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which the expected benefit cannot be derived ? Chap.vm. I am, therefore, inclined to think it will not be 1776. prudent to hazard the men and stores at Mount Washington; but as you are on the spot, I leave it to you to give such orders respecting the evacuation of the place, as you may think most advisable; and so far revoke the orders given colonel Magaw to defend it to the last."
He, in this letter, repeated his instructions to drive the stock, and destroy the hay, grain, and other provisions, which the inhabitants would not remove from the coast. "The enemy," he added, "have drawn great relief, from the forage and provisions, they have found in the country, and which our tenderness had spared. You will do well to prevent their receiving any fresh supplies, by destroying it, if it cannot be removed. Experience has shown that a contrary conduct is not of the least advantage to the poor inhabitants, from whom all their effects of every kind are taken without distinction, and without satisfaction."
Measures were now taken to cross the North river with the troops which had been raised on its western side, and general Washington himself determined to accompany that division of the army. The eastern regiments remained on the eastern side of the North river, under the command of general Lee, who had orders to join the commander in chief, if the enemy should move the whole, or the greater part of
crosses the North river.
Chap, viii. their force, to the west of the Hudson. In the 1776. mean time, as it was yet thought possible that the enemy might strike at this division of the army, he was advised to retire further into the country, and to take possession of the strong grounds behind the Croton, at Pine's bridge.
Having visited the posts about Peck's-Kill in the highlands, and made all the arrangements in his power for their defence, an object
And genera1 always deemed of the utmost importance,
Washington * ■
rfhVara" general Washington passed the North river in the rear of the troops designed to act immediately in the Jerseys, and joined general Greene at his quarters near fort Lee.
From too great a confidence in the strength of the post at fort Washington, and a hope that by still further increasing the obstructions in the North river, the original object for which that place had been fgrtified, might yet be obtained; from an unwillingness, too, further to discourage the army by an evacuation of posts, general Greene had not withdrawn the garrison under the discretionary orders he had received on that subject; but still indulged a hope that the post might be maintained; or, if its situation should become desperate, that means might then be found to transport the troops across the river to the Jersey shore, which was defended by fort Lee.
Fort Washington is on a very high piece of rocky ground near the North river, very diffi
cult of ascent, especially towards the north or Chap, vm. King's bridge. The fort was capable of con- 1776. taining about one thousand men; but the lines and out works, which were chiefly on the southern side, towards New York, were drawn quite across the island. The ground was naturally very strong, the approaches difficult, and the fortifications, though not sufficient to resist heavy artillery, were believed to be in a condition which would prevent any attempt to carry them by storm. The garrison consisted of troops, some of whom were among the best in the American army, and the command was given to colonel Magaw, a brave and intelligent officer, in whose courage and skill, great confidence was placed.
General Howe, who had retired slowly from the White Plains, encamped at a small distance from King's bridge, on the heights of Fordham, with his right towards the North
river, and his left on the Brunx. Works were
erected on Haerlem creek, to play on the op- N°v, ». posite works of the Americans; and, every thing being prepared, the garrison was summoned to surrender on pain of being put to the sword. Colonel Magaw replied that he should
defend the place to the last extremity, and the
summons he had received was immediately FUt«"th, communicated to general Greene at fort Lee, and by him to the commander in chief who was then at Hackensack. He immediately rode vol.. ix. 3 v
Chap, vm to fort Lee, and was proceeding, though it 1776. was then late in the night, to fort Washington, where he expected to find generals Putnam and Greene; when, in crossing the river to fort Washington, he met those officers returning from visiting that post. They reported that the troops were in high spirits, and would make a good defence, on which he returned with them to fort Lee.
Early next morning colonel Magaw posted his troops partly in the lines drawn across the Nov. is. island on the south of the fort; partly between the lines, on the woody and rocky heights fronting the East river, where the works were not closed; and partly on a commanding hill, lying north of the fort. Colonel Cadwallader of Pennsylvania commanded in the lines, colonel Rawlings of Maryland commanded on the hill towards King's bridge where his regiment of riflemen was posted among trees, and colonel Magaw himself continued in the fort.
Notwithstanding the strength of the place, the British general resolved to carry it by storm. He was induced to this determination by a wish to save time, which, at this late season of the year, was an object not to be overlooked; and preparations were made for a vigorous attack early in the morning. About ten o'clock the enemy appeared, and moved on to the assault in four different quarters. Their first division, consisting of two columns of Hessians and Waldeckers, amounting to about five thousand men, under the command of general Knyphau- Chap. via sen, advanced on the north side of the works 1776. against the hill where colonel Rawlings commanded, who received them with great gallantry. The second, on the east, consisting of the first and second battalions of British light infantry, and two battalions of guards, was led on by brigadier general Mathews, supported by lord Cornwallis at the head of the first and second battalions of grenadiers, and the thirtythird regiment. These troops crossed the East river in boats, under cover of the artillery planted in works which had been erected for this purpose on the opposite side of the river, and landed within the second line of defence which crossed the island. The third division was conducted by lieutenant colonel Stirling who passed the East river lower down; and the fourth by lord Percy, accompanied by general Howe in person. This division was to attack the lines in front, on the south side."
The attacks on the north, and south, by general Knyphausen and lord Percy, were made about the same instant on colonels Rawlings and Cadwallader, who maintained their ground for a considerable time; but while colonel Cadwallader was engaged in the first line against lord Percy on the south, the second and third divisions of the enemy, which had crossed
0 General Howe's letter.