Slike strani

ÆT. 47.]



But the gentlemen," adds he, "cannot be | could be offered would have more influence than in earnest; they cannot seriously intend any the former. While, therefore, the gentlemen thing that would be a stain on their former continue in the execution of their duty, as they reputation. They have only reasoned wrong declare themselves heartily disposed to do, I about the means of obtaining a good end; and shall only regret that they have taken a step on consideration, I hope and flatter myself, of which they must hereafter see the improthey will renounce what must appear to be priety." improper. At the opening of a campaign, when under marching orders for an important service, their own honor, duty to the public and to themselves, and a regard to military propriety, will not suffer them to persist in a measure which would be a violation of them all. It will even wound their delicacy, coolly to reflect that they have hazarded a step which has an air of dictating to their country, by taking advantage of the necessity of the moment; for the declaration they have made to the State, at so critical a time, that unless they obtain relief in the short period of three days, they must be considered out of the service, has very much that aspect."

These and other observations of similar purport, were contained in a letter to General Maxwell, their commander, to be laid before the officers. It produced a respectful reply, but one which intimated no disposition to swerve from their determination. After reiterating their grievances, 66 we are sorry," added they, "that you should imagine we meant to disobey orders. It was and is still our determination to march with our regiment, and to do the duty of officers until the Legislature shall have a reasonable time to appoint others, but no longer. We beg leave to assure your Excellency, that we have the highest sense of your ability and virtues; that executing your orders has ever given us pleasure; that we love the service, and love our country;-but when that country gets so lost to virtue and justice, as to forget to support its servants, it then becomes their duty to retire from its service."

A commander of less magnanimity than Washington would have answered this letter by a stern exercise of military rule, and driven the really aggrieved parties to extremity. He nobly contented himself with the following comment on it, forming a paragraph of a letter to General Maxwell. "I am sorry the gentlemen persist in the principles which dictated the step they have taken; as, the more the affair unfolds itself, the more reason I see to disapprove it. But in the present view they have of the matter, and with their present feelings, it is not probable any new argument that

The Legislature of New Jersey imitated the forbearance of Washington. Compounding with their pride, they let the officers know that on their withdrawing the memorial, the subject matter of it would be promptly attended to. It was withdrawn. Resolutions were immediately passed, granting pecuniary supplies to both officers and soldiers. The money was forthwith forwarded to camp, and the brigade marched.

Such was the paternal spirit exercised by Washington, in all the difficulties and discontents of the army. How clearly he understood the genius and circumstances of the people he was called upon to manage; and how truly was he their protector even more than their commander !

We shall briefly dispose of the Indian campaign. The first act was an expedition from Fort Schuyler by Colonel Van Schaick, Lieutenant-Colonel Willett, and Major Cochran, with about six hundred men, who, on the 19th of April, surprised the towns of the Onondagas; destroyed the whole settlement, and returned to the fort without the loss of a single man.

The great expedition of the campaign, however, was in revenge of the massacre of Wyoming. Early in the summer, three thousand men assembled in that lately desolated region, and, conducted by General Sullivan, moved up the west branch of the Susquehanna into the Seneca country. While on the way, they were joined by a part of the western army, under General James Clinton, who had come from the valley of the Mohawk by Otsego lake and the east branch of the Susquehanna. The united forces amounted to about five thousand men, of which Sullivan had the general command.

The Indians, and their allies the tories, had received information of the intended invasion, and appeared in arms to oppose it. They were much inferior in force, however, being about fifteen hundred Indians and two hundred white men, commanded by the two Butlers, Johnson, and Brant. A battle took place at Newtown on the 29th of August, in which they were easily defeated. Sullivan then pushed forward




into the heart of the Indian country, penetrat-visions, naval and military stores, and mering as far as the Genesee River, laying every chandise of all kinds; with numerous vessels, thing waste, setting fire to deserted dwellings, some on the stocks, others richly laden. Wherdestroying corn-fields, orchards, gardens, every ever they went, a scene of plunder, conflagrathing that could give sustenance to man, the tion, and destruction ensued. A few days sufdesign being to starve the Indians out of the ficed to ravage the whole neighborhood. country. The latter retreated before him with their families, and at length took refuge under the protection of the British garrison at Niagara. Having completed his errand, Sullivan returned to Easton in Pennsylvania. The thanks of Congress were voted to him and his army, but he shortly afterward resigned his commission on account of ill health, and retired from the service.

While this was going on at the south, Washington received intelligence of movements at New York and in its vicinity, which made him apprehend an expedition against the Highlands of the Hudson.

