Robert Tomes.

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

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him to march to Philadelphia without op
position; would dispirit the country and
injure the cause even more than a de

Washington was indefatigable in pre
paring for the contest. He was constant
ly in his saddle, riding about the country,
in spite of the heavy rains, to reconnoitre
the position of the enemy, and to select
proper ground for opposing their advance.
It was finally concluded to move from
Wilmington to Newport, where the army
was posted in a line along the bank of
the Red-Clay creek. The British,
in the meantime, had advanced
within eight miles, and taken their posi
tion on Iron hill. Skirmishes ensued be-

Septi 7.

tween the advanced pickets of both ar
mies, but with little advantage to either

General Howe now made another for
ward movement, with the appa-

tj ftf C

rent intention of attacking the
Americans. Washington waited for him
the whole day ; but finding that he had
halted at Milltown, within two miles of
the American encampment, and it appear
ing probable that the enemy only intend
ed " to amuse us," says Washington, " in
front, while their real intent was to march
by our right, and by suddenly passing the
Brandy wine, and gaining the heights up
on the north side of that river, get be
tween us and Philadelphia, and cut us off
from that city," he judged it expedient
to move his position immediately.

Washington accordingly retired, and,
crossing the Brandy wine, posted
his army on the heights, near to
Chad s ford. The Brandywine, rising by
two branches, that unite at what is called
the Fork, flows in a small stream from
west to east, and empties into the Dela
ware, about twenty-five miles south of
Philadelphia, The principal ford of the
river was Chad s, on the direct road to
the north, although there were others
above and below.

Having crossed the Brandy wine, Wash
ington posted his centre along the east
ern bank, near Chad s ford, where, expect
ing the main attack of the enemy, he com
manded in person. His right wing, un
der General Sullivan, was moved two
miles above, on the same side of the riv
er ; and his left, consisting of Pennsylva
nia militia, under General Armstrong, to


[PART n.

Sept. 10,

the same distance at a ford below Chad s.
The main body, with the general-in-chief,
was composed of Wayne s brigade, Wee-
don s and Muhlenberg s, under General
Greene, together with a body of light-in
fantry commanded by General Maxwell,
and the artillery. Sullivan, on the right,
had his own division and those of Lord
Stirling and General Stephen. With Arm
strong, on the left, where the position was
considered of less importance, there were
no troops but militia.

On the following day, the en
emy had advanced to Kennet
Square, within seven miles of the Bran
dy wine. Washington, in the meantime,
sent General Maxwell and his light-in-
faritry across the stream, to post them
selves on the high ground on both sides
of the road leading to Chad s ford, the
passage of which they were ordered to
resist to the utmost. Sullivan, too, was
directed to be on the alert in watching
the fords above. This officer was appa
rently vigilant, but only extended his
watchfulness to some four miles to his
right, as far as the fork where the two
branches of the Brandywine unite, and
beyond which it was thought there was
no likelihood of the enemy attempting
to cross.

After halting a night at Kennet Square,
the British moved on early on the morn
ing of the next day, in two col
umns. One, under the command
of the Hessian general, Knyphausen, ad
vanced in a direct line along the road to
Chad s ford. The other, commanded by
Lord Cornwallis, and accompanied by
General Howe, diverged to their left, and

Sept, 11,

Sept, 11,

proceeded by way of the Lancaster road,
which ran nearly parallel to the principal
stream of the Brandywine, and crossed
the two branches or forks which form it
at its rise.

As soon as General Knyphausen was
discovered advancing toward him, Wash
ington prepared to give him bat
tle, thinking that his column was
the main body of the enemy. Knyphau
sen came on, firing his artillery, but was

O */ 7

soon checked by General Maxwell, who
from the heights on each side of the road
poured down upon the advanced guards
such a severe fire, that they were forced
to fall back until reinforced by the rest
of the troops. So large a force now came
pushing on to their aid, that the Ameri
cans were obliged to retire across the ford
and join their main body under Washing
ton. Three hundred of the enemy were
supposed to have been killed and wound
ed in this preliminary skirmish, while the
loss of Maxwell was only about fifty men.
Knyphausen held back his troops, halting
them on the heights from which the Amer
ican light-infantry had retired. He did
not seem anxious to renew the engage
ment, though frequently provoked to do
so by skirmishing-parties from the other
side. Maxwell crossed the ford a second
time with his light-corps, and drove an
advanced party from their ground, with
a loss to the British of thirty men left
dead on the spot, and a number of in-
trench ing-tools with which they were en
gaged in throwing up works for a battery.
Knyphausen still held back, and some of
the Americans on the other side of the
river beinin to indulge in the belief that



they had effectually put a stop to his fur
ther progress. The wary Hessian gener
al, however, had a part to perform, as we
shall see, and designedly resisted all prov
ocations to engage.

