The Continental Congress.


The unfortunate measures of April, 1774, were not carried through Parliament without earnest opposition. Lord Rockingham and his friends entered a protest on the journal of the House of Lords, on the grounds that the people of Massa- chusetts ha not been heard in their own defence, and that the lives and libert- ies of the citizens were put absolutely into the hands of the governor and council, who were thus invested with greater powers than it had ever been thought wise to entrust to the king and his privy council in Great Britain. They concluded, therefore, that the acts were unconstitutional.

The Duke of Richmond could not restrain his burning indigation. "I wish," said he in the House of Lords, "I wish from the bottom of my heart that the Ameri- cans may resist, and get the better of the forces sent against them." But that the Americans would resist, very few people in England believed. The conduct of the ministry was based throughout upon the absurd idea that the Americans could be frightened into submission. General Gage, as we have seen, thought that four regiments would be enough to settle the whole business. Lord Sand- wich said that


the Americans were a set of undisciplined cowards, who would take to their heels at the first sound of a cannon. Even Hutchinson, who went over to England about this time, and who ought to have known of what stuff the men of Massachusetts were made, assured the king that they never would resist a regular army. Such blunders, however, need not surprise us when we recollect how, just before the war of secession, the people of the southern and of the northern states made similar mistakes with regard to each other. In 1860, it was commonly said by Southern people that the Northern people would submit to anything rather than fight; and in support of this opinion, it was sometimes asked, "If the Northern people are not arrant cowards, why do they never have duels?"

On the other hand, it was commonly said at the North that the Southern people, however bravely they might bluster, would never enter upon a war of secession because it was really much more for their interest to remain in the Federal Union than to secede from it, - an argument which lost sight of one of the commonest facts in human life, that under the influence of strong passion men are unable to take just views of what concerns their own interests. Such ex- amples show how hard it often is for one group of men to understand another group, even when they are all of the same blood and speech, and think alike about most matters that do not touch the particular subject in dispute.

Nothing could have been surer, either in 1860 or in 1774, than that the one party to the quarrel was as bold and brave as the other.


Another fatal error under which the ministry laboured was the belief that Massachusetts would not be supported by the other colonies. Their mistake was not unlike that which ruined the plans of Napoleon III., when he de- clared war upon Prussia in 1870. There was no denying the fact of strong jealousies among the American colonies in 1774, as there was no denying the the fact of strong jealousies between the northern and southern German states in 1870. But the circumstances under which Napolean III. made war on Prussia happened to be such as to enlist all the German states in the common cause with her. And so it was with the war of George III. against Massachusetts. As soon as the character of that colony was annulled, all the other colonies felt that their liberties were in jeopardy; and thence, as Fox truly said, "all were taught to consider the town of Boston as suffering in the common cause."

News of the Boston Port Bill was received in America on the 10th of May. On the 12th the committees of several Massachusetts towns held a convention at Faneuil Hall, and adopted a circular letter, prepared by Samuel Adams, to be sent to all the other colonies, asking for their sympathy and cooperation. The response was prompt and emphatic. In the course of the summer, convent- ions were held in nearly all the colonies, declaring that Boston should be regarded as "suffering in the common cause." The obnoxious acts of Parlia- ment were printed on paper with deep black borders, and in some towns


were publicly burned by the common hangman. Droves of cattle and flocks of sheep, cartloads of wheat and maize, kitchen vegetables and fruit, barrels of sugar, quintals of dried fish, provisions of every sort, were sent overland as free gifts to the people of the devoted city, even the distant rice-swamps of South Carolina contributing their share. The over-cautious Franklin had written from London, suggesting that perhaps it might be best, after all, for Massachusetts to indemnify the East India Company; but Gadsden, with a sounder sense of the political position, sent word, "Dont pay for an ounce of the damned tea." Throughout the greater part of the country the 1st of June was kept as a day of fasting and prayer; bells were muffled and tolled in the principal churches; ships in the harbours put their flags at half- mast. Marblehead, which was appointed to supersede Boston as port of entry immediately invited the meerchants of Boston to use its wharfs and warehouses free of charge in shipping and unshipping their goods. A policy of absolute non-importation was advocated by many of the colonies, though Pennsylvania under the influence of Dickinson, still vainly cherishing hope of reconcil- iation, hung back, and advised that the tea should be paid for. As usual, the warmest sympathy with New England came from Virginia. "If need be," said Washington, "I will raise one thousand men, subsist them at my own ex- pense, and march myself at their head for the relief of Boston."

To insure concerted action on the part of the


whole country, something more was required than these general expressions and acts of sympathy. The proposal for a Continental Congress came first from the Sons of Liberty in New York; it was immediately taken up by the members of the Virginia legislature, sitting in convention at the Raleigh tavern, after the governor had dissolved them as a legislature, and Massachusetts was invited to appoint the time and place for the meeting of the Congress. On the 7th of June the Massachusetts assembly was convened at Salem by General Gage, in conformity with the provisions of the Port Bill. Samuel Adams always preferred to use the ordinary means of transacting public business so long as they were of avail, and he naturally wished to have the act appointing a Continental Congress pass- ed by the assembly. But this was not easy to bring about, for upon the first hint that any such business was to come up, the governor would instantly dissolve the assembly.

In such case it would be necessary for the committees of correspondence throughout Massachusetts to hold a convention for the purpose of appointing the time and place for the Congress and of electing delegates to attend it. But Adams preferred to have these matters decided in regular legislative session, and he carried his point. Having talked privately with several of the members, at last on the 17th of June - a day which a twelvemonth hence was to become so famous - the favourable moment came. Having had the door locked, he introduced his resolves, appointing five delegates to confer with

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duly appointed delegates from the other colonies, in a Continental Congress at Philadelphia on the 1st of September next. Some of the members, aston- ished and frightened sought to pass out; and as the doorkeeper seemed uneasy at assuming so much responsibility, Samuel Adams relieved him of it by taking the key from the door and putting it into his own pocket, whereupon the busi- ness of the assembly went on. Soon one of the Tory members pretended to be very sick, and being allowed to go out, made all haste to Governor Gage, who instantly drew up his writ dissolving the assembly, and sent his secretary with it. When the secretary got there, he found the door locked, and as nobody would let him in or pay any attention to him, he was obliged to content himself with reading the writ, in a loud voice, to the crowd which had assembled on the stairs. The assembly meanwhile passed the resolves by 117 to 12, elected Samuel and John Adams, Thomas Cushing, and Robert Treat Paine as delegates, assessed the towns in the commonwealth for the necessary expenses, passed measures for the relief of Boston, and adjourned sine die. All the other colonies except Georgia, in the course of the summer, accepted the invitation and chose delegates, either through their assemblies or through special con- ventions. Georgia sent no delegates, but promised to adopt any course of action that should be determined upon.

