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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 would justify me to the whole world, would induce me to give orders to that purpose."


On returning to the city, therefore, Washington gave the command on Long Island to General Putnam, warning him, however, in his letter of instructions, to summon the officers together, and enjoin them to put a stop to the irregularities which he had observed among the troops. Lines of defence were to be formed round the encampment, and works on the most advantageous ground. Guards were to be stationed on the lines, with a brigadier of the

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 wo-day constantly at hand to see that orders were men 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 defenceless 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 reconnoitre the neighborhood. In this visit he felt sensibly the want of General Greene's presence, to explain his plans and point out the localities.

executed. Field-officers were to go the rounds and report the situation of the guards, and no one was to pass beyond the lines without a special permit in writing. At the same time, partisan and scouting parties, under proper officers, and with regular license, might sally forth to harass the enemy, and prevent their carrying off the horses and cattle of the country people.

Especial attention was called to the wooded hills between the works and the enemy's camp. The passes through them were to be secured by abatis, and defended by the best troops, who should, at all hazards, prevent the approach of the enemy. The militia being the least tutored and experienced, might man the interior works.

Putnam crossed with alacrity to his post. "He was made happy," writes Colonel Reed, "by obtaining leave to go over. The brave old man was quite miserable at being kept here."

In the mean time, the enemy were augmenting their forces on the island. Two brigades of Hessians, under Lieutenant-General De Heister, were transferred from the camp on Staten Island on the 25th. This movement did not escape the vigilant eye of Washington. By the aid of his telescope, he had noticed that

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. The enemy was stretched along the country beyond the chain of hills. As yet, nothing had taken place but skirmish-from time to time tents were struck on Staten ing and irregular firing between the outposts. It was with deep concern Washington noticed a prevalent disorder and confusion in the camp. There was a want of system among the officers, and co-operation among the troops, each corps seeming to act independently of the rest. Few of the men had any military experience, cxcept, perchance, in bush-fighting with the Indians. Unaccustomed to discipline and the restraint of camps, they sallied forth whenever they pleased, singly or in squads, prowling about and firing upon the enemy, like hunters

Island, and portions of the encampment broken up; while ship after ship weighed anchor, and dropped down to the Narrows.

He now concluded that the enemy were about to make a push with their main force for the possession of Brooklyn Heights. He accordingly sent over additional reinforcements, and among them Colonel John Haslet's wellequipped and well-disciplined Delaware regiment; which was joined to Lord Stirling's brigade, chiefly composed of Southern troops, and stationed outside of the lines. These were after game. troops which Washington regarded with pecuMuch of this was no doubt owing to the pro- liar satisfaction, on account of their soldier-like tracted illness of General Greene.

appearance and discipline.

ET. 44.]



On the 26th, he crossed over to Brooklyn, | adiers, artillery, and light dragoons, forming accompanied by Reed, the adjutant-general. the centre. Lord Cornwallis brought up the There was much movement among the enemy's rear-guard with the heavy ordnance. General troops, and their number was evidently aug-Howe accompanied this division.

It was a silent march, without beat of drum or sound of trumpet, under guidance of a Long Island tory, along by-roads traversing a swamp by a narrow causeway, and so across the country to the Jamaica road. About two hours before daybreak, they arrived within half a

mented. In fact, General De Heister had
reached Flatbush with his Hessians, and taken
command of the centre; whereupon Sir Henry
Clinton, with the right wing, drew off to Flat-
lands, in a diagonal line to the right of De
Heister, while the left wing, commanded by
General Grant, extended to the place of land-mile of the pass through the Bedford Hills, and
ing on Gravesend Bay.

halted to prepare for an attack. At this junc-
Washington remained all day, aiding General ture they captured an American patrol, and
Putnam with his counsels, who, new to the learnt, to their surprise, that the Bedford pass
command, had not been able to make himself
was unoccupied. In fact, the whole road be-
well acquainted with the fortified posts be-yond Bedford, leading to Jamaica, had been
yond the lines. In the evening, Washington left unguarded, excepting by some light volun-
returned to the city, full of anxious thought. teer troops. Colonels Williams and Miles, who
A general attack was evidently at hand. Where
would it be made? How would his inexpe-
rienced troops stand the encounter? What
would be the defence of the city, if assailed by
the ships? It was a night of intense solicitude,
and well might it be; for during that night a
plan was carried into effect, fraught with dis-
aster to the Americans.

