Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

That the commissioners for the court of Berlin consult with the commissioners at the court of France, and prepare such treaty or treaties of friendship and commerce, to be proposed to the king of Prussia, as shall not be disagreeable to their most Christian and Catholic Majesties. [Extract of the Minutes.] CHARLEs Thompson, Secretary of the Congress. John HANcock, President.”

“General Washington, having secured the Hessian prisoners on the Pennsylvanian side of the Delaware, recrossed the river two days after the action, and took possession of Trenton. Generals Mifflin and Cadwallader, who lay at Bordentown and Crosswix with three thousand six hundred militia, were ordered to march up in the night of the first of January, to join the commander in chief, whose whole effective force, including this accession, did not exceed five thousand men. The detachments of the British army, which had been distri. buted over New-Jersey, now assembled at Princeton, and were joined by the army from Brunswick under Lord Cornwallis. From this position the enemy advanced toward Trenton in great force, on the morning of the second of January; and, after some slight skir. mishing with troops, detached to harass and delay their march, the van of their army reached Trenton about four in the afternoon. On their approach, General Washington retired across the Assumpinck, a rivulet that runs through the town, and by some field pieces, posted on its opposite banks, compelled them, after attempting to crossm several places, to fall back out of the reach of his guns. The two armies, kindling their fires, retained their positions on opposite sides of the rivulet, and kept up a cannonade until night.

The situation of the American general was at this moment ex

tremely critical. Nothing but a stream, in many places fordable. separated his army from an enemy, in every respect its superior. If he remained in his present position, he was certain of being attacked the next morning, at the hazard of the entire destruction of his little army. If he should retreat over the Delaware, the ice in that river not being firm enough to admit a passage upon it, there was danger of great loss, perhaps of a total defeat; the Jerseys would be in full possession of the enemy ; the public mind would be depressed ; recruiting would be jo ; and Philadelphia would be within the reach of General Howe. In this extremity, he boldly determined to abandon the Delaware, and by a circuitous march along the left flank of the enemy, fall into their rear at Princeton. As soon as it was dark, the baggage was silently removed to Burlington ; and about one o'clock the army, leaving its fires lighted, and the sentinels on the margin of the creek, decamped with perfect secresy. . Its movement was providentially favoured by the weather, which had previously been so warm and moist, that the ground was soft, and the roads were scarcely passable; but, the wind suddenly changing

