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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 apprehend 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. This attempt at negotiation having thus fruitlessly terminated, nothing was left but to decide the dispute by arms.
The Congress embraced this alternative in circumstances which would have reduced men of less resolute spirits to despair. Their army was so dispirited by the events which had taken place in Long Island, that the militia began to desert, and the constancy of some of the regulars was shaken. They were apprised, too, that Washington foresaw the necessity of making a series of retrograde movements, which were calculated to cloud the public mind with despondency. The prognostics of the General were soon verified. On the 15th of September, General Howe effected a landing on New York Island, and compelled him to evacuate the city of New York, and to retire to the north end of the island. Here Howe unaccountably suffered him to remain unmolested for nearly four weeks, at the end of which time he maneuvered to compel him to give him battle on the island. Dreading the being reduced to this perilous necessity, the American commander withdrew to the White Plains, taking, however, every opportunity to front the enemy, and engaging in partial actions, which in some degree kept the British in check. At length
What alternative did congress embrace?
he crossed the Hudson, and occupied some strong ground on the Jersey shore of that river, in the neighborhood of Fort Lee. He had no sooner evacuated New York Island than General Howe attacked and took Fort Washington, in which he made 2700 men prisoners, at the cost, however, of 1200 men on his side killed and wounded. Fort Lee was shortly after evacuated by its garrison, and taken possession of by Lord Cornwallis. Following up these successes, General Howe pursued the flying Americans to Newark, and from Newark to Brunswick, and from Brunswick successively to Princeton and Trenton, till at length he drove them to the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware. Nothing could exceed the distress which the American army suffered during this retreat through the Jerseys.They were destitute of blankets and shoes, and their clothing was reduced to rags. They were coldly looked upon by the inhabitants, who gave up the cause of America for lost, and hastened to make their peace with the victors.Had General Howe been able to maintain discipline in his army, Jersey would have been severed from the Union.But, fortunately for the interests of the congress, his troops indulged in all the excesses of military violence, and irritated the inhabitants of the country to such a degree, that their new-born loyalty was speedily extinct, and all their thoughts were bent upon revenge.
Where did he next go?
BATTLE OF TRENTON, 28TH OF DECEMBER, 1776.
On the approach of the British to the Delaware, congress adjourned its sittings from Philadelphia to Baltimore, and it was expected that General Howe would speedily make his triumphal entry into the Pennsylvanian capital. But a bold maneuver of Washington suddenly turned the - tide of success. On his arrival at the Delaware, his troops were dwindled down to the number of 3000; but having received some reinforcements of Pennsylvanian militia, he determined to endeavor to retrieve his fortunes by a decisive stroke. The British troops were cantoned in Burlington, Bordentown, and Trenton, waiting for the formation of the ice to cross into Pennsylvania. Understanding that in the confidence produced by a series of successes, they were by no means vigilant, he conceived the possibility of taking them by surprise. He accordingly, on the evening of Christmas day, conveyed the main body of his army over the Delaware, and falling upon the troops quartered in Trenton, killed and captured about 900 of them, and recrossed into Pennsylvania with his prisoners. On the 28th of December, he again took possession of Trenton, where he was soon encountered by a superior force of British, who drove in his advanced parties, and entered the town in the evening, with the intention of giving him battle the next morning. The two armies were separated only by a narrow creek, which runs through the town. In such a position it should seem to be impossible that any movement on
To what place did congress adjourn?
the one side or on the other could pass unobserved. But in the darkness of the night, Washington, leaving his fires lighted, and a few guards to attract the attention of the enemy, quitted his encampment, and, crossing a bridge over the creek, which had been left ungarded, directed his march to Princeton, where, after a short but brisk engagement, he killed 60 of the British, and took 300 prisoners. The rest of the royal forces were dispersed and fled in different directions. Great was the surprise of Lord Cornwallis, who commanded the British army at Trenton, when the report of the artillery at Princeton, which he at first mistook for thunder, and the arrival of breathless messengers, apprised him that the enemy was in his rear. Alarmed by the danger of his position, he commenced a retreat; and, being harassed by the militia and the countrymen who had suffered from the outrages perpetrated by his troops on their advance, he did not deem himself in safety till he arrived at Brunswick, from whence by means of the Rariton, he had a communication with New York.
This splendid success inspired the Americans with renewed spirits. Recruits were readily raised for their army, which took up its winter quarters at Morristown, about 30 miles to the northward of Brunswick; here both the officers and soldiers were inoculated for the small-pox. During this interval of comparative leisure, Washington urgently renewed the representations which he had before frequently made to the congress, of the necessity of abandoning the system of enlisting men for limited terms of ser
Describe the transaction at Princeton.
vice. The dread justly entertained by that body of a standing army had hitherto induced them to listen coldly to his remonstrances on this point. But the experience of the last campaign corrected their views, and they resolved to use their utmost exertion to raise an army pledged to serve till the conclusion of the war. The free spirit of the Americans, however, could not brook enlistment for a time so undefined, and the congress therefore issued proposals for a levy of soldiers to be engaged for three years, at the same time offering a bounty of 100 acres of land to those who would accept their first proposals. Though these measures in the end proved effectual, their accomplishment was slow, and in the spring of 1777, Washington's whole force did not amount to more than 1500 men; but with these inconsiderable numbers he so disposed his posts, that with the occasional assistance of the New Jersey militia and volunteers, he for some weeks kept the British in check at Brunswick. At this period, the difficulties under which he had so long labored from the want of arms and military stores, were alleviated by the arrival of upwards of 20,000 muskets, and 1000 barrels of powder, which had been procured in France and Holland by the agency of the celebrated dramatist, Carron de Beaumarchais.
Late in the spring of 1777, however, the utmost exertions of congress in forwarding the recruiting service could put no more than 7272 effective men at the disposal of General Washington.
With this small force it was manifestly his policy to gain time, and by occupying advantageous ground, to avoid being forced to a general engagement. With a view, however, of inspiring his countrymen, he
What did they resolve to do? And what proposals were issued ?