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committed into your hands, and re-assume the character of our worthiest citizen."
The following was General Washington's reply:
"Gentlemen, at the same time that with you I deplore the unhappy necessity of such an appointment, as that with which I am now honoured, I cannot but feel sentiments of the highest gratitude for this affecting instance of distinction and regard.
"May your every wish be realized in the success of America, at this important and interesting period; and be assured, that every exertion of my worthy colleagues and myself will be equally extended to the re-establishment of peace and harmony between the mother country and the colonies, as to the fatal, but necessary operations of war. When we assumed the soldier, we did not lay aside the citizen; and we shall most sincerely rejoice with you in that happy hour, when the establishment of American liberty, upon the most firm and solid foundations, shall enable us to return to our private stations in the bosom of a free, peaceful, and happy country."
On the 26th of June, General Washington departed from New York, under the escort of several military companies, passed the night at Kingsbridge, and the next morning proceeded on his journey. He arrived at Cambridge on the 2d of July. During the whole of this journey, he met with the most flattering attentions from the people, as well as the public authorities, of the districts through which he passed. He was continually escorted by companies of volunteers; and at Springfield, a hundred miles from Boston, a committee of the Massachusetts Assembly met, and accompanied him to head-quarters. On his arrival at Watertown, where the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts was then sitting, an address was presented to him by that body, pledging themselves to the most cordial co-operation with his measures. His reply was simple and dignified.
"Gentlemen," said he, "your kind congratulations on my appointment and arrival, demand my warmest acknowledgments, and will ever be retained in grateful remembrance. In exchanging the enjoyments of domestic life for the duties of my present honourable but arduous station, I only emulate the virtue and public spirit of the whole province of Massachusetts Bay, which, with a firmness and patriotism without example in modern history, has sacrificed all the comforts of social and political life, in support of the rights of mankind, and the welfare of our common country. My highest ambition is to be the happy instrument of vindicating those rights,
and to see this devoted province again restored to peace, liberty, and safety."
On arriving at the head quarters, at Cambridge, he was welcomed by the troops with joyful acclamations. He found the army, consisting of about sixteen thousand men, so disposed as to beleaguer the enemy within Boston; but they were much distressed on account of the necessary munitions of war, and the want of subordination manifested by the greater number of them towards their officers. He, accordingly, first turned his attention to the remedying of these evils, the disciplining of the army, and the closer investment of the city.
Battle of Bunker Hill.
N the mean time, the spark which had been lighted at Lexington, and fanned at Concord, had been blown up into a blazing fire at Bunker Hill. On the arrival of reinforcements from Europe, General Gage prepared for more decisive operations than he had thought it prudent, previously, to attempt. In the midst of his preparations, he issued a proclamation, as a last warning to the people, before a final appeal to arms. He placed before them the dread alternative of war or submission; if they still persisted in their rebellion, he would commence a war of extermination; but if they would submit, he offered a free pardon to all, for past offences against the government, except Samuel Adams and John Hancock, whom he described as "firebrands,"
but who were objects of confidence and respect to the American people. This proclamation only aroused the Americans to more vigorous exertions. Rightly judging that the proclamation was the herald of immediate hostility, and regarding it as the last aggression on their civil liberties, for it contained the promulgation of martial law, they boldly prepared for the worst.
A council of war was called, and the Provincial Congress suggested to them the great importance to either army of the possession of Bunker Hill, a commanding eminence on the north side of the peninsula of Charlestown, and nearly opposite to the British camp. The council immediately adopted the suggestion, and on the night of the sixteenth of June, a detachment of one thousand men, under the command of Major Prescot, was ordered to take possession of Bunker Hill, and throw up, with the greatest expedition, field fortifications for the defence of the position. By some mistake, the detachment took up their station on Breed's Hill, another eminence to the right, and still nearer to the enemy's lines. Here they began their field-works, and so silently and sedulously did they labour, that at dawn of day the British were alarmed to discover a small redoubt constructed on the brow of the hill, nearly under the guns of their vessels. Orders were instantly given to the batteries and vessels to commence a simultaneous fire upon the works and workmen. But this heavy cannonade seemed only to stimulate the young soldiers' activity and zeal; nor did they pause until they had constructed a line of breastwork from the right of the redoubt to the bottom of the hill. Towards noon, General Gage, finding all his efforts to arrest these formidable preparations unavailing, determined on dislodging the Americans; and gave orders that two squadrons, under command of Generals Howe and Pigot, should undertake that duty. They were landed at Moreton's, the north-east point of Charlestown peninsula. To their left was the village of that name, consisting of about five hundred houses; in front of them the American works; and to their right, the valley between Breed's and Bunker Hills. Beyond the Americans, the peninsula gradually narrowed till it ended at Charlestown neck, at the left of which, as you enter the peninsula, was stationed the Glasgow man-of-war; and, at the right, two floating batteries. The Americans continued their works while the British forces formed on the shore. Slowly and steadily the latter proceeded up the hill, under cover of their guns, which poured into the American intrenchments a continuous and destructive fire, pausing occasion
ally to give their field-pieces time to play on the newly constructed works. Meantime, orders were given by the British general to set Charlestown on fire, lest it might serve as a cover for the provincials. It was built, for the most part, of wood; suddenly one wild flame enveloped the whole town, and, curling high in air, shed its unnatural light over the scene of havoc, adding to the heat and suffocation of the sultry summer day. The inhabitants of Boston, the unengaged soldiers, the American army from their camp, witnessed this terrible spectacle; but they soon lost all interest in the burning houses and temples, to watch the progress of the advancing columns, while, amid the roar of cannon, and the glare of the blazing town, they moved up the declivity where so many of them were to find gory graves. The Americans calmly and unmovedly regarded the steady onset of discipline and courage. Major Putnam, a veteran soldier of the colonies, charged his untrained warriors to withhold their fire until they could distinguish the whites of their assailants' eyes," and then to fire low. Well was that order obeyed;—their first fire was so deadly that the advancing troops reeled under the shock, wavered, and suddenly fled. They were again rallied by the courage of their officers, and again advanced to the charge; but again the same unerring stream of fire continued to pour in upon them from the redoubt and breast work, until, a second time, their lines broke, and they fled precipitately. General Clinton seeing this disaster from the camp, and burning with shame at the defeat of the British arms, volunteered to lead a fresh detachment to their aid. His presence once more inspired the British officers, and, by wonderful exertions, amounting, in some cases, to goading the men, they prevailed upon them again to face those terrible and immovable lines. This third attack was even more cautious than the others, and the artillery had raked the entire length of the breastwork before the troops reached it. By this time, the ammunition of its defenders was nearly exhausted; but they reserved their last fire until the enemy was at the works. This fire was true and telling as the former, but it had not the same effect, for the British soldiers, charging fiercely, attacked the redoubt on three sides, and carried it by storm; the Americans, who had been ordered to retire when their powder was spent, continuing to defend it, and dealing death around them with the butt end of their muskets, until the redoubt was filled with the enemy. While the ground at the redoubt and intrenchments was thus contested and won, a detachment of the British right, ordered to turn the