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terprising spirit of the Commander in Chief, was employed to explore an opening through which to attack his adversary. He clearly saw the importance of driving the British from Province Island; but fifteen hundred men, in the opinion of his general officers, were necessary to effect this object. This detachment could reach the place of assault only by marching down a neck of land six miles in length, almost in sight of the British General, who might easily cut off the retreat of the American detachment, unless it should be protected by a strong covering party. To furnish this party, General Washington must expose his army, with all his stores and artillery, to Sir William; or, if he moved his whole army over the Schuylkill, all the magazines and hospitals in his rear, might, without opposition, be seized. Red Bank would also be exposed, through which reinforcements of men, and supplies of ammunition and provisions, passed to Fort Island. He was therefore constrained to watch the progress of his enemy, without making efficient attempts to check him, · The fortifications of the Delaware being surmounted, the impediments in the channel of the river were, without great difficulty, removed. In six weeks of incessant effort, the British commanders gained the free navigation of the Delaware, and opened the communication between their fleet
During the excursion of Lord Cornwallis into New Jersey, with a design to invest Fort Mercer, General Washington was urged to attack Philadelphia. The wishes of Congress, and the expectation of the public, gave weight to the proposed measure. The plan was, that General Green should silently fall down the Delaware, at a specified time, attack the rear of General Howe, and gain possession of the bridge over the Schuylkill; that a powerful force should march down on the west side of that river, and from the heights enfilade the British works on that side, while the Commander in Chief, with the main body of the army, should attack fourteen redoubts, and the lines of the enemy extending from the Delaware to the Schuylkill, which constituted their defence in front.
The sound mind of General Washington was not so much dazzled by a prospect of the brilliance and fame which the success of this enterprise would throw around himself, and his army, as to engage in the desperate attempt; nor was he disposed to sacrifice the safety of his country upon the altar of public opinion. He gave the following reasons for rejecting the plan ; that the army in Philadelphia was in number at least equal to his own; it could not reasonably be expected that the several corps engaged could co-operate in that joint and prompt manner which was necessary to success; in all probability the movement of General Green could not be made in the face of a vigilant enemy without discovery, which was essential; if the several divisions were in the onset successful, the redoubts taken, the lines surmounted, and the British army driven within the city, the assault then must be extremely hazardous ; an artillery superior to their own, would be planted to play upon the front of the assailing columns, and the brick houses would be lined with a formidable infantry to thin their flanks; a defeat, wbich, calculating upon the scale of probability, must be expected, would ruin the army, and open the country to the depredation of the enemy; the hardy enterprises and stubborn conflicts of two campaigns, had given the British general only the command of two or three towns, protected in a great measure by the shipping, why then forego the advantage of confining the British army in narrow quarters, to place the stores in camp, and the very independence of America at risk upon this forlorn hope? The General was supported in his opinion by those officers in whose judgment he placed the most confidence, and he disregarded the clamours of ignorance and rash
On the 4th of December, Sir William Howe marched his whole army out of Philadelphia to White Marsh, the encampment of General Washington. He took a position on Chesnut Hill, in front of the American right wing. Mr. Stedman, a British historian of the revolutionary war, who at this time was with Sir William, states his force at fourteen thousand men. The continental troops. at White Marsh amounted to about twelve thousand, and the militia to three. The ground of the Americans was strong, but no fortifications had been erected. Never before had General. Washington met his enemy in this manner, with a superiority of numbers. He wished to be at
tacked, but was not disposed to relinquish the advantage of ground.
The British Commander spent the 6th in reconnoitring the American right. At night he marched to their left on the hill, which here approached nearer to their camp, and took a good position within a mile of it. The next day he advanced further to the American left, and in doing it approached still nearer this wing. General Washington made some changes in the disposition of his troops, to oppose, with a greater
force, the attack he confidently expected on his : left. Momentarily expecting the assault, he rode
through each brigade of the army with perfect composure, giving his orders, animating his men to do their duty to their country, and exhorting them to depend principally on the bayonet. During these manœuvres, some sharp skirmishing took place. At evening the disposition of General Howe indicated the design to attack the next morning. The American Commander impatiently waited the assault, promising himself some compensation for the disasters of the campaign in the issue of this battle ; but his hopes were disappointed. On the afternoon of the 8th, Sir William returned to Philadelphia with such rapidity, as not to be overtaken by the American light troops, which were sent out to harass his rear.
Sir William Howe moved out of Philadelphia with a professed design to attack General Washington, and to drive him over the mountain. He must have felt mortification in receding from this intention, and by it acknowledging, in the face of the world, the respect he entertained for the military talents of his opponent, and proclaiming his reluctance to engage an American army of equal numbers, unless he could command the ground of action.
The American troops were badly clothed, and were generally destitute of blankets. The winter setting in with severity, it became necessary to lodge them in winter quarters. The General had revolved the subject in his mind, and weighed all its difficulties. Should he quarter his army in villages, his men would be exposed to the destructive enterprises of partizan British corps, and a large district of country would be opened to the forage of the enemy. To 'remedy these dangers and inconveniences, the General resolved to march his army to Valley Forge, a strong position behind Philadelphia, covered with wood, and there shelter them. On the march to the place, for the first time, the disposition for the winter was announced. He applauded the past fortitude of the army, and exhorted them to bear their approaching hardships with the resolution of soldiers, assuring them that the public good, and not his inclination, imposed them. The men bore their temporary sufferings with patience. They felled trees, and of logs built themselves huts, closing their crevices with mortar, and soon assumed the form and order of an encampment. Light troops were stationed around Philadelphia to straiten the enemy's quarters, and to cut off their communication with those of the country who were disposed to supply them with provision.