LATE SURGEON IN THE AMERICAN ARMY.
GOVERNOR OF MASSACHUSETTS.
It is with peculiar felicity that your Excellency is recognized as one among the few survivors of that heroic band who have been crowned with military honors for glorious achievements, at an era when our republic was in its infancy, and in peril for its existence.
This production, though aspiring not to the dignified title of history, may revive in your recollection scenes and events of the deepest interest, in which you nobly participated and may afford to the rising generation lessons of instruction and motives for gratitude to their progenitors, when we shall be at rest.
Long may those public virtues and that philanthropy which are so eminently your characteristics, continue to cement the love and gratitude of the people, and may the benedictions of Heaven be your final reward!
With sentiments of profound veneration for the patriotic warrior and statesman, this work is dedicated, by
Your Excellency's obedient and very humble servant
PLYMOUTH, January lst, 1823.
IT is through your earnest solicitations, my dear friends, that I commit to public inspection the crude fragments recorded in my Military Journal, kept during the American Revolutionary War. The subordinate station which I sustained did not permit access to the great source from which all important events derived their origin; nor was I made acquainted with the views and motives of action. The transactions and occurrences which I shall relate, though of minor import, and penned for temporary amusement, are nevertheless of a nature too deeply interesting to be consigned to oblivion. No circumstance pertaining to our country's emancipation, but should be embalmed in the memory of our children, and transmitted to the latest posterity, as among the most interesting transactions recorded in the annals of man. When we contemplate the vastly-extended consequences of our revolution, it will be conceded that every incident respecting its rise and progress, and the renowned patriots and heroes by whom it was achieved, is well worthy of perpetual remembrance. With these are associated the primary principles of the rights of man, which so successfully prevailed at the period of our country's infancy. Those PRINCIPLES, which are the great spring of action in the bosom of the honest patriot, spurn the power and paralyze the hearts of tyrants. The contents of these sheets refer more to details of military manoeuvres and the internal police of camps, than to projects and events which decide the fate of nations: they may, however, afford amusement to the inquisitive mind, and, to the rising generation, precepts not altogether destitute of importance and useful instruction. They will disclose some interesting particulars, not generally known, and may serve to augment the stock of information developing the fatal policy of the British government, as displayed on the theatre of her American colonies. This production may, moreover, subserve the purpose of an epitome of the history of the revolutionary contest, and abridge in some measure the labor of the youthful mind in the study of the more elaborate and technical histories of that ever-memorable epoch. With this view, I have prefixed a short sketch of interesting transactions prior to the actual commencement of hostilities. "History," says a late elegant writer, "presents no struggle for liberty which has in it more of the moral sublime than that of the American revolution. It has been of late years too much forgotten in the sharp contentions of party; and he who endeavors to withdraw the public mind from these debasing conflicts, and to fix it on the grandeur of that epoch, which, magnificent in itself, begins now to wear the solemn livery of antiquity, as it is viewed through the deepening twilight of almost half a century, certainly performs a meritorious service, and can scarcely need a justification."*
It may be deemed reproachful to our country that nearly half a century has elapsed since the American colonies were emancipated from British thraldom, and that we are yet unfurnished with proper biographical memoirs of the renowned patriots and heroes whose unparalleled efforts, under Providence, achieved the inestimable blessings of liberty and freedom. No characters, assuredly, are more worthy to excite the curiosity and gratitude of posterity than those who contributed so largely to the establishment of our invaluable civil and religious privileges under a republican constitution. The immortal chieftain, indeed, and his illustrious compeer, General Greene, can receive no additional memorials from any labors in my power to bestow. I might incur the imputation of arrogance were I to imagine myself competent to the duty of portraying in a just light the characters of those whose revered names are introduced into the appendix of this work. I can only claim the merit of having exerted my best efforts to procure documents and assistance, and to illustrate their qualities under the guidance of the legitimate principles of impartiality and justice. Should posterity inquire why their ancestors, destitute of military education or experience, abandoned their peaceful abodes to encounter the perils of uncertain warfare, let them be told it was not to execute the mandates of a tyrant in subjugating their fellow-men, but it was in defence of our most precious rights and privileges; it was a display of that genuine patriotism and true glory which it is ever most honorable to venerate and cherish., While their own hearts glow with patriotic fervor, let them reflect that true glory consists in the love of peace and the culture of benevolence and good-will to men. Let their souls hold in detestation every species of warfare, save that which may secure and defend the invaluable heritage which their fathers have bequeathed them, and for which their memories should be embalmed with the incense of gratitude.
N. B. Should the reader conceive that in detailing the ravages and aggressions of the British army, I have indulged in language of asperity, inconsistent with that urbanity and good-fellowship which it is desirable should be cultivated between the two nations at the present day, it may be observed that this is but a feeble specimen of the belligerent language employed by writers at that period when the wrathful passions were reciprocally excited and continually aggravated.
*Silliman's Tour from Hartford to Quebec, 1820.