Robert Tomes.

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

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ordered the exact breadth of the river
for a considerable distance to be obtained,
in order to compare it with the length
of the bridge, a knowledge of which he
hoped to acquire through his spies, and
thus discover the part of the stream in
tended to be traversed.

It was, however, believed that General
Howe would also make an effort to secure
the North river ; and Washington was ac
cordingly very anxious to resist any at
tempt in that direction. The British had
anchored several transports at Dobbs s
ferry on the Hudson, with the purpose,
it was conjectured, of diverting the atten
tion of Washington from their movements
toward the Delaware. It was possible,
moreover, that they might attempt from
Brunswick to make an incursion into the

country back of Morristown, in order to
seize the passes through the mountains;
and thus try to cut off the communica
tion of the American army with the North
river. The general-in-chief accordingly
urged General M Dougall, at Peekskill, to
be on the alert, and George Clinton (re
cently appointed a brigadier-general) to
post as large a body of troops in the pas
ses of the Highlands as he could spare
from the forts which he commanded on
the Hudson.

Major- General Greene and General
Knox, tw r o of his officers in whose capa
city and fidelity Washington had great
trust, were sent by him to examine into
the state of the defences on the Hudson
and at the Highland passes. They pro
ceeded to Peekskill, and, meeting there

7s O

with Generals M Dougall, Clinton, and
Wayne, the five officers began their in
vestigations. They inferred that the pas
ses through the Highlands were so " ex
ceedingly difficult," that the British would
not attempt to operate by land, provided
the river was effectually obstructed. For



this purpose, they recommended in their
report to Washington that a boom, or chain
should be stretched across the river at
Fort Montgomery, with one or two iron
cables in front to break the force of any
vessel should it attempt to pass the bar
rier. These, with two armed ships and
two row galleys stationed above, ready
to fire upon the approach of the enemy,
were believed to be sufficient to defeat
any efforts they might make to sail up.

Washington approved of the views of
Greene and his associates, and immedi
ately sent the vigorous and laborious
Putnam to superintend the work, while
Congress was urged to supply without
delay the necessary means. That body
was advised by the commander-in-chief
to purchase the iron cables at Philadel
phia, as they could not be procured else
where, and which, as they were to be laid
diagonally across the river of five hun
dred and forty yards in breadth, should
not be less than four hundred and fifty
fathoms long, and of the " largest size that
can be had."

In the meantime, while Congress was
deliberating about the cables, Old Put s
ingenuity was put to the task in fixing a
boom. Presuming upon his exhaustless
activity, other work was also provided for
the veteran general. Washington pro
posed that he should get up a secret ex
pedition against the British at Kings-
bridge, on the upper end of the island of
New York. Two plans were suggested.
A number of troops might be embarked
in boats, under pretence of transporting
them and their baggage across the river
to Tappan, as if to join Washington s ar

my in New Jersey. To give this purpose
the appearance of greater plausibility, a
number of wagons might be got ready at
the landing on the Jersey side, as if wait
ing for the baggage. If this plan did not
suit, there was the other of embarking
the troops at Peekskill, under pretence
of reinforcing the garrison on the Hud
son, in order to expedite the works, and
to set off as bound thither ; and then, un
der the cover of the night, to turn and
push down the river. The place proposed
for the landing of the troops was the hol
low between Fort Washington and Spuy-
ten-Devil creek. Here was a good spot
to land upon, and a passage into the road
leading from the fort to Kingsbridge : this
route, being deeply hidden, would enable
Putnam to fall in upon the back of the
British troops at Fort Independence, by
which their surprise would be greater,
and their retreat cut off " Thence," says
Washington, in his instructions, "your
troops might, or might not, march up by
land, and sweep the country before them
of the enemy and provisions, as circum
stances might justify."

Washington, now that his army was
somewhat reinforced, determined to shift
his encampment. His troops, however,
even at this time, hardly num
bered eight thousand, as most of
the regiments were greatly scant of their
full complement of men. :;: Forty-three
regiments (those of New Jersey, Pennsyl
vania, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia,
together with Colonel Hazen s) composed
the army in New Jersey, under the im
mediate orders of the commander-in-chief.

