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At Philadelphia La Fayette saw the American troops for the first time, and, according to his own account, was struck at their grotesque appearance—with green boughs fastened to their hats — coarse hunting-shirts instead of uniforms — and muskets, many wanting bayonets, and all of unequal make and size. But he soon learnt to think more favourably of these raw levies, when, notwithstanding all their disadvantages, he observed their conduct in the field. With regard to their commander, his early impressions never changed. It was also at Philadelphia, and at a dinner-table, comprising several members of the Congress, that La Fayette was introduced to Washington. The boy-General found himself warmly welcomed by the chief whom he had long admired. "When you come to "the army," said Washington, "I shall be pleased if you "will make my quarters your home, and consider your"self as one of my family." The invitation thus frankly tendered was no less frankly accepted. Thus did a cordial intimacy arise between them, Washington at all times treating La Fayette with fatherly kindness, and La Fayette looking up to Washington with filial regard.
La Fayette had already begun to speak a little English, and by degrees acquired more. But to the last the difficulties of the language were a main obstacle, not only to himself, but to every other foreigner who served with, or under, the United States. Thus there are still preserved some of the ill-spelled and scarce intelligible notes of Count Pulasky, during the short time that he served as General of cavalry.* Still worse was the case of Baron Steuben, a veteran of the school of Frederick the Second, who joined the Americans a few months later than La Fayette, and who greatly aided them in the establishment of discipline. The Baron, it appears, could not teach and drill, nor even swear and curse, but by means of an interpreter! He was, therefore, most fortunate in securing as his aide-de-camp Captain Walker of New York— most fortunate, if, as his American biographer assures us, "there was not, perhaps, another officer in the army,
* See one of these notes in Reed's Life and Correspondence, vol. i, p. 318.
"unless Hamilton be excepted, who could speak French "and English so as to be well understood in both."*
La Fayette did not always confine himself to the bounds of his own profession; sometimes, and, perhaps, not greatly to his credit, he stepped beyond them. Here is one case recorded with much satisfaction by himself. He states, that soon after his arrival in America, and while attending on Sunday the service of the Church of England, he was displeased with the clergyman, because in his sermon he had said nothing at all of politics. "I charged him to his "face," says La Fayette, "with preaching only about "Heaven! . . . But next Sunday," continues the keen young officer, "I heard him again, when his loud invec"tives against 'the execrable House of Hanover,' showed "that he was ready and willing to take my good advice." f
Even before La Fayette had landed in the Carolinas, the campaign had re-commenced in the Jerseys. General Washington had remained through the winter encamped at Morristown, at the head of most scanty forces. "Nothing," he wrote, "but a good face and false appearances have "enabled us hitherto to deceive the enemy respecting "our strength." X He therefore cautioned the Congress carefully to conceal the real numbers of their army from the public. And in his own correspondence we find him lay a similar injunction on his Generals. Thus, for example, he says to Putnam, "You will give out your "strength to be twice as great as it is."§ This rule of doubling, this necessity to keep up false appearances—is not to be overlooked by the reader of the American State Papers at this period, who may desire to deduce from
* Life of Baron Steuben, by Bowen, p. 23. ed. 1838, in Sparks's Collection. Mr. Bowen adds: "As the Baron slowly acquired our "language, his eagerness and warmth of temper would frequently "involve him in difficulties. On such occasions, after exhausting all "the execrations he could think of in German and French, he would "call upon his faithful Aid for assistance: 'Venez, WaUer, mon "' ami! Sacre de gaucherie of dese badauds; je n'en puis plus! I "' can curse dem no more !'"
f "Memoires de ma main," Corresp. vol. i. p. 60. ed. 1837.
j This letter, dated May 21. 1777, and derived from the earlier collection (vol. ii. p. 77.), is cited both by Dr. Gordon and Mr. Adolphus. hut omitted by Mr. Sparks.
§ Washington to Putnam, January X 1777
them the exact numbers of the killed and wounded in any conflict, or of the armies then engaged.
