Benson J. Lossing,
AUTHOR OF "PICTORIAL HISTORY OF THE CIVIL WAR," "FIELD-BOOK OF THE REVOLUTION," "FIELD-BOOK OF THE WAR OF 1812," ETC. ETC.
NEW YORK: VIRTUE & YORSTON, 12 DEY STREET.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1870, by VIRTUE & YORSTON, in the Office of the Librarian of Congress at Washington.
[Transcriber's Note: The caret (^) has been used to mark subscript in the text version. A Table of Contents has been added. Obvious printer errors, including punctuation, have been corrected. All other inconsistencies have been left as they were in the original.]
PAGE CHAPTER I 1 CHAPTER II 13 CHAPTER III 32 CHAPTER IV 40 CHAPTER V 53 CHAPTER VI 63 CHAPTER VII 74 CHAPTER VIII 92 CHAPTER IX 103 CHAPTER X 114 CHAPTER XI 125 CHAPTER XII 135 CHAPTER XIII 147 CHAPTER XIV 161 CHAPTER XV 167 CHAPTER XVI 178 CHAPTER XVII 192 CHAPTER XVIII 205 CHAPTER XIX 219 CHAPTER XX 230 CHAPTER XXI 243 CHAPTER XXII 258 CHAPTER XXIII 271 CHAPTER XXIV 283 CHAPTER XXV 292 CHAPTER XXVI 307 CHAPTER XXVII 323 CHAPTER XXVIII 334 CHAPTER XXIX 348 CHAPTER XXX 368 CHAPTER XXXI 378 CHAPTER XXXII 390 CHAPTER XXXIII 417 CHAPTER XXXIV 435 CHAPTER XXXV 447 CHAPTER XXXVI 465 CHAPTER XXXVII 479 CHAPTER XXXVIII 491 CHAPTER XXXIX 501 CHAPTER XL 517 CHAPTER XLI 527 CHAPTER XLII 550 CHAPTER XLIII 573 CHAPTER XLIV 584 WASHINGTON MEMORIALS 605 ANALYTICAL INDEX 613
ILLUSTRATIONS IN VOL. III.
PORTRAIT OF WASHINGTON (AFTER STUART) FRONTISPIECE.
WASHINGTON AT VALLEY FORGE VIGNETTE TITLE.
WASHINGTON'S HEADQUARTERS NEAR NEWBURG 7
ENTRANCE OF THE AMERICAN ARMY INTO NEW YORK, NOVEMBER 25, 1783 33
WASHINGTON PRESIDING IN THE CONVENTION, 1787 63
PORTRAITS OF RUFUS KING, JOHN DICKINSON, GOUVERNEUR MORRIS, OLIVER ELLSWORTH, AND JOHN RUTLEDGE 64
WASHINGTON ENTERING TRENTON 87
RECEPTION OF PRESIDENT WASHINGTON AT NEW YORK, APRIL 23, 1789 89
PORTRAITS OF COMMANDERS HOPKINS, TALBOT, PAUL JONES, DALE, AND BARRY 295
PORTRAIT OF JOHN ADAMS 472
WASHINGTON RECEIVES CHEERING NEWS FROM GREENE—SIEGE OF FORT NINETY-SIX—SUCCESS OF PARTISAN CORPS ELSEWHERE—CAPTURE OF AUGUSTA BY THE AMERICANS—RAWDON APPROACHES NINETY-SIX—GREENE ABANDONS THE SIEGE—RAWDON RETIRES TO ORANGEBURG FOLLOWED BY GREENE—GREENE ENCAMPS ON THE HIGH HILLS OF SANTEE—STEWART AND CRUGER AT ORANGEBURG—RAWDON GOES TO ENGLAND—BATTLE AT EUTAW SPRINGS—THE UPPER COUNTRY IN POSSESSION OF THE AMERICANS—SERVICES OF MARION AND OTHER PARTISANS—BRITISH CONFINED TO THE SEABOARD—DEATH OF JOHN PARKE CUSTIS—WASHINGTON ADOPTS HIS CHILDREN—WASHINGTON CO-OPERATES WITH CONGRESS—JOINS THE ARMY ON THE HUDSON—DISCONTENTS IN THE ARMY—PROPOSITION TO MAKE WASHINGTON KING—HIS REBUKE—PEACE MOVEMENTS—WASHINGTON'S CAUTION—JUNCTION OF THE FRENCH AND AMERICAN ARMIES—EVACUATION OF SAVANNAH AND CHARLESTON.
We have observed, that with the capture of Cornwallis and his army, the War for Independence was virtually ended, but that some blood flowed afterward, and that hostile forces were arrayed against each other for several months longer, before the two nations agreed to fight no more. Let us take a brief survey of events, from the siege of Yorktown until the declaration of peace, and the departure of the last British troops from our shores.
On the evening of the ninth of October, just as Lincoln, having completed the first parallel before Yorktown, ordered a battery to open upon the British works, Washington received encouraging intelligence from General Greene in the far South. Greene was then encamped upon the High Hills of Santee, having, a little more than a week previous to the date of his letter, been engaged in a bloody battle with the enemy at Eutaw Springs.
In a former chapter we left Greene on his march to attack Fort Ninety-Six, situated in Abbeville district in South Carolina, within about six miles of the Saluda river. It was then garrisoned by five hundred and fifty loyalists, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Cruger, of New York. Sumter having cut off all communication between Camden and Ninety-Six, Cruger had not received Rawdon's orders to join Brown at Augusta, but remained, and was using every endeavor to strengthen his works.
Greene arrived before Ninety-Six on the twenty-second of May, with less than a thousand regulars and a few raw militia. Kosciuszko, the brave Pole, was his chief engineer, and under his direction the Americans commenced making regular approaches, by parallels, for the works were too strong to be taken by assault. For almost a month the work went on, enlivened by an occasional sortie and skirmish. Then news came that Lord Rawdon was approaching with a strong force to the relief of Cruger. Greene's troops were full of spirit, and were anxious to storm the works before his lordship's arrival. Consent was given by the commander, and on the eighteenth an assault was made, and a bloody contest ensued. The Americans were repulsed, and on the following day Greene raised the siege and retreated across the Saluda. Rawdon pursued him a short distance, and, having accomplished the object of his errand, wheeled, and marched toward Orangeburg.
While the siege of Ninety-Six was in progress, partisan corps were elsewhere successful. Lee captured Fort Galphin, twelve miles below Augusta, and then sent an officer to the latter post to demand its surrender from Brown. The summons was disregarded, and Lee, Pickens, and Clarke, commenced a siege. It lasted several days, and on the fifth of June, the fort and its dependencies at Augusta were surrendered to the republicans. Lee and Pickens then joined Greene at Ninety-Six, and with him retreated beyond the Saluda.
And now Greene and Rawdon changed their relative positions, the former becoming the pursuer of the latter, in his march toward Orangeburg. Finding Rawdon strongly entrenched there, Greene deemed it prudent not to attack him; and the sickly season approaching, he crossed the Congaree with his little army, and encamped upon the High Hills of Santee, below Camden, where pure air and water might be found in abundance.
Considering the post at Ninety-Six quite untenable, Rawdon ordered Lieutenant-Colonel Cruger to abandon it and join him at Orangeburg. There Rawdon was met by Lieutenant-Colonel Stewart, who had come up from Charleston with an Irish regiment. As Greene had gone into summer-quarters apparently, and the American partisans were just then quiet, his lordship left all his forces in charge of Stewart, went down to Charleston, and embarked for Europe to seek the restoration of his health.
Soon after encamping on the High Hills of Santee, Greene detached Sumter with about a thousand light troops to scour the lower country and beat up the British posts in the vicinity of Charleston. His assistants were those bold partisans, Lee, Marion, Horry, the Hamptons, and other brave republican leaders, with troops accustomed to the swamps and sandy lowlands. These performed excellent service in preparing the way for the expulsion of the enemy from the interior of South Carolina.
Early in August Greene was reinforced by North Carolina troops, under General Sumner; and toward the close of the month, he broke up his encampment, crossed the Wateree, and marched upon Orangeburg. Stewart, who had been joined by Cruger, immediately retreated to Eutaw Springs, near the southwest bank of the Santee, and there encamped. Greene followed, and on the morning of the eighth of September, a very severe battle commenced. The British were finally expelled from the camp, leaving their tents standing, and almost everything but their arms behind them.
Greene's troops, unmindful of their commander's orders, had spread themselves through the abandoned camp to plunder, eat, and drink, when the enemy unexpectedly and suddenly renewed the battle. After a bloody conflict of four hours the Americans were compelled to give way. "It was by far the most obstinate fight I ever saw," Greene wrote to Washington. Stewart feeling insecure, for the American partisan legions were hovering around him, retreated toward Charleston that night.
