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Plan formed by Congress and the French Minister for the Invasion of Canada and Nova Scotia-Genora! Washington's objections to it-Tardiness of the United States to prepare for the approaching Campaign-The exertions of the General-His Letter on the State of the Nation—The Remonstrance of Officers belonging to the New Jersey Brigade--Letters of the Commander in Chiet on the Subject-Expedition against the Indians under General Sul. livan-He destroys their Towns—The American Army posted for the Defence of the High Lands on the North River, and for the protection of the Country against the Incursions of the British-Sir Henry Clinton moves up the Hudson, takes Possession of Stony and Verplank Points, and fortifies them-Arrangements made for assaulting these Posts--General Wayne carries Stony Point by Storm-The Attack upon Verplank fails-Congress vote their thanks to General Washington and to the brave Troops employed in this service-They vote Genera! Wayne a MedalEvils of short Enlistments—Plan of the General's to remody them -The Army in two divisions erect huts for Winter Quarters,Tho Troops suffer through the scarcity of Provisions-Colonel Wadsworth resigns his Office-Confusion in the Commissary's Department—The Commander in Chief apportions supplies of Meat and Flour upon the Counties of New-jersey-The Winter excessively cold, und the Waters around New-York frozen over --Expedition to Staten Island fails.
1779. The emancipation of Canada had ever been an important object with Congress. By its incorporation with the revolted colonies, the boundaries of the United States would be greatly enlarged, and the country delivered from the destruction and terrour of war from the northern cribes of Indians.
In the winter of 1777–8, an expedition for this purpose had been settled with the Marquis de la Fayette, and in its prosecution he repaired to Ticonderoga. Wanting then the means to accomplish the design, it was relinquished. During the succeeding autuinn the scheme was resumed under the auspices of the French Minister. The plan embraced the conquest of Canada, Nova Scotia, and all their dependencies. It was to be carried into effect by the joint operations of distinct detachments of Americans, acting in different points,
and all co-operating with a French fleet and army on the river Saint Lawrence.
This lofty scheme of military operations had been adopted in Congress without consulting with the Commander in Chief, or any American officer. It was to be communicated to the French Court by the Marquis de la Fayette, and his influence, with that of the French Minister, was to be employed to induce his government to adopt their part of the expedition. In October the plan was communicated to General WASHINGTON, he was desired to give Congress his opinion upon it, and to enclose it with his comments to the Marquis.
The General had already revolved in his mind an expedition against the British posts in Upper Canada, with the intention to be prosecuted the next season, on the contingence that the British army should be withdrawn from the United States. Struck with the extravagance of the plan of Congress, instead of complying with their requisition, he wrote to them, stating in strong terms his objections to the scheme. He mentioned the impolicy of entering into any engagements with the Court of France to execute a combined system of operation, without a moral certainty of being able to execute the part assigned to America.
It was, the General observed, morally certain in his mind, that if the English should maintain their posts on the continent, it would be impracticable to furnish the men, or the necessary stores and provisions for the expedition. “If I rightly understand the plan,” he remarked, “it requires for its execution, twelve thou. sand and six hundred rank and file. Besides these, to open passages through a wilderness, for the march of the several bodies of troops, to provide the means of long and difficult transportation by land and water, to establish posts of communication for the security of our convoys, to build and man vessels of force necessary for acquiring a superiority on the lakes; these
and many other purposes peculiar to t).ese enterprises, will require a much larger proportion of artificers, and persons to be employed in manual and laborious offices than are usual in military operations." The aggregate number, he observed, requisite for the contemplated expedition, added to the force necessary to be kept in the field to restrain depredation from the British posts at New York, would make nearly double the men neeossary, to any number, which with all their efforts, the United States were ever yet able to raise.
