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On this occafion, an affembly of delegates from all the towns in Suffolk County was called; and feveral fpirited refolutions were agreed to. Thefe refolutions were prefaced with a declaration of allegiance; but they breathed a fpirit of freedom that does honour to the delegates. They declared that the late acts of parliament and the proceedings of General Gage, were glaring infractions of their rights and liberties, which their duty called them to defend by all lawful means,
This affembly remonftrated against the fortification of Boston Neck, and against the Quebec Bill; and refolved upon a fufpenfion of commerce, an encouragement of arts and manufactures, the holding of a provincial congrefs, and a fubmiffion to the measures which should be recommended by the continental congrefs. They recommended that the collectors of taxes fhould not pay any money into the treafury, without further orders; they alfo recommended peace and good order, as they meant to act merely upon the defenfive.
In anfwer to their remonftrance, General Gage affured them that he had no intention to prevent the free egrefs and regrefs of the inhabitants to and from the town of Bofton, and that he would not fuffer any perfon under his command to injure the perfon or property of any of his majefty's fubjects.
Previous to this, a general affembly had been fummoned to meet; and notwithstanding the writs had been countermanded by the governor's proclamation, on account of the violence of the times and the refignation of feveral of the new counsellors, yet reprefentatives were chofen by the people who met at Salem, refolved themselves into a provincial congrefs, and adjourned to Concord.
This congrefs addreffed the governor with a rehearsal of their diftreffes, and took the neceffary fteps for defending their rights. They regulated the militia, made provifion for fupplying the treasury, and furnishing the people with arms; and fuch was the enthufiafm and union of the people that the recommendations of the provincial congrefs had the force of laws.
General Gage was incenfed at these measures-he declared, in his anfwer to the addrefs, that Britain could never harbour the black defign of enflaving her fubjects, and published a proclamation, in which he infinuated, that fuch proceedings amounted to rebellion. He alfo ordered barracks to be erected for the foldiers; but he found difficulty in procuring labourers, either in Boston or New-York.
In the beginning of 1775, the fishery bills were paffed in parliament, by which the colonies were prohibited to trade with Great-Britain, Ireland, or the Weft-Indies, or to take fish on the banks of Newfoundland.
In the diftreffes to which thefe acts of parliament reduced the town of Bofton, the unanimity of the colonics was remarkable in the large fupplies of provifion, furnished by the inhabitants of different towns from New-Hampshire to Georgia, and fhipped to the relief of the fufferers.
Preparations began to be made to oppofe by force the execution of these acts of parliament. The militia of the country were trained to the ufe of arms-great encouragement was given for the manufacture of gunpowder, and measures were taken to obtain all kinds of military ftores.
In February, Colonel Leflie was fent with a detachment of troops from Bolton, to take poffeffion of fome cannon at Salem. But the people had
intelligence of the defign-took up the draw bridge in that town, and prevented the troops from paffing, until the cannon were fecured; fo that the expedition failed.
In April, Colonel Smith and Major Pitcairn were fent with a body of about nine hundred troops, to deftroy the military ftores which had been collected at Concord, about twenty miles from Bofton. It is believed, that another object of this expedition was to feize on the perfons of Meffrs. Hancock and Adams, who, by their fpirited exertions, had rendered themselves very obnoxious to General Gage. At Lexington, the militia were collected on a green, to oppose the incurfion of the British forces. Thefe were fired upon by the British troops, and eight men killed on the fpot.
The militia were difperfed, and the troops proceeded to Concord, where they destroyed a few flores. But on their return, they were inceffantly harraffed by the Americans, who, inflamed with juft refentment, fired upon them from houfes and fences, and purfued them to Boston. The lofs of the British in this expedition, in killed, wounded, and prifoners, was two hundred and feventy-three men.
Here was fpilt the first blood in the late war; a war which fevered America from the British empire. Lexington opened the first scene of this great drama, which, in its progrefs, exhibited the most illuftrious characters and events, and clofed with a revolution, equally glorious for the actors, and important in its confequences to mankind.
This battle roufed all America. The militia collected from all quirters, and Boston, in a few days, was befieged by twenty thousand men. A ftop was put to all intercourfe between the town and country, and the inhabitants were reduced to great want of provifions. General Gage promifed to let the people depart, if they would deliver up their arms. The people complied, but when the general had obtained their arms, the perfidious man refused to let the people go.
