Washington and His Generals - Vol. 1

By Joel Tyler Headley | Go to book overview

MAJOR-GENERAL ALEXANDER McDOUGALL.

THERE are few names in our annals upon which we linger with more satisfaction than upon that of the gallant and true-hearted Alexander McDougall. "His zeal is unquestionable," wrote Washington to Schuyler, as early as the middle of August, 1775, when he turned almost disheartened from contemplating the sordid aims and petty rivalries that were exhibited in the camp; "I wish every officer in the army could appeal to his own heart," he wrote to McDougall in May, 1777, "and find the same principles of conduct that I am persuaded actuate you: we should then experience more consistency, zeal, and steadiness, than we do now, in but too many instances;" and many years afterwards the same sagacious judge of human character, in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, lamented the "brave soldier and disinterested patriot" as one of the fallen pillars of the revolution.

The father of Alexander McDougall was a farmer, in moderate circumstances, who at an early age had emigrated from Scotland and settled in the vicinity of New York, in which city the youth of the soldier was passed in various active employments. Here he watched with keensighted vigilance the aggressive steps of the royal government; and when the Assembly faltered in its opposition to the usurpations of the crown, and in the winter of 1769, insulted the people by rejecting a proposition authorizing the vote by ballot, and by entering upon the favourable consideration of a bill of supplies for troops quartered in the city to overawe the inhabitants, he issued an address, under the title of "A Son of Liberty to the Betrayed Inhabitants of the Colony," in which he contrasted the Assembly with the legislative bodies in other

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