Robert Tomes.

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

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from a command where I shall be unable
to render them any good service. This,
sir, I submit to your candor and honor,
and shall cheerfully await the decision
of my superiors." In his reply, Washing
ton confessed the surprise which he felt
at the result of the campaign., but spoke
highly of the bravery of the continental
troops. " The accounts," he said, " which
the enemy give of the action, show that
their victory was dearly bought. Under
present circumstances, the system which
you are pursuing seems to be extremely



Knyphansen in New Jersey. Movements of British Troops. Mortal Wound of General Sterling. Dayton and the Militia.
- Rising of the Country. Elizabethtown spared. Ravage of Connecticut Farms. The Fighting Parson. Murder of
Mrs. Caldwell and Child. A Ruined Home. Knyphausen marches to Springfield. He is checked. Movement of
Washington. Retreat of Knyphausen. Arrival of Sir Henry Clinton. A Stratagem. General Greene deceived.
Marches and Countermarches. The Struggle on the Railway. Strong Post of Greene. Springfield burnt. " Watts
into them, Boys !" Retreat of the British to Staten Island.


INTELLIGENCE of the success of Sir
Henry Clinton at Charleston hav
ing reached New York, General Knyphau
sen became emulous, and strove to signal
ize himself before the arrival of his supe
rior in command. He accordingly deter
mined to make a descent into New Jer

With this view, five thousand men were
thrown over in two divisions du
ring the night from Staten isl
and to Elizabethtown Point. Brigadier-
General Sterling led the first division, and
succeeded in making good his landing ;
but he had not marched far on the road,
when his approach was dimly perceived
in the darkness by an American advance-
guard. Colonel Day ton, who commanded
some Jersey militia at Elizabeth town, hav
ing heard of the projected incursion of
the British, had stationed twelve men on
the shore to be on the lookout. They
heard the tramp of the troops, and ob
scurely discerned the moving mass, when
they challenged the invaders, and, receiv
ing no answer, fired and retreated. Gen
eral Sterling, riding in advance of his col
umn, received this random shot in the
knee ; the wound finally proved mortal.

A short delay ensued, while the wound
ed general was borne back, and Knyphau
sen came to take his place. Dayton, in
the meantime, mustered his militia, and
aroused the country. Alarm-guns were
fired, and signal-fires lighted ; and every
patriot who could bear arms shouldered
his musket or brandished his pitchfork.
The enemy, however, came on. A clat
tering squadron of Siincoe s dragoons, with
their drawn sabres and glistening accou-
trements,led the van, followed by the solid
ranks of the British and Hessian infantry.
The undisciplined militia and the miscel
laneous throng gathered from the neigh
borhood did not venture to oppose so for
midable a foe, but, leaving the village of
Elizabethtown to the invaders, pushed in
to the country, where they hoped to be
able to harass them more effectually, and
thwart their further progress.

Knyphausen, satisfied with the desola
tion he had made on a previous occasion,
spared Elizabethtown from further cru
elty, and pressed on for the village of
Connecticut Farms (now Union), about
five miles distant. Harassed on the road
by the fire of the country-people from un
der cover of the woods and stone-walls,





the British troops finally reached the vil
lage, where they met with a spirited re
sistance from General Maxwell, who with
his brigade had joined the retreating mi
litia under Colonel Dayton. Knyphau-
sen, however, reinforced by his rear di
vision, commanded by Brigadier-General
Matthews, was enabled to drive away its
defenders, and take possession of the

Infuriated by the opposition they had
met, the British and Hessian soldiery now
wreaked their rage upon the village of
Connecticut Farms. They began to plun
der and destroy, first gutting the houses
and then burning them. Among those
living in the place was Mrs. Caldwell, the
wife of the Reverend James Caldwell, a
Presbyterian clergyman. After his church
had been burnt in Elizabeth town, he had
removed to Connecticut Farms, where the
parsonage was occupied by his family and
himself, when not under marching orders,
for he served as a chaplain in the army.
As the enemy advanced, Caldwell retreat
ed with his regiment, and left his wife and
her children in the village.

