Robert Tomes.

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

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act of lenity and kindness ? It certainly
will. The Hessians would hear of the
punishments with all the circumstances
of heightened exaggeration ; would feel
the injury, without investigating the cause
or reasoning upon the justice or necessity
of it. The mischiefs, which may and must
inevitably flow from the execution of the
resolves, appear to be endless and innu
merable." Thus was the judicious Wash
ington always humane in his policy ; and
if politic in his humanity, it was only to
avoid sacrificing the broad philanthropy
of a patriot to the personal benevolence
of the sentimentalist.

Congress, on the receipt of this letter,
resolved "that General Washington be
informed that Congress can not agree to
any alteration in the resolve passed on
the 6th of January." This resolve was,
" that the board of war be directed im
mediately to order the five Hessian field-



[PART n.

officers and Lieutenant-Colonel Campbell
into safe and close custody, it being the
unalterable resolution of Congress to re
taliate on them the same punishment as
may be inflicted on the person of General
Lee." In regard, however, to the com

plaints of Colonel Campbell, Congress
deigned to declare that it was never their
intention that he should suffer any other
hardship than such confinement as was
necessary for his security, to carry out
the object of their resolve.


Increased Popularity of the American Cause in New Jersey. General Howe responsible for the Violation of the Rights
of Property. His Manifesto of Rapine. American Scoundrels, too. Washington checks and punishes them. His
Order against Disorder. His Proclamation to the People of New Jersey. Its Effect. Nothing but Skirmishes.
Lord Cornwallis. His Chain of Posts. His Force. The American Line and Posts. Successful Skirmishes with the
Enemy. General Philemon Dickinson. His Position and that of his Brother. The Martial Brother. His Engage
ment with the British Plunderers. Communications between the Opposing Armies. A Letter from General Lee.
His Proposition. Refused by Congress. Lee s Disappointment and Sombre Reflections. Washington regrets the
Refusal of Congress. General Putnam s Ruse to magnify his Force in the Eyes of the Enemy. A College Illumina
tion. The Effect. The Meager American Force. Fewer Men than Miles to guard. Tardy Reinforcements.
Wants. French Applicants for Commissions General Arnold in Rhode Island. An Abortive Plan. New Regi
ments and New Officers. Take none but Gentlemen. Five New Major- Generals.


THE American cause had greatly
increased in popularity among the
New-Jersey people. The Hessian and Brit
ish troops spared neither friend nor foe
in their cruel devastations ; and, although
Sir William Howe could scarcely have
been such a monster of iniquity as to
justify the brutalities practised by his
soldiery upon the defenceless mothers,
wives, and daughters, of the country, he
clearly made himself responsible for the
violation of the rights of property when
he issued such orders as this:

" All salted meat and provisions, which
may be judged to exceed the quantity
necessary for the subsistence of an ordi
nary family, shall be considered as a mag
azine of the enemy, and seized for the

king, and given to the troops as a saving
for the public."

This allowed a wide latitude to the pro
pensities of a soldiery for plunder, whose
only control was the word of command,
and who looked for no principle of action
beyond the order of the day. The Amer
ican army had its brutal vagabonds, too,
eager to rob and destroy ; but in Wash
ington their commander they ever found
one who, with a scrupulous regard to the
rights of person and property, was at all
times prompt to punish with severity the
least violation of them. It was this which
greatly aided now in conciliating to the
American cause the people of New Jer
sey, who, though afflicted by the horrors
of war, triumph who might, could yet dis-



tinguish between a brutality licensed by
authority and that which was emphatic
ally denounced and threatened with pun

Washington, indignant at the conduct
of some of his troops, issued the following
emphatic order : " The general
prohibits, in both the militia and
continental troops, in the most positive
terms, the infamous practice of plunder
ing the inhabitants, under the specious
pretence of their being tories. Let the
persons of such as are known to be ene
mies to their country be seized and con
fined, and their property disposed of as
the law of the state directs. It is our
business to give protection and support
to the poor, distressed inhabitants, not to
multiply and increase their calamities.
After the publication of this order, any
officer, either militia or continental, found
attempting to conceal the public stores,
plundering the inhabitants under the pre
tence of their being tories, or selling at
vend ue plunder taken from the enemy,
in any other manner than these orders
direct, may expect to be punished in the
severest manner." Copies of this order
were then immediately circulated among
all the troops.