* Sparks,

May 28,




These were divided into ten brigades, un
der Brigadier-Generals Muhlenberg, Wee-
don, Woodford, Scott, Small wood, Wayne,
Deborre, De Haas, Conway, and Maxwell.
The divisions were five, of two brigades
each, under Major-Generals Greene, Stir
ling, Sullivan, Stephen, and Lincoln: Gen
eral Knox commanded the artillery. The
New-York and New-England troops were
chiefly at Ticonderoga, under Generals
Gates and St. Glair; and at Peekskill, un
der Generals Putnam, M Dougall, and Clin

The new position taken by Washing
ton was a strong one on the high ground
about Middlebrook, and several miles near
er than Morristown to the main body of
the enemy at Brunswick. There was no
attempt on the part of the British to op
pose this movement, beyond sending out
a body of light-horse, which, after skir
mishing with the advance-guard, retired
on finding a large detachment of the
American army coming forward. Wash
ington s purpose was to oppose the march
of General Howe to the banks of the Del
aware, which it was thought to be his de
sign to cross on the way to Philadelphia.
The American chief, however, was not
sanguine of his power to check the ene
my, in consequence of the meagerness of
his force. " If," says he, " some
effectual mode is not devised to
fill the regiments, it is impossible, at least
very unlikely, that any effectual opposi
tion can be given to the British army
w itli the troops we have, whose numbers
diminish more by desertion than they in
crease by enlistments."

(general llowe finally began to move.

Reinforced from New York and

June 13.

Rhode Island, he commenced his
march in the evening, and in the course
of the night his front had reached Som
erset courthouse, where it halted, while
his rear remained at Brunswick. It ap
peared to be his intention to push direct
ly for the Delaware, although Washington
did not know whether it was a real move
toward Philadelphia or an endeavor to
draw the Americans from the heights


which they occupied along the whole
front of the enemy. Howe s only object,
as we now know, was to brino; Washin<> -


ton to a general action, for he had deter
mined to attack Philadelphia by sea. His
plans then, however, could only be con
jectured by the Americans, and they pre
pared to act in accordance with their sur

As the prospect of action approached,
the militia began to turn out in a more
spirited manner; and they, together with
the continental troops, seemed determined
to harass and oppose the enemy " upon
their march through the country." Gen
eral Howe would have great difficulty,
thought Washington, in crossing the Del
aware. Arnold (who had been ordered
from Philadelphia) and Mifllin would be
ready with a considerable force to meet
him on the western side of the river, while
Washington s army on the opposite bank
would " hang heavily on his rear." The
American troops were withdrawn from
Peekskill, with the exception of a thou
sand men, who were supposed sufficient
(now that the enemy had diminished their
force by their drafts for New Jersey) to
prevent any surprise from New York.




The hostile armies now confronted each
other, mutually expectant.

The main body of the Americans was
encamped upon the high ground at Mid-
dlebrook, while a considerable force un
der General Sullivan was posted on the
lowland hills. The position at Middle-
brook was naturally very strong, but was
further strengthened by works. The pas
ses in the mountains were too difficult to
be attempted ; and, although the right of
the army was not so well defended, two
or three redoubts were all that were ne
cessary to secure it effectually. The en
emy were also strongly posted. Well for
tified on their right, with the river Rari-
tan all along their front and the Millstone
creek on their left, they were in a situa
tion where an attack upon them was not
warranted by a sufficient prospect of suc
cess, and might " be attended with the
most ruinous consequences." Under these
circumstances, Washington determined to
collect all the force at Middlebrook that
could be properly withdrawn from other
quarters, so as to bring the security of
his army to the greatest possible certain
ty, and be ready to take advantage of any
fair opportunity of attack which might
offer. In the meantime, he would send
out light bodies of militia (accompanied
by a few continental troops to keep them
in countenance by their more soldierly
bearing), to harass and weaken the enemy
by frequent skirmishes.

