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poorly qualifies hiin to grapple with the nice distinctions of science, to use technical terms with precision, and to present geological and physiological theories in a form in which they can be easily apprehended and retained by the uninitiated reader. His master-pieces, Mammon, and the Great Teacher, are excellent in their way, — grave, pungent, earnest, manifestly heartfelt appeals to the Christian public in behalf of fundamental, but sadly slighted, duties of the religious life. On that field we shall be glad to welcome him again; but of the Pre-Adamite Earth and Man Primeval, though we have had them on our table for six months, and read them in easy instalments, we take our leave with, “ Ohe! jam satis est.”
G. Boven. ART. VI. — History of the Siege of Boston, and of the
Battles of Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill; also, an Account of the Bunker Hill Monument, with Illustrative Documents. By RICHARD FROTHINGHAM, JR., Author of a History of Charlestown. Boston: Little & Brown. 1849. 8vo. pp. 420.
The American Revolution is now an old story, and it has been often told. The names of the chief actors in it, and of the principal localities which it rendered memorable, together with some idea of its causes, progress, and issue, are as familiar to us as a nursery song. They were among the first teachings of our childhood, and have furnished ample food for the meditations of our riper years. But old as it is, the story has not yet become stale or wearisome, and we have thus far hardly spelt out a tithe of the instruction which it is able to afford. Passages of history require to be known with greater or less minuteness according as the events narrated in them have exerted more or less influence upon the character and fortunes of posterity, according as this influence has been lasting or ephemeral, and broad or limited in its sphere of operation. The immediate aspect of these events in the eyes of those who were contemporaneous with them is comparatively of little moment. They may have dazzled or astonished the bystanders from the number of the actors who were
engaged in them; they may have awakened for a few days the liveliest interest and anxiety in the hearts of millions of human beings. Yet they pass away and leave no sign, so that history hardly deigns to chronicle them. On the other hand, incidents which seemed trifling at the moment may draw after them a train of consequences stretching far and widely into the future, and affect the destinies of nations for centuries after the actors in them have mouldered in their graves. These form the appropriate study of the philosopher, the statesman, and the historian, who take no notice of the more dazzling but meaningless events by which they were preceded. Thus, the recent siege of Vera Cruz, the march of General Scott to the capital, and the capture of Mexico, are the most imposing and brilliant military events that have happened in our own day "on this side of the Atlantic ; the number of troops engaged, the bravery which they manifested, the skill with which they were led, and the splendor of the victories which they gained, are enough to throw into the shade all previous achievements of an American army. But there was no great principle at issue, no important interest at stake, and no lasting results were obtained. The whole war was a mere trial of skill and strength between two neighboring countries, a sort of military game of chess, which being ended, the board remained just as it was for a renewal of the contest. The United States obtained, it is true, an accession of territory; but they paid for it in hard dollars more than it was worth, they have been plagued by the possession of it ever since, and it threatens even now to cost them a disruption of the Union. The running fight at Concord and Lexington, between eight hundred British troops and a few companies of minute-men and militia, who had no commander, who acted without concert, and showed no military skill whatever, will fill more space in the world's history than all the victories of Scott and Taylor united. Volumes have been written upon it already, but its interest is not exhausted, and its story is not yet complete. We welcome, therefore, the appearance of every book which really adds any thing to our knowledge of the earlier scenes of the American Revolution, either by a more perfect digest and more elaborate consideration of the materials previously published, or by adding newly discovered evidence to the store already in print. Mr. Frothingham has performed a good work in both these respects. He has brought together, with great care and extensive research, all the documents relating to his subject that could be found, whether printed or manuscript, has labored to reconcile them where they seemed to conflict, and to digest their contents into one clear and circumstantial narrative, which should gratify curiosity on every point in relation to which there is any information to be had, and should spare the future inquirer the necessity of referring to the original testimony. He has had extraordinary success in hunting up new manuscript materials, some of those which he has now published for the first time being of great importance to the history of the period, as they determine conclusively a few points which have long been controverted. Perhaps the most interesting of these newly discovered documents is a letter written by Col. Prescott about two months after the battle of Bunker Hill, and addressed to John Adams, who was then a delegate to Congress, and who had requested Prescott to give him a more particular account than he had yet received of the recent engagement. This letter was found among the papers of John Adams, and was communicated by the kindness of his grandson, Hon. C. F. Adams, to Mr. Frothingham, who has printed it entire from the original manuscript in his Appendix. It is a clear and unpretending account of the battle, written with great simplicity, and with no apparent consciousness of the importance of the affair, or of the value of the writer's services. It proves incidentally, and therefore in the most unquestionable manner, that Prescott commanded in the redoubt throughout the action, without interference from either of the three general officers who were in the field. Considering this letter to be far the most important piece of contemporaneous evidence which has yet been published respecting the battle, we copy it entire.
