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ET. 44.]

RECONNOITRING-THE AFFAIR AT CHATTERTON'S HILL.

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the ground we ought to occupy.' "Let us go, then, and view it," replied Washington. They were gently riding in that direction, when a trooper came spurring up his panting horse. "The British are in the camp, sir!" cried he. "Then, gentlemen," said Washington, "we have other business to attend to than reconnoitring." Putting spurs to his horse, he set off for the camp at full gallop, the others spurring after him.

Arrived at head-quarters, he was informed by Adjutant-General Reed, that the picket guards had all been driven in, and the enemy were advancing: but that the whole American army was posted in order of battle. "Gentlemen," said Washington, turning calmly to his companions, "you will return to your respective posts, and do the best you can.

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Apprehensive that the enemy might attempt to get possession of Chatterton's Hill, he detached Colonel Haslet with his Delaware regiment, to reinforce the militia posted there. To these he soon added General McDougall's brigade, composed of Smallwood's Marylanders, Ritzema's New Yorkers, and two other regiments. These were much reduced by sickness and absence. General McDougall had command of the whole force upon the hill, which did not exceed 1,600 men.

These dispositions were scarcely made, when the enemy appeared glistening on the high grounds beyond the village of White Plains. They advanced in two columns, the right commanded by Sir Henry Clinton, the left by the Hessian general, De Heister. There was also a troop of horse; so formidable in the inexperienced eyes of the Americans. "It was a brilliant but formidable sight," writes Heath | in his Memoirs. "The sun shone bright, their arms glittered; and perhaps troops never were shown to more advantage."

For a time they halted in a wheat field, behind a rising ground, and the general officers rode up in the centre to hold a consultation. Washington supposed they were preparing to attack him in front, and such indeed was their intention; but the commanding height of Chatterton's Hill had caught Sir William's eye, and he determined first to get possession of it.

Colonel Rahl was accordingly detached with a brigade of Hessians, to make a circuit southwardly round a piece of wood, cross the Bronx about a quarter of a mile below, and ascend the south side of the hill; while General Leslie,

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with a large force, British and Hessian, should advance directly in front, throw a bridge across the stream, and charge up the hill.

A furious cannonade was now opened by the British from fifteen or twenty pieces of artillery, placed on high ground opposite the hill; under cover of which the troops of General Leslie hastened to construct the bridge. In so doing, they were severely galled by two field-pieces, planted on a ledge of rock on Chatterton's Hill, and in charge of Alexander Hamilton, the youthful captain of artillery. Smallwood's Maryland battalion, also, kept up a sharp fire of small arms.

As soon as the bridge was finished, the British and Hessians under Leslie rushed over it, formed, and charged up the hill to take Hamilton's two field-pieces. Three times the two field-pieces were discharged, ploughing the ascending columns from hill-top to river; while Smallwood's "blue and buff" Marylanders kept up their volleys of musketry.

In the mean time, Rahl and his Hessian brigade forded the Bronx lower down, pushed up the south side of the hill, and endeavored to turn McDougall's right flank. The militia gave the general but little support. They had been dismayed at the opening of the engagement by a shot from a British cannon, which wounded one of them in the thigh, and nearly put the whole to flight. It was with the utmost difficulty McDougall had rallied them, and posted them behind a stone wall. Here they did some service, until a troop of British cavalry, having gained the crest of the hill, came on, brandishing their sabres. At their first charge the militia gave a random, scattering fire, then broke, and fled in complete confusion.

A brave stand was made on the summit of the hill by Haslet, Ritzema, and Smallwood, with their troops. Twice they repulsed horse and foot, British and Hessians, until, cramped for room and greatly outnumbered, they slowly and sullenly retreated down the north side of the hill, where there was a bridge across the Bronx. Smallwood remained upon the ground for some time after the retreat had begun, and received two flesh wounds, one in the hip, the other through the arm. At the bridge over the Bronx, the retreating troops were met by General Putnain, who was coming to their assistance with Beall's brigade. In the rear of this they marched back into the camp.

