페이지 이미지

hopes were frustrated. Washington knew the full value of his situation. He had too much penetration, to lose it from the circumvention of military maneuvres, and too much temper to be provoked to a dereliction of it. He was well apprized that it was not the interest of his country to com mit its fortune to a single action. .

Sir William Howe suddenly relinquished his position in front of the Americans, and retired with his whole force to Amboy. The apparently retreating British were pursued vy a considerable detachment of the American army; and Washington advanced from Middlebrook to Quibbletown, to e near at hand for the support of his advanced parties. The British general immediately marched his army back from Amboy, with great expedition, hoping to bring on a general action on equal grounds ; but he was disappointed. Washington fell back, and posted his army in so advantageous a situation, as compensated for the inferiority of his numbers.—Sir William Howe was now fully convinced of the impossibility of compelling a general engagement on equal terms; and also satisfied that it would be too hazardous to attempt passing the Delaware, while the country was in arms, and the main American army in full force in his rear. He therefore returned to Amboy, and thence passed over to Staten Island, resolving to prosecute the objects of the campaign by an embarkation of his whole force at New York. During the period of these movements, the real designs of general Howe were involved in obscurity. Though the season for military operations was advanced as far as the month of July, yet his determinate object could not be ascertained. Nothing on his part had hitherto occurred, but alternately advancing and retreating.-Washington's embarrassment on this account was increased, by intelligence which arrived that Burgoyne was advancing in great force towards New York from Canada. Apprehending that sir William Howe would ultimately move up the North River, and that his movements, which looked southwardly, were feints, the American chief detached a brigade to reinforce the northern division of his army. Successive advices of the advance of Burgoyne, favoured the idea, that a junction of the two royal armies near Albany was intended. Some movements were therefore made by Washington towards Peekskill, and on the other side towards Trenton, while the main army was

[ocr errors]

encamped near the Clove, in readiness to march either to the north or south, as the movements of sir William Howe might require.

After the British had left Sandy Hook, they looked into the Delaware, and suddenly again put out to sea, and were not heard of for nearly three weeks, except that once or twice they had been seen near the coast, steering southwardly. At one time Charleston, in South Carolina, was supposed to be their object; at another, Philadelphia, by the way of the Chesapeake ; at another, the highlands of New York, to co-operate with Burgoyne.

The perplexing uncertainty concerning the destination of the enemy, which embarrassed the movements of Washington, was not removed before the middle of August, when certain accounts were received, that the British had taket possession of the Chesapeake, and landed as near 'o Philadelphia as was practicable. While the object of the cam. paign was doubtful, every disposition was made to defend all the supposed probable points of attack, except Charleston. This being at the distance of seven or eight hundred miles, could not be assisted by an army marching over land, in time to oppose the enemy conveyed thither by water. — While this idea prevailed, arrangements were made to employ the American army, either against the enemy advancing from Albany, or against the British posts in New York, with the hope of making reparation for the expected loss of Charles ton. As soon as the arrival of the British in the Chesapeake was known, Washington ordered the different divisions of his army to unite in the neighbourhood of Philadelphia, towards the head of Elk; and the militia of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and the northern counties of Virginia, to take the field. He had previously written very pressing letters to the governors of the eastern states, and to the generals in the western parts of these states, to strengthen the northern army opposed to Burgoyne; and even weakened himself by detaching some of his best troops particularly Morgan's riflemen, on that important service. In the spirit of trup patriotism, he diminished his own chances of acquiring fame, that the common cause might be most effectually promoted, by the best disposition of the forces under his commande for simultaneous opposition both to Howe and Burgoyne.

Washington passed his army, with every appearance of confidence, through the city of Philadelphia, with a view of making some impression on the disaffected of that city, and afterwards proceeded towards the head of Elk. About the same time, he directed general Smallwood, with the militia of Maryland and Delaware, and some continental troops, to hang on the rear of the enemy. As a substitute for Morgan's riflemen, general Maxwell was furnished with a corps of light infantry, amounting to one thousand men, and directed to annoy the British on their march through the country.These troops were afterwards reinforced by general Wayne's division. Though the militia did not turn out with that alacrity which might have been expected, from the energetic calls of Washington, yet a respectable force was assembled, which imposed on sir William Howe a necessity of proceeding with caution. The royal army set out from the eastern heads of the Chesapeake on the third of September, with a spirit which promised to compensate for the various delays which had hitherto wasted the campaign.—They advanced with great circumspection and boldness, until they were within two miles of the American army, which was then posted in the vicinity of New Port. Washington soon changed his ground, and took post on the high ground near Chadd's Ford, on the Brandywine Creek, with an intention of disputing the passage. It was the wish, but by no means the interest, of the Americans, to try their strength in an engagement. Their regular troops were not only inferior in discipline, but in numbers, to the royal army.—The opinion of the inhabitants, though founded on no circumstances more substantial than their wishes, imposed a species of necessity, on the American general, to keep his army in front of the enemy, and to risk an action for the security of Philadelphia, Instead of this, had he taken the ridge of high mountains on his right, the British must have respected his numbers, and probably would have followed him up the country. In this manner, the campaign might have been wasted away, in a manner fatal to the invaders; but the majority of the Ameo rican people were so impatient of delays, and had so over. weening a conceit of the numbers and prowess of their army, that they could not comprehend the wisdom and policy of maneuvres to shun a general engagement.