“Camp at Cambridge, August 25, 1775. “SIR-I have received a line from my brother, which informs me of your desire of a particular account of the action at Charlestown. It is not in my power, at present, to give so minute an account as I should choose, being ordered to decamp and march to another station. On the 16th of June, in the evening, I received orders to march to Breed's Hill in Charlestown, with a party of about one thousand men, consisting of three hundred of my own regiment, Col. Bridge and Lieut. Brickett with a detachment of theirs, and two hundred Connecticut forces, commanded by Captain Knowlton. We arrived at the spot, the lines were drawn by the engineer, and we began the entrenchment about twelve o'clock; and plying the work with all possible expedition till just before sun-rising, when the enemy began a very heavy cannonading and bombardment. In the interim, the engineer forsook me. Having thrown up a small redoubt, found it necessary to draw a line about twenty rods in length from the fort northerly, under a very warm fire from the enemy's artillery. About this time, the above field officers, being indisposed, could render me but little service, and the most of the men under their command deserted the party. The enemy continuing an incessant fire with their artillery, about two o'clock in the afternoon, on the seventeenth, the enemy began to land a northeasterly point from the fort, and I ordered the train, with two field-pieces, to go and oppose them, and the Connecticut forces to support them; but the train marched a different course, and I believe those sent to their support followed, I suppose to Bunker's Hill. Another party of the enemy landed and fired the town. There was a party of Hampshire, in conjunction with some other forces, lined a fence at the distance of threescore rods back of the fort, partly to the north. About an hour after the enemy landed, they began to march to the attack in three columns. I commanded my Lieut.-Col. Robinson and Major Woods, each with a detachment, to flank the enemy, who, I have reason to think, behaved with prudence and courage. I was now left with perhaps one hundred and fifty men in the fort. The enemy advanced and fired very hotly on the fort, and meeting with a warm reception, there was a very smart firing on both sides. After a considerable time, finding our ammunition was almost spent, I commanded a cessation till the enemy advanced within thirty yards, when we gave them such a hot fire that they were obliged to retire nearly one hundred and fifty yards before they could rally and come again to the attack. Our ammunition being nearly exhausted, could keep up only a scattering fire. The enemy being numerous, surrounded our little fort, began to mount our lines and enter the fort with their bayonets. We were obliged to retreat through them, while they kept up as hot a fire as it was possible for them to make. We, having very few bay. onets, could make no resistance. We kept the fort about one hour and twenty minutes after the attack with small arms. This is nearly the state of facts, though imperfect and too general, which, if any ways satisfactory to you, will afford pleasure to your
, Mr. Frothingham has also published for the first time sev
eral other letters, written within a few weeks from the day of the battle, mostly by persons who were present in it, and who describe with considerable minuteness all that they saw and heard. Their accounts harmonize very well with Colonel Prescott's statement, and place in a clear light all the principal occurrences of the day, so that we can even see the cause of the chief discrepancies that have been detected in the other published narratives. Thus, there has been much dispute as to the conduct of Gen. Putnam in the affair, and the nature of the command which he exercised on the field. It now appears very satisfactorily, that he never interfered with the direction of the troops in the redoubt, who bore the brunt of the contest; he left that entirely to Col. Prescott. What orders he did give were to the men stationed at the breastwork, which was a prolongation of the eastern face of the redoubt; at the rail-fence, which ran nearly at a right angle with this breastwork, but farther westward, or more in the rear; and at the slight defences erected along the line between the breastwork and the fence. He also repeatedly rode to and fro between the works and the troops who were on the hill in the rear, urged on the reinforcements, endeavored to bring up more artillery, and to cause the entrenching tools, when no longer needed, to be carried to the rear; in short, to use an expressive colloquial phrase, “he made himself generally useful.” He even rode as far as Cambridge, after the British had landed in Charlestown, in order to obtain reinforcements. During the first assault, it is fully proved that he was at the rail-fence, encouraging the men and directing them to hold their fire till the proper moment. But as he was seen at other times riding towards the hill in the rear, and even farther on the road towards Cambridge, and as he once carried off some entrenching tools in his hands, a few thought that he was leaving the ground from fear, and imputations were afterwards cast upon his bravery. These were not only groundless, but absurd ; for so far as we can form an opinion of him from his whole recorded career, insensibility to danger seems to have been a part of his physical temperament. He was the only American officer of rank who was present on horseback, so that he could move about with more ease and speed than the others; and he acted generally as his
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