Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

sized that New-York should be maintained to extremi. ty, probably had influence on this Council. In communicating the adopted plan to that body, General WASHINGTON clearly indicated an opinion, that an immediate evacuation of New-York was expedient. Speaking of the enemy, he observed,

" It is now extremely obvious, from all intelligence, from their movements, and every other circumstanco, that having lanced their whole army on Long Island, (except about four thousand on Staten Island) they inean to enclose us on the Island of New York, by taking post in our rear, while the shipping effectually secure the front; and thus, either by cutting off our commu nication with the country, oblige us to fight them on their own terms, or surrender at discretion, or, by a brilliant stroke, endeavour to cut this army in pieces, and secure the collection of arms and stores, which they well know we shall not be able soon to replace.

“ Having, therefore, their system unfolded to us, it became an important consideration, how it wouid be most successfully opposed. On every side there is a choice of difficulties; and every measure, on our part (however painful the reflection be from experience) to be formed with some apprehension that all our troups will not do their duty. In deliberating on this great question, it was impossible to forget, that history, our own experience, the advice of our ablest friends in Europe, the fears of the enemy, and even the declarations of Congress, demonstrate, that on our side, tho war should be defensive-(it has ever been called a war of posts)--that we should on all occasions avoid a general action, nor put any thing to the risk, unless compelled by a necessity into which we ought never to be drawn.

" It was concluded to arrange the army under three divisions ; five thousand to remain for the defence of the city; nine thousand to King's bridge and its de. pendences, as well to possess and secure those posts,

VOL. I.

as to bo rcady to attack the enemy who are moving eastward on Long Island, if they should attempt to land on this side ; the remainder to occupy the inter. mediate space, and support either; that the sick should be immediately removed to Orangetown, and barracks prepared at King's bridge with all possible oxpedition to cover the troops.

“ There were some general ufficers, in whose judg ment and opinion, much condence is to be reposed, that were for a total and immediate removal from the city, urging the great danger of one part of the army being cut off before the other can support it, the ex. tremities being at least sixteen miles apart ; that our army, when collected, is inferiour to the enemy; that they can move with their whole force to any point of attack, and consequently must succeed by weight of numbers, if they have only a part to oppose them; that, by removing from hence, we deprive the encmy of the advantage of their ships, which will make at least one half of the force to attack the town; that we should keep the enemy at bay, put nothing to the hazard, but at all events, keep the army together, which may be recruited another year; that the unspent stores will also be preserved ; and, in this case, the heavy artillery can also be secured.”

In the full expectation that a retreat from York Island would soon become necessary, the General as. siduously continued the removal of the stores and heavy baggage to a place of safety.

The General officers became alarmed at Sept. 12. the danger of the army, and, in a second

Council, determincd to remove it from New-York.

On the fourteenth, several British ships passed up the East river, and large hodies of troops were moved to Montezore's Island with the apparent intention to lani either upon the continent above King's bridge, and wholly to enclose !he Americans. or upon the plains of Haerlem on York Islcnd, to break the line of coinmunication between the different divisions of their army, and attack them in situations, in which they would be unable to support each other. The next morning General Clinton landed under cover of five men of war, with four thousand men, three miles above the city of New-York.

The American lines at this place were Sept. 14. capable of defence, but the men posted in

them, on the firing of the ships, without waiting for the attack of the oneiny, abandoned them. As soon as the cannonading began, two brigades were detached from the main body to support the troops in the breast works, the fugitives comniunicated to them their parc.i, and General WASHINGTON, in riding to the scene of action, met his troops retreating in the utmost confusion, disregarding the efforts of their Generals to stop them. While the Commander in Chief was, with some effect, exerting himseif to rally them, a very small body of the enemy appeared in sight, on which the men again b:oke, and a most das. tardly route ensued. At this unfortunate moment, and only at this moment through his whole life, General WASHINGTON appears to have lost his fortitude. All the shameful and disastrous consequences of the de. faction of his arıny, rushed upon his inind, and bero down his spirits. In a paroxysin of despair, he turned his horse towards the enemy, seemingly with the intention to avoid the disgrace of the day by the sacri. fice of his life : his aids seized the horse's bridle, and, with friendly violer.ce, rescued him from the destruc. lion that awaited him.

In consequence of the failure of the troops upon the lines, the evacuation of New-York was necessarily made in haste. It was happily accomplished with the loss of very few men; but most of the heavy artillery, many of the tents, and a great part of the stores, which had not been previously removed, were unavoidably left behind The American army having been driven from New. York, the British General stationed a detachment to guard the city ; and posted his main army in front of the Ainerican lines on the north end of York Island. Their right extended to the East, and their left to the North river; and both their flanks were covered by ships of war. The island at Bloomingdale, the place of the British encampment, is two miles wide.

The strongest post of the Americans was at King's bridge, which secured their communication with the country. M'Gowan's pass, and Morn's heights were also rendered defensible; and within a mile and a half of the onemy, a detachment was posted in a furtified camp, on the heights of Haerlem. The Com- , mander in Chiet was pleased with this disposition of his army; he thought it must lead tu those frequent skirmishes, which would inscnsili!y wear off the de. pression occasioned by the late defeat, and restore to his men confidence in themselves. He indulged the hope that by these services, the discipline would be in. troduced into the army, absolutely necessary to successful war, when every individual docs his appropriate duty, confiding for his security in the skill of his General, and in the united efforts of his fellow soldiers.

The very day after the retreat from the SEPT. 16. city, a party of the eneniy appeared in the

piain between the two hostile camps. The General rode to the outpost to embrace the opportuni. ty to attack them. Lieutenant Colonel Knowlton, of Connecticut, a brave officer, who had been skirinishing with the party, stated their number at three hundred. The General detached Colonel Knowlton and Major Leitch, of Virginia, to gain their rear, while he occupied their attention by movements indicating a design to attack them in front. Colonel Knowlton and Major Leitch, after leading their corps into action in a most soidier-like manner, were both son vrvught

off the field mortally wounded; yet the men under their Captains, bravely continued the attack, and drovo in enemy, superiour in numbers, from their position. The Americans had fifty men killed and wounded, and the British twice that number.

This skirmish, trifling in itself, was improved to valuable purposes.' The Commander in Chief in general orders, applauded the bravery of officers and men ; contrasted it with the cowardly behaviour of the troops the day before ; called upon the whole army to emulate this honourable example ; and from the issue of this conflict, pointed out what brave men might effect, when fighting in the best of causes. 1 ne parole next day was Leitch. In filling the vacancy occasioned by the death of the Colonel, the General mentioned that the officer succeeded “ the gallant and brave Colonel Knowlton, who would have been an honour to any country, and who had fallen gloriously fighting at his post.” The success of this rencounter had a general effect upon the spirits of the army.

In addition to the arduous duties of this campaign, which were sufficiont to employ the time, and test the talents of the greatest military character; the state of. the army furnished a weighty subject of attention to General WASHINGTON. He dwelt upon the gloomy prospects of the succeeding winter. The clothing of the men was suited only to the warm season, and their time of enlistment expired with the year. The consequent distresses in all their magnitude rose to his mind, and in the following letter, he endeavoured to impress Congress with a lively sense of the situation of the army; and to call forth their highest endeavours to arrest the approaching evils.

“ From the hours allotted to sleep, I will borrow a few moments to convey my thoughts on sundry important matters, to Congress. I shall offer them with the sincerity which ought to characterize a man of candour ; and with the freedom which inay be used in

« ZurückWeiter »