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overpersuaded by men of inferior judgment to your own? It was a cursed affair ?” It was a bad affair enough, and great blame rested on the shoulders of Putnam and Greene, especially on those of the latter. He commanded there, and was supposed to know all about the locality and its capabilities of defense. Greene was a young officer, and wholly inexperienced in the art of war. He exfoliated rapidly into an accomplished officer, and here learned a sad but important lesson—that by skillful manoeuvres a battle may really be gained before a shot is fired. The belief that Fort Washington, under the circumstances, could be held, was a delusion. Its fall rendered the longer occupation of Fort Lee impossible, and Washington ordered it to be immediately evacuated, and the troops that occupied it to join the army assembled at Hackensack.
Retreat of Washington through the Jerseys-Disorganization of his Army_Finally
takes post beyond the Delaware, near Trenton-Unaccountable apathy of the Enemy-Washington takes advantage of it-Reorganization of the Army-Washington resolves to march on Trenton--Passage of the river-The Attack-The Victory-March on Princeton-Astonishment of Cornwallis-Death of Colonel Rahl—The effect of the Victory upon the Country-Poverty of the ArmyRobert Morris, the noble Financier.
In the meantime, Howe pushing up with spirit the advantage he had gained with six thousand men, crossed the Hudson six miles above Fort Lee, and moved rapidly down upon it. Cornwallis, who had command of this division, pressed forward with such vigor that Washington was compelled to leave behind all his heavy cannon, three hundred tents, baggage, provisions, and stores of all kind. The Jersey shore being entirely commanded by the British menof-war, from which troops could be landed at any time, Washington with his desponding, almost disorganized army, drew off toward the Delaware. The militia, wholly dispirited, deserted in large numbers-even the regulars stole away, so that Washington soon had but little over three thousand men with whom to oppose twenty thousand. He had nothing that could be dignified with the name of cavalry, while the enemy was well supplied, and could overrun the whole flat country through which his course now lay. In the meantime the inhabitants, despairing of the success of the American cause, began to look toward the British for protection. An insurrection was breeding in Monmouth, to quell which Washington was compelled to detach a portion of his troops. The Tories took heart, and fell without fear on those who remained true to the cause of freedom. Encouraged by this state of feeling among the inhabitants, the two Howes issued a proclamation, in which pardon was promised to all offenders who would within sixty days submit themselves to the royal authority. Multitudes obeyed, and with an army falling to pieces through its own demoralized state, in the midst of a disaffected population, pressed by an overwhelming victorious army, Washington saw a night closing around him, through the blackness of which not a single ray shot its cheering light. But it was in such circumstances as these that the true grandeur of his character appears. Superior to the contagion of example, he neither doubts nor falters. Rising loftier as others sink in despair, moving serener the greater the agitation becomes around him, he exhibits a reserve power equal to any emergency-a steadfastness of soul that nothing earthly can shake.
He immediately ordered Lee, by forced marches, to join him ; sent to General Schuyler to forward him troops from the frontiers of Canada; called on Pennsylvania to assemble her militia if she would save Philadelphia, and on the governor of New Jersey, to furnish him with troops, if he would not see the entire province swept by the enemy. But the country was paralyzed, and with his feeble band he continued to retire before the enemy. Lee, intent on delivering some bold stroke of his own, and thus eclipse Washington, whom the provinces began to suspect of inefficiency, refused to obey the orders of his commander, and finally, a victim to his own folly, fell into the hands of the enemy, thus adding another to the list of calamities, for the country had placed great reliance in his skill and experience as à general.
Driven from the Hackensack, Washington took post behind the Aqukannunk. Pressed hotly by Cornwallis, he was compelled to abandon this position also, and retiring along the Raritan halted at New Brunswick. Here the Maryland and New Jersey troops declared the time of their enlistment had expired, and shouldering their muskets, left the camp in a body. Their departure shook the rest of the army, and it required all of Washington's efforts to prevent it from disbanding wholly. Unable to offer any resistance, he retreated to Trenton. Here, receiving a reinforcement of two thousand men from Philadelphia, he began to assume the offensive; but finding Cornwallis ad vancing in several columns, so as to cut off his retreat, he crossed, on the 8th of December, 1776, to the right bank of the Delaware, destroying all the bridges and boats after him. Here he sat down knowing it was the last stand that could be made between the enemy and Philadelphia.
The English general taking up his head-quarters at Trenton extended his army up and down the river, but made no serious demonstrations to cross. He neither collected boats, nor materials for bridges, nor attempted to pass by means of rafts. A sudden and unaccountable apathy seemed to have seized him, and the energy with which, since the taking of Fort Washington, he had pressed the American army,
and waich threatened to crush the rebellion at once, deserted him. Nothing was easier than to ford the river and seize Philadelphia, and compel Washington to carry out his sublime purpose, “retreat, if necessary, beyond the Alleghanies.”
The delay of the British here enabled Washington to strengthen his army.
He sent Mifflin and Armstrong through Pennsylvania, rousing the patriotic citizens to arms. Sullivan joined him with Lee's division, and Gates arrived with four regiments from Ticonderoga. Still the prospect was inexpressibly gloomy. Rhode Island, Long Island New York, nearly all the Jerseys, had one after another fallen into the hands of the enemy, and nothing seemed able to resist his victorious march.
The reinforcements, however, that had come in encouraged Washington in the hope that he might yet strike a blow which, if it did not seriously embarrass his adversaries, would nevertheless rekindle hope throughout the country. Although the force under him was inadequate to any great inovement, something must be done before the winter shut in, or spring would find Congress without an army, and the American cause without defenders. The British were waiting only for cold weather to bridge the Delaware with ice, when they would cross; and, crushing all opposition by their superior force, march down on Philadelphia. Though the heavens grew dark around Washington, and fear and despondency weighed down the firmest hearts, his sublime faith in God and the right never shook, and even in this hour of trial and of gloom he lifted his voice of encouragement, declaring he saw the morning beyond it all. He sent Putnam to Philadelphia to erect defenses, behind which the army might, if driven back from the Delaware, make a desperate stand for the city.
In the meantime the reorganization of the army on the plan adopted by a Committee of Congress and Washington at Harlæm Heights, was carried forward.* Congress, however, at this time retired in affright to Baltimore, and the Tories of Philadelphia, embracing nearly all the Quakers, taking courage, rendered Putnam's situation precarious.
While trouble and uncertainty pervaded both Congress and the army, Lord Howe, having resigned the command to Cornwallis, retired to New York, where he remained tranquil, in the full belief that an easy victory awaited him. The latter officer having lost all fear of the American troops, stretched his army in a chain of cantonments, from Trenton to Burlington, and also retired to the snugger quarters of New York. Colonel Rahl, with fifteen hundred men, was
* By this plan all the continental troops were to constitute one grand army of eighty battalions, in all sixty thousand men. To induce enlistments during the war a bounty of twenty dollars was offered, together with a section of land, to be given at the close to the survivors, or to the family of him who had fallen. The amount was in proportion to the grade, advancing from one hundred acres, the share of a common soldier, to five hundred, that of a colone!,