Taking advantage of the favorable dis
position of the people, Washington now
issued a proclamation, in which
he called upon all those who,
while the British forces were in the as
cendant in New Jersey, had signed decla
rations of fidelity to the king of Great
Britain, to come forward and take an oath
of allegiance to the United States of Amer
ica. Those, however, who preferred " the

Jan, 25*

interest and protection of Great Britain
to the freedom and happiness of their
country," were told to withdraw them
selves and their families forthwith within
the enemy s lines. Many of the people
gladly welcomed this opportunity of giv
ing their names to a cause in which their
hearts were already engaged ; while oth
ers, who had only been able to secure
British protection by swearing allegiance
to the king, hesitated, not because they
were less friendly, but more scrupulous.
Some of the substantial farmers of the
country had thus committed themselves ;
and now, although their hearts had been
won over to Washington, they felt com
pelled to withhold their hands.

Beyond an occasional skirmish,in which
the Americans not seldom got the advan
tage, there was little opportunity for ac
tion, as Sir William Howe, with his usual
caution or indolence, was not disposed to
move. Lord Cornwallis, with the main
body of the army, was at New Brunswick,
w r hile his communication Avith the Hud
son river and New York was kept up by
means of a chain of small posts. His force
was great not less, it was supposed, than
eight thousand. The Americans, with
their fluctuating militia, were constantly
varying in number ; which, however, was
never large, seldom over four thousand,
and at times reduced as low as fifteen
hundred. But the enemy thought them
much more numerous ; and, fortunately,
they had been favorably impressed by
their prowess in the occasional skirmish
es which had occurred.

The whole line of Washington s army
was widely extended ; he himself



[PART n.

with the centre and main body at Morris-
town, while General Putnam commanded
the right at Princeton, and General Heath
the left in the Highlands. From these
different points occasional small detach
ments (generally militia, for the sake of
breaking them gradually into warfare)
would be sent out to harass the enemy s
outposts, and to pounce upon their fora-
ging-parties. In these encounters, the
Americans, with the advantage of a thor
ough knowledge of the country, and the
sympathy of the inhabitants, were gener
ally successful. On one Sunday morning,
for example, some fifty Waldeckers were
fallen in with by about the same number
of militia,, and so taken by surprise, that
ten of the enemy were killed or wounded,
and the rest taken prisoners, while the
Americans came off without the least

On another occasion, General Philemon
Dickinson, by a gallant little action, won
from the commander the praise "His
behavior reflects the highest honor upon
him." Dickinson was a man of fortune
and influence, belonging to New Jersey,
and was now in command of the militia
of that state. He was brother to John
Dickinson, who, although an earnest po
litical writer in behalf of the American
cause, opposed (while a delegate to Con
gress from Pennsylvania) the Declaration
of Independence, as premature. He, in
consequence, lost his popularity, but nev
er his patriotism. His spirit was not of
the warlike stamp of that of his brother.
" Where duty and honor require my pres
ence," said John Dickinson, " there I shall
be; but much, much rather would I choose

that these severe masters would give me
up to my dear connections, my books, and
my friends, an intercourse and employ
ment for which my constitution is better
formed, than for the toils of war, and to
cultivate which my temper is more dis
posed, than to relish all the united glo
ries, could I obtain them, of every heroic
death from the Roman Curtius to the
British Wolfe."

The martial brother had just now dis
tinguished himself, though not in a way
to rival a Curtius or a Wolfe, still in a
manner worthy of all praise. General
Dickinson had the command of the Amer
ican outpost nearest to the enemy at New
Brunswick, stationed on the west bank
of Millstone river. On the opposite side
was a mill, with a large stock of flour ;
and Cornwallis, covetous of the booty,
had sent out a party to seize it, and take
whatever other plunder they could lay
their hands on. Dickinson was on the
alert, and, heading four hundred New-
Jersey militiamen, plunged into the river,
and, pouncing upon the plunderers, put
them to rout, and relieved them of forty
wagons, upward of a hundred horses
"most of them of the English draughtr
breed" and a number of sheep and cat
tle which they had collected. The ene
my returned, with nothing to carry back
to the camp of Cornwallis but " a good
many dead and wounded in light wag

