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CHAP. III. indiscreetly exposed to the dangers of that un. 1777. healthy climate in this sickly season, and by
the time they could reach Carolina, general Howe might re-embark his army, and return to act against Philadelphia, or the posts on the North river, as might best promote his views, without the possibility of encountering an opposition which could in any degree check the execution of his plans. To counterbalance the injury which might be sustained in the south, the army under his particular command ought, he conceived, to avail itself of the weakness of the enemy in the North, and to be immediately employed, either against the army from Canada, or the posts of the British in New York as might promise most advantage. He had been rassiduous since general Howe left that place, in collecting the most accurate information of the strength and position of the troops remaining for its defence, and believed, that consequences very important to the issue of the war would ensue from directing all his efforts eitheçagainst Burgoyne or Clinton. To be in readiness for the execution of one or the other of these plans,
he had determined to move on towards the August 21. North river; but the very day of his communi
cating this determination to congress, intelligence was received of the appearance of the enemy in full force in the Chesapeak.
Orders were immediately given to the different divisions of the army to unite, with the
utmost expedition, in the neighbourhood of CHAP. III. Philadelphia, in order to proceed towards the 1777. head of the Chesapeak; and the militia of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, and the northern counties of Virginia were directed to take the field. These orders for marching were received by general Sullivan, who had been encamped in Jersey about Hanover, just on his return from an expedition to Staten Island. The force of the enemy on that island amounted to between two and three thousand men, of whom nearly one thousand were provincials, who were stationed at different places on the coast opposite the Jersey shore. The British and German troops, amounting, according to the intelligence of general Sullivan, to sixteen hundred men, were in a fortified camp near the watering place. General Sullivan thought it Expedition practicable to surprise and bring off the pro- Sulivan vincials before they could be supported by the Staten island. European troops, and he was the more stimulated to make the attempt, by their occasional incursions into Jersey. In one of these very lately made as far as Woodbridge, they had carried off a number of cattle and about twelve individuals noted for their attachment to the American cause. This expedition was undertaken with the select troops of his division, aided by a few Jersey militia under colonel Frelinghuysen. They had to march about twenty miles to the place of embarkation,
CHAP. III. where only six boats had been procured. Three
manded one detachment intended to attack co-
The alarm being now given
with a considerable force advanced upon them; CHAP. 10. and the rear guard, after defending themselves 1777. for some time with great gallantry, finding the boats could not be brought back to take them over the channel, were under the necessity of surrendering prisoners of war.
This enterprise appears to have been well planned, and in its commencement to have been happily executed. Its disasterous conclusion is most probably attributable to the want of a sufficient number of boats, without which the expedition ought not to have been undertaken.
In his letters to the commander in chief, and to congress, general Sullivan reported that he had brought off eleven officers, and one hundred and thirty privates. He was also of opinion that a considerable number must have been killed in the different skirmishes which took place in the morning. He stated his own loss to have been one major, one captain, one lieutenant, and ten privates killed, and fifteen wounded; and nine officers, among whom were majors Stewart, Tillard, and Woodson, and one hun. dred and twenty-seven privates, prisoners.
In the account given of this action by general Campbell as published, he stated himself to have made two hundred and fifty-nine prisoners, among whom were one lieutenant colonel, three majors, two captains and fifteen inferior off
come up the
and land an Howe at Elk river.
The British fleet having entered the Chesa1777. peak, sailed towards its head with favourable. British fleet winds, and without experiencing any disaster,
entered Elk river, up which they proceeded as army under high as it was safely navigable. On the twenty
fifth of August, the army landed without any show of opposition, at the ferry. On the 27th, sir William Howe marched, with one division, to the head of Elk, and the next day advanced his van to Gray's hill, leaving general Knyphausen with three brigades, at the place of landing, and
stationing one brigade on the communication August 28. between the two encampments. General Kny
phausen was ordered to cross the ferry, and
take post at Cecil court-house, from whence September 3. he was to proceed on the east side and effect a
junction with sir William Howe, seven or eight miles south of Christiana."
The whole force of the British army which landed at Elk ferry has been generally computed at eighteen thousand men. They were in good health and spirits, trained to the service, admirably supplied with all the implements of war, and led by a general of experience and unquestionable military talents. If the army was in any respect defective, it was in cavalry and draft-horses. They had been greatly distressed for forage through the preceding winter, and their horses had suffered in the long voyage from New York to Elk river.
h General Howe's letter.