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REVOLUTION CONTINUED.—COMMISSIONERS ARRIVE TROM ENGLAND.—THE BRITISH ARMY RETREAT FROM PHILADELPHIA
TO NEW-YORK. FRENCH FLEET ARRIVES. ATTEMPT OK
On the 14th of May, 1778, Lieut. Col. Ethan Allen was Testored to his country by an exchange, and Congress honoured him with a colonel's commission in the service of the United States, as a testimony of their respect for his firmness and zeal, in the service of his country.
At this time an expedition was planned against Rhode. Island, and Gen. Sullivan was detached by Gen. Washington to take the command ; but the vigilance of Gen. Pigot defeated the enterprise, by detaching Lieut. Col. Camphell, with about 500 men, to destroy the American gallies, and boats, destined for the service. Lieut. Col. Campbell executed his commission promptly, on the night of the 24th and 25 th, and destroyed all the flat-bottomed boats, near the town of Warren, with a quantity of naval stores, &c. together with the meeting-house, and seven dwelling houses, at Warren, and retired to Bristol, where they burnt 22 houses, and the church, (through mistake) andafter plundering the inhabitants, and committing the most licentious depredations, they carried off a state galley, and returned to Newport. Shortly after, Gen. Pigot detached another party, to burn and destroy the town of Tiverton ; but the Americans were in force, and defended the bridge leading to the town, and the enemy were compelled to abandon the enterprise, and return, after having destroyed some oW mills, &c. near their place of landing.
At this time a French frigate of 50 guns, with a schooner from Rochfort, laden with arms and dry goods, arrived in .0 *'
James River, Virginia, and were joyfully received by the nation.
During these eve nts, Gen. Howe kept the country in at perpetual state of alarm, by his foraging parties, which were often conducted with great cruelty, and many innocent unresisting inhabitants were butchered in cold blood, .while begging for mercy.
On the 7th of May, Gen. Howe detached a battalion of infantry to destroy the American stores and shipping, at Bordentown. This expedition was promptly executed, and on the 8th, they burnt four stores, containing provisions, tobacco, military stores, and camp equipage, and on the 9th, they destroyed one frigate of 32 guns—one of 28— nine large ships—three privateers of 16 guns— three of 10—twenty-three brigs, with several sloops, and schooners, &c. and returned to Philadelphia.
At this eventful moment, Sir Henry Clinton arrived at Philadelphia, to succeed Gen. Howe in the command of *the British army in America, and on the 18th, the British officers took leave of Sir William Howe, by honouring him with a most magnificent entertainment, which continued 12 hours, accompanied with a most splendid exhibition of fireworks, &c. and his excellency retired to England.
General Washington detached the Marquis la Fayette, from his camp at Valley-forge, with about 2500 men, to approach the city of Philadelphia, and add to the amusements of this scene of festivity : the marquis promptly obeyed, crossed the Schuylkill, and took post on Bacon-Hill, twelve miles ia advance of the American army, where he posted his detachment for the night, to watch the motions of the enemy, and take advantage of such favourable circumstances as might present themselves. The British soon learnt the situation of the marquis, and on the night of the 19th, Sir Henry Clinton detached Gen. Grant with about 7000 men, with field pieces, to surprise the marquis, and cut off
j^v his retreat. Gen. Grant marched out upon the Frankfort road, and from thence crossed over through the old York and White-marsh roads ; entered the road that led to Bacon Hill, about two miles in the rear of the marquis. Sir Henry Clinton, at the same time sent out another de• tachment to engage the marquis in front. Gen. Grant having obtained his first object, felt himself sure of his prey, and advanced directly upon the marquis, without securing the Matron-Ford, upon the Schuylkill ; but the marquis, having learnt the movements of the enemy, filed off his detachment, with such a masterly movement, that he gained the Matron-Ford, (distant one mile,) and crossed over before the enemy were prepared to push their attack, and thus eluded the enemy, and saved his detachment from total ruin. The loss of this detachment would have greatly distressed the American army, and changed all the future operations of the campaign.—Gen. Grant, alarmed at some heavy firing in the American camp, retreated in his turn, and made a hasty movement back td Philadelphia.
On the 4th of June, the Earl of Carlisle, Mr. Eden, and Governor Johnstone arrived in the Trident from England, as commissioners to restore peace between GreatBritain and America. On the 9th Sir Henry Clinton requested of General Washington a passport for their Secretary, Dr. Ferguson, to bear their dispatches to Congress, which being refused, they were forwarded in the usual form. On the 13th they were received, on the 16th they were examined, and on the 17th the president was directed to return the following reply. . .
"I have received the letter from your excellencies of, the 9th inst. with the enclosures, and laid them before: Congress. Nothing but an earnest desire to spare the further effusion of human blood, could have induced Con.: gress to read a paper containing expressions so disrespectful to his most christian majesty, the good and great ally of these states, or to consider propositions so derogatory to the honour of an independent nation.
"The acts of the British Parliament, the commission from your sovereign, and your letter, suppose the people of these states to be subjects of the crown of Great-Britain, and are founded on the idea of dependence, which is utterly inadmissible. I am further directed to inform your excellencies, that Congress are inclined to peace, notwithstanding the urgent claims from which this war originated, and the savage manner in which it has been conducted. They will be therefore ready to enter upon the consideration of a treaty of peace, and commerce, not inconsistent with treaties already subsisting, when the king of Great-Britain shall demonstrate a sincere disposition for that purpose. The only solid proof of this disposition will be, an explicit acknowledgment of the independence of these states, or the withdrawing his fleets and armies.
"I have the honour to be, your
excellencies most obedient
and humble servant."
The movements of France, as before noticed, gave alarm in England, and caused the minister to send out orders by Mr. Eden, for Sir Henry Clinton to retire with the British army, from Philadelphia to New-York, as soon as possible, and he had actually commenced his operations before the letter, as above, could have reached him.
On the 18th of June, the whole British army evacuated Philadelphia, crossed the Delaware, and moved on to Haddonfield.
General Washington, apprised of this movement, detached General Maxwell, with his brigade, to harass the enemy, and impede his march. The next day General Washington, finding by the return of the troops that bis army was about 11,000 strong, fit for duty, consulted his officers in written questions, upon the plan of operations, to be adopted in pursuing the enemy.
General Lee, who had been exchanged and joined the army, was now present to give his advice in council. General Mifflin had been long absent by permission, ana had now joined the army; but was not consulted, because he had avoided the duties of the winter's campaign.
The answers were almost unanimous—" to harass the enemy at all points; but to avoid the hazard of a general battle." General Washington crossed the Delaware the next day with his army, and moved forward in pursuit of the enemy, and at the same time detached Colonel Morgan, with 600 rifle-men, to support General Maxwell.
The weather was extremely warm, and the armies moved slowly. On the 24th, Gen. Washington reached Princeton, where he made the following statement to the officers of his army.
"The army of the enemy is between 9 and 10,000 rank and file ; the American army is 10,684 rank and file, beside the advance brigade under Gen. Maxwell, (about 1200,) and about 1200 militia." The general then proposed the following question—" Will it be advisable to hazard a general action?" The answer was—" Not advisable; but a detachment of 1500 to be immediately sent to act as occasion may require, on the enemy's left flank, and rear, in conjunction with the other continental troops, and militia, already hanging about them, and the main body to preserve a relative situation, to act as circumstances may require. Signed, Lee, Sterling, Green, Fayette, Steuben, Poor, Paterson, Woodward, Scott, Portail. Knox." Gen. Scott was detached accordingly;