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Br. 44.]

INTERVIEWS OF THE HESSIANS WITH WASHINGTON.

three in number, remained in a small chamber in the Ferry House, where, according to their own account, they passed a dismal night; sore at heart that their recent triumphs at White Plains and Fort Washington should be so suddenly eclipsed.

On the following morning they were conducted to Newtown, under the escort of Colonel Weedon. His exterior, writes Lieutenant Piel, spoke but little in his favor, yet he won all our hearts by his kind and friendly conduct. At Newtown the officers were quartered in inns and private houses, the soldiers in the church and jail. The officers paid a visit to Lord Stirling, whom some of them had known from his being captured at Long Island. He received them with great kindness. "Your general, Van Heister," said he, "treated me like a brother when I was a prisoner, and so, gentlemen, will you be treated by me."

"We had scarce seated ourselves," continues Lieutenant Piel, "when a long, meagre, darklooking man, whom we took for the parson of the place, stepped forth and held a discourse in German, in which he endeavored to set forth the justice of the American side in this war. He told us he was a Hanoverian born; called the king of England nothing but the Elector of Hanover, and spoke of him so contemptuously that his garrulity became intolerable. We answered that we had not come to America to inquire which party was in the right; but to fight for the king.

"Lord Stirling, seeing how little we were edified by the preacher, relieved us from him by proposing to take us with him to visit General Washington. The latter received us very courteously, though we understood very little of what he said, as he spoke nothing but English, a language in which none of us at that time were strong. In his aspect shines forth nothing of the great man that he is universally considered. His eyes have scarce any fire. There is, however, a smiling expression on his countenance when he speaks, that wins affection and respect. He invited four of our officers to dine with him; the rest dined with Lord Stirling." One of these officers who dined with the commander-in-chief, was the satirical lieutenant whom we have so often quoted, and who was stationed at the picket on the morning of the attack. However disparagingly he may have thought of his unfortunate commander, he evidently had a very good opinion of himself.

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"General Washington," writes he in his journal, "did me the honor to converse a good deal with me concerning the unfortunate affair. I told him freely my opinion that our dispositions had been bad, otherwise we should not have fallen into his hands. He asked me if I could have made better dispositions, and in what manner? I told him yes; stated all the faults of our arrangements, and showed him how I would have done; and would have managed to come out of the affair with honor." We have no doubt, from the specimens furnished in the lieutenant's journal, that he went largely into his own merits and achievements, and the demerits and shortcomings of his luckless commander. Washington, he added, not only applauded his exposition of what he would have done, but made him a eulogy thereupon, and upon his watchfulness, and the defence he had made with his handful of men when his picket was attacked. Yet according to his own account, in his journal, with all his watchfulness, he came near being caught napping.

"General Washington," continues he, "is a courteous and polite man, but very cautious and reserved; talks little; and has a crafty (listige) physiognomy." We surmise the lieutenant had the most of the talk on that occasion, and that the crafty or sly expression in Washington's physiognomy, may have been a lurking but suppressed smile, provoked by the lieutenant's self-laudation and wordiness.

The Hessian prisoners were subsequently transferred from place to place, until they reached Winchester in the interior of Virginia. Wherever they arrived, people thronged from far and near to see these terrible beings, of whom they had received such formidable accounts; and were surprised and disappointed to find them looking like other men. At first they had to endure the hootings and revilings of the multitude, for having hired themselves out to the trade of blood; and they especially speak of the scoldings they received from old women in the villages, who upbraided them for coming to rob them of their liberty. length," writes the corporal in his journal, "General Washington had written notices put up in town and country, that we were innocent of this war, and had joined in it not of our free will, but through compulsion. We should, therefore, be treated not as enemies, but friends. From this time," adds he, "things went better with us. Every day came many

"At

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EPISODE-FLIGHT OF HESSIANS AND REFUGEES.

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out of the towns, old and young, rich and poor, | again crossed into the Jerseys, and might be and brought us provisions, and treated us with acting offensively. kindness and humanity."*

CHAPTER XLV.

THERE was a kind of episode in the affair at Trenton. Colonel Griffin, who had thrown him

self previously into the Jerseys with his detachment of Pennsylvania militia, found himself, through indisposition and the scanty number of his troops, unable to render efficient service in the proposed attack. He sent word to Cadwalader, therefore, that he should probably render him more real aid by making a demon

stration in front of Donop, and drawing him

off so far into the interior as to be out of the way of rendering support to Colonel Rhal.

He accordingly presented himself in sight of Donop's cantonment on the 25th of December, and succeeded in drawing him out with nearly

his whole force of two thousand men. He then retired slowly before him, skirmishing, but avoiding any thing like an action, until he had lured him as far as Mount Holly; when he left him to find his way back to his post at his leisure.