Whatever might be the ulterior pur
pose of the British, it was conjectured by
Washington that their first object was to
destroy his army, and then get possession
of Philadelphia. The risk would be too

great for the enemy to attempt to cross
the Delaware, when they must expect to
meet a formidable opposition in front, and
have the whole American army in their
rear. " They might possibly be success
ful," writes Washington, " but the proba
bility would be infinitely against them.
Should they be imprudent enough to do
it, I shall keep close upon their heels, and
do everything in my power to make the
project fatal to them." The British gen
eral, however, had apparently no design
upon the Delaware at that time, or he
would have made a secret, rapid march
for it, and not have come out openly, and
as light as possible, leaving all his bag
gage, provisions, boats, and bridges, at
Brunswick. From the position he had
taken, his purpose was, more probably, to
prepare for an attack upon Washington s
right, which was the weakest point. But
whatever might be General Howe s ob
ject, the people were in a high state of
animation, and apparently ready for the

Howe soon made another change, that
gave rise to much speculation at head
quarters. After having moved his main
body from Brunswick, and extended his
van to Somerset courthouse, encamping
between these two posts, and beginning
a line of redoubts, he suddenly marched

back his whole army to the for-

. u. i June 19,

irier place, burning the houses

and devastating the country along his
route. Washington at this time was con
stantly in the saddle, reconnoitring and
sending out his light-troops to hover as
near as possible about the enemy, who,
however, secured as they were on their



[PART n.

June 22,

Hanks by the Raritan and Millstone riv
ers, had no great difficulty in reaching
their former posts.

In three days more, the Brit
ish camp was again all astir night
and day. A movement was evidently in
prospect. Washington accordingly sent
an express to General Maxwell to lie be
low Brunswick and Amboy, in order to
intercept any British parties which might
be passing ; and detached three brigades,
under Major-General Greene, to fall upon
the enemy s rear as soon as they should
move ; while the main body of the army
was paraded upon the heights of Middle-
brook, to support Greene if there should
be occasion.

Sir William Howe began his march,
and the Americans were on the alert to
harass him. A party of Colonel Morgan s
light-infantry pushed forward betimes and
drove in the Hessian picket before the sun
was up ; while the rest of Morgan s regi
ment and General Wayne s brigade fol
lowed rapidly, and posted themselves op
posite to Brunswick. The enemy, how
ever, crossed the bridge, and took posses
sion of the redoubts which they had con
structed on the north side of the river.
General Greene, now advancing his troops
briskly toward them, they quitted their
position and retired by the road to Am
boy, with Morgan and his riflemen close
at their heels, keeping up a sharp fire,
which " did considerable execution."

Greene continued to pursue the enemy
as far as Piscataway, but finding it impos
sible to overtake them, and fearful lest
he might be drawn away too far from the
main body, he returned to Brunswick,

reporting with great praise the conduct
and bravery of General Wayne and Colo
nel Morgan, and of their officers and men,
who constantly advanced upon an enemy
far superior to them in numbers, and well
secured behind strong redoubts. General
Maxwell, unfortunately, missed the ex
press messenger, who had by accident or
design fallen into the hands of the Brit
ish ; otherwise their rear-guard, as they
themselves confessed, would have been
cut off Maxwell was now reinforced by
Lord Stirling and his division.

General Howe, on reaching Amboy, de
spatched some of his troops across to
Staten island ; but he soon brought them
back, and advanced to ward Westfield with
his whole army. Washington liad moved
the entire American force to Quibble town,

in order to be nearer the enemy

<v +1 4.- r-n June 24,

after their evacuation of Bruns
wick, and ordered Lord Stirling to move
his division still closer to Howe s lines.
When the enemy began apparently to re
turn, with the purpose of turning the
American left, Washington marched his
main army back to the secure position at
Middlebrook, but continued to hang up
on the British flank with a body of light-
troops and Morgan s riflemen. After some
slight skirmishing, General Howe again
withdrew, plundering and burning all be
fore him, to Amboy, and finally passed
over to Staten island with his en
tire army, using the bridge which
had been so laboriously constructed at
Brunswick for the purpose of transport
ing his artillery and baggage. The Amer
icans were thus left in complete posses
sion of New Jersey. The next move of




