صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني




Congress was disposed to risk another battle before Philadelphia should be given up to the enemy, and vigorous preparations were made to increase the numbers of their army. The troops were complimented and encouraged by the Commander-in-chief; for in truth many portions of them had behaved extremely well; and it was every where confidently asserted that the loss of the enemy had exceeded their own.

Having allowed one day for refreshing his army, Washington recrossed the Schuylkill, and proceeded on the Lancaster road, with the intention of risking another action. Howe, the day after the battle, detached a part of his army to Concord meeting-house. Having been there joined by Cornwallis, he proceeded to Chester. On the sixteenth, the two armies approached each other and prepared for battle. A heavy rain then falling, their guns and cartridge-boxes were so much injured by it, that the Americans were compelled to retreat. After a slight skirmish they recrossed the Schuylkill, and proceeded to French Creek. The severity of the weather1 prevented any further pursuit by the British army. Washington crossed the Schuylkill at Parker's Ferry, and encamping on the east of that river, on both sides of Perkioming Creek, to prevent Howe from getting in his rear, he marched up the river towards Pottsgrove, when Howe determined to cross the Schuylkill and take possession of Philadelphia, which nothing could now prevent but a decisive victory.

General Wayne, posted at Paoli, three miles from the rear of the British, was surprised, on the night of the twentieth, by General Gray, with the loss of near four hundred men, in killed, wounded and prisoners. Washington decided on avoiding an action; for, besides that

1 III. Marshall, page 159.



he was daily expecting reinforcements, his troops had recently suffered much from exposure, fatigue, and sometimes a scarcity of food. They were in want of blankets and shoes. Congress exerted themselves to supply these deficiencies, and made special application to the Executive of Pennsylvania to impress the articles needed, but they would not venture on measures of so arbitrary a character; the evil was, therefore, not remedied. The British took possession of the city on the twenty-sixth of September, 1777.

On the twenty-seventh of February, Congress adjourned from Baltimore to Philadelphia. They assembled on the twelfth of March, though they had adjourned to the fourth.

As soon as the issue of the battle of Brandywine was known, Congress fixed on Lancaster as the place of its meeting.

After Philadelphia was in the possession of the enemy, it was desirable to prevent a communication by water with their fleet; for which purpose chevaux-de-frize, of great magnitude and strength, had been sunk between Mud Fort and Red Bank, just below the junction of the Schuylkill with the Delaware; and three miles lower down other machines of the same character had been constructed. These works were defended by redoubts and galleys mounting heavy cannon, floating batteries, &c. The frigate Delaware, being left aground above the Fort by the ebb tide, was captured by the enemy.

The force of the American army was about eight thousand regulars and three thousand militia, and was posted twenty miles north-west of Philadelphia, and sixteen miles from Germantown. The main British army was encamped at Germantown. Lord Cornwallis, with four regiments of grenadiers, was in Philadelphia.




With a view to open a communication with the fleet below, General Howe sent a detachment to get possession of the fort at the lower chevaux-de-frize, that they might be removed, and the fleet below get up to Mud Island. This fort was taken without difficulty, and the removal of the lower obstruction in the river could proceed with less interruption. Colonel Stirling, who was appointed to this duty, then proceeded to Chester to escort provisions to Philadelphia.

General Washington thought that when the British force was thus divided, he might attack the enemy's camp at Germantown, and if successful, it would decide the fate of Howe's army. He accordingly prepared to attack both wings and the rear at the same time.1 On the fourth of October, at sunrise, the attack was begun by the advance under General Sullivan. The main body followed closely on them; but Colonel Musgrave, in retreating, got possession of a large stone house (Chew's), from which his men kept up a galling fire, and all attempts to dislodge them proved ineffectual. This abortive effort, together with a thick fog, threw the right wing into confusion. Greene then made a successful attack on the right wing of the enemy, and the prospect of success was very promising; but in the confusion and uncertainty caused by the fog, the less experienced and less self-possessed American troops were thrown into disorder. The more practised enemy found time to recover from their first disadvantage, and making a vigorous attack, succeeded in surrounding and capturing a body who had entered Germantown, and in compelling the first assailants to retreat. Washington now had the mortification to find that all chance of the victory which he thought almost consummated, was entirely lost. About two hundred of his men


1III. Marshall, page 177.

2 Ibid.

page 181.



were killed, and six hundred wounded; about four hundred' were made prisoners. Howe lost something more than five hundred, of whom less than one hundred were killed.

Congress, on the eighth of October, passed a resolution, in which they unanimously gave thanks to the Commander-in-chief for his wise and well-concerted attack at Germantown, and to the officers and soldiers for their brave exertions on that day-they being satisfied that the best designs and boldest efforts sometimes fail by unforeseen circumstances.

By way of diverting a part of the American forces, Sir Henry Clinton had entered Jersey in September with three thousand men; but finding a large force collecting to oppose him, he returned to New York.

The lower obstructions in the Delaware being removed, General Howe prepared to make a joint attack on Mud Fort, or Fort Mifflin, with the naval and land forces. In an assault on Red Bank led by Colonel Donop, a German officer of great reputation, he was killed, as well as his second in command. The attack failed, with the loss of about four hundred men. In the attack on the Fort, the


1 Lord Mahon has repeatedly shown, in his History of England, that he could justly appreciate General Washington's exalted merit; but on one occasion he has been strangely led to detract from it.

In that General's instructions to Putnam, when placed in circumstances requiring great circumspection, he was advised "to give out his strength to be twice as great' as it was; and when, the day after the repulse at Red Bank, an officer informed Washington that the loss of the Hessians was about seventy killed and as many wounded, and the General, some days later, stated to General Lincoln their loss to be about four hundred, Lord Mahon thinks that Washington was putting in practice his own precept of doubling; in other words, that because he had sanctioned the practice in war of deceiving his enemies, he had the meanness and folly to deceive his friends.

If Lord Mahon had shown his wonted fairness and respect for truth,




Augusta sixty-four gun ship having taken fire, blew up. The Merlin sloop, near her, was also burnt. Both these vessels had grounded in ascending the river, and could not be got off. After General Howe moved into Philadelphia, Washington changed his position to Whitemarsh, fifteen miles from that city. Fort Mifflin required eight hundred men for its defence, and had only three hundred. There were, besides, misunderstandings between the Commodore and Colonel Smith; and between the Commodore who was in the service of the State and the continental navy officers.

On the tenth of November the attack was begun on Fort Mifflin from a strong battery on Province Island, about five hundred yards from Fort Mifflin, which being continued for several days, dismounted the guns and reduced the block-house to ruins.' In the night the garrison attempted to repair the injuries done in the day, and fresh troops were ordered to their relief. The defence

he could not have yielded to such logic. It would have occurred to him that an account of the loss sustained by the enemy in a sharp contest which closed after sunset the day before, was less likely to be correct than one given several days later; that the number of the wounded was likely to be several times as great as the number of the killed; that Marshall, who is commonly cautious, and always honest, in his numerical details, states the loss at about four hundred men; and lastly, that the Annual Register, on which the noble author often and properly relies, confirms Washington's statement in the following passage, which Lord Mahon must have overlooked:

"The loss of the Hessians, whether as to private men or officers, was never particularly authenticated; it was, however, known to be very considerable, probably not less than four or five hundred men."

I am unwilling to believe that Lord Mahon, reversing the rule which candor prescribes to every historian, praises Washington from necessity, but censures him from choice. -See Lord Mahon's Hist. Chap. LIV.; Sparks's Washington, Vol. IV. and V.

[blocks in formation]
« السابقةمتابعة »