Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XII: The Proceedings of Parliament, against the Colonies, 1775–6. Operations in South-Carolina, New-York, and New-Jersey. - The History of the American Revolution, vol. 1
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CHAPTER XII: The Proceedings of Parliament, against the Colonies, 1775–6. Operations in South-Carolina, New-York, and New-Jersey. - David Ramsay, The History of the American Revolution, vol. 1 
The History of the American Revolution, Foreword by Lester H. Cohen (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund 1990). Vol. 1.
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The Proceedings of Parliament, against the Colonies, 1775–6. Operations in South-Carolina, New-York, and New-Jersey.
The operations carried on against the united colonies, in the year 1775, were adapted to cases of criminal combination among subjects not in arms. The military arrangements for that year, were therefore made on the idea of a trifling addition to a peace establishment. 1776 It was either not known, that a majority of the Americans had determined to resist the power of Great-Britain, rather than submit to the late coercive laws, or it was not believed that they had spirit sufficient to act in conformity to that determination. The propensity in human nature, to believe that to be true, which is wished to be so, had deceived the royal servants in America, and the British ministry in England, so far as to induce their general belief, that a determined spirit on the part of government, and a few thousand troops to support that determination, would easily compose the troubles in America. Their military operations in the year 1775, were therefore calculated on the small scale of strengthening the civil power, and not on the large one of resisting an organised army. Though it had been declared by parliament in February, 1775, that a rebellion existed in Massachusetts, yet it was not believed that the colonists would dare to abet their opposition by an armed force. The resistance made by the militia at Lexington, the consequent military arrangements adopted, first by Massachusetts, and afterwards by Congress, together with the defence of Bunker’s-hill, all conspired to prove that the Americans were far from being contemptible adversaries. The nation finding itself, by a fatal progression of the unhappy dispute, involved in a civil war, was roused to recollection. Though several corporate bodies, and sundry distinguished individuals in Great-Britain, were opposed to coercive measures, yet there was a majority for proceeding. The pride of the nation was interested in humbling the colonists, who had dared to resist the power which had lately triumphed over the combined force of France and Spain. The prospect of freeing their own estates from a part of the heavy taxes charged thereon, induced numbers of the landed gentlemen in Great-Britain to support the same measures. They conceived the coercion of the colonies to be the most direct mode of securing their contribution towards sinking the national debt.1775 Influenced by these opinions, such not only justified the adoption of rigorous measures, but chearfully consented to present additional taxes with the same spirit  which induces litigants in private life to advance money for forwarding a lawsuit, from the termination of which great profits are expected. Lord North, the prime minister of England, finding himself supported by so many powerful interests, was encouraged to proceed. He had already subdued a powerful party in the city of London, and triumphed over the East-India company. The submission of the colonies was only wanting to complete the glory of his administration. Previous success emboldened him to attempt the arduous business. He flattered himself that the accomplishment of it would, not only restore peace to the empire, but give a brilliancy to his name, far exceeding that of any of his predecessors.
Such was the temper of a great part of the nation, and such the ambitious views of its prime minister, when the parliament was convened, on the 24th of October 1775. In the speech from the throne great complaints were made of the leaders in the colonies, who were said by their misrepresentatives to have infused into the minds of the deluded multitude opinions, repugnant to their constitutional subordination, and afterwards to have proceeded to the commencement of hostilities, and the usurpation of the whole powers of government. His majesty also charged his subjects in America with “meaning only to amuse by vague expressions of attachment to the Parent State, while they were preparing for a general revolt.” And he farther asserted “that the rebellious war now levied by them was become more general, and manifestly carried on for the purpose of establishing an independent empire, and that it was become the art of wisdom, and in its effects, of clemency to put a speedy end to these disorders, by the most decisive exertions.”
Information was also given, that “the most friendly offers of foreign assistance had been received, and that his majesty’s electoral troops were sent to the garrison of Gibraltar and Port Mahon, in order that a large number of the established forces of the kingdom might be applied to the maintenance of its authority.”1775 The severity of these assertions was mitigated by a declaration, “that when the unhappy and deluded multitude against  whom this force should be directed, would become sensible of their error, his majesty would be ready to receive the misled with tenderness and mercy,” “and that to prevent inconveniences, he should give authority to certain persons on the spot, to grant general or particular pardons and indemnities to such as should be disposed to return to their allegiance.” The sentiments expressed in this speech and the heavy charges therein laid against the colonists, were re-echoed in addresses to the king from both houses of parliament, but not without a spirited protest in the house of lords. In this, nineteen dissenting members asserted the American war to be “unjust and impolitic in its principles, and fatal in its consequences.” They also declared, that they could not consent to an address, “which might deceive his majesty and the public into a belief of the confidence of their house in the present ministers, who had disgraced parliament, deceived the nation—lost the colonies, and involved them in a civil war against their clearest interests, and upon the most unjustifiable grounds wantonly spilling the blood of thousands of their fellow subjects.”
The sanction of parliament being obtained for a vigorous prosecution of the American war, estimates for the public service, were agreed to on the idea of operating against the colonies as an hostile armed foreign power. To this end it was voted to employ 28,000 sea-men, and 55,900 land forces, and the sanction of authority was not long after given to measures for engaging foreign mercenaries. No ministry had in any preceding war exerted themselves more to prosecute military operations against alien enemies, than the present to make the ensuing campaign decisive of the dispute between the Mother Country and the colonies.Nov. 20, 1775 One legislative act was still wanting to give full efficacy to the intended prosecution of hostilities. This was brought into parliament in a bill interdicting all trade and intercourse with the thirteen united colonies. By it all property of Americans, whether of ships or goods, on the high seas, or in harbour, was declared “to be forfeited to the captors, being the officers and crews of his majesty’s ships of war.” It farther enacted  “that the masters, crews and other persons found on board captured American vessels, should be entered on board his majesty’s vessels of war, and there considered to be in his majesty’s service to all intents and purposes, as if they had entered of their own accord.” This bill also authorised the crown to appoint commissioners, who over and above granting pardons to individuals were empowered to “enquire into general and particular grievances, and to determine whether any colony or part of a colony was returned to that state of obedience, which might entitle it to be received within the king’s peace and protection.” In that case upon a declaration from the commissioners “the restrictions of the proposed law were to cease.”
It was said in favour of this bill,
that as the Americans were already in a state of war, it became necessary that hostilities should be carried on against them, as was usual against alien enemies. That the more vigorously and extensively military operations were prosecuted, the sooner would peace and order be restored. That as the commissioners went out with the sword in one hand, and terms of conciliation in the other, it was in the power of the colonists to prevent the infliction of any real or apparent severities, in the proposed statute.
In opposition to it, it was said, “that treating the Americans as a foreign nation, was chalking out the way for their independence.” One member observed, that as the indiscriminate rapine of property authorised by the bill, would oblige the colonists to coalesce as one man, its title ought to be “A bill for carrying more effectually into execution the resolves of Congress.” The clause for vesting the property of the seizures in the captors, was reprobated as tending to extinguish in the breasts of seamen the principles of patriotism—of national pride and glory, and to substitute in their room habits of cruelty, of piracy and robbery. But of all parts of this bill none was so severely condemned as that clause by which persons taken on board the American vessels, were indiscriminately compelled to serve as common sailors in British ships of war. This was said to be “a refinement of  tyranny worse than death.”1776 It was also said, “That no man could be despoiled of his goods as a foreign enemy, and at the same time obliged to serve as a citizen, and that compelling captives to bear arms against their families, kindred, friends and country—and after being plundered themselves to become accomplices in plundering their brethren, was unexampled, except among pirates, the outlaws and enemies of human society.” To all these high charges the ministry replied, “that the measure was an act of grace and favour, for” said they, “the crews of American vessels, instead of being put to death, the legal punishment of their demerits, as traitors and rebels, are by this law to be rated on the king’s books, and treated as if they were on the same footing with a great body of his most useful and faithful subjects.” It was also said, “that their pay and emoluments in the service of their lawful sovereign would be a compensation for all scruples that might arise from the supposed violation of their principles.”
In the progress of the debates on this bill, lord Mansfield declared, “that the questions of original right and wrong were no longer to be considered—that they were engaged in a war, and must use their utmost efforts to obtain the ends proposed by it, that they must either fight or be pursued, and that the justice of the cause must give way to their present situation.” Perhaps no speech in or out of parliament operated more extensively on the irritated minds of the colonists than this one.
The great abilities and profound legal knowledge of lord Mansfield were both known and admired in America. That this illustrious oracle of law should declare from the seat of legislation, that the justice of the cause was no longer to be regarded, excited the astonishment, and cemented the union of the colonists. “Great-Britain, said they, has commenced war against us for maintaining our constitutional liberties, and her lawgivers now declare they must proceed without any retrospect to the merits of the original ground of dispute. Our peace and happiness must be sacrificed to British honour and consistency, in their continuing to prosecute  an unjust invasion of our rights.”Dec. 21, 1775 A number of lords, as usual, entered a spirited protest against the bill, but it was carried by a great majority in both houses of parliament, and soon after received the royal assent.
This law arrived in the colonies in March 1776. The effects resulting from it were such as had been predicted by its opposers. It not only united the colonies in resisting Great-Britain, but produced a favorable opinion of independence in the minds of thousands, who previously reprobated that measure. It was considered from New-Hampshire to Georgia, as a legal discharge from allegiance to their native sovereign. What was wanting to produce a decided majority of the party for breaking off all connexion with Great-Britain, was speedily obtained from the irritation excited by the hiring of foreign troops to fight against the colonists. This measure was nearly coincident with the ratification of the prohibitory law just mentioned, and intelligence of both arrived in the colonies about the same time.
The treaties which had been lately concluded with the Landgrave of Hesse Cassel, the duke of Brunswic, and the hereditary prince of Hesse Cassel for hiring their troops to the king of Great-Britain, to be employed in the American service being laid before the house of commons, a motion was made thereon for referring them to the committee of supply.Feb. 29, 1776 This occasioned a very interesting debate on the propriety of employing foreign troops against the Americans. The measure was supported on the necessity of prosecuting the war, and the impracticability of raising a sufficient number of domestic levies. It was also urged “that foreign troops inspired with the military maxims, and ideas of implicit submission, would be less apt to be biassed by that false lenity, which native soldiers might indulge, at the expence of national interest.” It was said,
Are we to sit still and suffer an unprovoked rebellion to terminate in the formation of an independent hostile empire? Are we to suffer our colonies, the object of the great national expence, and of two bloody wars to be lost forever to us, and given away to strangers from a scruple of 1775 employing foreign troops to preserve our just rights, over colonies for which we have paid so dear a purchase? As the Americans by refusing the obedience and taxes of subjects, deny themselves to be a part of the British empire, and make themselves foreigners, they cannot complain that foreigners are employed against them.
