January 1st, 1783.-This day I close my military career, and quit for ever the toils and vicissitudes incident to the storms of war. To my military companions I bid a final adieu, and hope to enjoy in future the blessings which attend a virtuous course of domestic life. I retire with honorable testimonials from very respectable authority of my punctuality and faithful performance of duty in the various situations which I have been called to occupy, and with a heart fraught with grateful recollections of the kindness and affectionate intercourse which I have experienced from my superiors, and from my numerous companions and associates. While I congratulate my country on the momentous event by which we are about to be elevated to the rank of an Independent Nation, most cordially do I proffer my sympathy for the many lives of inestimable value which have been sacrificed during this ever- memorable contest.
NOTE.-As the materials for the remainder of this work were collected and arranged after I returned from the army, I have thought it proper to change my running title from "Military Journal" to "Revolutionary Annals."
WHILE contemplating a final separation of the officers of the army, the tenderest feelings of the heart had their afflicting operations. It was at the suggestion of General Knox, and with the acquiescence of the commander-in- chief, that an expedient was devised by which a hope is entertained that their long-cherished friendship and social intercourse may be perpetuated, and that at future periods they may annually communicate, and revive a recollection of the bonds by which they were connected. It was on the 10th day of May, 1783, when the officers held their first meeting, at which the Baron Steuben, the senior officer, presided, that Major-General Knox, Brigadier-General Hand, Brigadier-General Huntington and Captain Shaw, were chosen to revise the proposals for the institution, and prepare a copy to be laid before the next meeting, at Baron Steuben's quarters, on the 13th, when the plan for establishing a society was accepted, and is as follows:
"It having pleased the Supreme Governor of the Universe, in the disposition of human affairs, to cause the separation of the Colonies of North America from the dominion of Great Britain, and, after a bloody conflict of eight years, to establish them Free, Independent, and Sovereign States, connected by alliances, founded on reciprocal advantages, with some of the greatest princes and powers of the earth:
"To perpetuate, therefore, as well the remembrance of this vast event, as the mutual friendships which have been formed, under the pressure of common danger, and in many instances cemented by the blood of the parties, the officers of the American army do hereby, in the most solemn manner, associate, constitute and combine themselves into one Society of Friends, to endure so long as they shall endure, or any of their eldest male posterity, and in failure thereof, the collateral branches, who may be judged worthy of becoming its supporters and members.
" The officers of the American army having generally been taken from the citizens of America, possess high veneration for the character of that illustrious Roman, LUCIUS QUINTIUS CINCINNATUS, and being resolved to follow his example, by returning to their citizenship, they think they may with propriety denominate themselves the Society of the Cincinnati.
"The following principles shall be immutable, and form the basis of the Society of the Cincinnati:
"An incessant attention to preserve inviolate those exalted rights and liberties of human nature, for which they have fought and bled, and without which the high rank of a rational being is a curse instead of a blessing.
"An unalterable determination to promote and cherish, between the respective states, that union and national honor, so essentially necessary to their happiness, and the future dignity of the American empire.
"To render permanent the cordial affection subsisting among the officers, this spirit will dictate brotherly kindness in all things, and particularly extend to the most substantial acts of beneficence, according to the ability of the society, towards those officers and their families who unfortunately way be under the necessity of receiving it.
"The general society will, for the sake of frequent communications, be divided into state societies, and these again into such districts as shall be directed by the state society.
"The societies of the districts to meet as often as shall be agreed on by the state society; those of the state on the 4th day of July, annually, or oftener if they shall find it expedient; and the general society on the first Monday in May, annually, so long as they shall deem it necessary, and afterwards, at least once in every three years.
"At each meeting, the principles of the institution will be fully considered, and the best measures to promote them adopted.
"The state societies to have a president, vice-president, secretary, treasurer, and assistant-treasurer, to be chosen annually by a majority of votes, at the state meeting.
"In order to form funds which may be respectable, and assist the unfortunate, each officer shall deliver to the treasurer of the state society one month's pay, which shall remain for ever, to the use of the state society; the interest only of which, if necessary, to be appropriated to the relief of the unfortunate.
"The society shall have an order, by which its members shall be known and distinguished, which shall be a medal of gold, of a proper size to receive the emblems, and be suspended by a deep-blue ribband, two inches wide, edged with white, descriptive of the union of America and France."
His Excellency General Washington officiated as president of the general society from its institution, in 1783, till his death, as did Major-General B. Lincoln of the society of Massachusetts. Since his demise, in 1810, Governor Brooks has been annually elected president. Some attempts were made at the first general meeting, in 1784, to alter the constitution of the society, in order that the hereditary succession of the members should be done away, without substituting any means of perpetuating the existence of the society. But a majority of the state societies did not approve this change, and the institution remains as it was originally adopted in 1783. The society of Massachusetts was incorporated by the legislature in the year 1806, and their by-laws provide that persons who claim admission as members in right of succession to a deceased member shall be the oldest male heirs, or collateral branches not under twenty-one years of age. He must make his application to the standing committee in writing, and will be voted in by ballot.
In December, 1782, the officers of the army being apprehensive that they should be disbanded before their accounts should be liquidated and the engagements of government complied with, resolved to memorialize Congress on the subject, and Major-General McDougall, Colonel Ogden and Colonel Brooks were deputed as a committee to wait on that honorable body, requesting their attention to the distresses under which the army labored, and to solicit payment of the money actually due to the army, and security for the commutation of half-pay, stipulated by the resolve of October, 1780, for a sum in gross, which they conceive would be less objectionable than the half-pay establishment. Subsequent to this proceeding, a report was circulated in camp that Congress did not mean to comply with their resolves respecting half-pay, &c. This operated very powerfully on the minds of the officers of the army, and occasioned them to forward an address to Congress, in behalf of themselves and their brethren, the soldiers. They asked for a supply of money, to be forwarded immediately to the army, for a settlement of the accounts of arrearages of pay, and security for what is due; for a commutation of half for full pay for a certain number of years, or for a sum in gross, as should be agreed on; for a settlement of accounts, for deficiencies of rations and compensations, and of the deficiencies of clothing and compensations. They conclude their address in these words: "The pressure of evils and injuries in the course of seven long years have made their condition, in many instances, wretched; they therefore entreat that Congress, to convince the army and the world that the Independence of America shall not be placed on the ruin of any particular class of citizens, will point out a mode for immediate redress; and that the disabled officers and soldiers, with the widows and orphans of those who have lost or may lose their lives in the service of their country, may be included, and that some mode be pointed out for the eventual payment of those soldiers who are the subjects of the resolution of Congress of the 15th of May, 1778." In consequence of this address, Congress passed the following resolves, namely:
"That the superintendent of finance be directed, conformably to the measures already taken for that purpose, so soon as the state of the public finances will permit, to make such payment, and in such manner as be shall think proper, till the further order of Congress.
"With respect to the second article of the address, the settlement of accounts of the arrearages of pay, that the several states be called on to complete, without delay, the settlements with their respective lines of the army, up to the first day of August, 1780; and that the superintendent of finance take such measures as shall appear to him most proper for effecting the settlement from this period. That the troops of the United States, in common with all creditors of the same, have an undoubted right to expect security for what shall be found due, and Congress will make every effort in their power to obtain from the respective states substantial funds, adequate to the object of funding the whole debt of the United States, and will enter on an immediate and full consideration of the nature of such funds, and the most likely mode of obtaining them."
The remainder of the report of the committee, on the subject of the address, was referred to a committee of five.
General McDougall and Colonel Ogden, in a letter to General Knox, made known to the army their success; and Colonel Brooks returned to camp to inform them, verbally, of the prospect of commutation, or of obtaining an equivalent for half-pay, which they had proposed in their address. General McDougall continued at Congress on the army business, while the impression of the report which occasioned the address to Congress, however false, remained on the minds of some officers; notwithstanding Congress were doing all that the circumstances of the states would admit to relieve and satisfy the army.
