It was an Englishman, Thomas Paine, who fanned the fire into unquenchable flames. He had recently been dismissed from a post in the excise in England and was at this time earning in Philadelphia a precarious living by his pen. Paine said it was the interest of America to break the tie with Europe. Was a whole continent in America to be governed by an island a thousand leagues away? Of what advantage was it to remain connected with Great Britain? It was said that a united British Empire could defy the world, but why should America defy the world? "Everything that is right or natural pleads for separation." Interested men, weak men, prejudiced men, moderate men who do not really know Europe, may urge reconciliation, but nature is against it. Paine broke loose in that denunciation of kings with which ever since the world has been familiar. The wretched Briton, said Paine, is under a king and where there was a king there was no security for liberty. Kings were crowned ruffians and George III in particular was a sceptered savage, a royal brute, and other evil things. He had inflicted on America injuries not to be forgiven. The blood of the slain, not less than the true interests of posterity, demanded separation. Paine called his pamphlet "Common Sense". It was published on January 9, 1776. More than a hundred thousand copies were quickly sold and it brought decision to many wavering minds.
In the first days of 1776 independence had become a burning question. New England had made up its mind. Virginia was keen for separation, keener even than New England. New York and Pennsylvania long hesitated and Maryland and North Carolina were very lukewarm. Early in 1776 Washington was advocating independence and Greene and other army leaders were of the same mind. Conservative forces delayed the settlement, and at last Virginia, in this as in so many other things taking the lead, instructed its delegates to urge a declaration by Congress of independence. Richard Henry Lee, a member of that honored family which later produced the ablest soldier of the Civil War, moved in Congress on June 7, 1776, that "these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, Free and Independent States." The preparation of a formal declaration was referred to a committee of which John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were members. It is interesting to note that each of them became President of the United States and that both died on July 4, 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Adams related long after that he and Jefferson formed the sub-committee to draft the Declaration and that he urged Jefferson to undertake the task since "you can write ten times better than I can." Jefferson accordingly wrote the paper. Adams was delighted "with its high tone and the flights of Oratory" but he did not approve of the flaming attack on the King, as a tyrant. "I never believed," he said, "George to be a tyrant in disposition and in nature." There was, he thought, too much passion for a grave and solemn document. He was, however, the principal speaker in its support.
There is passion in the Declaration from beginning to end, and not the restrained and chastened passion which we find in the great utterances of an American statesman of a later day, Abraham Lincoln. Compared with Lincoln, Jefferson is indeed a mere amateur in the use of words. Lincoln would not have scattered in his utterances overwrought phrases about "death, desolation and tyranny" or talked about pledging "our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honour." He indulged in no "Flights of Oratory." The passion in the Declaration is concentrated against the King. We do not know what were the emotions of George when he read it. We know that many Englishmen thought that it spoke truth. Exaggerations there are which make the Declaration less than a completely candid document. The King is accused of abolishing English laws in Canada with the intention of "introducing the same absolute rule into these colonies." What had been done in Canada was to let the conquered French retain their own laws—which was not tyranny but magnanimity. Another clause of the Declaration, as Jefferson first wrote it, made George responsible for the slave trade in America with all its horrors and crimes. We may doubt whether that not too enlightened monarch had even more than vaguely heard of the slave trade. This phase of the attack upon him was too much for the slave owners of the South and the slave traders of New England, and the clause was struck out.
Nearly fourscore and ten years later, Abraham Lincoln, at a supreme crisis in the nation's life, told in Independence Hall, Philadelphia, what the Declaration of Independence meant to him. "I have never," he said, "had a feeling politically which did not spring from the sentiments in the Declaration of Independence"; and then he spoke of the sacrifices which the founders of the Republic had made for these principles. He asked, too, what was the idea which had held together the nation thus founded. It was not the breaking away from Great Britain. It was the assertion of human right. We should speak in terms of reverence of a document which became a classic utterance of political right and which inspired Lincoln in his fight to end slavery and to make "Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" realities for all men. In England the colonists were often taunted with being "rebels." The answer was not wanting that ancestors of those who now cried "rebel" had themselves been rebels a hundred years earlier when their own liberty was at stake.
There were in Congress men who ventured to say that the Declaration was a libel on the government of England; men like John Dickinson of Pennsylvania and John Jay of New York, who feared that the radical elements were moving too fast. Radicalism, however, was in the saddle, and on the 2d of July the "resolution respecting independency" was adopted. On July 4, 1776, Congress debated and finally adopted the formal Declaration of Independence. The members did not vote individually. The delegates from each colony cast the vote of the colony. Twelve colonies voted for the Declaration. New York alone was silent because its delegates had not been instructed as to their vote, but New York, too, soon fell into line. It was a momentous occasion and was understood to be such. The vote seems to have been reached in the late afternoon. Anxious citizens were waiting in the streets. There was a bell in the State House, and an old ringer waited there for the signal. When there was long delay he is said to have muttered: "They will never do it! they will never do it!" Then came the word, "Ring! Ring!" It is an odd fact that the inscription on the bell, placed there long before the days of the trouble, was from Leviticus: "Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof." The bells of Philadelphia rang and cannon boomed. As the news spread there were bonfires and illuminations in all the colonies. On the day after the Declaration the Virginia Convention struck out "O Lord, save the King" from the church service. On the 10th of July Washington, who by this time had moved to New York, paraded the army and had the Declaration read at the head of each brigade. That evening the statue of King George in New York was laid in the dust. It is a comment on the changes in human fortune that within little more than a year the British had taken Philadelphia, that the clamorous bell had been hid away for safety, and that colonial wiseacres were urging the rescinding of the ill-timed Declaration and the reunion of the British Empire.
CHAPTER IV. THE LOSS OF NEW YORK
Washington's success at Boston had one good effect. It destroyed Tory influence in that Puritan stronghold. New England was henceforth of a temper wholly revolutionary; and New England tradition holds that what its people think today other Americans think tomorrow. But, in the summer of this year 1776, though no serious foe was visible at any point in the revolted colonies, a menace haunted every one of them. The British had gone away by sea; by sea they would return. On land armies move slowly and visibly; but on the sea a great force may pass out of sight and then suddenly reappear at an unexpected point. This is the haunting terror of sea power. Already the British had destroyed Falmouth, now Portland, Maine, and Norfolk, the principal town in Virginia. Washington had no illusions of security. He was anxious above all for the safety of New York, commanding the vital artery of the Hudson, which must at all costs be defended. Accordingly, in April, he took his army to New York and established there his own headquarters.
Even before Washington moved to New York, three great British expeditions were nearing America. One of these we have already seen at Quebec. Another was bound for Charleston, to land there an army and to make the place a rallying center for the numerous but harassed Loyalists of the South. The third and largest of these expeditions was to strike at New York and, by a show of strength, bring the colonists to reason and reconciliation. If mildness failed the British intended to capture New York, sail up the Hudson and cut off New England from the other colonies.
The squadron destined for Charleston carried an army in command of a fine soldier, Lord Cornwallis, destined later to be the defeated leader in the last dramatic scene of the war. In May this fleet reached Wilmington, North Carolina, and took on board two thousand men under General Sir Henry Clinton, who had been sent by Howe from Boston in vain to win the Carolinas and who now assumed military command of the combined forces. Admiral Sir Peter Parker commanded the fleet, and on the 4th of June he was off Charleston Harbor. Parker found that in order to cross the bar he would have to lighten his larger ships. This was done by the laborious process of removing the guns, which, of course, he had to replace when the bar was crossed. On the 28th of June, Parker drew up his ships before Fort Moultrie in the harbor. He had expected simultaneous aid by land from three thousand soldiers put ashore from the fleet on a sandbar, but these troops could give him no help against the fort from which they were cut off by a channel of deep water. A battle soon proved the British ships unable to withstand the American fire from Fort Moultrie. Late in the evening Parker drew off, with two hundred and twenty-five casualties against an American loss of thirty-seven. The check was greater than that of Bunker Hill, for there the British took the ground which they attacked. The British sailors bore witness to the gallantry of the defense: "We never had such a drubbing in our lives," one of them testified. Only one of Parker's ten ships was seaworthy after the fight. It took him three weeks to refit, and not until the 4th of August did his defeated ships reach New York.