On the other side the measure was severely condemned. The necessity of the war was denied, and the nation was represented as disgraced by applying to the petty princes of Germany, for succours against her own rebellious subjects. The tendency of the example to induce the Americans to form alliances with foreign powers, was strongly urged. It was said,
hitherto the colonists have ventured to commit themselves singly in this arduous contest, without having recourse to foreign aid, but it is not to be doubted, that in future they will think themselves fully justified both by our example, and the laws of self preservation, to engage foreigners to assist them in opposing those mercenaries, whom we are about to transport for their destruction. Nor is it doubtful that in case of their application, European powers of a rank far superior to that of those petty princes, to whom we have so abjectly sued for aid, will consider themselves to be equally entitled to interfere in the quarrel between us and our colonies.
The supposition of the Americans receiving aid from France or Spain, was on this and several other occasions ridiculed, on the idea that these powers would not dare to set to their own colonies the dangerous example of encouraging those of Great-Britain, in opposing their sovereign. It was also supposed, that they would be influenced by considerations of future danger to their American possessions, from the establishment of an independent empire in their vicinity.
In this session of parliament between the 26th of October, 1775, and the 23d, of May 1776, the ultimate plan for reducing the colonies was completely fixed. The Americans were declared out of the royal protection, and 16,000 foreign mercenaries, employed by national authority, to effect their subjugation.1776 These measures  induced Congress in the following summer to declare themselves independent, and to seek for foreign aid: Events which shall be hereafter more fully explained.
Parliamentary sanction for carrying on the war against the colonists, as against alien enemies being obtained, it became necessary to fix on a commander of the royal forces to be employed on this occasion. This as a matter of right was, in the first instance, offered to general Oglethorpe, as being the first on the list of general officers. To the surprise of the minister that respectable veteran, readily accepted the command, on condition of his being properly supported. A numerous well appointed army and a powerful fleet were promised him, to which he replied, “I will undertake the business without a man or a ship of war, provided you will authorise me to assure the colonists on my arrival among them, that you will do them justice.” He added farther, “I know the people of America well, and am satisfied, that his majesty has not in any part of his dominions, more obedient, or more loyal subjects. You may secure their obedience by doing them justice, but you will never subdue them by force of arms.” These opinions so favourable to the Americans, proved general Oglethorpe to be an improper person for the purpose intended by the British ministry. He was therefore passed over, and the command given to Sir William Howe.
It was resolved to open the campaign, with such a powerful force as “would look down all opposition, and effectuate submission without bloodshed,” and to direct its operations to the accomplishment of three objects. The first was the relief of Quebec, and the recovery of Canada, which also included a subsequent invasion of the northwestern frontiers of the adjacent provinces. The second was a strong impression on some of the southern colonies. The third and principal, was to take possession of New-York, with a force sufficiently powerful to keep possession of Hudson’s-River, and form a line of communication with the royal army in Canada, or to over-run the adjacent country.
The partial success of the first part of this plan, has been in the preceding chapter explained. The execution  of the second part was committed to general Clinton, and Sir Peter Parker. The former with a small force having called at New-York, and also visited in Virginia lord Dunmore, the late royal governor of that colony, and finding that nothing could be done at either place, proceeded to Cape-Fear-River. At that place he issued a proclamation from on board the Pallas transport, offering free pardon to all such as should lay down their arms, excepting Cornelius Hasnett, and Robert Howe, but the recent defeat of the regulators and Highlanders, restrained even their friends from paying any attention to this act of grace.
At Cape-Fear a junction was formed between Sir Henry Clinton, and Sir Peter Parker, the latter of whom had sailed with his squadron directly from Europe. They concluded to attempt the reduction of Charleston as being, of all places within the line of their instructions, the object at which they could strike with the greatest prospect of advantage. They had 2,800 land forces, which they hoped, with the co-operation of their shipping, would be fully sufficient.
For some months past every exertion had been made to put the colony of South-Carolina, and especially its capital Charleston, in a respectable posture of defence. In subserviency to this view, works had been erected on Sullivan’s island, which is situated so near the channel leading up to the town, as to be a convenient post for annoying vessels approaching it.
Sir Peter Parker attacked the fort on that island, with two fifty gun ships, the Bristol and Experiment, four frigates, the Active, Acteon, Solebay and Syron, each of 28 guns. The Sphynx of 20 guns, the Friendship armed vessel of 22 guns, Ranger sloop, and Thunder bomb, each of 8 guns. On the fort were mounted 26 cannon, 26, 18 and 9 pounders. The attack commenced between ten and eleven in the forenoon, and was continued for upwards of ten hours. The garrison consisting of 375 regulars and a few militia, under the command of colonel Moultrie, made a most gallant defence. They fired deliberately, for the most part took  aim and seldom missed their object.1776 The ships were torn almost to pieces, and the killed and wounded on board exceeded 200 men. The loss of the garrison was only ten men killed, and 22 wounded. The fort being built of palmetto, was little damaged. The shot which struck it were ineffectually buried in its soft wood. General Clinton had some time before the engagement, landed with a number of troops on Long-Island, and it was expected that he would have co-operated with Sir Peter Parker, by crossing over the narrow passage, which divides the two islands, and attacking the fort in its unfinished rear; but the extreme danger to which he must unavoidably have exposed his men, induced him to decline the perilous attempt. Colonel Thomson with 7 or 800 men was stationed at the east end of Sullivan’s island, to oppose their crossing. No serious attempt was made to land either from the fleet, or the detachment commanded by Sir Henry Clinton. The firing ceased in the evening, and soon after the ships slipped their cables. Before morning they had retired about two miles from the island. Within a few days more the troops re-embarked and the whole sailed from New-York. The thanks of Congress were given to general Lee, who had been sent on by Congress to take the command in Carolina, and also to colonels Moultrie and Thomson, for their good conduct on this memorable day. In compliment to the commanding officer the fort from that time was called Fort Moultrie.
During the engagement the inhabitants stood with arms in their hands at their respective posts, prepared to receive the enemy wherever they might land. Impressed with high ideas of British power and bravery, they were apprehensive that the fort would be either silenced or passed, and that they should be called to immediate action. They were cantoned in the various landing places near Charleston, and their resolution was fixed to meet the invaders at the water’s edge, and dispute every inch of ground, trusting the event to heaven.
By the repulse of this armament the southern states obtained a respite from the calamities of war for two years and a half.1776 The defeat the British met with at Charleston,  seemed in some measure to counterbalance the unfavourable impression made, by their subsequent successes, to the northward. Throughout the whole summer, and till the close of the year, Congress had little else than the victory on Sullivan’s island, to console them under the various evacuations, retreats, and defeats, to which, as shall hereafter be related, their armies were obliged to submit in every other part of the union. The event of the expedition contributed greatly to establish the cause which it was intended to overset. In opposition to the bold assertions of some, and the desponding fears of others, experience proved that America might effectually resist a British fleet and army. Those, who from interested motives had abetted the royal government, ashamed of their opposition to the struggles of an infant people for their dearest rights, retired into obscurity.
The effects of this victory, in animating the Americans, were much greater than could be warranted, by the circumstances of the action. As it was the first attack made by the British navy, its unsuccessful issue inspired a confidence which a more exact knowledge of military calculations would have corrected. The circumstance of its happening in the early part of the war, and in one of the weaker provinces, were happily instrumental in dispelling the gloom which overshadowed the minds of many of the colonists, on hearing of the powerful fleets and numerous armies which were coming against them.
The command of the force which was designed to operate against New-York in this campaign, was given to admiral lord Howe, and his brother Sir William, officers who, as well from their personal characters, as the known bravery of their family, stood high in the confidence of the British nation. To this service was allotted a very powerful army, consisting of about 30,000 men. This force was far superior to any thing that America had heretofore seen. The troops were amply provided with artillery, military stores, and warlike materials of every kind, and were supported by a numerous fleet. The admiral and general, in addition to their military powers, were appointed commissioners for restoring peace to the colonies.
1776 General Howe having in vain waited two months at Halifax for his brother, and the expected re-inforcements from England, impatient of farther delays, sailed from that harbour, with the force which he had previously commanded in Boston,Jun. 10 and directing his course towards New-York, arrived in the latter end of June, off Sandy-Hook. Admiral lord Howe, with part of the re-inforcement from England, arrived at Halifax, soon after his brother’s departure.Jun. 12 Without dropping anchor he followed, and soon after joined him near Staten-Island. The British general, on his approach, found every part of New-York island, and the most exposed parts of Long-Island fortified and well defended by artillery. About fifty British transports anchored near Staten-Island, which had not been so much the object of attention. The inhabitants thereof, either from fear, policy, or affection, expressed great joy on the arrival of the royal forces. General Howe was there met by Tryon, late governor of the province, and by several of the loyalists, who had taken refuge with him in an armed vessel. He was also joined by about sixty persons from New-Jersey, and 200 of the inhabitants of Staten-Island were embodied, as a royal militia. From these appearances, great hopes were indulged that as soon as the army was in a condition to penetrate into the country, and protect the loyalists, such numbers would flock to their standard as would facilitate the attainment of the objects of the campaign.
On the fourth day after the British transports appeared off Sandy-Hook. Congress, though fully informed of the numbers and appointment of the force about to be employed against the colonies, ratified their famous declaration of independence. This was publicly read to the American army, and received by them with unfeigned acclamations of joy. Though it was well known, that Great-Britain had employed a force of 55,000 men, to war upon the new-formed states, and that the continental army was not near equal to half that number, and only engaged for a few months, and that Congress was without any assurance of foreign aid, yet both the American  officers and privates gave every evidence1776 of their hearty approbation of the decree which severed the colonies from Great-Britain, and submitted to the decision of the sword, whether they should be free states, or conquered provinces. Now, said they, “we know the ground on which we stand. Now we are a nation. No more shall the opprobrious term of rebel, with any appearance of justice, be applied to us. Should the fortune of war throw us into the hands of our enemies, we may expect the treatment of prisoners, and not the punishment of rebels. The prize for which we contend is of such magnitude that we may freely risque our lives to obtain it.”
It had early occurred to general Washington, that the possession of New-York, would be with the British a favourite object. Its central situation and contiguity to the ocean, enabled them to carry with facility the war to any part of the sea coast. The possession of it was rendered still more valuable by the ease with which it could be maintained. Surrounded on all sides by water, it was defensible by a small number of British ships, against adversaries whose whole navy consisted only of a few frigates. Hudson’s river, being navigable for ships of the largest size to a great distance, afforded an opportunity of severing the eastern from the more southern states, and of preventing almost any communication between them.
