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Washington withdrew to winter-quarters in the woods of Valley Forge. His troops were destitute of shoes, and might have been tracked by the blood of their feet. They passed the winter in huts, suffered extreme distress from want of clothing and of food, but endured their privations without a murmur. How strong must have been their love of liberty! With what lively gratitude ought a prosperous country, indebted to them for the most valuable blessings, to remember their sufferings and services !
CAMPAIGN OF 1778.
WHILE the American armies were contending in the field, or suffering in the camp, congress were occupied in the performance of duties important to the cause of independence. At first this body possessed no powers, but such as were conferred by the credentials and instructions given by the state legislatures to their respective delegates. Early in 1776, a confederation of the states was proposed ; but until the 15th of November, 1777, all the obstacles to the measure could not be surmounted.
The “ Articles of the Confederation" then adopted by congress, and subsequently ratified by the several assemblies, bound the states in a firm league of friendship with each other, for their
common defence and the security of their liberties. Delegates were to be annually appointed, who, when assembled in congress, were authorised to carry on war, to make peace, and to exercise all the powers of sovereignty in relation to foreign nations. They were also authorised to determine the number of men, and the amount of money to be raised, and to assign to each state its just proportion.
But so unwilling were the states to relinquish their recently assumed independence, that they withheld from congress the authority to make laws which should operate directly upon the people; and reserved to themselves the sole right of raising their proportions of money, in such manner as each might deem most expedient.
Congress also effected a thorough reform of the commissary department, in which scandalous frauds had been committed. And in order to introduce a uniform system of tactics and discipline, they resolved that an inspector-general should be appointed. Subsequently they elected to that office the Baron Steuben, a native of Prussia, who had served in a high station in the army
of Frederic the Great, and was well versed in the system of manæuvres introduced by that celebrated commander.
The signal victory at Saratoga exalted the reputation of the confederated states, in every part of Europe. The French ministry no longer hesitated to acknowledge their independence. On the sixth of February, they concluded with the American commissioners treaties of commerce and of alliance, in which they generously assented to terms highly advantageous to the states. This event, so flattering to the hopes and the pride of the people, occasioned the liveliest joy, and the most ardent gratitude to France.
Among the people of Great Britain, the defeat of their favourite general produced astonishment, dismay, and indignation. The most brilliant success was anticipated; the most ignominious result had occurred. The pride of the nation was humbled, and they who had disapproved of the war, poured upon the ministry a torrent of invective. To increase the bitterness of their chagrin, they soon learned the course which their hereditary enemy and rival had resolved to pursue.
It was now determined in the cabinet, to grant to America all that she had demanded in the beginning of the contest. An act was passed, declaring that parliament would not, in future, impose any tax upon the colonies; and commissioners were sent over, authorised to proclaim a repeal of all the offensive statutes, and to treat with the constituted authorities of America.
The commissioners, arriving at Philadelphia in the spring, communicated to congress the terms offered by Great Britain, which were at once unanimously rejected. Failing in the use of direct and honourable means, they attempted bribery and corruption. To Joseph Reed, a general in the army and a member of congress, an offer was made of ten thousand pounds sterling, and any office within his majesty's gift in the colonies, if he would endeavour to effect a reunion of the two
countries. “ I am not worth purchasing,” he nobly replied, but such as I am, the king of Great Britain is not rich enough to do it.”
On receiving official notification of the treaties concluded with her revolted colonies, Great Britain declared war against France; and the ministry, presuming that assistance would be sent them, transmitted orders by the commissioners, that Philadelphia should be evacuated, and the royal troops concentrated at New York. The execution of these orders devolved upon Sir Henry Clinton, who, General Howe, having resigned, had been appointed commander-in-chief. On the 18th of June, the enemy quitted the city, and marched slowly eastward.
Washington, leaving his huts in the forest, hung upon the rear of the British army, watching for a favourable opportunity to offer battle. On arriving at Monmouth, in New Jersey, General Lee, who had lately been exchanged, was ordered to take the command of five thousand men, and, early in the morning of the 28th, unless there should be powerful reasons to the contrary, to commence an attack. He was assured that the residue of the army should follow, and give him support.
Lee made dispositions to attack accordingly, but perceiving the main body of the enemy returning to meet him, he retreated. Washington, advancing to render the promised support, saw him retiring, rode forward and addressed him in language implying disapprobation of his conduct. He then directed him to form his men, on ground
which he pointed out, and there oppose the progress of the enemy.
These orders were executed with firmness. A warm engagement ensued, and Lee, when forced from the ground, brought off his troops in good order. Washington, at this moment, arrived with the main body of his army, which joined in the action, and compelled the enemy to fall back to the position from which Lee had been driven.
The day had been intensely hot; it was now almost dark, and the troops were much fatigued. Further operations were therefore deferred until the next morning. In the night, Sir Henry Clinton silently left his position, and continued his march to New York. His loss amounted to near five hundred men; that of the Americans to three hundred. Heat and excessive fatigue proved fatal
Lee, irritable and proud, could not forget the manner in which Washington had addressed him; and in two passionate letters demanded reparation. A court martial was instituted; he was found guilty of misconduct on the day of battle, and of disrespect to the commander-in-chief, and was suspended from command for one year. He never afterwards joined the army, but died in seclusion just before the close of the war.
The enemy having entered New York, Washington conducted his army to White Plains. Congress returned to Philadelphia ; and in July received, with inexpressible joy, a letter from the Count de Estainge, announcing his arrival on the coast of the United States, with a large fleet,