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1777. TAKING OF PHILADELPHIA. 169
letter he states that "at least one thousand men are bare"footed, and have performed the marches in that condi"tion."* Under such circumstances the British General found himself enabled to cross one of the lower fords without opposition, and to throw himself between Washington and Philadelphia. On the morning of the 26th, the vanguard, headed by Earl Cornwallis, took peaceable possession of that city; their band of music playing as they entered "God save the King."
Thus did Philadelphia fall, so long the seat of Congress, the capital in a manner of all the insurgent Colonies, the centre and main-spring of whatever was planned or perpetrated against the dominion of England. Ten months before, when Cornwallis overran the Jerseys, its reduction might have produced a great, perhaps a decisive effect. But now the blow had been so long expected and foreseen, that it fell with smaller force. It may be said with perfect truth, that the alarm and the despondency were not nearly so great when the British took Philadelphia in September, 1777, as when they had merely approached it in December, 1776. Their opponents were now inclined to view the brighter side, to consider the compensations which the loss of Philadelphia might afford them. They began to hope that, from the large amount of force which would be necessary to maintain and defend that great city, its reduction might, beyond any other cause, arrest the further progress of the British arms. Such was the feeling of Dr. Franklin, when the news was first announced to him at Paris. "No, no," said he, "it is not Gene"ral Howe that has taken Philadelphia, it is Philadelphia "that has taken General Howe!"
According to American accounts, the British, on entering Philadelphia, were received most cordially by the main body of the Quakers.** The joy , moreover, of the numerous loyalists — these loyalists so lately persecuted and downtrodden — need not be described, and could scarcely be ex
* To the President of Congress, September 23. 1777. ** Dr. Gordon's History, vol. ii. p. 518.
aggerated. Yet, notwithstanding this amount of public favour, the situation of General Howe was at first not a little critical. His enemies still holding their defences on the Delaware , intercepted the communication between him and the sea. They had constructed on an island some works and batteries, which, in honour of one of their Generals, they had named Fort Mifflin. Nearly opposite Fort Mifflin, on the eastern shore, and at a place called Red Bank, Fort Mercer had been built; while at Billingsport, lower down the stream on the same side, another fort was building. In the deep navigable channel, in front both of Fort Mifflin and of Billingsport, had been sunk several ranges of chevaux-de-frise; and a considerable number of American gallies and armed vessels was stationed along the river. On the other hand, Lord Howe, with the British fleet, had sailed back from the Chesapeak to the Delaware, and was preparing to attack these forts. General Howe, in like manner, was directing a portion of his force against them, while the main body, securing Philadelphia on the land side, was encamped at Germantown.
In this divided state of the British army, a plan was formed by Washington to fall upon it unawares, and by a sudden blow recover Philadelphia. Marching all night in several columns, his troops appeared before Germantown at sunrise of the 4th of October. On they came, charging with their bayonets fixed. The British, taken by surprise, were thrown into great disorder, which the Americans hoped to improve to a complete victory. But as it chanced, the fog was so thick — and it grew thicker from the firing — as to cause confusion and uncertainty among themselves. Several of their regiments mistook one another for British; they were seized with panic and fled with precipation, leaving their opponents masters of the field, and victors of the day. Besides, on such occasions, it was natural that raw levies should suffer other little accidents from which more regular troops are free. Thus, we are told of one American Colonel in this battle that, as he was riding one way and looking another, his horse 1777.
BATTLE OP GERMANTOWN.
ran away with him and carried him under a cyder press, where he was so much squeezed and hurt as to unfit him for further service.*
In this battle of Germantown, the King's troops had about five hundred dead or disabled. Of the other side, Washington states, "Our loss in the late action was, in killed, "wounded, and missing, about one thousand men; but of "the missing, many, I dare say, took advantage of the times, "and deserted.... In a word, it was a bloody day. Would "to Heaven I could add that it had been a more fortunate "one for us."** Yet defeat though it was, this battle brought no discredit, but the contrary, to the American troops, and the American commander. It showed that neithertheir spirit, nor their strength, had been broken by the reverses they had sustained. It displayed them not merely willing to stand firm behind entrenchments or stone walls, but prompt and eager in the open field, engaging of their own accord, not as at Trenton, and at Princeton, against scattered divisions, but against the main body of their adversaries. It proved them to want only that discipline and self-confidence which longer warfare was certain to produce. When, a few months afterwards, the American Commissioners, at Paris, were discussing a Treaty of Alliance with the Count de Vergennes: "Your troops," said the latter, "have behaved well on several "occasions; but nothing has struck me so much as that Ge* "neral Washington should have attacked, and given battle "to General Howe; to bring an army raised within a year to "this, promises every thing." ***
After the battle of Germantown, Washington retired with his army to Whitemarsh, a strong position, fourteen miles from Philadelphia. The two Howes, Admiral and General, were thus left.free to pursue their designs against the Delaware Forts. The first attack, on Redbank, by the Hessians, was unsuccessful, one or two hundred of the assailants having
* Letter from Colonel John Howard, in the Appendix to Washington's Writings, vol. v. p. 469.
