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seem to waive the question of independence; | any gentlemen of influence in the colonies upon to decline it, was to shut the door on all hope the terms, but also to effect a lasting peace of conciliation, and might alienate the co-oper- and reunion between the two countries, were ation of some worthy whigs who still clung to the tempers of the colonies such as professed that hope. After much debate, Congress, on in the last petition of Congress to the king." the 5th September, replied, that, being the representatives of the free and independent States of America, they could not send any members to confer with his lordship in their private characters, but that, ever desirous of establishing peace on reasonable terms, they would send a committee of their body to ascertain what authority he had to treat with persons authorized by Congress, and what propositions he had to offer.

A hope of the kind lingered in the breast of his lordship when he sought the proposed conference. It was to take place on the 11th, at a house on Staten Island, opposite to Amboy; at which latter place the veteran Mercer was stationed with his flying camp. At Amboy, the committee found Lord Howe's barge waiting to receive them; with a British officer of rank, who was to remain within the American lines during their absence, as a hostage. This guar

parties crossed together to Staten Island. The admiral met them on their landing, and conducted them through his guards to his house.

A committee was chosen on the 6th of Sep-antee of safety was promptly declined, and the tember, composed of John Adams, Edward Rutledge, and Doctor Franklin. The latter, in the preceding year, during his residence in England, had become acquainted with Lord Howe, at the house of his lordship's sister, the Honorable Mrs. Howe, and they had held frequent conversations on the subject of American affairs, in the course of which, his lordship had intimated the possibility of his being sent commissioner to settle the differences in America.

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On opening the conference, his lordship again intimated that he could not treat with them as a committee of Congress, but only confer with them as private gentlemen of influence in the colonies on the means of restoring peace between the two countries.

The commissioners replied that as their business was to hear, he might consider them in what light he pleased; but that they should consider themselves in no other character than that in which they were placed by order of Congress.

Lord Howe then entered into a discourse of considerable length, but made no explicit proposition of peace, nor promise of redress of grievances, excepting on condition that the colonies should return to their allegiance.

This, the commissioners replied, was not now to be expected. Their repeated humble petitions to the king and parliament having been treated with contempt, and answered by additional injuries, and war having been declared against them, the colonies had declared their independence, and it was not in the power of Congress to agree for them that they should return to their former dependent state.t

I know your great motive in coming hither was the hope of being instrumental in a reconciliation; and I believe that when you find that impossible on any terms given to you to propose, you will relinquish so odious a comHis lordship expressed his sorrow that no mand, and return to a more honorable private accommodation was likely to take place; and, station." on breaking up the conference, assured his old "I can have no difficulty to acknowledge," | friend, Dr. Franklin, that he should suffer great replied Lord Howe, "that the powers I am in- pain in being obliged to distress those for whom vested with were never calculated to negotiate he had so much regard. a reunion with America, under any other description than as subject to the crown of Great Britain. But I do esteem these powers competent, not only to confer and negotiate with

"I feel thankful to your lordship for your regard," replied Franklin good-humoredly;

* Franklin's Writings, v. 103.

Report of the Comm. to Congress., Sept. 13, 1776.

ÆT. 44.]



"the Americans, on their part, will endeavor | discipline, I have never spared the spade and to lessen the pain you may feel, by taking good care of themselves."

The result of this conference had a beneficial effect. It showed that his lordship had no power but what was given by the act of Parliament; and put an end to the popular notion that he was vested with secret powers to nego tiate an adjustment of grievances.


SINCE the retreat from Brooklyn, Washington had narrowly watched the movements of the enemy to discover their further plans. Their whole force, excepting about four thousand men, had been transferred from Staten to Long Island. A great part was encamped on the peninsula between Newtown Inlet and Flushing Bay. A battery had been thrown up near the extremity of the peninsula, to check an American battery at Horen's Hook opposite, and to command the mouth of Harlem River. Troops were subsequently stationed on the islands about Hell Gate. "It is evident," writes Washington, "the enemy mean to enclose us on the island of New York, by taking post in our rear, while the shipping secures the front, and thus by cutting off our communication with the country, oblige us to fight them on their own terms, or surrender at discretion; or by a brilliant stroke endeavor to cut this army in pieces, and secure the collection of arms and stores, which, they well know, we shall not be able soon to replace." *

The question was, how could their plans be most successfully opposed? On every side, he saw a choice of difficulties; every measure was to be formed with some apprehension that all the troops would not do their duty. History, experience, the opinion of able friends in Europe, the fears of the enemy, even the declarations of Congress, all concurred in demonstrating that the war on the American side should be defensive; a war of posts; that, on all occasions, a general action should be avoided, and nothing put at risk unnecessarily. "With these views," said Washington, "and being fully persuaded that it would be presumption to draw out our young troops into open ground against their superiors, both in number and

*Letter to the President of Congress.


