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field. He was entirely convinced that, while CHAP. II. general Burgoyne would either endeavour to 1777. take Ticonderoga, and to penetrate from thence through the country to the Hudson, or would join the grand army at New York by sea; ge. neral Howe would either endeavour by moving up that river to possess himself of the forts and high grounds at present occupied by the Ameri. cans, or would attempt Philadelphia. That the one or the other plan of operations would be adopted, he did not doubt; but he possessed no means of deciding which would be the first object of the campaign. He had therefore determined to take post on the high grounds in Jersey, something to the north of the road leading through Brunswick to Philadelphia. This position was recommended by many considerations. It afforded to Philadelphia the same protection which could have been given by his army on the west side of the Delaware, while it covered great part of the state of Jersey; and possessed this additional advantage, that he might with great facility move from thence to the highlands on the Hudson,* should the operations of the enemy take that direction. This being his decided opinion, and his army
* Generals Greene and Knox, had been directed soon after the troops were placed in winter quarters, to view all the posts commanding the passes through the highlands on the Hudson, in order to the adoption of a more improved system for their defence.
CHAP. II. being too weak to admit of division, he re. 1777. quested that the camp on the west of the Dela.
ware, if formed, should be composed entirely of militia, and that the continental troops should be pressed forward with the utmost possible dispatch, to join him in the Jerseys.'
That the events of the next campaign would be of great, perhaps, of decisive importance to the issue of the war, and the independence of the country, had been long expected by the commander in chief, who had used through the winter, every human effort to prepare the means of giving it a favourable termination. Congress, and the state governments, had been pressed with the most anxious solicitude on the subject of raising men. Though his early hopes respecting the number of regular troops, which would compose his army, had been cruelly disappointed; and he not only found himself in a situation by no means adapted to carry into effect the active and offensive system of operations he had meditated, but scarcely capable of maintaining defensive war; he still preserved that steady and persevering courage, which had supported himself and the American cause, through the gloomy scenes of the preceding year; and that solid judgment which applies to the best advantage those means, which are attainable, however inadequate they may be.
In the uncertainty with which the first movements of the enemy were yet enveloped, and the equal necessity of defending the three great
points, Ticonderoga, the highlands of New CHAP. II. York, and Philadelphia, against two powerful 1777. armies so much superior to him in arms, in numbers, and in discipline; it was necessary to make such an arrangement of his force as would, so far as was practicable, enable the parts reciprocally to aid each other, without neglecting objects of great, and almost equal magnitude, which were alike threatened, and which were far asunder. To effect this, if possible, the northern troops including those of New York, were divided between Ticonderoga, and Peck's Kill; while those from Jersey to the south, including North Carolina, were directed to assemble in Jersey, where a camp was to be formed on the high and strong grounds near the Raritan. The more southern troops were not drawn from that weak quarter of the union, but remained for its protection. If the army of Canada should join that of New York, by sea ; the troops at Peck’s-Kill, and those in Jersey, could very readily be united for the defence either of the highlands, or of Philadelphia. If Burgoyne should attempt Ticonderoga, by the way of the lakes, with a view of penetrating from thence to Albany, and thus obtaining the command of the Hudson, the force at Peck's-Kill was posted in such a manner as to furnish detachments to : aid the American northern army.
These arrangements being made, and the recruits, who had all been carried through the
CHAP. II. small-pox, being collected, the camp at Morris. 1777. town was broken up; the small detachments
called in ; and the army assembled at Middlebrook, just behind a connected ridge of strong and commanding heights, not far from the Raritan, north of the road leading to Philadel. phia, and about ten miles from Brunswick. To this place, general Washington repaired in person on the 28th of May.
This camp, naturally very defensible from the extreme difficulty with which it could be approached, was rendered still more so by intrenchments, and various works thrown up at different places, which appeared to be most accessible. The heights in front of the camp commanded a prospect of the course of the Raritan, the road to Philadelphia, the hills about Brunswick, and a considerable part of the country between that place and Amboy ; so as to afford a full view of the most interesting movements of the enemy.
The force brought into the field by America, required all the aid which could be derived from a choice of strong positions, and from the most unremitting vigilance. It appears from a return made on the 21st of May, that the total of the army in Jersey, exclusive of the cavalry and artillery, then amounted to only eight thousand three hundred and seventy-eight men, of whom upwards of two thousand were sick. The effective rank and file were only
five thousand seven hundred and thirty-eight. CHAP. II. In this return, the troops of North Carolina 1777. were not included, as they had not then joined the army; and the militia of New Jersey, amounting to about five hundred men, were also omitted.
Had this army been composed of the best disciplined troops, its inferiority in point of numbers must have limited its operations to defensive war; and have rendered it entirely incompetent to the protection of any place, which could only be defended by a battle in the open field. But more than half the troops * were unacquainted with the first rudiments of mili- . tary duty, and had never yet looked an enemy in the face. An additional cause for diminishing the confidence otherwise to have been placed in them was, that many of the soldiers, especially from the middle states, were foreigners, many of them servants, on whose attachment to the American cause it was not safe entirely to rely. To avail himself of this unfavourable circumstance, general Howe had offered a large reward to every soldier who would desert, and had promised additional compensation to those who would bring their
* The extreme severity of the service, aided perhaps by the state of the hospitals, had carried to the grave more than two thirds of the soldiers who had served the preceding campaign and been engaged for more than one year.