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divisions of the British, which had crossed the Harlem, dispersed the troops on that side of the fort, and were threatening his rear.
As it was, some portion of his force was cut off and captured by Sterling. Rawlings, on the north, held his position stubbornly. His riflemen and a battery of three guns were very effective, and only when the Hessians, so greatly his superiors in number, had gained a footing on the summit, did he also retire to the fort. Howe now held all the lines and the positions of vantage about the fort and sent in another summons for its surrender. The defending force was not large enough to make a resistance on open ground, yet too large to be sheltered by the works; ammunition, too, had run very low, and, considering that a further defense would be but a useless sacrifice of life, Magraw surrendered, the entire garrison becoming prisoners of war.
Amessage, sent by Washington, urging Magraw to hold the fort until night, when an effort would be made to take off the troops, came too late to arrest the negotiation, and it seems very doubtful whether the works could have been so long defended, and, had they been so held, whether the garrison could have been taken off.
The loss of Fort Washington was not a vital matter; the loss at Fort Washington was well nigh irreparable-probably falling little, if four thousand killed, wounded, and captured, and these the most valuable troops of the army. Preparations were at once made for the abandonment of Fort Lee, but the arrival of Lord Cornwallis in the neighborhood, with a strong detachment of British, compelled a precipitate retirement of the garrison, leaving behind tents, blankets, tools, cooking utensils, provisions, and stores, and all the heavy artillery save two twelve-pounders. Washington, finding himself in danger of being entrapped between two rivers, retreated across the Hackensack and posted his men temporarily upon its western bank.
THE NEW JERSEY CAMPAIGN.-BATTLES OF TRENTON AND PRINCETON.
HERE can be no doubt that with the loss of Fort Washington opened
the darkest era in the war of independence. Beyond the middle of November, the cold of a severe Northern winter before him, Washington had under his immediate command but three thousand men who could, by any stretch of imagination, be classed as effective. These were ragged, many of them barefooted, without shelter, lacking provisions, dispirited, defeated. The militia had very largely anticipated the expiration of their service, which was to come upon the ist of December, and had gone home in bodies; none could be counted upon to remain longer than they were bound to do. To add to all, very many of the regulars in all branches of the army would be entitled to a discharge upon the ist day of January. The worst feature of the situation was that, with his army thus melting away before his eyes, Washington saw no definite prospect of replacing it; the weak policy of Congress, coupled with the unfortunate result of the year's campaign, had left the recruiting experiment an undeniable failure. The colonies were all depressed by disaster—the middle ones, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, of more than doubtful loyalty to the cause; on the ground which he occupied and where his operations in the immediate future bade fair to be carried on, such subsistence and support as he could not command by force, he stood little chance of obtaining. Nevertheless, with this almost hopeless prospect before him, he never for a moment lost heart or meditated submission. His question to himself was never, “Can I do this thing?" but always, “How shall I do it?” This is the key to Washington's character. Brave in the field; a natural soldier and tactician; fertile in originating and bold in executing the most daring plans, yet to this century and still more to those beyond us, he must ever stand as greatest in the hours of discouragement, trial, and inaction. Such steadfastness, patience, devotion, modesty, and faith, find no parallel in history.
After making the camp upon the Hackensack, his first care was to
his slender resources for an army which might at least make a show of opposition to the British and check the growing disaffection, which was as much the result, of. lack of faith in the result as of any predilection in favor of Great Britain, on the part of any of the colonies. With this view he dispatched to General Schuyler, at Ticonderoga, directions to send to him at once all New Jersey and Pennsylvania troops under his command. His knowledge of human nature told him that men would fight best in the defense of their own soil, and that the detention of troops from menaced colonies at distant points, could not fail of causing dissatisfaction. He also sent orders to General Lee to cross the Hudson and be in readiness to join him should occasion demand it. Lee's tardiness, which subsequent history has almost justified us in .ascribing to disloyalty, was one of the greatest drawbacks to the success of a campaign, which might otherwise have been decisive in favor of the colonies. The limits of this work will not permit of rehearsing the arguments used by Washington to influence Congress in favor of organizing a permanent and efficient army. They were the same already given in these pages, only elaborated and emphasized, and they had no greater effect during the terrible winter campaign which followed, than to secure to the army a slender and at no time reliable reinforcement. He made an appeal to New England, and six thousand Massachusetts troops, with a considerable number from Connecticut, were massed to join him, when Sir Henry Clinton, moving by water from New York, seized Newport, and the home exigency proved too strong for the Governors.
Washington first deserted his position upon the Hackensack, passed the Passaic, and established himself at Newark, pursuit being temporarily cut off by the destruction of the Hackensack bridge. Then the British army crossed the Passaic and the American commander, leaving them to take possession of Newark, moved on to Brunswick, only a few hours before their coming
The incidents of this remarkable game of war cannot be followed here. Cornwallis, constantly expecting to checkmate his adversary, was as constantly baffled. Washington retreated from town to town, until, on the 2d day of December, he reached Trenton, on the Delaware, the river having been scoured for seventy miles, and all boats collected at that point, to secure the double purpose of a means of crossing for the Americans, if such should be necessary, and, in their absence, a check to the British.