the enemy was now the object of anxious

A great stir among the shipping in
New- York bay, the general striking of
the tents, and the marching of the troops
from that part of Staten island opposite
to Amboy to the other side, in the neigh
borhood of the anchorage of the fleet,
made it apparent that General Howe had
in contemplation some movement by wa
ter. At this time, intelligence was re
ceived from General St. Clair, command
ing at Ticonderoga, that the British army
in Canada evidently had designs upon
that fort. It was thence inferred that
Howe s purpose might be to push imme
diately up the Hudson, in order to co
operate with the British troops marching
from the North. In case this should be
the enemy s design, Washington prompt
ly ordered General Putnam, at Peekskill,
to reinforce St. Clair with a portion of his
eastern troops ; but, while Howe s object
was not clearly manifest, he was in great
uncertainty how to direct his main body.
His situation was " truly delicate and per
plexing." Should he march his army to
Peekskill, leaving the British commander
on Staten island, there would be nothing
to prevent his crossing to South Amboy,
and pushing thence to Philadelphia,. On
the other hand, if the North river and
the possession of the Highlands should
be General Howe s object, the keeping
of the army in New Jersey would give
the enemy the opportunity of effecting
their purpose without resistance in that
quarter. " We shall attempt in this di
lemma," says Washington, " to do the best
we can." In the meanwhile, he wrote to

July 11.

Generals Putnam and George Clinton, ur
ging them to put forth every exertion in
their power, and instantly to call out a
" respectable" body of militia to aid in the
defence of the important posts on the
North river. Washington also advanced
a division of his army, under General Sul
livan, to Pompton, in order to be nearer
the enemy should they attempt to ascend
the Hudson.

Further intelligence from the North
induced Washington to believe that the
possession of the Hudson and the commu
nication with Canada, by which the east-
ern and southern states might be sepa
rated, was probably the intention of the
enemy ; and he therefore moved
his whole force to Morristown,
and thence to Pompton, from which place
he prepared to march still farther toward
the Hudson. Let us now for a moment
glance at the condition of affairs at the

General Gates, as we have seen, had su
perseded General Schuyler in the com
mand of the northern army, but had only
served from the 25th of March, when on
the 22d of May he was obliged to give it
up. Schuyler had obtained from Congress
the investigation which he had sought so
pertinaciously, and was rewarded for his
perseverance by a reinstatement in his
command; not, however, before he had ad
dressed a memorial to Congress, in which
an apologetic explanation was made of
the expressions in his former letter which
had given so much offence. New Eng
land resisted Schuyler s appointment to
the last, and it was only secured by the
absence of some of the delegates from



[PART n.

that quarter. It was, however, generally
conceded that his influence in the state
of New York rendered him the most ef
fective man for the position.

Gates was greatly vexed at the result,
and. refusing to serve under Schuyler,
who offered him the command at Ticon-
deroga, requested permission to proceed
to Philadelphia. Here he arrived, and so
lost all self-control, that he presented him
self on the floor of Congress, and began
to indulge in some personal reflections on
one of the members, which excited the
indignation of the house, and, after a noi
sy debate, led to a request that he would
withdraw. There was a great deal of
partisan feeling exhibited in the discus
sion of the relative commands of Schuy
ler and Gates, and the reinstatement of
the former was considered to be a triumph
of what was then termed the New- York
party over that of New England.

As soon as Schuyler reached Albany
from Philadelphia (where he had been
stationed during the interval of his loss
of the northern command), he ordered
General St. Clair to Ticonderoga.
Both Schuyler and St. Clair be
lieved that the enemy were preparing to
come in great force from Canada by way
of the lakes. A British spy, one Ames-
bury, had been taken and examined, who
stated that the main body of the Canadi
an army was advancing by St. Johns, and
that a detachment of English, Canadians,
and Indians, was about penetrating to the
south by the Mohawk river. Apart from
the information which he was to gather,
Amesbury was intrusted with a canteen
by a Judge Levins, of Canada, with direc-

June 5,

tions to deliver it to General Sullivan,
and request him to remove a false bot
tom, within which he would find a letter.
The canteen was obtained by Schuyler,
the concealed letter found directed as had
been stated by the spy, and at once for
warded, through the commander-in-chief.
It proved to be an appeal to General Sul
livan to betray the American cause. It
is needless to say that against this subtle
exhortation that officer was patriotically

This information of the probable ad
vance of the Canadian army by way of
the lakes took Washington by surprise.
as he, together with his chief officers and
Congress, had entertained the opinion
that the British troops at the North would
have come round by the St. Lawrence
and the sea, to reinforce General Howe
at New York. Ticonderoga had conse
quently been neglected, and frequent de
mands for reinforcements of the American
strength at Albany and beyond not re
sponded to.

