TABLE OF CONTENTS.
VOLUME II. PART IV. Washington Continental Commander-in-Chief. 1775-1783.
CHAP. X. Lord Howe Outgeneraled by Washington
XI. Washington Holds Howe in Check
XII. Burgoyne’s Defeat and Surrender
XIII. Washington at Valley Forge
XIV. The Battle of Monmouth
XV. Washington Directs a Descent on Rhode Island
XVI. Washington Prepares to Chastise the Indians
XVII. Washington’s Operations in the Northern States
XVIII. Campaign in the North–Arnold’s Treason
XIX. Operations at the South
XX. Preparations for a New Campaign
XXI. The Campaign at the South
XXII. Continuation of the Campaign at the South
XXIII. Washington Captures Cornwallis
XXIV. Final Events of the Revolution
* * * * *
PART V. Washington, a Private Citizen. 1783-1788.
I. Washington’s Return to Private Life
II. Washington President of the Constitutional Convention
* * * * *
PART VI. Washington as President and in Retirement. 1789-1799.
I. Washington Elected First President of the United States
II. Washington’s Inauguration and First Administration Formed
III. Measures for Establishing the Public Credit
IV. Establishment of a National Bank
V. Political Parties Developed
VI. Washington Inaugurates the System of Neutrality
VII. Washington Sends Jay to England
VIII. Washington Quells the Western Insurrection
IX. Washington Signs Jay’s Treaty
X. Washington Maintains the Treaty-Making Power of the Executive
XI. Washington Retires from the Presidency
XII. Washington Appointed Lieutenant-General
XIII. Last Illness, Death, and Character of Washington
* * * * *
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS. Vol. II.
WASHINGTON AS PRESIDENT
VALLEY FORGE–WASHINGTON AND LAFAYETTE
WASHINGTON AT TRENTON
MAJOR-GENERAL BARON STEUBEN
BATTLE OF GERMANTOWN
TREASON OF ARNOLD
LEE’S CAVALRY SKIRMISHING AT THE BATTLE OF GUILFORD
GENERAL FRANCIS MARION
MAJOR-GENERAL NATHANAEL GREENE
ROBERT R. LIVINGSTON
WASHINGTON’S FAREWELL TO HIS OFFICERS
INAUGURATION OF WASHINGTON
THE FIRST CABINET
WASHINGTON AND FAMILY AT MOUNT VERNON
CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN MARSHALL
WASHINGTON OUT-GENERALS HOWE. 1777.
Among the many perplexing subjects which claimed the attention of Washington during the winter (1776-1777), while he was holding his headquarters among the hills at Morristown, none gave him more annoyance than that of the treatment of American prisoners in the hands of the enemy. Among the civilized nations of modern times prisoners of war are treated with humanity and principles are established on which they are exchanged. The British officers, however, considered the Americans as rebels deserving condign punishment and not entitled to the sympathetic treatment commonly shown to the captive soldiers of independent nations. They seem to have thought that the Americans would never be able, or would never dare, to retaliate. Hence their prisoners were most infamously treated. Against this the Americans remonstrated, and, on finding their remonstrances disregarded, they adopted a system of retaliation which occasioned much unmerited suffering to individuals. Col. Ethan Allen, who had been defeated and made prisoner in a bold but rash attempt against Montreal, was put in irons and sent to England as a traitor. In retaliation, General Prescott, who had been taken at the mouth of the Sorel, was put in close confinement for the avowed purpose of subjecting him to the same fate which Colonel Allen should suffer.
Both officers and privates, prisoners to the Americans, were more rigorously confined than they would otherwise have been, and, that they might not impute this to wanton harshness and cruelty, they were distinctly told that their own superiors only were to blame for any severe treatment they might experience.
The capture of General Lee became the occasion of embittering the complaints on this subject, and of aggravating the sufferings of the prisoners of war. Before that event something like a cartel for the exchange of prisoners had been established between Generals Howe and Washington, but the captivity of General Lee interrupted that arrangement. The general, as we have seen, had been an officer in the British army, but having been disgusted had resigned his commission, and, at the beginning of the troubles, had offered his services to Congress, which were readily accepted. General Howe affected to consider him as a deserter, and ordered him into close confinement. Washington had no prisoner of equal rank, but offered six Hessian field officers in exchange for him, and required that, if that offer should not be accepted, General Lee should be treated according to his rank in the American army. General Howe replied that General Lee was a deserter from his majesty’s service, and could not be considered as a prisoner of war nor come within the conditions of the cartel. A fruitless discussion ensued between the Commanders-in-Chief. Congress took up the matter and resolved that General Washington be directed to inform General Howe, that should the proffered exchange of six Hessian field officers for General Lee not be accepted, and his former treatment continued, the principle of retaliation shall occasion five of the Hessian field officers, together with Lieut. Col. Archibald Campbell, or any other officers that are or shall be in possession of equivalent in number or quality, to be detained, in order that the treatment which General Lee shall receive may be exactly inflicted upon their persons. Congress also ordered a copy of their resolution to be transmitted to the Council of Massachusetts Bay, and that they be desired to detain Lieutenant-Colonel Campbell, and keep him in close custody till the further orders of Congress, and that a copy be also sent to the committee of Congress, in Philadelphia, and that they be desired to have the prisoners, officers, and privates lately taken properly secured in some safe place.
Lieutenant-Colonel Campbell of the Seventy-first Regiment, with about 270 of his men, had been made prisoner in the bay of Boston, while sailing for the harbor, ignorant of the evacuation of the town by the British. Hitherto the colonel had been civilly treated; but, on receiving the order of Congress respecting him, the Council of Massachusetts Bay, instead of simply keeping him in safe custody, according to order, sent him to Concord jail, and lodged him in a filthy and loathsome dungeon, about twelve or thirteen feet square. He was locked in by double bolts and expressly prohibited from entering the prison yard on any consideration whatever. A disgusting hole, fitted up with a pair of fixed chains, and from which a felon had been removed to make room for his reception, was assigned him as an inner apartment. The attendance of a servant was denied him, and no friend was allowed to visit him.
Colonel Campbell naturally complained to Howe of such unworthy treatment, and Howe addressed Washington on the subject. The latter immediately wrote to the Council of Massachusetts Bay, and said, “You will observe that exactly the same treatment is to be shown to Colonel Campbell and the Hessian officers that General Howe shows to General Lee, and as he is only confined to a commodious house, with genteel accommodation, we have no right or reason to be more severe to Colonel Campbell, whom I wish to be immediately removed from his present situation and put into a house where he may live comfortably.”
The historian (Gordon), who wrote at the time, gives a very graphic account of the sufferings of the American prisoners in New York, which, dreadful as it seems, is confirmed by many contemporary authorities. He says: “Great complaints were made of the horrid usage the Americans met with after they were captured.”
The garrison of Fort Washington surrendered by capitulation to General Howe, the 16th of November. The terms were that the fort should be surrendered, the troops be considered prisoners of war, and that the American officers should keep their baggage and sidearms. These articles were signed and afterwards published in the New York papers. Major Otho Holland Williams, of Rawling’s Rifle Regiment, in doing his duty that day, unfortunately fell into the hands of the enemy. The haughty deportment of the officers, and the scurrility of the soldiers of the British army, he afterward said, soon dispelled his hopes of being treated with lenity. Many of the American officers were plundered of their baggage and robbed of their sidearms, hats, cockades, etc., and otherwise grossly ill-treated. Williams and three companions were, on the third day, put on board the Baltic-Merchant, a hospital ship, then lying in the sound. The wretchedness of his situation was in some degree alleviated by a small pittance of pork and parsnip which a good- natured sailor spared him from his own mess. The fourth day of their captivity, Rawlings, Hanson, M’Intire, and himself, all wounded officers, were put into one common dirt-cart and dragged through the city of New York as objects of derision, reviled as rebels, and treated with the utmost contempt.
From the cart they were set down at the door of an old wastehouse, the remains of Hampden Hall, near Bridewell, which, because of the openness and filthiness of the place, he had a few months before refused as barracks for his privates, but now was willing to accept for himself and friends, in hopes of finding an intermission of the fatigue and persecution they had perpetually suffered. Some provisions were issued to the prisoners in the afternoon of that day, what quantity he could not declare, but it was of the worst quality he ever, till then, saw made use of. He was informed the allowance consisted of six ounces of pork, one pound of biscuit, and some peas per day for each man, and two bushels and a half of sea coal per week for the officers to each fireplace. These were admitted on parole, and lived generally in wastehouses. The privates, in the coldest season of the year, were close confined in churches, sugar-houses, and other open buildings (which admitted all kinds of weather), and consequently were subjected to the severest kind of persecution that ever unfortunate captives suffered.
Officers were insulted and often struck for attempting to afford some of the miserable privates a small relief. In about three weeks Colonel Williams was able to walk, and was himself a witness of the sufferings of his countrymen. He could not describe their misery. Their constitutions were not equal to the rigor of the treatment they received and the consequence was the death of many hundreds. The officers were not allowed to take muster-rolls, nor even to visit their men, so that it was impossible to ascertain the numbers that perished; but from frequent reports and his own observations, he verily believed, as well as had heard many officers give it as their opinion, that not less than 1,500 prisoners perished in the course of a few weeks in the city of New York, and that this dreadful mortality was principally owing to the want of provisions and extreme cold. If they computed too largely, it must be ascribed to the shocking brutal manner of treating the dead bodies, and not to any desire of exaggerating the account of their sufferings.
When the King’s commissary of prisoners intimated to some of the American officers General Howe’s intention of sending the privates home on parole, they all earnestly desired it, and a paper was signed expressing that desire; the reason for signing was, they well knew the effects of a longer confinement, and the great numbers that died when on parole justified their pretensions to that knowledge. In January almost all the officers were sent to Long Island on parole, and there billeted on the inhabitants at $2 per week.
