising
leaders in America.

About the time when Howe resigned the command of the army the British
government ordered the evacuation of Philadelphia. While the British
had an undisputed naval superiority Philadelphia was in some respects a
good military station. Although in all the States a decided majority of
the people gave their support to Congress, yet in every province south
of New England there was a considerable minority friendly to the claims
of the mother country. The occupation of Philadelphia, the principal
city of the confederation, encouraged the latter class of the
inhabitants, and the army there formed a point round which they might
rally. But Philadelphia is more than 100 miles up the Delaware, and as
Howe had been unable to drive Washington from the field he had found
some difficulty in subsisting his army in that city, even when the
British ships had the full command of the sea and could force their way
up the great rivers; but when the empire of the ocean was about to be
disputed by the French Philadelphia became a hazardous post on account
of the difficulty and uncertainty of procuring provisions, receiving
communications, or sending aid to such places as might be attacked. It
was accordingly resolved to abandon that city, and after shipping his
cavalry, formed of the German troops and American Loyalists, his
provision train and heavy baggage, on the few vessels that were in the
river, Clinton had to march the remainder of his army through the
Jerseys to New York, where the communication with the ocean is more

The preparations for this movement could not be so secretly made as to
escape the notice of the Americans, and to be in readiness for it was
one reason of detaching Lafayette to Barren Hill, where he had been
exposed to so much danger. Washington called in his detachments and
pressed the State governments to hasten the march of their new levies
in order that he might be enabled to act offensively; but the new
levies arrived slowly, and in some instances the State Legislatures
were deliberating on the means of raising them at the time when they
should have been in the field.

Although Washington was satisfied of the intention of the British
Commander-in-Chief to evacuate Philadelphia yet it was uncertain in
what way he would accomplish his purpose, but the opinion that he
intended to march through the Jerseys to New York gained ground in the
American camp; and in this persuasion Washington detached General
Maxwell with the Jersey brigade across the Delaware to cooperate with
General Dickinson, who was assembling the Jersey militia, in breaking
down the bridges, felling trees across the roads, and impeding and
harassing the British troops in their retreat, but with orders to be on
his guard against a sudden attack.

Washington summoned a council of war to deliberate on the measures to
be pursued in that emergency. It was unanimously resolved not to molest
the British army in passing the Delaware, but with respect to
subsequent operations there was much difference of opinion in the
council. General Lee, who had lately joined the army after his
exchange, was decidedly against risking either a general or partial
engagement. The British army he estimated at 10,000 men fit for duty,
exclusive of officers, while the American army did not amount to more
than 11,800; he was, therefore, of opinion that with so near an
equality of force it would be criminal to hazard a battle. He relied
much on the imposing attitude in which their late foreign alliance
placed them, and maintained that nothing but a defeat of the army could
now endanger their independence. Almost all the foreign officers agreed
in opinion with General Lee, and among the American generals only Wayne
and Cadwalader were decidedly in favor of attacking the enemy. Under
these circumstances Washington, although strongly inclined to fight,
found himself constrained to act with much circumspection.

Having made all the requisite preparations Sir Henry Clinton, early in
the morning of the 18th of June (1778), led the British army to the
confluence of the Delaware and Schuylkill, where boats and other
vessels were ready to receive them, and so judicious were the
arrangements made by Admiral Lord Howe that all the troops, with the
baggage and artillery, were carried across the Delaware and safely
landed on the Jersey side of the river before 10 in the forenoon. Many
of the Loyalists of Philadelphia accompanied the army, carrying their
effects along with them, and such of them as ventured to remain behind
met with little indulgence from their irritated countrymen. Several of
them were tried for their lives and two Quakers were executed. The
Americans entered the city before the British rear guard had entirely
left it.