From these well known advantages, it was presumed by the Americans, that the British would make great exertions to effect the reduction of New-York. General Lee, while the British were yet in possession of the capital of Massachusetts had been detached from Cambridge, to put Long-Island and New-York into a posture of defence. As the departure of the British from Boston became more certain, the probability of their instantly going to New-York, increased the necessity of collecting a force for its safety.March 13 It had been therefore agreed in a council of war, that five regiments, together with a rifle battalion should march without delay to New-York, and that the states of New-York and New-Jersey should be requested to furnish the former two thousand, and the  latter one thousand men for its immediate defence.1776 General Washington soon followed, and early in April fixed his head quarters in that city. A new distribution of the American army took place. Part was left in Massachusetts. Between two and three thousand were ordered to Canada: But the greater part rendezvoused at New-York.
Experience had taught the Americans the difficulty of attacking an army, after it had effected a lodgment. They therefore made strenuous exertions to prevent the British from enjoying the advantages in New-York, which had resulted from their having been permitted to land and fortify themselves in Boston. The sudden commencement of hostilities in Massachusetts, together with the previous undisturbed landing of the royal army, allowed no time for deliberating on a system of war. A change of circumstances indicated the propriety of fixing on a plan for conducting the defence of the new formed states. On this occasion general Washington, after much thought, determined on a war of posts. This mode of conducting military operations gave confidence to the Americans, and besides, it both retarded and alarmed their adversaries. The soldiers in the American army were new levies, and had not yet learned to stand uncovered, before the instruments of death. Habituating them to the sound of fire arms, while they were sheltered from danger, was one step towards inspiring them with a portion of mechanical courage. The British remembered Bunker’s-hill, and had no small reverence for even slight fortifications, when defended by freemen. From views of this kind, works were erected in and about New-York, on Long Island, and the heights of Haerlem. These, besides batteries, were field redoubts, formed of earth with a parapet and ditch. The former were sometimes fraised, and the latter palisadoed, but they were in no instance formed to sustain a siege. Slight as they were, the campaign was nearly wasted away before they were so far reduced, as to permit the royal army to penetrate into the country.
1776 The war having taken a more important turn than in the preceding year had been foreseen, Congress at the opening of the campaign, found themselves distitute of a force sufficient for their defence. They therefore in June determined on a plan to reinforce their continental army by bringing into the field, a new species of troops, that would be more permanent than the common militia, and yet more easily raised than regulars. With this view they instituted a flying camp, to consist of an intermediate corps, between regular soldiers and militia.June 3 Ten thousand men were called for from the states of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware, to be in constant service to the first day of the ensuing December. Congress at the same time called for 13,800 of the common militia from Massachusetts, Connecticut, New-York, and New-Jersey. The men for forming the flying camp were generally procured, but there were great deficiencies of the militia, and many of those who obeyed their country’s call, so far as to turn out, manifested a reluctance to submit to the necessary discipline of camps.
The difficulty of providing the troops with arms while before Boston, was exceeded by the superior difficulty of supplying them, in their new position. By the returns of the garrison at fort Montgomery, in the Highlands in April, it appeared that there were 208 privates, and only forty one guns fit for use. In the garrison at fort Constitution, there were 136 men, and only 68 guns fit for use. Flints were also much wanted. Lead would have been equally deficient, had not a supply for the musquetry been obtained by stripping dwelling houses.
The uncertainty of the place, where the British would commence their operations, added much to the imbarrassment of general Washington. Not only each colony, but each seaport town, supposed itself to be the object of the British, and was ardent in its supplications, to the commander in chief for his puculiar attention. The people of Massachusetts were strongly impressed with an idea, that the evacuation of Boston was only a feint, and that the British army would soon return.1776 They were for that reason very desirous, that the continental troops should not be withdrawn  from their state. The inhabitants of Rhode-Island urged in a long petition, that their maritime situation exposed them to uncommon danger, while their great exertions in fitting out armed vessels, had deprived them of many of their citizens. They therefore prayed for a body of continental soldiers, to be stationed for their constant and peculiar defence. So various were the applications for troops, so numerous the calls for arms, that a decided conduct became necessary to prevent the feeble American force, and the deficient stock of public arms from being divided and subdivided, so as to be unequal to the proper defence of any one place.
In this crisis of particular danger, the people of New-York acted with spirit. Though they knew they were to receive the first impression of the British army, yet their convention resolved, “that all persons residing within the state of New-York, and claiming protection from its laws, owed it allegiance, and that any person owing it allegiance and levying war against the state, or being an adherent to the king of Great-Britain, should be deemed guilty of treason and suffer death.” They also resolved [“]that one fourth of the militia of West-Chester, Dutchess and Orange counties, should be forthwith drawn out for the defence of the liberties, property, wives and children, of the good people of the state, to be continued in service till the last day of December,” and, “that as the inhabitants of King’s county, had determined not to oppose the enemy, a committee should be appointed to enquire into the authenticity of these reports, and to disarm and secure the disaffected. To remove or destroy the stock of grain, and if necessary to lay the whole country waste.”
The two royal commissioners, admiral and general Howe, thought proper, before they commenced their military operations, to try what might be done in their civil capacity, towards effecting a re-union between Great-Britain and the colonies. It was one of the first acts of lord Howe, to send on shore a circular letter to several of the royal governors in America, informing them of the late act of parliament,1776 “for restoring peace to the colonies,  and granting pardon to such as should deserve mercy,” and desiring them to publish a declaration which accompanied the same. In this he informed the colonists of the power with which his brother and he were intrusted “of granting general or particular pardons to all those who though they had deviated from their allegiance, were willing to return to their duty,” and of declaring “any colony, province, county or town, port, district or place to be at the peace of his majesty.” Congress, impressed with a belief, that the proposals of the commissioners, instead of disuniting the people, would have a contrary effect, ordered them to be speedily published in the several American news-papers. Had a redress of grievances been at this late hour offered, though the honour of the states was involved in supporting their late declaration of independence, yet the love of peace, and the bias of great numbers to their Parent State, would in all probability have made a powerful party for rescinding the act of separation, and for re-uniting with Great-Britain. But when it appeared that the power of the royal commissioners was little more than to grant pardons, Congress appealed to the good sense of the people, for the necessity of adhering to the act of independence. The resolution for publishing the circular letter, and the declaration of the royal commissioners, assigned as a reason thereof,
that the good people of the United States may be informed of what nature are the commissioners, and what the terms, with expectation of which the insidious court of Great-Britain had endeavoured to amuse and disarm them, and that the few who still remain suspended by a hope, founded either in the justice or moderation of their late king, may now at length be convinced that the valour alone of their country is to save its liberties.
About the same time flags were sent ashore by lord Howe, with a letter directed to George Washington, Esq. which he refused to receive as not being addressed to him with the title due to his rank.1776 In his letter to Congress on this subject, he wrote as follows, “I would not on any occasion sacrifice essentials to punctilio, but in this instance I deemed it a duty to my country and appointment, to insist  on that respect, which in any other than a public view, I would willingly have waved. “Congress applauded his conduct in a public resolution, and at the same time directed [“]that no letter or message should be received on any occasion whatever, from the enemy, by the commander in chief, or others the commanders of the American army, but such as were directed to them in the characters they severally sustained.”
Some time after, adjutant general Patterson was sent to New-York, by general Howe, with a letter addressed to George Washington, &c. &c. &c. On an interview the adjutant general, after expressing his high esteem for the person and character of the American general, and declaring, that it was not intended to derogate from the respect due to his rank, expressed his hopes, that the et ceteras would remove the impediments to their correspondence. General Washington replied, “That a letter directed to any person in a public character, should have some description of it, otherwise it would appear a mere private letter. That it was true the et ceteras implied every thing, but they also implied any thing, and that he should therefore decline the receiving any letter directed to him as a private person, when it related to his public station.[”] A long conference ensued, in which the adjutant general observed, that “the commissioners were armed with great powers, and would be very happy in effecting an accommodation.” He received for answer, “that from what appeared, their powers were only to grant pardon, that they who had committed no fault, wanted no pardon.” Soon after this interview, a letter from Howe, respecting prisoners, which was properly addressed to Washington was received.
While the British, by their manifestoes and declarations, were endeavouring to separate those who preferred a reconciliation with Great-Britain from those who were the friends of independence, Congress, by a similiar policy, was attempting to detach the foreigners, who had come with the royal troops from the service of his Britannic majesty. Before hostilities had commenced, the following resolution was adopted and circulated among those  on whom it was intended to operate.
August 14Resolved, that these states will receive all such foreigners who shall leave the armies of his Britannic majesty in America, and shall chuse to become members of any of these states, and they shall be protected in the free exercise of their respective religions, and be invested with the rights, privileges and immunities of natives, as established by the laws of these states, and moreover, that this congress will provide for every such person, fifty acres of unappropriated lands in some of these states, to be held by him and his heirs, as absolute property.
The numbers which were prepared to oppose the British, when they should disembark, made them for some time cautious of proceeding to their projected land operations, but the superiority of their navy enabled them to go by water, whithersoever they pleased.
July 12A British forty gun ship, with some smaller vessels, sailed up North-River, without receiving any damage of consequence, though fired upon from the batteries of New-York, Paules-Hook, Red-Bank, and Governor’s Island. An attempt was made, not long after, with two fire ships, to destroy the British vessels in the North-River, but without effecting any thing more than the burning of a tender. They were also attacked with row gallies, but to little purpose. After some time the Phoenix and Rose men of war, came down the river, and joined the fleet. Every effort of the Americans from their batteries on land, as well as their exertions on the water, proved ineffectual. The British ships passed with less loss than was generally expected, but nevertheless the damage they received was such as deterred them from frequently repeating the experiment. In two or three instances they ascended the North-River, and in one or two the East-River, but those which sailed up the former, speedily returned, and by their return, a free communication was opened through the upper part of the state.
The American army in and near New-York amounted to 17,225 men. These were mostly new troops, and were divided in many small and unconnected posts, some of which were fifteen miles removed from others.1776 The  British force before New-York was increasing by frequent successive arrivals from Halifax, South-Carolina, Florida, the West-Indies and Europe. But so many unforeseen delays had taken place, that the month of August was far advanced, before they were in a condition to open the campaign.
When all things were ready, the British commanders resolved to make their first attempt on Long-Island. This was preferred to New-York, as it abounded with those supplies which their forces required.
