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and that if his orders had not been peremptory, to advance no further than Brunswick, which last place he also reached just as the rear of Washington's army were quitting it, he must inevitably have prevented them from crossing the Delaware. If General Howe had even attended to the subsequent represen. tations of his pursuing General, Washington must have been overtaken at Princeton ; but Providence had decreed that we should be free, or the activity of Cornwallis would have been sufficient to have counteracted the effects even of General Howe's dilatory disposition. At Newark, Brunswick, Princeton, and Trenton, the escape of Washington may almost be regarded as miraculous. At Brunswick, thirteen hundred of his men, the Jersey and Maryland brigades, deserted him, their period of service having there expired, and no inducement being sufficient to detain them, a moment beyond their legal engagement. After crossing the Delaware, five hundred others abandoned him, so that his whole force now amounted to no more than seventeen hundred men.
What added greatly to the embarrassments of Washington at this critical juncture of his affairs, was a proclamation issued by the two brothers, Lord and General Howe, commanding all persons in arms against His Majesty's government, all general and provincial Congresses, and all others who were aiding and abetting the rebels, forthwith to desist from their treasonable practices, and return to their homes and business, on the promise of a full pardon. The effects of this proclamation upon the weak and timid, and particularly upon the men of fortune, who were
willing to be patriots only, while there was no danger, were truly alarming to the friends of freedom, and highly disgraceful to the American character. Many upon whose aid and influence, the utmost reliance had been placed, consented to abandon the cause of freedom, honour, and their country, in this hour of dark and gloomy despondence, and to throw themselves at the feet of His Majesty's merciful commissioners, in penitent submission. We have not a word to say against the conduct of those, who, when the question of rebellion, or non-resistance, was yet undecided, when the daring project of independence was yet a problem of fearful solution, preferred the character of obedient loyalists, to that of stubborn and discontented rebels; they had the undoubted right of choice; but when the barrier that separated treason from resistance had been passed; when the whole nation had declared that they were, and of right ought to be, free and independent; when the banner of war had been unfurled in the name of thirteen United States, who had mutually and interchangeably pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honours, in the conflict-then the choice had been made, the time for wavering had been passed, and those who had silently acquiesced in, were solemnly bound by, the decision of their country. The desertion of the patriot cause then, was adding cowardice to treason, meanness to hypocrisy; and it becomes the duty of the impartial historian to hold up
the double crime to the execration of posterity. After the capture of General Lee, which to say the least, was the effect of his reprehensible contempt of personal danger, the command of his forces devolved on General Sullivan, who soon after joined General
Washington in Pennsylvania, and thus increased the army to about five thousand men; nearly one half of which, however, quit the service on the 1st of January upon the expiration of their term.
We have seen with what preeminent skill Washington planned and executed a scheme for recrossing the Delaware into Jersey, and giving battle to Knyphausen and his formidable Hessians, over whom he obtained the most signal victory; having with the loss of only four or five men, taken nearly a thousand prisoners, with whom he returned to his position in Pennsylvania on the same evening, and thus once more raised the smiles of hope in the American camp. The reader has had occasion to remark how often it has been the fortune of Washington, to be overruled in his wisest measures, by the council of his officers. Had he followed his own inclination, after the battle of Trenton, and pursued the routed enemy, the events of this cold, terrible and disastrous winter would have been widely different; but he was at all times too modest as well as too prudent to rely solely upon his own judgment. This signal success of Washington, against that portion of the enemy too, who had always been looked upon by the Americans with a sort of fearful horrour, gave to the officers an opportunity which was not suffered to escape, of appealing to the patriotism and feelings of the militia ; and not without some success- a few hundreds of them were induced to join Generals Mifflin and Greene; while the continentals, in the true spirit of hireling mercenaries, after accepting an extra bounty of ten dollars for reenlisting, basely deserted Washington, to the number of five hundred, after he had returned to Trenton, and at the moment when a battle was expected, upon the
issue of which, the ultimate fate of the country was supposed to hang.
Lord Cornwallis, who, after his unsuccessful pursuit of Washington as far as the Delaware, had returned to New York with the view of embarking for England, hearing of the movements of the American troops, abandoned all thoughts of his voyage for the present, and hastened to join General Grant, who at the head of the British forces had marched to meet the Americans at Trenton. Washington with about five thousand men was posted on the south bank of Sanpink Creek; a force greatly inferiour in numbers to that of the enemy, and composed chiefly of raw, undisciplined militia. He had about thirty pieces of artillery posted on the bank of the creek, which was easily fordable in every part of it, and in this perilous situation hung the destinies of the young Republick, when Cornwallis arrived on the opposite bank of the creek. We have more than once in the course of this history, had occasion to remark, that when the hopes of the Americans were at the lowest ebb, when the fate of their hazardous conflict seemed to hang upon a single thread, and when death and slavery were the only alternatives in their view, something has occurred, like the special interference of Providence, to avert the threatened danger, and throw the sunshine of hope over the gloom of despair. So it happened in the present instance. If Lord Cornwallis had listened to the advice of Sir William Erskine, and made an immediate attack upon the Americans, instead of lying down to enjoy a night of repose, in the sanguine assurance that his victim could not escape him, nothing could have saved our little army from annihilation. But the moments devoted by
the British commander to sleep, were far otherwise employed by Washington. He saw the peril of his situation, and as upon all occasions of importance, called his officers together to consult upon the means of safety. In this instance, his advice was fortunately adopted—an immediate retreat to Princeton was determined upon; and the annals of war would be consulted in vain, for an example of a manœuvre of such consummate skill. The two armies were separated only by a narrow creek; the voices of the centinels on either side, could be distinctly heard by the other; and a musket-ball from either camp would have passed far over the rear of the other. The weather for several days had been warm, wet, and foggy, and the roads were so muddy and deep as to be almost impassable–To have crossed the Delaware in view of the enemy would have been attended with infinite hazard; and to have attempted to pursue the course of the river to the ferry opposite Philadelphia, would have been equally dangerous. No alternative was left but to march by a circuitous route to Princeton; and even this would have been utterly impracticable, but for a sudden change in the weather. The wind shifted to the North West, a severe frost ensued, even while the officers were deliberating, and by the time the troops were ready to move, the ground was hard and firm. Nothing could have been better managed than the stratagem adopted to deceive the enemy: large fires having been kindled in front of the whole line, and kept in full blaze all night, which effectually prevented the operations of those behind them from being observed, while at the same time it induced a belief that Washington was calmly preparing for a morning encounter. Lieutenant Colonel Mawhood,