« ZurückWeiter »
Chap, v. encountered. Thus circumstanced, it was 1775. thought unadvisable to advance further.
It had been found impossible to move on the field piece which had been placed in front of the line, and the path was so narrow that there was much difficulty in passing it. Only Morgan's company and a few Pennsylvanians, led by lieutenant Archibald Steele, and a few individuals of other companies, had made their way round it; and with the forlorn hope had entered the town. As the glow produced by immense exertion gave way to the cold, which was so intense that they were covered with icicles, and as the ardour excited by action subsided, when they were no longer engaged; even this daring party became less animated. Whilst waiting in total ignorance of the fate of the residue of the division; the darkness of the night, the fury of the storm, the scattering fire still kept up by the enemy, principally in their rear, the paucity of their numbers, and the uncertainty concerning their future operations, visiblv affected them. It was, after some deliberation, determined that they should maintain their ground, while Morgan returned to the barrier they had passed, for the purpose of bringing up the troops who were supposed to be still on the other side of it.
They were soon joined by lieutenant colonel Green, and majors Bigelow and Meiggs, with several fragments of companies, so as to constitute altogether about two hundred men. Chap. v. Among the hazards which must forever endanger 1775. the success of enterprises undertaken by undisciplined troops, especially in the night, it is one of the greatest and most certain, that no given portion of the force employed can be counted on. The most daring will precipitate themselves into the midst of danger, whilst the less intrepid, or the less ardent, will not be in a situation to support them.
As the light of day began to appear, this small but gallant party was again formed, with Morgan's company in front; and with one voice, they loudly called on him to lead them against the second barrier, which was now known to be less than forty paces from them, though concealed by an angle of the street from their immediate view. Seizing the few ladders* brought with them, they again rushed on to the charge, and on turning the angle, were hailed by captain, or lieutenant Anderson, who was just issuing with a body of troops, through the gate of the barricade, for the purpose of attacking the Americans, whom he had expected to find dispersed, and probably plundering the town. Morgan, who was in the front, answered his challenge by a ball through his head, and as he fell, he was drawn within the barricade and
* Only Morgan's company had brought on ladders further than the first barrier.
Chap. v. the gate closed upon the assailants, who received 1775. at the same instant a tremendous fire from the windows overlooking the barrier, and from tht port holes through it. Ladders were now placed against the barricade, and a fierce, which on the part of the assailants was also a bloody contest, was maintained for some time. A few of the bolder among the front files ascended the *lad-' ders, under this deadly fire, and saw on the other side of the barricade, double ranks of soldiers, who with their muskets planted 011 the ground, presented hedges of bayonets to receive them, if they should attempt to leap to the earth. Exposed thus, in a narrow street, to a most galling fire, many of the assailants threw themselves into the stone houses on each side, which afforded them a shelter both from the storm, and from the enemy; and through the windows of which they kept up an irregular, and not very effective fire. One circumstance which greatly contributed to the irresolution now displaying itself, was, that scarcely more than one in ten of their fire arms could be used. Notwithstanding the precaution of tying handkerchiefs around the locks, the violence of the storm had totally unfitted them for service. Morgan soon found himself at the
* Lieutenant Heth, and the same Charles Porterfield who had been before his captain in passing the first barrier, were of this number.
barrier with only a few officers, and a very small Chap. V. number of soldiers. Yet he could not prevail 177s. on himself to relinquish the enterprise. With a voice louder than the tempest, he called on those who were sheltered in the houses, to come forth and scale the barrier; but he called in vain; neither exhortations nor reproaches could draw them in sufficient numbers to the point of attack. Being at length compelled to relinquish all hope of success, he ordered the few brave men who still adhered to him, to save themselves in the houses, while he, accompanied only by lieutenant Heth, returned towards the first barrier, in order to concert, with the field officers, some plan for drawing off the troops. He soon met majors Bigelow and Meiggs, to whom he proposed an immediate retreat by the same route, along which they had marched to the attack. This proposition was assented to, and lieutenant Heth was now dispatched to draw the troops from their present situation.
The barrier at which the Americans had been repulsed, crossed a street which continued in a straight direction for a very few paces, after which its course was changed. Whilst in view of the barrier, the danger was very great, but on turning the corner, it entirely ceased. Every person showing himself in the street fronting the barrier, was immediately fired at from the windows; and to draw the
vOL. 1i. xx
Chat.v. troops through this hazardous pass, was the 1775. duty now assigned to lieutenant Heth. He undertook it with alacrity, and communicated his orders, with directions that the retreat should be made to the first barrier in small parties, and by single files; but was unable to prevail on the men generally to follow him. Their spirits had been so entirely broken by the slaughter at the second barrier, by the pelting of the storm, and by the freezing cold, that only a few could be stimulated again to expose themselves in the street, and he was under the necessity of returning without accomplishing his object. By this time a party of the garrison, consisting of about two hundred men, with some field pieces, had made a sortie from the palace gate; and captain Dearborne who was stationed with his company near that post as a rear guard, having surrendered to them, they were in perfect possession of that part of the town, and had completely encompassed the residue of the division. In this desperate state of affairs, a council of the officers then present was held, when the bold proposition was made* to assemble immediately as many officers and men as could be instantly collected, and to cut their way back out of town. The adoption of this daring resolution was only prevented by the suggestion that the
* This proposition too was made by Morgan.