The loss on both sides, in this short but severe action, was nearly equal. That of the

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288 CHANGE OF POSITION-CONTRAST IN THE APPEARANCE OF THE TROOPS. [1770.

Americans was between three and four hundred men, killed, wounded, and taken prisoners. At first it was thought to be much more, many of the militia and a few of the regulars being counted as lost, who had scattered themselves among the hills, but afterwards returned to head-quarters.

The British army now rested with their left wing on the hill they had just taken, and which they were busy intrenching. They were extending their right wing to the left of the American lines, so that their two wings and centre formed nearly a semicircle. It was evidently their design to outflank the American camp, and get in the rear of it. The day, however, being far advanced, was suffered to pass without any further attack; but the morrow was looked forward to for a deadly conflict. Washington availed himself of this interval to have the sick and wounded, and as much of the stores as possible, removed from the camp. "The two armies," says General Heath in his Memoirs, "lay looking at each other, within long cannon shot. In the night time the British lighted up a vast number of fires, the weather growing pretty cold. These fires, some on the level ground, some at the foot of the hills, and at all distances to their brows, some of which were lofty, seemed to the eye to mix with the stars. The American side doubtless exhibited to them a similar appearance."

During this anxious night, Washington was assiduously occupied throwing back his right wing to a stronger ground; doubling his intrenchments and constructing three redoubts, with a line in front, on the summit of his post. These works were principally intended for defence against small arms, and were thrown up with a rapidity that to the enemy must have savored of magic. They were, in fact, made of the stalks of Indian corn or maize taken from a neighboring corn-field, and pulled up with the earth clinging in masses to the large roots. "The roots of the stalks," says Heath, "and earth on them placed in the face of the works, answered the purpose of sods and fascines. The tops being placed inwards, as the loose earth was thrown upon them, became as so many trees to the work, which was carried up with a despatch scarcely conceivable."

In the morning of the 29th, when Howe beheld how greatly Washington had improved his position and strengthened it, by what appeared to be solidly constructed works, he postponed his meditated assault, ordered up

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Lord Percy from Harlem with the fourth brigade and two battalions of the sixth, and proceeded to throw up lines and redoubts in front of the American camp, as if preparing to cannonade it. As the enemy was endeavoring to outflank him, especially on his right wing, Washington apprehended one of their objects might be to advance a part of their force, and seize on Pine's Bridge over Croton River, which would cut off his communication with the upper country. General Beall, with three Maryland regiments, was sent off with all expedition to secure that pass. It was Washington's idea that, having possession of Croton River and the passes in the Highlands, his army would be safe from further pursuit, and have time to repose after its late excessive fatigue, and would be fresh, and ready to harass the enemy should they think fit to winter up the country.

At present nothing could exceed the warworn condition of the troops, unseasoned as they were to this kind of service. A scornful letter, written at this time by a British officer, to his friend in London, gives a picture of the ragged plight to which they were reduced, in this rainy and inclement season. "The rebel army are in so wretched a condition, as to clothing and accoutrements, that I believe no nation ever saw such a set of tatterdemalions. There are few coats among them but what are out at elbows, and in a whole regiment there is scarce a pair of breeches. Judge, then, how they must be pinched by a winter's campaign. We, who are warmly clothed and well equipped, already feel it severely; for it is even now much colder than I ever felt it in England."

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Alas for the poor half-naked, weather-beaten patriots, who had to cope with these well-fed, well-clad, well-appointed mercenaries! ter written at the very same date (October 31), by General George Clinton, shows what, in their forlorn plight, they had to grapple with.

"We had reason," writes he, "to apprehend an attack last night, or by daylight this morning. Our lines were manned all night in consequence; and a most horrid night it was to lay in cold trenches. Uncovered as we are, daily on fatigue, making redoubts, fleches, abattis, and retreating from them and the little temporary huts made for our comfort before they are well finished, I fear will ultimately destroy our army without fighing."*

"How

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ET. 44.]