There were two roads leading from Philadelphia to New York--the one
running along the western bank of the Delaware to Trenton Ferry, and
the other along the eastern bank to the same point. The British army
had wisely crossed the river at the point where it was least exposed to
molestation and entered on the last of these two roads. In marching
through a difficult and hostile country Sir Henry Clinton prudently
carried along with him a considerable quantity of baggage and a large
supply of provisions, so that the progress of the army, thus heavily
encumbered, was but slow. It proceeded leisurely through Huddersfield,
Mount Holly, and Crosswick, and reached Allentown on the 24th (June,
1778), having in seven days marched less than forty miles. This slow
progress made the Americans believe that Sir Henry Clinton wished to be
attacked. General Maxwell, who was posted at Mount Holly, retired on
his approach, and neither he nor General Dickinson was able to give him
much molestation.

As the march of the British army till it passed Crosswick was up the
Delaware, and only at a small distance from that river, Washington, who
left Valley Forge on the day that Sir Henry Clinton evacuated
Philadelphia, found it necessary to take a circuitous route and pass
the river higher up at Coryell's Ferry, where he crossed it on the 22d
and took post at Hopewell on the high grounds in that vicinity, and
remained during the 23d in that position.

From Allentown there were two roads to New York--one on the left,
passing through South Amboy to the North river; the other on the right,
leading to Sandy Hook. The first of these was somewhat shorter but the
river Raritan lay in the way and it might be difficult and dangerous to
pass it in presence of a hostile force. Sir Henry Clinton, therefore,
resolved to take the road to Sandy Hook by which the Raritan would be
altogether avoided.

Although a great majority in the American council of war were averse to
fighting, yet Washington was strongly inclined to attack the British
army. He summoned the council of war a second time and again submitted
the subject to their consideration, but they adhered to their former
opinion, and Washington, still inclined to attack the enemy, determined
to act on his own responsibility.

The Jersey militia and a brigade of Continentals, under Generals
Dickinson and Maxwell, hovered on the left flank of the British army;
General Cadwalader, with a Continental regiment and a few militia was
in its rear, and Colonel Morgan, with his rifle regiment 600 strong,
was on its right. These detachments were ordered to harass the enemy as
much as possible.

As Sir Henry Clinton proceeded on the route toward Sandy Hook
Washington strengthened his advanced guard till it amounted to 5,000
men. General Lee, from his rank, had a claim to the command of that
force, but at first he declined it and Lafayette was appointed to that
service. But General Lee perceiving the importance of the command
solicited the appointment which he had at first declined, and was
accordingly sent forward with a reinforcement, when, from seniority,
the whole of the advanced guard became subject to his orders.

On the evening of the 27th (June, 1778) Sir Henry Clinton took a strong
position on the high grounds about Freehold Court House, in the county
of Monmouth. His right was posted in a small wood; his left was covered
by a thick forest and a morass; he had a wood in front, also a marsh
for a considerable space toward his left, and he was within twelve
miles of the high grounds at Middletown, after reaching which no
attempt could be made upon him with any prospect of success. His
position was unassailable, but Washington resolved to attack his rear
in the morning, as soon as it descended from the high grounds into the
plain beyond them and gave orders accordingly to Lee, who was at
Englishtown, three miles in the rear of the British army and as much in
advance of the main body of the Americans.

By the strong parties on his flanks and rear Clinton was convinced that
the hostile army was at hand, and suspecting that an attempt on his
baggage was intended on the morning of the 28th he changed his order of
march and put all the baggage under the care of General Knyphausen, who
commanded the van division of his army, in order that the rear
division, consisting of the flower of the troops under Cornwallis,
might be unencumbered and ready to act as circumstances might require.
Clinton remained with the rear division.

To avoid pressing on Knyphausen Cornwallis remained on his ground until
about 8, and then descending from the heights of Freehold into an
extensive plain took up his line of march in rear of the front

General Lee had made dispositions for executing orders given the
preceding evening, and repeated in the morning, and soon after the
British rear had moved from its ground prepared to attack it. General
Dickinson had been directed to detach some of his best troops, to take
such a position as to cooperate with him, and Morgan, with his
riflemen, was ordered to act on the right flank.

