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Maidenhead, about half way between Trenton and Princeton, to watch tha movement of the enemy, and delay their march, should they advance upon him
On the next morning, Lord Cornwallis moved JAN. 2, towards the American General with a supe. 1777.
riour , force, and reached Trenton at foui o'clock of the afternoon. General WASHINGTON drew up his men behind Assumpinck creek, which runs th:ough the town. A cannonade was opened on both sides. His Lordship attempted at several places to cross the creek ; but finding the passes guarded, he halted his troops, and kindled his fires.
Early in the evening General WASHINGTON assembled his officers in Council, and stated to them the critical situation of the army. “ In the morning," he observed, “ we certainly shall be attacked by a superiour force, defeat must operate our absolute destruction, a retreat across the Delaware is extremely hazardous, if practicable, on account of the ice. In either case, the advantages of our late success will be sacrificed. New Jersey must again be resigned to the enemy, and a train of depressing and disastrous consequences will ensue.” He then proposed to their consideration the expediency of the following measure “ Shall we silently quit our present position, by a cir. cuitous route, gain the rear of the enemy at Princeton, and there avail ourselves of favourable circumstances ? By this measure we shall avoid the appearance of a retreat, we shall assume the aspect of vigorous operation, inspirit the publick mind, and subserve the interests of our country.”
The plan was unanimously approved, and measures were instantly adopted for its execution ; the baggage was silently removed to Burlington; the fires were renewed, and ordered to be kept up through the night • guards were posted at the bridge and fords of the creek, and directed to go the usual rounds. At one o clock at night, the army moved upon the left flank
of the enemy, and unperceived gained their rear. The weather, which for several days had been warın, suddenly changed to a severe frost; and the roads, which had been deep and muddy, immediately became bard, and marching upon them, easy.
About sunrise the American van met the advanco of three British regiments, which had the preceding Fight encamped at Princeton, and were on their way to join Lord Cornwallis. A severe skirmish took place between this advanced corps and General Mercer, who commanded the militia in front of the American line. The militia at length gave way, and in the effort to rally them, General Mercer was mortally wounded. General WASHINGTON advanced at the head of those troops which had signalized themselves at Trenton, and exposed himself to the hottest fire of the enemy. His men bravely supported him, and the British in their turn were repulsed, and the different regiments separated. That in the rear, retreated with little loss to Brunswick. Colonel Mawhood in the van, with a part of his men, forced his way through the Americans, and reached Trenton. More than a hundred of the British were left on the field of battle, and three hundred of them were made prisoners. Be. sides General Mercer, whose death was greatly lamented, the Americans in this action lost two Colonels, two Captains, five other officers, and nearly a hundred privates.
On the return of day, Lord Cornwallis found that he had been out-generalled. Comprehending the design of WASHINGTON, he broke up his encampment, and with the utmost expedition retraced his steps, for the preservation of the stores in his rear; and he was close upon the Americans, as they marched oui of Princeton.
It had been the intention of General WASHINGʻron to proceed to Brunswick, where the British had large magazines, and where was their military chest, which
at this time, as it afterwards appeared, contained seventy thousand pounds sterling. But many of his soldiers had not slept for forty-eight hours, none of them for the last twenty-four, and they were exhausted by excessive duty. They were closely pursued by a superiour force, which must be up with them before the stores at Brunswick could be destroyed, should they meet with serious opposition at that place. Ge neral WASHINGTON therefore relinquished this part of his plan, and prudently led his army to a place of security, to give them the rest which they greatly needed.
The successes of the American arms at Trenton, and at Princeton, were followed by important conse quences. The affairs of the United States, before these events, appeared to be desperate. Two thousand of the regular troops had a right, on the first of January, to demand their discharge. The recruiting service was at an end, and general despondency prevailed. The triumphs of the British through the previous parts of the campaign produced a common apprehension, in the citizens of the middle states, that any further struggle would be useless ; and that America must eventually return to her allegiance to Great Britain. Many individuals made their peace with the Commissioners, and took protection from the officers of the crown; and more discovered the inclination to do it, when opportunity should present. General Howe supposed New-Jersey restored to the British government, and thought the war drawing to a close. But these successes were considered as great victories, and produced consequent effects upon the publick mind. The character of the Commander in Chief proporcionably rose in the estimation of the great mass of American people, who now respected themselves, and confided in their persevering efforts to secure the great object of contention, the independence of their country.
Other causes kad a powerful operation upon the minds of the yeomanry of New-Jersey. The British commanders tolerated, or at least neglected to restrain, gross licentiousness in their army. The inhabitants of the state, which they boasted was restored to the bosom of the purent country, were treated not as reclaimed friends, but as conquered enemies. The sol. diery were guilty of every species of rapine, snd with little discrimination between those who had opposed or supported the measures of Britain
The aluse was not limited to the plundering of property. Every in dignity was offered to the persons of the inhabitants, not excepting those outrages to the female sex, which are felt by ingenuous minds with the keenest anguish, and excite noble spirits to desperate resistance. These aggravated abuses roused the people of New-Jersey to repel that army, to which they had voluntarily submitted, in the expectation of protection and security. At the dawn of success upon the American arms, they rose in small bands to oppose their invaders. They scoured the country, cut off every soldier who straggled from his corps ; and in many instances repelled the foraging parties of the enemy.
The enterprising maneuvres of the American General, and the returning spirit of the Jersey yeomanry, rendered General Howe, now Sir William, very cautious and circumspect. He contracted his cantonments for winter quarters, and concentrated his force in New-Jersey, at Brunswick, and Amboy.
By this time, the period of service of the Continental battalions had expired, and the recruits for the new army were not yet in camp. Offensive operations, therefore, were of necessity suspended by the American General; but, with the small force at his disposal, he straitened the enemy's quarters, and circumscribed their foraging excursions.
At Christmas the power of the British was extend. ed over the whole of New-Jersey, and their comnand.
ers boasted, that a corporal's guard might in safety parade in every part of the province. Before the expiration of January, they possessed but two posts in the state, and these were in the neighbourhood of their shipping. The power of their arms extended not beyond the reach of the guns of their fortifications. Every load of forage, and every pound of provision, obtained from the inhabitants, was procured by the bayo nets of large detachments, and at the price of blood.
General Washington disposes his small force for the protection of
New Jersey-Army Inoculated-Abuse of American prisonersThe Exchange of General Lee refused-Stores at Peck's Killand Danbury destroyed-American Army takes post at Middlebrook -Sir William Howe moves towards the Delaware-Returns to Staten Island and embarks his troops—He !ands at the Head of Elk-General Washington marches to meet him-Battle of Brandywine-Effects of a Storm-British take possession of Pniladelphia-Mud Island and Red Bank fortified-Obstructions in tho River-Attack on Mud Island-Count Donop defeated - British surmount the Fortifications of the River-Plan to attack Philadelphia-Sir William Howe reconnoitres the American camp at White Marsh–The Army posted at Valley Forge–The priva tions of the Soldiers during the winter.
1777. GENERAL WASHINGTON Indulged the hope that the brilliant succoss, at the close of the last cam. paign, would stimulate his country to bring a force into the field, which would enable him in the course of the winter, to drive the enemy into New-York, to straiten their quarters and prevent their obtaining any supplies from the neighbouring counties. Being disappointed in this hope, he disposed his small force in the best manner to protect New-Jersey, and exerted himself to prepare for the approaching season of action.
The most popular officers were sent into the states in which they had the greatest influence, to aid the recruiting service, and to push the recruits forward to camp, in small bodies, as they could be made ready