« PrejšnjaNaprej »
signs of marching; all kept quiet, but lay too compact to be attacked with prudence. He sent repeated messages to Washington, describing the situation of the enemy, and urging him to come on and attack them in their camp. "Their supineness," said he in one of his notes, (( answers every purpose of giving you time to get up if they attempt to move, I shall attack them at all events. * There never was, nor never will be, a finer opportunity of giving the enemy a fatal blow than at present. For God's sake push on as fast as possible."
Again, at a later hour, he writes: "The enemy are very quiet, washing and cooking. I expect General Maxwell on the left flank every moment, and, as I lay on the right, we only want you in their rear to complete Mr. Howe's business. I believe he knows nothing of my situation, as I have taken every precaution to prevent any intelligence getting to him, at the same time keeping a watchful eye on his front, flanks and rear."
His motions, however, had not been so secret as he imagined. He was in a part of the country full of the disaffected, and Sir William had received accurate information of his force and where he was encamped. General Grey, with a strong detachment, was sent to surprise him at night in his lair. Late in the evening, when Wayne had set his pickets and sentinels, and thrown out his patrols, a countryman brought him word of the meditated attack. He doubted the intelligence, but strengthened his pickets and patrols, and ordered his troops to sleep upon their arms.
At eleven o'clock, the pickets were driven in at the point of the bayonet-the enemy were advancing in column. Wayne instantly took post on the right of his position, to cover the retreat of the left, led by Colonel Humpton, the second in com. mand. The latter was tardy, and incautiously paraded his troops
in front of their fires, so as to be in full relief. The enemy rushed on without firing a gun; all was the silent, but deadly work of the bayonet and the cutlass. Nearly three hundred of Humpton's men were killed or wounded, and the rest put to flight. Wayne gave the enemy some well-directed volleys, and then retreating to a small distance, rallied his troops, and prepared for further defence. The British, however, contented themselves with the blow they had given, and retired with very little loss, taking with them between seventy and eighty prisoners, several of them officers, and eight baggage waggons, heavily laden.
General Smallwood, who was to have co-operated with Wayne, was within a mile of him at the time of his attack; and would have hastened to his assistance with his well-known intrepidity; but he had not the corps under his command with which he had formerly distinguished himself, and his raw militia fled in a panic at the first sight of a return party of the enemy.
Wayne was deeply mortified by the result of this affair, and, finding it severely criticised in the army, demanded a courtmartial, which pronounced his conduct every thing that was to be expected from an active, brave, and vigilant officer; whatever blame there was in the matter fell upon his second in command, who, by delay, or misapprehension of orders, and an unskilful position of his troops, had exposed them to be massacred.
On the 21st, Sir William Howe made a rapid march high up the Schuylkill, on the road leading to Reading, as if he intended either to capture the military stores deposited there, or to turn the right of the American army. Washington kept pace with him on the opposite side of the river, up to Pott's Grove, about thirty miles from Philadelphia.
MOVES AND COUNTER-MOVES.
The movement on the part of Howe was a nere feint. No
sooner had he drawn Washington so far up the river, than, by a rapid countermarch on the night of the 22d, he got to the ford below, threw his troops across on the next morning, and pushed for ward for Philadelphia. By the time Washington was apprised of this counter-movement, Howe was too far on his way to be over taken by harassed, barefooted troops, worn out by constant march ing. Feeling the necessity of immediate reinforcements, he wrote on the same day to Putnam at Peekskill: "The situation of our affairs in this quarter calls for every aid and for every effort. I therefore desire that, without a moment's loss of time, you will detach as many effective rank and file, under proper generals and officers, as will make the whole number, including those with General McDougall, amount to twenty-five hundred privates and non-commissioned fit for duty.
"I must urge you, by every motive, to send this detachment without the least possible delay. No considerations are to prevent it. It is our first object to defeat, if possible, the army now opposed to us here."
On the next day (24th) he wrote also to General Gates, "This army has not been able to oppose General Howe's with the success that was wished, and needs a reinforcement. I therefore request, if you have been so fortunate as to oblige General Burgoyne to retreat to Ticonderoga, or if you have not, and circumstances will admit, that you will order Colonel Morgan to join me again with his corps. I sent him up when I thought you materially wanted him; and, if his services can be dispensed with now, you will direct his immediate return.”
Having called a council of officers and taken their opinions, which concurred with his own, Washington determined to remain
some days at Pott's Grove, to give repose to his troops, and await the arrival of reinforcements.
BRITISH ENTER PHILADELPHIA.
Sir William Howe halted at Germantown, within a short distance of Philadelphia, and encamped the main body of his army in and about that village; detaching Lord Cornwallis with a large force and a number of officers of distinction, to take formal possession of the city. That general marched into Philadelphia on the 26th, with a brilliant staff and escort, and followed by splendid legions of British and Hessian grenadiers, long trains of artillery and squadrons of light-dragoons, the finest troops in the army all in their best array; stepping to the swelling music of the band playing God save the King, and presenting with their scarlet uniforms, their glittering arms and flaunting feathers, a striking contrast to the poor patriot troops, who had recently passed through the same streets, weary and way-worn, and happy if they could cover their raggedness with a brown linen huntingfrock, and decorate their caps with a sprig of evergreen.
In this way the British took possession of the city, so long the object of their awkward attempts, and regarded by them as a triumphant acquisition; having been the seat of the general government; the capital of the confederacy. Washington maintained his characteristic equanimity. "This is an event," writes he to Governor Trumbull, "which we have reason to wish had not happened, and which will be attended with several ill consequences; but I hope it will not be so detrimental as many appre hend, and that a little time and perseverance will give us some favorable opportunity of recovering our loss, and of putting our affairs in a more flourishing condition."
He had heard of the prosperous situation of affairs in the Northern Department, and the repeated checks given to the
enemy. "I flatter myself," writes he, "we shall soon hear that they have been succeeded by other fortunate and interesting events, as the two armies, by General Gates's letter, were encamped near each other."
We will now revert to the course of the campaign in that quarter, the success of which he trusted would have a beneficial influence on the operations in which he was personally engaged. Indeed the operations in the Northern Department formed, as we have shown, but a part of his general scheme, and were constantly present to his thoughts. His generals had each his own individ ual enterprise, or his own department to think about; Washing ton had to think for the whole.