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1776.]

CAPTURE OF THE HESSIANS.

195

Knowing that the British force had been distributed in the different towns of New Jersey that were very remote from each other, and that there were about fifteen hundred Hessians at Trenton, he determined to attempt to surprise them when they would probably be unprepared for an attack.

He divided his force into three parts-one under General Cadwalader, another under General Ewing, and the third-the main body-under his own command. Cadwalader was to attack the small detachments posted at Bordentown, Burlington, and other posts in the vicinity; Washington was to cross the Delaware above Trenton, and Ewing, a little below it: they were then to form a junction, and unite in attacking the Hessians at Trenton. The night selected for the attack was that of Sunday, the twenty-fifth of December. The weather was intensely cold, so that the boats found great difficulty in getting across the river on account of the floating ice. Of the two divisions, one was led by Sullivan, the other by Greene. They reached Trenton, on opposite sides, at eight o'clock in the morning. The Hessians finding

When the scheme was about to be carried into execution, it was necessarily communicated to several. It was certainly known to General Greene on the twenty-first, as appears by the letter of that date cited by Mr. Sparks (Vol. V. 542); and from the coincidences between several passages of Colonel Reed's letter to Washington, of December twentysecond, recommending such an enterprise, the plan seems to have been also communicated to him. Indeed, it was probably by this time known to most of the higher officers of the army.

The "private information" given by Adolphus as his authority, was probably derived from Arnold. One of his rank and reputation would naturally be consulted about the details of the scheme; and he with his proneness to falsehood, since laid bare to the world, would thus be led to arrogate the merit of first suggesting it. - See Lord Mahon's Hist. Chap. LIV.; and IV. Sparks's Washington.

196

RETREAT FROM THE ASSANPINK.

[CHAP. III.

themselves surrounded, after a feeble defence, surrendered themselves prisoners of war.

In the resistance at first attempted, the Hessians lost thirty men, (including Colonel Rahl), who were killed or mortally wounded; six brass field-pieces, and one thousand stand of arms were taken. On the part of the Americans two were killed, and two frozen to deathCorporal William Washington, and Lieutenant Monroe, afterwards President of the United States, were wounded in capturing the enemy's artillery.

The freezing of the Delaware was so rapid, that the other divisions could not cross that river; and thus make the success yet more complete. The English lighthorse and five hundred Hessians effected their escape in the beginning of the action. Washington returned to his camp the same day. Having refreshed his men, he recrossed the Delaware at Trenton, to improve his advantage according to circumstances; and he was then joined by eighteen hundred Pennsylvania militia under General Cadwalader, and an equal number under Mifflin. Most of the regulars having now served out their time were about to return home, but were prevailed upon to continue in service six weeks longer by a bounty of ten dollars per man.

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On hearing of the capture at Trenton, Lord Cornwallis was sent from New York to take command in the Jerseys, and the forces of both parties approached so near as to be separated only by the small stream of the Assanpink. The night put an end to their cannonading and skirmishing, and in the morning Cornwallis purposed to renew the battle, in which, having the advantage in numbers, as well as discipline and experience, he counted on a certain victory. But in the morning they found the enemy had effected his escape. This was the second

1777.]

BATTLE OF PRINCETON.

197

masterly retreat by which Washington had eluded his enemies, when seemingly within their grasp. By both he had given safety to his army; and the second had, moreover, led to victory. It occurred to him that the British had left but a small force at Brunswick. Instead, therefore, of returning to the Delaware as would be naturally expected, he determined to push on in the opposite direction to Brunswick, take the enemy there by surprise, and capture his stores. In the execution of his plan, he reached Princeton a little after sunrise, and there found three British regiments, with two of which, on their march to join Cornwallis, the Americans immediately engaged. The action begun with the van of the Americans led by General Mercer, and after a sharp attack, this officer fell, and his troops, who were mostly militia, gave way. But Washington, bringing up his men, by his personal efforts changed the fortune of the day. Thus closely pressed, the British retreated. The two regiments engaged effected their escape: and the third regiment remaining at Princeton saved itself by a rapid retreat to Brunswick. The British in this action lost more than one hundred killed on the spot, and near three hundred were taken prisoners. The Americans lost a less number, but among them was General Mercer, by birth a Scotchman, an officer highly esteemed, who had served with Washington in the war against the French and Indians. He was the more esteemed, inasmuch as there was a very small number of his nation who sided with the Americans in the present contest.

Washington's army, exhausted by fatigue, want of sleep, and suffering from the severity of the season, which they were ill prepared to encounter-and now pursued by the main body of the enemy, was in no little danger. They finally reached Morristown, in the

198

POSSESSION OF NEW JERSEY REGAINED. [CHAP. III.

northern part of New Jersey, where they found safety and rest.

Nothing could have been more opportune to raise the drooping spirits of the Americans than these successes at Trenton and Princeton. It excited astonishment every where, that an army which had appeared to be broken down by a succession of defeats, and ill supplied with all that contributes to give an army efficiency, should turn on an enemy at once victorious and superior, and regaining the ground it had lost, put them on the defensive. It raised the military character of Washington very high both in Europe and America, and he was every where called the American Fabius. The effect was the greater among his countrymen, because the Hessian troops had been deemed particularly formidable. Their foreign language, and their strange dress, contributed to this effect on the popular mind.

On the twenty-fifth of January, 1777, Washington issued his proclamation against the Tories of New Jersey; and at the same time the Whigs, as the friends of independence were called, retaliated on the loyalists with great severity. He required all those who had subscribed a declaration of fidelity to Great Britain to repair to headquarters, there deliver up their certificates, and take the oath of allegiance to the United States; but allowing liberty to all who preferred the interests of Great Britain to withdraw themselves and their families within the enemy's lines, and, indeed, requiring them to do so on pain of being considered as enemies.

This proclamation, which was intended, as it declared, to distinguish between friends and enemies, was openly censured by one of the delegates of Jersey as an unwarrantable stretch of power, and an interference with the rights of a sovereign State. There was, it may be here

1777.] FORCE ON LAKES GEORGE AND CHAMPLAIN.

199

remarked, from the first a jealousy of military power exhibited throughout the colonies, which was often mischievous, and which nothing but severe misfortune caused Congress to overcome.

After General Lee was captured, as he had been on half-pay in the British service, it was proposed to treat him as a deserter; but it being found that he had resigned his half-pay when he accepted a commission in the American army, and Congress having threatened to retaliate on the Hessian officers captured, any measures of severity taken against Lee, the purpose of the British was abandoned.

Let us now return to the state of things in Canada. After the British regained possession of all the portions of that province which had been taken from them in the commencement of hostilities, it became important to the Americans to defend its frontier, from which New York and the Middle States might be invaded, and thus the New England provinces be separated from the rest. General Gates was therefore appointed commander of the army in Canada, and as such he claimed the command of Fort Ticonderoga, to which General Schuyler had been appointed, though he was Gates's senior officer, and the Fort was not, in Canada. Congress at once corrected this unfounded pretension.

With a view of having a secure access to Albany, the British deemed it essential to get command of Lakes George and Champlain, and made every exertion to effect this purpose by providing a fleet superior to that of the Americans, in which, by means of their greater resources, they were entirely successful. The fleet which the Americans had been able to provide consisted of but fifteen small vessels, the largest of which mounted only twelve six-pounders, and the command of which was given to

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