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in political life, having been appointed, in 1845, Secretary of the Navy, under Polk; while from 1846 to 1849 he served the country in the distinguished capacity of Minister Pleni. potentiary to Great Britain.
Bancroft's great work, and for the upbuilding of which he has enlisted the best energies of a long and laborious life, is his History of the United States. The first volume was issued in 1834, since when ten additional volumes have been published, the last closing with the end of the Revotion.
For the prosecution of this vast labor Bancroft has enjoyed peculiar facilities. His positions of State, both at home and abroad, laid open to him the most important national papers and archives, while his extensive acquaintance in literary circles, gave him access to the treasures of valuable private collections. And of these advantages he has shown himself singularly appreciative.
Inasmuch as this work has engaged Bancroft's genius almost entirely, so far as its literary activity is concerned, for the past thirty-six years, it will not be surprising if his History be the burden of the criticisms we quote.
“Among the historians who have attained a high and deserved reputation in the United States, we are inclined to yield the first place to George Bancroft. His experience in political and diplomatic life, no less than his rare and generous culture, and his singular union of the highest mental faculties, enable us to predict with confidence that his work will be reckoned among the genuine masterpieces of historical genius."*
“To this noble task he brought great and patient indus. try, an eloquent style, and a capacity to array the theme in the garb of philosophy. Throughout he is the advocate of democratic institutions; and in the early volumes, where by the nature of the subject, there is little scope for attractive detail, by infusing a reflective tone, he rescues the nar. >ative from dryness and monotony. Instead of a series of
* Westminster Review.
facts arranged without any unity of sentiment, we have the idea and principle of civic advancement towards freedom as a thread of gold upon which the incidents are strung. ... In sentiment and principles, it is thoroughly Ameri can; but in its style and philosophy it has that broad and eclectic spirit appropriate both to the general interest of the subject and the enlightened sympathies of the age.
“There are more graceful narrators than Bancroft. There may be annalists more searching and profound—though we can scarcely name them—but for union of history and philosophy, the actual and the ideal, in a continuous synthetic composition, he certainly bears away the palm. . Mr. Bancroft's narrative is distinguished for its freedom from vagueness, and its exact nicety of description. In the sphere of facts, he deals in no unmeaning generalities Whether delineating character or natural scenery, his epi. thets are choice, short-cut, and of expressive fidelity."†
The only other of Bancroft's works is Literary and His. torical Miscellanies, a volume issued in 1855, and containing essays from reviews, poetical translations from the Ger man, historical articles, addresses, and orations.
Our author, now above seventy years of age, is still er.. gaged on his History, of which, as he himself tells us, “one volume more will complete the American Revolution, includ. ing the negotiations for peace in 1782. For that volume the materials are collected and arranged, and it will be completed. and published without any unnecessary delay.” But when this promise, made now nearly five years ago, shall have been realized, it is not improbable that, both because of his own ripe age and the numberless uninscribed pages of the entire work, the pen so long, so faithfully, and so eloquently active, must shortly drop from the master's hand: let ug hope, for our national honor, into hands equally worthy.
Froma Vol. VII. of the History, we make the following extract, descriptive of* H. T. Tuckerman,
| George Ripley.
BUNKER HILL BATTLE.
At half-past two o'clock, or a very little later, General Howe, not confining his attack to the left wing alone, advanced to a simultaneous assault on the whole front from the redoubt tu Mystic River. In Burgoyne's opinion, “his disposition was sol. dierlike and perfect.” Of the two columns which were put in motion, the one was led by Pigot against the redoubt; the other by Howe himself against the flank, which seemed protected by nothing but a fence of rails and hay easy to be scrambled over, when the left of Prescott would be turned, and he would be forced to surrender on finding the enemy in his rear.
As they began to march, the dazzling lustre of a summer's sun was reflected from their burnished armor; the battery on Copp’s Hill, from which Clinton and Burgoyne were watching every movement, kept up an incessant fire, which was seconded by the Falcon and the Lively, the Somerset and the two floating batteries; the town of Charlestown, consisting of five hundred edifices of wood, burst into a blaze; the steeple of its only church became a pyramid of fire; and the masts of the shipping, and the heights of the British camp, the church towers, the housetops of a populo lous town, and the acclivities of the surrounding country were crowded with spectators, to watch the battle which was to take place, in full sight, on a conspicuous eminence, and which, as the English thought, was to assure the integrity of the British empire; as the Americans believed, was to influence the freedom and happiness of mankind.
