Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

a heavy fire, and forcing his way up a steep height, gains the summit, and takes 170 prisoners, and then penetrates across the island. The detachment from the flying camp of the Americans, having given way and quitted their station, without making a firm, stand, col. Magaw leaves the lines, and throws himself into the fort, lest the royal army should get possession of it before him. Col. Rall, who leads the right column of gen. Knyphausen’s attack, having forced the enemy in the mean time, pushes forward to their advanced works, and lodges his column within a hundred yards of the fort. This done, he summons them to surrender; and upon gen. Knyphausen’s appearing, it is agreed that the troops be considered as prisoners of war, and that the officers should keep their baggage and side arms. The number of prisoners, including officers, amounted to 2700, beside those taken by the forty-second regiment. Gen. Greene wished to have been entrusted with the defence of the fort on the day of attack, as did some other generals. He blames. colonel Magaw for suffering the troops to crowd into the fort, " their quitting the lines, instead of ordering them to the brow of the hill facing the north, where the Hessians attacked; and is of opinion, that if they had been placed there, the royal army might have keen kept off till night, when the troops might have been removed. But the capital mistake was their not being removed the preceding night. * . While the attack was carrying on, a captain Gooch boldly ventured to cross over from Fort Lee, with a letter from generaf : Washington to colonel Magaw, acquainting him, that if he could hold out till night, the garrison should be taken off. He deli– vered the letter, pushed through the fire of the enemy, preferring that danger to being made a prisoner, and escaped unhurt. General Washington could view several parts of the attack; and when he saw his men bayonetted, and in that way killed, while begging quarter, he cried with the tenderness of a child, and exclaimed at the barbarity that was practised. His heart has not been yet steeled by plunging into acts of cruelty. When general Lee read the letter sent by express, giving an account of Fort Washington’s being taken, resentment and vexation led him, unfeeling as he was in common, to weep plentifully. He wrote on the 19th to the commander in chief, “O ! general, why would you be over-persuaded by men of inferior judgment to your own? It was a cursed affair.” He had exclaimed before, upon hearing that the defence of it was to be risked, “Then we are undone.” -* From that moment it was apparent, that the British ships could safely pass up and down the North-River, in defiant of . . .” - - - - - 3.

- o alt the obstructions thrown in the channel, and of the forts. Washington and Lee, the American commander concluded that these were no longer eligible, and that Fort Washington ought to be evacuated while it could be done; which occasioned his letter of the 8th. When he came to Fort Lee, soon after crossing the North-River, he found no measures had been taken toward such evacuation, in consequence of that letter. General Greene, of whose judgment he entertained a good opinion, decidedly cpposed it; other opinions coincided with Greene's ; it was thought politic to waste the campaign without coming to a general action on the one hand, and without suffering the enemy to over-run the country on the other; every impediment which stood in their way, was judged a mean to answer these purposes, and when thrown into the scale with those opinions. which were opposed to evacuation, caused that warfare in the mind of the commander in chief, and that hesitation which have ended in the loss of the garrison. The advisability of attempting to hold the post, being repugnant to his own judgment, the event which has happened fills him with the greater regrets But he will exhibit an instance of generosity and magnanimity, by submitting silently to all the censure that may be cast upon him, sooner than injure the character of those whose advice has ensnared him. * - . . . It is imagined on good grounds, that the royal army lost in the attack full 1200 men in killed and wounded. The next object that engaged their attention was Fort Lee, situated upon a neck of land about ten miles long, running up the North-River on the one side, and on the other bounded by the Hackinsack and the English Neighborhood, a branch of it, neither of which are fordable near the fort. The neck joins the main land almost opposite to the communication between the North and East-Rivers at Kingsbridge. On the 18th November, in the morning, lord Cornwallis, by means of boats which entered the North-River through this communication, landed near Closter, only a mile. and a half from the English Neighborhood. His force consisted of the first and second battalions of light infantry, two companies of chasseurs, two battalions of British, and two ditto of Hessian grenadiers, two battalions of guards, and the thirty-third and forty-second regiments. The account of this movement was brought to gen. Greene while in bed. Without waiting for gen. Washington's orders, he directed the troops to march immediately, and secure their retreat by possessing themselves of the English Neighborhood; he sent off at the same time, information to gen. Washington at Hackinsack town. Having gained the ground, and drawn up the troops in face of the enemy, he left

left them under the command of gen. Washington; and return<d to pick up the stragglers and others, whom to the amount of about 300, he conveyed over the Hackinsack to a place of safety. By this decided movement of gen. Greene’s 3000 Americans escaped ; the capture of whom at this period, must have proved ruinous. Lord Cornwallis's intent was evidently to form a line across from the place of landing to Hackinsack bridge, and thereby to hem in the whole garrison between the North and Hackinsack rivers ; but gen. Greene was too alert for him.— His lordship had but a mile and a half to march, whereas it was four miles from Fort Lee to the road, approaching the head of the English neighbourhood, where the other amused his lordship till gen. Washington arrived, and by a well concerted retreat, secured thc bridge over the Hackinsack. But though the men were saved, some hundred barrels of flower, most of the cannon, and a considerable part of their tents and baggage, were taken : beside the trifling number of ninety-nine privates, and six officers and staff. o . . [Nov. 22.] General Washington retreated to Newark, where his whole forge consisted of no more than 3500 men. He considered the cause as in the greatest danger; and said to col. Reed, “Should we retreat to the back parts of Pennsylvania, will the Pennsylvanians support us * The colonel answered, “if the lower counties are subdued, and give up, the back counties will do the same.” The gencral passed his hand over his throat, and said, “My neck does not feel as though it was made for a hatter. We must retire to Augusta county in Virginia. Numbers will be obliged to repair to us for safety ; and we must try what we can do in carrying on a predatory war : and if overpowered we must cross the Allegany mountains.” The general, after tarrying near a week without being molested, obtained information of lord Cornwallis's being in pursuit of him; he thereforé marched for Brunswick, [Nov. 28.] leaving Newark the very inorning that his lordship entered it. As his lordship's van advanced to Brunswick, by a forced march on the first of December, gen. Washington retreated to Princeton, having first delayed its passing the Rariton by breaking down a part of Brunswick bridge, and so secured his troops from being harrassed. Lord Coilwallis, having orders not to advance beyond Brunswick, discontinued his pursuit; but sent an express to gen. Howe at NewYork, acquainting him, that by continuing it briskly he could entirely disperse the army under gen. Washington, and seiz: his heavy baggage, and artillery, before he could pass the Deioware. Gen. Howe returned for answer, that he would be wit: - Aio,