INCENDIARIES AT WHITE PLAINS-CONJECTURES AS TO THE ENEMY.

ever," adds he, honestly, "I would not be understood to condemn measures. They may be right for aught I know. I do not understand much of the refined art of war; it is said to consist in stratagem and deception." In a previous letter to the same friend, in a moment of hurry and alarm, he writes, "Pray let Mrs. Clinton know that I am well, and that she need not be uneasy about me. It would be too much honor to die in so good a cause."

Clinton, as we have before intimated, was an honest and ardent patriot, of resolute spirit, and plain, direct good sense; but an inexperienced soldier. His main idea of warfare was straightforward fighting; and he was greatly perplexed by the continual strategy which Washington's situation required. One of the aides-de-camp of the latter had a truer notion on the subject. "The campaign hitherto," said he, "has been a fair trial of generalship, in which I flatter myself we have had the advantage. If we, with our motley army, can keep Mr. Howe and his grand appointment at bay, I think we shall make no contemptible military figure.”*

On the night of the 31st, Washington made another of those moves which perplexed the worthy Clinton. In the course of the night he shifted his whole position, set fire to the barns and out-houses containing forage and stores, which there was no time to remove, and, leaving a strong rear-guard on the heights, and in the neighboring woods, retired with his main army a distance of five miles, among the high, rocky hills about Northcastle. Here he immediately set to work to intrench and fortify himself; his policy at this time being, as he used to say, "to fight with the spade and mattock." General Howe did not attempt to dislodge him from this fastness. Ile at one time ordered an attack on the rear-guard, but a violent rain prevented it, and for two or three days he remained seemingly inactive. "All matters are as quiet as if the enemy were one hundred miles distant from us," writes one of Washington's aides on the 2d of November. During the night of the 4th, this quiet was interrupted. A mysterious sound was heard in the direction of the British camp; like the rumbling of waggons and artillery. At daybreak the meaning of it was discovered. The enemy were decamping. Long trains were observed, defiling

* Tench Tilghman to William Duer, Oct. 31.

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across the hilly country, along the roads leading to Dobbs' Ferry on the Hudson. The movement continued for three successive days, until their whole force, British and Hessians, disappeared from White Plains.

The night after their departure a party of Americans, heated with liquor, set fire to the court-house and other edifices in the village, as if they had belonged to the enemy; an outrage which called forth a general order from Washington, expressive of his indignation, and threatening the perpetrators with signal punishment when detected. We notice this matter because, in British accounts, the burning of those buildings had been charged upon Washington himself; being, no doubt, confounded with the burning of the barns and out-houses ordered by him on shifting his encampment.

CHAPTER XXXVIII.

VARIOUS were the speculations at head-quarters on the sudden movement of the enemy. Washington writes to General William Livingston (now governor of the Jerseys): "They have gone towards the North River and King's Bridge. Some suppose they are going into winter quarters, and will sit down in New York without doing more than investing Fort Washington. I cannot subscribe wholly to this opinion myself.

That they will invest Fort Washington, is a matter of which there can be no doubt; and I think there is a strong probability that General Howe will detach a part of his force to make an incursion into the Jerseys, provided he is going to New York. He must attempt something on account of his reputation, for what has he done as yet, with his great army?"

In the same letter he expressed his determination, as soon as it should appear that the present manœuvre was a real retreat, and not a feint, to throw over a body of troops into the Jerseys to assist in checking Howe's progress. He, moreover, recommended to the governor to have the militia of that State put on the best possible footing, and a part of them held in readiness to take the place of the State levies, whose term of service would soon expire. He advised, also, that the inhabitants contiguous to the water, should be prepared to remove their stock, grain, effects, and carriages, on the earliest notice.

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CORRESPONDENCE WITH GREENE RESPECTING FORT WASHINGTON.