March 10th.-In the midst of this perturbed
state of affairs in camp, and while the day of final separation
was supposed to be near at hand, the following anonymous
letter, calculated to exasperate the passions of the moment, was privately circulated:
"TO THE OFFICERS OF THE ARMY.
"GENTLEMEN: A fellow-soldier, whose interest and affections bind him strongly to you - whose past sufferings have been as great, and whose future fortune may be as desperate, as yours - would beg leave to address you.
"Age has its claims, and rank is not
without its pretensions to advise; but, though unsupported by
both, he flatters himself that the plain language of it and experience
will neither be unheard nor unregarded.
"Like many of you he loved private life, and left it with regret. He left it, determined to retire from the fleld, with the necessity that called him to it, and not till then - not till the enemies of his country, the slaves of power, and the hirelings of injustice, were compelled to abandon their schemes, and acknowledge America as terrible in arms as she had been humble in remonstrance. With this object in view,he has long shared in your toils and mingled in your dangers. - He has felt the cold hand of poverty without a murmur, and has seen the insolence of wealth without a sigh. - But, too much under the direction of his wishes, and sometimes weak enough to mistake desire for opinion, he has till lately - very lately -believed in the justice of his country. He hoped that, as the clouds of adversity scattered, and as the sunshine of peace and better fortune broke in on us, the coldness and severity of government would relax, and that more than justice, that gratitude would blaze forth on those hands which had upheld her, in the darkest stages of her passage from impending servitude to acknowledged independence. But faith has its limits, as well as temper, and there are points beyond which neither can be stretched, without sinking into cowardice or plunging into credulity. - This, my friends, I conceive to be your situation: hur ried to the very edge of both, another step would ruin you for ever. - To be tame and unprovoked when injuries press hard on you, is more than weakness; but to look up for kinder usage, without one manly effort of your own, would fix your character, and show the world how richly you deserve those chains you broke. To guard against this evil, let us take a review of the ground on which we now stand, and, thence carry our thoughts forward for a moment; into the unexplored field of experiment.
"After a pursuit of seven long years, the object for which we set out is at length brought within our reach - yes, my friends, that suffering courage of yours was active once: it has conducted the United States of America through a doubtful and bloody war. It has placed her in the chair of independency, and peace returns again to bless - who? A country willing to redress your wrongs, cherish your worth, and reward your services? A country courting your return to private life, with tears of gratitude and smiles of admiration, longing to divide with you that independency which your gallantry has given, and those riches which your wounds have preserved? Is this the case? or is it rather a country that tramples on your rights, disdains your cries, and insults your distresses? Have you not more than once suggested your wishes, and made known your wants to Congress? - wants and wishes which gratitude and policy should have anticipated rather than evaded; and have you not lately, in the meek language of entreating memorials, begged from their justice what you could no longer expect from their favor? How have you been answered? Let the letter which you are called to consider to-morrow reply.
"If this, then, be your treatment, while the swords you wear are necessary for the defence of America, what have you to expect from peace, when your voice shall sink, and your strength dissipate by division? - when those very swords, the instruments and companions of your glory, shall be taken from your sides, and no remaining mark of military distinction be left but your wants, infirmities, and scars? Can you, then, consent to be the only sufferers by this revolution, and, retiring from the field, grow old in poverty, wretchedness, and contempt? Can you consent to wade through the vile mire of dependency, and owe the misera ble remnant of that life to charity which has hitherto been spent in honor? If you can, go - and carry with you the jest of tories and the scorn of whigs; the ridicule, and, what is worse, the pity of the world. Go - starve, and be forgotten! But if your spirit should revolt at this; if you have sense enough to discover, and spirit enough to oppose tyranny under whatever garb it may assume; whether it be the plain coat of republicanism, or the splendid robe of royalty; if you have not yet learned to discriminate between a people and a cause, between men and principles - awake; attend to your situation, and redress yourselves. If the present moment be lost, every future effort is in vain; and your threats then, will be as empty as your entreaties now.
"I would advise you., therefore, to come to some final opinion on what you can bear, and what you will suffer. If your determination be in any proportion to your wrongs, carry your appeal from the justice, to the fears of government Change the milk-and-water style of your last memorial; assume a bolder tone - decent, but lively, spirited and determined, and suspect the man who would advise to more moderation and longer forbearance. Let two or three men who can feel as well as write, be appointed to draw up your last remonstrance; for I would no longer give it the suing, soft, unsuccessful epithet of memorial. Let it be represented in language that will neither dishonor you by its rudeness, nor betray you by its fears, what has been promised by Congress, and what has been performed - how long and how patiently you have suffered - how little you have asked, and how much of that little has been denied. Tell them that, though you were the first, and would wish to be the last to encounter danger, though despair itself can never drive you into dishonor, it may drive you from the field; that the wound often irritated, and never healed, may at length become incurable; and that the slightest mark of indignity from Congress now must operate like the grave, and part you for ever; that in any political event, the army has its alternative. If peace, that nothing shall separate you from your arms but death; if war, that, courting the auspices and inviting the directions of your illustrious leader, you will retire to some unsettled country, smile in your turn, and 'mock when their fear cometh.' But let it represent, also, that should they comply with the request of your late memorial, it would make you more happy, and them more respectable; that while war should continue, you would follow their standard into the field, and when it came to an end, you would withdraw into the shade of private life, and give the world another subject of wonder and applause; an army victorious over its enemies - victorious over itself!'
Alarmed and distressed with this vile attempt to stimulate the army to rash and dangerous proceedings, the commander-in-chief noticed in general orders the anonymous address with his pointed disapprobation, and, with the view of counteracting its effects, requested that the general and field officers, and one from each company, and a proper representation from the staff of the army, would assemble on the 15th instant, to hear the report of the Committee deputed by the army to Congress. The next day a second anonymous paper from the same pen appeared as follows:
"Till now, the commander-in-chief has regarded the steps you have taken for redress with good wishes alone; his ostensible silence has authorized your meetings, and his private opinion sanctified your claims. Had he disliked the object in view, would not the same sense of duty which forbade you from meeting on the third day of the week, have forbidden you from meeting on the seventh? Is not the same subject held up for your discussion? and has it not passed the seal of office, and taken all the solemnity of an order? This will give system to your proceedings, and stability to your resolves. It will ripen speculation into fact, and while it adds to the unanimity, it cannot possibly lessen the independency of your sentiments. It may be necessary to add, on this subject, that, from the injunction with which the general orders close, every man is at liberty to conclude that the report to be made to headquarters is intended for Congress. Hence will arise another motive for that energy which has been recommended; for, can you give the lie to the pathetic descriptions and the more alarming predictions of our friends?"*
*With respect to the author of the Newburgh anonymous letters, suspicion has ever rested on John Armstrong, who at the time of their appearance was a major in the army, and for some time aid-de-camp to Major-General Gates. Though many circumstances conspired to fix this suspicion on Major Armstrong and a few confederates, the real fact has never been established till recently. In the last number of the United States Magazine, published in New York, General Armstrong has announced himself to be the author of these notorious letters. In justification of his motives, he maintains "that they were written by himself at the solicitation of his friends, as the chosen organ to express the sentiments of the officers of the army, and were only an honest and manly, though perhaps an indiscreet endeavor to support public credit and do justice to a long-suffering, patient, and, gallant soldiery." In the same publication, General Armstrong has thought proper to risk his reputation on the bold and unqualified assertion, that the slander propagated and believed for half a century, that two distinguished officers of the revolution had conspired to put down the commander-in-chief, is an impudent and vile falsehood from beginning to end. The young reader, who may not be apprised of the circumstances on which the evidence of this conspiracy rests, is referred to the biography of Generals Lee, Gates and Conway, in the Appendix.
On the 15th instant, the convention of officers assembled, and General Gates presided. The commander-in-chief delivered to them the following very interesting and feeling address:
"GENTLEMEN: By an anonymous summons,
an attempt has been made to convene you together. How inconsistent
with the rules of propriety, how unmilitary, and how subversive
of all order and discipline, let the good sense of the army decide.