While Washington was speculating up
on the probable manoeuvres of the Brit
ish in his front, he received a despatch,
at about twelve o clock, from General
Sullivan, informing him that one of his
officers had reported that a large body
of the enemy, supposed to amount to five
thousand, with sixteen or eighteen field-
pieces, was marching along the Lancas
ter road. Washington immediately sent
orders to Sullivan to cross the Brandy-
wine and attack this division, while he
himself proposed to advance by Chad s
ford against the other. The former was
the main body of the British, which, as
we have seen, had marched under Gener
al Howe and Lord Cornwallis to the left,
with the view of taking a long, circuitous
route, leading across the unguarded fords
of the branches of the Brandywine, and
thus gaining the rear of the Americans.
The division in front of the commander-
in-chief, though supposed by him to be
the main body of the enemy, was only a
smaller column sent under Knyphausen
to divert the Americans in front, while
the main attack should be made by Howe
and Cornwallis against their right flank
and rear.

Washington, having thus discovered
the march of the British column under
Howe and Cornwallis, was in a fair way
of thwarting their designs, when another
messenger arrived in all haste with intel
ligence from Sullivan, contradicting the

information which he had sent but a few
moments before. Major Spear, of the mi
litia, had come in from the fork of the
Brandywine, and, having heard nothing
of the enemy, "was confident" that they
were not in that quarter. The orders for
crossing the Brandywine were now coun
termanded ; but Washington took care to
secure more certain intelligence by send
ing Colonel Bland, with a troop of cav
alry, to reconnoitre the country beyond
General Sullivan s position, and report at
the earliest moment to that commander
the result.

In the mean time, one Thomas Cheyney,
a farmer of that neighborhood, and a firm
patriot, came riding in upon his " spirited
mare all in a foam," and declared that he
had seen the British, in a large body, on
the north side of the river. Washington
affirmed that it could not be, for he had
just received contrary information. " My
life upon it," answered Cheyney, with a
round oath, to give emphasis to his dec
laration, " it is true !" He was, however,
listened to incredulously, when his story
was confirmed a moment after by the fol
lowing despatch, received by Washing
ton :

"Two O CLOCK, P. M.

" DEAR GENERAL: Colonel Bland has this
moment sent me word that the enemy
are in the rear of my right about two
miles, coming down. There are, he says,
about two brigades of them. He also
says he saw a dust back in the country
for above an hour. I am, &c.,


Howe and Cornwallis had thus carried
out their design with success. They had




succeeded, by a long circuit of seventeen
miles, in crossing the Brandywine at the
fords over the two branches of the river,
and gained the rear of the right wing of
Washington s army without opposition.
They now took an advantageous position
on the high ground near the Birmingham
meetinghouse, which Sullivan s delay in
waiting for orders gave them an oppor
tunity of doing without the least show
of resistance. The order to attack came
from Washington as soon as he learned
the approach of the enemy.

General Sullivan was directed to bring
his "whole right wing to bear at once
against Howe and Cornwallis ;" while
Wayne was ordered to keep Knyphausen
in check at Chad s ford ; and General
Greene to post himself with the Virginia
brigades in a position between the two,
and hold himself in reserve and ready to
assist either as might be required.

Some absurd misunderstanding about
etiquette delayed Sullivan s troops in get
ting into line of battle after marching to
meet the enemy. General Deborre, a
veteran Frenchman, who had a command
in Lord Stirling s division, assumed the
post of honor, on the extreme right. Sul
livan claimed this as his own position,
and, while manoeuvring his men to take
it, the British began the attack, and came
upon the Americans w r hile in the confu
sion of the change. The consequence was,
an almost immediate rout of the right and
left wings. The centre resisted spirited
ly for awhile, but it soon gave way, and
fled with the rest through the woods in
their rear.

