Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

men who, during the blockade of Boston, had swept crops and cattle off the islands in the Bay from under the guns of Admiral Graves and his squadron; and who, on the night of the thirteenth of August 1776, had conveyed the American army safe and sound across the East River after their defeat in front of Brooklyn. They had been recruited from that seafaring population of Marblehead, which was thrown out of work by the Act of Parliament excluding the New England colonies from participation in the Newfoundland Fisheries. The rank and file were mariners all; clad in blue round jackets, and in those loose short trousers which, (as a student of Gillray's caricatures will remember,) formed the distinguishing dress of shipmen at a time when every landsman still wore breeches and long stockings. They carried rifles; and had shown themselves good soldiers in a shrewd skirmish on Westchester peninsula. The regiment had been raised by Colonel John Glover, who before the Revolution owned a number of vessels manned by the seamen whom he afterwards led to war. Small of stature, but brisk and stout-hearted, he had now been promoted to the charge of a brigade. He continued, however, to keep a close and loving eye on his sailors; and he was well supported and seconded by his regimental officers, who at this period of the campaign were as one to six of the privates. A critic from the middle colonies, very sparing indeed of any compliment to New Englanders, admitted that Colonel Glover's officers had mixed with the world, and knew how to make themselves respected and obeyed. The men, (this gentleman said,) were deficient in polish, but afforded a notable example in all the essentials of discipline. One of their captains was John Blunt, a New Hampshire shipmaster, who had often taken his trading schooner up the Delaware to the head of the tide at

1 Memoirs by Alexander Graydon of Pennsylvania. There is an account of Glover's regiment in William Stryker's Battles of Trenton and Princeton. The numbers and composition of Washington's army are given by that excellent author in minute, and most interesting, detail.

Trenton, and who now was making himself familiar with the higher stretch of river which lay between that point and Coryel's Ferry."

Not in Glover's regiment only, but throughout the Continental army, Captains and Lieutenants were in excessive proportion to the soldiers whom they commanded. Six of the brigades contained between them, present and fit for service, four thousand men and five hundred officers. This immense multitude of commissioned people included some bad characters, and many who could show few military attributes except their title and their epaulettes; but none the less the very pick of the nation was there. Great numbers of respectable and prosperous colonists had abandoned their trades and their professions in order to see the Republic through its early perils. Men of this class had stood proof against the infection of despondency and timidity which, when the star of the Revolution began to decline, had thinned the Provincial army. Those of them who were not invalided to their homes, or prostrated on the mattresses of Philadelphian hospitals, had remained steadfast and indefatigable at their appointed station in Washington's dwindling ranks. And while older citizens, at the bidding of duty, reluctantly sacrificed family life and profitable avocations, there had been a joyous exodus from school and college of all that was most ambitious and keen-witted in America. The army on the Delaware contained not a few striplings of exceptional talents, and with a shining future. We are told that the New York company of artillery "was a model of discipline; its captain a mere boy, with small, slender, and delicate frame, who, with cocked hat pulled down over his eyes, and apparently lost in thought, marched beside his cannon, patting it every now and then as if it were a favourite horse or pet plaything.” This was Alexander Hamilton ; indubitably the most brilliant, and

1 The places mentioned in this chapter, and in the next, may all be found in the Map of New Jersey, and of New York and its Environs, at the end of each of these two volumes.

perhaps the most tragic, figure in all the historical gallery of American statesmen. After the peace he was foremost among the political architects who planned and constructed the fabric of her stable and stately Constitution; and, as a fitting crown to his military career, he was invited by Washington, at the siege of Yorktown, to lead an assault which was the final and decisive onslaught of the entire war. In December 1777 the precocity of Hamilton's genius had gone beyond the stage of mere promise. He was not yet of age; but his repu. tation as an eloquent, and still more as a thoughtful and convincing, speaker had been already made. The two pamphlets which, when just turned eighteen, he had put forth in reply to the Westchester Farmer, were ascribed at the time to more than one public man of high mark and recognised authority, and are still read with admiration by the best judges of polemical literature.

