« AnteriorContinuar »
prisoners, on both sides, in which the proper direction was scrupulously given, according to the claims made by General Washington.
The British forces were in the mean time by no means idle. On the 12th, two of their ships had forced their way up the Hudson, and taken a position near Tarrytown. The military in the counties along the shore, were directed to oppose them, under the command of the American General Clinton. An attempt was made to dislodge them, with some American ships and gallies, but without success. The continual arrival of fresh troops strengthened the invading force; and on the close of the attempt at negotiation, it was resolved to make a bold, and it was hoped, final movement against the American position.
Within the camp of Washington, the difficulties and embarrassments were of the most distressing and sometimes threatening nature. The militia, upon which he was compelled to rely, had not learned the necessary habits of military subordination : they were sometimes exceedingly turbulent, and generally very ill provided with arms, ammunition, food; and for a while, a feud of an alarming character, raged between the eastern troops on the one side, and the southern and middle troops on the other, which required all the firmness and sagacity of the general to appease. A plot was detected, the seat of which was in the interior of New! York, for betraying the patriots to the British, which was quelled by the exertions of General Schuyler. Dissensions sprung up between the officers, about precedence of rank; and, to crown all the evils of necessity, insubordination, disaffection, and want, which afflicted the raw recruits-pestilence was added. The small-pox attacked them virulently, and before the 1st of August, one-third of the army was on the sick list. The reinforcements called for by the general, at the time, came in slowly and with all the same deficiencies. The exertions of Washington, aided by Congress, were most persevering, indefatigable, and sagacious. With such ineans, he contrived to keep the enemy in check for more than a month; and, for a while, baffled the plans of a force three times his own in magnitude, of well disciplined and wella supplied soldiery. On the 22d of July, Congress authorized an exchange of prisoners, rank for rank; at the same time recognising the right of each state to make exchanges for itself, of prisoners taken under its own authority: and on the
same day voted to emit five millions of dollars in bills of credit. On the 9th of August, resolutions were adopted for encouraging the Hessians and other foreigners in the British service to desert, in the phrase adopted, " to quit that iniquitous service.”
Being in daily expectation of an attack from the English forces, General Washington had been anxiously preparing for it at every point, by which it was thought they would approach. The charge of the American defences on Long Island had been given originally to General Greene, one of the best officers in the service, and who distinguished himself so highly in the course of the war. Upon his falling sick, the command devolved upon General Sullivan. The attack which was made on the 27th, was directed against the works constructed under the direction of General Greene, enclosing the village of Brooklyn, which is on the side of Long Island opposite the city of New York. They extended from the
Wallabout Bay, on the left, above the city, across the penin– sula, to the Red Hook, below the city, where the passage
called the Narrows communicates between the Bay of New York and the ocean. Within the Narrows lies Governor's Island, which was also fortified. The village of Brooklyn, lying within these lines, was occupied by the American force under General Sullivan. Between them and the opposite parts of the Island, where the enemy could land, was a range of hills, commencing at the Narrows, and extending easterly for about six miles, and terminating near Jamaica. These hills were thickly wooded. Three roads passed through them, accessible to soldiery: one near the Narrows, a second by the village of Flatbush, and a third called the Bedford road. Another road from the south side of the Island avoided the hills entirely, by passing around the eastern extremity, called the Jamaica road. - The passes through the hills had been carefully guarded by corps of eight hundred men each, and Colonel Miles, with a battalion of riflemen, was stationed to watch the Jamaica road, and keep open a communication between the passes.
The British forces had landed on the 22d, and on the Aug. 26.
evening of the 26th of August, the Hessians, under
command of Gen. De Hiester, occupied the village of Flatbush. This formed the centre of the British force in the battle of the next day. General Grant commanded the left, towards the Narrows, and General Clinton, with Lords
venerar hon 50
Cornwallis and Percy, led the right, which was the main point of attack, along the Jamaica road. The British plan was to make brisk attacks with their left and centre, upon the opposing American lines, to direct their attention from the chief object, which was to turn the American left, and take their whole force in flank by surprise. The plan suc. ceeded. General Grant, who commanded the British left, advanced upon the American forces, who instantly fled; and a few of them were with difficulty rallied until Lord Sterling had collected about fifteen hundred men, with whom he made a stand, about two miles from the camp. About daylight, the Hessians from Flatbush advanced, simultaneously, with Gen. Grant's division, and the whole American forces were soon hotly and resolutely engaged with them. General Washington had reinforced the troops at Brooklyn, and given the command there to General Putnam, who, under the persuasion that the body of the enemy were advancing by these routes, sent succors to Lord Sterling and Gen. Sullivan.
