« ZurückWeiter »
The Anerican force was daily diminished oy the ex piration of the soldiers' term of enlistment, and by the desertion of the militia.
When General Howe in force crossed into Nov. 29. New-Jersey, General Washington Posted
the army under his immediate command, consisting of only three thousand men, along the Hackensack ; but was unable seriously to oppose the enemy in its passage. The country behind him was level; he was without entrenching tools, and without tents; his troops were miserably clothed, and the sea. son was becoming inclement. The firm mind of General Washington sunk not under these depressing circumstances. Although no bright prospect presented itself to his contemplation, yet he exerted himself to increase his effective force, and to make the best disposal of that under his direction. He ordered General Schuyler to send to his aid the troops, belonging to Pennsylvania and Jersey, which had been attached to the Northern army; but their term of service ex. pired before they reached his encampment, and they brought him no effectual support. He ordered General Lee to cross the Hudson, and join him with those of his troops, whose time of service was not expiring ; but General Lee loitered upon the East side of the river, and discovered an ardent inclination to retain a separate command in the rear of the enemy. WASHIngton in repeated messages informed Lee, that his joining was of absolute necessity, that the people of Jersey expected security from the American army; and if disappointed, they would yield no support to a force, that did not protect them; and cautioned him to take his route so high in the country, as to avoid the danger of being intercepted by the enemy. These orders General Lee executed in a reluctant and tardy manner, and soon after he entered New Jersey, care. lessly taking his quarters for a night in a house three miles from his force, he was surprised and taken
prisoner by a detachment of British dragoons. Geno. ral Washington also renewed his letters to Congress, and to the Executives of the neighbouring States, urging them to bring the whole strength of the militia into the field, to enable him to check the progress of the invading foe. To back these requests, he directed General Mifflin to repair to Philadelphia, General Armstrong to the interiour of Pennsylvania, and Colonel Reed, his Adjutant General, to the distant counties of New-Jersey. The known influence of these gentlemen in those places, united to the exertions of the constituted authorities, would, the General hoped, bring a powerful reinforcement to his army All these efforts were for the present time ineffectual.
As General Howe advanced, the American army retreated towards the Delaware. It frequently happened, that the front guard of the British entered one end of a village, as the rear of the Americans quitted the other. Whenever it could be done with safety, General Washington made a stand, to show the semblance of an army, and to retard the progress of the enemy.
At Brunswick, Lord and General Howe, Cominissioners, issued a proclamation, commanding all persons in arms against the King, peaceably to return to their homes, and all civil officers to desist from their treasonable practices; and offering a full pardon to all persons, who should in sixty days appear beforo appointed officers of the crown, and subscribe a declara. tion of their submission to royal authority.
This was the most gloomy period of the revoDEC. lutionary war. It was the crisis of the struggle
of the United States for Independence. The American army, reduced in numbers, depressed by de feat, and exhausted by fatigue, naked, barefoot, and destitute of tents, and even of utensils, with which to dress their scanty provisions, was fleeing before a triumphant army, well appointed and abundantly sup
plied. A general spirit of despondency through New Jersey was the consequence of this disastrous state of publick affairs. No city or town indeed, in its corpo. rate capacity submitted to the British government. A few characters of distinction maintained their political integrity; and nearly a thousand of the militia of the state bravely kept the field in defence of their country. But most of the families of fortune and influence, discovered an inclination to return to their allegiance to the king. Many of the yeomanry claimed the benefits of the Commissioners' proclamation; and the great body of them were too much taken up with the Jocurity of their families and their property, to make any exertion in the publick cause.
In this worst of times Congress stood unmoved. Their measures exhibited no symptoms of confusion or dismay, the publick darger only roused them to more vigorous exertions, that they might give a firmer tone to the publick mind, and animate the citizens of United America to a minly defence of their Independence.
Beneath this cioud of adversity, General WASHINGTON shone, perlaps with a brighter lustre, than in the day of his highest prosperity. Not dismayed by all the difficulties which encompassed him, he accommodated his measures to his situation, and still made the good of his country the object of his unwearied pursuit. He ever wore the countenance of composure and confidence ; by his own example inspiring his little band with firmness to struggle with adverse fostune.
As the British advanced upon him, he retreated, and having previously broken down the bridges on the Jer
sey shore, he crossed the Delaware, and se Dec. 8. cured the boats upon the river for a distance
of seventy miles. The van of the enemy appeared upon the left bank of the Delaware, while The rear of the American army was upon its passage,