A mighty armada of seven hundred ships had meanwhile sailed into the Bay of New York. This fleet was commanded by Admiral Lord Howe and it carried an army of thirty thousand men led by his younger brother, Sir William Howe, who had commanded at Bunker Hill. The General was an able and well-informed soldier. He had a brilliant record of service in the Seven Years' War, with Wolfe in Canada, then in France itself, and in the West Indies. In appearance he was tall, dark, and coarse. His face showed him to be a free user of wine. This may explain some of his faults as a general. He trusted too much to subordinates; he was leisurely and rather indolent, yet capable of brilliant and rapid action. In America his heart was never in his task. He was member of Parliament for Nottingham and had publicly condemned the quarrel with America and told his electors that in it he would take no command. He had not kept his word, but his convictions remained. It would be to accuse Howe of treason to say that he did not do his best in America. Lack of conviction, however, affects action. Howe had no belief that his country was in the right in the war and this handicapped him as against the passionate conviction of Washington that all was at stake which made life worth living.
The General's elder brother, Lord Howe, was another Whig who had no belief that the war was just. He sat in the House of Lords while his brother sat in the House of Commons. We rather wonder that the King should have been content to leave in Whig hands his fortunes in America both by land and sea. At any rate, here were the Howes more eager to make peace than to make war and commanded to offer terms of reconciliation. Lord Howe had an unpleasant face, so dark that he was called "Black Dick"; he was a silent, awkward man, shy and harsh in manner. In reality, however, he was kind, liberal in opinion, sober, and beloved by those who knew him best. His pacific temper towards America was not due to a dislike of war. He was a fighting sailor. Nearly twenty years later, on June 1, 1794, when he was in command of a fleet in touch with the French enemy, the sailors watched him to find any indication that the expected action would take place. Then the word went round: "We shall have the fight today; Black Dick has been smiling." They had it, and Howe won a victory which makes his name famous in the annals of the sea.
By the middle of July the two brothers were at New York. The soldier, having waited at Halifax since the evacuation of Boston, had arrived, and landed his army on Staten Island, on the day before Congress made the Declaration of Independence, which, as now we can see, ended finally any chance of reconciliation. The sailor arrived nine days later. Lord Howe was wont to regret that he had not arrived a little earlier, since the concessions which he had to offer might have averted the Declaration of Independence. In truth, however, he had little to offer. Humor and imagination are useful gifts in carrying on human affairs, but George III had neither. He saw no lack of humor in now once more offering full and free pardon to a repentant Washington and his comrades, though John Adams was excepted by name * in repudiating the right to exist of the Congress at Philadelphia, and in refusing to recognize the military rank of the rebel general whom it had named: he was to be addressed in civilian style as "George Washington Esq." The King and his ministers had no imagination to call up the picture of high-hearted men fighting for rights which they held dear.
* Trevelyan, "American Revolution", Part II, vol. I (New Ed., vol. II), 261.
Lord Howe went so far as to address a letter to "George Washington Esq. &c. &c.," and Washington agreed to an interview with the officer who bore it. In imposing uniform and with the stateliest manner, Washington, who had an instinct for effect, received the envoy. The awed messenger explained that the symbols " &c. &c." meant everything, including, of course, military titles; but Washington only said smilingly that they might mean anything, including, of course, an insult, and refused to take the letter. He referred to Congress, a body which Howe could not recognize, the grave question of the address on an envelope and Congress agreed that the recognition of his rank was necessary. There was nothing to do but to go on with the fight.
Washington's army held the city of New York, at the southerly point of Manhattan Island. The Hudson River, separating the island from the mainland of New Jersey on the west, is at its mouth two miles wide. The northern and eastern sides of the island are washed by the Harlem River, flowing out of the Hudson about a dozen miles north of the city, and broadening into the East River, about a mile wide where it separates New York from Brooklyn Heights, on Long Island. Encamped on Staten Island, on the south, General Howe could, with the aid of the fleet, land at any of half a dozen vulnerable points. Howe had the further advantage of a much larger force. Washington had in all some twenty thousand men, numbers of them serving for short terms and therefore for the most part badly drilled. Howe had twenty-five thousand well-trained soldiers, and he could, in addition, draw men from the fleet, which would give him in all double the force of Washington.
In such a situation even the best skill of Washington was likely only to qualify defeat. He was advised to destroy New York and retire to positions more tenable. But even if he had so desired, Congress, his master, would not permit him to burn the city, and he had to make plans to defend it. Brooklyn Heights so commanded New York that enemy cannon planted there would make the city untenable. Accordingly Washington placed half his force on Long Island to defend Brooklyn Heights and in doing so made the fundamental error of cutting his army in two and dividing it by an arm of the sea in presence of overwhelming hostile naval power.
On the 22d of August Howe ferried fifteen thousand men across the Narrows to Long Island, in order to attack the position on Brooklyn Heights from the rear. Before him lay wooded hills across which led three roads converging at Brooklyn Heights beyond the hills. On the east a fourth road led round the hills. In the dark of the night of the 26th of August Howe set his army in motion on all these roads, in order by daybreak to come to close quarters with the Americans and drive them back to the Heights. The movement succeeded perfectly. The British made terrible use of the bayonet. By the evening of the twenty-seventh the Americans, who fought well against overwhelming odds, had lost nearly two thousand men in casualties and prisoners, six field pieces, and twenty-six heavy guns. The two chief commanders, Sullivan and Stirling, were among the prisoners, and what was left of the army had been driven back to Brooklyn Heights. Howe's critics said that had he pressed the attack further he could have made certain the capture of the whole American force on Long Island.
Criticism of what might have been is easy and usually futile. It might be said of Washington, too, that he should not have kept an army so far in front of his lines behind Brooklyn Heights facing a superior enemy, and with, for a part of it, retreat possible only by a single causeway across a marsh three miles long. When he realized, on the 28th of August, what Howe had achieved, he increased the defenders of Brooklyn Heights to ten thousand men, more than half his army. This was another cardinal error. British ships were near and but for unfavorable winds might have sailed up to Brooklyn. Washington hoped and prayed that Howe would try to carry Brooklyn Heights by assault. Then there would have been at least slaughter on the scale of Bunker Hill. But Howe had learned caution. He made no reckless attack, and soon Washington found that he must move away or face the danger of losing every man on Long Island.
On the night of the 29th of August there was clear moonlight, with fog towards daybreak. A British army of twenty-five thousand men was only some six hundred yards from the American lines. A few miles from the shore lay at anchor a great British fleet with, it is to be presumed, its patrols on the alert. Yet, during that night, ten thousand American troops were marched down to boats on the strand at Brooklyn and, with all their stores, were carried across a mile of water to New York. There must have been the splash of oars and the grating of keels, orders given in tones above a whisper, the complex sounds of moving bodies of men. It was all done under the eye of Washington. We can picture that tall figure moving about on the strand at Brooklyn, which he was the last to leave. Not a sound disturbed the slumbers of the British. An army in retreat does not easily defend itself. Boats from the British fleet might have brought panic to the Americans in the darkness and the British army should at least have known that they were gone. By seven in the morning the ten thousand American soldiers were for the time safe in New York, and we may suppose that the two Howes were asking eager questions and wondering how it had all happened.
Washington had shown that he knew when and how to retire. Long Island was his first battle and he had lost. Now retreat was his first great tactical achievement. He could not stay in New York and so sent at once the chief part of the army, withdrawn from Brooklyn, to the line of the Harlem River at the north end of the island. He realized that his shore batteries could not keep the British fleet from sailing up both the East and the Hudson Rivers and from landing a force on Manhattan Island almost where it liked. Then the city of New York would be surrounded by a hostile fleet and a hostile army. The Howes could have performed this maneuver as soon as they had a favorable wind. There was, we know, great confusion in New York, and Washington tells us how his heart was torn by the distress of the inhabitants. The British gave him plenty of time to make plans, and for a reason. We have seen that Lord Howe was not only an admiral to make war but also an envoy to make peace. The British victory on Long Island might, he thought, make Congress more willing to negotiate. So now he sent to Philadelphia the captured American General Sullivan, with the request that some members of Congress might confer privately on the prospects for peace.