Before the time appointed for the Congress, Massachusetts had set the Regulating Act at defiance. On the 16th of August, when the court


assembled at Great Barrington, a vast multitude of farmers surrounded the court-house and forbade the judges to transact any business. Two or three of the councillors newly appointed on the king's writ of mandamus yielded in advance to public opinion, and refused to take their places. Those who accepted were forced to resign. At Worcester, 2,000 men assembled on the common and compelled Timothy Paine to make his resignation in writing. The councillor appointed from Bridgewater was a deacon; when he read the psalm the congregation refused to sing. In Plymouth one of the most honoured citizens, George Watson, accepted a place on the council; as he took his seat in church on the following Sunday, the people got up and began to walk out of the house. Overcome with shame, for a moment his venerable grey head sank upon the pew before him; then he rose up and vowed that he would resign. In Boston the justices and barristers took their accustomed places in the court- house, but no one could be found to serve as juror in a court that was illegally constituted. Gage issued a proclamation warning all persons against attending town-meeting, but no one heeded him and town meetings were more fully attended than ever. He threatened to send an armed force against Worcester, but the people there replied that he would do so at his peril, and forthwith began to collect powder and ball. At Salem the people walked to the town house under the governor's nose and in the very presence of a line of soldiers. On the 1st of September a party


of soldiers seized two hundred kegs of powder at Charlestown and two field- pieces at Cambridge, and carried them to Castle William. As the news spread about the country, rumour added that the troops had fired upon the people, and within forty-eight hours at least 20,000 men were marching on Boston; but they turned back to their homes on receiving word from the Boston committee that their aid was not yet needed.

During these stirring events, in the absence of Samuel Adams, who had gone to attend the Congress at Philadelphia, the most active part in the direction of affairs at Boston was taken by Dr. Joseph Warren. This gentleman, one of a family which has produced three very eminent physicians - was graduated at Harvard College in 1759. He had early attracted the attention of Samuel Adams and had come to be one of his dearest friends, and had been concerned with him in nearly all of his public acts of the past seven years. He was a man of knightly bravery and courtesy, and his energy and fertility of mind were equalled only by his rare sweetness and modesty. With Adams and Hancock, he was one of the great Massachusetts triumvirate of Revolutionary leaders. The accession of Hancock to the Revolutionary cause at an early period had been of great help, by reason of his wealth and social influence. Hancock was grad- uated at Harvard College in 1754. He was a gentleman of refinement and grace, but neither for grasp of intelligence nor for strength of character can he be compared with Adams or with Warren.


His chief weakness was personal vanity, but he was generous and loyal, and under the influence of the iron-willed Adams, was capable of good things. Upon Warren, more than any one else, however, Adams relied as lieutenant, who, under any circumstances whatever, would be sure to prove equal to the occasion.

On the 5th of September Gage began fortifying Boston Neck, so as to close the only approach to the city by land. Next day the county assize was to be held at Worcester; but 5,000 armed men, drawn up in regular military array, lined each side of the main street, and the unconstitutionally appointed judges were forbidden to take their seats. On the same day a convention of the towns of Suffolk County was held at Milton, and a series of resolutions, drawn up by Dr. Warren, were adopted unanimously. The resolutions declared that a king who violates the chartered rights of his people forfeits their allegiances; they declared the Regulating Act null and void, and ordered all the officers appointed under it to resign their offices at once; they directed the collectors of taxes to refuse to pay over money to Gage's treasurer; they advised the towns to choose their own militia officers; and they threatened the governor that, should he venture to arrest any one for political reasons they would retaliate by seizing upon the Crown officers as hostages.

A copy of these resolutions, which virtually placed Massachusetts in an atti- tude of rebellion, was forwarded to the Continental Congress which enthusiasti- cally indorsed them, and pledged


the faith of all the other colonies that they would aid Massachusetts in case armed resistance should become inevitable, while at the same time they urged that a policy of moderation should be preserved, and that Great Britain should be left to fire the first shot.

On receiving these instructions from the Congress, the people of Massachusetts at once proceeded to organize a provisional government in accordance with the spirit of the Suffolk resolves. Gage had issued a writ convening the assembly at Salem for the 1st of October, but before the day arrived he changed his mind and prorogued it. In disregard of this order, however, the representatives met at Salem a week later, organized themselves into a provincial congress, with John Hancock for president and adjourned to Concord. On the 27th they chose a committee of safety, with Warren for chairman, and charged it with the duty of collecting military stores. In December this Congress dissolved it- self, but a new one assembled at Cambridge on the 1st of February, and pro- ceeded to organize the militia and appoint general officers. A special portion of the militia, known as "Minute-men," were set apart, under orders to be ready to assemble at a moment's warning; and the committee of safety were directed to call out this guard as soon as Gage should venture to enforce the Regulating Act. Under these instructions every village green in Massa- chusetts at once became the scene of active drill. Nor was it a population unused to arms that thus began to marshal itself into


companies and regiments. During the French war one fifth of all the able-bodied men of Massachusetts had been in the field and in 1757 the proportion had risen to one third. There were plenty of men who had learned how to stand under fire, and officers who had held command on hard-fought fields; and all were practised marksmen. It is quite in- correct to suppose that the men who first repulsed the British regulars in 1775 were a band of farmers, utterly unused to fighting. Their little army was indeed a militia, but it was made up of warlike material.

While these preparations were going on in Massachusetts, the Continental Congress had assembled at Philadelphia on the 5th of September. Peyton Randolph of Virginia was chosen president; and the Adamses, the Living- stons, the Rutledges, Dickinson, Chase, Pendleton, Lee, Henry and Washing- ton took part in the debates. One of their first acts was to dispatch Paul Revere to Boston with their formal approval of the action of the Suffolk Convention. After four weeks of careful deliberation they agreed upon a declaration of rights, claiming for the American people "a free and ex- clusive power of legislation in their provincial legislatures, where their rights of legislation could alone be preserved in all cases of taxation and internal polity." This paper also specified the rights of which they would not suffer themselves to be deprived, and called for the repeal of eleven acts of Parliament by which these rights hd been infringed. Besides this, they formed an association for insuring


commercial non-intercourse with Great Britain, and charged the committees of correspondence with the duty of inspecting the entries at all custom- houses. Addresses were also prepared, to be sent to the king, to the people of Great Britain, and to the inhabitants of British America. The 10th of May was appointed for a second Congress, in which the Canadian colonies and the Floridas were invited to join; and on the 26th of October the Congress dissolved itself.