In a council of war, held on the 7th of September, the question was discussed, whether the city should be defended or evacuated. All admitted that it would not be tenable, should it be cannonaded and bombarded. Several of the council, among whom was General Putnam, were for a total and immediate removal from the city; urging that one part of the army might be cut off before the other could support it; the extremities being at least sixteen miles apart; and the whole, when collected, being inferior to the enemy. By removing, they would deprive the enemy of the advantage of their ships; they would keep them at bay; put nothing at hazard; keep the army together to be recruited another year, and preserve the unspent stores and the heavy artillery. Washington himself inclined to this opinion. Others, however, were unwilling to abandon a place which had been fortified with great cost and labor, and seemed defensible; and which, by some, had been considered the key to the northern country; it might dispirit the troops, and enfeeble the cause. General Mercer, who was prevented by illness from attending the council, communicated his opinion by letter. "We should keep New York if possible," said he, "as the acquiring of it will give eclat to the arms of Great Britain, afford the soldiers good quarters, and furnish a safe harbor for the fleet."

General Greene, also, being still unwell, conveyed his opinion in a letter to Washington, dated Sept. 5th. He advised that the army should abandon the city and island, and post itself at King's Bridge and along the Westchester shore. That there was no object to be obtained by holding any position below King's Bridge. The enemy might throw troops on Manhattan Island, from their camps on Long Island, and their ships on the Hudson, and form an intrenched line across it, between the city and the middle division of the army, and support the two flanks of the line by their shipping. In such case, it would be necessary to fight them on disadvantageous terms, or submit.

The city and island, he observed, were objects not to be put in competition with the general interests of America. Two-thirds of the city and suburbs belonged to tories, there was no great reason, therefore, to run any considerable risk in its defence. The honor and interests of America required a general and speedy retreat. But as the enemy, once in possession, could



never be dislodged without a superior naval force; as the place would furnish them with excellent winter quarters and barrack room, and an abundant market, he advised to burn both city and suburbs before retreating.*

Well might the poor, harassed citizens feel hysterical, threatened as they were by sea and land, and their very defenders debating the policy of burning their houses over their heads. Fortunately for them, Congress had expressly forbidden that any harm should be done to New York, trusting, that though the enemy might occupy it for a time, it would ultimately be regained.

After much discussion a middle course was adopted. Putnam, with five thousand men, was to be stationed in the city. Heath, with nine thousand, was to keep guard on the upper part of the island, and oppose any attempt of the enemy to land, His troops, among whom were Magaw's, Shee's, Hand's, and Miles's Pennsylvanian battalions, and Haslet's Delaware regiment, were posted about King's Bridge and its vicinity.

The third division, composed principally of militia, was under the command of Generals Greene and Spencer, the former of whom, however, was still unwell. It was stationed about the centre of the island, chiefly along Turtle Bay and Kip's Bay, where strong works had been thrown up, to guard against any landing of troops from the ships or from the encampments on Long Island. It was also to hold itself ready to support either of the other divisions. Washington himself had his head-quarters at a short distance from the city. A resolution of Congress, passed the 10th of September, left the occupation or abandonment of the city entirely at Washington's discretion. Nearly the whole of his officers, too, in a second council of war, retracted their former opinion, and determined that the reinoval of his army was not only prudent, but absolutely necessary. Three members of the council, however, Generals Spencer, Heath, and George Clinton, tenaciously held to the former decision.

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idea of its agitations. "On the 13th of September, just after dinner, three frigates and a forty-gun ship sailed up the East River with a gentle breeze, toward Hell Gate, and kept up an incessant fire, assisted by the cannon at Governor's Island. The batteries of the city returned the ships the like salutation. Three men agape, idle spectators, had the misfortune of being killed by one cannon ball. One shot struck within six feet of General Washington, as he was on horseback, riding into the fort."*

On the 14th, Washington's baggage was removed to King's Bridge, whither head-quarters were to be transferred the same evening; it being clear that the enemy were preparing to encompass him on the island. "It is now a trial of skill whether they will or not," writes Colonel Reed, "and every night we lie down with the most anxious fears for the fate of tomorrow." +

About sunset of the same day, six more ships, two of them men-of-war, passed up the Sound and joined those above. Within half an hour came expresses spurring to head-quarters, one from Mifflin at King's Bridge, the other from Colonel Sargent at Horen's Hook. Three or four thousand of the enemy were crossing at Hell Gate to the islands at the mouth of Harlem River, where numbers were already encamped. An immediate landing at Harlem, or Morrisania, was apprehended. Washington was instantly in the saddle, spurring to Harlem Heights. The night, however, passed away quietly.


