« PreviousContinue »
the town was evacuated, and left in a better state than was expected; the houses were not damaged in any great degree; but the British left few publick stores of value.
Although Halifax was mentioned, as the destined place of the British armament, yet General WASHINGTON apprehended that New-York was their object On this supposition, he detached several brigades of his army to that city, before the evacuation of Boston
General Howe remained a number of days in Nan tasket Road, and the Commander in Chief, when he entered Boston, as a measure of security, fortified Fort Hill.
The issue of the campaign was highly gratifying to all classes; and the gratulation of his fellow-citizens upon the repossession of the metropolis of Massachusetts, was more pleasing to the Commander in Chief than would have been the honours of a triumph. Con gress, to express the publick approbation of the milita ry achievements of their General, resolved, "That the thanks of Congress, in their own name, and in the name of the thirteen United Colonies, be presented to his Excellency General WASHINGTON, and the officers and soldiers under his command, for their wise and spirited conduct in the siege and acquisition of Boston, and that a medal of gold be struck, in conmemoration of this great event, and presented to his Ex cellency."
In his letter, informing Congress that he had exe cuted their order, and communicated to the army the vote of thanks, he observes, "They were indeed, at first, a band of undisciplined husbandmen, but it is under God, to their bravery and attention to their dutv, that I am indebted for that success which has procured me the only reward I wish to receive, the affection and esteem of my countrymen."
General Washington marches the army to New-York-Fortifications of the City and River-Independence declared-General Howe lands on Staten Island-Interview between General Washington and Colonel Patterson-State of the British and American Forces-Camp at Brooklyn-Battle on Long Island-Retreat from it-The City and Island of New-York evacuated-Mancuvres at White Plains-Fort Washington taken-General Howe invades New-Jersey-Depression of the Americans-General Washington invested with new Powers-Success at Trenton, and at Princeton-New-Jersey recovered.
1776. As soon as the necessary arrangements were made in Boston, in the persuasion that the Hudson would be the scene of the next campaign, General WASHINGTON marched the main body of his army to New-York, where he arrived himself the 14th of April.
The situation of New-York was highly favourable for an invading army, supported by a superiour naval force. The Sound, the North and East rivers, opened a direct access to any point on Long Island, York Island, or on the continent bordering upon those waters. To the effectual defence of the city, the passage up the rivers must be obstructed by forts and other impediments; and an army was necessary, of force sufficient to man the posts and lines of detence, and to meet the invading foe in the field. Aware of these facts, General WASHINGTON doubted the practicability of a successful de fence of New-York. But the importance of the place, and the difficulty which he had already experienced in dislodging an army from a fortified town, open to the protection and supplies of a fleet, inclined him to make the attempt. His own disposition to the measure was strengthened by the wishes of Congress, the opinion of his general officers, and by the expectation of his country. The resolution being formed, he called into action, all the resources in his power, to effect it. His first care was to put an end to the intercourse, which
to this time had been continued, between the learn and the British ships in the harbour, by which thoy wero supplied with every necessary; and Tryon, the British Gosernour, enjoyed the most favourable opportunity to concert his plans with the numerous disaffected inhabitants of the city and its vicinity ; and by the aid of the Committee of Safety, this dangerous communication was effectually stopped. The General, with unremitted diligence, pushed on his works of defence. Hulks were sunk in the North and East rivers; forts were crected on the most commanding situations un their banks; and works were raised to defend the narrow passage between Long and York Islands.
The passes in the High Lands, bordering on the Hudson, became an object of early and solicitous attention. The command of this river was equally im portant to the American and the British General. By its possession, the Americans easily conveyed supplies of provision and ammunition to the northern army, and secured an intercourse between the southern and northern colonies, an intercourse essential to the success of the war. In the hands of the British, this necessary communication was interrupted, and an intercourse between the Atlantic and Canada, was opened to them. General WASHINGTON ordered these passes to be fortified, and made their security an object of primary importance, through every period of his command.
In these defensive preparations, the American army incessantly laboured until Lord and General Howe arrived at Sandy Hook with the British fleet and army. In the near prospect of active warfare, the mind of the Commander in Chief was agitated by innumerable em barrassments. He found himself destitute of the means to give his country the protection it expected from him ; the Colonies haa ! filled up their respec. tive regiments ; his force had been weakened by large detachments sent to reinforce the army in Canaria ; he
was greatly deficient in arms, tents, clothing, and all military stores; and notwithstanding his urgent entreaties on this subject, such was the destitute state of America, that Congress with all their exertions were unable to supply him. Two thousand men in camp, were at this time without arms; and no confidence could be placed in many of the muskets, which were in the hands of the soldiery. In this weak and deficient condition, General WASHINGTON was to pose a powerful and well appointed army, and to, guard against the intrigues of those in New-York and its neighbourhood, who were disaffected to the American cause the..e were numerous, powerful, and enterprising. Alan was laid by Governour Tryon, through the agency of the Mayor of the city, to aid the enemy in landing, and to seize the person of General WASHINGTON. The defection reached the American army, and even some of the General's guard engaged in the conspiracy; but it was seasonably discovered, and a number of those concerned in it were executed.
The permanent troops being found incompetent to defend the country, became necessary to call detachments of militia into the field; and Congress, placing implicit confidence in the judgment and patriotism of their General, invested him with discretionary powers, to call on the governments of the neighbouring Colonies, for such numbers as circumstances should require; and they empowered him to form those magazines of military stores, which he might deem to be necessary. In pursuance of the measure recommended by Congress, a requisition was made for thirteen thousand and eight hundred of the militia from Massachusetts, Connecticut, New-York, and New-Jersey.
While these defensive preparations were going for ward in the camp, Congress was ripening measures to declare the Colonies independent of Great Britain. The free exercise of their constitutional rights was e extent of the American claim at the commence
ment of the controversy, and a reconciliation with the parent state, by a redress of grievances, was the ar. dent desire of the great body of the American people ; but the operations of war produced other feelings and views: A general alienation of affection from the British government took place, and it was thought that the mutual confidence of the two countries could never be restored. In the common apprehension, it becamo an absurdity, that one country should maintain authority over another, distant from it three thousand miles The restrictions of Great Britain upon the Colonial trade, in the course of investigation, appeared as a heavy burden, and the commerce of the world was viewed as a high reward of independence : common sense dictated, that the ability successfully to contend for the liberty formerly enjoyed as British Colonies, strenuously exerted, would secure to the country the more honourable and permanent blessings of an independent and sovereign nation. The declaration of independence was supposed to be the most effectual means to secure the aid of foreign powers; because the great kingdoms of Europe would be disposed to assist the efforts of the Colonies to establish an independent government, although they would not interfere with their struggles to regain the liberties of British subjects. By reasonings of this nature, the minds of the American people were ripened to renounce their allegiance to Britain, and to assume a place amung independent nations; and the representatives of most of the Colonies were instructed to support in Congress measures for his important purpose.
Early in June, the following resolution was moved in Congress by Richard Henry Lee, and seconded by John Adams, “ Resolved that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States; and that all political connexion between them and the state of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.' . This resolution was solemnly de