Robert Tomes.

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

. (page 48 of 126)
Online LibraryRobert TomesBattles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) → online text (page 48 of 126)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

chusetts militia, led the retreat, with bare
ly enough sail set to give her steerage-
way, and a lantern under her stern, so
masked as not to be seen except by those
directly in her wake. The rest of the
squadron (each with a lantern hung at
her stern in the same manner) followed
in succession, at intervals of two or three
hundred yards. The night was profound
ly dark, and a heavy fog hung over the
lake. Strict silence was enjoined, and
thus each vessel sailed, in the dead of
night, through the enemy s line, Arnold
bringing up the rear with his usual dis
regard or rather love of danger. The

Oct. 13,

British were so completely kept in the
dark., that they were unconscious of his
escape until next morning, when he had
reached Schuyler s island, some ten miles
up the lake.

Arnold was now brought to a stop by
the ill condition of his vessels, which had
been so damaged in the fight, that all of
them were either leaking or required to
have new sails bent. Two of the gondo
las were such complete wrecks, that they
were abandoned and sunk. The neces
sary repairs detained him for half a day
at Schuyler s island, and Arnold was not
enabled to get under way again until the

The wind proving favorable, Arnold
made good progress during the night.
In the morning, however, a fresh
breeze sprang up from the south,
dead ahead ; and, although it was unfa
vorable for both the pursued and the pur
suing, the enemy succeeded in gaining
upon the rear of the American flotilla.
The two galleys, the Washington and Con
gress, and four of the gondolas all of
which were in bad sailing-condition, from
the damages they had suffered were
soon overtaken by the leading British
vessels, which crowded all sail in chase.
The Washington was the first to suffer,
and, having received a broadside or two,
was forced to strike. The enemy now
bore up against Arnold s galley, the Con
gress. Arnold did not refuse the fight,
notwithstanding the odds against him of
a ship and two schooners. Unequal as
was the struggle, he resolutely engaged
in it, and with such a brave and skilful
resistance, that it was prolonged for four


hours; and Arnold did not withdraw his
galley until she was nearly a wreck, and
the enemy had been reinforced by four
additional vessels, and thus with seven of
their larger craft were preparing to sur
round him on all sides.

Arnold, finding himself in this extremi
ty, ran the Congress and the four gondo
las ashore. He then ordered all the boats,
with their flags flying, to be set on fire,
and his men to spring overboard with
their muskets in hand, and, having waded
to the land, to draw up and keep off the
enemy s small boats should they attempt
an attack. Arnold himself was the last
man to leave the galley ; and, on reach
ing the shore, he stood his guard until
the flames had so enveloped the whole
flotilla, that hardly a plank was left to
fall into the hands of the enemy.

Arnold then pushed on by land through
the forest to Ticonderoga, where on his
arrival he found the remnant of his flo
tilla the two schooners, two galleys, one
sloop, and the gondola which, by being
in advance, and in fair sailing-condition,
had succeeded in escaping Carleton s fleet.
Every one awarded to Arnold great cred
it for his daring and the skill with which
he managed his little flotilla in so unequal
a struggle, although some have doubted
his prudence in engaging with the ene
my under such disadvantages.

Sir Guy Carleton treated the prisoners
with his usual humanity and chivalrous
courtesy. He ordered his army-surgeons
to take the same care of the American
wounded as they did of his own men.
The others he sent for on board his own
ship, where " he first treated them to a



drink of grog," and then praised their
courage; and, after expressing a regret
that it had not been displayed in the ser
vice of their lawful sovereign, offered to
send them home to their friends, on their
giving their parole that they would not
again bear arms against Great Britain un
til they should be exchanged.

