Robert Tomes.

Battles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) online

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ure," he adds, " had been little canvassed
among us ; and perhaps it was to our hon
or that we were so little of politicians.
A predilection for republicanism, it is
true, had not reached the army, at least
the Pennsylvania line [to which Graydon
himself belonged] ; but as an attempt to
negotiate, in our unorganized situation,
would probably have divided and ruined
us, the step was considered wise, although
a passage of the Rubicon, and calculated
to close the door to accommodation. Be
ing looked upon as unavoidable, if resist
ance was to be persisted in, it was ap
proved ; and produced no resignation
among the officers that I am aware of,
except that of Lieutenant-Colonel Wil
liam Allen. He called at our camp, on
his way to Philadelphia, where he ap
peared somewhat surprised and mortified
that his example had no followers."

The citizen-patriots of New York did



[PART n.

not receive the " Declaration" as coolly
as Graydon s comrades. The crowd, af
ter hearing the document read on the
common, rushed tumultuously to the
" Bowling-Green," and pulled down the
equestrian statue of King George III..
which stood there. The royal effigy w T as
of lead, but had a coating of gilt. When
it was torn down, it was broken into
pieces ; and a faithful annalist records
that most of them were sent to Weath-
ersfield, in Connecticut, where Governor
Wolcott s family of two daughters and a
son patriotically melted them into " forty-
two thousand bullets."*

Washington, finding that some of his
soldiers had taken part in this act, which
partook too much of a riotous character
to accord with his views of discipline, cen
sured his men in the order of the day,
and, while commending the newly-ap
pointed chaplain to their reverential re
gard, concluded with this general advice
to the army in regard to their conduct :
" The blessing and protection of Heaven
are at all times necessary, but especially
so in times of public distress and danger.
The general hopes and trusts that every
officer and rnon will endeavor so to live
and act as becomes a Christian soldier,
defending the dearest rights and liberties
of his country."

General Howe seems to have been
much encouraged on his arrival at Staten
island, by the cheering aspect and liberal
promises of his tory friends. " I have the
satisfaction," he writes to Lord George
Germain, " to inform your lordship that

* After the destruction of the statue of George III., he
was called in New York, says Walpole, " the late king."

there is great reason to expect

u i ^^-11,

a numerous body of the inhab
itants to join the army from the prov
inces of New York, the Jerseys, and Con
necticut, who in this time of universal
apprehension only wait for opportunities
to give proofs of their loyalty and zeal
for government. Sixty men caine over
a few days ago with a few arms from the
neighborhood of Shrewsbury, in Jersey,
who are all desirous to serve ; and I un
derstand there are five hundred more in
that quarter ready to follow their exam
ple. This disposition among the people
makes me impatient for the arrival of
Lord Howe, concluding the powers with
which he is furnished will have the best
effect at this critical time ; but I am still
of the opinion that peace will not be re
stored in America until the rebel army
is defeated."

The provincial Congress of New York,
having changed its name, in accordance
with the Declaration of Independence, to
that of the " Convention of the Represen
tatives of the STATE of New York," had
appointed a secret committee to sit in
the city and counteract the machinations
of the royalists, upon which Howe was so
confidently relying. Persons of known
disaffection and enmity to the cause of
America were thus ferreted out and sent
away to the jail at Litchfield, Connecticut,
and elsewhere. These measures forced
such men as the Robertsons and Delan-
ceys to join the enemy openly, and com
pelled some more timid partisans either
to forego all active hostility or to give in
their adhesion to the American cause.

The enemy s force continued to gather




July 12,

daily. On the llth of July, Washington

writes : " General Howe s fleet from Hali
fax has arrived, in number about one hun
dred and thirty sail. His army is between
nine and ten thousand, being joined by
some of the regiments from the West In
dies, and having fallen in with part of the
Highland troops in his passage. He has
landed his men on Staten island, which
they mean to secure, and is in daily ex
pectation of the arrival of Lord Howe,
with one hundred and fifty ships, and a
large and powerful reinforcement. This
we have from four prisoners who fell into
our hands, and some deserters. They
add that nothing will be attempted until
his arrival."

