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ARRIVAL OF MORR SHIPS.-MOVEMENTS OF THE "PHOENIX" AND THE "ROSE.” -PANIC IN THE CITY.-HOSTILE SHIPS UP THE HUDSON. -STIR OF WAR ALONG THE RIVER.-GENERAL GEORGE CLINTON, AND THE MILITIA OF UL STER COUNTY.-FRESH AGITATION OF NEW YORK.-ARRIVAL OF LORD HOWE,
HE exultation of the patriots of New York, caused by the Declaration of Independence, was soon overclouded. On the 12th of July, several ships stood in from sea, and joined the naval force below. Every nautical movement was now a matter of speculation and alarm, and all the spy-glasses in the city were incessantly reconnoitering the bay.
"The enemy are now in the harbor," writes an American officer, "although they have not yet ventured themselves within gunshot of the city, but we hourly expect to be called into action. The whole army is out between two and three every morning, at their respective alarm posts, and remain there until sunrise. I am morally certain that it will not be long before we have an engagement."
Scarce had this letter been penned, when two shipsof-war were observed getting under way, and standing
THE "PHŒNIX” AND “ROSE."
toward the city. One was the Phoenix, of forty guns; the other the Rose, of twenty guns, commanded by Captain Wallace, of unenviable renown, who had marauded the New England coast, and domineered over Rhode Island. The troops were immediately at their alarm posts. It was about half-past three o'clock in the afternoon, as the ships and three tenders came sweeping up the bay with the advantage of wind and tide, and shaped their course up the Hudson. The batteries of the city and of Paulus Hook, on the opposite Jersey shore, opened a fire upon them. They answered it with broadsides. There was a panic throughout the city. Women and children ran hither and thither about the streets, mingling their shrieks and cries with the thundering of the cannon. "The attack has begun! The city is to be destroyed! What will become of us?"
The Phoenix and the Rose continued their course up the Hudson. They had merely fired upon the batteries as they passed; and on their own part had sustained but little damage, their decks having ramparts of sand-bags. The ships below remained in sullen quiet at their anchors, and showed no intention of following them. The firing ceased. The fear of a general attack upon the city died away, and the agitated citizens breathed more freely.
Washington, however, apprehended this movement of the ships might be with a different object. They might be sent to land troops and seize upon the passes of the Highlands. Forts Montgomery and Constitution were
far from complete, and were scantily manned. A small force might be sufficient to surprise them. The ships might intend, also, to distribute arms among the tories in the river counties, and prepare them to coöperate in the apprehended attack upon New York.
Thus thinking, the moment Washington saw these ships standing up the river, he sent off an express to put General Mifflin on the alert, who was stationed with his Philadelphia troops at Fort Washington and King's Bridge. The same express carried a letter from him to the New York Convention, at that time holding its sessions at White Plains in Westchester County, apprising it of the impending danger. His immediate solicitude was for the safety of Forts Constitution and Montgomery.
Fortunately George Clinton, the patriotic legislator, had recently been appointed brigadier-general of the militia of Ulster and Orange counties. Called to his native State by his military duties in this time of danger, he had only remained in Congress to vote for the Declaration of Independence, and then hastened home. He was now at New Windsor, in Ulster County, just above the Highlands. Washington wrote to him on the afternoon of the 12th, urging him to collect as great a force as pos sible of the New York militia, for the protection of the Highlands against this hostile irruption, and to solicit aid, if requisite, from the western parts of Connecticut. "I have the strongest reason to believe," added he, "it
GATHERING IN THE HIGHLANDS.
will be absolutely necessary, if it were only to prevent an insurrection of your own tories."
Long before the receipt of Washington's letter, Clinton had been put on the alert. About nine o'clock on the morning of the 13th, an alarm gun from his brother at Fort Constitution, thundered through the echoing defiles of the mountains. Shortly afterwards, two river sloops came to anchor above the Highlands before the general's residence. Their captains informed him that New York had been attacked on the preceding afternoon. They had seen the cannonade from a distance, and judged from the subsequent firing that the enemy's ships were up the river as far as King's Bridge.
Clinton was as prompt a soldier as he had been an intrepid legislator. The neighboring militia were forthwith put in motion. Three regiments were ordered out; one was to repair to Fort Montgomery; another to Fort Constitution; the third to rendezvous at Newburg, just above the Highlands, ready to hasten to the assistance of Fort Constitution, should another signal be given. All the other regiments under his command were to be prepared for service at a moment's notice. In ordering these hasty levies, however, he was as considerate as he was energetic. The colonels were directed to leave the frontier companies at home, to protect the country against the Indians, and some men out of each company to guard against internal enemies.
Another of his sagacious measures was to send ex
presses to all the owners of sloops and boats twenty miles up the west side of the river, to haul them off so as to prevent their grounding. Part of them were to be ready to carry over the militia to the forts; the rest were ordered down to Fort Constitution, where a chain of them might be drawn across the narrowest part of the river, to be set on fire, should the enemy's ships attempt to pass.
Having made these prompt arrangements, he proceeded early in the afternoon of the same day, with about forty of his neighbors, to Fort Constitution; whence, leaving some with his brother, he pushed down on the same evening to Fort Montgomery, where he fixed his headquarters, as being nearer the enemy and better situated to discover their motions.
Here, on the following day (July 14th), he received Washington's letter, written two days previously; but by this time he had anticipated its orders, and stirred up the whole country. On that same evening, two or three hundred of the hardy Ulster yeomanry, roughly equipped, part of one of the regiments he had ordered out, marched into Fort Montgomery, headed by their colonel (Woodhull). Early the next morning five hundred of another regiment arrived, and he was told that parts of two other regiments were on the way.
"The men," writes he to Washington, "turn out of their harvest fields to defend their country with surprising alacrity. The absence of so many of them, however, at this time, when their harvests are perishing for want