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ton, with a request that he would publish them to the army in General Orders. Washington, in reply, excused himself from complying with that suggestion. In thus declining it, he showed his usual sagacity and foresight. For, on the very next day after the first Resolutions the Congress underwent? a sudden revulsion of opinion, and did not scruple to disperse in all haste, to meet again on the 20th of the same month, not at Philadelphia, but at Baltimore.
Under all these circumstances, Philadelphia would have fallen an easy prey to the British but for the exertions of Washington, who, on crossing the Delaware, took the utmost pains to collect all the boats upon the river, and remove them from the Jersey side. Moreover, it had formed no part of General Howe's expectations (as is plain from his own despatches) to carry the war beyond the Delaware, during this campaign. His recent successes induced him, though slowly, to extend his schemes. But instead of transporting or constructing boats, he resolved to wait until the winter ice should be formed upon the river; and meanwhile, remaining at New York, he allowed or directed Lord Cornwallis to "stand at ease," dispersing his troops in quarters through the Jerseys. Thus was some respite obtained by the harassed and dispirited remnant of the American army. — Oh for one hour of Clive!
'During this much needed interval of leisure the American General gathered new strength. He was joined by levies from several quarters, by four regiments from the Northern army, and by the Philadelphia town and county Militia, which with great spirit had at once marched to his assistance. He could also for the future rely on the ready co - operation of the separate division, lately under Lee's command, and now under Sullivan's. Nevertheless his prospects, as against the British army's, whenever that should move, were most cheerless and forlorn. To his brother, writing on the 18th of December, he thus describes them: — "My dear Sir; — if "every nerve be not strained to recruit the new army with all "possible expedition, I think the game is pretty nearly up. 1776.
NIGHT-MARCH ON TRENTON.
"This is owing, in a great measure, to the insidious arts of "the enemy, and disaffection of the Colonies above men"tioned, but principally to the ruinous policy of short en"listments, and placing too great a dependence ontheMi"litia, the evil consequences of which were foretold fifteen "months ago with a spirit almost prophetic."
It so chanced, that at this very juncture Washington received a visit in his camp from Benedict Arnold, who, it is said, first suggested to him the idea of attempting to recross the Delaware and surprise some part of the King's troops. * But whoever may have the earliest devised this scheme, the merit of its details and execution belongs entirely to Washington. In front of him, at Trenton and at Bordentown, the barriers of the Jerseys, lay two bodies of Hessians, under Colonel Rahl and Count Donop. Both from their ignorance of the language, and from the hatred that the people bore them, these foreigners were least likely to obtain intelligence of his movements or designs. Moreover, by strange carelessness on the part of the British chiefs, the posts that were on this occasion the most exposed had been left the weakest manned, and undefended by a single entrenchment or redoubt. Under these circumstances Washington fixed on Trenton as the point of his attack. For the time he selected the night of Christmas, trusting that, after all the feasting and carousing of that day, the slumber of the Hessians might be soundest, and their discipline more than ever relaxed. Two days before he wrote to the Adjutant-General imparting his design. But he adds, "For Heaven's sake, "keep this to yourself, as the discovery of it may prove "fatal to us, our numbers, sorry am I to say, being less "than I had any conception of; but necessity, dire neces"sity, will, nay, must, justify my attack." It was, indeed,
* "From private information" to Mr. Adolphus (Hist. vol. ii. p. 440.). The same idea appears to have occurred at nearly the flame time to several persons. On the 22nd, Reed inquires of Washington; "Will it not be tl possible , my dear General, for your troops to make a diversion or some41 thing more, at or about Trenton?"
felt by Washington, that while success might brighten his prospects, no failure could make them darker than they were already.
On Christmas Day, accordingly, the evening had no sooner set in than Washington commenced his embarkation. He took with him 2,400 men, and 20 pieces of artillery, and had expected by four the next morning to reach Trenton. But his progress was so much delayed first by the floating ice upon the Delaware, and next by storms of snow and hail, that it was full eight o'clock before the two divisions in which he had ranged his troops, marching by different routes, came close upon the little town. Late as was the hour, it proved not too late for Washington's object of surprise. He opened his fire on both sides at once, and drove in the Hessian outposts; and "we presently," adds Washington, "saw their main body formed." On first perceiving their danger, the Light Horse and a few more fled by the bridge across the Assanpink, and made their way to Bordentown; but the main body, finding themselves surrounded, and without any means of escape, agreed to a surrender. Some more of their soldiers were afterwards found concealed in the houses, making the whole number of the prisoners little short of one thousand. Their commander, Colonel Rahl, a brave veteran, had been mortally wounded, and some twenty or thirty of their soldiers slain. The loss of the Americans had been slight indeed; only two privates killed, and two others frozen to death.
