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CHAP. II. it unsafe to attack them, and probably influ. 1777. enced in some degree by the temper now mani.
fested by the militia, general Howe determined to waste no more time in threatening Philadel. phia by land, but to withdraw his army from Jersey, and in pursuit of the principal object of the campaign, embark them as expeditiously as possible for the Chesapeak, or the Delaware. On the 19th, in the night, leaving the works which had been commenced, half finished, he returned to Brunswick, and on the 22d, to Amboy, where he threw over the channel, which separates the continent from Staten island, the bridge designed for the Delaware, and passed over the heavy baggage and a few of his troops to that island, from whence the embarkation of his army was to be made.
This retreat was conducted with some marks of precipitation, and many of the farm houses on the route are said to have been burnt.
From his own observations, and the intelli. gence he received, general Washington had expected the movement from Brunswick, and had made dispositions to derive some advan· tages from it. He had detached general Greene with three brigades, for the purpose of falling on, and annoying the British rear. General Sullivan was also directed to move with his division from the Sourland hills and to cooperate with Greene. General Maxwell was ordered to fall on the flank of the enemy, on
their march to Amboy. In the mean-time, the CHAP. II. main army paraded on the heights of Middle. 1777. brook, ready to act as circumstances might require.
About sunrise, colonel Morgan, in pursuance of his orders, attacked and drove in a piquet guard, on which the enemy threw themselves into some redoubts, which, on the approach of Wayne and Morgan they evacuated; immediately after which, they commenced their march to Amboy. Some sharp skirmishing took place between this party and Morgan's regiment, in which the latter acted to the entire satisfaction of their general; but the hope of gaining any important advantage was entirely disappointed. Sullivan was unable from his distance, and the late hour at which he received his orders, to come up in time; the express sent to general Maxwell either deserted to the enemy, or was taken; and the rear division of the British being stronger than was expected, the force on the lines could make no impression on it; and the retreat to Amboy was effected without any considerable loss.
In order to cover his light parties which were June 24. on the lines of the enemy, and for the purpose of doing them some injury on their retreat to Staten island, general Washington now moved from his strong camp at Middlebrook, to Quibbletown, which lies six or seven miles from thence, on the road to Amboy. Lord
Endeavours to cut off the
army to Middlebro but is
CHAP. II. Stirling's division was advanced a few miles 1777. still lower, and nearer the enemy, to the
neighbourhood of Metucking meeting-house, in order to act with the parties which were on the lines, should the retreat from Amboy offer the means of injuring their rear.
In this state of things it appeared practicable
to general Howe to bring on an engagement. Endeavours With this view, and probably in the hope of retreat of the turning the left of the American army and gainAmerican cum l i Middlebrook, ing the heights behind them, he recalled, on disappointed, the night of the 25th, the troops which had
passed over to Staten island, and very early next morning, the army made a rapid move. ment in two columns towards Westfield. The right, under the command of lord Cornwallis, took the route by Woodbridge to the Scotch Plains; and the left, accompanied by sir Wil. liam Howe in person, marched by Metucking meeting-house, to join the rear of the right column, in the road from thence to the Scotch Plains. It was intended that the left should have taken a separate route about two miles after their junction with the other column, in order to have attacked the left flank of the American army at Quibbletown; while lord Cornwallis should gain the heights on the left of the camp at Middlebrook. Four battalions with six pieces of cannon were detached to take post at Bonhamtown.
& General Howe's letter.
Plains with lord Stirling.
About Woodbridge, the right column of the CHAP. II. enemy fell in with one of the light parties 1777. detached to watch their motions; and notice being thus received of this movement, general Washington immediately penetrated its object, and discerned his danger. The whole army was instantly put in motion. It regained with the utmost celerity the camp at Middlebrook, and took possession of the heights on the left, which it was supposed the enemy had designed to seize. Lord Cornwallis, on his route fell Lord Com in with lord Stirling, and a smart skirmish mishes near ensued, in which the latter was driven from Por his ground with the loss of three field pieces and a few men. From thence he retreated to the hills about the Scotch Plains, and was pursued as far as Westfield. Here the column under lord Cornwallis halted; and perceiving the passes in the mountains on the left of the *American camp to be guarded, and, of consequence, that the object for which this skilful maneuvre had been made was unattainable, he returned through Rahway to Amboy; and the whole army crossed over to Staten island from whence the embarkation for the Delaware or Chesapeak, was to take place. · While retiring from Westfield, the British army was watched by the brigades of Scott and Conway, the former of whom entered Amboy immediately after that place had been evacuated by the enemy; but no opportunity was given,
CHAP. II. during the retreat, of attacking them to any 1777. advantage.
So soon as the intention of evacuating the Jerseys had been indicated, general Washington countermanded the orders which had been given to the continental troops at Peck’s-Kill. Two brigades, which had proceeded as far as Pompton Plains to join him, now returned to their former station, with directions to hold themselves in readiness to move on the shortest notice. His doubts concerning the object of the enemy were renewed. That they contem. plated some expedition by water was probable, but whether that expedition would be against Philadelphia, or up the North river, for the purpose of seizing those passes in the mountains to which he had ever attributed so much importance, was a question which their present
movements furnished no means of solving. July 2. Before sir William Howe had in any degree
developed his views, intelligence was received of the appearance of the enemy on lake Champlain, and that Ticonderoga was threatened. This intelligence, however, was not so explicit as to give any assurance that a serious effort was to be made in that quarter, or that the present appearance was any thing more than a feint made by a small detachment, for the purpose of giving the attention of the Americans this direction, while the main army of Canada should be united to that of New York by sea.