"In the moment of this summons, another anonymous production was sent into circulation, addressed more to the feelings and passions than to the judgment of the army. The author of the piece is entitled to much credit for the goodness of his pen; and I could wish he had as much credit for the rectitude of his heart; for, as men see through different optics, and are induced by the reflecting faculties of the mind to use different means to attain the same end, the author of the address should have had more charity than to 'mark for suspicion the man who should recommend moderation and longer forbearance;' or, in other words, who should not think as he thinks, and act as he advises. But he had another plan in view, in which candor and liberality of sentiment, regard to justice and love of country, have no part; and he was right to insinuate the darkest suspicion to effect the blackest design. That the address was drawn with great art, and is designed to answer the most insidious purposes; that it is calculated to impress the mind with an idea of pre-meditated injustice in the sovereign power of the United States, and rouse all those resentments which must unavoidably flow from such a belief; that the secret mover of this scheme, whoever he may be, intended to take advantage of the passions, while they were warmed by the recollection of past distresses, without giving time for cool, deliberative thinking, and that composure of mind which is so necessary to give dignity and stability to measures, is rendered too obvious, by the mode of conducting the business, to need other proof than a reference to the proceedings.
"Thus much, gentlemen, I have thought it incumbent on me to observe to you, to show on what principles I opposed the irregular and hasty meeting which was proposed to have been held on Tuesday last, and not because I wanted a disposition to give you every opportunity, consistently with your own honor and the dignity of the army, to make known your grievances. If my conduct heretofore has not evinced to you that I have been a faithful friend to the army, my declaration of it at this time would be equally unavailing and improper. But as I was among the first who embarked in the cause of our common country; as I have never left your side one moment, but when called from you on public duty; as I have been the constant companion and witness of your distresses, and not among the last to feel and acknowledge your merits; as I have ever considered my own military reputation as inseparably connected with that of the army; as my heart has ever expanded with joy when I have heard its praises, and my indignation has arisen when the mouth of detraction has been opened against it; it can scarcely be supposed at this last stage of the war that I am indifferent to its interests. But how are they to be promoted? The way is plain, says the anonymous addresser: 'If war continues, remove into the unsettled country; there establish yourselves, and leave an ungrateful country to defend itself!' But who are they to defend? - our wives, our children, our farms and other property which we leave behind us? or in this state of hostile separation, are we to take the two first - the latter cannot be removed - to perish in a wilderness, with hunger, cold and nakedness?
"'If peace takes place, never sheath your swords,' says he, 'till you have obtained full and ample justice.' This dreadful alternative of either deserting our country in the extremest hour of her distress, or turning our arms against it, which is the apparent object, unless Congress can be compelled into instant compliance, has something so shocking in it, that humanity revolts at the idea. My God! what can this writer have in view, by recommending such measures? Can he be a friend to the army? Can he be a friend to this country? Rather, is he not an insidious foe - some emissary, perhaps, from New York - plotting the ruin of both, by sowing the seeds of discord and separation between the civil and military powers of the continent? And what a compliment does he pay our understandings, when he recommends measures, in either alternative, impracticable in their nature? But here, gentlemen, I will drop the curtain, because it would be as imprudent in me to assign my reasons for this opinion, as it would be insulting to your conception to suppose you stood in need of them. A moment's reflection will convince every dispassionate mind of the physical impossibility of carrying either proposal into execution. There might, gentlemen, be an impropriety in my taking notice, in this address to you, of an anonymous production; but the manner in which this performance has been introduced to the army; the effect it was intended to have, together with some other circumstances, will amply justify my observations on the tendency of this writing.
"With respect to the advice given by
the author, to suspect the man who shall recommend moderate measures
and longer forbearance, I spurn it, as every man who regards
that liberty and reveres that justice
for which we contend, undoubtedly must; for if men are to be precluded from offering their sentiments on a matter which may involve the most serious and alarming consequences that can invite the consideration of
mankind, reason is of no use to us. The freedom of speech may be taken away, and, dumb and silent, we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter. I cannot in justice to my own belief, and what l have great reason to conceive is the intention of Congress, conclude this address without giving it as my decided opinion, that that honorable body entertain exalted sentiments of the services of the army, and, from a full conviction of its merits and sufferings, will do it complete justice. That
their endeavors to discover and establish funds for this purpose have been unwearied, and will not cease till they have succeeded, I have not a doubt.
"But like all other large bodies, where there is a variety of different interests to reconcile, their determinations are slow. Why then should we distrust them? and in consequence of this distrust, adopt measures which may cast a shade over that glory which has been so justly acquired, and tarnish the reputation of an army which is celebrated through all Europe for its fortitude and patriotism? And for what is this done? - to bring the object we seek nearer? No; most certainly, in my opinion, it will cast it at a greater distance. For myself, (and I take no merit in giving the assurance, being induced to it from principles of gratitude, veracity, and justice, and a grateful sense of the confidence you have ever placed in me,) a recollection of the cheerful assistance and prompt obedience I have experienced from you, under every vicissitude of fortune, and the sincere affection I feel for an army I have so long had the honor to command, will oblige me to declare, in this public and solemn manner, that in the attainment of complete justice for all your toils and dangers, and in the gratification of every wish, so far as may be done consistently with the great duty I owe my country, and those powers we are bound to respect, you may freely command my services to the utmost extent of my abilities.
"While I give you these assurances, and pledge myself, in the most unequivocal manner, to exert whatever abilities I am possessed of in your favor, let me entreat you, gentlemen, on your part, not to take any measures which, viewed in the calm light of reason, will lessen the dignity and sully the glory you have hitherto maintained. Let me request you to rely on the plighted faith of your country, and place a full confidence in the purity of the intentions of Congress; that, previous to your dissolution as an army, they will cause all your accounts to be fairly liquidated, as directed in the resolutions which were published to you two days ago; and that they will adopt the most effectual measures in their power to render ample justice to you for your faithful and meritorious services. And let me conjure you in the name of our common country, as you value your own sacred honor; as you respect the rights of humanity; and as you regard the military and national character of America; to express your utmost horror and detestation of the man who wishes, under any specious pretences, to overturn the liberties of our country; and who wickedly attempts to open the flood-gates of civil discord, and deluge our rising empire in blood.
"By thus determining, and thus acting, you will pursue the plain and direct road to the attainment of your wishes; you will defeat the insidious designs of our enemies, who are compelled to resort from open force to secret artifice. You will give one more distinguished proof of unexampled patriotism and patient virtue, rising superior to the pressure of the most complicated sufferings; and you will, by the dignity of your conduct, afford occasion for posterity to say, when speaking of the glorious example you have exhibited to mankind, Had this day been wanting, the world had never seen the last stage of perfection to which human nature is capable of attaining.'"
Having finished his incomparable and very efficacious address, his excellency withdrew, and the convention unanimously resolved to present him their thanks, and that he be assured "that the officers reciprocate his affectionate expressions with the greatest sincerity of which the human heart is capable." After which, General Knox, Colonel Brooks, and Captain Howard were appointed a committee to prepare resolutions expressive of the business of the convention, and to report in half an hour. They reported, and the convention -
"Resolved, unanimously, That, at the commencement of the present war, the officers of the American army engaged in the service of their country from the purest love and attachment to the rights and liberties of human nature; which motives still exist in the highest degree; and that no circumstances of distress or danger shall induce a conduct that may tend to sully the reputation and glory which they have acquired, at the price of their blood and eight years' faithful services.
"Resolved, unanimously, That the army continue to have an unshaken confidence in the justice of Congress and their country, and are fully convinced that the representatives of America will not disband or disperse the army till their accounts are liquidated, the balances accurately ascertained, and adequate funds established for payment; and in this arrangement the officers expect that the half-pay, or a commutation for it, should be efficaciously comprehended.
