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of his force in such manner as to make the enemy think it larger than it really was; thereby deterring troops from coming over the bridge to turn Lauzun's right, while he prevented the escape over the bridge of Delancey's refugees when routed from Morrisania.
Washington, at the same time, wrote a confidential letter to Governor Clinton, informing him of designs upon the enemy's posts. "Should we be happy enough to succeed," writes he, "and be able to hold our conquest, the advantages will be greater than can well be imagined. But I cannot flatter myself that the enemy will permit the latter, unless I am suddenly and considerably reinforced. I shall march down the remainder of this army, and I have hopes that the French force will be near at hand at the time. But I shall, notwithstanding, direct the alarm-guns and beacons to be fired in case of success; and I have to request, that your Excellency will, upon such signals, communicate the meaning of them to the militia, and put yourself at the head of them, and march with the utmost expedition to King's Bridge, bringing with you three or four days' provision at least."
It was a service which would have been exactly to the humor of George Clinton.
In pursuance of the plan, Lincoln left the camp near Peekskill on the 1st, with eight hundred men, and artillery, and proceeded to Teller's Point, where they were embarked in boats with muffled oars, and rowed silently at night down the Tappan Sea, that region of mystery and secret enterprise. At daylight they kept concealed under the land. The Duke de Lauzun was supposed, at the same time, to be on the way from Connecticut. Washington, at three o'clock on the morning of the 2d, left his tents standing at Peekskill, and commenced his march with his main
FAILURE OF THE ENTERPRISE.
force, without baggage; making a brief halt at Croton Bridge, about nine miles from Peekskill; another at the Sleepy Hollow Church, near Tarrytown, where he halted until dusk, and completed the rest of his march in the night, to Valentine's Hill, four miles above King's Bridge, where he arrived about sunrise. There he posted himself to cover the detached troops, and improve any advantages that might be gained by them.
Lincoln, on the morning of the 2d, had left his flotilla concealed under the eastern shore, and crossed to Fort Lee to reconnoitre Fort Washington from the cliffs on the opposite side of the Hudson. To his surprise and chagrin, he discovered a British force encamped on the north end of New York Island, and a ship-of-war auchored in the river. In fact, the troops which had been detached into the Jerseys, had returned, and the enemy were on the alert; the surprisal of the forts, therefore, was out of the question.
Lincoln's thoughts now were to aid the Duke de Lauzun's part of the scheme, as he had been instructed. Before daylight of the 3d, he landed his troops above Spyt den Duivel Creek, and took possession of the high ground on the north of Harlem River, where Fort Independence once stood. Here he was discovered by a foraging party of the enemy, fifteen hundred strong, who had sallied out at daybreak to scour the country. An irregular skirmish ensued. The firing was heard by the Duke de Lauzun, who was just arrived with his troops at East Chester, fatigued by a long and forced march in sultry weather. Finding the country alarmed, and all hope of surprising Delancey's corps at an end, he hastened to the support of Lincoln. Washington also advanced with his troops from Valentine's Hill. The British, perceiving their danger, retreated to their boats on the east side of
Harlem River, and crossed over to New York Island. A trifling loss in killed and wounded had been sustained on each side, and Lincoln had made a few prisoners.
Being disappointed in both objects, Washington did not care to fatigue his troops any more, but suffered them to remain on their arms, and spent a good part of the day reconnoitring the enemy's works. In the afternoon he retired to Valentine's Hill, and the next day marched to Dobbs Ferry, where he was joined by the Count de Rochambeau on the 6th of July. The two armies now encamped; the American in two lines, resting on the Hudson at Dobbs Ferry, where it was covered by batteries, and extending eastward toward the Neperan or Sawmill River; the French in a single line on the hills further east, reaching to the Bronx River. The beautiful valley of the Neperan intervened between the encampments. It was a lovely country for a summer encampment, breezy hills commanding wide prospects; umbrageous valleys watered by bright pastoral streams, the Bronx, the Spraine, and the Neperan, and abounding with never-failing springs. The French encampment made a gallant display along the Greenburgh hills. Some of the officers, young men of rank, to whom this was all a service of romance, took a pride in dccorating their tents, and forming little gardens in their vicinity. "We have a charming position among rocks and under magnificent tulip trees;" writes one of them, the Count Dumas. General Washington was an object of their enthusiasm. He visited the tents they had so gayly embellished; for, with all his gravity, he was fond of the company of young men. They were apprised of his coming, and set out on their camp-tables plans of the battle of Trenton; of West Point, and other scenes connected with the war. The greatest harmony prevailed between the armies.
The two commanders had their respective head-quarters in farmhouses, and occasionally, on festive occasions, long tables were spread in the adjacent barns, which were converted into banqueting halls. The young French officers gained the good graces of the country belles, though little acquainted with their language. Their encampment was particularly gay, and it was the boast of an old lady of the neighborhood many years after the war, that she had danced at head-quarters when a girl with the celebrated Marshal Berthier, at that time one of the aides-de-camp of the Count de Rochambeau.*
The two armies lay thus encamped for three or four weeks. In the mean time letters urged Washington's presence in Virginia. Richard Henry Lee advised that he should come with two or three thousand good troops, and be clothed with dictatorial powers. "There is nothing, I think, more certain," writes Lee, "than that your personal call would bring into immediate exertion the force and the resources of this State and the neighboring ones, which, directed as they would be, will effectually disappoint and baffle the deep-laid schemes of the enemy."
"I am fully persuaded, and upon good military principles," writes Washington in reply, "that the measures I have adopted will give more effectual and speedy relief to the State of Virginia, than my marching thither, with dictatorial powers, at the head of every man I could draw from hence, without leaving the important posts on the North River quite defenceless, and these States open to devastation and ruin. My present plan of operation, which I have been preparing with all the zeal and activity in my power, will, I am morally certain, with proper support pro
* Bolton's Hist. of Westchester Co., vol. i. p. 243.
duce one of two things, either the fall of New York, or a withdrawal of the troops from Virginia, excepting a garrison at Portsmouth, at which place I have no doubt of the enemy's intention of establishing a permanent post."
Within two or three days after this letter was written, Washington crossed the river at Dobbs Ferry, accompanied by the Count de Rochambeau, General de Beville, and General Duportail, to reconnoitre the British posts on the north end of New York Island. They were escorted by one hundred and fifty of the New Jersey troops, and spent the day on the Jersey heights ascertaining the exact position of the enemy on the opposite shore. Their next movement was to reconnoitre the enemy's posts at King's Bridge and on the east side of New York Island, and to cut off, if possible, such of Delancey's corps as should be found without the British lines. Five thousand troops, French and American, led by the Count de Chastellux and General Lincoln, were to protect this reconn issance, and menace the enemy's posts. Every thing was prepared in secrecy. On the 21st of July, at eight o'clock in the evening, the troops began their march in separate columns; part down the Hudson River road, part down the Sawmill River valley; part by the Eastchester road. Scammel's light infantry advanced through the fields to waylay the roads, stop all communication, and prevent intelligence getting to the enemy. Sheldon's cavalry with the Connecticut troops were to scour Throg's Neck. Sheldon's infantry and Lauzun's lancers were to do the same with the refugee region of Morrisania.
The whole detachment arrived at King's Bridge about daylight, and formed on the height back of Fort Independence. The enemy's forts on New York Island did not appear to have