The British landed without opposition, between two small towns, Utrecht and Gravesend. The American works protected a small peninsula having Wallabout-Bay to the left, and stretching over to Red-Hook on the right, and the East-River being in their rear. General Sullivan, with a strong force, was encamped within these works at Brooklyne. From the east-side of the narrows runs a ridge of hills covered with thick wood, about five or six miles in length, which terminates near Jamaica. There were three passes through these hills, one near the narrows, a second on the Flatbush road, and a third on the Bedford road, and they are all defensible. These were the only roads which could be passed from the southside of the hills to the American lines, except a road which led round the easterly end of the hills to Jamaica. The Americans had 800 men on each of these roads, and colonel Miles was placed with his battalion of riflemen, to guard the road from the south of the hills to Jamaica, and to watch the motions of the British.
August 26General de Heister, with his Hessians, took post at Flatbush, in the evening. In the following night the greater part of the British army, commanded by general Clinton, marched to gain the road leading round the easterly end of the hills to Jamaica, and to turn the left of the Americans. He arrived about two hours before day, within half a mile of this road. One of his parties fell in with a patrol of American officers, and took them all prisoners, which prevented the early transmission of intelligence.1776 Upon the first appearance of day general Clinton advanced, and took possession of the heights over  which the road passed. General Grant, with the left wing, advanced along the coast by the west road, near the narrows; but this was intended chiefly as a feint.
The guard which was stationed at this road, fled without making any resistance. A few of them were afterwards rallied, and lord Stirling advanced with 1500 men, and took possession of a hill, about two miles from the American camp, and in front of general Grant.
Aug. 27An attack was made very early in the morning by the Hessians from Flatbush, under general de Heister, and by general Grant on the coast, and was well supported for a considerable time by both sides. The Americans who opposed general de Heister were first informed of the approach of general Clinton, who had come round on their left. They immediately began to retreat to their camp, but were intercepted by the right wing under general Clinton, who got into the rear of their left, and attacked them with his light infantry and dragoons, while returning to their lines. They were driven back till they were met by the Hessians. They were thus alternately chased and intercepted, between general de Heister and general Clinton. Some of their regiments nevertheless found their way to the camp. The Americans under lord Stirling, consisting of colonel Miles’ two battalions, colonel Atlee’s, colonel Smallwood’s, and colonel Hatche’s, regiments, who were engaged with general Grant, fought with great resolution for about six hours. They were uninformed of the movements made by general Clinton, till some of the troops under his command, had traversed the whole extent of country in their rear. Their retreat was thus intercepted, but several notwithstanding, broke through and got into the woods. Many threw themselves into the marsh, some were drowned, and others perished in the mud, but a considerable number escaped by this way to their lines.
The king’s troops displayed great valour throughout the whole day. The variety of the ground occasioned a succession of small engagements, pursuits and slaughter, which lasted for many hours.1776 British discipline in every instance, triumphed over the native valour of raw troops,  who had never been in action, and whose officers were unacquainted with the stratagems of war.
The loss of the British and Hessians was about 450. The killed, wounded and prisoners of the Americans, including those who were drowned or perished in the woods or mud, considerably exceeded a thousand. Among the prisoners of the latter were two of their general officers, Sullivan and lord Stirling. Three Colonels, 4 lieutenant colonels, 3 majors, 18 captains, 43 lieutenants, and 11 ensigns. Smallwood’s regiment, the officers of which were young men of the best families in the state of Maryland, sustained a loss of 259 men. The British after their victory were so impetuous, that it was with difficulty, they could be restrained from attacking the American lines.
In the time of, and subsequent to the engagement, General Washington drew over to Long-Island, the greatest part of his army. After he had collected his principal force there, it was his wish and hope, that Sir William Howe, would attempt to storm the works on the island. These though insufficient to stand a regular siege, were strong enough to resist a coup de main. The rememberance of Bunker’s-hill, and a desire to spare his men, restrained the British general from making an assault. On the contrary he made demonstrations of proceeding by siege, and broke ground within three hundred yards to the left at Putnam’s redoubt.Aug. 30 Though general Washington wished for an assault, yet being certain that his works would be untenable, when the British batteries should be fully opened, he called a council of war, to consult on the measures proper to be taken. It was then determined that the objects in view were in no degree proportioned to the dangers to which, by a continuation on the island, they would be exposed. Conformably to this opinion, dispositions were made for an immediate retreat. This commenced soon after it was dark from two points, the upper and lower ferries, on East river. General M‘Dougal, regulated the embarkation at one, and colonel Knox at the other.1776 The intention of evacuating the island, had been so prudently concealed  from the Americans, that they knew not whither they were going, but supposed to attack the enemy. The field artillery, tents, baggage, and about 9000 men were conveyed to the city of New-York over East River, more than a mile wide, in less than 13 hours, and without the knowledge of the British, though not six hundred yards distant. Providence, in a remarkable manner favoured the retreating army. For some time after the Americans began to cross the state of the tide, and a strong north-east wind made it impossible for them to make use of their sail boats, and their whole number of row boats was insufficient for completing the business, in the course of the night. But about eleven o’clock, the wind died away, and soon after sprung up at south-east, and blew fresh, which rendered the sail boats of use, and at the same time made the passage from the island to the city, direct, easy and expeditious. Towards morning an extreme thick fog came up, which hovered over Long-Island, and by concealing the Americans, enabled them to complete their retreat without interruption, though the day had begun to dawn some time before it was finished. By a mistake in the transmission of orders, the American lines were evacuated for about three quarters of an hour, before the last embarkation took place, but the British though so near, that their working parties could be distinctly heard, being enveloped in the fog knew nothing of the matter. The lines were repossessed and held till six o’clock in the morning, when every thing except some heavy cannon was removed. General Mifflin, who commanded the rear guard left the lines, and under the cover of the fog got off safe. In about half an hour the fog cleared away, and the British entered the works which had been just relinquished. Had the wind not shifted, the half of the American army could not have crossed, and even as it was, if the fog had not concealed their rear, it must have been discovered, and could hardly have escaped. General Sullivan, who was taken prisoner on Long-Island, was immediately sent on parole, with the following verbal message from lord Howe to Congress,
1776that though he could not at present treat  with them in that character, yet he was very desirous of having a conference with some of the members, whom he would consider as private gentlemen; that he with his brother the general, had full powers to compromise the dispute between Great-Britain and America, upon terms advantageous to both—that he wished a compact might be settled, at a time when no decisive blow was struck, and neither party could say it was compelled to enter into such agreement. That were they disposed to treat, many things which they had not yet asked, might and ought to be granted, and that if upon conference they found any probable ground of accommodation, the authority of Congress would be afterwards acknowledged to render the treaty complete.
Three days after this message was received, general Sullivan was requested to inform lord Howe,
that Congress being the representatives of the free and independent states of America, they cannot with propriety send any of their members to confer with his lordship in their private characters, but that ever desirous of establishing peace on reasonable terms, they will send a committee of their body, to know whether he has any authority to treat with persons authorised by Congress, for that purpose, on behalf of America, and what that authority is; and to hear such propositions as he shall think fit to make respecting the same.
They elected Dr. Franklin, John Adams, and Edward Rutledge their committee, for this purpose. In a few days they met lord Howe on Staten-Island, and were received with great politeness. On their return they made a report of their conference, which they summed up by saying,
It did not appear to your committee that his lordship’s commission contained any other authority than that expressed in the act of parliament—namely, that of granting pardons, with such exceptions as the commissioners shall think proper to make, and of declaring America, or any part of it, to be in the king’s peace, on submission: For as to the power of enquiring into the state of America, which his lordship mentioned to us, and of conferring and consulting with any persons the commissioners might think proper,1776 and representing the result  of such conversation to the ministry, who, provided the colonies would subject themselves, might after all, or might not, at their pleasure, make any alterations in the former instructions to governors, or propose in parliament, any amendment of the acts complained of, we apprehended any expectation from the effect of such a power, would have been too uncertain and precarious, to be relied on by America, had she still continued in her state of dependence.
Lord Howe, had ended the conference on his part, by expressing his regard for America, and the extreme pain he would suffer in being obliged to distress those whom he so much regarded. Dr. Franklin, thanked him for his regards, and assured him, [“]that the Americans would shew their gratitude, by endeavouring to lessen as much as possible, all pain he might feel on their account, by exerting their utmost abilities, in taking good care of themselves.”
The committee in every respect maintained the dignity of Congress. Their conduct and sentiments were such as became their character. The friends to independence rejoiced that nothing resulted from this interview, that might disunite the people. Congress, trusting to the good sense of their countrymen, ordered the whole to be printed for their information. All the states would have then rejoiced at less beneficial terms than they obtained about seven years later. But Great-Britain counted on the certainty of their absolute conquest, or unconditional submission. Her offers therefore comported so little with the feelings of America, that they neither caused demur nor disunion, among the new formed states.
The unsuccessful termination of the action on the 27th, led to consequences more seriously alarming to the Americans, than the loss of their men. Their army was universally dispirited. The militia ran off by companies. Their example infected the regular regiments. The loose footing on which the militia came to camp, made it hazardous to exercise over them that discipline, without which, an army is a mob. To restrain one part of an army, while another claimed and exercised the right of doing as they pleased, was no less impracticable than absurd.
1776 A council of war, recommended to act on the defensive, and not to risque the army for the sake of New-York.Sept. 7 To retreat, subjected the commander in chief to reflections painful to bear, and yet impolitic to refute. To stand his ground, and by suffering himself to be surrounded, to hazard the fate of America on one decisive engagement, was contrary to every rational plan of defending the wide extended states committed to his care. A middle line between abandoning and defending was therefore for a short time adopted. The public stores were moved to Dobbs’ ferry, about 26 miles from New-York. 12,000 men were ordered to the northern extremity of New-York island, and 4500 to remain for the defence of the city, while the remainder occupied the intermediate space, with orders, either to support the city or Kingsbridge, as exigencies might require. Before the British landed, it was impossible to tell what place would be first attacked. This made it necessary to erect works for the defence of a variety of places, as well as of New-York. Though every thing was abandoned when the crisis came that either the city must be relinquished, or the army risqued for its defence, yet from the delays, occasioned by the redoubts and other works, which had been erected on the idea of making the defence of the states a war of posts, a whole campaign was lost to the British, and saved to the Americans. The year began with hopes, that Great-Britain would recede from her demands, and therefore every plan of defence was on a temporary system. The declaration of independence, which the violence of Great-Britain forced the colonies to adopt in July, though neither foreseen nor intended at the commencement of the year, pointed out the necessity of organising an army, on new terms, correspondent to the enlarged objects for which they had resolved to contend.Sep. 16 Congress accordingly determined to raise 88 battalions, to serve during the war. Under these circumstances to wear away the campaign, with as little misfortune as possible, and thereby to gain time for raising a permanent army against the next year, was to the Americans a matter of the last importance.1776 Though the commander in chief abandoned those works,  which had engrossed much time and attention yet the advantage resulting from the delays they occasioned, far overbalanced the expence incurred by their erection.
