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always a fair wind. On the 15th Howe's army crossed under cover of Parker's ships, Hotham again superintending the boat work. The garrison of New York slipped along the west shore of the island and joined the main body on the Harlem; favored again, apparently, in this flank movement a mile from the enemy's front, by Howe's inertness, and fondness for a good meal, to which a shrewd American woman invited him at the critical moment. Despite these various losses of position, important as they were, the American army continued to elude the British general, who apparently did not hold very strongly the opinion that the most decisive factor in war is the enemy's organised force. As control of the valley of the Hudson, in connection with Lake Champlain, was, very properly, the chief object of the British government, Howe's next aim was to loosen Washington's grip on the peninsula north of the Harlem. The position seeming to him too strong for a front attack, he decided to strike for its left flank and rear by way of Long Island Sound. In this, which involved the passage of the tortuous and dangerous channel called Hell Gate, with its swift conflicting currents, the Navy again bore an essential part. The movement began on October 12th, the day after Arnold was defeated at Walcour. So far as its leading object went it was successful, Washington feeling obliged to let go the line of the Harlem, and change front to the left. As the result of the various movements and encounters of the two armies, he fell back across the Hudson into New Jersey, ordering the evacuation of Fort Washington, and deciding to rest his control of the Hudson Valley upon West Point, fifty miles above New York, a position of peculiar natural strength, on the west bank of the river. To these decisions he was compelled by his inferiority in numbers, and also by the very isolated and hazardous situation in which he was operating, between two navigable waters, absolutely controlled by the enemy's shipping. This conclusion was further forced upon him by another successful passage before the guns of Forts Washington and Lee by Hyde Parker, with three ships, on the 9th of October. On this occasion the vessels, two of which were frigates of the heaviest class, suffered very severely, losing nine killed and eighteen wounded; but the menace to the communications of the Americans could not be disregarded, for their supplies came mostly from the west of the Hudson.
It was early in November that Washington crossed into New Jersey with five thousand men; and soon afterwards he directed the remainder of his force to follow. At that moment the blunder of one subordinate, and the disobedience of another, brought upon him two serious blows. Fort Washington not being evacuated when ordered, Howe carried it by storm, capturing not only it but its garrison of twenty-seven hundred men; a very heavy loss to the Americans. On the other hand, the most explicit orders failed to bring the officer left in command on the east of the Hudson, General Charles Lee, to rejoin the commander-inchief. This criminal perverseness left Washington with only six thousand men in New Jersey, seven thousand being in New York. Under these conditions nothing remained but to put the Delaware also between himself and the enemy. He therefore retreated rapidly through New Jersey, and on the 8th of December crossed into Pennsylvania with an army reduced to three thousand by expiry of enlistments. The detachment beyond the Hudson, diminishing daily by the same cause, gradually worked its way to him; its commander luckily being captured on the road. At the time it joined, a few battalions also arrived from Ticonderoga, released by Carleton's retirement to the foot of Champlain. Washington's force on the west bank of the Delaware was thus increased to six thousand men.
In this series of operations, extending from August 22d to December 14th, when Howe went into winter-quarters in New Jersey, the British had met with no serious mishaps, beyond the inevitable losses undergone by the assailants of well-chosen positions. Nevertheless, having in view the superiority of numbers, of equipment, and of discipline, and the command of the water, the mere existence of the enemy's army as an organised body, its mere escape, deprives the campaign of the claim to be considered successful. The red ribbon of the Bath probably never was earned more cheaply than by Sir William Howe that year. Had he displayed anything like the energy of his two elder brothers, Washington, with all his vigilance, firmness, and enterprise, could scarcely have brought off the force, vastly diminished but still a living organism, around which American resistance again crystallised and hardened. As it was, within a month he took the offensive, and recovered a great part of New Jersey.
Whatever verdict may be passed upon the merit of the military conduct of affairs, there is no doubt of the value, or of the unflagging energy, of the naval support given. Sir William Howe alludes to it frequently, both in general and specifically; while the Admiral sums up his always guarded and often cumbrous expressions of opinion in these words: “It is incumbent upon me to represent to your Lordships, and I cannot too pointedly express, the unabating perseverance and alacrity with which the several classes of officers and seamen have supported a long attendance and unusual degree of fatigue, consequent of these different movements of the army.”
The final achievement of the campaign, and a very important one, was the occupation of Rhode Island and Narragansett Bay by a combined expedition, which left New York on the 1st of December, and on the 8th landed at Newport without opposition. The naval force, consisting of five 50-gun ships and eight smaller vessels, was commanded by Sir Peter Parker; the troops, seven thousand in number, by Lieutenant-General Sir Henry Clinton. The immediate effect was to close a haven of privateers, who centred in great numbers around an anchorage which flanked the route of all vessels bound from Europe to New York. The possession of the bay facilitated the control of the neighbouring waters by British ships of war, besides giving them a base central for coastwise operations and independent of tidal considerations for entrance or exit. The position was abandoned somewhat precipitately three years later. Rodney then deplored its loss in the following terms: “The evacuating Rhode Island was the most fatal measure that could possibly have been adopted. It gave up the best and noblest harbor in America, capable of containing the whole Navy of Britain, and where they could in all seasons lie in perfect security; and from whence squadrons, in forty-eight hours, could blockade the three capital cities of America; namely, Boston, New York, and Philadelphia.” At the end of 1776 began the series of British reverses which characterised the year 1777, making this the decisive period of the war, because of the effect thus produced upon general public opinion abroad; especially upon the governments of France and Spain. On the 20th of December, Howe, announcing to the Ministry that he had gone into winter-quarters, wrote: “The chain, I own, is rather too extensive, but I was induced to occupy Burlington to cover the county of Monmouth; and trusting to the loyalty of the inhabitants, and the strength of the corps placed in the advanced posts, I conclude the troops will be in perfect security.” Of this unwarranted security Washington took prompt advantage. On Christmas night a sudden descent, in a blinding snow-storm, upon a British outpost at Trenton, swept off a thousand prisoners; and although for the moment the American leader again retired behind the Delaware, it was but to resume the offensive four days later: “Cornwallis, who was in New York on the point of sailing for England, hurried back to the front, but in vain. A series of quick and well-directed movements recovered the Stat of New Jersey; and by the 5th of January the Americ dquarters, and main body of the army, were established at Morristown in the Jersey hills, the left resting upon the Hudson, thus recovering touch with the strategic centre of interest. This menacing position of the Americans, upon the flank of the line of communications from:New York to the Delaware, compelled Howe to contract abruptly the lines he had extended so lightly; and the cámpaign he was forced thus reluctantly to reopen closed under a gloom of retreat and disaster, which profoundly, and justly impressed not only the generality of men but military critics as well. “Of all the great conquests which his Majesty's troops had made in the Jersies,” writes Beatson, “Brunswick and Amboy were the only two o note which they retained; and however brilliant their ‘successes had been in the beginning of the campaign, they reaped little advantage from them when the winter advanced, and the contiguity of so vigilant an enemy forced them to perform the severest duty.” With deliberate or unconscious humour he then immediately concludes the chronicle of the year with this announcement: “His Majesty was so well pleased with the abilities and activity which General Howe had displayed this campaign, that on the 25th of October he conferred upon him the Most Honourable Order of the Bath.”