General Waterbury,who had command
ed the Washington, was invited by Carle-
ton into his cabin below, and asked for
his commission. When it was shown, and
observed to be signed by Governor Trum-
bull, of Connecticut, the courteous Sir
Guy gave his prisoner his hand, saying :
" General Waterbury, I am happy to take
you by the hand, now that I see that you
are not serving under a commission and
orders of the rebel Congress, but of Gov
ernor Trumbull. You are acting under
a legitimate and acknowledged authority.
He is responsible for the abuse he has
made of that authority. That which is
a high crime in him, is but an error in
you : it was your duty to obey him, your
legitimate authority."*

In a few days after Arnold s defeat, a
number of row-boats pulled up the lake,
and lay upon their oars off the advanced
posts of the Americans. The boats bore
a flag of truce, and contained General
Waterbury and one hundred and ten pris
oners, who were now returned on parole
by Sir Guy Carleton. This noble-hearted
Englishman had treated those who had
fallen into his hands by the chances of
war with so much humanity and even
gentle courtesy, and each man who re
turned was so full of gratitude and ex-

* Autobiography, &c., by John Trumbull.




pressions of good feeling toward Sir Guy,
that he was thought to "have made a
very dangerous impression." The boats,
therefore, which contained the prisoners
were placed under the guns of a battery,
and orders given that not a man should
be allowed to land, lest by intercourse
with the American troops he might affect
them with a dangerous good will toward
the enemy. The prisoners were accord
ingly, immediately after their arrival was
reported to General Gates, ordered to pro
ceed to Skenesborough, on their way to
their homes ; and they went forward the
same night, without being permitted to
land. We know of no such illustration
as this fact exhibits, of the humanity of a
chivalrous enemy, as well as of the policy
of such conduct. Many such British offi
cers might have proved fatal to the Amer
ican cause.

Sir Guy meanwhile did not neglect the
more positive duties of his command. He
advanced with his whole force, and took
possession of Crown Point; and thence
sent out a reconnoitring-party to observe
the condition of the Americans at Ticon-
deroga. Gates was prepared to make an
effective display of his powers of resist
ance. He had been largely reinforced,
and now mustered nearly thirteen thou
sand men, who by proper care and time
ly supplies of food and clothing, were in
a tolerably effective condition. So soon
as Carleton s boats appeared off a point
within three miles of Ticonderoga, Gates
ordered his whole force under arms, and
each man to his post. The American

lines must have made an imposing show
to those on the lake. The summits of
the rising ground on both sides of the
water were crowned with redoubts and
batteries, bristling with cannon, and full
manned with soldiers, while above all
floated the new flag of the United States.
The enemy s boats retired, but Gates
did not neglect to continue to prepare
for an attack. The works were manned
at daylight each morning, and the troops
kept busy the whole clay in strengthen
ing the defences. Poles of twelve feet
in length were cut in the neighboring;

* / O O

forests, armed with sharp iron points, and
kept in readiness within the breastworks
to thrust back the assailants in case of an
assault. Carleton, however, did not ad
vance, whether owing to the formidable
appearance of his antagonists at Ticon
deroga, or to the strong southerly wind
which had continued to blow in his teeth
ever since his arrival at Crown Point, and
prevented the advance of his vessels. Fi
nally, Gates, growing impatient, ordered
a detachment of troops to march toward
Crown Point, to reconnoitre. They soon
returned, with the information
that Sir Guy with his whole fleet
and army had abandoned that post, and
withdrawn into Canada. The enemy gone,
there was less occasion for the American
army to remain. A small force, under
General St. Clair, having been left to gar
rison the post at Ticonderoga, the remain
der of the troops were ordered to other
service. Gates proceeded to Albany, and
Arnold to join Washington s army.

Nov. 1,




Sir William Howe disposed to move. English Vessels-of- War sail up the Hudson. In efficacy of Chevaux-de-Frise, &c.
The Last of the American Turtle. General James Clinton astir. Agitation of the Convention of the State of New
York. The Enemy at Throw s Point. Return of General Lee. Elation of the Army in consequence. Lee s Views
of the British Flans. Council of War. Lee opposed to holding Fort Washington. Greene in favor. Movement of
the Enemy. General Heath. His Life and Character. An Attempt to catch Rogers. Its Failure. The Enemy
outflanked by Washington. Retires to White Plains. Lee s Headquarters. Oddities. Approach of the Enemy.