Howe probably did not realize that the Americans had the British quality of becoming more resolute by temporary reverses. By this time, too, suspicion of every movement on the part of Great Britain had become a mania. Every one in Congress seems to have thought that Howe was planning treachery. John Adams, excepted by name from British offers of pardon, called Sullivan a "decoy duck" and, as he confessed, laughed, scolded, and grieved at any negotiation. The wish to talk privately with members of Congress was called an insulting way of avoiding recognition of that body. In spite of this, even the stalwart Adams and the suave Franklin were willing to be members of a committee which went to meet Lord Howe. With great sorrow Howe now realized that he had no power to grant what Congress insisted upon, the recognition of independence, as a preliminary to negotiation. There was nothing for it but war.
On the 15th of September the British struck the blow too long delayed had war been their only interest. New York had to sit nearly helpless while great men-of-war passed up both the Hudson and the East River with guns sweeping the shores of Manhattan Island. At the same time General Howe sent over in boats from Long Island to the landing at Kip's Bay, near the line of the present Thirty-fourth Street, an army to cut off the city from the northern part of the island. Washington marched in person with two New England regiments to dispute the landing and give him time for evacuation. To his rage panic seized his men and they turned and fled, leaving him almost alone not a hundred yards from the enemy. A stray shot at that moment might have influenced greatly modern history, for, as events were soon to show, Washington was the mainstay of the American cause. He too had to get away and Howe's force landed easily enough. Meanwhile, on the west shore of the island, there was an animated scene. The roads were crowded with refugees fleeing northward from New York. These civilians Howe had no reason to stop, but there marched, too, out of New York four thousand men, under Israel Putnam, who got safely away northward. Only leisurely did Howe extend his line across the island so as to cut off the city. The story, not more trustworthy than many other legends of war, is that Mrs. Murray, living in a country house near what now is Murray Hill, invited the General to luncheon, and that to enjoy this pleasure he ordered a halt for his whole force. Generals sometimes do foolish things but it is not easy to call up a picture of Howe, in the midst of a busy movement of troops, receiving the lady's invitation, accepting it, and ordering the whole army to halt while he lingered over the luncheon table. There is no doubt that his mind was still divided between making war and making peace. Probably Putnam had already got away his men, and there was no purpose in stopping the refugees in that flight from New York which so aroused the pity of Washington. As it was Howe took sixty-seven guns. By accident, or, it is said, by design of the Americans themselves, New York soon took fire and one-third of the little city was burned.
After the fall of New York there followed a complex campaign. The resourceful Washington was now, during his first days of active warfare, pitting himself against one of the most experienced of British generals. Fleet and army were acting together. The aim of Howe was to get control of the Hudson and to meet half way the advance from Canada by way of Lake Champlain which Carleton was leading. On the 12th of October, when autumn winds were already making the nights cold, Howe moved. He did not attack Washington who lay in strength at the Harlem. That would have been to play Washington's game. Instead he put the part of his army still on Long Island in ships which then sailed through the dangerous currents of Hell Gate and landed at Throg's Neck, a peninsula on the sound across from Long Island. Washington parried this movement by so guarding the narrow neck of the peninsula leading to the mainland that the cautious Howe shrank from a frontal attack across a marsh. After a delay of six days, he again embarked his army, landed a few miles above Throg's Neck in the hope of cutting off Washington from retreat northward, only to find Washington still north of him at White Plains. A sharp skirmish followed in which Howe lost over two hundred men and Washington only one hundred and forty. Washington, masterly in retreat, then withdrew still farther north among hills difficult of attack.
Howe had a plan which made a direct attack on Washington unnecessary. He turned southward and occupied the east shore of the Hudson River. On the 16th of November took place the worst disaster which had yet befallen American arms. Fort Washington, lying just south of the Harlem, was the only point still held on Manhattan Island by the Americans. In modern war it has become clear that fortresses supposedly strong may be only traps for their defenders. Fort Washington stood on the east bank of the Hudson opposite Fort Lee, on the west bank. These forts could not fulfil the purpose for which they were intended, of stopping British ships. Washington saw that the two forts should be abandoned. But the civilians in Congress, who, it must be remembered, named the generals and had final authority in directing the war, were reluctant to accept the loss involved in abandoning the forts and gave orders that every effort should be made to hold them. Greene, on the whole Washington's best general, was in command of the two positions and was left to use his own judgment. On the 15th of November, by a sudden and rapid march across the island, Howe appeared before Fort Washington and summoned it to surrender on pain of the rigors of war, which meant putting the garrison to the sword should he have to take the place by storm. The answer was a defiance; and on the next day Howe attacked in overwhelming force. There was severe fighting. The casualties of the British were nearly five hundred, but they took the huge fort with its three thousand defenders and a great quantity of munitions of war. Howe's threat was not carried out. There was no massacre.
Across the river at Fort Lee the helpless Washington watched this great disaster. He had need still to look out, for Fort Lee was itself doomed. On the nineteenth Lord Cornwallis with five thousand men crossed the river five miles above Fort Lee. General Greene barely escaped with the two thousand men in the fort, leaving behind one hundred and forty cannon, stores, tools, and even the men's blankets. On the twentieth the British flag was floating over Fort Lee and Washington's whole force was in rapid flight across New Jersey, hardly pausing until it had been ferried over the Delaware River into Pennsylvania.
Treachery, now linked to military disaster, made Washington's position terrible. Charles Lee, Horatio Gates, and Richard Montgomery were three important officers of the regular British army who fought on the American side. Montgomery had been killed at Quebec; the defects of Gates were not yet conspicuous; and Lee was next to Washington the most trusted American general. The names Washington and Lee of the twin forts on opposite sides of the Hudson show how the two generals stood in the public mind. While disaster was overtaking Washington, Lee had seven thousand men at North Castle on the east bank of the Hudson, a few miles above Fort Washington, blocking Howe's advance farther up the river. On the day after the fall of Fort Washington, Lee received positive orders to cross the Hudson at once. Three days later Fort Lee fell, and Washington repeated the order. Lee did not budge. He was safe where he was and could cross the river and get away into New Jersey when he liked. He seems deliberately to have left Washington to face complete disaster and thus prove his incompetence; then, as the undefeated general, he could take the chief command. There is no evidence that he had intrigued with Howe, but he thought that he could be the peacemaker between Great Britain and America, with untold possibilities of ambition in that role. He wrote of Washington at this time, to his friend Gates, as weak and "most damnably deficient." Nemesis, however, overtook him. In the end he had to retreat across the Hudson to northern New Jersey. Here many of the people were Tories. Lee fell into a trap, was captured in bed at a tavern by a hard-riding party of British cavalry, and carried off a prisoner, obliged to bestride a horse in night gown and slippers. Not always does fate appear so just in her strokes.
In December, though the position of Washington was very bad, all was not lost. The chief aim of Howe was to secure the line of the Hudson and this he had not achieved. At Stony Point, which lies up the Hudson about fifty miles from New York, the river narrows and passes through what is almost a mountain gorge, easily defended. Here Washington had erected fortifications which made it at least difficult for a British force to pass up the river. Moreover in the highlands of northern New Jersey, with headquarters at Morristown, General Sullivan, recently exchanged, and General Gates now had Lee's army and also the remnants of the force driven from Canada. But in retreating across New Jersey Washington had been forsaken by thousands of men, beguiled in part by the Tory population, discouraged by defeat, and in many cases with the right to go home, since their term of service had expired. All that remained of Washington's army after the forces of Sullivan and Gates joined him across the Delaware in Pennsylvania, was about four thousand men.
Howe was determined to have Philadelphia as well as New York and could place some reliance on Tory help in Pennsylvania. He had pursued Washington to the Delaware and would have pushed on across that river had not his alert foe taken care that all the boats should be on the wrong shore. As it was, Howe occupied the left bank of the Delaware with his chief post at Trenton. If he made sure of New Jersey he could go on to Philadelphia when the river was frozen over or indeed when he liked. Even the Congress had fled to Baltimore. There were British successes in other quarters. Early in December Lord Howe took the fleet to Newport. Soon he controlled the whole of Rhode Island and checked the American privateers who had made it their base. The brothers issued proclamations offering protection to all who should within sixty days return to their British allegiance and many people of high standing in New York and New Jersey accepted the offer. Howe wrote home to England the glad news of victory. Philadelphia would probably fall before spring and it looked as if the war was really over.