Next day, however, the enemy
did something, which, although
trifling in itself, produced a great com
motion. Early in the afternoon, two of
the British ships-of-war, the Rose and the
Phoenix (one of forty and the other of
twenty guns), with three tenders, weighed
anchor, and with a brisk and favorable
breeze sailed up the North river with the
flood-tide. The American batteries along
the city and the Jersey shore, and the
forts on the banks of the Hudson, kept up
a heavy and incessant cannonade, which
was returned by the ships as they passed
by, but without much effect on either
side. Even Fort Washington, with all
its formidable preparation, proved of no
avail. It seems to have been so placed,
that it could neither do nor receive an
injury. "We were too high for their
guns," says an officer who was present,
" to be brought to bear upon us with any
certainty, though one ball was thrown

into the fort. Our elevated situation was
nearly as unfavorable for the success of
our fire upon them."

The men-of-war, it is true, had been
guarded by sand-bags spread over the
decks and raised along the bulwarks, so
as to protect them against the American
riflemen ; while they glided by so rapid
ly, with the wind and tide in their favor,
that it was difficult to point a cannon at
them with precision. Their rigging, how
ever, was somew r hat damaged, and several
shots touched their hulls. Having run
the gauntlet of all the batteries and forts,
the ships finally came to anchor about
forty miles up the river, in the middle of
that broad part of the Hudson called Ha-
verstraw bay, where they were out of
reach of any shot from either bank.

Washington expected that this move
ment of the two ships would be immedi
ately followed by others, with the view
of landing and seizing the passes in the
Highlands. He accordingly sent an ex
press at once to Brigadier-General George
Clinton, who commanded the New-York
militia on Hudson river, with orders to
him to call out instantly as many men
as he could, and post them in such a way
as to prevent, if possible, the supposed
object of the enemy.

Clinton, however, had anticipated these
orders, having been notified of the ap
proach of danger by a signal-gun from
his brother, who, as colonel, was in com
mand of Fort Constitution below, and by
the exaggerated reports of the captains
of some sloops who came up the river
with the story that New York was at
tacked. They had seen and heard the



[PART n.

firing in the distance between the forts
and the Rose and Phoenix, and, putting
on all sail, had hastened away with the
alarming intelligence of a general attack.
Clinton accordingly had ordered out three
regiments of militia, one of which he sta
tioned at Fort Constitution, opposite West
Point ; another at Fort Montgomery be
low, under his own immediate command ;
and the third at Newburg, beyond these
points. He also had sent word to the
masters of all the river-craft which could
be reached, to bring their vessels and an
chor them ofFFort Montgomery, that they
might be ready to stretch across the nar
rowest part of the Hudson there, as a bar
rier, and to be set fire to in case the en
emy s ships attempted to break through

The Rose and Phoenix were not imme
diately followed by any other ships, and,
having anchored, remained quietly, while
their boats were sent out daily to take
soundings. The people, however, on the
Hudson, fretted greatly at their presence,
and watched every opportunity to harass
and to drive them from the river.

Toward evening, o,n the same
day that the Rose and Phoenix
sailed up, several ships arrived from sea
and entered the narrows. One of these
had a St. George s flag flying from her
foretopmast-head, and was saluted as she
came in with full volleys from the vessels
and the batteries at Staten island. This
was the Eagle, which bore the admiral,
Lord Howe.

RICHARD (Earl) HOWE was born in 1725,
and entered the navy as a midshipman
at the age of fourteen. By merit, aided

July 12,

by a powerful patronage, he passed rap
idly through the grades of lieutenant,
captain, and rear-admiral ; and now, on
being sent to America, was promoted to
the rank of vice-admiral of the blue. On
the death of his brother, Lord Howe (who
fell at Ticonderoga in 1 758), he succeeded
to the peerage. The admiral, like the
general, had a tall and well-proportioned
figure, but his face was dark and stern
in expression. His manners, too, were
reserved, and he was thought to be some
what haughty in disposition. He was a
brave and skilful officer, and, unlike the
general, active and indefatigable in busi

