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1781.] BRITISH FORAY AGAINST COLONEL GREENE. 273
Croton River, and he ordered a hasty advance of Connecticut troops in that direction.
The Croton River flows from east to west across Westchester County, and formed as it were the barrier of the American lines. The advanced posts of Washington's army guarded it, and by its aid, protected the upper country from the incursions of those foraging parties, and marauders which had desolated the neutral ground below it. The incursions most to be guarded against were those of Colonel Delancey's loyalists, a horde of tories and refugees which had their stronghold in Morrisania, and were the terror of the neighboring country. There was a petty war continually going on between them and the American outposts, often of a ruthless kind. Delancey's horse and Delancey's rangers scoured the country, and swept off forage and cattle from its fertile valleys for the British army at New York. Hence they were sometimes stigmatized by the opprobrious appellation of Cow Boys.
The object of their present incursion was to surprise an outpost of the American army stationed near a fordable part of the Croton River, not far from Pine's Bridge. The post was commanded by Colonel Christopher Greene, of Rhode Island, the same who had successfully defended Fort Mercer on the Delaware, when assailed by Count Donop. He was a valuable offi.cer, highly prized by Washington. The enterprise against his post was something like that against the post of Young's House.; both had been checks to the foragers of this harassed region.
Colonel Delancey, who led this foray, was successor to the unfortunate André as Adjutant-general of the British army. He conducted it secretly, and in the night, at the head of a hundred horse and two hundred foot. The Croton was forded at daybreak, just as the night-guard had been withdrawn, and the farm VOL. IV.-12*
houses were surprised and assailed in which the Americans were quartered. That occupied by Colonel Greene and a brother offi cer, Major Flagg, was first surrounded. The major started from his bed, and discharged his pistols from a window, but was shot through the head, and afterwards despatched by cuts and thrusts of the sabre.
The door of Greene's room was burst open. He defended himself vigorously and effectively with his sword, for he had great strength, but he was overpowered by numbers, cut down, and barbarously mangled. A massacre was going on in other quarters. Besides these two officers, there were between thirty and forty killed and wounded, and several made prisoners.
It is said that Colonel Delancey was not present at the carnage, but remained on the south side of the Croton to secure the retreat of his party. It may be so; but the present exploit was in the spirit of others by which he had contributed to harry this beautiful region, and made it a "bloody ground." No foes so ruthless had the American patriots to encounter as their own tory countrymen in arms.
Before the troops ordered out by Washington arrived at the post, the marauders had made a precipitate retreat. They had attempted to carry off Greene a prisoner, but he died within three quarters of a mile of the house. His captors, as they passed by the farm houses, told the inhabitants that, should there be any inquiry after the colonel, they had left him dead at the edge of the woods.*
Greene was but forty-four years of age at the time of his death, and was a model of manly strength and comeliness.
* Letter of Paymaster Hughes. See Bolton's Westchester Co. vol. ii p.
CONFERENCE AT WEATHERSFIELD.
true soldier of the Revolution, he had served at Lexington and Bunker's Hill; followed Arnold through the Kennebec wilderness to Quebec; fought under the walls of that city; distinguished himself by his defence of Fort Mercer on the Delaware, and by his kind treatment of his vanquished and wounded antagonist, Colonel Donop. How different the treatment experienced by him at the hands of his tory countrymen!
The commander-in-chief, we are told, heard with anguish and indignation the tragical fate of this his faithful friend and soldier. On the subsequent day, the corpse of Colonel Greene was brought to head-quarters, and his funeral solemnized with military honors and universal grief.*
At this juncture, Washington's attention was called in another direction. A frigate had arrived at Boston, bringing the Count de Barras, to take command of the French naval force. He was a veteran about sixty years of age, and had commanded D'Estaing's vanguard, when he forced the entrance of Newport harbor. The count brought the cheering intelligence, that an armament of twenty ships of the line, with land forces, was to sail, or had sailed, from France, under the Count de Grasse for the West Indies, and that twelve of these ships were to relieve the squadron at Newport, and might be expected on the coast of. the United States in July or August.
The Count de Rochambeau, having received despatches from the court of France, now requested an interview with Washington. The latter appointed Weathersfield in Connecticut for the purpose; and met the count there on the 22d of May, hoping to settle a definitive plan of the campaign. Both as yet were ignorant of the arrival of Cornwallis in Virginia. The policy of a
* Lee's Memoirs of the War, vol. i. p. 407.
joint expedition to relieve the Carolinas was discussed. As the French ships in Newport were still blockaded by a superior force. such an expedition would have to be made by land. A march to the Southern States was long and harassing, and always attended with a great waste of life. Such would certainly be the case at present, when it would have to be made in the heat of summer. The difficulties and expenses of land transportation, also, presented a formidable objection.
On the other hand, an effective blow might be struck at New York, the garrison having been reduced one-half by detachments to the South. That important post and its dependencies might be wrested from the enemy, or, if not, they might be obliged to recall a part of their force from the South for their own defence.
It was determined, therefore, that the French troops should march from Newport as soon as possible, and form a junction with the American army on the Hudson, and that both should move down to the vicinity of New York to make a combined attack, in which the Count de Grasse should be invited to cooperate with his fleet and a body of land troops.
A vessel was despatched by De Rochambeau, to inform the Count de Grasse of this arrangement; and letters were addressed by Washington to the executive authorities of New Jersey and the New England States, urging them to fill up their battalions and furnish their quotas of provisions. Notwithstanding all his exertions, however, when he mustered his forces at Peekskill, he was mortified to find not more than five thousand effective men. Notwithstanding, too, all the resolutions passed in the legisla tures of the various States for supplying the army, it would, at this critical moment, have been destitute of provisions, especially
PLAN OF ATTACK.
bread, had it not been for the zeal, talents, and activity of Mr. Robert Morris, now a delegate to Congress, from the State of Pennsylvania, and recently appointed superintendent of finance. This patriotic and energetic man, when public means failed, pledged his own credit in transporting military stores and feeding the army. Throughout the Revolution, Washington was continually baffled in the hopes caused by the resolutions of legislative bodies, too often as little alimentary as the east
The Count de Rochambeau and the Duke de Lauzun being arrived with their troops in Connecticut, on their way to join the American army, Washington prepared for spirited operations; quickened by the intelligence that a part of the garrison of New York had been detached to forage the Jerseys. Two objects were contemplated by him: one, the surprisal of the British works at the north end of New York Island; the other the capture or destruction of Delancey's corps of refugees in Morrisania. The attack upon the posts was to be conducted by General Lincoln, with a detachment from the main army, which he was to bring down by water-that on Delancey's corps by the Duke de Lauzun with his legion, aided by Sheldon's dragoons, and a body of Connecticut troops. Both operations were to be carried into effect on the 3d of July. The duke was to march down from Ridgebury in Connecticut, for the purpose. Every thing was to be conducted with secrecy and by the way of surprisal. Should any thing occur to prevent Lincoln from attempting the works on New York Island, he was to land his men above Spyt den Duivel Creek, march to the high grounds in front of King's Bridge, lie concealed there until the duke's attack on Delancey's corps should be announced by firing or other means; then to dispose