Alarmed by the firing in the street,
Mrs. Caldwell had retired to a back room,
and was sitting on the bed, holding the
hand of her child of three years of age in
her own, while her infant of eight months
was in the arms of a nurse close by, when
a musket was levelled at the window and
discharged. Two balls struck Mrs. Cald
well in the breast, and she instantly fell
dead. Her body was allowed to be re
moved, and then the house was burned
to the ground.

In the confusion and riot of the sack

ing of the village, it was difficult to dis
cover who was the perpetrator, and wheth
er his act was one of premeditated cru
elty, or the result of reckless barbarity
Believed by the New-Jersey people, how
ever, to be the deliberate work of a Brit
ish soldier, the deed greatly exasperated
them, and goaded the country to a fiercer
resistance. Caldwell, anxious for the safe
ty of his family, and ignorant of their fate,
returned the next day, under the protec
tion of a flag, to Connecticut Farms, where
he found his wife dead and his home in
ruins. Always a zealous patriot, he had
never ceased, both in the meetinghouse,
where he was noted as " a rousing gospel
preacher/ * and in the field, where he was
no less famed as a vigorous " fighting par
son," to stir up his countrymen manfully
to resist their cruel enemies. With pri
vate wrongs now added to stimulate his


just indignation, Cald well s voice and arm
were raised with more energy than ever
in behalf of the patriot cause.f

Knyphausen, having left Connecticut
Farms in desolation, marched to Spring
field. On approaching the bridge over
the Rahway, at the entrance of the town,
he was brought to a halt by the retreat-

O v

ing troops under General Maxwell and
Colonel Dayton, and by the discovery
that Washington, with the main body of
his troops, was posted on the Short hills,
in, the rear of Springfield, where he had
arrived to check the progress of the ene
my in their march toward Morristown.

* Irving.

t By a singular fatality, a little more than a year after the
melancholy death of his wife, Mr. Caldwell himself was shot
by an American sentinel near Elizabethport, because he ro-
fused to obey his orders !




The Hessian general, finding himself
thus opposed, and disappointed in his ex
pectation of the people joining him (as
he had been led to believe from the ru
mors in New York, that New Jersey was
discontented in consequence of the fre
quent impressments and forced levies of
supplies made to relieve the necessities
of the continental army), was compelled
to retreat. He found some difficulty in
crossing to his encampment on Staten
island, and being indisposed to return
with so poor an account of his somewhat
pretentious expedition, he therefore lin
gered at Elizabethtown.

In the meantime, Sir Henry
June 17.

Clinton arrived in the harbor of

New York from his triumphant southern
expedition; and though, when he heard
of General Knyphausen s movement, he
could not entirely approve of it, he imme
diately determined, as the British troops
were still in New Jersey, and as Washing
ton had left his encampment at Morris-
town, to attempt bringing him to action,
and if possible to destroy his stores. Sir
Henry first landed his troops at Staten
island, as if to reinforce Knyphausen, and
then re-embarked them almost immedi
ately on transports, with the apparent in
tention of sailing up the Hudson on an
expedition against West Point. His ob
ject was, to divert the attention of the
American commander from Knyphausen,
that he might have an opportunity of ma
king another and it was hoped a more
successful effort in New Jersey.

Clinton s stratagem was partially suc
cessful. Washington, thinking it possible
that the Hudson might be the object of

the British general, moved with a large
body of his troops in that direction, taking
the road to Pompton ; though he took
care to leave a considerable force, consist
ing of the brigades of Maxwell and Stark,
Lee s dragoons, and the New-Jersey mili
tia, under General Greene, posted on the
Short hills, in order to oppose any move
ment which the enemy might make tow
ard Morristown, while he himself moved
warily, that he might be conveniently
placed, to push forward or return, as cir
cumstances might require. His march
had been intentionally so slow, that he
had got only eleven miles beyond Morris-
town, when he heard of the second ad
vance of Knyphausen.

General Greene, thoroughly impressed
with the idea that the main object of the
enemy was the North river, and Knyp-
hausen s movement therefore only a feint,
had with the greatest persistence urged
the march of the army toward the High
lands of the Hudson, and was hardly con
vinced of his error until the last moment,
when he despatched this note by express
to the commander-in-chief :

" June 2M, 6 o clock.

