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march, suffering a surprise, and making a precipitate retreat."
It should also be recollected, that the plans of the Commander in Chief, were laid in the expectation of a much larger force, than in the event he realized. The regiments were not complete ; and he was abso. lutely destitute of cavalry. There was not a single company of horse on Long Island to watch the motions of the enemy, and give information of their movements. This furnishes some apology for the ig. norance of the commanding officer on Long Island, respecting the manæuvre of the enemy.
The defeat of the 27th made a most unfavourable impression upon the army. A great proportion of the troops lost their confidence in their officers, and in themselves. Before this unfortunate event, they met the enemy in the spirit of freemen, fighting for their highest interests, and under the persuasion, that their thorough use of arms, rendered them equal to the digciplined battalions which they were to oppose. But, on this occasion, by evolutions, which they did not comprehend, they found themselves encompassed with difficulties, from which their utmost exertions could not extricate, and involved in dangers, from which their bravery could not deliver them; and entertaining a high opinion of the adroitness of the enemy, in every movement, they apprehended a fatal snare.
These melancholy facts were thus narrated by General Washington, in his letter to Congress. situation is truly distressing. The check our detach. ment sustained on the 27th ultimo, has dispirited too great a proportion of our troops, and filled their minds with apprehension and despair. The militia, instead of calling forth their utmost efforts to a brave and manly opposition, in order to repair our losses, are dis mayed, intractable, and impatient to return. Great numbers of them have gone off—in some instances, almost by whole regiments by haif ones, and by com
panies at a time. This circumsta..ce, of itself, inde pendent of others, when fronted by a well appointed cnemy, superiour in number to our whole collected force, would be sufficiently disagreeable : but when their example has infected another part of the army ; when their want of discipline, and refusal of alınost every kind of restraint and government, have produced a like conduct, but too common to the whole, and an entire Jisregard of that order and subordination necessary to the well doing of an army, and which had been inculcated before, as well as the nature of our military establishment would adınit of, our condition is still more alarming; and with the deepest concern I am obliged to confess my want of confidence in the generality of the troops."
The British General being in possession of Long Island, prepared to attack New-York. The body of the fleet lay at anchor near Governour's Island; but particular ships passed up the East river, without sustaining injury from the American batteries ; others, sailing round Long Island into the Sound, passed up to the higher part of York Island. By these movements, the situation of the American army became critical. It was uncertain whether the attack would be made upon the lines, or whether General Howe would land his troops above King's bridge, and en. close the Americans. To guard against the danger which threatened him, the Commander in Chief or. dered the stores, that were not of present necessity, to be removed above King's bridge, and assembled a
Council to determine upon the expediency Sept. 7. of retreating from the city. The majority of
.his general officers voted against the imme. diate evacuation of New-York. The plan recommend: ed was to station the army in the best manner, to de. fend the points menaced with attack, that the enemy might waste the residue of the season in the struggle to possess York Island. The belief that Congress de
sized that New-York should be maintained to extremi. ty, probably had influence on this Council. In communicating the adopted plan to that body, General WASHINGTON clearly indicated an opinion, that an immediate evacuation of New-York was expedient. Speaking of the enemy, he observed,
“ It is now extremely obvious, from all intelligence, from their movements, and every other circumstanco, that having landed their whole army on Long Island, (except about four thousand on Staten Island) they mean to enclose us on the Island of New-York, by taking post in our rear, while the shipping effectually secure the front; and thus, either by cutting off our communication with the country, oblige us to fight them on their own terms, or surrender at discretion, or, by a brilliant stroke, endeavour to cut this army in pieces, and secure the collection of arms and stores, which they well know we shall not be able soon to replace.
“ Having, therefore, their system unfolded to us, it became an important consideration, how it would be most successfully opposed. On every side there is a choice of difficulties; and every measure, on our part (however painful the reflection be from experience) to be formed with some apprehension that all our troups will not do their duty. In deliberating on this great question, it was impossible to forget, that history, our own experience, the advice of our ablest friends in Europe, the fears of the enemy, and even the declarations of Congress, demonstrate, that on our side, the war should be defensive-(it has ever been called a war of posts)—that we should on all occasions avoid a general aetion, nor put any thing to the risk, unless compelled by a necessity into which we ought never to be drawn.
"It was concluded to arrange the army under three divisions ; five thousand to remain for the defence of the city; nine thousand to King's bridge and its dependences, as well to possess and secure those posts, Vol. I.
as to be ready to attack the enemy who are moving eastward on Long Island, if they should attempt to land on this side ; the remainder to occupy the inter: mediate space, and support either; that the sick should be inimediately removed to Orangetown, and barracks prepared at King's bridge with all possible expedition to cover the troops.
“There were some general ufficers, in whose judgment and opinion, much contidence is to be reposed, that were for a total and immediate removal from the city, urging the great danger of one part of the army being cut off before the other can support it, the ex. tremities being at least sixteen miles apart ; that our army, when collected, is inferiour to the enemy; that they can move with their whole force to any point of attack, and consequently must succeed by weight of numbers, if ihey have only a part to oppose them; that, by removing from hence, we ieprive the enemy of the advantage of their ships, which will make at least ono half of the force to attack the town; that we should keep the enemy at bay, put nothing to the hazard, but at all events, keep tire army together, which may be recruited another year; that the unspent stores will also be preserved ; and, in this case, the heavy artillery can also be secured.”
In the full expectation that a retreat from York Island would soon become necessary, the General assiduously continued the removal of the stores and heavy baggage to a place of safety.
The General cfficers became alarmed at SEPT. 12. the danger of the army, and, in a second
Council, determincd to remove it from New-York.
On the fourteenth, several British ships passed up the East river, and large hodies of troops were moved to Montezore's Island with the apparent intention to lanc either upon the continent above King's bridge, and wholly to enclose the Americans, or upon the
plains of Haerlem on York Island, to break the line of' coinmunication between the different divisions of their army, and attack them in situations, in which they would be unable to support each other. The next morning General Clinton landed under cover of five men of war, with four thousand men, three miles above the city of New-York.
The American lines at this place were Sept. 14. capable of defence, but the men posted in
them, on the firing of the ships, without waiting for the attack of the enemy, abandoned them. As soon as the cannonading began, two brigades were detached from the main body to support the troops in the breast works, the fugitives comniunicated to them their pamuca, and General Washington, in riding to the scene of action, met his troops retreating in the utmost confusion, disregarding the efforts of their Generals to stop them. While the Commander in Chief was, with some effect, exerting himself to rally ther, a very small body of the enemy appeared in sight, on which the men again broke, and a most dastardly route ensued. At this unfortunate moment, and only at this moment through his whole life, Goneral WASHINGTON appears to have lost his fortitude. All. the shameful and disastrous consequences of the defaction of his army, rushed upon his inind, and bore down his spirits. In a paroxysin of despair, he turned his horse towards the enemy, seemingly with the intention to avoid the disgrace of the day by the sacri. fice of his life : his aids seized the horse's bridle, and, with friendly violer.ce, rescued him from the destruction that awaited him.
In consequence of the failure of the troops upon the lines, the evacuation of New-York was necessarily made in haste. It was happily accomplished with the loss of very few men; but most of the heavy artillery, many of the tents, and a great part of the stores, which had not been previously removed, were unavoidably left behind