History of the United States of America, from the Discovery of the Continent - Vol. 4

By George Bancroft | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XV.
THE ARMY ROUND BOSTON.
JUNE 17–AUGUST 1775.

DURING the evening and night after the engagement the air trembled with the groans of the wounded, as they were borne over the Charles and through the streets of Boston to illprovided hospitals. To the end of the war, the courage of the insurgents in this battle of the people, and their skill as marksmen, never went out of mind. The loss of officers was disproportionately great; and the gloom of the British was deepened by the reflection that they had fought against their own kindred. The mortally wounded, like Abercrombie, had not the consolation that their memory would be held in honor.

America was, beyond any country in the world, the land of the most varied legislative experience; but in its remoteness from danger and its abhorrence of a standing army there was not any organized force except of the people as a militia; so that it had no choice of officers but from those of the militia who had chanced to see some short service in the French wars, retired English officers who had made their homes in America, or civilians.

On the day of the Bunker Hill battle the continental congress elected four major-generals. From deference to Massachusetts, the first of these was Artemas Ward, though he had not yet received a commission from that colony, and from his broken health was unfit for the station.

The Americans, with ingenuous confidence, assumed that Charles Lee, the son of an English officer and trained up from boyhood for the army, was, as he represented himself, a sol-

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