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The assailants had four hundred men killed and wounded. The garrison, fighting under cover, had only thirty killed and wounded. Had the camp of militia been formed in the rear of Red Bank, agreeable to General Washington's desire, this whole corps would probably have been made prisoners.
In the mean time, Fort Mifflin was attacked by the shipping, and by batteries erected on the Pennsylvania shore. Incessant vollies of bombs and cannon-balls were discharged upon it; but at ebb tide the Augusta and Merlin grounded, and were burnt. The garrison supported this tremendous fire without material injury.
The resistance of the forts on the Delaware far exceeding the expectations of the British commanders, they adopted measures to overcome it, without the hazard of a second assault. They erected batteries upon Province Island, within five hundred yards of the American fort. They also brought up their shipping, gun-boats, &c. and from the 10th to the 16th of November, battered the American works. By this time the de fences were entirely beat down, every piece of cannon was dismounted, and one of the ships approached so near Fort Mifflin as to throw hand grenades from her tops into it, which killed men upon the platform. The brave garrison received orders to quit the post. Red Bank being no longer useful, its garrison and stores were also withdrawn on the approach of Lord Cornwallis with five thousand men to invest it.
While these transactions were going on, the en
terprising spirit of the Commander in Chief, was employed to explore an opening through which to attack his adversary. He clearly saw the importance of driving the British from Province Island; but fifteen hundred men, in the opinion of his general officers, were necessary to effect this object. This detachment could reach the place of assault only by marching down a neck of land six miles in length, almost in sighi of the British General, who might easily cut off the retreat of the American detachment, unless it should be protected by a strong covering party. To furnish this party, General Washington must expose his army, with all his stores and artillery, to Sir William; or, if he moved his whole army over the Schuylkill, all the magazines and hospitals in his rear, might, without opposition, be seized. Red Bank would also be exposed, through which reinforcements of men, and supplies of ammunition and provisions, passed to Fort Island. He was therefore constrained to watch the progress of his enemy, without making efficient attempts to check him,
The fortifications of the Delaware being surmounted, the impediments in the channel of the river were, without great difficulty, removed. In six weeks of incessant effort, the British commanders gained the free navigation of the Delaware, and opened the communication between their fleet
During the excursion of Lord Cornwallis into New Jersey, with a design to invest Fort Mercer, General Washington was urged to attack Philadelphia. The wishes of Congress, and the expectation of the public, gave weight to the proposed measure. The plan was, that General Green should silently fall down the Delaware, at a specified time, attack the rear of General Howe, and gain possession of the bridge over the Schuylkill; that a powerful force should march down on the west side of that river, and from the heights enfilade the British works on that side, while the Commander in Chief, with the main body of the army, should attack fourteen redoubts, and the lines of the enemy extending from the Delaware to the Schuylkill, which constituted their defence in front,
The sound mind of General Washington was not so much dazzled by a prospect of the brilliance and fame which the success of this enterprise would throw around himself, and his army, as to engage in the desperate attempt; nor was he disposed to sacrifice the safety of his country upon the altar of public opinion. He gave the following reasons for rejecting the plan; that the army in Philadelphia was in number at least equal to his own; it could not reasonably be expected that the several corps engaged could co-operate in that joint and prompt manner which was necessary to success; in all probability the movement of General Green could not be made in the face of a vigilant enemy without discovery, which was essential; if the several divisions were in the onset successful, the redoubts taken, the lines surmounted, and the British army driven within the city,'the assault then must be extremely hazard
ous ; an artillery superior to their own, would be planted to play upon the front of the assailing columns, and the brick houses would be lined with a formidable infantry to thin their flanks; a defeat, which, calculating upon the scale of probability, must be expected, would ruin the army, and open the country to the depredation of the enemy; the hardy enterprises and stubborn conflicts of two campaigns, had given the British general only the command of two or three towns, protected in a great measure by the shipping, why then forego the advantage of confining the British army in narrow quarters, to place the stores in camp, and the very independence of America at risk upon this forlorn hope? The General was supported in his opinion by those officers in whose judgment he placed the most confidence, and he disregarded the clamours of ignorance and rash
On the 4th of December, Sir William Howe marched his whole army out of Philadelphia to White Marsh, the encampment of General Washington. He took a position on Chesnut Hill, in front of the American right wing. Mr. Stedman, a British historian of the revolutionary war, who at this time was with Sir William, states his force at fourteen thousand men. The continental troops at White Marsh amounted to about twelve thousand, and the militia to three. The ground of the Americans was strong, but no fortifications had been erected. Never before had General Washington met his enemy in this manner, with a superiority of numbers. He wished to be at:
tacked, but was not disposed to relinquish the advantage of ground.
The British Commander spent the 6th in reconnoitring the American right. At night he marched to their left on the hill, which here approached nearer to their camp, and took a good position within a mile of it. The next day he advanced further to the American left, and in doing it approached still nearer this wing. General Washington made some changes in the disposition of his troops, to oppose, with a greater force, the attack he confidently expected on his left. Momentarily expecting the assault, he rode through each brigade of the army with perfect composure, giving his orders, animating his men to do their duty to their country, and exhorting them to depend principally on the bayonet. During these manœuvres, some sharp skirmishing took place. At evening the disposition of General Howe indicated the design to attack the next morning. The American Commander impatiently waited the assault, promising himself some compensation for the disasters of the campaign in the issue of this battle; but his hopes were disappointed. On the afternoon of the Sth, Sir William returned to Philadelphia with such rapidity, as not to be overtaken by the American light: troops, which were sent out to harass his rear.
Sir William Howe moved out of Philadelphia with a professed design to attack General Washington, and to drive him over the mountain. He must have felt mortification in receding from this intention, and by it acknowledging, in the face of