The two brothers had been appointed
by Parliament commissioners for resto
ring peace ; and accordingly, as soon as
Lord How r e arrived, he drew up, jointly
with the general, a proclamation. This
document promised pardon to those who,
having forsaken their allegiance to the
crown in the time of excitement and trou
ble, would return to their duty. It also
offered rewards to those who should aid
in the restoration of public tranquillity.
The paper was then sent to Franklin, the
colonial governor of New Jersey, with the
request to circulate it as freely as possi
ble among the people. A copy was ob
tained by General Mercer, in command
of the flying camp at Amboy, and for
warded by him to Washington, who thus
spoke of it in his despatch to the presi
dent of Congress :

" When the letter and declaration, from

Lord Howe to Mr. Franklin and

July 22,

the other late governors, come

to be published, I should suppose the



warmest advocate for dependence on the
British crown must be silent, and be con
vinced, beyond all possibility of doubt,
that all that has been said about the com
missioners was illusory, and calculated ex
pressly to deceive and put off their guard
not only the good people of our own coun
try, but those of the English nation that
were averse to the proceedings of the
king and ministry."

Lord Howe is supposed to have sin
cerely desired peace, and greatly to have
regretted that his arrival had been de
layed until after the Declaration of Inde
pendence. He is known to have been
early interested in the difficulties between
the home government and the colonies ;
and it is related that, when Franklin was
in London, he was invited by his lord
ship to dinner, with the view of extort
ing from him some information in refer
ence to the probable measures of the
American leaders. Lord Howe was ably
seconded on this occasion by the diplom
acy of his sister. While the former freely
circulated the Madeira, the latter brought
to play upon the philosopher all the en
ticements of her seductive graces. But
Franklin s sober reason w r as proof against
the intoxication of either the one or the
other; and the domestic conspiracy of
Lord and Miss Howe was defeated by
the strength of head and steadiness of
principle of the American patriot.

On the second day of Lord
Howe s arrival in the bay, about
three o clock in the afternoon, word was
brought to Washington that a flag had
come up from his lordship, and was now
detained by two of the American whale-

July 14,

boats on guard a few miles from the city.
Washington immediately convened such
of the general officers as were not upon
other duty, and asked their opinion as to
whether he ought to receive any letter
directed to him as a private gentleman.
Finding that they agreed with his own
view, that he should not, he sent Colonel
Reed (his former secretary, now adjutant-
general) down to meet the flag, and to
act accordingly. Reed went down as or
dered ; and, after passing the usual civili
ties, the British officer informed him that
he had a letter from Lord Howe to Mr.
Washington, which he showed, with the
address, " To George Washington, Esquire"
Colonel Reed replied that there was no
such person in the army, and that a let
ter intended for the general could not be
received under such a direction.

The officer expressed great concern,
and, stating that it was a letter rather of
a civil than a military nature, declared
that Lord Howe regretted that he had
not arrived sooner, since he had great
powers. The anxiety on the part of the
officer to have the letter received was
very apparent, although he disclaimed
all knowledge of its contents. Colonel
Reed, however, had received positive or
ders, and accordingly took his leave. Al
ter the two had separated and got some
distance away from each other, the officer
with the flag put about again with his
boat, and asked how General but, catch
ing himself, Mr. Washington, would wish
to be addressed.* Colonel Reed answered
that the general s station was well known,
and they could not be at a loss how to

* Irving.



[PART n.

direct to him. He added, moreover, that
a proper address would obviate all diffi
culty of communication, as Lord Howe
himself must be aware, since this matter
had already been discussed in the course
of the previous year.

" I would not," says Washington, com
menting upon this affair, " upon any oc
casion sacrifice essentials to punctilio ;
but in this instance, the opinion of oth
ers concurring with my own, I deemed
it a duty to my country and my appoint
ment to insist upon that respect which,
in any other than a public view, I would
willingly have waved." Congress showed
its approval of his conduct in this matter
by the resolution " That G eneral Washing
ton, in refusing to receive a letter said to
be sent from Lord Howe, and addressed
to George Washington, Esquire] acted with
a dignity becoming his station."

