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CHAP. II. his person. Information of this negligence 1777. was communicated to the main, and an expe
dition to the island was planned for the purpose of surprising Prescot in his quarters, and bringing him off.' This spirited enterprise was undertaken by lieutenant colonel Barton of the Rhode Island militia, and was executed with great courage and address.
On the night of the 10th he embarked on board four whale-boats at Warwick neck, with a party consisting of about forty persons, including captains Adams, and Philips, and several other officers; and proceeding about ten miles by water, unobserved by the guard boats of the enemy, although several ships of war lay in that quarter, landed on the west of the island about midway between Newport and Bristol ferry, and marching a mile to the quarters of general Prescot, very dexterously seized the centinel at his door, and one of his aids-du-camp. The general himself was taken out of bed, and without being allowed time to put on his clothes, was conveyed, with equal secrecy and dispatch, to a place of safety.
The success attending this intrepid and hand. some enterprise, gave more joy throughout America, than it would have been entitled to froin its importance; because it was supposed to secure the liberation of general Lee, by ena. bling Washington to offer for him in exchange, an officer of equal rank; an event rendered,
perhaps, the more agreeable, by having acquired CHAP. 11. that officer under circumstances not very unlike 1777. those which had lost Lee to the American service.
Congress, in a resolution, expressed their high sense of the gallant conduct of colonel Barton, and his party; and as a mark of their approbation, presented him with a sword.
As the fleet fell down towards Sandy Hook, general Washington withdrew slowly from the Clove, and disposed his army in different divi. sions, so as to march with the utmost rapidity to any point which might be attacked. He at . the same time recommended it to congress, to assemble the militia of the lower counties of Pennsylvania, at Chester; and of Delaware, at Wilmington ; while a number of persons should be employed to keep a look out from the capes of Delaware, in order to give notice of the first appearance of a fleet off that coast. He also requested the governor of New Jersey, to call out the militia contiguous to the Delaware, to meet at Gloucester, a small town on the east side of that river, just below Philadelphia.
At length, after considerable and probably The British unavoidable delay, the embarkation of the embark. British army was completed, and the fleet put to sea.
The force embarked with general Howe on this expedition, consisted of thirty-six British and Hessian battalions, including the light
CHAP. IL infantry and grenadiers, with a powerful artil1777. lery; a New York corps called the queen's
rangers, and a regiment of light horse. The residue of the army was divided between New York and Rhode Island. Seventeen battalions, with a regiment of light horse, and the remainder of the new provincial corps, were left for the protection of New York, and the adjoining island; as well as to co-operate with Burgoyne. Seven battalions were stationed in Rhode Island. It is said that the original intention of general Howe was to have taken with him a still greater force; but, on the remonstrances of general sir Henry Clinton, who was left to command at New York, and who represented the danger to which the islands would be exposed, from the extensiveness of their coasts, and the great number of posts necessarily to be maintained, he relanded several regiments.
General Washington commences his march to the Dela
ware....He takes measures for checking Burgoyne.... Expedition of general Sullivan against Staten island.... British fleet come up the Chesapeak and land an army under sir William Howe at Elk river.... General Washington advances to Brandywine...Lord Cornwallis attacks Maxwell's corps and compels them to retreat.... The American army defeated at Brandywine, and retreat to Chester....After a slight skirmish compelled again to retire, cross the Schuylkill and proceed to French creek....General Wayne surprised, and after a sharp action compelled to retreat.... Washington marches to Pottsgrove.... General Howe takes possession of Philadelphia....Congress remove to Lancaster.
ON receiving intelligence that the British 1777. fleet had sailed from New York, the American army immediately commenced its march in dif- General ferent divisions to the Delaware. About the i time of its departure, a letter from sir William Delaware. Howe directed to general Burgoyne at Quebec, containing the information that “ he was exhibiting the appearance of moving to the southward, while his real intent was against Boston, from whence he would co-operate with the army of Canada,” was delivered to general Putnam by the person who had received it, as was said, for the purpose of carrying it to Quebec, and was immediately transmitted by general Putnam to the commander in chief. The stratagem entirely failed of producing the impression it
CHAP. Ill. was designed to make. General Washington 1777. had no hesitation in determining the letter to
have been written, with a design that it should fall into his hands, and mislead him with respect to the views of the enemy. It served to confirm the opinion, either that Philadelphia was the object, or that general Howe had put to sea with the fleet, merely to draw him from the North river, after which he would suddenly return, and by a rapid movement seize the passes in the highlands. The danger to which the fleet was exposed of being dispersed at sea, rendered it, however, improbable, that a feint, attended with so much hazard, would be made. That con. sideration decided him in the opinion, that the movement to the southward was real: yet all suspicions concerning the North river were not entirely removed.
Whilst the utmost exercise of vigilance and judgment on the part of the American general were necessary to conduct the operations of the army under his immediate command, the events
in the north were too deeply interesting not to He takes engage a large share of his attention. He felt checking strongly the necessity of checking the progress
of Burgoyne, and took with promptitude, those measures which might effect so important an object. Letters were addressed to the governments of the eastern states, urging them to reenforce with their militia the retreating army of that department, and to the generals of the
He takes measures for