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ders General Lee executed in a reluctant and tardy manner, and soon after he entered New Jersey, carelessly taking his quarters for a night in a house three miles from his force, he was surprized and taken prisoner by a detachment of British Dragoons. General WASHINGTON also renewed his letters to Congress, and to the Executives of the neighbour. ing States, urging them to bring the whole strength of the militia into the field, to enable him to check the progress of the invading foe. To back these requests, he directed General Mifflin to repair to Philadelphia, General Armstrong to the interiour of Pennsylvania, and Colonel Reed, his Adjutant General, to the distant counties of New Jersey. The known influence of these gentlemen in those places, united to the exertions of the constituted authorities, would, the General hoped, bring a powerful reinforcement to his army. All these efforts were for the present time ineffectual.
As General Howe advanced, the American ar. my
retreated towards the Delaware. It frequently happened, that the front guard of the British entered one end of a village, as the rear of the Americans quitted the other. Whenever it could be done with safety, General ASHINGTON made a stand, to shew the semblance of an army, and to retard the progress of the enemy.
At Brunswick, Lord and General Howe, Commissioners, issued a proclamation, commanding all persons in arms against the King, peaceably to return to their homes, and all civil officers to desist from their treasonable practices; and offering a full par.
don to all persons, who should in sixty days appear before appointed officers of the crown, and subscribe a declaration of their submission to royal authority.
This was the most gloomy period of the Dec.
revolutionary war. It was the crisis of the struggle of the United States for Independence. The American army reduced in numbers, depressed by defeat and exhausted by fatigue, naked, barefoot, and destitute of tents, and even of utensils, with which to dress their scanty provisions, was fleeing before a triumphant army, well appointed and abun. dantly supplied. A general spirit of despondency through New Jersey was the consequence of this disastrous state of publick affairs. No city or town indeed, in its incorporate capacity submitted to the British government. A few characters of distinction maintained their political integrity; and nearly a thousand of the militia of the state bravely kept the field in defence of their country. But most of the families of fortune and influence, discovered an inclination to return to their allegiance to the King. Many of the yeomanry claimed the benefits of the Commissioners' proclamation; and the great body of them were too much taken up with the se. curity of their families and their property, to make any exertion in the publick cause.
In this worst of times Congress stood unmoved. Their measures exhibited no symptoms of confu. sion or dismay, the publick danger only roused them to more vigorous exertions, that they might give a firmer tone to the publick mind, and animate the citizens of United America to a manly defence of their Independence.
Beneath this cloud of adversity, General WashINGTON shone, perhaps with a brighter lustre, than in the day of his highest prosperity. Not dismayed by all the difficulties which encompassed him, he accommodated his measures to his situation, and still made the good of his country the object of his ' unwearied pursuit. He ever wore the countenance of composure and confidence; by his own example inspiring his little band with firmness to struggle with adverse fortune.
As the British advanced upon him, he retreated, and having previously broken down the bridges on
the Jersey shore, he crossed the Delaware, Dec. 8. and secured the boats upon the river for a distance of seventy miles. The van of the enemy appeared upon the left bank of the Delaware, while the rear of the American army was upon its
passage. After an unsuccessful attempt to procure boats to pass the Delaware, General Howe cantoned his army in New Jersey, intending to wait until the frost of winter should furnish him with an easy passage upon the ice to Philadelphia. He stationed four thousand men along the Delaware at Trenton, Bordentown, the White Horse and Burlington. And the residue of his force, he posted between the Delaware and the Hackensack.
General WASHINGTON ordered the American gallies to keep the river, narrowly to watch the enemy, and to give the earliest notice of their move. ments. He posted his troops upon the south side of the Delaware, in situations the most favourable to guard the fords and ferries ; and he gave written instructions to the commanding officer of each detachment, directing what passes he should defend, if driven from his post, on his retreat to the heights of Germantown. While waiting for reinforcements he kept a steady eye on the enemy, and used every means in his power to gain correct information of their plans. This moment of inaction he also embraced, to lay before Congress his reiterated remon. strances against the fatal system of short inlistments. He hoped that experience, by its severe chastise. ment, would produce the conviction upon that body, which his arguments and persuasions had not full effected.
He urged Congress to establish corps Dec, 20.
of cavalry, artillerists and engineers, and pressed upon them the necessity of establishing ad. ditional regiments of infantry. He knew that objections to these measures would arise, on account of the expense, and from the consideration, that the old battalions were not yet filled; these he obviated by observing, that “more men would in this way on the whole be raised, and that our funds were not the only object now to be taken into consideration. We find,” he added, “ that the enemy are daily gathering strength from the disaffected. This strength, like a snowball by rolling, will increase, unless some means can be devised to check, effectually, the progress of the enemy's arms : Militia may possibly do it for a little while ; but in a little while also, the militia of these states, which have frequently been called upon, will not turn out at call ; or if they do, it will be with so much reluctance and sloth, as to amount to the same thing: Instance New Jersey ! Witness Pennsylvania ! Could any thing but the river Detaware have saved Philadelphia ? Could any thing (the exigency of the case indeed may justify it) be more destructive to the recruiting service, than give ing ten dollars bounty, for six weeks' service of the militia, who come in, you cannot tell how, go you cannot tell when, and act, you cannot tell where.... consume your provisions, exhaust your stores, and leave you at last, at a critical moment.
These are the men I am to depend upon ten days hence. This is the basis on which your cause will, and must forever depend, till you get a large standing army, sufficient of itself to oppose the enemy."
With deference he suggested to Congress the expediency of enlarging his own powers, that he might execute important measures, without consulting with them, and possibly, by the delay, missing the favourable moment of action. “ It may be said,” he observed, “ that this is an application for powers that are too dangerous to be entrusted. I can only add, that desperate diseases require despe. rate remedies, and with truth declare, that I have no lust after power, but wish with as much fervency as any man upon the wide extended continent, for an opportunity of turning the sword into a ploughshare. But my feelings as an officer and a man, have been such as to force me to say, that no person ever had a greater choice of difficulties to contend with than I have.” Having recommended sundry other measures, and mentioned several arrangements which he had adopted beyond the spirit of his commission, he concluded with the following observations.