It being considered probable that no successful stand could be made on the nearer bank of the river, the crossing of the scanty stores and impedimenta was made in safety, the sick were sent to Philadelphia, and only the effective army remained. At no time during the wonderful march from Fort Lee to the bank of the Delaware, had Washington's force-it can scarcely be called
an army-numbered more than four thousand men; when the partial crossing was made it was a thousand less. With this he had annoyed, foiled, and escaped from an army vastly superior in numbers, flushed with victory, and perfectly equipped, and had led the enemy a chase, through an almost hostile country, still keeping his men together and maintaining their discipline and spirit, though many of them were without shoes, some died from cold by the way, and all suffered as few are called upon to suffer. This retreat and the offensive movements that followed it are justly considered among the greatest military achievements in history.
At this time, General Sir William and Admiral Lord Howe, as royal commissioners for the restoration of peace, issued a proclamation, calling upon all persons in arms against the king to disband and disperse to their homes, and all persons holding civil authority to relinquish the same, promising to such as should conform to these requirements, and within thirty days sign a prescribed declaration of submission to the authority of his majesty, full and free pardon. Copies of this declaration were scattered broadcast throughout the colonies, and in many cases were readily taken by persons only too eager to secure themselves against the consequences of so doubtful a conflict.
On the 7th of December, Washington, having received a reinforcement of fifteen hundred men from Philadelphia, and the promise of another regiment, and feeling that some active operations were necessary to counteract the effect of the manifesto referred to, set out for Princeton, hoping that his appearance might check the British advance and procure the re-establishment of patriotic feeling in New Jersey. On the march he learned that Cornwallis, having been largely reinforced, was making a forced advance from Brunswick, in the endeavor to gain his rear. Hence he retreated, crossed the Delaware, and so bestowed his men as best to guard the fords of the river. The last boat-load had not reached the further bank when Cornwallis appeared. Finding that his quarry had escaped him, he estab lished his army with the main body at Trenton and detachments posted up and down the river to a considerable distance.
The days immediately following the crossing of the Americans, which occurred on the 8th, were spent by Cornwallis in a vain effort to secure means of following the colonial force; this failing, he placed his men in winter quarters, and the main body of General Howe's army, having followed him into New Jersey, was also quartered at various points so as to hold possession of the colony. It is probable that Howe would gladly have held the Americans in safe inaction until the expiration of the sixty days named in his proclamation, at the same time extending his posts and influence so as to seriously as possible undermine the patriot cause.
It is now necessary to give a little attention to the proceedings of Gen cral Lee. It was on the 21st of November that Washington ordered him
to cross the Hudson with all dispatch, and hold himself ready to join the main army, should the British move into New Jersey. The enemy had made such a movement, and the commander had at once placed Lee under positive orders to report to him with his army. In spite of all this, it was the 30th day of November before Lee reached Peekskill, little more than the outset of his march. At that point he ordered General Heath to detach two regiments from his defense, to move into New Jersey with the army. This Heath refused to do, urging the seemingly ample reason that he was under written orders of the commander in chief, not to weaken his force. Lee asserted his right as Heath's ranking officer, when Heath said: "You are my superior officer. You can doubtless order the regiments to join you, but you must do it yourself, for I shall obey my orders." Lee gave orders that the regiments should proceed with him, and they would doubtless have done so had not Heath required a written certificate from Lee, that the latter had assumed command and issued his own orders. Having given this, and the regiments being in marching order, Lee changed his mind and sent them back to their camp. In writing from Peekskill, under date of the 30th, in answer to a letter from Washington, complaining of the slowness of his movements, Lee said that he had been delayed by difficulties which he would explain when both had leisure. His letters throughout have this same tone of cool impertinence, not to say contempt, which, in a better organized army, and with a less patient commander, would have subjected him to immediate removal and court-martial. One letter says that he will move across the river “the day after to-morrow,” when he “will be happy to receive your [Washington's) instructions,” but “could wish” that they would bind him as little as possible, from a persuasion that detached generals cannot have too great latitude. And all the time this man was under distinct orders to forthwith join General Washington at the headquarters of the latter. Even then he did not keep his word, for it was not until December 4th that he crossed the river. On the 8th of December Lee had moved no farther than Morristown, in spite of repeated and urgent messages from Washington. That his disregard of orders was cool and deliberate, is sufficiently indicated by a letter written by him on that day to the committee of Congress. In it he said: “If I was not taught to think the army of Washington was considerably reinforced, I should immediately join him; but as I am assured he is very strong, I should imagine we could make a better impression by beating up and harassing their detached posts in their rear, for which purpose a good post at Chatham is the best calculated.” On the same day he wrote to Washington to say that he was "extremely shocked to hear that his force was so inadequate, and that he had held himself in the rear of the enemy that he might more effectually co-operate in any offensive movement. He also expressed a doubt as to Philadelphia being the objective point of the enemy. Washington at once