« السابقةمتابعة »
skilful and prudent officer. It occurred on the 4th of July, a happy prelude to the glorious 4th of '76, the grand birth-day of American Independence.
The following year another expedition was sent against Fort Du Quesne of about two thousand troops, under the command of the unfortunate General Braddock, who had more courage than prudence, more self-conceit than wisdom. He spurned the advice of the “beardless boy," and rushed into a snare, where he and nearly half of his army met the cold embrace of death. The deliberate courage and superior skill of Washington, by a judicious retreat, saved the remainder from the bloody tomahawk and scalping-knife. He arrived with them safe at Fort Čumberland. By his rashness, Braddock led his men into an ambuscade of about five hundred French and Indians, who were secreted in three deep ravines forming a triangle, secure from danger unless charged, where he remained with them until he had five horses shot under him, nearly half of his men cut down, himself mortally wounded, and not an enemy to be seen. One hundred men headed by Washington, with fixed" bayonets, would have dispersed them in ten minutes.
Washington, unwilling to witness again such waste of human life, resigned his military command and retired to private life. But his sterling talents were not suffered to remain long inactive. He was elected to the legislature from Frederick, and subsequently from Fairfax, and was highly respected as a wise, discerning legislator, exhibiting a mind imbued with philanthropy and liberal principles, guided by a clear judgment and a sound discretion, adorned by a retiring modesty, too rare in men of talent.
From this field of action, Washington entered one of greater magnitude and importance, big with events, involving consequences of the deepest interest to himself, to his country, and to the world. After serving the mother country in the French war with blood and treasure, after submitting to taxation, oppression, and insult for years, the colonists resolved to burst the chains of slavery, throw off the shackles of tyranny, and assume their native dignity. Every source of redress had been exhausted; every avenue of conciliation had been explored; more than reason could demand had been offered; all that was clearly right, and much that was clearly wrong, the pilgrims had submitted to, and still their ungracious, their unfeeling, their blinded mother, cried give-give-give. They had not dreamed of independence; they had only demanded sheer justice; this being denied, they resorted to the last, the only alternative. Instead of submitting to taxation, without representation—instead of yielding obedience to the pernicious stamp act, they stamped their names with unfading glory, their country with lasting fame. In the autumn of 1774, the first great Congress of the American nation assembled at Philadelphia, of which Washington was a member. The solemnities of that thrilling scene have been repeatedly alluded to as of the most imposing character. No one felt them more deeply than the father of our country. When the proceedings were opened by prayer, Washington alone was upon his knees. His mind, on all occasions, seems to have reached to
heaven, his soul seemed to dwell in the bosom of his God. Devoted, unsophisticated and humble piety marked his whole life-a piety sincere in its motives and consistent in all its exhibitions. But Washington was not to remain in the hall of the Continental Congress. A mighty work was in store for him. On the memorable 19th of April, 1775, on the heights of Lexington, American blood was spilt by order of Major Pitcairn. Justice looked at the purple current as it flowed, and sighed; mercy carried the sad news to the etherial skies; the eagle of liberty caught the mournful sound, descended in a stream of liquid fire, planted the torch of freedom in the serum of the bleeding patriots and bid eternal defiance to the British lion.
The effect was electrical. The alarm spread with the rapidity of lightning. It was sounded from church-bells and signal-guns; echo carried it from hills to dales, from sire to son. Vengeance was roused from its lair; the hardy yeomanry left their ploughs in the furrow; the merchant forsook his counting-house; the professional man his office; the minister his pulpit; and with powder-horn and slug, shouldered their rusty muskets, hastened to the scene of action determined to avenge their injured rights, defend their bleeding country, or perish in the attempt. The implements of husbandry were exchanged for those of war; the mechanic shop, the bar, the desk and the forum, were exchanged for the dangers and fatigues of the army. A band of veterans arose, with whearts of oak and nerves of steel, headed by that bright luminary the illustrious WASHINGTON, who stood forth the champions of LIBERTY, the advocates of FREEDOM; resolved upon emancipation or death; pledging their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honours in defence of their common country; looking to Heaven for strength, guidance and support. Illustrious heroes! disinterested patriots! yours exceeded all Greek, all Roman fame.
In June following, Washington was appointed by the unanimous voice of the Continental Congress commander-in-chief of the American armies. This appointment he accepted with diffidence and reluctance, feeling that it involved responsibilities, consequences and results too mighty for him to assume, too vast for him to encounter.
