« ZurückWeiter »
mily in Maryland, was almost entirely cut to pieces, and of the survivors not one escaped without a wound.
The ardour of the British troops was now so great, that they could scarce be restrained from attacking the lines of the provincials; but for this, there was now no occasion, as it was certain they could not be defended ; but had the ardour of the soldiers been seconded, and general Howe pursued his victory, it might have given such a blow to the Americans, and such a turn to their affairs, that they would not have been able to have regained that confidence in their own strength, which they had hitherto maintained.
Of the British and Hessians about four hundred and fifty were lost in this engagement. As none of the American commanders thought it proper to risk another attack, it was resolved to aban. don their camp as soon as possible. Accordingly, on the twentypinth of August, the whole of the continental troops were ferried over from Brooklyn to New York, with the utmost secrecy and silence : so that, in the morning, the British had nothing to do but to take possession of the camp and artillery which they had abandoned.
This victory, though complete, was far from being so decisive as the conquerors imagined. Lord Howe, supposing it would be sufficient to intimidate congress into some terms, sent general Sullivan, who had been taken prisoner in the late action, to congress with a message, importing, that though he could not consistently treat with them as a legal assembly, yet he would be very glad to confer with any of the members in a private capacity; setting forth, at the same time, the nature and extent of his power as commissioner. But the congress were not at all inclined to derogate from the dignity of character they had assumed. They replied, that the congress of the free and independent states of America, could not, consistently, send any of its members in another capacity than that which they had publicly assumed; but as they were extremely desirous of restoring peace to their country upon equitable conditions, they would appoint a committee of their body to wait upon him, and learn what proposals he had to make.
The committee appointed by congress was composed of Dr. Franklin, Adams, and Rutledge. They were very politely received by his lordship; but the conference proved fruitless. The final answer of the deputies was, that they were extremely willing to enter into any treaty with Great Britain that might conduce to the good of both nations ; but that they would not treat in any other character than that of Independent States. This positive declaration put an end to all hopes of reconciliation, and it was resolved to prosecute the war with the utmost vigour.
Lord Howe, after publishing a manifesto, in which he declared the refusal of congress, and that he himself was willing to confer with all well-disposed persons about the means of restoring public tranquillity, set about the most proper methods for reducing the
city of New York. Here the provincial troops were posted, and, from a great number of batteries kept continually annoying the British shipping. The East river, about twelve hundred yards in breadth, lay between them, which the British troops were extremely desirous of passing. At last the ships, after an incessant cannonade of several days, silenced the batteries ; a body of troops was sent up the river to a bay, about three miles distant, where the fortifications were less strong than in other places. Here, having driven off the provincials by the cannon of the fleet, they marched directly towards the city ; but the provincials, finding that they should now be attacked on all sides, abandoned the city, and retreated to the north of the island, where their principal force was collected. In their passage thither they skirmished with the British, but carefully avoided a general engagement; and it was observed that they did not behave with that ardour and impetuous valour which had hitherto marked their character.
The British and American armies were now not above two miles from each other. The former lay encamped from shore to shore, for an extent of two miles, being the breadth of the island, which, though fifteen miles long, exceeds not two in any part of the breadth. The provincials, who lay directly opposite, had strengthened their camp with many fortifications; and, at the same time, were masters of all the passes and defiles betwixt the two camps: thus were they enabled to maintain their station against an army much more numerous than their own: they had also strongly fortified a pass called King's Bridge, on the northern extremity of the island, whence they could secure a passage to the continent in case of any misfortunes. Here general Washington, in order to inure the provincials to actual service, and at the same time, to annoy the enemy as much as possible, employed his troops in continual skirmishes; by which it was observed they recovered their spirits, and behaved with their usual boldness.
As the situation of the two armies was now highly inconvenient to the British generals, it was resolved to make such movements as might oblige general Washington to relinquish his strong situation. A few days after New York was evacuated by the Americans, a dreadful fire broke out, said to be occasioned by the licentious conduct of some of its new masters; and had it not been for the active exertions of the sailors and soldiery, the whole town probably would have been consumed; the wind being high, and the weather remarkably dry, about a thousand houses were destroyed.
General Howe, having left lord Percy with a sufficient force to garrison New York, embarked his army in flat bottomed boats, by which they were conveyed through the dangerous passage called Hell Gate, and landed at Frog's Point, near the town of West Chester, lying on the continent towards Connecticut. . Here having received a supply of men and provisions, they moved on the twenty-first of. October, to New Rochelle, situated on the Sound which separates Long island from the continent.
After this, still receiving fresh reinforcements, they made such movements as threatened to distress the provincials very much, by cutting off their convoys of provisions from Connecticut, and thus force them to an engagement. This, general Washington determined at all events to avoid. He therefore extended his forces into a long line opposite to the way in which the enemy marched, keeping the Brunx, a river of considerable magnitude, between the two armies, with the North-River in his rear. Here the provincials continued for some time to skirmish with the royal army, until, at last, by some maneuvres, the British general found means to attack them on the twenty-eighth of October, 1776, advantageously, at a place called the White Plains, and drove them from some of their posts.
The success on this occasion was not so complete as on the former; however it obliged the provincials to change their ground, and retreat farther up into the country. General Howe pursued thein for some time; but at last, finding all his endea. vours to bring on a general action, fruitless, he determined to give over the pursuit, and employ himself in reducing the forts which the provincials still retained in the neighbourhood of NewYork.