While the enemy got somewhat bewil

dered among the trees, in the course of
their pursuit, the American officers strove
to rally their men. Among them was La
fayette, who had hurried from the side
of Washington to join Sullivan s division
so soon as he found that it was likely to
be in the hottest of the fight, and had
been engaged in the struggle as long as
the centre held its ground. Now that it
had given way, he dismounted, and, with
Sullivan and Lord Stirling, was striving
to bring back the men to the attack, when
he was wounded by a musket-ball in the
leg. His aid-de-camp was, fortunately,
near by, and, lifting the marquis upon his
horse, hurried him off.

Knyphausen, as soon as he heard the
first gun from General Howe s column,
which was the signal agreed upon, strove
in earnest to push his way across Chad s
fbrd. Wayne, however, succeeded in keep
ing him pretty well in check.

Washington, who found that the right
wing would be hard pressed, ordered Gen
eral Greene to the relief of Sullivan ; and
that officer moved with such speed, that
his division marched four miles in forty
minutes ! He came up, however, only in
time to meet the Americans in full flight,
closely followed by the British. He then,
by skilfully opening his ranks to allow
the fugitives to pass, and closing them
afterward, succeeded in protecting their
retreat. While checking the pursuit of
the enemy by his artillery, Greene retired
to a narrow defile at a short distance be
yond Dilworth, where he made a gallant
stand with his Virginians. The British
repeatedly attempted to force him from
his position, but were constantly foiled




by the stubborn resistance they encoun
tered. Greene was thus enabled to cover
the retreat of the whole army. General
Howe finally drew off his troops from the

In the meantime, General Wayne strug
gled manfully against Knyphausen, at
Chad s ford, until the defeat of Sullivan,
when he ordered a retreat. This, how
ever, soon became a confused flight, in
the course of which his baggage and ar
tillery fell into the hands of the enemy.
The Pennsylvania militia, under General
Armstrong, had been too far removed from
the scene of conflict to be engaged, and
retired early in safety.

The whole American army was now in
full retreat. " Fugitives, cannon, and bag
gage," wrote Lafayette, "crowded with
out order along the road leading to Ches
ter." It was the young marquis s first
taste of actual war, and the impression of
its horrors was naturally very strong. In
spite of " that dreadful confusion," and
the " darkness of the night," of which he
speaks, having had his bleeding wound
bound up by a surgeon, he was, however,
as he tells us, indefatigable in trying to
check the flight of the fugitives at Ches
ter bridge, where he posted a guard. On
reaching this place, Washington reformed
his scattered troops, and halted until the
next morning, before continuing the re
treat toward Philadelphia.

The number of the killed and wound
ed has never been accurately ascertained.
The loss of the Americans, however, was
declared by General Howe to be three
hundred killed, six hundred wounded, and
tour hundred taken prisoners; while his

Sept. 12.

own was estimated by him at only ninety
killed, four hundred and eighty- eight
wounded, and six missing. On the day
after the battle, the British gen
eral wrote to Washington, in
forming him that the wounded Ameri
cans were so numerous, that his own sur
geons could not attend them.

The French officers took a prominent
share in the Brandywine battle. The
young Lafayette, as we have seen, gal
lantly sought the place of danger, and
was wounded. The veteran Deborre
who had insisted upon the command of
Sullivan s right had, in consequence of
the flight of his troops, been the first to
yield to the enemy. Congress voted to
inquire into his conduct on the occasion.
At this resolution he was greatly indig
nant, and wrote to that body, resigning
his appointment, while he declared that,
if the Americans did run away, it was not
his fault. His resignation was readily
accepted ; for, whatever may have been
his military qualities, he had become so
personally unpopular in the army, that
Congress was rejoiced to get rid of him.
Captain Louis de Fleury fought so brave
ly, that he won Washington s admiration,
and was rewarded by Congress with the
gift of a horse, to compensate him for the
one that he had lost in the engagement.
The baron St. Ouary (or Ovary) was less
fortunate, having been taken prisoner.
General Conway (who was a Frenchman
by adoption) had stood among the fore
most with his eight hundred men in the
centre, while the right and left had given

General Greene complained that the




Virginia regiments of Weedon and Muh-
lenburg, which, under his command, had
so gallantly defended the pass at Dil-
worth, were not noticed by Washington
in his report to Congress. The command-
er-in-chief explained that he had been
more reserved in praise of them because
they were Virginians, and lest it might
be supposed that he was prejudiced in
their favor.

