Page images
PDF
EPUB

The greatest part of the province of New York is enclosed in islands, which being long and narrow were exposed on all fides to the hostilities of our fleets, and to the descent of our troops, with every advantage in their favour, whilst they continue in a state of enmity. When reduced, the protection of the ships of war would be as effe&tual in their preservation as their hostility had been in their reduction. The central fituation of this province afforded great advantages. The war would be carried on with equal facility, either in Connecticut and the continent of New York on the eastern fide, or in New Jersey and from thence to Pennsylvania on the western ; or it-inight have been transferred to and from either place at pleasure. Só that this situation enabled the British commander to prescribe the scene of action, and to quit it when he had a mind, wliile if the army was withdrawn from the field, he might by means of the Great North Rin yer, and the different channels between the islands and the main land, with his ships and detachments harrass and ruin the adjacent countries ; at the same time that the provincial, however powerful, could make no actempt upon the islands that would not be attended with the greatest disadvantages, and liable to the most eminent danger. Another great object in view from this situation, was that provided General Carleton could join General Howe by the North or Hudson's River, they would then cut off all communication between the northern and southern colonies. To crown these advantages, Long Island which was considered as a store-house for both the fleet and army, was ta be held for the supply of all necessaries; and it was fupposed the inhabitants were well-affected to the cause of government. Some part of the plan of oper“

ation was not so very difficult, but experience proved that the whole scheine was by no means practicables

The management of this last part of the plan was committed to Lord Viscount Howe and his brother Sir William Howe, two officers of good characters and known abilities, in whom the nation put mucli confidence, and the government seemed also to trust. A powerful army was appointed for this service, befides the British forces of about 1ooo Waldeckers and Heslians. The whole force, provided all the parts had been united at first, was supposed to have amounted to 35,000 men. Perhaps this might be only the calculation which was made upon paper, that gene rally exceeds the true complement by a considerable degree. It is not likely that ever such a number at one time could be brought to action in any place. It was, however, a formidable armament, and a larger army than ever had been sent by any European pow; er to the continent of America. With an army inferior in number to this, Alexander the Great made himtelf master of the whole Persian empire. The troops were supposed to be the best in the world, and under the command of as good officers, as were in all Eu: rope. They were well provided with all forts of

provisions, warlike stores, and ammunition, and besides supported by a numerous fleet; well appointed and commanded by the best officers. : The General and Admiral, besides their military power; were invested with authority as commillioners by act of parliament, for restoring peace to the colonies, and for granting pardon to such as should deserve mercy. It inay be observed here that the ideas of mercy supposed in political states feldom anfwers the ends proposed by the offering of it, and this appeared evidently in the mes

thod

thod now proposed of offering mercy to the colonists. It was mercy which was to be merited by actions to be performed contrary to reasonable conviction of error, and was no way calculated to gain the affe&ions or reach the heart. Mercy never supposes merit, but alkvays implies forgiveness freely and graciously bestowed, from a sense of which all rebellious principles and errors of mind are overcome, and those that are forgiven, obey and return to their duty, merely out of love. Had Lord and General Howe's mercy proceeded upon this principle, the American War had been ended long ago, and Great Britain would not

have smarted under the rod of a civil war, nor groaned under such a load of taxes and national debt as the does at present.

The situation of the army at Halifax, was far from being elegible; the country was barren, and not capable of affording a sufficient quantity of provisions, nor was the place even fit to afford a sufficient quar. ter for the private men, who were obliged to continue aboard the ships during the whole tüne they stayed there.

While the General waited at Halifax for reinforce. ments from Britain, he grew impatient, being pressed by the want of provisions, and other disadvantages.--He at last, without waiting for his brother Lord Howe, departed from Halifax with Admiral Shuldham,

about the roth of June, and arrived at Sandy-Hook about the end of the month. Sandy Hook is a point of Land that lics at the entrance into that confluence of sounds, roads, creeks, and bays, which are formed by New-York, Staten, and Long Islands, the continent on either side, with the North and Rariton Rivers: On their paffage they were joined by li:

W

transport,

transports with highland troops on board, who had been separated from several of their companions in their voyage. These that were missing, with about 450 soldiers, and several officers, were taken by the American cruizers, and carried into Boston. · Gene, ral Howe found the places of access to New York Isand strongly fortified, defended by a numerous ar. tillery ; and guarded by a vast number of troops little inferior to an army. This made the General alter his resolution of making a defcent on that part. Long Island, on account of its extent, did not admịt of being so strongly guarded: it was however in a tolerable state of defence, and had considerable encampments on the end of the island next to New York, and several works thrown upon the most acceslible parts of the coast, as well as at the strongest internal passes. Staten Isand, being of less consequence, was neglected, and not so much attended to, This was certainly a great neglect in the provincials, who oughp undoubtedly to have guarded against all possible attempts of their ene. mies, and from what they had experienced in the de. fence of Sullivan Illand, ought to have remembered that a good resistance at first would have been ready to have damped the courage of the inyaders, and have inade them more timorous in their future attacks.

On the third of July, the General landed on the island, without opposition, to the great joy of many of the inhabitants, who, being on the side of government, bad suffered greatly for their loyalty: The troops were cantoned in the villages where they received plenty of provisions which they now much wanted, and regaled themselves with the fruits of the island, and refreshed their spirits. General Howe was here met by Governor Tryon, with several others

well.

well-affected to government who had taken refuge 'on board a ship at Sandy Hook: These gave him anaca count of the strength of the Provincials. He was als so joined by about sixcy gentlemen from New-Jersey; who came to take up arms in the royal cause, and an boat 200 milicia of the island, which were embodied for the same purpose. i This afforded a flattering prof. pect to the General, that when the army was landed and collected in force to support the loyalists, such numbers would join it, as would contribute much to bring the war to a speedo conclusion.

This was an idea that misled both the government at home, and the officers abroad, and ruined the suca cess of the greatest part of their measures: they judged of the body of the colonists from a few samples which they had of creatures that were under the inAuence of crowri-officers, and falsely concluded, that all the provinces would be of the same téit per as foon as they had an opportunity to discover their loyalty, but experience convinced them that they were mistaa ker, though they continued to boast of the number of their friends, and of the multitude of loyal colonists that Hocked to the royal standard. ::

Lord Howe arrived at Halifax about a fortnight af. ter the General's departure, from whence he proceeded to Stareñi Ifland, where he arrived about the middle of July. His first ad was to fend a flag alhore, wițh a circular letter to the several late igovernors of the colonies; acquainting them with his power, civil and inilitary, and desired that they would publish, as geuregally as possible, for the information of the people, a declaration which accompanied the letten. In this declaration he informed the public of the powers with which he and his brother were invested, by virtue

of

« PreviousContinue »