In this darkest hour Washington struck a blow which changed the whole situation. We associate with him the thought of calm deliberation. Now, however, was he to show his strongest quality as a general to be audacity. At the Battle of the Marne, in 1914, the French General Foch sent the despatch: "My center is giving way; my right is retreating; the situation is excellent: I am attacking." Washington's position seemed as nearly hopeless and he, too, had need of some striking action. A campaign marked by his own blundering and by the treachery of a trusted general had ended in seeming ruin. Pennsylvania at his back and New Jersey before him across the Delaware were less than half loyal to the American cause and probably willing to accept peace on almost any terms. Never was a general in a position where greater risks must be taken for salvation. As Washington pondered what was going on among the British across the Delaware, a bold plan outlined itself in his mind. Howe, he knew, had gone to New York to celebrate a triumphant Christmas. His absence from the front was certain to involve slackness. It was Germans who held the line of the Delaware, some thirteen hundred of them under Colonel Rahl at Trenton, two thousand under Von Donop farther down the river at Bordentown; and with Germans perhaps more than any other people Christmas is a season of elaborate festivity. On this their first Christmas away from home many of the Germans would be likely to be off their guard either through homesickness or dissipation. They cared nothing for either side. There had been much plundering in New Jersey and discipline was relaxed.
Howe had been guilty of the folly of making strong the posts farthest from the enemy and weak those nearest to him. He had, indeed, ordered Rahl to throw up redoubts for the defense of Trenton, but this, as Washington well knew, had not been done for Rahl despised his enemy and spoke of the American army as already lost. Washington's bold plan was to recross the Delaware and attack Trenton. There were to be three crossings. One was to be against Von Donop at Bordentown below Trenton, the second at Trenton itself. These two attacks were designed to prevent aid to Trenton. The third force with which Washington himself went was to cross the river some nine miles above the town.
Christmas Day, 1776, was dismally cold. There was a driving storm of sleet and the broad swollen stream of the Delaware, dotted with dark masses of floating ice, offered a chill prospect. To take an army with its guns across that threatening flood was indeed perilous. Gates and other generals declared that the scheme was too difficult to be carried out. Only one of the three forces crossed the river. Washington, with iron will, was not to be turned from his purpose. He had skilled boatmen from New England. The crossing took no less than ten hours and a great part of it was done in wintry darkness. When the army landed on the New Jersey shore it had a march of nine miles in sleet and rain in order to reach Trenton by daybreak. It is said that some of the men marched barefoot leaving tracks of blood in the snow. The arms of some were lost and those of others were wet and useless but Washington told them that they must depend the more on the bayonet. He attacked Trenton in broad daylight. There was a sharp fight. Rahl, the commander, and some seventy men, were killed and a thousand men surrendered.
Even now Washington's position was dangerous. Von Donop, with two thousand men, lay only a few miles down the river. Had he marched at once on Trenton, as he should have done, the worn out little force of Washington might have met with disaster. What Von Donop did when the alarm reached him was to retreat as fast as he could to Princeton, a dozen miles to the rear towards New York, leaving behind his sick and all his heavy equipment. Meanwhile Washington, knowing his danger, had turned back across the Delaware with a prisoner for every two of his men. When, however, he saw what Von Donop had done he returned on the twenty-ninth to Trenton, sent out scouting parties, and roused the country so that in every bit of forest along the road to Princeton there were men, dead shots, to make difficult a British advance to retake Trenton.
The reverse had brought consternation at New York. Lord Cornwallis was about to embark for England, the bearer of news of overwhelming victory. Now, instead, he was sent to drive back Washington. It was no easy task for Cornwallis to reach Trenton, for Washington's scouting parties and a force of six hundred men under Greene were on the road to harass him. On the evening of the 2d of January, however, he reoccupied Trenton. This time Washington had not recrossed the Delaware but had retreated southward and was now entrenched on the southern bank of the little river Assanpink, which flows into the Delaware. Reinforcements were following Cornwallis. That night he sharply cannonaded Washington's position and was as sharply answered. He intended to attack in force in the morning. To the skill and resource of Washington he paid the compliment of saying that at last he had run down the "Old Fox."
Then followed a maneuver which, years after, Cornwallis, a generous foe, told Washington was one of the most surprising and brilliant in the history of war. There was another "old fox" in Europe, Frederick the Great, of Prussia, who knew war if ever man knew it, and he, too, from this movement ranked Washington among the great generals. The maneuver was simple enough. Instead of taking the obvious course of again retreating across the Delaware Washington decided to advance, to get in behind Cornwallis, to try to cut his communications, to threaten the British base of supply and then, if a superior force came up, to retreat into the highlands of New Jersey. There he could keep an unbroken line as far east as the Hudson, menace the British in New Jersey, and probably force them to withdraw to the safety of New York.
All through the night of January 2, 1777, Washington's camp fires burned brightly and the British outposts could hear the sound of voices and of the spade and pickaxe busy in throwing up entrenchments. The fires died down towards morning and the British awoke to find the enemy camp deserted. Washington had carried his whole army by a roundabout route to the Princeton road and now stood between Cornwallis and his base. There was some sharp fighting that day near Princeton. Washington had to defeat and get past the reinforcements coming to Cornwallis. He reached Princeton and then slipped away northward and made his headquarters at Morristown. He had achieved his purpose. The British with Washington entrenched on their flank were not safe in New Jersey. The only thing to do was to withdraw to New York. By his brilliant advance Washington recovered the whole of New Jersey with the exception of some minor positions near the sea. He had changed the face of the war. In London there was momentary rejoicing over Howe's recent victories, but it was soon followed by distressing news of defeat. Through all the colonies ran inspiring tidings. There had been doubts whether, after all, Washington was the heaven-sent leader. Now both America and Europe learned to recognize his skill. He had won a reputation, though not yet had he saved a cause.
CHAPTER V. THE LOSS OF PHILADELPHIA
Though the outlook for Washington was brightened by his success in New Jersey, it was still depressing enough. The British had taken New York, they could probably take Philadelphia when they liked, and no place near the seacoast was safe. According to the votes in Parliament, by the spring of 1777 Britain was to have an army of eighty-nine thousand men, of whom fifty-seven thousand were intended for colonial garrisons and for the prosecution of the war in America. These numbers were in fact never reached, but the army of forty thousand in America was formidable compared with Washington's forces. The British were not hampered by the practice of enlisting men for only a few months, which marred so much of Washington's effort. Above all they had money and adequate resources. In a word they had the things which Washington lacked during almost the whole of the war.
Washington called his success in the attack at Trenton a lucky stroke. It was luck which had far-reaching consequences. Howe had the fixed idea that to follow the capture of New York by that of Philadelphia, the most populous city in America, and the seat of Congress, would mean great glory for himself and a crushing blow to the American cause. If to this could be added, as he intended, the occupation of the whole valley of the Hudson, the year 1777 might well see the end of the war. An acute sense of the value of time is vital in war. Promptness, the quick surprise of the enemy, was perhaps the chief military virtue of Washington; dilatoriness was the destructive vice of Howe. He had so little contempt for his foe that he practised a blighting caution. On April 12, 1777, Washington, in view of his own depleted force, in a state of half famine, wrote: "If Howe does not take advantage of our weak state he is very unfit for his trust." Howe remained inactive and time, thus despised, worked its due revenge. Later Howe did move, and with skill, but he missed the rapid combination in action which was the first condition of final success. He could have captured Philadelphia in May. He took the city, but not until September, when to hold it had become a liability and not an asset. To go there at all was perhaps unwise; to go in September was for him a tragic mistake.
From New York to Philadelphia the distance by land is about a hundred miles. The route lay across New Jersey, that "garden of America" which English travelers spoke of as resembling their own highly cultivated land. Washington had his headquarters at Morristown, in northern New Jersey. His resources were at a low ebb. He had always the faith that a cause founded on justice could not fail; but his letters at this time are full of depressing anxiety. Each State regarded itself as in danger and made care of its own interests its chief concern. By this time Congress had lost most of the able men who had given it dignity and authority. Like Howe it had slight sense of the value of time and imagined that tomorrow was as good as today. Wellington once complained that, though in supreme command, he had not authority to appoint even a corporal. Washington was hampered both by Congress and by the State Governments in choosing leaders. He had some officers, such as Greene, Knox, and Benedict Arnold, whom he trusted. Others, like Gates and Conway, were ceaseless intriguers. To General Sullivan, who fancied himself constantly slighted and ill-treated, Washington wrote sharply to abolish his poisonous suspicions.