"Resolved, unanimously, That his excellency the commander-in-chief be requested to write to his excellency the president of Congress, earnestly entreating the most speedy decision of that honorable body on the subject of our late address, which was forwarded by a committee of the army, some of whom are waiting on Congress for the result. In the alternative of peace or war, this event would be highly satisfactory, and would produce immediate tranquillity in the minds of the army, and prevent any further machinations of designing men, to sow discord between the civil and military powers of the United States.
"On motion, Resolved, unanimously, That the officers of the American army view with abhorrence, and reject with disdain, the infamous propositions contained in a late anonymous address to the officers of the army, and resent with indignation the secret attempts of some unknown persons to collect the officers together, in a manner totally subversive of all discipline and good order.
"Resolved, unanimously, That the thanks of the officers of the army be given to the committee who presented to Congress the late address of the army, for the wisdom and prudence with which they have conducted that business; and that a copy of the proceedings of this day be transmitted by the president to Major-General McDougall; and that he be requested to continue his solicitations at Congress, till the objects of his mission are accomplished."
The result of the foregoing proceedings was, by the commander-in-chief, transmitted to Congress, accompanied by an impressive letter, of which the following is an extract:
"That in the critical and perilous moment when the last-mentioned communication was made, there was the utmost danger that a dissolution of the army would have taken place, unless measures similar to those recommended had been adopted, will not admit of a doubt. That the adoption of the resolution granting half-pay for life has been attended with all the happy consequences I had foretold, so far as respected the good of the service, let the astonishing contrast between the state of the army at this instant and at the former period determine.
"And that the establishment of funds, and security of the payment of all the just demands of the army will be the most certain means of preserving the national faith and future tranquillity of this extensive continent, is my decided opinion. By the preceding remarks, it will readily be imagined that, instead of retracting and reprehending, from further experience and reflection, the mode of compensation so strenuously urged in the inclosures, I am more and more confirmed in the sentiment, and if in the wrong, suffer me to please myself with the grateful delusion. For if, besides the simple payment of their wages, a further compensation is not due to the sufferings and sacrifices of the officers, then have I been mistaken indeed. If the whole army have not merited whatever a grateful people can bestow, then have I been beguiled by prejudice, and built opinion on the basis of error. If this country should not in the event perform every thing which has been requested in the late memorials to Congress, then will my belief become vain, and the hope that has been excited void of foundation. And if, as has been suggested for the purpose of inflaming their passions, the officers of the army are to be the only sufferers by this revolution; if, retiring from the field, they are to grow old in poverty, wretchedness, and contempt; if they are to wade through the vile mire of dependency, and owe the miserable remnant of that life to charity which has hitherto been spent in honor, then shall I have learned what ingratitude is - then shall I have realized a tale which will embitter every moment of my future life. But I am under no such apprehensions; a country rescued by their arms from impending ruin, will never leave unpaid the debt of gratitude.
March 22d.-Congress at length came to the following resolutions:
"Whereas the officers of the several lines, under the immediate command of his Excellency General Washington, did by their late memorial transmitted, represent to Congress that the half-pay granted by sundry resolutions was regarded in an unfavorable light by the citizens of some of the states, who would prefer a compensation for a limited term of years, or by a sum in gross, to an establishment for life; and did, on this account, solicit a commutation of their half-pay for an equivalent, in one of the modes above mentioned, in order to remove all subjects of dissatisfaction from the minds of their fellow-citizens: And whereas Congress are desirous, as well of gratifying the reasonable expectations of the officers of the army, as of removing all objections which may exist in any part of the United States to the principles of the half pay establishment, for which the faith of the United States has been pledged; persuaded that these objections can only arise from the nature of the compensation, not from any indisposition to compensate those whose services, sacrifices, and sufferings, have so justly a title to the approbation and rewards of their country: Therefore
"Resolved, That such officers as are now in service, and shall continue therein to the end of the war, shall be entitled to receive the amount of five years' full pay in money, or securities on interest at six per cent per annum, as Congress shall find most convenient instead of the half pay promised for life, by the resolution of the 21st day of October, 1780, the said securities to be such as shall be given to the creditors of the United States. Provided, that it be at the option of the lines of the respective states to accept or refuse the same. And provided, also, that their election shall be signified to Congress, through the commander-in-chief, from the lines under his immediate command within two months; and through the commanding officer of the Southern army, from those under his command, within six months, from the date of this resolution.
" That the same computation shall extend
to the corps not belonging to the lines of the particular states,
and who are entitled to half-pay for life as aforesaid; the acceptance
or refusal to be determined by corps, and
to be signified in the same manner, and within the same time as above mentioned.
"That all officers belonging to the hospital department, who are entitled to half-pay by the resolution of the 17th day of January, 1781, may collectively agree to accept or refuse the aforesaid commutation, signifying the same through the commander-in-chief, within six months from this time.
"That such officers as have retired at different periods, entitled to half-pay for life, may, collectively in each state in which they are inhabitants, accept or refuse the same; their acceptation or refusal to be signifled by agents, authorized for this purpose, within six months from this period. That with respect to such retiring officers, the commutation, if accepted, shall be in lieu of whatever may be now due to them, since the time of their retiring from service, as well as of what might hereafter become due, and that as soon as their acceptance shall be signified, the superintendent of finance be, and he is hereby, directed to take measures for the settlement of their accounts accordingly, and to issue to them certificates bearing interest at six per cent.
"That all officers entitled to half pay for life, not included in the preceding resolution, may also collectively agree to accept or refuse the aforesaid commutation, signifying the same within six months from this time."
April 18th.-The commander-in-chief thus addressed the army on the cessation of hostilities:
"The commander-in-chief orders the cessation of hostilities, between the United States of America and the King of Great Britain, to be publicly proclaimed to-morrow at twelve o'clock, at the New Building; and that the proclamation which will be communicated herewith, be read tomorrow evening, at the head of every regiment and corps of the army; after which, the chaplains, with the several brigades, will render thanks to Almighty God for all his mercies, particularly for his overruling the wrath of man to his own glory, and causing the rage of war to cease among the nations."
Though the proclamation before alluded to extends only to the prohibition of hostilities, and not to the annunciation of a general peace, yet it must afford the most rational and sincere satisfaction to every benevolent mind, as it puts a period to a long and doubtful contest - stops the effusion of human blood - opens the prospect to a more splendid scene - and, like another morning-star, promises the approach of a brighter day than has hitherto illuminated this western hemisphere! On such a happy day - a day which is the harbinger of peace - a day which completes the eighth year of the war, it would be ingratitude not to rejoice; it would be insensibility not to participate in the general felicity.
"The commander-in-chief, far from endeavoring to stifle the feelings of joy in his own bosom, offers his most cordial congratulations on the occasion, to all the officers of every denomination, to all the troops of the United States in general, and in particular to those gallant and persevering men who had resolved to defend the rights of their invaded country so long as the war should continue; for these are the men who ought to be considered as the pride and boast of the American army, and who, crowned with well-earned laurels, may soon withdraw from the field of glory to the more tranquil walks of civil life.
"While the general, recollects the almost infinite variety of scenes through which we have passed with a mixture of pleasure, astonishment, and gratitude - whlle he contemplates the prospects before us with rapture - he cannot help wishing that all the brave men, of whatever condition they way be, who have shared in the toils and dangers of effecting this glorious revolution, of rescuing millions from the hand of oppression, and of laying the foundation of a great empire, might be impressed with a proper idea of the dignified part they have been called to act, under the smiles of Providence, on the stage of human affairs; for happy, thrice happy, shall they be pronounced hereafter, who have contributed any thing, who have performed the meanest office in erecting stupendous fabric of Freedom and Empire, on the broad basis of independency; who have assisted in protecting the rights of human nature, and establishing an asylum for the poor and oppressed of all nations and religions.
