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the royal forces at New York, had been for sometime resolved upon in England.
The reasons that induced the British to gain possession of New York, weighed with Washington to prevent or delay it. He had therefore detached largely from his army
before Boston, and sent general Lee to take the command ; and after providing for the security of Boston, proceeded, soon after the evacuation thereof, with the main army to New York, and made every preparation in his power for its defence. Considerable time was allowed for this purpose, for general Howe, instead of pushing directly for New York, retired to Halifax with the forces withdrawn from Boston. He there waited for the promised reinforcements from England; but, impatient of delay, sailed without them for New York, and took possession of Staten island in the latter end of June. He was soon followed by his brother, admiral Howe, and their whole force was assembled about the middle of July, and in apparent readiness for opening the campaign. Before hostilities were commenced, the British
SCneral and admiral, in their quality of civil commissioners for effecting a reunion between Great Britain and the colonies, made an attempt at negotiation. To introduce this busi
ness they sent a flag ashore, with a letter addressed to George Washington, esq. This he refused to receive, as not being addressed to him with the title due to his rank, and at the same time wrote to congress,
66 that he would not, on any occasion, sacrifice essentials to punctilio, but, in this instance, deemed it a duty to his country to insist on that respect, which, in any other than a public view, he would willingly have waved.” Sometime after, adjutant-general Patterson was sent, by general Howe, with a letter addressed to George Washington, &c. &c. &c. On an interview, the adjutant-general, after expressing his high esteem for the person and character of the American general, and declaring that it was not intended to derogate from the respect due to his rank, expressed his hopes that the et ceteras would remove the impediments to their correspondence. General Washington replied, 66 It is true the et ceteras imply every thing, but it is no less true, that they imply any thing, and that he should therefore decline the receiving any letter, directed to him as a private person, when it related to his public station.” A long conference ensued, in which the adjutant-general observed, that “ the commissioners were armed with great powers, and
would be very happy in effecting an accommodation.” He received for answer, from what appeared, their powers were only to grant pardon ; that they who had committed no fault wanted no pardon.”
On the arrival of general Howe at Staten island, the American army did not exceed 10,000 men, but, by sundry reinforcements, before the end of August, they amounted to 27,000. Of these a great part were militia, and one fourth of the whole was sick. The diseases incident to new troops prevailed extensively, and were augmented by a great deficiency in tents. These troops were so judiciously distributed on York island, Long island, Governor's island, Paulus Hook, and on the sound towards New Rochelle, East and West Chester, that the enemy were very cautious in determining when and where to commence offensive operations. Every probable point of debarkation was watched and guarded with a force sufficient to embarrass, though very insufficient to prevent a landing.
From the arrival of the British army at Staten island, the Americans were in daily expectation of being attacked. Washington was, therefore, strenuous in preparing his troops
for action. He tried every expedient to kindle in their breasts the love of their
an high-toned indignation against its invaders. In general orders he addressed them as follows: 66 The time is now near at hand which must probably determine whether Americans are to be freemen or slaves—whether they are to have
any property they can call their own; whether their houses and farms are to be pillaged and destroyed, and themselves consigned to a state of wretchedness, from which no human efforts will deliver them. The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army. Our cruel and unrelenting enemy leaves us the choice of a brave resistance, or the most abject submission. We have, therefore, to resolve to conquer or to die. Our own, our country's honor, call upon us for a vigorous and manly exertion ; and if we now shamefully fail, we shall become infamous to the whole world. Let us then rely on the goodness of our cause, and the aid of the Supreme Being, to animate and encourage us to great and noble actions. The eyes of all our coun- . trymen are on us, and we shall have their blessings and praises, if happily we are the instruments of saving them from the tyranny meditated against them. Let us therefore animate and encourage each other, and show
the whole world, that a freeman, contending for liberty on his own ground, is superior to any slavish
mercenary on earth.” When the whole reinforcements of the enemy had arrived, Washington, in expectation of an immediate attack, once more addressed his army, and called on them to remember, “ that liberty, property, and life, are all at stake--that upon their
and conduct rest the hopes of their bleeding and insulted country—that their wives, children, and parents expect safety from them only; and that they had every reason to believe that Heaven would crown with success so just a cause.” He then gave the most explicit ora, “ “ ders that any soldier who should attempt : to conceal himself, or retreat without orders, should instantly be shot down as an example of the punishment of cowardice;" and desired
every officer to be particularly attentive to the conduct of his men, and report those who should distinguish themselves by brave and noble actions, whom he solemuly promised to notice and reward."
On the 22d of August, the greatest part of the British troops landed on Long island; and Washington immediately made a farther effort to rouse his troops to deeds of valor. “ The enemy," said he, “ have now landed on