Page images
PDF
EPUB

into small parties, which could be called into general action at a few hours notice, be in a manner almost entirely covered the country with it, and took possession of the most important places.

Thus ended the campaign of 1776, with no other real advantage to the British, than the acquisition of New York, and a few fortresses in the neighbourhood, where the troops were constrained to act with as much circumspection, as if they had been besieged by a victorious army, instead of being themselves the conquerors.

The British in New-York began in 1777, to carry on a kind of predatory war, by sending out parties to destroy magazines, make incursions, and take or destroy such forts as lay on the banks of rivers accessible to their shipping; in this they were generally successful : the provincial magazines at Peek's kill, a place about fifiy miles distant from New-York, were destroyed; the town of Danbury in Connecticut was burnt, and that of Ridgefield in the same province was taken possession of. The Britishi, however, as they were returning from this last expedition, were harassed by generals Arnold, Wooster, and Sullivan ; but they made good their retreat, in spite of all opposition, with the loss of only seventy killed and wounded. On the American side the loss was much greater; general Wooster was killed, and Arnold was in the most imminent danger. On the other hand the Americans destroyed the stores at Sags harbour, in the east end of Long Island, and made prisoners all who defended the place.

As this method of making war answered no essential purpose, it was resolved to make an attempt on Philadelphia. It was first proposed to pass through the Jerseys to that city : but the impolitic conduct of the British in countenancing the devastation of their plundering parties, had created universal abhorrence, and the large reinforcements which had joined general Washington, who had posted himself so strongly, that it was concluded to be impracticable. Many stratagems were used to draw him from his secure situation, but without success; it was therefore determined to make the attempt by sea.

While the preparations were going forwards for this enterprize, the Americans found means to capture general Prescot and one of his aids, who were seized in their quar

ters, much in the same manner as general Lee had been.

The month of July was far advanced before the preparations for the expedition against Philadelphia were compleated, and it was the twenty-third before the fleet was able to sail from Sandy Hook. The force employed in this expedition consisted of thirty-six battalions of British and Hessians, a regiment of light-horse, and a body of loyalists raised at New-York. The remainder of the forces, consisting of seventeen battalions, and another body of light-horse, were stationed at New-York under Sir Henry Clinton; and seven battalions were stationed at Rhode Island.

After sailing about a week, they arrived at the mouth of the Delaware ; but there having received certain intelligence that the navigation of the river was so obstructed that it would be impossible to force a passage, it was resolved to proceed farther southward to Chesapeak bay, from whence the distance to Philadelphia was not very great, and where the provincial army would find less advantage from the nature of the country, than in the Jerseys.

The navigation from the Delaware to the Chesapeak took up the best part of the month of August, and that up the bay was difficult and tedious. At last, having sailed up the river Elk as far as possible, the troops were landed without opposition, and moved forward towards Philadelphia.

On the news of their arrival in the Chesapeak, general Washington left the Jerseys, and Aed to the relief of the city; and, in the beginning of September, met the royal army at Brandywine creek, about mid-way between the head of Elk and Philadelphia. General Washington practised his former method of skirmishing with, and harassing the army on its march. But as this was found insufficient to stop its course, he retired to that side of the creek next to Philadelphia, with an intent to dispute the passage. A general engagement commenced on the eleventh of September, in which the Americans were defeated ; and, perhaps, the night saved them from total destruction. The Provincials lost, in this engagement, about one thousand killed and wounded, besides four hundred taken prisoners.

The loss of this battle proved the loss of Philadelphia. General Washington retired towards Lancaster, an inland

town, about sixty miles from Philadelphia. But though he could not prevent the loss of Philadelphia, he still adhered to his original plan of distressing the royal party, by laying ambushes; and cutting off detached parties; but in this he was not so successful as formerly ; and one of his own detachments, which lay in ambush in the woods, were themselves surprized, and entirely defeated, with the loss of three hundred killed and wounded; besides seventy or eighty taken prisoners, and all their arms and baggage.

General Howe finding that the Americans would not venture another battle, even for the sake of their capital, took peaceable possession of it on the twenty-sixth of September. His first care was to cut off by strong batteries, the communication between the upper and lower parts of the river; which was executed, notwithstanding the opposition of some American armed vessels; one of which, carrying thirty-six guns was taken. His next task was to open a communication with the sea; and this was a work of no small difficulty. A vast number of batteries and forts had been erected, and machines formed like chevaux de frize, (from whence they took their name) had been sunk in the river, to prevent its navigation.

