Chapters 1 and 2 of the Wages of War give insight into the last year or so of the Revolution as men begin returning home and the treaty signing approaches. As we discussed in class, the men went home with no money to find no celebrations going on and no jobs open for them.
The economy went on without them. In fact, certain areas seemed to be doing fantastically. New York City, despite being partly destroyed and a crime center, was booming with goods, many of which came from the expelled forces. Anyone with money (that wasn’t useless paper) could buy fancy imported sweets, spices, drinks, and linen. Boston’s population lived in a posh society much like that of the British, and actually felt accosted by the returning veterans. Both enlisted men and officers, many of whom lost their fortunes, expressed their dislike for businessmen who shied away from fighting yet prospered while they themselves received no repayment for their toils.
Congress, which had been debating back and forth between the idea of back pay, finally chose to leave it mostly to the states, though it was decided that officers would receive money. However, the war left the nation in debt, and the states had their own money problems. Veterans were left with half-promises of half pay.
Civilians paid about as much thought to the plight of these men as the new federal government and the state governments did. The only comment made about the poor condition most veterans found themselves in was in the Gazette, and that was mostly lighthearted. Most people were, instead, happily reading books like A View of Society and Manners in [insert country here], which I found vaguely humorous.
While all of this was going on, there was General Washington who knew his men were unhappy, but who really couldn’t do anything about it except keep them from rebelling. He respected his army, but he also wanted the nation that they fought so hard to create to get up on its feet and stay that way. So when his officers met with him to essentially bitch him out, he made the above quote before discussing the current condition of Congress and its lack of money. The quote shows that Washington himself had also made sacrifices. He’d given up just as much as, if not more than, his men had, and he did it all without complaining. Of course the officers backed down and walked away with even more respect, if possible, for the general.
“I have grown gray in your service and now find myself growing blind.” In actuality, this quote in a way exemplifies the plight of veterans, not just of the American Revolution, but also of all wars. Veterans make so many sacrifices for their nation and their people, but even after all the fighting is over they still finds themselves suffering.