« ElőzőTovább »
of the British army. The result was nothing, the usual fruit of councils of war. Four of the generals favoured the enterprise ; eleven opposed it, among whom was the Baron DeKalb. All gave written opinions. But to our letter:
“ AT VALLEY Forge CAMP, 20th Nov., 1777. “Sır :-Your Excellency having given me so many tokens of friendship, and been so kind as to offer me to forward any
letters for Europe, by the best and safest opportunities, I take the liberty to send you one for that purpose, of great consequence to me, and, I dare say, may have no bad one for the American cause of liberty. Besides, it would or could be of no manner of service to anybody besides, nor give any intelligence, of whatever kind, to the enemies, if intercepted-being wrote in cyphers.
“The army being on the point of hutting here for winter, I should have given your Excellency an account how this is to be performed, if I did not know that General Washington has done it. at large. I hope this winter quarters will turn to no bad account, either for the health of the men or disgust of the officers, and that Congress will take the best and most effectual measures to have the army completed and clothed during this winter, for I should be apprehensive that our army, as it is, would be in no way able to act to any purpose.
“ General Washington having granted my request, to have Baron de Holtzendorff employed in my division, under my orders, I shall take hold next campaign, or during winter, if there was any opportunity of exerting his talents and zeal to the best advantage, for the service of the State. I should be glad all encouragement would be given to him by Congress. If they thought fit to draw him out of the line of Lieut. Colonel, and it was your pleasure to contribute to his preferment, I would acknowledge the favour as done to me. I am, with the greatest esteem and respect, Your Excellency's most obedient and very
humble servant, BARON DEKALB."
We have few comments to offer upon this epistle. We find DeKalb at his foreign correspondence, which is said to have been very extensive, and of political character. There is no doubt that his pen was a very busy one, and we doubt as little that he always had by him a large body of papers. Of these he is reported to have been very solicitous, taking care that they should march with his luggage, in the centre of the army, when under moving orders. That no mischief is to follow, should his present
enclosure fall into the hands of the enemy, he assumes, on the score that it is written in cyphers. But the Baron may have reckoned without his host. One may pick a lock when he lacks a key, and there is probably no cypher which the wit and ingenuity of one man can invent, that the wit and ingenuity of another may not discover. Some men have a peculiar gift in this matter, and we are told that there are no cryptographs so complicated, which, with time given, a shrewd student may not unravel. This was Champollion's faculty. The late Mr. Poe claimed to possess the faculty of elucidating any characters, however much mystified, and he certainly succeeded, almost at a glance, in reading the most original and intricate that were submitted to him as puzzles. tend to no particular sagacity, ourselves, in this respect; but have no reason to doubt that there is a special faculty for this employment, just as we find some persons rarely gifted in solving enigmas, conundrums and such small mysteries. By the way, these cyphers of DeKalb remind us of a letter, now in our possession, of Arthur Lee, one of the commissioners of Congress in Europe, with Franklin and Deane, which contains some of the characters agreed on between Lee and his friend, with the key, in each case, accompanying the character. We give a few examples :
“The 218,6,11, (Junto,) who have constant intelligence from Morris, Holker and Deane, report here, with the greatest confidence, that the 134 (Doctor Franklin) a, vi & 115 (Deane) a xxxviii (not given) have completely 384, a xxxv-d, (triumphed,) and that their 170,6,xv-s (friends) may now do what they please. In consequence, Mr. 455,a xxvt-s (W-S) comes over, with this opportunity, to embrace the favourable moment of getting his 36,a,xix-s accounts) 271,a,xxvii (passed) and the 283,a,iv (plunder) secured to him for
A 101,6,ii (consulship) added to it will repay his services, and satisfy him for the present. Their 136,6,xx-s (dreams) are all 179,a,ix, (golden,) and if 99,a,xvii (Congress) realize them, the Lord have mercy on the 107,6,xxx, (country,) for more audacious and abandoned plunderers, I think, no period ever produced.”
This will suffice. The secret forms are awkward enough, rather tedious and troublesome, perhaps, than difficult. Cryptography seems, in the day of the revolution, to have been very much in its infancy. Of the subject matter of
this letter of Lee, we need say nothing here, but refer the reader to his memoirs, where he will find suggestions enough, if not proofs, to show a degree of corruption among our great men, which would not discredit Greek and Punic characters.
