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militia, and the danger of an insurrection among the loyalists in Philadelphia, so earnestly, that this part of the design was abandoned. The question of independence had been determined in the affirmative, by a great majority in Philadelphia ; but the minority were powerful, respectable, and turbulent. Most of the Quakers were in the negative, perhaps from their pacific principles, and antipathy to revolutionary disorders—not with open violence, but with their countenance and influence, which rendered the minority yet more formidable. Theirs' is a dangerous neutrality in all seasons ; for it is never strictly observed. They were not required to unite in active opposition to the ruling powers, to whom political obedience, with them, is an absolute duty; and they should, at least, have held themselves aloof from all measures, which might lead to more continued and desperate scenes of battle and bloodshed. But, whether unwilling or not, they certainly contributed to prolong the war.
It was at length determined by Washington, to pass the Delaware in three divisions : one consisting of five hundred men, under General Cadwallader from the vicinity of Bristol, which miscarried by a strange and unfortunate inattention to the tide and state of the river, then filled with ice, by which the opposite banks were rendered inaccessible to his artillery and horses. The next day, however, after Washington's return, supposing lim still on the Jersey side, General Cadwallader crossed with about fifteen hundred men, and pursued the panick struck enemy to Burlington. During the day, he was still further reinforced with about eight hundred men, from General Mifflin. There was no want of zeal or activity, on the part of General Cadwalla ler. He did all that
could be done to support Washington. The safety of a small number of grenadiers left at Bordentown, by Count Donop, was only owing to the ice.
A second division, under the command of General Irving, was to cross at Trenton Ferry, and secure the bridge leading from the town; but there, the same obstacle presented itself. The ice had suddenly accumulated in such quantities, that he was compelled to abandon the attempt. Here, therefore, were two divisions out of three, absolutely prevented from coopperating in the enterprize.
The third, and main body, not exceeding twentyfive hundred men, under the command of Washington in person, asssisted by Generals Greene and Sullivan, and Colonel Knox, of the artillery, were paraded on the evening of the twenty-fifth, at the back of Mr. Konkey's Ferry, with the intention of embarking so soon as it became dusk. It was determined to attack the enemy early in the morning of the 25th, when the festivities of the preceeding day, (Christmas) would probably leave them, in some measure, unprepared. By twelve, it was calculated that this body, with the artillery, would have gained the Jersey shore; and it being but nine miles to Trenton, it was thought that, allowing for all delays, the attack might be made, as early as five in the morning. But the quantity of ice which had gathered during the night, so obstructed this division also, that it was three, before the artillery had landed; and nearly five, before the troops were on their march, when it began to hail and snow. It was then too late to retreat without discovery, and though all hopes of surprising the town were necessarily abandoned, it was determined to proceed.
three, beforebstructed this diviad gathered durinons.
It is a somewhat singular fact, that a vague rumour of this design, had reached Colonel Rahl; that on this very night his men were paraded, and a picket advanced to prevent a surprise; and that a captain Washington,afterwards so distingnished at the South, having been abroad during the whole day without effecting any thing, determined, on his return to take a slight brush with the enemy's advance at Trenton. His party encountered this picket guard, exchanged a few vollies, and disappeared. This attack, it will be thought, would necessarily, have confirmed the enemy in his expectations of an attempt to surprise him, but from the manner in which it was conducted, they were led to treat the whole as a frolick and had returned to their quarters.
As the Americans were approaching, they fell in with Capt. Washington's party, and from his account, very naturally concluded that the enemy would be prepared ; but it was then too late to deliberate. The troops were thrown into two divisions; the right under Major General Sullivan with St. Clair's brigade was directed to take the river road to Trenton, while the left under Washington himself, accompanied by Generals Greene, Morin, and Stevens, advanced on the upper, or Pennington Road. This division encountered and drove in the enemy's advance, precisely at eight o'clock; and within three minutes, the firing of the other party was heard, from the quarter where they had been directed to enter, and push into the centre of the town before the enemy could form. The picket, which was driven in by the first party, believing this a second attack from the marauders who had just left them, neglected to give the alarm; and the Hessian outposts, being very inconsiderable,
were unable to check the approach of the Americans. That they fought with great spirit, was said by Washington himself, keeping up a constant fire, and retreating behind the houses. The person of Washington was much exposed the whole time.
By the time the main body of the Hessians had formed, they had lost their artillery, and were completely surrounded. They attempted to file off towards Princeton, but Washington, foreseeing this measure, had thrown a body in advance, which prevented it. There was left but one alternative; to surrender immediately, or be cut to pieces. They chose the former; and, to the number of eight hundred and eighty-six men and twenty-three officers, laid down their arms on the spot. Nine hundred and eighteen prisoners, twelve drums, six brass field pieces, and four pair of colours were taken, with the loss of only two or three men killed, Captain Washington and six others wounded, and three or four frozen to death; for the night was exceedingly cold, accompanied with hail and sleet, which not only chilled the troops, but retarded their approach over the slippery roads. The Hessians had a gallant officer, Colonel Rahl, and about forty others, killed and wounded. During the tumult, a troop of British light horse, and a body of troops amounting together to about six hundred men, escaped by the Bordentown road. These also, would have been taken, had General Erring gained the bridge as Washington directed. The whole force of the enemy was about fifteen hundred men, under Rahl, Losburg, and Kniphausen, with the troop of horse. General Wilkinson, who was present in the action, speaks in animated terms of Captain Washington, Lieuter- Monroe, (now President of
the United States,) and Colonel Stark; of their gallantry, and conduct.
From Trenton, General Washington, seconded by the wishes of General Greene, and Colonel Knox, would have continued his march to some other post, but they were overruled by the council, who protested against any farther measures that should hazard what they now gained; and the design was abandoned. On the evening of the same day, he recrossed the Delaware, bearing with him his trophies, artillery, and prisoners ; justly elated with anticipations of the effect, which such a spirited manœuvre, must produce on the aspect of publick affairs. But, whatever was its operation on the minds of the Americans, it fell upon the enemy like a sudden burst of thunder in a serene day; a blow so unexpected, conceived in a spirit so different from that which had hitherto directed the labours of Washington, and executed in such a workmanlike manner-it was absolutely unaccountable to the enemy. They attributed it to the neglect of Colonel Rahl in omitting to entrench himself ; but Colonel Donop was equally guilty-his post was not entrenched. The truth is, they were surprised, defeated by the masterly, though almost desperate conduct of Washington; not by the blunders of Colonel Rahl. The errour of Lord Howe lay in advancing so small a body of foreigners, so near the main body of the Americans. As foreigners, they laboured under every disadvantage in their communication with the people, but had they been Britons, they were too weak for their extreme point of advance as a frontier post. The spell was now broken which made the Hessians so terrible, and the British testified much of that kind of involuntary