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as seemed best calculated to withstand the expected assault. In the course of the night, however, it occurred to Colonel Greene, that he should be disappointing the expectations of the Commander in Chief, who had destined the reinforcement under Simms, for Fort Mifflin, a much more important post, if he should retain them to his own aid; and in the morning, notwithstanding the earnest solicitations of Lieutenant Colonel Simms and his whole detachment, who were burning with desire to share in the dangers of the defence, he insisted that the latter should pursue his destined course, and leave him to his own means.
Count Donop had arrived some hours before this heroick determination of Colonel Greene to rely exclusively upon his own strength, and was actively engaged in preparing his attack; and to the circumstance of Colonel Simms's leaving the garrison at this moment may be attributed the glorious issue of the assault. Donop was deceived by it into a belief, that the whole garrison was attempting to escape. Under this impression, without waiting to complete his preparations, he rushed upon a portion of the works which the last arrangements of Colonel Greene had rendered it necessary for him to abandon, and finding these deserted, he was still further confirmed in his fatal errour. He pushed on to the very muzzles of the guns, which now opened upon Irim with such tremendous effect, that the assailants turned back in dreadful dismay: Count Donop himself was mortally wounded, and the number killed was more than equal to the whole force under Colonel Greene. The Hessians also suffered very severely in their retreat, by the fire from the American gallies and floating batteries; and two of the British squadron which had been
employed to second the attack of Count Donop were lost, one of them, the Augusta ship of the line, accidentally took fire and was wholly consumed, the other, the Merlin sloop of war, grounded, and being hastily evacuated was purposely destroyed. Several officers and a number of men perished in attempting to save themselves from these vessels.
Nothing occurred during the war more brilliant than this defence of Fort Mercer. Colonel Greene's force amounted to no more than 400 men. The detachment under Count Donop consisted of three battalions of grenadiers, the regiment of Mirback, and a considerable number of light infantry and chasseurs. Congress were duly impressed with the merits of Colonel Greene, as will appear by the following resolution passed a few days afterwards. "Resolved, that Congress have a high sense of the merit of Colonel Greene and the officers and men under his command, in their late gallant defence of the Fort at Red Bank on the Delaware river, and that an elegant sword be provided by the board of war, and presented to Colonel Greene." It was not the fortune of Colonel Greene, however, to receive this sword. Various circumstances prevented its being provided, till long after the death of this gallant patriot and soldier, when it was presented to his son.
Lieutenant Colonel Simms after leaving the fort, embarked his men in the boats and batteaux provided for them, and reached Mud Island in safety. The enemy were in the mean time strengthening their works on Mud Island, and erecting heavy batteries of thirty two pounders within four hundred yards of the American defences. The fort on this Island had been entrusted to Count d'Arenat; but this offic
er being obliged to give up the command from severe indisposition, it devolved on Lieutenant Colonel Samuel Smith, of Maryland, who with 250 men and about 30 militia, defended the post for more than a month against the almost daily attempts of the enemy both by land and water. The reinforcements under Colonel Simms, which he received on the 23d of October, increased his force to about 400 men. His first care had been to examine the grounds of Province Island upon which it was most probable the enemy would erect their works of assault, and to put up block houses and such other defences as his time and means would allow. With these, aided by the cooperation of Commodore Hazlewood, who commanded the gallies and floating batteries, Lieutenant Colonel Smith with great bravery sustained the repeated assaults of the enemy until the completion of their heavy batteries on the 9th of November. The block houses being soon battered down by these, and a considerable breach being made in the walls on that side, it became a serious apprehension to Lieutenant Colonel Smith, that an attempt would be immediately made to storm the fort. His garrison, which had never from the first been competent to withstand a close assault, was now considerably weakened by constant watching, fighting and working-the enemy had succeeded in getting one of their large ships between Province and Mud Islands, and the American Commodore absolutely refused making any attempt to drive them from that position, alleging that a single broadside might destroy all his gallies-In this desperate situation, Colonel Smith wrote to the Commander in Chief, advising the withdrawal of the garrison; but Washington, in the hourly expectation of a reinforcement from General
Gates, of whose signal success he had heard, refused to listen to the proposal, and Colonel Smith assembled a council of his officers to determine on the course to be pursued. They unanimously and heroically resolved, that, in the event of the enemy's forcing the outer works, they should retire to the entrenchment in the centre of the Fort, and there, if quarter should be refused them, apply a match to the magazine and immolate themselves with their enemy.
On the 11th of November, the enemy being in possession of the heights above the Schuylkill, continued, from these, from their heavy batteries on Province Island, and their large ship in the main passage between, to play upon the fort with redoubled efforts. In the course of the day, a spent cannon ball knocked down a part of the walls of the fort, which falling upon Colonel Smith, wounded and bruised him so severely that he was compelled to retire. The command now devolved on Lieutenant Colonel Simms, who had so gallantly volunteered his services at Fort Mercer, and who maintained the defence with continued firmness until the 13th, when he was relieved by Lieutenant Colonel Russell, of the Connecticut line; but this officer finding from his weak state of health, that he would be wholly unable to support the fatigue which such a trust demanded, requested to be immediately recalled, and on the 14th he was relieved by Major Thayer, of the Rhode Island line, who volunteered for this desperate service.
Brigadier General Varnum, who had been some days before posted in Jersey, near Red Bank, with the command of all the troops below Philadelphia, had received orders from the Commander in Chief to defend Mud Island to the last extremity, without sacri
ficing the garrison; and Major Thayer arrived, with a knowledge of these orders, and a resolute determination to maintain his stand to the last moment. He was an officer as skilful as he was brave, as indefatigable as he was patient, prudent and vigilant. He endeavoured to animate his men, consisting of only 300, by inspiring them with his own hopes of a successful defence, and by placing before them the rewards with which their victory would be crowned. He was diligent in repairing as far as possible during the night, the breaches which had been made during the day, and seemed determined to render the conflict a desperate and deadly one. During the night of the 14th, two of the enemy's ships were brought up the east channel so as to attack the works in front, while two others forming a battery of 23 twenty four pounders, made their way up the narrow western channel, so as to cooperate with the batteries on Province Island, and thus completely enfilade the works of Fort Mifflin. Several frigates were also drawn up against the fort on the Jersey shore, intended to flank the men of war stationed there and prevent the escape of the garrison. The morning of the 15th saw a tremendous fire opened from all these batteries upon Thayer's little garrison, who supported the shock like men who had devoted themselves to destruction-by noon, all the batteries of the fort were levelled to the ground, and the men were thus exposed without a single defence. In the course of the afternoon, Major Thayer succeeded in sending all his garrison ashore, except 40 men, whom he retained until midnight, when having succeeded in removing the greater part of his stores, he set fire to the barracks, aud escaped with his little band to Fort Mercer. He had in vain applied to Com