Howe had offered easy terms to those in New Jersey who should declare their loyalty and to meet this Washington advised the stern policy of outlawing every one who would not take the oath of allegiance to the United States. There was much fluttering of heart on the New Jersey farms, much anxious trimming in order, in any event, to be safe. Howe's Hessians had plundered ruthlessly causing deep resentment against the British. Now Washington found his own people doing the same thing. Militia officers, themselves, "generally" as he said, "of the lowest class of the people," not only stole but incited their men to steal. It was easy to plunder under the plea that the owner of the property was a Tory, whether open or concealed, and Washington wrote that the waste and theft were "beyond all conception." There were shirkers claiming exemption from military service on the ground that they were doing necessary service as civilians. Washington needed maps to plan his intricate movements and could not get them. Smallpox was devastating his army and causing losses heavier than those from the enemy. When pay day came there was usually no money. It is little wonder that in this spring of 1777 he feared that his army might suddenly dissolve and leave him without a command. In that case he would not have yielded. Rather, so stern and bitter was he against England, would he have plunged into the western wilderness to be lost in its vast spaces.
Howe had his own perplexities. He knew that a great expedition under Burgoyne was to advance from Canada southward to the Hudson. Was he to remain with his whole force at New York until the time should come to push up the river to meet Burgoyne? He had a copy of the instructions given in England to Burgoyne by Lord George Germain, but he was himself without orders. Afterwards the reason became known. Lord George Germain had dictated the order to cooperate with Burgoyne, but had hurried off to the country before it was ready for his signature and it had been mislaid. Howe seemed free to make his own plans and he longed to be master of the enemy's capital. In the end he decided to take Philadelphia—a task easy enough, as the event proved. At Howe's elbow was the traitorous American general, Charles Lee, whom he had recently captured, and Lee, as we know, told him that Maryland and Pennsylvania were at heart loyal to the King and panting to be free from the tyranny of the demagogue. Once firmly in the capital Howe believed that he would have secure control of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. He could achieve this and be back at New York in time to meet Burgoyne, perhaps at Albany. Then he would hold the colony of New York from Staten Island to the Canadian frontier. Howe found that he could send ships up the Hudson, and the American army had to stand on the banks almost helpless against the mobility of sea power. Washington's left wing rested on the Hudson and he held both banks but neither at Peekskill nor, as yet, farther up at West Point, could his forts prevent the passage of ships. It was a different matter for the British to advance on land. But the ships went up and down in the spring of 1777. It would be easy enough to help Burgoyne when the time should come.
It was summer before Howe was ready to move, and by that time he had received instructions that his first aim must be to cooperate with Burgoyne. First, however, he was resolved to have Philadelphia. Washington watched Howe in perplexity. A great fleet and a great army lay at New York. Why did they not move? Washington knew perfectly well what he himself would have done in Howe's place. He would have attacked rapidly in April the weak American army and, after destroying or dispersing it, would have turned to meet Burgoyne coming southward from Canada. Howe did send a strong force into New Jersey. But he did not know how weak Washington really was, for that master of craft in war disseminated with great skill false information as to his own supposed overwhelming strength. Howe had been bitten once by advancing too far into New Jersey and was not going to take risks. He tried to entice Washington from the hills to attack in open country. He marched here and there in New Jersey and kept Washington alarmed and exhausted by counter marches, and always puzzled as to what the next move should be. Howe purposely let one of his secret messengers be taken bearing a despatch saying that the fleet was about to sail for Boston. All these things took time and the summer was slipping away. In the end Washington realized that Howe intended to make his move not by land but by sea. Could it be possible that he was not going to make aid to Burgoyne his chief purpose? Could it be that he would attack Boston? Washington hoped so for he knew the reception certain at Boston. Or was his goal Charleston? On the 23d of July, when the summer was more than half gone, Washington began to see more clearly. On that day Howe had embarked eighteen thousand men and the fleet put to sea from Staten Island.
Howe was doing what able officers with him, such as Cornwallis, Grey, and the German Knyphausen, appear to have been unanimous in thinking he should not do. He was misled not only by the desire to strike at the very center of the rebellion, but also by the assurance of the traitorous Lee that to take Philadelphia would be the effective signal to all the American Loyalists, the overwhelming majority of the people, as was believed, that sedition had failed. A tender parent, the King, was ready to have the colonies back in their former relation and to give them secure guarantees of future liberty. Any one who saw the fleet put out from New York Harbor must have been impressed with the might of Britain. No less than two hundred and twenty-nine ships set their sails and covered the sea for miles. When they had disappeared out of sight of the New Jersey shore their goal was still unknown. At sea they might turn in any direction. Washington's uncertainty was partly relieved on the 30th of July when the fleet appeared at the entrance of Delaware Bay, with Philadelphia some hundred miles away across the bay and up the Delaware River. After hovering about the Cape for a day the fleet again put to sea, and Washington, who had marched his army so as to be near Philadelphia, thought the whole movement a feint and knew not where the fleet would next appear. He was preparing to march to New York to menace General Clinton, who had there seven thousand men able to help Burgoyne when he heard good news. On the 22d of August he knew that Howe had really gone southward and was in Chesapeake Bay. Boston was now certainly safe. On the 25th of August, after three stormy weeks at sea, Howe arrived at Elkton, at the head of Chesapeake Bay, and there landed his army. It was Philadelphia fifty miles away that he intended to have. Washington wrote gleefully "Now let all New England turn out and crush Burgoyne." Before the end of September he was writing that he was certain of complete disaster to Burgoyne.
Howe had, in truth, made a ruinous mistake. Had the date been May instead of August he might still have saved Burgoyne. But at the end of August, when the net was closing on Burgoyne, Howe was three hundred miles away. His disregard of time and distance had been magnificent. In July he had sailed to the mouth of the Delaware, with Philadelphia near, but he had then sailed away again, and why? Because the passage of his ships up the river to the city was blocked by obstructions commanded by bristling forts. The naval officers said truly that the fleet could not get up the river. But Howe might have landed his army at the head of Delaware Bay. It is a dozen miles across the narrow peninsula from the head of Delaware Bay to that of Chesapeake Bay. Since Howe had decided to attack from the head of Chesapeake Bay there was little to prevent him from landing his army on the Delaware side of the peninsula and marching across it. By sea it is a voyage of three hundred miles round a peninsula one hundred and fifty miles long to get from one of these points to the other, by land only a dozen miles away. Howe made the sea voyage and spent on it three weeks when a march of a day would have saved this time and kept his fleet three hundred miles by sea nearer to New York and aid for Burgoyne.
Howe's mistakes only have their place in the procession to inevitable disaster. Once in the thick of fighting he showed himself formidable. When he had landed at Elkton he was fifty miles southwest of Philadelphia and between him and that place was Washington with his army. Washington was determined to delay Howe in every possible way. To get to Philadelphia Howe had to cross the Brandywine River. Time was nothing to him. He landed at Elkton on the 25th of August. Not until the 10th of September was he prepared to attack Washington barring his way at Chadd's Ford. Washington was in a strong position on a front of two miles on the river. At his left, below Chadd's Ford, the Brandywine is a torrent flowing between high cliffs. There the British would find no passage. On his right was a forest. Washington had chosen his position with his usual skill. Entrenchments protected his front and batteries would sweep down an advancing enemy. He had probably not more than eleven thousand men in the fight and it is doubtful whether Howe brought up a greater number so that the armies were not unevenly matched. At daybreak on the eleventh the British army broke camp at the village of Kenneth Square, four miles from Chadd's Ford, and, under General Knyphausen, marched straight to make a frontal attack on Washington's position.
