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well-manned was to patrol the river opposite to each fort every night; all barges, rowboats, and other small craft, between the forts in the Highlands and the army were to be secured in a place of safety, to prevent their falling into the enemy's hands and giving intelligence. Moreover, a French engineer was sent up to aid in strengthening and securing the passes. The commanding officers of the counties of Litchfield and Fairfield, in Connecticut, had likewise orders to hold their militia in readiness, to render assistance in case of insurrections in the State of New York.
So perilous appeared the condition of affairs to residents up the river, that John Jay, a member of the New York Convention, and one of the secret committee for the defense of the Hudson, applied for leave of absence, that he might remove his aged parents to a place of safety. A letter from him to Edward Rutledge, of the Board of War, contains this remarkable sentence: "I wish our army well stationed in the Highlands, and all the lower country des lated; we might then bid defiance to all the further efforts of the enemy in that quarter.'
Nor was this a random or despairing wish. It shows a brave spirit of a leading civilian of the day, and the sacrifices that true patriots were disposed to make in the cause of independence.
But a few days previously he had held the following language to Gouverneur Morris, chairman of a special committee: “Had I been vested with absolute power in this State, I have often said, and still think, that I would last spring have desolated all Long Island, Staten Island, the city and county of New York, and all that part of the county of Westchester which lies below the mountains. I would then have stationed the main body of the army in the mountains on the east, and eight or ten thousand men in the Highlands on the west side of the river. I would have directed the river at Fort Montgomery, which is nearly at the southern extremity of the mountains, to be so shallowed as to afford only depth sufficient for an Albany sloop, and all the southern passes and defiles in the mountains to be strongly fortified. Nor do I think the shallowing of the river a romantic scheme. Rocky mountains rise immediately from the shores. The breadth is not very great, though the depth is. But what cannot eight or ten thousand men, well worked, effect? According to this plan of defense the State would be absolutely impregnable against all the world on the seaside, and would have nothing to fear except from the way of the lake. Should the enemy gain the river, even below the mountains, I think I foresee that a retreat would become necessary, and I can't forbear wishing that a desire of saving a few acres may not lead us into difficulties.” *
Three days after this remarkable letter was written, the enemy's ships did gain the river; and two days afterward, October 11th, Reed, the adjutant-general, the confidant of Washington's councils, writes to his wife from Harlem Heights: “My most sanguine views do not extend further than keeping our ground here till this campaign closes. If the enemy incline to press us, it is resolved to risk an engagement, for, if we cannot fight them on this ground, we can on none in America. The ships are the only circumstances unfavorable to us here."
On the same day that this letter was written, a small vessel, sloop-rigged with a topsail, was descried from Mount Washington coming down the river with a fresh breeze. It
* Am. Archives, 5th Series, ii. 921.
was suspected by those on the lookout to be one of the British tenders, and they gave it a shot from a twelve-pounder. Their aim was unfortunately too true. Three of the crow were killed and the captain wounded. It proved to be Wasbington's yacht, which had run up the river previously to the enemy's ships, and was now on its return.*
Leo expected in Camp-His Letter of Advice to the President of
Congress The Enemy at Throg's Neck-Washington's Arrangements-Rides to Throg's Neck—The Enemy brought to a Stand -Military Movements
Arrival of Lee-A Command assigned to him-Criticises the conduct of Congress and the ArmyCouncil of War-The Army to move to the Mainland-Fort Washington to be kept up
“IF General Lee should be in Philadelphia,” writes John Jay to Rutledge, "pray hasten his departure--he is much wanted at New York.”
The successes of Lee at the South were contrasted by many with the defeat on Long Island and evacuation of New York, and they began to consider him the main hope of the army. Hazard, the postmaster, writing from Harlem Heights to General Gates on the 11th, laments it as a misfortune that Lee should have been to the southward for several months past, but adds cheeringly, “he is expected here to-day.”
Joseph Trumbull, the commissary-general, also writes to Gates under the same date: “General Lee is to be here this evening. He left Philadelphia on the 8th."
* Heath's Memoirs.
Lee, the object of so many hopes, was actually in the Jerseys, on his way to the camp. He writes from Amboy on the 12th, to the President of Congress, informing him that the Hessians, encamped opposite on Staten Island, had disappeared on the preceding night, quitting the island entirely, and some great measure was believed to be in agitation. “I am confident," writes he, "they will not attack General Washington's lines; such a measure is too absurd for a man of Mr. Howe's genius; and unless they have received flattering accounts from Burgoyne, that he will be able to effectuate a junction (which I conceive they have not), they will no longer remain kicking their heels at New York. They will put the place in a respectable state of defense, which, with their command of the waters, may be easily done, leave four or five thousand men, and direct their operations to a more decisive object. They will infallibly proceed either immediately up the river Delaware with their whole troops, or, what is more probable, land somewhere about South Amboy or Shrewsbury, and march straight to Trenton or Burlington. On the supposition that this will be the case, what are we to do? What force have we? What means have we to prevent their possessing themselves of Philadelphia? General Washington's army cannot possibly keep pace with them. The length of his route is not only infinitely greater, but his obstructions almost insuperable. In short, before he could cross Hudson River they might be lodged and strongly fortified on both banks of the Delaware. ... For Heaven's sake, arouse yourselves! For Heaven's sake, let ten thousand men be immediately assembled and stationed somewhere about Trenton. In my opinion, your whole depends upon it. I set out immediately for headquarters, where I shall communicate my apprehen
son that such will be the next operation of the enemy, and urge the expediency of sparing a part of his army (if he has any to spare) for this object.
On the very morning that Lee was writing this letter at Amboy, Washington received intelligence by express from General Heath, stationed above King's Bridge, that the enemy were landing with artillery on Throg's Neckt in the Sound, about nine miles from the camp. Washington surmised that Howe was pursuing his original plan of getting to the rear of the American army, cutting off its supplies, which were chiefly derived from the east, and interrupting its communication with the main country. Officers were ordered to their alarm posts, and the troops to be ready, under arms, to act as occasion might require. Word, at the same time, was sent to General Heath to dispose of the troops on his side of King's Bridge, and of two militia regiments posted on the banks of Harlem River opposite the camp, in such manner as he should think necessary.
Having made all his arrangements as promptly as possible, Washington mounted his horse and rode over toward Throg's Neck to reconnoiter.
Throg's Neck is a peninsula in Westchester County, stretching upward of two miles into the Sound. separated from the mainland by a narrow creek and a marsh, and was surrounded by water every high tide. A bridge across a creek connecting with a ruined causeway across the marsh led to the mainland, and the upper end of the creek was fordable at low water. Early in the morning eighty or ninety boats full of men had stood up the sound from Mon
Am. Archives, 5th Series, ii. 1008. + Properly Throck's Neck, from Throckmorton, the name of the original proprietor.