The filth in the churches (in consequence of fluxes) was beyond description. Seven dead have been seen in one of them at the same time, lying among the excrements of their bodies. The British soldiers were full of their low and insulting jokes on those occasions, but less malignant than the Tories. The provision dealt out to the prisoners was not sufficient for the support of life, and was deficient in quantity, and more so in quality. The bread was loathsome and not fit to be eaten, and was thought to have been condemned. The allowance of meat was trifling and of the worst sort. The integrity of these suffering prisoners was hardly credible. Hundreds submitted to death rather than enlist in the British service, which they were most generally pressed to do. It was the opinion of the American officers that Howe perfectly understood the condition of the private soldiers, and they from thence argued that it was exactly such as he and his council intended. After Washington’s success in the Jerseys, the obduracy, and malevolence of the Royalists subsided in some measure. The surviving prisoners were ordered to be sent out as an exchange, but several of them fell down dead in the streets while attempting to walk to the vessels.
Washington wrote to General Howe in the beginning of April: “It is a fact not to be questioned that the usage of our prisoners while in your possession, the privates at least, was such as could not be justified. This was proclaimed by the concurrent testimony of all who came out. Their appearance justified the assertion, and melancholy experience in the speedy death of a large part of them, stamped it with infallible certainty.”
The cruel treatment of the prisoners being the subject of conversation among some officers captured by Sir Guy Carleton, General Parsons, who was of the company, said, “I am very glad of it.” They expressed their astonishment and desired him to explain himself. He thus addressed them: “You have been taken by General Carleton, and he has used you with great humanity, would you be inclined to fight against him?” The answer was, “No.” “So,” added Parsons, “would it have been, had the troops taken by Howe been treated in like manner, but now through this cruelty we shall get another army.”
The Hon. William Smith, learning how the British used the prisoners, and concluding it would operate to that end by enraging the Americans, applied to the committee of New York State for leave to go into the city and remonstrate with the British upon such cruel treatment, which he doubted not but that he should put a stop to. The committee, however, either from knowing what effect the cruelties would have in strengthening the opposition to Britain, or from jealousies of his being in some other way of disservice to the American cause or from these united, would not grant his request.
Washington, at the beginning of 1777, determined to have the army inoculated for the smallpox, which had made fearful ravages in the ranks. It was carried forward as secretly and carefully as possible, and the hospital physicians in Philadelphia were ordered at the same time to inoculate all the soldiers who passed through that city on their way to join the army. The same precautions were taken in the other military stations, and thus the army was relieved from an evil which would have materially interfered with the success of the ensuing campaign. The example of the soldiery proved a signal benefit to the entire population, the practice of inoculation became general, and, by little and little, this fatal malady disappeared almost entirely.
In the hope that something might be effected at New York, Washington ordered General Heath, who was in command in the Highlands, to move down towards the city with a considerable force. Heath did so, and in a rather grandiloquent summons called upon Fort Independence to surrender. The enemy, however, stood their ground, and Heath, after a few days, retreated, having done nothing, and exposed himself to ridicule for not having followed up his words with suitable deeds.
While Washington was actively employed in the Jerseys in asserting the independence of America, Congress could not afford him much assistance, but that body was active in promoting the same cause by its enactments and recommendations. Hitherto the Colonies had been united by no bond but that of their common danger and common love of liberty. Congress resolved to render the terms of their union more definite, to ascertain the rights and duties of the several Colonies, and their mutual obligations toward each other. A committee was appointed to sketch the principles of the union or confederation.
This committee presented a report in thirteen Articles of Confederation and perpetual Union between the States, and proposed that, instead of calling themselves the United Colonies, as they had hitherto done, they should assume the name of the United States of America; that each State should retain its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by the confederation expressly delegated to the United States in Congress assembled; that they enter into a firm league for mutual defense; that the free inhabitants of any of the States shall be entitled to the privileges and immunities of free citizens in any other State; that any traitor or great delinquent fleeing from one State and found in another shall be delivered up to the State having jurisdiction of his offense; that full faith and credit shall be given in each of the States to the records, acts, and judicial proceedings of every other State; that delegates shall be annually chosen in such manner as the legislature of each State shall direct, to meet in Congress on the first Monday of November, with power to each State to recall its delegates, or any of them, at any time within the year, and to send others in their stead; that no State shall be represented in Congress by less than two or more than seven members, and no person shall be a delegate for more than three out of six years, nor shall any delegate hold a place of emolument under the United States; that each State shall maintain its own delegates; that in Congress each State shall have only one vote; that freedom of speech shall be enjoyed by the members, and that they shall be free from arrest, except for treason, felony, or breach of the peace; that no State, without the consent of Congress, shall receive any ambassador, or enter into any treaty with any foreign power; that no person holding any office in any of the United States shall receive any present, office, or title from any foreign State, and that neither Congress nor any of the States shall grant any titles of nobility; that no two or more of the States shall enter into any confederation whatever without the consent of Congress; that no State shall impose any duties which may interfere with treaties made by Congress; that in time of peace no vessels of war or military force shall be kept up in any of the States but by the authority of Congress, but every State shall have a well-regulated and disciplined militia; that no State, unless invaded, shall engage in war without the consent of Congress, nor shall they grant letters of marque or reprisal till after a declaration of war by Congress; that colonels and inferior officers shall be appointed by the Legislature of each State for its own troops; that the expenses of war shall be defrayed out of a common treasury, supplied by the several States according to the value of the land in each; that taxes shall be imposed and levied by authority and direction of the several States within the time prescribed by Congress; that Congress has the sole and exclusive right of deciding on peace and war, of sending and receiving ambassadors, and entering into treaties; that Congress shall be the last resort on appeal in all disputes and differences between two or more of the States; that Congress have the sole and exclusive right and power of regulating the alloy and value of coin struck by their own authority, or by that of the respective States, fixing the standard of weights and measures, regulating the trade, establishing post-offices, appointing all officers of the land forces in the service of the United States, except regimental officers, appointing all the officers of the naval forces, and commissioning all officers whatever in the service of the United States, making rules for the government and regulation of the said land and naval forces, and directing their operations; that Congress have authority to appoint a committee to sit during their recess, to be dominated a Committee of the States, and to consist of one delegate from each State; that Congress shall have power to ascertain the necessary sums of money to be raised for the service of the United States, and to appropriate and apply the same, to borrow money or emit bills on the credit of the United States, to build and equip a navy, to fix the number of land forces, and to make requisitions from each State for its quota, in proportion to the number of white inhabitants in such State; that the consent of nine States shall be requisite to any great public measure of common interest; that Congress shall have power to adjourn to any time within the year, and to any place within the United States, but the adjournment not to exceed six months, and that they shall publish their proceedings monthly, excepting such parts relating to treaties, alliances, or military operations, as in their judgment require secrecy; that the yeas and nays of the delegates of each State shall, if required, be entered on the journal, and extracts granted; that the Committee of the States, or any nine of them, shall, during the recess of Congress, exercise such powers as Congress shall vest them with; that Canada, if willing, shall be admitted to all the advantages of the union; but no other colony shall be admitted, unless such admission shall be agreed to by nine States; that all bills of credit emitted, moneys borrowed, or debts contracted by Congress before this confederation, shall be charges on the United States; that every State shall abide by the determinations of Congress on all questions submitted to them by this confederation; that the articles of it shall be inviolably observed by every State, and that no alteration in any of the articles shall be made, unless agreed to by Congress, and afterward confirmed by the legislature of every State.
Such was the substance of this confederation or union. After much discussion, at thirty-nine sittings, the articles were approved by Congress, transmitted to the several State Legislatures, and, meeting with their approbation, were ratified by all the delegates on the 15th of November, 1778.
Congress maintained an erect posture, although its affairs then wore the most gloomy aspect. It was under the provisions of this confederation that the war was afterward carried on, and, considered as a first essay of legislative wisdom, it discovers a good understanding, and a respectable knowledge of the structure of society. Had peace been concluded before the settlement of this confederation, the States would probably have broken down into so many independent governments, and the strength of the Union been lost in a number of petty sovereignties.
It is not hazarding much to say that, considering all the circumstances, it was the best form of government which could have been framed at that time. Its radical defect arose from its being a confederation of independent States, in which the central government had no direct recourse to the people. It required all grants of men or money to be obtained from the State governments, who were often, during the war, extremely dilatory in complying with the requisitions of Congress. This defect was strongly felt by Washington, who was often compelled to exert his personal influence, which, in all the States, was immense, to obtain the supplies which Congress had no power to exact. We shall see hereafter, that in forming the new constitution, a work in which Washington took a leading part, this defect was remedied.
While Congress was beginning to form these articles of confederation, and Washington was giving a new aspect to the war in New Jersey, the people of Great Britain, long accustomed to colonial complaints and quarrels, and attentive merely to their own immediate interests, paid no due regard to the progress of the contest or to the importance of the principles in which it originated. Large majorities in both houses of parliament supported the ministry in all their violent proceedings, and although a small minority, including several men of distinguished talents, who trembled for the fate of British liberty if the court should succeed in establishing its claims against the colonists, vigorously opposed the measures of administration, yet the great body of the people manifested a loyal zeal in favor of the war, and the ill success of the Colonists in the campaign of 1776, gave that zeal additional energy.
But amidst all the popularity of their warlike operations, the difficulties of the ministry soon began to multiply. In consequence of hostilities with the American provinces, the British West India islands experienced a scarcity of the necessaries of life. About the time when the West India fleet was about to set sail, under convoy, on its homeward voyage, it was discovered that the negroes of Jamaica meditated an insurrection. By means of the draughts to complete the army in America, the military force in that island had been weakened, and the ships of war were detained to assist in suppressing the attempts of the negroes. By this delay the Americans gained time for equipping their privateers. After the fleet sailed it was dispersed by stormy weather and many of the ships, richly laden, fell into the hands of the American cruisers who were permitted to sell their prizes in the ports of France, both in Europe and in the West Indies.
