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430

PROPOSED ATTACK ON PHILADELPHIA-REED AT HEAD-QUARTERS.

made their appearance. "Had they arrived but ten days sooner," writes Washington to his brother, "it would, I think, have put it in my power to save Fort Mifflin, which defended the chevaux-de-frise, and consequently have rendered Philadelphia a very ineligible situation for the enemy this winter."

The troops arrived in ragged plight, owing to the derangement of the commissariat. A part of Morgan's rifle corps was absolutely unable to take the field for want of shoes, and such was the prevalent want in this particular, that ten dollars reward was offered in general orders for a model of the best substitute for shoes that could be made out of raw hides. The evil which Washington had so anxiously striven to prevent had now been effected. The American vessels stationed in the river had lost all protection. Some of the galleys escaped past the batteries of Philadelphia in a fog and took refuge in the upper part of the Delaware; the rest were set on fire by their crews and abandoned

[1777.

attack upon 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 "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. Wash

The enemy were now in possession of the river, but it was too late in the season to clearington was aware of this prevalent feeling, and away the obstructions, and open a passage for the large ships. All that could be effected at present, was to open a sufficient channel for transports and vessels of easy burden to bring provisions and supplies for the army.

Washington advised the navy board, now that the enemy had the command of the river, to have all the American frigates scuttled and sunk immediately. The board objected to sinking them, but said they should be ballasted and plugged, ready to be sunk in case of attack. Washington warned them that an attack would be sudden so as to get possession of them before they could be sunk or destroyed;-his advise and warning were unheeded; the consequence will hereafter be shown.

CHAPTER XXVII.

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

that it was much wrought on by the intrigues of designing men, and by the sarcasms of the press. He was now reconnoitring 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!"†

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. gathering gloom of a November evening heightened the sadness of this desolation.

The

With an anxious eye Washington scrutinized the enemy's works. They appeared to be exceeding strong. A chain of redoubts extended along the most commanding ground from the Schuylkill to the Delaware. They were framed, planked, and of 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 * Reed to Gates. Gates's Papers. † Reed to President Wharton.

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ET. 45.] THE ENEMY'S WORKS RECONNOITRED-EXPLOIT OF LAFAYETTE. neighborhood, beside forest trees, had been | irksome to the general, whose own judgment 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 sarcasins 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.

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." *

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." +

tion 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.

Had Washington been actuated by mere personal ambition and a passion for military fame, or had he yielded to the goadings of faction Washington had repeatedly written to Conand the press, he might have disregarded the gress in favor of giving the marquis a comloss and hazarded the failure; but his patriot-mand equal to his nominal rank, in consideraism 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 achieveient. "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

*Life and Cor. of Reed, vol. i., p. 841.

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

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MODIFICATION OF THE BOARD OF WAR-EVOLUTIONS AND SKIRMISHES. [1777.

quis to the command of a division in the Con- | it was not for the defeat of Burgoyne, and the tinental army. The division of General Stephen | strong appearances of a European war, our at this time was vacant; that veteran officer, affairs are Fabiused into a very disagreeable who had formerly won honor for himself in posture." * 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.

At this juncture (November 27th), a modification took place in the Board of War, indicative of the influence which was operating in Congress. It was increased from three to five members: General Mifflin, Joseph Trumbull, Richard Peters, Colonel Pickering, and last, though certainly not least, General Gates. Mifflin's resignation of the commission of quartermaster-general had recently been accepted; but that of major-general was continued to him, though without pay, General Gates was appointed president of the board, and the President of Congress was instructed to express to him, in communicating the intelligence, the high sense which that body entertained of his abilities, and peculiar fitness to discharge the duties of that important office, upon the right execution of which the success of the American cause so eminently depended; and to inform him it was their intention to continue his rank as major-general, and that he might officiate at the board or in the field, as occasion might require; furthermore, that he should repair to Congress with all convenient despatch, to enter upon the duties of his appointment. It was evidently the idea of the cabal that Gates was henceforth to be the master spirit of the war. His friend Lovell, chairman of the committee of foreign relations, writes to him on the same day to urge him on. "We want you at different places; but we want you most near Germantown. Good God! What a situation we are in; how different from what might have been justly expected! You will be astonished when you know accurately what numbers have at one time and another been collected near Philadelphia, to wear out stockings, shoes, and breeches. Depend upon it, for every ten soldiers placed under the command of our Fabius, five recruits will be wanted annually during the war. The brave fellows at Fort Mifflin and Red Bank have despaired of succor, and been obliged to quit. The naval departments have fallen into circumstances of seeming disgrace. Come to the Board of War, if only for a short season. * * *

*

If

While busy faction was thus at work, both in and out of Congress, to undermine the fame and authority of Washington, General Howe, according to his own threat, was preparing to "drive him beyond the mountains."

