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but, so great was the number of sick and wounded, that there were only three thousand eight hundred capable of bearing
Congress honoured General Washington, count de Row chambeau, count de Grasse, the officers of the different
corps, and the men under their command, with thanks, for their services in the reduction of lord Cornwallis. The whole project was conceived with profound wisdom, and the incidents of it had been combined with singular propriety. It is not therefore wonderful, that, from the remarkable coincidence in all its parts, it was crowned with unvaried success.
General Washington, on the day after the surrender, ordered, “ that those who were under arrest, should be pardoned and set at liberty.” His orders closed as follows: “Divine service shall be performed to-morrow in the different brigades and divisions. The commander-in-chief recommends, that all the troops that are not upon duty, do assist at it with a serious deportment, and that sensibility of heart, which the recollection of the surprising and particular interposition of Providence in our favour claims."
The interesting event of capturing a second royal army, produced strong emotions, which broke out in all the varieiy of ways, in which the most rapturous joy usually displays itself.
After the capture of lord Cornwallis, Washington, with the greater part of his army, returned to the vicinity of New York.
In the preceding six years, he had been accustomed to look forward, and to provide for all possible events. In the habit of struggling with difficulties, his courage at all times grew with the dangers which surrounded him. In the most disastrous situations, he was far removed from despair. On the other hand, those fortunate events which induced many to believe that the revolution was accomplished, never ope rated on him, so far as to relax his exertions or precautions. Though complete success had been obtained by the allied arms in Virginia, and great advantages had been gained in 1781, in the Carolinas, yet Washington urged the necessity of being prepared for another campaign. In a letter to gene ral Greene, he observed, “I shall endeavour to stimulate congress to the best improvement of our late success, by taking the most vigorous and effectual measures to be ready for an
early and decisive campaign the next year. My greatest fear is, that, viewing the stroke in a point of light which may too much magnify its importance, they may think our work too nearly closed, and fall into a state of languor and relaxation. To prevent this error, I shall employ every means in my power, and, if unhappily we sink into this fatal mistake, no part of the blame shall be mine."
1782 AND 1783. Prospects of peace. Languor of the states. Discontents of
the army. General Washington prevents the adoption of rash measures.
Some new levies in Pennsylvania, mutiny, and are quelled. Washington recommends measures for the preservation of independence, peace, liberty, and happiness. Dismisses his army. Enters New York.
Takes leave of his officers. Settles his accounts. Repairs to Annapolis. Resigns his commission. Returns to Mount Vernon, and resumes his agricultural pursuits.
The military establishment of 1782, was settled by congress with unusual celerity, shortly after the surrender of lord Cornwallis; but no exertions of America alone could do more than confine the British to the sea-coast.
To dislodge them from their strong holds in New York and Charleston, occupied the unceasing attention of Washington. While he was concerting plans for further combined operations with the French, and at the same time endeavouring, by circular letters, to rouse his countrymen to spirited measures, intelligence arrived, that several motions for discontinuing the American war, had been debated in the British Parliament, and nearly carried.--Fearing that this would relax the exertions of the states, he added, in his circular letters to their respective governors, “I have perused these debates with great attention and care, with a view, if possible, to penetrate their real design ; ad, upon the most mature delim beration I can bestow, I am obliged to declare it as my candid opinion, that the measure, in all its views, so far as it re
spects America, is merely delusory, having no serious intention to admit our independence upon its true principles ; but is calculated to produce a change of ministers to quiet the minds of their own people, and reconcile them to a continuance of the war, while it is meant to amuse this country with a false idea of peace, to draw us from our connexion with France, and to lull us into a state of security and inactivity ; which taking place, the ministry will be left to prosecute the war in other parts of the world, with greater vigour and effect. Your excellency will permit me on this occasion to observe, that, even if the nation and parliament are really in earnest to obtain peace with America, it will undoubtedly be wisdom in us to meet them with great caution and circumspection, and by all means to keep our arms firm in our hands, and instead of relaxing one iota in our exertions, rather to spring forward with redoubled vigour, that we may take the advantage of every favourable opportunity, until our wishes are fully obtained. No nation yet suffered in treaty, by preparing, even in the moment of negociation, most vigorously for the field.”
