Read CHAPTER XI - SOLDIER of The True George Washington [10th Ed.], free online book, by Paul Leicester Ford, on

“My inclinations,” wrote Washington at twenty-three, “are strongly bent to arms,” and the tendency was a natural one, coming not merely from his Indian-fighting great-grandfather, but from his elder brother Lawrence, who had held a king’s commission in the Carthagena expedition, and was one of the few officers who gained repute in that ill-fated attempt. At Mount Vernon George must have heard much of fighting as a lad, and when the ill health of Lawrence compelled resignation of command of the district militia, the younger brother succeeded to the adjutancy. This quickly led to the command of the first Virginia regiment when the French and Indian War was brewing. Twice Washington resigned in disgust during the course of the war, but each time his natural bent, or “glowing zeal,” as he phrased it, drew him back into the service. The moment the news of Lexington reached Virginia he took the lead in organizing an armed force, and in the Virginia Convention of 1775, according to Lynch, he “made the most eloquent speech ... that ever was made. Says he, ’I will raise one thousand men, enlist them at my own expense, and march myself at their head for the relief of Boston.’” At fifty-three, in speaking of war, Washington said, “my first wish is to see this plague to mankind banished from off the earth;” but during his whole life, when there was fighting to be done, he was among those who volunteered for the service.

The personal courage of the man was very great. Jefferson, indeed, said “he was incapable of fear, meeting personal dangers with the calmest unconcern.” Before he had ever been in action, he noted of a certain position that it was “a charming field for an encounter,” and his first engagement he described as follows: “I fortunately escaped without any wound, for the right wing, where I stood, was exposed to and received all the enemy’s fire, and it was the part where the man was killed, and the rest wounded. I heard the bullets whistle, and, believe me, there is something charming in the sound.” In his second battle, though he knew that he was “to be attacked and by unequal numbers,” he promised beforehand to “withstand” them “if there are five to one,” adding, “I doubt not, but if you hear I am beaten, but you will, at the same [time,] hear that we have done our duty, in fighting as long [as] there was a possibility of hope,” and in this he was as good as his word. When sickness detained him in the Braddock march, he halted only on condition that he should receive timely notice of when the fighting was to begin, and in that engagement he exposed himself so that “I had four bullets through my coat, and two horses shot under me, yet escaped unhurt, altho’ death was levelling my companions on every side of me!” Not content with such an experience, in the second march on Fort Duquesne he “prayed” the interest of a friend to have his regiment part of the “light troops” that were to push forward in advance of the main army.

The same carelessness of personal danger was shown all through the Revolution. At the battle of Brooklyn, on New York Island, at Trenton, Germantown, and Monmouth, he exposed himself to the enemy’s fire, and at the siege of Yorktown an eyewitness relates that “during the assault, the British kept up an incessant firing of cannon and musketry from their whole line. His Excellency General Washington, Generals Lincoln and Knox with their aids, having dismounted, were standing in an exposed situation waiting the result. Colonel Cobb, one of General Washington’s aids, solicitous for his safety, said to his Excellency, ’Sir, you are too much exposed here, had you not better step back a little?’ ‘Colonel Cobb,’ replied his Excellency, ’if you are afraid, you have liberty to step back.’” It is no cause for wonder that an officer wrote, “our army love their General very much, but they have one thing against him, which is the little care he takes of himself in any action. His personal bravery, and the desire he has of animating his troops by example, make him fearless of danger. This occasions us much uneasiness.”

This fearlessness was equally shown by his hatred and, indeed, non-comprehension of cowardice. In his first battle, upon the French surrendering, he wrote to the governor, “if the whole Detach’t of the French behave with no more Resolution than this chosen Party did, I flatter myself we shall have no g’t trouble in driving them to the d –.” At Braddock’s defeat, though the regiment he had commanded “behaved like men and died like soldiers,” he could hardly find words to express his contempt for the conduct of the British “cowardly regulars,” writing of their “dastardly behavior” when they “broke and ran as sheep before hounds,” and raging over being “most scandalously” and “shamefully beaten.” When the British first landed on New York Island, and two New England brigades ran away from “a small party of the enemy,” numbering about fifty, without firing a shot, he completely lost his self-control at their “dastardly behavior,” and riding in among them, it is related, he laid his cane over the officers’ backs, “damned them for cowardly rascals,” and, drawing his sword, struck the soldiers right and left with the flat of it, while snapping his pistols at them. Greene states that the fugitives “left his Excellency on the ground within eighty yards of the enemy, so vexed at the infamous conduct of the troops, that he sought death rather than life,” and Gordon adds that the General was only saved from his “hazardous position” by his aides, who “caught the bridle of his horse and gave him a different direction.” At Monmouth an aide stated that when he met a man running away he was “exasperated ... and threatened the man ... he would have him whipped,” and General Scott says that on finding Lee retreating, “he swore like an angel from heaven.” Wherever in his letters he alludes to cowardice it is nearly always coupled with the adjectives “infamous,” “scandalous,” or others equally indicative of loss of temper.

