« ZurückWeiter »
General Grant advanced along the coast at CHAP. VII. the head of the left wing of the British with 1776. ten pieces of cannon. As his first object was to draw the attention of the Americans from their left, he moved slowly, skirmishing as he advanced with the light parties stationed on that road."
The suspicions of general Putnam having been very much directed towards the route along the coast, this movement of general Grant was soon discovered and communicated to him. It having been determined that the passes through the hills were to be very seriously contested, re-enforcements were immediately ordered out to the assistance of the parties which had been advanced in front; and, as the enemy continued to gain ground, still stronger detachments were employed in this service. About three o'clock in the morning, brigadier general lord Sterling was directed, with the two nearest regiments, to meet the enemy on the road leading from the Narrows. Major general Sullivan, who commanded all the troops without the lines, proceeded with a very considerable body of New Englanders on the road leading directly to Flatbush, and another detachment occupied the heights be. 'tween that place and Bedford.
CHAP. VII. About break of day, lord Sterling reached 1776. the summit of the hills, where he was joined
by the troops which had been already engaged and were retiring slowly before the enemy, who almost immediately appeared in sight. Having posted his men advantageously, a warm cannonade was commenced on both sides, which continued for several hours; and some sharp, but not very close skirmishing took place between the infantry. Lord Sterling being only anxious to defend the pass he guarded, could not descend in force from the heights; and general Grant did not wish to drive him from them, until that part of the plan which had been intrusted to sir Henry Clinton, should
be executed. Battle of In the centre, general De Heister, soon evacuation of after daylight, began to cannonade the troops
under general Sullivan; but did not move from his ground at Flatbush, until the British right had approached the left and rear of the Ameri. can line. In the mean time, in order the more effectually to draw their attention from the point where the grand attack was intended, the feet was put in motion, and a very heavy cannonade commenced, and kept up on the battery at-Red hook.
About half past eight o'clock, the British right having then reached Bedford, in the rear of Sullivan's left, general De Heister ordered colonel Donop's corps to advance to the attack
of the hill, following himself with the centre CHAP. VII. of the army. The approach of Clinton was 1776. now discovered by the American left, which immediately endeavoured to regain the camp at Brooklyn. They were retiring from the woods by regiments, with their cannon, when they encountered the front of the British, consisting of the light infantry and light dragoons, who were soon supported by the guards. About the same time, the Hessians advanced from Flatbush, against that part of the de. tachment which occupied the direct road to Brooklyn.' Here general Sullivan commanded in person ; but he found it extremely difficult to keep his troops together, even long enough to sustain the first attack. The firing heard towards Bedford had disclosed to them the alarming fact, that the British had turned their left flank, and were getting completely into their rear. Perceiving at once the full danger of their situation, they sought to escape it by regaining the camp with the utmost possible celerity. The sudden route of this party enabled De Heister to detach a part of his force against those who were engaged near Bedford. In that quarter too, the Americans were broken and driven back into the woods, and the front of the column led by general Clinton, continuing to move forward, intercepted and engaged .
• General Howe's letter.
CHAP. VII those who were retreating along the direct 1776. road from Flatbush. Thus attacked both in
front and rear, and alternately driven by the British on the Hessians, and by the Hessians back again on the British, a succession of skirmishes took place in the woods, in the course of which, some parts of corps forced their way through the enemy, and regained the lines of Brooklyn, and several individuals saved themselves under cover of the woods; but a great proportion of the detachment was killed or taken. The fugitives were pursued up to the American works, and such is represented to have been the ardour of the British soldiery, that it required the authority of their cautious commander to prevent an immediate attempt to carry them by storm.
The fire towards Brooklyn gave the first intimation to the American right, that the enemy had gained their rear. Lord Sterling perceived the danger with which he was threatened, and that he could only escape it by instantly retreating across the creek in his rear, near the Yel. low Mills not far from the cove. Orders to this effect were immediately given, and, the more effectually to secure the retreat of the main body of the detachment, he determined to attack, in person, a corps of the British under lord Cornwallis, stationed at a house somewhat above the place at which he proposed crossing the creek. About four hundred men of Smallwood's regiment were drawn out for
this purpose, and the attack was made with CHAP. VII. great spirit. This small corps was brought up 1776. several times to the charge, and lord Sterling stated that he was on the point of dislodging lord Cornwallis from his post; but the force in his front increasing, and general Grant also advancing on his rear, the brave men he com. manded were no longer able to oppose the superior numbers which assailed them on every quarter, and those who survived were, with their general, made prisoners of war. This bold and well judged attempt, however, was not without its advantages. It gave an opportunity to a large part of the detachment, to save themselves by crossing the creek.
The loss sustained by the American army on this occasion was very considerable, but could not be accurately ascertained by either party. Numbers were supposed to have been drowned in the creek, or suffocated in the marsh, whose bodies were never found; and exact accounts from the militia are seldom to be expected, as the list of the missing, is always swelled by those who return to their homes. General Washington did not admit it to exceed a thousand men, but in this estimate he could only have included the regular troops. In the letter written by general Howe, he states the prisoners to have amounted to one thousand and ninety-seven, among whom were major general Sullivan, and brigadiers lord Sterling,