War is a calamity to be deprecated at all times. Its history, from its sanguinary embryo to the present time, has but a few bright spots on which the philanthropist can gaze with admiring delight. The back-ground of most of these is so vividly shaded with crimson that the eye grows dim and the heart sickens on too close a scrutiny. We have many among us who preach loudly against war without delineating the innate materials in human nature that cause it. We have anti-war societies that have originated from motives pure as heaven but are planted on the abstract foundation of ills--futile as the baseless vision. Its evils may be portrayed in colors clear as the sunbeams of living light and enforced by all the arguments of human logic and Holy Writ without removing the smallest particle from the _cause_ that produces this fearful calamity. This and the best remedy are not fully defined by the preamble, constitution or by-laws of any society within my knowledge and where partially explained are not always practically carried out by the members. _They_ sometimes engage in a fierce personal war.
The cause exists in the nature of man influenced by the baser passions. Retaliation is among the first developments of the child. Self is a relentless tyrant. Revenge is as natural as our respiration. Anger, envy, jealousy, malice--all combine to perpetuate a disposition for war and lead men from the sublime destiny of immortal bliss.
The only remedy exists in the universal sway of that love inculcated by our immaculate Redeemer. It is under the melting influences of the religion of the Cross, stripped of all dogmatical illusions, that sullied human nature must be brightened--its tarnished lustre renovated--its pugnacious character changed and man prepared for peace and heaven. Let broad and universal charity pervade the whole human family--then a blow will be struck against war that will resound through the wilderness of mind and cause it to bud and blossom as the rose.
The war of the American Revolution stands pre-eminent in point of justification. Among those who took a conspicuous part in its perils was Horatio Gates who was born in England in 1728. In early life he rose to the rank of major and was the aid of the British commander at the capture, of Martinico in 1747. In 1748 he was stationed at Halifax where he continued for a considerable time. He was relieved from the monotony of a garrison in time of peace by the French war which resulted in the conquest of Canada. Under Braddock he was captain of infantry and fought by the side of the illustrious Washington and was saved by him in the judicious retreat of the survivors of that memorable day. He was severely wounded and for a long time unfit for duty. In 1763 he visited England with a high military reputation. He returned and located on a plantation in Virginia. He had the esteem and confidence of Washington and was warmly recommended by him to Congress as worthy of a conspicuous station in the Continental army. He was appointed Adjutant General with the rank of Brigadier in 1775. The ensuing year he was invested with the command of the troops destined to act against Ticonderoga and Crown Point. In the spring of 1777 he and Gen. Schuyler were appointed to the command of the northern army. For a short time he was superceded by Gen. Schuyler. Burgoyne was then advancing with his victorious army. The Americans were driven from Ticonderoga, Fort Ann and Skeensborough. From that point obstacles were thrown in his way by Sinclair, Schuyler, Stark and their companions in arms. Bridges were demolished, the navigation of Wood Creek obstructed--the roads filled with fallen trees--the cattle and other supplies removed which caused the British army a delay of twenty-five days before reaching Fort Edward on the Hudson. Gen. Burgoyne then supposed his embarrassments at an end. His reckoning was wrong. St. Leger failed in capturing Fort Schuyler--many of the Indians and Canadian militia took their back track--scanty supplies were obtained with great difficulty--his army was decreasing--the Americans were rallying--every day made his condition more perilous--his prospects more gloomy. Everything was prepared to insure his capture.
