In order to be near the centre and oversee the whole of this wide- stretched army, the commander-in-chief made his headquarters at Cambridge, about half a mile from the colleges. A mansion-house, which perhaps had been the country seat of some Tory gentle man, was provided for his residence.
"When General Washington first entered this mansion," said Grandfather, "he was ushered up the staircase and shown into a handsome apartment. He sat down in a large chair, which was the most conspicuous object in the room. The noble figure of Washington would have done honor to a throne. As he sat there, with his hand resting on the hilt of his sheathed sword, which was placed between his knees, his whole aspect well befitted the chosen man on whom his country leaned for the defence of her dearest rights. America seemed safe under his protection. His face was grander than any sculptor had ever wrought in marble; none could behold him without awe and reverence. Never before had the lion's head at the summit of the chair looked down upon such a face and form as Washington's."
"Why, Grandfather!" cried Clara, clasping her hands in amazement, "was it really so? Did General Washington sit in our great chair?"
"I knew how it would be," said Laurence; "I foresaw it the moment Grandfather began to speak."
Grandfather smiled. But, turning from the personal and domestic life of the illustrious leader, he spoke of the methods which Washington adopted to win back the metropolis of New England from the British.
The army, when he took command of it, was without any discipline or order. The privates considered themselves as good as their officers; and seldom thought it necessary to obey their commands, unless they understood the why and wherefore. Moreover. they were enlisted for so short a period, that, as soon as they began to be respectable soldiers, it was time to discharge them. Then came new recruits, who had to be taught their duty before they could be of any service. Such was the army with which Washington had to contend against more than twenty veteran British regiments.
Some of the men had no muskets, and almost all were without bayonets. Heavy cannon, for battering the British fortifications, were much wanted. There was but a small quantity of powder and ball, few tools to build intrenchments with, and a great deficiency of provisions and clothes for the soldiers. Yet, in spite of these perplexing difficulties, the eyes of the whole people were fixed on General Washington, expecting him to undertake some great enterprise against the hostile army.
The first thing that he found necessary was to bring his own men into better order and discipline. It is wonderful how soon he transformed this rough mob of country people into the semblance of a regular army. One of Washington's most invaluable characteristics was the faculty of bringing order out of confusion. All business with which he had any concern seemed to regulate itself as if by magic. The influence of his mind was like light gleaming through an unshaped world. It was this faculty, more than any other, that made him so fit to ride upon the storm of the Revolution when everything was unfixed and drifting about in a troubled sea.