The ability of the papers prepared by the first Continental Congress has long been fully admitted in England as well as in America. Chatham declared them unsurpassed by any state papers ever composed in any age or country. But Parliament was not now in the mood for listening to reason. Chatham, Shel- bourne and Camden urged in vain that the vindictive measures of the last April should be repealed and the troops withdrawn from Boston. On the 1st of February, Chatham introduced a bill which, could it have passed, would no doubt have averted war, even at the eleventh hour. Besides repealing its vindictive measures, Parliament was to renounce forever the right of taxing the colonies, while retaining the right of regulating the commerce of the whole empire; and the Americans were to defray the expenses of their own governments by taxes voted in their colonial assemblies. A few weeks later, in the House of Commons, Burke argued that the abstract right of Parliament to tax the colonies was not worth contending for, and he urged that on large grounds of expediency it should be


abandoned, and that the vindictive acts should be repealed. But both Houses, by large majorities, refused to adopt any measures of conciliation, and in a solemn joint address to the king declared themselves ready to support him to the end in the policy upon which he had entered. Massachusetts was declared to be in a state of rebellion, and acts were passed closing all the ports of New England and prohibiting its fishermen from access to the Newfoundland fisheries. At the same time it was voted to increase the army at Boston to 10,000 men and to supersede Gage, who had in all these months accomplished so little with his four regiments. As people in England had utterly failed to comprehend the magnitude of the task assigned to Gage, it was not strange that they should seek to account for his inaction by doubting his zeal and ability. No less a person than David Hume saw fit to speak of him as a "lukewarm coward." William Howe, member of Parliament for the liberal constituency of Nottingham, was chosen to supersede him. In his speeches as candidate for election only four months ago, Howe had declared himself opposed to the king's policy, had asserted that no army that England could raise would be able to subdue the Americans, and, in reply to a question, had promised that if offered a command in America he would refuse it. When he now consented to take Gage's place as commander-in-chief, the people of Nottingham scolded him roundly for breaking his word.

It would be unfair, however, to charge Howe


with conscious breach of faith in this matter. His appointment was itself a curious symptom of the element of vacillation that was apparent in the whole conduct of the ministry, even when its attitude professed to be most obstinate and determined. With all his obstinacy, the king did not really wish for war, much less did Lord North; and the reason for Howe's appoint- ment was simply that he was the brother to the Lord Howe who had fallen at Ticonderoga and whose memory was idolized by the men of New England.

Lord North announced that, in dealing with his misguided American brethren, his policy would be always to send the olive branch in company with the sword; and no doubt Howe really felt that, by accepting a command offered in such a spirit, he might more efficiently serve the interests of humanity and justice than by leaving it open for some one of cruel and despotic temper, whose zeal might outrun even the wishes of the obdurate king. At the same time, his brother, Richard, Lord Howe, a seaman of great ability, was appointed admiral of the fleet for America, and was expressly entrusted with the power of offering terms to the colonies. Sir Henry Clinton and John Burgoyne, both of them in sympathy with the king's policy, were appointed to accompany Howe as lieutenant-generals.

The conduct of the ministry, during this most critical and trying time, showed great uneasiness. When leave was asked for Franklin to present the case for the Continental Congress, and to defend it before the House of Commons, it was refused.


Yet all through the winter the ministry were continually appealing to Franklin, unofficially and in private, in order to find out how the Americans might be appeased without making any such consessions as would hurt the pride of England. Lord Howe was the most conspicuous agent in these negotiations, which only served to show, over and over and over again, how the main root of the trouble was the incapacity of the British official mind to understand the char- acter of the American people and the new political situation created by the enormous growth of the colonies.

How to conciliate the Americans without giving up a single one of the false positions which the king had taken, was the problem, and no wonder that Franklin soon perceived it to be insolvable, and made up his mind to go home. He had now stayed in England for several years, as agent for Pennsylvania and for Massachusetts. He had shown himself a consummate diplomatist, of that rare school which deceives by telling unwelcome truths, and he had some unpleasant enounters with the king and the king's friends. Now in March, 1775, seeing clearly that he could be of no further use in averting an armed struggle, he returned to America. Franklin's return was not, in form, like that customary withdrawal of an ambassador which heralds and proclaims a state of war. But practically it was the snapping of the last diplomatic link between the colonies and the mother-country.

Still the ministry, with all its uneasiness, did not believe that war was close at hand. It was thought that the middle colonies and especially


New York, might be persuaded to support the government, and that New England, thus isolated, would not ventur upon armed resistance to the overwhelming power of Great Britain. The hope was not wholly unreasonable; for the great middle colonies, though conspicuous for material prosperity, were somewhat lacking in force of political ideas. In New York and Pennsylvania the non-English popu- lation was relatively far more considerable than in the Southern or the New England colonies. A considerable proportion of the population had come from the continent of Europe, and the principles of constitutional government were not so thoroughly inwrought into the innermost minds and hearts of the people, the pulse of liberty did not beat so quickly here, as in the purely English commonwealths of Virginia and Massachusetts. In Pennsylvania and New Jersey the Quakers were naturally opposed to a course of action that must end in war; and these very honourable motives certainly contributed to weaken the resist- ance of these colonies to the measures of the government. In New York there were further special reasons for the existence of a strong loyalist feeling. The city of New York had for many years been the headquarters of the army and the seat of the principal royal government in America. It was not a town, like Boston, governing itself in town-meeting, but its municipal affairs were ad- ministered by a mayor, appointed by the king. Unlike Boston and Philadelphia, the interest of the city of New York were almost purely commercial, and there was nothing


to prevent the little court circle there from giving the tone to public opinion. The Episcopal Church, too, was in the ascendant, and there was a not unreasonable prejudice against the Puritans of New England for their grim intolerance of Episcopalians and their alleged antipathy to Dutchmen. The provence of New York, moreover, had a standing dispute with its eastern neigh- bours over the ownership of the Green Mountain region. This beautiful country had been settled by New England men, under grants from the royal governors of New Hampshire; but it was claimed by the people of New York, and the contro- versy sometimes waxed hot and gave rise to very hard feelings. Under these circumstances the labours of the ministry to secure this central colony seemed at times likely to be crowned with success. The assembly of New York refused to adopt the non-importation policy enjoined by the Continental Congress, it refused to print letters of the committee of correspondence, and it refused to choose delegates to the second Congress which was to be held in May. The ministry, in return, sought to corrupt New York by exempting it from the comm- ercial restrictions placed upon the neighborouring colonies, and by promising to confirm its alleged title to the territory of Vermont.

All these hopes proved fallacious, however. In spite of appearances, the maj- ority of the people of New York were thoroughly patriotic, and needed only an opportunity for organization. In April, under the powerful leadership of Philip Schuyler and the Livingstons, a convention was held, delegates were chosen to attend the Congress and New York fell into line with the other colonies.


As for Pennsylvania, in spite of its peaceful and moderate temper, it had never shown any signs of willingness to detach itself from the nascent union. News travelled with slow pace in those days, and as late as the middle of May, Lord North, confident of the success of his schemes in New York, and unable to be- lieve that the yeomanry of Massachusetts would fight against regular troops, declared cheerfully that this American business was not so alarming as it seem- ed, and everything would no doubt be speedily settled without bloodshed!