** Letter to John Augustin Washington, October 18. 3777.
fallen, and their commander, Count Donop, being taken prisoner.* He was mortally wounded, and expired in the Fort a few days afterwards, carefully tended by another gallant European in the opposite ranks, Duplessis de Mauduit, a French officer of Engineers. The last words of Donop to De Mauduit might well sink deep into the minds of the pettyPrinces of Hesse , those sellers of their subjects' blood. "My career ends early," said the German; "I shall die the "victim to my own ambition, and to the avarice of my Sovereign!"
In the attack of the Delaware defences the British fleet did not at first thrive any better than the British army. Two large ships, the Augusta and the Merlin, ran aground; next morning, the former took fire, and blew up with some of her crew; fend all attempts to float the latter failing, she was abandoned, and burned also. Several weeks, the last and best of the campaign, were employed in further preparations. At last the position of the Americans in Fort Mifflin being turned, and a heavy fire being opened upon it, they were compelled to retire; and on the approach of Earl Cornwallis, they likewise relinquished Redbank. The works and entrenchments were in great part dismantled; the ehevaux defrise were with much difficulty weighed; and thus, all these toils accomplished, theDelaware was opened betweenPhiladelphia and the sea.
It so chanced, that some years afterwards, after the fortune of the war had wholly changed, several French officers, among whom was La Fayette, came to visit the scene of these achievements. The narrative of their excursion, which one of the party gives us, is remarkable as showing incidentally, and as it were unconsciously, the ill - treatment of the loyalists by the ruling powers; the spoliation of their pro
* The precise loss of the Hessians in this attack, as reported by the American officer at Redbank, to General Washington, was of eight officers and near seventy privates killed, and of four ofticers and above seventy wounded and prisoners. (Oct. 23. 1777.) But Washington, on repeating this intelligence two days afterwards, magnifies the total to 400. (Writings, vol. v. pp. 112. 115.) Another Instance of the rule of doubling, as laid down explicitly in his letter to Putnam.
WANTS OF THE AMERICAN ARMY.
perty, (sometimes requisite, but never requited,) having grown so common and habitual that the spoilers expected nevertheless to be warmly welcomed! "As we landed at Red"bank," writes the Frenchman, "our friend, De Mauduit, "who led the way, proposed to us to stop at the house of a "Quaker, only half a musket-shot from the ruins of the Fort. '"That man,' said De Mauduit to us, 'is something of aTory; "' I felt it my duty to demolish his barn, and to cut down his "' fruit-trees, but he will be glad, I am sure, to see M. de La "'Fayette, and will give us a good reception.' We took him "at his word, but never were expectations more deceived. We "found our Quaker seated at his fire-side, and busy in dress"ing some herbs. He recognised M. de Mauduit, who named "to him both La Fayette and myself, but he would not condescend to lift up his eyes, nor to answer any of the dis"course of our introducer, — a discourse which began with "compliments, and ended with scoffing."*
Early in December, on the reduction of the Delaware defences, Howe mustered his whole army, and sallied forth towards Whitemarsh, to give battle to Washington. The American General was determined not to be drawn from his strong position, though ready to maintain it, if attacked. There were some slight skirmishes, in which, according to the American accounts, "the Maryland Militia behaved "well, but the Pennsylvania Militia greatly disgraced their "country, running away at the first fire from half their "number."** There were also some skilful manoeuvres on the part of the British General, but these failing to bring down the enemy into the plains, Howe returned to take up his winter quarters at Philadelphia. Winter quarters, by this time, were not less essential to Washington. His troops had by degrees become reduced to the most deplorable distress. Many of the men were destitute of blankets in this rigorous season; and from their continued want of shoes
* Voyages du Marquis de Chastellux, vol. i. p. 216. ed. 1786. ** Elias Boudinot to President Wharton, December 9. 1777, as printed in Reed's Memoirs.