« ForrigeFortsett »
ty-four till the last. They are put into great confusion, however they ascend the hill with the light horse, and one piece of artillery, a three pounder, fire it four times and retreat. ; Gen. Howe, observing that gen. Washington's lines were much strengthened by additional works, deferred all further attack till the arrival of more troops from those which had been left with lord Percy, to watch the garrison of Fort Washington. He had declined bringing on a general action, the preceding day, upon observing that gen. Washington had formed a second line ;* but the American discipline was so defective, that had the former attacked, the superior discipline of his troops would probably have obliged the first line to have given way, which by falling back upon the second, might have occasioned a total defeat. A general engagement was expected by the Ainericans; and the soldiers were very desirous of coining to blows with the enemy, and wished much to engage. During the engagement with gen. Leslie's corps, the American baggage was moving off in full sight of the enemy. The then position of the continental army, general Lee condemned as the most execrable. He was of opinion, that had the enemy attacked the centre, and brought on a general engagement, the Americans must have met with a total defeat, or have lost all there baggage, though they had now organized themselves, and had procured ox-teams and further conveniencies. On the other hand gen. Washington did not reinforce and support the right wing, for he meant that the encmy should attack the centre. The corps under general Leslie must have suffered very considerably, for from an authentic return of his own brigade, since found on the ground, it appears that the killed of it were a lieutenant colonel, 2 captains, a lieutenant, an ensign, a sergeant, and 22 privates; and that the wounded were 2 captains 3 lieutenants, 12 sergeants, and 109 privates. t The British made only 30. privates, and 4 officers, and staff, prisoners at White Plains. I But the Americans conjectured at first that they had suffered a much greater loss, not less than 400 in killed, wounded and missing. They were soon convinced of there mistake. A number of the militia who ran off at the sight of the light horse in the beginning and were missing for a while, were found afterward. The killed and wounded however, were probably more than given above, owing to the scattered engagements, distinct from that upon the hill. In the several skirmishes which have happened since the
* Colonel Henly told me in the evening of Feb. 26, 1784, that gen. Lee, when a prisoner asked geo. Howe, why he did not bring on a general engage ment, and received for answer the reason above mentioned. + Colonel Glover's letter,
I Board of war.
junction of Knyphausen, the Americans have taken a number of prisoners, Hessians, Waldeckers and a few British. The Germans were much afraid of being murdered as soon as they were caught, and were very agreeably disappointed on meeting with civility and kindness ' Gen. Howe, having been joined by the troops from lord Percy, made dispositions for attacking the American lines early on
the last of October ; but an extreme wet night and morning preigented the execution at the tine appointed, and it was not attempted afterward, though the day proved fair. Gen. Washington gained intelligence of his danger, by a deserter ; drew off most of his troops at night, totally evacuated his camp early in the morning of November the first ; and took higher ground to*ward the North-Castle district, leaving a strong rear guard on 'the heights and in the woods of White-Plains. An orcer was given by the British commander to attack this corps ; but the execution of it was prevented by a violent rain. Coi. Austin of the Massachusetts, who commanded the guards and sentries, being heated with liquor, burnt the town on White-Plains, unnecessarily and without any orders. o The British general, perceiving that Washington meant to a'void' an engagement, and that the nature of the country would
not admit of his being forced, made a sudden and unexpected removal Nov. 5.] from the several posts he had taken in the * front of the Americans, and advanced toward Kingsbrigde and
the North-River. Gen. Knyphausen had been sent off before, * and encamped on the ed near the bridge on New-York Island, the Americans who were in the neighbouring heights having
quitted the same, and retired to Fort Washington. .* An acceptible break here offers for amusing you with an anec
* dote or two. Gen. Lee, while at White-Plains, lodged in a smail
house close in with the road, by which gen. Washington had to " pass when out on reconnoitring. Returning with his officers they
called in and took a dinner. They were no sooner gone, than • Lee told his aids, “ You must look me out another place, fur I
shall have Washington and all his puppiescontinually calling upcon me, and they will eat me up.” The next day Lee seeing Wash: ington out upon the like business, and supposing that he should ' have another visit, ordered his servant to write with chalk upoi
the door-e-No victuals dressed here to-day. When the company . approached and saw the writing, they pushed off with much good · humor for their own table, without resenting the habitual oddity of the man..
It happened, that a garden of a widow woman, which lay between the two camps, was robbed at night. Her son a mere VOL. II,
boy, and little of his age, asked leave for finding out and securing the pilterer, in case he should return; which being granted, lie concealed himself with a gun among the weeds. A British grena, dier, a strapping highlander, came and filled his large bag; when he had it on his shoulder, the boy left his covert, came softly behind hiin, cocked his gun, and called out to the fellow, “ You are my prisoner ; if you attempt to throw your bag down I will shoot you dead : go forward in that road.” The boy kept close to him, threatened, and was always prepared to execute his threatening. Thus the boy drove him into the American camp, where he was secured. When the grenadier was at biberty to throw down his bag, and saw who had made him prisoner, he was most horridly mortified, and exclaimed—“ A British grenadier made prisoner by such a d d brat by such a
d d brat." The' American officers were higly entertained with the adventure made a collection for the boy, and gave him some pounds. He returned fully satisfied with the losses his mother had sustained. The soldier had side arms, but they were of no use, as he could not get rid of his bag*."