Great events had meanwhile happened in Massachusetts. All through the winter the resistance to General Gage had been passive, for the lesson had been thor- oughly impressed upon the mind of every man, woman and child in the province that in order to make sure of the entire sympathy of the other colonies, Great Britain must be allowed to fire the first shot. The Regulating Act had none the less been silently defied, and neither councillors nor judges, neither sheriffs nor jurymen, could be found to serve under the royal commission. It is striking by this proof of the high state of civilization attained by this common wealth that although for nine months the ordinary functions of govern- ment had been suspended, yet the affairs of every-day life had gone on without friction of disturbance. Not a drop of blood had been shed, nor had anyone's property been injured. The companies of yeomen meeting at eventide to drill on the village green,


and now and then the cart laden with powder and ball that dragged slowly over the steep roads on its way to Concord, were the only outward signs of an un- wonted state of things. No so, however, in Boston. There the blockade of the harbour had wrought great hardship for the poorer people. Business was ser- iously interfered with, many persons were thrown out of employment, and in spite of the generous promptness with which provisions had been poured in from all parts of the country, there was great suffering through scarcity of fuel and food. Still there was but little complaint and no disorder. The leaders were as resolute as ever, and the people were as resolute as their leaders. As of the 5th of March drew near, several British officers were heard to de- clare that anyone who should dare to address the people in the Old South Church on this occasion would surely lose his life. As soon as he heard of these threats, Joseph Warren solicited for himself the dangerous honour and at the usual hour delivered a stirring oration upon "the baleful influence of standing armies in time of peace." The concourse in the church was so great that when the orator arrived every approach to the pulpit was blocked up; and rather than elbow his way through the crowd, which might lead to some disturbance, he procured a ladder and climbed in through a large window at the back of the pulpit. About forty British officers were present, some of whom sat on the pulpit steps and sought to annoy the speaker with groans and hisses, but every- thing passed off quietly.


The boldness of Adams and Hancock in attending this meeting was hardly less admirable than that of Warren in deliverying the address. It was no secret that Gage had been instructed to watch his opportunity to arrest Samuel Adams and "his willing and ready tool," that "terrible desperado," John Hancock and send them over to England to be tried for treason. Here was an excellent opportunity for seizing all the patriot leaders at once; and the meeting itself moreover, was a town-meeting, such as Gage had come to Boston expressly to put down. Nothing more calmly defiant can be imagined than the conduct of people and leaders under these circumstances. But Gage had long since learned the temper of the people so well that he was afraid to proceed too violently. At first he had tried to corrupt Samuel Adams with offers of place or pelf; but he found, at Hutchinson had already declared, that such was "the obstinate and in- flexible dispostion of this man that he never would be conciliated by any office or gift whatsoever." The dissolution of the assembly, of which Adams was clerk, had put a stop to his salary, and he had so little property laid by as hardly to be able to buy bread for his family. Under these circumstances it occurred to Gage that perhaps a judicious mixture of threat with persuasion might prove effectual. So he sent Colonel Fenton with a confidential messsage to Adams. The officer, with great politeness began by saying that "an adjust- ment of the existing disputes was very desirable; that he was authorized by Governor Gage to assure him that he had been


empowered to confer upon him such benefits as would be satisfactory, upon the condition that he would engage to cease in his opposition to the measures of government and that it was the advice of Governor Gage to him not to incur the further displeasure of his Majesty; that his conduct had been such as made him liable to the penalties of an act of Henry VIII., by which persons could be sent to England for trial and by changing his course, he would not only receive great personal advantages, but would thereby make his peace with the king."

Adams listened with apparent interest to this recital until the messenger had concluded. Then rising, he replied, glowing with indignation: "Sir, I trust I have long since made my peace with the King of kings. No personal consider- ation shall induce me to abandon the righteous cause of my country. Tell Governor Gage it is the advice of Samuel Adams to him no longer to insult the feelings of an exasperated people."

Toward the end of the winter Gage received peremptory orders to arrest Adams and Hancock and sent them to England for trial. One of the London papers gayly observed that in all probability Temple Bar "will soon be decorated with some of the patriotic noddles of the Boston saints." The provincial congress met at Concord on the 2nd of March and after its adjournment, on the 15th of April Adams and Hancock stayed a few days in Lexington at the house of their friend, the Rev. Jonas Clark. It would doubtless be easier to seize them there than in Boston and accordingly, on the night of


the 18th Gage dispatched a force of 800 troops under Lieutenant Colonel Smith, to march to Lexington and after seizing the patriot leaders to proceed to Concord and capture or destroy the military stores which had for some time been collecting there. At ten in the evening the troops were rowed across Charles River and proceeded by a difficult and unfrequented route through the marshes of East Cambridge until, after four miles, they struck into the highroad for Lexington. The greatest possible secrecy was observed, and stringent orders were given that no one should be allowed to leave Boston that night. But Warren divined the purpose of the movement and sent out Paul Revere by way of Roxbury to give the alarm. At that time there was no bridge across Charles river lower than the one which now connects Cambridge with Allston. Crossing the broad river in a little boat, under the very guns of the Somerset man-of- war, and waiting on the farther bank until he learned, from a lantern suspended in the belfry of the North Church, which way the troops had gone, Revere took horse and galloped over the Medford road to Lexington, shouting the news at the door of every house that he passed. Reaching Mr. Clark's a little after midnight, he found the house guarded by eight minute-men and the sergeant warned him not to make a noise and disturb the inmates. "Noise!" cried Revere. "You'll soon have noise enough; the regulars are coming!" Hancock, recognizing the voice, threw up the window and ordered the


guard to let him in. On learning the news, Hancock's first impulse was to stay and take command of the militia; but it was presently agreed that there was no good reason for his doing so, and shortly before daybreak, in company with Adams, he left the village.

Meanwhile, the troops were marching along the main road; but swift and silent as was their advance, frequent alarm-bells and signal-guns and lights twinkling on distant hill-tops, showed but too plainly that the secret was out. Colonel Smith then sent Major Pitcairn forward with six companies of light infantry to make all possible haste in securing the bridges over Concord river, while at the same time he prudently sent back to Boston for reinforcements. When Pit- cairn reached Lexington, just as the rising sun was casting long shadows across the village green, he found himself confronted byh some fifty minute-men under the command of Captain John Parker, grandfather of Theodore Parker, a hardy veteran, who, fifteen years before, had climbed the heights of Abraham by the side of Wolfe. "Dont fire unless you are fired on," said Parker, "but if they want a war, it may as well begin here." "Disperse, ye villains!" shouted Pitcairn. "Damn you, why dont you disperse?" And as they stood motionless he gave the order to fire. As the soldiers hesitated to obey, he discharged his own pistol and repeated the order, whereupon a deadly volley slew eight of the minute-men and wounded ten. At this moment the head of Smith's own column seemed to have come into sight, far


down the road. The minute-men had begun to return the fire, when Parker, seeing the folly of resistance, ordered them to retire. While this was going on, Adams and Hancock were walking across the fields toward Woburn; and as the crackle of distant musketry reached their ears, the eager Adams - his soul aglow with the prophecy of the coming deliverance of his country, exclaimed, "Oh, what a glorious morning this is!" From Woburn the two friends went on their way to Philadelphia where the second Continental Congress was about to assemble.