On the 4th of December, Captain Allen McLane, a vigilant officer already mentioned, of the Maryland line, brought word to head-quarters, that an attack was to be made that very night on the camp at White Marsh. Washington made his dispositions to receive the meditated assault, and, in the mean time, detached McLane with one hundred men to reconnoitre. The latter met the van of the enemy about eleven o'clock at night, on the Germantown Road; attacked it at the Three Mile Run, forced it to change its line of march, and hovered about and impeded it throughout the night. About three o'clock in the morning the alarm-gun announced the approach of the enemy. They appeared at daybreak, and encamped on Chestnut Hill, within three miles of Washington's right wing. Brigadier-General James Irvine, with six hundred of the Pennsylvania militia, was sent out to skirmish with their light advanced parties. He encountered them at the foot of the hill, but after a short conflict, in which several were killed and wounded, his troops gave way and filed in all directions, leaving him and four or five of his men wounded on the field, who were taken prisoners.

General Howe passed the day in reconnoitring, and at night changed his ground, and moved to a hill on the left, and within a mile of the American line. It was his wish to have a general action; but to have it on advantageous terms. He had scrutinized Washington's position and pronounced it inaccessible. For three days he manoeuvred to draw him from it, shifting his own position occasionally, but still keeping on advantageous ground. Washington was not to be decoyed. He knew the vast advantages which superior science, discipline, and experience, gave the enemy in open field fight, and remained within his lines. All his best officers approved of his policy. Seyeral sharp skirmishes occurred at Edge Hill and elsewhere, in which Morgan's riflemen and the

* Gates's Papers, N. Y. Hist. Soc. L

PROMOTION OF CONWAY-CONSULTATION ABOUT WINTER-QUARTERS.

ET. 45.] Maryland militia were concerned. There was loss on both sides, but the Americans gave way before a great superiority of numbers.

In one of these skirmishes General Reed had a narrow escape. He was reconnoitring the enemy at Washington's request, when he fell in with some of the Pennsylvania militia who had been scattered, and endeavored to rally and lead them forward. His horse was shot through the head, and came with him to the ground; the enemy's flankers were running to bayonet him, as he was recovering from his fall, when Captain Allen McLane came up in time with his men to drive them off and rescue him. He was conveyed from the field by a light-horseman.*

On the 7th there was every appearance that Howe meditated an attack on the left wing. Washington's heart now beat high, and he prepared for a warm and decisive action. In the course of the day he rode through every brigade, giving directions how the attack was to be met, and exhorting his troops to depend mainly on the bayonet. His men were inspirited by his words, but still more by his looks, so calm and determined; for the soldier regards the demeanor more than the words of his general in the hour of peril.

The day wore away with nothing but skirmishes, in which Morgan's riflemen, and the Maryland militia under Colonel Gist, rendered good service. An attack was expected in the night, or early in the morning; but no attack took place. The spirit manifested by the Americans in their recent contests, had rendered the British commanders cautious.

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their having come out with the determination to fight, it was thought prudent to keep our post upon the hills, near the church. I understand it was resolved, if they did not begin the attack soon, to have fought them at all events, it not being supposed that they could, consistent with their own feelings, have secretly stolen into the city so suddenly after so long gasconading on what they intended to do." *

Here then was another occasion of which the enemies of Washington availed themselves to deride his cautious policy. Yet it was clearly dictated by true wisdom. His heart yearned for a general encounter with the enemy. In his despatch to the President of Congress, he writes, "I sincerely wish that they had made an attack; as the issue, in all probability, from the disposition of our troops and the strong situation of our camp, would have been fortunate and happy. At the same time I must add, that reason, prudence, and every principle of policy, forbade us from quitting our post to attack them. Nothing but success would have justified the measure; and this could not be expected from their position." At this time, one of the earliest measures recommended by the Board of War, and adopted by Congress, showed the increasing influence of the cabal; two inspectors-general were to be appointed for the promotion of discipline and reformation of abuses in the army; and one of the persons chosen for this important office, was Conway, with the rank, too, of major-general! This was tacitly in defiance of the opinion so fully expressed by Washington of the demerits of the man, and the ruinous effects to be apprehended from his promotion

Conway, however, was the secret colleague of Gates, and Gates was now the rising sun.

The next day, in the afternoon, the enemy were again in motion; but instead of advanc-over the heads of brigadiers of superior claims. ing, filed off to the left, halted, and lit up a long string of fires on the heights; behind which they retreated, silently and precipitately, in the night. By the time Washington received intelligence of their movement, they. were in full march by two or three routes for Philadelphia. He immediately detached light parties to fall upon their rear, but they were too far on the way for any but light-horse to overtake them.

