« AnteriorContinuar »
to fall back, until he crossed the Brandywine river at Chadd's ford. Here he made a stand to dispute its pissage by the British.
The opinion of Congress, and the general sentiment of the country, imposed on the General the necessity of hazarding a general action at this place, for the defence of Philadelphia.
Early in the morning, inform.ation was Sept. 11. 'vrought to the Commander in Chief, that
the British army was advancing in the road to Chadd's ford, and he immediately prepared to dispute the passage of the river. By ten o'clock the light truops were driven over the river to the main body of the American army, and it was every moment expected that the German General Knyphausen would attempt to force a passage. About noon, intelligence was communicated to the General, that a large column of the enemy, with a number of field pieces, had marched up the country, and fallen into the road which crosses the Brandywine above its forks.
Satisfied of the correctness of this intelligence, he detached the right wing of his army to attack the left of this column, as it marched down the north side of the Brandywine, intending himself, with the centre and left wing, to recross the river, and attack the division of the enemy at Chadd's ford. While issuing orders for the execution of this daring plan, the first intelligence was contradicted, and the general was informed, that the movement of the column towards the forks was a feint, and that instead of crossing the ri. ver at that place, it had rejoined the German troops at Chadd's ford. Under the uncertainty, which this contradictory intelligence produced, the General pru. dently relinquished his design.
About two o'clock it was ascertained, that Sir William Howe in person had crossed the Brandywine at the forks, and was rapidly marching down the North side of the river, to attack tho American army. The
Commanger in Chief, now ordered General Sullivan to form the right wing to oppose the column of Sir Williamı. General Wayne was directed to remain at Chadd's ford with the left wing, lo dispute the passage of the river with Knyphausen. General Green, with his division, was posted as a reserve in the centre between Sullivan and Wayne, to reinforce either, as circumstances might require. General Sullivan marched up the river, until he found favourab.e ground, on which to form his men; his left was near the Brandyvine, and both flanks were covered with thick wood. At half past four o'clock, when his line was scarcely formed, the British, under Lord Cornwallis, commenced a spirited attack. The action was for some time severe ; but the American right, which was not properly in order when the assault began, at length gave way, and exposed the flank of the troops that maintaintheir ground, to a destructive fire, and continuing to break from the right, the whole line finally gave way.
As soon as the firing began, General WASHINGTON, with General Green's division, hastened towards the scene of action, but before his arrival, Sullivan was routed, and the Commander in Chief could only check the pursuit of the enemy, and covered the retreat of the beaten troops.
During these transactions General Knyphausen as, saulted the works erected for the defence of Chadd's ford, and soon carried them. General Wayne, by this time learning the fate of the other divisions, drew off his troops. General Washingtoy retreated, with his whole force that night to Chester. The American loss in this battle was about three hundred killed, and six hundred wounded. Four hundred were made prisoners, but these chiefly of the wounded.
Many of the regiments of infantry, and the whole corps of artillery, on this occasion, exhibited the firm. ness and persevering courage that would have honoured veteran troops. A few corps gave way as soon as
for the army.
pressed by the enemy, and their deficiency exposed those who bravely did their duty. General Howe statud his loss, in this action, at one hundred killed and four hundred wounded. In this battle, Marquis Le Fayette, who had recently joined the American army was wounded.
The defeat of Brandywine produced no depression of spirits upon Congress, the army, or the country. Measures were immediately taken to reinforce the ar. my. Fifteen hundred men were marched from Peck's Kül, and large detachments of militia ordered into the field. The Commander in Chief was empowered to impress all horses, wagons, and provisions, necessary
In orders, the general expressed his his high satisfaction at the behaviour of the body of his army in the late engagement. Having allowed his troops a short repose, he faced about to meet the enemy, fully resolved to try his fortune in a genural action, before he resigned Philadelphia to the Royal com mander.
General WASHINGTON, perceiving that Sept. 15. the enemy were moving into the Lancas.
ter road, towards the city, took possession of ground near the Warren tavern, on the left of the British, and twenty-three miles from Philadelphia. The protection of his stores at Reading was one object of this movement. The next morning he was informed of the approach of the British army. He immeiti. ately put his troops in motion to engage the enemy. The advance of the two hostile armies met and began to skirmish, when rain fell, and soon increased to a violent storm. This providentially prevented a general engagement, and rendered the retreat of the Americans absolutely necessary. The inferiority of the muskets in the hands of the American soldiery, which had been verified in every action, was strikingly illustrated in this retreat. The gun locks were badly made, and the cartridge boxes imperfectly constructed
and this storm rendered most of the arms unfit for use ; and all the ammunition was damaged. The army was of consequence extremely exposed, and their danger became the greater, as many of the soldiers were des titute of bayonets. Fortunately the tempest, which produced such serious mischief to the Americans, prevented the pursuit of the British.
General WASHINGTON, finding his troops unfitted for action, relinquished, from necessity, the immediate intention of a battle, and continued his retreat through the day, and most of the night, amidst a cold and tem. pestuous rain, and in very deep roads. On a full discovery of the extent of the damage to the arms and ammunition, the General ascended the Schuylkill, and crossed it at Warwick furnace, to obtain a fresh supply of ammunition, and to refit or replace the defective muskets. He siill resolved to risk a general engage
ment, for the safety of the capital. He reSept. 19. crossed the Schuylkill at Parker's ferry,
and encamped east of that river, on both sides of Parkyomy creek, and detachments were posted at the different fords, at which the enemy might attempt to force a passage. As the British army approached the river, General WASHINGTON posted his army in their front ; but, instead of forcing 2 passage, Sir William moved rapidly up the road towards Reading. The American Commander, supposing that his object was to destroy the military stores at that place, and to turn the right flank of the American army, marched up the river to Pottsgrove, leaving the lower rord to the city open to his antagonist. Sir William Howe availed himself of the opportunity, and on the 26th, entered Philadelphia in triumph.
General WASHINGTON had seasonably taken the precaution to remove the publick stores from the city, and to secure for the use of the army, thrse articles of merchandise, which their wants rendered of primary necessity. Colonel Hamilton, then one of General
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 Septerber, when they entered Philadelphia, the American troops had encountered a continued series of active operations, and the duty of the General was complicated and arduous. During this time, the soidiers 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 io 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 miies, from tho head of Elk river to Philadelphia, 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 althioned beaten, in five days again faced his enemy witn the intention to risk a general engagement; who, when in the moment of Vou. I.