It was a desperate undertaking. There were 10,000 men, and the width of the river at the point of crossing was nearly a mile. It would seem hardly possible that such a movement could, in a single night, be made without discovery by the British troops, who were lying in camp but a short distance away. The night must have been a long and anxious one for Washington, who stayed at his post of duty on the Long Island shore until the last boat of the retreating army had pushed off. The escape was a brilliant achievement and saved the American cause.
After serving two terms as President with great success he again retired in 1797 to private life at Mount Vernon. Here he died on December 14, 1799, at the age of sixty-seven, loved and honored by the American peop
Nathaniel Greene was born in Warwick, R. I., in 1742. His father, a Quaker preacher on Sundays and a blacksmith and miller on week days, brought up his son in the strictest Quaker principles, and trained him to work in the field, in the mill, and at the forge. Nathaniel was robust and athletic, a leader in outdoor sports. From an early age he was studious in his habits, and in his manhood, when the troubles with England seemed to threaten war, he eagerly turned his attention to the study of military tactics.
Marion's Brigade" of farmers and hunters seldom numbered more than seventy, and often less than twenty. With this very small force he annoyed the British beyond measure by rescuing prisoners and by capturing supply-trains, foraging parties, and outposts. One day a scout brought in the report that a party of ninety British with 200 prisoners were on the march for Charleston. Waiting for the darkness to conceal his movements, Marion with thirty men sallied out, swooped down upon the British camp, captured, the entire force, and rescued all the American prisoners.
It was the custom of Marion's men when hard pressed by a superior force to scatter, each one for himself, and, dashing headlong into the dense, dark swamps, to meet again at the well-known hiding-place. Even while the British were in search of them they sometimes darted out just as suddenly as they had disappeared, and surprised another British party near at hand. Well did Marion deserve the name of "Swamp Fox," given him by the British.
Meanwhile General Gage, who was in command of 3,000 British troops in Boston, had received orders from England to seize John Hancock and Samuel Adams as traitors. General Gage knew that Hancock and Adams were staying for a while with a friend in Lexington. He had learned also through his spies that the minute-men had collected some cannon and military stores in Concord, eighteen miles from Boston. The British General planned, therefore, to send a body of troops to arrest the two leaders at Lexington, and then to push on and destroy the stores at Concord.
Although he acted with the greatest secrecy, he was not alert enough to keep his plans from the watchful minute-men. Gage's failure was brought about by one of these minute-men, Paul Revere, whose famous "midnight ride" was one of the exciting episodes of the Revolution.
On the opposite bank he soon got ready a fleet horse. There he stood, bridle in hand, watching to catch sight of the signal lights. At eleven o'clock two lights gleamed out from the belfry, and told him that the British troops were crossing the Charles River on their march through Cambridge.
Leaping into his saddle he sped like the wind toward Lexington. Suddenly two British officers sprang out to capture him; but quickly turning his horse, he dashed into a side path, and soon outdistanced his pursuers. Ten minutes later he arrived at Medford.
Then at every house along the road, he stopped and shouted, "Up and arm! Up and arm! The regulars are out! The regulars are out!"
Dawes was soon making his way across Boston Neck, while Paul Revere went home and put on his riding suit for his long night-ride. Then, leaving orders for a lantern-signal to be hung in the belfry of the Old North Church, to indicate by which route the British forces were advancing, "one if by land and two if by sea," he rowed across the Charles River, passing near the British war-vessels lying at anchor.
Stone in Front of the Harrington House, Lexington, Marking the Line of the Minute-Men