Page images

1780. there were fuch inftances of profeffional fkill, couragė and dexterity, conftantly displayed on the part of the French, as were before unknown in their marine.


The prefent letter will be kept ready to fend off inftantly, whenever the opportunity of a safe conveyance



Roxbury, April 21, 1781.


HE Maffachusetts government was greatly alarmed
on the 14th of January, by the unexpected ar-
rival of gen. Knox with an account of the Pennfylvania
line's having revolted, and marched off from Morrif-
town, Gov. Hancock had been prepared to expect an
event of that kind, though in a different quarter: for
gen. Glover wrote to him on the 11th of the preceding
month" It is now four days fince your line of the
army has eaten one mouthful of bread. We have no
The beft of wheat
money: nor will any body truft us.
is at this moment felling in the ftate of New York for
three fourths of a dollar [3s. 4d. fterling] per bufhel,
and your army is ftarving for want. On the ift of
January fomething will turn up if not speedily prevented,
which your officers cannot be anfwerable for." Several



[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

causes contributed to produce the revolt of the Penn- 1781
fylvania line. The officers, when they inlifted the men,
imagined that the war would not continue more than
three years; and thought, at their inliftment, of hold-
ing them no longer than for that term at furtheft, though
they were to be difcharged fooner was the war ended:
the men understood the agreement in the fame manner.
The officers finding the war did not clofe as was ex-
pected, and recruiting difficult; the foldiers alfo being
well trained by the three years fervice; they were
unwilling to part with them, and impofed a new fenfe
upon the original agreement, viz. that the men were
held to ferve the whole war, though it lafted beyond
the three years. This the men refented as an impo-
fition, and fubmitted to only from neceffity, and till the
moment should offer for the redrefs of fuch an iniquitous
grievance. The officers, to footh the foldiers, relaxed
in their discipline, which made the men feel their own
importance. Major M'Pherson having quitted the Bri-
tish service in an honorable way, and attached himself
to the Americans, gen. Washington, when occafion re-
quired his forming a particular corps, gave the com-
mand of it to the major in token of refpect, and by
way of encouragement. Upon that the Pennsylvania
officers formed themselves into parties; combined in an
opposition to the appointment; and offered to refign
their commiffions upon the occafion. They alfo coun-
tenanced the non-commiffioned officers of their line to
unite in applying to head quarters for certain favors.
Such conduct contributed to ftrengthen and ripen that
difpofition which produced the revolt. The language
which the officers of rank talked upon thefe occafions,

1781. within the hearing of the injured foldiers, was not unnoticed; but was applied to direct the conduct of the latter, while it cherished their discontent: fo that the revolt would have taken place before, had the opportunity and prospect of success been equally favorable. To the capital grievance abovementioned must be added -the total want of pay for near twelve months-the want of clothing-and not unfrequently the want of provifion beyond defcription. A further aggravation was produced by the arrival in camp of a deputation from the Pennsylvania ftate with 600 half joes, to be given, three to each man, as a bounty to each of the fix months levies (whofe time was then expiring) that would inlift again for the war. This was too much for the veterans. The commencement of the new year was to be celebrated, which occafioned the men's being charged with more than a common allowance of spirit. The operation of this upon the animal frame, and the other circumstances confpiring, the Pennfylvania line mutinied. The whole, except three regiments, upon a fignal for the purpose, turned out under arms without their officers, and declared for a redress of grievances. Gen. Wayne and the other officers did every thing in their power to quell the tumult. But the troops faid"We neither can, nor will be any longer amufed. We are determined, at every hazard, to march in a body to congrefs and obtain redrefs." On Wayne's cocking his piftols, there were a hundred bayonets at his breast with-" We love you, we refpect you, but you are a dead man if you fire. Do not miftake us, we are not going to the enemy: on the contrary, were they now to come out, you should fee us fight under your orders



with as much refolution and alacrity as ever." Several 1781. officers were wounded and a captain killed in vainly attempting to reduce them. The three regiments paraded under their officers; but being called upon by the others to join them, and threatened with death in cafe of refufal, and actually fired on, they complied. They then feized upon fix field pieces, and forcing the artillery men who had not joined them, to do it inftantly, under penalty of being every man bayonetted, the mutiny became general. They were about 1300, and began their march at night: the next day Wayne forwarded provisions after them, to prevent the otherwise inevitable depredation which would be made on private property. He and three principal officers, fuppofed higheft in their efteem, concluded upon following and mixing with them, that they might affift with their advice, and prevent outrages. They were civilly received, and acquired much of the confidence of the mutineers. Thefe however elected temporary officers from their own body; and appointed a fergeant major, who had formerly deferted from the British army, to be their commander. They marched through the country with greater regularity and good conduct, and did lefs damage, than could have been expected. By the third day they were at Princeton.

When the news of their revolt reached gen. Washington, the Pennsylvania government, and the congrefs, they were all much alarmed, left the example should prove infectious. The commander in chief concluded upon fending off immediately a proper person to the eastern states, to enforce upon them the doing of fomething without delay for the relief and comfort of their refpective lines. Hard money was to be found in the C 2 hands

1781. hands of but one officer, fufficient for the expences of the journey, which could not be otherwife performed with a speed answerable to the emergency. Gen. Knox had obtained a small quantity, which was destined for the procurement of thofe family fupplies which he must otherwise have wanted. This annexed to his other qualifications, made him the beft and the only agent that gen. Washington could employ. He readily engaged in the fervice, notwithstanding its being the depth of winter, and carried with him a letter of January the 5th, wherein his excellency faid-" It is vain to think an army can be kept together much longer, under fuch a variety of fufferings as ours have experienced; and unlefs fome immediate and fpeedy measures are adopted to furnish at least three months pay to the troops, in money which will be of some value to them; and at the fame time ways and means are devised to clothe and feed them better (more regularly I mean) the worst that can befall us may be expected. I refer you to gen. Knox, &c." His fuccefs was fuch, that Washington wrote to him about a month after- The ftates whofe determinations you report, have done themselves honor by their liberality, and by their ready attention to the object of your miffion."

When Sir Henry Clinton received intelligence of the revolt, he left no means untried that could turn it to the advantage of the British. He fent two fpies by way of Amboy, and two of Elizabeth town (all Americans) to treat as agents from himself with the mutineers. The laft two were counter-fpies; who gave information of the others upon being designedly taken up; and had the proposals with which they were intrusted taken from




« PreviousContinue »