[Nov. 8.] Gen. Washington wrote to gen. Greene at Fort Lee, “Sir, the late passage of the three vessels up the North-River, (which we have just received advice of) is so plain a proof of the inefficacy of all the obstructions we have thrown into it, that I cannot but think it will fully justify a change in the disposition which has been made. If we cannot prevent vessels passing up, and the enemy are possessed of the surrounding country, what valuable purpose can it answer, to attempt to hold a post from which the expected benefit cannot be had? I am therefore inclined to think it will not be prudent to hazard the men and stores at Mount Washington; but as you are on the spot, leave it to you to give such orders as to evacuating Mount Washing. ton, as you judge best, and so far revoking the order given to col. Magaw to defend it to the last. The best accounts from the eneniy assure us of a considerable movement among their boats the last evening; and so far as can be collected from the various sources of intelligence, they must design a penetration into Jersey, and fall down upon your post. You will therefore imme. diately have all the stores, &c. removed, (from your post) which you do not deem necessary, for your defence; and as the enemy have drawn great relief, from the forage and provision they have found in the country, and which our tenderness spared, you will do well to prevent their receiving any fresh supplies
* Mr. Vanbrugh Livingston, of New-York, told me he had this from Mor jor Ross, of Lancafer in Pennsylvania, who faw the soldier brought in.
there, by destroying it, if the inhabitants will not drive off their stock, and remove the hay, grain, &c. in time: Experience has shown that a contrary conduct is not of the least advantage to the poor inhabitants, from whom all their effects of every kind, are taken without distinction, and without the least satis. faction. Troops are filing off from hence as fast as our circumstances and situation will admit, in order to be transported over the river with alt expedition."**
The next day general Greene answerede" Sir, upon the whole I cannot help thinking the garrison (at Fort Washington) is of advantage ; and I cannot conceive it to be in any great danger; the men can be brought off at any time, but the stores may not be so easily removed; yet I think they can be got off in spite of the enemy, if matters grow desperate. This post is of no importance only in conjunction with Mount Washington. I was over there the last evening, and the enemy seem to be disposing matters to besiege the place; but colone! Magaw thinks it will take them tilt December expires before they can carry it. If the enemy do not find it an object of importance, they will not "Trouble themselves about it; if they do, it is a full proof they feel an injury from our possessing it. Our giving it up will open a free communication with the country, by way of Kingsbridge, that must be a great advantage to them and injury to us.” h[Nov. 12.] Within a few days gen. Washington crossed the North-River with a part of his army, and stationed himself in the neighborhood of Fort Lee. The troops left at Northcastle, under general Lee (Nov. 14.] were 7500 strong, including the 3000 militia of general Lincoln's division (whose time of service ended on the 17th) and 1700 of general Fellows's brigade (whose service ended on the 1st of December.) As the dissobution of the army was approaching apace with the end of the year, gen. Washington applied to the Massachusetts for 4000 men, militia. [Nov. 16.] Gen. Lee addressed the old, under Lincoln, and conjured the officers and soldiers, as they regarded: the sacred cause in which they were engaged, to continue in their present posts a few days longer, till Thursday at the most, assuring them it was of the last importance. But they were not to be prevailed upon, though their own commander urged a compliance to the utmost of his power. All except general Lincoln and about 150 privates, went off the next day. Mcan while the royal army approached Fort Washington, and on the 15th general Howe summoned the commanding officer to sura render, who answered, that he would defend himself to the last
extremity. General Washington received an account of the · Suminons at Ilackinsack, immediately repaired to Fort Lee, and
had partly crossed the North-River, when he met generals Putnam: and Greene, who were just returning from thence, and inform ? ed him that the troops were in high spirits, and would make a... good defence; it being late at night, he returned. Now was ; the moment for withdrawing the garrison, and one would think, that as the attack was fixed for the next day, gen. Howe design. : ed by the summons, that it should be taken on the approaching night, and wished by that mean to save the men that he would otherwise lose. But defence had been concluded upon. . .
[Nov.16.] Theroyalarmıy therefore make four attacks upon the fort the next morning; while they are advancing, generals Washe. ington, Putnam and Greene, and col. Knox, with their aids, having crossed the river, are making up to it. Some one or om ther perceiving the danger of their being soon shut in, urges their returning instantly. The commander. in chief is hardly persuaded, and complies with reluctance; but the company ins. sist upon it, and prevail. The first attack, on the north side, is! conducted by gen. Knyphausen, at the head of two columns of Hessians and Waldeckers. The second, on the east side, is lede on by gen. Matthew, at the head of the first and second battalig ons of light infantry, and two battalions of guards, supported by lord Cornwallis with a body of grenadiers and the thirty-third regiment. These forces advance by the East-River, and land out of flat boats, by Haerlem Creek, upon the enemy's rights The third attack, intended chiefly as a feint, is conducted by lieut. col. Sterling, with the forty-second regiment. The last attack is made by lord Percy, with the corps he commands on: the south of the island. All the attacks are supported with a nu. merous, powerful and well served artillery.
The Hessians under gen. Knyphausen, have a thick wood to pass, where col. Rawling's regiment of riflemen are posted; a warm engagement commences, and is continued for a considera able time, in which the former are much exposed, ayd lose in : killed and wounded, near upon 800 men by that single regiment: Mean while the light-infantry land; and are exposed, as beforer landing, to a very brisk and continual fire from the enemy, who are covered by the rocks and trees among which they are posteda: The former, however, extricate themselves by clanbering up a : very steep and rough mountain, when they soon disperse the :enemy, and make way for the landing of the rest of the troops without opposition. Lord Percy having carried an advanced work on his side, col. Sterling is ordered to attempt a landing with the forty-second regiment, upon the left of the enemy's : lines toward New-York; and two battalions of the second bri, gade are directed to support him. He advances his boats, through?