Since the loss of Forts Montgomery and Chinton, the main defences of the Highlands had been established at the sudden bend of the river where it winds between West Point and Con

A similar expedition was undertaken by stitution Island. Two opposite forts comColonel Brodhead, from Pittsburg up the Alle-manded this bend, and an iron chain which gany, against the Mingo, Muncey, and Seneca was stretched across it. tribes, with similar results. The wisdom of Washington's policy of carrying the war against the Indians into their country, and conducting it in their own way, was apparent from the general intimidation produced among the tribes by these expeditions, and the subsequent infrequency of their murderous incursions; the instigation of which by the British, had been the most inhuman feature of this war.


THE situation of Sir Henry Clinton must have been mortifying in the extreme to an officer of lofty ambition and generous aims. His force, between sixteen and seventeen thousand strong, was superior in number, discipline, and equipment to that of Washington; yet his instructions confined him to a predatory warfare carried on by attacks and marauds at distant points, harassing, it is true, yet irritating to the country intended to be conciliated, and brutalizing to his own soldiery. Such was the nature of an expedition set on foot against the commerce of the Chesapeake; by which commerce the urmies were supplied and the credit of the government sustained. On the 9th of May, a squadron under Sir George Collier, convoying transports and galleys, with twentyfive hundred men, commanded by General Mathews, entered these waters, took possession of Portsmouth without opposition, sent out armed parties against Norfolk, Suffolk, Gosport, Kemp's Landing, and other neighboring places, where were immense quantities of pro

Washington had projected two works also just below the Highlands, at Stony Point and Verplanck's Point, to serve as outworks of the mountain passes, and to protect King's Ferry, the most direct and convenient communication between the Northern and Middle States.


A small but strong fort had been erected on Verplanck's Point, and was garrisoned by seventy men under Captain Armstrong. more important work was in progress at Stony Point. When completed, these two forts, on opposite promontories, would form as it were the lower gates of the Highlands; miniature Pillars of Hercules, of which Stony Point was the Gibraltar.

To be at hand in case of any real attempt upon the Highlands, Washington drew up with his forces in that direction; moving by the way of Morristown.

An expedition up the Hudson was really the object of Sir Henry Clinton's movements, and for this he was strengthened by the return of Sir George Collier with his marauding ships and forces from Virginia. On the 30th of May, Sir Henry set out on his second grand cruise up the Hudson, with an armament of about seventy sail, great and small, and one hundred and fifty flat boats. Admiral Sir George Collier commanded the armament, and there was a land force of about five thousand men under General Vaughan.

The first aim of Sir Henry was to get possession of Stony and Verplanck's Points; his former expedition had acquainted him with the importance of this pass of the river. On the morning of the 31st, the forces were landed in two divisions, the largest under General

ET. 47.]



Vaughan, on the east side of the river, about | site side of the river, under General Heath,
seven or eight miles below Verplanck's Point; from which fatigue parties crossed daily to
the other, commanded by Sir Henry in person, work on the fortifications.
landed in Haverstraw Bay, about three miles
below Stony Point. There were about thirty
men in the unfinished fort; they abandoned it
on the approach of the enemy, and retreated
into the Highlands, having first set fire to the
block-house. The British took quiet possession
of the fort in the evening; dragged up cannon
and mortars in the night, and at daybreak
opened a furious fire upon Fort Lafayette. It
was cannonaded at the same time by the armed
vessels, and a demonstration was made on it
by the division under General Vaughan. Thus
surrounded, the little garrison of seventy men
was forced to surrender with no other stipula-
tion than safety to their persons and to the
property they had in the fort. Major André
was aide-de-camp to Sir Henry, and signed the
articles of capitulation.

Sir Henry Clinton stationed garrisons in both posts, and set to work with great activity to complete the fortification of Stony Point. His troops remained for several days in two divisions on the opposite sides of the river; the fleet generally fell down a little below King's Ferry; some of the square-rigged vessels, however, with others of a smaller size, and flat-bottomed boats, having troops on board, dropped down Haverstraw Bay, and finally disappeared behind the promontories which advance across the upper part of the Tappan Sea.

Some of the movements of the enemy perplexed Washington exceedingly. He presumed, however, that the main object of Sir Henry was to get possession of West Point, the guardian fortress of the river, and that the capture of Stony and Verplanck's Points were preparatory steps. He would fain have dislodged him from these posts, which cut off all communication by the way of King's Ferry, but they were too strong; he had not the force nor military apparatus necessary. Deferring any attempt on them for the present, he took measures for the protection of West Point. Leaving General Putnam and the main body of the army at Smith's Clove, a mountain pass in the rear of Haverstraw, he removed his head-quarters to New Windsor, to be near West Point in case of need, and to press the completion of its works. General McDougall was transferred to the command of the Point. Three brigades were stationed at different places on the oppo

This strong disposition of the American forces checked Sir Henry's designs against the Highlands, Contenting himself, therefore, for the present, with the acquisition of Stony and Verplanck's Points, he returned to New York; where he soon set on foot a desolating expedition along the seaboard of Connecticut. That State, while it furnished the American armies with provisions and recruits, and infested the sea with privateers, had hitherto experienced nothing of the horrors of war within its borders. Sir Henry, in compliance with his instructions from government, was now about to give it a scourging lesson; and he entertained the hope that, in so doing, he might draw down Washington from his mountain fastnesses, and lay open the Hudson to a successful incursion.

