History of the United States of America, from the Discovery of the Continent - Vol. 5

By George Bancroft | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIII.
PROGRESS OF SIR WILLIAM HOWE AND BURGOYNE.
JULY–OCTOBER 20, 1777.

A DOUBT arose whether Washington retained authority over the new chief of the northern department till congress declared that “they never intended to supersede or circumscribe his power;” but, from an unwillingness to confess their own mistakes, from the pride of authority and jealousy of his superior popularity, they slighted his advice and neglected his wants. They remodelled the commissary department in the midst of the campaign on a system which no competent men would undertake to execute. Washington, striving for an army, raised and officered by the United States, “used every means in his power to destroy state distinction in it, and to have every part and parcel of it considered as continental;” congress more and more reserved to the states the recruiting of men, and the appointment of all but general officers. Political and personal considerations controlled the nomination of officers; and congress had not vigor enough to drop the incapable. “The wearisome wrangles for rank,” and the numerous commissions given to foreign adventurers of extravagant pretensions, made the army “a just representation of a great chaos.” A reacting “spirit of reformation “was at first equally undiscerning; Kalb and Lafayette, arriving at Philadelphia near the end of July, met with a repulse. When it was told that Lafayette desired no more than leave to risk his life in the cause of liberty without pension or allowance, congress gave him the rank of major-general, and Washington received him into his family; but at first the claim of Kalb was rejected.

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