" The enemy are out on their march
toward this place in full force, having re
ceived a considerable reinforcement last



Washington immediately sent off a de
tachment to the aid of Greene, and fell
back with the rest of his troops some five
or six miles, in order to be near at hand,
to give him further support should he re
quire it

The enemy, having been strengthened




by Sir Henry Clinton and his troops, be
gan their march from Elizabeth town at

five o clock in the mornincr, in

two columns : one took the mam

road, leading directly to Springfield ; and
the other the Vauxhall road, which makes
a circuit to the north, and joins the first
at the pass through the Short hills, about
a mile to the west of the town. The Rail
way river, one branch of which flows on
the east and the other on the west of
Springfield, is 3rossed by bridges on both
roads, but the stream is here and there
ford able.

General Greene, finding the British ap
proaching with the formidable force of
five thousand infantry, an imposing body
of cavalry, arid fifteen or twenty pieces
of artillery, made the best possible dispo
sition of his meager supply of troops, in
order to defend the village, to guard his
own flanks, and to secure a retreat.

Colonel Angell, with two hundred men
and a fieldpiece, was posted at the bridge
over the Railway, at the entrance of the
town on the east; and Colonel Shreve,
with his regiment, was stationed at the
bridge over the branch of the river which
flows to the west and back of Springfield,
in order to cover the retreat of Colonel
Angell s advanced pnrty if it should be
driven back. Major Harry Lee, with his
dragoons and a picked guard, was posted
at the bridge on the Vauxhall road, with
Colonel Ogden to support him. The re
mainder of the brigades of Generals Max
well and Stark was drawn up on the high
ground in the rear of the town, flanked
by the militia.

The first encounter, with the right col

umn of the enemy, was on the Vauxhall
road, where Major Lee with great obsti
nacy disputed possession of the bridge ;
which, however, he was finally obliged to
yield, as the British forded the river and
gained some high ground which command
ed his position.

Colonel Angell, on the main road, made
an equally manful struggle with his hand
ful of men against the British left division,
and only gave up the bridge after a con
test of more than fort}^ minutes, when he
retired in good order through the town tc
the second bridge, where Colonel Shreve
covered his retreat, and kept the enemy
at bay until called off by the command
ing general.

Greene, fearful lest the British, though
successfully opposed at the bridge, might
ford the river and surround his small ad
vanced parties, ordered them to fall back,
and concentrated his whole force on the
heights in the rear of the town, where
the two roads meet and lead to the pass
through the Short hills. Here, strongly
posted, the American commander awaited
the junction of the two columns of the
enemy and their combined attack. He,
however, waited in vain. Sir Henry Clin
ton and General Knyphausen, having uni
ted their force, reconnoitred Greene s po
sition, and for awhile threatened to assail
it, but finally concluded upon retreating
without striking a blow.

On retreating through Springfield, the
British burnt every building except four
houses; and, giving up all further attempt
to advance upon Morristown and destroy
the American stores and magazines there,
which had been the chief object of the




expedition, they continued their retreat
to Elizabethtown. As they went, they
were closely followed by the militia, and
were greatly harassed. Parson Caldwell
made himself conspicuous in the pursuit.
" The image of his murdered wife," says
Irving, " was before his eyes. Finding
the men in want of wadding, he galloped
to the Presbyterian church and brought
thence a quantity of Watts s psalm and
hymn books, which he distributed for the
purpose among the soldiers. Now] cried
he, piil Watts into them, boys / "

Lee was also active with his dragoons,
and picked up a number of stragglers and
a large quantity of stores and baggage.
The enemy s loss was considerably more
than that of the Americans, who had but
twenty killed and sixty wounded in the
various encounters.

The British finally crossed over to Sta-
ten island, and, destroying their
bridge of boats, apparently gave
up all further designs upon the much-
vexed territory of New Jersey, which had
hitherto suffered so much by the war.

June 25,


Return of Lafayette. His Warm Welcome. Tears of Joy. Good Tidings. Dear Americans. The Marquis welcomed
by Congress. Count de llochambeau. His Life and Character. French Aid. Gallant Nobles of France. Recep
tion at Newport. "Our General" in Rhode Island. Plan of Combined Attack. Sir Henry Clinton on the Alert.
Movements and Counter-Movements. Lafayette s Troops. The French Fleet blockaded. General Arnold makes
his Appearance. His Disappointment. He is appointed to the Command of West Point. A Significant Request.