SIR WILLIAM HOWE, after his long
inactivity, began at last to show
some disposition to move. Early one
morning the British men-of-war, the Roe
buck, Phoenix, a frigate of twenty guns,
and several tenders, which had been sta
tioned off Bloomingdale, taking advan
tage of a fair southerly breeze, got under

way and sailed up the Hudson.
Oct 9

The batteries and forts on both

sides of the river kept up a heavy fire,
but the ships sailed by them without much
damage. The famous chevaux-de-frise, that
had been stretched across the stream un
der the auspices of " Old Put," proved
still less an obstruction, notwithstanding
the old gap in it had been filled in. The
ships, borne by a strong flood-tide and a
fair wind, came with head on, and broke
through the barrier with hardly a check
to their way, chasing before them the
two vessels laden down with stories, ready
to be sunk, to add to the strength of the


chevaux-de-frise, the four armed galleys sta
tioned to protect it, an American vessel
from the West Indies, with a cargo of
rum and molasses, anchored for safety


under the cover of the guns of the fort,
and a small schooner containing Bush-
nell s "American Turtle." The two ships

were driven ashore by their pursuers ;
two of the galleys secured a retreat ; two
were run aground and fell into the ene-
, my s hands, although their crews saved
themselves by swimming; the West-India
skipper was forced to strike his flag ; and
a well-aimed shot sent the small schoon
er, with Bushnell s submarine exploder,
to the bottom meeting a fate, as Gen
eral Heath remarks, " finely in contrast
with its design ;" for the purpose of the
"American Turtle" was to destroy, and
not to be destroyed.

Washington saw in this movement of
the enemy s ships an intention to stop
the navigation of the Hudson, and thus
cut off his communication and supplies
by that river. He immediately sent an
express to General James Clinton, who
commanded at the Highlands, to put him
on his guard, in case there should be any
attempt upon the posts and forts above.
He also ordered a detachment of troops
from his camp to hurry along the eastern
bank of the river, to oppose the enemy
in case they should land. As Putnam
was still sanguine of the efficacy of his
favorite chevaux-de-frise., Washington was
induced to send a party to try and get
off the two stone-laden ships which had



[PART n.

o>-ot aground, and in the meantime to or-

O O /

der some old hulks to be filled up and
towed down to close the break in the ob
struction across the river, and thus pre
vent, if possible, the return of the ships
to their anchorage in the bay.

The convention of the state of New
York were greatly agitated by the ad
vance of the enemy s ships up their main
river. They had great distrust of many
of the population, and believed that this
movement was in co-operation with the
disaffected, with the view of seizing such
passes as would cut off the communica
tion between the interior and Washing
ton s army, and thus prevent supplies.
They therefore strenuously urged upon
the commander-in-chief the propriety of
sending a body of men to the Highlands
or to Peekskill, to " secure the passes, pre
vent insurrection, and overawe the dis

Washington was induced by these ap
prehensions which the convention were
under, on account of the disaffected whom
they had reason to suppose were plotting
so much mischief, to order up a part of
the militia which had lately come in from
Massachusetts, under the new general,
Lincoln, to prevent if possible the conse
quences which might happen, and which
it was believed the conspirators had in
contemplation. "I am persuaded," says
Washington, " that they are upon the eve
of breaking out, and that they will leave
nothing unessayed that will distress us
and favor the designs of the enemy, as
soon as their schemes are rife for it."

The attention of the command er-in-
chief was, however, soon called to a more

Oct. 12,

pressing danger near at hand. The en
emy had landed on " Trog s"
point (Throgg s it is now always
called, though Washington writes Trog s)
in large force. Nine ships and a great
number of transports and store-vessels,
" full of men," had been observed to pass
up the sound the night before, and it was
believed that the greatest part of Howe s
army had moved upward with the view
of getting in the rear of Washington s
lines and cutting off his communication
with the country. " Our situation here,"
writes Washington, " is not exactly the
same as it was at New York. It is rather
better." He had some hope, by extend
ing his force, now consisting of some nine
teen thousand, toward East and West
Chester, to oppose the enemy, and pre
vent the accomplishment of their plans.

