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He had written in vain, he said, to the Convention of New York, and to the Eastern States, for reinforcements, and he entreated Washington to aid him with his influence. He wished to have his army composed of troops from as many different States as possible; the Southern people having a greater spirit of discipline and subordination, might, he thought, introduce it among the Eastern people.
He wished also for the assistance of a general officer or two in his department. “I am alone,” writes he, “ distracted with a variety of cares, and no one to take part of the burden."*
Although Washington considered a winter attack of the kind specified by Schuyler too difficult and dangerous to be very probable, he urged reinforcements from Massachusetts and New Hampshire, whence they could be furnished most speedily. Massachusetts, in fact, had already determined to send four regiments to Schuyler's aid as soon as possible.
Washington disapproved of a mixture of troops in the present critical juncture, knowing, he said, “the difficulty of maintaining harmony among men from different States, and bringing them to lay aside all attachments and distinctions of a local and provincial nature, and consider themselves the same people, engaged in
* Schuyler's Letter Book, MS.
Theed of Reinforcements
the same noble struggle, and having one general interest to defend."*
The quota of Massachusetts, under the present arrangement of the army, was fifteen regiments; and Washington ordered General Heath, who was in Massachusetts, to forward them to Ticonderoga as fast as they could be raised. †
Notwithstanding all Washington's exertions in behalf of the army under his immediate command, it continued to be deplorably in want of reinforcements, and it was necessary to maintain the utmost vigilance at all his posts to prevent his camp from being surprised. The operations of the enemy might be delayed by the bad condition of the roads, and the want of horses to move their artillery, but he anticipated an attack as soon as the roads were passable, and apprehended a disastrous result unless speedily reinforced. “The enemy," writes he, "must be ignorant
,, of our numbers and situation, or they would never suffer us to remain unmolested, and I almost tax myself with imprudence in committing the fact to paper, lest this letter should fall into other hands than those for which it is intended.” And again : “It is not in my power to make Congress fully sensible of the real situation of our affairs, and that it is with difficulty I can keep the life and soul of the army together. In a word, they are at a distance; they think it is but to say presto, begone, and everything is done; they seem not to have any conception of the difficulty and perplexity of those who have to execute.”
* Ibid. † Sparks. Washington's Writings, iv., 361, note.
The designs of the enemy being mere matter of conjecture, measures varied accordingly. As the season advanced, Washington was led to believe that Philadelphia would be their first object at the opening of the campaign, and that they would bring round all their troops from Canada by water to aid in the enterprise. Under this persuasion he wrote to General Heath, ordering him to send eight of the Massachusetts battalions to Peekskill instead of Ticonderoga, and he explained his reasons for so doing in a letter to Schuyler. “At Peekskill," he observed, "they would be well placed to give support to any of the Eastern or Middle States; or to oppose the enemy, should they design to penetrate the country up the Hudson ; or to cover New England, should they invade it. Should they move westward, the Eastern and Southern troops could easily form a junction, and this,
, besides, would oblige the enemy to leave a
much stronger garrison at New York. Even should the enemy pursue their first plan of an invasion from Canada, the troops at Peekskill would not be badly placed to reinforce Ticonderoga, and cover the country around Albany." “I am very sure, concludes he, the
operations of this army will in a great degree govern the motions of that in Canada. If this is held at bay, curbed and confined, the Northern army will not dare attempt to penetrate.” The last sentence will be found to contain the policy which governed Washington's personal movements throughout the campaign.
On the 18th of March he despatched General Greene to Philadelphia, to lay before Congress such matters as he could not venture to communicate by letter. “He is an able and good officer," writes he, “who has my entire confidence, and is intimately acquainted with my ideas."
Greene had scarce departed when the enemy began to give signs of life. The delay in the arrival of artillery, more than his natural indolence, had kept General Howe from formally taking the field; he now made preparations for the next campaign by detaching troops to destroy the American deposits of military stores. One of the chief of these was at Peekskill, the very place where Washington had
directed Heath to send troops from Massachusetts; and which he thought of making a central point of assemblage. Howe terms it “the port of that rough and mountainous tract called the Manor of Courtlandt.” Brigadier-General McDougall had the command of it in the absence of General Heath, but his force did not exceed two hundred and fifty men.
As soon as the Hudson was clear of ice, a squadron of vessels of war and transports, with five hundred troops under Colonel Bird, ascended the river. McDougall had intelligence of the intended attack, and while the ships were making their way across the Tappan Sea and Haverstraw Bay, exerted himself to remove as much as possible of the provisions and stores to Forts Montgomery and Constitution in the Highlands. On the morning of the 23d, the whole squadron came to anchor in Peekskill Bay ; and five hundred men landed in Lent's Cove, on the south side of the bay, whence they pushed forward with four light field-pieces drawn by sailors. On their approach, McDougall set fire to the barracks and principal storehouses, and retreated about two miles to a strong post, commanding the entrance to the Highlands, and the road to Continental Village, the place of the deposits.