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Injustice to American prisoners



That Lord Howe and Sir William were ignorant of the extent of these atrocities we really believe, but it was their duty to be well informed. War is, at best, a cruel trade, that habituates those who follow it to regard the sufferings of others with indifference. There is not a doubt, too, that a feeling of contumely deprived the patriot prisoners of all sympathy in the early stages of the Revolution. They were regarded as criminals rather than captives. The stigma of rebels seemed to take from them all the indulgences, scanty and miserable as they are, usually granted to prisoners of war. The British officers looked down with haughty contempt upon the American officers, who had fallen into their hands. The British soldiery treated them with insolent scurrility. It seemed as if the very ties of consanguinity rendered their hostility more intolerant, for it was observed that American prisoners were better treated by the Hessians than by the British. It was not until our countrymen had made themselves formidable by their successes that they were treated, when prisoners, with common decency and humanity.

The difficulties arising out of the case of General Lee interrupted the operations with regard to the exchange of prisoners; and gallant men, on both sides, suffered prolonged detention in consequence; and among the number the brave, but ill-starred Ethan Allen.

Lee, in the meantime, remained in confinement, until directions with regard to him should be received from government. Events, however, had diminished his importance in the eyes of the enemy; he was no longer considered the American palladium. “As the capture of the Hessians and the manoeuvres against the British took place after the surprise of General Lee,” observes a London writer of Chapter VI.

we find that he is not the only efficient officer in the American service."*

the day,

* Am. Archives, 5th Series, iii., 1244.


Exertions to Form a New Army-Calls on the Differ

ent States—Insufficiency of the Militia—Washington's Care for the Yeomanry-Dangers in the Northern Department-Winter Attack on Ticonderoga Apprehended-Exertions to Reinforce SchuylerPrecarious State of Washington's Army-Conjectures as to the Designs of the Enemy-Expedition of the British against Peekskill.


HE early part of the year brought the

annual embarrassments caused by short

enlistments. The brief terms of ser

vice for which the continental soldiery had enlisted, a few months perhaps, at most a year, were expiring ; and the men, glad to be released from camp duty, were hastening to their rustic homes. Militia had to be the dependence until a new army could be raised and organized ; and Washington called on the

; Council of Safety of Pennsylvania, speedily to furnish temporary reinforcements of the kind. All his officers that could be spared were ordered away, some to recruit, some to collect the scattered men of the different regiments, who were dispersed, he said, almost over the continent. General Knox was sent off to Massachusetts to expedite the raising of a battalion of artillery. Different States were urged to levy and equip their quotas for the continental army. “Nothing but the united efforts of every State in America,” writes he, can save us from disgrace, and probably from ruin."

Rhode Island is reproached with raising troops for home service before furnishing its supply to the general army. “If each State,” writes he, were to prepare for its own defense independent of each other, they would all be conquered, one by one. Our success must depend on a firm union and a strict adherence to the general plan."'*

* He deplores the fluctuating state of the army while depending on militia ; full one day, almost disbanded the next. I am much afraid that the enemy, one day or other, taking advantage of one of these temporary weaknesses, will make themselves masters of our magazines of stores, arms, and artillery."

The militia, too, on being dismissed, were generally suffered by their officers to carry home with them the arms with which they had

* Letter to Governor Cooke. Sparks, iv., 285.

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Dangers in Aortbern Department


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been furnished, so that the armory was in a manner scattered over all the world, and forever lost to the public.

Then an earnest word is spoken by him in behalf of the yeomanry, whose welfare always lay near his heart. You must be fully sensible," writes he, "of the hardships imposed upon individuals, and how detrimental it must be to the public to have farmers and tradesmen frequently called out of the field as militia men, whereby a total stop is put to arts and agriculture, without which we cannot long subsist.”

While thus anxiously exerting himself to strengthen his own precarious army, the security of the Northern department was urged upon his attention. Schuyler represented it as in need of reinforcements and supplies of all kinds. He apprehended that Carleton might make an attack upon Ticonderoga, as soon as he could cross Lake Champlain on the ice; that important fortress was under the conimand of a brave officer, Colonel Anthony Wayne, but its garrison had dwindled down to six or seven hundred men, chiefly New England militia. In the present destitute situation of his department as to troops, Schuyler feared that Carleton might not only succeed in an attempt on Ticonderoga, but might push his way to Albany.


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