There can be no doubt that Washington had a high temper. Hamilton’s allusion to his not being remarkable for “good temper” has already been quoted, as has also Stuart’s remark that “all his features were indicative of the strongest and most ungovernable passions, and had he been born in the forests, he would have been the fiercest man among the savage tribes.” Again Stuart is quoted by his daughter as follows:

“While talking one day with General Lee, my father happened to remark that Washington had a tremendous temper, but held it under wonderful control. General Lee breakfasted with the President and Mrs. Washington a few days afterwards.

“‘I saw your portrait the other day,’ said the General, ’but Stuart says you have a tremendous temper.’

“‘Upon my word,’ said Mrs. Washington, coloring, ’Mr. Stuart takes a great deal upon himself to make such a remark.’

“‘But stay, my dear lady,’ said General Lee, ’he added that the president had it under wonderful control.’

“With something like a smile, General Washington remarked, ‘He is right.’”

Lear, too, mentions an outburst of temper when he heard of the defeat of St. Clair, and elsewhere records that in reading politics aloud to Washington “he appeared much affected, and spoke with some degree of asperity on the subject, which I endeavored to moderate, as I always did on such occasions.” How he swore at Randolph and at Freneau is mentioned elsewhere. Jefferson is evidence that “his temper was naturally irritable and high-toned, but reflection and resolution had obtained a firm and habitual ascendency over it. If however it broke its bonds, he was most tremendous in his wrath.”

Strikingly at variance with these personal qualities of courage and hot blood is the “Fabian” policy for which he is so generally credited, and a study of his military career goes far to dispel the conception that Washington was the cautious commander that he is usually pictured.

In the first campaign, though near a vastly superior French force, Washington precipitated the conflict by attacking and capturing an advance party, though the delay of a few days would have brought him large reinforcements. As a consequence he was very quickly surrounded, and after a day’s fighting was compelled to surrender. In what light his conduct was viewed at the time is shown in two letters, Dr. William Smith writing, “the British cause,... has received a fatal Blow by the entire defeat of Washington, whom I cannot but accuse of Foolhardiness to have ventured so near a vigilant enemy without being certain of their numbers, or waiting for Junction of some hundreds of our best Forces, who are within a few Days’ March of him,” and Ann Willing echoed this by saying, “the melancholy news has just arrived of the loss of sixty men belonging to Col. Washington’s Company, who were killed on the spot, and of the Colonel and Half-King being taken prisoners, all owing to the obstinacy of Washington, who would not wait for the arrival of reinforcements.”

Hardly less venturesome was he in the Braddock campaign, for “the General (before they met in council,) asked my opinion concerning the expedition. I urged it, in the warmest terms I was able, to push forward, if we even did it with a small but chosen band, with such artillery and light stores as were absolutely necessary; leaving the heavy artillery, baggage, &c. with the rear division of the army, to follow by slow and easy marches, which they might do safely, while we were advanced in front.” How far the defeat of that force was due to the division thus urged it is not possible to say, but it undoubtedly made the French bolder and the English more subject to panic.

The same spirit was manifested in the Revolution. During the siege of Boston he wrote to Reed, “I proposed [an assault] in council; but behold, though we had been waiting all the year for this favorable event the enterprise was thought too dangerous. Perhaps it was; perhaps the irksomeness of my situation led me to undertake more than could be warranted by prudence. I did not think so, and I am sure yet, that the enterprise, if it had been undertaken with resolution, must have succeeded.” He added that “the enclosed council of war:... being almost unanimous, I must suppose it to be right; although, from a thorough conviction of the necessity of attempting something against the ministerial troops before a reinforcement should arrive, and while we were favored with the ice, I was not only ready but willing, and desirous of making the assault,” and a little later he said that had he but foreseen certain contingencies “all the generals upon earth should not have convinced me of the propriety of delaying an attack upon Boston.”

