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trusted with its defence. The army became universally disa pirited. The militia ran off by companies, and the regulars were infected by the example. The situation of those generous leaders, who knew no fear, except in the perspective ‘ruin of their country; who offered every thing, but honour, a sacrifice to avert its degradation ; cannot be described. How must the heart of Washington have been wrung with anguish! To retreat, subjected him to animadversions, painful to bear, yet impolitic to refute. To stand his ground, and thus hazard the fate of America, on one engagement, in which fortune might decide, was contrary to every rational plan of defending his extensive charge. A middle line, between abandoning and defending, was, therefore, for a while adopted. The public stores were removed to Dobbs' ferry, about twenty-six miles distant : twelve-thousand men were ordered to the northern extremity of New York island; four-thousand. five-hundred remained to defend the city, and the rest were stationed within the intermediate space, to act as occasion might require.
The same short-sighted politicians who had before censured general Washington for his caution, in not storming the British lines at Boston, renewed the clamours against him for this systein of evacuation and retreat. But the same wise dom which had then devised it as the best, now confirmed his resolution to maintain it. Supported by a consciousness of his own integrity, and by a full conviction that these measures were the most advantageous to his country, he again voluntarily subjected his fame to be overshadowed by a passing cloud.
General Howe pursued his object with unabating diligence, Having prepared every thing for a descent on New York island, he landed his men near Turtle bay. The Americans instantly fell back; and though some detachments, under the command of colonel Knowleton of Connecticut and major Leitch of Virginia, the former of whom was killed and the latter wounded, had fairly beaten their immediate adversaries from the field, yet it became necessary to evacuate the city. It was entered by a brigade of the enemy. They had been only a few days in possession, when a dreadful fire broke out, which consumed a thousand houses. The Americans took a position on the north end of the island; but, soon afterwards, left three-thousand men in Fort Washington, and retired. The royal army followed, in two columns : and, after sustaining a considerable loss, by the fire of a party which general Lee had posted behind a wall, halted with the Brunx in front : upon which, the Americans assembled their main force at
White Plains ; where they formed intrenchments. A severe action took place, and several hundreds fell. The British were commanded by general Leslie; the Americans, by gen. eral M.Dougal.
Soon afterwards, general Washington changed his front; his left wing standing fast, whilst his right fell back to some contiguous hills. In this position, an admirable one for defence, he both desired and expected an attack ; but general Howe baving declined it, and drawn off his forces to Dobbs' ferry, the Americans retired to North Castle.
Leaving seven-thousand men under general Lee, Washington crossed the North (or Hudson's) river, and took a position in the neighbourhood of fort Lee. In the meantime, Sir William Howe commenced the reduction of fort Washington. The royal army attacked in four divisions : the first was led by general Kniphausen; the second, by general Matthews, supported by lord Cornwallis ; the third was under the direction of colonel Stirling; and the fourth commanded by lord Percy. The garrison consisted of three-thousand men, under colonel Magaw. Their outworks being carried, their defenders crowded into the fort, and the whole surrendered prisoners of war. The loss of the assailants was considerable. Their killed and wounded, from the fire of the garrison, and of Rawling's corps of riflemen stationed in a wood through which one of their divisions passed, were at least twelve-hundred.
Shortly afterwards, lord Cornwallis crossed over to the Jersey shore, and captured Fort Lee, with all its artillery and stores; the garrison having been saved by a previous evacuation. General Washington then retreated to Newark. But he saw no hopes of being able to remain even there. He feared that he would be compelled to retire still further. « Should we retreat,” said he, addressing colonel Reed, “to the back parts of Pennsylvania, will the inhabitants support ns?” The colonel replied, that if the lower countries were subdued, and gave up, the upper districts would do the same. “ We must retire, then," rejoined Washington, “to Augusta county, in Virginia : numbers will be obliged to repair to us for safety, and if overpowered, we must cross the Alleghany mountains.”
But the general's situation became yet more distressing: The term for which his army had enlisted was on the point of expiring : the British commander offered pardon and reward to all who would, within sixty days, desert the colonial interest; and, when it was expected that he would withdraw to winter quarters, pursued the diminished army in its retreat, Lord Cornwallis, at the head of six-thousand regulars, was so close behind general Washington, as he retired, during nine
teen days, with about four-thousand undisciplined troops, to Brunswick, Princeton, Trenton, and the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware, that the rear of the one army pulling down bridges, was often within shot of the other's van, hastening to repair them.
Scarcely one of the people joined the retreating army, whilst numbers were daily flocking to the royal standard, to obtain forgiveness and protection. Not only the lower classes changed sides in this gloomy season of adversity, but some of the leading men in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, particularly Mr. Gallaway and Mr. Allen, two members of congress, adopted the same dastardly expedient, and declared themselves, at all times, averse to independence. Every thing seemed tending to colonial overthrow. General Lee, one of the most distinguished continental officers, was taken prisoner; a dispirited half-clad army was on the eve of being disbanded; the neighbourhood of Philadelphia became the seat of warfare, and congress removed for safety to Baltimore.
In proportion as difficulties increased, that assembly redoub. led their exertions. They addressed the states in animated language; calculated to remove their despondency, renew their hopes, and confirm their resolutions ; recommended the several states to appoint a day of solemn fasting and humiliation, invested Washington with extraordinary powers, and endeavoured to obtain assistance from foreign nations.