The cannonade of Washington's attack in Trenton on the morning of the 26th, was distinctly heard at Cadwalader's camp at Bristol. Imperfect tidings of the result reached there about eleven o'clock, and produced the highest

exultation and excitement. Cadwalader made

another attempt to cross the river and join Washington, whom he supposed to be still in the Jerseys, following up the blow he had struck. He could not effect the passage of the river with the most of his troops, until mid'day of the 27th, when he received from Washington a detailed account of his success, and of his having recrossed into Pennsylvania.

Cadwalader was now in a dilemma. Donop, he presumed, was still at Mount Holly, whither Griffin had decoyed him; but he might soon march back. His forces were equal, if not superior in number to his own, and veterans

instead of raw militia. But then there was the glory of rivalling the exploit at Trenton, and the importance of following out the effort for the relief of the Jerseys, and the salvation of

Philadelphia. Besides, Washington, in all probability, after disposing of his prisoners, had

* Tagebuch des corporals Johannes Rouber.-MS.

Reed relieved Cadwalader from his dilemma, by proposing that they should push on to Burlington, and there determine, according to intelligence, whether to proceed to Bordentown or Mount Holly. The plan was adopted. lurked in a neighboring wood. Reed, accomThere was an alarm that the Hessian yagers

panied by two officers, rode in advance to re

connoitre. He sent word to Cadwalader that it was a false alarm, and the latter took up his line of march.

Reed and his companions spurred on to miles from Burlington, but pulled up at the reconnoitre the enemy's outposts, about four

place where the picket was usually stationed. There was no smoke, nor any sign of a human being. They rode up and found the place deserted. From the country people in the Count Donop had returned to his post from neighborhood they received an explanation. the pursuit of Griffin, only in time to hear of the disaster at Trenton. He immediately began a retreat in the utmost panic and confusion, calling in his guards and parties as he hurried forward. The troops in the neighborhood of Burlington had decamped precipitately the preceding evening.

Colonel Reed sent back intelligence of this to Cadwalader, and still pushed on with his companions. As they rode along, they observed the been nailed to the doors; tory signs to insure inhabitants pulling down red rags which had

good-will from the British. Arrived at Bordentown, not an enemy was to be seen; the fugitives from Trenton had spread a panic on the 26th, and the Hessians and their refugee adherents had fled in confusion, leaving their looks of the inhabitants showed what they had sick behind them. The broken and haggard suffered during the Hessian occupation. One who had halted at Burlington, and advised him of Reed's companions returned to Cadwalader, to proceed.

Cadwalader wrote in the night to Washington, informing him of his whereabouts, and that he should march for Bordentown in the morning. If you should think proper to cross

over," added he, "it may easily be effected at the place where we passed; a pursuit would

keep up the panic. They went off with great precipitation, and pressed all the waggons in their reach; I am told many of them are gone to South Amboy. If we can drive them

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ET. 44.] WASHINGTON RECROSSES THE DELAWARE AND FOLLOWS UP HIS BLOW. 321

from West Jersey, the success will raise an | the enemy. They marched into Trenton about army next spring, and establish the credit of the Continental money to support it."

There was another letter from Cadwalader, dated on the following day, from Bordentown. He had eighteen hundred men with him. Five hundred more were on their way to join him. General Mifflin, too, had sent over five hundred from Philadelphia, and three hundred from Burlington, and was to follow with seven or eight hundred more.

Colonel Reed, too, wrote from Trenton on the 28th. He had found that place without a single soldier of either army, and in a still more wretched condition than Bordentown. He urged Washington to recross the river, and pursue the advantages already gained. Donop might be overtaken before he could reach Princeton or Brunswick, where the enemy were yet in force. *

Washington needed no prompting of the kind. Bent upon following up his blow, he had barely allowed his troops a day or two to recover from recent exposure and fatigue, that they might have strength and spirit to pursue the retreating enemy, beat up other of their quarters, and entirely reverse affairs in the Jerseys. In this spirit he had written to Generals McDougall and Maxwell at Morristown, to collect as large a body of militia as possible, and harass the enemy in flank and rear. Heath, also, had been ordered to abandon the Highlands, which there was no need of guarding at this season of the year, and hasten down with the eastern militia, as rapidly as possible, by the way of Hackensack, continuing on until he should send him further orders. "A fair opportunity is offered," said he, "of driving the enemy entirely from the Jerseys, or at least to the extremity of the province."

Men of influence also were despatched by him into different parts of the Jerseys, to spirit up the militia to revenge the oppression, the ravage, and insults they had experienced from the enemy, especially from the Hessians. "If what they have suffered," said he, "does not arouse their resentment, they must not possess the feelings of humanity."