The conduct of France was now so openly manifested that it could no longer be winked at, and it drew forth a remonstrance from the British cabinet. The remonstrance was civilly answered, and the traffic in British prizes was carried on somewhat more covertly in the French ports in Europe; but it was evident that both France and Spain were in a state of active preparation for war. The British ministry could no longer shut their eyes against the gathering storm, and began to prepare for it. About the middle of October (1776) they put sixteen additional ships into commission, and made every exertion to man them.
On the 31st of October the parliament met and was opened by a speech from the throne, in which his majesty stated that it would have given him much satisfaction if he had been able to inform them that the disturbances in the revolted Colonies were at an end, and that the people of America, recovering from their delusion, had returned to their duty; but so mutinous and determined was the spirit of their leaders that they had openly abjured and renounced all connection and communication with the mother country and had rejected every conciliatory proposition. Much mischief, he said, would accrue not only to the commerce of Great Britain but to the general system of Europe if this rebellion were suffered to take root. The conduct of the Colonists would convince every one of the necessity of the measures proposed to be adopted, and the past success of the British arms promised the happiest results; but preparations must be promptly made for another campaign. A hope was expressed of the general continuance of tranquility in Europe, but that it was thought advisable to increase the defensive resources at home.
The addresses to the speech were in the usual form, but amendments were moved in both houses of parliament; in the Commons by Lord John Cavendish and in the Lords by the Marquis of Rockingham. After an animated debate the amendment was rejected, in the House of Commons by 242 against 87, and in the Lords by 91 against 26. During the session of parliament some other attempts were made for adopting conciliatory measures, but the influence of ministry was so powerful that they were all completely defeated, and the plans of administration received the approbation and support of parliament.
During the winter (1776-1777), which was very severe, the British troops at Brunswick and Amboy were kept on constant duty and suffered considerable privations. The Americans were vigilant and active, and the British army could seldom procure provisions or forage without fighting. But although in the course of the winter the affairs of the United States had begun to wear a more promising aspect, yet there were still many friends of royalty in the provinces. By their open attachment to the British interest, numbers had already exposed themselves to the hostility of the patriotic party; and others, from affection to Britain or distrust of the American cause, gave their countenance and aid to General Howe. Early in the season a considerable number of these men joined the royal army, and were embodied under the direction of the Commander-in-Chief with the same pay as the regular troops, besides the promise of an allotment of land at the close of the disturbances. Governor Tryon, who had been extremely active in engaging and disciplining them, was promoted to the rank of major-general of the Loyal Provincialists. 
The campaign opened on both sides by rapid predatory incursions and bold desultory attacks. At Peekskill, on the North river, about fifty miles above New York, the Americans had formed a post, at which, during the winter, they had collected a considerable quantity of provisions and camp-equipage to supply the stations in the vicinity as occasion might require.
The most mountainous part of the district, named the Manor of Courland, was formed into a kind of citadel, replenished with stores, and Peekskill served as a port to it. On the 23d of March (1777), as soon as the river was clear of ice, Howe, who thought Peekskill of more importance than it really was, detached Colonel Bird, with about 500 men, under convoy of a frigate and some armed vessels, against that post. General M’Dougal, who commanded there, had then only about 250 men in the place. He had timely notice of Colonel Bird’s approach, and, sensible that his post was untenable, he exerted himself to remove the stores to the strong grounds about two miles and a half in his rear; but before he had made much progress in the work the British appeared, when he set fire to the stores and buildings and retreated. Colonel Bird landed and completed the destruction of the stores which he was unable to remove. On the same day he re-embarked, and returned to New York.
On the 8th of April (1777), says Gordon, Congress concluded upon the erection of a monument to the memory of General Warren in the town of Boston, and another to the memory of General Mercer in Fredericksburg, in Virginia, and that the eldest son of General Warren, and the youngest son of General Mercer, be educated from henceforward at the expense of the United States. They conveyed in a few words the highest eulogium on the characters and merits of the deceased. Through inattention, General Warren, who fell on Breed’s Hill, had not been properly noted when Congress passed their resolve respecting General Montgomery: the proposal for paying due respect to the memory of Mercer led to the like in regard to Warren.
On the 13th of April Lord Cornwallis and General Grant, with about 2,000 men, attempted to surprise and cut off General Lincoln, who, with 500 men, was posted at Bound Brook, seven miles from Brunswick, and nearly succeeded in their enterprise. But by a bold and rapid movement Lincoln, when almost surrounded, forced his way between the British columns and escaped, with the loss of sixty men, his papers, three field pieces, and some baggage.
At that early period of the campaign Howe attempted no grand movement against the main body of the army under Washington at Morristown, but he made several efforts to interrupt his communications, destroy his stores, and impede his operations. He had received information that the Americans had collected a large quantity of stores in the town of Danbury and in other places on the borders of Connecticut. These he resolved to destroy, and appointed Major-General Tryon of the Provincials, who panted for glory in his newly-acquired character, to command an expedition for that purpose, but prudently directed Generals Agnew and Sir William Erskine to accompany him.
On the 25th of April (1777) the fleet appeared off the coast of Connecticut, and in the evening the troops were landed without opposition between Fairfield and Norwalk. General Silliman, then casually in that part of the country, immediately dispatched expresses to assemble the militia. In the meantime Tryon proceeded to Danbury which he reached about 2 the next day. On his approach Colonel Huntingdon, who had occupied the town with about 150 men, retired to a neighboring height, and Danbury, with the magazines it contained, was consumed by fire.
General Arnold, who was also in the State superintending the recruiting service, joined General Silliman at Reading, where that officer had collected about 500 militia. General Wooster, who had resigned his commission in the Continental service, and been appointed major-general of the militia, fell in with them at the same place, and they proceeded in the night through a heavy rain to Bethel, about eight miles from Danbury. Having heard next morning that Tryon, after destroying the town and magazines, was returning, they divided their troops, and General Wooster, with about 300 men, fell in his rear, while Arnold, with about 500, crossing the country, took post in his front at Ridgefield. Wooster came up with his rear about 11 in the morning, attacked it with great gallantry, and a sharp skirmish ensued in which he was mortally wounded,  and his troops were repulsed.
Tryon then proceeded to Ridgefield where he found Arnold already entrenched on a strong piece of ground, and prepared to dispute his passage. A warm skirmish ensued, which continued nearly an hour. Arnold was at length driven from the field after which he retreated to Paugatuck, about three miles east of Norwalk.
At break of day next morning, after setting Ridgefield on fire, the British resumed their march. About 11 in the forenoon, April 28th (1777), they were again met by Arnold, whose numbers increased during the day to rather more than 1,000 men, among whom were some Continental troops. A continued skirmishing was kept up until 5 in the afternoon, when the British formed on a hill near their ships. The Americans attacked them with intrepidity, but were repulsed and broken. Tryon, availing himself of this respite, re-embarked his troops and returned to New York.
The loss of the British amounted to about 170 men.  That of the Americans was represented by Tryon as being much more considerable. By themselves it was not admitted to exceed 100. In this number, however, were comprehended General Wooster, Lieutenant-Colonel Gould, and another field officer, killed, and Colonel Lamb wounded. Several other officers and volunteers were killed. Military and hospital stores to a considerable amount, which were greatly needed by the army, were destroyed in the magazines at Danbury, but the loss most severely felt was rather more than 1,000 tents which had been provided for the campaign about to open.
Not long afterward this enterprise was successfully retaliated. A British detachment had been for some time employed in collecting forage and provisions on the eastern end of Long Island. Howe supposed this part of the country to be so completely secured by the armed vessels which incessantly traversed the Sound, that he confided the protection of the stores deposited at a small port called Sag Harbor to a schooner with twelve guns and a company of infantry.
General Parsons, who commanded a few recruits at New Haven, thinking it practicable to elude the cruisers in the bay, formed the design of surprising this party and other adjacent posts, the execution of which was entrusted to Lieutenant-Colonel Meigs, a gallant officer who had accompanied Arnold in his memorable march to Quebec. He embarked with about 230 men on board 13 whale-boats, and proceeded along the coast to Guilford, where he was to cross the Sound. With about 170 of his detachment, under convoy of two armed sloops, he proceeded (May 23, 1777) across the Sound to the north division of the island near Southhold in the neighborhood of which a small foraging party against which the expedition was in part directed, was supposed to lie, but they had marched two days before to New York. The boats were conveyed across the land, a distance of about fifteen miles, into a bay which deeply intersects the eastern end of Long Island, where the troops re- embarked. Crossing the bay they landed at 2 in the morning, about four miles from Sag Harbor, which they completely surprised and carried with charged bayonets. At the same time a division of the detachment secured the armed schooner and the vessels laden with forage, which were set on fire and entirely consumed. Six of the enemy were killed and ninety taken prisoners. A very few escaped under cover of the night.
The object of his expedition being effected without the loss of a man, Colonel Meigs returned to Guilford with his prisoners. “Having,” as was stated in the letter to General Parsons, “moved with such uncommon celerity as to have transported his men by land and water 90 miles in 25 hours.” Congress directed a sword to be presented to him, and passed a resolution expressing the high sense entertained of his merit, and of the prudence, activity, and valor displayed by himself and his party.
The exertions made by Washington through the winter to raise a powerful army for the ensuing campaign had not been successful. The hopes respecting its strength, which the flattering reports made from every quarter had authorized him to form, were cruelly disappointed, and he found himself not only unable to carry into effect the offensive operations he had meditated, but unequal even to defensive warfare. That steady and persevering courage, however, which had supported himself and the American cause through the gloomy scenes of the preceding year did not forsake him, and that sound judgment which applies to the best advantage those means which are attainable, however inadequate they may be, still remained. His plan of operations was adapted to that which he believed his enemy had formed. He was persuaded either that General Burgoyne, who was then at Quebec, would endeavor to take Ticonderoga and to penetrate to the Hudson, in which event General Howe would cooperate with him by moving up that river, and attempting to possess himself of the forts and high grounds commanding its passage, or that Burgoyne would join the grand army at New York by sea, after which the combined armies would proceed against Philadelphia.
