« AnteriorContinuar »
either attempt to seize on the passes of the North river and thus co-operate directly with Burgoyne, or leaving that for future movements, would follow up at first the attempts of the previous campaign, and march upon Philadelphia. As a precaution against both these movements, he determined to open the campaign by descending from his position at Morristown, and post his army on the high ground north of the Brunswick road to Philadelphia, extending his left towards the river and stationing a considerable force at Peekskill. By this management his forces could be readily concentrated at either point; for the defence of Philadelphia, or to protect the forts and passes of the river. On the
May 25. 3th of May, he formed his new camp at Middlebrook, about ten miles from Brunswick, a position naturally very strong, which he fortified with careful entrenchments. His troops, exclusive of artillery and cavalry, were about eight thousand three hundred men, of whom more than two thousand were sick.
The real design of General Howe, was the recovery of New Jersey, and the capture of Philadelphia. This is generally charged upon him as a military fault
. The army of Burgoyne, about to descend from Canada, was the chief reliance of the British ministry, for subduing America. A junction with the army in New York, with the command of the Hudson and the lakes, would have separated the States, and, with the aid of the force already in Rhode Island, given the whole of New England into the power of the British army. Instead of entering zealously and at once into this plan, General Howe delayed some time, in the effort to draw General Washington into action, and finally postponed his co-operation with the northern army, for'an attack upon Philadelphia. He perhaps hoped so thoroughly to subdue Pennsylvania and New Jersey by this enterprise, as to be able to make a clear field for the approach of General Burgoyne. The calculations failed as signally below, as the main expedition above. Philadelphia fell, but neither Congress nor the people were subdued nor terrified; and when Burgoyne descended the Hudson, it was not as a flushed conqueror, but as a captive to the despised republicans
On the night of the 14th of June, General Howe made a bold effort to entice Washington from his camp, and bring on an action. The whole army, with the exception of two thousand soldiers, who were left to protect the baggage and
bridge equipage, at Brunswick, marched out in two columns, and advanced to Somerset court-house, with the apparent design to cross the Delaware. Washington was too wary
to believe, that they would be rash enough to cross in front of a formidable opposition, and with an army in the rear, and did not fail to remark, that the bridges prepared to cross with, bad been left behind. When the enemy approached, without leaving his strong position, he drew up his army in order of battle, and kept them under arms all night. The New Jersey militia assembled with alacrity; and Howe, finding his scheme frustrated, retreated to Brunswick on the 19th, and gathered all his forces towards that point. Washing. ton, relieved of his present fears for the river passages, ordered down a part of his force at Peekskill, and strengthened himself at Middlebrook. The movements of the British to and fro, were marked with devastation and cruelty. They burned, ravaged and destroyed, without respect to property, or persons.
The rapid advance on the 14th having failed in its object, the British general tried another feint, and a few days afterwards made as rapid a retreat to Amboy. His baggage having been sent across to Staten Island, he threw a bridge over the channel, and several detachments passed over, as though it had been his final intention to abandon New Jersey, and march upon Philadelphia. Washington despatched strong parties to pursue and harass his march, commanded by Generals Greene, Maxwell
, and Sullivan, and Colonel Morgan, and in order to follow up the retreating army, left his camp at Middlebrook, and with his whole army took up a new position at Quibbletown, six or seven miles nearer to Amboy. General Howe promptly endeavoured to take advantage of the success of
he suddenly recalled his troops from the island, and advanced swiftly towards the Americans. Washington, with equal rapidity, retraced his own movements. Recall
. ing his advance, he resumed his position on the heights, and the British only succeeded in engaging the brigade under the command of Lord Sterling. That, after maintaining a hot action, retreated with little loss, and the British forces, foiled again, withdrew to Amboy on the 27th, and three
leaving General Washington in undisturbed pos. session of New Jersey. The fleet under the command of
Admiral Howe, was lying at Sandy Hook, on the opposite side of the island. The destination of their fleet and army from this point, was a subject of great anxiety to all America. They had it in their power, having the command of the sea, to land at any point of the country, and the Hudson, Philadelphia, Charleston, and Boston, were alternately looked to as the objects of the expedition. A sudden movement to the north side of Staten Island, led Washington to believe that the Hudson was the point; and he accordingly reinforced the northern army, changed his camp to the old position at Morristown, and strengthened the river forts and garrisons. This uncertainty continued for a long time, the various changes of position made by Howe being considered for the most part as feints to conceal a real purpose. Washington becoming more convinced that Philadelphia was the object, turned as much of his care in that direction as was consistent with prudence. The Pennsylvania militia were called out, to rendezvous at Chester, and those of New Jersey were summoned at Gloucester. At last, on the 23d of July, the British fleet sailed from Sandy Hook. It consisted of more than July 23, three hundred vessels, and carried thirty-six British and Hessian battalions, including light infantry and grenadiers, with a powerful corps of artillery, amounting in all to about eighteen thousand men. The rest of the army, seventeen battalions, was left under the command of Sir Henry Clinton, for the protection of New York. The fleet was reported to steer southwardly, and the same doubt as to their object, continued to harass the public mind, and perplex the Commander-in-chief. A letter was intercepted, which stated New Hampshire to be the point, but so convinced was Washington that it was intended to mislead, that he instantly marched to the south. He halted for a while on the Delaware, hesitating to believe that Howe could absolutely abandon the Hudson, where he was expected to aid the Northern army.