to the northwest, the ground was in a short time frozen as hard as a pavement. About sunrise, two British regiments, that were on their march under Lieutenant-Colonel Mawhood to join the rear of the British army at Maidenhead,” fellin with the van of the Americans, conducted § General Mercer; and a very sharp action ensued. The advanced party of Americans, composed chiefly of militia, soon gave way, and the few regulars attached to them could not maintain their ground. General Mercer, while o exerting himself to rally his broken troops, received a mortal wound. The British rushed forward with fixed bayonets, and drove back the Americans. General Washington, who followed close in the rear, now led on the main body of the army, and attacked the enemy with great spirit. While he exposed himself to their hottest fire, he was so well supported by the same troops, which had aided him a few days before in the victory at Trenton, that the British were compelled to give way. The seventeenth regiment, which was in front, forced its way through a part of the American troops, and reached Maidenhead. The §. regiment, which was in the rear, retreated by the way of Hillsborough to Brunswick. General Washington pressed forward to Princeton. A party of the British, that had taken refuge in the college, after receiving a few discharges from the American field pieces, came out and surrendered themselves prisoners of war; but the principal part of the regiment, that was left there, saved itself by a precipitate retreat to Brunswick. In this action, upward of one hundred of the onemy were killed on the spot, and nearly three hundred were taken prisoners. The loss of the Americans in killed was somewhat less; but, beside General Mercer, Colonels Haslet and Potter, two brave and excellent officers from Pennsylvania, Captain Neal of the artillery, Captain Fleming, and five other valuable officers, were among the slain.f Lord Cornwallis, discovering at day light that the American army had moved off, broke up his camp, and commenced a rapid marc to Brunswick, and was close in the rear on the Americans before they left Princeton. General Washington retired with his army to Morristown. During these movements, many of the American soldiers were without shoes; and their naked feet, in marching over the frozen ground, were so gashed, as to mark each step with blood. There was scarcely a tentin the whole army. The American militia o soon overran the Jerseys. Within four days after the action at Princeton, between forty and fifty Waldeckers were killed, wounded, or taken, at Springfield, (New-Jersey,) by an equal number of the Jersey militia under Colonel Spencer. General Maxwell surprised Elizabethtown, and took nearly one hundred prisoners. General Dickenson, with four hundred Jersey militia, and fifty Pennsylvania, riflemen, crossed Millstone River, near Somerset court-house, on the twentieth of January, and attacked a large foraging party of the British ; nine of whom were taken prisoners, and the rest dispersed. Forty waggons, and upward of one hundred horses, with considerable booty, fell into the generáfs hands. About a month afterward, Colonel Nelson, of Brunswick, with a detachment of one hundred and fifty militia-men, surprised and captured at Lawrence's Neck a major, and fifty-nine privates of the refugees, who were in British pay. The Americans had hitherto been very deficient in arms and am. munition; but in the spring of this year a vessel of twenty-four guns arrived from France at Portsmouth, in New-Hampshire, with upward of eleven thousand stand of arms, and a thousand barrels of powder ; and about the same time ten thousand stand of arms arrived in another part of the United States. Before the royal army took the field for the ensuing campaign, two enterprises were undertaken for the destruction of American stores, deposited at Peek's Kill and Danbury. The first was conducted by Colonel Bird, who landed with about five hundred men at Peek's Kill, on the east side of Hudson's River, nearly fifty miles from New-York; but on his approach, General M. Dougal, with the few Americans stationed there as a guard, fired the principal store houses, and retired. The loss of provisions, forage, and other valuable articles, was considerable. The second enterprise was conducted by Major-General Tryon. who, with a detachment of two thousand men, embarked at NewYork, and, passing through Long-Island Sound, landed at Campo, between Fairfield and Norwalk; whence he advanced through the wountry, almost undisturbed, to Danbury. On his approach, Col. Huntington, who had occupied the town with one hundred militia and continental troops, retired to a neighbouring height, where he waited for reinforcements. The British destroyed eighteen houses. eight hundred barrels of pork and beef, eight hundred barrels of flour, two thousand bushels of grain, and seventeen hundred tents. Genevals Wooster, Arnold, and Silliman, hastily collecting several hunsovod of the inhabitants, proceeded that night through a heavy rain to Rethel, about eight miles from Danbury. The next morning they covided their troops; and General Wooster, with about three hunshed men, fell in their rear, while Arnold, with about five hundred, by * rapid movement, took post in their front at Ridgefield. Wooster, coming up with them about eleven in the morning, attacked them with great gallantry. A sharp skirmish ensued, in which he was mortally wounded, and his troops were compelled to

* When Lord Cornwallis quitted Princeton, Lieutenant-Colonel Mawhood was left to defend it with the 17th, 40th, and 55th regiments ; but orders had just been transmitted him to march with the 17th and 55th regiments to Maidenhead, a village midway between Princeton and Trenton. These were the two regiments now on their march. t General Mercer was from Virginia. Though a Scotchman by birth, yet from Fo and affection he had engaged to support the liberties of his adopted country. n the French war he had served with Washington, who greatly esteemed him. “In private life he was amiable, and his character as an officer stood high in public esteem.”

ove way. The enemy proceeded to Ridgefield, where Arnold, who

had barricaded the road, warmly disputed the passage ; but, after a skirmish of nearly an hour, being compelled to give way, he retreated to Paugatuck, about three miles east of Norwalk. The royalists, having remained that night at Ridgefield, set fire to the place, and early next morning resumed their march. Arnold met them again about eleven, and a continued skirmishing was kept up until five in the afternoon, when, on their making a stand at a hill near their ships, the Americans charged them with intrepidity, but were repulsed and broken. The enemy immediately re-embarked for ew-York. Their killed, wounded, and missing, amounted to about one hundred and seventy; the loss of the Americans was not admitted to exceed one hundred.” This predatory excursion was not long after retaliated. A quan

tity of provisions had been deposited at Sagg Harbour, on the east

ern end of Long-Island, and confided to a schooner with twelve guns, and a company of infantry. General Parsons, who command. ed a few of the Connecticut recruits at New-Haven, conceiving it