General Sullivan was held responsible
by public opinion for a large portion of
the disasters of the day at the Brandy-
wine. A resolve was passed by Congress,
recalling him from the army until a court
of inquiry should be held. Washington,
however, declared that he could not spare
him at such a crisis in the public affairs,
and Sullivan was accordingly left undis
turbed in his command.


General Burgoyne in Receipt of Bad News. The British Commanders mutually in the Dark. Burgoyne determines to
advance. General Gates proposes to meet Him. His Resources. General Lincoln hanging on the Rear of the
Enemy. Successes of Colonel Brown. The Americans at Stillwater. Bemis s Heights and their Fortifications.
Burgoyne willing to risk All. "A Victory, and an Empire!" A Brilliant Plan. The Arrival of the Enemy. A

Halt. The Opposing Lines. Arrival of General Stark. A Hearty Welcome. The First Battle at Saratoga.

Morgan "ruined." The Impetuous Arnold. Progress of the Struggle. Burgoyne claims a Victory. The Baroness
Reidusel and Lady Harriet Ackland. Their Devotion and Fortitude. Life in a Camp. Following the Drum.
Battle Horrors

WHHN the discouraging intelli
gence of the defeat of Baume at
Benninorton and the flight of St. Lei^er

o o o

from Fort Schuyler readied General Bui-


goyne at Battenkill, on the Hudson, he
would have fallen back with his troops
to Fort Edward, within reach of his mag
azines on the lakes, and there waited the
progress of events. He had, however,
been positively ordered by the British
government to form a junction with Sir
William Howe, and he determined at all
hazards to perform his part. He never
theless looked in vain for the co-opera
tion of Howe. That general, in conse
quence of his long delay on the coast,
after leaving New York, did not receive

his despatches in time to pursue the plan
of operations laid down bv the govern-

^ O

ment. He was already in Chesapeake
bay before the orders to co-operate with
Burgoyne reached him. He was then
too far engaged in his expedition to Phil
adelphia to obey them. Burgoyne, how
ever, having no intelligence from Howe,
still looked for a junction from New York,
and determined to push on toward Alba
ny, in order to do his part toward effect
ing it, so soon as he should receive from
the north the necessary supplies for a

The American army, having retired be
fore the British to Van Shaick s island,
where the Mohawk unites its waters with



those of the Hudson, was now so strength
ened by reinforcements, and encouraged
by the late reverses of the enemy, that
General Gates determined to march his
troops back to meet the advance of Bur-

Gates felt confident in his means. His
army now numbered about six thousand
strong. With him was General Arnold,
restless and eager for action, who had re
turned after his successful ruse against St.
Le^er. With him, too, was the famous

<_; f f

Colonel Morgan, with his five hundred
riflemen, to whose ranks were added two
hundred and fifty picked soldiers from
the line, under the command of Major
Dearborn, who had marched with Arnold
through the wilderness of Maine, and was
an old comrade of Morgan. Colonels Van
Cortlandt and Livingston had lately come
in with their two New-York regiments.
Arnold was Gates s major-general; Poor,
Learned, Nixon, Glover, and Patterson,
were his brigadiers. Morgan, Cook, Van
Cortlandt, Henry and James Livingston,
Cilley, Scammel, Hale, Brooks, Butler,
Bailey, Wesson, Jackson, and Marshall,
were the colonels. Morris, Dearborn, and
Hull, were among the majors. General
Wilkinson was deputy adjutant-general,
and Colonel Morgan Lewis quartermas

General Lincoln was now in the New-
Hampshire grants, with the militia, which
was daily gathering in force, hanging on
the left and rear of Burgoy lie s army, and
watching an opportunity for action. This
soon offered. While Burgoyne was kept
in forced inactivity, waiting supplies, Lin
coln gained his rear and sent forward a

Sept. 18.

detachment of five hundred men, under
Colonel Brown, against the British posts
on the lakes. This enterprise was con
ducted with such secrecy and address
that Brown succeeded in surprising and
gaining possession of all the out
posts between the landing at the
north end of Lake George and the for
tress of Ticonderoga. Mount Defiance,
Mount Hope, the old French lines, two
hundred batteaux,an armed sloop, several
gun-boats, and two hundred and ninety-
three prisoners, were captured, almost
without a blow. The fortresses at Ticon
deroga and Mount Independence were
too strongly garrisoned for Brown to mas
ter with his small force ; but he succeed
ed in releasing a hundred Americans held
as prisoners, and bringing off as a trophy
the continental flag which had been left
by St. Clair on his retreat. He still con
tinued in Burgoyne s rear.

