« ForrigeFortsett »
chased and intercepted. In these desperate circumstances, some of their regiments, overpowered and out-numbered as they are, force their way to camp, through all the dangers with which they are pressed. The Americans under lord Stirling, consisting of col. Miles's two battalions, col. Atlee's, col. Smallwood's and col. Hatch's regiments, and who are engaged with gen. Grant, behave with great bravery and resolution, charging the enemy and maiataining their posts from about eight in the morning till two in the afternoon; but are so late in their knowledge of what passes elsewhere, that their retreat is intercepted by some of the British troops, who, beside turning the hills and the American left, have traversed the whole extent of country in their rear. Several break through the enemy's line, and get into the woods. Gen. Parsons, with a small party, escapes by doing it. Numbers throw them. selves into the marsh at Gowan's Cove ; some are drowned, o, thers perish in the mud; a considerable body however, escapes by this way to the lines. The nature of the country, and the variety of the ground occasion a continuance and extension of small engagements, pursuits and slaughter, which last for many hours before the scene closes.
The British troops displayed great valor and activity on this occasion so impetuous was their ardor, that it was with diffi. culty that they could be restrained, by gen. Howe's orders, from attacking the American lines. They would probably have enter ed them, had not the works been completed the night before the action, by closing an opening on the right, and placing an abbatis before it. The Americans were most completely surprised and ef fectually entrapped. Col. Smallwood's Maryland regiment suffeed extremely, and was almost cut to pieces. It lost two hundred and fifty-nine men. The loss was much regretted on account of their being young men of the best families in the country. All who were engaged in the actions of the day, did not display the same courage ; nor was it to be expected from such raw troops. Many escaped from the want of discipline; for they broke at the sight of danger, and saved themselves through flight, whereas otherwise they must have been killed or taken. Large bod ies however were captured. Generals Sullivan, lord Stirling and Udell, beside 3 colonels, 4 lieutenant-colonels, 3 majors, 18 captains, 43 lieutenants, 11 ensigns, an adjutant, 3 surgeons and 2 volunteers, were made prisoners, together with 1006 privates, in all 1097. As among the prisoners the wounded were included, an allowance between 4 and 500 for killed, drowned, perished in the woods, the mud and the like, must be reckoned sufficiently large. Only six brass ordnance were taken. The loss of the British, in killed and wounded, did not exceed 318 ; of I whom only 61 were slain. The Hessians had 2 rank and file killed, and 23 privates and 3 officers wounded. :
The brilliant success of the operations on Long-Island, may fascinate the judgment and crown the head of gen. Howe with laurels; but there are some sensible American officers, who judge that by commencing them in that quarter, he completely put into the hands of general Washington the only chance which offered for the defence of New-York; and that, if gen. Greene had not been prevented by sickness from continuing in command, all the passes or roads would have been so secured and defended, as that the royal arıny, in attempting or gaining them, would have been so crippled, as to have been arrested with regard to all future successful operations. Gen, Sullivan was too inattentive and confident. Though in the midst of royalists, he suffered them to go backward and forward just as they pleased. One of the American chaplains, fearing that the British would make a circuitous march, and take to the Jamaica road, asked him whether he had guarded that pass sufficiently, and received for answer, “ Yes, so that an angel cannot force it.”
It may be thought by many, that if general Howe, instead of commencing his operations on Long-Island, hadrun up the NorthRiver, and landed above New-York, he would either have compelled gen. Washington to a sudden evacuation of the city, with the loss of nearly all the stores of the army; or to have fought, though very unequal in numbers and troops; or to have surrendered for want of provision. That such a movement might have been made, wind and tide favoring, without any particular danger of a failure, had been established by the safe passage of the Phænix and Rose up and down the river. an 7. The victorious army encamped in front of the American works in the evening; and on the 28th at night, broke ground in form, about 4 or 500 yards distant from a redoubt which covered the left of the Americans. The same day gen. Miftin crossed over from New-York with 1000 men; at night he made an offer to gen. Washington of going the rounds, which was accepted. He observed the approaches of the enenly, and the forwardness of their batteries; and was convinced that no time was to be lost. The next morning [Aug. 29.] he conversed with the general upon the subject, and said, “ You must either fight or retreat immediately. What is your strength ?” The general answered, "nine thousand.” The other replied, “ It is not sufficient, we must therefore retreat." They were both agreed as to the calling -of a council of war; and gen. Miffin was to propose a retreat. But as he was to make that proposal, lest his own character should suffer, he stipulated, that if a retreat should be agreed upon, he
would command the rear ; and if an action, the van. When the council was held, these reasons, among others, were mentioned for removing the army to New-York, viz.—“The heavy rains which have fallen two days and nights, with but little intermission, have injured the arms and spoiled a great part of the ammunition, and the soldiers, being without eover and obliged to lie in their lines, are worn out."- "From the time the enemy moved from Flatbush, several large ships have attempted to get up, as supposed, into the East-River, to cut off our communication, by which the whole army would be destroyed; but the wind being north-east, they have not been able to effect it."- " The troops are become dispirited by their incessant duty and watching.” It was unanimously agreed to quit. Col. Glover, whox belonged to Marblehead, was called upon with the whole of his regiment fit for duty, to take the command of the vessels and flat-bottomed boats. Most of the men were formerly employed in the fishery, and so peculiarly well qualified for the service.