He did not view it as the field of glory, of conquest, of ambition, or of fame.
He did not thirst for human blood or exult in the profession of arms. Love of country, of liberty, of human rights, of liberal principles, and the oppressive chains of tyranny, prompted him to action.
Before his arrival at Cambridge, to enter upon the important duties of his command, the fortress of Crown Point and Ticonderoga had fallen into the hands of the colonists.
The sanguinary battle of Bunker Hill had been fought, which convinced the
British that men contending for their just rights, their dearest interests, their bosoms fired with indignation and patriotism, could not be made to yield to the glittering arms of a haughty monarch without a bold and daring effort to maintain that liberty which they had received at their birth from the hands of their Creator.
War now assumed a serious aspect, the bloody toils of the revolution commenced. England poured in her legions by thousands, and, to cap the climax of the terrific scene, called to her aid the bloodthirsty Indian with his tomahawk and scalping-knife. The welkin rang with the savage war-whoop and the expiring groans of mothers and babes. The contest seemed to be that of an infant with a giant, a lamb with a lion. The dark clouds blackened as they rose, charged with the fury of demons and the lightning of revenge.
Washington viewed their fiery aspect with calm serenity, heard their portentous roar without a tremor. With a soul reaching to heaven, he met the awful crisis with firmness and wisdom before unknown; his gigantic mind soared above the highest pinnacle difficulty could rear; his course was onward towards the goal of LIBERTY; beneath his conquering arm monarchy trembled, tottered and fell.
His whole energy was now directed to the organization of the army and a preparation for future action. An important expedition was planned against Canada, which was attended with great hardship, boldness and perseverance. It was entrusted to Generals Montgomery and Schuyler, who were subsequently followed by Arnold. It was crowned with success, until an unfortunate attack was made upon Quebec, where the brave Montgomery fell with many other valuable officers and soldiers. The ensuing spring the American army evacuated Canada. The royal governors in some of the colonies, by the aid of the king's troops, still maintained the authority of the crown, but they were soon compelled to flee on board of the British ships of war, where they issued their proclamations with about as much effect as the puffing of a porpoise.
Early in March, 1776, Washington appeared before Boston, where lord Howe had concentrated his army, and took a position that induced the English general to evacuate the town on the 17th of the same month. In July, the fort on Sullivan's Island was attacked by General Clinton and Sir Peter Parker, and after an action of ten hours, Sir Peter was compelled to retire with his silk breeches disfigured by the rudeness of a cannon ball, his ships badly torn to pieces by the rebel artillery, and two hundred of his men killed and wounded. The fort was defended by Colonel Moultrie with about five hundred men, with twenty-six nine and eighteen pounders. Sir Peter had two fifty gun ships, four frigates and several small vessels, with three thousand veteran troops. There was so much elasticity in the southern climate on this occasion, that the royalists did not venture there again for nearly two years.
On the 7th of June, Richard Henry Lee, a member from Virginia, made a motion in Congress to break off all allegiance with the mother country, and assume the rightful dignity of a free and independent nation. This resulted in the
appointment of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman and Philip Livingston, a committee to draft a declaration of independence; and, on the 4th of July, they arose in all the majesty of greatness, and in view of an admiring heaven and an astonished world, published that master-piece of composition which gave us national birth, absolved us from kingly power, planted the tree of liberty deep in our soil, and showed to anxious and gazing millions, that a nation could be born in a day and live.
Language can never express, and none but those who witnessed the thrilling scene can fully conceive with what enthusiastic joy this declaration was received by the people. The bells sounded a requiem and funeral knell for monarchy; illuminations and roaring artillery quickly conveyed the glad news from the central arch of the union to its remotest bounds; the blazing torch of liberty rose, like a pillar of fire, to guide the patriots in their onward march; on the wings of thanksgiving and praise the happy tidings ascended to the throne of heaven, received the sanction of Jehovah's high authority, and were recorded by the hand of justice, with an angel's pen, in the book of everlasting fame. Kindred hearts mingled in joy and gratitude, and every FREEMAN shouted a hearty response-a loud AMEN.