To counteract the designs of the enemy, whatever they might be, to defend the three great points, Ticonderoga, the Highlands of New York, and Philadelphia, against two powerful armies so much superior to him in arms, in numbers, and in discipline, it was necessary to make such an arrangement of his troops as would enable the parts reciprocally to aid each other without neglecting objects of great and almost equal magnitude, which were alike threatened, and were far asunder. To effect these purposes, the troops of New England and New York were divided between Ticonderoga and Peekskill, while those from Jersey to North Carolina inclusive, were directed to assemble at the camp to be formed in Jersey. The more southern troops remained in that State for its protection.
These arrangements being made and the recruits collected, the camp at Morristown was broken up, the detachments called in, and the army assembled at Middlebrook (May 28, 1777), just behind a connected ridge of strong and commanding heights north of the road leading to Philadelphia, and about ten miles from Brunswick.
This camp, the approaches to which were naturally difficult, Washington took care to strengthen still further by entrenchments. The heights in front commanded a prospect of the course of the Raritan, the road to Philadelphia, the hills about Brunswick, and a considerable part of the country between that place and Amboy, so as to afford him a full view of the most interesting movements of the enemy.
The force brought into the field by the United States required all the aid which could be derived from strong positions and unremitting vigilance. On the 20th of May (1777) the army in Jersey, excluding cavalry and artillery, amounted to only 8,378 men, of whom upwards of 2,000 were sick. The effective rank and file were only 5,738.
Had this army been composed of the best disciplined troops, its inferiority in point of numbers must have limited its operations to defensive war, and have rendered it incompetent to the protection of any place whose defense would require a battle in the open field. But more than half the troops were unacquainted with the first rudiments of military duty, and had never looked an enemy in the face. As an additional cause of apprehension, a large proportion of the soldiers, especially from the middle States, were foreigners, in whose attachment to the American cause full confidence could not be placed.
Washington, anticipating a movement by land toward Philadelphia, had taken the precaution to give orders for assembling on the western bank of the Delaware an army of militia strengthened by a few Continental troops, the command of which was given to General Arnold who was then in Philadelphia employed in the settlement of his accounts.
The first and real object of the campaign on the part of Howe was the acquisition of Philadelphia. He intended to march through Jersey, and after securing the submission of that State to cross the Delaware on a portable bridge constructed in the winter for the purpose and proceed by land to that city. If, in the execution of this plan, the Americans could be brought to a general action on equal ground, the advantages of the royal army must insure a victory. But should Washington decline an engagement and be again pressed over the Delaware the object would be as certainly obtained.
Had Howe taken the field before the Continental troops were assembled this plan might probably have been executed without any serious obstruction, but the tents and camp equipage expected from Europe did not arrive until Washington had collected his forces and taken possession of the strong post on the Heights of Middlebrook. It would be dangerous to attack him on such advantageous ground, for, although his camp might be forced, victory would probably be attended with such loss as to disable the victor from reaping its fruits.
If it was deemed too hazardous to attack the strong camp at Middlebrook, an attempt to cross the Delaware in the face of an army collected on its western bank, while that under Washington remained unbroken in his rear, was an experiment of equal danger. It suited the cautious temper of Howe to devise some other plan of operation to which he might resort should he be unable to seduce Washington from his advantageous position.
The two great bays of Delaware and Chesapeake suggested the alternative of proceeding by water, should he be unable to maneuver Washington out of his present encampment.
The plan of the campaign being settled and some small reinforcements with the expected camp equipage being received from Europe, Howe, leaving a garrison in New York and a guard in Amboy, assembled his army at Brunswick, and gave strong indications of an intention to penetrate through the country to the Delaware and reach Philadelphia by land.
Believing this to be his real design Washington (June 13, 1777) placed a select corps of riflemen under the command of Colonel Morgan, who had distinguished himself in the unfortunate attempt to storm Quebec, and in whom those particular qualities which fit a man for the command of a partisan corps, designed to act on the lines of a formidable enemy, were eminently united.
He was ordered to take post at Vanvighton’s bridge on the Raritan, just above its confluence with the Millstone river, to watch the left flank of the British army and seize every occasion to harass it.
Early in the morning of the 14th, Howe, leaving 2,000 men under the command of General Matthews at Brunswick, advanced in two columns toward the Delaware. The front of the first, under Cornwallis, reached Somerset Court House, nine miles from Brunswick, by the appearance of day, and the second, commanded by General de Heister, reached Middlebush about the same time.
This movement was made with the view of inducing Washington to quit his fortified camp and approach the Delaware, in which event, Howe expected to bring on an engagement on ground less disadvantageous than that now occupied by the American army. But Washington understood the importance of his position too well to abandon it.
On the first intelligence that the enemy was in motion, he drew out his whole army, and formed it to great advantage on the heights in front of his camp. This position was constantly maintained. The troops remained in order of battle during the day, and in the night slept on the ground to be defended.
In the meantime the Jersey militia, with alacrity theretofore unexampled in that State, took the field in great numbers. They principally joined General Sullivan, who had retired from Princeton, behind the Sourland hills toward Flemington, where an army of some extent was forming, which could readily cooperate with that under the immediate inspection of Washington.
The settled purpose of Washington was to defend his camp, but not to hazard a general action on other ground. He had therefore determined not to advance from the heights he occupied into the open country, either towards the enemy or the Delaware.
The object of Howe was, by acting on his anxiety for Philadelphia, to seduce him from the strong ground about Middlebrook, and tempt him to approach the Delaware in the hope of defending its passage. Should he succeed in this, he had little doubt of being able to bring on an engagement, in which he counted with certainty on victory.
The considerations which restrained Howe from attempting to march through Jersey, leaving the American army in full force in his rear, had determined Washington to allow him to proceed to the Delaware, if such should be his intention. In that event, he had determined to throw those impediments only in the way of the hostile army which might harass and retard its march, and maintaining the high and secure grounds north of the road to be taken by the enemy, to watch for an opportunity of striking some important blow with manifest advantage.
Washington was not long in penetrating Howe’s designs. “The views of the enemy,” he writes to General Arnold in a letter of the 17th (June, 1777), “must be to destroy this army and get possession of Philadelphia. I am, however, clearly of opinion, that they will not move that way until they have endeavored to give a severe blow to this army. The risk would be too great to attempt to cross a river when they must expect to meet a formidable opposition in front and would have such a force as ours in their rear. They might possibly be successful, but the probability would be infinitely against them. Should they be imprudent enough to make the attempt, I shall keep close upon their heels and will do everything in my power to make the project fatal to them.”
“But, besides the argument in favor of their intending, in the first place, a stroke at this army, drawn from the policy of the measure, every appearance contributes to conform the opinion. Had their design been for the Delaware in the first instance, they would probably have made a secret, rapid march for it, and not have halted so as to awaken our attention, and give us time to prepare for obstructing them. Instead of that they have only advanced to a position necessary to facilitate an attack on our right, the part in which we are most exposed. In addition to this circumstance, they have come out as light as possible, leaving all their baggage, provisions, boas, and bridges at Brunswick. This plainly contradicts the idea of their intending to push for the Delaware.”
Finding the American army could not be drawn from its strong position Howe determined to waste no more time in threatening Philadelphia by land, but to withdraw from Jersey and to embark his army as expeditiously as possible for the Chesapeake or the Delaware. On the night of the 19th of June (1777), he returned to Brunswick, and on the 22d to Amboy, from which place the heavy baggage and a few of his troops passed into Staten Island on the bridge which had been designed for the Delaware. 
Washington had expected this movement from Brunswick and had made arrangements to derive some advantage from it. General Greene was detached with three brigades to annoy the British rear, and Sullivan and Maxwell were ordered to cooperate with him. In the meantime the army paraded on the Heights of Middlebrook, ready to act as circumstances might require.
About sunrise, Colonel Morgan drove in a picket-guard, soon after which that division commenced its march to Amboy. Some sharp skirmishing took place between this party and Morgan’s regiment, but the hope of gaining any important advantage was entirely disappointed, and the retreat to Amboy was effected with inconsiderable loss.
In order to cover his light parties, which still hung on the British flank and rear, Washington advanced six or seven miles to Quibbletown on the road to Amboy, and Lord Stirling’s division was pushed still further, to the neighborhood of the Metucking Meeting House, for the purpose of co-operating with the light parties should the retreat to Staten Island afford an opportunity of striking at the rear.
Believing it now practicable to bring on an engagement and probably hoping to turn the left of the American army and gain the heights in its rear, Howe, in the night of the 25th, recalled the troops from Staten Island, and early next morning (June 26, 1777) made a rapid movement in two columns, towards Westfield. The right, under the command of Cornwallis took the route by Woodbridge to the Scotch plains, and the left, led by Howe in person, marched by Metucking Meeting House to fall into the rear of the right column. It was intended that the left should take a separate road soon after this junction and attack the left flank of the American army at Quibbletown, while Cornwallis should gain the heights on the left of the camp at Middlebrook. Four battalions with six pieces of cannon were detached to Bonhamtown.
About Woodbridge the right column fell in with one of the American parties of observation, which gave notice of this movement. Washington discerned his danger, put the whole army instantly in motion, and regained the camp at Middlebrook. Cornwallis fell in with Lord Stirling and a sharp skirmish ensued, in which the Americans were driven from their ground with the loss of three field-pieces and a few men. They retreated to the hills about the Scotch Plains and were pursued as far as Westfield. Perceiving the passes in the mountains on the left of the American camp to be guarded, and the object of this skilful maneuver to be, consequently, unattainable, Cornwallis returned through Rahway to Amboy, and the whole army crossed over to Staten Island. Washington was now again left to his conjectures respecting the plan of the campaign. The very next day (June 27), after Howe had finally evacuated the Jerseys, intelligence was received of the appearance of Burgoyne on Lake Champlain, and that Ticonderoga was threatened. This intelligence strengthened the opinion that the design of Howe must be to seize the passes in the mountains on the Hudson, secure the command of that river, and effect a junction between the two armies. Yet Washington could not permit himself to yield so entirely to this impression, as to make a movement which might open the way by land to Philadelphia. His army, therefore, maintained its station at Middlebrook, but arrangements were made to repel any sudden attack on the posts which defended the Hudson.
