History From America's Most Famous Valleys
A MILITARY JOURNAL
During the American Revolutionary War,
From 1775 to 1783.
Describing Interesting Events and Transactions of this period;
with numerous Historical Facts and Anecdotes
From the Original Manuscript
By James Thacher, M. D.
Second Edition, Revised and Corrected.
Boston, Published by Cottons & Barnard, 1827.
MAJOR GENERAL THOMAS CONWAY.
KNIGHT OF THE ORDER OF ST. LOUIS.
This gentleman was born in Ireland, and went with his parents to France, at the age of six years, and was from his youth educated to the profession of arms. He had obtained considerable reputation as a military officer, and as a man of sound understanding and judgment. He arrived from France, with ample recommendations, and Congress appointed him a brigadier general in May 1777. He soon became conspicuously inimical to General Washington, and sought occasions to traduce his character. In this he found support from a faction in Congress, who were desirous that the Commander in Chief should be superseded. The Congress not long after elected General Conway to the office of Inspector General to our army, with the rank of major general, though he had insulted the Commander in Chief and justified himself in doing so. This gave umbrage to the brigadiers over whom he was promoted, and they remonstrated to Congress against the proceeding, as implicating their honor and character, Conway, now smarting under the imputation of having instigated a hostile faction against the illustrious Washington, and being extremely unpopular among the officers in general, and finding his situation did not accord with his feelings and views, resigned his commission, without having commenced the duties of inspector. He was believed to be an unprincipled intriguer, and after his resignation, his calumny and detraction of the Commander in Chief, and the army generally, was exercised with unrestrained virulence and outrage.
No man was more zealously engaged in the scheme of elevating General Gates to the station of Commander in Chief. His vile insinuations and direct assertions in the public newspapers, and in private conversation, relative to the incapacity of Washington to conduct the operations of the army, received countenance from several members of Congress, who were induced to declare their want of confidence in him, and the affair assumed an aspect threatening the most disastrous consequences. Conway maintained a correspondence with General Gates on the subject, and in one of his letters, he thus expresses himself. " Heaven has been determined to save your country, or a weak General and bad counsellors, would have ruined it." He was himself at that time one of the counsellors, against whom he so basely inveighs. Envy and malice ever are attendant on exalted genius and merit. But the delusion was of short continuance, the name of Washington proved unassailable, and the base intrigue of Conway recoiled with bitterness on his own head. General Cadwallader, of Pennsylvania, indignant at the attempt to vilify the character of Washington, resolved to avenge himself on the aggressor, in personal combat. In Major Garden's Anecdotes of the Revolutionary War, &c. we have the following detailed particulars of the duel. " The parties having declared themselves ready, the word was given to proceed. General Conway immediately raised his pistol and fired with great composure, but without effect. General Cadwallader was about to do so, when a sudden gust of wind occurring, he kept his pistol down and remained tranquil. " Why do you not fire, General Cadwallader ?" exclaimed Conway. "Because," replied General Cadwallader, " we came not here to trifle. Let the gale pass, and I shall act my part." " You shall have a fair chance of performing it well," rejoined Conway, and immediately presented a full front. General Cadwallader fired, and his ball entered the mouth of his antagonist, he fell directly forward on his face. Colonel Morgan, running to his assistance, found the blood spouting from behind his neck, and lifting up the club of his hair, saw the ball drop from it. It had passed through his head, greatly to the derangement of his tongue and teeth, but did not inflict a mortal wound. As soon as the blood was sufficiently washed away to allow him to speak, General Conway, turning to his opponent, said good humoredly, " You fire, general, with much deliberation, and certainly with a great deal of effect." The calls of honor being satisfied, all animosity subsided, and they parted free from all resentment.
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