Category Archives: New Jersey

Item of the Day: Botta’s History of the War of Independence (1834)

Full Title:

History of the War of Independence of the United States of America.  By Charles [Carlo Giuseppe Gugliehmo] Botta.  Sixth Edition, in two volumes, revised and corrected.  Vol. I. Translated from the Italian, by George Alexander Otis, Esq.   New Haven: Published and Printed by Nathan Whiting.  1834.

Book V.  1775.

[…] In New Jersey, at the news of the affair at Lexington, the people took possession of the provincial treasure; and a part of it was destined to pay the troops which were levied at the same time in the province.

At Baltimore, in Maryland, the inhabitants laid a strong hand upon all the military stores that were found in the public magazines; and among other arms, fifteen hundred muskets thus fell into their power.  A decree was published, inderdicting all transportation of commodities to the islands where fisheries were carried on, as also to the British army and fleet stationed at Boston.

The inhabitants of Philadelphia took the same resolution, and appeared in all respects, equally disposed to defend the common cause.  The Quakers themselves, notwithstanding their pacific institutions, could not forbear to participate in the ardor with which their fellow-citizens flew to meet a new order of things.

When Virginia, this important colony, and particularly opposed to the pretensions of England, received the intelligence of the first hostilities, it was found in a state of extreme commotion, excited by a cause, which, though trivial in itself, in the present conjuncture became of serious importance.  The provincial congress, convened in the month of March, had recommended a levy of volunteers in each county, for the better defense of the country.  The governor, lord Dunmore, at the name of volunteers, became highly indignant; and conceived suspicions of some pernicious design.  Apprehending the inhabitants intended to take possession of a public magazine, in the city of Williamsburg, he caused all the powder in it to be removed, by night, and conveyed on board an armed vessel, at anchor in the river James.  The following morning, the citizens, on being apprised of the fact, were violently exasperated; they flew to arms, assembled in great numbers, and demonstrated a full determination to obtain restitution of the powder, either by fair means or force.  A serious affair was apprehended; but the municipal council interposed, and, repressing the tumult, dispatched a written request to the governor, entreating him to comply with the public desire.  They complained, with energy, of the injury received; and represented the dangers to which they should be exposed, in case of insurrection on the part of the blacks, whose dispositions, from various reports, they had too much reason to distrust.  The governor answered, that the powder had been removed, because he had heard of an insurrection in a neighboring county; that he had removed it in the night time to prevent any alarm; that he was much surprised to hear the people were under arms; and that he should not think it prudent to put powder into their hands in such a situation.  He assured them, however, that in case of a revolt of the negroes, it should be returned immediately.  Tranquility was re-established; but in the evening, an alarm was given, that the soldiers of the ship of war were approaching the city in arms; the people again also took up theirs, and passed the whole night in expectation of an attack.

The governor, not knowing, or unwilling to yield to the temper of the times, manifested an extreme irritation at these popular movements.  He suffered certain menaces to fall from his lips, which it would have been more prudent to suppress.  He intimated, that the royal standard would be erected; the blacks emancipated, and armed against their masters; a thing no less imprudent than barbarous, and contrary to every species of civilization; finally, he threatened the destruction of the city, and to vindicate, in every mode, his own honor, and that of the crown.  These threats excited a general fermentation throughout the colony, and even produced an absolute abhorrence toward the government.  Thus, incidents of slight importance, assisted by the harsh and haughty humors of the agents of England and America, contributed to accelerate the course of things toward that crisis, to which they tended already, but too strongly, of themselves.

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Filed under 1770's, 1830's, Colonial America, Eighteenth century, History, Military, New Jersey, Posted by Matthew Williams, Revolution, Slavery, United States

Item of the Day: Letters to a Nobleman (1779)

Full Title: Letters to a Nobleman, on the Conduct of the War in the Middle Colonies. The Second Edition. London: Printed for J. Wilkie, No. 71, St. Paul’s Church-Yard, MDCCLXXIX. [1779]

LETTER I.

MY LORD,

THE pleasure I take in complying with your wishes, will not suffer me to postpone the performance of a promise I made, when I last had the honour of conversing with your Lordship.  If I remember right, it was to communicate my sentiments of the strength and practicability of the Middle Colonies where the late military operations have been carried on, — of the disposition of the people, in general, in the revolted Colonies, — and of the conduct of the late war in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. These are matters which intimately concern the public welfare, and with which your Lordship, as a senator, and the whole nation, who have expended many millions in that war, ought to be perfectly acquainted. Of these I shall therefore treat, in the order pointed out by your Lordship, without any other restraint than that which is imposed by condor and truth.