Lee appeared on the heights of Freehold soon after Cornwallis had left
them, and following the British into the plain ordered General Wayne to
attack the rear of their covering party with sufficient vigor to check
it, but not to press it so closely as either to force it up to the main
body or to draw reinforcements to its aid. In the meantime he intended
to gain the front of this party by a shorter road, and, intercepting
its communication with the line, to bear it off before it could be
assisted. While in the execution of this design an officer in the suite
of Washington came up to gain intelligence and Lee communicated to him
his present object. Before he reached the point of destination,
however, there was reason to believe that the British rear was much
stronger than had been conjectured. The intelligence on this subject
being contradictory, and the face of the country well calculated to
conceal the truth, he deemed it advisable to ascertain the fact

Sir Henry Clinton, soon after the rear division was in full march,
received intelligence that an American column had appeared on his left
flank. This, being a corps of militia, was soon dispersed and the march
was continued. When his rear guard had descended from the heights he
saw it followed by a strong corps, soon after which a cannonade was
commenced upon it, and at the same time a respectable force showed
itself on each of his flanks. Suspecting a design on his baggage he
determined to attack the troops in his rear so vigorously as to compel
a recall of those on his flanks, and for this purpose marched back his
whole rear division. This movement was in progress as Lee advanced for
the purpose of reconnoitering. He soon perceived his mistake respecting
the force of the British rear, but still determined to engage on that
ground although his judgment disapproved the measure--there being a
morass immediately in his rear, which would necessarily impede the
reinforcements which might be advancing to his aid and embarrass his
retreat should he be finally overpowered. This was about 10. While both
armies were preparing for action General Scott (as stated by General
Lee) mistook an oblique march of an American column for a retreat, and
in the apprehension of being abandoned left his position and repassed
the ravine in his rear.

Being himself of opinion that the ground was unfavorable Lee did not
correct the error he ascribed to Scott but ordered the whole detachment
to regain the heights. He was closely pressed and some slight
skirmishing ensued without much loss on either side.

As soon as the firing announced the commencement of the action the rear
division of the army advanced rapidly to the support of the front. As
they approached the scene of action, Washington, who had received no
intelligence from Lee giving notice of his retreat, rode forward, and
to his utter astonishment and mortification met the advanced corps
retiring before the enemy without having made a single effort to
maintain its ground. The troops he first saw neither understood the
motives which had governed Lee nor his present design, and could give
no other information than that by his orders they had fled without

Washington rode to the rear of the division where he met Lee, to whom
he spoke in terms of some warmth, implying disapprobation of his
conduct. [2]

Orders were immediately given to Colonel Stewart and Lieutenant-Colonel
Ramsay to form their regiments for the purpose of checking the pursuit,
and Lee was directed to take proper measures with the residue of his
force to stop the British column on that ground. Washington then rode
back to arrange the rear division of the army.

These orders were executed with firmness, and, when forced from his
ground, Lee brought off his troops in good order, and was directed to
form in the rear of Englishtown.

This check afforded time to draw up the left wing and second line of
the American army on an eminence covered by a morass in front. Lord
Stirling, who commanded the left wing, brought up a detachment of
artillery under Lieutenant-Colonel Carrington, and some field pieces,
which played with considerable effect on a division of the British
which had passed the morass, and was pressing on to the charge. These
pieces, with the aid of several parties of infantry, effectually
stopped the advance of the enemy.

Finding themselves warmly opposed in front, the British attempted to
turn the left flank of the American army, but were repulsed. They then
attempted the right with as little success. General Greene had advanced
a body of troops with artillery to a commanding piece of ground in his
front, which not only disappointed the design of turning the right, but
enfiladed the party which yet remained in front of the left wing.