Some changes made in the stations of the British ships and troops having relieved Washington from his apprehensions of a sudden march to Philadelphia, he advanced Sullivan’s division to Pompton Plains, on the way to Peekskill, and proceeded with the main body of his army to Morristown, thus approaching the Highlands of New York without removing so far from Middlebrook as to be unable to regain that camp should Howe indicate an intention to seize it.
Meanwhile Howe prosecuted diligently his plan of embarkation, which was necessarily attended with circumstances indicating a much longer voyage than one up the North river. These circumstances were immediately communicated to the Eastern States, and Congress was earnestly pressed to strengthen the fortifications on the Delaware, and to increase the obstructions in that river.
In the midst of these appearances certain intelligence was received that Burgoyne was in great force on the lakes, and was advancing against Ticonderoga. This intelligence confirmed the opinion that the main object of Howe must be to effect a junction with Burgoyne on the North river. Under this impression Washington ordered Sullivan to Peekskill, and slowly advanced himself, first to Pompton Plains, and afterward to the Clove, where he determined to remain until the views of the enemy should be disclosed.
While Washington thus anxiously watched the movements of his adversary, an agreeable and unexpected piece of intelligence was received from New England. The command of the British troops in Rhode Island had devolved on General Prescot. Thinking himself perfectly secure in an island, the water surrounding which was believed to be entirely guarded by his cruisers, and at the head of an army greatly superior to any force then collected in that department, he indulged himself in convenient quarters rather distant from camp, and was remiss with respect to the guards about his person. Information of this negligence was communicated to the main, and a plan was formed to surprise him. This spirited enterprise was executed with equal courage and address by Lieutenant-Colonel Barton of the Rhode Island militia.
On the night of the 10th (June, 1777) he embarked on board four whale-boats at Warwick Neck, with a party consisting of about forty persons, including Captains Adams and Philips, and several other officers. After proceeding about ten miles by water unobserved by the British guard boats, although several ships of war lay in that quarter, he landed on the west of the island, about midway between Newport and Bristol Ferry, and marching a mile to the quarters of Prescot, dexterously seized the sentinel at his door, and one of his aids. The general himself was taken out of bed and conveyed to a place of safety.
The success of this intrepid enterprise diffused the more joy throughout America, because it was supposed to secure the liberation of General Lee by enabling Washington to offer an officer of equal rank in exchange for him.
Congress expressed a high sense of the gallant conduct of Colonel Barton and his party, and presented him with a sword as a mark of approbation.
As the fleet fell down toward Sandy Hook, Washington withdrew slowly from the Clove, and disposed his army in different divisions, so as to march to any point which might be attacked.
At length the embarkation was completed and the fleet put to sea. Still, its destination was uncertain. It might be going to the south, or it might return to New York and ascend the Hudson. Soon, however, Washington received intelligence that it had been seen off the capes of the Delaware. It was of course expected to come up the Delaware and attack Philadelphia.
Washington ordered the army to march to Germantown, and himself hastened forward to Chester. The fleet of the British had disappeared again. It might have returned to New York, or it might have sailed to New England, with a view to joining Burgoyne as he was advancing on Ticonderoga.
During this period of suspense and conjecture, Washington was for several days in Philadelphia consulting on public measures with the committees and members of Congress. Here he first met Lafayette. This young nobleman, whose name has since become so dear to every American heart, was born at Auvergne, in France, on the 6th of September, 1757. His family was of ancient date and of the highest rank among the French nobility. He was left an orphan at an early age, heir to an immense estate, and exposed to all the temptations of “the gayest and most luxurious city on earth at the period of its greatest corruption. He escaped unhurt.” Having completed his college education, he married at the age of sixteen the daughter of the Duke D’Ayen, of the family of Noailles. She was younger than himself and was always “the encourager of his virtues, and the heroic partner of his sufferings, his great name, and his honorable grave.” 
In the summer of 1776 (says Mr. Everett), and just after the American declaration of independence, Lafayette was stationed at Metz, a garrisoned town on the road from Paris to the German frontier with the regiment to which he was attached as a captain of dragoons, not then nineteen years of age. The Duke of Gloucester, the brother of the King of England happened to be on a visit to Metz, and a dinner was given to him by the commandant of the garrison. Lafayette was invited with other officers to the entertainment. Dispatches had just been received by the duke from England relating to American affairs–the resistance of the Colonists, and the strong measures adopted by the ministers to crush the rebellion. Among the details stated by the Duke of Gloucester was the extraordinary fact that these remote, scattered, and unprotected settlers of the wilderness had solemnly declared themselves an independent people. That word decided the fortunes of the enthusiastic listener, and not more distinctly was the great declaration a charter of political liberty to the rising States, than it was a commission to their youthful champion to devote his life to the same cause.
The details which he heard were new to him. The American contest was known to him before but as a rebellion–a tumultuary affair in a remote transatlantic colony. He now, with a promptness of perception which, even at this distance of time, strikes us as little less than miraculous, addressed a multitude of inquiries to the Duke of Gloucester on the subject of the contest. His imagination was kindled at the idea of a civilized people struggling for political liberty. His heart was warmed with the possibility of drawing his sword in a good cause. Before he left the table his course was mentally resolved on, and the brother of the King of England (unconsciously, no doubt) had the singular fortune to enlist, from the French court and the French army, this gallant and fortunate champion in the then unpromising cause of the colonial Congress.
He immediately repaired to Paris to make further inquiries and arrangements toward the execution of his great plan. He confided it to two young friends, officers like himself, the Count de Segur and Viscount de Noailles, and proposed to them to join him. They shared his enthusiasm, and determined to accompany him, but on consulting their families, they were refused permission. But they faithfully kept Lafayette’s secret. Happily–shall I say–he was an orphan, independent of control, and master of his own fortune, amounting to near $40,000 per annum.
He next opened his heart to the Count de Broglie, a marshal in the French army. To the experienced warrior, accustomed to the regular campaigns of European service, the project seemed rash and quixotic, and one that he could not countenance. Lafayette begged the count at least not to betray him, as he was resolved (notwithstanding his disapproval of the subject) to go to America. This the count promised, adding, however, “I saw your uncle fall in Italy, and I witnessed your father’s death at the battle of Minden, and I will not be accessory to the ruin of the only remaining branch of the family.” He then used all the powers of argument which his age and experience suggested to him, to dissuade Lafayette from the enterprise, but in vain. Finding his determination unalterable, he made him acquainted with the Baron De Kalb, who the count knew was about to embark for America–an officer of experience and merit who, as is well known, fell at the battle of Camden.
The Baron de Kalb introduced Lafayette to Silas Deane, then agent of the United States in France, who explained to him the state of affairs in America, and encouraged him in his project. Deane was but imperfectly acquainted with the French language, and of manners somewhat repulsive. A less enthusiastic temper than that of Lafayette might, perhaps, have been chilled by the reception that he met with from Deane. He had, as yet, not been acknowledged in any public capacity, and was beset by the spies of the British ambassador. For these reasons it was judged expedient that the visit of Lafayette should not be repeated, and their further negotiations were conducted through the intervention of Mr. Carmichael, an American gentleman at that time in Paris. The arrangement was at length concluded, in virtue of which Deane took upon himself, without authority, but by a happy exercise of discretion, to engage Lafayette to enter the American service with the rank of major-general. A vessel was about to be dispatched with arms and other supplies for the American army, and in this vessel it was settled that he should take passage.
At this juncture the news reached France of the evacuation of New York, the loss of Fort Washington, the calamitous retreat through New Jersey, and other disasters of the campaign of 1776. The friends of America in France were in despair. The tidings, bad in themselves, were greatly exaggerated in the British gazettes. The plan of sending an armed vessel with munitions was abandoned. The cause, always doubtful, was now pronounced desperate, and Lafayette was urged by all who were privy to his project, to give up an enterprise so wild and hopeless. Even our commissioners (for Deane had been joined by Dr. Franklin and Arthur Lee) told him they could not in conscience urge him to proceed. His answer was: “My zeal and love of liberty have perhaps hitherto been the prevailing motive with me, but now I see a chance of usefulness which I had not anticipated. These supplies I know are greatly wanted by Congress. I have money; I will purchase a vessel to convey them to America, and in this vessel my companions and myself will take passage.”
His purpose was opposed by the government, and he was obliged to escape into Spain and sail from that country. He landed near Georgetown in South Carolina, and in company with the Baron de Kalb, the companion of his voyage, proceeded to Charleston, where they were received with enthusiasm by the magistrates and the people.
As soon as possible they proceeded by land to Philadelphia. On his arrival there, with the eagerness of a youth anxious to be employed upon his errand, he sent his letters to Mr. Lovell, chairman of the committee of foreign relations. He called the next day at the hall of Congress, and asked to see this gentleman. Mr. Lovell came out to him, stated that so many foreigners offered themselves for employment in the American army that Congress was greatly embarrassed to find them commands; that the finances of the country required the most rigid economy, and that he feared, in the present case, there was little hope of success. Lafayette perceived that the worthy chairman had made up his report without looking at the papers; he explained to him that his application, if granted, would lay no burden upon the finances of Congress, and addressed a letter to the president, in which he expressed a wish to enter the American army on the condition of serving without pay or emolument, and on the footing of a volunteer. These conditions removed the chief obstacles alluded to in reference to the appointment of foreign officers; the letters brought by Lafayette made known to Congress his high connections, and his large means of usefulness, and without an hour’s delay he received from them a commission of major-general in the American army, a month before he was twenty years of age.
