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CHAPTER XXVII.

QUESTION OF AN ATTACK ON PHILADELPHIA-GENERAL REED AT HEAD-QUARTERS-ENEMY'S WORKS RECONNOITRED-OPINIONS IN A COUNCIL OF WAR-EXPLOIT OF LAFAYETTE-RECEIVES COMMAND OF A DIVISION-MODIFICATION OF THE BOARD OF WAR-GATES TO PRESIDE-LETTER OF LOVELLSALLY FORTH OF GENERAL HOWE-EVOLUTIONS AND SKIRMISHES-CONWAY INSPECTOR-GENERAL CONSULTATION ABOUT WINTER-QUARTERS-DREARY MARCH TO VALLEY FORGE-HUTTING-WASHINGTON'S VINDICATORY LETTERS-RETROSPECT OF THE YEAR.

On the evening of the 24th of November Washington reconnoitred, carefully and thoughtfully, the lines and defences about Philadelphia, from the opposite side of the Schuylkill. His army was now considerably reinforced; the garrison was weakened by the absence of a large body of troops under Lord Cornwallis in the Jerseys. Some of the general officers thought this an advantageous moment for an attack upen the city. Such was the opinion of Lord Stirling; and especially of General Wayne, Mad Anthony, as he was familiarly called, always eager for some daring enterprise. The recent victory at Saratoga had dazzled the public mind, and produced a general impatience for something equally striking and effective in this quarter. Reed, Washington's former secretary, now a brigadier-general, shared largely in this feeling. He had written a letter to Gates, congratulating him on having

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"reduced his proud and insolent enemy to the necessity of laying his arms at his feet; " assuring him that it would "enroll his name with the happy few who shine in history, not as conquerors, but as distinguished generals. I have for some time," adds he, "volunteered with this army, which, notwithstanding the labors and efforts of its amiable chief, has yet gathered no laurels." *

Reed was actually at head-quarters as a volunteer, again enjoying much of Washington's confidence, and anxious that he should do something to meet the public wishes. Washington was aware of this prevalent feeling, and that it was much wrought on by the intrigues of designing men, and by the sarcasms of the press. He was now reconnnoitring the enemy's works to judge of the policy of the proposed attack. "A vigorous exertion is under consideration," writes Reed; "God grant it may be successful! "+

REED AT HEAD-QUARTERS.

297

Every thing in the neighborhood of the enemy's lines bore traces of the desolating hand of war. Several houses, owned probably by noted patriots, had been demolished; others burnt. Villas stood roofless; their doors and windows, and all the woodwork, had been carried off to make huts for the soldiery. Nothing but bare walls remained. Gardens had been trampled down and destroyed; not a fence nor fruit-tree was to be seen. The gathering gloom of a November evening heightened the sadness of this desolation.

With an anxious eye Washington scrutinized the enemy's works. They appeared to be exceeding strong. A chain of re doubts extended along the most commanding ground from the Schuylkill to the Delaware. They were framed, planked, and of

*Reed to Gates. Gates's Papers. † Reed to President Wharton.
VOL. III.-13*

great thickness, and were surrounded by a deep ditch, enclosed and fraised. The intervals were filled with an abatis, in constructing which all the apple trees of the neighborhood, beside forest trees, had been sacrificed.*

The idea of Lord Stirling and those in favor of an attack, was, that it should be at different points at daylight; the main body to attack the lines to the north of the city, while Greene, embarking his men in boats at Dunk's Ferry, and passing down the Delaware, and Potter, with a body of Continentals and militia, moving down the west side of the Schuylkill, should attack the eastern and western fronts.

Washington saw that there was an opportunity for a brilliant blow, that might satisfy the impatience of the public, and silence the sarcasms of the press; but he saw that it must be struck at the expense of a fearful loss of life.

Returning to camp, he held a council of war of his principal officers, in which the matter was debated at great length and with some warmth; but without coming to a decision. At breaking up, Washington requested that each member of the council would give his opinion the next morning in writing, and he sent off a messenger in the night for the written opinion of General Greene.

Only four members of the council, Stirling, Wayne, Scott and Woodford, were in favor of an attack; of which Lord Stirling drew up the plan. Eleven (including Greene) were against it, objecting, among other things, that the enemy's lines were too strong and too well supported, and their force too numerous, well disciplined and experienced, to be assailed without great loss and the hazard of a failure.

*Life and Cor. of Reed, vol. i. p. 341.

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EXPLOIT OF LAFAYETTE.

299

Had Washington been actuated by mere personal ambition and a passion for military fame, or had he yielded to the goadings of faction and the press, he might have disregarded the loss and hazarded the failure; but his patriotism was superior to his ambition; he shrank from a glory that must be achieved at such a cost, and the idea of an attack was abandoned.

General Reed, in a letter to Thomas Wharton, president of Pennsylvania, endeavors to prevent the cavilling of that functionary and his co-legislators; who, though they had rendered very slender assistance in the campaign, were extremely urgent for some striking achievement. "From my own feelings," writes he, "I can easily judge of yours and the gentlemen round, at the seeming inactivity of this army for so long a time. I know it is peculiarly irksome to the general, whose own judgment led to more vigorous measures; but there has been so great a majority of his officers opposed to every enterprising plan, as fully justifies his conduct." At the same time Reed confesses that he himself concurs with the great majority, who deemed an attack upon Philadelphia too hazardous.

A letter from General Greene received about this time, gave Washington some gratifying intelligence about his youthful friend, the Marquis de Lafayette. Though not quite recovered from the wound received at the battle of Brandywine, he had accompanied General Greene as a volunteer in his expedition into the Jerseys, and had been indulged by him with an opportunity of gratifying his belligerent humor, in a brush with Cornwallis's outposts. "The marquis," writes Greene, "with about four hundred militia and the rifle corps, attacked the enemy's picket last evening, killed about twenty, wounded many more, and took about twenty prisoners. The marquis is charmed with the spirited behavior

of the militia and rifle corps; they drove the enemy above half a mile, and kept the ground until dark. The enemy's picket consisted of about three hundred, and were reinforced during the skirmish. The marquis is determined to be in the way of danger."

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Lafayette himself, at the request of Greene, wrote an animated yet modest account of the affair to Washington. "I wish," observes he, "that this little success of ours may please you, though a very trifling one, I find it very interesting on account of the behavior of our soldiers." t

Washington had repeatedly written to Congress in favor of giving the marquis a command equal to his nominal rank, in consideration of his illustrious and important connections, the attachment he manifested to the cause, and the discretion and good sense he had displayed on various occasions. "I am convinced,” said he, "he possesses a large share of that military ardor which generally characterizes the nobility of his country."

Washington availed himself of the present occasion to support his former recommendations, by transmitting to Congress an account of Lafayette's youthful exploit. He received, in return, an intimation from that body, that it was their pleasure he should appoint the marquis to the command of a division in the Continental army. The division of General Stephen at this time was vacant; that veteran officer, who had formerly won honor for himself in the French war, having been dismissed for misconduct at the battle of Germantown, the result of intemperate habits, into which he unfortunately had fallen. Lafayette was forthwith appointed to the command of that division.

* Washington's Writings. Sparks, vol. v. p. 171.
Memoirs of Lafayette, vol. i. p. 122.

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