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For a long time the French army effected nothing. Washington longed to attack New York and urged the effort, but the wise and experienced Rochambeau applied his principle, "nothing without naval supremacy," and insisted that in such an attack a powerful fleet should act with a powerful army, and, for the moment, the French had no powerful fleet available. The British were blockading in Narragansett Bay the French fleet which lay there. Had the French army moved away from Newport their fleet would almost certainly have become a prey to the British. For the moment there was nothing to do but to wait. The French preserved an admirable discipline. Against their army there are no records of outrage and plunder such as we have against the German allies of the British. We must remember, however, that the French were serving in the country of their friends, with every restraint of good feeling which this involved. Rochambeau told his men that they must not be the theft of a bit of wood, or of any vegetables, or of even a sheaf of straw. He threatened the vice which he called "sonorous drunkenness," and even lack of cleanliness, with sharp punishment. The result was that a month after landing he could say that not a cabbage had been stolen. Our credulity is strained when we are told that apple trees with their fruit overhung the tents of his soldiers and remained untouched. Thousands flocked to see the French camp. The bands played and Puritan maidens of all grades of society danced with the young French officers and we are told, whether we believe it or not, that there was the simple innocence of the Garden of Eden. The zeal of the French officers and the friendly disposition of the men never failed. There had been bitter quarrels in 1778 and 1779 and now the French were careful to be on their good behavior in America. Rochambeau had been instructed to place himself under the command of Washington, to whom were given the honors of a Marshal of France. The French admiral, had, however, been given no such instructions and Washington had no authority over the fleet.
Meanwhile events were happening which might have brought a British triumph. On September 14, 1780, there arrived and anchored at Sandy Hook, New York, fourteen British ships of the line under Rodney, the doughtiest of the British admirals afloat. Washington, with his army headquarters at West Point, on guard to keep the British from advancing up the Hudson, was looking for the arrival, not of a British fleet, but of a French fleet, from the West Indies. For him these were very dark days. The recent defeat at Camden was a crushing blow. Congress was inept and had in it men, as the patient General Greene said, "without principles, honor or modesty." The coming of the British fleet was a new and overwhelming discouragement, and, on the 18th of September, Washington left West Point for a long ride to Hartford in Connecticut, half way between the two headquarters, there to take counsel with the French general. Rochambeau, it was said, had been purposely created to understand Washington, but as yet the two leaders had not met. It is the simple truth that Washington had to go to the French as a beggar. Rochambeau said later that Washington was afraid to reveal the extent of his distress. He had to ask for men and for ships, but he had also to ask for what a proud man dislikes to ask, for money from the stranger who had come to help him.
The Hudson had long been the chief object of Washington's anxiety and now it looked as if the British intended some new movement up the river, as indeed they did. Clinton had not expected Rodney's squadron, but it arrived opportunely and, when it sailed up to New York from Sandy Hook, on the 16th of September, he began at once to embark his army, taking pains at the same time to send out reports that he was going to the Chesapeake. Washington concluded that the opposite was true and that he was likely to be going northward. At West Point, where the Hudson flows through a mountainous gap, Washington had strong defenses on both shores of the river. His batteries commanded its whole width, but shore batteries were ineffective against moving ships. The embarking of Clinton's army meant that he planned operations on land. He might be going to Rhode Island or to Boston but he might also dash up the Hudson. It was an anxious leader who, with La Fayette and Alexander Hamilton, rode away from headquarters to Hartford.
The officer in command at West Point was Benedict Arnold. No general on the American side had a more brilliant record or could show more scars of battle. We have seen him leading an army through the wilderness to Quebec, and incurring hardships almost incredible. Later he is found on Lake Champlain, fighting on both land and water. When in the next year the Americans succeeded at Saratoga it was Arnold who bore the brunt of the fighting. At Quebec and again at Saratoga he was severely wounded. In the summer of 1778 he was given the command at Philadelphia, after the British evacuation. It was a troubled time. Arnold was concerned with confiscations of property for treason and with disputes about ownership. Impulsive, ambitious, and with a certain element of coarseness in his nature, he made enemies. He was involved in bitter strife with both Congress and the State government of Pennsylvania. After a period of tension and privation in war, one of slackness and luxury is almost certain to follow. Philadelphia, which had recently suffered for want of bare necessities, now relapsed into gay indulgence. Arnold lived extravagantly. He played a conspicuous part in society and, a widower of thirty-five, was successful in paying court to Miss Shippen, a young lady of twenty, with whom, as Washington said, all the American officers were in love.
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Washington and his Comrades in Arms -by- George WrongBottom Content goes here. Wikipedia content requires these links..... Wikipedia content is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.