In the morning the enemy commenced operations. Three ships-of-war stood up the Hudson, " causing a most tremendous firing, assisted by the cannons of Governor's Island, which firing was returned from the city as well as the scarcity of heavy cannon would allow." ships anchored opposite Bloomingdale, a few miles above the city, and put a stop to the removal by water of stores and provisions to Dobbs' Ferry. About eleven o'clock, the ships in the East River commenced a heavy cannonade upon the breast works between Turtle Bay and the city. At the same time two divisions of the troops encamped on Long Island, one British, under Sir Henry Clinton, and the other Hessian, under Colonel Donop, emerged in

Convinced of the propriety of evacuation, Washington prepared for it by ordering the removal of all stores, excepting such as were in-boats from the deep, woody recesses of Newdispensable for the subsistence of the troops town Inlet, and under cover of the fire from the while they remained. A letter from a Rhode Island officer, on a visit to New York, gives an

Force's Am. Archives, 5th Serice, ii. 182.

Col. Babcock to Gor. Cooke. Am. Archives, 5th Series, ii. 443.

† Recd to Mrs. Reed.

Letter of Col. Babcock to Gov. Cooke.


ships, began to land at two points between | upon the heights, before thus occupied; or had Turtle and Kip's Bays. The breast works were manned by militia who had recently served at Brooklyn. Disheartened by their late defeat, they fled at the first advance of the enemy. Two brigades of Putnam's Connecticut troops (Parsons' and Fellows') which had been sent that morning to support them, caught the panic, and regardless of the commands and entreaties of their officers, joined in the general scamper.

At this moment Washington, who had mounted his horse at the first sound of the cannonade, came galloping to the scene of confusion; riding in among the fugitives, he endeavored to rally and restore them to order. All in vain. At the first appearance of sixty or seventy red coats, they broke again without firing a shot, and fled in headlong terror. Losing all self-command at the sight of such dastardly conduct, he dashed his hat upon the ground in a transport of rage. "Are these the men," exclaimed he, "with whom I am to defend America!" In a paroxysm of passion and despair he snapped his pistols at some of them, threatened others with his sword and was so heedless of his own danger, that he might have fallen into the hands of the enemy, who were not eighty yards distant, had not an aide-de-camp seized the bridle of his horse, and absolutely hurried him away.*

It was one of the rare moments of his life, when the vehement clement of his nature was stirred up from its deep recesses. He soon recovered his self-possession, and took measures against the general peril. The enemy might land another force about Hell Gate, seize upon Harlem Heights, the strong central portion of the island, cut off all retreat of the lower divisions, and effectually sever his army. In all haste, therefore, he sent off an express to the forces encamped above, directing them to secure that position immediately; while another express to Putnam, ordered an immediate retreat from the city to those heights.

It was indeed a perilous moment. Had the enemy followed up their advantage, and seized

* Graydon's Memoirs, Littell's edition, p. 174. General Greene, in a letter to a friend, writes: "We made a mis erable, disorderly retreat from New York, owing to the conduct of the militia, who ran at the appearance of the enemy's advanced guard. Fellows' and Parsons' brigades

ran away from about fifty men, and left his excellency on the ground, within eighty yards of the enemy, so vexed at the infamous conduct of his troops, that he sought death rather than life."

they extended themselves across the island, from the place where they had effected a landing, the result might have been most disastrous to the Americans. Fortunately, they contented themselves for the present with sending a strong detachment down the road along the East River, leading to the city, while the main body, British and Hessians, rested on their arms.

In the mean time, Putnam, on receiving Washington's express, called in his pickets and guards, and abandoned the city in all haste, leaving behind him a largo quantity of provisions and military stores, and most of the heavy cannon. To avoid the enemy he took the Bloomingdale road, though this exposed him to be raked by the enemy's ships anchored in the Hudson. It was a forced march, on a sultry day, under a burning sun, and amid clouds of dust. His army was encumbered with women and children and all kinds of baggage. Many were overcome by fatigue and thirst, some perished by hastily drinking cold water; but Putnam rode backward and forward, hurrying every one on.

