Page images

CHAP. VII. Aware of this danger, general Washington 1776. set about removing above King's bridge such

stores as were not imħediately necessary ; and determined to call a council of general officers for the purpose of deciding, whether the place should be evacuated without delay, or longer defended.

In his letter communicating to congress the result of this council, which was against an immediate evacuation, he appears strongly convinced of the necessity of abandoning the city, though he yields to that necessity with infinite reluctance. Speaking of the enemy, he observed, " it is now extremely obvious from their movements, from our intelligence, and from every other circumstance, that, having their whole army upon Long island, except about four thousand men who remain on Staten island, they mean to enclose us in this island by taking post in our rear, while their ships effectually secure the front; and thus, by cutting off our communication with the country, oblige us to fight them on their own terms, or surrender at discretion; or, if that shall be deemed more advisable, by a brilliant stroke endeavour to cut this army to pieces, and secure the possession of arms and stores which they well know our inability to replace.

" Having their system unfolded to us, it becomes an important consideration how it could be most successfully opposed. On

every side there is a choice of difficulties, and CHAP. VII. experience teaches us, that every measure on 1776. our part (however painful the reflection) must be taken with some apprehension, that all the troops will not do their duty. .

“In deliberating upon this great question,” he added, “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 action, nor put any thing to the risk, unless compelled by necessity into which we ought never to be drawn.”

After communicating the decision which had been made by the council of officers, the gene. ral states, with such force, the opinion of those who were in favour of immediately evacuating the town, as to confirm the belief that it remained his own. “There were some generals,” he observed, “in whose judgments great confidence is to be reposed, that were for an immediate removal from the city. They urge the great danger that one part of the army may be cut off before it can be supported by the other, the extremities being sixteen miles apart; that we are, when collected, inferior to the enemy; that they can move with their whole force to any point of attack, and, con.

CHAP. VII. Several of the officers having avowed a change 1776. in their opinions respecting any further attempt

to maintain the town, another council was called, Sept. 12. in which it was determined, by a large majority,

that it had become, not only prudent, but ab. solutely necessary, to withdraw the army from New York.

Brigadier general Mercer, who commanded the flying camp on the Jersey shore, was, in consequence of this determination, directed to move up the North river, to the post opposite fort Washington, and every effort was used to expedite the removal of the stores, a work which, it was feared, would soon be interrupted, as an attack was daily apprehended, which, if not repelled, would certainly be attended with the loss of those remaining at the time in the town.

Several other ships of war passed up the Fourteenth. East river, and took different stations above

the city, so as to create a doubt whether their object was to assist in silencing a battery at Horen's hook, which very much interrupted the navigation of the Sound, or to favour a landing on York island. Soon afterwards, several movements were made with large bodies of troops, towards the Sound and East river, who began to embark, as if either for Montre. sor's island, or Morrisania. On receiving intelligence of these operations, general Washington immediately proceedeu to the camp at Haerlem; on which place, or on the troops at

Morrisania, it was conjectured the attack would CHAP. VII. be made.

1776. The next morning, three ships of war pro. ceeded up the North river as high as Bloomingdale, a movement which entirely stopped the further removal of stores by water; and, about eleven o'clock, sir Henry Clinton, at the head of a division of four thousand men, who had embarked at the head of Newtown bay, which making deep into Long island, was out of the view of the American troops, proceeded through that bay, into the East river, which he crossed, and landed, under cover of the fire of five men of war, at a place called Kipp's bay about three miles above New York.

The works thrown up to oppose the landling of the enemy, at this place, were of considerable strength, and capable of being defended for some time; but the troops stationed in them, terrified at the fire of the ships, abandoned them without waiting for the approach of the enemy, and fled with precipitation towards their main body. So soon as the cannonade had commenced, the brigades commanded by generals Parsons and Fellows, were put in motion, and marched to the support of those posted in the lines; and general Washington himself rode towards the scene of action. The panic of those who had fled from the works was communicated to the troops ordered to sustain them, and the commander in chief had

New York evacuated.

CHAP. VII. the extreme mortification to meet the whole 1776. party retreating in the utmost disorder, totally

regardless of the great efforts made by their generals to stop their disgraceful flight. Whilst general Washington was exerting himself to rally them, a small corps of the enemy appeared, and they again broke and Aed in the utmost confusion. It now only remained immediately to withdraw the few remaining troops from New York, and to secure the posts on the heights. For this latter purpose, the lines were all manned, but no attempt was made on them. The retreat from New York was effected with a very inconsiderable loss of men, sustained in a skirmish at Bloomingdale; but all the heavy artillery, and a large portion of the baggage, provisions, and military stores, much of which might have been saved had the post at Kipp's bay been properly defended, were unavoidably abandoned. No part of the loss was more severely felt than that of tents. The supply of this important article had before been very inadequate to the demands of the army, and the want of covering began to be now very severely felt. In this shameful day, one colonel, one captain, three subalterns, and ten privates were certainly killed: one lieutenant colonel, one captain; and one hundred and fifty-seven privates were missing; many of whom were made prisoners, and some of them perhaps killed.

« PreviousContinue »