Washington was at headquarters when Lafayette reached Philadelphia, but he was daily expected in the city. The introduction of the youthful stranger to the man on whom his career depended was therefore delayed a few days. It took place in a manner peculiarly marked with the circumspection of Washington, at a dinner party, where Lafayette was one among several guests of consideration. Washington was not uninformed of the circumstances connected with his arrival in the country. He knew what benefit it promised the cause if his character and talents were adapted to the cause he had so boldly struck out, and he knew also how much it was to be feared that the very qualities which had prompted him to embark in it, would make him a useless and even a dangerous auxiliary. We may well suppose that the piercing eye of the Father of his Country was not idle during the repast. But that searching glance, before which pretense or fraud never stood undetected, was completely satisfied. When they were about to separate, Washington took Lafayette aside, spoke to him with kindness, paid a just tribute to the noble spirit which he had shown, and the sacrifices he had made in the American cause, invited him to make the headquarters of the army his home, and to regard himself at all times as one of the family of the Commander-in-Chief.
Such was the reception given to Lafayette by the most sagacious and observant of men, and the personal acquaintance thus commenced ripened into an intimacy, a confidence, and an affection without bounds, and never for one moment interrupted. If there lived a man whom Washington loved it was Lafayette. The proofs of this are not wanted by those who have read the history of the Revolution, but the private correspondence of these two great men, hitherto unpublished, discloses the full extent of the mutual regard and affection which united them. It not only shows that Washington entertained the highest opinion of the military talent, the personal probity, and the general prudence and energy of Lafayette, but that he regarded him with the tenderness of a father, and found in the affection which Lafayette bore to him in return one of the greatest comforts and blessings of his own life. Whenever the correspondence of Washington and Lafayette shall be published, the publication will do what perhaps nothing else can–raise them both in the esteem and admiration of mankind.
Our readers will pardon this somewhat lengthened quotation respecting the bosom friend of Washington. We now return to our narrative of events.
Late in the month of August (1777), Washington was relieved from his suspense in regard to the movements of Howe. He received intelligence that the British fleet had sailed up Chesapeake Bay, and that he was landing his army at the head of Elk river, now Elkton. It was at length clearly apparent that his object was the capture of Philadelphia.
At the place of debarkation the British army was within a few days’ march of Philadelphia; no great rivers were in its way, and there was no very strong position of which the enemy could take possession. On landing, General Howe issued a proclamation promising that private property should be respected, and offering pardon and protection to all who should submit to him, but, as the American army was at hand, the proclamation produced little effect.
Washington distinctly understood the nature of the contest in which he was engaged, and, sensible of the inferiority of his raw and disorderly army to the veteran troops under Howe, he wished to avoid a general engagement, but aware of the effect which the fall of Philadelphia would produce on the minds of the people, determined to make every effort in order to retard the progress and defeat the aim of the royal army.
Accordingly, he marched to meet General Howe, who, from want of horses, many of which had perished in the voyage, and from other causes, was unable to proceed from the head of the Elk before the 3d of September (1777). On the advance of the royal array, Washington retreated across Brandywine creek, which falls into the Delaware at Wilmington. He took post with his main body opposite Chad’s ford, where it was expected the British would attempt the passage, and ordered General Sullivan, with a detachment, to watch the fords above. He sent General Maxwell with about 1,000 light troops, to occupy the high ground on the other side of the Brandywine, to skirmish with the British, and retard them in their progress.
On the morning of the 11th of September, the British army advanced in two columns; the right, under General Knyphausen, marched straight to Chad’s ford; the left, under Cornwallis, accompanied by Howe and Generals Grey, Grant, and Agnew, proceeded by a circuitous route toward a point named the Forks, where the two branches of the Brandywine unite, with a view to turn the right of the Americans and gain their rear. General Knyphausen’s van soon found itself opposed to the light troops under General Maxwell. A smart conflict ensued. General Knyphausen reinforced his advanced guard, and drove the Americans across the rivulet to shelter themselves under their batteries on the north bank. General Knyphausen ordered some artillery to be placed on the most advantageous points, and a cannonade was carried on with the American batteries on the heights beyond the ford.
Meanwhile the left wing of the British crossed the fords above the Forks. Of this movement General Washington had early notice, but the information which he received from different quarters, through his raw and unpracticed scouts, was confused and contradictory, and consequently his operations were embarrassed. After passing the fords, Cornwallis took the road to Dilworth, which led him on the American right. General Sullivan, who had been appointed to guard that quarter, occupied the heights above Birmingham Church, his left extending to the Brandywine, his artillery judiciously placed, and his right flank covered by woods. About four in the afternoon Cornwallis formed the line of battle and began the attack: for some time the Americans sustained it with intrepidity, but at length gave way. When Washington heard the firing in that direction he ordered General Greene, with a brigade, to support General Sullivan. General Greene marched four miles in forty-two minutes, but, on reaching the scene of action, he found General Sullivan’s division defeated, and in confusion. He covered the retreat, and, after some time, finding an advantageous position, he renewed the battle, and arrested the progress of the pursuing enemy.
General Knyphausen, as soon as he heard the firing of Cornwallis’s division, forced the passage of Chad’s ford, attacked the troops opposed to him, and compelled them to make a precipitate and disorderly retreat. General Washington, with the part of his army which he was able to keep together, retired with his artillery and baggage to Chester, where he halted within eight miles of the British army, till next morning, when he retreated to Philadelphia.
Among the foreign officers engaged in this battle besides Lafayette, who was wounded in the leg during the action, were General Deborre, a French officer;  General Conway, an Irishman, who had served in France; Capt. Louis Fleury, a French engineer, and Count Pulaski, a Polish nobleman, subsequently distinguished as a commander of cavalry.
As must ever be the case in new-raised armies, unused to danger and from which undeserving officers have not been expelled, their conduct was not uniform. Some regiments, especially those which had served the preceding campaign, maintained their ground with the firmness and intrepidity of veterans, while others gave way as soon as they were pressed. The author of a very correct history of the war, speaking of this action, says: “A part of the troops, among whom were particularly numbered some Virginia regiments, and the whole corps of artillery, behaved exceedingly well in some of the actions of this day, exhibiting a degree of order, firmness, and resolution, and preserving such a countenance in extremely sharp service, as would not have discredited veterans. Some other bodies of their troops behaved very badly.”
The official letter of Sir William Howe stated his loss at rather less than 100 killed and 400 wounded, and this account was accepted at the time as true. A late discovery shows its falsehood. Mr. Headley, in his recent “Life of Washington,” notices the finding of a document which settles the question.
It was found, he says, among Gen. James Clinton’s papers, carefully filed away and indorsed by himself. On the back, in his own handwriting, is inscribed: “Taken from the enemy’s ledgers, which fell into the hands of General Washington’s army at the action of Germantown.”
Within is the following statement: “State of the British troops and position they were in when they made the attack at Brandywine, the 11th of September, 1777.
The upper ford, under the command of Lieutenant Lord Cornwallis:
Killed and Second Regiment, British Guards; Second wounded. Regiment, Light Infantry 1,740 612 Second Brigade, British Foot 2,240 360 First Division, Hessians 800 70 Ferguson’s Riflemen 80 46 ______ _____
Totals 4,860 1,088
Middle ford, under the command of Major-General Gray:
Second Battalion, Guards 500 Second Battalion, Second Highlanders 700 Second Battalion, Seventieth Highlanders 700 ____
Lower ford, under the command of Lieutenant-General Knyphausen:
Second Brigade, consisting of the Fourth, Killed and Fifth, Tenth, Fifteenth, Twenty-third, wounded. Twenty-seventh, Twenty-eighth, Fortieth, Forty-fourth, and Fifty-fifth Regiments 2,240 580 Hessians to the amount of 800 28 Queen’s Rangers 480 290 ________ _____
Total 3,520 898 1,900
4,860 1,088 ________ ______
The whole British force 10,280 1,986 1,986
The estimate, says Mr. Headley, of the total force which the British had on the field, makes the two armies actually engaged about equal. The heavy loss here given seems, at first sight, almost incredible, and puts an entirely different aspect on the battle. Of the authenticity and accuracy of this document I think there can be no doubt.
From the ardor with which Washington had inspired his troops before this action, it is probable that the conflict would have been more severe had the intelligence respecting the movement on the left of the British army been less contradictory. Raw troops, changing their ground in the moment of action, and attacked in the agitation of moving, are easily thrown into confusion. This was the critical situation of a part of Sullivan’s division, and was the cause of its breaking before Greene could be brought up to support it, after which it was impossible to retrieve the fortune of the day. But had the best disposition of the troops been made at the time, which subsequent intelligence would suggest, the action could not have terminated in favor of the Americans. Their inferiority in numbers, in discipline, and in arms was too great to leave them a probable prospect of victory. A battle, however, was not to be avoided. The opinion of the public and of Congress demanded it. The loss of Philadelphia, without an attempt to preserve it, would have excited discontent throughout the country, which might be productive of serious mischief, and action, though attended with defeat, provided the loss be not too great, must improve an army in which not only the military talents, but even the courage of officers, some of them of high rank, remained to be ascertained.
The battle of Brandywine was not considered as decisive by Congress, the general, or the army. The opinion was carefully cherished that the British had gained only the ground, and that their loss was still more considerable than had been sustained by the Americans. Congress appeared determined to risk another battle for the metropolis of America. Far from discovering any intention to change their place of session, they passed vigorous resolutions for reinforcing the army, and directed Washington to give the necessary orders for completing the defenses of the Delaware.
From Chester the army marched through Darby, over the Schuylkill bridge to its former ground near the falls of that river. Greene’s division, which, having been less in action, was more entire than any other, covered the rear, and the corps of Maxwell remained at Chester until the next day as a rallying point for the small parties and straggling soldiers who might yet be in the neighborhood.
Having allowed his army one day for repose and refreshment, Washington recrossed the Schuylkill and proceeded on the Lancaster road, with the intention of risking another engagement.
