CHAPTER IV
SWORDS AND BULLETS

1. THE CALL TO ARMS

AARON BURR was then nineteen, some five feet six inches in height, slight of build, but wiry and capable of prolonged exertions. His year of so-called idleness, coupled with a healthy outdoor existence and the sports he loved, had rebuilt the reserves he had lost in that first year's arduous application at college.

The news of Lexington crashed like a thunderbolt into the placid existence and gallantries of Litchfield. Burr threw his books away forthwith. He was young, ardent, and enamored with the military life -- he had been reading history of late, with especial attention to the accounts of battles and sieges and the stratagems of great soldiers. And the "rights of man," the "laws of nature," were phrases that spread their glamour for him equally with others of his age, and made righteous and just a revolt against the alleged tyranny of a far-off England.

He wrote immediately to his friend Ogden, urging him to come at once to Litchfield, so that they might volunteer for service together. Ogden was less impetuous; he wrote back that he must first make certain arrangements. Meanwhile events moved rapidly. The battle of Bunker Hill was fought, and the Americans had stood the test of a pitched battle with British regulars.

In an ecstasy of impatience Burr hurried to Elizabethtown to hasten his slothful friend; with such success, that in July, 1775, the two lads were riding into Cambridge where the hastily summoned American forces were encamped. They had with them a letter from John Hancock addressed to General Washington recommending "Mr. Ogden and Mr. Burr of the Jerseys."1

But here disillusionment awaited them. Washington had been only recently placed in command, and an almost impossible task presented itself to him. There were some 17,000 raw recruits in the scattered camps investing Boston; without the slightest semblance of discipline, unorganized, poorly armed, without uniforms or supplies. The officers were in little better state. Very few of them had either practical or theoretical knowledge of warfare.

-32-

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Aaron Burr: A Biography
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments x
  • Illustrations xi
  • Chapter I - Ancestral Voices 1
  • Chapter II - Childhood 14
  • Chapter III - College Years 21
  • Chapter IV - Swords and Bullets 32
  • Chapter V - The War Goes On 53
  • Chapter VI - Prelude to Life 69
  • Chapter VII - Chiefly Legal 84
  • Chapter VIII - The Politician Embarked 93
  • Chapter IX - The Gentleman from New York 102
  • Chapter X - Intermediate Years 115
  • Chapter XI - Party Growth 132
  • Chapter XII - Burr Stoops to Conquer 145
  • Chapter XIII - The Second American Revolution 167
  • Chapter XIV - Jefferson or Burr 188
  • Chapter XV - Vice-President Burr 210
  • Chapter XVI - The Last Struggle for Power 236
  • Chapter XVII - Tragic Duel 246
  • Chapter XVIII - The Impeachment of Justice Chase 261
  • Chapter XIX - Backgrounds for the Conspiracy 270
  • Chapter XX - Western Journey 296
  • Chapter XXI - Never to Return 320
  • Chapter XXII - The Man Hunt Starts 344
  • Chapter XXIII - Dictatorship in New Orleans 364
  • Chapter XXIV - The Stage Is Set 387
  • Chapter XXV - Tried for Treason 396
  • Chapter XXVI - On Trial 424
  • Chapter XXVII - Man without a Country 449
  • Chapter XXVIII - Failure in France 471
  • Chapter XXIX - Declining Years 496
  • Notes 519
  • Bibliography 547
  • Index 555
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