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western parts of those states, requesting them CHAP. III. to get in readiness to move with the utmost expedition. Major generals Arnold and Lincoln, both relied on for their influence with the eastern militia, both esteemed excellent officers, the former of whom had from the commencement of the war, displayed in the field a spirit of intrepidity which could not be surpassed; were directed to join the northern army. Three brigades of New England continental troops, were detached from Peck's-Kill on the same service; and soon afterwards, colonel Morgan's regiment of riflemen, and two regiments of New York, were also ordered on it. Thus did general Washington, with that spirit of genuine patriotism he was in the course of exhibiting, weaken himself, in order to strengthen other generals, whose strength would be more useful. The fame of being himself the leader of the victorious army did not, with a false glare, dazzle his eyes, or conceal from his view the superior public advantage to be derived from defeating the plans of Burgoyne.
As some uncertainty still remained respect. ing the destination of the fleet, it was thought unadvisable to weaken too much the post at Peck's-Kill, and therefore, the New England troops, intended to act with the army immediately under the command of general Washington, were directed to cross the Hudson, and wait on its western banks for further
CHAP. III. orders; while other divisions were halted at 1777. different encampments, between that river and
the Delaware. On the 30th of July, all these doubts were supposed to be removed by the appearance of the whole fleet off the capes of Delaware. Orders were immediately given for assembling the detached parts of the army in the neigbourhood of Philadelphia, to which place the general immediately proceeded in person; and also for marching from the North river as many of the continental troops remaining at that station, as could be spared from its defence against the force still in New York.
Scarcely were these orders given, when the aspect of affairs was totally changed, and it was deemed proper to countermand them. An express was received from cape May with information that the fleet had sailed out of the bay of Delaware, and was proceeding eastward. The brigades which had marched from Peck'sKill were ordered immediately to return, and the other divisions of the army which were on the road, were directed to halt on their present ground for further orders. From this time no intelligence respecting the fleet was received until about the seventh of August, when it appeared, a few leagues to the south of the capes
of Delaware, after which it disappeared, and was not again heard of until late in that month. In the mean-while, the most perplexing uncertainty concerning its destination was.
universal.' The fact was, that on entering the CHAP. III.
General Washington employed this interval in examining the country about Philadelphia, and the works below that place. Having paid great attention to them, he was entirely of opinion that the defence of the river should be confined* to fort or Mud island and Redbank, a piece of high ground on the Jersey shore opposite the island. This opinion was communicated to congress in a long letter stating at large the reasons on which it was founded, which letter also intimated his intention to march to Coryell's ferry, a position sufficiently near to Philadelphia, and from which he would be enabled sooner to gain the North river, should the next appearance of the fleet be to the eastward.
* An attempt had been made to take and defend a position lower down the river, at Billingsport.
While the designs of the enemy remained 1777. uncertain, a report was circulated in New York,
which was countenanced by the British officers, and communicated by deserters and spies, that the fleet was only to show itself in the bay of Delaware, and then suddenly return to the North river, for the purpose of enabling Howe to co-operate with Burgoyne. These reports made no impression on Washington. He was confident that the officers of the British army must be profoundly ignorant of the views of their general, and that any intelligence collected from their conversations, could be only founded on conjecture, or had been only communicated to deceive. Yet he had always deemed it the part dictated by prudence, to hold the impor, tant
passes of the highlands until the views of the enemy should be ascertained, and their force located, in a state of sufficient strength to resist any sudden attempt which might be made upon them before his army could be brought to their defence. In pursuance of this system, he had very early made large requisitions on Connecti. cut and New York for militia to supply the place of the continental troops ordered to the North; and these requisitions had, as usual, been readily complied with; but, as was also usual, these troops soon became extremely impatient to return to their homes. They thought themselves competent judges of the necessity of continuing in service, and they
could not suppose it possible, when no enemy CHÁP. III. was in view, that any motives could exist to 1777. justify the immense sacrifice made of their pri. vate interest and comfort by detaining them, at this season, from their farms.
It was found difficult to account for the August 21. length of time which had elapsed, since 'any information had been received respecting the fleet of the enemy.
As the wind had generally blown from the south, it was supposed certain, that, had its destination been to the eastward, it must have been discerned ere this, by some of the numerous cruizers on that coast; and had it been for the North river, it must have reached that place in less than half the time which had intervened since it had disappeared. It was therefore concluded by general Washington, that sir William Howe must be proceeding to the southward, and though at first his suspi. cions were directed to the Chesapeak, the time now appeared too considerable to have been employed in reaching that bay. Beyond the Chesapeak there appeared no object worthy the attention of the grand army, except Charleston, where stores to a very great amount were collected: and against Charleston, he now began to conjecture the expedition was designed. Even should this conjecture be well founded, it was entirely impracticable to reach that place with his army in time for its relief. Should the atteinpt be made, the troops would be very