« AnteriorContinuar »
with the spirit of liberty, to the control of military discipline, required patience, forbearance, and a spirit of accommodation. This delicate and arduous duty was undertaken by general Washington, and discharged with great address. When he had made considerable progress in disciplining his army, the term for which enlistments had taken place, was on the point of expiring. The troops from Connecticut and Rhode island were only engaged to the first of December 1 775, and no part of the army longer than the first of January 1776. The commander in chief made early and forcible representations to congress on this subject, and urged them to adopt efficient measures for the formation of a new army. They deputed three of their members, Mr. Lynch, Dr. Franklin, and Mr. Harrison to repair to camp, and, in conjunction with Washington and the ohief magistrates of the New England colonies, to confer on the most effectual mode of continuing, supporting, and regulating a continental army. By them it. was resolved to list 23,722 men, as far as practicable, from the troops before Boston, to serve to the last day of December 1 776', unless sooner discharged by congress. In the execution of this resolve. Washington called upon all officers and soldiers to make their election for retiring or continuing, .i. - 18 Several
Several of the inferior officers retired; many of the men would not continue on any terms; several refused unless they were indulged with furloughs; others unless they were allowed to choose their officers. So many impediments obstructed the recruiting service, that it required great address to obviate them. Washington made forcible appeals in general orders to the pride and patriotism of both officers and men. He promised every indulgence compatible with safety, and every comfort that the state of the country authorised. In general orders of the 26th of October, he observed, " The times, and the importance of the great cause we are engaged in, allow no room for hesitation and delay. Wheu life, liberty, and property are at stake; when our country is in danger of being a melancholy scene of bloodshed and desolation; when our towns are laid in ashes, innocent women and children driven from their peaceful habitations; when calamities like these are staring us in the face, and a brutal savage enemy are threatening us and every thing we hold dear with destruction from foreign troops, it little becomes the character of a soldier to shrink from danger, and condition for new terms. It is the general's intention to indulge both officers and soldiers who compose the new
D 2 army army vith furloughs for a reasonable time, but this must be done in such a manner as not to injure the service, or weaken the army too much at once/' In the instructions given to the recruiting officers, the general enjoined upon them " not to enlist any person suspected to be unfriendly to the liberties of America; nor any vagabond, to whom all causes and countries are equal and alike indifferent." Though great exertions had been made to procure recruits, yet the regiments were not filled. Several causes operated in producing this disinclination to the service. The sufferings of the army had been great.. Fuel was very scarce. Clothes, and even provisions, had not been furnished in sufficient quantities. The dread of the small pox deterred many from entering; but the principal reason was a dislike to a military life. Much also of that enthusiasm which brought numbers to the field, on the commencement of hostilities, had abated. The army of 1775. was wasting away by the expiration of the terms of service, and recruits for the new entered slowly. The regiments which were entitled to their discharge on the first of December, were with great difficulty persuaded to stay ten days, when reinforcements of militia were expected to supply their place. From . . 14 the
the eagerness of the old troops to go home, and the slowness of the new to enter the service, it was difficult to keep up the blockade. On the last day of the year, when the first were entirely disbanded, the lastonly amounted to 9,650 men, and many of these were absent on furlough. At this time the royal army in Boston was about 8,000. To assist the recruiting service, Washington recommended to congress to try the effects of a bounty, but this was not resolved upon till late ift January 1776. In that and the following month the army was considerably increased.
The blockade of Boston was all this time kept up, and the enemy confined to the city; but this was far short of what the American people expected. Common fame represented the troops under the command of general Washington, to be nearly treble the royal army. This ample force was supposed to be furnished with every thing necessary for the most active operations. Their real numbers and deficient equipments were, for obvious reasons, carefully concealed. The ardor and impatience of the public had long since counted on the expulsion of the British from Boston. Washington was equally ardent, but better informed, and more prudent. He well knew the advantages that would result to the cause inwhichhe was engaged from .some brilliant stroke; nor was he insensible to insinuations, by some, that he was devoid of energy, and by others, that he wished to pro-* long his own importance by continuing the war. He bore these murmurs with patience; but, nevertheless, had his eyes directed to Boston, and wished for an opening to commence offensive operations. The propriety of this measure was submitted to the consideration of repeated councils of war, who uniformly declared against it. A hope was nevertheless indulged, that ice, in the course of the winter, would be favorable to an assault. That this opportunity might not be lost, measures were adopted for procuring large reinforcements of milit a, to serve till the first of March 1776. From 4 to 5,000 men were accordingly procured. Contrary to what is usual, the waters about Boston continued open till the middle of February. Councils of war were hitherto nearly unanimous against an assault. General Washington was less opposed to it than some others; but the want of ammunition for the artillery, together with the great probability of failure, induced him to decline the attempt. In lieu of it, he formed a bold resolution to take a new position, that would either compel the British