At this moment General Wayne was advanced with a body of infantry to
engage them in front, who kept up so hot and well-directed a fire that
they soon withdrew behind the ravine to the ground on which the action
had commenced immediately after the arrival of Washington.

Lafayette, speaking of this battle, said: "Never was General Washington
greater in war than in this action. His presence stopped the retreat.
His dispositions fixed the victory. His fine appearance on horseback,
his calm courage roused by the animation produced by the vexation of
the morning, gave him the air best calculated to excite enthusiasm."

The position now taken by the British army was very strong. Both flanks
were secured by thick woods and morasses, and their front was
accessible only through a narrow pass. The day had been intensely hot,
and the troops were much fatigued. Notwithstanding these circumstances,
Washington resolved to renew the engagement. For this purpose he
ordered Brigadier-General Poor, with his own and the North Carolina
brigade, to gain their right flank, while Woodford with his brigade
should turn their left. At the same time the artillery was ordered to
advance and play on their front. These orders were obeyed with
alacrity, but the impediments on the flanks of the British were so
considerable, that before they could be overcome it was nearly dark.
Further operations were therefore deferred until next morning; and the
brigades which had been detached to the flanks of the British army
continued on their ground through

[missing text]

the justifiable claims, there can be no doubt but they will, as
heretofore, upon the first favorable occasion, again display that lust
of domination which hath rent in twain the mighty empire of Britain."

They further reported it as their opinion that any men or body of men
who should presume to make any separate or partial convention or
agreement with commissioners under the Crown of Great Britain should be
considered and treated as open and avowed enemies of the United States.
The committee further gave it as their opinion that the United States
could not hold any conference with the British commissioners unless
Britain first withdrew her fleets and armies, or in positive and
express terms acknowledged the independence of the States.

While these things were going on, Mr. Silas Deane arrived from Paris
with the important and gratifying information that treaties of alliance
and commerce had been concluded between France and the United States.
This intelligence diffused a lively joy throughout America and was
received by the people as the harbinger of their independence. The
alliance had been long expected, and the delays thrown in the way of
its accomplishment had excited many uneasy apprehensions. But these
were now dissipated, and, to the fond imaginations of the people, all
the prospects of the United States appeared gilded with the cheering
beams of prosperity.

Writing to the President of Congress on this occasion (May 4, 1778),
Washington says: "Last night at 11 o'clock I was honored with your
dispatches of the 3d. The contents afford me the most sensible
pleasure. Mr. Silas Deane had informed me by a line from Bethlehem that
he was the bearer of the articles of alliance between France and the
States. I shall defer celebrating this happy event in a suitable manner
until I have liberty from Congress to announce it publicly. I will only
say that the army are anxious to manifest their joy upon the occasion."

On the 7th of May the great event referred to in the preceding extract
was celebrated by the army at Valley Forge with the highest enthusiasm.
The following general orders were issued by Washington on the day

"It having pleased the Almighty Ruler of the universe to defend the
cause of the United American States, and finally to raise us up a
powerful friend among the princes of the earth, to establish our
liberty and independency upon a lasting foundation, it becomes us to
set apart a day for gratefully acknowledging the Divine goodness and
celebrating the important event, which we owe to his Divine
interposition. The several brigades are to be assembled for this
purpose at 9 o'clock to-morrow morning, when their chaplains will
communicate the intelligence contained in the postscript of the
'Pennsylvania Gazette' of the 2d instant, and offer up thanksgiving and
deliver a discourse suitable to the occasion. At half after 10 o'clock
a cannon will be fired, which is to be a signal for the men to be under
arms; the brigade inspectors will then inspect their dress and arms and
form the battalions according to the instructions given them, and
announce to the commanding officers of the brigade that the battalions
are formed.