The same shortsighted politicians, who had before censured general Washington, for his cautious conduct, in not storming the British lines at Boston, renewed their clamors against him, for adopting this evacuating and retreating system. Supported by a consciousness of his own integrity, and by a full conviction that these measures were best calculated for securing the independence of America, he for the good of his country, voluntarily subjected his fame to be overshadowed by a temporary cloud.
Sep. 15General Howe having prepared every thing for a descent on New-York island, began to land his men under cover of ships of war, between Kepps’-bay and Turtle bay. A breast work had been erected in the vicinity, and a party stationed in it to oppose the British, in case of their attempting to land. But on the first appearance of danger, they ran off in confusion. The commander in chief came up, and in vain attempted to rally them. Though the British in sight, did not exceed sixty, he could not either by example, intreaty, or authority, prevail on a superior force to stand their ground, and face that inconsiderable number. Such dastardly conduct raised a tempest in the usually tranquil mind of general Washington. Having embarked in the American cause from the purest principles, he viewed with infinite concern this shameful behaviour, as threatening ruin to his country. He recollected the many declarations of Congress, of the army, and of the inhabitants, preferring liberty to life, and death to dishonour, and contrasted them with their present scandalous flight. His soul was harrowed up with apprehensions that his country would be conquered—her army disgraced, and her liberties destroyed. He anticipated, in imagination, that the Americans would appear to posterity in the light of high sounding boasters, who blustered when danger was at a distance, but shrunk at the shadow of opposition. Extensive confiscations and numerous attainders presented, themselves in full view to his agitated mind.1776 He saw, in imagination, new formed states, with  the means of defence in their hands, and the glorious prospects of liberty before them, levelled to the dust, and such constitutions imposed on them as were likely to crush the vigour of the human mind, while the unsuccessful issue of the present struggle would for ages to come, deter posterity from the bold design of asserting their rights. Impressed with these ideas he hazarded his person for some considerable time in rear of his own men, and in front of the enemy with his horse’s head towards the latter, as if in expectation, that by an honourable death he might escape the infamy he dreaded from the dastardly conduct of troops on whom he could place no dependance. His aids and the confidential friends around his person, by indirect violence, compelled him to retire. In consequence of their address and importunity, a life was saved for public service, which otherwise from a sense of honour, and a gust of passion, seemed to be devoted to almost certain destruction.
On the day after this shameful flight of part of the American army, a skirmish took place between two battalions of light infantry and highlanders commanded by brigadier Leslie, and some detachments from the American army, under the command of lieutenant colonel Knowlton of Connecticut, and major Leitch of Virginia. The colonel was killed and the major badly wounded. Their men behaved with great bravery, and fairly beat their adversaries from the field. Most of these were the same men, who had disgraced themselves the day before, by running away[;] struck with a sense of shame for their late misbehaviour, they had offered themselves as volunteers, and requested the commander in chief to give them an opportunity to retrieve their honour. Their good conduct, at this second engagement, proved an antidote to the poison of their example on the preceding day. It demonstrated that the Americans only wanted resolution and good officers to be on a footing with the British, and inspired them with hopes that a little more experience would enable them to assume, not only the name and garb, but the spirit and firmness of soldiers.
The Americans having evacuated the city of New-York,  a brigade of the British army marched into it.1776 They had been but a few days in possession, when a dreadful fire, most probably occasioned by the disorderly conduct of some British sailors, who had been permitted to regale themselves on shore, broke out, and consumed about a thousand houses. Dry weather, and a brisk wind, spread the flames to such an extent, that had it not been for great exertions of the troops and sailors, the whole city must have shared the same fate. After the Americans had evacuated New-York, they retired to the north end of the island, on which that city is erected. In about four weeks general Howe began to execute a plan for cutting off general Washington’s communication with the eastern states, and enclosing him so as to compel a general engagement on the island. With this view, the greater part of the royal army passed through Hellgate, entered the sound, and landed on Frog’s neck, in West-Chester county.Oct. 12 Two days after they made this movement, general Lee arrived from his late successful command to the southward.Oct. 14 He found that there was a prevailing disposition among the officers in the American army for remaining on New-York island.Oct. 16 A council of war was called, in which general Lee gave such convincing reasons for quitting it, that they resolved immediately to withdraw the bulk of the army. He also pressed the expediency of evacuating Fort Washington, but in this he was opposed by general Greene, who argued that the possession of that post would divert a large body of the enemy, from joining their main force, and in conjunction with Fort Lee, would be of great use in covering the transportation of provisions and stores up the North-River, for the service of the American troops. He added farther, that the garrison could be brought off at any time, by boats from the Jersey side of the river. His opinion prevailed. Though the system of evacuating and retreating was in general adopted, an exception was made in favour of Fort Washington, and near 3000 men were assigned for its defence.
Oct. 181776The royal army, after a halt of six days, at Frog’s neck, advanced near to New-Rochelle. On their march they  sustained a considerable loss by a party of Americans, whom general Lee posted behind a wall.Oct. 21 After three days, general Howe moved the right and centre of his army two miles to the northward of New Rochelle, on the road to the White Plains, and there he received a large reinforcement.
General Washington, while retreating from New-York island, was careful to make a front towards the British, from East-Chester, almost to White Plains, in order to secure the march of those who were behind, and to defend the removal of the sick, the cannon and stores of his army. In this manner his troops made a line of small detached and intrenched camps, on the several heights and strong grounds, from Valentine’s hill, on the right, to the vicinity of the White Plains, on the left.
Oct. 25The royal army moved in two columns, and took a position with the Brunx in front, upon which the Americans assembled their main force at White Plains, behind entrenchments. A general action was hourly expected, and a considerable one took place, in which several hundreds fell.Oct. 28 The Americans were commanded by general M‘Dougal, and the British by general Leslie. While they were engaged, the American baggage was moved off, in full view of the British army. Soon after this, general Washington changed his front, his left wing stood fast, and his right fell back to some hills. In this position, which was an admirable one in a military point of view, he both desired and expected an action; but general Howe declined it, and drew off his forces towards Dobbs’ ferry. The Americans afterwards retired to North-Castle.
General Washington, with part of his army, crossed the North-River, and took post in the neighborhood of Fort-Lee. A force of about 7500 men was left at North-Castle, under general Lee.
Nov. 12The Americans having retired, Sir William Howe determined to improve the opportunity of their absence, for the reduction of Fort Washington. This, the only post the Americans then held on New-York island, was under the command of colonel Magaw. The royal army made four attacks upon it. The first on the north  side, was led on by general Kniphausen. The second on the east by general Mathews, supported by lord Cornwallis.Nov. 16 The third was under the direction of lieutenant colonel Stirling, and the fourth was commanded by lord Piercy. The troops under Kniphausen, when advancing to the fort, had to pass through a thick wood, which was occupied by colonel Rawling’s regiment of riflemen, and suffered very much from their well directed fire. During this attack, a body of the British light infantry advanced against a party of the Americans, who were annoying them from behind rocks and trees, and obliged them to disperse. Lord Piercy, carried an advance work on his side, and lieutenant colonel Stirling, forced his way up a steep height, and took 170 prisoners. Their outworks being carried, the Americans left their lines, and crouded into the fort. Colonel Rahl, who led the right column of Kniphausen’s attack, pushed forward, and lodged his column within a hundred yards of the fort, and was there soon joined by the left column—the garrison surrendered on terms of capitulation, by which the men were to be considered as prisoners of war, and the officers to keep their baggage and side arms. The number of prisoners amounted to 2700. The loss of the British, inclusive of killed and wounded, was about 1200. Shortly after Fort Washington had surrendered.Nov. 18 Lord Cornwallis, with a considerable force passed over to attack Fort Lee, on the opposite Jersey shore.
The garrison was saved by an immediate evacuation, but at the expense of their artillery and stores. General Washington, about this time retreated to New-Ark. Having abundant reason from the posture of affairs, to count on the necessity of a farther retreat he asked colonel Reed—“Should we retreat to the back parts of Pennsylvania, will the Pennsylvanians support us?” The colonel replied, if the lower counties are subdued and give up, the back counties will do the same. The general replied, [“]we must retire to Augusta county, in Virginia. Numbers will be obliged to repair to us for safety, and we must try what we can do in carrying on a predatory war, and if overpowered, we must cross the Allegany mountains.”
1776 While a tide of success, was flowing in upon general Howe, he and his brother, as royal commissioners, issued a proclamation, in which they commanded, “All persons assembled in arms against his majesty’s government to disband, and all general or provincial congresses to desist from their treasonable actings, and to relinquish their usurped power.” They also declared “that every person who within sixty days should appear before the governor, lieutenant governor, or commander in chief of any of his majesty’s colonies, or before the general, or commanding officer of his majesty’s forces, and claim the benefit of the proclamation; and testify his obedience to the laws, by subscribing a certain declaration, should obtain a full and free pardon of all treasons by him committed, and of all forfeitures, and penalties for the same.” Many who had been in office, and taken an active part in support of the new government, accepted of these offers, and made their peace by submission. Some who had been the greatest blusterers in favour of independence, veered round to the strongest side. Men of fortune generally gave way. The few who stood firm, were mostly to be found in the middle ranks of the people.
The term of time for which the American soldiers had engaged to serve, ended in November or December, with no other exception, than that of two companies of artillery, belonging to the state of New-York, which were engaged for the war. The army had been organized at the close of the preceding year, on the fallacious idea, that an accommodation would take place, within a twelve month. Even the flying camp, though instituted after the prospect of that event had vanished, was enlisted only till the first of December, from a presumption that the campaign would terminate by that time.
When it was expected that the conquerors would retire to winter quarters, they commenced a new plan of operations more alarming, than all their previous conquests. The reduction of Fort Washington, the evacuation of Fort Lee, and the diminution of the American army, by the departure of those whose time of service had expired, encouraged the British,1776 notwithstanding the  severity of the winter, and the badness of the roads, to pursue the remaining inconsiderable continental force, with the prospect of annihilating it. By this turn of affairs, the interior country was surprised into confusion, and found an enemy within its bowels, without a sufficient army to oppose it. To retreat, was the only expedient left. This having commenced, lord Cornwallis followed, and was close in the rear of general Washington, as he retreated successively to New-Ark, to Brunswick, to Princeton, to Trenton, and to the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware. The pursuit was urged with so much rapidity, that the rear of the one army, pulling down bridges was often within sight, and shot off the van of the other, building them up.