Sir William Howe passed the night of the 11th on the field of battle. On the succeeding day he detached Major-General Grant with two brigades to Concord Meeting House, and on the 13th (September, 1777), Lord Cornwallis joined General Grant, and marched toward Chester. Another detachment took possession of Wilmington, to which place the sick and wounded were conveyed.
To prevent a sudden movement to Philadelphia by the lower road the bridge over the Schuylkill was loosened from its moorings, and General Armstrong was directed, with the Pennsylvania militia, to guard the passes over that river.
On the fifteenth the American army, intending to gain the left of the British, reached the Warren tavern, on the Lancaster road, twenty-three miles from Philadelphia. Intelligence was received early next morning that Howe was approaching in two columns. It being too late to reach the ground he had intended to occupy Washington resolved to meet and engage him in front.
Both armies prepared with great alacrity for battle. The advanced parties had met, and were beginning to skirmish, when they were separated by a heavy rain, which, becoming more and more violent, rendered the retreat of the Americans a measure of absolute necessity. The inferiority of their arms never brought them into such imminent peril as on this occasion. Their gun-locks not being well secured, their muskets soon became unfit for use. Their cartridge-boxes had been so badly constructed as not to protect their ammunition from the tempest. Their cartridges were soon damaged, and this mischief was the more serious, because very many of the soldiers were without bayonets.
The army being thus rendered unfit for action the design of giving battle was reluctantly abandoned by Washington and a retreat commenced. It was continued all the day and great part of the night, through a cold and most distressing rain and very deep roads. A few hours before day (September 17th), the troops halted at the Yellow Springs, where their arms and ammunition were examined, and the alarming fact was disclosed that scarcely a musket in a regiment could be discharged and scarcely one cartridge in a box was fit for use. This state of things suggested the precaution of moving to a still greater distance in order to refit their arms, obtain a fresh supply of ammunition, and revive the spirits of the army. Washington therefore retired to Warwick Furnace on the south branch of French creek, where ammunition and muskets might be obtained in time to dispute the passage of the Schuylkill and make yet another effort to save Philadelphia.
The extreme severity of the weather had entirely stopped the British army. During two days Howe made no other movement than to unite his columns.
From French creek General Wayne was detached with his division into the rear of the British with orders to join General Smallwood, and, carefully concealing himself and his movements, to seize every occasion which this march might offer of engaging them to advantage. Meanwhile, General Washington crossed the Schuylkill at Parker’s Ferry, and encamped on both sides of Perkyomen creek.
General Wayne lay in the woods near the entrance of the road from Darby into that leading to Lancaster, about three miles in the rear of the left wing of the British troops encamped at Trydruffin, where he believed himself to be perfectly secure. But the country was so extensively disaffected that Howe received accurate accounts of his position and of his force. Major-General Gray was detached to surprise him, and effectually accomplished his purpose. About 11 in the night of the 20th his pickets, driven in with charged bayonets, gave the first intimation of Gray’s approach. Wayne instantly formed his division, and, while his right sustained a fierce assault, directed a retreat by the left, under cover of a few regiments, who, for a short time, withstood the violence of shock. In his letter to Washington, he says that they gave the assailants some well-directed fires, which must have done considerable execution, and that, after retreating from the ground on which the engagement commenced, they formed again, at a small distance from the scene of action, but that both parties drew off without renewing the conflict. He states his loss at about 150 killed and wounded. The British accounts admit, on their part, a loss of only 7.
When the attack commenced, General Smallwood, who was on his march to join Wayne, a circumstance entirely unexpected by General Gray, was within less than a mile of him, and, had he commanded regulars, might have given a very different turn to the night. But his militia thought only of their own safety, and, having fallen in with a party returning from the pursuit of Wayne, fled in confusion, with the loss of only one man.
Some severe animadversions on this unfortunate affair having been made in the army, General Wayne demanded a court-martial, which, after investigating his conduct, was unanimously of opinion, “that he had done everything to be expected from an active, brave, and vigilant officer,” and acquitted him with honor.
Having secured his rear, by compelling Wayne to take a greater distance, Howe marched along the valley road to the Schuylkill and encamped on the bank of that river, from the Fatland ford up to French creek, along the front of the American army. To secure his right from being turned, Washington again changed his position and encamped with his left near, but above, the British right.
Howe now relinquished his plan of bringing Washington to another battle, and thinking it advisable, perhaps, to transfer the seat of war to the neighborhood of his ships, determined to cross the Schuylkill and take possession of Philadelphia. In the afternoon he ordered one detachment to cross at Fatland ford, which was on his right, and another to cross at Gordon’s ford, on his left, and to take possession of the heights commanding them. These orders were executed without much difficulty, and the American troops placed to defend these fords were easily dispersed.
This service being effected, the whole army marched by its right, about midnight, and crossing at Fatland without opposition, proceeded a considerable distance toward Philadelphia, and encamped with its left near Sweed’s ford and its right on the Manatawny road, having Stony Run in its course.
It was now apparent that only immediate victory could save Philadelphia from the grasp of the British general whose situation gave him the option of either taking possession of that place or endeavoring to bring on another engagement. If, therefore, a battle must certainly be risked to save the capital it would be necessary to attack the enemy.
Public opinion, which a military chief finds too much difficulty in resisting, and the opinion of Congress, required a battle; but, on a temperate consideration of circumstances, Washington came to the wise decision of avoiding one for the present.
His reasons for this decision were conclusive. Wayne and Smallwood had not yet joined the army. The Continental troops ordered from Peekskill, who had been detained for a time by an incursion from New York, were approaching, and a reinforcement of Jersey militia, under General Dickenson, was also expected.
To these powerful motives against risking an engagement, other considerations of great weight were added, founded on the condition of his soldiers. An army, maneuvering in an open country, in the face of a very superior enemy, is unavoidably exposed to excessive fatigue and extreme hardship. The effect of these hardships was much increased by the privations under which the American troops suffered. While in almost continual motion, wading deep rivers, and encountering every vicissitude of the seasons, they were without tents, newly without shoes, or winter clothes, and often without food.
A council of war concurred in the opinion Washington had formed, not to march against the enemy, but to allow his harassed troops a few days for repose and to remain on his present ground until the expected reinforcements should arrive.
Immediately after the battle of Brandywine, the distressed situation of the army had been represented to Congress, who had recommended the executive of Pennsylvania to seize the cloths and other military stores in the warehouses of Philadelphia, and, after granting certificates expressing their value, to convey them to a place of safety. The executive, being unwilling to encounter the odium of this strong measure, advised that the extraordinary powers of the Commander-in- Chief should be used on the occasion. Lieut. Col. Alexander Hamilton, one of the General’s aides, already in high estimation for his talents and zeal, was employed on this delicate business. “Your own prudence,” said the General, in a letter to him while in Philadelphia, “will point out the least exceptionable means to be pursued; but remember, delicacy and a strict adherence to the ordinary mode of application must give place to our necessities. We must, if possible, accommodate the soldiers with such articles as they stand in need of or we shall have just reason to apprehend the most injurious and alarming consequences from the approaching season.”
All the efforts, however, of this very active officer could not obtain a supply in any degree adequate to the pressing and increasing wants of the army.
Colonel Hamilton was also directed to cause the military stores which had been previously collected to a large amount in Philadelphia, and the vessels which were lying at the wharves, to be removed up the Delaware. This duty was executed with so much vigilance that very little public property fell, with the city, into the hands of the British general, who entered it on the 26th of September (1777). The members of Congress separated on the 18th, in the evening, and reassembled at Lancaster on the 27th of the same month. From thence they subsequently adjourned to Yorktown, where they remained eight months, till Philadelphia was evacuated by the British.
From the 25th of August, when the British army landed at the head of Elk, until the 26th of September, when it entered Philadelphia, the campaign had been active, and the duties of the American general uncommonly arduous.
Some English writers bestow high encomiums on 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, 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 well-appointed 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.
1. Footnote: About this time the Royalists in the counties of Somerset and Worcester, in the province of Maryland, became so formidable that an insurrection was dreaded. And it was feared that the insurgents would, in such a case, be joined by a number of disaffected persons in the county of Sussex, in the Delaware State. Congress, to prevent this evil, recommended the apprehension and removal of all persons of influence, or of desperate characters, within the counties of Sussex, Worcester, and Somerset, who manifested a disaffection to the American cause, to some remote place within their respective States, there to be secured. From appearances, Congress had also reason to believe that the Loyalists in the New England governments and New York State, had likewise concerted an insurrection. See Gordon’s “History of the American Revolution,” vol. II, pp. 461, 462. By the same authority we are informed that General Gates wrote to General Fellowes for a strong military force, for the prevention of plots and insurrection in the provinces of New England and New York.
2. Footnote: Congress voted a monument to his memory.
3. Footnote: Stedman, the British historian of the Revolution, acknowledges a loss of 200, including 10 officers.
4. Footnote: Lieutenant-Colonel Palfrey, formerly an aide-de-camp to General Washington, and now paymaster-general, wrote to his friend: “I was at Brunswick just after the enemy had left it. Never let the British troops upbraid the Americans with want of cleanliness, for such dog-kennels as their huts were my eyes never beheld. Mr. Burton’s house, where Lord Cornwallis resided, stunk so I could not bear to enter it. The houses were torn to pieces, and the inhabitants as well as the soldiers have suffered greatly for want of provisions.”–Gordon, “History of the American Revolution.”
5. Footnote: Eulogy on Lafayette. See “Orations and Speeches on Various Occasions,” by Edward Everett, vol. I, p. 462.
6. Footnote: Deborre’s brigade broke first; and, on an inquiry into his conduct being directed, he resigned. A misunderstanding existed between him and Sullivan, on whose right he was stationed.
7. Footnote: All English writers do not concur in this view of the matter. The British historian, Stedman, gives the following sharp criticism on Howe’s conduct in the affair of the Brandywine:
“The victory does not seem to have been improved in the degree 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 magazines, 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.”
WASHINGTON HOLDS HOWE IN CHECK. 1777.