In the battle which followed Washington was beaten by the superior tactics of his enemy. Not all of the British army was there in the attack at Chadd's Ford. A column under Cornwallis had filed off by a road to the left and was making a long and rapid march. The plan was to cross the Brandywine some ten miles above where Washington was posted and to attack him in the rear. By two o'clock in the afternoon Cornwallis had forced the two branches of the upper Brandywine and was marching on Dilworth at the right rear of the American army. Only then did Washington become aware of his danger. His first impulse was to advance across Chadd's Ford to try to overwhelm Knyphausen and thus to get between Howe and the fleet at Elkton. This might, however, have brought disaster and he soon decided to retire. His movement was ably carried out. Both sides suffered in the woodland fighting but that night the British army encamped in Washington's position at Chadd's Ford, and Howe had fought skillfully and won an important battle.
Washington had retired in good order and was still formidable. He now realized clearly enough that Philadelphia would fall. Delay, however, would be nearly as good as victory. He saw what Howe could not see, that menacing cloud in the north, much bigger than a man's hand, which, with Howe far away, should break in a final storm terrible for the British cause. Meanwhile Washington meant to keep Howe occupied. Rain alone prevented another battle before the British reached the Schuylkill River. On that river Washington guarded every ford. But, in the end, by skillful maneuvering, Howe was able to cross and on the 26th of September he occupied Philadelphia without resistance. The people were ordered to remain quietly in their houses. Officers were billeted on the wealthier inhabitants. The fall resounded far of what Lord Adam Gordon called a "great and noble city," "the first Town in America," "one of the Wonders of the World." Its luxury had been so conspicuous that the austere John Adams condemned the "sinful feasts" in which he shared. About it were fine country seats surrounded by parklike grounds, with noble trees, clipped hedges, and beautiful gardens. The British believed that Pennsylvania was really on their side. Many of the people were friendly and hundreds now renewed their oath of allegiance to the King. Washington complained that the people gave Howe information denied to him. They certainly fed Howe's army willingly and received good British gold while Washington had only paper money with which to pay. Over the proud capital floated once more the British flag and people who did not see very far said that, with both New York and Philadelphia taken, the rebellion had at last collapsed.
Once in possession of Philadelphia Howe made his camp at Germantown, a straggling suburban village, about seven miles northwest of the city. Washington's army lay at the foot of some hills a dozen miles farther away. Howe had need to be wary, for Washington was the same "old fox" who had played so cunning a game at Trenton. The efforts of the British army were now centered on clearing the river Delaware so that supplies might be brought up rapidly by water instead of being carried fifty miles overland from Chesapeake Bay. Howe detached some thousands of men for this work and there was sharp fighting before the troops and the fleet combined had cleared the river. At Germantown Howe kept about nine thousand men. Though he knew that Washington was likely to attack him he did not entrench his army as he desired the attack to be made. It might well have succeeded. Washington with eleven thousand men aimed at a surprise. On the evening of the 3d of October he set out from his camp. Four roads led into Germantown and all these the Americans used. At sunrise on the fourth, just as the attack began, a fog arose to embarrass both sides. Lying a little north of the village was the solid stone house of Chief Justice Chew, and it remains famous as the central point in the bitter fight of that day. What brought final failure to the American attack was an accident of maneuvering. Sullivan's brigade was in front attacking the British when Greene's came up for the same purpose. His line overlapped Sullivan's and he mistook in the fog Sullivan's men for the enemy and fired on them from the rear. A panic naturally resulted among the men who were attacked also at the same time by the British on their front. The disorder spread. British reinforcements arrived, and Washington drew off his army in surprising order considering the panic. He had six hundred and seventy-three casualties and lost besides four hundred prisoners. The British loss was five hundred and thirty-seven casualties and fourteen prisoners. The attack had failed, but news soon came which made the reverse unimportant. Burgoyne and his whole army had surrendered at Saratoga.
CHAPTER VI. THE FIRST GREAT BRITISH DISASTER
John Burgoyne, in a measure a soldier of fortune, was the younger son of an impoverished baronet, but he had married the daughter of the powerful Earl of Derby and was well known in London society as a man of fashion and also as a man of letters, whose plays had a certain vogue. His will, in which he describes himself as a humble Christian, who, in spite of many faults, had never forgotten God, shows that he was serious minded. He sat in the House of Commons for Preston and, though he used the language of a courtier and spoke of himself as lying at the King's feet to await his commands, he was a Whig, the friend of Fox and others whom the King regarded as his enemies. One of his plays describes the difficulties of getting the English to join the army of George III. We have the smartly dressed recruit as a decoy to suggest an easy life in the army. Victory and glory are so certain that a tailor stands with his feet on the neck of the King of France. The decks of captured ships swim with punch and are clotted with gold dust, and happy soldiers play with diamonds as if they were marbles. The senators of England, says Burgoyne, care chiefly to make sure of good game laws for their own pleasure. The worthless son of one of them, who sets out on the long drive to his father's seat in the country, spends an hour in "yawning, picking his teeth and damning his journey" and when once on the way drives with such fury that the route is marked by "yelping dogs, broken-backed pigs and dismembered geese."
It was under this playwright and satirist, who had some skill as a soldier, that the British cause now received a blow from which it never recovered. Burgoyne had taken part in driving the Americans from Canada in 1776 and had spent the following winter in England using his influence to secure an independent command. To his later undoing he succeeded. It was he, and not, as had been expected, General Carleton, who was appointed to lead the expedition of 1777 from Canada to the Hudson. Burgoyne was given instructions so rigid as to be an insult to his intelligence. He was to do one thing and only one thing, to press forward to the Hudson and meet Howe. At the same time Lord George Germain, the minister responsible, failed to instruct Howe to advance up the Hudson to meet Burgoyne. Burgoyne had a genuine belief in the wisdom of this strategy but he had no power to vary it, to meet changing circumstances, and this was one chief factor in his failure.
Behold Burgoyne then, on the 17th of June, embarking on Lake Champlain the army which, ever since his arrival in Canada on the 6th of May, he had been preparing for this advance. He had rather more than seven thousand men, of whom nearly one-half were Germans under the competent General Riedesel. In the force of Burgoyne we find the ominous presence of some hundreds of Indian allies. They had been attached to one side or the other in every war fought in those regions during the previous one hundred and fifty years. In the war which ended in 1763 Montcalm had used them and so had his opponent Amherst. The regiments from the New England and other colonies had fought in alliance with the painted and befeathered savages and had made no protest. Now either times had changed, or there was something in a civil war which made the use of savages seem hideous. One thing is certain. Amherst had held his savages in stern restraint and could say proudly that they had not committed a single outrage. Burgoyne was not so happy.
In nearly every war the professional soldier shows distrust, if not contempt, for civilian levies. Burgoyne had been in America before the day of Bunker Hill and knew a great deal about the country. He thought the "insurgents" good enough fighters when protected by trees and stones and swampy ground. But he thought, too, that they had no real knowledge of the science of war and could not fight a pitched battle. He himself had not shown the prevision required by sound military knowledge. If the British were going to abandon the advantage of sea power and fight where they could not fall back on their fleet, they needed to pay special attention to land transport. This Burgoyne had not done. It was only a little more than a week before he reached Lake Champlain that he asked Carleton to provide the four hundred horses and five hundred carts which he still needed and which were not easily secured in a sparsely settled country. Burgoyne lingered for three days at Crown Point, half way down the lake. Then, on the 2d of July, he laid siege to Fort Ticonderoga. Once past this fort, guarding the route to Lake George, he could easily reach the Hudson.
In command at Fort Ticonderoga was General St. Clair, with about thirty-five hundred men. He had long notice of the siege, for the expedition of Burgoyne had been the open talk of Montreal and the surrounding country during many months. He had built Fort Independence, on the east shore of Lake Champlain, and with a great expenditure of labor had sunk twenty-two piers across the lake and stretched in front of them a boom to protect the two forts. But he had neglected to defend Sugar Hill in front of Fort Ticonderoga, and commanding the American works. It took only three or four days for the British to drag cannon to the top, erect a battery and prepare to open fire. On the 5th of July, St. Clair had to face a bitter necessity. He abandoned the untenable forts and retired southward to Fort Edward by way of the difficult Green Mountains. The British took one hundred and twenty-eight guns.
