Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

cacion, was providentially obliged to retreat, with mus. kets and ammunition unfit for use, extricated himself trom his perilous situation and once more placed him. self in fiont of the invading foe; who at last was isso duced to open the Philadelphia road to the British General, not because he was beaten in the field, but through the influence of circumstances, which no militar; address could counteract.

Four regiments of grenadiers were posted in Philadelphia, a:id the other corps of the British army were cantoned at Germantown. The first object of Sir William was to subdue the defences and remove the impediments of the Delaware, that a communication might be opened with the British shipping. General Washington inade every effort to prerent the execution of the enemy's design, in the hope of forcing General Howe out of Philadelphia, by prerenting supplies of provisions from reaching him. Of the attainment of this important object, he had no doubt, could the passage of the Delaware be rendered impracticable. To this purpose works had been erected on a bank of mud and sand in the river, near the conflu. ence of the Schuylkill, and about seven miles below Philadelphia. The place, from these works, was de. nominated Fort Island, and the works themselves Fort Mifflin. On a neck of land on the opposite shore of New-Jersey, called Red Bank, a fort was constructed and mounted with heavy artillery, and called Fort Mercer. Fort Island and Red Bank, were distant from each other half a mile. In the channel of the Delaware, which ran between them, two ranges of Chevauxdefrise were sunk. These consisted of large pieces of timber, strongly framed together, and point. ed with iron, and they completely obstructed the passage of ships. These works were covered by several galleys, floating batteries, and armed ships.

Sir William Howe having detached a considerable force from Germantown to operate against the works

on the Delaware, General Washington thought this a favourable opportunity to attack the British army in their cantonments. The line of the British encampment crossed the villag of Germantown at right angles, near its centre; and its flanks were strongly covered.

General WASHINGTON now commanded a force con. sisting of about eight thousand continental troops and three thousand militia. The General's plan was to attack both wings of the enemy in front, and rear at the same time. The arrangements having been made, the army was moved near the scene of action on the evening of the 4th of October. The divisions of Sullivan and Wayne, flanked by Conway's Brigade, were to enter Germantown by the way of Chestnut Hill, and attack the left wing of the British. General Armstrong with the Pennsylvania militia was ordered to fall down the Manatawny road, and turning the British left flank, attack its rear. The divisions of Green and Stephen, flanked by M.Dougal's Brigade, were to take a circuit by the way of Limekiln road, and entering at the market-house, attack the right wing. The militia of Maryland and New-Jersey, under General Small. wood and General Forman, were to march down the old York road, and fall upon the rear of the British right. The division of Lord Sterling, and the brigades of Nash and Maxwell were to form a corps de

reserve.

About sunrise the next morning, the fron Oct. 8. of General Sullivan's column, which 1.10

Commander in Chief accompanied, drove in the British piquet at Mount Airy. The main body of this division sdon engaged the British light infantry and the fortieth regiment of foot, and obliged them to give way, leaving all their baggage behind. General Green in half an hour after Sullivan reached the ground of action, attacked and drove in the troops in front of the right wing rf the enemy. Several brigades

success.

of Sullivan's and of Green’s divisions penetrated the town. The enemy appeared to be surprised, and a sair prospect of eventual success in the assault presented itself to the mind of the American General.

The flattering expectations, which the successful commencement of the enterprise excited, were soon succeeded by disappointment and mortification. As the British retreated before General Sullivan's division, Colonel Musgrave took post with six companies of light troops in a stone house, from which he severeverely galled the Americans in their advance. At tempts were made to dislodge him, but they proved ineffectual, and the American line was checked and thrown into disorder. The morning being extremely foggy, the Americans could neither perceive the situafion of the enemy, nor take advantage of their own

The ground to which some of the British corps was pursued had many enclosures, which broke the American line of march, and some of the regiments, in their ardour to push forward, separated from their brigades, were surrounded and taken prisoners In the inoment of supposed victory, the troops retreat od, and the efforts of their Generals to rally them, were fruitless.

The militia were never seriously brought into action. General Washington, perceiving that victory had, on this occasion, eluded his grasp, contented himself with a safe and honourable retreat.

In this bold assault, two hundred Americans were killed, six hundred wounded, and four hundred taken prisoners. Among the killed was Brigadier General Nash. The British loss was one hundred killed and four hundred wounded. Among the killed were Brigadier Agnew and Colonel Bird. This enterprise, as far as the Commander in Chief was concerned in it, was honourable. Its ultimate failure must be attributed to tho want of discipline and experience in his men Congress fully approved of the plan o^ this assault, and applauded the courage displayed in is execution

They voted their thanks to the General, and to the army.

The works in the Delaware now engaged the attention of the British and American Generals. Sir Will. iam Howe broke up his encampment at Germantown, and moved his whole army into Philadelphia. General Washington placed confidential garrisons in Fort Mercer at Red Bank, and in Fort Mifflin on Mud Island, but he had not a force equal to their complete defence. He appointed detachments to intercept tha transportation of provisions from the British ships be low the American works to Philadelphia. He called upon the government of New-Jersey to turn out the militia of that state, to form a camp in the rear of Red Bank; and he set patroles of militia on the roads leading to Philadelphia, both in Pennsylvania and NewJersey, to prevent the disaffected inhabitants from carrying their articles into the market of Philadelphia. To avail himself of any favourable opportunity to an. noy the enemy, he moved his army to White Marsh, distant only fifteen miles froin the city.

Lord Howe, by continued exertion, having overcome the obstructions which the Aniericans had placed in the river at Billingsport, a joint attack by sea ard land was planned against Red Bank and Fort Island. The Augusta, a sixty-four gun ship, the Mer. lin frigate, and several small armed vesssels moved up the Delaware to assault the works on Fort or Vud Island. Count Donop crossed into New Jersey with twelve hundred Germans, and in the evening of the

22d appeared before Fort Mercer, on Red Oct. 22. Bank. His assault was highly snirited, anu

the defence intrepid and obstinate. Colusief Green the commandant, whose garrison did not cxlced five hundred men, was unable to man the outworks. From these he galled the Germans in their advance, and on their near approach he quitted them, and retired within the inner intrenchments.

12*

The enemy

pressed forward with undaunted bravery, and the Americans poured upon them a deadly fire. Count Donop was himself mortally wounded at the head of his gallant corps ; the second in command soon after fell, and the third immediately drew off his forces.

The assailants had four hundred men killed and wounded. The garrison fighting under cover, had only thirty killed and wounded. Had the camp of militia been formed in the rear of Red Bank, agreeably. to General Washington's desire, this whole corps would probably have been made prisoners.

In the mean time, Fort Mifflin was attacked by the shipping, and batteries erected on the Pennsylvania shore. Incessant vollies of bombs and cannon balls were discharged upon it. But at ebb tide the Augusta and Merlin grounded, and were burnt. The garrison supported this tremendous fire without material Injury.

The resistance of the forts on the Delaware far exceeding the expectations of the British commanders, they adopted measures to overcome it, without the hazard of a second assault. They erected batteries upon Province Island, within five hundred yards of the American fort. They also brought up their shipping, gun boats, &c. and from the 10th to the 16th of Novem. ber, battered the American works. Ly this time the defences were entirely beaten down, every piece of cannon was dismounted, and one of the ships approached so near Fort Mifflin as to throw hand grenades from her tops into it, which killed men upon the platform. The brave garrison received orders to quit the post. Red Bank being no longer useful, its garrison and stores were also withdrawn on the approach of Lord Cornwallis with five thousand men to invest it.

While these transactions were going on, the enterprising spirit of the Commander in Chief was employod to explore an npening through which to attack his

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »