Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

unprovoked cruelty of his conduct. To this letter Tryon replied in the following savage terms : “Sir, could I possibly conceive myself accountable to any revolted subjects of the king of Great Britain, I might answer your letter of yesterday, respecting the conduct of Captain Emmerick's party, upon the taking of Peter and Cornelius Vantassel. As much as I abhor every principle of inhumanity or ungenerous conduct, I should, were I in more authority, burn every committee man's house within my reach, as I deem them the wicked instruments of the continued calamities of this country; and in order the sooner to purge the colony of them, I am willing to give twenty silver dollars for every acting committee man who shall be delivered up to the king's troops.

Was it wonderful that General Parsons, after the receipt of such a letter, should indulge a momentary feeling of resentment, and endeavour to retort upon the tories this treatment of republicans ? A small party were sent in the evening to Greenwich, to the house of Mr. Oliver Delancy. They advanced unperceived, secured the centinel, burnt the house and brought off a few prisoners. There were females here too ; but these were tenderly treated, and dismissed without insult. The flames of the house occasioned an alarm at New York, but the little party recrossed the river, and returned in safety.

Before we close this chapter it will be proper to mention a few minor incidents which, it would have interrupted the general narrative, to have related in their proper chronological order.

It will be recollected that Forts Montgomery and Clinton, on the North River, the two most important

posts in that extensive and valuable section of the country, were found by Sir Henry Clinton, garris. oned by no more than about 600 men. The militia of Connecticut had been destined by Washington to this service, but had been diverted from that object by the authorities of Rhode Island, who bad without Washington's consent or privity, planned a secret expedition against Newport, the conduct of which was entrusted to General Spencer, who was stationed at Providence. The militia of Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut eagerly engaged in the expedition, and preparations were actively entered upon for the attack. For some time these preparations were concealed from the knowledge of the enemy, and every thing promised success. Information, however, was at length conveyed to them, which put them on their guard. Brigadier General Palmer, of the Massachusetts militia, who was to have led the advance, disobeyed the orders given to him, and oocasioned a' failure of the whole plan, which had been well devised, and with Spencer himself at the head, would have ensured success. Militia are not generally willing tɔ make a second attempt, where the first has failed: notwithstanding this disaster, Spencer would still have gone on, though the enemy were watching his approach, but that the other officers refused their cooperation.

While the two grand armies of the United States were occupied in defending the northern and atlantick frontiers, the peaceable inhabitants of the western frontiers of Pennsylvania and Virginia, were suffering from the daily inroads of the merciless savages. Helpless women and children were cruelly murdered, or driven from their homes to suffer worse than death. A committee of Congress, appointed to iuquire into the circumstances of these sufferings, reported on the 20th November, that “from a number of papers styled proclamations, under the hand and seal of Henry Hamilton, Lieutenant Governour of Fort Detroit, as well as from other information and circumstances, it appears, that these savages have been instigated by British agents and emissaries, and particularly by the said Henry Hamilton to this barbarous and murderous war.” In justice to the British nation, let it be said, that the government and not the people, sanctioned and authorised these enormities.

In order to correct the injurious rumours, that were carefully propagated by the British for obvious reasons, in those countries of Europe to which the United States, sent agents, that a treaty had been formed between Congress and the British commissioners, and that the colonies would be again reconciled to the mother country; Congress about this time sent instructions to their commissioners at the several foreign courts to contradict the report; and to repre. sent to them, that no proposals for a treaty between the king of Great Britain, or any of his commissioners, and the United States of America, would be received, unless it acknowledged the independence of the states, and was in every thing consistent with the treaties or alliances then under negotiation.

The continued depreciation of the bills of credit and the paper currency of the United States, had enhanced the nominal price of labour and of every commodity of traffick, to so enormous an amount, that Congress were continually devising new schenes to overcome the difficulties, each of which in its turn

led them into new embarrassments. In proportion as the paper dollars sunk in value, Congress by new emissions increased them in quantity, and thus continually increased the evils of a system at first erroneous and inadequate. By fixing a maximum to prices, Congress could obtain nothing but by resorting to the unpleasant necessity of seizing all that they wanted, for the holders of commodities in constant demand, would not consent to lose the opportunity of making large profits, and would therefore not sell at a fixed price. The odious expedient of confiscation was at length resorted to as a means of supplying the want of money. This, however, was a power which Congress did not choose to exercise on their own responsibility. They therefore passed the following resolution on the subject : “ Resolved, that it be earnestly recommended to the several states, as soon as may be, to confiscate and make sale of all the real and personal estates therein of such of their inhabitants, and other persons who have forfeited the same, and the right to the protection of their respective states; and to invest the money arising from the sales in continental loan office certificates, to be appropriated in such manner as the respective states shall hereafter direct.Some benefit might have been expected to result from this resolution, if Congress bad required that the money should be paid into the continental treasury, but by giving to each state the right of appropriating the amount of its own sales, they removed none of the evils under which the country laboured, and opened a door for individual fraud and peculation, the consequences of which continue to be felt at the present day.

[graphic]

The reader will recollect the spirited enterprise by which General Prescott fell into the hands of a small party under Lieutenant Colonel Barton of the Rhode Island militia ; and for which it was deemed a sufficient reward to present him a sword. This spirited officer, however, was not content to wear a sword, which he had not the liberty of using under the authority of Congress. He requested to be employed in their service; and on the 24th December, they resolved to promote bim to the rank and pay of a Colonel in the service of the United States, and that he be recommended to General Washington, to be employed in such services as he may deem most adapted to his genius.”

A few days previous to the first battle of Gates and Burgoyne, General Lincoln who had been placed by Washington in command of the eastern militia, planned an expedition against Ticonderoga and Mount Independence. Fearful if he attempted to convey information of his design to General Gates, that the enemy might become apprized of it, and thus frustrate his plans, he took upon himself the responsibility of undertaking it without the knowledge of Gene. ral Gates, and was completely successful. On the 13th September he detached Colonels Brown and Johnson, at the head of 500 men each, the former to Lake George, and the latter to Mount Independence ; and with a further view to distract the attention of the enemy, a like number of men under Colonel Woodbridge were sent to Skeensborough and the other posts in the neighbourhood in possession of the enemy. Colonel Brown executed his orders with such skill and dexterity, that he surprised all the enemy's outposts between Lakes George and Ticon

« ForrigeFortsett »