The ordinary communications between
opposing armies were kept up during this
period of inactive hostility. Now
Lord Cornwallis has a convoy of
money and stores to send to the Hessian



prisoners, and wishes a safe-conduct for
it through New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Washington answers his lordship that no
molestation will be offered by any part
of the regular army under his command.
" But I can not," he says, " answer for the
militia who are resorting to arms in most
part of this state, and who are exceedingly
exasperated at the treatment they have
met with, both from Hessian and British

Again, flags are passing to and fro, and
messengers and bearers of letters coming
and going between the hostile camps.
On one of these occasions a packet ar
rives from General Lee, containing a let
ter to Congress under cover of one to
Washington, who is most earnestly en
treated to despatch it immediately, and
order that body to be as expeditious as
possible. The letter to Congress contains
the request from General Lee that two
or three delegates may be sent immedi
ately to New York, to whom he had to
communicate something, as he avowed, of
the greatest importance. What it was,
Lee did not say; but it was evidently
something concocted between him and
the brothers Howe, for he declares that
these commanders would grant a safe-
conduct to the gentlemen sent. Congress,
probably not anxious for the second time
to play a part in such a frivolous negoti
ation as was the result of the swelling
preliminaries arranged by General Sulli
van and Lord Howe, resolved that it was
inexpedient to send any of their members
1o confer with Lee. Notwithstanding,
the imprisoned general reiterated his re
quest, and was a second time answered


with a refusal. Lee s captivity had given
him an opportunity of reflecting upon the
uncertainty of all human greatness ; and
1iis manner, if we may judge from his let
ter, had lost all its early flash, in the som
bre shadow now cast over his thoughts.
He writes to Washington in this subdued
strain, expressive of his disappointment :

" It is a most unfortunate circumstance
for myself, and I think not less so for the
public, that the Congress have not thought
proper to comply with my request. It
could not possibly have been attended
with any ill consequences, and might with
good ones. At least, it was an indulgence
which I thought my situation entitled me
to. But I am unfortunate in everything,
and this is the severest I have yet expe
rienced. God send you a different fate !

" Adieu, my dear general. Yours most
truly and affectionately,


Washington appears to have sympa
thized with Lee, or, at any rate, not to
have approved of the resolve of Congress,
for he says, in a letter to Robert Morris :
" I wish, with all my heart, that Congress
had gratified General Lee in his request.
If not too late, I wish they would do it
still. I can see no possible evil that can
result from it ; some good I think might.
The request to see a gentleman or two
came from the general, not from the com
missioner ; there could have been no harm,
therefore, in hearing what he had to say
on any subject, especially as he had de
clared that his own personal interest was
deeply concerned."

During these communications between




the British and the American lines, Wash
ington was particularly anxious lest the
meairerness of his force should be disco v-


ered by the enemy. He accordingly in
sisted that his officers should avail them
selves of the ordinary military expedient
authorized by such circumstances, and
give out the strength of the army to be
twice as great as it was. General Put
nam, who was stationed at Princeton, now
that he had been deserted by a large
party of New-Jersey militia, and left with
only a meager remnant of troops, had es
pecial reason to bear in mind the order
of his commander-in-chief. A British offi
cer, who was lying mortally w y ounded in
Putnam s camp, requested the privilege
of a visit from a friend and comrade sta
tioned at Brunswick, under Lord Corn-
wallis. The request was granted. A flag
was sent, and returned witli the wound
ed man s friend. lie was, however, not
allowed to enter Princeton until he was
blindfolded, and the night had advanced.
General Putnam, mindful of Washing
ton s orders, and not indisposed to exer
cise his Yankee ingenuity in the execu
tion of a ruse, took the occasion to pro
duce an impression, the largeness of which
it was hoped would compensate for the
smallness of the American force. He ac
cordingly had a light put in every room
in the college-buildings, and of the empty
houses in the town, and kept his handful
of men so noisily parading about, that the
British visitor returned to the camp of
Earl Cornwallis with the report that the
Americans at Princeton were at least five

thousand strong !*

* Irviiu

Jan. 24.

