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Washington and Boston, Final Reprise


My last post on Washington and Boston, I promise, but a reader has sent along a wonderful passage from an article in “American Heritage” magazine. The scene: one of the several councils of war (see my post below) at which Washington attempted to persuade his fellow officers to join him in a frontal attack on Boston. Here’s what happened:

As he argued for such a battle, Washington scanned the faces of his generals without seeing any kindling of enthusiasm in their eyes. The reply came that with Tory irregulars the British numbered many more than 5,000 (this was correct); that 2,000 of the patriots lacked arms; that, in fact, a strong force would have to be left to hold the American lines. And, in any case, an assault should be preceded by several days of bombardment. Washington then asked whether the bombardment could be begun “with the present stock of powder.” His officers voted to wait for an adequate supply, and the General concurred.

Stately, dignified, inspiring–all that is true of Washington. But it is also true that he was intensely aggressive. A gentleman, yes, but also a warrior.