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Sir William Howe for his military skill and masterly movements during this period. At Brandywine especially, Washington is supposed to have been “out-generaled, more out-generaled than in any action during the war." If all the operations of this trying period be examined, and the means in possession of both be considered, the American chief will appear in no respect inferior to his adversary, or unworthy of the high place assigned to him in the opinions of his countrymen. With an army decidedly inferior, not only in numbers, but in every military requisite except courage, in an open country, he employed his enemy near thirty days in advancing about sixty miles. In this time he fought one general action, and, though defeated, was able to reassemble the same undisciplined, which circumstances appeared to have admitted. When the left column of the British had turned Washington's right flank, his whole army was hemmed in:- General Knyphausen and the Brandywine in front; Sir William Howe and Lord Cornwallis on his right; the Delaware in his rear; and the Christiana river on his left. He was obliged to retreat twenty-three miles to Philadelphia, when the British lay within eighteen miles of it. Had the Commander-in-Chief detached General Knyphausen's column in pursuit early next morning, General Washington might with ease have been intercepted, either at the Heights of Crum Creek, nine miles; at Derby, fourteen; or at Philadelphia, eighteen miles, from the British camp; or, the Schuylkill might have been passed at Gray's Ferry, only seventy yards over, and Philadelphia, with the American magizines, taken, had not the pontoons been improvidently left at New York as useless. Any one of these movements, it was thought, might have been attended with the total destruction of the American army. For some reason, however, which it is impossible to divine, the Commander-in-Chief employed himself for several days in making slight movements which could not by any possibility produce any important benefits to the British cause."
unclothed, and almost unfed army; and, the fifth day afterward, again to offer battle. When the armies were separated by a storm which involved him in the most distressing circumstances, he extricated himself from them, and still maintained a respectable and imposing countenance.
The only advantage he is supposed to have given was at the battle of Brandywine, and that was produced by the contrariety and uncertainty of the intelligence received. A general must be governed by his intelligence, and must regulate his measures by his information. It is his duty to obtain correct information, and among the most valuable traits of a military character is the skill to select those means which will obtain it. Yet the best-selected means are not always successful; and, in a new army, where military talent has not been well tried by the standard of experience, the general is peculiarly exposed to the chance of employing not the best instruments. In a country, too, which is covered with wood precise information of the numbers composing different columns is to be gained with difficulty.
Taking into view the whole series of operations, from the landing of Howe at the Head of Elk to his entering Philadelphia, the superior generalship of Washington is clearly manifest. Howe, with his numerous and wellappointed army, performed a certain amount of routine work and finally gained the immediate object which he had in view — the possession of Philadelphia — when, by every military rule, he should have gone up the Hudson to cooperate with Burgoyne. Washington, with his army, composed almost entirely of raw recruits and militia, kept his adversary out of Philadelphia a month, still menaced him with an imposing front in his new position, and subsequently held him in check there while Gates was defeating and capturing Burgoyne.
We shall see, in the ensuing chapter, that although Howe had attained his first object in gaining possession of Philadelphia, he had still many new difficulties and dangers to encounter at the hands of his daring and persevering opponent before he could comfortably establish himself in winter quarters.
WASHINGTON HOLDS Howe IN CHECK.
T ASHINGTON seems to have been by no means
disheartened at the loss of Philadelphia. On
the contrary he justly regarded the circumstance of the enemy holding that city as one which might, as in the sequel it actually did, turn to the advantage of the American cause. Writing to General Trumbull on the ist of October (1777), he says: “ You will hear, before this gets to hand, that the enemy have at length gained possession of Philadelphia. Many unavoidable difficulties and unlucky accidents which we had to encounter helped to promote this success. This is an event which we have reason to wish had not happened, and which will be attended with several ill consequences, but I hope it will not be so detrimental as many apprehend, and that a little time and perseverance will give us some favorable opportunity of recovering our loss, and of putting our affairs in a more flourishing condition. Our army has now had the rest and refreshment it stood in need of, and our soldiers are in very good spirits."
Philadelphia being lost Washington sought to make its occupation inconvenient and insecure by rendering it inaccessible to the British fleet. With this design works had been erected on a low, marshy island in the Delaware, near the junction of the Schuylkill, which, from the nature of its soil, was called Mud Island. On the opposite shore of Jersey, at Red Bank, a fort had also been constructed which was defended with heavy artillery. In the deep channel between, or under cover of these batteries, several ranges of chevaux-de-frise had been sunk. These were so strong and heavy as to be destructive of any ship which might strike against them, and were sunk in such a depth of water as rendered it equally difficult to weigh them or cut them through; no attempt to raise them, or to open the channel in any manner, could be successful until the command of the shores on both sides should be obtained.
Other ranges of chevaux-de-frise had been sunk about three miles lower down the river, and some considerable works were in progress at Billingsport on the Jersey side, which were in such forwardness as to be provided with artillery. These works were further supported by several galleys mounting heavy cannon, together with two floating batteries, a number of armed vessels, and some fire ships.
The present relative situation of the armies gave a decisive importance to these works. Cutting off the communication of Howe with his brother's fleet, they prevented his receiving supplies by water. While the Arherican vessels in the river above Fort Mifflin, the name given to the fort on Mud Island, rendered it difficult to forage in Jersey, Washington hoped to render his supplies on the side of Pennsylvania so precarious as to compel him to evacuate Philadelphia.
The advantages of this situation were considerably diminished by the capture of the Delaware frigate.
The day after Cornwallis entered Philadelphia three batteries were commenced for the purpose of acting against any American ships which might appear before the town. While yet incomplete they were attacked by two frigates,