The Americans, indeed, had every rea
son to strengthen themselves in the eyes
of the enemy with imaginary reinforce
ments, for the real troops came in but
slowly to take the place of those rapidly
departing. Putnam, at one time, had few
er men than miles of frontier to guard !
The militia were constantly in a state of
fluctuation. " We have a full army one
day," says Washington, " and scarce any
the next ; and I am much afraid that the
enemy, one day or the other, taking ad
vantage of one of these temporary weak
nesses, will make themselves masters of
our magazines of stores, arms, and artil
lery. Nothing but their ignorance of our
numbers protects us at this very
time; when, on the contrary, had
we six or eight thousand regular troops,
or could the militia, who were with me a
few clays ago, have been prevailed upon
to stay, we could have struck such a stroke
as would have inevitably ruined the army
of the enemy, in their divided state."

The reinforcements came in so extreme
ly slow, there was at times actually dan
ger (in the interval of the dissolution of
the old and the organization of the new
army) that Washington might be left en
tirely destitute of men ! Under these cir
cumstances, he wrote in the most urgent
manner to the governors of the several
states to forward on their regiments with
all possible expedition. Although, from
the supineness of the enemy, there was a
long cessation of active hostility, Wash
ington was full of work. On one day, he
is writing to Governor Trumbull, of Con
necticut, entreating him to hasten and
equip the lines from that state ; and to




Governor Livingston, suggesting a differ
ent organization of the militia of New
Jersey, whose " officers are generally of
the lowest class of the people, and instead
of setting a good example to their men,
are leading them into every kind of mis
chief, one species of which is plundering
the inhabitants, under the pretence of
their being tories."

On another day, the general-in-chief is
writing to Congress about the destitution
of the commissariat department, from the
want of money or the want of clothing ;
or about the exchange of prisoners, the
appointment of officers, and the proper
place of the laboratories. Again, he is
beset by a number of French officers who
come to headquarters applying for com
missions in the army. " This evil," says
Washington, " is a growing one ; for, from
what I learn, they are coming in swarms
from Old France and the islands. There
will, therefore, be a necessity of providing
for them, or discountenancing them. To
do the first is difficult; and the last dis
agreeable and perhaps impolitic, if they
are men of merit; and it is impossible to
distinguish these from mere adventurers,
of whom 1 am convinced there is the
greater number."

Then, on yet another day, Washington
is conferring by letter with General Ar
nold about his schemes on Rhode Island.
The British were at Newport, to the num
ber of six thousand, under the command
of Earl Percy. Arnold, immediately after
his arrival from the North at the camp of
Washington, had been ordered, in con
junction with General Spencer, to take
command of the American force sent to

Rhode Island. This consisted of some
four or five thousand militia, who were
now encamped at Providence. As a de
tachment had been ordered away from
the camp of the British, which had re
duced their numbers to four thousand,
Arnold and Spencer proposed an attack
on Rhode island. Washington, upon be
ing consulted, examines the map sent to
him, together with the plan of the enter
prise ; and, after suggesting the difficulty
of passing a body of water to attack an
enemy, and of making a good retreat in
case of repulse, advises that the assault
should not be made, unless with a strong
probability, amounting almost to a cer
tainty, of success. The enterprise was
finally given up.

The subject, however, which was upper
most in Washington s thoughts at this
time, was the recruitment of the new ar
my. To this he was directing all his en
ergies. Eighty-eight battalions, accord
ing to a resolve of Congress, were to be
enlisted. Colonel Hazen was sent to su
perintend this service in New York and
the New-England states; and Lieutenant-
Colonel Antill in New Jersey, Pennsylva
nia, Maryland, and Virginia. With these
gentlemen the commander-in-chief was
frequently communicating by letter, ur
ging them to exert themselves as much
as possible in filling the companies, and
sending them forward with the utmost
despatch. Over the appointment of the
officers to these battalions Washington
had but little control, each state choosing
its own according to its quota of troops.
There were, however, sixteen additional
regiments, where the choice of the officers



[PART n.