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In a letter of the same date, he charged Gen- | evening (Nov. 7th), among the enemy's boats eral Greene, should Howe invest Fort Washing- at Dobbs' Ferry, with the intention, it was said, ton with part of his force, to give the garrison of penetrating the Jerseys, and falling down all possible assistance. upon Fort Lee. Washington, therefore, in the same letter, directed Greene to have all the stores not necessary to the defence removed immediately, and to destroy all the stock, the hay and grain, in the neighborhood, which the owners refused to remove. "Experience has shown," adds he, "that a contrary conduct is not of the least advantage to the poor inhabitants, from whom all their effects of every kind are taken without distinction, and without the least satisfaction."

On the following day (Nov. 8), his aide-decamp, Colonel Tilghman, writes to General Greene from head-quarters: "The enemy are at Dobbs' Ferry with a great number of boats, ready to go into Jersey, or proceed up the river." Greene doubted any intention of the enemy to cross the river; it might only be a feint to mislead; still, as a precaution, he had ordered troops up from the flying camp, and was posting them opposite Dobbs' Ferry, and at other passes where a landing might be attempted; the whole being under the command of General Mercer.

Affairs at Fort Washington soon settled the question of the enemy's intentions with regard to it. Lord Percy took his station with a body of troops before the lines to the south. Knyphausen advanced on the north. The Americans had previously abandoned Fort Independence, burnt its barracks, and removed the stores and cannon. Crossing King's Bridge, Knyphausen took a position between it and Fort Washington. The approach to the fort, on this side, was exceedingly steep and rocky; as, indeed, were all its approaches, excepting that on the south, where the country was more open, and the ascent gradual. The fort could not hold within its walls above one thousand men; the rest of the troops were distributed about the lines and outworks. While the fort was thus menaced, the chevaux-de-frise had again proved inefficient. On the night of the 5th, a frigate and two transports, bound up to Dobbs' Ferry, with supplies for Howe's army, had broken through; though, according to Greene's account, not without being considerably shattered by the batteries.

Informed of these facts, Washington wrote to Greene on the 8th: "If we cannot prevent vessels from passing up the river, and the enemy are possessed of all the surrounding country, what valuable purpose can it answer to hold a post from which the expected benefit cannot be had? I am, therefore, inclined to think, that it will not be prudent to hazard the men and stores at Mount Washington; but, as you are on the spot, I leave it to you to give such orders as to evacuating Mount Washington as you may judge best, and so far revoking the orders given to Colonel Magaw, to defend it to the last."

Accounts had been received at head-quarters of a considerable movement on the preceding

Greene, in reply (Nov. 9th), adhered with tenacity to the policy of maintaining Fort Washington. "The enemy," said he, "must invest it with double the number of men required for its defence. They must keep troops at King's Bridge, to cut off all communication with the country, and in considerable force, for fear of an attack." He did not consider the fort in immediate danger. Colonel Magaw thought it would take the enemy until the end of December to carry it. In the mean time, the garrison could at any time be brought off, and even the stores removed, should matters grow desperate. If the enemy should not find it an object of importance, they would not trouble themselves about it; if they should, it would be a proof that they felt an injury from its being maintained. The giving it up would open for them a free communication with the country by the way of King's Bridge.*

It is doubtful when or where Washington received this letter, as he left the camp at Northcastle at eleven o'clock of the following morning. There being still considerable uncertainty as to the intentions of the enemy, all his arrangements were made accordingly. All the troops belonging to the States west of the Hudson, were to be stationed in the Jerseys, under command of General Putnam., Lord Stirling had already been sent forward with the Maryland and Virginia troops to Peekskill, to cross the river at King's Ferry. Another division, composed of Connecticut and Massachusetts troops, under General Heath, was to co-operate with the brigade of New York militia under General George Clinton, in securing the Highland posts on both sides of the river.

The troops which would remain at Northcastle after the departure of Heath and his di

*Am. Archives, 5th Series, iii. 618.

ET. 44.]