"The commanders of brigades will then appoint the field officers to the
battalions, after which each battalion will be ordered to load and
ground their arms. At half-past 11 a second cannon will be fired as a
signal for the march, upon which the several brigades will begin their
march by wheeling to the right by platoons and proceed by the nearest
way to the left of their ground by the new position; this will be
pointed out by the brigade inspectors. A third signal will then be
given, on which there will be a discharge of thirteen cannon, after
which a running fire of the infantry will begin on the right of
Woodford's and continue throughout the front line; it will then be
taken upon the left of the second line and continue to the right. Upon
a signal given, the whole army will huzza, 'Long live the King of
France!' The artillery then begins again and fires thirteen rounds;
this will be succeeded by a second general discharge of the musketry in
a running fire, and huzza, 'Long live the friendly European Powers!'
The last discharge of thirteen pieces of artillery will be given,
followed by a general running fire and huzza, 'The American States!'"

An officer who was present describes the scene as follows:

"Last Wednesday was set apart as a day of general rejoicing, when we
had a _feu de joie_ conducted with the greatest order and regularity.
The army made a most brilliant appearance, after which his Excellency
dined in public, with all the officers of his army, attended with a
band of music. I never was present where there was such unfeigned and
perfect joy as was discovered in every countenance. The entertainment
was concluded with a number of patriotic toasts, attended with huzzas.
When the General took his leave there was a universal clap, with loud
huzzas, which continued till he had proceeded a quarter of a mile,
during which time there were a thousand hats tossed in the air. His
Excellency turned round with his retinue and huzzaed several times."

Dr. Thacher, in his "Military Journal," mentions the presence of
"Washington's lady and suite, Lord Stirling and the Countess of
Stirling, with other general officers and ladies," at this _fete_. Our
readers, after passing with us through the dismal scenes of the
preceding winter, will readily sympathize with the army in the feelings
attending this celebration. It is worthy of special notice that in his
general order Washington was careful to give the religious feature of
the scene a prominent place by distinctly acknowledging the Divine
interposition in favor of the country. This was his invariable habit on
all occasions. Religion with him was not merely an opinion, a creed, or
a sentiment. It was a deep-rooted, all-pervading feeling, governing his
life and imparting earnestness, dignity, and power to all his actions.
Hence the reverence and affection which was the voluntary homage of all
who knew him.

Lord North's conciliatory bills, as we have seen, were not acceptable
to Congress. Washington's views in relation to them are given in the
following letter, written to a member of that body two days after he
had learned the terms proposed by the British government:

"Nothing short of independence, it appears to me, can possibly do. A
peace on other terms would, if I may be allowed the expression, be a
peace of war. The injuries we have received from the British nation
were so unprovoked, and have been so great and so many, that they can
never be forgotten. Besides the feuds, the jealousies, the animosities
that would ever attend a union with them; besides the importance, the
advantages, which we should derive from an unrestricted commerce, our
fidelity as a people, our gratitude, our character as men, are opposed
to a coalition with them but in case of the last extremity. Were we
easily to accede to terms of dependence, no nation, upon future
occasions, let the oppression of Britain be ever so flagrant and
unjust, would interpose for our relief, or, at most; they would do it
with a cautious reluctance and upon conditions most probably that would
be hard, if not dishonorable, to us."

Congress fully agreed in these views and rejected the advances of the
British government, refusing all terms of accommodation which did not
begin with the withdrawal is probable that explanations might have been
made which would have rescued him from the imputations that were cast
on him, and have restored him to the esteem of the army, could his
haughty temper have brooked the indignity he believed to have been
offered him on the field of battle. Washington had taken no measures in
consequence of the events of that day, and would probably have come to
no resolution concerning them without an amicable explanation, when he
received from Lee a letter expressed in very unbecoming terms, in which
he, in the tone of a superior, required reparation for the injury
sustained "from the very singular expressions" said to have been used
on the day of the action by Washington.