As soon as Prescott perceived that the enemy were in motion, he commanded Robinson, his lieutenant-colonel, the same who conducted himself so bravely in the fight at Concord, and Henry Woods, his major, famed in the villages of Middlesex for ability and patriotism, with separate detachnients to flank the enemy; and they executed his orders with prudence and daring.
He then went through the works to encourage and animate his inexperienced soldiers. “The redcoats will never reach the redoubt,” such were his words, as he himself used to narrate them, “if you! will but withhold your fire till I give the order, and be careful not to shoot over their heads.” After this round, he took his post in the reiloubt, well satistied that the men would do their duty:
The British advanced in line in gooil order, steadily and slowly, and with a confident imposing air, pausing on the march to let their artillery prepare the way, and firing with muskets as thev advanced. But they fired too soon, and too high, doing but little injury.
Encumbered with their knapsacks, they ascended the steep hill with difficulty, covered as it was with grass reaching to their knees, and intersected with walls and fences. Prescott waited till the enemy had approached within eight rods as he afterwards . thought, within ten or twelve rods as the committee of safety of Massachusetts wrote, when he gave the word : "Fire.” At once from the redoubt and breastwork every gun was discharged.
Nearly the whole front rank of the enemy fell, and the rest, to whoin this determined resistance was unexpected, were brought to a stand. For a few minutes, fifteen or ten, who can count such minutes! each one of the Americans, completely covered while he loaded his musket, exposed only while he stood upon the wooden platform or steps of earth in the redoubt to take aim, fought according to his own judgment and will; and a close and unremitting fire was continued and returned, till the British staggered, wavered, and then in disordered masses retreated precipitately to the foot of the hill, and some even to their boats.
The column of the enemy, which advanced near the Mystic under the head of Howe, moved gallantly forward against the rail-fence, and when within eighty or one hundred yards displayed into line with the precision of troops on parade. Here, too, the Americans, commanded by Stark and Knowlton, cheered on by Putnam, who, like Prescott, bade them reserve their fire, restrained themselves as if by universal consent, till at the proper moment, resting their guns on the rails of the fence, they poured forth a deliberate, well-directed, fatal discharge. Here, too, the British recoiled from the volley, and after a short contest, were thrown into confusion, and fell back till they were covered by the ground.
Then followed moments of joy in that unfinished redoubt, and bebind the grassy rampart, where New England husbandmen, so often taunted with cowardice, beheld veteran battalions shrink before their arms. Their hearts bounded as they congratulated each other. The night-watches, thirst, hunger, danger, whether of captivity or death, were forgotten. They promised themselves victory.
As the British soldiers retreated, the officers were seen, by the spectators on the opposite shore, running down to them, using passionate gestures, and pushing them forward with their swords.
After an interval of about fifteen minutes, during which Pres cott moved round among his men, encouraging them and cheer. ing them with praise, the British column under Pigzot rallied and advanced, though with apparent reluctance, in the same order us before, firing as they approached within musket shot.
This time the Americans withheld their fire till the enen'y were within six or five rods of the redoubt, when, as the order was given, it seemed more fatal than before. The enemy continued to discharge their guns, and pressed forward with spirit. “But from the whole American line, there was,” said Prescott, "a continuous str, am of fire,” and though the British officers were seen exposing themselves fearlessly, remonstrating, threatening, and even striking the soldiers to urge them on, they could not reach the redoubt, but in i few moments gave way in greater disorder than before. The wounded and the dead covered the ground in front of the works, some lying within a few yards of them.
On the flank, also, the British light infantry again niarched up its companies against the grass fence, but could not penetrate it. "Indeed,” wrote some of the survivors,“ how could we penetrate it? Most of our grenadiers and light infantry, the momento presenting themselves, lost three-fourths, and many, nine-tenths of their men Some had only eight or nine men in a company left, some only three, four, or five.” On the ground where but the day before the mowers had swung the scythe in peace, “the dead,” relates Stark, “lay as thick as sheep in a fold.” Howe for a few seconds was left nearly alone, so many of the officers about him having been killed or wounded; and it required the utmost exertion of all, from the generals down to the subalterns, to repair the rout.
At intervals the artillery from the ships and batteries was playing, while the flames were rising over the town of Charles town, and laying waste the places of the sepulchres of its fathers, and streets were falling together, and ships at the yards were crashing on the stocks, and the kindred of the Americans, from the fields and hills around, watched every gallant act of their defenders. “The whole,” wrote Burgoyne, “ was a complication of horror and importance beyond anything it ever came to my lot to be witness to. It was a sight for a young soldier, that the longest service may not furnish again.”
“ If we drive them hack once more," cried Presr tt, “thay