by Barbara Latta
The Country that Almost Wasn't
|George Washington thwarted a mutinous attempt. |
When thinking about George Washington and the Revolutionary War we think of winning battles, crossing the Delaware on Christmas Eve and the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The Newburgh Conspiracy, so called because the Continental Army was housed at Newburgh, New York in 1783, is not one of the popular topics of discussion in our historical recollection of our country. But the Revolutionary War almost ended in mutiny.
The Articles of Confederation did not allow for taxation. Congress did not have a way to finance the war and relied on the states to make voluntary payments known as requisitions. Since the financial distribution was voluntary, payment was seldom made and the military suffered. Lack of supplies and no pay for the soldiers created unrest among the ranks.
A document was circulated among the troops with the purpose of sowing discord and to stimulate mutinous actions. Speculation as to the author of the document range from the British infiltrating the troops to one of Washington’s rivals, General Horatio Gates. No matter where it originated, the matter had to be dealt with.
A meeting of officers was held on March 10, 1783 and an address written by Major John Armstrong, aide-de-camp to General Gates, was also circulated with the purpose of inflaming the troops by advising them to reject the methods of Washington and to rally together to march on Congress and demand their back pay or abandon their posts.
The next day, Washington called for a meeting of the troops to take place four days later. By waiting a few days, he hoped to cool their anger and implied in the message that he would not be present at the meeting.
On March 15, General Gates approached the front of the room to address the soldiers. The regal George Washington entered the room unexpectedly and denounced the author of the inciting document by stating, “What can this writer have in view by recommending such measures? Can he be a friend of the army? Can he be a friend of his country? Rather is he not an insidious foe?”
|Celebrate Independence Day|
In concluding his statements, General Washington told his men he wanted to read a letter to them from Joseph Jones, a Congressman from Virginia. After struggling with the first paragraph, Washington hesitated, reached into his pocket for a pair of spectacles and remarked to the faces before him, “Gentlemen, you must pardon me for I have not only grown gray but almost blind in the service to my country.”
The vulnerability of the strong man who had led them through battle so touched the men some of them openly wept. They vowed to show their affectionate expressions and support to the one that had come to respect and honor.
George Washington showed again his great wisdom and leadership by turning the tide of what could have been a mutiny and surely would have ended the war in favor of Britain.
We have much to be thankful for and as we celebrate Independence Day, may you have a happy and blessed celebration.
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