Some precious minutes had been lost by the British at Lexington, and it soon became clear that the day was to be one in which minutes could ill be spared. By the time they reached Concord, about seven o'clock, the greater part of the stores had been effectually hidden, and minute-men were rapidly gathering from all quarters. After posting small forces to guard the bridges, the troops set fire to the court-house, cut down the liberty-pole, disabled a few cannon, staved in a few barrels of flour and hunted unsuccessfully for arms and ammu- nition until an unexpected incident put a stop to their proceedings. When the force of minute-men watching events from the hill beyond the river, had become increased to more than 400, they suddenly advanced upon the North Bridge, which was held by 200 regulars. After receiving and returning the British fire, the militia, led by Major Buttrick, charged across the narrow bridge, overcame the regulars through weight and numbers, and


drove them back into the village. They did not follow up the attack, but rested on their arms, wondering, perhaps, at what they had already accomplished while their numbers were from moment to moment increased by the minute-men from neighboring villages. A little before noon, though none of the objects of the expedition had been accomplished, Colonel Smith began to realize the danger of his position, and started on his retreat to Boston. His men were in no mood for fight. They had marched eighteen miles and had eaten little or nothing for fourteen hours. But now, while companies of militia hovered upon both their flanks, every clump of trees and every bit of rising ground by the roadside gave shelter to hostile yeomen, whose aim was true and deadly.

Staggling combats ensued from time to time, and the retreating British left nothing undone which brave men could do; but the incessant, galling fire at length threw them into hopeless confusion. Leaving their wounded scattered along the road, they had already passed by the village green of Lexington in disorderly flight, when they were saved by Lord Percy, who had marched out through Brookline and Cambridge to their assistance with 1,200 men and two field-pieces. Forming his men in a hollow square, Percy inclosed the fugitives who, in dire exhaustion, threw themselves upon the ground, "their tongues hanging out of their mouths," says Colonel Stedman, "like those of dogs after a chase." Many had thrown away their muskets, and Pitcairn had lost his horse, with the elegant pistols which fired


the first shots of the War of Independence, and which may be seen today, along with other trophies in the town library of Lexington.

Percy's timely arrival checked the pursuit for an hour, and gave the starved and weary men a chance for food and rest. A few houses were pillaged and set on fire, but at three o'clock General Heath and Dr. Warren arrived on the scene and took command of the militia and the irregular fight was renewed. When Percy reached Menotomy (now Arlington), seven miles from Boston, his passage was disputed by a fresh force of militia, while pursuers pressed hard on his rear, and it was only after an obstinate fight that he succeeded in forcing his way. The roadside now fairly swarmed with marksmen, insomuch that, as one of the British officers observed, "they seemed to have dropped from the clouds." It became impossible to keep order or to carry away the wounded; and when, at sunset, the troops entered Charlestown, under the welcome shelter of the fleet, it was upon the full run. They were not a moment too soon, for Colonel Pickering with 700 Essex militia on the way to intercept them, had already reached Winter Hill; and had their road been blocked by this fresh force they must in all probability have surrendered.

On this eventful day the British lost 273 of their number, while the Americans lost 93. The expedition had been a failure, the whole British force had barely escaped capture, and it had been shown that the people could not be frightened into submission. It had been shown too, how efficient


the town system of organized militia might prove on a sudden emergency. The most interesting feature of the day is the rapidity and skill with which the different bodies of minute-men, marching from long distances, were massed at those points on the road where they might most effectually impede the British retreat. The Danvers company marched sixteen miles in four hours to strike Lord Percy at Menotomy. The list of killed and wounded shows that contingents from at least twenty-three towns had joined in the fight before sundown. But though the pursuit was then ended, these men did not return to their homes, but hour by hour their numbers increased. At noon of that day the alarm had reached Worcester. Early next morning Israel Putnam was ploughing a field at Pomfret in Connecticut, when the news arrived. Leaving orders for the militia companies to follow, he jumped on his horse and riding a hundred miles in eighteen hours, arrived in Cambridge on the morning of the 21st, just in time to meet John Stark with the first company from New Hampshire. At midday of the 20th the college green at New Haven swarmed with eager students and citizens, and Captain Benedict Arnold, gathering sixty volunteers from among them, placed himself at their head and marched for Cambridge picking up recruits and allies at all the villages on the way. And thus, from every hill and valley in New England, on they came, till by Saturday night, Gage found himself besieged in Boston by a rustic army of 16,000 men.


When the news of this affair reached England, five weeks later, it was received at first with incredularity, then with astonishment and regret. Slight as the contest had been, it remained undeniable that British troops had been defeated by what in England was regarded as a crowd of "peasants;" and it was felt be- sides that the chances for conciliation had now been seriously diminshed. Burke said that now that the Americans had once gone so far as this, they could hardley help going further; and in spite of the condemnation that had been lavished upon Gage for his inactivity, many people were now inclined to find fault with him for having precipitated a conflict just at the time when it was hoped that, with the aid of the New York loyalists, some sort of accomodation might be effected.

There is no doubt that the news from Lexington thoroughly disconcerted the loyalists of New York for the moment, and greatly strengthened the popular party there. In a manifesto addressed to the city of London, the New York committee of correspondence deplored the conduct of Gage as rash and violent and declared that all the horrors of civil war would never bring the Americans to submit to the unjust acts of Parliament. When Hancock and Adams arrived, on their way to the Congress, they were escorted through the city with triumphal honours. In Pennsylvania steps were immediately taken for the enlistment and training of a colonial militia, and every colony to the south of it followed the example. The Scotch-Irish patriots of Mecklenburg County, in North Carolina


ventured upon a measure more decided than any that had yet been taken in any part of the country. On May 31st the county committee of Mecklenburg affirmed that the joint address of the two Houses of Parliament to the king, in February had virtually "annulled and vacated all civil and military commissions granted by the Crown, and suspended the constitutions of the colonies;" and that con- sequently "the provincial congress of each province, under the direction of the great Continental Congress, is invested with all the legislature and executive powers within their respective provinces, and that no other legislative or ex- ecutive power does or can exist at this time in any of these colonies." In accordance with this state of things, rules were adopted "for the choice of county officers to excercise authority by virtue of this choice and independ- ently of the British Crown, until Parliament should resign its arbitrary pre- tensions." These bold resolves were entrusted to the North Carolina delegates to the Continental Congress, but were not formally brought before that body, as the delegates thought it best to wait for a while longer the course of events.

Some twenty years later they gave rise to the legend of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence. The early writers of United States history passed over the proceedings of May 31st in silence, and presently the North Carolina patriots tried to supply an account of them from memory. Their traditional account was not published until 1819, when it was


found to contain a spurious document, giving the substance of some of the foregoing resolves, decorated with phrases borrowed from the great Declara- tion of Independence of 1776. This document purported to have been drawn up and signed at a county meeting on the 20th of May. A fierce controversy sprang up over the genuineness of the document, which was promptly called in question. For a long time many people believed in it, and were inclined to charge Jeffer- son with having plagiarized from it in writing the Declaration of Independence. But a minute investigation of all the newspapers of May, 1775, has shown that no such meeting was held on the 20th and that no such document was made public. The story of the Mecklenburg Declaration is simply a legend based upon the dis- torted recollection of the real proceedings of May 31st.