On the 29th, his troops began to cross the river. It would be a slow and difficult operation, owing to the ice; two parties of light troops, therefore, were detached in advance, whom Colonel Reed was to send in pursuit of

Life and Correspondence of Pres. Reed, vol. 1., p. 281.

two o'clock, and were immediately put on the traces of Donop, to hang on his rear and harass him until other troops should come up. Cadwalader also detached a party of riflemen from Bordentown with like orders. Donop, in retreating, had divided his force, sending one part by a cross road to Princeton, and hurrying on with the remainder to Brunswick. Notwithstanding the severity of the weather, and the wretchedness of the road, it was a service of animation and delight to the American troops to hunt back these Hessians through the country they had recently outraged, and over ground which they themselves had trodden so painfully and despondingly, in their retreat. In one instance, the riflemen surprised and captured a party of refugees who lingered in the rear-guard, among whom were several newly-made officers. Never was there a more sudden reversal in the game of war than this retreat of the heavy German veterans, harassed by light parties of a raw militia, which they so lately had driven like chaff before them.

While this was going on, Washington was effecting the passage of his main force to Trenton. He himself had crossed on the 29th of December, but it took two days more to get the troops and artillery over the icy river, and that with great labor and difficulty. And now came a perplexity. With the year expired the term of several regiments, which had seen most service, and become inured to danger. Knowing how indispensable were such troops to lead on those which were raw and undisciplined, Washington had them paraded and invited to re-enlist. It was a difficult task to persuade them. They were haggard with fatigue, and hardship and privation of every kind; and their hearts yearned for home. By the persuasions of their officers, however, and a bounty of ten dollars, the greater proportion of those from the eastward were induced to remain six weeks longer.

Hard money was necessary in this emergency. How was it to be furnished? The military chest was incompetent. On the 30th, Washington wrote by express to Robert Morris, the patriotic financier at Philadelphia, whom he knew to be eager that the blow should be followed up. "If you could possibly collect a sum, if it were but one hundred, or one hundred and fifty pounds, it would be of service."

Morris received the letter in the evening. He was at his wits' end to raise the sum, for

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WASHINGTON MADE MILITARY DICTATOR-HIS CRITICAL SITUATION.

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hard money was scarce. Fortunately a wealthy | enemy, and obtain information. Six of the Quaker, in this moment of exigency, supplied Philadelphia light-horse, spirited young fellows, the sinews of war," and early the next but who had never seen service, volunteered morning the money was forwarded by the ex- to accompany Reed. They patrolled the counpress. try to the very vicinity of Princeton, but could collect no information from the inhabitants; who were harassed, terrified, and bewildered by the ravaging marches to and fro of friend and enemy.

At this critical moment, too, Washington received a letter from a committee of Congress, transmitting him resolves of that body dated the 27th of December, investing him with military powers quite dictatorial. "Happy is it for this country," write the committee, "that the general of their forces can safely be intrusted with the most unlimited power, and neither personal security, liberty, or property, be in the least degree endangered thereby." *

Washington's acknowledgment of this great mark of confidence was noble and characteristic. "I find Congress have done me the honor to intrust me with powers, in my military capacity, of the highest nature and almost unlimited extent. Instead of thinking myself freed from all civil obligations by this mark of their confidence, I shall constantly bear in mind that, as the sword was the last resort for the preservation of our liberties, so it ought to be the first thing laid aside when those liberties are firmly established."

CHAPTER XLVI.

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GENERAL HOWE was taking his ease in winter quarters at New York, waiting for the freezing of the Delaware to pursue his triumphant march to Philadelphia, when tidings were brought him of the surprise and capture of the Hessians at Trenton. "That three old established regiments of a people who made war their profession, should lay down their arms to a ragged and undisciplined militia, and that with scarcely any loss on either side," was a matter of amazement. He instantly stopped Lord Cornwallis, who was on the point of embarking for England, and sent him back in all haste to resume the command in the Jerseys.

Emerging from a wood almost within view of Princeton, they caught sight, from a rising ground, of two or three red coats passing from time to time from a barn to a dwelling-house. Here must be an outpost. Keeping the barn in a line with the house so as to cover their approach, they dashed up to the latter without being discovered, and surrounded it. Twelve British dragoons were within, who, though well armed, were so panic-stricken that they surrendered without making defence. A commissary, also, was taken; the sergeant of the dragoons alone escaped. Colonel Reed and his six cavaliers returned in triumph to head-quarters. Important information was obtained from their prisoners. Lord Cornwallis had joined General Grant the day before at Princeton, with a reinforcement of chosen troops. They had now seven or eight thousand men, and were pressing waggons for a march upon Trenton.*

Cadwalader, stationed at Crosswicks, about seven miles distant, between Bordentown and Trenton, sent intelligence to the same purport, received by him from a young gentleman who had escaped from Princeton.