Thus successful in his enterprise, Washington on the very same day hastened back across the Delaware, in order to secure his prisoners. He expected that, on his withdrawing, the King's troops would at once return to Trenton. But another detachment of his army, with the AdjutantGeneral, having passed over from Bristol, found that, on the contrary, Count Donop had been seized with panic on learning the disaster of his comrades, that he had called in his scattered parties, had relinquished Bordentown, and 1777.
was retreating in all haste by the Princeton road. In short, it appeared that the whole line of the British cantonments on the Delaware was broken through and falling back. At such tidings Washington determined to resume the offensive. Again he crossed over the Delaware with such force as he could muster, directed his detachments to join him, and with them, for the second time, took post at Trenton. Just at this critical moment, as the year was closing, the term of service of several regiments expired. At first the men seemed bent on going off in a body to their homes. But by the earnest persuasion of their officers, aided by a bounty of ten dollars to each man, more than half of them consented to remain a few weeks longer.
Lord Cornwallis had already returned to head-quarters at New York. At the first news of Trenton he was forthwith ordered back to the Jerseys. Gathering the scattered parties that had lately lined the Delaware, and bringing forward fresh troops from Brunswick, he advanced in one compact body from Princeton. On the afternoon of the 2nd of January he came in sight of the American army, which at his approach retired from Trenton, and took post on some high ground beyond the Assanpink, guarding the bridge and the fords by their artillery. A battle, and in all likelihood a blow to the Americans, seemed impending for the morrow. But in the evening Washington assembled his officers in a Council of War, and laid before them a scheme which he had formed. From the numbers that Lord Cornwallis showed in front it seemed probable that but few remained in the rear. Might it not be possible by a night-march to surprise and overpower those few, and push onward to Brunswick, there capturing the military chest and stores, and releasing from captivity General Lee? The release of that officer, I may observe in passing, was an object of great interest to the Americans, since the British, on account of his former commission in their service, were disposed at this period to treat him, not as a prisoner of war, but as a deserter. It was not till many months afterwards that, on orders from home, and on vehement threats of retaliation by the Congress, they'agreed to his exchange.
The plan thus skilfully formed was no less skilfully carried into execution. All night, to avert the suspicion of the British, the American fires were kept burning, and the guards ordered to remain at the bridge and fords. Meanwhile to baggage was sent off to the rear, in the direction of Burlington, and the army commenced its march with Quaker-like silence along what was called the Quaker road. Thus stealing forward on the east side of the Assanpink, they reached Princeton a little after sunrise.
In that town, as it chanced, three British regiments and three troops of Light Horse had passed the preceding night. Their numbers are not given with precision, but would certainly be underrated were we to take Washington's account. For, on another occasion, at this period, when desiring rather to depreciate the force opposed to him, he computed that the Hessian regiments, when they came out complete, did not exceed 600, nor the British 250 men each. * One of the regiments at Princeton — the 17th, under Colonel Mawhood — was already on its march to join Lord Cornwallis; of the other two, the 55th was just moving, and the 40th still at its quarters. In the grey of a winter morning the Colonel mistook the first ranks of the advancing enemy for Hessians, but on discovering his error, boldly charged them. Led on by Mawhood, the gallant 17th pressed forward with bayonets fixed, threw the American vanguard into confusion, and though of course unable to contend for any length of time against the growing numbers of the foe, still it cut its way through, and pursued its march to Lord Cornwallis without further hurt or hindrance. The 55th and 40th were not so fortunate. They made a brave resistance, especially the 55th which came up the first; but exposed to so great disparity of numbers, they were overpowered. Finally, they were repulsed, and driven back in disarray along the
* To Governor Cooke, Aprils. 1777.