The plan to which we allude was concerted by General Howe, the commander-in-chief. Sir Henry Clinton, with the vanguard, composed of the choicest troops, was, by a circuitous march in the night, to throw himself into the road leading from Jamaica to Bedford, seize upon a pass through the Bedford Hills, within three miles of that village, and thus turn the left of the American advanced posts. It was preparatory to this nocturnal march that Sir Henry during the day had fallen back with his troops from Flatbush to Flatlands, and caused that stir and movement which had attracted the notice of Washington.

were stationed to the left of Colonel Hand,
among the wooded hills, had been instructed
to send out parties occasionally to patrol the
road, but no troops had been stationed at the
Bedford pass. The road and pass may not
have been included in General Greene's plan
of defence, or may have been thought too far
out of the way to need special precaution.
The neglect of them, however, proved fatal.

Sir Henry Clinton immediately detached a
battalion of light infantry to secure the pass;
and, advancing with his corps at the first break
of day, possessed himself of the heights. He
was now within three miles of Bedford, and
his march had been undiscovered. Having
passed the heights, therefore, he halted his
division for the soldiers to take some refresh-
ment, preparatory to the morning's hostilities.

There we will leave them, while we note how the other divisions performed their part of the plan.

About midnight General Grant moved from To divert the attention of the Americans Gravesend Bay, with the left wing, composed from this stealthy march on their left, General of two brigades and a regiment of regulars, a Grant was to menace their right flank toward battalion of New York loyalists, and ten fieldGravesend before daybreak, and General De pieces. He proceeded along the road leading Heister to cannonade their centre, where Col- past the Narrows and Gowanus Cove, toward onel Hand was stationed. Neither, however, the right of the American works. A picket was to press an attack until the guns of Sir guard of Pennsylvanian and New York militia, Henry Clinton should give notice that he had under Colonel Atlee, retired before him fighteffected his purpose, and turned the left flanking to a position on the skirts of the wooded of the Americans; then the latter were to be hills. assailed at all points with the utmost vigor.

About nine o'clock in the evening of the 26th, Sir Henry Clinton began his march from Flatlands with his vanguard, composed of light infantry. Lord Percy followed with the gren

In the mean time, scouts had brought in word to the American lines that the enemy were approaching in force upon the right. General Putnam instantly ordered Lord Stirling to hasten with the two regiments nearest at

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rode forth to Colonel Hand's post to reconnoitre. De Heister, however, according to the plan of operations, did not advance from Flatbush, but kept up a brisk fire from his artillery on the redoubt in front of the pass, which replied as briskly. At the same time, a cannonade from a British ship upon the battery at Red Hook, contributed to distract the attention of the Americans.

hand, and hold them in check. These were at the pass of the wooded hills, where Hand and Haslet's Delaware, and Smallwood's Maryland his riflemen were stationed. On hearing this, regiments; the latter the macaronis, in scarlet | General Sullivan, who was within the lines, and buff, who had outshone, in camp, their yeoman fellow-soldiers in homespun. They turned out with great alacrity, and Stirling pushed forward with them on the road toward the Narrows. By the time he had passed Gowanus Cove, daylight began to appear. Here, on a rising ground, he met Colonel Atlee with his Pennsylvania Provincials, and learned that the enemy were near. Indeed, their front began to appear in the uncertain twilight. Stirling ordered Atlee to place himself in ambush in an orchard on the left of the road, and await their coming up, while he formed the Delaware and Maryland regiments along a ridge from the road, up to a piece of woods on the top of the hill.

Atlee gave the enemy two or three volleys as they approached, and then retreated and formed in the wood on Lord Stirling's left. By this time his lordship was reinforced by Kichline's riflemen, part of whom he placed along a hedge at the foot of the hill, and part in front of the wood. General Grant threw his light troops in the advance, and posted them in an orchard and behind hedges, extending in front of the Americans, and about one hundred and fifty yards distant.

It was now broad daylight. A rattling fire commenced between the British light troops and the American riflemen, which continued for about two hours, when the former retired to their main body. In the mean time, Stirling's position had been strengthened by the arrival of Captain Carpenter with two fieldpieces. These were placed on the side of the hill, so as to command the road and the approach for some hundred yards. General Grant, likewise, brought up his artillery within three hundred yards, and formed his brigades on opposite hills, about six hundred yards distant. There was occasional cannonading on both sides, but neither party sought a general action.

