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Sir William Howe having detached a considerable force from Germantown to operate against the works on the Delaware, General Washington thought this a favourable opportunity to attack the British army in their cantonments. The line of the British encampment crossed the village of Germantown at right angles, near its centre; and its flanks were strongly covered.
General Washington now commanded a force consisting of about eight thousand continental troops and three thousand militia. The General's plan was to attack both wings of the enemy in front and rear at the same time. The arrangements having been made, the army was moved near the scene of action on the evening of the 4th of October. The divisions of Sullivan and Wayne, flanked by Conway's brigade, were to enter Germantown by the way of Chesnut Hill, and attack the left wing of the British. General Armstrong, with the Pennsylvania militia, was ordered to fall down the Manatawny road, and turning the British left flank, attack its rear. The divisions of Green and Stephen, flanked by M'Dougal's brigade, were to take a circuit by the way of the Limekiln road, and entering at the market house, · attack the right wing. The militia of Maryland and New Jersey, under General Smallwood and General Forman, were to march down the old York road, and fall upon the rear of the British right. The division of Lord Sterling, and the brigades of Nash and Maxwell, were to form a corps
de reserve. Oct. 8.] About sunrise the next morning, the
front of General Sullivan's column, which the Commander in Chief accompanied, drove in the British picket at Mount Airy. The main body of the división soon engaged the British light infantry and the fortieth regiment of foot, and obliged them to give way, leaving all their baggage behind. , General Green, in half an hour after Sullivan reached the ground of action, attacked and drove in the troops in front of the right wing of the enemy. Several brigades of Sulliyan's and of Green's divisions penetrated the town. The enemy appeared to be surprised, and a fair prospect of eventual success in the assault presented itself to the mind of the American Ge neral.
The flattering expectations, which the snccess ful commencement of the enterprise excited, were soon succeeded by disappointment and mortifica tion. As the British retreated before General Sullivan's division, Colonel Musgrave took post with six companies of light troops in a stone house, from which he severely galled the Americans in their advance. Attempts were made to dislodge him, but they proved ineffectual, and the American line was checked and flung into disorder. The morning being extremely foggy, the Americans could neither perceive the situation of the enemy, nor take advantage of their own success. The ground to which some of the British corps were pursued had many inclosures, which broke the American line of march, and some of the regiments in their ardour to push forward, separated from their brigades, were surrounded
and taken prisoners. In the moment of supposed victory, the troops retreated, and the efforts of their Generals to rally them were fruitless. The militia were never seriously brought into action. General Washington, perceiving that victory, had on this occasion eluded his grasp, contented himself with a safe and honourable retreat.
In this bold assault, two hundred Americans were killed, six hundred wounded, and four hundred taken prisoners. Among the killed was Brigadier General Nash. The British loss was one bundred killed and four hundred wounded. Among the killed were Brigadier Agnew and Colonel Bird. This enterprise, as far as the Commander in Chief was concerned in it, was honourable. Its ultimate failure must be attributed to the want of discipline and experience in his men. Congress fully approved of the plan of this assault, and applauded the courage displayed in its execution. They voted their thanks to the General, and to the army.
The works in the Delaware now engaged the attention of the British and American Generals, Sir William Flowe broke up his encampment at Germantown, and moved his whole army into Philadelphia. General Washington placed confidential garrisons in Fort Mercer at Red Bank, and in Fort Mifflin on Mud Island, but he had not a force equal to their complete defence. He appointed detachments to intercept the transportation of provisions from the British ships below the American works to Philadelphia. He called upon the government of New Jersey to turn out
the militia of that state, to form a camp in the rear of Red Bank; and he set patroles of militia on the roads leading to Philadelphia, both in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, to prevent the disa affected inhabitants from carrying their articles into the market of Philadelphia. To avail himself of any favourable opportunity to annoy the enemy, he moved his army to White Marsh, distant only fifteen miles from the city.
Lord Howe, by continued exertion, having overcome the obstructions which the Americans had placed in the river at Billingsport, a joint attack by sea and land was planned against Red Bank and Fort Island. The Augusta, a sixtyfour gun ship, the Merlin frigate, and several small armed vessels, moved up the Delaware to assault the works on Fort or Mud Island. Count Donop crossed into New Jersey with twelve hundred Germans, and in the evening of the 22d of October appeared before Fort Mercer, on Red Bank. His assault was highly spirited, and the defence intrepid and obstinate. Colonel Green, the commandant, whose garrison did not exceed five hundred men, was unable to man the outworks. From these he galled the Germans in their advance, and on their near approach he quitted them, and retired within the inner intrenchments. The enemy pressed forward with undaunted bravery, and the Americans poured upon them a deadly fire. Count Donop was himself mortaily wounded at the head of his gallant corps; the sucond in command soon after fell, and the third immediately drew off his forces.
The assailants had four hundred men killed and wounded. The garrison, fighting under cover, had only thirty killed and wounded. Had the camp of militia been formed in the rear of Red Bank, agreeable to General Washington's desire, this whole corps would probably have been made prisoners.
In the mean time, Fort Mimin was attacked by the shipping, and by batteries erected on the Pennsylvania shore. Incessant vollies of bombs and cannon-balls were discharged upon it; but at ebb tide the Augusta and Merlin grounded, and were burnt. The garrison supported this tremendous fire without material injury.
The resistance of the forts on the Delaware far exceeding the expectations of the British commanders, they adopted measures to overcome it, without the hazard of a second assault. They erected batteries upon Province Island, within five hundred yards of the American fort. They also brought up their shipping, gun-boats, &c. and from the 10th to the 16th of November, battered the American works. By this time the do fences were entirely beat down, every piece of cannon was dismounted, and one of the ships approached so near Fort Mifflin as to throw hand grenades from her tops into it, which killed men upon the platform. The brave garrison received orders to quit the post.
Red Bank being no longer useful, its garrison and stores were also withdrawn on the approach of Lord Cornwallis with five thousand men to invest it.
While these transactions were going on, the en