Meanwhile in New England, the warlike feeling had become too strong to be con- tented merely with defensive measures. No soon had Benedict Arnold reached Cambridge than he suggested to Dr. Warren that an expedition ought to be sent without delay to capture Ticonderoga and Crown Point. These fortresses com- manded the northern approaches to the Hudson River, the strategic centre of the whole country, and would be of supreme importance either in preparing an in- vasion of Canada or in warding off an invasion of New York. Besides this, they contained a vast quantity of military stores, of which the newly gathered army stood in sore need. The idea found favour at once. Arnold received a colonel's


commission from the Massachusetts Congress, and was instructed to raise 400 men among the Berkshire Hills, capture the fortress, and superintend the transfer of part of their armament to Cambridge. When Arnold reached the wild hillsides of the Hoosac range, he found that he had a rival in the enterprise. The cap- ture of Ticonderoga had also been secretly planned in Connecticut, and was en- trusted to Ethan Allen, the eccentric but sagacious author of that now forgotten deistical book, "The Oracles of Reason."

Allen was a leading spirit among the "Green Mountain Boys" an association of Vermont settlers formed for the purpose of resisting the jurisdiction of New York and his personal popularity was great. On the 9th of May, Arnold overtook Allen and his men on their march toward Lake Champlain and claimed the command of the expedition on the strength of his commission from Massachusetts; but the Green Mountain Boys were acting partly on their own account, partly under the direction of Connecticut. They cared nothing for the authority of Massachusetts and knew nothing of Arnold; they had come out to fight under their own trusted leader. But few of Arnold's own men had as yet assembled, and his commission could not give him command of Vermonters, so he joined the expedition as a volunteer. On reaching the lake that night, they found there were not nearly enough row-boats to convey the men across. But delay was not to be thought of. The garrison must not be put on its guard. Accordingly, with only eighty-three men, Allen and Arnold crossed the lake at daybreak of


the 10th, and entered Ticonderoga side by side. The little garrison, less than half as many in number, as it turned out, was completely surprised and the stronghold was taken without a blow. As the commandant jumped out of bed, half awake, he confusedly inquired of Allen by whose authority he was acting. "In the name of the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress!" roared the bellicose philosopher, and the commandant, seeing the fort already taken, was fain to acquiesce. At the same time Crown Point surrendered to another famous Green Mountain boy, Seth Warner, and thus more than two hundred cannon, with a large supply of powder and ball, were obtained for the New England army. A few days later, as some of Arnold's own men arrived from Berkshire, he sailed down Lake Champlain and captured St. John's with its garrison; but the British re- covered it in the course of the summer, and planted such a force there that in the autumn we shall see it able to sustain a siege of fifty days.

Neither Connecticut nor Massachusetts had any authority over these posts save through right of conquest. As it was Connecticut that had set Allen's expedi- tion on foot, Massachusetts yielded the point as to the disposal of the fort- resses and their garrisons. Dr. Warren urged the Connecticut government to appoint Arnold to the command, so that his commission might be held of both colonies; but Connecticut preferred to retain Allen, and in July Arnold re- turned to Cambridge to mature his remarkable plan for invading Canada


through the trackless wilderness of Maine. His slight disagreement with Allen bore evil fruit. As is often the case in such affairs, the men were more zeal- ous than their commanders; there were those who denounced Allen as an inter- loper and he was destined to hear from them again and again.

On the same day on which Ticonderoga surrendered, the Continental Congress met at Philadelphia. The Adamses and the Livingstons, Jay, Henry, Washington and Lee were there, as also Franklin, just back from his longer service in England. Of all the number, John Adams and Franklin had now, probably, come to agree with Samuel Adams that a political separation from Great Britain was inevitable; but all were fully agreed that any consideration of such a question was at present premature and uncalled for. The Congress was a body which wielded no technical legal authority; it was but a group of committees, assembled for the purpose of advising with each other regarding public weal.

Yet something very like a state of war existed in a part of the country, under conditions which intimately concerned the whole, and in the absence of any formally constituted government something must be done to provide for such a crisis. The spirit of the assembly was well shown in its choice of a president. Peyton Randolph being called back to Virginia to preside over the colonial assembly, Thomas Jefferson was sent to Congress in his stead; and it also became necessary for Congress to choose a


president to succeed him. The proscribed John Hancock was at once chosen, and Benjamin Harrison, in conducting him to the chair, said, "We will show Great Britain how much we value her proscriptions." To the garrisoning of Ticonderoga and Crown Point by Connecticut, the Congress consented only after much hesitation, since the capture of these posts had been an act of offensive warfare. But without any serious opposition, in the name of the "United Colonies," the Congress adopted the army of New England men besieging Boston as the "Continental Army," and proceeded to appoint a commander-in-chief to direct its operations. Practically, this was the most important step taken in the whole course of the War of Independence, and the wisdom shown in the appointment consummate. Nothing less, indeed, than the whole issue of the struggle, for ultimate defeat or for ultimate victory, turned upon the selection to be made at this crisis. For nothing can be clearer than that in any other hands than those of George Washington the military result of the war must have been speedily disastrous to the Americans. In appointing the Virginian to the command of a New England army, the Congress showed rare wisdom. It would well have accorded with local prejudices had a New England general been appointed. John Hancock greatly desired the appointment, and seems to have been chagrined at not receiving it. But it was wisely decided that the common interest of all Americans could in no way be more thoroughly engaged in the war than by putting


the New England army in charge of a general who represented in his own person the greatest of the Southern colonies. Washington was now commander of the local militia of Virginia and sat in Congress in his colonel's uniform. His services in saving the remnant of Braddock's ill-fated army, and afterwards in the capture of Fort Duquesne, had won for him a military reputation greater than that of any other American. Besides this, there was that which, from his early youth, had made it seem right to entrust him with commissions of extra- ordinary importance. Nothing in Washington's whole career is more remarkable than the fact that when a mere boy of twenty-one he should have been selected by the governor of Virginia to take charge of that most delicate and dangerous diplomatic mission to the Indian Chiefs and the French commander at Venango.

Consummate knowledge of human nature as well as of wood-craft, a courage that no threats could daunt and a clear intelligence that no treachery could hood wink, were the qualities absolutely demanded by such an undertaking; yet the young man acquitted himself of his perilous task not merely with credit, but with splendour. As regards booklore, his education had been but meagre, yet he possessed in the very highest degree the rare faculty of always discerning the essential facts in every case, and interpreting them correctly. In the Continental Congress there sat many who were superior to him in learning and eloquence; but "if" said Patrick Henry, "you speak of solid information and sound judgement, Colonel Washington


is unquestionably the greatest man upon that floor." Thus did that wonderful balance of mind - so great that in his whole career it would be hard to point out a single mistake - already impress his ablest contemporaries. Hand in hand with this rare soundness of judgment there went a completeness of moral self- control, which was all the more impressive inasmuch as Washington's was by no means a tame or commonplace nature, such as ordinary power of will would suffice to guide. He was a man of intense and fiery passions. His anger, when once aroused, had it it something so terrible that strong men were cowed by it like frightened children. This prodigious animal nature was habitually curbed by a will of iron, and held in the service of a sweet and tender soul, into which no mean or unworthy thought had ever entered. Whole-souled devotion to public duty, an incorruptible integrity which no appeal to ambition or vanity could for a moment solicit, these were attributes of Washington, as well marked as his clearness of mind and his strength of purpose. And it was in no unworthy temple that Nature had enshrined this great spirit. His lofty stature (exceeding six feet), his grave and handsome face, his noble bearing and courtly grace of manner, all proclaimed in Washington a king of men.

