The reformer is always right about what is wrong. He is generally wrong about what is right. — G. K. Chesterton

Story of the Thirteen Colonies - Helene Guerber

The British Leave Boston

While Washington was holding the British prisoners in Boston, Congress made one more vain attempt to be on good terms with the king. But the only answer he made to their petition was to call for more soldiers. Finding that the English, who in many cases thought the Americans were right, would not fight for him, he hired seventeen thousand Hessian and other German soldiers to put down the rebellion.

The news that the king was hiring Germans and bribing the Indians on the frontier to make trouble, made the Americans very angry. On the same day, they heard that the British had burned down Falmouth (Portland), in Maine, so they determined to take active measures.

Knowing that the Canadians under Carleton would soon march southward, they sent two armies to the north. One, under Montgomery, passed up Lake Champlain and soon took Montreal. The other army, although it was winter, heroically forced its way through the Maine woods to Quebec, led by Benedict Arnold.

There Montgomery joined Arnold; but their combined forces proved too weak to take the city. Montgomery fell in the very beginning of the fight, and Arnold, who had behaved like a hero, was badly wounded. Before he could recover and make a new attempt to seize Quebec,—where much ammunition was stored,—new British troops came and drove the American forces out of Canada.

Washington, as we have seen, was seemingly idle, only because his troops needed drilling and he had no powder. As he did not wish the enemy to know this, he kept the secret until many people began to murmur because he spent the winter in Cambridge with Mrs. Washington, without striking a blow. He had, however, been far from idle, for, besides drilling his army, he had made many arrangements, and provided that the American prisoners should be kindly treated or exchanged. To do this, he wrote to General Gates, who had fought by his side at Monongahela twenty years before, promising that the British prisoners should receive just the same care as was given to the Americans.

As soon as the cannons came from Ticonderoga, Washington resolved to attack Boston, in spite of the objections of his officers. The principal house owners there had long urged him to do so, notwithstanding the fact that their property would suffer greatly. One night, therefore, he bade his men secretly climb and fortify Dorchester Heights. When the British awoke the next morning, they saw that the American guns covered them. Rather than stand such a deadly fire, General Howe decided to leave the town. His troops, and about nine hundred of his friends, went on board the British vessels in the harbor, and sailed off to Halifax.

On St. Patrick's day, 1776, Washington triumphantly entered Boston, where his troops were received with every demonstration of great joy. Indeed, the Bostonians were so happy that they gave Washington a gold medal, on one side of which he is represented on horseback, pointing to the vanishing British fleet.

But Washington did not linger there long. Suspecting that Howe's next attempt would be to seize New York, and fearing lest he might have gone there straight from Boston, Washington soon hurried away. Just before he left the city, a British ship, laden with powder, sailed into the harbor, as its captain thought the British were still there. Its cargo was quickly seized, and provided the American army with seven times more powder than they had been able to secure by any other means.

About three months later a second British fleet, under Clinton, suddenly appeared off Charleston, where it began bombarding Fort Moultrie. The governor of Charleston having sent word to the general, "Keep cool and do mischief," the fire was promptly returned. Besides, the British were greatly dismayed to see their cannon balls burying themselves harmlessly in the soft palmetto logs and the big sand heaps of which the fort was composed. But the balls from the fort crippled the British vessels so badly that they had to sail away again without taking possession of Charleston.

[Illustration] from Story of the Thirteen Colonies by Helene Guerber

In the midst of this battle, a British cannon ball cut Fort Moultrie's flagstaff in two, and brought down the flag. The enemy cheered loudly at this lucky shot; but a sergeant named Jasper quickly jumped over the parapet, caught up the fallen flag, and set it up again, notwithstanding the hail of bullets falling around him; so that it was now the Americans' turn to raise a cheer of triumph. In reward for his daring action, Jasper was offered the rank of lieutenant; but as he could neither read nor write, he sadly refused it, saying: "I am not fit for the company of officers."


Front Matter

Our Country Long Ago
The Barbarous Indians
The Mounds
Where the Northmen Went
The Northmen in America
Queer Ideas
Prince Henry the Navigator
Youth of Columbus
Columbus and the Queen
"Land! Land!"
Columbus and the Savages
Home Again
Columbus Ill-treated
Death of Columbus
How America Got its Name
The Fountain of Youth
"The Father of Waters"
The French in Canada
French and Spanish Quarrels
The Sky City
Around the World
Nothing but Smoke
Smith's Adventures
The Jamestown Men
Smith Wounded
Pocahontas Visits England
Hudson and the Indians
The Mayflower
Plymouth Rock
The First Thanksgiving
Snake Skin and Bullets
The Beginning of Boston
Stories of Two Ministers
Williams and the Indians
The Quakers
The King-Killers
King Phillip's War
The Beginning of New York
Penn and the Indians
The Catholics in Maryland
The Old Dominion
Bacon's Rebellion
A Journey Inland
The Carolina Pirates
Charter Oak
Salem Witches
Down the Mississippi
La Salle's Adventures
Indians on the Warpath
Two Wars with the French
Washington's Boyhood
Washington's Journey
Washington's First Battle
Stories of Franklin
Braddock's Defeat
Wolfe at Quebec
England and her Colonies
The Stamp Tax
The Anger of the Colonies
The Boston Tea Party
The Minutemen
The Battle of Lexington
Bunker Hill
The Boston Boys
The British leave Boston
Declaration of Independence
A Lady's Way of Helping
Christmas Eve
The Fight at Bennington
Burgoyne's Surrender
Winter at Valley Forge
The Quaker Woman
Putnam's Adventures
Indian Cruelty
Boone in Kentucky
Famous Sea Fights
The "Swamp Fox"
The Poor Soldiers
The Spy
A Traitor's Death
Two Unselfish Women
Surrender of Cornwallis
British Flag hauled down
Washington's Farewell