Lord Stirling's object was merely to hold the enemy in check; and the instructions of General Grant, as we have shown, were not to press an attack until aware that Sir Henry Clinton was on the left flank of the Ameri


During this time, De Heister had commenced his part of the plan by opening a cannonade from his camp at Flatbush, upon the redoubt,

In the mean time terror reigned in New York. The volleying of musketry and the booming of cannon at early dawn, had told of the fighting that had commenced. As the morning advanced, and platoon firing and the occasional discharge of a field-piece were heard in different directions, the terror increased. Washington was still in doubt whether this was but a part of a general attack, in which the city was to be included. Five ships of the line were endeavoring to beat up the bay. Were they to cannonade the city, or to land troops above it? Fortunately, a strong head-wind baffled their efforts; but one vessel of inferior force got up far enough to open the fire already mentioned upon the fort at Red Hook.

Seeing no likelihood of an immediate attack upon the city, Washington hastened over to Brooklyn in his barge, and galloped up to the works. He arrived there in time to witness the catastrophe for which all the movements of the enemy had been concerted.

The thundering of artillery in the direction of Bedford, had given notice that Sir Henry had turned the left of the Americans. De Heister immediately ordered Colonel Count Donop to advance with his Hessian regiment, and storm the redoubt, while he followed with his whole division. Sullivan did not remain to defend the redoubt. Sir Henry's cannon had apprised him of the fatal truth, that his flank was turned, and he in danger of being surrounded. He ordered a retreat to the lines, but it was already too late. Scarce had he descended from the height, and emerged into the plain, when he was met by the British light infantry and dragoons, and driven back into the woods. By this time De Heister and his Hessians had come up, and now commenced a scene of confusion, consternation, and slaughter, in which the troops under Williams and Miles were involved. Hemmed in and entrapped between the British and Hes

ET. 44.]


sians, and driven from one to the other, the Americans fought for a time bravely, or rather desperately. Some were cut down and trampled by the cavalry, others bayoneted without mercy by the Hessians. Some rallied in groups, and made a brief stand with their rifles from rocks or behind trees. The whole pass was a scene of carnage, resounding with the clash of ́arms, the tramp of horses, the volleying of fire-arms, and the cries of the combatants, with now and then the dreary braying of the trumpet. We give the words of one who mingled in the fight, and whom we have heard speak with horror of the sanguinary fury with which the Hessians plied the bayonet. At length some of the Americans, by a desperate effort, cut their way through the host of foes, and effected a retreat to the lines, fighting as they went. Others took refuge among the woods and fastnesses of the hills, but a great part were either killed or taken prisoners. Among the latter was General Sullivan.

Washington, as we have observed, arrived in time to witness this catastrophe, but was unable to prevent it. He had heard the din of the battle in the woods, and seen the smoke rising from among the trees; but a deep column of the enemy was descending from the hills on the left; his choicest troops were all in action, and he had none but militia to man the works. His solicitude was now awakened for the safety of Lord Stirling and his corps, who had been all the morning exchanging cannonades with General Grant. The forbearance of the latter in not advancing, though so superior in force, had been misinterpreted by the Americans. According to Colonel Haslet's statement, the Delawares and Marylanders, drawn up on the side of the hill, "stood upwards of four hours, with a firm and determined countenance, in close array, their colors flying, the enemy's artillery playing on them all the while, not daring to advance and attack them, though six times their number, and nearly surrounding them."* Washington saw the danger to which these brave fellows were exposed, though they could not. Stationed on a hill within the lines, he commanded, with his telescope, a view of the whole field, and saw the enemy's reserve, under Cornwallis, marching down by a crossroad to get in their rear, and thus place them between two fires. With breathless anxiety he watched the result.

* Atlee to Col. Rodney. Sparks, iv. 516.


The sound of Sir Henry Clinton's cannon apprised Stirling that the enemy was between him and the lines. General Grant, too, aware that the time had come for earnest action, was closing up, and had already taken Colonel Atlee prisoner. His lordship now thought to effect a circuitous retreat to the lines, by crossing the creek which empties into Gowanus Cove, near what was called the Yellow Mills. There was a bridge and mill-dam, and the creek might be forded at low water, but no time was to be lost, for the tide was rising.

Leaving part of his men to keep face toward General Grant, Stirling advanced with the rest to pass the creek, but was suddenly checked by the appearance of Cornwallis and his grenadiers.

Washington, and some of his officers on the hill, who watched every movement, had supposed that Stirling and his troops, finding the case desperate, would surrender in a body, without firing. On the contrary, his lordship boldly attacked Cornwallis with half of Smallwood's battalion, while the rest of his troops retreated across the creek. Washington wrung his hands in agony at the sight. "Good God!" cried he, "what brave fellows I must this day lose!"*

It was, indeed, a desperate fight; and now Smallwood's macaronis showed their game spirit. They were repeatedly broken, but as often rallied, and renewed the fight. "We were on the point of driving Lord Cornwallis from his station," writes Lord Stirling, "but large reinforcements arriving, rendered it impossible to do more than provide for safety."