These successes led the British to think that within a few days they would be in Albany. We have an amusing picture of the effect on George III of the fall of Fort Ticonderoga. The place had been much discussed. It had been the first British fort to fall to the Americans when the Revolution began, and Carleton's failure to take it in the autumn of 1776 had been the cause of acute heartburning in London. Now, when the news of its fall reached England, George III burst into the Queen's room with the glad cry, "I have beat them, I have beat the Americans." Washington's depression was not as great as the King's elation; he had a better sense of values; but he had intended that the fort should hold Burgoyne, and its fall was a disastrous blow. The Americans showed skill and good soldierly quality in the retreat from Ticonderoga, and Burgoyne in following and harassing them was led into hard fighting in the woods. The easier route by way of Lake George was open but Burgoyne hoped to destroy his enemy by direct pursuit through the forest. It took him twenty days to hew his way twenty miles, to the upper waters of the Hudson near Fort Edward. When there on the 30th of July he had communications open from the Hudson to the St. Lawrence.
Fortune seemed to smile on Burgoyne. He had taken many guns and he had proved the fighting quality of his men. But his cheerful elation had, in truth, no sound basis. Never during the two and a half months of bitter struggle which followed was he able to advance more than twenty-five miles from Fort Edward. The moment he needed transport by land he found himself almost helpless. Sometimes his men were without food and equipment because he had not the horses and carts to bring supplies from the head of water at Fort Anne or Fort George, a score of miles away. Sometimes he had no food to transport. He was dependent on his communications for every form of supplies. Even hay had to be brought from Canada, since, in the forest country, there was little food for his horses. The perennial problem for the British in all operations was this one of food. The inland regions were too sparsely populated to make it possible for more than a few soldiers to live on local supplies. The wheat for the bread of the British soldier, his beef and his pork, even the oats for his horse, came, for the most part, from England, at vast expense for transport, which made fortunes for contractors. It is said that the cost of a pound of salted meat delivered to Burgoyne on the Hudson was thirty shillings. Burgoyne had been told that the inhabitants needed only protection to make them openly loyal and had counted on them for supplies. He found instead the great mass of the people hostile and he doubted the sincerity even of those who professed their loyalty.
After Burgoyne had been a month at Fort Edward he was face to face with starvation. If he advanced he lengthened his line to flank attack. As it was he had difficulty in holding it against New Englanders, the most resolute of all his foes, eager to assert by hard fighting, if need be, their right to hold the invaded territory which was claimed also by New York. Burgoyne's instructions forbade him to turn aside and strike them a heavy blow. He must go on to meet Howe who was not there to be met. A being who could see the movements of men as we watch a game of chess, might think that madness had seized the British leaders; Burgoyne on the upper Hudson plunging forward resolutely to meet Howe; Howe at sea sailing away, as it might well seem, to get as far from Burgoyne as he could; Clinton in command at New York without instructions, puzzled what to do and not hearing from his leader, Howe, for six weeks at a time; and across the sea a complacent minister, Germain, who believed that he knew what to do in a scene three thousand miles away, and had drawn up exact instructions as to the way of doing it, and who was now eagerly awaiting news of the final triumph.
Burgoyne did his best. Early in August he had to make a venturesome stroke to get sorely needed food. Some twenty-five miles east of the Hudson at Bennington, in difficult country, New England militia had gathered food and munitions, and horses for transport. The pressure of need clouded Burgoyne's judgment. To make a dash for Bennington meant a long and dangerous march. He was assured, however, that a surprise was possible and that in any case the country was full of friends only awaiting a little encouragement to come out openly on his side. They were Germans who lay on Burgoyne's left and Burgoyne sent Colonel Baum, an efficient officer, with five or six hundred men to attack the New Englanders and bring in the supplies. It was a stupid blunder to send Germans among a people specially incensed against the use of these mercenaries. There was no surprise. Many professing loyalists, seemingly eager to take the oath of allegiance, met and delayed Baum. When near Bennington he found in front of him a force barring the way and had to make a carefully guarded camp for the night. Then five hundred men, some of them the cheerful takers of the oath of allegiance, slipped round to his rear and in the morning he was attacked from front and rear.
A hot fight followed which resulted in the complete defeat of the British. Baum was mortally wounded. Some of his men escaped into the woods; the rest were killed or captured. Nor was this all. Burgoyne, scenting danger, had ordered five hundred more Germans to reinforce Baum. They, too, were attacked and overwhelmed. In all Burgoyne lost some eight hundred men and four guns. The American loss was seventy. It shows the spirit of the time that, for the sport of the soldiers, British prisoners were tied together in pairs and driven by negroes at the tail of horses. An American soldier described long after, with regret for his own cruelty, how he had taken a British prisoner who had had his left eye shot out and mounted him on a horse also without the left eye, in derision at the captive's misfortune. The British complained that quarter was refused in the fight. For days tired stragglers, after long wandering in the woods, drifted into Burgoyne's camp. This was now near Saratoga, a name destined to be ominous in the history of the British army.
Further misfortune now crowded upon Burgoyne. The general of that day had two favorite forms of attack. One was to hold the enemy's front and throw out a column to march round the flank and attack his rear, the method of Howe at the Brandywine; the other method was to advance on the enemy by lines converging at a common center. This form of attack had proved most successful eighteen years earlier when the British had finally secured Canada by bringing together, at Montreal, three armies, one from the east, one from the west, and one from the south. Now there was a similar plan of bringing together three British forces at or near Albany, on the Hudson. Of Clinton, at New York, and Burgoyne we know. The third force was under General St. Leger. With some seventeen hundred men, fully half of whom were Indians, he had gone up the St. Lawrence from Montreal and was advancing from Oswego on Lake Ontario to attack Fort Stanwix at the end of the road from the Great Lakes to the Mohawk River. After taking that stronghold he intended to go down the river valley to meet Burgoyne near Albany.
On the 3d of August St. Leger was before Fort Stanwix garrisoned by some seven hundred Americans. With him were two men deemed potent in that scene. One of these was Sir John Johnson who had recently inherited the vast estate in the neighborhood of his father, the great Indian Superintendent, Sir William Johnson, and was now in command of a regiment recruited from Loyalists, many of them fierce and embittered because of the seizure of their property. The other leader was a famous chief of the Mohawks, Thayendanegea, or, to give him his English name, Joseph Brant, half savage still, but also half civilized and half educated, because he had had a careful schooling and for a brief day had been courted by London fashion. He exerted a formidable influence with his own people. The Indians were not, however, all on one side. Half of the six tribes of the Iroquois were either neutral or in sympathy with the Americans. Among the savages, as among the civilized, the war was a family quarrel, in which brother fought brother. Most of the Indians on the American side preserved, indeed, an outward neutrality. There was no hostile population for them to plunder and the Indian usually had no stomach for any other kind of warfare. The allies of the British, on the other hand, had plenty of openings to their taste and they brought on the British cause an enduring discredit.
When St. Leger was before Fort Stanwix he heard that a force of eight hundred men, led by a German settler named Herkimer, was coming up against him. When it was at Oriskany, about six miles away, St. Leger laid a trap. He sent Brant with some hundreds of Indians and a few soldiers to be concealed in a marshy ravine which Herkimer must cross. When the American force was hemmed in by trees and marsh on the narrow causeway of logs running across the ravine the Indians attacked with wild yells and murderous fire. Then followed a bloody hand to hand fight. Tradition has been busy with its horrors. Men struggled in slime and blood and shouted curses and defiance. Improbable stories are told of pairs of skeletons found afterwards in the bog each with a bony hand which had driven a knife to the heart of the other. In the end the British, met by resolution so fierce, drew back. Meanwhile a sortie from the American fort on their rear had a menacing success. Sir John Johnson's camp was taken and sacked. The two sides were at last glad to separate, after the most bloody struggle in the whole war. St. Leger's Indians had had more than enough. About a hundred had been killed and the rest were in a state of mutiny. Soon it was known that Benedict Arnold, with a considerable force, was pushing up the Mohawk Valley to relieve the American fort. Arnold knew how to deal with savages. He took care that his friendly Indians should come into contact with those of Brant and tell lurid tales of utter disaster to Burgoyne and of a great avenging army on the march to attack St. Leger. The result was that St. Leger's Indians broke out in riot and maddened themselves with stolen rum. Disorder affected even the soldiers. The only thing for St. Leger to do was to get away. He abandoned his guns and stores and, harassed now by his former Indian allies, made his way to Oswego and in the end reached Montreal with a remnant of his force.