--. The colonel went over himself from New York, to give directions; and about seven o'clock at night, officers and men went to work with a spirit and resolution peculiar to that corps. The embarkation of the troops was committed to gen. M'Dougall: He was upon the spot at Brooklye ferry, at eight o'clock, the hour fixed for the commencement of this important movementi To his great mortification he found that the militia had not yet em. barked. The getting them over protracted the time till between ten and eleven o'clock. Meanwhile, about nine, the tide of ebb made, and the wind blew strong at north-east, which adding to the rapidity of the tide, rendered it impossible to effect the retreat in the course of the night, with only that number of Tow boats which they could command, and the state of the wind and tide put it out of the power of col. Glover's men to make any use of the sail boats. Gen. M.Dougall sent colonel Gray-. son, one of the commander in chief's aids, to report to his exo cellency their embarrassed situation ; and gave it as his opinion, that the retreat was impracticable that night. The colonel rea turned soon after, not being able to find the commander in chief, on which the general went on with the embarkation, under all these discouragements. But about eleven the wind died away, and soon after sprung up at south-west, and blew fresh, which rendered the sail boats of use, and at the same time made the passage from the island to the city, direct, easy and expeditious. Providence further interposed in favor of the retreating army, by sending a thick fog about two o'clock in the morning (Aug. 30.] which hung over Long-Island, while on, New-York side it was clear. During the embarkation, colonel
Scammell was sent to gen. Mifflin with orders for a particular res ; giment to march down to the ferry; the colonel mistook the orį ders, and instead of a regiment understood the whole covering [ party, and delivered them accordingly. On that gen. Mithin i quitted the lines, and came down to the place of embarkation, to | the great astonishment of gen. Washington, who with surprise en
quired into the reason of such conduct. The mistake being clear1 ed up, gen. Mifflin returned to the lines, after they had been aban
doned about three-quarters of an hour, without its being discou i vered by the enemy, because of the fog. The fog and wind con
tinued to favor the retreat, till the whole army, 9000 in number,
with all the field artillery, such heavy ordnance as was of most į value, ammunition, provision, cattle, horses, carts, &c. were
safe over. · The water was so remarkably smooth as to admit of the row boats being loaded within a few inches of the gunwale. Gen. Washington, though often entreated, would not leave the island till Miffin, with his covering party, left the lines, at about six o'clock. The enemy were so nigh that they were heard at work with their pick-axes and shovels. In about half an hour after the lines were finally abandoned, the fog cleared off, and the British were seen taking possession of the American works. Four boats were on the river, three half-way over, full of troops; the fourth, within reach of the enemy's fire upon the shore, was compelled to return; she had only three inen in her, who. tarried behind to plunder. The river is a mile or more across; and yet the retreat was effected in less than thirteen hours, a' great part of which time it rained hard. .
Had it not been for the providential shifting of the wind, not more than half the army could possibly have crossed, and the re
mainder, with a number of general officers, and all the heavy 1 ordnance at least, must inevitably have fallen into the enemy's
hand. Had it not been also for that heavenly messenger, the į fog, to cover tho first desertion of the lines, and the several pro1 ceedings of the Aniericans after day-break, they must have
sustained considerable losses. The fog resembled a thick small mist, so that you could see but a little way before you. It was very unusual also to have a fog at that time of the year. My informer, a citizen of New York, could not recollect his haring known any at that season, within the space of twenty or
thirty years. į Governor's-Island, on which were two regiments, was evacu
ated likewise, with the loss of only one man's arm, by a cannon shot from the ships. · The Americans finished the removal of their military stores from thence (Sept. 2.) and took every
; - thing ** thing off but a few pieces of cannon, notwithstanding the ships of war lay within a quarter of a mile of some part of it. *
Since the affair of Long-Island, endeavors have been used to keep up the spirits of the people, by puffing accounts of the extraordinary bravery of the troops, and the destruction they made of the enemy. But that matters are not very promising, appears from a letter of gen. Mercer, who commands the flying camp, dated September the 4th, wherein he writes, “Gen. Washington has not, so far as I have seen, 5000 men to be depended on for the service of a campaign, and I have not 1000. Both our armies are composed of raw militia, perpetually fluctuating between the camp and their farms; poorly armed, and still worse disciplined. These are not a match for, were their numbers equal to, veteran troops, well fitted and urged on by able officers. Num. bers and discipline must prevail at last. Giving soldiers, or even the lower orders of mankind, the choice of officers, will for ever mar the discipline of armies.” The wretched choice of officers in the Massachusetts, is complained of in a letter of this purport to a gentleman of that state " I can account for the strange military appointments in your state, on no other principle, than that your people mean to guard against the danger of an army, by making it contemptible. Without officers we shall never have soldiers. They are sinking the state in the eyes of the whole continent. At the end of a campaign we find butchers, bakers, sutlers, and a large tribe of contractors, with fortunes made at the public expence, while a young officer of merit, on twenty-six dollars a month, is a beggar. A man of honor and spirit cannot herd with company unworthy of him; yet there is no one beneath a field officer, whose pay gives him a right to company above a shoe-black. The great number of southern officers now in York, who are but little used to the equal. ity which prevails in New England, are continually resenting the littleness of their pay.” A third gentleman tells a niember of congress—“I cannot agree with you on the frequent call. ing out of the militia. They are uneasy, restless, and discontented. They leave their business in a most perplexing situation when called out suddenly, and must be very great sufferers in their private property. Their minds are always at home, in their shops, or on their farms. This readers them low spirited; a dejection fast seizes them; sickness and death are the consequences. The only purpose a militia can serve, under present
* The particulars of the retreat are taken from Dr. Rodgers's thanks giving sermon; from col. Glover's letters, and from the information of persons who were presedi.
were pro.col. Gleurcat are tol