To return to DeKalb's letter. Of Baron Holtzendorff we know nothing. DeKalb's anxiety to have him (already a colonel) promoted, so shortly after his own elevation, and at the very season when the army was full of discontents, in consequence of this pernicious practice, only illustrates the eager rapacity of the foreigners in the army for the possession of all the high places. It does not appear that he had any success in this application, as how should he ?-when, too, we find a preceding letter of his own, declaring his readiness to forego the honours resolved in his behalf by Congress, in order to prevent disturbance, which appeared to be inevitably consequent
A few words, in relation to the encampment for the winter at Valley Forge. The decision was one of great difficulty, and so various were the opinions, at a council of war, having for its object the cantonment of the troops, that Washington was compelled to act on his own responsibility. He chose the ground at Valley Forge, then in the woods and at the opening of winter. Log houses had then to be built, and the encampment entrenched. We gather from DeKalb's letter that he was opposed to the arrangement, or at least doubtful of its policy. He was very far from being alone in this respect. General Varnum, speaking of it, says, “I have, from the beginning, viewed this selection with horror. It is unparalleled, in the history of mankind, to establish winter quarters in a country wasted, and without a single magazine. * * * The situation of the camp is such, that, in all human probability, the army must soon dissolve. Should a blind attachment to a preconcerted plan fatally disaffect, and, in the end, force the army to mutiny, then will the same country which now applauds our hermitage, (Valley Forge,) curse our insensibility.” Congress did, and perhaps could do, but little for the relief of the army, and starvation and desertion nearly realized the fears of its best friends; but this matter belongs to other chronicles. We have only to add, that a copy of a report before
* * *
us, endorsed by DeKalb, describes the beef drawn for the army as
“not fit for the use of human beings,” and the flour as “too sour for use."
The Baron seems, all this time, to have been actively employed, and in military duties of an arduous character. He was sent, early in November, 1777, on a tour of reconnoissance with Generals St. Clair and Knox, and reported the vast importance of keeping possession of the Jersey shore, at or near Red Bank. This region, during this campaign, had already been made the scene of a fierce struggle, distinguished by the gallant defence of Red Bank by Colonel Greene, and the final loss of Fort Mifflin. The necessity of securing another position, in the same precincts, for a fortress, was due to the security of the American shipping employed in the Delaware, and for other objects, all equally important to the interests of the army. The letters of Washington speak of DeKalb, in connection with this duty, in language of the fullest confidence. The commission, as we learn from another letter of Washington, returned to camp on the 19th Nov. The season was one of unusual activity. The British, under Cornwallis, were in motion, and Lafayette had the fortune to win the applause of the country by a spirited assault upon his Hessians. Winter was rapidly approaching, and the rival armies, with the full consciousness of the period when frost and ice would fetter all operations, were making their last demonstrations. The policy of the Americans was, as usual, defensive, and we have no reason to doubt that DeKalb was doing good service, and constantly employed in those fields of usefulness, which are the more discouraging, apart from their general laboriousness, as they afford no opportunities for brilliant distinction. The winter wore on, and during the interval of inaction—not rest-DeKalb found leisure for such employments as the following letter will best illustrate. It is addressed to
"His Excellency, Henry Laurens, President of Congress.
“ VALLEY FORGE CAMP, 7th Jan., 1778. “Sir :—The letter of the 1st inst., your Excellency honoured me with, gives me great concern on account of your health. I wish it may be better by this time. I am also sorry for your trouble of answering my letter of the 20th December. Being fully convinced
of your kindness to me, I could not have had the least uneasiness about the packet I took the liberty to direct to you for France. What induced me to trouble you so far, is owing to my apprehension that my letters, going and coming, may be withheld, either on this or on the other side of the sea. For, would you believe it, sir, I had not one single letter, either from my lady, relations or friends in Europe, since my arrival on this continent, though I am satisfied they did not miss any opportunities they could get, and are as well informed as anybody of the vessels sailing for America. I can hardly think that any of these letters will be stopped in France, my absence being consented to by the king and his ministers. My suspicion must then more naturally fall on this side [of the water]; and if so, those that withhold them must do it out of curiosity or ill-nature, without reaping any kind of benefit or intelligence from it, for letters relating to business are written in a manner which nobody but myself can understand—and what can be got by letters from a wife to her husband about family affairs ? I dare say it is distressing to me not to hear anything of what is most dear to me—for that reason I will recommend for the future (if you will give me leave) to have my letters directed to your Excellency. I may assure you, sir, that my political correspondence can be in no way hurtful to the cause of America, nor offend any individual whatsoever. On the contrary, all I aim at is to make interest with my friends at court, to procure real assistance to the United States, to countermine the false reports of disaffected and exclaiming officers, that come home, and to show the necessity and usefulness of a war with England. I wish I could be sometimes more private to the proposals of Congress to the French ministry, for possibly I could strike on such strings as the American commissioners (though men of sagacity, understanding and knowledge, in all other matters) cannot be acquainted with, nor have even ideas of, considering the differences in government between an infant commonwealth and the intricate roads in that of a monarchical, or often ministerial one. Good use should be made of it at home, for I would trust it only to those I know to be well-wishers to those States. I have sent to Mr. John Adams a few letters of introduction for Paris and Versailles, which I hope will be of some service to him.
“Although this letter exceeds already the ordinary bounds, I cannot help imparting to your Excellency a few remarks on the continental
army, which I shall set down as they will occur to my memory, without any regular order or plan, and only as hints, to be considered by Congress for redress, if they think them worth notice. That the States, in raising regiments and completing the officers thereof, before they could be sure of finding a sufficient number of men, made a mistake, excusable in new governments; but