General Howe, after landing, did not
seem to be very impatient to begin op
erations. He was waiting (he afterward
said, in explanation) for the arrival of re
inforcements and stores, while the Ameri
cans believed that he was forced to hold
back in consequence of the state of the
causeway, which had been broken up, and
which was necessary for the conveyance
of his troops and artillery from Throgg s
point to the mainland. His landing, more
over, was opposed by some vigorous man
ifestations on the part of the American
forces. Howe finally re-embarked, and
landed at Pell s point, whence he began
to move his troops toward New Kochelle.

The arrival of General Lee at
this anxious time, on his return
from the South, was welcomed by the
whole American army. " The troops,"




says a contemporary, " were mightily ela
ted with his presence, and felt themselves
stronger by one thousand men upon the
occasion ; for they had great confidence
in his abilities, and expected much from
him, because of the success which had at
tended him at Charleston." Washington
at once gave him the command of the di
vision stationed above Kingsbridge. The
other three divisions were under Generals
Heath, Sullivan, and Lincoln. Greene
had command of the post on the Jersey
shore, opposite to Fort Washington, pre
viously called " Fort Constitution," now
changed to "Fort Lee," in honor of the
general whose arrival seemed so greatly
to be welcomed by all.

Lee s success in the South had greatly
added to his reputation ; and when Wash
ington s army was apparently in such a
strait at New York, Congress despatched
an express to Georgia, ordering him to
repair immediately to Philadelphia, He
at once obeyed the summons ; and, hav
ing waited on Congress, and consulted

O O 3

with that body, it was resolved that he
should proceed to Washington s camp
without delay, although leave was grant
ed to him to visit the American posts in
New Jersey. Lee accordingly, before pre
senting himself at Washington s headquar
ters, visited the camp at Amboy, just pre
vious to crossing to New York. While
there, he took occasion to make a survey
of the enemy s position and movements
on Staten island. Here, on the day of
his arrival, Lee beheld a great encamp
ment of Hessians, and on the next morn
ing discovered that every tent was struck,
and the whole force had disappeared.

Thereupon he writes to Congress, and in
his usual emphatic style says :
" I am confident 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 re
ceived flattering accounts from Burgoyne
that he will be able to effectuate a junc
tion (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 defence,
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 prob
able, land somewhere about South Am
boy or Shrewsbury, and march straight
to Trenton or Burlington. On the sup
position 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 can not pos
sibly 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 opin
ion, your whole cause depends upon it. I
set out immediately for headquarters,
where I shall communicate my apprehen-




Oct. 16.

sion 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." :;:

A few days after writing this letter,
General Lee had an opportunity of ma
king known his views and sustaining his
opinions before a council of war called
by Washington. A warm dis
cussion took place, and Lee was
among the foremost in the debate, stren
uously urging the necessity of extending
the American lines toward East and West
Chester, in order to outflank the enemy,
whose purpose evidently was to hem in
Washington by drawing a line in his rear.
There was considerable opposition to his
views, it being contended that the island
of New York, as it was well defended by
strong posts, and difficult of access, might
be held, and that it was there that the
army should remain and await the attack
of the enemy. Lee asked what they
meant by thinking of holding their posi
tion, while Howe had the command of
the water on each side of them, and was
so strong both in front and rear, and there
was but a single communication with the
mainland held by themselves, and that
only a bridge (King s bridge), over which
they must pass to escape being enclosed.
He declared that it was fallacious to sup
pose a position was good merely because
its approaches were difficult,- and stoutly
argued against the policy of having any
thing to do with the islands, adding that
for his part he " would give Mr. Howe a
fee simple in them."

