Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

was posted as a reserve in the centre between Sullivan and Wayne, to reinforce either, as circumstances might require. General Sullivan marched up the river, until he found favourable ground on which to form his men ; his left was near the Brandywine, and both flanks were covered with thick wood. At half past four o'clock, when his line was scarcely formed, the British, under Lord Cornwallis, commenced a spirited attack. The action was for some time severe; but the American right, which was not properly in order when the assault began, at length gave way, and exposed the flank of the troops that maintained their ground to a destructive fire, and continuing to break from the right, the whole line finally gave way.

As soon as the firing began, General Washington, with General Green's division, hastened towards the scene of action, but before his arrival, Sullivan was routed, and the Commander in Chief

could only check the pursuit of the enemy, and - cover the retreat of the beaten troops.

During these transactions, General Knyphausen assaulted the works erected for the defence of Chadd's ford, and soon carried them. General Wayne, by this time learning the fate of the other divisions, drew off his troops. General Washington retreated with his whole force that night to Chester. The American loss in this battle was about three hundred killed, and six hundred wounded. Four hundred were made prisoners, but these chiefly of the wounded.

Many of the regiments of infantry, and the

whole corps of artillery, on this occasion, exhibited the firmness and persevering courage that would have honoured veteran troops. A few corps gave way as soon as pressed by the enemy, and their deficiency exposed those who bravely did their duty. General Howe stated his loss, in this action, at one hundred killed and four hundred wounded.

The defeat of Brandywine produced no depression of spirits upon Congress, the army, or the country. Measures were immediately taken to reinforce the army. Fifteen hundred men were marched from Peck's Kill, and large detachments of militia ordered into the field. The Commander in Chief was empowered to impress all horses, waggons, and provisions necessary for the army. In orders, the General expressed his high satisfaction at the behaviour of the body of his army in the late engagement. Having allowed bis troops a short repose, he faced about to meet the enemy, fully resolved to try his fortune in a general action, before he resigned Philadelphia to the royal commander.

Sept. 15.] General Washington, perceiving that the enemy were moving into the Lancaster road, towards the city, took possession of ground near the Warren tavern, on the left of the British, and twenty-three miles from Philadelphia. The protection of his stores at Reading was one object of this movement. The next morning he was informed of the approach of the British army. He immediately put his troops in motion to engage the enemy. The advance of the two

[ocr errors]

hostile armies met and began to skirmish, when rain fell, and soon increased to a violent storm. This providentially prevented a general engagement, and rendered the retreat of the Americans absolutely necessary. The inferiority of the muskets in the hands of the American soldiery, which had been verified in every action, was strikingly illustrated in this retreat. The gun locks were badly made, and the cartridge boxes imperfectly constructed ; and this storm rendered most of the arms unfit for use; and all the ammunition was damaged. The army was of consequence extremely exposed, and their danger became the greater, as many of the soldiers were destitute of bayonets. Fortunately the tempest, which produced such serious mischief to the Americans, prevented the pursuit of the British.

General Washington, finding his troops unfitted for action, relinquished, from necessity, the immediate intention of a battle, and continued his retreat through the day, and most of the night, amidst a cold and tempestuous rain, and in very deep roads. On a full discovery of the extent of the damage to the arms and ammunition, the General ascended the Schuylkil," and crossed it at Warwick furnace, to obtain a fresh supply of ammunition, and to refit or replace the defective muskets. He still resolved to risk a general engagement, for the safety of the capital. (Sept. 19.] He recrossed the Schuylkill at Parker's ferry, and encamped east of that river, on both sides of Parkyomy creek, and detachments were posted at the different fords, at which the enemy might attempt

to force a passage.

As the British army approached the river, General Washington posted his army in their front; but, instead of forcing a passage, Sir William moved rapidly up the road towards Reading. The American Commander, supposing that his object was to destroy the military stores at that place, and to turn the right flank of the American army, marched up the river to Pottsgrove, leaving the lower road to the city open to his antagonist. Sir William Howe awailed himself of the opportunity, and on the I6th, entered Philadelphia in triumph.

General Washington had seasonably taken the precaution to remove the public stores from the city, and to secure for the use of the

army,

those articles of merchandize, which their wants rendered of primary necessity. Colonel Hamilton, then one of General Washington's aids, had been sent into the city on this important business. By his instructions, he was directed to proceed in his requisitions upon the stores and shops of Philadelphia, cautiously but effectually.

" Your own prudence will point out the least exceptionable means to be pursued, but remember delicacy, and a strict adherence to tlie ordinary mode of application, must give place to our necessities. We must, if possible, accomodate the soldiers with such articles as they stand in need of; or we shall have just reason to apprehend the most injurious and alarming consequences from the approaching season.”

From the landing of the British army at the head of the Elk, on the 25th of August, to the 26th of September, when they entered Philadelphia, the American troops had encountered a continued series of active operations, and the duty of the General was complicated and arduous. During this time, the soldiers were destitute of baggage, insufficiently supplied with provisions, and deprived of the comforts that administer to the support of the human frame under severe fatigue. Without covering, they were exposed to heavy rains, and obliged to march, many of them without shoes, in deep roads, and to ford considerable streams.

The best British writers, who have given us an history of the revolutionary war, highly applaud the generalship of Sir William Howe in this part of the campaign. Can they then withhold applause from the American Commander, who manæuvred an inferior army in the face of the British General, and detained him, thirty days, in marching sixty miles, from the head of Elk river to Philadelphia, in a country in which there was not one fortified post, nor a stream that might not, at this season be everywhere forded; who fought one battle, and although beaten, in five days again faced his enemy with the intention to risk a general engagement; who, when in the moment of action, was providentially necessitated to retreat, with muskets and ammunition unfit for use, extricated himself from his perilous situation, and once more placed himself in front of the invading foe; who at last was induced to open the Philadelphia road to the British General, not because he was beaten in the field, but through the influence of circum

« EdellinenJatka »