General (late Governor) Tryon, was the officer selected by Sir Henry for this inglorious, but apparently congenial service. About the beginning of July he embarked with two thousand six hundred men, in a fleet of transports and tenders, and was convoyed up the Sound by Sir George Collier with two ships of


On the 5th of July, the troops landed near New Haven, in two divisions, one led by Tryon, the other by Brigadier-General Garth, his lieutenant. They came upon the neighborhood by surprise; yet the militia assembled in haste, and made a resolute though ineffectual opposition. The British captured the town, dismantled the fort, and took or destroyed all the vessels in the harbor; with all the artillery, ammunition, and public stores. Several private houses were plundered; but this, it was said, was done by the soldiery contrary to orders. The enemy, in fact, claimed great credit for lenity in refraining from universal sackage, considering the opposition they had experienced while on the march, and that some of the inhabitants of the town had fired upon them from the windows.

They next proceeded to Fairfield; where, meeting with greater resistance, they thought the moment arrived for a wholesome example of severity. Accordingly, they not merely ravaged and destroyed the public stores and the vessels in the harbor, but laid the town itself in ashes. The exact return of this salutary lesson gives the destruction of ninety-seven dwellinghouses, sixty-seven barns and stables, forty-eight

[ocr errors]
[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

store-houses, three places of worship, a court- | calculated to rend still further asunder the kinhouse, a jail, and two school-houses. dred countries.

The sight of their homes laid desolate, and their dwellings wrapped in flames, only served to exasperate the inhabitants, and produce a more determined opposition to the progress of the destroyers; whereupon the ruthless ravage of the latter increased as they advanced.

Washington, however, was not culpable of the apathy ascribed to him. On hearing of the departure of the expedition to the eastward, and before he was acquainted with its definite object, he detached General Heath, with two brigades of Connecticut militia, to counteract the movements of the enemy. This was all that he could spare from the force stationed for the protection of the Highlands. Any weakening of his posts there might bring the enemy suddenly upon him, such was their facility in

their shipping. Indeed, he had divined that a scheme of the kind was at the bottom of the hostile movement to the eastward.

At Norwalk, where they landed on the 11th of July, they burnt one hundred and thirty dwelling houses, eighty-seven barns, twentytwo store-houses, seventeen shops, four mills, two places of worship, and five vessels which were in the harbor. All this was private prop-moving from one place to another by means of erty, and the loss fell on individuals engaged in the ordinary occupations of life. These acts of devastation were accompanied by atrocities, inevitable where the brutal passions of the soldiery are aroused. They were unprovoked, too, by any unusual acts of hostility, the militia having no time to assemble, excepting in small parties for the defence of their homes and firesides. The loss of the British throughout the whole expedition amounted, according to their own accounts, to twenty killed, ninety-six wounded, and thirty-two missing.

As a kind of counter-check to Sir Henry, ho had for some days been planning the recapture of Stony Point and Fort Lafayette. He had reconnoitred them in person; spies had been thrown into them, and information collected from deserters. Stony Point having been recently strengthened by the British was now the most important. It was a rocky promontory advancing far into the Hudson, which washed three sides of it. A deep morass, covered at high water,

It was intended to crown this grand ravage by a descent on New London, a noted rendez-separated it from the mainland, but at low tide vous of privateers; but as greater opposition was expected there than at either of the other places, the squadron returned to Huntington Bay, on Long Island, to await reinforcements; and Commodore Collier proceeded to Throg's Neck, to confer with Sir Henry Clinton about further operations.

In this conference Sir Henry was assured that the recent expedition was producing the most salutary effects; that the principal inhabitants were incensed at the apathy of Washington in remaining encamped near the Hudson, while their country was ravaged and their homes laid in ashes; that they complained equally of Congress, and talked of withdrawing from it their allegiance, and making terms with the British commanders for themselves; finally, it was urged that the proposed expedition against New London would carry these salutary effects still further, and confirm the inhabitants in the sentiments they were beginning to ex


Such were the delusive representations continually made to the British commanders in the course of this war; or rather, such were the delusions in which they themselves indulged, and which led them to the commission of acts

might be traversed by a narrow causeway and bridge. The promontory was crowned by strong works, furnished with heavy ordnance, commanding the morass and causeway. Lower down were two rows of abatis, and the shore at the foot of the hill could be swept by vessels of war anchored in the river. The garrison was about six hundred strong, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Johnson.

