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his retreat. Washington bore strong testimony to the bravery and resolution with which he had defended his posi tion, and took the earliest occasion to effect his exchange; and Congress, in acknowledgment of his services, promoted him to the rank of major-general.
Soon after the evacuation of New York, he returned to his duty in the army, and took part in the retreat through New Jersey, and in the operations on the Delaware, where he again signalized himself by the successful defence of Coryell's Ferry, which the British attempted to seize. When the army, elated by its successful efforts at Trenton and Princeton, but worn out by fatigue and privation, settled down for necessary repose, very late in the season, in winter-quarters at Morristown, Stirling's vigilance recommended him to Washington as a suitable person to command the lines immediately opposite to the enemy. This led to his being frequently engaged in skirmishes with detached parties of the British. On the opening of the campaign in 1777, Stirling encountered a strong party under Cornwallis, and, after sustaining the attack of the British with great gallantry, was compelled by their superior numbers to retire from the open country, with the loss of three field-pieces. But after reaching a more advantageous position, he made so obstinate a stand as to arrest the further progress of Cornwallis. Other similar checks led Sir William Howe to abandon the attempt to reach Philadelphia by land.
Stirling was then detached with his division up the Hudson, to reinforce the army intended to operate against Burgoyne. He had reached the Highlands, when intelligence of the British army having embarked, with the probable intention of passing round by sea to Philadelphia, led to his recall to reinforce the main army under Washington. Discouraged by the difficulties of ascending the Delaware, Sir William Howe entered the Chesapeake, and, ascending to the mouth of Elk river, moved his army up in the transports as far as it continued navigable, and disembarked his troops to the number of eighteen thousand men. The effective force of Washington did not exceed eleven thousand, a considerable part being militia, in whom he had little confidence. This force he assembled on the Brandywine, to oppose the approach of the British to Philadelphia, and he determined to hazard a battle for the protection of our seat of government.
On the morning of the 11th of September, the British army got in motion to attempt crossing the river, and skirmishing commenced. Cornwallis had been detached from the left of the British up the bank of the Brandywine, and had crossed it at the Forks, without opposition. Washington immediately detached Generals Sullivan, Stirling, and Stephen to oppose this column under Cornwallis, with whom was Sir William Howe, in person. Stirling's and Stephen's divisions formed on favorable ground, having both flanks covered with wood, and the artillery judiciously posted. Sullivan's troops, having made a longer circuit, had not had time to form, when the British commenced their attack with great impetuosity. The American column made a spirited resistance; but the right wing being in some disorder, was obliged to give way. Sullivan succeeded in rallying his command, but being briskly charged, it again gave way, and, the flank of the column being thus exposed, the remainder of the line began to waver. Sullivan, left behind by his flying troops, joined those who continued to resist, and throwing himself, with Stirling and Lafayette, personally into the conflict, made a stand until our forces were completely broken, and the enemy were within twenty yards of them; then, taking refuge in the woods, they succeeded in rejoining their routed followers. Lafayette was wounded, but Sullivan and Stirling escaped unhurt.
Washington soon after pressed forward, with Greene, to the succor of this column; but finding it broken, he succeeded in covering its retreat, and checking the advance of the British. The remainder of Howe's army having crossed the Brandywine, Washington retreated to Chester, and on the following day to Philadelphia. He again offered battle to the British army, and the action had commenced, when a heavy rain coming on, it was suspended. Washington then continued his retreat to Skippack, and the British took possession of Philadelphia, from which, notwithstanding their superior force, Washington had kept them out an entire month since their landing at Elk river.
Howe having extended the cantonments of the British army, Washington thought the moment favorable for attacking the portion of it which lay in Germantown. Stirling was to command the reserve, consisting of the brigades of Nash and Maxwell. At seven in the evening, the various
corps began their march, and falling upon the British advanced parties by surprise, routed them with little dif ficulty. The plan was well concerted; but an unusually thick fog prevented the Americans from distinguishing friend from foe, occasioned them to lose their way in some instances, and threw every thing into confusion. A very determined and successful resistance was also made by a party of British troops which occupied Chew's house, a stone building of such strength as to resist a cannonade. The attack failed, therefore, in its main object. The reserve under Lord Stirling appears to have been actively engaged, General Nash, who formed part of it, having been among the slain.
Soon after, Washington called a council of his generals, to consider the question of an attack on Philadelphia. Eleven of them were opposed to the attack, and four in favor of it. Stirling, in behalf of this minority, prepared an able plan for attacking Philadelphia at daylight. But the experiment was deemed too hazardous, considering the weakness of our own, and the strength of the British army, and our troops soon after went into winter-quarters at Valley Forge.
