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the struggle. The navy of France gave the supremacy of the sea to the Allies for a few weeks in 1781, and Cornwallis was captured with his army. It is correct, therefore, to say that the aid afforded by France decided the conflict. It is, nevertheless, by no means certain that, had France held aloof, the contest would have had any different termination although the end would no doubt have been postponed. The “Siege of Boston ” began on April 19th, 1775, and
continued until March 17th, 1776, when the “Siege of Boston," 1775 British abandoned the town. During that time, 76.
from five to ten thousand veterans, commanded by five generals, Gage, Burgoyne, Howe, Clinton, and Pigott, suffered themselves to be blockaded in a small town, often illsupplied with provisions, fuel and forage, by a force consisting of from ten to twenty thousand undisciplined farmers and mechanics. This latter force was poorly equipped and changed in size and composition every week. Until July, 1775, it had no commander-in-chief. This inactivity of the British army is easily explained. The town of Boston was built upon a peninsula, which was connected with the mainland by a narrow strip of sand over which the tide sometimes flowed. This was defended by the besieged. But at the landward end, the blockading force had erected strong works which prevented egress from the town in that direction. In this way it was difficult for the British army to attack the colonists. Furthermore, the army blockading Boston was a mere vanguard. The whole adult male population within a radius of forty miles formed the real army besieging Boston. Forty thousand men could have been placed in the field for a few days' service at any time. Then, too, the topography of the country greatly favoured the insurgents. The eastern part of Massachusetts is composed of relics of the terminal moraine of an ancient glacier in the shape of little oval hills called drumlins by the geologists. Three of these little hills - one of them known
as Bunker Hill — formed a peninsula on which the town of Charlestown was built. This was situated between the Charles and Mystic Rivers to the north of Boston. It was connected with the mainland by a narrow isthmus which might well be described as a natural causeway. South and east of Boston was another and similar“ neck," then known as Dorchester Heights, but now forming South Boston. The road for the British out of Boston and for the colonists into that town lay in the possession of one or both of these subordinate peninsulas. On June 16th, reports reached the Colonial head-quarters that Gage intended to seize Dorchester Heights. The colonists determined to divert him from the execution of this plan by seizing the Charlestown hills. The occupation of this position had been long in contemplation, in connection with batteries to be placed on hills on the mainland, whose fire, converging in front of the works to be erected on Bunker Hill, would prevent a successful assault. But the supporting forts could not be supplied with artillery, and the project had been deferred. It was now decided to seize Bunker Hill, and to defend it as well as possible. But Prescott and his men, marching in the darkness of the night of June 16-17, passed Bunker Hill and threw up a redoubt on Breed's Hill, nearer Boston. The conflict is always known, however, as the Battle of Bunker Hill. Instead of using his preponderance in shipping to attack the Americans from the rear, Gage ordered an assault in front. Prescott and Stark, with some three thousand men, defended the redoubt and connecting lines. Howe, Clinton, and Pigott led five thousand men to the attack. Twice that splendid force marched up the hill to be turned back by a musketry fire. The third assault succeeded, mainly because the American ammunition was exhausted. The loss of from one thousand to fifteen hundred of their men attests the gallantry of the British soldiers. Few more splendid actions are recorded in history. But the comparative smallness of the colonial loss, four hundred C. A.
Second Continental Con. gress, 1775.
and forty-one — most of which was suffered during the hasty retreat — shows the nature of the task to which Gage had set his
The Americans were beaten at Bunker Hill and driven from the field; but the gallant defence they had made gave them a feeling of confidence in themselves of the greatest importance in the ensuing campaigns. The Second Continental Congress met at Philadelphia,
May, 1775 It continued in existence until the Articles of Confederation went into opera
tion in 1781. At first it was only a meeting of the radical leaders in the several colonies. It soon acquired supreme power and exercised the functions of a sovereign. It adopted the army blockading Boston as its own, and
undertook the defence of Massachusetts as a becomes gen
national affair. Political necessity required a eral, June, 1775.