"The glorious task for which we first flew to arms being thus accomplished - the liberties of our country being fully acknowledged and firmly secured by the smiles of Heaven on the purity of our cause, and the honest exertions of a feeble people, determined to be free, against a powerful nation disposed to oppress them - and the character of those who have persevered through every extremity of hardship, suffering, and danger, being immortalized by the illustrious appellation of the Patriot Army - nothing now remains but for the actors of this mighty scene to preserve a perfect, unvarying consistency of character through the very last act; to close the drama with applause; and to retire from the military theatre with the same approbation of angels and men, which have crowned all their former virtuous actions.
"For this purpose, no disorder or licentiousness must be tolerated; every considerate and well-disposed soldier must remember it will be absolutely necessary to wait with patience till peace shall be declared, or Congress shall be enabled to take proper measures for the security of the public stores, &c. So soon as these arrangements shall be made, the general is confident there will be no delay in discharging, with every mark of distinction and honor, all the men enlisted for the war, who will then have faithfully performed their engagements with the public. The general has already interested himself in their behalf; and he thinks he need not repeat the assurances of his disposition to be useful to them on the present, and every other proper occasion. In the mean time, he is determined that no military neglects or excesses shall go unpunished while he retains the command of the army.
"The adjutant-general will have such working parties detailed to assist in making the preparation for a general rejoicing as the chief engineer, with the army, shall call for; and the quarter-master-general will also furnish such materials as he may want. The quarter-master-general will, without delay, procure such a number of discharges to be printed as will be sufficient for all the men enlisted for the war; he will please to apply to head-quarters for the form.
"An extra ration of liquor to be issued to every man to-morrow, to drink perpetual peace, independence and happiness to the United States of America."
The officers of the army, by their committee, prepared the following address to the commander-in-chief:
"Sir: It is difficult for us to express the regret we feel at being obliged again to solicit your excellency's attention and patronage. Next to the anguish which the prospect of our own wretchedness excites in our breasts; is the pain which arises from the knowledge of your anxiety on account of those men who have been the sharers of your fortunes, and have had the honor of being your companions through the various vicissitudes of the war. Nothing, therefore, but necessity could induce us to a representation which we know must give you concern.
"Your excellency has so intimate a knowledge
of the condition of the army, as to render a particular delineation
unnecessary. As you have been a witness of our sufferings during
a war uncommon in its nature, and unparalleled in many circumstances
attending it; so you are now, sir, no less a witness of the unequal
burden which has fallen on us, from the want of that provision
to which, from our assiduous and unremitting services, we conceive
we are entitled. Having recently expressed our sense of what
was due to our distress; having repeated to your excellency the
confidence we had that our accounts would be liquidated, the
balances ascertained, and adequate funds provided for payment,
previous to our being dispersed or disbanded; having seen with
pleasure the approbation which Congress gave our reliance, it
is with a mixture of astonishment and chagrin that we view the
late resolve of Congress, by which the soldiers for the war,
and a proportionate number of officers, are to be furloughed
without any one of those important objects being accomplished;
and, to complete the scene of woe, are to be compelled to leave
the army without the means of defraying the debts we have
necessarily incurred in the course of service, or even of gratifying those menials in the pittance which is their due; much less to carry with us that support and comfort to our families, of which, from our long military services, they have been deprived. No less exposed to the insults of the meanest followers of the army, than to the arrests of the sheriff - deprived of the ability to assist our families, and without an evidence that any thing is due to us for our services, and consequently without the least prospect of obtaining credit for even a temporary subsistence, till we can get into business - to what quarter can we look? We take the liberty to say this, sir, only to your excellency; and, from the sincerity of our hearts, we do it no less from a persuasion of the efficacy of your further efforts in our favor, than from the kind assurances you have been pleased to give us of your support.
"To your excellency, then, we make one
appeal, and in the most solemn manner, from that abhorrence of
oppression and injustice which first unsheathed our swords; from
the remembrance of the common dangers through which we have passed;
and from the recollection of those astonishing events which have
been effected by our united efforts - permit us to solicit your
further aid, and to entreat that the order of the 2d instant,
founded on the act of Congress of the 26th of May last, may be
suspended or varied in its operation, so far as that no officer
or soldier be obliged to receive a furlough till that honorable
body can be apprised of the wretched situation into which the
army must be plunged
by a conformity to it; that your excellency will endeavor to prevail on Congress - nay, that on the principles of common justice, you will insist that neither officer nor soldier be compelled to leave the field till a liquidation of accounts can be effected, till the balances are ascertained, certificates for the sums due given, including the commutation of half-pay to the officers and gratuity of eighty dollars to the soldiers; and till a supply of money can be furnished, sufficient to carry us from the field of glory, with honor to ourselves and credit to our country. We still wish to believe that that country, to which we have been so long devoted, will never look with indifference on the distresses of those of her sons
who have so essentially contributed to the establishment of freedom, the security of property, and the rearing of an empire.
"In the name and behalf of the generals
and officers commanding regiments and corps, in the cantonment
on Hudson's river,
"I have the honor to be, with the highest respect,
"Your Excellency's most obedient servant,
"W. HEATH, Major-General, President.
"July 5th, 1783."
To the foregoing address General Washington was pleased to make an affectionate reply, in which, among other things, he observes, that as furloughs in all services are considered as a matter of indulgence and not of compulsion - as Congress, he is persuaded, entertain the best disposition towards the army - and as he apprehends in a short time the two principal articles of complaint will be removed - he will not hesitate to comply with the wishes of the army with respect to furloughs, &c. He cannot but hope, he observes, that the notes will soon arrive; and that the settlement of accounts may be completed in a very few days. In the mean time, he shall have the honor of laying the sentiments of the generals and officers before Congress; they are expressed in so decent, candid and affecting a manner, that he is certain every mark of attention will be paid to them. In his letter to the president of Congress, inclosing the address of the officers, and his answer, his excellency observes:
"These inclosures will explain the distresses which resulted from the measures now carr ying into execution, in consequence of the resolution of the 26th of May; but the sensibility, occasioned by a parting scene, under such peculiar circumstances, will not admit of description! While I consider it a tribute of justice on this occasion to mention the temperate and orderly behavior of the whole army, and particularly the accommodating spirit of the officers, in arranging themselves to the command of the battalions, which will be composed of the three years' men; permit me to recall to mind all their former sufferings and merits, and to recommend their reasonable request to the early and favorable notice of Congress."
19th.-On the completion of eight years from the memorable battle of Lexington, the proclamation of the Congress for a cessation of hostilities was published at the door of the public building, followed by three huzzas; after which, a prayer was offered to the Almighty Ruler of the world, by the Rev. Mr. Ganno, and an anthem was performed by voices and instruments.
On the 29th of June, about eighty new-levy soldiers of the Pennsylvania line, who had been stationed at Lancaster, in defiance of their officers, marched to Philadelphia to seek a redress of their supposed grievances from the executive council of the state. They proceeded to the barracks in the city, where were quartered some other soldiers, who joined them, amounting to about three hundred in the whole. The day following, these insurgent troops, with fixed bayonets and drums beating, marched to the state-house, the seat of Congress and of the supreme executive council of Pennsylvania. They placed sentinels at every door, sent in a written message to the president and council, and threatened to let loose an enraged soldiery on them, if they were not gratified as to their demands within twenty minutes. Though no other insult was offered to Congress, this duresse continued, about three hours.