The American army began to retrace
its steps toward the enemy on the 8th of
September, and next day reached Still-
water. Here Kosciusko, who was the
chief engineer, traced a line for intrench-
ments, and set a thousand men to work ;
but the position being discovered to be
untenable, Gates moved his army to Be-
mis s heights, and began to fortify his
ground by breastworks and redoubts.

Burgoyne, having finally received his
baggage, artillery, military stores, and
thirty days pro visions, from Lake George,
on the 13th and 14th of September he
crossed the Hudson with his whole army
to Saratoga. He had now risked all up
on the chance of forcing his way to Al
bany. He had concentrated his troops,


[_l AR7 I 1

he had abandoned his communication with
the lakes, and his only hope was now to
move forward. " There was much to dis
courage and positively nothing to encour
age" such an advance, but Burgoyne was
determined to obey orders; and, more
over, there was something so enticing to
a military leader in a plan, the successful
execution of which it was believed would
not only secure a victory, but an empire,
that it is not surprising he should have
risked all on the chance, however remote,
of such a prize.

The British ministry believed that Bur-
goyne s force by moving southward along
the banks of the Hudson, and Sir William
Howe s by advancing northward, could
form a junction at Albany. Here there
would be gathered a great army, which
would cut off all communication between
the eastern and southern provinces, and
crush out all further opposition. " With
out question," says an English writer,*
K the plan was ably formed ; and had the
success of the execution been equal to
the ingenuity of the design, the recon-
quest or submission of the thirteen Uni
ted States must in all human probability
have followed ; and the independence
which they proclaimed in 1776 would
have been extinguished before it existed
a second year."

Burgoyne, after crossing the Hudson
to Saratoga, moved forward toward the
American encampment. As the country
was rugged, and seamed with creeks and
water-courses, his progress was necessa
rily slow, for he was forced to construct
bridges and build temporary causeways

+ Creary.

before his army could move. Gates, too,
took care to harass the British working-
parties, by sending out the ever-active
Arnold, with fifteen hundred men, who so
greatly annoyed Burgoyne, that he was
forced to advance whole regiments be
fore he could i> et a bridge con-
Sept, 18,
structed. I he enemy at length

came to a halt within two miles of Gates s

The ground upon which the two oppo
sing forces were encamped may be thus
described : On the north was what is now
called Wilbur s basin, where the main
body of Burgoyne s army was encamped.
On the east was the Hudson, with its nar
row alluvial flats. Westward from the
Hats were the river hills and an elevated
plateau, terminating in Bemis s heights.
Through the plain, branching in various
directions, ran Mill creek, along the main
channel of which was a ravine. South
of this was a second ravine ; and nsrain a


third and larger one, still more to the
south. Bet\veen these two latter were
the principal American defences. The
whole ground was covered with a dense
forest, except the flats and some cleared
fields called Freeman s farm, which was
situated toward the middle of the plain,
between the two encampments.*

The American defences consisted of a
line of breastworks along the brow of the
hills, toward the river, about three quar
ters of a mile in extent, forming a curve,
with its convexity toward the enemy. A
strong redoubt was raised at each extrem
ity, and one near the centre, so as to com
mand the flats. From the base of the

* A. B. Street.



hills was an intrenchment, reaching across
the fiats to the Hudson, with a battery on
the margin of the river, guarding a float
ing bridge. In advance, on the western
border of Mill creek, near where it emp
tied into the Hudson, were also a breast
work and battery.

On the morning of the 19th of Septem
ber the following was the position of the
two armies : General Poor s brigade, con
sisting of three New-Hampshire regiments

Online LibraryRobert TomesBattles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) → online text (page 69 of 126)