southern man to lead the army, and George Washington, a delegate from Virginia, was appointed Commander-in-chief (June, 1775), the actual commanders in the field being commissioned as major and brigadier-generals. Washington's place in the Virginia delegation was filled by the election of Thomas Jefferson, a much younger man, but already prominent from the boldness of his written opinions. Congress now issued a “Declaration setting forth the Reasons for Taking up Arms.” Later, another petition was sent to the king, praying him, as “constitutional arbiter” between the several parts of the Empire, to use his veto power to protect his loyal American subjects from the oppression of his subjects living in England, exercised in the form of acts of Parliament. The only answer vouchsafed to this “Olive Branch "petition was a proclamation against traitors and rebels. In this manner the king drove more persons to rebellion than all the radical leaders in the colonies had done in the whole course of the dispute. Until that time, hundreds of thousands of persons, who denied the legislative power of Parliament, were strong in
Siege of Boston.
With March, 1776.
their loyalty to the king; soon they were to be ready for independence.
Washington took command of the American army at Cambridge on July 3rd, 1775.
He soon brought some semblance of order out of the of Boston, military chaos which then prevailed. an army constantly fluctuating in numbers, without heavy ordnance, and for weeks at a time without powder, he presented a firm front to the British. The magazines of Ticonderoga and Crown Point, seized in May, 1775, supplied ordnance as soon as the snow of the next winter made transportation possible. The Massachusetts navy provided powder, the spoil of an ordnance vessel captured from the British. In March, 1776, Washington was able to take the offensive. He seized Dorchester Heights and compelled the evacuation of Boston. In the interim, an invasion of Canada, led by Montgomery and Benedict Arnold, had proved a complete failure.
The first half of the year 1776 was, in some respects, the most important in the history of the country. Then it was decided to break loose from the mother land and to establish a new nation upon
independence. the American soil. Many English writers, from the epoch of the Revolution to the present day, have conceived themselves able to trace the independence of the United States back to the first settlement of the older colonies. This is true in the sense that the causes which ultimately brought about independence may be discovered in the beginning of the seventeenth century. It is not true, however, that any considerable body of colonists expected or desired independence earlier than the year 1776. Washington stated that in July, 1775, when he took command of the army, he “abhorred” the idea of independence. No doubt he expressed the feeling of the great mass of the people at that time. The modern American student, so far from being able to discern any conscious growth towards independ
ence, is impressed by the great reluctance with which the people approached the final separation. The contemptuous rejection of the "Olive Branch "petition converted many. Among other important steps in bringing about a change of sentiment, was the necessity for making new provisions for the local governments. As the contest widened, one colony after another found
itself without any government. In some cases Early State
the attempt of the king's representative to pre
vent assistance being sent to Massachusetts brought on the conflict. In other cases, the endeavour to settle some local grievance by force compelled the governor's abdication. In Massachusetts, a Provincial Congress, representing the people, assumed power in the beginning. Afterwards, the Charter government was restored without a governor
the Council performing many of the executive functions. Connecticut and Rhode Island continued under their seventeenth century charters, and New Hampshire was the only New England colony which was governed as a Royal Province. The departure of the governor left affairs in a state of disorder in that province. The people of New Hampshire were obliged to make some provision for government in order to protect themselves and to aid Massachusetts. They applied to the Continental Congress for advice, and, in conformity to its suggestion, established (Jan. 1776) a temporary organization “to continue only during the present unhappy differences with Great Britain.” In May, 1776, every colony was in open revolt. Congress then advised each colony to assume such form of government as should seem best. The first colony to act under this vote was Virginia, which had been governed for some time by a “Convention," elected by the people. The first constitution of Virginia, adopted in June, 1776, is of considerable historical interest. The Bill of Rights prefixed to it was the work of George Mason. It contained an admirable exposition of the American theory of