On the morning of the ninth Greene advanced and took possession of the battle-field, and sent detachments in pursuit of Stewart. A victory was claimed by both parties. Washington seemed to consider it as such for Greene. "Fortune," he said, in a letter to him, "must have been coy indeed, had she not yielded at last to so persevering a pursuer as you have been." Yet there was no victory in the case. The advantage evidently lay with the Americans. The contest had been a most sanguinary one. The loss of the Americans in killed, wounded, and missing, was five hundred and fifty-five; that of the British six hundred and ninety-three. The bravery, skill, and caution of Greene, and the general good conduct of his troops, were applauded by the whole country. Congress ordered a gold medal to be struck in commemoration of the event, and presented to Greene. A British standard captured on that occasion was also presented to him.
Many of his troops being sick, Greene again retired to the High Hills of Santee, where he remained until the middle of November. There, on the thirtieth of October, he was informed of the glorious events at Yorktown, and the day was made jubilant with the rejoicings of the army.
The whole upper country of the Carolinas and Georgia was now in possession of the republicans. Nothing remained to be done, but to drive in the British outposts, and hem them within the narrow precincts of their lines at Charleston and Savannah. Marion, Sumter, Lee, and other partisans, performed this service effectually.
Greene finally crossed the Congaree and moved with his army to the vicinity of Charleston. The object of his campaign was accomplished. He had driven the enemy to the margin of the sea, and he was prepared to keep them there. Marion and his men lingered around the headwaters of the Cooper river to watch their movements, and to prevent their incursions beyond Charleston. St. Clair had come down from Yorktown, and had driven the British from Wilmington. Governor Rutledge had called the legislators of South Carolina together at Jacksonboro', to re-establish civil government in that state, and Greene's army lay as a guard between them and the enemy at Charleston. In that city and Savannah only, did the British have a foothold south of the Delaware at the close of 1781; and Wayne, with vigilant eye and supple limb, lay not far from the latter place, closely watching the British there. The war was virtually at an end in the South.
Let us turn to the consideration of Washington's movements after the capitulation at Yorktown.
In the midst of the rejoicings because of the great victory, Washington's heart was made sad by domestic affliction. His stepson, John Parke Custis, who had followed him to the field as his aid-de-camp, sickened before the close of the siege. Anxious to participate in the pleasures of the victory, he remained in camp until the completion of the surrender, when he retired to Eltham, the seat of Colonel Bassett, who had married Mrs. Washington's sister. His malady (camp-fever) had increased, and Washington sent Doctor Craik with him. A courier was also despatched to Mount Vernon for his wife and mother; and on the fifth of November, having arranged all public business at Yorktown, Washington set out for Eltham. He arrived there, as he wrote to Lafayette, "time enough to see poor Mr. Custis breathe his last."
The grief of Washington was very great, and he wept bitterly. He had watched over that young man from his earliest childhood with paternal affection and solicitude; and with pride he had seen him take public position as a member of the Virginia assembly. Now, at the age of twenty-eight years, he was taken from him. The mother was almost unconsolable, and the young wife was sorely smitten by the bereavement. Washington's heart deeply sympathized with them, and there, in the death-chamber, he formally adopted the two younger children of Mrs. Custis, who thenceforth became members of his family. These were Eleanor Parke Custis, who married Lawrence Lewis, the favorite nephew of Washington, and George Washington Parke Custis, who lived until the autumn of 1857.
Washington proceeded directly from Eltham to Mount Vernon, only halting at Fredericksburg to see his mother, and join in some public ceremonials there, in honor of himself and the French officers. But he sought not the quiet of his home for purposes of repose, for he was not to be seduced into the practices engendered by a fancied security because of the late brilliant victory. On the contrary, his apprehensions were painfully awakened to the danger which the prevalence of such confidence might occasion, and he wrote to General Greene, saying:—
"I shall remain but a few days here, and shall proceed to Philadelphia, where I shall attempt 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 Congress, viewing this stroke in too important a point of light, may think our work too nearly closed, and will fall into a state of languor and relaxation. To prevent this error, I will employ every means in my power, and if unhappily we sink into that fatal mistake no part of the blame shall be mine."
A little later he wrote to Greene from Philadelphia, saying: "I am apprehensive that the states, elated by the late success, and taking it for granted that Great Britain will no longer support so losing a contest, will relax in their preparations for the next campaign. I am detained here by Congress to assist in the arrangements for the next year; and I shall not fail, in conjunction with the financier, the minister of foreign affairs, and the secretary at war, who are all most heartily well-disposed, to impress upon Congress, and get them to impress upon the respective states, the necessity of the most vigorous exertions."
Washington had been received in Philadelphia with distinguished honors, at the close of November. With his usual energy and industry, he pressed forward military arrangements for the campaign of 1782, and by his continual importunities, he awakened Congress to the importance of being prepared for another year of active duty in the field. On the tenth of December that body, by resolution, made a requisition of men and money from the southern states, and the resolve was warmly seconded by Washington, in letters to the respective governors of those states. Franklin, at the same time, was using the most strenuous exertions in France to procure more aid from that power; and when intelligence of the capitulation of Yorktown reached the French court, Vergennes promised a loan of six millions to the United States.
Washington remained four months in Philadelphia, and then joined the army near Newburg, on the Hudson. The allied forces had been dissolved. The troops under the Marquis St. Simon had sailed from the Chesapeake in De Grasse's fleet early in November; the French troops, under Rochambeau, remained in Virginia; the remainder of the American army, after St. Clair's force was detached to the South, proceeded northward, under the command of Lincoln, and took post on the Hudson and in the Jerseys, so as to be ready to operate against New York in the spring; and Lafayette, perceiving no probability of active service immediately, obtained leave of absence from the Congress, and returned to France to visit his family.
We have already noticed the proceedings in the British house of commons on the subject of peace with the Americans. Early in May, 1782, Sir Guy Carleton arrived in New York as the successor of Sir Henry Clinton in the chief command of the British forces; and in a letter dated the seventh of that month, he informed Washington that he and Admiral Digby were joint commissioners to make arrangements for a truce or peace. Even this friendly approach of British officials did not make Washington any the less vigilant and active, and he continued his preparations for further hostilities, with all the means in his power.
With the dawning of the day of peace great discontents in the army were developed. It prevailed equally among officers and private soldiers, and originated in the destitute condition of the troops at that time, and the conviction that the army would be disbanded without provision being made for the liquidation of the claims upon the government for the pay of arrearages, and the promised half-pay of the officers for a term of years after the conclusion of the war. The prospect was, indeed, gloomy. For a long time the public treasury had been empty; and thousands of the soldiers, many of them invalids, made so by their hard service for their country, would be compelled to seek a livelihood in the midst of the desolation which war had produced. In this state of things, and with such prospects, many sighed for a change. They lost faith in the republican form of government, as they saw it in its practical workings under the Articles of Confederation, and they earnestly desired something stronger—perhaps an elective or constitutional monarchy.
Washington had perceived these growing discontents with anxiety, and was urging Congress to do something to allay them, when he received a letter from Colonel Lewis Nicola, a veteran and well-bred officer of the Pennsylvania line, which filled him with the greatest apprehensions. In it Nicola, no doubt, spoke the sentiments of a great many of his fellow-officers and soldiers at that time. He attributed all current evils, and those in anticipation, to the existing form of government, and then urged the necessity and expediency of adopting a mixed one like that of England. Having fortified his position by argument, Nicola added:—
"In this case it will, I believe, be uncontroverted, that the same abilities which have led us through difficulties apparently unsurmountable by human power to victory and glory—those qualities, that have merited and obtained the universal esteem and veneration of an army—would be most likely to conduct and direct us in the smoother paths of peace. Some people have so connected the ideas of tyranny and monarchy as to find it very difficult to separate them. It may, therefore, be requisite to give the head of such a constitution as I propose some title apparently more moderate; but, if all other things were once adjusted, I believe strong arguments might be produced for admitting the title of KING, which I conceive would be attended with some national advantage."
How little did even Nicola, who was very intimate with Washington, comprehend the true character of his disinterested patriotism in all its breadth and depth! The commander-in-chief perceived that Nicola was only the organ of a dangerous military faction, whose object was to create a new government through the active energies of the army, and to place their present leader at the head. He sympathized with the army in its distresses, but this movement met with his severest rebuke.
"Sir," said Washington, in a responsive letter to Nicola, "With a mixture of great surprise and astonishment, I have read with attention the sentiments you have submitted to my perusal. Be assured, sir, no occurrence in the course of this war has given me more painful sensations than your information of there being such ideas existing in the army as you have expressed, and which I must view with abhorrence and reprehend with severity. For the present, the communication of them will rest in my own bosom, unless some further agitation of the matter shall make a disclosure necessary. I am much at a loss to conceive what part of my conduct could have given encouragement to an address which to me seems big with the greatest mischiefs that can befall my country. If I am not deceived in the knowledge of myself, you could not have found a person to whom your schemes are more disagreeable. At the same time, in justice to my own feelings, I must add, that no man possesses a more serious wish to see ample justice done to the army than I do; and, as far as my power and influence, in a constitutional way, extend, they shall be employed to the utmost of my abilities to effect it, should there be any occasion. Let me conjure you, then, if you have any regard for your country, concern for yourself or posterity, or respect for me, to banish these thoughts from your mind, and never communicate, as from yourself or any one else, a sentiment of the like nature. I am, etc."
