« AnteriorContinuar »
the Commander in Chief was reluctantly driven to very vigorous measures. He apportioned upon each county in the state of New Jersey a quantity of meat and four, according to the ability of each, to be brought into camp in the course of six days. At the same time he wrote to the magistrates, stating the absolute necessity of the measure, and informing thom, that unless the inhabitants voluntarily complied with the requisition, the exigency of the case would force him to obtain it by military exaction. To the honour of the inhabitants of New-Jersey, harassed as their country had been, the full quantity of provision required was cheerfully and seasonably afforded.
To Congress General WASHINGTON expressed his sense of the heroick patience with which the troops bore the privations of clothing and provisions through this winter of unusual severity. The extent of these privations will be seen in an extract of a letter written by the Commander in Chief to his friend General Schuyler.
" Since the date of my last we have had the virtue and patience of the army put to the severest trial. Sometimes it has been five or six days together without bread; at other times, as many days without meat; and once or twice, twc or three days, without esther. I hardly thought it possible at one period, that we should be able to keep it together, nor could it have been done, but for the exertions of the magistrates in the several counties of this State, on whom I was obliged to call, expose our situation to them, and in plain terms declare that we were reduced to the alternative of disbanding or catering for ourselves, unless the inhabitants would afford us their aid. I allotted to each county a certain proportion of flour or grain, and a certain number of cattle, to be delivered on certain days, and for the honour of the magistrates, and good disposition of the people, I must add, that my requ sitions were punctually complied with, and in my ay
counties exceeded. Nothing but this great exertion could have saved the army from dissolution or starving, as we were bereft of every hope from the commissarios. At one time, the soldiers cat every kind of horse food but hay. Buck wheat, common wheat, rye, and Indian corn, composed the meal which made their bread. As an army they bore it with the most heroick patience; but sufferings like these ac. companied with the want of clothes, blankets, &c. will produce frequent desertion in all armies, and so it happened with us, though it did not excite a single mutiny."
The frost of this winter was excessive. For six weeks together, the waters about New-York were covered with ice, of sufficient thickness to admit the passage of large armies with wagons and the heaviest pieces of artillery. The city, of consequence, in many places, became assailable. The vigilant and active mind of General Washington, with mortification, saw an opportunity to attack his enemy which he was unable to embrace. The British force in New York, in numbers, exceeded his own, and the want of clothing and provision rendered it impossible to move his troops upon an extensive enterprise. An attempt to surprise a post on Staten Island failed.
monnt of Paper Emission--Congress destitute of Means to sup port the Wur-Supplies apportioned upon the States—Exertions of the Commander in Chief-Mutiny in a part of the Army. The British make an Excursion into New-jersey-The American Troops vravely resist them— The Court of France promises a Naval and Land Armament to act in America-Preparation to co-operate with it-A French Squadron arrives on the Amerirican Coast-Count Rochambeau lands at Newport with five thousand Men—The American and French Commanders meet at Hartford to settle the Plan of the Campaign-The Second Division of the French Troops fails- General Arnold becomes a Traitor-He Corresponds with Major Andre-Andre comes on Shore at West Point-Attempts to return to New-York by land -He is taken into Custody by threc Militia Men-A Bonrd of Gencral Officers condemn him-He is executed-Letter of General Washington on the State of the Army-Congress adopts a Military Establishment for the War—The Army goes into Winter Quarters.
1780. Two hundred millions of dollars in paper currency were at this time in circulation, upon the credit of the United States. Congress had the preceding year solemnly pledged the faith of government not to emit more than this sum. The National Treasury was empty. The requisitions of Congress for money by taxes, assessed by the authority of the States, were slowly complied with, and the supplies of money, in this way obtained, bore no proportion to the ex. penses of the war.
A novel state of things was in consequence introduced. Congress, the head of the Nation, had no command of the resources of the country. The power cf taxation, and of every coercive measure of government, rested with the State Sovereignties. The only power lett with the National Council was, to apportion supplies of provision for the
as well as recruits of inen, upon the several States.
The military establishment for 1780, consisted of thirty-five thousand, two hundred and eleven men. No
portion of these was to be raised by the authority of Congress, but in the whole transaction an absolute dependence was placed on the agency of the States. Up on the States also specifick articles of provision, spirits, and forage, were apportioned for the subsistence of the army. Congress gave assurances that accurate accounts should be kept, and resolved, “ That any State which shall have taken the necessary measures for furnishing its quota, and have given notice thereof to Corgress, shall be authorized to prohibit any Continentai Quarter Master, or Commissary from purchasing within its limits."
General Washington greatly lamented the necessity of managing the war by State authorities. He freely suggested to Congress the defects of their system, defects which would prevent the attainment of competent and seasonable supplies for the troops The estimate, he observed, in all articles was below the ordinary demand, the time of reception was left in a vague inanner; and no provision was made for extraordinary exigencies. No means were adopted to obtain for the use of the army any surplus of produce, which a particular State might conveniently supply, beyond its apportionment; but a State under this predicament was authorized to prohibit the National Commissary from purchasing such surplusage, whatever inight be the publick wants. To a friend in Congress, he in a private letter thus freely expressed his opinion.
“ Certain I am, that unless Congress speaks in a nore decisive tone ; unless they are vested with powers by the several States, competent to the great purposes of the war, or assume them as matter of right and they, and the States respectively act with more energy than they hitherto have done ; that our cause is lost. We can no longer drudge on in the old way. By ill timing the adoption of measures, by delays in the execution of them, or by unwarrantable jealousies, we incur enormous expenses, and derive no benefit
from them. One State will comply with a requisition from Congress, another neglects to do it, and a third executes it by halves; and all differ in the manner, the matter, or so much in point of time, that we are always working up hill; and, whilo such a system as the present one, or rather want of one prevails, we ever shall be unable to apply our strength or resources to any advantage.
“ This, my dear sir, is plain language to a member of Congress, but it is the language of truth and friendship. It is the result of long thinking, close application, and strict observation. I see one head gradually changing into thirteen. I see one arıny bran :h. ing into thirteen; and instead of looking up to Con. gress as the supreme controlling power of the United States, considering themselves as dependent on their respective States. In a word, I see the power of Congress declining too fast for the consequence and respect which are due to them as the great representative body of America, and am fearful of the consequences.”
Although General Washington had weighty objec. tions to the plan of Congress, he exerted himself to carry it into effect. His personal influence was greater than that of any other man in the union, and this new order of things required its full exercise. He wrote to the Executives and Legislatures of the several States, stating the critical situation of publick affairs, pointing out the fatal consequences that must A w from the inattention and neglect of those who a., ne possessed the power of coertion, and urging them by all tho motives of patriotism and self-interest to comply with the requisitions of Congress. But each of the States felt its own burdens, and was dilatory in its efforts to promote a general interest. A system, which in its exccution required the conjoint agency of thirteen Sovereignties, was too complex for the prompt operations of a military body.
In the course of the winter forage had failed, and