As the fleet had been sent round to the Delaware in order to co-operate with the army, this work, however difficult, was effected; nor did the provincials give much opposition, well knowing, that all places of this kind were now untenable. General Washington, however, took advantage of the royal army being divided, to attack the camp of the principal division of it, that lay at Germantown, in the neighbourhood of Philadelphia. In this he met with very little success; for though he reached the place of destination by three o'clock in the morning, the patroles had time to call the troops to arms. The Americans, notwithstanding, made a very resolute attack; but were received with so much bravery, that they were compelled to abandon the attempt, and retreat in great disorder; with the advantage of carrying off their cannon, though pursued a considerable way, after having upwards of two hundred killed, five hundred wounded, and four hundred made prisoners; among whom were fifty-four officers. On the side of the British the loss amounted to four hundred and thirty wounded and prisoners, and se.

venty killed; among the last, were general Agnew, and colonel Bird, with some other excellent officers.

There still remained two strong forts to be reduced on the Delaware. These were Mud Island, and Red Bank. The various obstructions which the Americans had thrown in the way, rendered it necessary to bring up the Augusta, a ship of the line, and the Merlin frigate, to the attack of Mud Island; but during the heat of the action, both were grounded. The Americans observing this, sent down four fire ships, and directed the whole fire from their galleys against them; but the courage and skill of the British 'seamen, prevented the former from taking effect. But during the engagement both the Augusta and Merlin took fire, and were burnt ; and the other ships were obliged to withdraw.

The Americans, encouraged by this, proceeded to throw new obstructions in the way ; but the British general having found means to convey a number of cannon, and to erect batteries within gunshot of the fort by land, and having brought up three ships of the line, mounted with heavy cannon, and the Vigilant, a large ship cut down so as to draw but little water, mounted with 24 pounders, made her way to a position from which she might enfi. lade the works on Mud Island. This gave the British such an advantage, that the post was no longer tenable.

Colonel Smith, who had with great gallantry defended the fort from the latter end of September, to the 11th of November, being wounded, was removed to the main ; within five days after his removal, major Thayer, nobly offered to take charge of this dangerous post; but was obliged to evacuate it within twenty-five days. But this event did not take place until the works were entirely beat down, every piece of cannon dismounted, and one of the British ships so near, that she threw hand-grenadoes into the fort, and killed the men who were uncovered on the platform. The troops who had so bravely defended fort Miffin, (which was the name given to it) made a safe re. treat to Red Bank. Within three days after Mud Island was evacuated, the garrison was also withdrawn from Red Bank on the approach of lord Cornwallis. A great number of the American shipping, now entirely without protec

tion, sailed up the river in the night time. Seventeen, however, remained, whose retreat was intercepted, by a frigate and some armed vessels , on which the Americans ran them on shore and burnt them.

Thus the campaign of 1777, in Pennsylvania, concluded successfully on the part of the British. In the North, however, matters wore a different aspect. The expedition in that quarter, had been projected by the British ministry, as the most effectual method that could be taken to subjugate the colonies at once.

The New England provinces were still considered by the British, as the most active in the continuation of the war; and it was thought, that any impression made upon them, would contribute in an effectual manner, to the reduction of the rest.

To carry this into execution, an army of four thousand chosen British troops, and three thousand Germans, were put under the command of general Burgoyne; and general Carleton, was directed to use his interest with the Indians, to persuade them to join in this expedition ; and the province of Quebec was to furnish large parties to join in the same. The officers who commanded under general Burgoyne, were general Phillips of the artillery, generals Fraser, Powel and Hamilton, with the German officers, generals Reidesel and Speecht.

These soldiers were under excellent discipline, and had been kept in their winter quarters with great care, that they might be prepared for the expedition, on which they were going. To ensure the success of the main expedi

ion, another was formed on the Mohawk River, under Colonel St. Leger, who was to be assisted by Sir William Johnson, who had so greatly signalized himself, in the war of 1755. On the 21st of June, 1777, the British army encamped on the western side of lake Champlain ; where being joined by a considerable body of Indians, general Burgoyne made a speech, in which he exhorted these new allies, to lay aside their ferocious and barbarous manner of making war; to kill only such as opposed them in arms ; and to spare prisoners, and such women and children, as should fall into their hands. He afterwards issued a proclamation, in which the force of Britain, and that which he commanded, was displayed in strong and

« PreviousContinue »