« AnteriorContinuar »
curately examined the situation of the American encampment, hoping that some unguarded part might be found, on which to make an attack that would open the way to a general engagement. All these hopes were frustrated. Washington knew the full value of his situation. He had too much penetration to lose it from the circumvention of military manoeuvres, and too much temper to be provoked to a dereliction of it. He was well apprized it was not for the interest of his country, to commit its fortune to a single action. Sir William Howe suddenly relinquished his position in front of the Americans, and retired with his whole force to Amboy. The apparently retreating British were pursued by a considerable detachment of the American army: and Washington advanced from Middlebrook to Quibbletown, to be near at hand for the support of his advanced parties. The British general immediately inarched his army back from Amboy, with great expedition, hoping to bring on a general action on equal ground, but he was disappointed. Washington fell back, and posted his army in such an advantageous position as compensated for the inferiority of his numbers. Sir William Howe was now fully convinced of the impossibility of compelling an
engagement engagement on equal terms, and also satis* lied that it would be too hazardous to attempt crossing the Delaware, while the country wasin arms, and the main American army in full force in his rear. He therefore returned to Amboy, and thence passed over to Stateri island, resolving to prosecute the objects of the campaign by another route. During the period of these movements, the real designs of general Howe were involved in obscurity. Though the season for military operations was advanced as far as the month of July, yet his determinate object could not be ascertained. Nothing on his part had hitherto taken place, but alternately advancing and retreating. Washington's embarrassment on this account was increased by intelligence which arrived, that Burgoyne was coming in great force towards New York from Canada. Apprehending that sir William Howe would ultimately move up the North river, that his movements, which looked southwardly, were calculated to deceive, the American general detached a brigade to reinforce the northern division of his army. Successive advices of the advance of Burgoyne favoured the idea, that a junction of the two royal armies, near Albany, was intended. Some movements were therefore made by Washington towards
PecksPeckskill, and on the other side towards Trenton, while the main army was encamped near the Clove, in readiness to march either to the north or south, as the movements of sir William Howe might require.
After the British had left Sandy Hook, they looked into the Delaware, and suddenly again put out to sea, and were not heard of for nearly two or three weeks, except that once or twice they had been seen near the coast, steering southwardly. Charlestown, in South Carolina, was supposed to be their object at one time J at another Philadelphia, by the way of Chesapeak; at another the Highlands of New York, to co-operate with Burgoyne.
The perplexing uncertainty, concerning the destination of the enemy, which embarrassed the movements of Washington, was not done away before the middle of August: soon after which time certain accounts were received that the British had taken possession of the Chesapeak, and landed as near to Philadelphia as was practicable. While the campaign was doubtful, every disposition was made tode-. fend all the supposed probable points of attack, except Charlestown : this being at a distance of seven or eight hundred miles, could not be assisted by an army marching over land, in time to oppose the enemy conveyed thither
by water. While this idea prevailed, arranged ments were made to employ the American army either against the enemy advancing from Albany, or the British posts in New York, with the hope of making reparation for the expected loss of Charlestown.
As soon as the arrival of the British in the Chesapeak was known, Washington ordered the different divisions of his army to proceed towards the head of Elk, and the militia of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, and the northern counties of Virginia, to take the field. He had previously written very pressing letters to the governors of the eastern states, and to the generals in the western parts of these states, to strengthen the northern army opposed to Burgoyne; and even weakened himself by detaching some of his best troops, particularly Morgan's riflemen, on that important service. In the spirit of true patriotism, he diminished his own chance of acquiring fame, that the common cause might be most effectually promoted, by the best disposition qf the forces under his command, for simultaneous opposition to Howe and Burgoyne. - Washington passed his army, with every Appearance of confidence, through- the city of Philadelphia, with a view of making some impression on the disaffected of that city, and 16 0 afterward* afterwards proceeded towards the head of Elk.
About the same time he directed general Smallwood, with the militia of Maryland and Delaware, and some continental troops, to hang on the rear of the enemy. As a substitute for Morgan's riflemen, who had been ordered to join the northern army, general Maxwell was furnished with a corps of light infantry, amounting to 1000 men, and directed to harass the British on their march through the country. These troops were afterwards reinforced with general Wayne's division. Though the militia did not turn out with that alacrity which might have been expected from the energetic calls of Washington, yet a respectable force was assembled, which imposed on sir William Howe a necessity of proceeding with caution in advancing from his shipping towards Philadelphia. The royal army set out from the eastern heads of the Chesapeak- on the 3d of September 1 777i with a spirit which promised to compensate for the numerous delays which had hitherto wasted the campaign. They advanced with great circumspection and boldness till they were within two miles of the American army, Which was then posted in the vicinity of New Port; Washington soon changed his ground,
G ft and