was left to the commander-in-chief. He
generally contented himself with the ap
pointment of the colonels, and left the
subordinate commissions to be distributed
by them, subject to his approval. Nathan
iel Gist, John Patton, William Grayson,
Thomas Hartley, Samuel B. Webb, David
Henley ,Ezekiel CornellJIenry Sherburne,
Alexander Scammel, and Henry Jackson,
were the colonels appointed in January,
and they were now busily engaged in ob
taining men and officers for their regi
ments. Colonel Gist was authorized to
raise four companies of rangers, and was
instructed to proceed to the Cherokee or
any other nation of Indians and attempt
to procure a number of warriors, not ex
ceeding five hundred, who were to be sup
plied with arms and blankets, and paid
like the continental troops. There was,
however, a good deal of reserve on the
part of the Americans in availing them
selves of the aid of the Indians; and du
ring the whole war the British, with less
scruple, always succeeded, by their pro
fuse largesses, in obtaining a preponder
ance of savage auxiliaries.

While Washington gave his colonels
the privilege of choosing their officers, he
earnestly recommended them to be cir
cumspect in their choice. " Take none,"
he says, " but gentlemen ; let no local at
tachments influence you ; do not suffer
your good nature, when an application is
made, to say Yes, when you ought to
say l No ; remember that it is a public,
not a private cause, that is to be injured
or benefited by your choice ; recollect,
also, that no instance has yet happened
of good or bad behavior in a corps in our

service, that has not originated with the
officers. Do not take old men, nor yet
fill your corps with boys, especially for

Washington had constantly urged up
on Congress the necessity of hastening
the appointment of the general officers.
" We have very little time," he says, " to
do a very great work in ;" and tells them
that, if they are withholding the commis
sions from parsimonious principles, they
are mistaken. He, with a delicate reserve,
did not pretend to direct the choice of
Congress, but could not refrain from sug
gesting the names of two officers for thf
new appointments: General Cadwallader,
whom he pronounces a man of ability, a
good disciplinarian, firm in his principles,
and of intrepid bravery ; and Colonel Reed,
whom he recommends for the command
of the horse, as a person in every respect

Congress finally responded to these ur
gent appeals of the commander-in-chief,
and appointed five major-gener-
als. These were Stirling, Mifllin,
St. Clair, Stephen, and Lincoln. Two days
after, eighteen brigadier- generals were
chosen, namely : Poor, Glover, Patterson,
Learned, Varnum, Huntington, Clinton,
Wayne, DeHaas,CadAvallader,Haucl,Eeed,
Weedon, Muhlenberg, Woodford, Scott,
Nash, and Conway.the latter an Irishman.
Cadwallader, however, did not accept the
appointment. Even this act of Congress,
as we shall find, served to add to the em
barrassment and anxious cares of Wash
ington. Jealousies were excited and dis
appointments created, which the chief was
called upon to remove and allay.





Activity of the Enemy. Lord Percy arrives at Amboy. Sir "William Howe in New Jersey. " Some Push" intended.
Its Purpose uncertain. Washington persuaded that Philadelphia is the Object of the British. More American Forces,
or " the Game at an End." The Indolent Howe true to his Character. The Americans on the Alert. Skirmishes.
Success of Nielson of Brunswick. Washington s Skilful Management. Lauded in Europe. Botta s Opinion. Gen
eral Arnold s Non-Promotion. Washington takes up his Cause. Arnold s own Protestations. He asks for a Court
of Inquiry. Washington opposes, and gives Good Advice. Not taken by Arnold, who persists. Discontent of other
Officers, who are soothed by Washington. Difficulties in Recruiting. A Remarkable Letter. The Small-Pox in the
Army. Inoculation. Its Mild Effects. Want of Arms. A Timely Arrival from France. Resignation of Colonel
Joseph Reed. General Gates offers his Services to Washington. A Dilemma, from which Gates is relieved. He is
appointed to the Command of the Forces at Ticonderoga. Irascibility of General Schuyler. He is rebuked by Con
gress. Alexander Hamilton appointed Secretary to Washington.


Feb. 20,

THERE was now some appearance
of activity on the part of the ene
my. A detachment of their troops, un
der Lord Percy, with several pieces of

Online LibraryRobert TomesBattles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) → online text (page 58 of 126)