"Being thus surrounded, and no probability of a reinforcement," writes a Maryland officer, "his lordship ordered me to retreat with the remaining part of our men, and force our way to our camp. We soon fell in with a party of the enemy, who clubbed their firelocks, and waved their hats as if they meant to surrender as prisoners; but on our advancing within sixty yards, they presented their pieces and fired, which we returned with so much warmth that they soon quitted their post, and retired to a large body that was lying in ambuscade."†

The enemy rallied, and returned to the combat with additional force. Only five companies of Smallwood's battalion were now in action. There was a warm and close engagement for

* Letter from an American officer. Am. Archives, 5th Series, ii. 108.

† Letter from a Marylander. Idem, 5th Series, 1. 1232.




nearly ten minutes. The struggle became des- | some measure, to the doubt in which Washingperate on the part of the Americans. Broken ton was kept as to the nature of the intended and disordered, they rallied in a piece of woods, attack, and at what point it would chiefly be and made a second attack. They were again made. This obliged him to keep a great part overpowered with numbers. Some were sur- of his forces in New York, and to distribute rounded and bayoneted in a field of Indian those at Brooklyn over a wide extent of councorn; others joined their comrades who were try, and at widely distant places. In fact, he retreating across the marsh. Lord Stirling had knew not the superior number of the enemy encouraged and animated his young soldiers by encamped on Long Island, a majority of them his voice and example, but when all was lost, having been furtively landed in the night, he sought out General De Heister, and sur- some days after the debarkation of the first rendered himself as his prisoner. division.

More than two hundred and fifty brave fellows, most of them of Smallwood's regiment, perished in this deadly struggle, within sight of the lines of Brooklyn. That part of the Delaware troops who had first crossed the creek and swamp, made good their retreat to the lines with a trifling loss, and entered the camp covered with mud and drenched with water, but bringing with them twenty-three prisoners, and their standard tattered by grapeshot.

Much of the day's disaster has been attributed, also, to a confusion in the command, caused by the illness of General Greene. Putnam, who had supplied his place in the emergency after the enemy had landed, had not time to make himself acquainted with the post, and the surrounding country. Sullivan, though in his letters he professes to have considered himself subordinate to General Putnam within the lines, seems still to have exercised somewhat of an independent command, and to have acted at his own discretion while Lord Stirling was said to have command of all the troops outside of the works.

The enemy now concentrated their forces within a few hundred yards of the redoubts. The grenadiers were within musket shot. Washington expected they would storm the The fatal error, however, and one probably works, and prepared for a desperate defence. arising from all these causes, consisted in leavThe discharge of a cannon and volleys of mus-ing the passes through the wooded hills too ketry from the part of the lines nearest to weakly fortified and guarded; and especially them, seemed to bring them to a pause.

It was, in truth, the forbearance of the British commander that prevented a bloody conflict. His troops, heated with action and flushed with success, were eager to storm the works; but he was unwilling to risk the loss of life that must attend an assault, when the object might be attained at a cheaper rate, by regular approaches. Checking the ardor of his men, therefore, though with some difficulty, he drew them off to a hollow way, in front of the lines, but out of reach of the musketry, and encamped there for the night.*

The loss of the Americans in this disastrous battle has been variously stated, but is thought in killed, wounded, and prisoners to have been nearly two thousand; a large number, considering that not above five thousand were engaged. The enemy acknowledged a loss of 880 killed and wounded.t

in neglecting the eastern road, by which Sir Henry Clinton got in the rear of the advanced troops, cut them off from the lines, and subjected them to a cross fire of his own men and De Heister's Hessians.

This able and fatal scheme of the enemy might have been thwarted, had the army been provided with a few troops of light-horse, to serve as videttes. With these to scour the roads and bring intelligence, the night march of Sir Henry Clinton, so decisive of the fortunes of the day, could hardly have failed to be discovered and reported. The Connecticut horsemen, therefore, ridiculed by the Southerners for their homely equipments, sneered at as useless, and dismissed for standing on their dignity and privileges as troopers, might, if retained, have saved the army from being surprised and severed, its advanced guards routed, and those very Southern troops out up, cap

The success of the enemy was attributed, in tured, and almost annihilated.

General Howe to Lord G. Germaine. Remembrancer,

iil. 347.

† Howe states the prisoners at 1094, and computos the whole American loss at 3,300.

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