This stern rebuke at once silenced the faction, and checked all further movement in the direction of king-making. How brightly did the patriotism of Washington shine out in this affair! At the head of a victorious army; beloved and venerated by it and by the people; with personal influence unbounded, and with power in possession for consummating almost any political scheme not apparently derogatory to good government, he receives from an officer whom he greatly esteems, and who speaks for himself and others, an offer of the sceptre of supreme rule and the crown of royalty! What a bribe! Yet he does not hesitate for a moment; he does not stop to revolve in his mind any ideas of advantage in the proposed scheme, but at once rebukes the author sternly but kindly, and impresses his signet of strongest disapprobation upon the proposal. History can not present a parallel.
The summer of 1782 passed away without much apparent progress being made toward a definite and permanent arrangement for peace. At the beginning of August, Carleton and Digby wrote a joint letter to Washington, informing him that they had good authority for saying, that negotiations for peace had been commenced at Paris, by commissioners, and that the British representatives in that conference, would first propose the independence of the United States as a basis. But Washington, taught by past experience, was still doubtful of the reality of all these professions. "Jealousy and precaution," he said, "at least can do no harm. Too much confidence and supineness may be pernicious in the extreme."
No wonder he still doubted. The British government had not yet made any offer for a general cessation of hostilities. The Americans had allies whose interests must be consulted. Hostilities might cease in the United States, according to recent enactments of Parliament, but the very forces then on our shores, might be sent to make war upon the French dominions in the West Indies. The public faith required that the interests of France should be considered in the negotiations for peace; and until a cessation of general hostilities should be officially proclaimed by Great Britain, Washington resolved to be prepared for a renewal of the war.
Thus viewing affairs, the commander-in-chief advised Rochambeau, who was then (August, 1782) at Baltimore, to march his troops to the banks of the Hudson, and form a junction with the American army. This was accomplished at the middle of September, the first division of the French army crossing the Hudson at King's ferry on the fifteenth. The American forces were at Verplanck's Point, opposite, to receive them, all arranged in their best attire, their tents decked with evergreens, and their bands playing French marches.
In the meantime British troops had been leaving the southern shores of the United States, and others were preparing to depart. They evacuated Savannah on the eleventh of July, and sailed for New York, when the "keys of the city of Savannah" were delivered to Major Jackson, by a committee of British officers, under the direction of General Wayne. On the same day the American army, led by Wayne, entered the city, and royal authority in every form ceased for ever in Georgia.
General Leslie, the British commander at Charleston, was not in a condition to leave on account of a want of provisions. When he was apprized of the proceedings in Parliament in favor of peace, he proposed to General Greene a cessation of hostilities. Like a true soldier, Greene took no such responsibility, but referred the whole matter to Congress, while relaxing not one whit of his vigilance. Leslie then asked permission to purchase supplies for his army, that he might evacuate Charleston. The wary Greene refused to allow it, for in so doing he might be nourishing a viper that would sting him.
Leslie then resorted to force to obtain supplies; and late in August he sent an expedition up the Combahee for the purpose. General Gist, with some Maryland troops, was there to oppose him, and the British were compelled to retreat to Charleston. In the skirmish that ensued, the noble Colonel John Laurens, who had volunteered in the service, was killed. He was mourned by all as a great public loss; and his was about the last blood that flowed in the War for Independence.
On the fourteenth of December following, the British evacuated Charleston, and on the ensuing day the Americans, under General Greene, marched into the city and took possession. He and his army were greeted as deliverers. From the windows, balconies, and housetops, handkerchiefs waved, and the mingled voices of women and children shouted, "God bless you, gentlemen! Welcome! Welcome!" That evening the last hostile sail was seen beyond Charleston bar, as a white speck upon the horizon. At the close of the year only New York city was held in possession by British troops.
 John Laurens was a son of Henry Laurens, president of the continental Congress in 1777. He joined the army early in 1777, and was wounded in the battle of Germantown. He continued in the army (with the exception of a few months), under the immediate command of Washington, until after the surrender of Cornwallis, in which event he was a conspicuous participant as one of the commissioners appointed to arrange the terms. Early in 1781, he was sent on a special mission to France to solicit a loan of money and to procure arms. He was successful, and on his return received the thanks of Congress. Within three days after his arrival in Philadelphia, he had settled all matters with Congress, and departed for the army in the South under Greene. There he did good service, until his death, on the Combahee, on the twenty-seventh of August, 1782, when he was but twenty-nine years of age. Washington, who made him his aid, loved him as a child. He declared that he could discover no fault in him, unless it was intrepidity, bordering on rashness. "Poor Laurens," wrote Greene, "has fallen in a paltry little skirmish. You knew his temper, and I predicted his fate. The love of military glory made him seek it upon occasions unworthy his rank. The state will feel his loss." He was buried upon the plantation of Mrs. Stock, in whose family he spent the evening previous to his death in cheerful conversation. A small enclosure, without a stone, marks his grave.
DEATH OF JOSEPH HUDDY—RETALIATION RESOLVED UPON—CASE OF CAPTAIN ASGILL—PEACE PROCEEDINGS IN THE BRITISH PARLIAMENT—PRELIMINARY TREATY NEGOTIATED AND SIGNED AT PARIS—DISCONTENTS IN THE ARMY—MEMORIAL OF OFFICERS SENT TO CONGRESS—INFLAMMATORY ADDRESS CIRCULATED IN CAMP—MEETING OF OFFICERS CALLED—WASHINGTON DETERMINES TO CONTROL THE MATTER—THE MEETING AND ITS RESULTS—WASHINGTON'S ADDRESS—ITS EFFECTS—PATRIOTIC RESOLUTIONS—INTELLIGENCE OF PEACE RECEIVED BY WASHINGTON—ITS PROCLAMATION TO THE ARMY—JUSTICE TO THE SOLDIERS—FURLOUGHS FREELY GRANTED—VIRTUAL DISSOLUTION OF THE ARMY—CONFERENCE BETWEEN WASHINGTON AND CARLETON—DEPARTURE OF LAFAYETTE—CINCINNATI SOCIETY—ADDRESS TO GOVERNORS OF STATES—MUTINY OF PENNSYLVANIA TROOPS—CONGRESS ADJOURNS TO PRINCETON—WASHINGTON'S TOUR TO THE NORTH—INVITED TO PRINCETON—A BRONZE STATUE OF WASHINGTON VOTED BY CONGRESS.
A very painful affair occupied the attention of Washington in the autumn of 1782, when his judgment and his sympathies were placed in opposition. In the neighborhood of Freehold, in New Jersey, lurked a band of marauding tories, known as Pine Robbers. One of these named Philip White, notorious for his depredations, had been caught by the New Jersey people, and killed while attempting to escape, when being conducted to Monmouth jail. His partisans in New York vowed revenge. Captain Huddy, a warm whig, then in confinement in New York, was taken by a party of loyalists under Captain Lippincott, to the Jersey shore, near Sandy Hook, and hanged. Upon Huddy's breast the infamous Lippincott placed a label, on which, after avowing that the act was one of vengeance, he placed the words in large letters—
"UP GOES HUDDY FOR PHILIP WHITE."
From the neighboring country went forth a strong cry for retaliation. Washington submitted the case to a board of general officers, when it was agreed that Lippincott should be demanded as a murderer, for execution, and if Sir Henry Clinton would not give him up, retaliation should be exercised upon some British officer in the possession of the Americans.
Sir Henry refused. At the same time the Congress, by resolution, approved Washington's course, and he proceeded to select a British officer for execution, by lot, from among prisoners at Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It fell upon Captain Asgill, a young man nineteen years of age, an officer of the guards, and only son and heir of Sir Charles Asgill. Efforts were immediately set on foot to save Asgill. For a long time the matter remained in suspense, but Washington, firm in his purpose, was deaf to all entreaty. Lippincott was tried by a court-martial, and acquitted, it appearing that he was acting under the verbal orders of Governor Franklin, who was at the head of the board of associated loyalists. General Carleton, meanwhile, had succeeded Sir Henry Clinton in command at New York. He condemned the proceedings in the case of Huddy, and broke up the board of loyalists. Thus, in time, the most prominent features of the case became changed.
Meanwhile Lady Asgill had written a most pathetic letter to the Count de Vergennes, the French minister, imploring him to intercede on behalf of her son. Vergennes, at the request of the king and queen, to whom he showed the letter, wrote to Washington, soliciting the liberation of young Asgill. The count's letter was referred to Congress. That body had already admitted the prisoner to parole; and to the great relief of Washington, he received orders from Congress, early in November, to set Captain Asgill at liberty.
The case of Asgill excited Washington's deepest sympathies. He was an amiable and honorable young man. "I felt for him," wrote the commander-in-chief, "on many accounts; and not the least, when viewing him as a man of honor and sentiment, I considered how unfortunate it was for him that a wretch who possessed neither, should be the means of causing him a single pang or a disagreeable sensation."