On the 31st, the fleet came in sight of the capes of the Delaware, but from some change of plan, instead of entering, put to sea again, and were not heard of for weeks. This increased the uncertainty and anxiety of the American army, which marched and counter-marched through New Jersey according to the various reports that were received, until all doubts were dispelled by intelligence of the arrival of the British fleet in the Chesapeake, and the disembarkation of the army at Turkey point, at the mouth of the
Elk river, in Maryland. General Washington Aug. 25.
instantly marched his whole army through Philadelphia, to oppose them. He had a considerable nominal force, but his effective strength did not exceed eleven thousand. On the 3d of September, the armies approached each other, and Washington, after manœuvring several days to avoid being out-flanked by a superior force, finally fell back to the left bank of the Brandywine river, at Chadd's ford, where he made a stand to dispute the passage with the enemy. Congress and the people called upon the general to risk a battle there, for the defence of Philadelphia. The discipline of the army had been
much improved during their stay in New Jersey, by the French officers, who had joined it, either as volunteers in the cause of liberty, or on the invitation of Silas Deane, the American envoy at Paris. Some of these were veteran and skillful soldiers, whose experience in European warfare, and knowledge of military tactics, was of much value to the new levies of the States. He who added most lustre to the French name, not by military knowledge, but by his personal virtuer, the splendor of his individual character, and the enthusiastic disinterestedness with which he had embraced the American service, was the young Marquis de La Fayette. At the age
of nineteen, he had risked every thing to join a siuking cause, escaped with difficulty from France, from a court circle the gayest in Europe, a fortune beyond his wishes, a home endeared by a newly wedded and fondly loved wife, against the commands of his sovereign, and though chased by cruisers to arrest and bring him back, brought his sword and his arm to the service of liberty. His arrival inspirited Congress and the people, by the proofs of ardent sympathy which it displayed, and the hopes of efficient succor from abroad which it encouraged. At the Brandywine, he occupied a distinguished post in the army.
The landing of Howe in the Chesapeake, made manifest to Washington that the British forces were not acting under a common head, and for a joint plan of operation. They were, in fact, divided into three independent bodies, two of which at least, those under Burgoyne and Howe, aimed at distinct objects, tending only remotely to a union. Burgoyne in the north was pushing on with rapidity, and in apparent triumph, from Crown Point towards Albany: Sir Henry Clinton, with a large force, was inactive at New York;
and Sir William Howe was pursuing a separa.. purpose the middle States. The campaign of Burgoyne will be narrated presently, in a connected form. We shall here pursue the fortunes of the army which, on the 11th of September 1777, was approaching the Brandywine river, to force its way to Philadelphia.
One anecdote of an enterprise, which occurred some time before in the north, deserves to be recorded here, though not strictly in the order of the narrative. Though not of much real importance, it produced a great exultation to the Americans, and was exceedingly mortifying to the British. The British force at Rhode Island, consisting of seven battalions and a considerable fleet, was commanded by General Prescott, who, being so superior in force to any that could be brought against him, kept negligent guard. Aware of this, and anxious to retaliate for the capture of General Lee, a party of Americans, under the command of Colonel Barton, to the number of about forty, formed a plan of surprising the general in his quarters, and carrying him off. Embarking by night in whale-boats, and cautiously rowing between the enemy's ships, they landed on the coast between Newport and Bristol Ferry, and having silently reached the lodgings of Prescott, arrested him in bed, and conducted him safely through his own troops and fleet back to the main land. Congress voted their thanks, and presented a sword to Colonel Barton, for this daring feat.
The battle of the Brandywine was hazarded by Washington more in compliance with thc public call for decisive action, and the impatience of delay, than in accordance with his own judgment. His army was inferior in numbers and discipline, and he might easily have assumed a position among the hills too strong to be forced, which would have retarded the royal troops, and forced them to waste the season to little purpose. But delay had dissatisfied both Congress and the public expectation, and it was determined to try the fortune of battle.
The army of Sir William Howe advanced, at day-break on the morning of the 11th of September, in two
Sept. 11. under the Hessian General Kniphausen, was directed against Chadd's ford, with the design of forcing a passage at that point. The main point of attack was, however, not there. This column, which was the right, was instructed to delay making