Colonel Humphreys, at that time a volunteer in his division, writes: "I had frequent opportunities that day of beholding him, for the purpose of issuing orders and encouraging the troops, flying on his horse covered with foam, wherever his presence was most necessary. Without his extraordinary exertions, the guards must have been inevitably lost, and it is probable the entire corps would have been cut in pieces.

"When we were not far from Bloomingdale, an aide-de-camp came to him at full speed, to inform him that a column of British infantry was descending upon our right. Our rear was soon fired upon, and the colonel of our regiment, whose order was just communicated for the front to file off to the left, was killed upon the spot. With no other loss, we joined the army after dark upon the heights of Harlem."*

Tradition gives a circumstance which favored Putnam's retreat. The British generals, in passing by Murray Hill, the country residence of a patriot of that name who was of the Socicty of Friends, made a halt to seek some refreshment. The proprietor of the house was absent; but his wife set cake and wine before

Peabody, Life of Putnam. Sparks' American Blog., vii. 189.



them in abundance. So grateful were these refreshments in the heat of the day, that they lingered over their wine, quaffing and laughing, and bantering their patriotic hostess about the ludicrous panic and discomfiture of her countrymen. In the mean time, before they were roused from their regale, Putnam and his forces had nearly passed by, within a mile of them. All the loss sustained by him in his perilous retreat, was fifteen killed, and about three hundred taken prisoners. It became, adds the tradition, a common saying among the American officers, that Mrs. Murray saved Putnam's division of the army.*



about a quarter of a mile within the inner line; at a country-seat, the owners of which were absent. It belonged in fact to Colonel Roger Morris, his early companion in arms in Braddock's campaign, and his successful competitor for the hand of Miss Mary Philipse. Morris had remained in America, enjoying the wealth he had acquired by his marriage; but had adhered to the royal party, and was a member of the council of the colony. It is said that at this time he was residing in the Highlands at Beverley, the seat of his brother-in-law, Washington's old friend, Beverley Robinson.*

While thus posted, Washington was incessantly occupied in fortifying the approaches to his camp by redoubts, abatis, and deep intrenchments. "Here," said he, "I should hope the enemy, in case of attack, would meet a de

THE fortified camp, where the main body of feat, if the generality of our troops would be

the army was now assembled, was upon that neck of land several miles long, and for the most part not above a mile wide, which forins the upper part of Manhattan or New York Island. It forms a chain of rocky heights, and is separated from the mainland by Harlem River, a narrow strait, extending from Hell Gate on the Sound, to Spyt den Duivel, a creek or inlet of the Hudson. Fort Washington occupied the crest of one of the rocky heights above mentioned, overlooking the Hudson, and

about two miles north of it was King's Bridge, crossing Spyt den Duivel Creek, and forming at that time the only pass from Manhattan Island to the mainland.

About a mile and a half south of the fort, a double row of lines extended across the neck from Harlem River to the Hudsou. They faced south towards New York, were about a quarter of a mile apart, and were defended by batteries.

have with tolerable bravery; but experience, that it is rather to be wished than expected. to my extreme affliction, has convinced me However, I trust there are many who will act The late disgraceful scene at Kip's Bay was like men worthy of the blessings of freedom." evidently rankling in his mind.

In the course of his rounds of inspection, he was struck with the skill and science displayed in the construction of some of the works, which were thrown up under the direction of a youth

ful captain of artillery. It proved to be the Greene had recommended to his notice. After same young officer, Alexander Hamilton, whom some conversation with him, Washington invited him to his marquee, and thus commenced that intercourse which has indissolubly linked their memories together.

On the morning of the 16th, word was brought to head-quarters that the enemy were advancing in three large columns. There had been so many false reports, that Reed, the adThere were strong advanced posts, about jutunt-general, obtained leave to sally out and two miles south of the outer line; one on the left of Harlem, commanded by General Spen-mounted his horse and rode towards the adascertain the truth. Washington himself soon cer, the other on the right, at what was called McGowan's Pass, commanded by General Putnam. About a mile and a half beyond these posts the British lines extended across the island from Horen's Hook to the Hudson, being a continuous encampment, two miles in length, with both flanks covered by shipping. An open plain intervened between the hostile


Washington had established his head-quarters

Thacher's Military Journal, p. 70.

vanced posts. On arriving there he heard a
brisk firing. It was kept up for a time with
great spirit. There was evidently a sharp con-
flict. At length Reed came galloping back
with information.
the enemy had attacked the most advanced
A strong detachment of
post, which was situated on a hill skirted by a
wood. It had been bravely defended by Lieu-

*The portrait of Miss Mary Philipse is still to be seen in the possession of Frederick Phillips, Esquire, at the Grange, on the Highlands opposite West Point.

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