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- A Brief History of the United States - 20/72 -
sentries posted, and citizens challenged. Frequent quarrels took place between the people and the soldiers. One day (March 5, 1770) a crowd of men and boys, maddened by its presence, insulted the city guard. A fight ensued, in which two citizens were wounded and three killed. The bells were rung; the country people rushed in to the help of the city; and it was with great difficulty that quiet was at last restored.
[Footnote: The soldiers were tried for murder. John Adams and Josiah Quincy, who stood foremost in opposition to British aggression, defended them. All were acquitted except two, who were found guilty of manslaughter.]
BOSTON TEA PARTY (Dec. 16, 1773).--The government, alarmed by the turn events had taken, rescinded the taxes, except that on tea--which was left to maintain the principle. An arrangement was made whereby tea was furnished at so low a price that with the tax included it was cheaper in America than in England. This subterfuge exasperated the patriots. They were fighting for a great principle, not a paltry tax. At Charleston the tea was stored in damp cellars where it soon spoiled. The tea-ships at New York and Philadelphia were sent home. The British authorities refused to let the tea-ships at Boston return. Upon this an immense public meeting was held at Faneuil Hall, and it was decided that the tea should never be brought ashore. A party of men, disguised as Indians, boarded the vessels and emptied three hundred and forty-two chests of tea into the water.
[Footnote: Faneuil Hall was the rendezvous of the Revolutionary spirits of that time--hence it has been called the "Cradle of Liberty."]
[Footnote: On their way home from the "Boston Tea Party," the men passed a house at which Admiral Montague was spending the evening. The officer raised the window and cried out, "Well, boys, you've had a fine night for your Indian caper. But, mind, you've got to pay the fiddler yet." "Oh, never mind," replied one of the leaders, "never mind, squire! Just come out here, if you please, and we'll settle the bill in two minutes." The admiral thought it best to let the bill stand, and quickly shut the window.]
[Illustration: FANEUIL HALL]
THE CLIMAX REACHED.--Retaliatory measures were at once adopted by the English government. General Gage was appointed governor of Massachusetts. The port of Boston being closed by act of Parliament, business was stopped and distress ensued. The Virginia assembly protested against this measure, and was dissolved by the governor. Party lines were drawn. Those opposed to royalty were termed _Whigs_, and those supporting it, _Tories_. Everywhere were repeated the thrilling words of Patrick Henry, "Give me liberty or give me death." Companies of soldiers, termed "Minute men," were formed. The idea of a continental union became popular. Gage, being alarmed, fortified Boston Neck, and seized powder wherever he could find it. A rumor having been circulated that the British ships were firing on Boston, in two days thirty thousand minute men were on their way to the city. A spark only was needed to kindle the slumbering hatred into the flames of war.
[Footnote: The public feeling in England wan generally against the colonies. "Every man," wrote Dr. Franklin, "seems to consider himself as a piece of a sovereign over America; seems to jostle himself into the throne with the king, and talks of _our_ subjects in the colonies."]
[Footnote: Marblehead and Salem, refusing to profit by the ruin of their rival, offered the use of their wharves to the Boston merchants. Aid and sympathy were received from all sides. Schoharie, N. Y., sent five hundred and twenty-five bushels of wheat.]
THE FIRST CONTINENTAL CONGRESS (Sept. 5, 1774) was held in Philadelphia. It consisted of men of influence, and represented every colony except Georgia. As yet few members had any idea of independence. The Congress simply voted that obedience was not due to any of the recent acts of Parliament, and sustained Massachusetts in her resistance. It issued a protest against standing armies being kept in the colonies without the consent of the people, and agreed to hold no intercourse with Great Britain.
BATTLE OF LEXINGTON (April 19).--General Gage, learning that the people were gathering military stores at Concord, sent eight hundred men under Col. Smith and Major Pitcairn to destroy them. The patriots of Boston, however, were on the alert, and hurried out messengers to alarm the country.
[Footnote: Paul Revere caused two lights to be hung up in the steeple of Christ Church. They were seen in Charlestown; messengers set out, and he soon followed on his famous midnight ride. (Read Longfellow's poem.)]
When the red-coats, as the British soldiers were called, reached Lexington, they found a company of minute men gathering on the village green. Riding up, Pitcairn shouted, "Disperse, you rebels; lay down your arms!" They hesitated. A skirmish ensued, in which seven Americans--the first martyrs of the Revolution--were killed.
[Illustration: PUTNAM SUMMONED TO WAR.]
