Page images
PDF
EPUB

Morrisania, it was conjectured the attack would Chap.vh. be made. 1776.

The next morning, three ships of war proceeded 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 pf 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 landing 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 Jiad 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

cHap,vn. 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 fled 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

mJ!t«L 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 Joss 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.

The unsoldierly conduct displayed on this Chap, Vh. occasion, was not attributable to a want of 1776. personal courage, but to other causes. The apprehensions, excited by the defeat on Long island, had not yet subsided, nor had the American troops recovered their confidence either in themselves, or their commanders. Their situation appeared to themselves to be perilous; and they had not yet acquired that temper which teaches the veteran, to do his duty wherever he may be placed; to assure himself that others will do their duty likewise; and to rely that those, who take into view the situation of the whole, will not expose him to useless hazards, or neglect those precautions which the safety and advantage of the whole may require.

Unfortunately, causes, in addition to those so often stated, existed in a great part of the army, which were but too operative in obstructing the progress of such military sentiments. In New England, from whence the war had as yet been principally supported, the zeal excited by the revolution had taken such a direction, as in a great degree to abolish those distinctions between the platoon officers and the soldiers, which are so indispensable to the formation of an army, capable of being applied to all the purposes of war. In many instances, these officers, who constitute so important a part of every army, were elected by the men; and a

vot. 11. 3 P

Chap. Vii. disposition to associate with them on the foot1776. ing of equality, was a recommendation of much more weight, and frequently conduced much more to the choice, than individual merit. It has been stated by gentlemen of high rank, that, in some instances, those were elected who agreed to put their pay in mess with the soldiers, and to divide equally with them. Among such officers, the most disgraceful and unmilitary practices frequently prevailed, and the privates could not sufficiently respect them, to acquire habits of obedience and subordination.

These defects had been in some degree remedied, in new modelling the army before Boston, but they still existed to a fatal extent; and, in examining the orders of that period, it appears that several officers of inferior grade, were not, themselves, exempt from the general spirit of pillage and plunder, which, at that time, disgraced the American troops; and which will disgrace all troops not subjected to an exact and rigid discipline; but particularly those who have not been officered with care.

CHAPTER VIII.

Skirmish on the heights of Haer]em....The enemy land at Frogs' neck....The American army evacuates York island, except fort Washington....Both armies move towards the White Plains....Battle of the White Plains.... The British army returns to King's bridge, and general Washington with a part of his army crosses the North river....The lines of fort Washington carried by the enemy, and the garrison made prisoners....Evacuation of fort Lee....Weakness of the American army.... Ineffectual attempts to raise the militia....General Washington retreats through Jersey....Capture of general Lee....General Washington crosses the Delaware.... Danger of Philadelphia....The British go into winter quarters....Battle of Trenton....Of Princeton....Firmness of Congress.

1 HE enemy, being now in possession of 1776. New York,* stationed a few troops in thnt s^mbCT", place, and took post with the main body of their army on York island, near the American lines. Their right was at Horen's hook on the East river, and their left reached the North river near Bloomingdale, so that their encampment extended quite across the island, which,

* Soon after New York fell into the hands of the enemy, a fire broke out in the night about eleven o'clock, and continued to rage until the next morning, when it was extinguished by great exertions on the part of the military stationed in the town, after having consumed about one third of the buildings. It is said to have been purposely set on fire, and several individuals, believed to have perpetrated the act, were precipitated into the

« PreviousContinue »