Imagens das páginas

possible, if the least decency or regard for national dignity has place, that it be called a party business.

"I wish I could send you the trial, and will the moment I can obtain one. I think myself, and I dare say you will think, on the perusal, that the affair redounds more to my honour, and the disgrace of my persecutors, than, in the warmth of indignation, either I or my aid-de-camps have represented it. As I have no idea that a proper reparation will be made to my injured reputation, it is my intent, whether the sentence is reversed or not reversed, to resign my commission, retire to Virginia, and learn to hoe tobacco, which I find is the best school to form a consummate general. This is a discovery I have lately made. Adieu. Dear sir, believe me to be your most sincerely obliged servant, C. Lee."

Once again the accident of circumstances had placed Colonel Burr in friendly relation with a popularly accepted traitor.


During the summer of 1778, Colonel Burr was ordered by General Washington to Elizabethtown on confidential business, the nature of which proved to be the accumulation of information concerning military and naval movements in the port of New York. He was also directed by Lord Stirling to employ persons who should spy out the activities in the Bay from Bergen Heights, "Weehawk or Hoebuck"; and in this work, which he accomplished with great discretion and success, one may perhaps see the first example of an organized military intelligence as distinguished from individual, voluntary espionage.

But while no one was to suspect it from any diminution of his zeal, Colonel Burr's health had become seriously impaired as a result of constant exposure and fatigue he had also had a slight sunstroke on the blistering field of Monmouth-and in October he was forced to apply for a short leave, after three years of almost continuous service. But the furlough was not sufficient to restore his strength, and on October 24 he wrote to General Washington requesting permission for a more prolonged absence.

"Sir," he stated, "the excessive heat and occasional fatigues of the preceding campaign have so impaired my health and constitution as to render me incapable of immediate service. I have, for three months past, taken every advisable step for my recovery, but have the mortification to find, upon my return to duty, a return of sickness, and that every relapse is more dangerous than the former. I have consulted several physicians; they all assure me that a few months retirement and attention to my health are the only possible means to restore it. A conviction of this truth, and my present inability to discharge the duties of my office, induce me to beg your excellency's permission to retire from pay and duty until my health will permit, and the nature of service more particularly require my attention, provided such permission can be given without subjecting me to any disadvantage in point of my present rank and command, or any I might acquire during the interval of my absence.

"I shall still feel and hold myself liable to be called into service at your excellency's pleasure, precisely as if in full pay, and barely on furlough; reserving to

myself only the privilege of judging the sufficiency of my health during the present appearance of inactivity. My anxiety to be out of pay arises in no measure from intention or wish to avoid any requisite service. But too great a regard to malicious surmises, and a delicacy perhaps censurable, might otherwise hurry me unnecessarily into service, to the prejudice of my health and without any advantage to the public, as I have had the misfortune already to experience."

On October 26 General Washington replied that "you, in my opinion, carry your ideas of delicacy too far when you propose to drop your pay while the recovery of your health necessarily requires your absence from the service. It is not customary and it would be unjust. You therefore have leave to retire until your health is so far reestablished as to enable you to do your duty. Be pleased to give the colonel notice of this, that he may know where to call upon you should any unforeseen exigency require it.'

Colonel Burr read the letter-his suggestion concerning the pay had not been accepted-and he immediately left for West Point, to rejoin his regiment.


Two months later, in January, 1779, Colonel Burr took his last leave of the Malcolms and crossed over to General McDougal's area in Westchester, where he was now to command the lines from the Hudson to the Sound.

It was a district animated by mixed Tory and Whig loyalties, the civilian population of which had

had much to suffer at the hands of marauding bands from both armies. When it was not the loyalist "Cowboys" it was the patriotic "Skinners," and upon Burr's arrival his old Brooklyn commander assigned to him the task of restoring discipline and order, and providing a reliable protection for the inhabitants.

Colonel Burr shortened his lines and established his headquarters at White Plains, and an example of what was taking place in that countryside was immediately furnished him. His predecessor, Colonel Littlefield, was just starting on a "scouting" expedition, and Burr authorized him to proceed as far as Throggs Neck, with special orders that no private property was to be molested. When the scouts returned they brought with them one prisoner and a large quantity of plunder, and before very long the camp was besieged with complaints. Burr was furious, and wrote to the General that he "could gibbet half a dozen good Whigs with all the venom of an inveterate Tory." He was determined to put an end to these outrages, and General McDougal gave him every support. "I authorise you to be the sole judge," he told Burr, "and in the exercise of this trust it is my wish that you should lean to the honour of our arms."

In order to accomplish his purpose, Colonel Burr personally explored the entire territory under his command; he caused careful maps to be prepared, showing every path and stream; from among the country boys he organized a corps of volunteer horsemen to patrol the roads-perhaps one of the first attempts at a local constabulary; he classified the

[graphic][merged small]

From an engraving of the portrait by Stuart in the possession of the New Jersey Historical Society. A copy of this portrait was executed by Vanderlyn, and is in the possession of Princeton University.

« AnteriorContinuar »