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Washington's aids, had been sent into the city on this important business. By his instructions he was directed to proceed in his requisitions upon the stores and shops of Philadelphia cautiously but effectually. “ Your own prudence will point out the least exceptionable means to be pursued, but remember delicacy, and a strict adherence to the ordinary mode of appli cation, must give place to our necessities. We must, if possible, accommodate the soldiers with such arti cles as they stand in need of; or we shall have just reason to apprehend the most injurious and alarming consequences from the approaching season."
From the landing of the British army at the head of the Elk, on the 25th of August, to the 26th of Septernber, when they entered Philadelphia, the American troops had encountered a continued series of active operations, and the duty of the General was compli. cated and arduous. During this time, the soldiers were destitute of baggage, insufficiently supplied with provisions, and deprived of the comforts that administer to the support of the human frame under severe fatigue. Without covering, they were exposed to heavy rains, and obliged to march, many of them without shoes, in deep roads, and to ford considerable streams.
The best British writers, who have given us a history of the revolutionary war, highly applaud the generalship of Sir William Howe in this part of the campaign. Can they then withhold applause from the American Commander, who manœuvred an inferiour army in the face of the British General, and detained him thirty days, in marching sixty miles, from tho head of Elk river to Philadephia, in a country, in which there was not one fortified post, nor a stream that might not, at this season be every where forded , who fought une battle, and although beaten, in five days again faced his enemy with the intention to risk a general engagement who, when in the moment of
cacion, was providentially obliged to retreat, with mus. kets and ammunition unfit for use, extricated himself from his perilous situation and once more placed him. self in front of the invading foe; who at last was isso duced to open the Philadelphia road to the British General, not because he was beaten in the field, but through the influence of circumstances, which no military address could counteract.
Four regiments of grenadiers were posted in Philadelphia, and the other corps of the British army were cantoned at Germantown. The first object of Sir William was to subdue the defences and remove the impediments of the Delaware, that a communication might be opened with the British shipping. General Washington made every effort to prevent the execution of the enemy's design, in the hope of forcing General Howe out of Philadelphia, by preventing sup. plies of provisions from reaching him. Of the attainment of this important object, he had no doubt, could the passage of the Delaware be rendered impracticable. To this purpose works had been erected on a bank of mud and sand in the river, near the conflu. ence of the Schuylkill, and about seven miles below Philadelphia. The place, from these works, was denominated Fort Island, and the works themselves Fort Mifflin. On a neck of land on the opposite shore of New-Jersey, called Red Bank, a fort was constructed and mounted with heavy artillery, and called Fort Mercer. Fort Island and Red Bank, were distant from each other half a mile. In the channel of the Delaware, which ran betwcen them, two ranges of Chevauxdefrise were sunk. These consisted of large pieces of timber, strongly framed together, and points ed with iron, and they completely obstructed the pas. sage of ships. These works were covered by several galleys, floating batteries, and armed ships.
Sir William Howe having detached a considerabls force from Germantown to operate against the works
on the Delaware, General Washington thought this a favourable opportunity to attack the British army in their cantonments. The line of the British encampment crossed the villaş6 of Germantown at right angles, near its centre ; and its flanks were strongly covered.
General WASHINGTON now commanded a force consisting of about eight thousand continental troops and three thousand militia. The General's plan was to attack both wings of the enemy in front, and rear at the same time. The arrangements having been made, the army was moved near the scene of action on the evening of the 4th of ber The divisions of Sul. livan and Wayne, flanked by Conway's Brigade, were to enter Germantown by the way of Chestnut Hill, and attack the left wing of the British. General Armstrong with the Pennsylvania militia was ordered to fall down the Manatawny road, and turning the British left flank, attack its rear. The divisions of Green and Stephen, flanked by M.Dougal's Brigade, were to take a circuit by the way of Limekiln road, and entering at the market-house, attack the right wing. The militia of Maryland and New-Jersey, under General Small. wood and General Forman, were to march down the old York road, and fall upon the rear of the British right. The division of Lord Sterling, and the bri. gades of Nash and Maxwell were to form a corps de
About sunrise the next morning, the frons Oct. 8. of General Sullivan's column, which the
Commander in Chief accompanied, drove iv the British piquet at Mount Airy. The main body of this division soon engaged the British light infantry and the fortieth regiment of foot, and obliged them to give way, leaving all their baggage behind. General Green in half an hour after Sullivan reached the ground of action, attacked and drove in the troops in front of the right wing rf the enemy. Several brigades
of Sullivan's and of Green's divisions penetrated the town. The enemy appeared to be surprised, and a fair prospect of eventual success in the assault presented itself to the mind of the American General.
The flattering expectations, which the successful commencement of the enterprise excited, were soon succeeded by disappointment and mortification. As the British retreated before General Sullivan's divi. sion, Colonel Musgrave took post with six companies of light troops in a stone house, from which he severe. verely galled the Americans in their advance. Attempts were made to dislodge him, but they proved ineffectual, and the American line was checked and thrown into disorder. The morning being extremely foggy, the Americans could neither perceive the situation of the enemy, nor take advantage of their own
The ground to which some of the British corps was pursued had many enclosures, which broke the American line of march, and some of the regiments, in their ardour to push forward, separated from their brigades, were surrounded and taken prisoners In the inoment of supposed victory, the troops retreat ed, and the efforts of their Generals to rally them, were fruitless.
The militia were never seriously brought into action. General Washington, perceiving that victory had, on this occasion, eluded his
grasp, contented himself with a safe and honourable retreat.
In this bold assault, two hundred Americans were killed, six hundred v sunded, and four hundred taken prisoners. Among the killed was Brigadier General Nash. The British loss was one hundred killed and four hundred wounded. Among the killed were Brigadier Agnew and Colonel Bird. This enterprise, as far as the Commander in Chief was concerned in it, was honourable. Its ultimate failure must be attributed to the want of discipline and experience in his men Congress fully approved of the plan of this assault, and applauded the courage displayed in its execution
They voted their thanks to the General, and to the army.
The works in the Delaware now engaged the attention of the British and American Generals. Sir Wille iam Howe broke up his encampment at Germantown, and moved his whole army into Philadelphia. General WASHINGTON placed confidential garrisons in Fort Mercer at Red Bank, and in Fort Mifflin on Mud Island, but he had not a force equal to their complete defence. He appointed detachments to intercept this transportation of provisions from the British ships be low the American works to Philadelphia. He called upon the government of New-Jersey to turn out the militia of that state, to form a camp in the rear of Red Bank; and he set patroles of militia on the roads leading to Philadelphia, both in Pennsylvania and NewJersey, to prevent the disaffected inhabitants from carrying their articles into the market of Philadelphia. To avail himself of any favourable opportunity to an. noy the enemy, he moved his army to White Marsh, distant only fifteen miles from the city.
Lord Howe, by continued exertion, having overcome the obstructions which the Aniericans had placed in the river at Billi sport, a joint attack sea ard land was planned against Red Bank and Fort Island. The Augusta, a sixty-four gun ship, the Merlin frigate, and several small armed vesssels moved up the Delaware to assault the works on Fort or Vud Island. Count Donop crossed into New-Jersey with twelve hundred Germans, and in the evening of the
22d appeared before Fort Mercer, on Red Oct. 22. Bank. His assault was highly spirited, and
the defence intrepid and obsținate. Colonel Green the commandant, whose garrison did not exceed five hundred men, was unable to man the outworks. From these he galled the Germans in their advance, and on their near approach he quitted them, and retired within the inner intrenchments.