On the twenty-fifth of July, 1782, the British Parliament passed a bill to enable the king to consent to the independence of the United States, and the monarch signed it, though with reluctance. Richard Oswald was immediately appointed, with full powers, to negotiate a treaty of peace with the new republic, on the basis of its independence. The American ministers abroad, Franklin, Adams, and Jay, were constituted commissioners for the United States, to treat for peace, and on the thirtieth of November, preliminary articles were signed by them respectively at Paris. Henry Laurens, who had arrived at Paris, from London, while the negotiations were in progress, had joined the American commissioners, and he also signed the treaty.
Washington, meanwhile, had been anxiously preparing the way for the anticipated disbanding of the army. Congress, through utter inability, had done really nothing to allay the discontents in the army; and the commander-in-chief was fearful, that during the idle hours of a winter encampment, those discontents would assume the form of absolute mutiny. He drew his forces to his former encampment, near Newburg, and there calmly awaited the issue of events.
Almost daily there were bold conferences of officers and soldiers in the camp, when the prospects of the future were discussed, sometimes angrily, and always warmly. Finally, in December, 1782, the officers, in behalf of the army, sent a committee with a memorial to the Congress, in which they represented the real hardships of their condition, and proposed that a specific sum should be granted them for the money actually due them, and as a commutation for the half-pay of the officers. This memorial elicited a long and warm debate in Congress, its character and its propositions being viewed differently by different minds. The entire winter passed away, and nothing satisfactory was done in the supreme legislature for the suffering soldier.
At length forbearance appeared to many as no longer a virtue, and some officers resolved not to wait for justice in idle expectation of its appearance from the halls of legislation. A plan was arranged among a few, "for assembling the officers, not in mass, but by representation; and for passing a series of resolutions, which, in the hands of their committee, and of their auxiliaries in Congress, would form a new and powerful lever" of operations. Major John Armstrong, a young officer six-and-twenty years of age, and aid-de-camp of Gates, was chosen to write an address to the army, suitable to the subject, and this, with an anonymous notification of a meeting of officers, was circulated privately on the tenth of March, 1783.
That address exhibited superior talent in the writer, and its tone was calculated to make a deep impression upon the minds of the malcontents. After preparing their feelings for a relinquishment of faith in the justice of their country, which had been already much weakened by real and fancied injuries, he remarked:—
"Faith has its limits as well as temper, and there are points beyond which neither can be stretched without sinking into cowardice or plunging into credulity. This, my friends, I conceive to be your situation; hurried to the verge of both, another step would ruin you forever. To be tame and unprovoked, when injuries press hard upon you, is more than weakness; but to look up for kinder usage, without one manly effort of your own, would fix your character, and show the world how richly you deserved the chains you broke." He then took a review of the past and present—their wrongs and their complaints—their petitions and the denials of redress—and then said: "If this, then, be your treatment while the swords you wear are necessary for the defense of America, what have you to expect from peace, when your voice shall sink, and your strength dissipate by division; when these very swords, the instruments and companions of your glory, shall be taken from your sides, and no remaining mark of military distinction left but wants, infirmities, and scars? Can you, then, consent to be the only sufferers by the Revolution, and, retiring from the field, grow old in poverty, wretchedness, and contempt? Can you consent to wade through the vile mire of dependency, and owe the miserable remnant of that life to charity, which has hitherto been spent in honor? If you can, go, and carry the jest of tories and the scorn of whigs; the ridicule, and, what is worse, the pity of the world! Go, starve, and be forgotten."
The writer now changed from appeal to advice. "I would advise you, therefore," he said, "to come to some final opinion upon what you can bear and what you will suffer. If your determination be in proportion to your wrongs, carry your appeal from the justice to the fears of government. Change the milk-and-water style of your last memorial; assume a bolder tone, decent, but lively, spirited, and determined; and suspect the man who would advise to more moderation and longer forbearance. Let two or three men who can feel as well as write, be appointed to draw up your last remonstrance—for I would no longer give it the suing, soft, unsuccessful epithet of memorial." He advised them to talk boldly to Congress, and to warn that body that the slightest mark of indignity from them now would operate like the grave, to part them and the army for ever; "that in any political event, the army has its alternative. If peace, that nothing shall separate you from your arms but death; if war, that, courting the auspices, and inviting the direction of your illustrious leader, you will retire to some unsettled country, smile in your turn, and 'mock when their fear cometh on.' Let it represent also, that should they comply with the request of your late memorial, it would make you more happy and them more reputable."
Copies of these papers were placed in the hands of the commander-in-chief on the day when they were circulated, and with consummate sagacity and profound political wisdom, he resolved to guide and control the proceedings in a friendly manner at the meeting of officers, rather than to check them by authority. In general orders the next morning, he referred to the anonymous papers, as disorderly, and utterly disapproved of by the commander-in-chief. At the same time he requested that the general and field officers, with one officer of each company, and a proper representation of the staff of the army, should assemble at a place designated, at twelve o'clock on Saturday, the fifteenth, for the purpose of hearing the report of the committee of the army to Congress. With masterly skill he requested the senior officer (General Gates, whom he suspected, and doubtless with justice, of being the chief actor in the drama) to preside at the meeting.
When this order appeared, Armstrong prepared and issued another address, more subdued in tone, but so adroitly worded, as to convey the idea that Washington approved of the scheme, the time of the meeting only being changed. This interpretation Washington frustrated, by private conversation with the principal officers, in whose good sense and integrity he had confidence. The minds of these he impressed with a sense of the danger that must attend any rash act at such a crisis; and he inculcated moderation and forbearance. He thus prepared the best men in camp to deliberate at the coming conference, without passion or prejudice.
The meeting was held pursuant to the order of Washington. There was a full attendance of officers, and Gates presided. There was a raised platform at one end of the room in which the meeting was held, on which Gates and others sat. Upon this Washington took a seat, and when the meeting was called to order, he advanced upon the platform, while the most solemn silence prevailed in the assembly, and read an address which he had prepared for the occasion. It was compact in thought, dignified and patriotic in expression, and mild in language, yet severe in implication.
When he had concluded the reading, Washington retired without uttering a word, leaving the officers to deliberate without restraint. The address had a most powerful and salutary effect. The conference was brief. They did not deliberate long, but proceeded to pass resolutions offered by Knox, and seconded by Putnam, by unanimous vote, thanking the commander-in-chief for the course he had pursued; expressing their unabated attachment to his person and their country; declaring their unshaken confidence in the good faith of Congress, and their determination to bear with patience their grievances, until, in due time, they should be redressed. Gates, as president of the meeting, signed the address, and on the eighteenth, Washington, in general orders, expressed his satisfaction.
Thus was frustrated, by the sagacity, prudence, and wisdom of Washington, the most dangerous scheme by which the liberties of America were put in jeopardy, next to the treason of Arnold. It had no wicked features in common with that treason, but its practical effects, if carried out, might have been almost equally disastrous.
To the president of Congress Washington wrote, when he transmitted to that body an account of the affair just narrated:—
"The result of the proceedings of the grand convention of officers, which I have the honor of sending to your excellency, for the inspection of Congress, will, I flatter myself, be considered as the last glorious proof of patriotism which could have been given by men who aspired to the distinction of a patriot army; and will not only confirm their claim to the justice, but will increase their title to the gratitude of their country."
The excitement caused by these events had scarcely died away, when intelligence of the signing of the preliminary treaty of peace reached the commander-in-chief. That intelligence came to him in despatches from Robert L. Livingston, the secretary for foreign affairs, and also in a letter from Alexander Hamilton, and other New York delegates in Congress. It had been sent to them in the French ship, Triomphe, despatched for the purpose by Count de Estiang, at the request of Lafayette. Washington immediately wrote to Governor Clinton, saying:—
"I take the first moment of forwarding to your excellency the despatches from the secretary of foreign affairs, which accompany this. They contain, I presume, all the intelligence respecting peace, on which great and glorious event, permit me to congratulate you with the greatest sincerity." Upon the envelope, bearing the superscription of this letter, Washington wrote, in a bold hand, and with a broad dash under it—PEACE.
On the nineteenth of April, the seventh anniversary of the earlier bloodshedding in the War for Independence, at Lexington and Concord, the intelligence of peace was officially proclaimed to the army in general orders. "The generous task," Washington said, "for which we first flew to arms, being accomplished; the liberties of our country being fully acknowledged, and firmly secured, and the characters of those who have persevered through every extremity of hardship, suffering, and danger, being immortalized by the illustrious appellation of the patriot army, nothing now remains, but for the actors of this mighty scene, to pursue a perfect, unvarying consistency of character through the very last act; to close the drama with applause, and to retire from the military theatre with the same approbation of angels and men, which has crowned all their former virtuous actions."
Ever mindful of the interests of his soldiers, Washington had procured the passage of a resolution in Congress, that the services of the men engaged in the war, did not expire until the definitive treaty of peace should be ratified, but that the commander-in-chief might grant furloughs according to his own judgment, and permit the men to take their arms home with them. Washington used this prerogative freely, but judiciously, and, by degrees, the continental army was virtually disbanded, except a small force at headquarters; for those dismissed on furlough were never called back to service. "Once at home," says Irving, "they sank into domestic-life; their weapons were hung over their fireplaces—military trophies of the Revolution, to be prized by future generations."
