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ton to prevent or delay it. He had therefore detached largely from his army before Boston, and sent Gen. Lee to take the command, and after pro. viding for the security of Boston, proceeded soon after the evacuation thereof with the main army to New York, and made every preparation in his power for its defence. Considerable time was allowed for this purpose ; for Gen. Howe, instead of pushing directly for New York, retired to Halifax with the forces withdrawn from Boston. He there waited for the promised reinforcements from England; but, impatient of delay, sailed without them for New York, and took possession of Staten
Island in the latter end of June. He was soon , followed by his brother, Admiral Howe, and their whole force was assembled about the middle of July, and in apparent readiness for opening the campaign. Before hostilities were commenced, the British General and Admiral, in their quality of civil commissioners for effecting a reunion between Great Britain and the Colonies, made an attempt at negotiation. To introduce this business, ihey sent a flag ashore with a letter addressed to George Washington, Esq. This he refused to receive, as not being addressed to him with the title due to his rank, and at the same time wrote to Congress, “ That he would not, on any occasion, sacrifice essentials to punctilio, but in this instance, deem. ed it a duty to his country to insist on that respect which, in any other than a public view, he would willingly have waved.” Some time after, Adju. tant General Patterson was sent by Gen. Huwe with a letter addressed to George Washington, &c. &c. &c. On an imei view, the Adjutant Gen.
cral, after expressing his high esteem for the person and character of the American General, and declaring that it was not intended to derogate from the respect due to his rank, expressed his hopes, that the et ceteras would remove the impediments to their correspondence. Gen. Washington re. plied, “That a letter directed to any person in a public character, should have some description of it, otherwise it would appear a mere private letter; that it was true the et ceteras implied every thing, but they also implied any thing, and that he should therefore decline the receiving any letter directed to him as a private person, when it related to his public station.” A long conference ensued, in which the Adjutant General observed, that “ the Commissioners were armed with great powers, and would be very happy in effecting an accommodation.” He received for answer, “ that from what appeared, their powers were only to grant pardons; that they who had committed no fault wanted no pardou."
On the arrival of Gen. Howe at Staten Island, the American army did not exceed ten thousand men, but by sundry reinforcements before the end of August, they amounted to twenty seven thousand. Of these a great part were militia, and one fourth of the whole was sick. The diseases incident to new troops prevailed extensively, and were aggravated by a great deficiency in tents. These troops were so judiciously distributed on York Island, Long Island, Governor's Island, Paulus Hook, and on the Sound toward New Rochelle, East and West Chester, that the enemy were very cautious in determining when or where to commence offensive operations. Every probable point of debarkation was watched, and guarded with a force sufficient to embarrass, though very insuffi. cient to prevent, a landing. From the arrival of the British army at Staten Island, the Americans were in daily expectation of being attacked. Gen. eral Washington was therefore strenuous in preparing his troops for action. He tried every ex. pedient to kindle in their breasts the love of their country, and an high toned indignation against its invaders. In general orders he addressed them as follows. “ The time is now near at hand, which must probably determine whether Americans are to be freemen or slaves; whether they are to have any property they can call their own ; whether their houses and farms are to be pillaged and destroyed, and themselves consigned to a state of wretchedness, from which no human efforts will deliver them. The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army. Our cruel and unrelenting enemy, leaves us only the choice of a brave resistance, or the most abject submission. We have therefore to resolve to conquer or to die. Our own, our country's honour, calls upon us for a vigorous and manly exertion; and if we now shame. fully fail, we shall become infamous to the whole world. Let us then rely on the goodness of our cause, and the aid of the Supreme Being, in whose hands victory is, to animate and encourage us to great and noble actions. The eyes of all our countrymen are now upon us, and we shall have their blessings and praises, if happily we are the instruments of saving them from the tyranny med
itated against them. Let us therefore animate and encourage each other, and show the whole world that a freeman contending for liberty on his own ground, is superior to any slavish mercenary on earth.”
When the whole reinforcements of the enemy had arrived, Gen. Washington, in expectation of an immediate attack, again addressed his army, and called on them to remember that “liberty, property, life, and honour, were all at stake; that upon their courage and conduct, rested the hopes of their bleeding and insulted country; that their wives, children, and parents, expected safety from them only; and that they had every reason to be. lieve that Heaven would crown with success so just a cause.” He farther added ; “ The enemy will endeavour to intimidate by show and appear. ance, but remember they have been repulsed on various occasions by a few brave Americans. Their cause is bad; their men are conscious of it, and if opposed with firmness and coolness on their first onset, with our advantage of works, and knowledge of the ground, the victory is most assuredly ours. Every good soldier will be silent and attentive; wait for orders; and reserve his fire until he is sure of doing execution; of this the officers are to be particularly careful.”
He then gave the most explicit orders that any soldier who should attempt to conceal himself, or retreat without orders, should instantly be shot down, as an example of the punishment of cowardice, and desired every officer to be particularly attentive to the conduct of his men, and report those who should distinguish themselves by brave
and noble actions. These he solemnly promised to notice and reward.
On the 22d. of August, the greatest part of the British troops landed on Long Island. Washington immediately made a farther effort to rouse his troops to deeds of valour. “The enemy,” said he, “have landed, and the hour is fast approaching on which the honour and success of this army, and the safety of our bleeding country, depends. Remember, officers and soldiers, that you are free. men, fighting for the blessings of Liberty ; that slavery will be your portion and that of your posterity, if you do not acquit yourselves, like men. Remember how your courage has been despised and traduced by your cruel invaders, though they have found by dear experience at Boston, Charles town, and other places, what a few brave men, contending in their own land, and in the best of causes, can do against hirelings and mercenaries. Be cool; but determined. Do not fire at a distance, but wait for orders from your officers." He repeated his injunctions, “ to shoot down any person who should misbehave in action, and his hope “that none so infamous would be found, but that, on the contrary, each for himself resolving to conquer or die, and trusting to the smiles of Heaven on so just a cause, would behave with bravery and resolution.” His assurance of re. wards to those who should distinguish themselves, were repeated ; and he declared his confidence, " that if the army would but emulate and imitate their brave countrymen in other parts of America, they would, by a glorious victory, save their