Congress resolved that the authority of the United States had been grossly insulted by the armed soldiers; that their committee confer with the executive council; and that in case it should appear to the committee that there is no satisfactory ground for expecting adequate exertions by the state of Pennsylvania for supporting the dignity of the federal government, the president, on the advice of the committee, should summon the members of Congress to meet on Thursday, the 26th, at Trenton or Princeton, and that the secretary at war should communicate to the commander-in-chief the state and disposition of the mutineers, that he might take immediate measures for suppressing them. Congress now found it expedient to separate, and reassemble at Princeton. The commander-in-chief, on receiving information of this shameful outrage, instantly detached fifteen hundred men, under command of Major-General Howe, to quell the mutiny and punish the most guilty. Before his arrival, however, they had dispersed without bloodshed. A number were brought to trial, and two sentenced to suffer death, and four others to receive corporeal punishment. The commander-in-chief, on this occasion, addressed the president of Congress in the feeling language which follows:
"While I suffer the most poignant distress in observing that a handful of men, contemptible in numbers, and equally so in point of service, if the veteran troops from the southward have not been seduced by their example, and who are not worthy to be called soldiers, should disgrace themselves and their country, as the Pennsylvania mutineers have done, by insulting the sovereign authority of the United States, and that of their own; I feel an inexpressible satisfaction, that even this behavior cannot stain the name of the American soldiery. It cannot be imputable to, or reflect dishonor on the army at large; but, on the contrary, it will, by the striking contrast it exhibits, hold up to public view the other troops in the most advantageous point of light. On taking all the circumstances into consideration, I cannot sufficiently express my surprise and indignation at the arrogance, the folly, and the wickedness of the mutineers; nor can I sufficiently admire the fidelity, the bravery and patriotism, which must for ever signalize the unsullied character of the other corps of our army. For when we consider that these Pennsylvania levies, who have now mutinied, are recruits, and soldiers of a day, who have not borne the heat and burden of the war, and who can have in reality very few hardships to complain of; and when we at the same time recollect that those soldiers who have lately been furloughed from this army are the veterans who have patiently endured hunger, nakedness and cold; who have suffered and bled without a murmur, and who, with perfect good order, have retired to their homes, without a settlement of their accounts, or a farthing of money in their pockets; we shall be as much astonished at the virtues of the latter, as we are struck with horror and detestation at the proceedings of the former; and every candid mind, without indulging ill-grounded prejudices, will undoubtedly make the proper discrimination."
On the 2d of November, 1783, General Washington issued his farewell orders to the armies of the United States. Having taken notice of the proclamation of Congress of October 18th, he said:
"It only remains for the commander-in-chief to address himself once more, and that for the last time, to the armies of the United States, however widely dispersed the individuals who composed them may be, and to bid them an affectionate, a long farewell. But before the commander-in-chief takes his final leave of those he holds most dear, he wishes to indulge himself a few moments in calling to mind a slight review of the past. He will then take the liberty of exploring with his military friends their future prospects - of advising the general line of conduct which, in his opinion, ought to be pursued, and he will conclude the address by expressing the obligations he feels himself under for the spirited and able assistance he has experienced from them in the performance of an, arduous office.
"A contemplation of the complete attainment, at a period earlier than could have been expected, of the object for which we contended, against so formidable a power, cannot but inspire us with astonishment and gratitude. The disadvantageous circumstances, on our part, under which the war was undertaken, can never be forgotten. The signal interpositions of Providence, in our feeble condition, were such as could scarcely escape the attention of the most unobserving; while the unparalleled perseverance of the armies of the United States, through almost every possible suffering and discouragement, for the space of eight long years, was little short of a standing miracle."
His closing words are: "And being now to conclude these his last public orders, to take his ultimate leave in a short time of the military character, and to bid adieu to the armies be has so long had the honor to command, he can only again offer in their behalf his recommendations to their grateful country, and his prayers to the God of armies. May ample justice be done them here, and may the choicest of Heaven's favors, both here and hereafter, attend those who, under the divine auspices, have secured innumerable blessings for others! With these wishes, and this benediction, the commander-in-chief is about to retire from service. The curtain of sepation will soon be drawn, and the military scene to him will be closed for ever." - The definitive treaty of peace was signed on the 23d of September, and Congress, having ratified it, they issued a proclamation to disband their army. This proclamation purports, "that part of the army which stood engaged to serve during the war, and by several acts of Congress had been furloughed, should be absolutely discharged after the 3d of November from said service, and that the further service in the field of the officers deranged, and on furlough, are now dispensed with, and they have permission to retire from service, no more to be called to command," &c. In their proclamation, Congress give their thanks to the army for their exertions in the cause of America and the common rights of mankind. The mode of disbanding the army was well calculated to prevent any disorders, which might have been the consequence of dismissing a large number of men in a body. The advice of their beloved commander-in-chief, and the resolves of Congress to pay and compensate them in such manner as the ability of the United States would permit, operated to keep them quiet and prevent tumult. Painful indeed was the parting scene; no description can be adequate to the tragic exhibition. Both officers and soldiers, long unaccustomed to the affairs of private life, turned loose on the world to starve and to become a prey to vulture speculators. Never can that melancholy day be forgotten when friends, companions for seven long years in joy and in sorrow, were torn asunder, without the hope of over meeting again, and with prospects of a miserable subsistence in future. Among other incidents, peculiarly affecting on this occasion, were the lamentations of women and children, earnestly entreating that those with whom they had been connected in the character of husband and father, would not withdraw from them the hand of kindness and protection, and leave them in despair; but in several instances the reply was , No; "we took you as companions during the war, and now we are destitute of the means of support, and you must provide for yourselves."
November 25th.-The British army evacuated New York, and the American troops, under General Knox, took possession of the city. Soon after, General Washington and Governor Clinton, with their suite, made their public entry into the city on horseback, followed by the lieutenant-governor and the members of council, for the temporary government of the Southern district, four abreast. General Knox and the officers of the army, eight abreast; citizens on horseback, eight abreast; the speaker of the assembly and citizens on foot, eight abreast. The governor gave a public dinner, at which the commander-in-chief, and other general officers were present. The arrangements for the whole business were so well made and executed, that the most admirable tranquillity succeeded through the day and night. On Monday the governor gave an elegant entertainment to the French ambassador, the Chevalier de la Luzerne; General Washington, the principal officers of New York state and of the army, and upwards of a hundred gentlemen, were present. Magnificent fire-works, infinitely exceeding every thing of the kind before seen in the United States, were exhibited at the Bowling Green in Broadway, on the evening of Tuesday, in celebration of the definitive treaty of peace. They commenced by a dove descending with the olive branch, and setting fire to a marron battery. On Tuesday noon, December 4th, the principal officers of the army assembled at Francis' tavern, to take a final leave of their much-loved commander-in-chief. Soon after, his excellency entered the room. His emotions were too strong to be concealed. Filling a glass, he turned to them, and said, "With a heart full of love and gratitude, I now take leave of you. I most devoutly wish that your latter days may be as prosperous and happy as your former ones have been glorious and honorable." Having drank, he added, "I cannot come to each of you to take my leave, but shall be obliged to you, if each of you will come and take me by the hand." General Knox, being nearest, turned to him. Incapable of utterance, Washington, in tears, grasped his hand, embraced and kissed him. In the same affectionate manner he took leave of each succeeding officer. In every eye was the tear of dignified sensibility; and not a word was articulated to interrupt the eloquent silence and tenderness of the scene. Leaving the room, be passed through the corps of light-infantry, and walked to White Hall, where a barge waited to convey him to Paulus' Hook. The whole company followed in mute and solemn procession, with dejected countenances, testifying feelings of delicious melancholy which no language can describe. Having entered the barge, he turned to the company, and, waving his hat, bid them a silent adieu. They paid him the same affectionate compliment, and after the barge had left them, returned in the same solemn manner to the place where they had assembled. The passions of human nature were never more tenderly agitated than in this interesting and distressful scene.
General Washington now repaired to Annapolis, where Congress were in session, to whom he resigned his commission, which eight years before he had received from this honorable body. On the 23d of December, the day appointed for the very interesting transaction, a vast concourse of spectators attended. The gallery was filled with a group of ladies, and some graced the floor of Congress. The governor, council and legislature of Maryland, several general officers, the consul general of France, and numerous citizens of Annapolis were present. Congress were seated and covered, as representatives of the sovereignty of the union; the spectators were uncovered and standing. The general was introduced to a chair by the secretary, who, after a decent interval, ordered silence. A short pause ensued, when the honorable Thomas Mifflin, the president, informed the general that "the United States in Congress assembled were prepared to receive his communications." On which, he rose with dignity, and delivered this address:
"MR. PRESIDENT: The great events on which my resignation depended, having at length taken place, I now have the honor of offering my sincere congratulations to Congress, and , of presenting myself before them, to surrender into their hands the trust committed to me, and to claim the indulgence of retiring from the service of my country.