This breach of faith, and the confequences that attended it, were juftly and greatly complained of; and although many, at different times, were permitted to leave the town, they were obliged to leave all their effects behind; fo that many who had been used to live in cafe and affluence, were at once reduced to extreme indigence and mifery. A circumftance peculiarly and wantonly aggravating, and which was the ground of the bittereft complaints of Congrefs, was, that paffports were granted or retained in fuch a manner, as that families were broken, and the deareft connections feparated; part being compelled to quit the town, and part cruelly retained againft their inclination.
In the mean time, a small number of men, to the amount of about two hundred and forty, under the command of Colonel Allen and Colonel Eafton, without any publie orders, furprized and took the British garrifons at Ticonderoga and Crown Point, without the lofs of a man on either fide.
During thefe tranfactions, the Generals Howe, Burgoyne, and Clinton, arrived at Boston from England, with a number of troops. In June following, our troops attempted to fortify Bunker's hill, which lies near Charleston, and but a mile and an half from Bofton. They had, during the night, thrown up a small breaft-work, which sheltered them from
the fire of the British cannon. But the next morning, the British army was fent to drive them from the hill, and landing under cover of their cannon, they fet fire to Charleston, which was confumed, and marched to attack our troops in the entrenchments. A fevere engagement enfued, in which the British, according to their own accounts, had feven hundred and forty killed, and eleven hundred and fifty wounded. They were repulfed at firft, aud thrown into diforder; but they finally carried the fortification, with the point of the bayonet. The Americaus fuffered a fmall lofs, compared with the British; the whole lofs in killed, wounded, and prifoners being but about four hundred and fifty.
The lofs moft lamented on this bloody day was that of Dr. Warren, who was at this time a major-general, and commanded the troops on this occafion. He died like a brave man, fighting valiantly at the head of his party, in a little redoubt at the right of our lines.
General Warren, who had rendered himfelf confpicuous by his univerfal merit, abilities, and eloquence, had been a delegate to the firft general congrefs, and was at this time prefident of the provincial congrefs of Mallachusetts. But quitting the humane and peaceable walk of his profeffion as a phyfician, and breaking through the endearing ties of family connections, he proved himself equally calculated for the field, as for public bufinefs or private ftudy.
About this time, the Continental Congrefs appointed George Washington, Efq; a native of Virginia, to the chief command of the American army. This gentleman had been a diftinguifhed and fuccefsful officer in the preceding war, and he feemed defined by heaven to be the faviour of his country. He accepted the appointment with a diffidence which was a proof of his prudence and his greatnefs. He refufed any pay for eight years laborious and arduous fervice; and by his matchlefs skill, fortitude, and perfeverance, conducted America through indefcribeable difficulties, to independence and peace.
While true merit is esteemed, or virtue honoured, mankind will never ceafe to revere the memory of this Hero; and while gratitude remains in the human breaft, the praises of WASHINGTON fhall dwell on every American tongue.
General Washington, with other officers appointed by congrefs, arrived at Cambridge, and took command of the American army in July. From this time, the affairs of America began to affume the appearance of a regular and general oppofition to the forces of Great-Britain.
In Autumn, a body of troops, under the command of General Montgomery, befieged and took the garrifon at St. John's, which commands the entrance into Canada. The prifoners amounted to about feven hundred. General Montgomery purfued his fuccefs, and took Montreal; and defigned to pufh his victories to Quebec.
A body of troops, commanded by General Arnold, was ordered to march to Canada, by the river Kennebeck, and through the wilderness. After fuffering every hardfhip, and the most diftreffing hunger, they arrived in Canada, and were joined by General Montgomery, before Quebec. This city, which was commanded by Governor Carleton, was immediately befieged. But there being little hope of taking the town by a fiege, it was determined to florm it.
* See Note (A) at the close of this history.
The attack was made on the last day of December, but proved unfuccessful, and fatal to the brave General *; who, with his aid, was killed in attempting to fcale the walls.
Of the three divifions which attacked the town, one only entered, and that was obliged to furrender to fuperior force. After this defeat, Gen. Arnold, who now commanded the troops, continued fome months before Quebec, although his troops fuffered incredibly by cold and fickness. But the next fpring, the Americans were obliged to retreat from Canada.
About this time, the large and flourishing town of Norfolk in Virginia was wantonly burnt by order of Lord Dunmore, the then royal governor of that province.
General Gage went to England in September, and was fucceeded in the command by General Howe.
Falmouth, a confiderable town in the province of Main, in Maffachufetts, shared the fate of Norfolk; being laid in afhes by order of the British admiral.