As the spring advanced, the Commander-in-chief received considerable reinforcements, though less than he had hoped. Since, as will presently be shown, an invasion of the United States was commencing from Lower Canada, and since, therefore, it was necessary to strengthen, in no slight degree, the American army on that side, there were, of course, proportionally fewer to join the ranks of Washington. Of men able and fit for duty he could not muster so many as 8,000. With these, however, he advanced from Morristown to Middlebrook, within ten miles of the British posts of Brunswick. There the engineers were busily employed in the construction of a portable bridge intended for the passage of the Delaware. But Sir William Howe had delayed the commencement of his operations for many weeks, on the plea that the green forage was not yet on the ground. At length, in the second week of June, he appeared in person at Brunswick, bent upon renewing the conquest of the Jerseys and the march on Philadelphia. A skirmish ensued at Quibbletown between one of the English and one of the American divisions, when the former, with Lord Cornwallis at its head, put to the rout the latter, commanded by Stirling. But Sir William did not deem it advisable to assail the American Commanderin-chief at Middlebrook, a strong, and, moreover, strongly fortified position, and he was foiled in his endeavours to draw him to a battle in the open country. Under such circumstances, Sir William suddenly changed his plans. Still viewing Philadelphia as his object, he determined to reach it by sea instead of land. He relinquished the Jerseys, withdrew his troops both from Brunswick and Amboy, and embarked them closely pressed in transports at the sultriest season of the year. Even admitting, which may well be doubted, that such a. course was the better on military grounds, Howe should have remembered how far it tended to depress his moral influence—how far it would give to the reduction of Philadelphia, even if most prosperous, the appearance of surprise rather than of conquest.
The retirement of the British troops from the Jerseys, and their embarkation at New York, were a riddle to Washington. He was in doubt to what quarter they might steer, or in what direction he should march. Still, on weighing probabilities carefully and shrewdly, he continued to make Philadelphia his principal care. At length news reached him that the British fleet had been seen off the Capes of the Delaware; upon which, without delay, he moved his troops to Germantown, himself proceeding for a few days to the seat of Congress. During this interval of suspense the spirits of the Americans were raised by a slight but well-planned enterprise in another quarter. General Prescott, who commanded the British forces in Rhode Island, had taken up his quarters at a house about five miles from Newport, and one from the water-side. In this secluded situation, and at the dead of night. he was surprised in bed by a band of forty Rhode Island volunteers, was hurried on board their boats, without allowing him time to put on his clothes, and was successfully borne away a prisoner; thus affording the Americans the means of exchanging an officer of equal rank for General Lee. With so much silence and so much skill was this enterprise conducted, that neither the British sloops of war in the bay, nor yet the General's guard, stationed only two hundred yards from the house in which he slept, were alarmed.
At the Capes of Delaware the British chiefs received exaggerated reports as to the American defences up that river, and were induced once more to change their plans. Steering to the southward, and sailing round a vast extent of country, they entered the Chesapeak, and ascended the stream to the Head of Elk. There, on the 25th of August, the troops were set on shore. In numbers they were about 14,000*, about 8,000 more having been left behind at New York under the charge of General, now Sir Henry, Clinton. There is scarce any folly for which some arguments may not be found; but it must be owned that the conduct of Howe on this occasion seems at first sight wholly unaccountable. In the spring his troops had stood in array at Brunswick. He had now, by the circuit of many hundred miles, and the delay of many
* Sir William Howe's Narrative, &c., p. 23. ed. 1780,
weeks brought them round to the Head of Elk. But he was certainly no nearer to his final object; for, while Brunswick is sixty miles from Philadelphia, the Head of Elk is full seventy. The intervening country, moreover, though at that period well affected to the Royal Cause, is less open than the Jerseys.
Nor yet by this wide circuit did the British General keep clear of the enemy's troops. They were now at Germantown, ready to withstand him, and increased by accessions of Militia to fourteen thousand men. The first step of Washington was to march them, but without halting, through the streets of Philadelphia, on purpose, as he says, to awe the loyal, or as he terms it, the disaffected party in that city.* He found the Members of the Congress of better cheer, and more inclined to be steady at their posts than they had been last December; and marching onwards, he resolved to risk a battle for their protection and defence.
About midway between Pennsylvania and the Head of Elk, two forks or branches of a stream from the upper counties, uniting in a single channel, flow down to the Delaware. That stream, or as the Americans would say, that "creek," is known by the genial name of Brandywine, and the same appellation has been applied to the battle fought upon its banks. At day-break, on the 11th of September, the American army was ranged along the eastern side. Sir William Howe, before he came in sight, formed his troops in two divisions; the one, under General Knyphausen, to advance and stand firm in front: the other, under Earl Cornwallis, to pass round by the forks of the Brandywine, and take the enemy in flank. The latter march, though long and toilsome, was executed by Cornwallis ably and successfully; towards four in the afternoon, he charged the American right and rear, while at the same time, at the sound of the filing, their front was assailed by Knyphausen. Under these circumstances, the discomfiture of the Americans was complete ; they retreated in great confusion and by different routes, leaving the British masters of the field. The Marquis de La Fayette, who was present at this action, the first that he
* Writings, vol. v. p. 43.