Notwithstanding Lord Howe s want of
success, his brother the general attempt
ed the same manoeuvre, and sent a flag-
addressed to " George Washington, Esquire"
with the addition of " etc., &c., &c" It
was, of course, not received. A few days
subsequently, Ho we accordingly hit upon
another expedient. He sent Lieutenant
Colonel Patterson, the British adjutant-
general, with a flag.

This dignified messenger was
met with the usual formalities,
and, as he was sent officially by General
Howe to the American commander-in-
chief, was by the order of Washington
conducted ashore and admitted into his
presence. The usual preliminary compli
ments having passed, during which the
British colonel addressed Washington by

July 20,

the title of excellency, as he did through
out the interview, business began.

Colonel Patterson commenced by say
ing that General Howe much regretted
the difficulties which had arisen in re
spect to the letter. He then justified the
propriety of the address, on the ground
that it was usual with embassadors and
plenipotentiaries, when disputes or diffi
culties of rank arose. The colonel then
reminded Washington that he had, du
ring the previous summer, sent a letter
to General Howe with the address, " To
the Honorable William Hoive, Esquire." Lord
Howe and General Howe, he continued,
did not mean to derogate from the re
spect or rank of General Washington,
whose person and character they held in
the highest esteem ; and, as for the ad
dress upon the letter, the " &c., &c., &c.,"
implied everything which ought to fol
low. The colonel here produced a letter,
which, however, he did not directly offer
to General Washington, but, remarking
that it was the same as had been already
presented, laid it upon the table, where
the address, " To George Washington, Es
quire, &c., &c., &c.," could be readily seen.

Washington declined to receive it, and
remarked that a communication directed
to a person in his public character should
have some indication of his station, other
wise it would appear a mere private let
ter. As for the " &c., &c., &c.," Washing
ton said it was true they implied every
thing, but they also implied anything.
In regard to the letter which had been
addressed to General Howe without men
tion of his rank, that had been sent, Wash
ington exDlained, in answer to one simi-




larly addressed to himself, and which had
only been received because the officer on
duty had not refused it when first pre
sented. Washington now having firmly
declared that he should decline to receive
any letter directed to him as a private
person, when it related to his public sta
tion, Colonel Patterson said that General
Howe would not urge his delicacy fur
ther, and repeated his assertion that no
failure of respect was intended.

Patterson then, saying that he w r ould
endeavor as well as he could to recollect
General Howe s views, briefly gave them,
and on finishing took a paper out of his
pocket, and, having glanced over it for a
moment, remarked that he had expressed
nearly the words. A conversation now
ensued in regard to the treatment of pris
oners; and finally Colonel Patterson al
luded to the object of the mission of Lord
and General Howe, stating that the good
ness and benevolence of the king had in
duced him to appoint these two gentle
men his commissioners to accommodate
the unhappy dispute with the colonies ;
that they had great powers, and would
derive the greatest pleasure from effect
ing an accommodation ; and that he ( Colo
nel Patterson) wished to have his visit
considered as making the first advance
toward this object.

Washington replied that he was not
vested with any powers on this subject
by those from whom he derived his au
thority; but, from what had appeared,
Lord and General Howe were only to
grant pardons, and that those who had
committed no fault wanted no pardon.
" We are only defending," added Wash

ington, " what we deem our indisputable
rights." To which Colonel Patterson an
swered, " That would open a very wide
field for argument."

The greatest courtesy prevailed during
the conference, and at its close Colonel
Patterson strongly expressed his acknowl
edgments that the usual practice of blind
folding had been dispensed with in his
case. Washington pressed him to par
take of a collation which had been pro
vided, but " he politely declined, alleging
his late breakfast." After staying a few
moments to be introduced to the general
officers, he took leave. Colonel Reed
and one of Washington s aids-de-camp ac
companied him in the president s barge
to his own boat, which awaited him some
four miles below the city, where they
separated in the best good nature, after a
lively chat during their short fellowship.