Early in May, sir Guy Carleton, who had succeeded sir Henry Clinton as commander-in-chief of the British forces in America, arrived in New York, and announced, in successive communications, the increasing probability of a speedy peace, and his disapprobation of further hostilities, which he observed, “could tend only to multiply the miseries of individuals, without a possible advantage to either nation."
The cautious temper of Washington gradually yielded to increasing evidence that the British were seriously inclined to terminate the war; but, in proportion as this opinion prevailed, the exertions of the states relaxed. Not more than eighty thousand dollars had been received from them all, when the month of August was far advanced. Every expenditure yielded to the subsistence of the army. A suf ficiency of money could scarcely be obtained for that indispensably necessary purpose. To pay the troops, was impossible.
Washington, whose sagacity anticipated events, foresaw with concern, the consequences likely to result from the tardiness of the states to comply with the requisitions of congress. These had been ample. Eight millions of dollars had been required to be paid in four equal quarterly instalmente,
for the service of the year 1782. In a confidential letter to the secretary of war, Washington observed, “I cannot help fearing the result of reducing the army, where I see such a number of men goaded by a thousand stings of refleetion on the past, and of anticipations on the future, about to be turned into the world, soured by penury, and what they call the ingratitude of the public; involved in debts without one farthing of money to carry them home, after having spent the flower of their days, and many of them their patrimonies, in establishing the freedom and independence of their country, and having suffered every thing which human nature is capable of enduring on this side of death. I repeat it, when I reflect on these irritable circumstances, I cannot avoid apprehending that a train of evils will follow, of a very serious and distressing nature.
" I wish not to heighten the shades of the picture, so far as the real life would justify me in doing, or I would giv. anecdotes of patriotism and distress, which have scarcely ever been paralleled, never surpassed in the history of mankind. But you may rely upon it, the patience and long sufferance of this army are almost exhausted, and there never was so great a spirit of discontent, as at this instant. While in the field, it may be kept from breaking out into acts of outrage; but when we retire into winter-quarters, unless the storm be previously dissipated, I cannot be at ease respecto ing the consequences. It is high time for peace.”
These apprehensions were well founded. To watch the discontents of his troops, the American chief continued in camp after they had retired into winter-quarters, though there was no prospect of any military operations which might require his presence. Soon after their retirement, the of ficers presented a petition to congress, respecting their pay, and deputed a committee of their body to solicit their interest, while under consideration.
Nothing had been decided on the claims of the army, when intelligence, in March, 1783, arrived, that preliminary ad eventual articles of peace, between the United States and Great Britain, had been signed on the 30th of the preceding November, in which the independence of the United States was amply recognized. In the general joy excited by this event, the army partook; but one unpleasant idea mingled itself with their exultations. They suspected, that, as justice
had nut been aone to them while their services were indispensable, they would be less likely to obtain it when they ceased to be necessary. Their fears on this account were increased by a letter which about the same time was received from their committee in Philadelphia, announcing that the objects which they had solicited from congress had not yet been obained.—Smarting as they were under past sufferings, and present wants, their exasperation became violent, and almost aniversal. While they were brooding over their gloomy prospects, and provoked at the apparent neglect with which they had been treated, an anonymous paper was circulated, proposing a meeting of the general and field officers on the next day. The avowed object of this meeting was to consider the late letter from their committee to congress, and what measures should be adopted to obtain that redress of grievances which they seemed to have solicited in vain. On the same day, the following anonymous address was privately circulated.
" To the Officers of the Army. 6 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 Aatters himself that the plain language of sincerity 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 field with the necessity that called him to it, and not till then; not till the enemies of his country, the slaves of pow. er, 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 objeet 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 upon