Washington had, moreover, received
exaggerated accounts of the force at the
command of Schuyler and St. Clair. Even
as late as the 2d of July, he says : " I .see
no reason for apprehending that it [Ticon
deroga] can possibly fall into the hands
of the enemy in a short time." He was
still perplexed about the designs of his
antagonists. " If a co-operation is intend
ed," he writes to Schuyler, General Howe
must speedily throw off the mask, and
make his preparations for going up the
North river ; if he does not, I shall think
that the fleet and a small force of Indians
and light-troops are amusing you upon




the hike, while the main body comes round
and forms a junction by water. One rea
son operates strongly against this, in my
opinion, and that is, a man of General

Burgoyne s spirit and enterprise would
never have returned from England mere
ly to execute a plan from which no great
credit or honor was to be derived."


vjeneral Burgoyne. His Life and Character. His Parliamentary Career. His Dramatic Works. His Military Career.
Horace Walpole s Estimate of Him. Commandcr-in-Chief of the British Forces in Canada. Plan of the Campaign.
Sir Guy Carleton s Magnanimity. A Sufferer for his Humanity. Estimate of Burgoyne s Force. His Officers.
Beginning of the Campaign. Burgoyne meets the Indians in Council. Swollen Rhetoric. Pompous Proclamation.
General Schuyler at Ticonderoga. He strengthens the Fortifications. Goes to Albany. Sends Stores and Men. He
is sanguine about the Security of Ticonderoga. Washington entertains the Same Opinion. General St Clair in
Command of the Fort. The Defences. The Weak Points. Wasted Energies.


to act a more important part in the
American War ; and we shall here, as we
meet him for the first time in the capaci
ty of a commander-in-chief, give some ac
count of his life and character. This was
his third visit to America. He had served
in Boston, under Governor Gage ; in Can
ada, under Sir Guy Carleton; and had
recently, after visiting England, returned
to take command of the British forces in
the North.

The time and place of the birth of JOHN
BURGOYNE a man who rose to no mean
celebrity as a writer, a senator, and a mil
itary oilicer are unknown. Even his
parentage has not been ascertained with
certainty, although he is generally sup
posed to have been the natural son of
Lord Bingley, who died an old man in
1774. He was probably early destined
for a military life. There is, however, no
record of the dates of his grades in the
army until 1758, when he was raised to

the rank of lieutenantrcolonel. lie dis
tinguished himself in Portugal, where he
was a comrade of the eccentric Charles
Lee, who, under the orders of Burgoyne,
swam the Tagus at the head of three
hundred and fifty British soldiers, and
surprised the Spanish camp. After the
campaign in Portugal, Burgoyne was re
warded with a colonelcy.

In 1761, he was elected a member of
Parliament for Midhurst, a position for
which he was no doubt indebted to some
powerful patronage through his putative
relationship to Lord Bingley. In 1768,
Burgoyne was again returned to Parlia
ment for the borough of Preston ; and
his election drew upon him the brilliant
invective of " Junius," who, considering
him a satellite of the duke of Grafton
treated him with the same unsparing se
verity. Burgoyne was now appointed
governor of Fort William, and in 1772
raised to the rank of general. As a mem
ber of Parliament he began to take a




prominent share in its debates. In 1772,
he took the lend in denouncing the cor
rupt conduct of the officials of the East-
India Company, and introduced with a
brilliant and effective speech the motion
that a committee be appointed to "in
quire into the nature, state, and condi
tion of the East-India Company, and of
the British affairs in the East Indies."
The committee having been appointed,
Burgoyne as its chairman was frequently
called upon to defend the conduct and
measures of himself and his colleagues,
and never failed to do it with great tact
and power.

Online LibraryRobert TomesBattles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) → online text (page 62 of 126)