On the sixth of May Washington held a personal conference with Sir Guy Carleton, at Tappan, in relation to the transfer of certain posts in the United States occupied by British troops, and other arrangements; and two days afterward, Egbert Benson, William S. Smith, and Daniel Parker, were appointed commissioners on the part of the Americans, to inspect and superintend the embarkation of the tories, who were about to leave for Nova Scotia, with their property. Several thousands of these unfortunate people left New York for that far-east country, where, one of them observed, were "nine months of winter, and three months of cold weather every year."
In view of the approaching dissolution of the army, and their final separation, the officers in camp, most of whom had worked shoulder to shoulder in the eight years struggle, yearned for some bond of association, whereby they should continue to be like brothers, not only in the memory of the past, but in personal intercourse, and friendly association. The idea of a society to be formed of all the officers of the Revolution, American and foreign, was conceived by the large-hearted Knox, and on the thirteenth of May, at the quarters of the Baron Steuben, a committee that had been appointed for the purpose, submitted a plan to a meeting of officers. It was adopted, and an association called the Society of the Cincinnati, was formed. That name was adopted, because, like the noble Roman, LUCIUS QUINTIUS CINCINNATUS, they were about to return to private life and their several employments, after serving the public.
The chief objects of the society were to promote cordial friendship and indissoluble union among themselves; to commemorate by frequent re-unions the great struggle they had just passed through; to use their best endeavors for the promotion of human liberty; to cherish good feeling between the respective states; and to extend benevolent aid to those of the society whose circumstances might require it. They formed a general society, and elected Washington the president, and Knox the secretary. The former held his office until his death, and was succeeded by General Alexander Hamilton. For greater convenience, state societies were organized, which were auxiliary to the parent society. To perpetuate the association, it was provided in the constitution, that the eldest male descendant of an original member should be entitled to membership on the decease of such member, "in failure thereof, the collateral branches, who may be judged worthy of becoming its supporters and members." During the remainder of his life, Washington manifested a great interest in this society, and the re-unions were seasons of real enjoyment for the members.
On the eighth of June Washington addressed a circular letter to the governors of all the states, on the subject of the disbanding of the army. It was a most able paper, evidently prepared with care after much thought, and presenting, for the consideration of his countrymen, topics and opinions of the greatest importance. With admirable skill he drew a picture of the enviable condition and position of the United States, and their citizens, and then remarked:—
"Such is our situation, and such our prospects; but notwithstanding the cup of blessing is thus reached out to us—notwithstanding happiness is ours, if we have a disposition to seize the occasion and make it our own; yet it appears to me there is an option still left to the United States of America, whether they will be respectable and prosperous, or contemptible and miserable as a nation. This is the time of their political probation; this is the moment when the eyes of the whole world are turned upon them; this is the time to establish or ruin their national character for ever; this is the favorable moment to give such a tone to the federal government as will enable it to answer the ends of its institution; or this may be the ill-fated moment for relaxing the powers of the Union, annihilating the cement of the confederation, and exposing us to become the sport of European politics, which may play one state against another, to prevent their growing importance, and to serve their own interested purposes. For, according to the system of policy the states shall adopt at this moment, they will stand or fall; and by their confirmation or lapse, it is yet to be decided whether the Revolution must ultimately be considered as a blessing or a curse; a blessing or a curse not to the present age alone, for with our fate will the destiny of unborn millions be involved.
"With this conviction of the importance of the present crisis, silence in me would be a crime. I will therefore speak to your excellency the language of freedom and sincerity, without disguise. I am aware, however, those who differ from me in political sentiments may perhaps remark, I am stepping out of the proper line of my duty; and they may possibly ascribe to arrogance or ostentation, what I know is alone the result of the purest intention; but the rectitude of my own heart, which disdains such unworthy motives—the part I have hitherto acted in life—the determination I have formed of not taking any share in public business hereafter—the ardent desire I feel and shall continue to manifest, of quietly enjoying in private life, after all the toils of war, the benefits of a wise and liberal government, will, I flatter myself, sooner or later convince my countrymen, that I could have no sinister views in delivering, with so little reserve, the opinions contained in this address.
"There are four things which I humbly conceive are essential to the well-being, I may even venture to say, to the existence of the United States, as an independent power.
"1st. An indissoluble union of the states under one federal head.
"2dly. A sacred regard to public justice.
"3dly. The adoption of a proper peace establishment. And,
"4thly. The prevalence of that pacific and friendly disposition among the people of the United States, which will induce them to forget their local prejudices and politics, to make those mutual concessions which are requisite to the general prosperity, and in some instances to sacrifice their individual advantages to the interest of the community.
"These are the pillars on which the glorious fabric of our independence and national character must be supported. Liberty is the basis, and whoever would dare to sap the foundation, or overturn the structure, under whatever specious pretext he may attempt it, will merit the bitterest execration and the severest punishment which can be inflicted by his injured country."
With close and admirable logic he expatiated upon these four heads; and with the earnestness of most profound conviction, he urged the importance of union, and the vesting of the federal Congress with greater power. He then made a warm and generous plea for the army, while treating upon the subject of public justice. Concerning proposed half-pay and commutation, he observed:—
"As to the idea, which I am informed has, in some instances, prevailed, that the half-pay and commutation are to be regarded merely in the odious light of a pension, it ought to be exploded for ever; that provision should be viewed, as it really was, a reasonable compensation offered by Congress, at a time when they had nothing else to give to officers of the army, for services then to be performed: it was the only means to prevent a total dereliction of the service; it was a part of their hire. I may be allowed to say, it was the price of their blood, and of your independency; it is, therefore, more than a common debt, it is a debt of honor; it can never be considered as a pension or gratuity, nor cancelled until it is fairly discharged."
After giving a sufficient apology for treating upon political topics, he concluded by saying:—
"I have thus freely declared what I wished to make known, before I surrendered up my public trust to those who committed it to me. The task is now accomplished. I now bid adieu to your excellency, as the chief magistrate of your state, at the same time I bid a last farewell to the cares of office and all the employments of public life."
But, six long months of official labor, with all the anxieties and cares incident thereto, were before the commander-in-chief. Even at the very moment when he was sending forth his address, and making a noble plea to his country for justice to the army, a part of that army was bringing dishonor upon the whole, by mutinous proceedings. About eighty newly-recruited soldiers of the Pennsylvania line, stationed at Lancaster, marched in a body to Philadelphia, where they were joined by about two hundred from the barracks in that city. The whole body then proceeded, with drum and fife, and fixed bayonets, to the statehouse, where the Pennsylvania legislature and the continental Congress were in session, with the avowed purpose of demanding a redress of specified grievances from the state authorities. They placed a guard at every door, and sent a message in to the president and council, threatening them with violence if their demands were not complied with in the course of twenty minutes. The Congress, feeling themselves outraged, and doubting the strength of the local government to protect them against any armed mob that might choose to assail them, sent a courier to Washington with information of these proceedings, and then adjourned to meet at Princeton, in New Jersey. This event occurred on the twenty-first of June, and the Congress reassembled at Princeton on the thirtieth.
Washington received information of the mutiny on the twenty-fourth, and immediately detached General Howe, with fifteen hundred men to quell the insurrection and punish the leaders. At the same time he wrote a letter to the president of Congress, in which he expressed his sorrow and indignation that a mob of men, "contemptible in number, and equally so in point of service, and not worthy to be called soldiers," should have so insulted the "sovereign authority of the United States." He then vindicated the rest of the army upon whom the act might cast dishonor. But the mutiny was quelled before Howe reached Philadelphia, and bloodshed was prevented.
While waiting, "with little business and less command," for the definitive treaty, Washington made a tour northward from Newburg, of about seven hundred and fifty miles. Governor Clinton accompanied him. They set out on the seventeenth of July, ascended the Hudson to Albany, visited the places made memorable by Burgoyne's defeat, passed down Lake George in light boats, and over to Ticonderoga, from the foot of that beautiful sheet of water. They returned by nearly the same route to Schenectady, and then went up the Mohawk as far as Fort Schuyler (now Rome); thence to Wood creek, a tributary of Oneida lake, by which there was a water-communication with Lake Ontario, at Oswego, and then traversed the country between the Mohawk and Otsego lake. They were absent nineteen days, and performed a greater part of the journey on horseback, much of it through an unbroken wilderness.
To the Chevalier de Chastellux, Washington wrote in October, respecting this tour:—
"Prompted by these actual observations I could not help taking a more extensive view of the vast inland navigation of the United States, from maps and the information of others; and could not but be struck with the immense extent and importance of it, and with the goodness of that Providence, which has dealt its favors to us with so profuse a hand. Would to God we may have wisdom enough to improve them. I shall not rest contented till I have explored the western country, and traversed those lines, or great part of them, which have given bounds to a new empire."