"Happy in the confirmation of our independence and sovereignty, and pleased with the opportunity afforded the United States of becoming a respectable nation, I resign with satisfaction the appointment I accepted with diffidence - a diffidence in my abilities, to accomplish so arduous a task, which, however, was superseded by a confidence in the rectitude of our cause, the support of the supreme power of the union, and the patronage of Heaven.
"The successful termination of the war has verified the most sanguine expectations: my gratitude for the interpositions of Providence, and the assistance I have received from my countrymen, increase with every review of the momentous contest.
"While I respect my obligations to the army in general, I should do injustice to my own feelings not to acknowledge in this place the peculiar services and distinguished merit of the persons who have been attached to my person during the war. It was impossible the choice of confidential officers to compose my family should have been more fortunate. Permit me, Sir, to recommend in particular those who have continued in the service to the present moment, as worthy of the favorable notice and patronage of Congress.
"I consider it as an indispensable duty to close this last solemn act of my official life by commending the interests of our dearest country to the protection of Almighty God, and those who have the superintendence of them to his holy keeping.
" Having now finished the work assigned me, I retire from the great theatre of action; and bidding an affectionate farewell to this august body, under whose orders I have long acted, I here offer my commission, and take my leave of all the employments of public life."
This address being ended, General Washington advanced, and delivered his commission into the hands of the President of Congress, who replied as follows:
"The United States, in Congress assembled, receive with emotions too affecting for utterance the solemn resignation of the authorities under which you have led their troops with success through a perilous and doubtful war.
"Called on by your country to defend its invaded rights, you accepted the sacred charge before it had formed alliances, and while it was without friends or a government to support you.
"You have conducted the great military contest with wisdom and fortitude, invariably regarding the rights of the civil power, through all disasters and changes. You have, by the love and confidence of your fellow-citizens, enabled them to display their martial genius, and transmit their fame to posterity; you have persevered till these United States, aided by a magnanimous king and nation, have been enabled, under a just Providence, to close the war in safety, freedom, and independency; on which happy event we sincerely join you in congratulations.
"Having defended the standard of liberty in this new world; having taught a lesson useful to those who inflict, and to those who feel oppression, you retire from the great theatre of action with the blessings of your fellow-citizens; but the glory of your virtues will not terminate with your military command: it will continue to animate remotest ages. We feel, with you, our obligations to the army in general, and will particularly charge ourselves with the interest of those confidential officers who have attended your person to this affecting moment,
"We join you in commending the interests of our dearest country to the protection of Almighty God, beseeching him to dispose the hearts and minds of its citizens to improve the opportunity afforded them of becoming a happy and respectable nation; and for you we address to Him our earnest prayers, that a life so beloved may be fostered with all his care; that your days may be happy, as they have been illustrious, and that he will finally give you that reward which this world cannot give."
It is impossible to conceive that greater honor can be conferred on any man, than to receive the united acknowledgments of three millions of people, assembled their representatives, declaring to all the world that he has been the temporal saviour of his country! His mind was powerful and enlightened, his devotion to his country fervent, his sacrifices great and important, and his triumphs noble and splendid; and his memory will be blessed and immortal!
It has been estimated that the loss of lives in the various armies of the United States, during the war, is not less than seventy thousand. The numbers who died on board of the horrid prison ships of the enemy cannot be calculated. It is , however, confidently asserted, that no less than eleven thousand of our brave soldiers died on board the one called the Jersey prison-ship, only! This dreadful mortality is universally attributed to the cruel treatment which they received while crowded together in close confinement.
The loss to Great Britain is two large armies captured by the United States, exclusively of many thousands killed and taken in various actions during the war; thirteen colonies dismembered from her, and an increase of her national debt, in seven years, one hundred and twenty millions.
The United States have gained that independence and liberty for which they contended, and find their debt to be less than forty-five millions of dollars, which is short of ten millions of pounds sterling! This long-protracted warfare, waged in behalf of American freedom, is now triumphantly terminated, and a sanctuary sacred to civil and religious liberty will be opened in this western hemisphere.
Extract of a Circular Letter from his Excellency George Washington, Commander-in-Chief of the Armies of the United States of America, to the Governors of the several States.
HEAD-QUARTERS, Newburgh, June 18, 1783.
"For my own part, conscious of having acted, while a servant of the public, in the manner I conceived best suited to promote the real interests of my country; having, in consequence of my fixed belief, in some measure pledged myself to the army that their country would finally do them complete and ample justice, and not willing to conceal any instance of my official conduct from the eyes of the world, I have thought proper to transmit to your excellency the inclosed collection of papers, relative to the half-pay and commutation granted by Congress to the officers of the army.
"From these communications, my decided sentiment will be clearly comprehended, together with the conclusive reasons which induced me at an early period to recommend the adoption of this measure in the most earnest and serious manner. As the proceedings of Congress, the army, and myself are open to all, and contain, in my opinion, sufficient information to remove the prejudice and errors which may have been entertained by any, I think it unnecessary to say any thing more than just to observe, that the resolutions of Congress, now alluded to, are as undoubtedly and absolutely binding on the United States, as the most solemn acts of confederation or legislation.
"As to the idea, which I am informed has in some instances prevailed, that the half-pay and commutation are to be regarded merely in the odious light of a pension, it ought to be exploded for ever: That provision should be viewed as it really was, a reasonable compensation offered by Congress, at a time when they had nothing else to give, to officers of the army for services then to be performed: it was the only means to prevent a total dereliction of the service; it was a part of their hire - I may be allowed to say, it was the price of their blood and of y our independency; it is therefore more than a common debt; it is a debt of honor; it can never be considered as a pension or gratuity, nor canceled till it is fairly discharged."
For the following sketch I am indebted to the Hon. William Eustis, a highly respectable surgeon in the hospital department during the revolutionary war:
The mechanics of Boston and its vicinity may take a just pride in having furnished from their ranks some of the bravest and most useful officers of the revolutionary army, and, among them, no one more brave or more useful than John Crane.
In adverting to the sources whence they derived their knowledge of discipline and of service, our first object is to show, from facts and experience, the utility and importance of a well-organized militia, and to defend this invaluable institution from the reproaches of the ignorant and assuming, who would sap the foundation of the national defence; and secondly, to inspire the young mechanics with zeal in the military profession, that like their predecessors they may become the able and substantial defenders of their country.
Previous to the war of the revolution, there was in Boston a company of artillery, commanded by Captain Adino Paddock, by profession a chaise-maker. It was composed principally, if not altogether, of the mechanics of Boston, and was distinguishing by its superior discipline, by the exactness of its manoeuvres and the accuracy of its firings. Paddock had tory connexions, adhered to the British, went to England, was consulted repeatedly by the British ministry, and was invested with the military command of the island of Guernsey. In this company were raised Colonel John Crane, Colonel (now General) Ebenezer Stevens, with others, all of whose names are not recollected. Crane and Stevens were house-carpenters, Perkins was a shoe-maker, Seward a hatter, Popkins a tailor, Allen a sail-maker, Carnes a rope-maker, Lillie a cooper, Johnson a painter, Treat a cooper, Burbeck a -, Hall a mason, D. Bryant a chair-maker, Cook a butcher, Thomas a cooper, and Allen a sail-maker.
The greater part of these with others formed a regiment of artillery, not exceeded in discipline, valor, and usefulness by any regiment in service. Crane was made a major in 1776. An uneducated man, he had all the pride and ambition of a soldier. He was constitutionally bold and daring, courting danger wherever it was to be found.
