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The army having suffered extremely from the small pox, the General resolved that they should be relieved from the scourge and terrour of this disease. Orders were accordingly given secretly to inoculate the con. tinental soldiers in their winter quarters; and places were assigned at which the recruits were to go through the operation, as they successively approached the camp. The measure was attended with success, and Sir William did not avail himself of the temporary do. bility of the American army.
Congress had also admitted the expectati-n of splen. did events during the winter. In answer to a letter, expressing this expectation, the Commander in Chief gave the following account of the state of his army.
« Could I accomplish the important obMARCH 4. ject, so eagerly wished by Congress, con
fining the enemy in their present quarters, preventing their gathering supplies from the country, and totally subduing them before they are reinforced, I should be happy indeed. But what prospect, or hope, can there be, of my effecti: so desirable a work at this time? The enclosed return, to which I solicit the most serious attention of Congress, comprehends the whole force I have in the Jersey. It is but a handful, and bears no proportion, in the scale of numbers to that of the enemy. Added to this, the major part is made up of militia. The most sanguine in speculation, cannot deem it more than adequate to the least valuable purposes of war.” The whole number, capable of duty was short of three thousand. Two thirds of these were militia, whose time of service would expire with the month.
During the winter General Spencer planned an ex. pedition against the British troops on Rhode-Island. The Commander in Chief advised that the attempt should not be made, without the strongest probability of success. The scheme was relinquished, and the General fully expressed his approbation of it. “It is
right not to risk a miscurriage. Until we get our new army properly established, it is our business to play a certain game, and not to depend on the militia for any thing capital.” The weakness of General WashingTON was concealed from his friends and from his foes, and he was not molested at head quarters by Sir Wil liam Howe.
The remonstrances of the commander in Chief upon the state of the army, had in some degree produced their effect upon Congress. The corps of artillerists was increased to three regiments, and the command of it given to Colonel Knox, who at this time was promnted to be a Brigadier General. A resolution also passed Congress, to raise three thousand cavalry; and General WASHINGTON was empowered to establish a corps of engineers. Few, if any, native Americans having been systematically educated to this branch of war, the corps was principally formed of foreigners, and General Du Portail, an officer of distinguished merit, was placed at its head.
The arrangement of the army gave the Com. mander in Chief inconceivable trouble. Congress, as the head of the Union regulated the general military system ; but the governments of the several states were in their respective departments sovereign. Indeod the separate states only possessed coercive power. These raised their proportion of troops, and their agency was blended with that of Congress in clothing and supporting the men. The state regulations re specting bounty and pay were different, and occasioned jealousies in the army, vexatious to the General, and destructive of subordination and discipline. The states which conceived themselves exposed to the invasion of the enemy, discovered an inclination to direct a part of the general force to their security, or to raise state battalions for their defence, and to be at their disposal. General WASHINGTON, in liis correspondence with Congress, and with the state governments, repre.
Bonted the evils that must ensue, should any discrimi. nation of pay or treatment be made among soldiers of the same army. He also stated, that if the force of the country should be placed under different heads, sufficient strength could not be collected to defend any one point; and while the general defence was weakened, it would be impossible, by any disposition of the arnıy, to prevent the partial depredations of the enemy. These embarrassments were happily overruled by the personal influence of the General; and before the campaign opened, the arrangements of the army were brought into order and method.
The treatment of American prisoners by the British commanders was another source of vexation and difti. culty. At the commencement of hostilities, General Gage did not view the Americans as a community contending for their constitutional rights, but as the revolted subjects of his royal master, and the unhappy men, whom the fortune of war placed in his hands, he, without regard to military rank, confined in prison as rebels, with common felons. Against a practice militating with common usage, and calculated to increase the miseries of war, General WASHINGTON forcibly remonstrated. In a letter to General Gage, he mentioned, that in his apprehension, the obligations of humanity, and the claims of rank are universally binding, except in the case of retaliation. He ex pressed “ the hope he had entertained, that they would have induced, on the part of the British General, a conduct more conformable to the rights they gave. While he claimed the benefits of these rights, he declared his determination to be regulated entirely in his corduet towards the prisoners who should fall into his hands, hy the treatment which those in the power of the British General should receive.” To this letter a very haughty and insolent answer was given, in rhich General Gage retorted the charge of abuse to. waris prisoners, and stated, as a mark of British cle. Vol. I.
inency, that the cord was not applied to those of whose imprisonnent complaint was made. To this abusive comm'ınication, General WASHINGTON replied in a manner worthy his character, and which reply, he observed, was “to close their correspondence, perhaps for ever.” He concluded with saying,“ if your officers, our prisoners, receive from me a treatment different from what I wished to show them, they and you wiil remeniber the occasion of it.” Accordingly all the Eritish officers in his power were put into cluse jail, and the soldiers were confined in places of security. Directions were particularly given to subaltern agents, to explain to the sufferers the causes which led to this severity of treatment.
When Howe succeeded to the command of the Bri.' tish army, he admitted American officers to their parole, and consented to an exchange of prisoners; and General Washington gladly resumed his former humane treatment of captives.
The capture of General Lee furnished another cause of irritation on this subject. He had been a British officer, and had engaged in the American service before the acceptance of the resignation of his commission. Sir William Howe for this reason pretended to view him as a traitor, and at first refused to admit him to his parole, or to consider him as a subject of exchange. Congress directed the Commander in Chief to propose to Sir William Howe to exchange six field officers for General Lee. In case the proposal was rejected that body resolved, that these officers should be closely confined, and in every respect receive the treatment thit General Lee did. The proposition not heing acceded to, the resolution of Congress was carried into effect, by the Executives of the States, in whose custody the selected field officers were, with a degree of severity which the treatment of General Lee did not warrant.
The general plan of retaliation, adopted by Congress
for abuses offered to Americans in ti e power of the British, the sound judgment of General WASHINGTON conceived to be unjust and impolitick, and his humane heart recoiled at its execution. Some of the resolu. • tions of that honourable body, on this subject, ha thought exposed his own honour to impeachment by Sir William Howe. Against those resolutions, he pointedly remonstrated, and detailed the evils they were calculated to produce to the nation, and to the Americans, prisoners with the British. His
representa tions through a long period, had not their due effect but eventually Congress was constrained to adopt the measures he recommended.
Resolving never himself to aggravate the miserier of war, by wanton deeds of cruelty, General WashINGTON was disposed to adopt and execute those laws of retaliation, which would constrain the enemy to conduct their military operations in the spirit of humanity. Repeated and heavy complaints were made of the cruel treatment which the American prisoners received in New-York; and the sickly and debilitated state of those, who were sent out to be exchanged, confirmed the truth of the charge. Many of them fainted and died before they reached head quarters. General Howe demanded that all prisoners, delivered at the lines to an American officer, should be accounted for in the cartel, and British soldiers returned to the full amount. General Washington absolutely refused to reckon those who died on their way to the American camp; and he unweariedly exerted himself to correct the abuse to American prisoners. In the beginning of April this year, he wrote Sir William Howe, “ It is a fact not to be questioned, that the usage of our pri soners while in your possession, the privates at least, was such as could not be justified. This was proclaimed by the concurrent testimony of all who came out, their appearance sanctified the assertion, and melancholy experience, in the speedy death of a large