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ROADS AND WORKS ON LONG ISLAND.
on the north, and Gowanus Cove on the south. A line of intrenchments and strong redoubts extended across the neck of the peninsula, from the bay to a swamp and creek emptying into the cove. To protect the rear of the works from the enemy's ships, a battery was erected at Red Hook, the southwest corner of the peninsula, and a fort on Governor's Island, nearly opposite.
About two miles and a half in front of the line of intrenchments and redoubts, a range of hills, densely wooded, extended from southwest to northeast, forming a natural barrier across the island. It was traversed by three roads. One, on the left of the works, stretched eastwardly to Bedford, and then by a pass through the Bedford Hills to the village of Jamaica; another, central and direct, led through the woody heights to Flatbush; a third, on the right of the lines, passed by Gowanus Cove to the Narrows and Gravesend Bay.
The occupation of this range of hills, and the protec tion of its passes, had been designed by General Greene; but unfortunately, in the midst of his arduous toils, he was taken down by a raging fever, which confined him to his bed; and General Sullivan, just returned from Lake Champlain, had the temporary command.
Washington saw that to prevent the enemy from landing on Long Island would be impossible, its great extent affording so many places favorable for that purpose, and the American works being at the part opposite to New York. "However," writes he to the President of Con
gress, "we shall attempt to harass them as much as possible, which is all that we can do."
On the 21st came a letter, written in all haste by Brigadier-general William Livingston, of New Jersey. Movements of the enemy on Staten Island had been seen from his camp. He had sent over a spy at midnight, who brought back the following intelligence. Twenty thousand men had embarked to make an attack on Long Island, and up the Hudson. Fifteen thousand remained on Staten Island, to attack Bergen Point, Elizabethtown Point, and Amboy. The spy declared that he had heard orders read, and the conversation of the generals. "They appear very determined," added he, "and will put all to the sword!"
Washington sent a copy of the letter to the New York Convention. On the following morning (August 22d) the enemy appeared to be carrying their plans into execution. The reports of cannon and musketry were heard from Long Island, and columns of smoke were descried rising above the groves and orchards at a distance. The city, as usual, was alarmed, and had reason to be so; for word soon came that several thousand men, with artillery and light-horse, were landed at Gravesend ; and that Colonel Hand, stationed there with the Pennsylvania rifle regiment, had retreated to the lines, setting fire to stacks of wheat, and other articles, to keep them from falling into the enemy's hands.
Washington apprehended an attempt of the foe by a
THE ENEMY ON LONG ISLAND.
forced march, to surprise the lines at Brooklyn. He immediately sent over a reinforcement of six battalions. It was all that he could spare, as with the next tide the ships might bring up the residue of the army, and attack the city. Five battalions more, however, were ordered to be ready as a reinforcement, if required. "Be cool, but determined," was the exhortation given to the departing troops. "Do not fire at a distance, but wait the commands of your officers. It is the general's express orders, that if any man attempt to skulk, lie down, or retreat without orders, he be instantly shot down for an example."
In justice to the poor fellows, most of whom were going for the first time on a service of life and death, Washington observes, that "they went off in high spirits," and that the whole capable of duty evinced the same cheerfulness.*
Nine thousand of the enemy had landed, with forty pieces of cannon. Sir Henry Clinton had the chief command, and led the first division. His associate officers were the Earls of Cornwallis and Percy, General Grant, and General Sir William Erskine. As their boats approached the shore Colonel Hand, stationed, as has been said, in the neighborhood with his rifle regiment, retreated to the chain of wooded hills, and took post on a height commanding the central road leading from Flat
* Washington to the President of Congress,
bush. The enemy having landed without opposition, Lord Cornwallis was detached with the reserve to Flatbush, while the rest of the army extended itself from the ferry at the Narrows through Utrecht and Gravesend to the village of Flatland.
Lord Cornwallis, with two battalions of light-infantry, Colonel Donop's corps of Hessians, and six field-pieces, advanced rapidly to seize upon the central pass through the hills. He found Hand and his riflemen ready to make a vigorous defense. This brought him to a halt, having been ordered not to risk an attack should the pass be occupied. He took post for the night, therefore, in the village of Flatbush.
It was evidently the aim of the enemy to force the lines at Brooklyn, and get possession of the heights. Should they succeed, New York would be at their mercy. The panic and distress of the inhabitants went on increasing. Most of those who could afford it, had already removed to the country. There was now a new cause of terror. It was rumored that, should the American army retreat from the city, leave would be given for any one to set it on fire. The New York Convention apprised Washington of this rumor. "I can assure you, gentlemen," writes he in reply, "that this report is not founded on the least authority from me. On the contrary, I am so sensible of the value of such a city, and the consequences of its destruction to many worthy citizens and their families, that nothing but the last necessity, and that such as
WASHINGTON IN BROOKLYN.
would justify me to the whole world, would induce me to give orders to that purpose.'
In this time of general alarm, head-quarters were besieged by applicants for safeguard from the impending danger; and Washington was even beset in his walks by supplicating women with their children. The patriot's heart throbbed feelingly under the soldier's belt. Nothing could surpass the patience and benignant sympathy with which he listened to them, and endeavored to allay their fears. Again he urged the Convention to carry out their measures for the removal of these defenseless beings. "There are many," writes he, "who anxiously wish to remove, but have not the means."
On the 24th he crossed over to Brooklyn, to inspect the lines and reconnoiter the neighborhood. In this visit he felt sensibly the want of General Greene's presence, to explain his plans and point out the localities.
The American advanced posts were in the wooded hills. Colonel Hand, with his riflemen, kept watch over the central road, and a strong redoubt had been thrown up in front of the pass, to check any advance of the enemy from Flatbush. Another road leading from Flatbush to Bedford, by which the enemy might get round to the left of the works at Brooklyn, was guarded by two regiments, one under Colonel Williams, posted on the north side of the ridge, the other by a Pennsylvania rifle regiment, under Colonel Miles, posted on the south side.