In the defence of New York there was no chance to attack, but even when our lines at Brooklyn had been broken and the best brigades in the army captured, Washington hurried troops across the river, and intended to contest the ground, ordering a retreat only when it was voted in the affirmative by a council of war. At Harlem plains he was the attacking party.

How with a handful of troops he turned the tide of defeat by attacking at Trenton and Princeton is too well known to need recital. At Germantown, too, though having but a few days before suffered defeat, he attacked and well-nigh won a brilliant victory, because the British officers did not dream that his vanquished army could possibly take the initiative. When the foe settled down into winter quarters in Philadelphia Laurens wrote, “our Commander-in-chief wishing ardently to gratify the public expectation by making an attack upon the enemy ... went yesterday to view the works.” On submitting the project to a council, however, they stood eleven to four against the attempt.

The most marked instance of Washington’s un-Fabian preferences, and proof of the old saying that “councils of war never fight,” is furnished in the occurrences connected with the battle of Monmouth. When the British began their retreat across New Jersey, according to Hamilton “the General unluckily called a council of war, the result of which would have done honor to the most honorable society of mid-wives and to them only. The purport was, that we should keep at a comfortable distance from the enemy, and keep up a vain parade of annoying them by detachment ... The General, on mature reconsideration of what had been resolved on, determined to pursue a different line of conduct at all hazards.” Concerning this decision Pickering wrote,

“His great caution in respect to the enemy, acquired him the name of the American Fabius. From this governing policy he is said to have departed, when” at Monmouth he “indulged the most anxious desire to close with his antagonist in general action. Opposed to his wishes was the advice of his general officers. To this he for a time yielded; but as soon as he discovered that the enemy had reached Monmouth Court House, not more than twelve miles from the heights of Middletown, he determined that he should not escape without a blow.”

Pickering considered this a “departure” from Washington’s “usual practice and policy,” and cites Wadsworth, who said, in reference to the battle of Monmouth, that the General appeared, on that occasion, “to act from the impulses of his own mind.”

Thrice during the next three years plans for an attack on the enemy’s lines at New York were matured, one of which had to be abandoned because the British had timely notice of it by the treachery of an American general, a second because the other generals disapproved the attempt, and, on the authority of Humphreys, “the accidental intervention of some vessels prevented [another] attempt, which was more than once resumed afterwards. Notwithstanding this favorite project was not ultimately effected, it was evidently not less bold in conception or feasible in accomplishment, than that attempted so successfully at Trenton, or than that which was brought to so glorious an issue in the successful siege of Yorktown.”

As this resume indicates, the most noticeable trait of Washington’s military career was a tendency to surrender his own opinions and wishes to those over whom he had been placed, and this resulted in a general agreement not merely that he was disposed to avoid action, but that he lacked decision. Thus his own aide, Reed, in obvious contrast to Washington, praised Lee because “you have decision, a quality often wanted in minds otherwise valuable,” continuing, “Oh! General, an indecisive mind is one of the greatest misfortunes that can befall an army; how often have I lamented it this campaign,” and Lee in reply alluded to “that fatal indecision of mind.” Pickering relates meeting General Greene and saying to him, “’I had once conceived an exalted opinion of General Washington’s military talents; but since I have been with the army, I have seen nothing to increase that opinion.’ Greene answered, ’Why, the General does want decision: for my part, I decide in a moment.’ I used the word ‘increase,’ though I meant ‘support,’ but did not dare speak it.” Wayne exclaimed “if our worthy general will but follow his own good judgment without listening too much to some counsel!” Edward Thornton, probably repeating the prevailing public estimate of the time rather than his own conclusion, said, “a certain degree of indecision, however, a want of vigor and energy, may be observed in some of his actions, and are indeed the obvious result of too refined caution.”

Undoubtedly this leaning on others and the want of decision were not merely due to a constitutional mistrust of his own ability, but also in a measure to real lack of knowledge. The French and Indian War, being almost wholly “bush-fighting,” was not of a kind to teach strategic warfare, and in his speech accepting the command Washington requested that “it may be remembered by every gentleman in the room, that I this day declare with the utmost sincerity I do not think myself equal to the command I am honored with.” Indeed, he very well described himself and his generals when he wrote of one officer, “his wants are common to us all the want of experience to move upon a large scale, for the limited and contracted knowledge, which any of us have in military matters, stands in very little stead.” There can be no question that in most of the “field” engagements of the Revolution Washington was out-generalled by the British, and Jefferson made a just distinction when he spoke of his having often “failed in the field, and rarely against an enemy in station, as at Boston and York.”