" This interview," wrote General Howe
to Lord George Germain, " was more po
lite than interesting. However, it in
duced me to change my superscription
for the attainment of an end so desirable ;
and in this view I flatter myself it will
not be disapproved." Washington w r as
subsequently always addressed by the
title of " general." Lord Howe, how r ever,
though evidently desirous from the be
ginning of being courteous in this par
ticular, hesitated for fear of disapproval
on the part of the British ministry, whose
insolent tyranny hesitated at no insult,
however gross. An interview with Lord
Howe, ten days after the visit of Colonel
Patterson, showed that his lordship was
still haggling about this matter of titles.

Colonel Palfrey, paymaster-general of



[PART n.

July 30,

the army, was sent, together with anoth
er officer, on board the Eagle,
Lord Howe s ship, to negotiate
an exchange of prisoners. The colonel
gave this account of his visit, in a letter
to Congress : " We were treated with the
utmost politeness and civility by Lord
Howe. He spoke with the highest re
spect of General Washington, and lament
ed the nice distinctions which, he said,
prevented his addressing him by letter ;
and said he wished to convey his senti
ments to him in any mode of address
that might prevent his being blamed by
the king his master.

" In all his discourse he called him Gen
eral Washington, and frequently said the
states of America. He said the Congress
had greatly hurt his feelings by remind
ing him, in one of their publications, of
the esteem and respect they had for the
memory of his brother, and drawing by
manifest inference a contrast between
the survivors and the deceased ; that no

man could feel more sensibly the respect
shown to their family than his lordship
and the general ; that they should always
esteem America for it, and particularly
Massachusetts Bay ; and added, I hope
America will one day or other be con
vinced that, in our affection for that coun
try, we also are HOWES. His lordship,
when speaking of his brother, was great
ly affected, and I could perceive a tear
standing in his eye.

" He hinted an inclination that I should
take the letter to General Washington,
with the addition of l &c., &c., &c., which
he said w r ould imply everything that we
could desire, and at the same time save
him from censure. I gave him to under
stand that, as it had been before refused
under the same circumstances,! could not
with propriety receive it, especially as it
was against the express direction of Con
gress. When we parted, he desired his
compliments to General Washington." :i:
This closed the chapter of " &c., &c., &c."


The Phoenix and Rose up the Hudson. The Inefficacy of the Forts. A Chain put across the River. Anderson s Firc-
Sliips. Old Put s Pet Project. Chevaux-de-Frise, Chains, Booms, &c. The "American Turtle." Washington
rejoices over the Victory at Charleston. The Ten Thousand British on Staten Island. Washington determines to
remain on the Defensive. The British Thirty Thousand strong. The Americans about half the Number. The Fire-
Galleys put in Operation on the Hudson. The Rose and Phoenix forced to shift their Quarters. The Fate of Ander
son, the American Turtle, c.


THE Americans were greatly dis
turbed by those two British ships,
the Phcenix and Rose, quietly lying at
their anchors up the Hudson. There they
were, only forty miles above New York,

cutting off all communication by water
between the city and Albany, and be
tween Washington s army and that of
Schuyler upon the lakes. It was true

* Sparks s Life of Washington.




they were watched so closely by Clinton
and his militiamen stationed on the banks
of the river, that they were prevented
from making a landing, or from having
communication with the tories who, with
" the most diabolical dispositions and in
tentions," abounded in those quarters.

Washington was aware of the ineffica-
cy of the American forts ; and when the
two ships ran by them, it exhibited a
proof, he says, " of what I had long most
religiously believed, and that is, that a
vessel with a brisk wind and strong tide
can not, unless by a chance shot, be
stopped by a battery, unless you can
place some obstruction in the water to
impede her motion within reach of your

The ingenuity of all was now being
exercised to destroy or drive away these
impudent intruders. Clinton was busy
above, and particularly active when he
discovered that the ships had one night
moved still farther up the river, and an
chored within six miles of Fort Montgom
ery, where he himself was stationed. He
was anxious lest they might " take advan
tage of a dark night and slip by him in
the deep shadows of the mountains." He
accordingly determined to be on the alert.
Guards were sent below, and preparations
made with combustibles to light alarm-
fires, so soon as the ships should move.
Fire-rafts were constructed atPoughkeep-
sie, and sloops filled with inflammable ma
terials of all kinds, and kept ready to be

Online LibraryRobert TomesBattles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) → online text (page 40 of 126)