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north of the Schuylkill, and with the militia of CHAP. VIII., New Jersey, the east of the Delaware, so as to 1778, restrain the people of the country from carrying in their provisions to a market, to which they were irresistibly allured by receiving payment in specie.
These light irregular parties, it was hoped, would not only restrain and check an intercourse, which, though beneficial to individuals, was deemed highly pernicious in a national point of view, but would be sufficient to repel small foraging parties; and, consequently, would render it necessary for the enemy to come out in force, or to want those important supplies, which they depended on collecting in the adjacent country. .
On such occasions, the operation could not be suddenly completed, and, it was expected, might often be defeated by small detachments of Continental troops from the army, to be re-enforced by militia, who, it was supposed, would turn out with alacrity, and in greater numbers, to save themselves from being plundered. This hope was the rather indulged, because in the intervals between these incursions, only small portions of the militia were required to keep the field. On a great and pressing emergency, therefore, a greater exertion was expected.
In the species of war which this state of things introduced, the advantage was manifestly
CHAP. VII. with the enemy; who, being unassailable in 1778. their quarters, and possessing the command of
the Delaware, could, at any time, with great facility, ravage the coast of Jersey to a consi. derable extent, before any assistance could be received from Continental troops to be detached from the army. But of this advantage it was impossible to deprive them, unless two camps could have been formed, either of which would have been sufficiently strong to repel them; or, unless the militia would have assembled uni. versally, at the first alarm, with arms in their hands, to drive back the invaders of their country.
· This was not counted on. A much smaller degree of service was expected, and even this was not always performed. The lines were often so ill guarded that the communication with Philadelphia experienced but little interruption.
Yet the wants of such a number of persons and horses required a greater supply of fresh provisions and forage, than could be brought in by these means, and as the spring opened, several expeditions were undertaken, both to relieve the British army, and to distress that of the United States. .
About the middle of March, an expedition into Jersey, under colonel Mawhood and major Simcoe, with about twelve hundred men, was projected, and carried into execution. Having embarked at Philadelphia, and sailed down the CHAP. VIII. river, they landed at Salem, nearly opposite 1778. Reedy island, and dispersed the small bodies of militia stationed in that part of the country, under colonels Hand and Holme. The militia were posted at some bridges on Olway's creek, over which it was supposed the British would endeavour to force a passage. Their numbers being unequal to an effectual resistance, it was only intended by their commanding officers to keep the enemy in some check, until they should be re-enforced. A very judicious plan to surprise them, was skilfully executed by major Simcoe, one of the best partisans in the British service, and their guard was cut to pieces. The loss of the militia in these skirmishes, in killed and taken, was between fifty and sixty men.
General Washington had received early intelligence of this expedition, and had commu. nicated it to governor Livingston, with a request, that he would immediately order out the militia in force, to join colonel Shreve, who was ordered to pass over into Jersey with his regiment; and, with the assistance he would there receive, to take such a position, as was best calculated to cover the country against which the expedition might be directed. It was uncertain whether the party intended to forage in the counties bordering on the Delaware, or
to destroy the salt works on the seacoast. The .. VOL. III.
CHAP. VIII. governor could not bring his militia with suffi. 1778. cient expedition into the field. The legislature
had neglected to make the necessary provision for paying them, and they required a Continental force, as a point around which they might be encouraged to rally. The militia who had assembled about Haddonfield, to join colonel Shreve, and to stop the communication with Philadelphia, were, at his arrival, less than one hundred; and colonel Ellis, their commanding
officer, remarked in a letter to the governor, March 23. that, “ without some standing force, little was
to be expected from the militia, who being alone not sufficient to prevent the incursions of the enemy, each one naturally consults his own safety, by not being found in arms.”
Mawhood of course was unrestrained, and the devastation of his party was believed to have been wantonly distressing. Its course of destruction was preceded by a summons to colonel Hand, the commanding officer of the militia, to lay down his arms, which was accompanied with a threat of the consequences to result from his refusal. This threat was too faithfully executed. .
Mawhood completed his forage unmolested, and returned to Philadelphia. During the con. tinuance of this incursion, which lasted six or seven days, not more than two hundred men could be collected to re-enforce colonel Shreve, who was consequently unable to effect any thing, and did not even march to the lower CHAP. VIII. parts of Jersey, which were plundered without 1778. restraint. *
The continual applications to general Washington for detachments of Continental troops sufficient to cover the country, were necessarily rejected. It was not recollected by the applicants, that the enemy could re-enforce: with more facility than the American general, and could consequently keep up their superi. ority until the whole war should be transferred to Jersey. He, however, permitted colonel Shreve to remain on the east side of the Delaware, and re-enforced him with an additional regiment. He would not consent to add to the strength of this detachment, or to depart from his fixed plan, which was only to keep on that side of the Delaware, such a force, as would break off the ordinary intercourse between the town and country. A larger force, he was entirely persuaded, would only direct the attention of sir William Howe towards it, and induce him to form plans for its destruction. One of these, attempted to be executed on colonel Shreve, was disappointed by a precipitate retreat, attended with some loss.
Not long after this incursion into Jersey, an May 1. enterprise was undertaken against general Lacy who, with a small number of Pennsylyania
* See Note, No. X. at the end of the volume.