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secondary objects, for the preservation of the hostile army. In this case he no sooner learned of the expedition against Billingsport, than he determined to attack Howe in his camp at Germantown, a straggling village, stretched from north to south, along the road, for a distance of nearly two miles. Four roads approached Germantown from the north: the Skippack, the main highway, leading directly through the village and to Philadelphia; on the right the Ridge road joining the main road below, and in the rear of the village, on the left of the Limekiln road, which, making a sudden turn at right angles, enters Germantown at the market place, and, still farther on the left, the York road, entering the Skippack road beyond the village. The British army was encamped across the lower portion of Germantown,--the right wing, under Grant, on the east of the road, the left on the west. The advance of the army lay more than two miles from the main body, on the west of the main road, a picket with artillery was thrown still farther forward, and, nearly a mile in the rear of the advance, was stationed the Fortieth regiment of infantry.
Washington charged Sullivan with the command of his right. to be supported by a force in reserve, under Stirling, and flanked by Conway's brigade, and was to move down the Skippack road, and attack the British left. At the same time General Armstrong was to advance by the Ridge road and reach the enemy's right and rear; while Greene, in command of the left wing, was to enter Germantown, at the market-house, by the Limekiln road, and distribute his force upon Howe's right, left and rear.
This arrangement was an excellent one, and its execution was well begun. The American army moved from its position upon the Skippack road at 7 o'clock in the evening, and, marching nearly twenty miles, Sullivan's advance encountered and drove in the British pickets at daylight of the 4th. In a few moments the British light infantry and the Fortieth regiment, were engaged, and, in turn forced back. Lieutenantcolonel Musgrave, with five companies of the Fortieth, took refuge in the stone house of Mr. Chew, from which neither the charges of the Americans nor their light field pieces could dislodge him. Leaving a regiment to watch the house, the remainer of the American advance passed to the left. A half hour later the left came into the fight, attacking the right of the British advance and forcing it quickly back upon the main body. Woodford's brigade, which was upon the extreme right of this wing of the Americans, was checked by the fire from Chew's house, and repeated the futile efforts to dislodge its occupants. In this operation some time was lost; the American front was thus broken, the division of Stephens separated from the remainder of the wing, and the two brigades forming the division lost each other. The remainder of the force pushed vigorously on, entered the town, broke a portion of the British right, and took a number of prisoners. Had the entire American left been in action at once, and had the other
division done its part, the British army would assuredly have been cut and at least badly crippled. The morning was an unfortunate one for the enterprise; a dense fog lay over the ground and prevented the Americans from seeing the position of the British, and from reuniting the separated divisions of their own army; the militia assigned to duty in the British rear made as usual only feeble demonstrations and drew off. The ground of the battle was broken by houses and enclosures; the American force, groping in the fog, was still further divided by these, and, at last, all unity and concert of movement was lost. Under cover of this confusion the British recovered, and Knyphausen, upon the left, attacked Sullivan, while the enemy's right engaged Greene's divided force with great spirit. The latter could not long withstand the attack, began a retreat, and this retreat became most confused when, having fallen back upon Stephens' front, the Americans were for a time taken for enemies. About the same time the right, under Sullivan, began a retreat, having exhausted its ammunition. Washington, seeing that success was hopeless, turned his attention to securing the withdrawal of his army, which he did without loss, covering it by Stephens' division, which had scarcely fired a shot. The army retreated twenty miles to Perkiomen creek, where it was reinforced by one thousand five hundred militia and a regiment of regulars from Virginia. It then advanced and once more took its old position upon the Skippack road. The Continental loss was, approximately, two hundred killed, six hundred wounded, and four hundred captured. The British lost one hundred killed, and four hundred wounded. In spite of the failure of the movement, Congress expressed its approval of the plan and of the spirit with which it was sought to be executed. General Stephens, whose stupidity did more to lose the day than any other single cause, was court-martialed for misconduct and intoxication, and was dismissed from the service in disgrace, –a punishment which his offense richly merited.
The days immediately following the affair at Germantown were occupied by the Americans in devising means for cutting off Howe's supplies from Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Parties were sent out to harass and capture foragers, and Congress made the selling of certain specified articles to the British an offense against martial law, punishable by death. Howe, on his part, was looking to the reduction of Fort Mifflin. He erected works at the mouth of the Schuylkill, commanding the ferry; these were silenced by fire from the American war vessels in the river. During the following night a British force occupied Province island, within short range of the barracks at Fort Mercer, and constructed a work from which they began to cannonade the fort. Soon after daybreak an American detachment embarked, took this work, and captured the garrison. While they were removing the prisoners, a large body of British appeared, and re-occupying the island, strengthened its defenses, and so disposed them as to
enfilade the American works. An effort was made, without effect, to dislodge this force, as well. The Americans then constructed a defense against their fire, and awaited developments. In the meantime Lord Howe, with the British fleet, had gained the mouth of the Delaware on the 4th and 6th of October, and was endeavoring, thus far without success, to force a way through the obstructions in the river, below Fort Mifflin. Though the fort at Billingsport was in the hands of the British, the little American armament in the river had proved so annoying as greatly to retard operations. The British kept up a heavy cannonade upon Mifflin, from works on the Pennsylvania side of the river, but did no great amount of damage. The chevaux de frise at Billingsport being at last broken, so far as to permit, with the exercise of great care, the passage of a vessel, Howe determined that Fort Mifflin must be reduced at all hazards, so that the second line of obstructions might be removed.
On the evening of October 22d, a body of twelve hundred Hessians, under Count Donop, detached from Philadelphia, attacked the fort at Red Bank with great spirit. It was defended with equal bravery. Almost at the outset Donop received a mortal wound, as did his second in command. The garrison was reinforced from Fort Mifflin, when Lieutenant-colonel Linsing withdrew his force and retired to Philadelphia. The Hessian loss was placed at four hundred killed and wounded. Vessels from the fleet had been ordered to co-operate with Count Donop, and five ships, the Augusta being the largest, passed the gap at Billingsport and came up with the floodtide. Some distance below Mifflin, the Augusta and the Merlin ran aground. The rest came within range of the fort and began a brisk cannonade, which was maintained all night, in the hope of getting off the two vessels. This proving impracticable, both were burned in the morning, the Augusta blow. ing up before all of her crew could escape.
Washington was very anxious to strike a successful blow at Howe before a connection with the fleet could be effected, and since the battle of Germantown had been watching an opportunity so to do. Taught by experience, however, Howe was very wary and the Americans had been obliged to remain inactive. Washington had little confidence in his ability to hold Fort Mifflin if it were regularly attacked; he had less in the issue of a battle undertaken with General Howe, in the existing condition of his army. News had come of the surrender of Burgoyne at Saratoga, and he felt that, could he but gain time until the Northern army, then under Gates, should join him, he would be in a position to take the offensive, while an attack made before the arrival of such reinforcements might place him beyond their help. Hence he dispatched Colonel Hamilton to urge upon Gates the sending of the bulk of his force to the relief of the army in Pennsylvania. Hamilton found a portion of Gates' force with Putnam at Peekskill. He made representations which he supposed would ensure its