The choice of Washington for commander-in-chief was suggested and strongly urged by John Adams, and when on the 15th of June the nomination was formally made by Thomas Johnson of Maryland, it was unanimously confirmed.


Washington, rising, said with great earnestness: "Since the Congress desire, I will enter upon the momentous duty, and exert every power I possess in their service and for the support of the glorious cause. But I beg it may be remembered by every gentleman in the room that I this day declare, with the utmost sincerity, I do not think myself equal to the command I am honoured with." He refused to take any pay for his services but said he would keep an accurate account of his personal expenses which Congress might reimburse, should it see fit, after the close of the war.

While these things were going on at Philadelphia, the army of New England men about Boston was busily pressing, to the best of its limited ability, the siege of that town. The army extended in a great semicircle of sixteen miles, averaging about a thousand men to the mile, all the way from Jamaica Plain to Charlestown Neck. The headquarters were at Cambridge, where some of the univ- ersity buildings were used for barracks, and the chief command had been entrusted to General Artemas Ward under the direction of the committee of safety. Dr. Warren had succeeded Hancock as president of the provincial congress which was in session at Watertown. The army was excellent in spirit but poorly equipped and extremely deficient in discipline. Its military object was to compel the British troops to evacuate Boston and take to their ships; for as there was no American fleet, anything like the destruction or capture of the British force was manifestly impossible. The only way in which Boston

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could be made untenable for the British was by seizing and fortifying some of the neighboring hills which commanded the town, of which the most important were those in Charlestown on the north and in Dorchester on the southeast. To secure these hills was indispensable to Gage, if he was to keep his foothold in Boston; and as soon as Howe, Clinton and Burgoyne arrived on the 25th of May with reinforcements which raised the British force to 10,000 men, a plan was laid for extending the lines so as to cover both Charlestown and Dorchester.

Feeling now confident of victory, Gage issued a proclomation on June 12th offering free pardon to all rebels who shold lay down their arms and return to their allegiance, saving only those ringleaders, John Hancock and Samuel Adams, whose crimes had been "too flagitious to be condoned." At the same time, all who should be taken in arms were threatened with the gallows. In reply to this manifesto, the committee of safety, having received intelligence of Gage's scheme, ordered out a force of 1,200 men to forestall the governor, and take possession of Bunker Hill in Charlestown. At sunset on the 16th this brigade was paraded on Cambridge Common and after prayers had been offered by Dr. Langdon, president of the university, they set out on their enterprise under command of Colonel William Prescott of Pepperell, a veteran of the French war, grandfather of one of the most eminent American historian (William Hickling Prescott). On reaching the grounds, a consultation was held, and it was decided in accordance with the general purpose,


if not in strict conformity to the letter of the order, to push on farther and fortify the eminence known as Breed's Hill, which was connected by a ridge with Bunker Hill, and might be regarded as part of the same locality.

The position of Breed's Hill was admirably fitted for annoying the town and the ships in the harbour, and it was believed that, should the Americans succeed in planting batteries there, the British would be obliged to retire from Boston. There can be little doubt, however, that in this departing from the strict letter of his orders Prescott made a mistake, which might have proved fatal hd not the enemy blundered still more seriously. The advanced position on Breed's Hill was not only exposed to attacks in the rear from an enemy who commanded the water, but the line of retreat was ill secured and, by seizing upon Charlestown Neck it would have been easy for the British with little or no loss, to have compelled Prescott to surrender. From such a disaster the Americans were saved by the stupid contempt which the enemy felt for them.

Reaching Breed's Hill about midnight, Colonel Prescott's men began throwing up intrenchments. At daybreak they were discovered by the sailors in the har- bour and a lively cannonade was kept up through the forenoon by the enemy's ships; but it produced little effect and the strength of the American works increased visibly hour by hour. It was a beautiful summer day, bathed in brightest sunshine and through the clear dry air every movement of the spades- men on the hill-top and


the sailors on their decks could be distinctly seen from a great distance. The roar of the cannon had called out everybody far and near, to see what was going on, and the windows and housetops in Boston were crowded with anxious spectators. During the night, General Putnam had come upon the scene, and turned his attention to fortifying the crest of Bunker Hill, in order to secure the line of retreat across Charlestown Neck. In the course of the forenoon Colonel Stark arrived with reinforcements which were posted behind the rail fence on the extreme left, to ward off any attempt by the British to turn their flank by a direct attack. At the same time, Dr. Warren, now chief executive officer of Massachusetts, and just appointed major-general, hastened to the battlefield; replying to the prudent and affectionate remonstrance of his friend, Elbridge Gerry, "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori." Arriving at the redoubt he refused the command expressly tendered him saying that he should be only too glad to serve as volunteer aid and learn his first lesson under so well tried soldier as Prescott. This modest heroism was typical of that memorable day, to the events of which one may well apply the Frenchman's dictum, "C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas la guerre!" A glorious day it was in history, but characterized on both the British and the American sides by heroism rather than by military skill or prudence.

During the afternoon Gage was earnestly discussing with the three new generals the best means


of ousting the Americans from their positions on Breed's Hill. There was one sure and obvious method, to go around by sea and take possession of Charlestown Neck, thereby cutting off the Americans from the mainland and starving them out. But it was thought that time was too precious to admit of so slow a method. Should the Americans succeed, in the course of the afternoon, in planting a battery of siege guns on Breed's Hill, the British position in Boston would be endangered. A direct assault was preferred, as likely to be more speedily effective. It was unanimously agreed that these "peasants" could not withstand the charge of 3,000 veteran soldiers and it was gravely doubted if they would stay and fight at all. Gage accordingly watched the proceedings buoyant with hope. In a few hours the disgrace of Lexington would be wiped out and this wicked rebellion would be ended. At noonday the troops began crossing the river in boats and at three o'clock they prepared to storm the intrenchments. They advanced in two parties, General Howe toward the rail- fence and General Pigott toward the redoubt, and the same fate awaited both. The Americans reserved fire until the enemy had come within fifty yards when all at once they poured forth such a deadly volley that the whole front rank of the British was mowed as if by the sudden sweep of a scythe. For a few minutes the gallant veterans held their ground and returned the fire; but presently an indescribable shudder ran through the line, and


they gave way and retreated down the hillside in disorder while the Americans raised an exultant shout, and were with difficulty restrained by their officers from leaping over the breastworks and pursuing.