General Clinton and his force had in the mean time gained their object. In the preceding night he had marched for the Jamaica defile, and before day surprised the Americans, who were stationed to wait the approach of the enemy, seized the pass, and having occupied the heights, descended in the morning into the plains on the side of Brooklyn Having thus turned the American position two miles in the rear of the detachment of Colonel Miles, he fell upon their left, which was engaged with the Hessians. The sound of the cannon was the first intelligence they had of this fatal disaster, and they immediately broke and endeavoured to reach the camp. In this they were intercepted by General Clinton, and driven back upon the Hessians; and thus several times they were charged with great fury on both sides, and finally hemmed in by the English and Hessians, advancing in opposite directions. Some regiments, concen: trating themselves, made a desperate charge, and cutting their way through the enemy with great loss, reached the camp. The broken troops still maintained some skirmishing fights, along the hills and ravines, but the American left and centre were totally routed.
The right under Lord Sterling continued to maintain a resolute conflict with the British left, for six hours, until the victorioüs troops under Clinton had traversed their rear and surrounded them. A gallant charge was made by Sterling, in person, at the head of the Maryland regiment, which behaved with extraordinary courage, and were nearly all cut to pieces. The charge had nearly succeeded in routing Cornwallis in person, when overwhelming succors arrived, and the brave detachment were either cut to pieces or made prisoners. A retreat had been ordered, and this spirited assault gave opportunity for a large proportion of the troops to escape. The loss was however great; many were drowned in attempting to cross the creek in their rear, and not a few were stifled in the mud.
In the heat of the action, Washington passed over to Brooklyn, to aid in rallying the soldiers, but the defeat was irreparable. He was compelled to witness the slaughter of his best troops, without the possibility of saving them, or remedying the disasters of the day. The enemy pursued the routed Americans to the lines at Brooklyn, but did not attempt an assault. On the next day, determining to carry the works by regular approaches, ground was broke within a few hundred yards of a redoubt.
General Washington was anxious for an assault upon his entrenchments by the British. The greater part of his troops had been transported to the Island, and he knew how much better they could be depended upon for the repulse of an assault, and the defence of fortifications, than for maneuvres in the open field. But he was no less sensible that his position could not be kept against a regular siege by an enemy so superior in numbers, and well provided with all the materials and tools. Heavy rains continued to fall, and his men were without tents and shelter. The fleet of the enemy too, had made movements indicating a design to force a passage up the East river, and thus cut off the communication with the city of New York. Had such a plan succeeded, the situation of the army would have been desperate. An immediate retreat from the Island was thereupon determined on, and was accordingly executed on the evening of the 29th, with extraordinary secrecy and celerity, and complete success. The embarcation commenced soon after dark, at Aug: 29.
2001 two points, under the direction of Gen. M.Dougal and
***** | Col. Knox. The precise object of the expedition was carefully concealed from the troops themselves; and in the space of thirteen hours, an army of nine thousand men, with all their field artillery, tents, baggage, and camp equipage, were conveyed over the East river to the city of New York,
a river nearly a mile wide, witbout the knowledge or suspicion of the British, who were at work not more than five hundred yards distant. The commencement of the embarcation had been unpropitious: the state of the tide and the i prevalence of a strong northeast wind, made their sail-boats' useless, and the number of row-boats was totally inadequate About eleven o'clock, with the change of tide, the wing! changed to the southeast, which made the communication : easy and rapid. Very luckily, towards morning, a thick fog, an unusual appearance, sprung up and covered the shores, under the protection of which, the retreat was carried on undiscovered by the enemy, for some hours after the dawn of day. By a mistake in the transmission of orders, the American lines were totally evacuated for three quarters of an hour before the embarcation was complete; but the British, though actually at work at a short distance, did not , perceive it; and General Mifflin returned and re-occupied them until every thing except some heavy pieces of ordnance was removed, and then got off safe with his own detachiment. When the fog finally cleared off, the last boatload of the rear guard were seen crossing the river, out of the reach of the enemy's fire.
The consequences of the battle of Long Island, and the retreat, were very dispiriting to the American general, and cast a most gloomy cloud over American affairs. The troops lost confidence in themselves and distrusted their officers." They became desponding, intractable-sometimes almost mutinous, and deserted in great numbers. Whole companies and sometimes regiments abandoned the army en masse. General Washington became early impressed with the conviction that the city could not be maintained, and the movements of the enemy strengthened him daily in this belief. They were making approaches by their ships up both rivers and it was doubtful whether their intention was to assault the lines, or to land at Kingsbridge, where the island of New York is connected with the main land, and thus ens. close the Americans. To guard against the imminent danger, the stores, not of pressing necessity, were removed to Dobbs** Ferry, beyond Kingsbridge, and about twenty-six miles v from New York; and on the 7th of September, a council of a war was held to deliberate upon the expediency con i of the retreat. A majority decided against that is measure, and voted to carry on a war of posts, in order, if a