At this fortunate juncture for him, Gen. Gates superceded the indefatigable Schuyler and took the command on the 21st of August 1777. Anticipating aid from Sir Henry Clinton at New York, Burgoyne passed the Hudson and encamped at Saratoga. Gates advanced to Stillwater determined to oppose the further progress of the enemy. The British general resolved to open a passage with the sword and bayonet and on the 17th of September the armies were only four miles distant from each other. On the 19th a pretty general engagement occurred, which resulted in a drawn battle. Seeing no prospect of assistance from New York and the impossibility of then retreating with his cannon, Burgoyne resolved to fortify his position and act on the defensive. On the 8th of October the Americans made a vigorous attack and repulsed the British in every charge, occupying a part of their lines. Burgoyne hastened to his former camp at Saratoga in the night and meditated a retreat without artillery or baggage. He found every avenue securely guarded--the lion was caged--retreat he could not. Knowing that the British army had but a short supply of provisions, Gen. Gates well knew an attack upon his well fortified position or a surrender must speedily take place. He was well prepared for either. Finding it only a waste of human life to further engage the Americans in battle, Burgoyne surrendered on the 16th of October. Over 5000 prisoners, a park of fine artillery, 7000 muskets, a large amount of clothing, with all the camp equipage and military stores and the evacuation of all the frontier fortresses--constituted the spoils of this victory. What was of more vital importance--it imparted fresh lustre to the American arms and gave a vigorous impetus to the languishing career of Independence. It destroyed British power in the north--encouraged France to close the treaty of alliance and greatly deranged the equanimity of mother Britain. If impartially analyzed, it will be found the most important victory during the war of Independence and in closer alliance with that of Trenton than the final triumph over Cornwallis.
Although Gen. Gates had escaped the hard service of that campaign, he was the fortunate commander at its termination and was crowned with the laurels of a conquering hero in accordance with military usage and received the plaudits of his grateful country men--the thanks of Congress and a gold medal. As a further testimony of high esteem, he was placed at the head of the Board of War--a station next to that of commander-in-chief. He retired from that to his home in Virginia and for a time enjoyed domestic life. On the 15th of June 1780 he was put in command of the Southern army. The conquering troops of Cornwallis were sweeping over the Carolinas like a tornado--the few American soldiers were flying before them--towns were burning--everything seemed rapidly drawn towards the vortex of ruin. When Gen. Gates consented to go to the field an army of 15000 men, with complete supplies, was represented to him on paper, concentrating from the Carolinas and Virginia. When he arrived at head quarters he found about 1500 undisciplined troops, poorly armed, worse clad, with little food. Elated with his brilliant victory over the Northern army he was over anxious to meet the enemy and strike an effective blow. Contrary to the advice of those who better understood the country and the means of obtaining supplies on the march by taking a circuitous route--he selected a shorter road through a dismal district of pine thickets and swamps pregnant with disease and destitute of almost any kind of food except cattle occasionally found in the forest. Many of his men perished on the way--others were rendered unfit for duty by sickness. He ultimately reached Clermont from which Lord Rawdon had withdrawn and was joined by a few North Carolina militia and a small company under Capt. Potterfield. Troops continued to arrive from Virginia and other points until the army of Gen. Gates amounted to about 4000--mostly undisciplined militia unaccustomed to standing fire or steel. Rawdon and Cornwallis concentrated their troops at Camden amounting to less than 2000 men but all of the highest order of soldiers. Gen. Gates resolved on an attack. On the 16th of August the two armies met in mortal combat. The militia under Gen. Gates were quickly thrown into confusion--the regulars overwhelmed and the whole completely routed. This defeat of the Americans had no parallel during the war. Among those who did not trace effects to causes the fame of the Hero of Saratoga sank below zero. His error consisted in risking a battle with an army of British veterans opposed by the rawest kind of militia--not in any want of military skill in time of action. He was superceded on the 5th of the ensuing October--subjected to a court of inquiry--honorably acquitted and re-instated in 1782. The time had then passed for him to renovate his military laurels. The battles for Independence had been fought--the crowning victory won--LIBERTY achieved--FREEDOM secured.
Gen. Gates retired to his plantation in Virginia where he remained seven years when he liberated his slaves and removed to the vicinity of the city of New York where he lived respected until the 10th of April 1806, when he threw off his mortal coil and slumbered in death.
In person Gen. Gates was well formed--in his manners, polished and urbane--in disposition, mild and amiable--in his intercourse, just and honorable. In 1800 he served in the New York Legislature and enjoyed the confidence and esteem of all around him. He was an ardent patriot, a good citizen, a perfect gentleman, an honest man.
Source: Sages and Heroes of the American Revolution, by L. Carroll Judson: Copyright, 1854 Available for download at the Project Gutenberg website.