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About sunrise the American van met the advance of three British regiments, which had the preceding night encamped at Princeton, and were on their way to join Lord Cornwallis.
A severe skirmish took place between this advanced corps and General Mercer, who commanded the militia in front of the American line, The militia at length gave way, and in the effort to rally then, General Mercer was mortally wounded.
General WASHINGTON advanced at the head of those troops which had signalized themselves at Trenton, and exposed himself to the hottest fire of the enemy. His men bravely supported him, and the British in their turn were repulsed, and the different regiments separated. That in the rear, retreated with little loss to Brunswick. Colonel Mawhood in the van, with a part of his men, forced his way through the Americans, and reached Trenton. More than an hundred of the British were left on the field of battle, and three hundred of them were made prisoners. Besides General Mercer, whose death was greatly lamented, the Americans in this action, lost two Colonels, two Captains, five other officers, and nearly an hun. dred privates.
On the return of day, Lord Cornwallis found, that he had been out generalled. Comprehending the design of WASHINGTON, he broke up his encampment, and with the utmost expedition trod back his own steps, for the preservation of the stores in his rear ; and he was close upon the Americans, as they marched out of Princeton.
It had been the intention of General WASHINGTon to proceed to Brunswick, where the British
had large magazines, and where was their military chest, which at this time, as it afterwards appeared, contained seventy thousand pounds sterling. But many
of his soldiers had not slept for forty eight hours, none of them for the last twenty four, and they were exhausted by excessive duty. They were closely pursued by a superiour force, which must be up with them, before the stores at Brunswick could be destroyed, should they meet with serious opposition at that place. General WASHINGTON therefore relinquished this part of his plan, and prudently led his army to a place of security, to giv them the rest which they greatly needed.
The successes of the American arms at Trenton, and at Princeton, were followed by important consequences. The affairs of the United States, before these events, appeared to be desperate. Two thousand of the regular troops had a right, on the first of January, to demand their discharge. The recruiting service was at an end, and general despondency prevailed. The triumphs of the British through the previous parts of the campaign, produced a common apprehension, in the citizens of the middle states, that any further struggle would be useless; and that America must eventually return to her alle. giance to Great Britain. Many individuals made their peace with the Commissioners, and took protection from the officers of the crown; and more discovered the inclination to do it, when opportuni. ty should present. General Howe supposed New Jersey restored to the British government, and thought the war drawing to a close. Lut these successes were considered, as great victories, and produced consequent effects upon the publick mind. The character of the Commander in Chief proportionably rose in the estimation of the great mass of American people, who now respected themselves, and confided in their persevering efforts to secure the great object of contention, the independence of their country.
Other causes had a powerful operation upon the minds of the yeomanry of New Jersey. The British commanders tolerated, or at least neglect. zd to restrain, gross licentiousness in their army, The inhabitants of the state, which they boasted was restored to the bosom of the parent country, were treated not as reclaimed friends, but as con. quered enemies. The soldiery were guilty of every species of rapine, and with little discrimination of those who had opposed, or supported the measures of Britain. The abuse was not limited to the plundering of property. Every indignity was offered to the persons of the inhabitants, not excepting those outrages to the female sex, which are felt by ingenuous minds with the keenest anguish, and excite noble spirits to desperate resistance. These aggravated abuses roused the people of New Jersey to repel that army, to which they had voluntarily submitted, in the expectation of protection and security. At the dawn of success upon the American arms, they rose in small bands to oppose their invaders. They scoured the country, cut off every soldier who straggled from his corps ; and in many instances repelled the foraging parties of the enemy.
The enterprising manæuvres of the American General, and the returning spirit of the Jersey yeomanry, rendered General Howe, now Sir William, very cautious and circumspect. He contracted his cantonments for winter quarters, and concentrated his whole force in the Jersey, at Brunswick and Amboy.
By this time, the period of service of the Con. tinental battalions had expired, and the recruits for the new army were not yet in camp. Offensive operations, therefore, were of necessity suspended by the American General ; but, with the small force at his disposal, he straitened the enemy's quarters, and circumscribed their foraging excursions.
At Christmas the power of the British was ex. tended over the whole of New Jersey, and their commanders boasted, that a corporal's guard might in safety parade in every part of the province. Before the expiration of January, they possessed but two posts in the state, and these were in the neighbourhood of their shipping. The power of their arms extended not beyond the reach of the guns of their fortifications. Every load of forage, and every pound of provision, obtained from the inhabitants, were procured by the bayonets of large detachments, and at the price of blood.
General WASHINGTON disposes his small force for the protece
tion of New Jersey....Army Innoculated....Abuse of American prisoners... The Exchange of General Lee refused.... Stores at Peck's Kill and Danbury destroyed...American Army takes post at Middlebrook.... Sir William Howe moves towards the Delaware....Returns to Staten Island and embarks his troops....He lands at the Head of Elk....General WASHINGTON marches to meet him....Battle of Brandywine .... Effects of a Storm....British take possession of Philadelphia .... Mud Island and Red Bank fortified....Obstructions in the River....Attack on Mud Island....Count Donop defeated.... British surmount the Fortifications of the River....Plan to attack Philadelphia.... Sir William Howe reconnoitres the American camp at White Marsh.... The Army posted at Valley Forge.... The Privations of the Soldiers during the Winter.
1777. GENERAL WASHINGTON indulged the hope that the brilliant success, at the close of the last campaign, would stimulate his country to bring a force into the field, which would enable him in the course of the winter, to drive the ene. my into New York, to straiten their quarters and prevent their obtaining any supplies from the neighbouring counties. Being disappointed in this hope, he disposed his small force in the best manner to protect New Jersey, and exerted himself to prepare for the approaching season of action.