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Iinmediate intelligence of this movement was likewise given to General Green, who commanded in the Jerseys, and his attention was particularly called to Fort Washington. He was also advised to increase his magazines about Princeton, and diminish those near New York, as experience had demonstrated the extreme difficulty of removing them on the advance of the enemy. Some apprehension was also entertained that Howe would attempt to cross at Dobb's Ferry, and envelope the troops about Fort Lee, as well as Fort Washington. Of this, too, General Green was advised, who thereupon drew in his parties from about Amboy, and posted a body of troops on the heights, to defend the passage at Dobb's Ferry. · As the British army approached Kingsbridge, three of their ships of war passed up the North River, by the Forts Washington and Lee, potwithstanding their fire, and notwithstanding the additional obstructions which had been placed in the channel
On being informed of this, another letter was addressed to General Green, in which it was stated, that this fact was so plain a proof of the inefficacy of all the obstructions thrown in the river, as to justify a change in the dispositions which had been made, “ If,” proceeds the letter, “ we cannot prevent vessels from passing up, and the enemy are possessed of the surrounding country, what
valuable purpose can it answer to attempt to hold a post from which the expected benefit cannot be derived ? I am, therefore, inclined to think it will not be prudent to hazard the men and stores at Fort Washington ; but, as you are on the spot, I leave it to you to give such orders respecting the evacuation of the place as you may think most advisable, and so far revoke the orders given Colonel M'Gaw to defend it to the last.”
He, in this letter, repeated his instructions to drive the stock, and destroy the hay, grain, and other provisions, which the inhabitants would not remove from the coast. " The enemy,” he added,
have drawn great relief from the forage and provisions they have found in the country, and which our tenderness had spared. You will do well to prevent their receiving any fresh supplies, by destroying it, if it cannot be removed. Experience has shewn, that a contrary conduct is not of the least advantage to the poor inhabitants, from whom all their effects of every kind are taken, without distinction and without satisfaction."
Measures were now taken to cross the North River, with the troops which had been raised on its western side; and General Washington himself determined to accompany that division of the army. The eastern regiments remained on the eastern side of the North River, under the command of General Lee, who had orders to join the
Commander in Chief, if the enemy should move the whole, or the greater part of their force to the west of the Hudson. In the mean time, as it was yet thought possible that the enemy might strike at this division of the army, he was advised to retire farther into the country, and to take possession of the strong grounds behind the Croton, at Pines Bridge.
Having visited the posts about Peckskill in the high lands, and made all the arrangements in his power for their defence, an object always deemed of the utmost importance, General Washington passed the North River in the rear of the troops designed to act immediately in the Jerseys, and joined General Green, at his quarters, near Fort Lee.
From too great a confidence in the strength of the post at Fort Washington, and a hope that, by still further increasing the obstructions in the North River, the original object for which that place had been fortified might yet be obtained ; from an unwillingness, too, further to discourage the army, by an evacuation of posts, General Green had not withdrawn the garrison under the discretionary orders he had received on that subject; but still induiged a hope that the post might be maintained; or, if its situation should become desperate, that means might then be found to transport the troops across the river to the Jersey shore, which was defended by Fort Lee.
Fort Wasliington' is on a very high piece of rocky ground, near the North River, very difficult of ascent, especially towards the north, or Kings bridge. The fort was capable of containing about one thousand men; but the lines and out-works, which were chiefly on the southern side, towards New York, were drawn quite across the island. The ground was naturally very strong, the ap. proaches difficult, and the fortifications, though not sufficient to resist heavy artillery, were believed to be in a condition which would prevent any attempt to carry them by storm. The garrison consisted of troops, some of whom were among the best in the American army, and the command was given to Colonel M'Gaw, a brave and intelligent officer, in whose courage and skill great confidence was placed.
General Howe, who had retired slowly from the White Plains, encamped at a small distance from Kingsbridge, on the heights of Fordham, with his right towards the North River, and his left on the - Brunx. Works were erected on Haerlam Creek, to play on the opposite works of the Americans ; and every thing being prepared, the garrison was summoned to surrender, on pain of being put to the sword. Colonel M'Gaw replied, that he should defend the place to the last extremity, and the summons he had received was immediately communicated to General Green, at Fort Lee, and by
him to the Commander in Chief, who was then at Hackensac. He immediately rode to Fort Lee, and was proceeding, though it was then late in the night, to Fort Washington, where he expected to find Generals Putnam and Green ; when, in crossing the river to Fort Washington, he met those officers returning from visiting that post; they reported that the troops were in high spirits, and would make a good defence, on which he returned with them to Fort Lee.. .
Early next morning, Colonel M'Gaw posted his troops, partly in the lines drawn across the island on the south of the fort; partly between the lines on the woody and rocky heights fronting the East River, where the works were not closed; and partly on a commanding hill, lying north of the fort; Colonel Cadwallader, of Pennsylvania, commanded in the lines ; Colonel Rawlings, of Maryland, commanded on the hill towards Kingsbridge, where his regiinent of riflemen was posted among trees, and Colonel MGaw himself continued in the fort.
Notwithstanding the strength of the place, the British General resolved to carry it by storm. He was induced to this determination by a wish to save time, which, at this late season of the year, was an object not to be overlooked ; and preparations were made for a vigorous attack early in the morning. About ten o'clock the enemy appeared, . and moved on to the assault in four different