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American History Stories, Volume II by  Mara L. Pratt

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WASHINGTON AND HIS ARMY

[65] NOW that the war had really begun, events followed upon each other thick and fast. Before the summer was over, every colony, from New Hampshire to Georgia, was up in arms.

Washington had gathered his army outside of Boston, and there he held General Gage imprisoned in the city. Washington had now several good generals to help him, one of whom, called “Old Put,” was famed far and wide for his pluck. In another chapter you will read about Old Put’s wolf hunt—a story you must know; for although it is not exactly a story of the Revolution, still it does no harm to know any story of the heroes of the Revolution that tells of the daring courage of these men.

But we were speaking of Washington’s army. In a “History of Our Country,” written by Abby Sage Richardson, is the following excellent description of the appearance of the Colonial army.

“You can form no idea what a task lay before Washington and his generals. Here was a great body of men hurried into the field from farms and workshops, with no more idea of military drill than a herd of sheep, with miserable old muskets, scanty supply of powder and balls, and no money to buy any. Then the dress of this provincial army was enough to excite the laugh which the British soldiers raised [66] at them. Some of them were dressed in the long-tailed linsey-woolsey coats, and linsey-woolsey breeches, which had been spun and woven in farm-house kitchens; some wore smock frocks like a butcher, also made of homespun; some wore suits of British broadcloth, so long used for Sunday clothes that they had grown rather the worse for wear; and every variety of dress and fashion figured in these motley ranks.

“When General Washington rode grandly out on horseback, dressed in his fine blue broadcloth coat, with buff colored facings, buff waistcoat and breeches, a hat with black cockade, and a sword in an elegantly embroidered [66] sword-belt, I think his heart must have sunk within him as he looked on his tatterdemalion army, and then glanced over towards Boston, and thought of the British soldiers, gorgeous in their elegant new uniforms, trained to march up to the cannon’s mouth like a solid wall in motion.”


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BRITISH SOLDIERS

But for all that Washington knew that his army was brave, and in dead earnest, for were they not fighting for their own homes, their own mothers and wives and children?

Two brothers in Washington’s army, to show what skilful marksmen they were, took a board only five inches wide and seven inches long, fastened a piece of white paper the size of a dollar upon it in the middle, and then shot at it at a distance of sixty yards.

Eight bullets they fired; and every one of them went straight through the white paper. When the lookers on wondered at them, they said, “There are fifty more men in our company who can do just as well.” They then offered to shoot apples off each other’s heads, as William Tell is said to have done long, long ago; but their commander said they had shown their comrades that they could, beyond a doubt, send a bullet straight through the heart of a British soldier, and that now they had better save their powder till a British soldier appeared.

And so you see, that, although these men were so oddly dressed, and although they knew so little of military training, yet they had clear heads and straight eyes, and, above all, dauntless courage.


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