This retreat into, and through New-Jersey, was attended with almost every circumstance that could occasion embarrassment, and depression of spirits. It commenced in a few days, after the Americans had lost 2700 men in Fort Washington. In fourteen days after that event, the whole flying camp claimed their discharge. This was followed by the almost daily departure of others, whose engagements terminated nearly about the same time. A farther disappointment happened to general Washington at this time. Gates had been ordered by Congress to send two regiments from Ticonderoga, to reinforce his army. Two Jersey regiments were put under the command of general St. Clair, and forwarded in obedience to this order, but the period for which they were enlisted was expired, and the moment they entered their own state, they went off to a man. A few officers without a single private, were all that general St. Clair brought off these two regiments, to the aid of the retreating American army. The few who remained with general Washington were in a most forlorn condition. They consisted mostly of the troops which had garrisoned Fort Lee, and had been compelled to abandon that post so suddenly, that they commenced their retreat without tents or blankets, and without any utensils to dress their provisions. In this situation they performed a march of about ninety miles, and had the address to prolong it to  the space of nineteen days.1776 As the retreating Americans marched through the country, scarcely one of the inhabitants joined them, while numbers were daily flocking to the royal army, to make their peace and obtain protection. They saw on the one side a numerous well appointed and full clad army, dazzling their eyes with the elegance of uniformity; on the other a few poor fellows, who from their shabby cloathing were called ragamuffins, fleeing for their safety. Not only the common people changed sides in this gloomy state of public affairs, but some of the leading men in New-Jersey and Pennsylvania adopted the same expedient. Among these Mr. Galloway, and the family of the Allens of Philadelphia, were most distinguished. The former, and one of the latter, had been members of Congress. In this hour of adversity they came within the British lines, and surrendered themselves to the conquerors, alledging in justification of their conduct, that though they had joined with their countrymen, in seeking for a redress of grievances in a constitutional way, they had never approved of the measures lately adopted, and were in particular, at all times, averse to independence.
On the day general Washington retreated over the Delaware, the British took possession of Rhode-Island without any loss, and at the same time blocked up commodore Hopkins’ squadron, and a number of privateers at Providence.
In this period, when the American army was relinquishing its general—the people giving up the cause, some of their leaders going over to the enemy, and the British commanders succeeding in every enterprise, general Lee was taken prisoner at Baskenridge, by lieutenant colonel Harcourt. This caused a depression of spirits among the Americans, far exceeding any real injury done to their essential interests. He had been repeatedly ordered to come forward with his division and join general Washington, but these orders were not obeyed.1776 This circumstance, and the dangerous crisis of public affairs, together with his being alone at some distance, from the troops which he commanded, begat suspicions that he chose to  fall into the hands of the British. Though these apprehensions were without foundation, they produced the same extensive mischief, as if they had been realities. The Americans had reposed extravagant confidence in his military talents, and experience of regular European war. Merely to have lost such an idol of the states at any time, would have been distressful, but losing him under circumstances, which favoured an opinion that, despairing of the American cause, he chose to be taken a prisoner, was to many an extinguishment of every hope.
By the advance of the British into New-Jersey, the neighbourhood of Philadelphia became the seat of war. This prevented that undisturbed attention to public business which the deliberations of Congress required.Dec. 12 20 They therefore adjourned themselves to meet in eight days at Baltimore, resolving at the same time, “that general Washington should be possessed of full powers to order and direct all things relative to the department, and the operations of war.”
The activity of the British in the close of the campaign, seemed in some measure to compensate for their tardiness, in the beginning of it.
Hitherto they had succeeded in every scheme. They marched up and down the Jersey side of the river Delaware, and through the country, without any molestation. All opposition to the re-establishment of royal government, seemed to be on the point of expiring. The Americans had thus far acted without system, or rather feebly executed what had been tardily adopted. Though the war was changed from its first ground, a redress of grievances to a struggle for sovereignty, yet some considerable time elapsed, before arrangements, conformable to this new system were adopted, and a much longer before they were carried into execution.
With the year 1776, a retreating, half naked army, was to be dismissed, and the prospect of a new one was both distant and uncertain. The recently assumed independence of the States, was apparently on the verge of dissolution. It was supposed by many, that the record of their existence would have been no more than that
1776a fickle people, impatient of the restraints of regular government,  had in a fit of passion abolished that of Great-Britain, and established in its room free constitutions of their own, but these new establishments, from want of wisdom in their rulers, or of spirit in their people, were no sooner formed than annihilated. The leading men, in their respective governments, and the principal members of Congress, (for by this name the insurgents distinguished their supreme council) were hanged, and their estates confiscated. Washington, the gallant leader of their military establishments—worthy of a better fate—deserted by his army—abandoned by his country—rushing on the thickest battalions of the foe, provoked a friendly British bayonet to deliver him from an ignominious death.
To human wisdom it appeared probable, that such a paragraph would have closed some small section in the history of England, treating of the American troubles, but there is in human affairs an ultimate point of elevation or depression, beyond which they neither grow better nor worse, but turn back in a contrary course.
In proportion as difficulties increased, Congress redoubled their exertions to oppose them.Dec. 10 They addressed the states in animated language, calculated to remove their despondency—renew their hopes—and confirm their resolutions.
They at the same time dispatched gentlemen of character and influence, to excite the militia to take the field. General Mifflin was, on this occasion, particularly useful. He exerted his great abilities in rousing his fellow citizens, by animated and affectionate addresses, to turn out in defence of their endangered liberties.
11Congress also recommended to each of the United States “to appoint a day of solemn fasting and humiliation, to implore of Almighty God the forgiveness of their many sins, and to beg the countenance and assistance of his providence, in the prosecution of the present just and necessary war.”
In the dangerous situation to which every thing dear to the friends of independence was reduced, Congress transferred extraordinary powers to general Washington, by a resolution, expressed in the following words:
1776 The unjust, but determined purposes of the British court to enslave these free states, obvious through every delusive insinuation to the contrary,Dec. 27 having placed things in such a situation that the very existence of civil liberty now depends on the right execution of military powers, and the vigorous decisive conduct of these being impossible to distant, numerous, and deliberative bodies. This Congress, having maturely considered the present crisis; and having perfect reliance on the wisdom, vigour, and uprightness of general Washington, do hereby,
Resolve, That general Washington shall be, and he is hereby vested with full, ample, and complete powers, to raise and collect together, in the most speedy and effectual manner, from any or all of these United States, sixteen battalions of infantry, in addition to those already voted by Congress; to appoint officers for the said battalions of infantry; to raise, officer, and equip 3000 light-horse; three regiments of artillery, and a corps of engineers, and to establish their pay; to apply to any of the states for such aid of the militia as he shall judge necessary; to form such magazines of provisions, and in such places as he shall think proper; to displace and appoint all officers under the rank of brigadier general, and to fill up all vacancies in every other department in the American armies; to take, wherever he may be, whatever he may want, for the use of the army, if the inhabitants will not sell it, allowing a reasonable price for the same; to arrest and confine persons who refuse to take the continental currency, or are otherwise disaffected to the American cause; and return to the states, of which they are citizens, their names, and the nature of their offences, together with the witnesses to prove them: That the foregoing powers be vested in general Washington for and during the term of six months, from the date hereof, unless sooner determined by Congress.
In this hour of extremity, the attention of the Congress was employed, in devising plans to save the states from sinking under the heavy calamities which were bearing them down.1776 It is remarkable, that, neither in the present condition, though trying and severe, nor in any other  since the declaration of independence, was Congress influenced either by force, distress, artifice, or persuasion, to entertain the most distant idea of purchasing peace, by returning to the condition of British subjects. So low were they reduced in the latter end of 1776, that some members, distrustful of their ability to resist the power of Great-Britain, proposed to authorise their commissioners at the court of France (whose appointment shall be hereafter explained) to transfer to that country the same monopoly of their trade, which Great-Britain had hitherto enjoyed. On examination it was found, that concessions of this kind would destroy the force of many arguments heretofore used in favour of independence, and probably disunite their citizens. It was next proposed to offer a monopoly of certain enumerated articles of produce. To this the variant interests of the different states were so directly opposed, as to occasion a speedy and decided negative. Some proposed offering to France, a league offensive and defensive, in case she would heartily support American independence; but this was also rejected. The more enlightened members of Congress argued, “Though the friendship of small states might be purchased, that of France could not.” They alledged, that if she would risque a war with Great-Britain, by openly espousing their cause, it would not be so much from the prospect of direct advantages, as from a natural desire to lessen the overgrown power of a dangerous rival. It was therefore supposed, that the only inducement, likely to influence France to an interference, was an assurance that the United States were determined to persevere in refusing a return to their former allegiance. Instead of listening to the terms of the royal commissioners, or to any founded on the idea of their resuming their character of British subjects, it was therefore again resolved, to abide by their declared independence, and proffered freedom of trade to every foreign nation, trusting the event to Providence, and risquing all consequences. Copies of these resolutions were sent to the principal courts of Europe, and proper persons were appointed to solicit their friendship to the new formed states.1776 These despatches fell into the hands of the British,  and were by them published. This was the very thing wished for by Congress. They well knew, that an apprehension of their making up all differences with Great-Britain was the principal objection to the interference of foreign courts, in what was represented to be no more than a domestic quarrel. A resolution adopted in the deepest distress, and the worst of times that Congress would listen to no terms of reunion with their Parent State, convinced those, who wished for the dismemberment of the British empire, that it was sound policy to interfere, so far as would prevent the conquest of the United States.
These judicious determinations in the cabinet, were accompanied with vigorous exertions in the field. In this crisis of danger 1500 of the Pennsylvania militia, embodied to re-inforce the continental army. The merchant, the farmer, the tradesman and the labourer, cheerfully relinquished the conveniences of home, to perform the duties of private soldiers, in the severity of a winter campaign. Though most of them were accustomed to the habits of a city life, they slept in tents, barns, and sometimes in the open air, during the cold months of December and January. There were, nevertheless, only two instances of sickness, and only one of death in that large body of men in the course if six weeks. The delay so judiciously contrived on the retreat through Jersey, afforded time for these volunteer reinforcements to join general Washington. The number of troops under his command at that time, fluctuated between two and three thousand men. To turn round and face a victorious and numerous foe, with this inconsiderable force was risquing much; but the urgency of the case required that something should be attempted. The recruiting business for the proposed new continental army was at a stand, while the British were driving the Americans before them. The present regular soldiers could, as a matter of right, in less than a week claim their discharge, and scarce a single recruit offered to supply their place. Under these circumstances, the bold resolution was formed of recrossing into the state of Jersey, and attacking that part of the enemy, which was posted at Trenton.
