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which he conjectured might amount to about CHAP. IV. two thousand men, and gave information 1777. thereof to general Varnum.
Having received about the same time the report of St. Clair, de Kalb, and Knox, in favour of maintaining fort Mercer, he gave orders that it should not be evacuated but in the last necessity; and in order to support the garrison, one division of the army was ordered immediately to cross the Delaware at Burlington, and expresses were dispatched to the northern troops who were now marching on by brigades, directing them instead of crossing the Delaware at Coryell's ferry, in conformity with instructions which had before been given, to move down on the north side of the river, until they should receive further orders.
Major general Greene, an officer who had been distinguished early in the war by the commander in chief for the solidity of his judgment, and his military talents, was selected for this expedition. A hope was entertained that he would be able, not only to protect fort Mercer, but to obtain also some decisive advantage over lord Cornwallis. The situation of the fort, which his lordship. could only invest by placing himself between Timber and Manto creeks, would expose the assailants to great peril from a respectable force in their rear. In the expectation that the vessels would still be of service in the defence of the place,
Fort Mercer evacuated.
CHAP. IV. they were ordered to remain on their present 1777. station somewhat longer, and to furnish every
aid in their power.
But before the troops could be passed over the Delaware, lord Cornwallis approached with an army rendered more powerful than had been expected by the junction of the re-enforcement from New York; and the fort was evacuated.
A few of the smaller gallies escaped up the river, and the others were abandoned and burnt by their crews.
The enemy being now in perfect possession of both shores, could work on the obstructions in the river without molestation. But a hope was still entertained that much of what had been lost, might be recovered.
A victory would restore the Jersey shore, and this object was deemed so all important, that general Greene's instructions, though not peremptory, indicated the expectations of the coinmander in chief that he would be in a condition to fight lord Cornwallis.
That judicious officer feared the reproach of avoiding an action, much less than the just censure of sacrificing the real interests of his country, by engaging the enemy on, disadvantageous terms. The accounts most to be relied on, represented their numbers at five thousand men, including marines; a force superior to that at present under general Greene, even counting his militia as regulars. Glover's brigade from the north was expected, but had not
yet arrived, and in the mean-time, the service CHAP. IV. originally contemplated being effected, lord 1777. Cornwallis might return to Philadelphia. He communicated this state of things to the commander in chief, who directed him not to advance on the enemy until his whole force was collected.
Before the arrival of Glover's brigade, lord Cornwallis, who, during this incursion, had collected large quantities of fresh provisions for the relief of the British army, had taken post on a point of land making into the Delaware, called Gloucester, which was entirely under cover of the guns of the ships, and was from thence embarking his baggage and the stores he had collected, for Philadelphia.
To attack him in this situation would have been little less than madness, and he manifested no disposition to leave it. About one hundred and fifty men of Morgan's rifle corps under lieutenant colonel Butler, and an equal number of militia under the marquis de La Fayette, who still served as a volunteer, attacked with A picket of great gallantry a picket of the enemy, consist- attacked and ing also of about three hundred men, and drove them with the loss of twenty or thirty killed, and a greater number wounded, quite into their camp; after which, they retired without being pursued.
The marquis who was said by general Greene to search for danger, was charmed with the
The enemy succeed in
CHAP. IV. conduct of this small detachment. “I found
general Washington, “ above even their repu.
Believing that the detachment under lord
Thus, after one continued struggle of more opening a free than six weeks, in which the continental troops
displayed great military virtues, did the army
While these transactions were taking place
communication with his fleet.
He had collected about two thousand men, and CHAP. IV. requested from general Putnam, a diversion on the side of King's bridge, in order to prevent a sudden re-enforcement from New York.
Knowing well that success depended on attempt by secrecy, he had concealed his object even from Dickenson his field officers, until eight o'clock of the Stigates night on which it was to be executed: yet by three o'clock in the morning, information of the design was given to general Skinner, who was thereby put on his guard; and, on the first alarm, he saved himself and his brigade, by taking refuge in some works too strong to to be carried by assault. In the flight, a few prisoners were made, and a few men killed, after which general Dickenson brought off his party with a loss of only three killed, and ten slightly wounded.