That part of the Middle Colonies which has been the scene of the late military operations, cannot, with the least propriety, in the military sense of the words, be called uncommonly strong, and much less impracticable. These operations have been chiefly confined between the mountains and the sea-coast southward of New York. In that part of America, the hills, when compared with those in this country, are by no means high or difficult of access. And there are few of them which do not afford an easy ascent either on one side or the other. Very unlike this country, where numerous hedges and high dykes form many bulwarks, for a time, proof even against cannon; there, neither hedges nor dykes are to be found. The fences are made of posts fixed in the ground, at ten feet distance, and in general with four or five cross rails, from nine to fifteen inches asunder. The country, which is thick settled and populous, every farmer living on his own plantation, not in villages, is interspersed with intermediate woods, and large plantations, or open fields. The wood consists of large tall trees, growing at different and considerable distances, without any underwood, and are easily scoured with cannon or musquetry [sic]. This is a true and exact state of that part of the country of New Jersey and Pennsylvania where the war has been carried on; and from this description, it may be easily determined how far it can be deemed strong or impracticable in respect to military operations.

But, my Lord, experience is the best instructor; and if we attend to it, we shall certainly obtain every necessary information. In this country, we have lately seen two armies, one meditating its conquest, the other its defence. We have seen the British army penetrating into its heart, in a circuit of near two hundred miles, from Long Island, by the White Plains, to Trenton, and from the Elk Ferry to Philadelphia, in defiance of the utmost efforts of an enemy perfectly acquainted with every advantageous spot of ground; and we have seen that army taking, with ease and little loss, every strong post possessed by the enemy, who have always fled at its approach. Surely a country where such operations have been performed with so little difficulty, cannot be deemed very strong or impracticable.

But the strength or impracticability of this country is lost in idea, when we compare it with the  sense of action in the last American war. That was in a country of thick woods, — full of vast mountains, high precipices, and strong defiles; yet an Amherst and a Wolfe led the British troops through it to conquest and to glory, against the utmost efforts of the French veterans. Though in strength it was equal to any of the countries in Europe, yet was it not so impracticable as to baffle the zeal of British Generals, who, unconnected with party, prized their own honour, and devoted their lives to the interest of their country and the glory of their Sovereign.

For my own part, I have no idea of any country being impracticable in respect to military operations. Nor, I believe, has any other person, who is acquainted with the history of war, or the conduct of great commanders. Did not an Hannibal and a Caesar cross the high mountains and strong defiles of the Alps? Have not Britons more than once victoriously traversed the strongest fortified countries of Germany, France, and Flanders? Is there a country in Europe which has not been pervaded by military skill and valour? No, my Lord, there is not. And I am confident I may adopt this proposition as true,  that every country, however strong, will afford mutual and alternate advantages to contending armies, while superior skill, force, and exertion alone, can ensure victory and success. Should an inferior enemy in his retreat take possession of a strong post, which it would be too great a risque to attack, military policy and experience will tell us, that his provsions my be cut off, — his army besieged or starved into a surrender, — or the other parts of the country be reduced, while he remains inactive in his post; and after that, he can no longer subsist. How then can a country in any military sense be deemed impracticable? To the Ancients, or to Britons till lately, such a sentiment was unknown. It is not to be found in the annals of military history. A British soldier should blush at finding a room for the thought in his heart, and much more at pronouncing it with his tongue. As the sentiment is as dangerous to military gallantry as it is novel, I trust that it has not made a deep impression on the minds of Britons. If it has, their honour will surely teach them to eradicate it. And were I to be arbitrary on the occasion, I would, for the sake of my country, erase the words strong and impracticable from every dictionary, lest it should be renewed to apologize for the military indolence and misconduct of men, who have sacrificed to party and faction their own honour, the glory of their Sovereign, and the dignity of the nation.

I have the honour to be,

My Lord,

Your Lordship’s most faithful

and obedient servant.

 

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Filed under 1770's, American Revolution, Great Britain, History, Letters, Military, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Posted by Caroline Fuchs