« PreviousContinue »
modore Hazlewood for assistance; that officer, whether from a justifiable prudence, or a culpable fear of danger, kept his gallies out of the reach of the enemy's shot.
In the course of the various assaults upon Fort Mifflin, upwards of 250 Americans were killed and wounded. It was an important post, and the necessity of holding it appeared so strong, that it had been determined by a council of war to relieve it at all hazards, on the very night it was necessarily abandoned. It was perhaps fortunate that the attempt was not made, as it might and in all probability would have brought on a general engagement, for which Washington was certainly not at that time prepared. The defence made by Lieutenant Colonel Smith gained him the applause of the Commander in Chief, and the approbation of Congress, who voted him a sword; but this gallant and high minded officer refused to accept it, because the value of the present had been cheapened by a similar offer to Commodore Hazlewood, who, in his opinion, as well as in that of most of the army, merited rather the censure of Congress for his cowardice. Moses Porter, who has since risen to the rank of Brigadier General, and who performed such eminent services for his country in the late contest with the same power, was at that time a Sergeant in the garrison of Fort Mifflin-Let the knowledge of this fact stimulate our soldiers of the present day, to conduct themselves so as to deserve the applause of their officers and their country, assured that merit will sooner or later raise them to the highest hopes of their ambition.
After the repulse of Count Donop, Sir William Howe had determined to send a stronger force against
the fort at Red Bank; and being now freed from all apprehension on the opposite side by the possession of Mud Island, he sent Lord Cornwallis with a considerable detachment, who crossed the river on the 19th November. Fort Mercer being now the only defence against the free passage of the river to the enemy's shipping, and the only protection to our own naval force, it became of serious importance to preserve it if possible. Washington therefore, with a view to counteract the operations of Lord Cornwallis, despatched Major General Greene with a respectable force into Jersey, with the expectation that he would be able in time to reinforce him with the troops expected from the north. In this, however, he was disappointed: the expected reinforcements did not arrive, and being too weak to contend against Lord Cornwallis, whose force had been considerably increased during his march by the arrival of troops from NewYork, he was compelled to abandon the hope of stopping his progress. Left to himself, Colonel Greene would still have defended his little fort to the last; but being overruled by the Generals appointed to give their advice, the fort was evacuated, and left to fall into the hands of Cornwallis. The American vessels and gallies having thus lost their only protection, seventeen of them were abandoned by their crews and destroyed: a few were saved by creeping up along on the Jersey shore in the night, and getting beyond the reach of the enemy's batteries.
The Marquis de la Fayette, who had accompanied General Greene into Jersey, before the retreat of the army, on the 25th November, at the head of a small party of riflemen and militia attacked a much
superiour force of Hessians and British grenadiers, and compelled them to retreat. The Marquis was still suffering from the wound which he had received at Brandywine; and this gallant conduct being reported to Congress, they resolved to give him the command of a division.
While the detachment from the northern army, consisting of the New England brigades, were at Fishkill on their way to join the Commander in Chief, 200 of the New Hampshire troops refused to cross the river until they were furnished with money and breeches. They had paraded before their barracks under arms, with a determination to resist the authority of their officers. Captain Beal who fearlessly exerted himself to suppress the mutiny, was mortally wounded; but a little resolution on the part of the officers soon silenced the mutineers, who joined their companions, and continued their march.
On the 4th of December, Sir William Howe advanced with his army from Philadelphia towards White Marsh, with a view, as it was supposed, of drawing out Washington to an engagement. The American army at this time were in a deplorable condition, in want of almost every thing necessary to their comfort. One half of them were without breech, es, shoes and stockings, and several thousand of them were without blankets. It was therefore extremely desirable to the Commander in Chief to get them as soon as possible into winter quarters. While in this situation the enemy appeared on Chesnut Hill, within three miles of the camp at White Marsh. Here they remained several days, making occasional demonstrations of an assault, and at length, changing their ground they encamped in front of the most vul
nerable part of Washington's position. At this moment a general engagement was deemed unavoidable; but a slight skirmish with the troops under Cornwallis, and the light troops on our left was all that the enemy attempted. Washington's account of the affair is thus given on the 10th-❝ I had reason to expect Howe was preparing to give us a general action. On Friday morning his troops appeared on Chesnut Hill; at night they changed their ground. On Sunday from every appearance, there was reason to apprehend an action. About sunset, after various marches and counter marches, they halted, and I still supposed they would attack us in the night, or early the next morning; but in this I was mistaken. On Monday afternoon they filed off, and marched towards Philadelphia. Their loss in skirmishing was not inconsiderable. I sincerely wish they had made an attack, the issue would in all probability, have been happy, for as policy forbad our quitting our posts to attack them."
In this skirmish, Major Morris, who had borne so conspicuous a part in the dangers and glories of Morgan's rifle regiment in the north, was mortally wounded. His death was deeply deplored by the whole
It is probable that Sir William Howe was greatly deceived as to the numbers and strength of Wash ington, which deterred him from risking a general battle; but though Washington himself wished it, the destitute condition of the greater part of his troops, would have placed them on very unequal grounds, notwithstanding the strength of his position, with the victorious, well-clothed troops of Sir William. His not giving battle was attended with as much advantage to the Americans, as if he had met with a par
tial defeat, inasmuch as it showed him afraid of our strength, and gave to our troops a stronger confidence in themselves. Washington himself was astonished at Sir William's retreat, and observed that it would have been better for him to have "fought without victory than thus to declare his inability."
On the 11th, Washington moved with his army to Swedesford; here in looking about for the most eligible spot for establishing his winter quarters, he selected Valley Forge, about sixteen miles from the comfortable city quarters of his adversary, and in the midst of the richest country of Pennsylvania. This spot possessed every advantage which nature could give it, and it remained only for the Commander in Chief to exert his comprehensive mind in adopting the best means of sheltering his men from the weather. The want of clothing among his troops was so urgent, that he here for the first time made use of the powers vested in him by congress, and issued warrants to the officers to seize whatever they could find useful to the army; and on the 19th, he removed to Valley Forge, every step of his soldiers marked by the blood of their naked feet, on the frozen ground. The plan he had chosen for sheltering them, was a novel experiment, and many of his officers at first regarded it as ridiculous and chimerical; but every thing is easy to patient industry and fortitude. In a short time the men felled the trees around them, and erected a town of huts, in which, if they did not enjoy all the comforts of their well housed adversaries, they were at least comfortably sheltered from the inclemencies of the weather, and enured to the hardships of a soldier'slife. Here he employed the winter in endeavouring to teach his soldiers discipline, and to guard them