Fort Washington was the only post the Americans then held on New York island, and was under the command of colonel Magaw. The royal army made four attacks upon it. The first on the north side, was led on by general Knyphauzen : the second, on the east, by general Matthews, supported by lord Cornwallis: the third was under the direction of lieutenant-colonel Sterling: and the fourth by lord Percy: The troops under Knyphauzen, when advancing to the fort, had to pass through a thick wood, which was occupied by Rawling's regiment of riflemen, and suffered very much from their well-directed fire, During this at. tack & body of British light infantry, advanced against a party of the Americans, who were annoying them from behind rocks and trees, and obliged them to disperse. Lord Percy carried an ad. vance work on his side ; and lieutenant-colonel Sterling forced his way up a steep ascent, and took one hundred and seventy prisoners. Their outworks being carried, the Americans left their lines, and crowded into the fort. Colonel Rahl, who led the right column of Knyphauzen's attack, pushed forwards, and lodged his column within an hundred yards of the fort, and was there soon joined by the left column. The garrison surrendered on terms of capitulation, by which the men were to be considered as prisoners of war, and the officers to keep their baggage and side arms. The number of prisoners amounted to two thousand seven hundred. The loss of the British was considerable,
Shortly after the surrender of fort Washington, fort Lee, situ. ate on the opposite shore of the North River, was evacuated by
the Americans, at the approach of lord Cornwallis ; and at the expense of their artillery and stores.
fort Lee being evacuated by the Americans, the Jerseys lay wholly open to the incursions of the British troops, and was so entirely taken possession of by the royal army, that their winter quarters extended from New Brunswick, to the river Delaware. Had any namber of boats been at hand, it was thought Philadelphia would now have fallen into their hands. All these had been carefully removed by the Americans. Instead of this enterprise, Sir Henry Clinton undertook an expedition to Rhode Island, and became master of it without losing a man. His expedition was attended with this further advantage, that the American fleet under commodore Hopkins was obliged to sail so far up Providence river, that it was entirely useless. The same ill success attended the Americans in other parts. After their expulsion from Canada, they had crossed lake Champlain, and taken up their quar. ters at Crown Point, as we have already mentioned. Here they remained for some time in safety, as the British had no vessels on the lake ; and consequently general Burgoyne could not pursue them.
To remedy this deficiency, there was no other method, but to construct vessels on the spot, or take to pieces some vessels already constructed, and drag them up the river into the lake. This, however, was effected in the space of three months; and the British general, after incredible toil and difficulty, saw himself in possession of a great number of vessels ; by which means, he was enabled to pursue his enemies, and invade them in his turn. The labour undergone at this time, by the sea and land forces, must ifdeed have been prodigious ; since there were conveyed over land, and dragged up the rapids of St. Lawrence, no fewer than thirty large long-boats, four hundred batteaux, besides a vast number of flat-bottomed boats, and a gondola of thirty tons. The intent of the expedition, was to push forward, before winter, to Albany, where the army would take up its winter quarters; and the next spring effect a junction with that under general Howe; when it was not doubted, that the united force and skill of the two commanders, would speedily put an end to the war.
It was the beginning of October, before the expedition could be undertaken ; it was then allowed to be completely able to answer the purpose for which it was intended.
The feet consisted of one large vessel of three masts, carrying 18 twelve pounders; two schooners, the one carrying 14, the other 12 six pounders; a large flat-bottomed radeau, with 6 twenty-four, and 6 twelve pounders; and a gondola with 8 nine pounders; besides these, there were twenty vessels of a smaller size; also gun-boats, carrying each a piece of brass ordnance, from nine, to twenty-four pounders, or howitzers. Several longboats were fitted out in the same manner, and a vast number of boats and tenders of various sizes to be used as transports for the troops and baggage. It was manned by a number of select seamen; and the gun-boats were served by a detachment from the corps of artillery. The officers and soldiers appointed for this expedition, were also chosen out of the whole army,
The American force was too inconsiderable to withstand this formidable armament; general Arnold who commanded it, after engaging the British fleet for a whole day, took advantage of the darkness of the night to set sail without being perceived, and was next morning out of sight: but he was so quickly pursued by the British, that on the second day after, he was overtaken and forced to a second engagement. And notwithstanding his gallant behavi. our, he was obliged to run his ships ashore, and set them on fire. A few only escaped to lake George; and the garrison of Crown Point having destroyed or carried off every thing of value, retired to Ticonderoga.
Thither general Carleton intended to have pursued them; but the difficulties he had to encounter were so many, and so great, that it was thought proper to march back into Canada, and desist from any further operations until the next spring.
The American affairs now seemed every where going to wreck; even those who had been most sanguine in her cause, began to despair. The time also for which the soldiers had enlisted, was now expired ; and the bad success of the preceding campaign had been so very discouraging, that no person was willing to engage himself during the continuance of a war, of which the event appeared so doubtful. General Washington had the mortifying evi. dence of the daily decrease of his army; so that from thirty thou. sand, of which it consisted when general Howe landed on Staten Island, scarce a tenth part could be mustered, General Lee had collected a body of troops to assist the commander in chief, but having imprudently taken up his lodgings at a distance from the troops, information was given to colonel Harcourt, who happened at that time to be in the neighbourhood, and who took him pri
The loss of this general was much regretted, the more especially as he was of superior quality to any prisoner in possession of the colonists, and could not therefore be exchanged. Six field offi. cers were offered in exchange for him, and refused ; and con. gress was highly irritated at its being reported that he was to be treated as a deserter, having been a hall-pay officer in the Bri. tish service at the commencement of the war. They therefore is. sued a proclamation, threatening to retaliate on the prisoners in their possession, whatever punishment should be inflicted on any of those taken by the British ; and especially that their conduct should be regulated by their treatment of general Lee.
Congress dow proceeded with the utmost diligence to recruit their army; and bound their soldiers to serve for the term of three years, or during the continuance of the war. The army for the ensuing campaign, was to consist of eighty-eight battalions, of which each province was to contribute its quota; and twenty dol. lars were offered as a bounty to each soldier, besides an alloiment