Page images

a splendid campaign was planned. It included the capture of Quebec, Forts Du Quesne, Frontenac, Niagara, Detroit, and other French posts in the northwest. Parliament was again urged to take vigorous measures for compelling the colonists, by a tax, to furnish a general fund for military purposes in America, and that body felt disposed to do so; but at this moment more grave questions demanded the attention of parliament and the royal governors. The Indians were threatening the frontier settlements of Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania with desolation, and very soon whole families were flying back to the older settlements, leaving dwellings and farms to the fury of the savages. The authorities of those colonies took action to stay the flood of desolation surging along the border. In Virginia, Washington was appointed commander-in-chief of all the colonial forces, and Noah Stevens was commissioned colonel of a regiment of provisional militia. In Pennsylvania, Dr. Franklin was commissioned colonel, with instructions to raise troops and construct a line of forts or blockhouses along the frontier, which he did. Maryland joined in measures of common defence. Before Shirley had an opportunity to show what he could do, he was superseded by the Earl of Loudon, a cold-hearted, bilious, indolent and in

efficient peer, who was a zealous advocate of the prerogatives of the crown and most heartily despised anything in the nature of republicanism. As the attempt to establish centralized royal government in America had failed, he determined to place the colonies under absolute military rule. Procrastination and inefficiency marked every step of the campaign conducted by Loudon. He did not send his Lieutenant-General James Abercrombie with troops until near the close of April. The ship with money to defray the expenses of campaign was not dispatched until the middle of June, at which time Abercrombie arrived. It was long past mid-summer when the commander-in-chief reached the American shores. The plan of the campaign called for ten thousand men to assault Crown Point, six thousand to march against Niagara, three thousand against Fort Du Quesne, and two thousand to cross the country from the Kennebec to the Chaudiere. Many of the troops destined for Crown Point and Niagara were already in Albany when Abercrombie arrived. The general loved his ease and was a great stickler for the assertion of royal authority. Seven thousand troops under General Winslow were there, impatient to be led to Lake Champlain, and another party anxiously awaited orders to hasten to Oswego, for alarming rumors came in almost every day that the enemy was threatening the frontier with a large body of troops. The quarrel between the Americans and their royal governors over the prerogative of the crown and the rights of the people had become so bitter that the general determined to punish the Americans by quartering regular troops upon them. He cast a firebrand into the army at Albany composed of regular and provincial troops, about ten thousand strong, by compelling the officers of the latter to obey the commands of those of the former of equal rank. He and Mayor Sybrant Van Schaick had many stormy interviews about the billeting of regulars upon the people. On one occasion, there was an open quarrel between the lean Scotchman and the burly Dutchman, when the mayor, terribly excited, shook his fist at the general and exclaimed: “Go back again with your troops! We can defend our frontiers ourselves.” The general triumphed, however, and was so elated over the victory that he sent to his superiors the encouraging words: “In spite of every subterfuge, the soldiers are at last billeted on the town.” This victory cheered the hearts of the Lords of Trade, who now believed that the absolute submission of the colonies was near at hand. Abercrombie had no message of the capture of Crown Point, Niagara or Du

Quesne, but only that he had his heel on the colo. mists whom he had been sent to protect. He loitered at Albany, awaiting the arrival of Loudon, when he predicted that mighty things would be done. The arrival of Colonel Bradstreet, with the alarming intelligence that the French and Indians were threatening Oswego, did not move Abercrombie. He loved ease and took too much pleasure in billeting his regulars on the town of Albany to care about the slaughter of men, women and children on the frontier. Bradstreet, in descending the Oswego River, observed that he was watched by French and Indian scouts. He advanced nine miles up the stream when he was attacked by a strong party of French regulars, Canadians and savages. The provincials drove some of them from an island in the river, and there Bradstreet made a defensive stand. One of the Canadians, too badly wounded to fly with his companions, remained, and a boatman was about to dispatch him, when young Schuyler saved his life. When Bradstreet abandoned the island in only one bateau, there being no room for the wounded Canadian, Schuyler swam ashore with him. While Bradstreet was trying to raise a force to go to the relief of Oswego, Montcalm landed a large force and proceeded to lay siege to the post. Colonel Mercer, in command, was forced to surrender it to the enemy. One hundred and twenty pieces of artillery, six vessels of war, three chests of coin and a large quantity of ammunition and stores were captured, while the royal Abercrombie was billeting his soldiers on the people of Albany that he might humiliate the Americans.

Loudon arrived just in time to hear of the loss

of Oswego and congratulated the country because of its escape from greater disaster. “If the attack had been made on provincials alone,” he thought, “it would have been followed with fatal consequences.” When Mr. Elmer Stevens, living in Virginia, heard this foolish remark he said: “Always harping on the provincials. Those British Lords must believe they are of superior clay to Americans. Loudon will not allow any merit in the character of a provincial soldier. For them he has nothing but contemptuous words. Notwithstanding the provincials saved the remnant of Braddock's army, in spite of cowardice of the regulars and the obstinacy of their general, conquered Acadia, defeated Dieskau, and have performed all the effective military service against the French and Indians, yet the obstinate, blind folly of the royalists see no merit in them, and have only praise for the cowardly regulars.” Noah Stevens overheard two of his soldiers dis

« PreviousContinue »