To attempt the surprisal of this isolated post, thus strongly fortified, was a perilous enterprise. General Wayne, Mad Anthony as he was called from his daring valor, was the officer to whom Washington proposed it, and he engaged in it with avidity. According to Washington's plan, it was to be attempted by light-infantry only, at night, and with the utmost secrecy, securing every person they met to prevent discovery. Between one and two hundred chosen men and officers were to make the surprise; preceded by a vanguard of prudent, determined men, well commanded, to remove obstructions, securo sentries, and drive in the guards. The whole were to advance with

posed to Wayne the storming of Stony Point, the reply was, "General, I'll storm h―ll if you will only plan it."

*It is a popular tradition, that when Washington pro

Er. 47.]


fixed bayonets and unloaded muskets; all was to be done with the bayonet. These parties were to be followed by the main body, at a small distance, to support and reinforce them, or to bring them off in case of failure. All were to wear white cockades or feathers, and to have a watchword, so as to be distinguished from the enemy. "The usual time for exploits of this kind," observes Washington, "is a little before day, for which reason a vigilant officer is then more on the watch. I therefore recommend a midnight hour."

On getting possession of Stony Point, Wayne was to turn its guns upon Fort Lafayette, and the shipping. A detachment was to march down from West Point by Peekskill, to the vicinity of Fort Lafayette, and hold itself ready to join in the attack upon it, as soon as the cannonade began from Stony Point.

On the 15th of July, about mid-day, Wayne set out with his light-infantry from Sandy Beach, fourteen miles distant from Stony Point. The roads were rugged, across mountains, morasses, and narrow defiles, in the skirts of the Dunderberg, where frequently it was necessary to proceed in single file. About eight in the evening, they arrived within a mile and a half of the forts, without being discovered. Not a dog barked to give the alarm—all the dogs in the neighborhood had been privately destroyed beforehand. Bringing the men to a halt, Wayne and his principal officers went nearer, and carefully reconnoitred the works and their environs, so as to proceed understandingly and without confusion. Having made their observations they returned to the troops. Midnight, it will be recollected, was the time recommended by Washington for the attack. About halfpast eleven, the whole moved forward, guided by a negro of the neighborhood who had frequently carried in fruit to the garrison, and served the Americans as a spy. He led the way, accompanied by two stout men disguised as farmers. The countersign was given to the first sentinel, posted on high ground west of the morass. While the negro talked with him, the men seized and gagged him. The sentinel posted at the head of the causeway was served in the same manner; so that hitherto no alarm was given. The causeway, however, was overflowed, and it was some time after twelve o'clock before the troops could cross; leaving three hundred men under General Muhlenberg, on the western side of the morass, as a re



At the foot of the promontory, the troops were divided into two columns, for simultaneous attacks on opposite sides of the works. One hundred and fifty volunteers, led by Lieutenant-Colonel Fleury, seconded by Major Posey, formed the vanguard of the right column. One hundred volunteers under Major Stewart, the vanguard of the left. In advance of each was a forlorn hope of twenty men, one led by Lieutenant Gibbon, the other by Lieutenant Knox; it was their desperate duty to remove the abatis. So well had the whole affair been conducted, that the Americans were close upon the outworks before they were discovered. There was then severe skirmishing at the pickets. The Americans used the bayonet; the others discharged their muskets. The reports roused the garrison. Stony Point was instantly in an uproar. The drums beat to arms; every one hurried to his alarm post; the works were hastily manned, and a tremendous fire of grape shot and musketry opened upon the assailants.

The two columns forced their way with the bayonet, at opposite points, surmounting every obstacle. Colonel Fleury was the first to enter the fort and strike the British flag. Major Posey sprang to the ramparts and shouted, "The fort is our own." Wayne, who led the right column, received at the inner abatis a contusion on the head from a musket ball, and would have fallen to the ground, but his two aides-de-camp supported him. Thinking it was a death wound, "Carry me into the fort," said he, "and let me die at the head of my column." He was borne in between his aides, and soon recovered his self-possession. The two columns arrived nearly at the same time, and met in the centre of the works. The garrison surrendered at discretion.

At daybreak, as Washington directed, the guns of the fort were turned on Fort Lafayette and the shipping. The latter cut their cables and dropped down the river. Through a series of blunders, the detachment from West Point, which was to have co-operated, did not arrive in time, and came unprovided with suitable ammunition for their battering artillery. This part of the enterprise, therefore, failed; Fort Lafayette held out.

The storming of Stony Point stands out in high relief as one of the most brilliant achievements of the war. The Americans had effected it without firing a musket. On their part, it was the silent, deadly work of the bayonet; the fierce resistance they met at the outset may

« PrejšnjaNaprej »