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His retreat was covered by Colonel Shreve, who, after Angel had passed him, was ordered by General Greene to join his brigade. The Eng. ish then took possession of the town and reduced it to ashes.
The obstinate resistance which had been encountered; the gallantry and discipline displayed by the continental troops who had been engaged, the strength of Greene's position; the firm countenance maintained by his troops, small detachments of whom kept up a continual skirmishing with a view to save a part of the town; all contributed to deter Sir Hen. ry Clinton from a farther prosecution of his original plan. He withdrew that afternoon to Elizabethtown; and, in the following night, passed over to Staten Island. It is probable that the caution manifested during this expedition is to be ascribed to the intelligence that a formida. ble fleet and army from France were daily expected on the coast.
When the Marquis de Lafayette obtained permission to visit his native country, he retained, with his rank in the American army, that zeal for the interests of the United States, which the affectionate attentions he had received, and the enthusiasm of a soldier in the cause of those for whom he had made his first campaigns, were calculated to inspire in a young and generous mind, in favour of an infant people, struggling for liberty and self-government with the hereditary rival of his nation.
He was received at the court of Versailles with every mark of favour and distinction ;* and all his influence was employed in impressing on the cabinet, the importance and policy of granting succours to the United States.
Having succeeded in this favourite object, and finding no probability of active employment on the continent of Europe, he obtained permission to return to America. He arrived late in April at Boston, and hast. ened to head quarters; whence he proceeded to the seat of Government with the information that his most Christian Majesty had consented to employ a considerable land and naval armament in the United States, for the ensuing campaign. This intelligence gave a new impulse both lo congress and the state legislatures. The states from New Hampshire to Virginia inclusive, were required to pay, within thirty days, ten millions of dollars, part of their quotas which became due on the first of March ; and specie bills to the amount of fifty thousand dollars were
* After he had visited the ministers, an arrest of eight days, during which he resiled with his relation the Marshal de Noailles, was imposed on him for the sake of form and in honour of the royal authority, which he had disregarded by proceeding to America. After the expiration of this term he presented himself to the King, who graciously said he pardoned his disobedience, in consideration of his good conduct and of his services.—Letter from Gen. Lafayette.
drawn on Messieurs Franklin and Jay. These sums were sacredly appropriated to the objects of bringing the army into the field, and forwarding their supplies.
The defects in the requisition system, which had been suggested by General Washington, were corrected; and the committee in camp, at the head of which was the late General Schuyler, was empowered, at the request of the Commander-in-chief, to take such measures as were in the power of congress, for drawing out the resources of the nation.
To give effect to these resolutions, the several state legislatures from New Hampshire to Virginia inclusive, were requested to invest the Executives, or some other persons, with powers sufficiently ample to comply with such applications as might be made to them by the committee in camp, and a circular letter was addressed to the state governments, urging them to second the efforts of Congress.
Letters equally stimulating were written by the committee from camp; and the well earned influence of the Commander-in-chief was also employed to induce an exertion proportioned to the crisis. In addition to those incentives which might operate on ardent minds, he endeavoured, by a temperate review of the situation and resources of the belligerent powers, to convince the judgment that America would have real cause to fear the issue of the contest, should she neglect to improve the advantage to be afforded by the succours expected from France.*
Under the impressions produced by these representations, the state legislatures, generally, passed the laws which were required; but the energy displayed in their passage was not maintained in their execution. In general, the assemblies followed the example of congress, and apportioned on the several counties or towns within the state, the quota to be furnished by each. This division of the state was again to be subdivided into classes, each of which was to furnish a man by contributions or taxes imposed upon itself.
These operations were slow and unproductive.
It was not on the state sovereignties only that beneficial effects were produced by a candid statement of public affairs, several patriotic individuals contributed largely from their private funds to the aid of the public. The merchants, and other citizens of Philadelphia, with a zeal guided by that sound discretion which turns expenditure to the best account, established a bank, for the support of which they subscribed £315,000, Pennsylvania money, to be paid, if required, in specie, the principal object of which was to supply the army with provisions and rum. By the plan of this bank, its members were to derive no emolu
* See note No. XVI. at theend of the volume. VOL. I.
ment whatever from the institution. For advancing their credit and their money, they required only that congress should pledge the faith of the union to reimburse the costs and charges of the transaction in a reasonable time, and should give such assistance to its execution as might be in their power.
The ladies of Philadelphia too gave a splendid example of patriotism, by large donations for the immediate relief of the suffering army. This example was extensively followed ;* but it is not by the contributions of the generous that a war can or ought to be maintained. The purse of the nation alone can supply the expenditures of a nation; and, when all are interested in a contest, all ought to contribute to its support. Taxes, and taxes only, can furnish for the prosecution of a national war, means which are just in themselves, or competent to the object. Notwithstanding these donations, the distresses of the army, for clothing especially, still continued; and were the more severely felt when a cooperation with French troops was expected. So late as the 20th of June, General Washington informed congress, that he still laboured under the painful and humiliating embarrassment of having no shirts for the soldiers, many of who.n were destitute of that necessary article. “ For the troops to be without clothing at any time,” he added, “ is highly injurious to the service, and distressing to our feelings; but the want will be more peculiarly mortifying when they come to act with those of our allies. If it be possible, I have no doubt, immediate measures will be taken to relieve their distress.