In 1775, when Boston was beseiged, his station was in Roxbury. On Boston neck a breastwork was constructed, and so soon as cannon could be procured they were mounted. Crane had the command, spent a great part of his time there, and was never more delighted than when he was permitted to fire on the British intrenchment. Our stock of powder was then small. It was on this theatre that he first displayed an undaunted courage, and a knowledge of the art of gunnery, not often displayed by old artillery officers. He repeatedly dismounted the cannon in the embrasures of the British works, killing and wounding their men. After the evacuation of Boston, he marched to New York. Whenever a British ship-of war appeared in the East or North rivers, or any firing was heard, Crane was on horseback, and galloped to the scene of action. Being reproached on an occasion when he exposed himself alone, riding through Greenwich-street, under the constant broadsides of a passing ship, he replied, "The shot is not cast which is to kill me."
Not long after, a frigate run up the East river, and anochred on the Long Island side, near Corlaer's hook. Four field-pieces were ordered to annoy her. They were only six-pounders. Crane, as usual, was present, and pointed the pieces. His sight was remarkably true - his aim was sure. He had from habit and the acuteness of his vision the faculty of seeing a cannon-ball on its passage through the air. A falling shot from the ship he kenned in a direction to strike, as be thought, the lower part of his body. Not having time to change his position in any other way, he whirled himself round on one foot; the ball struck the other foot while raised in the air, carrying away the great toe and ball of the foot. Thus ended his usefulness for the campaign. He was afterwards removed to New Jersey, and, surviving the perils of a partial jaw-lock, so far recovered as to go home on furlough. He returned the next spring, and continued in service till the peace.
The nature of this work will not allow us to follow him through the remainder of his career; but we cannot refrain from stating a closing anecdote, illustrative of his independent spirit. He had been among the number of those who thought the army had been neglected by the country, and spake as he felt, indignantly, at the treatment they had received. A board of general and field officers, with two hospital surgeons, were appointed to examine the wounded officers and soldiers in camp at the close of the war, and to report the rate of compensation to which they were severally entitled. A friend and brother-officer, who well knew the nature of his wound, waited on Colonel Crane, represented to him that, on his return to private life, his activity of mind and body would lead him to some kind of labor, and that having lost the ball of his foot, the bones would come through the cicatrix, and his wound open again, asking the favor of him to walk over, and suffer his foot to be inspected. Stamping the wounded foot on the floor, he replied, indignantly, "No sir; they never shall say that I eat their bread when I have done serving them."
He entered afterwards on active and laborious business, and prospered for a number of years, met with adverse circumstances, his wound broke out again, he could no longer labor. After many years he came to the friend who had admonished him of the consequences of his wound, and said to him, with tears in his eyes, "My friend, I am now a humbled man, you may do with me as you please." He was immediately placed on the pension-list, but did not live a year to enjoy his pension.
The important services of Major Stevens, who commanded the artillery under General Gates, in the campaign of 1777, are well known.
There are anecdotes relative to many others of them, illustrative of their bravery in the field, and of their magnanimity and general usefulness during the war which we have not room to particularize. One, however, we cannot in justice omit. David Bryant, bred a chair-maker in Boston, and afterwards a lieutenant in the artillery, was a man of small stature, but remarkable for the strictness of discipline which he observed from the earliest period of the war. At the close of the battle of Brandywine, he was hard pressed by the enemy, and was mortally wounded. His men hovered round him to take care of him. He addressed them in the following words: "My lads, it is over with me; leave me, but don't leave the pieces." His words, were electric; they saved their pieces, and brought him off on the trail. He died in the American camp.
To the above catalogue of worthies may be added Colonel Paul Revere; his occupation was that of a gold-smith. He was a very active and influential patriot at the commencement of the revolution, associated with a number of mechanics, who watched with, a vigilant eye every movement of the British, and promptly communicated intelligence to the proper authority. In the evening preceding the 19th of April, 1775, Colonel Revere was one of the first who discovered that a British detachment was ordered an expedition into the country, and with the utmost despatch repaired to Lexington, spreading the alarm among the militia, and giving notice to Messrs. Hancock and Adams, who were then at the house of the clergyman in that town, that they might escape the impending danger. Colonel Revere was afterward appointed to command a regiment of artillery in the militia, and was on the unfortunate Penobscot expedition in the summer of 1779. He was through life esteemed for unimpeachable integrity, attachment to correct political principles, and as a useful citizen. He died in Boston, in 1818, in his eighty-fourth year.
Dr. John Thomas is a respectable regimental surgeon. He possesses a remarkable faculty of mimicry, and no person in New England can tell a Yankee story with more genuine humor. An occurrence at head-quarters is thus related by a gentleman who was present. General Washington seldom smiles; I never saw him laugh but once; it was after the preliminaries of peace were signed, and at a Yankee story told by Dr. Thomas. The doctor being invited to dine at head-quarters, one of the aids requested the general's permission for him to repeat the dialogue between two New England men who had visited the French camp. In doing this, he repeated quaint speeches and remarks in a manner so inimitably ludicrous, that no one but his excellency could contain his gravity. At length he added, "What, said Jonathan, do you think Chambeau's soldiers call a hat? the tarnation fools, they call it a chappeau! Why, and be darn'd to them, can't they call it a hat and adone with it?" The general could no longer refrain; he burst into a fit of laughter. There is not perhaps another man who can boast of exciting laughter in General Washington.
Captain Houdin, commonly pronounced Udang, is a Frenchman of singular manners and character, and ludicrous in his personal appearance, being rather tall, but slender; his features are sharp and irregular, complexion dark, with small jet-black eyes. His long hair is brought in a braid to the top of his head, which is constantly covered with powder; he is never seen without his small-sword, nor in conversation without a display of vanity and affectation. He converses in broken English, with rapid articulation, often perverting words from their legitimate meaning. Dr. Thomas and Udang have at command an inexhaustible fund of merriment and humor, and Udang once said to the doctor, "You can take me off better than I can myself." On a return from Boston, in 1780, he related some incidents that occurred to him, which have frequently been repeated to aid in festive mirth. Some wag, knowing his vanity and affectation of consequences, had employed a negro wench to make a familiar address to him in some public place. This was a severe mortification, and destroyed all the comforts of his visit. In answer to an inquiry how he liked Boston, this vexation was uppermost in his mind. "I like Boston very well, all but one d-d madam nig." On being pressed further, he related the particulars with all the action and irritation that the reality occasioned. One gentleman said to me, Will you take a walk to the market - twas one very flne market-de poult, de geese, ebery ting - one very fine assortiment - dere it was I hear somebody say behind, 'How do you do, Captain Udang?' I looked round; one black bish say again, making reverence, 'I hope you be well, Captain Udang.' Who be you speak to me in de market? 'You forget,' she say, 'I was your sweetheart in '77.' Hol you tongue, you d-d rascal bish. You speak to me in de market, when I am wid gentlemen, I cut off your head, I will, you rascal wench. I was so asham, I put de hat over my eyes and run right home tro five tousand people. Next day some gentlemen tell me who own the black bish dat spoke to me in de market, and advise me to tell de mistress. I go to the house, and knock, knock - by by door open, 'How do you do, Captain Udang' - de same black bish rascal dat spoke to me in de market. Who own you? Tell you mistress - one gentleman officer wish to see her. Madam, say I, do you own dat d-d madam nig, dat spoke to me in de market. She say, if you had not been too familiar with my negro wench, she would not spoke to you in de market. I say, 'You be one d-d rascal yourself, madam."'
There is, among many good anecdotes related of Monsieur, one that shows the simplicity of the man, and is characteristic of the times. Before and at the period of the adoption of the federal constitution, great excitement existed in many parts of the country against many of its leading provisions, much mischief was predicted, and the irritated spirit of party could discern nothing but the most odious features and destructive tendencies. Houdin, on whom principles and opInions set rather loosely, was a zealous anti-federalist. After the new government was adopted, he was among the first to apply to the war department for an office. With no very favorable indication in his manner, General Knox inquired, "Do you expect patronage under that system of government that you have every where assailed? "Ah, general," says Monsieur, "I tot it was popular; I meant noting." This honest simplicity availed him with the frank and generous mind of Knox, more than a hypocritical, canting affectation of patriotism. He received the appointment of conductor of military stores, which he held till his death.