The experience of the General taught him, that it would be as difficult to furnish the necessary supplies of provisions as to raise the men. “ The scene of our operations has hitherto been in tho heart of the country, furnishing our resources, which of course facilitated the drawing them ont. We shall then be carrying on the war at an immense distance, in a country wild and uncultivated, incapable of affording any aid, and great part of it hostile. We cannot, in this case, depend on temporary and occasional suppiies, as we have been ac. customed; but must have ample magazines laid up before-hand. The labour and expense in forming these, and transporting the necessary stores of every kind for the use of the troops, will be increased to a degree that can be more easily conceived than described The transportation must be a great part of the way through deserts affording no other forage than herbage; and from this circumstance our principal provi. sions, of the flesh kind, must be saited, which wonld greatly increase tha duficulty, both of providing and transporting.” Supplies upon this scale, he conceived, greatly exceeded the resources of the country, and in policy and honour, Congress could not promise to fur. nish them.
Serious doubts restcd upon the mind of the General, whether France wonld execute the part of the Canada expedition assigned to her. The superiority of the British fleet was evident The Court of London would
be made acquainted with the scheme, and a superiour British fleet might prevent the French squadron, de tached on this service, from entering the river St J.awrence, or destroy it after its entrance, or the Bri tish garrisons in Canada might be reinforced, and ren dered superiour to the assailing armament.
In an expedition consisting of several distinct parts, General Washington thought it unreasonable to ex. pect that exact co-operation among the different detachments which would be necessary for mutual support ; of consequence, the divisions might be defeated in detail, and after all the expense, the expedition miscarry. The consequences of a failure, which were much to be deprecated, would be the misapplication of the French force; the ruin of the detachments employed in the expedition, and jealousy and disaffection between France and the United States.
The letter of the Commander in Chief, Congress referred to a Committee. In their report, this Committee admit his objections to be weighty, but still advise to the prosecution of the plan. Congress accepted the report, and again requested the General to write filly on the subject to the Marquis, and to Dr. Franklin, then the American Minister at the Court of Versailles. Congress probably felt themselves already pledged by their conversation with the Marquis and the French Minister, and possibly they thought that measures had already been adopted in France to carry the plan into exccution.
General WASHINGTON was greatly perplexed by the perseverance of Congress in this measure. All his objections to the plan remained in full force, and he found himself called upon to use his influence to bring the French government to adopt a scheme, of which he himself wholly disapproved, and to promise the co-operation of the American arms in a manner that he thought iinpracticable. To this request he thus rom plied:
“ I have attentively taken up the report of the Com. mittee of the fifth, (approved by Congress) on the subject of my letter of the 11th ultimo, on the proposed expedition into Canada. I have considered it in several lights, and sincerely regret that I should feel myself under any embarrassment in carrying it into execution. Still I remain of opinion, from a general review of things, and the state of our resources, that no extensive system of co-operation with the French for the complete emancipation of Canada, can be positively decided on for the ensuing year. To propose a plan of perfect co-operation with a foreign power, without a moral certainty in our supplies; and to have that plan actually ratified with the Court of Versailles, might be attended, in case of failure in the conditions on our part, with very fatal effects.
“ If I should seem unwilling to transmit the plan as prepared by Congress, with my observations, it is because I find myself under a necessity (in order to give our minister sufficient ground to found an application on) to propose something more than a vague and indecisive plan; which, even in the event of a total evacuation of the states by the enemy, may be render ed impracticable in the execution by a variety of in surmountable obstacles; or if I retain my present sen. timents, and act consistently, I must point out the dif ficulties, as they appear to me, which must embarrass his negotiations, and may disappoint the views of Congress.
“ But proceeding on the idea of the enemy's leaving these states, before the active part of the ensuing campaign, I should fear to hazard a mistake, as to the precise aim and extent of the views of Congress. The conduct I am to observe in writing to our Minister at the Court of France, does not appear sufficiently delineated. Were I to undertake it, I should be much afraid of erring through misconception. In this dilem ma, I would esteem it a particular favour to be excus