“ It is also most sincerely wished, that there could be some supplies of clothing furnished to the officers. There are a great many whose condition is still miserable. This is, in some instances, the case with the whole lines of the states. It would be well for their own sakes, and for the public good, if they could be furnished. They will not be able, when
* This instance of patriotism on the part of our fair and amiable countrywomen, is far from being single. Their conduct throughout the war was uniform. They shared with cheerfulness and gaiety, the privations and sufferings to which the distress of the times exposed their country. In every stage of this severe trial, they displayed virtues which have not been always attributed to their sex, but which it is believed they will, on every occasion calculated to unfold them, be found to possess. With a ready ac quiescence, with a firmness always cheerful, and a constancy never lamenting the sacrifices which were made, they not only yielded up all the elegancies, delicacies, and even conveniences to be furnished by wealth and commerce, relying on their farms and on domestic industry for every article of food and raiment, but, consenting to share the produce of their own labour, they gave up without regret, a considerable portion of the covering designed for their own families, to supply the wants of the distressed soldiers; and heroically suppressed the involuntary sigh which the departure of their brothers, their sons, and their husbands, for the camp, rended from their bosoms.
our friends come to co-operate with us, to go on a common routine of duty; and if they should, they must, from their appearance, be held in low estimation.”
This picture presents in strong colours, the real patriotism of the American army. One heroic effort, though it may dazzle the mind with its splendour, is an exertion most men are capable of making; but continued patient suffering and unremitting perseverance, in a service pro mising no personal emolument, and exposing the officer unceasingly, not only to wants of every kind, but to those circumstances of humiliation which seem to degrade him in the eyes of others, demonstrate a fortitude of mind, a strength of virtue, and a firmness of principle, which ought never to be forgotten.
As the several legislative acts for bringing the army into the field, did not pass until the months of June and July, General Washington remained uninformed of the force on which he might rely, and was consequently unable to form any certain plan of operations.
This suspense was the more cruelly embarrassing, as, in the event of an attempt upon New York, it was of the utmost importance that the French fleet should, on its arrival, take possession of the harbour, which was then weakly defended. But, should this measure be followed by a failure to furnish the requisite support, it would not only be ineffectual; but, in a very possible state of things, might sacrifice the fleet itself.
Should it be ascertained that the states were either unable or unwilling to make the exertions necessary for the siege of New York, other objects presented themselves against which the allied arms might be turned to advantage. To avoid the disgrace and danger of attempting what could not be effected, and the reproach of neglecting any attainable object, were equally desirable, and equally required a correct knowledge of the measures which would be taken by the states.
In a letter to congress communicating his anxiety on this interesting subject, and his total want of information respecting it, General Washing ton observed, “ The season is come when we have every reason to ex. pect the arrival of the fleet, and yet, for want of this point of primary consequence, it is impossible for me to form a system of co-operation. I have no basis to act upon; and, of course, were this generous succour of our ally now to arrive, I should find myself in the most awkward, embarrassing, and painful situation. The general and the admiral, from the relation in which I stand, as soon as they approach our coast, will
uire of me a plan of the measures to be pursued, and there ought of right to be one prepared; but circumstanced as I am, I can not even give them conjectures. From these considerations, I have suggested to the
committee, by a letter I had the honour of addressing them yesterday, the indispensable necessity of their writing again to the states, urging them to give immediate and precise information of the measures they have taken and of the result. The interest of the states, the honour and reputation of our councils, the justice and gratitude due to our allies, all require that I should, without delay, be enabled to ascertain and inform them, what we can or can not undertake. There is a point which ought now to be determined, on the success of which all our future operations may depend, on which, for want of knowing our prospects, I can make no decision. For fear of involving the fleet and army of our allies in circumstances which would expose them, if not seconded by us, to material inconvenience and hazard, I shall be compelled to suspend it, and the delay may be fatal to our hopes.”
The tardy proceedings of the states were not less perplexing to congress than to the Commander-in-chief. To the minister of his most Christian majesty, who had in the preceding January communicated the probability of receiving succour from France, that body, without calculating accurately the means of complying with its engagements, had pledged itself unequivocally for effectual co-operation. The minister was assured, that the United States had expectations on which they could rely with confidence, of bringing into the field, for the next campaign, an army of twentyfive thousand men; and that such numbers of militia might be added to this continental force, as would render it competent to any enterprise against the posts occupied by the British within the United States.
Assurances were also given that ample supplies of provisions for the combined armies should be laid up in magazines under the direction of congress. The French minister addressed congress on this subject about the time that General Washington expressed so strongly, the necessity of knowing with certainty, on what reinforcements he was to calculate.
Thus pressed by their general and their ally, congress renewed their argent requisitions on the states, and desired the several governments to correspond weekly with the committee at head quarters, on the progress made in complying with them.
In the mean time, General Washington meditated unceasingly on the course to be pursued in the various contingencies which might happen; and endeavoured to prepare for any plan of operations which circum. stances might render adviseable. The arrival of Sir Henry Clinton, di. minished the variety of aspects in which the relative situation of the two armies was to be contemplated, and rendered the success of an attempt on New York more doubtful. It was now thought adviseable that the armament from France, instead of sailing directly to the Hook, should