A pause now ensued during which the village of Charlestown was set on fire by shells from the fleet and soon its four hundred wooden houses were in a roaring blaze, while charred timbers strewed the lawns and flower-beds and the sky was blackened with huge clouds of smoke.

If the purpose of this wholesale destruction of property was, as some have thought, to screen the second British advance, the object was not attained, for a light breeze drove the smoke the wrong way. As the bright red coats such excellent targets for trained marksmen, were seen the second time coming up the slope, the Americans now cool and confident, withheld their fire until the distance was less than thirty yards. Then, with a quick succession of murderous disharges, such havoc was wrought in the British lines as soon to prove unendurable. After a short but obstinate struggle the lines were broken and the gallant troops retreated hastily, leaving the hillside covered with their dead and wounded. All this time the Americans, in their sheltered position had suffered but little.

So long a time now elapsed that many persons began to doubt if the British would renew the assault. Had the organization of the American army been better, such reinforcements of men and ammunition might by this time have arrived from


Cambridge that any further attack upon the hill would be sure to prove fruitless. But all was confusion at headquarters. General Ward was ill furnished with staff officers, and wrong information was brought, while orders were misunderstood. And besides, in his ignorance of the extent of Gage's plans, General Ward was nervously afraid of weakening his centre at Cambridge. Three regiments were sent over too late to be of any use, and meanwhile Prescott, to his dismay, found that his stock of powder was nearly exhausted. While he was making ready for a hand-to-hand fight, the British officers were holding a council of war, and many declared that to renew the attack would be simply useless butchery. On the other hand, General Howe observed, "To be forced to give up Boston would, gentlemen, be very dis- agreeable to us all." The case was not really so desperate as this, for the alternative of an attack upon Charlestown Neck still remained open, and every consideration of sound generalship now prescribed that it should be tried.

But Howe could not bear to acknowledge the defeat of his attempts to storm and accordingly at five o'clock, with genuine British persistency, a third attack was ordered. For a moment the advancing columns were again shaken by the Americans fire but the last cartridges were soon spent and by resolute bayonet charges and irregular volleys that could not be returned the Americans were slowly driven from their works and forced to retreat over Charlestown Neck while the whole disputed


ground, including the summit of Bunker Hill passed into the hands of the British. In this battle, in which not more than one hour was spent in actual fighting, the British loss in killed and wounded was 1,054, or more than one third of the whole force engaged, including an unusually large proportion of officers. The American lost, mainly incurred at the rail-fence and during the final hand to hand struggle at the redoubt, was 449, probably about one fourth of the whole force engaged.

On the British side, one company of grenadiers came out of the battle with only five of its number left unhurt. Every officer on General Howe's staff was cut down, and only one survived his wounds. The gallant Pitcairn who had fired the first shot of the war, fell while entering the redoubt and a few moments later the Americans met with an irreparable loss in the death of General Warren who was shot in the forehead as he lingered with rash obstinacy on the scene, loath to join in the inevitble retreat. Another volunteer aid, not less illustrious than Warren, fought on Bunker Hill that day, and came away scatheless. Since the brutal beating which he had received at the coffee house nearly six years before, the great intellect of James Otis had suffered wll nigh total wreck. He was living, harmlessly insane, at the house of his sister, Mercy Warren at Watertown, when he witnessed the excitement and listened to the rumour of battle on the morning of the 17th of June. With touching eagerness to strike a blow for the cause in which he had already suffered so


dreadful a martyrdom, Otis stole away from home, borrowed a musket at some roadside farmhouse and hastened to the battlefield, where he fought manfully and after all was over made his way home, weary and faint, a little before midnight.

Though small in its dimensions, if compared with great European battles, or with the giant contest of our own civil war, the struggle at Bunker Hill is memorable and instructive, even from a purely military point of view. Con- sidering the numbers engaged and the short duration of the fight, the destruction of life was enormous. Of all the hardest-fought fields of modern times, there have been very few indeed in which the number of killed and wounded has exceeded one fourth of the whole force engaged. In its bloodiness and in the physical conditions of the struggle, the battle of Bunker Hill re- sembles in miniature the tremendous battles of Fredericksburg and Cold Harbor.

To ascend a rising ground and storm well-manned intrenchments has in all ages been a difficult task; at the present day, with the range and precision of our modern weapons, it has come to be almost impossible. It has become a maxim of modern warfare that only the most extraordinary necessity can justify a commander in resorting to so desperate a measure. He must manoeuvre against such positions, cut them off by the rear, or deprive them of their value by some flanking march; but he must not, save as a forlorn hope, waste precious human lives in an effort to storm them that is almost sure to prove fruitless. For our means of destroying


life have become so powerful and so accurate that, when skilfully wielded from commanding positions, no human gallantry can hope to withstand them. As civil- ization advances, warfare becomes less and less a question of mere personal bravery, and more and more a question of the application of resistless physical forces at the proper points; that is to say, it becomes more and more a purely scientific problem of dynamics. Now at Bunker Hill, though the Americans had not our modern weapons of precision, yet a similar effect was wrought by the remarkable accuracy of their aim, due to the fact that they were all trained marksmen, who waited coolly till they could fire at short range, and then wasted no shots in random firing. Most of the British soldiers who fell in the two disastrous charges of that day were doubtless picked off as partridges are picked off by old sportsmen, and thus is explained the unprecedented slaughter of officers. Probably nothing quite like this had yet been seen in the history of war though the principle had been similar in those wonderly trials of the long-bow in such medieval battles as Crecy and Dupplin Moor. Against such odds even British pluck and endurance could not possibly prevail. Under these cir- cumstances had the Americans been properly supplied with powder, Howe could no more have taken Bunker Hill by storm than Burside could take the heights of Fredericksburg.

The moral effect of the battle of Bunker Hill both in America and Europe was remarkable. It was for the British a decided and important


victory, inasmuch as they not only gained the ground for which the battle was fought, but by so doing they succeeded in keeping their hold upon Boston for nine months longer. Nevertheless, the moral advantage was felt to be entirely on the side of the Americans. It was they who were elated by the day's work, while it was the British who were dispirited. The belief that Americans could not fight was that day dispelled forever. British officers who remembered Fontenoy and Minden declared that the firing at Bunker Hill was the hottest they had every known, and, with an exaggeration which was pardonable as a reaction from their former ill-judged contempt, it was asserted that the regulars of France were less formidable foes than the militia of New England. It was keenly felt that if a conquest of a single strategic position had en- countered such stubborn resistance, the task of subjugating the United Colonies was likely to prove a hard one. "I wish we could sell them another hill at the same price," said General Greene. Vergennes, the French minister of foreign affairs, exclaimed that with two more such victories England would have no army left in America. Washington said there could now be no doubt that the liberties of the people were secure. While Franklin, taking extreme ground, declared that England had lost her colonies forever.

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The American Revolution
Chapter 3
Created April 11, 2004
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