1776 When the Americans retreated over the Delaware, the boats in the vicinity were removed out of the way of their pursuers—this arrested their progress: But the British commanders in the security of conquest cantoned their army in Burlington, Bordenton, Trenton, and other towns of New-Jersey, in daily expectation of being enabled to cross into Pennsylvania, by means of ice, which is generally formed about that time.
Of all events, none seemed to them more improbable, than that their late retreating half naked enemies, should in this extreme cold season, face about and commence offensive operations. They indulged themselves in a degree of careless inattention to the possibility of a surprise, which in the vicinity of an enemy, however contemptible, can never be justified. It has been said that colonel Rahl, the commanding officer in Trenton, being under some apprehension for that frontier post, applied to general Grant for a reinforcement, and that the general returned for answer. “Tell the colonel, he is very safe, I will undertake to keep the peace in New-Jersey with a corporal’s guard.”
In the evening of Christmas day, general Washington, made arrangements for recrossing the Delaware in three divisions; at M. Konkey’s ferry, at Trenton ferry, and at or near Bordenton. The troops which were to have crossed at the two last places, were commanded by generals Ewing, and Cadwallader, they made every exertion to get over, but the quantity of ice was so great, that they could not effect their purpose. The main body which was commanded by general Washington crossed at M. Konkey’s ferry, but the ice in the river retarded their passage so long, that it was three o’clock in the morning, before the artillery could be got over. On their landing in Jersey, they were formed into two divisions, commanded by general Sullivan, and Greene, who had under their command brigadiers, lord Stirling, Mercer and St. Clair: one of these divisions was ordered to proceed on the lower, or river road, the other on the upper or Pennington road. Col. Stark, with some light troops, was also directed to advance near to the river, and to possess himself  of that part of the town, which is beyond the bridge. The divisions having nearly the same distance to march, were ordered immediately on forcing the out guards, to push directly into Trenton, that they might charge the enemy before they had time to form. Though they marched different roads, yet they arrived at the enemy’s advanced post, within three minutes of each other. The out guards of the Hessian troops at Trenton soon fell back, but kept up a constant retreating fire. Their main body being hard pressed by the Americans, who had already got possession of half their artillery, attempted to file off by a road leading towards Princeton, but were checked by a body of troops thrown in their way. Finding they were surrounded, they laid down their arms. The number which submitted, was 23 officers, and 885 men. Between 30 and 40 of the Hessians were killed and wounded. Colonel Rahl, was among the former, and seven of his officers among the latter. Captain Washington of the Virginia troops, and five or six of the Americans were wounded. Two were killed, and two or three were frozen to death. The detachment in Trenton consisted of the regiments of Rahl, Losberg, and Kniphausen, amounting in the whole to about 1500 men, and a troop of British light horse. All these were killed or captured, except about 600, who escaped by the road leading to Bordenton.
The British had a strong battalion of light infantry at Princeton, and a force yet remaining near the Delaware, superior to the American army. General Washington, therefore in the evening of the same day, thought it most prudent to recross into Pennsylvania, with his prisoners.
The effects of this successful enterprize were speedily felt in recruiting the American army. About 1400 regular soldiers whose time of service was on the point of expiring, agreed to serve six weeks longer, on a promised gratuity of ten paper dollars to each. Men of influence were sent to different parts of the country to rouse the militia.1776 The rapine, and impolitic conduct of the British, operated more forcibly on the inhabitants, to expel them [323 (the original paging errs, skipping over 321–22)] from the state, than either patriotism or persuasion to prevent their overrunning it.
Dec. 28The Hessian prisoners taken on the 26th being secured, general Washington re-crossed the Delaware, and took possession of Trenton. The detachments which had been distributed over New-Jersey, previous to the capture of the Hessians, immediately, after that event, assembled at Princeton, and were joined by the army from Brunswick under lord Cornwallis.1777 From this position they came forward towards Trenton in great force, hoping by a vigorous onset to repair the injury their cause had sustained by the late defeat.Jan. 2d Truly delicate was the situation of the feeble American army. To retreat was to hazard the city of Philadelphia, and to destroy every ray of hope which had begun to dawn from their late success. To risque an action with a superior force in front, and a river in rear, was dangerous in the extreme. To get round the advanced party of the British, and by pushing forwards to attack in their rear, was deemed preferable to either.Jan. 2d The British on their advance from Princeton, about 4 P.M. attacked a body of Americans which were posted with four field pieces, a little to the northward of Trenton, and compelled them to retreat. The pursuing British, being checked at the bridge over Sanpink creek, which runs through that town, by some field pieces, which were posted on the opposite banks of that rivulet, fell back so far as to be out of reach of the cannon, and kindled their fires. The Americans were drawn up on the other side of the creek, and in that position remained till night, cannonading the enemy and receiving their fire. In this critical hour, two armies on which the success or failure of the American revolution, materially depended, were crouded into the small village of Trenton, and only separated by a creek in many places fordable. The British believing they had all the advantages they could wish for, and that they could use them when they pleased, discontinued all further operations, and kept themselves in readiness to make the attack next morning. Sir William Erskine is reported to have advised an immediate attack, or at least to place a strong  guard at a bridge over Sanpink creek, which lay in the route the Americans took to Princeton, giving for reason that, otherwise, Washington if a good general, would make a move to the left of the royal army, and attack the post at Princeton in their rear. The next morning presented a scene as brilliant on the one side, as it was unexpected on the other. Soon after it became dark, gen. Washington ordered all his baggage to be silently removed, and having left guards for the purpose of deception, marched with his whole force, by a circuitous route to Princeton. This manoeuvre was determined upon in a council of war, from a conviction that it would avoid the appearance of a retreat, and at the same time the hazard of an action in a bad position, and that it was the most likely way to preserve the city of Philadelphia, from falling into the hands of the British. General Washington also presumed, that from an eagerness to efface the impressions, made by the late capture of Hessians at Trenton, the British commanders had pushed forward their principal force, and that of course the remainder in the rear at Princeton was not more than equal to his own. The event verified this conjecture. The more effectually to disguise the departure of the Americans from Trenton, fires were lighted up in front of their camp. These not only gave an appearance of going to rest, but as flame cannot be seen through, concealed from the British, what was transacting behind them. In this relative position they were a pillar of fire to the one army, and a pillar of a cloud to the other. Providence favoured this movement of the Americans. The weather had been for some time so warm and moist, that the ground was soft and the roads so deep as to be scarcely passable: but the wind suddenly changed to the northwest, and the ground in a short time was frozen so hard, that when the Americans took up their line of march, they were no more retarded, than if they had been upon a solid pavement.
Jan. 31776General Washington reached Princeton, early in the morning, and would have completely surprised the British, had not a party, which was on their way to Trenton,  descried his troops, when they were about two miles distant, and sent back couriers to alarm their unsuspecting fellow soldiers in their rear. These consisted of the 17th, the 40th, & 55th regiments of British infantry and some of the royal artillery with two field pieces, and three troops of light dragoons. The center of the Americans, consisting of the Philadelphia militia, while on their line of march, was briskly charged by a party of the British, and gave way in disorder. The moment was critical. General Washington pushed forward, and placed himself between his own men, and the British, with his horse’s head fronting the latter. The Americans encouraged by his example, and exhortations, made a stand, and returned the British fire. The general, though between both parties, was providentially uninjured by either. A party of the British fled into the college and were there attacked with field pieces which were fired into it. The seat of the muses became for some time the scene of action. The party which had taken refuge in the college, after receiving a few discharges from the American field pieces came out and surrendered themselves prisoners of war. In the course of the engagement, sixty of the British were killed, and a greater number wounded, and about 300 of them were taken prisoners. The rest made their escape, some by pushing on towards Trenton, others by returning towards Brunswick. The Americans lost only a few, but colonels Haslet and Potter, and capt. Neal of the artillery, were among the slain. General Mercer received three bayonet wounds of which he died in a short time. He was a Scotchman by birth, but from principle and affection had engaged to support the liberties of his adopted country, with a zeal equal to that of any of its native sons. In private life he was amiable, and his character as an officer stood high in the public esteem.
While they were fighting in Princeton, the British in Trenton were under arms, and on the point of making an assault on the evacuated camp of the Americans. With so much address had the movement to Princeton been conducted, that though from the critical situation of the two armies, every ear may be supposed to have been  open, and every watchfulness to have been employed,1776 yet General Washington moved completely off the ground, with his whole force, stores, baggage and artillery unknown to, and unsuspected by his adversaries. The British in Trenton, were so entirely deceived, that when they heard the report of the artillery at Princeton, though it was in the depth of winter, they supposed it to be thunder.
That part of the royal army, which having escaped from Princeton, retreated towards New-Brunswick, was pursued for three or four miles. Another party which had advanced as far as Maidenhead, on their way to Trenton, hearing the frequent discharge of fire arms in their rear, wheeled round and marched to the aid of their companions. The Americans by destroying bridges, retarded these, though close in their rear, so long as to gain time for themselves, to move off, in good order, to Pluckemin.
So great was the consternation of the British at these unexpected movements, that they instantly evacuated both Trenton and Princeton, and retreated with their whole force to New-Brunswick. The American militia, collected and forming themselves into parties, waylaid their enemies, and cut them off whensoever an opportunity presented. In a few days they over-ran the Jerseys. General Maxwell surprised Elisabeth-town, and took near 100 prisoners. Newark was abandoned, and the late conquerors were forced to leave Woodbridge. The royal troops were confined to Amboy and Brunswick, which held a water communication with New-York. Thus, in the short space of a month, that part of Jersey, which lies between New-Brunswick and Delaware, was both overrun by the British, and recovered by the Americans. The retreat of the continental army, the timid policy of the Jersey farmers, who chose rather to secure their property by submission, than defend it by resistance, made the British believe their work was done, and that little else remained, but to reap a harvest of plunder as the reward of their labours.1776 Unrestrained by the terrors of civil law, uncontrolled by the severity of discipline, and elated with their success, the soldiers of the royal army, and particularly  the Hessians, gave full scope to the selfish and ferocious passions of human nature. A conquered country, and submitting inhabitants presented easy plunder, equal to their unbounded rapacity. Infants, children, old men and women were stripped of their blankets and cloathing. Furniture was burnt or otherwise destroyed. Domestic animals were carried off, and the people robbed of their necessary household provisions. The rapes and brutalities committed on women, and even on very young girls, would shock the ears of modesty, if particularly recited. These violences were perpetrated on inhabitants who had remained in their houses, and received printed protections, signed by order of the commander in chief. It was in vain, that they produced these protections as a safeguard. The Hessians could not read them, and the British soldiers thought they were entitled to a share of the booty, equally with their foreign associates.
