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Lord and sir William Howe arrive before New York....
On evacuating Boston, general Howe had
length resolved with the forces already under
177 6. his command, to sail for New York, in some
of the islands on the seaboard of which, it
would be in his power to take a station of perfect security, until he should be strong enough to commence the great plan of operations which was contemplated. This measure was recommended by several considerations. His troops would there receive plentiful supplies of fresh provisions; he would be enabled to ascertain with more precision the dependence to be placed on the inhabitants; and in the mean time, to make those preparations which would facilitate his plan for opening the campaign Chap.vh. with vigour, so soon as his whole army should 1776. be collected. In the latter end of June, he arrived off Sandyhook, in the Grey-hound, and on the twenty-ninth of that month, the first division of the fleet from Halifax reached the same place. The rear division soon followed, and having passed the Narrows, landed the troops on Staten island, where general Wash: J"1?»fc «• ington had placed only a small military force, for the purpose of collecting and driving off such' stock, as might otherwise supply the invading army with fresh provisions. Here, they were received with great demonstrations of joy by the inhabitants, who took the oaths of allegiance to the British crown, and embodied themselves under the authority of the late governor Tryon, for the defence of the island. Strong assurances were also received from Long island, and the neighbouring parts of New Jersey, of the favourable dispositions of a great proportion of the people to the royal cause. On Staten island, general Howe resolved to wait until his army should be in full force, unless circumstances should require a change of system.
Foreseeing the distress which would be occasioned to the enemy, by cutting off those supplies of fresh provisions which would be particularly useful on their first landing, general Washington had urged the different com
cHaP.vn. mittees to co-operate with him in removing the • 776. stock and grain in the small islands near the coast; which, if permitted to remain, would inevitably fall into their hands; but this wise precaution had been only in part executed, and general Howe soon obtained partial supplies for himself and army.
The effect, with which the British arms had been opposed in New England, had demonstrated to administration the very serious complexion of the war, and the necessity of employing in it a force vastly more considerable, than they had originally supposed could possibly be required. In addition therefore to the national troops, they had subsidized about thirteen thousand Hessians and Waldeckers, and it was also determined to employ a powerful fleet in this important service.
As had been foreseen by general Washington, the great effort was now to be made on the Hudson. A variety of considerations suggested the policy of transferring the seat of war to this part of the continent. Such is the formation of the country on the sea board, being divided into islands assailable in every direction by a maritime force, that it requires for defence against a conjoint attack by land and water, not only complete fortifications, but a very formidable army also. The same causes which render this part of the United States so vulnerable to an invading enemy commanding the sea, secure that enemy in the possession of it, after Chap.vh. it has been acquired. It must always be found 1776. extremely difficult to drive even an inferior army from this post, without first obtaining a naval superiority.
The British general was invited to New York, not only by the facility with which that * position could be taken and retained, but by the great and superior advantages it offered in the prosecution of the war. Long island, of the secure possession of which he could not entertain a doubt, unless his force should be insufficient to make any impression whatever on America, was a very fertile country, abounding in provisions; and would of itself furnish large supplies to his army. From this post too it was optional with him to carry the war eastwardly into New England, northwardly into the state of New York, or westwardly into the Jerseys and Pennsylvania; or, if too weak to attempt the conquest of either, he could retire into a place of security, and either harass the American army, and the adjacent country, or carry on expeditions against distant parts of the continent.' In fact, it enabled him to command perfectly his own operations, and to choose the scene of action. The possession of the Hudson too, would open to him the most direct communication with Canada, and enable him very greatly to interrupt the intercourse between the eastern and southern states. In
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Chap. vn. addition to these circumstances, he would 1776. cover his friends, who in turn would recruit his army, and supply it with those necessaries, the want of which he had severely experienced in Boston.
The command of the fleet destined for this service was intrusted to lord Howe, the brother of the general; and they were both constituted commissioners for restoring peace to the colonies, and granting pardons, with such exceptions as they should think proper to make. Lord Howe, who had been detained some time in England soliciting an enlargement of his powers as commissioner, arrived at Halifax about a fortnight after his brother had left that place, and lost no time in proceed'ing after him to Staten island, which he reached juiv 12. the twelfth of July.'
General Washington soon received evidence of the difficulty attending his efforts to preserve this important river from an enemy, possessing so powerful a fleet as was now to act against him. Two frigates passed his batteries without injury, and sailed up towards the highlands, the passes of which were of essential importance, and were very weakly defended. It was apprehended that on board these frigates might be a small body of troops, and arms for the numerous disaffected of that country, with