Over all that region where then the primeval forest stood, the hand of industry has spread the varied beauties and blessing of cultivation; and where the solitary Indian then prowled with his rifle or arrow, in search of game for his appetite, a busy population, inhabiting cities and villages, and thousands of pleasant cottages or stately mansions, now dwell.
On his return to headquarters, Washington found a resolution of the Congress, calling him to Princeton, where that body was in session. The chief object was to have him near them for consultation and aid in the several arrangements for peace. The Congress engaged a house, suitably furnished, for his use, at Rocky Hill, a few miles distant, and he set out for Princeton on the eighteenth of August, leaving General Knox in command at Newburg. On the twenty-sixth he had a formal public audience with Congress, when that body presented a most affectionate address to him, in which they said:—
"It has been the particular happiness of the United States, that during a war so long, so dangerous, and so important, Providence has been graciously pleased to preserve the life of a general, who has merited and possessed the uninterrupted confidence and affection of his fellow-citizens. In other nations, many have performed eminent services, for which they have deserved the thanks of the public. But to you, sir, peculiar praise is due. Your services have been essential in acquiring and establishing the freedom and independence of your country. They deserve the grateful acknowledgments of a free and independent nation."
This honorable reception was grateful to the feelings of Washington, for, next to the approval of his God and his conscience, he coveted that of his country. Congress had already voted him a rarer honor, an honor such as the senate of old Rome was fond of conferring upon the heroes of the commonwealth. On the seventh of August they had—
"Resolved (unanimously, ten states being present), That an equestrian statue of General Washington be erected at the place where the residence of Congress shall be established," and a committee appointed for the purpose reported a plan for a pedestal to support the statue, with historical basso relievos upon it, and an appropriate inscription. But this statue, like many other monumental testimonials, ordered by the old Congress, was never made. Washington submitted to the unpleasant operation of having a plaster-cast taken from his face, to be sent to the sculptor in Europe who should be employed to execute the statue; but the cast was broken, and as he would not submit to the manipulations again, the effort was abandoned.
On the third of September the definitive treaty for peace was signed at Paris, and by a proclamation dated the eighteenth day of October, 1783, all officers and soldiers of the continental army, absent on furlough, were discharged from further service; and all others who had engaged to serve during the war, were to be discharged from and after the third of November.
On the second of November, Washington, yet at Rocky Hill, issued his last general orders, in which he addressed his soldiers as a father speaking to his children, and bade them an affectionate farewell.
He then waited quietly for the British to evacuate New York city, that he might go thither with a few troops that would remain in camp under Knox, take formal possession, and then hasten to the seat of Congress and resign his commission of commander-in-chief of the American armies into their hands.
 The following is a copy of the notification: "A meeting of the field-officers is requested at the public building on Tuesday next at eleven o'clock. A commissioned officer from each company is expected, and a delegate from the medical staff. The object of this convention is to consider the late letter of our representatives in Philadelphia, and what measures (if any) should be adopted to obtain that redress of grievances which they seem to have solicited in vain."
 The following is a copy of the address:—
"GENTLEMEN: By an anonymous summons, an attempt has been made to convene you together; how inconsistent with the rules of propriety, how unmilitary, and how subversive of all order and discipline, let the good sense of the army decide. In the moment of this summons, another anonymous production was sent into circulation, addressed more to the feelings and passions than to the reason and judgment of the army. The author of the piece is entitled to much credit for the goodness of his pen, and I could wish he had as much credit for the rectitude of his heart; for, as men see through different optics, and are induced by the reflecting faculties of the mind to use different means to attain the same end, the author of the address should have had more charity than to mark for suspicion the man who should recommend moderation and longer forbearance; or, in other words, who should not think as he thinks, and act as he advises."
When Washington had concluded this paragraph, he paused, took out his spectacles, begged the indulgence of the audience while he put them on, and observed, "You see I have grown gray in your service, and am now growing blind." The effect was electrical, and many an eye was moistened by tears called forth by the incident. He then proceeded:—
"But he had another plan in view, in which candor and liberality of sentiment, regard to justice, and love of country have no part; and he was right to insinuate the darkest suspicion to effect the blackest design. That the address is drawn with great art, and is designed to answer the most insidious purposes; that it is calculated to impress the mind with an idea of premeditated injustice in the sovereign power of the United States, and rouse all those resentments which must unavoidably flow from such a belief; that the secret mover of this scheme, whoever he may be, intended to take advantage of the passions while they were warmed by the recollection of past distresses, without giving time for cool, deliberate thinking, and that composure of mind which is so necessary to give dignity and stability to measures, is rendered too obvious, by the mode of conducting the business, to need other proofs than a reference to the proceedings.
"Thus much, gentlemen, I have thought it incumbent on me to observe to you, to show upon what principles I opposed the irregular and hasty meeting which was proposed to be held on Tuesday last, and not because I wanted a disposition to give you every opportunity, consistent with your own honor and the dignity of the army, to make known your grievances. If my conduct heretofore has not evinced to you that I have been a faithful friend to the army, my declaration of it at this time would be equally unavailing and improper. But, as I was among the first who embarked in the cause of our common country; as I have never left your side one moment, but when called from you on public duty; as I have been the constant companion and witness of your distresses, and not among the last to feel and acknowledge your merits; as I have ever considered my own military reputation as inseparably connected with that of the army; as my heart has ever expanded with joy when I have heard its praises, and my indignation has arisen when the mouth of detraction has been opened against it, it can scarcely be supposed, at this last stage of the war, that I am indifferent to its interests. But how are they to be promoted? The way is plain, says the anonymous addresser. 'If war continues, remove into the unsettled country; there establish yourselves, and leave an ungrateful country to defend itself.' But who are they to defend? Our wives, our children, our farms, and other property which we leave behind us? or, in this state of hostile separation, are we to take the two first (the latter can not be removed) to perish in a wilderness, with hunger, cold, and nakedness?
"'If peace takes place, never sheathe your swords,' says he, 'until you have obtained full and ample justice.' This dreadful alternative of either deserting our country in the extremest hour of her distress, or turning our arms against it—which is the apparent object—unless Congress can be compelled into instant compliance, has something so shocking in it, that humanity revolts at the idea. My God! what can this writer have in view by recommending such measures? Can he be a friend to the army? Can he be a friend to this country? Rather, is he not an insidious foe? some emissary, perhaps, from New York, plotting the ruin of both, by sowing the seeds of discord and separation between the civil and military powers of the continent? And what a compliment does he pay to our understandings, when he recommends measures, in either alternative, impracticable in their nature?
"But, here, gentlemen, I will drop the curtain, because it would be as imprudent in me to assign my reasons for this opinion, as it would be insulting to your conception to suppose you stood in need of them. A moment's reflection will convince every dispassionate mind of the physical impossibility of carrying either proposal into execution. There might, gentlemen, be an impropriety in my taking notice, in this address to you, of an anonymous production; but the manner in which that performance has been introduced to the army, the effect it was intended to have, together with some other circumstances, will amply justify my observations on the tendency of that writing.
"With respect to the advice given by the author, to suspect the man who shall recommend moderate measures and longer forbearance, I spurn it, as every man, who regards that liberty and reveres that justice for which we contend, undoubtedly must; for, if men are to be precluded from offering their sentiments on a matter which may involve the most serious and alarming consequences that can invite the consideration of mankind, reason is of no use to us. The freedom of speech may be taken away, and dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep, to the slaughter. I can not, in justice to my own belief, and what I have great reason to conceive is the intention of Congress, conclude this address, without giving it as my decided opinion that that honorable body entertains exalted sentiments of the services of the army, and, from a full conviction of its merits and sufferings, will do it complete justice; that their endeavors to discover and establish funds for this purpose have been unwearied, and will not cease till they have succeeded, I have not a doubt. But, like all other large bodies, where there is a variety of different interests to reconcile, their determinations are slow. Why, then, should we distrust them, and, in consequence of that distrust, adopt measures which may cast a shade over that glory which has been so justly acquired, and tarnish the reputation of an army which is celebrated through all Europe for its fortitude and patriotism? And for what is this done? To bring the object we seek nearer? No; most certainly, in my opinion, it will cast it at a greater distance. For myself (and I take no merit in giving the assurance, being induced to it from principles of gratitude, veracity, and justice, a grateful sense of the confidence you have ever placed in me), a recollection of the cheerful assistance and prompt obedience I have experienced from you under every vicissitude of fortune, and the sincere affection I feel for an army I have so long had the honor to command, will oblige me to declare, in this public and solemn manner, that in the attainment of complete justice for all your toils and dangers, and in the gratification of every wish, so far as may be done consistently with the great duty I owe my country; and those powers we are bound to respect, you may freely command my services to the utmost extent of my abilities.