News of these things came to Burgoyne just after the disaster at Bennington. Since Fort Stanwix was in a country counted upon as Loyalist at heart it was especially discouraging again to find that in the main the population was against the British. During the war almost without exception Loyalist opinion proved weak against the fierce determination of the American side. It was partly a matter of organization. The vigilance committees in each State made life well-nigh intolerable to suspected Tories. Above all, however, the British had to bear the odium which attaches always to the invader. We do not know what an American army would have done if, with Iroquois savages as allies, it had made war in an English county. We know what loathing a parallel situation aroused against the British army in America. The Indians, it should be noted, were not soldiers under British discipline but allies; the chiefs regarded themselves as equals who must be consulted and not as enlisted to take orders from a British general.
In war, as in politics, nice balancing of merit or defect in an enemy would destroy the main purpose which is to defeat him. Each side exaggerates any weak point in the other in order to stimulate the fighting passions. Judgment is distorted. The Baroness Riedesel, the wife of one of Burgoyne's generals, who was in Boston in 1777, says that the people were all dressed alike in a peasant costume with a leather strap round the waist, that they were of very low and insignificant stature, and that only one in ten of them could read or write. She pictures New Englanders as tarring and feathering cultivated English ladies. When educated people believed every evil of the enemy the ignorant had no restraint to their credulity. New England had long regarded the native savages as a pest. In 1776 New Hampshire offered seventy pounds for each scalp of a hostile male Indian and thirty-seven pounds and ten shillings for each scalp of a woman or of a child under twelve years of age. Now it was reported that the British were offering bounties for American scalps. Benjamin Franklin satirized British ignorance when he described whales leaping Niagara Falls and he did not expect to be taken seriously when, at a later date, he pictured George III as gloating over the scalps of his subjects in America. The Seneca Indians alone, wrote Franklin, sent to the King many bales of scalps. Some bales were captured by the Americans and they found the scalps of 43 soldiers, 297 farmers, some of them burned alive, and 67 old people, 88 women, 193 boys, 211 girls, 29 infants, and others unclassified. Exact figures bring conviction. Franklin was not wanting in exactness nor did he fail, albeit it was unwittingly, to intensify burning resentment of which we have echoes still. Burgoyne had to bear the odium of the outrages by Indians. It is amusing to us, though it was hardly so to this kindly man, to find these words put into his mouth by a colonial poet:
I will let loose the dogs of Hell, Ten thousand Indians who shall yell, And foam, and tear, and grin, and roar And drench their moccasins in gore:... I swear, by St. George and St. Paul, I will exterminate you all.
Such seed, falling on soil prepared by the hate of war, brought forth its deadly fruit. The Americans believed that there was no brutality from which British officers would shrink. Burgoyne had told his Indian allies that they must not kill except in actual fighting and that there must be no slaughter of non-combatants and no scalping of any but the dead. The warning delivered him into the hands of his enemies for it showed that he half expected outrage. Members of the British House of Commons were no whit behind the Americans in attacking him. Burke amused the House by his satire on Burgoyne's words: "My gentle lions, my humane bears, my tenderhearted hyenas, go forth! But I exhort you, as you are Christians and members of civilized society, to take care not to hurt any man, woman, or child." Burke's great speech lasted for three and a half hours and Sir George Savile called it "the greatest triumph of eloquence within memory." British officers disliked their dirty, greasy, noisy allies and Burgoyne found his use of savages, with the futile order to be merciful, a potent factor in his defeat.
A horrifying incident had occurred while he was fighting his way to the Hudson. As the Americans were preparing to leave Fort Edward some marauding Indians saw a chance of plunder and outrage. They burst into a house and carried off two ladies, both of them British in sympathy—Mrs. McNeil, a cousin of one of Burgoyne's chief officers, General Fraser, and Miss Jeannie McCrae, whose betrothed, a Mr. Jones, and whose brother were serving with Burgoyne. In a short time Mrs. McNeil was handed over unhurt to Burgoyne's advancing army. Miss McCrae was never again seen alive by her friends. Her body was found and a Wyandot chief, known as the Panther, showed her scalp as a trophy. Burgoyne would have been a poor creature had he not shown anger at such a crime, even if committed against the enemy. This crime, however, was committed against his own friends. He pressed the charge against the chief and was prepared to hang him and only relaxed when it was urged that the execution would cause all his Indians to leave him and to commit further outrages. The incident was appealing in its tragedy and stirred the deep anger of the population of the surrounding country among whose descendants to this day the tradition of the abandoned brutality of the British keeps alive the old hatred.
At Fort Edward Burgoyne now found that he could hardly move. He was encumbered by an enormous baggage train. His own effects filled, it is said, thirty wagons and this we can believe when we find that champagne was served at his table up almost to the day of final disaster. The population was thoroughly aroused against him. His own instinct was to remain near the water route to Canada and make sure of his communications. On the other hand, honor called him to go forward and not fail Howe, supposed to be advancing to meet him. For a long time he waited and hesitated. Meanwhile he was having increasing difficulty in feeding his army and through sickness and desertion his numbers were declining. By the 13th of September he had taken a decisive step. He made a bridge of boats and moved his whole force across the river to Saratoga, now Schuylerville. This crossing of the river would result inevitably in cutting off his communications with Lake George and Ticonderoga. After such a step he could not go back and he was moving forward into a dark unknown. The American camp was at Stillwater, twelve miles farther down the river. Burgoyne sent messenger after messenger to get past the American lines and bring back news of Howe. Not one of these unfortunate spies returned. Most of them were caught and ignominiously hanged. One thing, however, Burgoyne could do. He could hazard a fight and on this he decided as the autumn was closing in.
Burgoyne had no time to lose, once his force was on the west bank of the Hudson. General Lincoln cut off his communications with Canada and was soon laying siege to Ticonderoga. The American army facing Burgoyne was now commanded by General Gates. This Englishman, the godson of Horace Walpole, had gained by successful intrigue powerful support in Congress. That body was always paying too much heed to local claims and jealousies and on the 2d of August it removed Schuyler of New York because he was disliked by the soldiers from New England and gave the command to Gates. Washington was far away maneuvering to meet Howe and he was never able to watch closely the campaign in the north. Gates, indeed, considered himself independent of Washington and reported not to the Commander-in-Chief but direct to Congress. On the 19th of September Burgoyne attacked Gates in a strong entrenched position on Bemis Heights, at Stillwater. There was a long and bitter fight, but by evening Burgoyne had not carried the main position and had lost more than five hundred men whom he could ill spare from his scanty numbers.
Burgoyne's condition was now growing desperate. American forces barred retreat to Canada. He must go back and meet both frontal and flank attacks, or go forward, or surrender. To go forward now had most promise, for at last Howe had instructed Clinton, left in command at New York, to move, and Clinton was making rapid progress up the Hudson. On the 7th of October Burgoyne attacked again at Stillwater. This time he was decisively defeated, a result due to the amazing energy in attack of Benedict Arnold, who had been stripped of his command by an intrigue. Gates would not even speak to him and his lingering in the American camp was unwelcome. Yet as a volunteer Arnold charged the British line madly and broke it. Burgoyne's best general, Fraser, was killed in the fight. Burgoyne retired to Saratoga and there at last faced the prospects of getting back to Fort Edward and to Canada. It may be that he could have cut his way through, but this is doubtful. Without risk of destruction he could not move in any direction. His enemies now outnumbered him nearly four to one. His camp was swept by the American guns and his men were under arms night and day. American sharpshooters stationed themselves at daybreak in trees about the British camp and any one who appeared in the open risked his life. If a cap was held up in view instantly two or three balls would pass through it. His horses were killed by rifle shots. Burgoyne had little food for his men and none for his horses. His Indians had long since gone off in dudgeon. Many of his Canadian French slipped off homeward and so did the Loyalists. The German troops were naturally dispirited. A British officer tells of the deadly homesickness of these poor men. They would gather in groups of two dozen or so and mourn that they would never again see their native land. They died, a score at a time, of no other disease than sickness for their homes. They could have no pride in trying to save a lost cause. Burgoyne was surrounded and, on the 17th of October, he was obliged to surrender.