« EdellinenJatka »
manent army. His experience enabled him to anticipate the evils that must ensue at the expiration of the period for which the present troops were engaged, and he bent the whole force of his mind to induce Congress seasonably to adopt measures to prevent them. In a letter to the Preó sident of Congress, dated Feb. 9, he entered thus fully into the subject.
“ The disadvantages attending the limited inlistment of troops, are too apparent to those who are eye witnesses of them, to render any animadversions necessary; but to gentlemen at a distance, whose attention is engrossed by a thousand important objects, the case may be otherwise.
“ That this cause precipitated the fate of the brave, and much to be lamented General Montgomery, and brought on the defeat which followed thereupon, I have not the most distant doubt: For, had he not been apprehensive of the troops leaving him at so important a crisis, but continued the blockade of Quebec, a capitulation (from the best accounts I have been able to collect) must inevitably have followed. And, that we were not at one time obliged to dispute these lines, under disadvantageous circumstances ( proceeding from the same cause, to wit, the troops disbanding themselves before the militia could be got in). is to me a matter of wonder and astonishment; and proves that General Howe was either unacquainted with our situation, or restrained by his instructions from putting any thing to a hazard till bis reinforcements should arrive.
“ The instance of General Montgomery (I mention it because it is a striking one; for a number of others might be adduced) proves, that instead of having men to take advantage of circumstances, you are in a manner compelled, right or wrong, to make circumstances yield to a secondary consideration. Since the first of December, I lave been devising every means in my power to secure these encampments; and though I am sensible that we never have, since that period, been able to act upon the offensive, and at times not in a condition to defend, yet the cost of marching home one set of men, bringing in another, the havoc and waste occasioned by the first, the repairs necessary for the second, with a thousand incidental charges and inconveniences which have arisen, and which it is scarce possible to recollect or describe, amount to near as much as the keeping up a respectable body of troops the whole time, ready for any emergency, would have done. To this may be added, that you never can have a well disciplined army.
“ To bring men well acquainted with the duties of a soldier, requires time. To bring them under proper discipline and subordination, not only requires time, but is a work of great difliculty; and in this army, where there is so little distinction between the officers and soldiers, requires an uncommon degree of attention. To expect then, the same service from raw and undisciplined recruits, as frono veteran soldiers, is to expect what never did, and perhaps never will happen. Men who are familiarized to danger, meet it without shrinking; whereas those who have never seen service, often apprehend danger where no danger is. Three things prompt men to a regular discharge of their duty in time of action--natural bravery, hope of reward, and fear of punishment. The two first are common to the untutored and the disciplined soldier; but the latter most obviously distinguishes the one from the other. A coward, when taught to believe that if he break his ranks and abandon his colours, he will be punished with death by his own party, will take his chance against the enemy; but a man who thinks little of the one, and is fearful of the other, acts from present feelings, regardless of consequences.
Again, men of a day's standing will not look forward ; and, from experience we find, that as the time approaches for their discharge, they grow careless of their arms, ammunition, camp utena sils, &c. Nay, even the barracks themselves, lay us under additional expense in providing for every fresh set, when we find it next to impossible to procure such articles as are absolutely necessary in the first instance. To this
To this may be added, the seasoning which new recruits must have to a camp, and the loss consequent thereupon. But this is not all: Men, engaged for a short, limited time only, have the officers too much in their power: For to obtain a degree of popularity, in order to induce a second inlistment, a kind of familiarity takes place, which brings on a relaxation of discipline, unlicensed furloughs, and other indulgences, incompatible with order and good goveroment; by which means, the latter part of
the time for which the soldier was engaged, is spent in undoing, what you were aiming to inculcate in the first:
“ To go into an enumeration of all the evils we have experienced in this late great change of the army, and the expenses incidental to it—to say nothing of the hazard we have run, and must run, between the discharging of one army and the inlistment of another, unless an enormous expense of militia be incurred—would greatly exceed the bounds of a letter. What I have already taken the liberty of saying, will serve to convey a general idea of the matter; and therefore I shall, with all due deference, take the liberty to give it as my opinion, that if the Congress have any rea son to believe that there will be occasion for troops another year, and consequently of another inlistment, they would save money, and have infinitely better troops, if they were, even at a bounty of twenty, thirty, or more dollars, to engage the men already inlisted, till January next; and such others as may be wanted to complete the establishment, for, and dnring the war. I will not undertake to say, that the men can be had on these terms; but I am satisfied that it will never do to let the matter alone, as it was last the time of service was near expiring. The hazard is too great in the first place; in the next, the trouble and perplexity of disbanding one army, and raising another at the same instant, and in such a critical situation as the last was, is scarcely in the power of words to describe, and
such as no man, who has experienced it once, will ever undergo again.”
Unhappily, the reasons which first induced Congress to adopt the plan of short inlistments, still had influence on that body, and on many of the general officers of the army; nor were they convinced of their error, but by the most distressing experience.
Feb. 14.] The ice now became sufficiently strong for General Washington to march his forces upon it, into Boston; and he was himself inclined to risk a general assault upon the British posts, although he had not powder to make any extensive use of his artillery; but his general officers in council voted against the attempt, with whose decision he reluctantly acquiesced. In his communication of their opinion to Congress, he observed, “ Perhaps the irksomeness of my situation may have given different ideas to me, from those which influence the judgment of the gentlemen whom I consulted, and might have inclined me to put more to hazard than was consistent with prudence. If it had this effect, I am not sensible of it, as I endeavoured to give the subject all the consideration a matter of such importance required. True it is, and I cannot help acknowledging, that I have many disagreeable sensations on account of my situation ; for, to have the eyes of the whole continent fixed on me, with anxious expectation of hearing of some great event, and to be restrained in every military operation, for the want of the necessary means to carry it on, is not very pleasing ;' espe