This letter was answered (July 30, 1778) by an assurance that, so soon
as circumstances would admit of an inquiry, he should have an
opportunity of justifying himself to the army, to America, and to the
world in general; or of convincing them that he had been guilty of
disobedience of orders and misbehavior before the enemy. On his
expressing a wish for a speedy investigation of his conduct, and for a
court-martial rather than a court of inquiry, he was arrested--first,
for disobedience of orders in not attacking the enemy on the 28th of
June, agreeably to repeated instructions; secondly, for misbehavior
before the enemy on the same day, in making an unnecessary, disorderly,
and shameful retreat; and thirdly, for disrespect to the
Commander-in-Chief in two letters.

Before this correspondence had taken place, strong and specific charges
of misconduct had been made against General Lee by several officers of
his detachment, and particularly by Generals Wayne and Scott. In these,
the transactions of the day, not being well understood, were
represented in colors much more unfavorable to Lee than facts, when
properly explained, would seem to justify.

These representations, most probably, induced the strong language of
the second article in the charge. A court-martial, over which Lord
Stirling presided, after a tedious investigation, found him guilty of
all the charges exhibited against him, and sentenced him to be
suspended for one year. This sentence was afterward, though with some
hesitation, approved almost unanimously by Congress. The court,
softened in some degree the severity of the second charge, by finding
him guilty, not in its very words, but "of misbehavior before the
enemy, by making an unnecessary, and, in some few instances, a
disorderly retreat."

Lee defended himself with his accustomed ability. He proved that, after
the retreat had commenced, in consequence of General Scott's repassing
the ravine, on the approach of the enemy, he had designed to form on
the first advantageous piece of ground he could find; and that in his
own opinion, and in the opinion of some other officers, no safe and
advantageous position had presented itself until he met Washington, at
which time it was his intention to fight the enemy on the very ground
afterwards taken by Washington himself. He suggested a variety of
reasons in justification of his retreat, which, if they do not
absolutely establish its propriety, give it so questionable a form as
to render it probable that a public examination never would have taken
place, could his proud spirit have stooped to offer explanation instead
of outrage to the Commander-in-Chief.

His suspension gave general satisfaction through the army. Without
judging harshly of his conduct as a military man, they perfectly
understood the insult offered to their general by his letters; and,
whether rightly or not, believed his object to have been to disgrace
Washington and to obtain the supreme command for himself. So devotedly
were all ranks attached to their general, that the mere suspicion of
such a design would have rendered his continuance in the army extremely

Whatever judgment may be formed on the propriety of his retreat, it is
not easy to justify either the omission to keep the Commander-in-Chief
continually informed of his situation and intentions, or the very rude
letters written after the action was over.

The battle of Monmouth gave great satisfaction to Congress. A
resolution was passed unanimously, thanking Washington for the activity
with which he marched from the camp at Valley Forge in pursuit of the
enemy; for his distinguished exertions in forming the line of battle,
and for his great good conduct in the action; and he was requested to
signify the thanks of Congress to the officers and men under his
command who distinguished themselves by their conduct and valor in the

After the battle of Monmouth, Washington gave his army one day's
repose, and then (June 30, 1778,) commenced his march toward Brunswick,
at which place he encamped, and remained for several days. Thence he
sent out parties to reconnoiter the enemy's position, and learn his
intentions. Among other persons sent out with this design was Aaron
Burr, a lieutenant-colonel, who had served in Arnold's expedition to
Quebec, and who was destined to become a conspicuous person in American

Clinton had arrived with his army in the neighborhood of Sandy Hook on
the 30th of June. Here he was met by Lord Howe with the fleet, which
had just arrived from Philadelphia. Sandy Hook having been converted by
the winter storms from a peninsula to an island, Lord Howe caused a
bridge of boats to be constructed, over which Clinton's army passed
from the mainland to the Hook. It was soon afterward distributed into
different encampments on Staten Island, Long Island, and the island of
New York.

When Washington had learned that the British army was thus situated, he
was satisfied that Clinton had no present intention of passing up the
Hudson, and he halted a few days at Paramus, at which place he received
intelligence of an important event which will claim our attention in
the next chapter.