THE marquis de Lafayette s re
turn to America was one of the
most encouraging events of the year.
The young Frenchman had greatly en-
deared himself to Washington by his
faithful friendship, and won popular ad
miration by his generous enthusiasm in
behalf of the cause of American indepen
dence. His arrival was welcomed with
every expression of delight. Tears of
joy rose in the eyes of Washington, on
reading Lafayette s letter announcing his
arrival at Boston ; and when the
youthful marquis reached head
quarters, the stately cornmander-in-chief

April 27,

" folded him in his arms in a truly pater
nal embrace."*

Lafayette was doubly welcome, for he
was the messenger of glad tidings. He
brought word that his most Christian ma
jesty Louis XVI. was sending to his good
allies the American states a French fleet,
under the chevalier de Ternay, and a
body of troops, commanded by Count de
llochambeau. The rnarquis might well
feel proud as the bearer of this important
intelligence, which he was permitted as
yet only to communicate to Washington
and to Congress. The result which he

* Irving.


[PART n.

announced was- greatly due to his own
efforts in his secret mission to the court
of Versailles. So zealous was he in be
half of the American cause, and so per
suasive were his appeals, that old Count
de Maurepas, the French prime minister,
remarked one day in council, " It is for
tunate for the king that Lafayette does
not take it into his head to strip Versailles
of its furniture, to send to his dear Americans.,
as his majesty would be unable to refuse it /"*

In addition to the request for troops
and vessels-of-war for the American ser
vice, the marquis had also asked for large
supplies of clothing, arms, and ammuni
tion, for the patriot army. But he did
not ask more of others than he was wil
ling to do himself. He purchased on his
own account, and brought with him to
America, a large quantity of military equi
page, which he presented to the officers
of light- infantry which he commanded
during the next campaigns.

With skill and foresight, Lafayette had
likewise planned the terms of the milita
ry alliance before he left France, so as to
leave nothing in point of courtesy or eti
quette to be settled thereafter between
the two commanders-in-chief; these terms
Avere embodied in the instructions of the
French minister to Count Rochambeau,
and were intended to promote perfect
harmony between the officers and troops
of the two nations. The French were to
be, in all cases, under the general com
mand of Washington ; and when the two
armies should be united, they were to be
considered as auxiliary to the Americans,
and to yield precedence by taking the left.

* Sp-n-ks.

The American officers were to command
French officers of equal rank ; and in all
military acts and capitulations the Amer
ican generals were to be named first, and
to sign first. So judiciously were these
instructions drawn, that perfect harmony
subsisted between the two armies from
the moment of the arrival of the French
till their departure, two years afterward.*
As a token of friendship and alliance,
Washington recommended his officers to
wear a cockade of white and black inter
mixed, the American cockade being black,
and that of the French white, the latter
being the color of the reigning house of

From headquarters, in New Jersey, La-
fa.yette hastened to Philadelphia, where
he was welcomed by Congress with a com
plimentary resolution, in which his re
turn to America was acknowledged as a
proof of his disinterested zeal, and the
offer of his services accepted with pleas

The French fleet, which sailed from
France on the 1st of May, w T as seen off
the capes of Virginia on the 4th of July,
and at length safely entered the harbor
of Newport, in Rhode Island. It
consisted of seven ships-of-the
line, several frigates, and a number of
transports (including two bornb-vessels),
which had on board six thousand troops.
The land-force was commanded by Count
de Rochambeau and the fleet by Cheva
lier de Ternay.f

Rochambeau was a veteran officer, who
had served with honor against the Prus-

* Liossing.

t Tenuiy died at Newport while in command of the fleet.