The lack of great military genius in the commander-in-chief has led British writers to ascribe the results of the war to the want of ability in their own generals, their view being well summed up by a writer in 1778, who said, “in short, I am of the opinion ... that any other General in the world than General Howe would have beaten General Washington; and any other General in the world than General Washington would have beaten General Howe.”

This is, in effect, to overlook the true nature of the contest, for it was their very victories that defeated the British. They conquered New Jersey, to meet defeat; they captured Philadelphia, only to find it a danger; they established posts in North Carolina, only to abandon them; they overran Virginia, to lay down their arms at Yorktown. As Washington early in the war divined, the Revolution was “a war of posts,” and he urged the danger of “dividing and subdividing our Force too much [so that] we shall have no one post sufficiently guarded,” saying, “it is a military observation strongly supported by experience, ’that a superior army may fall a sacrifice to an inferior, by an injudicious division.’” It was exactly this which defeated the British; every conquest they made weakened their force, and the war was not a third through when Washington said, “I am well convinced myself, that the enemy, long ere this, are perfectly well satisfied, that the possession of our towns, while we have an army in the field, will avail them little.” As Franklin said, when the news was announced that Howe had captured Philadelphia, “No, Philadelphia has captured Howe.”

The problem of the Revolution was not one of military strategy, but of keeping an army in existence, and it was in this that the commander-in-chief’s great ability showed itself. The British could and did repeatedly beat the Continental army, but they could not beat the General, and so long as he was in the field there was a rallying ground for whatever fighting spirit there was.

The difficulty of this task can hardly be over-magnified. When Washington assumed command of the forces before Boston, he “found a mixed multitude of people ... under very little discipline, order, or government,” and “confusion and disorder reigned in every department, which, in a little time, must have ended either in the separation of the army or fatal contests with one another.” Before he was well in the saddle his general officers were quarrelling over rank, and resigning; there was such a scarcity of powder that it was out of the question for some months to do anything; and the British sent people infected with small-pox to the Continental army, with a consequent outbreak of that pest.

Hardly had he brought order out of chaos when the army he had taken such pains to discipline began to melt away, having been by political folly recruited for short terms, and the work was to be all done over. Again and again during the war regiments which had been enlisted for short periods left him at the most critical moment. Very typical occurrences he himself tells of, when Connecticut troops could “not be prevailed upon to stay longer than their term (saving those who have enlisted for the next campaign, and mostly on furlough), and such a dirty, mercenary spirit pervades the whole, that I should not be at all surprised at any disaster that may happen,” and when he described how in his retreat through New Jersey, “The militia, instead of calling forth their utmost efforts to a brave and manly opposition in order to repair our losses, are dismayed, intractable, and impatient to return. Great numbers of them have gone off; in some instances, almost by whole regiments, by half ones, and by companies at a time.” Another instance of this evil occurred when “the Continental regiments from the eastern governments ... agreed to stay six weeks beyond their term of enlistment.... For this extraordinary mark of their attachment to their country, I have agreed to give them a bounty of ten dollars per man, besides their pay running on.” The men took the bounty, and nearly one-half went off a few days after.

Nor was this the only evil of the policy of short enlistments. Another was that the new troops not merely were green soldiers, but were without discipline. At New York Tilghman wrote that after the battle of Brooklyn the “Eastern” soldiers were “plundering everything that comes in their way,” and Washington in describing the condition said, “every Hour brings the most distressing complaints of the Ravages of our own Troops who are become infinitely more formidable to the poor Farmers and Inhabitants than the common Enemy. Horses are taken out of the Continental Teams; the Baggage of Officers and the Hospital Stores, even the Quarters of General Officers are not exempt from Rapine.” At the most critical moment of the war the New Jersey militia not merely deserted, but captured and took with them nearly the whole stores of the army. As the General truly wrote, “the Dependence which the Congress have placed upon the militia, has already greatly injured, and I fear will totally ruin our cause. Being subject to no controul themselves, they introduce disorder among the troops, whom you have attempted to discipline, while the change in their living brings on sickness; this makes them Impatient to get home, which spreads universally, and introduces abominable desertions.” “The collecting militia,” he said elsewhere, “depends entirely upon the prospects of the day. If favorable they throng in to you; if not, they will not move.”

