restricted access Chapter 11. "The Character of Washington": Preserving Army and Command at Valley Forge (December 1777 to May 1778)
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GW_101-150.indd 131 5/2/12 7:35 AM CHAPTER II "The Character of Washington": Preserving Army and Command at Valley Forge (December 1777 to May 1778) Distresses ofthe army. -It is subsisted by impressment. -Combination against General Washington.- Congress senda committee to camp. -Attemptto surprise Captain Lee.Congress determines on a second expedition to Canada. -Abandons it.- General Conway resigns. - The Baron Steuben appointed Inspector-General.- Congress forbids the embarkation ofBurgoyne's army. -Plan ofreconciliation agreed to in Parliament. - Rejected by Congress.-Information oftreaties with France.- Great Britain declares war against France.- Treatment ofprisoners.-Partial exchange. THE ARMY under the immediate command of General Washington, was Dec. r777 engaged through the winter in endeavoring to stop the intercourse between Philadelphia and the country. One of the first operations meditated after crossing the Schuylkill, was the destruction of a large quantity of hay, on the islands above the mouth of Darby Creek, within the power of the British. Early in the morning, after orders for this purpose had been Dec. 22 given, Sir William Howe marched out of Philadelphia, and encamped so as completely to cover the islands; while a foraging party removed the hay, Washington, with the intention of disturbing this operation, gave orders for putting his army in motion, when the alarming fact was disclosed that the commissary's stores were exhausted, and that the last ration had been delivered and consumed. On receiving intelligence of the fact, General Washington ordered the country to be scoured, and provisions to be seized wherever found. In the mean time, light parties were detached to harass the enemy; but SirWilliam Howe, with his accustomed circumspection, kept his army so compact that an opportunity to annoy him was seldom afforded even to the vigilance of 131 GW_101-150.indd 132 5/2/12 7:35 AM ~ COMMANDER IN CHIEF OF THE REVOLUTION :>9> Morgan 1 and Lee.2 After completing his forage, he returned with inconsiderable loss to Philadelphia. That the American army, while the value still retained by paper bills placed ample funds in the hands ofgovernment, should be destitute offood in a country abounding with provisions, is one of those extraordinary facts which cannot fail to excite attention. Early in the war the office of Commissary-General had been conferred on Colonel Trumbull ofConnecticut, a gentleman fitted for that important station. Yet from the difficulty of arranging so complicated a department, complaints were repeatedly made of the insufficiency ofsupplies. The subJune 1777 ject was taken up by Congress; but the remedy administered served only to increase the disease. The system was not completed till near midsummer; and then its arrangements were such that Colonel Trumbull refused the office assigned to him. The new plan contemplated a number of subordinate officers, all to be appointed by Congress, and neither accountable to, or removeable by, the head of the department. This imperium in imperio,3 erected in direct opposition to the opinion of the commander-in-chief, drove Colonel Trumbull from the army. Congress , however, persisted in the system; and its effects were not long in unfolding themselves. In every militarydivision ofthe continent, loud complaints were made ofthe deficiency ofsupplies. The armies were greatly embarrassed , and their movements suspended, by the want ofprovisions. The present total failure of all supply was preceded by issuing meat unfit to be eaten. Representations on this subject had been made to the commanderr . Daniel Morgan (1736-1802) of New Jersey (Pennsylvania?) and Virginia, by 1777 Colonel of the Eleventh Virginia regiment of riflemen and sharpshooters, dubbed by Washington "the Corps of Rangers"; eventually Brigadier General in the Continental army. 2. Henry "Light-Horse Harry" Lee (1756-1818) of Virginia, in late 1777 Captain in the First Continental Dragoons or "Light Dragoons," a cavalry corps distinguished for its partisan warfare (an irregular unit skilled in harassing and skirmishing with the enemy); subsequently Lieutenant Colonel in command of "Lee's Legion," an elite irregular force of infantry and cavalry instrumental to success in the South; later governor of Virginia, and chosen by his friend Washington to quell the Whiskey Rebellion (see chapter 32); drafter of the Congressional resolutions which on Washington's death called him "first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen," Lee also delivered the eulogy at Washington's official funeral ceremony (see chapter 33). Father of Robert E. Lee. 3ยท Empire (or power) within an empire (Latin). 132 GW_101-150.indd 133 5/2/12 7:35 AM...


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Subject Headings

  • Washington, George, -- 1732-1799.
  • Presidents -- United States -- Biography.
  • Generals -- United States -- Biography.
  • United States -- Politics and government -- 1775-1783.
  • United States -- Politics and government -- 1783-1809.
  • United States -- History -- Revolution, 1775-1783 -- Campaigns.
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