July 12,



siansand English serving under Frederick
the Great, in the Seven Years War. His
MEUR, though he is more generally known
by his title of Comte de Rocliambeau. He
was born at Vendome, in 1725, and en
tered the army at the age of sixteen. In
1746, he became aid-de-camp to Louis
Philippe, duke of Orleans (the father of
Philippe Eyalite, who was beheaded in the
Re volution, and grand father of King Louis
Philippe). Afterward obtaining the com
mand of the regiment of La Marche, he
distinguished himself at the battle of La-
feldt, where he was wounded. He won
fresh laurels at Cre veldt; at the battle
of Minden, where the French received a
terrible defeat; and also at Corbach and
Clostercamp. For these services he was
made lieutenant-general.*

As soon as it became known that troops
were to be sent to the United States, the
young French nobility zealously sought
to serve under Washington, who had been
appointed by Louis XVI. lieutenant-gen
eral of France, and vice-admiral of its
fleet, in order that, as before remarked,
the French officers might be made subor
dinate to the American commander-in-

* After the return of Count de Rochambeau from Amer
ica, he was raised to the rank of marshal by Louis XVI.,
and, after the French Revolution, he was appointed to the
command of the army of the north ; but he was superseded
by more active officers, and, being calumniated by the pop
ular journalists, he addressed to the National Assembly at
Paris a vindication of his conduct. A decree of approbation
was consequently passed in May, 1792, and he retired to his
estate, near Vendomo, with a determination to interfere no
more with public affairs. He was subsequently arrested,
and narrowly escaped suffering death, under the tyranny of
Robespierre. In 1803, he was presented to Napoleon, then
first consul, who granted him a pension, and the cross of
grand officer of the Legion of Honor. He died ia 1807, at
the advanced age of eighty-one years.


chief, without wounding their national
sensibility. As more offered themselves
for appointments than the service re
quired, many eager solicitors were disap
pointed. Those who came were among
the noblest and most gallant youth of

There was the handsome, witty, and
brave, but profligate, duke de Lauzun, at
the head of his legion ; there was the mar
quis de Chastellux,* a relative of Lafay
ette, a soldier, courtier, and a man of let
ters ; and there was the son of the count
de Rochambeau, in command of the regi
ment of Auvergne, which his father had
often led to victory. They had " brought
out with them," said the count himself,
" the heroic and chivalrous courage of the
ancient French nobility."

The first impression, on the arrival of
the French at Newport, does not seem to
have been encouraging. " I landed with
my staflfj" wrote the general, K without
troops ; nobody appeared in the streets ;
those at the window s looked sad and de
pressed." In a short time, however, there
was an agreeable change. "I spoke to
the principal persons of the place," con
tinues the count, " and told them, as I
wrote to General Washington,that this was
merely the advanced guard of a greater
force, and that the king was determined
to support them with his whole power.
In twenty-four hours their spir
its rose, and last night all the
streets, houses, and steeples, were illinni-
nated,_in the midst of fireworks and the
greatest rejoicings."

* Francis John Chastellux, a field-marshal, was the au
thor of "Travels in North America," &c.

July 13.




General Heath bad been ordered by
"Washington to proceed to Ehode Island,
in order that he might be present to give
advice and assistance, as well as to do the
honors suitable to the occasion. As soon
as the French fleet appeared off the coast,
"our general"* immediately prepared to
cross over from Providence to Newport;
but the day being calm, the packet did
not reach the town until twelve o clock
at ni$?ht. General Rochambeau had gone

O *->

on shore in the evening. Early the next
morning, General Heath likewise went
ashore, and waited on the count; from
which moment the warmest friendship
commenced between "our general, the
count, and all the French officers."

Lafayette also hastened to greet his
compatriots, and confer with Rochambeau
upon the plans of a campaign which had
been concerted with Washington. The
arrival of the French was announced to
the troops in general orders, and
the commander-in-chief express
ed the hope that the only contention be
tween the two armies would be, to excel
each other in good offices and in the dis
play of every military virtue. He was,
however, in a state of great solicitude,
when he reflected upon the utter weak
ness of the American army at this time,
from the want of supplies of every kind,
and the miserably deficient state of the
quartermaster s and commissary s depart
ments. The army, in the plan of the cam
paign of 1780,had been lixed by Congress
at thirty-five thousand two hundred and
eleven men ; instead of which, the actual

* General Heath, who, us the reader will recollect, always
spciiks of himself as "our general."

July 20,

force in the field and under arms, at the
end of June, amounted to only about five
thousand five hundred men ! Indeed, the
allied forces of the Americans and French
were still inferior to those of the British
commander at New York.

Online LibraryRobert TomesBattles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) → online text (page 97 of 126)