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This uncertainty suspended for a few days the CHAP. II. march of the troops designed for that service, 1777. in the event of a real attack on Ticonderoga; but Nixon's brigade was ordered to embark immediately for Albany, and the brigades of Parsons and Varnum were detached from Middlebrook to Peck's-Kill.
The probability of an attempt by general Burgoyne to penetrate by the way of the lakes and the Hudson to Albany, gave additional strength to the opinion that the design of Howe must be to seize the passes in the mountains on the Hudson, and thus effect a junction between the two armies, and at the same time secure the entire command of that river. Yet the commander in chief could not permit himself to yield entirely to this impression, lest any movement he should make in consequence of it, might open to the enemy a ready way by land to Philadelphia. This army therefore maintained its station at Middlebrook ; but as the possession of the lower part of the North river, enabled general Howe to make a sudden and rapid movement against the highlands, he directed general Putnam, who commanded at Peck’s-Kill, to prepare for such an event, by calling to his aid, all the militia that country could furnish. “No time,” said he, “is to be lost. Much may be at stake, and I am persuaded, if general Howe means to go up the river, he will make a rapid and vigorous
CHAP. II. push to gain the highland passes. The militia
cannot object to turning out, as the time of their detention cannot be long. Mr. Howe's movements will be soon understood.”
A change of the position of the shipping from Prince bay to the watering place, and a move. ment of the army, with the military stores and baggage, from the coast opposite Amboy to the north end of the island, relieved the commander in chief from any apprehension of a sudden march to Philadelphia, and determined him to change his own position. Leaving two regiments of infantry, and one of light dragoons, to cover the country from Newark to Amboy, and protect the inhabitants against small plundering parties, he moved the main body of the army to Morristown, and advanced general Sullivan with his division on the way to Peck’sKill, as far as Pompton-Plains, with directions to be in constant readiness, to proceed, or return, as the occasion might require. At Morristown, the American army was more convenient to the highlands of New York, and yet not so far removed from Middlebrook, as to be unable, should the enemy return to Jersey, to regain, with the utmost certainty, that camp, before it could be seized by Howe.
Meanwhile, the British general prosecuted with the utmost diligence, his plan of embarkation, which was necessarily attended with circumstances indicating a much longer voyage
than that up the North river.
the North river. These circum- CHAP. II. stances were immediately communicated to the 1777. eastern states, who were advised to make the • necessary preparations for defence, should that
country become once more the seat of war; while congress was earnestly pressed to improve the fortifications on the Delaware, and the obstructions to the progress of a fleet, which had been placed in that river.
In the midst of these appearances, certain intelligence was received, that Burgoyne was in great force on the lakes, and was advancing with a powerful army against Ticonderoga. This intelligence in a great measure confirmed the opinion to which Washington was already much inclined, that although small parties might threaten other places, the main object of Howe must be to effect a junction with Burgoyne on the North river. The policy of such a system of co-operation appeared to him so obvious, that he believed it would certainly be adopted. Under this impression, he ordered Sullivan to proceed immediately to Peck’s-Kill, and moved himself to Pompton Plains. If the intention of general Howe should be against the passes in the highlands, “ we shall not,' concludes his letter stating this movement to congress, “ be too early, as a favourable wind July 10. and tide will carry him up in a few hours. On the other hand, if Philadelphia be his object, he cannot get round before we can arrive there,
CHAP. II. nor can he debark his troops, and proceed by 1777. land, before we can oppose him."
The conviction still remaining that the grand effort of the enemy would be made on the North river, general Washington, after halting a few days at Pompton Plains, deemed it proper to approach still nearer what he believed would
be the great and interesting theatre of action, July 16. advanced to the Clove, where he determined
to remain until the views of the enemy should be completely disclosed. In this situation, he at first requested that the North Carolina troops, who had stopped at Philadelphia, might be ordered to join him; but on receiving information that great part of the British fleet had fallen down from the watering place to the Hook, he requested general Nash, who commanded the regiments of North Carolina, to halt at Trenton; and directed general Sullivan not to cross the North river. General Putnam who commanded at Peck's-Kill, was anxiously cautioned to use all his vigilance to guard against any sudden attempt that might be made on him from New York; success in which would be the more ceeply felt, in consequence of the late calamity to the northward, where Ticonderoga ‘and Mount Independence, had fallen into the hands of the enemy.
The information that part of the fieet had dropped down to the Hook, was soon followed by intelligence that the shipping were moving, from the watering place, up to
123 New York; and that several transports con- CHAP. II. voyed by a ship of war, had proceeded up as high as Dobbs' ferry. The passes in the highlands were now supposed to be certainly their object, and Sullivan, who had been advanced as far as New Windsor, was ordered immediately to cross the Hudson, and take post in the rear of Peck's-Kill, on the east side of that river. Lord Stirling was also ordered to cross the river, and join general Putnam.
Thus uncertain must ever be the designs, and embarrassing the movements, of an enemy who, by possessing without competition the command of the water, can transfer himself with facility to any state on the Atlantic; and threaten at once, and with impunity, the whole line of our extensive coast.
While the general thus anxiously watched the perplexing movements of the enemy, a very agreeable and unlooked for piece of intelligence was received from the eastward. The command of the British troops in Rhode Island had now devolved on major general Prescot. Thinking himself perfectly secure in an island, the water surrounding which was believed to be entirely guarded by his cruisers, and at the head of an army greatly superior to any force then collected in that department, he indulged himself in convenient quarters, rather distant from camp; and being entirely unapprehensive of danger, was remiss with respect to the guards about