Recapitulation Events of 1777-Low state of the American Army at Morristown-Dismission of Dr. Stringer, and resolution of Congress, censuring General Schuyler's want of respect-State of the British Army-Expedition of Cornwallis against Boundbrook-Narrow escape of General Lincoln-Governour Tryon's expedition against Danbury-Gallant conduct of Generals Wooster and Arnold-Arnold makes a stand at Radfield-Is obliged to retreat-Follows the enemy to Sagatuck bridgeAction there-Expedition of Colonel Meigs to Saggharbour -Sir William Howe takes the field-his sudden retreat to Amboy-Washington moves his army to Quibbletown-Howe evacuates the Jerseys-General Schuyler appointed to the command of the Northern Army-General St. Clair ordered to the command of Ticonderoga-The weak state of that garrison-Burgoyne makes his appearance before it-St. Clair evacuates it and joins General Schuyler.

THE army under General Washington had never been more active, nor the cautious skill of the Commander more conspicuously displayed, than dur


ing the winter campaign of 1776. Beaten, and driven from his strong positions on the North River, with the loss of a large portion of his army, we have seen that General Washington found himself reluctantly compelled to make a precipitate retreat across the Jerseys into Pennsylvania, with a shattered force of little more than three thousand men. Arrived at Newark, Washington felt as if the struggle must soon be terminated; but he felt too, that the western world contained too many secure and safe retreats for the sons of liberty, to admit even the momentary idea of being compelled to relinquish their independence. There was a world beyond the mountains, to which he looked as a dernier asylum. My neck, said he, to his friend Colonel Reed, does not feel as though it were made for a halter-if driven from every other place, we must cross the Allegany mountains. At no period of our trying contest, were the hopes of the American army at so low an ebb. The royal forces had been every where successful; the term of service of the greater part of our soldiers, was about expiring; many of our most meritorious and useful officers were in the hands of the enemy; and Cornwallis, flushed with recent victory, was then in hot pursuit of the flying band that stuck to the fortunes of Washington. If Cornwallis had been Commander in Chief of the British army at this time, instead of General Howe, who seems at all times to have laboured under some strange infatuation in his conduct of the war, the revolution would in all probability have closed here, and we might have been at this day under the guardianship of the Mother Country. We have seen that Lord Cornwallis entered Newark only a few hours after Washington had evacuated it ;

and that if his orders had not been peremptory, to advance no further than Brunswick, which last place he also reached just as the rear of Washington's army were quitting it, he must inevitably have prevented them from crossing the Delaware. If General Howe had even attended to the subsequent representations of his pursuing General, Washington must have been overtaken at Princeton; but Providence had decreed that we should be free, or the activity of Cornwallis would have been sufficient to have counteracted the effects even of General Howe's dilatory disposition. At Newark, Brunswick, Princeton, and Trenton, the escape of Washington may almost be regarded as miraculous. At Brunswick, thirteen hundred of his men, the Jersey and Maryland brigades, deserted him, their period of service having there expired, and no inducement being sufficient to detain them, a moment beyond their legal engagement. After crossing the Delaware, five hundred others abandoned him, so that his whole force now amounted to no more than seventeen hundred men.

What added greatly to the embarrassments of Washington at this critical juncture of his affairs, was a proclamation issued by the two brothers, Lord and General Howe, commanding all persons in arms against His Majesty's government, all general and provincial Congresses, and all others who were aiding and abetting the rebels, forthwith to desist from their treasonable practices, and return to their homes and business, on the promise of a full pardon. The effects of this proclamation upon the weak and timid, and particularly upon the men of fortune, who were

willing to be patriots only, while there was no dauger, were truly alarming to the friends of freedom, and highly disgraceful to the American character. Many upon whose aid and influence, the utmost reliance had been placed, consented to abandon the cause of freedom, honour, and their country, in this hour of dark and gloomy despondence, and to throw themselves at the feet of His Majesty's merciful commissioners, in penitent submission. We have not a word to say against the conduct of those, who, when the question of rebellion, or non-resistance, was yet undecided, when the daring project of independence was yet a problem of fearful solution, preferred the character of obedient loyalists, to that of stubborn and discontented rebels; they had the undoubted right of choice; but when the barrier that separated treason from resistance had been passed; when the whole nation had declared that they were, and of right ought to be, free and independent; when the banner of war had been unfurled in the name of thirteen United States, who had mutually and interchangeably pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honours, in the conflict-then the choice had been made, the time for wavering had been passed, and those who had silently acquiesced in, were solemnly bound by, the decision of their country. The desertion of the patriot cause then, was adding cowardice to treason, meanness to hypocrisy; and it becomes the duty of the impartial historian to hold up the double crime to the execration of posterity.

After the capture of General Lee, which to say the least, was the effect of his reprehensible contempt of personal danger, the command of his forces devolved on General Sullivan, who soon after joined General

Washington in Pennsylvania, and thus increased the army to about five thousand men; nearly one half of which, however, quit the service on the 1st of January upon the expiration of their term. We have seen with what preeminent skill Washington planned and executed a scheme for recrossing the Delaware into Jersey, and giving battle to Knyphausen and his formidable Hessians, over whom he obtained the most signal victory; having with the loss of only four or five men, taken nearly a thousand prisoners, with whom he returned to his position in Pennsylvania on the same evening, and thus once more raised the smiles of hope in the American camp. The reader has had occasion to remark how often it has been the fortune of Washington, to be overruled in his wisest measures, by the council of his officers. Had he followed his own inclination, after the battle of Trenton, and pursued the routed enemy, the events of this cold, terrible and disastrous winter would have been widely different; but he was at all times too modest as well as too prudent to rely solely upon his own judgment. This signal success of Washington, against that portion of the enemy too, who had always been looked upon by the Americans with a sort of fearful horrour, gave to the officers an opportunity which was not suffered to escape, of appealing to the patriotism and feelings of the militia; and not without some success-a few hundreds of them were induced to join Generals Mifflin and Greene; while the continentals, in the true spirit of hireling mercenaries, after accepting an extra bounty of ten dollars for reenlisting, basely deserted Washington, to the number of five hundred, after he had returned to Trenton, and at the moment when a battle was expected, upon the

« ForrigeFortsett »