* Amoncan Archives, fifth series, 11, 1008, quoted by

These opinions, emphatically express
ed, evidently had their effect; so that
when the question was put " Whether,
it having appeared that the obstructions
in the North river have proved insuffi
cient, and that the enemy s whole force
is in our rear at Throgg s point, it is now
deemed possible in our present situation
to prevent the enemy from cutting off
the communication with the country, and
compelling us to fight them at all disad
vantages or surrender prisoners at discre
tion?" it was agreed, with the single
dissenting voice of General Clinton, that
it was not possible to prevent the com
munication from being cut off, and that
one of the consequences mentioned must
certainly follow.

Lee was equally emphatic in denoun
cing the attempt to hold Fort Washing
ton, but not equally successful in impres
sing the council with his views. The gen
erals were probably influenced by a late
resolution of Congress, desiring Washing
ton, " by every art and at whatever ex
pense, to obstruct effectually the naviga
tion of the river between Fort Washing
ton and Mount Constitution, as well to
prevent the regress of the enemy s frig
ates lately gone up, as to hinder them
from receiving succor." Apart from this,
there were some who believed that the
fort should be held at all risks. Among
them was General Greene, who was sta
tioned at Fort Lee. He contended that
the possession of Fort Washington would
divert a large body of the enemy, and
thus divide the force of Howe ; and that
it, in conjunction with Fort Lee opposite,
would serve to cover the transportation




Oct. 22.

of provisions and other articles up the
North river for the service of the Ameri
can troops. He moreover held that, at
the worst, the garrison would be safe, as
they could be conveyed away at any mo
ment by boats from the Jersey side of
the river. It was finally agreed by the
council of war that Fort Washington be
retained as long as possible. More than
two thousand men were accordingly as
signed for that purpose ; and Colonel Ma-
gaw, to whom the command was given,
was urged to defend the position to the

Sir William Ho we, reinforced by a large
body of Hessians under General Knyp-
hausen, just arrived from Germa
ny, continued to gather his forces
on the New- York border of the sound,
and to extend them northward.

Washington, in the meantime, having
stationed Lee on Valentine s hill, beyond
Kingsbridge, with one of the four divis
ions of the army, the rest followed and
formed a line of detached camps along
the western side of the river Bronx, ex
tending from Lee s position to White
Plains, a distance of thirteen miles. The
chief himself abandoned the Morris man
sion, on Harlem heights, and, after re
maining a few days with Lee at Valen
tine s hill, established his headquarters
near White Plains. General Heath, who
had the command of the division of the
army toward Long-island sound, was di
rected to watch and harass the enemy as
much as possible in that quarter, while
landing and marching into the interior.

WILLIAM HEATH, a native of Koxbury,
in Massachusetts, like many of the New-

England officers, was a farmer, and had
left the plough to gird on the sword. He
had, however, according to his own ac
count, a very early proclivity toward
martial life, and read every book which
fell in his way on military tactics, until
he became, as he tells us, quite a profi
cient in the theory of war. He was com
missioned by the Congress of his own
province, in 1775. During the siege of
Boston, he was present as a general offi
cer, but when offered the command of
a division, "he declined the hazardous
service."* Having been appointed a few
months before by Congress a major-gen
eral in the continental army, he was now
in command of one of its divisions. Heath
was in person corpulent and bald-headed,
and seemed flattered by being reminded
that he resembled the marquis of Gran-
by. He had little opportunity of playing
the hero, but proved himself an officer
who was always faithful to duty ; and,
though of an easy temper, he was not
without spirit when called upon to sus
tain his own dignity or the honor of his

Howe did not succeed in marching in
to position without some stout resistance.
Glover s brigade was on the alert, and dis
puted the ground with the advancing par
ties ; and battalions of American riflemen,
stationed behind the stone-fences, suc
ceeded in greatly annoying them. Twice
the British were repulsed, and it was not
until they came up for the third time,
and in solid columns, that they were able
to force their way. The right and cen
tre of Howe s army now moved two miles

* Timelier.


to the northward of New Rochelle, on the
road to White Plains.

The two armies, in the course of this
simultaneous movement, were for some
distance in a line with each other from

Online LibraryRobert TomesBattles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) → online text (page 48 of 126)