Page images

and was well apprised that the principal grounds of discontent were not peculiar to the Pennsylvania line, but common to all his troops.

If force was requisite, he had none to spare without hazarding West Point. If concessions were unavoidable, they had better be made by any person than the commander in chief. After that due deliberation which he always gave to matters of importance, he determined against a personal interference, and to leave the whole to the civil authorities, which had already taken it up; but at the same time prepared for those measures which would become necessary, if nöaccommodation took place. This resolution was communicated to Gen. Wayne, with a caution to regard the situation of the other lines of the army in any.concessions which might be made, and with a recommendation to draw the mutineers over the Delaware, with a view to increase the difficulty of communicating with the enemy in New York.

The dangerous policy of yielding even to the just demands of soldiers with arms in their hands, soon became apparent. The success of the Pennsylvania line induced a part of that of New Jersey to hope for similar advantages, from similar conduct. A part of the Jersey brigade rose in arms, and making the same claims which had been yield. ed to the Pennsylvanians, marched to Chatham. Washington, who was far from being pleased with the issue of the mutiny in the Pennsylvania line, determined by strong measures to stop the progress of a spirit which was hostile to all his hopes. Gen. Howe, with a detachment of the eastern troops, was immediately ordered to march against

the mutineers, and instructed to make no terms with them while they were in a state of resistance ; and on their surrender to seize a few of the most active leaders, and to execute them immediately in the presence of their associates. These orders were obeyed; two of the ringleaders were shot, and the survivers returned to their duty.

Though Washington adopted these decisive measures, yet no man was more sensible of the merits and sufferings of his army, and none more active and zealous in procuring them justice. He improved the late events, by writing circular letters to the states, urging them to prevent all future causes of discontent by fulfilling their engagements with their respective lines. Some good effects were produced, but only temporary, and far short of the well founded claims of the army. Their wants with respect to provisions were only partially supplied, and by expedients, from one short time to another. The most usual was ordering an officer to seize on provisions wherever found. This differed from robbing only in its being done by authority for the public service, and in the offi. cer being always directed to give the proprietor a certificate of the quantity and quality of what was taken from him. At first, some reliance was placed on these certificates, as vouchers to support a future demand on the United States; but they soon became so common as to be of little value.

Recourse was so frequently had to coercion, both legislative and military, that the people not only lost confidence in public credit, but became impatient under all exertions of authority

for forcing their property from them. About this time Gen. Washington was obliged to apply nine thousand dollars sent by the state of Massachu. setts, for the payment of her troops, to the use of the Quarter Master's department, to enable him to transport provisions from the adjacent states. Before he consented to adopt this expedient, he had consumed every ounce of provision which had been kept as a reserve in the garrison of West Point, and had strained impress by military force to so great an extent, that there was reason to apprehend the inhabitants, irritated by such frequent calls, would proceed to dangerous insurrections. Fort Schuyler, West Point, and the posts up the North River, were on the point of being abandoned by their starving garrisons. At this period there was little or no circulating medium, either in the form of paper or specie, and in the neighbourhood of the American army, there was a real want of necessary provisions. The deficiency of the foriner occasioned many inconveniences, but the insufficiency of the latter had well nigh dissolved the army, and laid the country in every direction open to British excursions.

On the first of May, 1781, Gen. Washington commenced a military journal. The following statement is extracted from it. “I begin at this epoch a concise journal of military transactions, &c. I lament not having attempted it from the commencement of the war, in aid of my memory; and wish the multiplicity of matter which continually surrounds me, and the em arrassed state of our affairs, which is momentarily calling the attention to perplexities of one kind or another,

may not defeat altogether, or so interrupt my present intention and pian, as to render it of little avail.

“ To have the clearer understanding of the en. tries which may follow, it would be proper to recite in detail, our wants and our prospects; but this alone would be a work of much time and great magnitude. It may suffice to give the sum of them, which I shall do in few words; viz.

“ Instead of having magazines filled with provisions, we have a scanty pittance scattered here and there in the distant states.

“Instead of having our arsenals well supplied with military stores, they are poorly provided, and the workmen all leaving them. Instead of having the various articles of field equipage in readiness, the Quarter Master General is but now applying to the several states to provide these things for their troops respectively. Instead of having a regular system of transportation estab. lished upon credit, or funds in the Quarter Master's hands to defray the contingent expenses thereof, we have neither the one nor the other; and all that business, or a great part of it, being done by impressment, we are daily and hourly oppressing the people, souring their tempers, and alienating their affections. Instead of having the regiments completed agreeable to the requisitions of Congress, scarce any state in the union has at this hour one eighth part of its quota in the field, and there is little prospect of ever getting more than half. In a word, instead of having any thing in readiness to take the ficid, we have nothing; and, instead of having the prospect of a glorious offensive campaign before us, we have a bewildered and gloomy prospect of a defensive one ; unless we should receive a powerful aid of ships, troops, and money, from our generous allies, and these at present are too contingent to build upon."

While the Americans were suffering the complicated calamities which introduced the year 1781, their adversaries were carrying on the most extensive plan of operations against them which had ever been attempted. It had often been objected to the British commanders, that they had not conducted the war in the manner most likely to effect the subjugation of the revolted provinces. Military critics found fault with them for keeping a large army idle at New York, which, they said, if properly applied, would have been sufficient to make successful impressions at one and the same time on several of the states.. The British seem to have calculated the campaign of 1781, with a view to make an experiment of the comparative merit of this mode of conducting military operations. The war raged in that year not only in the vicinity of the British head quarters at New York, but in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and in Virginia..

In this extensive warfare, Washington could have no inmediate agency in the southern department. His advice in corresponding with the officers commanding in Virginia, the Carolina's, and Georgia, was freely and beneficially given; and as large detachments sent to their aid as could be spared consistently with the security of West Point. in conducting the war, bis invariable maxim was, to suffer the devastation of property, rath

« PreviousContinue »