Another distinguished regimental officer, for the present attached to the infantry, was a cousin, although no very near one, of the Commander-in-Chief. Captain William Washington always took his share of a fight on foot; but Virginian gentlemen were then seen at their best in the saddle. Before very long he was famous as the leader of cavalry who taught American troopers to charge home, and who, by an almost infallible discernment in timing the moment for an onset, gained one crushing victory, and saved two stubborn battles from degenerating into ruinous defeats. His imperturbable valour, and remarkable bodily strength, went, (as is not unusual in such natures,) with an excess of diffidence

1 Hamilton's Full Vindication of Congress, and his Farmer Refuted, were attributed by some to John Jay, and by others to William Livingston. “ There are displayed in these papers a power of reasoning and sarcasm, a knowledge of the principles of government and of the English Constitution, and a grasp of the merits of the whole controversy, that would have done honor to any man, at any age. ... They show great maturity,– remarkable maturity than has ever been exhibited by any other person, at so early an age, in the same department of thought.” This passage, written by George Ticknor Curtis, is quoted, with concurrence, by Professor Tyler in his Literary History.

-a more

whenever he was called upon to face the less familiar, and to him far more redoubtable, ordeals of civic life. Picton, the hero of heroes, — who for forty-eight hours concealed what was almost certainly a mortal wound in order not to be prevented by the surgeons from leading his division at Waterloo, -- twice excited respectful compassion by the evident distress with which he rose to respond when he was thanked in his place in the House of Commons. And so, when the war was over, and William Washington's friends desired to nominate him for the Governorship of the State, he gave them that which he pronounced to be an unsurmountable reason for declining the proffered honour. He reminded them how, as holder of such an office, an office, moreover, in which no less an orator than Patrick Henry had been among his predecessors, — he would undoubtedly be expected to speak in public. "In that case,” he said, “I know that, without gaining credit in your estimation, the consciousness of inferiority would humble me in my own. I cannot make a speech.'

"1 The junior officer in William Washington's company was a lad even younger than Hamilton, and not his equal, (as indeed very few were,) in intellectual endowments or in personal charm. And yet, if in the course of ages both their memories were to perish, that of Lieutenant Monroe would in all likelihood be the last forgotten of the two; for he was the James Monroe who in December 1823, as fifth President of the United States, enunciated the policy which defeated the machinations of the Holy Alliance, and which deprived Spain of her American colonies. The famous doctrine, wherewith his surname is indissolubly associated, has been frequently revived and reasserted with marked effects upon the history of the world; and a very great deal more will have to be written about it before that history attains the closing chapter. As time proceeds, and the giant Republic grows increasingly conscious of its strength, fresh occasions will arise, or be made, for the

1 Garden's Anecdotes of the American Revolution ; Vol. I., page 61.

use, or misuse, of the most formidable and far-reaching of all diplomatic weapons; and during generations, and even centuries, to come, the name of Captain Washington's subaltern in the Third Virginian Continental Infantry may still be a word of disagreeable import among the Chancelleries of Europe.

General Washington's troops, in numbers and in equipment, bore very little resemblance to the army of a nation which, in the lifetime of some there present, would order the combined autocrats of Eastern and Central Europe to forbear from meddling, and force them to recognize the Western Hemisphere as an inviolable sanctuary of freedom and self-government. Very few indeed of his regiments were as much as two hundred strong, and some of them could only muster from forty to ninety privates. The Third Virginian, (to take a specimen instance,) had a hundred and sixty enlisted men around the colours; while no fewer than four hundred and fifty were reported as sick, or on extra duty, or on furlough, — which was often only another word for absence without leave. Regulars and militia together, it is probable that about eight thousand Americans stood in arms over a front of thirty miles along the Pennsylvanian shore of the Delaware. It was a force which in military parlance might have been stated at six thousand five hundred bayonets, were it not that one soldier out of every three was still unprovided with that very essential weapon. The Philadelphia Associators, fresh from homes close at hand and stocked with comforts, were in good condition for a winter campaign; but it was less well with the Continental regulars who had been

1 This is the calculation of William S. Stryker, himself a professional soldier, and a skilled examiner of records. On the twenty-second of December, 1776, a “Return of the Forces encamped on the banks the Delaware, under the command of His Excellency George Washington Esq., Commander-in-Chief of the Forces of the United States of America," gives 4704 Rank and File present for duty. But some of the regiments from the Northern army, the large body of Philadelphia militia, and apparently a few other smaller contingents, were not included in the Return.

« ПредишнаНапред »