Winter had now set in with all its severity. The troops, worn down by long and hard service, had need of repose. Poorly clad, also, and almost destitute of blankets, they required a warmer shelter than mere tents against the inclemencies of the season. The nearest towns which would afford winter-quarters, were Lancaster, York, and Carlisle; but should the army An intelligent observer writes to President retire to either of these, a large and fertile disWharton from the camp: "As all their move-trict would be exposed to be foraged by the ments, added to their repeated declarations foe, and its inhabitants, perhaps, to be draof driving General Washington over the Blue Mountains, were calculated to assure us of

* Life and Cor. of Roed, vol. i., p. 351.

gooned into submission.

* Letter of Elias Boudinot, Commissary of Prisoners, to President Wharton.-Life and Cor. of J. Reed, vol. i., p. 351.

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DREARY MARCH TO VALLEY FORGE—HUTTING.

[1777.

Much anxiety was felt by the Pennsylvania | among the farmers of the neighborhood. AcLegislature on the subject, who were desirous cording to the regulations in the orderly book, that the army should remain in the field. Gen- each hut was to be fourteen feet by sixteen; eral Reed, in a letter to the president of that with walls of logs filled in with clay, six feet body, writes: "A line of winter-quarters has and a half high; the fireplaces were of logs been proposed and supported by some of his plastered; and logs split into rude planks or [Washington's] principal officers; but I believe slabs furnished the roofing. A hut was allotted I may assure you he will not come into it, but to twelve non-commissioned officers and soltake post as near the enemy, and cover as diers. A general officer had a hut to himself. much of the country as the nakedness and The same was allowed to the staff of each briwretched condition of some part of the army gade and regiment, and the field officer of each will admit. To keep the field entirely is im- regiment; and a hut to the commissioned offipracticable, and so you would think if you saw cers of each company. The huts of the solthe plight we were in. You will soon know diery fronted on streets. Those of the officers the plan, and as it has been adopted principally formed a line in the rear, and the encampment upon the opinions of the gentlemen of this gradually assumed the look of a rude military State, I hope it will give satisfaction to you village. and the gentlemen around you. If it is not doing what we would, it is doing what we can; and I must say the general has shown a truly feeling and patriotic respect for us on this occasion, in which you would agree with me, if you knew all the circumstances."

The plan adopted by Washington, after holding a council of war, and weighing the discordant opinions of his officers, was to hut the army for the winter at Valley Forge, in Chester County, on the west side of the Schuylkill, about twenty miles from Philadelphia. Here he would be able to keep a vigilant eye on that city, and at the same time protect a great extent of country.

Sad and dreary was the march to Valley Forge; uncheered by the recollection of any recent triumph, as was the march to winterquarters in the preceding year. Hungry and cold were the poor fellows who had so long been keeping the field; for provisions were scant, clothing worn out, and so badly off were they for shoes, that the footsteps of many might be tracked in blood. Yet at this very time we are told, "hogsheads of shoes, stockings, and clothing, were lying at different places on the roads and in the woods, perishing for want of teams, or of money to pay the teamsters."* Such were the consequences of the derangement of the commissariat.

Arrived at Valley Forge on the 17th, the troops had still to brave the wintry weather in their tents, until they could cut down trees and construct huts for their accommodation. Those who were on the sick list had to seek temporary shelter wherever it could be found,

Gordon's Hist. Am. War, vol. ii., p. 279.

Scarce had the troops been two days employed in these labors when, before daybreak on the 22d, word was brought that a body of the enemy had made a sortie toward Chester, apparently on a foraging expedition. Washington issued orders to Generals Huntington and Varnum, to hold their troops in readiness to march against them. "Fighting will be far preferable to starving," writes Huntington. "My brigade are out of provisions, nor can the commissary obtain any meat. I have used every argument my imagination can invent to make the soldiers easy, but I despair of being able to do it much longer."

"It's a very pleasing circumstance to the division under my command," writes Varnum, "that there is a probability of their marching; three days successively we have been destitute of bread. Two days we have been entirely without meat. The men must be supplied, or they cannot be commanded."

In fact, a dangerous mutiny had broken out among the famishing troops in the preceding night, which their officers had had great difficulty in quelling.

Washington instantly wrote to the President of Congress on the subject. "I do not know from what cause this alarming deficiency, or rather total failure of supplies arises; but unless more vigorous exertions and better regulations take place in that line (the commissaries' department) immediately, the army must dissolve. I have done all in my power by remonstrating, by writing, by ordering the commissaries on this head, from time to time; but without any good effect, or obtaining more than a present scanty relief. Owing to this, the march of the army has been delayed on more

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