On the 2nd of July, Admiral and General Howe landed near the narrows, nine miles below the city of New York, with twenty-four thousand men. They sent an insulting communication to Washington, which he very properly refused to receive. That part of the American
army stationed at Brooklyn, under the command of General Sullivan, was attacked and defeated with great loss, on the 27th of August; and Generals Sullivan, Sterling and Woodhull were taken prisoners. Two days after, Washington planned and effected a retreat, and landed the troops from Long Island safely in New York, before the movement was discovered by the enemy. Chagrined and mortified at the loss of their prey, the British prepared to attack the city, which induced the Americans to evacuate it and retire to White Plains. Here they were attacked on the 28th of September, the British were repulsed, a considerable loss was sustained on both sides, neither party gaining a decided advantage. The disasters of the patriots multiplied rapidly; fort Washington and fort Lee fell into the hands of the English, and the American army was flying before a barbarous and conquering foe.
Washington crossed the Hudson, and retreated through New Jersey into Pennsylvania, with Lord Cornwallis pressing on his rear. His army was now reduced to three thousand men, who were destitute of almost every comfort of life; they could be tracked by blood from their naked feet on the frozen ground; disaster had chilled the zeal of many leading men who at first espoused the cause of liberty; a cloud of fiery indignation hung over the bleeding colonies, ready to devour them. But in the archives of heaven their FREEDOM was recorded; guardian angels directed their destiny; the bold career of the lion was arrested; this Spartan band was crowned with victory, and the red coats, in their turn, beat a retreat.
On the night of the 25th of December, Washington recrossed the Delaware amidst the floating ice, surprised and took one thousand of the enemy prisoners at Trenton, pushed on to Princeton, killed sixty more, took three hundred prisoners, and spread consternation in the ranks of the British army. These successes removed much of the gloom and despondency that hung over the cause. Washington retired to Morristown for the winter; the English occupied Brunswick. In the spring of 1777, the army of Washington amounted to about seven thousand men. No action occurred between the main
armies until in August, when the British landed in Maryland with the intention of capturing Philadelphia.
On the 11th of September the two armies met at Brandywine; a desperate battle ensued, and partial victory attended the English army. On the approach of the enemy Philadelphia was abandoned and Congress retired to Lancaster. Another severe battle was fought at Germantown on the 4th of October, which proved disastrous to Washington, owing to a thick fog, by which his troops became separated and thrown into confusion. These keen misfortunes were much alleviated by the capture of the whole British army in the north under Burgoyne, by General Gates, on the 17th of October. The surrender of Burgoyne had a happy effect at home and abroad. France, on the reception of this news, recognised the independence of the United States, entered into a treaty of alliance, and furnished important aid in advancing the glorious cause, and sent many of her bravest sons to the rescue.
The treaty of alliance between the United States and France, and the loss of their northern army, induced the English to evacuate Philadelphia in the spring of 1778, and retreat to New York. From there they made frequent descents upon various places, burning and destroying property, murdering the inhabitants, and spreading desolation wherever they went.
An expedition was sent to Georgia which proved successful, and the south now became the principal theatre of action. Many feats of bravery were performed, but no decisive battle occurred between the main armies. The same mode of warfare characterized the campaign of 1779, the British seeming to aim more at predatory excursions than pitched battles, which they performed with a savage barbarity, disgraceful to themselves and heart-rending to humanity.
The exertions of Washington were almost paralyzed for the want of men and money; the French Admiral, D'Estaing, was unfortunate in all his movements, and the British lion was prowling through the land in all the majesty of cruelty. The anchor of hope could scarcely keep the shattered bark of liberty to its moorings; the cable of exertion lost thread after thread, until a small band of sages and heroes, who formed the nucleus, were left to contend with the fury of the storin that rolled its fiery and foaming surges over them.
The campaign of 1780 opened favourably to the royal arms, but more exertion was used on the part of the Americans. General Sumpter gave the British much trouble in the south, and a considerable force from the north was on its march to avenge the blood of slaughtered victims. The cruelties of the enemy had re-illumined the cause of freedom, and the people once more rallied around her sacred banner, determined on death or victory.
The southern army was now put under the command of General Gates, the hero of Saratoga-fresh aid arrived from France and the conflict was renewed with fury and desperation. On the 18th of August the two armies met near Camden, S. C.,-a decided advantage was gained by Lord Cornwallis. But defeat and misfortune no longer disheartened the friends of liberty. In the midst of adver