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LEE IN COMMAND AT NORTHCASTLE-WASHINGTON AT PEEKSKILL. vision, were to be commanded by Lee. Wash- | found north of the point. His lordship had ington's letter of instructions to that general is thrown out a scouting party in the advance, characterized by his own modesty, and his de- and a hundred men to take possession of a gap ference for Lee's superior military experience. in the mountain, through which a road passed He suggests, rather than orders, yet his letter towards the Jerseys.

is sufficiently explicit. "A little time now,"

shore, was sufficient to convince Washington of the fact. A fortress subsequently erected on that point, has been considered the Key of the Highlands.

Washington was now at the entrance of the writes he, "must manifest the enemy's designs, Highlands, that grand defile of the Hudson, the and point out to you the measures proper to be object of so much precaution and solicitude. On pursued by that part of the army under your the following morning, accompanied by Generals command. I shall give no directions, therefore, Heath, Stirling, James and George Clinton, on this head, having the most entire confidence Mifflin, and others, he made a military visit in in your judgment and military exertions. One boats to the Highland posts. Fort Montgomery thing, however, I will suggest, namely, that the was in a considerable state of forwardness, and appearance of embarking troops for the Jerseys a work in the vicinity was projected to co-opemay be intended as a feint to weaken us, and rate with it. Fort Constitution commanded a render the post we now hold more vulnerable, sudden bend of the river, but Lord Stirling, in or the enemy may find that troops are assembled his report of inspection, had intimated that the with more expedition, and in greater numbers, fort itself was commanded by West Point opthan they expected, on the Jersey shore, to opposite. A glance of the eye, without going on pose them; and, as it is possible, from one or other of these motives, that they may yet pay the party under your command a visit, it will be unnecessary, I am persuaded, to recommend to you the propriety of putting this post, if you stay at it, into a proper posture of defence, and guarding against surprises. But I would recommend it to your consideration whether, under the suggestion above, your retiring to Croton Bridge, and some strong post still more easterly (covering the passes through the Highlands), may not be more advisable than to run the hazard of an attack with unequal numbers. At any rate, I think all your baggage and stores, except such as are necessary for immediate use, ought to be to the northward of Croton River. ** * * * You will consider the post at Croton's (or Pine's) Bridge as under your immediate *If the enemy should remove the whole, or the greater part of their force to the west side of Hudson's River, I have no doubt of your following with all possible despatch, leaving the militia and invalids to cover the frontiers of Connecticut in case of need."

care.

* * *

We have been minute in stating these matters, from their bearing on subsequent operations.

On the morning of the 12th, at an early hour, Washington rode out with General Heath to reconnoitre the east side of the Hudson, at the gorge of the Highlands. Henry Wisner, in a report to the New York Convention, had mentioned a hill to the north of Peekskill, so situated, with the road winding along the side of it, that ten men on the top, by rolling down stones, might prevent ten thousand from passing. "I believe," said he, "nothing more need be done than to keep great quantities of stones at the different places where the troops must pass, if they attempt penetrating the mountains."

Near Robinson's Bridge, in this vicinity, about two miles from Peekskill, Washington chose a place where troops should be stationed, to cover the south entrance into the mountains; and here, afterwards, was established an important military depot called Continental Village.

On the same day (12th), he wrote to General Lee, inclosing a copy of resolutions just received from Congress, respecting levies for the new army, showing the importance of immediately beginning the recruiting service. If no commissioners arrived from Rhode Island, he was to appoint the officers recommended to that

On the 10th of November, Washington left the camp at Northcastle, at 11 o'clock, and arrived at Peekskill at sunset; whither General Heath, with his division, had preceded him by a few hours. Lord Stirling was there, like-State by General Greene. "I cannot conclude," wise, having effected the transportation of the Maryland and Virginia troops across the river, and landed them at the ferry south of Stony Point; though a better landing was subsequently

adds he, "without reminding you of the military and other stores about your encampment, and at Northcastle, and to press the removal of them above Croton Bridge, or such other

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