« AnteriorContinuar »
time, permit me to observe, that I am not myself sensible of the expediency of keeping more than one, with the detached regiments in the neighbourhood of this place.... When I preferred your opinion to other considerations, I did not imagine you would pitch upon a brigade little more than half as large as the others, and finding this to be the case, I indispensably owe it to my duty to desire, in his Excellency's name, that another may go instead of the one intended, and without loss of time."-And to General Putnam, who also hesitated to send forward some troops, which had been ordered to join the main army, he wrote still more emphatically, as follows:-"I cannot forbear confessing, that I am astonished and alarmed beyond measure, to find that all his Excellency's views have been hitherto frustrated, and that no single step of those I mentioned to you has been taken, to afford him the aid he absolutely stands in need of, and by delaying which the cause of America is put to the utmost conceivable hazard. . . . I now, sir, in the most explicit terms, by his Excellency's authority, give it as a positive order from him, that all the Continental troops under your command may be immediately marched to E 2
King's Ferry, there to cross the river, and hasten to reinforce the army under him.”
This bold and determined attitude, which was probably little expected in one so young, had the desired effect; and he now lent his personal aid in pushing on the reinforcements as fast as possible. It was when exhausted by his efforts, and suffering under severe illness, that he had the satisfaction of receiving the unqualified approbation of his chief. "I approve entirely," wrote Washington, "of all the steps you have taken, and have only to wish, that the exertions of those you have had to deal with had kept pace with your zeal and good intentions."— And when Putnam complained of Hamilton's injurious reflections, Washington answered :urgency of Colonel Hamilton's letter was owing to his knowledge of our wants in this quarter, and to a certainty that there was no danger to be apprehended from New York, if you sent all the Continental troops that were then with you, and waited to replace them by those expected down the river. I cannot but say there has been more delay in the march of the troops than I think necessary; and I could wish that in future my orders may be im
mediately complied with, without arguing upon propriety of them. If any accident ensues from obeying them, the fault will lie upon me, and not upon you."
It was indeed high time for Washington to assert his authority. A cabal had been formed to deprive him virtually of his command; and, notwithstanding the victory of Saratoga, this was perhaps the darkest hour for America of the whole war. Whilst Howe, reinforced by Lord Cornwallis, was advancing against him, and Forts Mifflin and Mercer fell into the hands of the enemy, Washington, waiting in vain for the expected succours, which might have enabled him to change the fortune of the campaign, was exposed to every kind of intrigue and calumny. In Congress, as well as in the army, he was attacked with bitter and shameless ingratitude, and every art was used to exalt General Gates at his expense. General Conway, an Irishman by birth, who had been for some years in the service of France, appears to have taken a prominent part in these plots. It was he who wrote to Gates :-" Heaven has determined to save your country, or a weak general and bad counsellors would have ruined it!"-which passage, coming to the knowledge of Washington, was by
him sent back to Conway without further comment. Yet, although this incident was a matter of notoriety, Conway was soon after appointed to the important office of inspector-general, and Gates himself was made President of the Board of War, with the evident intention of checking, if not superseding, the commander-in-chief. As Washington retired to his dreary winter-quarters at Valley Forge, about twenty miles from Philadelphia, with his poor, half-famished army, ragged and shoeless, and marking their footsteps with their blood-left almost entirely without money, clothing, or provisions, and unable to obtain any assistance from Congress, who now seemed rather inclined to counteract his measures-his rivals were taunting him with incapacity, and expressing their well-feigned astonishment, that he did not keep the open field. Sadly and wearily must he have looked round on the forlorn prospect; but his great soul never failed him, and neither neglect, nor insults, any more than toil and danger, could move the iron resolution, which was yet to triumph over all difficulties.
In this conjuncture, however, the pen of Hamilton was once more of essential service. Scarcely recovered from his late indisposition, we find him
again at Washington's side, engaged in a correspondence, that exposed and confounded the machinations of his enemies. Lafayette too, whom the conspirators had sought to seduce to their faction, rejected all their offers, and stood firmly and consistently by his chief. And, whatever might be the case with general officers, and members of Congress, nothing could shake the faith of the soldiers in their leader. They loved, and honoured, and trusted him, in the midst of their own sufferings and privations, and thereby paid an unconscious tribute to the moral influence of wisdom and virtue. In the end, the cabal was utterly defeated, and most of its adherents sank into obscurity and oblivion; but, while it lasted, it was fraught with incalculable dangers, and tried to the utmost the temper and judgment of Washington, as well as the fidelity and devotion of his friends.
To Hamilton, it was already apparent, that a marked degeneracy had taken place in Congress. It was no longer the same body which, at its first meeting, commanded the admiration of Chatham. The spirit of intrigue had infected its members; favouritism and injustice, caprice and indecision, improvidence on the one hand, and false economy on the other, began to characterize all their proceedings. The