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that moment dates the long intimacy which was destined to exercise so marked an influence on the fortunes of the future republic.
It had become apparent, that the Americans were not yet in a situation, either by numbers or discipline, to contend successfully with the enemy in the open field, and that their true policy was to hold him in check, or draw him on in detachments, as circumstances might suggest, and to take advantage of their superior knowledge of the country, to harass and perplex him, without risking a general engagement. This cautious policy, which was often attacked and sneered at, until it was justified by the results, was now adopted by Washington, and acquired for him the name of the American Fabius.
As the enemy advanced, he retreated to White Plains, and it was here that Hamilton first had the opportunity of distinguishing himself in action. With two fieldpieces, planted on a ledge of rock, he had the honour of offering an obstinate resistance to a large force of British and Hessians, and, although ultimately driven from his position, excited the admiration of the whole army, by his cool courage, and the precision and steadiness of his fire. In the subsequent winter-campaign (one of the most critical of the
war)-in which Washington had to retreat from post to post, and river to river, with his ragged and weather-beaten troops often exposed to the extremity of cold and hunger, and supposed to be on the eve of total destruction, till he turned suddenly on the enemy, and gained the battle of Trenton—the conduct of Hamilton, on every occasion of difficulty and danger, confirmed and fully established his high military reputation, and earned for him from his comrades in arms the epithet of the Little Lion. Two descriptions of his personal appearance at this time remain on record, and may not be uninteresting to the reader.
« Well do I recollect the day,” says one, “when Hamilton's company marched into Princeton. It was a model of discipline; at its head was a boy, and I wondered at his youth; but what was my surprise, when, struck with his slight figure, he was pointed out to me as that Hamilton, of whom we had already heard so much !”
I noticed,” says another veteran, speaking of the retreat through the Jerseys, “a youth, a mere stripling, small, slender, almost delicate in frame, marching beside a piece of artillery, with a cocked hat pulled down over his eyes, apparently lost in thought, with his hand resting on the cannon, and every now and then patting it as he mused, as if it were a favourite horse, or a pet plaything."
It was this campaign, which enabled Hamilton not only to prove his own merits as a soldier, but also to form a true estimate of the character of his chief. He saw him contending with every variety of peril and annoyance, not the least of which was the illconcealed envy of some of his principal officers. Already, a party had arisen, to oppose and thwart the designs of the great leader, on whose genius and virtue depended the safety of America. Already, it was whispered in the camp, that retreating was the fashion, and that the frequent changes of position were the result of indecision of mind. An attempt was made to set up a rival, in the person of General Charles Lee, whose rashness and obstinacy soon after led to his own capture by the enemy. Washington had the mortification of knowing, that some of those in whom he had placed unlimited confidence, were engaged in these unworthy intrigues, and, although nothing could shake his calm resolution and magnanimity, he was yet deeply sensitive to the treachery and unkindness of friends. Through all this period of trial, Hamilton seems to have taken the side of his general, and, notwithstanding his youth, he had no doubt considerable influence with his companions in the service. Of the campaign itself he has left his testimony, that it presented the striking spectacle of a powerful enemy, "straitened within narrow limits by the phantom of a military force, and never permitted to transgress those limits with impunity —and that, throughout that memorable winter,“ skill supplied the place of means, and disposition was the substitute for an army.
In the early part of 1777, when the American head-quarters were fixed at Morristown, and Hamilton's little company had been reduced, by the vicissitudes of the war, to twenty-five men only, he received an invitation from Washington to join the staff. Having accepted the offer, he was appointed aide-decamp, with the rank of lieutenant-colonel, and, although he found older and more experienced officers in the military family of the chief, he soon became the most valued and trusted of them all. It is greatly to their credit and his, that no jealousy or ill-temper seems ever to have disturbed his intercourse with his fellows. From the first, his popular manners made him a favourite with the other members of the staff; and Colonel Harrison in particular, who was known as the Old Secretary, at once gave him his friendship, and treated him with unfailing and almost paternal kindness. Washington himself admitted him to the closest intimacy, and nothing can be more indicative of the terms on which Hamilton was with his commander, than the fact, that the latter used often to address him by the endearing appellation of “My Boy!”
The duties of an aide-de-camp must vary indefinitely with various circumstances. In some cases, during intervals of quiet, they amount to little more than assisting the general in his hospitalities and social relations. In others, they consist of confidential services, on which may depend the event of a battle, or the safety of a state. In the present instance, what Washington chiefly required was the pen of a ready writer, to aid in his multifarious and important correspondence. He had to be in constant communication, not only with the Congress, whose commission he held, but with the authorities of the different States, from which his army was recruited with his own officers, frequently at a distance from head-quarters—with the English generals, on matters of exchange, treatment of prisoners, and the likeand, at a later period, with military allies, and the