"While I give you these assurances, and pledge myself in the most unequivocal manner to exert whatever ability I am possessed of in your favor, let me entreat you, gentlemen, on your part, not to take any measures, which, viewed in the calm light of reason, will lessen the dignity and sully the glory you have hitherto maintained. Let me request you to rely on the plighted faith of your country, and place a full confidence in the purity of the intentions of Congress, that, previous to your dissolution as an army, they will cause all your accounts to be fairly liquidated, as directed in the resolutions which were published to you two days ago, and that they will adopt the most effectual measures in their power to render ample justice to you for your faithful and meritorious services. And let me conjure you, in the name of our common country, as you value your own sacred honor, as you respect the rights of humanity, and as you regard the military and national character of America, to express your utmost horror and detestation of the man who wishes, under any specious pretenses, to overturn the liberties of our country, and who wickedly attempts to open the flood-gates of civil discord, and deluge our rising empire in blood.
"By thus determining and thus acting, you will pursue the plain and direct road to the attainment of your wishes; you will defeat the insidious designs of your enemies, who are compelled to resort from open force to secret artifice; you will give one more distinguished proof of unexampled patriotism and patient virtue rising superior to the pressure of the most complicated sufferings; and you will, by the dignity of your conduct, afford occasion for posterity to say, when speaking of the glorious example you have exhibited to mankind, 'Had this day been wanting, the world had never seen the last stage of perfection to which human nature is capable of attaining.'"—Journals of Congress, viii 180-183.
 A full account of this society, with drawings of the orders worn by the members, and the certificate of membership, may be found in the first volume of Lossing's Field-Book of the Revolution.
 The following is a copy of Washington's last general order:—
"ROCKY HILL, NEAR PRINCETON, November 2, 1783.
"The United States in Congress assembled, after giving the most honorable testimony to the merits of the federal armies, and presenting them with the thanks of their country, for their long, eminent, and faithful service, having thought proper, by their proclamation bearing date the sixteenth of October last, to discharge such part of the troops as were engaged for the war, and to permit the officers on furlough to retire from service, from and after to-morrow, which proclamation having been communicated in the public papers for the information and government of all concerned; it only remains for the commander-in-chief to address himself once more, and that for the last time, to the armies of the United States (however widely dispersed individuals who compose them may be), and to bid them an affectionate, a long farewell.
"But before the commander-in-chief takes his final leave of those he holds most dear, he wishes to indulge himself a few moments in calling to mind a slight review of the past: he will then take the liberty of exploring, with his military friends, their future prospects; of advising the general line of conduct which in his opinion ought to be pursued; and he will conclude the address by expressing the obligations he feels himself under for the spirited and able assistance he has experienced from them in the performance of an arduous office.
"A contemplation of the complete attainment (at a period earlier than could have been expected) of the object for which we contended against so formidable a power, can not but inspire us with astonishment and gratitude. The disadvantageous circumstances on our part, under which the war was undertaken, can never be forgotten. The singular interpositions of Providence in our feeble condition, were such as could scarcely escape the attention of the most unobserving; while the unparalleled perseverance of the armies of the United States, through almost every possible suffering and discouragement, for the space of eight long years, was little short of a standing miracle.
"It is not the meaning, nor within the compass of this address, to detail the hardships peculiarly incident to our service, or to describe the distresses which in several instances have resulted from the extremes of hunger and nakedness, combined with the rigors of an inclement season: nor is it necessary to dwell on the dark side of our past affairs. Every American officer and soldier must now console himself for any unpleasant circumstances which may have occurred, by a recollection of the uncommon scenes in which he has been called to act no inglorious part, and the astonishing events of which he has been a witness—events which have seldom, if ever before, taken place on the stage of human action, nor can they probably ever happen again. For who has before seen a disciplined army formed at once from such raw materials? Who that was not a witness could imagine that the most violent local prejudices would cease so soon; and that men who came from different parts of the continent, strongly disposed by the habits of education to despise and quarrel with each other, would instantly become but one patriotic band of brothers? Or who that was not on the spot, can trace the steps by which such a wonderful Revolution has been effected, and such a glorious period put to all our warlike toils?
"It is universally acknowledged that the enlarged prospects of happiness, opened by the confirmation of our independence and sovereignty, almost exceed the power of description; and shall not the brave men who have contributed so essentially to these inestimable acquisitions, retiring victorious from the field of war to the field of agriculture, participate in all the blessings which have been obtained? In such a republic, who will exclude them from the rights of citizens, and the fruits of their labors? In such a country, so happily circumstanced, the pursuits of commerce and the cultivation of the soil will unfold to industry the certain road to competence. To those hardy soldiers who are actuated by the spirit of adventure, the fisheries will afford ample and profitable employment; and the extensive and fertile regions of the West will yield a most happy asylum for those who, fond of domestic enjoyment, are seeking personal independence. Nor is it possible to conceive that any one of the United States will prefer a national bankruptcy, and dissolution of the Union, to a compliance with the requisitions of Congress, and the payment of its just debts; so that the officers and soldiers may expect considerable assistance, in recommencing their civil operations, from the sums due to them from the public, which must and will most inevitably be paid.
"In order to effect this desirable purpose, and to remove the prejudices which may have taken possession of the minds of any of the good people of the states, it is earnestly recommended to all the troops that, with strong attachments to the Union, they should carry with them into civil society the most conciliating dispositions; and that they should prove themselves not less virtuous and useful as citizens than they have been persevering and victorious as soldiers. What though there should be some envious individuals who are unwilling to pay the debt the public has contracted, or to yield the tribute due to merit; yet let such unworthy treatment produce no invective, or any instance of intemperate conduct; let it be remembered that the unbiassed voice of the free citizens of the United States has promised the just reward, and given the merited applause; let it be known and remembered that the reputation of the federal armies is established beyond the reach of malevolence; and let a consciousness of their achievements and fame still excite the men who composed them to honorable actions, under the persuasion that the private virtues of economy, prudence, and industry, will not be less amiable in civil life than the more splendid qualities of valor, perseverance, and enterprise, were in the field. Every one may rest assured that much, very much of the future happiness of the officers and men, will depend upon the wise and manly conduct which shall be adopted by them when they are mingled with the great body of the community. And, although the general has so frequently given it as his opinion, in the most public and explicit manner, that unless the principles of the federal government were properly supported, and the powers of the Union increased, the honor, dignity, and justice of the nation would be lost for ever; yet he can not help repeating on this occasion so interesting a sentiment, and leaving it as his last injunction to every officer and every soldier who may view the subject in the same serious point of light, to add his best endeavors to those of his worthy fellow-citizens, toward effecting these great and valuable purposes, on which our very existence as a nation so materially depends.
"The commander-in-chief conceives little is now wanting to enable the soldier to change the military character into that of a citizen, but that steady and decent tenor of behavior which has generally distinguished not only the army under his immediate command, but the different detachments and separate armies, through the course of the war. From their good sense and prudence he anticipates the happiest consequences: and while he congratulates them on the glorious occasion which renders their services in the field no longer necessary, he wishes to express the strong obligations he feels himself under for the assistance he has received from every class, and in every instance. He presents his thanks, in the most serious and affectionate manner, to the general officers, as well for their counsel on many interesting occasions as for their ardor in promoting the success of the plans he had adopted; to the commandants of regiments and corps, and to the officers, for their zeal and attention in carrying his orders promptly into execution; to the staff, for their alacrity and exactness in performing the duties of their several departments, and to the non-commissioned officers and private soldiers for their extraordinary patience in suffering as well as their invincible fortitude in action. To various branches of the army the general takes this last and solemn opportunity of professing his inviolable attachment and friendship. He wishes more than bare profession were in his power; that he was really able to be useful to them all in future life. He flatters himself, however, they will do him the justice to believe that, whatever could with propriety be attempted by him, has been done. And being now to conclude these his last public orders, to take his ultimate leave, in a short time, of the military character, and to bid a final adieu to the armies he has so long had the honor to command, he can only again offer, in their behalf, his recommendations to their grateful country, and his prayers to the God of armies. May ample justice be done them here, and may the choicest of Heaven's favors, both here and hereafter, attend those who, under the Divine auspices, have secured innumerable blessings for others! With these wishes, and this benediction, the commander-in-chief is about to retire from service. The curtain of separation will soon be drawn, and the military scene to him will be closed for ever."
BRITISH TROOPS LEAVE THE CITY OF NEW YORK—AMERICAN TROOPS AND CIVIL AUTHORITIES ENTER AND TAKE POSSESSION—THE BRITISH AND AMERICAN TROOPS CONTRASTED—PARTING SCENE BETWEEN WASHINGTON AND HIS OFFICERS—WASHINGTON SETTLES HIS ACCOUNTS WITH THE UNITED STATES—JOURNEY TO ANNAPOLIS—COMPLIMENTARY DINNER AND BALL THERE—WASHINGTON RESIGNS HIS COMMISSION—HIS RETIREMENT TO PRIVATE LIFE AT MOUNT VERNON—LETTERS TO HIS FRIENDS ON THE SUBJECT—WASHINGTON'S DREAMS OF QUIET LIFE.
