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Events of 1777 continued.Conduct of the British up the Hudson
They retire to New York.–General Gates's letter to General Vaughan Anecdote of a SpyMovements of Washington and Sir William Howe-Attack on Fort Mercer, and gallant defence of it by Colonel Greene. Enemy establish themselves on Province Island-Heroick determination of Colonel Smith, and the garrison of Fort Mifflin-Gallant conduct of Major Thay. er-Mud Island evacuated Lord Cornwallis is sent against Red Bank-Fort Mercer abandoned Americans compelled to destroy their gallies-Sir William Howe moves towards White Marsh-Skirmish there-returns to Philadelphia-Washington goes into winter quarters at Valley forger-Distresses of the American army.
The little band of Americans who garrisoned Forts Montgomery and Clinton, being driven from those posts by the overwhelming force of Sir Henry Clinton, and having demolished Fort Constitution and burnt their two ships, without authority, retired with Governour Clinton to Butter hill. Here this brave and patriotick officer, used every exertion to collect a sufficient force to stop the further progress of the enemy. But the situation of General Gates's army prevented any reinforcement being sent from that quarter; and though the militia from Connecticut came in in large numbers, they deserted almost as soon as they arrived, so that there was nothing to obstruct the pro. gress of Sir Henry to Albany, if he had been inclined to profit by the advantages which he had gained. Instead of pursuing his course up the river, however, he sent General Vaughan and Sir James Wallace, with a squadron of light frigates, and 8,600 men, to
destroy and lay waste the country. On the 13th of October they landed at Esopus, (or Kingston,) where the Americans had a battery of three guns, which they spiked and abandoned, on the approach of the enemy, being too weak to attempt a defence. This fine and flourishing village was reduced to a heap of ashes : not a house in it was left standing. General Vaughan here received intelligence of the fate of Burgoyne's army, and had abundant time to have joined him with his forces, or at least to have placed himself in the rear of Gates, and thus have rendered his situation disagreeable ; but after the destruction of the town, and many of the beautiful country seats of gentlemen on the banks of the river, he retired with the fleet and army to New York.
Immediately after the convention of Saratoga, Geneeral Gates moved on to Albany, to be in readiness to meet the enemy, should they proceed up the river. From this place, on the 19th, he addressed the following letter to General Vaughan— Sir,—With unexampled cruelty you have reduced the fine village of Kingston to ashes, and most of the wretched inhabitants to ruin. I am informed you also continue to ravage and burn all before you on both sides of the river. Is it thus your King's Generals think to make converts to the royal cause? It is no less surprising than true, that the measures they adopt to serve their master, have the quite contrary effect. Their cruelty established the glorious act of independence, upon the broad basis of the general resentments of the people.
66 Abler Generals and older officers than you can pretend to be, are now, by the fortune of war, in my hands ; their fortune may one day be yours, when,
Sir, it may not be in the power of any thing human, to save you from the just revenge of an injured people.
A singular incident, which is worthy of notice as it shows the ingenious devices which war calls into
practice, occurred while Governour Clinton lay at New Windsor, anxiously watching the progress of the enemy. His guards fell in with and took two Spies who were going with intelligence from Sir Henry Clinton to Burgoyne. One of them made confession of his instructions; but Governour Clinton was afterwards gi. ven to understand that he had swallowed the letter, with which he had been charged to Burgoyne. The Governour immediately ordered a dose of tartar emetic to be administered to him, the operation of which brought up a small silver bullet, in which was enclosed the letter !
Sir William Howe having withdrawn his forces from Germantown, and concentrated them in the vici. nity of Philadelphia, began to see the necessity of dislodging the Americans from Forts Mifflin and Mercer, in order to effect a free passage for his brother's fleet, which, as we have seen, came into the Delaware, after landing the army at the head of Elk. Washington had, in the mean time, advanced to White Marsh, where the weak state of his army compelled him to wait the issue of the northern campaign, that he might receive a reinforcement from General Gates. Here his whole attention was turned to the defences of the Delaware. It was his desire to place himself on the heights of the Schuylkill, so as to have forced the enemy from the annoying position which they had taken on Province Island; but his hospitals and stores at Bethlehem, Reading, and their vicinities, required the whole of his present force to protect them, and he
was obliged therefore to content himself with sending a small reinforcement to the most important of the two posts, namely that on Mud Island. This reinforcement under Lieutenant Colonel Simms of the sixth Virginia regiment had to pass Red Bank, at which place they were to embark in boats and cross over to Mud Island.
Lieutenant Colonel Simms had crossed the Delaware with his detachment, a little below Bristol. Upon arriving at Moore's Town, which he reached about ten o'clock at night, he was informed that a party of the enemy were crossing the river at Cooper's ferry, opposite Philadelphia, and about eight miles below him. With a view therefore to ascertain the fact, upon which the safety of his detachment depended, he took with him a small escort of dragoons and proceeded to the ferry. He could discover no enemy; but he found a party of militia, which had been stationed at the ferry, every man asleep, without even so much as a centinel to hail his approach : having roused them, he returned to his detatchment and continued his march towards Red Bank. He had passed the ferry only a few miles, when a detachment of Hessians under Count Donop crossed, to whom the militia must have fallen an easy prey, but for his timely interruption of their unguarded slumbers. Colonel Simms reached Fort Mercer on the following evening, having Count Donop still only a short distance in his rear. Satisfied that it was the Count's intention to attack the Fort next day, he volunteered to remain with Colonel Greene, of the Rhode Island line, the gallant commandant of Fort Mercer, and aid him in his defence of the post. Colonel Greene accepted his offered services, and made such a disposition of their united force,
as seemed best calculated to withstand the expected assault. In the course of the night, however, it occurred to Colonel Greene, that he should be disappointing the expectations of the Commander in Chief, who had destined the reinforcement under Simms, for Fort Mifflin, a much more important post, if he should retain them to his own aid; and in the morning, notwithstanding the earnest solicitations of Lieutenant Colonel Simms and his whole detachment, who were burning with desire to share in the dangers of the defence, he insisted that the latter should pursue his destined course, and leave him to his own means.
Count Donop had arrived some hours before this heroick determination of Colonel Greene to rely exclusively upon his own strength, and was actively engaged in preparing his attack; and to the circumstance of Colonel Simms's leaving the garrison at this moment may be attributed the glorious issue of the as.' sault. Donop was deceived by it into a belief, that the whole garrison was attempting to escape. Under this impression, without waiting to complete his preparations, he rushed upon a portion of the works which the last arrangements of Colonel Greene had rendered it necessary for hina to abandon, and finding these deserted, he was still further confirmed in his fatal errour. He pushed on to the very muzzles of the guns, which now opened upon Irim with such tremendous effect, that the assailants turned back in dreadful dismay: Count Donop himself was mortally wounded, and the number killed was more than equal. to the whole force under Colonel Greene. The Hessians also suffered very severely in their retreat, by the fire from the American gallies and floating batteries; and two of the British squadron which had been