The British king entered into treaties with fome of the German Princes for about feventeen thousand men, who were to be fent to America the next year, to affift in fubduing the colonies. The parliament alfo paffed an act, forbidding all intercourfe with America; and while they repealed the Bofton-port and fifhery bills, they declared all American property on the high feas forfeited to the captors. This act induced Congrefs to change the mode of carrying on the war; and measures were taken to annoy the enemy in Boffon. For this purpose, batteries were opened on feveral hills, from whence fhot and bombs were thrown into the town. But the batteries which were opened on Dorchester point had the best effect, and foon obliged General Howe to abandon the town. In March, 1776, the British troops embarked for Halifax, and General Washington entered the town in triumph.
In the enfuing fummer, a fmall fquadron of fhips, commanded by Sir Peter Parker, and a body of troops, under the Generals Clinton and Cornwallis, attempted to take Charleston, the capital of South Carolina. The fhips made a violent attack upon the fort on Sullivan's Ifland, but were repulfed with great lofs, and the expedition was abandoned.
In July, Congrefs published their declaration of independence, which feparated America from Great-Britain. This great event took place two hundred and eighty-four years after the first discovery of America by Columbus-one hundred and fixty-fix, from the first effectual fettlement in Virginia and one hundred and fifty-fix from the first fettlement of Plymouth in Maffachusetts, which were the earliest English fettlements in America.
Juft after this declaration, General Howe, with a powerful force, arrived near New-York, and landed the troops upon Staten Island. General Washington was in New-York, with about thirteen thousand men, who were encamped either in the city or the neighbouring fortifications.
The operations of the British began by the action on Long Island, in the month of Auguft. The Americans were defeated, and General Sullivan and Lord Stirling, with a large body of men, were made prifoners. The night after the engagement, a retreat was ordered, and executed with
* See Note (B).
fuch filence, that the Americans left the island without alarming their enemies, and without lofs.
In September, the city of New-York was abandoned by the American army, and taken by the British.
In November, Fort Washington on York Island was taken, and more than two thoufand men made prifoners. Fort Lee, oppofite to Fort Washington, on the Jerfey fhore, was foon after taken, but the garrifon efcaped.
About the fame time, General Clinton was fent with a body of troops to take poffeffion of Rhode Island, and fucceeded. In addition to all thefe loffes and defeats, the American army fuffered by defertion, and more by fickness, which was epidemic, and very mortal.
The northern army at Ticonderoga was in a difagreeable fituation, particularly after the battle on Lake Champlain, in which the American force, confifting of a few light veffels under the command of generals Arnold and Waterbury, was totally difperfed. But general Carleton, inHead of purfuing his victory, landed at Crown Point, reconnoitered our pofts at Ticonderoga and Mount Independence, and returned to winter quarters in Canada.
The American army might now be faid to be no more. All that now remained of an army, which at the opening of the campaign amounted to at least twenty-five thoufand men, did not now exceed three thousand. The term of their engagements being expired, they returned, in large bodies, to their families and friends; the few, who from perfonal attachment, local circumftances, or fuperior perfeverance and bravery, continued with the Generals Washington and Lee, were too inconfiderable to appear formidable in the view of a powerful and victorious enemy.
In this alarming and critical fituation of affairs, General Lee, through an imprudent careleffness, which ill became a man in his important station, was captured by a party of the British light horfe commanded by Col, Harcourt; this unfortunate circumftance gave a fevere fhock to the remaining hopes of the little army, and rendered their fituation truly dif treffing.
While thefe things were tranfacting in New-Jerfey, General Washington, far from being difcouraged by the lofs of General Lee, and always ready to improve every advantage to raise the drooping fpirits of his handful of men, had made a ftand on the Pennsylvania fide of the Delaware, Here he collected his scattered forces, called in the affistance of the Pennfylvania militia, and on the night of the 25th of December (1776), when the enemy were lulled into fecurity by the idea of his weaknefs, and by the inclemency of the night, which was remarkably boisterous, as well as by the fumes of a Christmas-eve, he croffed the river, and at the breaking of day, marched down to Trenton, and fo completely furprized them, that the greater part of the detachment which were itationed at this place, furrendered after a fhort refiftance. The horsemen and a few others made their efcape at the oppofite end of the town. Upwards of nine hundred Heffians were taken prifoners at this time.
This fuccefsful expedition firft gave a favourable turn to our affairs, which, after this, feemed to brighten through the whole course of the war, Soon after, General Washington attacked the British troops at Princeton,