It was late in November, 1783, before the British troops were prepared to leave New York, so large was the number of persons, and so great was the quantity of goods to be first conveyed away. At length Sir Guy Carleton gave Washington notice when he would be ready to surrender the city. Governor Clinton summoned the members of the state council to convene at Eastchester on the twenty-first of November, to prepare for the re-establishment of civil government in New York city and its vicinity, and a detachment of troops came down from West Point to be ready to take possession of the posts about to be evacuated by the British.
Carleton appointed the twenty-fifth of November as the day for the evacuation, and before that time the British troops were drawn in from the surrounding posts. On the morning of the twenty-fifth Washington and Governor Clinton were at Harlem, with the detachment from West Point, under General Knox; and during the morning they all moved toward the city, and halted at the Bowery. The troops were composed of light-dragoons, light-infantry, and artillery, and were accompanied by the civil officers of the state.
Between twelve and one o'clock the British troops were embarked. The fleet immediately weighed anchor, and with a favoring breeze sailed out the Narrows. The American troops and the civil authorities then marched in and took formal possession. Washington and Clinton, with their respective suites, led the procession, escorted by a troop of Westchester cavalry. Then followed the lieutenant-governor and members of the council, General Knox and the officers of the army, the speaker of the assembly, and a large procession of citizens on horseback and on foot.
The evacuation of the British, and the entrance of the Americans, produced in the inhabitants mingled feelings of joy and sadness. The whigs greatly rejoiced at their deliverance, while the families of loyalists were saddened by the change. There was a marked contrast between the troops that left and the troops that came. "We had been accustomed for a long time to military display in all the finish and finery of garrison life," said an American lady to Mr. Irving; "the troops just leaving us were as if equipped for show, and with their scarlet uniforms and burnished arms, made a brilliant display; the troops that marched in, on the contrary, were ill-clad and weather-beaten, and made a forlorn appearance; but they were our troops, and as I looked at them and thought upon all they had done and suffered for us, my heart and my eyes were full, and I admired and gloried in them the more, because they were weather-beaten and forlorn."
But joy was the predominant feeling, and on that night the city was a scene of public festivity, and demonstrations of unbounded pleasure. The governor gave a feast, and splendid fireworks illuminated the town.
On the fourth of December Washington was prepared for a journey to Annapolis, where the Congress was in session, to resign his commission into their hands. A handsome barge was made ready to convey him from the Whitehall ferry to Paulus's Hook (now Jersey City), and lay at the stairs, ready manned at twelve o'clock. Meanwhile Washington and his officers had assembled in the parlor of Fraunce's tavern, near by, to take a final leave of each other. Marshall has left on record, a brief but touching narrative of the scene. As the commander-in-chief entered the room, and found himself in the midst of his officers—his old companions-in-arms, many of whom had shared with him the fortunes of war from its earliest stages—his tender feelings were too powerful for concealment, and defied his usual self-command. Filling a glass of wine, and taking it in his hand, he turned upon his friends a sad but benignant countenance, and said:—
"With a heart full of love and gratitude, I now take leave of you, most devoutly wishing that your latter days may be as prosperous and happy, as your former ones have been glorious and honorable." After lifting the wine to his lips, and drinking a farewell benediction, he added, while his voice trembled with emotion:—
"I can not come to each of you to take my leave, but shall be obliged if each of you will come and take me by the hand." General Knox being nearest, first turned to him. Washington, incapable of utterance, grasped his hand in silence, and embraced him affectionately, while his eyes were suffused with tears. In the same affectionate manner, every officer took leave of him. Not a word was spoken. Feeling held speech in abeyance. The tear of manly sensibility was in every eye, and in dignified silence they all followed their beloved chief as he left the room, passed through a corps of light-infantry, and walked to Whitehall to embark. Having entered the barge, he turned to the tearful friends upon the wharf, and waving his hat, bade them a silent adieu. They stood and watched the barge until it was hidden from their view by an angle of the battery, when, in silent and solemn procession, they all returned to the place where they had assembled.
Washington stopped a few days in Philadelphia, where he adjusted his accounts with the comptroller of the treasury. These were all in perfect order, from the beginning of the war until the moment of settlement, on the thirteenth of December. They were entirely in his own hand-waiting. The gross amount was almost seventy-five thousand dollars, in which were included moneys expended for secret service and in various incidental charges. For his own services he would receive nothing.
Washington's journey from New York to Annapolis, in Maryland, was one continued ovation. The people everywhere received him with enthusiasm; and public meetings, legislative assemblies, and learned and religious institutions, greeted him with addresses. He arrived at Annapolis on Friday, the nineteenth of December, where he was joined by Mrs. Washington and many warm personal friends. On the following day he addressed a note to the Congress, inquiring when, and in what manner it would be proper to offer his resignation; and on Monday he was present at a dinner ordered by that body. In the evening he attended a grand ball given in his honor.
On Tuesday, the twenty-third, Washington wrote to the Baron Steuben—"This is the last letter I shall write while I continue in the service of my country. The hour of my resignation is fixed at twelve to-day; after which I shall become a private citizen on the banks of the Potomac."
At the hour named the chief was before the assembled Congress, of whom General Thomas Mifflin was president. The hall was filled with public functionaries and military officers, accompanied by ladies; and in the gallery was Mrs. Washington and many more ladies than were on the floor below.
Washington was conducted to the hall by Secretary Thomson, when the president said, "The United States in Congress assembled, are prepared to receive your communication." Washington then arose, and in a dignified manner, and clear, rich voice, said:—
"Mr. PRESIDENT: The great events on which my resignation depended, having at length taken place, I now have the honor of offering my sincere congratulations to Congress, and of presenting myself before them, to surrender into their hands the trust committed to me, and to claim the indulgence of retiring from the service of my country. Happy in the confirmation of our independence and sovereignty, and pleased with the opportunity afforded the United States of becoming a respectable nation, I resign with satisfaction the appointment I accepted with diffidence; a diffidence in my abilities to accomplish so arduous a task, which, however, was superseded by a confidence in the rectitude of our cause, the support of the supreme power of the Union, and the patronage of Heaven. The successful termination of the war has verified the most sanguine expectations; and my gratitude for the interposition of Providence, and the assistance I have received from my countrymen, increases with every review of the momentous contest. While I repeat my obligations to the army in general, I should do injustice to my own feelings not to acknowledge in this place the peculiar services and distinguished merits of the gentlemen who have been attached to my person during the war. It was impossible the choice of confidential officers to compose my family should have been more fortunate. Permit me, sir, to recommend in particular those who have continued in the service to the present moment, as worthy of the favorable notice and patronage of Congress. I consider it as an indispensable duty to close this last act of my official life by commending the interests of our dearest country to the protection of Almighty God, and those who have the superintendence of them to his holy keeping. Having now finished the work assigned me, I retire from the great theatre of action, and bidding an affectionate farewell to this august body, under whose orders I have so long acted, I here offer my commission, and take my leave of all the employments of public life."
President Mifflin replied: "SIR—The United States, in Congress assembled, receive with emotions too affecting for utterance, the solemn resignation of the authorities under which you have led their troops with success through a perilous and a doubtful war. Called upon by your country to defend its invaded rights, you accepted the sacred charge, before it had formed alliances, and while it was without funds or a government to support you. You have conducted the great military contest with wisdom and fortitude, invariably regarding the rights of the civil power, through all disasters and changes. You have, by the love and confidence of your fellow-citizens, enabled them to display their martial genius, and transmit their fame to posterity. You have persevered, until these United States, aided by a magnanimous king and nation, have been enabled, under a just Providence, to close the war in freedom, safety, and independence; in which happy event we sincerely join you in congratulations. Having defended the standard of liberty in this new world; having taught a lesson useful to those who inflict and to those who feel oppression, you retire from the great theatre of action with the blessings of your fellow-citizens. But the glory of your virtues will not terminate with your military command; it will continue to animate remotest ages. We feel with you our obligations to the army in general, and will particularly charge ourselves with the interests of those confidential officers who have attended your person to this affecting moment. We join you in commending the interests of our dearest country to the protection of Almighty God, beseeching him to dispose the hearts and minds of its citizens to improve the opportunity afforded them of becoming a happy and respectable nation. And for you, we address to him our earnest prayers that a life so beloved may be fostered with all his care; that your days may be as happy as they have been illustrious; and that he will finally give you that reward which this world can not give."
Washington, now a private citizen, hastened to his beloved home on the Potomac, accompanied on the way by many friends, among whom was Colonel Walker, one the aids of the Baron Steuben. By his hand, he sent a letter to Governor George Clinton—the first that he wrote after his retirement from office—in which he said: "The scene is at last closed. I am now a private citizen on the banks of the Potomac. I feel myself eased of a load of public care. I hope to spend the remainder of my days in cultivating the affections of good men, and in the practice of the domestic virtues."
It was on Christmas eve when Washington reached Mount Vernon. It must have been a happy and a merry Christmas in that beautiful home, for the toils and dangers of war were over, peace was smiling upon all the land, and the people were free and independent. The enjoyment of his home, under these circumstances, was an exquisite one to the retired soldier; and in his letters to his friends he gives frequent and touching evidence of his happiness in private life. To Lafayette he wrote on the first of February:—