1. Footnote: Spencer, "History of the United States."

2. Footnote: This interview between Washington and Lee was followed by
such important results that one is naturally curious to know exactly
what passed between them. The interview is described by Lee himself in
his defense before the court-martial:

"When I arrived first in his presence, conscious of having done nothing
which could draw on me the least censure, but rather flattering myself
with his congratulation and applause, I confess I was disconcerted,
astonished, and confounded by the words and manner in which his
Excellency accosted me. It was so novel and unexpected from a man,
whose discretion, humanity, and decorum I had from the first of our
acquaintance stood in admiration of, that I was for some time unable to
make any coherent answer to questions so abrupt, and in a great measure
to me unintelligible. The terms, I think, were these: 'I desire to
know, sir, what is the reason, whence arises this disorder and
confusion?' The manner in which he expressed them was much stronger and
more severe than the expressions themselves. When I recovered myself
sufficiently, I answered that I saw or knew of no confusion but what
naturally arose from disobedience of orders, contradictory
intelligence, and the impertinence and presumption of individuals, who
were invested with no authority, intruding themselves in matters above
them and out of their sphere; that the retreat in the first instance
was contrary to my intentions, contrary to my orders, and contrary to
my wishes."

Washington replied that all this might be true, but that he ought not
to have undertaken the enterprise unless he intended to go through with
it. He then rode away, and ordered some of the retreating regiments to
be formed on the ground which he pointed out.

Gordon says that, after the first meeting with Lee, Washington rode on
towards the rear of the retreating troops. He had not gone many yards
before he met his secretary, who told him that the British army were
within fifteen minutes' march of that place, which was the first
intelligence he received of their pushing on so briskly. He remained
there till the extreme rear of the retreating troops got up, when,
looking about, and judging the ground to be an advantageous spot for
giving the enemy the first check, he ordered Colonel Stewart's and
Lieutenant-Colonel Ramsey's battalions to form and incline to their
left, that they might be under cover of a corner of woods, and not be
exposed to the enemy's cannon in front. Lee having been told by one of
his aids that Washington had taken the command, answered, "Then I have
nothing further to do," and turned his horse and rode after his
Excellency in front. Washington, on his coming up, asked, "Will you
command on this ground or not? If you will, I will return to the main
body and have them formed upon the next height." Lee replied, "It is
equal with me where I command." Washington then told him, "I expect you
will take proper measures for checking the enemy," Lee said, "Your
orders shall be obeyed, and I will not be the first to leave the
field." Washington then rode to the main army, which was formed with
the utmost expedition on the eminence, with the morass in front.
Immediately upon his riding off, a warm cannonade commenced between the
British and American artillery on the right of Stewart and Ramsay,
between whom and the advanced troops of the British army a heavy fire
began soon after in the skirt of the woods before mentioned. The
British pressed on close; their light horse charged upon the right of
the Americans, and the latter were obliged to give way in such haste,
that the British horse and infantry came out of the wood seemingly
mixed with them.

The action then commenced between the British and Colonel Livingston's
regiment, together with Varnum's brigade, which had been drawn up by
Lee's order, and lined the fence that stretched across the open field
in front of the bridge over the morass, with the view of covering the
retreat of the artillery and the troops advanced with them. The
artillery had timely retired to the rear of the fence, and from an
eminence discharged several rounds of shot at the British engaged with
Livingston's and Varnum's troops; these were soon broken by a charge of
the former, and retired. The artillery were then ordered off. Prior to
the commencement of the last action, Lee sent orders to Colonel Ogden,
who had drawn up in the wood nearest the bridge to defend that post to
the last extremity, thereby to cover the retreat of the whole over the
bridge. Lee was one of the last that remained on the field, and brought
off the rear of the retreating troops. Upon his addressing General
Washington, after passing the morass, with, "Sir, here are my troops,
how is it your pleasure that I should dispose of them?" he was ordered
to arrange them in the rear of Englishtown.


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