Such, in all ages, has been the complexion of the bulk of armies, that immediate and severe punishments are indispensably necessary, to keep them from flagrant enormities. That discipline, without which an army is a band of armed plunderers, was as far, as respected the inhabitants, either neglected, or but feebly administered in the royal army. The soldiers finding, they might take with impunity what they pleased, were more strongly urged by avarice, than checked by policy or fear. Had every citizen been secured in his rights, protected in his property, and paid for his supplies, the consequences might have been fatal to the hopes of those who were attached to independence. What the warm recommendations of Congress, and the ardent supplications of general Washington could not effect, took place of its own accord, in consequence of the plundering and devastations of the royal army.
The whole country became instantly hostile to the invaders. Sufferers of all parties rose as one man, to revenge their personal injuries. Those, who from age, or infirmities, were incapable of bearing arms, kept a strict watch on the movements of the royal army, and from time to time, communicated information to their countrymen  in arms.1777 Those who lately declined all military opposition, though called upon by the sacred tie of honour pledged to each other on the declaration of independence, chearfully embodied, when they found submission to be unavailing for the security of their estates. This was not done originally in consequence of the victories of Trenton and Princeton. In the very moment of these actions, or before the news of them had circulated, sundry individuals unknowing of general Washington’s movements, were concerting private insurrections, to revenge themselves on the plunderers. The dispute originated about property, or in other words, about the right of taxation. From the same source at this time, it received a new and forcible impulse. The farmer, who could not trace the consequences of British taxation, nor of American independence, felt the injuries he sustained from the depredation of licentious troops. The militia of New-Jersey, who had hitherto behaved most shamefully, from this time forward redeemed their character, and throughout a tedious war, performed services with a spirit and discipline in many respects, equal to that of regular soldiers.
The victories of Trenton and Princeton, seemed to be like a resurrection from the dead, to the desponding friends of independence. A melancholy gloom, had in the first 25 days of December overspread the United States; but from the memorable era of the 26th of same month, their prospects began to brighten. The recruiting service, which for some time had been at a stand, was successfully renewed, and hopes were soon indulged, that the commander in chief would be enabled to take the field in the spring, with a permanent regular force. General Washington retired to Morristown, that he might afford shelter to his suffering army. The American militia had sundry successful skirmishes with detachments of their adversaries. Within four days after the affair at Princeton, between forty and fifty Waldeckers were killed, wounded, or taken at Springfield, by an equal number of the same New-Jersey militia, which but a month before, suffered the British to overrun their country  without opposition.1777 This enterprise was conducted by colonel Spencer, whose gallantry, on the occasion, was rewarded with the command of a regiment.
During the winter movements, which have been just related, the soldiers of both armies underwent great hardships, but the Americans suffered by far the greater. Many of them were without shoes, though marching over frozen ground, which so gashed their naked feet, that each step was marked with blood. There was scarcely a tent in their whole army. The city of Philadelphia had been twice laid under contribution, to provide them with blankets. Officers had been appointed, to examine every house, and, after leaving a scanty covering for the family to bring off the rest, for the use of the troops in the field; but notwithstanding these exertions, the quantity procured was far short of decency, much less of comfort.
The officers and soldiers of the American army were about this time inoculated in their cantonment at Morristown. As very few of them had ever had the small pox, the inoculation was nearly universal. The disorder had previously spread among them in the natural way, and proved mortal to many: but after inoculation was introduced though whole regiments were inoculated, in a day, there was little or no mortality from the small pox, and the disorder was so slight, that from the beginning to the end of it, there was not a single day in which they could not, and if called upon, would not have turned out and fought the British. To induce the inhabitants to accommodate officers and soldiers in their houses, while under the small pox, they and their families were inoculated gratis by the military surgeons. Thus in a short time, the whole army and the inhabitants in and near Morristown were subjected to the small pox, and with very little inconvenience to either.
Three months, which followed the actions of Trenton and Princeton, passed away without any important military enterprise on either side. Major general Putnam was directed to take post at Princeton, and cover the country in the vicinity. He had only a few hundred troops, though he was no more than eighteen miles distant from  the strong garrison of the British at Brunswick.1777 At one period he had fewer men for duty than he had miles of frontier to guard. The situation of general Washington at Morristown was not more eligible. His force was trifling, when compared with that of the British, but the enemy, and his own countrymen, believed the contrary. Their deception was cherished, and artfully continued by the specious parade of a considerable army. The American officers took their station in positions of difficult access, and kept up a constant communication with each other. This secured them from insult and surprise. While they covered the country, they harassed the foraging parties of the British, and often attacked them with success. Of a variety of these, the two following are selected as most worthy of notice.Jan. 20 General Dickenson, with four hundred Jersey militia, and fifty of the Pennsylvania riflemen, crossed Millstone-river, near Somerset courthouse, and attacked a large foraging party of the British, with so much spirit that they abandoned their convoy, and fled. Nine of them were taken prisoners. Forty waggons, and upwards of one hundred horses, with a considerable booty, fell into the hands of the general. While the British were loading their waggons, a single man began to fire on them from the woods. He was soon joined by more of his neighbors, who could not patiently see their propertys carried away. After the foragers had been annoyed for some time by these unseen marksmen, they fancied on the appearance of general Dickenson, that they were attacked by a superior force, and began a precipitate flight.
Feb. 18In about a month after the affair of Somerset courthouse, colonel. Nelson, of Brunswick, with a detachment of 150 militiamen, surprised and captured at Lawrence’s Neck, a major, and fifty-nine privates, of the refugees, who were in British pay.
Throughout the campaign of 1776, an uncommon degree of sickness raged in the American army. Husbandmen, transferred at once from the conveniences of domestic life, to the hardships of a field encampment, could not accommodate themselves to the sudden change.1777 The southern troops, sickened from the  want of salt provisions. Linen shirts were too generally worn, in contact with the skin. The salutary influence of flannel, in preventing the diseases of camps, was either unknown or disregarded. The discipline of the army was too feeble to enforce those regulations which experience has proved to be indispensably necessary, for preserving the health of large bodies of men collected together. Cleanliness was also too much neglected. On the 8th of August the whole American army before New-York, consisted of 17,225 men, but of that number only 10,514 were fit for duty. These numerous sick suffered much, from the want of necessaries. Hurry and confusion added much to their distresses. There was besides a real want of the requisites for their relief.
A proper hospital establishment was beyond the abilities of Congress, especially as the previous arrangements were not entered upon till the campaign had begun. Many, perhaps some thousands in the American army, were swept off in a few months by sickness. The country every where presented the melancholy sight of soldiers suffering poverty and disease, without the aid of medicine or attendance. Those who survived gave such accounts of the sufferings of the sick, as greatly discouraged the recruiting service. A rage for plundering, under the pretence of taking tory property, infected many of the common soldiery, and even some of the officers. The army had been formed on such principles, in some of the states, that commissions were, in several instances, bestowed on persons who had no pretensions to the character of gentlemen. Several of the officers were chosen by their own men, and they often preferred those from whom they expected the greatest indulgences. In other cases, the choice of the men was in favour of those who had consented to throw their pay into a joint stock with the privates, from which officers and men drew equal shares.
The army, consisting mostly of new recruits and unexperienced officers, and being only engaged for a twelve month, was very deficient in that mechanism and discipline which time and experience bestow on veteran troops. General Washington was unremitting in his  representations to Congress, favouring such alterations as promised permanency, order and discipline, in the army, but his judicious opinions on these subjects were slowly adopted. The sentiments of liberty, which then generally prevailed, made some distinguished members of Congress so distrustful of the future power and probable designs of a permanent domestic army, that they had well nigh sacrificed their country to their jealousies.
The unbounded freedom of the savage who roams the woods must be restrained when he becomes a citizen of orderly government, and from the necessity of the case must be much more so, when he submits to be a soldier. The individuals composing the army of America, could not at once pass over from the full enjoyment of civil liberty to the discipline of a camp, nor could the leading men in Congress for some time be persuaded, to adopt energetic establishments. “God forbid, would such say, that the citizen should be so far lost in the soldiers of our army, that they should give over longing for the enjoyments of domestic happiness. Let frequent furloughs be granted, rather than the endearments of wives and children should cease to allure the individuals of our army from camps to farms. ” The amiableness of this principle, veiled the error of the sentiment. The minds of the civil leaders in the councils of America were daily occupied in contemplating the rights of human nature, and investigating arguments on the principles of general liberty, to justify their own opposition to Great-Britain. Warmed with these ideas, they trusted too much to the virtue of their countrymen, and were backward to enforce that subordination and order in their army, which, though it intrenches on civil liberty, produces effects in the military line unequaled by the effusions of patriotism, or the exertions of undisciplined valor.
The experience of two campaigns evinced the folly of trusting the defence of the country to militia, or to levies raised only for a few months, and had induced a resolution for recruiting an army for the war. The good effects of this measure will appear in the sequel.
The campaign of 1776 did not end, till it had been  protracted into the first month of the year 1777.1777 The British had counted on the complete and speedy reduction of their late colonies, but they found the work more difficult of execution, than was supposed. They wholly failed in their designs on the southern states. In Canada they recovered what, in the preceding year, they had lost—drove the Americans out of their borders, and destroyed their fleet on the lakes, but they failed in making their intended impression on the northwestern frontier of the states. They obtained possession of Rhode-Island, but the acquisition was of little service—perhaps was of detriment. For near three years several thousand men stationed thereon for its security, were lost to every purpose of active cooperation with the royal forces in the field, and the possession of it secured no equivalent advantages. The British completely succeeded against the city of New-York, and the adjacent country, but when they pursued their victories into New-Jersey, and subdivided their army, the recoiling Americans soon recovered the greatest part of what they had lost.
Sir William Howe, after having nearly reached Philadelphia, was confined to limits so narrow, that the fee simple of all he commanded would not reimburse the expence incurred by its conquest.
The war, on the part of the Americans, was but barely begun. Hitherto they had engaged with temporary forces, for a redress of grievances, but towards the close of this year they made arrangements for raising a permanent army to contend with Great-Britain, for the sovereignty of the country. To have thus far stood their ground, with their new levies, was a matter of great importance, because of them, delay was victory, and not to be conquered was to conquer.