On this occasion, necessity dictated that a sacrifice should be made on the altar of public opinion. A general action

was therefore hazarded. This took place at Chadd's Ford, on the Brandywine, a small stream which empties itself into Christiana Creek, near its conflux with the river Delaware.

The royal army advanced at day-break, on the 11th of September, in two columns, commanded by lieutenant-general Kniphausen and lord Cornwallis. They first took the direct road to Chadd's Ford, and made a show of passing it, in front of the main body of the Americans. At the same time, the other column moved up on the west side of the Brandywine, to its fork, and crossed both its branches, and then marched down on the east side, with a view of turning the right wing of their adversaries.

This they effected; compelling them to retreat with great loss. General Kniphausen amused the Americans with the appearance of crossing the ford, but did not attempt it, until lord Cornwallis, having crossed above, and moved down on the opposite side, had commenced his attack. Kniphausen then crossed the ford, and attacked the troops posted for its defence. These, after a severe conflict, were compelled to give way. The retreat of the Americans soon became general, and was continued to Chester. Their loss was about nine hundred, and considerably exceeded that of the British.

The final issue of battles often depends on small circumstances, which human prudence cannot control. One of these occurred here, and prevented General Washington from executing a bold design, to effect which his troops were actually in motion. This was, to cross the Brandywine, and attack Kniphausen, while general Sullivan and lord Stirling should keep earl Cornwallis in check. In the most critical moment, Washington received intelligence which he was obliged to credit, that the column of lord Cornwallis had been only making a feint, and was returning to join Kniphausen. This prevented the execution of a plan, which, if carried into effect, would probably have given a different turn to the events of the day.

Washington made every exertion to repair the loss which had been sustained. The battle of Brandywine was represented as not being decisive. Congress and the people wished to hazard a second engagement for the security of Philadelphia. Howe sought for it, and Washington did not decline it. He therefore advanced as far as the Warren ta.


vern, on the Lancaster road, with an intention of meeting his adversary. Near that place, both armies were on the point of engaging with their whole force; but they were prevented by a most violent storm of rain, which continued for a whole day and night. When the rain ceased, the Americans found that their ammunition was entirely ruined. They therefore withdrew to a place of safety.–Before a proper supply was procnred, the British marched from their position near the White Horse tavern, down towards the Swedes Ford. The Americans again took post in their front, but the British, instead of urging an action, began to march up towards Reading. To save the stores which had been deposited in that place, Washington took a new position, and left the British in undisturbed possession of the roads which lead to Philadelphia. His troops were worn down with a succession of severe duties. There were in his army above a thousand men who were barefooted, and who had performed all their late movements in that condition.

Though Washington had failed in his object of saving Philadelphia, yet he retained the confidence of congress and the states. With an army inferior in numbers, discipline, and equipments, he delayed the British army thirty days advancing sixty miles through an open country, without for tifications, and the waters of which were every where forda ble. Though defeated in one general action, he kept together his undisciplined and unprovided army, and in less than a week offered battle to his successful adversary.-When this was prevented by a storm of rain, which ruined his ammunition, while

many of his soldiers were without bayonets, he extriCated them from the most imminent danger, and maintained a respectable standing. Instead of immediately retiring into winter-quarters, he approached the enemy, and encamped on the Skippack road. The British army took their stand in Philadelphia and Germantown, shortly after the battle of Brandywine. From these positions, especially the latter, considerable detachments were sent to Chester and the vicinity, to favour an attempt to open the navigation of the river Delaware, which had been obstructed with great ingenuity and industry by the Americans.

About the same time, the American army received a reinforcement of two thousand five hundred men, which increased jts effective force to eleven thousand.

« 이전계속 »