Just before this period, the American arms had gained a great triumph on the banks of the Hudson by the capitulation of the entire army of Burgoyne to the forces under General Gates. The successful commander, who, besides being favored by fortune and the errors of the enemy, had conducted himself with ability, immediately became an object of admiration to the whole country. Many were in favor of placing the whole army under his command, instead of leaving it under the more cautious guidance of Washington, who, though he had shown that he could act with great decision and vigor when there was a fair prospect of success, was yet unwilling to hazard the liberties of his country by exposing an ill-provided and imperfectly disciplined army in frequent combats with superior numbers. This opinion had its favorers even in Congress. But the army, estimating Washington at his full worth, with two or three exceptions, was decidedly in his favor. General Conway, an Irishman, educated in France, had come with other foreigners to America to seek advancement in our army. He had been made a brigadier-general, but not having won any distinction in this rank, and having excited WashingVOL. LXIV.No. 135.
ton's distrust, he became his secret enemy, and exerted himself to disparage his proceedings. With him originated the secret scheme to substitute Gates for Washington, known as the "Conway cabal," which was brought to the knowledge of Washington through the instrumentality of Stirling. Colonel James Wilkinson, aide-de-camp of Gates, being on his way with despatches to Congress, then sitting at York in Pennsylvania, stopped at Stirling's head-quarters at Reading, and having dined with him, repeated to Major McWilliams, an aid of Stirling, the following passage from a letter of Conway to Gates: "Heaven has determined to save your country, or a weak general and bad counsellors would have ruined it." Major McWilliams considered it his duty to disclose this communication to Stirling, who in turn felt bound by public duty as well as by private friendship to make it known to Washington. He immediately did so, with the remark, "Such wicked duplicity I shall always consider it my duty to detect."
This led to a correspondence between Washington, Gates, and Conway, and subsequently between Stirling and Wilkinson. Rumors respecting it got abroad, and public sentiment was so aroused against the conspirators, that they were compelled to abandon their ambitious projects. A part of the rancor of these disappointed men was naturally enough directed against Stirling. An attempt was made to disparage him for an imputed violation of the laws of hospitality, by imparting to Washington the scheme which had been divulged at table in a moment of conviviality. Those whose conspiracy could not bear the light, who were themselves plotting treason and circulating calumny, evinced a wonderful respect for the laws of honor and hospitality. But Stirling only communicated intelligence reported to him as a matter of duty by his subordinate officer. It would have been treason alike against friendship and patriotism to have withheld a knowledge of this plot from its intended victim. The course which he pursued was identical with that of Patrick Henry, then governor of Virginia, when the same cabal attempted to poison his mind against the commanderin-chief. He at once informed him of what was plotting for his injury, remarking, "While you face the armed enemies of your country, and by the favor of God have been kept unhurt, I trust your country will never harbour in her bosom the miscreant who would ruin her best supporter."
The army remained at Valley Forge until Sir Henry Clinton evacuated Philadelphia, on the 18th of June, 1778, when Washington immediately started in pursuit, with the intention of hanging on the British rear, harassing its march, and, if a favorable opportunity occurred, of bringing it to battle. On the 28th, the British occupied the high grounds about Monmouth court-house, Sir Henry Clinton having sent forward his baggage under Knyphausen, leaving the flower of his army wholly unencumbered to bring up the rear. At eight in the morning, the British rear having descended into the plains, Lee, who led the advance of the Americans, commenced cannonading them, and pushed forward a force on both their flanks. The whole of the enemy immediately marched back to resist this attack. Part of Lee's troops fell into confusion, and he ordered a retreat, intending, as he afterwards alleged, to rally them in a more defensible position. Washington, who was ignorant of what had occurred, ordered up the rear of the army to support the advance, and rode forward, when he was niet by the troops in full retreat. He ordered Lee to rally his corps and make a stand, which he partially accomplished, but was again forced from the ground. At this moment, Stirling, who commanded the left wing, brought forward a detachment of artillery, which played with such effect on the British, who had now crossed the morass, as to check their advance. They then attempted to turn the left flank, but were repulsed by Stirling's infantry. Wayne had now come up with the right wing, and equally checked their advance on his side, compelling the British to retire to the position they had occupied on the arrival of Washington. Washington now ordered the artillery forward to cannonade the enemy, and detached a corps of infantry to gain their flanks; but before any further impression could be made, night put an end to the battle. At midnight, the British decamped so silently that their retreat was not perceived, and thus got beyond the reach of further pursuit. Lee subsequently requested a court-martial upon his conduct, and measures were immediately taken for his trial. Stirling was made president of the court, and Lee was found guilty of all the charges preferred against him, and suspended from command for a year.
In October, Stirling was ordered to Elizabethtown, to command the troops in New Jersey employed in watching