practicable to surprise this small post, and some others not very

distant from it, intrusted the execution of his plan to LieutenantÇolonel. Meigs, a very enterprising and gallant officer, who had distinguished himself in the attempt on Quebec. On the twenty: third of May, he embarked at Guilford with about one hundred and seventy men, on board thirteen whale boats, and proceeded, under convoy of two armed sloops, across the Sound to the north division

of the island near Southhold. A small foraging party, against which

the expedition was in part directed, having left this place for NewYork, the boats were immediately conveyed across the land, about fifteen miles, into a bay, by which the east end of Long Island is deeply intersected, where the troops re-embarked, and, crossing the bay, landed at two in the morning about four miles from Sagg Harbour. This place they completely surprised, and carried with

charged bayonets. A division of the detachment at the same time

burned twelve vessels, with the forage which had been collected for

the supply of the British army. Six of the enemy were killed, and ninety captured. Colonel Meigs returned to Guilford with his pris. oners, without the loss of a single man.”f

[ocr errors]

* David Wooster was born at Stratford, in Connecticut, in 1711, and educated at Yale College. Having, from the time of the war with Spain in 1339 to the French war in 1755, risen through the several military gradations to the rank of colonel ; at the commencement of the revolutionary war he was appointed to the chief command of the troops in the service of Connecticut, and made a Brigadier-General in the con: tinental service; but this commission he afterward resigned. In 1776, he was appointed the first Major-General of the militia in Connecticut; and foll while bravely fighting at their head. Congress resolved, that a monument should be erected to his momory, General Arnold behaved with his usual gallantry on this occasion in the skirmish at Ridgefield, his horse was shot under him; and while he was extricating himself a soldier advanced to run him through with a bayonet, but he shot him dead with his pistol, and made his escape. Congress resolved, that a horse, properly caparisoned. should be presented to him.

* Holmes' Annals, vol. ii. p.370-76.

The cruelties inflicted by the British in the progress of the war, drew from congress the following representation and remonstrance.

In Congress, April 18, 1777. “The committed appointed to inquire into the conduct of the enemy beg leave to report.-That in every place where the enemy has been, there are heavy complaints of oppression, injury and insult, suffered by the inhabit. ants, from soldiers, and Americans disaffected to their country's cause. The committee sound these complaints so greatly diversified thalil was impossible to enumerate them, so it appeared exceedingly diff. cult to give a distinct and comprehensive view of them, or such an account as would not, is published, appear extremely defective when read by the unhappy sufferers, or the country in general. In order, however, in some degree to answer the design of their appointment, they determined to divide the object of their inquiry into four paris, First, the wanton and oppressive devastation of the country, and the destruction of property. Second, the inhuman treatment of those who were so unhappy as to become their prisoners. Third, to savage butchery of imany who had submitted or were incapable of resistance. Fourth, the lust and brutality of the soldiers in abus of women. They will therefore now briefly state what ". sou to be the truth upon each of these heads separately, and subjoin to the whole affidavits and other evidence to support their assertions. First-The wanton and opppressive devastation of the county, and destruction of property. The whole track of the British army is marked with desolation, and a wanton destruction of property; particularly throp h West Chester county in the State of New-York, the towns of §o Elizabeth-Town, Woodbridge, Brunswick, Kingston, Princeton and Trenton, in New-Jersey. The fences destroyed, houses do. serted, pulled in pieces, or consumed by fire, and the general faced waste and devastation spread over a rich and once well cultivate and well inhabited country, would affect the most unseeling with compassion for the unhappy sufferers, and with indignation and resentment against the barbarous ravagers. It deserves notice that though there are many instances of rage and vengeance against particular persons, yet the destruction was very general, and often undistinguished; those who submitted and took protections, and some who were known to favour them, having frequently sufferedin the common ruin. Places and things, which from their public na' ture and general utility should have been spared by a civilized peo ple, have been destroyed or plundered, or both. But above all places of worship, ministers, and other religious persons of Sonio particular Protestant denominations, seem to have been treated with the most rancorous hatred, and at the same time, with the highest contempt. Second-The inhuman treatment of those who were so unhappy as to become prisoners.

« ZurückWeiter »