To make matters worse, politics were allowed to play a prominent part in the selection of officers, and Washington complained that “the different States [were], without regard to the qualifications of an officer, quarrelling about the appointments, and nominating such as are not fit to be shoeblacks, from the attachments of this or that member of Assembly.” As a result, so he wrote of New England, “their officers are generally of the lowest class of the people; and, instead of setting a good example to their men, are leading them into every kind of mischief, one species of which is plundering the inhabitants, under the pretence of their being Tories.” To this political motive he himself would not yield, and a sample of his appointments was given when a man was named “because he stands unconnected with either of these Governments; or with this, or that or tother man; for between you and me there is more in this than you can easily imagine,” and he asserted that “I will not have any Gentn. introduced from family connexion, or local attachments, to the prejudice of the Service.”

To misbehaving soldiers Washington showed little mercy. In his first service he had deserters and plunderers “flogged,” and threatened that if he could “lay hands” on one particular culprit, “I would try the effect of 1000 lashes.” At another time he had “a Gallows near 40 feet high erected (which has terrified the rest exceedingly) and I am determined if I can be justified in the proceeding, to hang two or three on it, as an example to others.” When he took command of the Continental army he “made a pretty good slam among such kind of officers as the Massachusetts Government abound in since I came to this Camp, having broke one Colo, and two Captains for cowardly behavior in the action on Bunker’s Hill, two Captains for drawing more provisions and pay than they had men in their Company and one for being absent from his Post when the Enemy appeared there and burnt a House just by it Besides these, I have at this time one Colo., one Major, one Captn., & two subalterns under arrest for tryal In short I spare none yet fear it will not at all do as these People seem to be too inattentive to every thing but their Interest” “I am sorry,” he wrote, “to be under a Necessity of making frequent Examples among the Officers,” but “as nothing can be more fatal to an Army, than Crimes of this kind, I am determined by every Motive of Reward and Punishment to prevent them in future.” Even when plundering was avoided there were short commons for those who clung to the General. The commander-in-chief wrote Congress that “they have often, very often, been reduced to the necessity of Eating Salt Porke, or Beef not for a day, or a week but months together without Vegetables, or money to buy them;” and again, he complained that “the Soldiers [were forced to] eat every kind of horse food but Hay. Buckwheat, common wheat, Rye and Indn. Corn was the composition of the Meal which made their bread. As an Army they bore it, [but] accompanied by the want of Cloaths, Blankets, &c., will produce frequent desertions in all armies and so it happens with us, tho’ it did not excite a mutiny.” Even the horses suffered, and Washington wrote to the quartermaster-general, “Sir, my horses I am told have not had a mouthful of long or short forage for three days. They have eaten up their mangers and are now, (though wanted for immediate use,) scarcely able to stand.”

Two results were sickness and discontent. At times one-fourth of the soldiers were on the sick-list. Three times portions of the army mutinied, and nothing but Washington’s influence prevented the disorder from spreading. At the end of the war, when, according to Hamilton, “the army had secretly determined not to lay down their arms until due provision and a satisfactory prospect should be offered on the subject of their pay,” the commander-in-chief urged Congress to do them justice, writing, “the fortitude the long, & great suffering of this army is unexampled in history; but there is an end to all things & I fear we are very near to this. Which, more than probably will oblige me to stick very close to my flock this winter, & try like a careful physician, to prevent, if possible, the disorders getting to an incurable height.” In this he judged rightly, for by his influence alone was the army prevented from adopting other than peaceful measures to secure itself justice.

A chief part of these difficulties the Continental Congress is directly responsible for, and the reason for their conduct is to be found largely in the circumstances of Washington’s appointment to the command.

When the Second Congress met, in May, 1775, the battle of Lexington had been fought, and twenty thousand minute-men were assembled about Boston. To pay and feed such a horde was wholly beyond the ability of New England, and her delegates came to the Congress bent upon getting that body to assume the expense, or, as the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts naively put it, “we have the greatest Confidence in the Wisdom and Ability of the Continent to support us.”

