« ForrigeFortsett »
wbich Colonel Hamilton secured the possession, with a view to escape, if it should be necessary, and he had scarcely done so, when the signal was given by the videttes of the enemy's approach. The Lieutenant Colonel and four of the dragoons instantly jumped into the boat, but before the last man had embarked, the enemy were seen in full speed pursuing the videttes down the hill. Captain Lee with the two other dragoons, determined to attempt to recross the bridge rather than detain the boat, as the delay would have rendered escape impossible. They put spurs to their horses therefore, and recrossed the bridge, within ten paces of the enemy's front sections, and under the full fire of their carbines and pistols ; while another section flew to the river side, and poured several vollies into the boat, which though it had to struggle against a strong current, reached the opposite shore in safety. Each of these young officers was for some time ignorant of the other's fate, but fortunately they both regained their camp in safety.
In the last chapter, we had occasion to mention the proceedings of Congress relative to Monsieur du Condray, who had been made suspector General of Ordnance, with the high rank of Major General. On the day that Washington recrossed the Schuylkill with a view to meet and give Sir William battle, a letter from Monsieur du Coudray was laid before Congress, in which he requested permission for himself and several others who had accompanied him from France to fight in the American army under their protection, that they might not subject themselves to a treatment different from that belonging to the character of prisoners of war, should fortune throw them into the hands of the enemy. He asked only the rank of Captain
for himself, and that of Lieutenants and Ensigns for the others. This request was immediately complied
. with, and on the 16th September, Monsieur du Coudray set out to join the army. He had to cross the Schuylkill in a flat bottomed boat, intó which, in all the ardour of anticipated glory, he jumped his fiery charger—the animal became unruly, du Coudray was unable to govern him, and he plunged with his rider into the flood. He dexterously disengaged himself from the saddle, but after much struggling, and many efforts on the part of his companions to save him, the gallant but unfortunate du Coudray sunk to rise no more. His memory was honoured by an especial vote of Congress, and his body was interred with the honours of war at the publick expense.
Washington on the 18th filed off with his army towards Reading, leaving General Wayne in the rear of the enemy. On the 19th it was determined in Council that the Commander in Chief with the main body of the army should cross the Schuylkill at Parker's ford, and endeavour to meet the enemy in front, and that General Greene, in conjunction with General Smallwood and Colonel Gist, both of the Maryland line, should endeavour to annoy the enemy's rear. In the mean time General Howe, receiving intelligence of Wayne's position in the rear of his left wing, detached General Grey, with two regiments and a body of light infantry, to surprise him on the night of the 20th-Wayne had with him a corps of 1500 men, with four pieces of artillery ; General Grey came up with his left, about one o'clock on the morning of the 21st. His approach was only suspected, from the circumstance of some of the American centinels being missed, when the guard officer went his rounds the alarm
was immediately given, and in the hurry of the moment, General Wayne paraded them in front of their fires, thus exposing them to the full view of the enemy, who rushed upon them with their bayonets, and committed great execution, before Wayne had time to make a single manœuvre. Near 300 Americans were killed and wounded, and about 80 made prisoners, among whom were several officers. The Americans lost also a large quantity of arms, and eight wagons loaded with baggage and stores; while the enemy lost only 8 killed and wounded. As soon as it was possible for General Wayne to recover from the surprise into which he had been thrown, he was enabled by the darkness of the night to escape without further loss, and join the main army.
Sir William, in the mean time, having succeeded in his stratagem of drawing Washington to a distance from the city, very unexpectedly crossed the Schuylkill at Fatland ford, on the night of the 22d, and moved on without opposition to Philadelphia, which he entered in triumph on the 26th. He had previously detached several parties of Grenadiers, Light Infantry, and Chasseurs, to cross the various fords, and by this means Washington was deceived with contradictory accounts of his movements, being nearly a day's march in his rear, at the moment he believed himself in a position to meet his front. The Congress had made their escape on the 18th and repaired to Lancaster, from which they again adjourned before the end of the month to Yorktown; having before their adjournment given still further powers to the Commander in Chief, by the following resolution : 6 That General Washington be authorised and directed to suspend all officers who shall misbehave, and to fill up
cancies in the American army under the rank of Brigadiers, until the pleasure of Congress be communicated; to take, wherever he may be, all such provisions and other articles as may be necessary for the comfortable subsistence of the army under his command, paying or giving certificates for the same; to remove and secure for the benefit of the owners, all goods and effects which may be serviceable to the enemy; provided that the power hereby vested, shall be exercised only in such parts of these States as may be within the circumference of seventy miles of the head quarters of the American army, and shall continue in force for the space of sixty days, unless sooner revoked by Congress.”
Upon receiving certain intelligence of Sir William's movements, General Washington moved with his army to Skippack Creek, about sixteen miles from Germantown, on the western side of which he encamped, determined to seize the first opportunity of offering battle. Lord Howe, after the battle of Brandywine, finding that his brother would no longer have occasion for the fleet in the Chesapeake, prepared with all expedition to put to sea and move round into the Delaware, that he might be ready to cooperate with the army at Philadelphia. This had been foreseen by Washington, and every precaution had been taken to obstruct the passage of the river by the erection of batteries, and the sinking of chevaux de friese, near the city. Two fortresses had been erected; one on Mud Island, and the other about three miles lower down on the Jersey side, at a point of land called Billingsport. A redoubt was also thrown up opposite to Mud Island, at a place called Red Bank; and the channel opposite to these fortifications was obstructed by heavy pieces of timber forming chevaux de frise, as before said. Besides tbese defences, there were several gallies, and floating batteries, mounted with heavy cannon, fire ships and rafts. The fort on Mud Island was called Fort Mifflin, in honour of the General, and that at Red Bank, after General Mercer, who had been mortally wounded at the battle of Princeton.
Sir William Howe, being informed by an avant courier, of the approach of the fleet, sent Colonel Stirling with two regiments to drive the Americans from their lower position at Billingsport, which he effected without much trouble—the Americans having retired to Red Bank on his approach, after spiking the cannon and firing the barracks. This enabled one of the enemy's ships which lay off Chester to move up, and after great labour and difficulty, remove so much of the obstructions in the river as to afford a narrow passage for ships. Cornwallis with his division had followed Sir William to Philadelphia, while the main body still lay at Germantown, where they had taken post on the day Sir William entered Philadelphia. Washington rightly judging that Sir William would detach'a considerable part of his force against the two forts Mifflin and Mercer, conceived the idea of advancing from Skippack and attacking the main body at Germantown. He had been reinforced by 2500 men, and moving from his position, on the evening of the 3d October, reached Germantown early on the morning of the 4th—The enemy were encamped about the centre of the town, with their left wing resting upon the Schuylkill, covered in front by the Chasseurs : The Queen's American rangers, and a battalion of Light
, Infantry covered the right; and the 40th regiment with another battalion of infantry, were posted on Chesnut