him in person immediately,” but did not join him till the sixth. General Washington hoped to have made a stand at Brunswick, but was disappointed in his expectation of the militia; on the day he .." it, the service of the Jersey and Maryland brigades expired, and neither of them would stay an hour longer; he wrote thefore to general Lee, “hasten your march as much as possible, or your arrival may be too late.” . On the 7th, lord Cornwallis's corps marched to Princeton, which the Americans quitted the same day. The next day the corps marched in two divisions; the first advanced to Trenton, and reached the Delaware, just as the rear guard of general Washington's army, under colonel Henly, gained the opposite shore, about twelve o'clock at night. Iord Cornwallis, who halted with the rear division within six miles of Trenton, intended crossing a body very early the next morning, near two miles below Corriel’s ferry; and got the troops in readiness, and the artillery prepared to cover the fanding; for at that place it was only eight and twenty rod to a spit _ of sand on the Pennsylvania side, on which a sufficient number were to have landed, and then to have marched up to Corriel's ferry, and to have taken the boats that had been collected there by the Americans, and left under a guard of only about ten men; with them it was meant to carry over the main body. In the vicinity of this place, a large sunken Durham boat (which came down three days before, laden with flour, and which could carry 100 men) lay concealed under a bank. This had been discovered and taken away by Mr. Mersereau, so that the British were disappointed in their expectation of finding it. They hail•ed one Thomson, a quaker, who lived on the other side of the Delaware, and enquired what was become of the boat, and were answered it was carried off. They continued reconnoitring up and down the river till ten o’clock, but finding no boats, returned to Pennytown. Men had been employed in time for taking off all the boats from the Jersey side of the Delaware; but Mir. Mersereau's attention would not admit of his confiding wholly in their care and prudence. He therefore went up the river to examine whether all the boats were 1eally carried off or destroyed; upon discovering the above sunken one, which had escaped the observation of the men, and enquiring of a person in the neighborhood concerning her, he was told that she was an old one, and good for nothing; but not relying upon the information, he found her to be new, had the ... out, and sent her off.f The importance of this affair to the Americans, * Loyalist's letter, Nov. 10, 1777. - ... ."

[ocr errors]

r prevents

*

prevents the relation of it from being trifling. Had lord Corn...walliscrossed into Pennsylvania as he proposed, the consequence ...would probably have been fatal to the Americans. Gen. Wash-ington, when he crossed, had about 2200 men; but the time of their service expiring, they left him in such a manner, that the second day after crossing he had but seventeen hundred. . . . The militia of Jersey had timely notice given them; and had they stept forth in season, might have enabled gen. Washington to have prevented lord Cornwallis crossing the Hackinsack; but either disaffection, or the want of exertion in the principal ...gentlemen of the country (through depression of spirit at the threatening appearances that existed) or a fatal supineness and . . .insensibility of danger, increased the actual evil, and made it ab...solutely necessary for gen. Washington to quit the Jerseys, and seek security on the other side of the Delaware. To whatever cause it was owing, the inhabitants, almost to a man, refused to : turn out, so that he could not at any time bring more of them ...-together than 1000 men, and even on these very little depend... cnce was, to be put. The proclamation issued the 30th of No... ovember, by lord Howe and gen. Howe, as the king's commis-sioners, added to gen. Washington’s difficulties. In that, they commanded all persons assembled in arms against his majesty's ... government, to disband and return to their dwellings; and all ...general or provincial congresses, &c. to desist from all their ..-treasonable actings, and to relinquish all their usurped power. They declared that every person who, within sixty days should -appear before the governor, lieutenant-governor, or comman..-der in chief of any of his majesties colonies, or before the gene.ral or commanding officer of his majesty’s forces, &c. and claim the benefit of the proclamation, and testify his obedience to the laws by subscribing a certain declaration, should obtain a full ... –and free pardon of all treasons, &c. by him committed, and of all forfeitures and penalties for the same. Numbers who had -been provincial congress-men, committee-men, justices and the , -like, though out of the way of immediate danger, ran to take the advantage of the proclamation. Many of the whigs shifted about. Only a few of fortune stood firm to the cause. It was the middle rank of people in general that remained stedfast in “the day of trial. . The success of the royal army extended its influence also to Pennsylvania. Mr. Galloway, the family of the Allens, with some others, repaired to the commissioners to claim the benefits of the general pardon. - General Lee, with more than 3000 men, though repeated expresses were sent to him, continued in the rear of the royal forces, marching so slowly that Washington could not account for “We L. II. R - 1t.

« ForrigeFortsett »