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A Divided Country 1776

british

One chilly morning in April, General Howe stepped out of his Boston headquarters and stared in amazement at a hill called Dorchester Heights, to the south of the city. It had been fortified during the night by George Washington’s rebel army. Strong breastworks of ice blocks and brown earth ran along the crest of the bill. Above the steepest slopes, barrels filled with rocks stood balanced, ready to be sent tumbling down the hill in the path of attacking troops. Studying the hill through his glass, Howe could make out several companies of riflemen and some units with muskets. What disturbed him most were the cannon, all well placed on the top of the hill where they could pound Boston and a good part of the Royal Fleet in the harbour. None of the British cannon, from their low positions‚ could possibly place their shots farther than the bottom of the hill. Howe made ready to attack, then changed his mind, probably haunted by the horrors of Bunker Hill. The British began making preparations to withdraw from the city. For the redcoats, the act of leaving Boston must have seemed like an escape from a prison city. They had been hemmed in there for many months, overcrowded‚ short of food and fuel. The civilian population had increased steadily, for a constant flow of colonial refugees had poured into the city to seek the protection of the British army. These refugees supported the mother country and called themselves loyalists because of their loyalty to the king. During the winter they had caused serious food and housing problems and greatly endangered the health of all. WASHINGTON TAKES BOSTON It may have been one of the loyalists who carried smallpox into the city. The disease had spread rapidly and raged for several weeks. …

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Adventures in the New World 1519 – 1620

“I DID NOT come to till the soil like a peasant,” said Hernando Cortez. “I came to find gold.” His words echoed the thoughts of almost every Spaniard in the New World. The discovery of the sea route to the West had set off a great treasure hunt. Colonizing and slaughtering, building and plundering, the gold-hungry Spaniards won a Spanish Empire of the West. Conquistadores‚ they were called — the conquerors. None of the treasure-hunters was more cunning or ambitious than Hernando Cortez‚ who came to the island of Hispaniola in 1504. It was not until 1519 that the governor of Hispaniola sent him on an expedition to explore the coast of Central America. Cortez sailed with five ships, 500 soldiers, eleven cannon and fifteen horses. The fleet anchored near the coast of the territory called Mexico and the men went ashore to build a settlement. Cortez ordered the ships dismantled so that none of his men could go back to Hispaniola, then set off on a march inland. Mexico was a vast country whose Indians had built a highly organized civilization and Cortez had a force of less than 500 men. He was a skillful leader; besides, he had firearms and horses –and good luck. Not long after he began his march, a horde of Indians swept out of the hills to attack the Spaniards. As soon as the Spanish cavalry appeared, the Indians fled to safety. As one soldier later wrote, the Indians, “who had never before seen a horse, thought that steed and rider were one creature.” One tribe after another surrendered. They had been conquered by the people called the Aztecs and many of them offered to join Cortez in the fight to destroy the Aztec empire. As the Spaniards and their Indian allies pushed on …

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