Word, too, was brought from other quarters, that General Howe was on the march with a thousand light troops, with which he had landed at Amboy.

The situation of Washington was growing critical. The enemy were beginning to advance their large pickets towards Trenton. Every thing indicated an approaching attack. The force with him was small; to retreat across the river, would destroy the dawn of hope awakened in the bosoms of the Jersey militia The ice in the Delaware impeded the cross- by the late exploit; but to make a stand withing of the American troops, and gave the Brit-out reinforcements was impossible. In this ish time to draw in their scattered canton- emergency, he called to his aid General Cadments, and assemble their whole force at walader from Crosswicks, and General Mifflin Princeton. While his troops were yet cross- from Bordentown, with their collective forces, ing, Washington sent out Colonel Reed to amounting to about three thousand six hundred reconnoitre the position and movements of the men. He did it with reluctance, for it seemed

* Am. Archives, 5th Series, iii. 1610.

*Life of Reed, i. 282.

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ET. 45.]

CRITICAL SITUATION OF WASHINGTON.

323

like involving them in the common danger, but | tion from which he could not escape, but where
the exigency of the case admitted of no alterna- he might make a desperate stand; and he was
tive. They promptly answered to his call, and willing to give his wearied troops a night's re-
marching in the night, joined him on the 1st pose to prepare them for the closing struggle.
of January.
He would be sure, he said, to "bag the fox in
the morning."

Washington chose a position for his main body on the east side of the Assunpink. There was a narrow stone bridge across it, where the water was very deep; the same bridge over which part of Rahl's brigade had escaped in the recent affair. He planted his artillery so as to command the bridge and the fords. His advance guard was stationed about three miles off in a wood, having in front a stream called Shabbakong Creek.

Early on the morning of the 2d, came certain word that Cornwallis was approaching with all his force. Strong parties were sent out under General Greene, who skirmished with the enemy, and harassed them in their advance. By twelve o'clock they reached the Shabbakong, and halted for a time on its northern bank. Then crossing it, and moving forward with rapidity, they drove the advance guard out of the woods, and pushed on until they reached a high ground near the town. Here Hand's corps of several battalions was drawn up, and held them for a time in check. All the parties in advance ultimately retreated to the main body, on the east side of the Assunpink, and found some difficulty in crowding across the narrow bridge.

From all these checks and delays, it was nearly sunset before Cornwallis with the head of his army entered Trenton. His rear-guard under General Leslie rested at Maiden Head, about six miles distant, and nearly half way between Trenton and Princeton. Forming his troops into columns, he now made repeated attempts to cross the Assunpink at the bridge and the fords, but was as often repulsed by the artillery. For a part of the time Washington, mounted on a white horse, stationed himself at the south end of the bridge, issuing his orders. Each time the enemy was repulsed there was a shout along the American lines. At length they drew off, came to a halt, and lighted their camp fires. The Americans did the same, using the neighboring fences for the purpose. Sir William Erskine, who was with Cornwallis, urged him, it is said, to attack Washington that evening in his camp; but his lordship declined; he felt sure of the game which had so often escaped him; he had at length, he thought, got Washington into a situa

A cannonade was kept up on both sides until dark; but with little damage to the Americans. When night closed in, the two camps lay in sight of each other's fires, ruminating the bloody action of the following day. It was the most gloomy and anxious night that had yet closed in on the American army, throughout its series of perils and disasters; for there was no concealing the impending danger. But what must have been the feelings of the commander-in-chief, as he anxiously patrolled his camp, and considered his desperate position? A small stream, fordable in several places, was all that separated his raw, inexperienced army, from an enemy vastly superior in numbers and discipline, and stung to action by the mortification of a late defeat. A general action with them must be ruinous; but how was he to retreat? Behind him was the Delaware, impassable from floating ice. Granting even (a thing not to be hoped) that a retreat across it could be effected, the consequences would be equally fatal. The Jerseys would be left in possession of the enemy, endangering the immediate capture of Philadelphia, and sinking the public mind into despondency.

In this darkest of moments a gleam of hope flashed upon his mind: a bold expedient suggested itself. Almost the whole of the enemy's forces must by this time be drawn out of Princeton, and advancing by detachments toward Trenton, while their baggage and principal stores must remain weakly guarded at Brunswick. Was it not possible, by a rapid night-march along the Quaker road, a different road from that on which General Leslie with the rear-guard was resting, to get past that force undiscovered, come by surprise upon those left at Princeton, capture or destroy what stores were left there, and then push on to Brunswick? This would save the army from being cut off; would avoid the appearance of a defeat; and might draw the enemy away from Trenton, while some fortunate stroke might give additional reputation to the American arms. Even should the enemy march on to Philadelphia, it could not in any case be prevented; while a counter-blow in the Jerseys would be of great consolation.

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