« ZurückWeiter »
he had the extreme mortification to see his CHAP. VIII. feeble army still more enfeebled by their entirely 1776. abandoning him, though almost in sight of an advancing enemy. In this critical situation, so many of the Pennsylvania militia who were engaged to serve until the first of January, deserted, that it was deemed necessary to request guards of militia to be placed on the roads and ferries over the Delaware, in order to apprehend and send back to camp, soldiers who might be found without a written discharge or a permit to be absent.
Here he again stated to the governor of New Jersey that the object of the enemy plainly was to pass through that state to Philadelphia, and urged him once more to adopt some proper and efficacious means for calling out the strength of the state to his support, and to its own defence. Without great re-enforcements, he assured him, it would be impossible to maintain his present position one instant after the enemy should advance upon him. But it was not in the power of the governor to furnish the aid required. So much of the lower country as was well affected was overawed entirely by the enemy; and the militia of Morris and Sussex turned out very slowly and reluctantly.
Here again he urged general Lee to join him. After mentioning the advance of the enemy, who without doubt designed to press on to Philadelphia, he said, “ The force I have with
3 x 2 :
CHAP. VIII. me is infinitely inferior in numbers, and such 1776. as cannot promise or give the least successful
opposition. I must entreat you to hasten your march as much as possible, or your arrival may be too late to answer any valuable purpose: I can neither particularize your route nor the place to join me: in these you must be governed by circumstances, and the intelligence you receive; let the former be secure.”
At Brunswick, the troops were continued in motion, for the purpose of concealing their weakness, and retarding the advance of the enemy by creating an opinion, that the Amer. icans meditated an attack in turn. From that place, the general even moved some men towards them, as if intending offensive operations, and he continued in the town, until they were actually in view; but as the advanced guards showed themselves on the opposite side of the bridge, he marched out of Brunswick, and, leaving lord Stirling in Princeton with two bri. gades from Virginia and Delaware, consisting of twelve hundred men, to watch the enemy, he proceeded himself with the residue of the army to Trenton. He had already directed the boats on the Delaware, from Philadelphia upwards, for seventy miles, to be collected and
guarded, so that a hope might be reasonably December 2, entertained, that the progress of the enemy
would be stopped at this river; and that, in the mean time, re-enforcements might arrive, which would enable him to dispute its passage. Having, with great labour, transported the CHAP. VILL few remaining military stores and baggage over 1776. the Delaware, he determined to remain, as long as possible, with the small force which still adhered to him, on the north side of that river.
The army which, under the command of general Washington, was thus pressed slowly through the Jerseys, was aided by no other cavalry than a small corps of badly mounted Connecticut militia, commanded by major Shelden; and was almost equally destitute of artillery. Its numbers, at no time during the retreat, exceeded four thousand, and was now reduced to less than three thousand men; of whom not quite one thousand were militia belonging to the state of New Jersey; and, even of his regulars there were many whose terms of service were about to expire.
Nor did his weakness in point of numbers constitute the only embarrassment of his situation. His regulars were badly armed, worse clad, and almost without tents, blankets, or utensils for dressing their provisions. They were composed chiefly of the garrison drawn from fort Lee, and had been obliged to evacu. ate that place with too much precipitation to bring with them even those few articles for their comfort and accommodation, with which they had been furnished. He found himself at the head of this small band, dispirited by their
CHAP. VI. losses and fatigues, retreating almost naked 1776. and barefooted, in the cold of November and
December, before a numerous, well appointed and victorious army, through a desponding country, much more disposed to secure safety by submission, than to seek it by a manly resistance. • In this crisis of American affairs, a procla. mation was issued by lord and general Howe, as commissioners appointed on the part of the erown for restoring peace to America, com. manding all persons assembled in arms against his majesty's government, to disband and re. turn to their homes; and all civil officers to desist from their treasonable practices, and relinquish their usurped authority. A full pardon was also offered to every person who would within sixty days, appear before certain civil or military officers of the crown, and claim the benefit of that proclamation; and, at the same time, testify his obedience to the laws by subscribing a declaration of his submission to the royal authority. Copies of this proclamation were immediately dispersed through the coun. try; after which, numbers flocked in, daily, for the purpose of making their peace and ob. taining protection. The contrast between the splendid appearance of the pursuing army, and that made by the ragged Americans who were flying before them, diminished in numbers, and destitute of almost every necessary, could
1. not fail to contribute to the general opinion, CHAP. VIII. that the contest was approaching its termination. 1776.
Among the many valuable traits in the character of general Washington, was that i unyielding firmness of mind which resisted
these accumulated circumstances of depression, and supported him under them. Undismayed by the dangers which surrounded him, he did not for an instant relax his exertions, nor omit any thing which could obstruct the progress of the enemy, or meliorate his own condition. He did not appear to despair of the public safety, but struggled against adverse fortune with the hope of yet vanquishing the difficulties which surrounded him; and constantly showed himself to his harassed and enfeebled army, with a serene unembarrassed countenance; betraying no fears in himself; and invigorating, and inspiring with confidence, the bosoms of others. To this unconquerable firmness of temper; to this perfect self possession, under the most desperate circumstances; is America, in a great degree, indebted for her independence.
The baggage and stores were immediately removed to the south side of the Delaware, and the sick sent to Philadelphia.
Having accomplished this object, and find. ing that lord Cornwallis still continued in Brunswick, he detached twelve hundred men December s. to Princeton, in the hope that by appearing to advance on the enemy, he might not only delay