The other colonies saw this in a different light. Massachusetts, without our advice, has begun a war and embodied an army; let Massachusetts pay her own bills, was their point of view. “I have found this Congress like the last,” wrote John Adams. “When we first came together, I found a strong jealousy of us from New England, and the Massachusettes in particular, suspicions entertained of designs of independency, an American republic, Presbyterian principles, and twenty other things. Our sentiments were heard in Congress with great caution, and seemed to make but little impression.” Yet “every post brought me letters from my friends ... urging in pathetic terms the impossibility of keeping their men together without the assistance of Congress.” “I was daily urging all these things, but we were embarrassed with more than one difficulty, not only with the party in favor of the petition to the King, and the party who were zealous of independence, but a third party, which was a southern party against a Northern, and a jealousy against a New England army under the command of a New England General.”

Under these circumstances a political deal was resorted to, and Virginia was offered by John and Samuel Adams, as the price of an adoption and support of the New England army, the appointment of commander-in-chief, though the offer was not made with over-good grace, and only because “we could carry nothing without conceding it.” There was some dissension among the Virginia delegates as to who should receive the appointment, Washington himself recommending an old companion in arms, General Andrew Lewis, and “more than one,” Adams says of the Virginia delegates, were “very cool about the appointment of Washington, and particularly Mr. Pendleton was very clear and full against it” Washington himself said the appointment was due to “partiality of the Congress, joined to a political motive;” and, hard as it is to realize, it was only the grinding political necessity of the New England colonies which secured to Washington the place for which in the light of to-day he seems to have been created.

As a matter of course, there was not the strongest liking felt for the General thus chosen by the New England delegates, and this was steadily lessened by Washington’s frank criticism of the New England soldiers and officers already noticed. Equally bitter to the New England delegates and their allies were certain army measures that Washington pressed upon the attention of Congress. He urged and urged that the troops should be enlisted for the war, that promotions should be made from the army as a whole, and not from the colony- or State-line alone, and most unpopular of all, that since Continental soldiers could not otherwise be obtained, a bounty should be given to secure them, and that as compensation for their inadequate pay half-pay should be given them after the war. He eventually carried these points, but at the price of an entire alienation of the democratic party in the Congress, who wished to have the war fought with militia, to have all the officers elected annually, and to whom the very suggestion of pensions was like a red rag to a bull.

A part of their motive in this was unquestionably to prevent the danger of a standing army, and of allowing the commander-in-chief to become popular with the soldiers. Very early in the war Washington noted “the jealousy which Congress unhappily entertain of the army, and which, if reports are right, some members labor to establish.” And he complained that “I see a distrust and jealousy of military power, that the commander-in-chief has not an opportunity, even by recommendation, to give the least assurance of reward for the most essential services.” The French minister told his government that when a committee was appointed to institute certain army reforms, delegates in Congress “insisted on the danger of associating the Commander-in-chief with it, whose influence, it was stated, was already too great,” and when France sent money to aid the American cause, with the provision that it should be subject to the order of the General, it aroused, a writer states, “the jealousy of Congress, the members of which were not satisfied that the head of the army should possess such an agency in addition to his military power.”

His enemies in the Congress took various means to lessen his influence and mortify him. Burke states that in the discussion of one question “Jersey, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and South Carolina voted for expunging it; the four Eastern States, Virginia and Georgia for retaining it. There appeared through this whole debate a great desire, in some of the delegates from the Eastern States, and in one from New Jersey, to insult the General,” and a little later the Congress passed a “resolve which,” according to James Lovell, “was meant to rap a Demi G over the knuckles.” Nor was it by commission, but as well by omission, that they showed their ill feeling. John Laurens told his father that

“there is a conduct observed towards” the General “by certain great men, which as it is humiliating, must abate his happiness.... The Commander in Chief of this army is not sufficiently informed of all that is known by Congress of European affairs. Is it not a galling circumstance, for him to collect the most important intelligence piecemeal, and as they choose to give it, from gentlemen who come from York? Apart from the chagrin which he must necessarily feel at such an appearance of slight, it should be considered that in order to settle his plan of operations for the ensuing campaign, he should take into view the present state of European affairs, and Congress should not leave him in the dark.”

Furthermore, as already noted, Washington was criticised for his Fabian policy, and in his indignation he wrote to Congress, “I am informed that it is a matter of amazement, and that reflections have been thrown out against this army, for not being more active and enterprising than, in the opinion of some, they ought to have been. If the charge is just, the best way to account for it will be to refer you to the returns of our strength, and those which I can produce of the enemy, and to the enclosed abstract of the clothing now actually wanting for the army.” “I can assure those gentlemen,” he said, in reply to political criticism, “that it is a much easier and less distressing thing to draw remonstrances in a comfortable room by a good fireside, than to occupy a cold, bleak hill, and sleep under frost and snow, without clothes or blankets.”