The British pushed on and destroyed the stores. But alarmed by the gathering militia they hastily retreated. It was none too soon. The whole region flew to arms. Every boy old enough to use a rifle hurried to avenge the death of his countrymen, From behind trees, fences, buildings, and rocks, in front, flank and rear, so galling a fire was poured, that but for reinforcements from Boston, none of the British would have reached the city alive. As it was, they lost nearly three hundred men.
_Effects of the Battle_.--The news that American blood had been spilled flew like wild-fire. Patriots came pouring in from all sides. Putnam left his cattle yoked in the field, and without changing his working clothes, mounted his fastest horse, and hurried to Boston. Soon twenty thousand men were at work building intrenchments to shut up the British in the city. Congresses were formed in all the colonies. Committees of safety were appointed to call out the troops and provide for any emergency. The power of the royal governors was broken from Massachusetts to Georgia.
[Footnote: Israel Putnam, familiarly known as "Old Put," was born in Salem, Mass., 1718. Many stories are told of his great courage and presence of mind. His descent into the wolf's den, shooting the animal by the light of her own glaring eyes, showed his love of bold adventure; his noble generosity was displayed in the rescue of a comrade scout at Crown Point, at the imminent peril of his own life. He came out of one encounter with fourteen bullet-holes in his blanket. In 1756, a party of Indians took him prisoner, bound him to a stake, and made ready to torture him with fire. The flames were already scorching his limbs, and death seemed certain, when a French officer burst through the crowd and saved his life. At Fort Edward, when all others fled, he alone fought back the fire from a magazine in which were stored three hundred barrels of gunpowder, protected only by a thin partition. "His face, his hands, and almost his whole body, were blistered; and in removing the mittens from his hands, the skin was torn off with them." The British offered him money and the rank of major-general if he would desert the American cause; but he could neither be daunted by toil and danger, nor bribed by gold and honors.]
BATTLE OF BUNKER HILL (June 17).--The patriot leader, Gen. Ward, having learned that the British intended to fortify Bunker Hill, determined to anticipate them. A body of men, under Col. Prescott, were accordingly assembled at Cambridge, and, after prayer by the president of Harvard University, marched to Charlestown Neck. Breed's Hill was then chosen as a more commanding site than Bunker Hill. It was bright moonlight, and they were so near Boston that the sentinel's "All's well," was distinctly heard. Yet so quietly did they work that there was no alarm. At daylight the British officers were startled by seeing the redoubt which had been constructed. Resolved to drive the Americans from their position, Howe crossed the river with three thousand men, and formed them at the landing. The roofs and steeples of Boston were crowded with spectators, intently watching the troops as they slowly ascended the hill. The patriot ranks lay quietly behind their earthworks until the red-coats were within ten rods, when Prescott shouted "Fire!" A blaze of light shot from the redoubt, and whole platoons of the British fell. The survivors, unable to endure the terrible slaughter, broke and fled. They were rallied under cover of the smoke of Charlestown, which had been wantonly fired by Gage.
[Illustration: THE PRAYER BEFORE THE BATTLE OF BUNKER HILL.]
Again they were met by that deadly discharge, and again they fled. Reinforcements being received, the third time they advanced. Only one volley smote them, and then the firing ceased. The American ammunition was exhausted. The British charged over the ramparts with fixed bayonets. The patriots gallantly resisted with clubbed muskets, but were soon driven from the field.
[Footnote: General Warren was among the last to leave. As he was trying to rally the troops, a British officer, who knew him, seized a musket and shot him. Warren had just received his commission as major-general, but had crossed Charlestown Neel in the midst of flying balls, reached the redoubt, and offered himself as a volunteer. He was buried near the spot where he fell. By his death America lost one of her truest sons. Gage is reported to have said that his fall was worth that of five hundred ordinary rebels.]
_The effect_ upon the Americans of this first regular battle was that of a victory. Their untrained farmer soldiers had put to flight the British veterans. All felt encouraged, and the determination to fight for liberty was intensified.
CAPTURE OF TICONDEROGA (May 10).--Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold led a small company of volunteers to surprise this fortress. As Allen rushed into the sally-port, a sentinel snapped his gun at him and fled. Making his way to the commander's quarters, Allen, in a voice of thunder, ordered him to surrender. "By whose authority?" exclaimed the frightened officer. "In the name of the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress!" shouted Allen. No resistance was attempted. Large stores of cannon and ammunition, just then so much needed by the troops at Boston, fell into the hands of the Americans, without the loss of a single man. Crown Point was soon after as easily taken. (Map opp p. 120.)
[Footnote: Ethan Allen was a native of Connecticut. With several of his brothers he emigrated to what is now known as Vermont. At that
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