Washington 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 1st 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 American 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, assisted by several galleys and gondolas. The Delaware, being left by the tide while engaged with the battery, grounded and was captured, soon after which the smaller frigate and the other vessels retired under the guns of the fort. This circumstance was the more unfortunate as it gave the British general the command of the ferry, and consequently free access to Jersey, and enabled him to intercept the communication between the forts below and Trenton, from which place the garrisons were to have drawn their military stores.
All the expected reinforcements, except the State regiment and militia from Virginia, being arrived, and the detached parties being called in, the effective strength of the army amounted to 8,000 Continental troops and 3,000 militia. With this force Washington determined to approach the enemy and seize the first favorable moment to attack him. In pursuance of this determination the army took a position on the Skippack road, September 30th (1777), about twenty miles from Philadelphia and sixteen from Germantown–a village stretching on both sides the great road leading northward from Philadelphia, which forms one continued street nearly two miles in length. The British line of encampment crossed this village at right angles near the center, and Cornwallis, with four regiments of grenadiers, occupied Philadelphia. The immediate object of General Howe being the removal of the obstructions in the river, Colonel Stirling, with two regiments, had been detached to take possession of the fort at Billingsport, which he accomplished without opposition. This service being effected, and the works facing the water destroyed, Colonel Stirling was directed to escort a convoy of provisions from Chester to Philadelphia. Some apprehensions being entertained for the safety of this convoy, another regiment was detached from Germantown, with directions to join Colonel Stirling.
This division of the British force appeared to Washington to furnish a fair opportunity to engage Sir William Howe with advantage. Determining to avail himself of it, he formed a plan for surprising the camp at Germantown. This plan consisted, in its general outline, of a night march and double attack, consentaneously made, on both flanks of the enemy’s right wing, while a demonstration, or attack, as circumstances should render proper, was to be directed on the western flank of his left wing. With these orders and objects the American army began its march from Skippack creek at 7 o’clock in the evening of the 3d of October (1777), in two columns–the right, under Sullivan and Wayne, taking the Chestnut Hill road, followed by Stirling’s division in reserve; the left, composed of the divisions of Greene and Stephen, with M’Dougal’s brigade and 1,400 Maryland and Jersey militia taking the Limekiln and old York roads, while Armstrong’s Pennsylvania militia advanced by the Ridge road. Washington accompanied the right wing, and at dawn of day, next morning, attacked the royal army. After a smart conflict he drove in the advance guard, which was stationed at the head of the village, and with his army divided into five columns prosecuted the attack, but Lieutenant-Colonel Musgrave, of the Fortieth regiment, which had been driven in, and who had been able to keep five companies of the regiment together, threw himself into a large stone house in the village, belonging to Mr. Chew, which stood in front of the main column of the Americans, and there almost a half of Washington’s army was detained for a considerable time. Instead of masking Chew’s house with a sufficient force and advancing rapidly with their main body, the Americans attacked the house, which was obstinately defended. The delay was very unfortunate, for the critical moment was lost in fruitless attempts on the house; the royal troops had time to get under arms and be in readiness to resist or attack, as circumstances required. General Grey came to the assistance of Colonel Musgrave; the engagement for some time was general and warm; at length the Americans began to give way and effected a retreat with all their artillery. The morning was very foggy, a circumstance which had prevented the Americans from combining and conducting their operations as they otherwise might have done, but which now favored their retreat by concealing their movements.
In this engagement the British had 600 men killed or wounded; among the slain were Brigadier-General Agnew and Colonel Bird, officers of distinguished reputation. The Americans lost an equal number in killed and wounded, besides 400 who were taken prisoners. General Nash, of North Carolina, was among those who were killed. After the battle Washington returned to his encampment at Skippack creek.
The plan of attack formed by Washington for the battle of Germantown was fully justified by the result. The British camp was completely surprised, and their army was on the point of being entirely routed, when the continued fog led the American soldiers to mistake friends for foes, and caused a panic which threw everything into confusion and enabled the enemy to rally.
Washington, writing to his brother John Augustine, says: “If it had not been for a thick fog, which rendered it so dark at times that we were not able to distinguish friend from foe at the distance of thirty yards, we should, I believe, have made a decisive and glorious day of it. But Providence designed it otherwise, for, after we had driven the enemy a mile or two, after they were in the utmost confusion and flying before us in most places, after we were upon the point, as it appeared to everybody, of grasping a complete victory, our own troops took fright and fled with precipitation and disorder. How to account for this I know not, unless, as I before observed, the fog represented their own friends to them for a reinforcement of the enemy, as we attacked in different quarters at the same time, and were about closing the wings of our army when this happened. One thing, indeed, contributed not a little to our misfortune, and that was a want of ammunition on the right wing, which began the engagement, and in the course of two hours and forty minutes, which time it lasted, had, many of them, expended the forty rounds that they took into the field. After the engagement we removed to a place about twenty miles from the enemy to collect our forces together, to take care of our wounded, get furnished with necessaries again, and be in a better posture either for offensive or defensive operations. We are now advancing toward the enemy again, being at this time within twelve miles of them.”
Writing to the President of Congress (October 7, 1777) he still imputes the disaster to the fog: “It is with much chagrin and mortification I add that every account confirms the opinion I at first entertained, that our troops retreated at the instant when victory was declaring herself in our favor. The tumult, disorder, and even despair, which, it seems, had taken place in the British army, were scarcely to be paralleled; and it is said, so strongly did the idea of a retreat prevail, that Chester was fixed on as their rendezvous. I can discover no other cause for not improving this happy opportunity, than the extreme haziness of the weather.”
Much controversy has arisen among writers as to the cause of failure at Germantown, but Washington’s means of observation were certainly not inferior to those of any other person whatever, and in the above extracts the whole matter is clearly explained. He does not refer to the delay at Chew’s house as the cause of failure. Panic struck as the British were, they would have been defeated, notwithstanding the delay at that impromptu fortress, if the fog had not occasioned the American soldiers to believe that the firing on their own side proceeded from the enemy, and that they were about to be surrounded. Hence the recoil and retreat. It was apparently a great misfortune, but it was the destiny of Washington to achieve greatness in spite of severe and repeated misfortunes.
The same opinion respecting the fog is expressed in the following extract from a letter from General Sullivan to the President of New Hampshire: “We brought off all our cannon and all our wounded. Our loss in the action amounts to less than 700, mostly wounded. We lost some valuable officers, among whom were the brave General Nash, and my two aides-de-camp, Majors Sherburne and White, whose singular bravery must ever do honor to their memories. Our army rendezvoused at Paulen’s Mills, and seems very desirous of another action. The misfortunes of this day were principally owing to a thick fog which, being rendered still more so by the smoke of the cannon and musketry, prevented our troops from discovering the motions of the enemy, or acting in concert with each other. I cannot help observing that with great concern I saw our brave commander exposing himself to the hottest fire of the enemy in such a manner that regard for my country obliged me to ride to him and beg him to retire. He, to gratify me and some others, withdrew a small distance, but his anxiety for the fate of the day soon brought him up again, where he remained till our troops had retreated.”
Congress unanimously adopted the following resolution on hearing of the battle of Germantown:
“_Resolved,_ That the thanks of Congress be given to General Washington, for his wise and well-concerted attack upon the enemy’s army near Germantown, on the 4th instant, and to the officers and soldiers of the army for their brave exertions on that occasion; Congress being well satisfied, that the best designs and boldest efforts may sometimes fail by unforeseen incidents, trusting that, on future occasions, the valor and virtue of the army will, by the blessing of Heaven, be crowned with complete and deserved success.”
The attention of both armies was now principally directed to the forts below Philadelphia. These it was the great object of Howe to destroy, and of Washington to defend and maintain.
The loss of the Delaware frigate, and of Billingsport, greatly discouraged the seamen by whom the galleys and floating batteries were manned. Believing the fate of America to be decided, an opinion strengthened by the intelligence received from their connections in Philadelphia, they manifested the most alarming defection, and several officers as well as sailors deserted to the enemy. This desponding temper was checked by the battle of Germantown, and by throwing a garrison of Continental troops into the fort at Red Bank, called Fort Mercer, the defense of which had been entrusted to militia. This fort commanded the channel between the Jersey shore and Mud Island, and the American vessels were secure under its guns. The militia of Jersey were relied on to reinforce its garrison, and also to form a corps of observation which might harass the rear of any detachment investing the place.
To increase the inconvenience of Howe’s situation by intercepting his supplies Washington ordered 600 militia, commanded by General Potter, to cross the Schuylkill and scour the country between that river and Chester, and the militia on the Delaware, above Philadelphia, were directed to watch the roads in that vicinity.
The more effectually to stop those who were seduced by the hope of gold and silver to supply the enemy at this critical time, Congress passed a resolution subjecting to martial law and to death all who should furnish them with provisions, or certain other enumerated articles, who should be taken within thirty miles of any city, town, or place in Jersey, Pennsylvania, or Delaware, occupied by British troops.
These arrangements being made to cut off supplies from the country, Washington took a strong position at White Marsh, within fourteen miles of Philadelphia.
Meanwhile General Howe was actively preparing to attack Fort Mifflin from the Pennsylvania shore. He erected some batteries at the mouth of the Schuylkill, in order to command Webb’s Ferry, which were attacked by Commodore Hazlewood and silenced; but the following night a detachment crossed over Webb’s Ferry into Province Island, and constructed a slight work opposite Fort Mifflin, within two musket shots of the blockhouse, from which they were enabled to throw shot and shells into the barracks. When daylight discovered this work three galleys and a floating battery were ordered to attack it and the garrison surrendered. While the boats were bringing off the prisoners, a large column of British troops were seen marching into the fortress, upon which the attack on it was renewed, but without success, and two attempts made by Lieutenant-Colonel Smith to storm it failed. 
In a few nights works were completed on the high ground of Province Island, which enfiladed the principal battery of Fort Mifflin, and rendered it necessary to throw up some cover on the platform to protect the men who worked the guns.
The aid expected from the Jersey militia was not received. “Assure