The ill feeling did not end with insults. With the defeats of the years 1776 and 1777 it gathered force, and towards the end of the latter year it crystallized in what has been known in history as the Conway Cabal. The story of this conspiracy is so involved in shadow that little is known concerning its adherents or its endeavors. But in a general way it has been discovered that the New England delegates again sought the aid of the Lee faction in Virginia, and that this coalition, with the aid of such votes as they could obtain, schemed several methods which should lessen the influence of Washington, if they did not force him to resign. Separate and detached commands were created, which were made independent of the commander-in-chief, and for this purpose even a scheme which the General called “a child of folly” was undertaken. Officers notoriously inimical to Washington, yet upon whom he would be forced to rely, were promoted. A board of war made up of his enemies, with powers “in effect paramount,” Hamilton says, “to those of the commander-in-chief,” was created It is even asserted that it was moved in Congress that a committee should be appointed to arrest Washington, which was defeated only by the timely arrival of a new delegate, by which the balance of power was lost to the Cabal.

Even with the collapse of the army Cabal the opposition in Congress was maintained. “I am very confident,” wrote General Greene, “that there is party business going on again, and, as Mifflin is connected with it, I doubt not its being a revival of the old scheme;” again writing, “General Schuyler and others consider it a plan of Mifflin’s to injure your Excellency’s operations. I am now fully convinced of the reality of what I suggested to you before I came away.” In 1779 John Sullivan, then a member of Congress, wrote,

“Permit me to inform your Excellency, that the faction raised against you in 1777, is not yet destroyed. The members are waiting to collect strength, and seize some favorable moment to appear in force. I speak not from conjecture, but from certain knowledge. Their plan is to take every method of proving the danger arising from a commander, who enjoys the full and unlimited confidence of his army, and alarm the people with the prospects of imaginary evils; nay, they will endeavor to convert your virtue into arrows, with which, they will seek to wound you.”

But Washington could not be forced into a resignation, ill-treat and slight him as they would, and at no time were they strong enough to vote him out of office. For once a Congressional “deal” between New England and Virginia did not succeed, and as Washington himself wrote, “I have a good deal of reason to believe that the machination of this junto will recoil on their own heads, and be a means of bringing some matters to light which by getting me out of the way, some of them thought to conceal,” In this he was right, for the re-elections of both Samuel Adams and Richard Henry Lee were put in danger, and for some time they were discredited even in their own colonies. “I have happily had,” Washington said to a correspondent, “but few differences with those with whom I have had the honor of being connected in the service. With whom, and of what nature these have been, you know. I bore much for the sake of peace and the public good”

As is well known, Washington served without pay during his eight years of command, and, as he said, “fifty thousand pounds would not induce me again to undergo what I have done.” No wonder he declared “that the God of armies may incline the hearts of my American brethren to support the present contest, and bestow sufficient abilities on me to bring it to a speedy and happy conclusion, thereby enabling me to sink into sweet retirement, and the full enjoyment of that peace and happiness, which will accompany a domestic life, is the first wish and most fervent prayer of my soul.”

The day finally came when his work was finished, and he could be, as he phrased it, “translated into a private citizen.” Marshall describes the scene as follows: “At noon, the principal officers of the army assembled at Frances’ tavern; soon after which, their beloved commander entered the room. His emotions were too strong to be concealed. Filling a glass, he turned to them and said, ’With a heart full of love and gratitude, I now take leave of you; I most devoutly wish that your latter days may be as prosperous and happy, as your former ones have been glorious and honorable.’ Having drunk, he added, ’I cannot come to each of you to take my leave; but shall be obliged to you, if each of you will come and take me by the hand.’ General Knox, being nearest, turned to him. Incapable of utterance, Washington grasped his hand, and embraced him. In the same affectionate manner he took leave of each succeeding officer. In every eye was the tear of dignified sensibility, and not a word was articulated to interrupt the majestic silence, and the tenderness of the scene. Leaving the room, he passed through the corps of light infantry, and walked to Whitehall, where a barge waited to convey him to Powles-hook. The whole company followed in mute and solemn procession, with dejected countenance ... Having entered the barge, he turned to the company, and, waving his hat, bade them a silent adieu.”