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York Island, near the American lines. Their right was at Horen's Hook, on the East River, and their left reached the North River, near Blooming Dale; so that their encampment extended quite across the island, which, though about sixteen miles in length, is in this place scarcely two miles wide; and both their flanks were covered by their ships. · The strongest point of the American lines was at Kingsbridge, both sides of which had been carefully fortified, and to which they were very attentive, because it preserved their communication with the continent. They also occupied, in considerable force, M'Gowan's Pass and Morris's Heights, which were fortified, and capable. of being defended against superior numbers. On the Heights of Haerlem, too, still nearer the enemy, within about a mile and a half of them, a strong detachment was posted in an intrenched camp.
the flames. It was alleged by the enemy, that the American General had designed to reduce the town to ashes, had he not been compelled to abandon it so precipitately as to render the execution of this intention impracticable, and that the fire was in consequence of this design: but this allegation is founded entirely in mistake. Neither the Congress nor General Washington had formed so destructive a plan ; and the fire must either have been kindled by individuals, whose misguided zeal induced them to adopt so terrible a measure, or hy flagitious incendiaries, who hoped to plunder, in security, during the confusion of extinguishing the Games,
The present position of the armies was extremely favourable to the views of the American General." He wished to habituate his soldiers, by a series of successful skirmishes, to meet the enemy in the field; and he persuaded himself that his detachments, knowing a strong intrenched camp was immediately in their rear, would engage the enemy without apprehension, would display their native courage, and would soon regain the confidence they appeared to have lost.
Opportunities of this sort could not long be wanting. The day after the retreat from New York, the enemy appeared in considerable force in the plains between the two camps; and the General immediately rode to his advanced posts, in order to make, in person, such arrangements as their movement might require. Soon after his arrival, Lieutenant Colonel Knowlton, of Connecticut, a very brave and valuable officer, who had been skirmishing with them, at the head of a corps of rangers, composed of volunteers from different New England regiments, came in, and, on conjecture, stated the number of the British party, the main body of which was concealed in a wood, at about three hundred men.
The General ordered Colonel Knowlton, , with his rangers, and Major Leitch, with three companies of the third Virginia regiment, which had joined the army only the preceding day, to endeaNN 3
LIFE OF four to get in their rear, while he amused them with the appearance of making dispositions to attack their front.
This plan succeeded. I he enemy ran eagerly down a hill, in order to possess themselves of some fences and bushes, which they considered as an advantageous position to take against the party advancing in their front; and a firing ensued, but at too great a distance to do any execution. In the mean time, Colonel Knowlton, not being precisely acquainted with their new position, commenced his attack rather on heir flank than rear, and a very warm action ensued.
In a short time, Major Leitch, who had very gallantly led on the detachment, was brought off the ground mortally wounded, having received three balls through his body; and, not long afterwards, Colonel Knowlton also fell, bravely fighting at the head of his troops. Yet the Captains, with their companies, kept their ground, and, with much animation, continued the action. The British were reinforced ; and General Washington, perceiving the necessity of supporting the Americans also, ordered to their aid some detachments from the adjacent regiments of New England and Maryland. Thus reinforced, they charged the enemy with great intrepidity, drove them out of the woods into the plain, and were pressing them still further, when the General, content with
the present advantage, and apprehending that a' much larger body of the enemy would soon change the aspect of affairs, called back his troops to their intrenchments.
In this sharp conflict, in which they had engaged a battalion of light infantry, another of Highlanders, and three companies of Hessian riflemen *, the Americans had about fifty men killed and wounded; while the enemy lost more than double that number. But the real importance of the affair was derived from its operation on the spirits of the whole army. It was the first success they had experienced this campaign; and its influence was very discernible. To give it the more effect, the patrole, the next day, was Leitch ; and the General, in his orders, publickly thanked the troops, under the command of that officer, who had first advanced on the enemy, and the others, who had so resolutely supported them. He contrasted their conduct with that which had been exhibited the day before, and the result, he said, evidenced what might be done, where officers and soldiers would exert themselves. Once more, therefore, he called on them so to act as not to disgrace the noble cause in which they were engaged, but to support the honour and liberties of their country.
He appointed a successor to "the gallant and brave Colonel Knowlton, who would,” he said, “have been an honour to any country, and who had fallen gloriously fighting at his post.”
In this active state of the campaign, when the utmost stretch of every faculty was required, to watch and counteract the plans of the enemy, the effects of the original errors committed by the Government, in its military establishment, were beginning to be so seriously felt, as to induce the Commander in Chief to devote a portion of his time and attention to the complete removal of the causes which produced them. ..The situation of America was now becoming
extremely critical. The almost entire dissolution of the existing army, by the expiration of the time for which the greater number of the troops had been engaged, was fast approaching. No steps had been taken to recruit the new regiments, resolved on by Congress, for the ensuing campaign ; and there was much reason to apprehend, that the ternis offered would not, in the actual state of things, hold fortlı sufficient inducements to fill them.
With so unpromising a prospect before him, the General found himself pressed by an army permanent in its establishment, supplied with every requisite for war, formidable for its discipline and the experience of its leaders, and superior to him,