These judicious measures in the cabinet were accompanied with proportionate vigour in the field. A bold enterprise was formed by Washington, of re-crossing into Jersey, and attacking that part of the enemy which was stationed at Trenton. Accordingly, in the evening of Christmas day, he made arrangements for passing over in three divisioris ; at "MóKonkey's ferry nine miles above that town, at Trenton ferry, and at Bordenton. But, owing to the quantities of broken ice, only the main body, commanded by Washington himself, succeeded in its purpose ; and the passage even of these was so retarded, that it was three o'clock in the morning before the artillery was landed. On arriving in Jersey, this party was arranged in two divisions; one commanded by general Sullivan, the other by general Greene, aided by Stirling, Mercer, and St. Clair ; who were ordered to proceed to Trenton by different roads, and charge the enemy before they had time to form. At eight o'clock, they reached the advanced posts, within three minutes of each other. The out-guards of the Hessian troops soon fell back, but kept up a retreating fire ; their main body, after losing half their artillery, and finding themselves surrounded, laid down their arms. The detachment in Trenton consisted of fifteen-hundred German infantThe enemy,
ry, and a troop of British cavalry: of whom, forty were killed or wounded, and nine-hundred taken prisoners; the remainder, about six-hundred, having escaped towards Bordenton. Captain Washington, of the Virginia troops, a relation of the commander-in-chief, and five or six other Americans, were wounded : two were killed, and two or three frozen to death.
History affords not many examples superior to this masterstroke in the art of war. Nothing seemed more improbable than such an attempt, to the commander-in-chief of that district. When colonel Rahl, the officer in Trenton, sent to his superior, general Grant, for a cautionary reinforcement, 6 Tell the colonel,” he replied, “he is very safe. I will undertake to keep the peace in New Jersey with a corporal's guard.”
The British had a strong battalion of light infantry at Princeton, and a force yet remaining near the Delaware, superior to the American army. General Washington, therefore, in the evening after his victory, conceived it the most prudent to re-cross into Pennsylvania, with his prisoners. These being secured, he returned to Trenton. as might have been expected, did not allow him to remain long undisturbed. Their detachments, which had been cantoned over Jersey previous to the capture of the Hessians, assembled immediately at Princéton; where they were joined by the army from Brunswick, under lord Cornwallis. From this 1777 position, they proceeded, on the 2d of January, towards
Trenton; hoping, by a vigorous onset, to repair the injury sustained by the late defeat. About four in the afternoon, they encountered a party of the Americans, posted with four field pieces a little to the northward of the latter, and compelled them to retreat. This advantage, however, was only for a short time retained. They were checked by some artillery, stationed on the opposite banks of Assanpinck creek, fell back out of the reach of the shot, and halted for the night.
Truly critical, however, was the situation of the American army. A retreat would endanger Philadelphia, the capital of the infant union : an action with a superior force, whilst a river lay behind, was dangerous and imprudent. But the genius of the commander suggested a relief, by which not only defeat might be averted, but victory obtained. He determined to get round the advanced party of the enemy, and attack them in the rear. Soon after it became dark, he ordered the baggage to be silently removed : when, leaving guards, as well as kindling fires, for the purpose of deception, he marched by a circuitous route, to Princeton. This place, situated about ten miles distant towards the north, be reacher
he first here h
nordina early in the morning; and would have completely surprised
St. M the British there, had not a party, on their way to Trenton,
ser fro descried his troops, and sent back couriers to give an alarm. The royalists, consisting of three regiments of infantry, an artillery corps with two field pieces, and three troops of light and dragoons, charged the centre of the Americans, on their on, the march. The latter gave way in disorder. The danger was extreme. Washington instantly rushed forward. He placed
ble disc hirself between his own men and the British, with his horse's head fronting the latter. The Americans made a stand; returned the enemy's fire; and the general, though exposed on
ut, aft both sides, escaped unhurt. A. party of the enemy fled into the college, and surrendered.
In the course of the engagement, sixty of their number were killed, many more wounded, and three hundred made prisoners. The rest, eluded capture ; some, by pushing on towards Trenton : others, by returning towards Brunswick. The American loss was numerically small : but amongst the killed were some valuable officers; particularly, general Mercer, a native of Scotland; who, like Montgomery, was amiable in private life, brave and experienced in the field.
Whilst they were engaged in Princeton, the British in Trenton were under arms, chiding the tardy coming of the dawn ; which, with confident anticipation, was to light them to easy conquest : for, with so much address had the stratagem been conducted, that general Washington went completely off the ground, with his entire force, stores, baggage, and artillery, unobserved and unsuspected. When the British heard the report of the artillery at Princeton, though it was in the depth of winter, they believed it to be thunder; and so great was their consternation, at these unexpected movements, that the whole immediately retreated to New Brunswick and Amboy.
During the late occupation, New Jersey had suffered dreadfully, in the waste of property and insults upon the inhabitants. The soldiers of the royal army, and particularly the Hessians, had unloosed the reins of every selfish, ferocious, and brutal passion, of human nature. Their officers could not restrain them : friends and foes, loyalists and republicans, all shared a common fate.
Seldom, however, there happens an evil without a concomi. tant, or succeeding, good. That whole country now became hostile to the invaders. The militia of New Jersey, which hitherto, had behaved most disgracefully, from this time forward, redeemed their character; and evinced a spirit and dissipline equal in many respects to what distinguishes regular diers.
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