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employed to second the attack of Count Donop were lost, one of them, the Augusta ship of the line, accidentally took fire and was wholly consumed, the other, the Merlin sloop of war, grounded, and being hastily evacuated was purposely destroyed. Several officers and a number of men perished in attempting to save themselves from these vessels.
Nothing occurred during the war more brilliant than this defence of Fort Mercer. Colonel Greene's force amounted to no more than 100 men. The de. tachment under Count Donop consisted of three battalions of grenadiers, the regiment of Mirback, and a considerable number of light infantry and chasseurs. Congress were duly impressed with the merits of Colonel Greene, as will appear by the following resolution passed a few days afterwards. “ Resolved, that Congress have a high sense of the merit of Colonel Greene and the officers and men under bis command, in their late gallant defence of the Fort at Red Bank on the Delaware river, and that an elegant sword be provided by the board of war, and presented to Colonel Greene.” It was not the fortune of Colorel Greene, however, to receive this sword. Various circumstances prevented its being provided, till long after the death of this gallant patriot and soldier, when it was presented to his son.
Lieutenant Colonel Simms after leaving the fort, embarked his men in the boats and batteaux provided for them, and reached Mud Island in safety. The enemy were in the mean time strengthening their works on Mud Island, and erecting heavy batteries of thirty two pounders within four hundred yards of the American defences. The fort on this Island had been entrusted to Count d'Arenat; but this officer being obliged to give up the command from severe indisposition, it devolved on Lieutenant Colonel Samuel Smith, of Maryland, who with 250 men and about 30 militia, defended the post for more than a month against the almost daily attempts of the enemy both by land and water. The reinforcements under Colonel Simms, which he received on the 23d of October, increased his force to about 400 men. His first care had been to examine the grounds of Province Island upon which it was most probable the enemy would erect their works of assault, and to put up block houses and such other defences as his time and means would allow. With these, aided by the cooperation of Commodore Hazlewood, who commanded the gallies and floating batteries, Lieutenant Colonel Smith with great bravery sustained the repeated assaults of the enemy until the completion of their heavy batteries on the 9th of November. The block houses being soon battered down by these, and a considerable breach being made in the walls on that side, it became a serious apprehension to Lieutenant Colonel Smith, that an attempt would be immediately made to storm the fort. His garrison, which had never from the first been competent to withstand a close assault, was now considerably weakened by constant watching, fighting and working—the enemy had succeeded in getting one of their large ships between Province and Mud Islands, and the American Commodore absolutely refused making any attempt to drive them from that position, alleging that a single broadside might destroy all his gallies—In this desperate situation, Colonel Smith wrote to the Commander in Chief, advising the withdrawal of the garrison; but Washington, in the hourly expectation of a reinforcement from General
Gates, of whose signal success he had heard, refused to listen to the proposal, and Colonel Smith assembled a council of his officers to determine on the course to be pursued. They unanimously and heroically resolved, that, in the event of the enemy's forcing the outer works, they should retire to the entrenchment in the centre of the Fort, and there, if quarter should be refused them, apply a match to the magazine and immolate themselves with their enemy.
On the 11th of November, the enemy being in possession of the heights above the Schuylkill, continued, from these, from their heavy batteries on Province Island, and their large ship in the main passage between, to play upon the fort with redoubled efforts. In the course of the day, a spent cannon ball knocked down a part of the walls of the fort, which falling upon Colonel Smith, wounded and bruised him so severely that he was compelled to retire.
The command now devolved on Lieutenant Colonel Simms, who had so gallantly volunteered his services at Fort Mercer, and who maintained the defence with continued firmness until the 13th, when he was relieved by Lieutenant Colonel Russell, of the Connecticut line; but this officer finding from his weak state of health, that he would be wholly unable to support the fatigue which such a trust demanded, requested to be immediately recalled, and on the 14th he was relieved by Major Thayer, of the Rhode Island line, who volunteered for this desperate service.
Brigadier General Varnum, who had been some days before posted in Jersey, near Red Bank, with the command of all the troops below Philadelphia, had received orders from the Commander in Chief to defend Mud Island to the last extremity, without sacrificing the garrison ; and Major Thayer arrived, with a knowledge of these orders, and a resolute determination to maintain his stand to the last moment. . He was an officer as skilful as he was brave, as indefatigable as he was patient, prudent and vigilant. He endeavoured to animate his men, consisting of only 300, by inspiring them with his own hopes of a successful defence, and by placing before them the rewards with which their victory would be crowned. He was di. ligent in repairing as far as possible during the night, the breaches which had been made during the day, and seemed determined to render the conflict a desperate and deadly one. During the night of the 14th, two of the enemy's ships were brought up the east channel so as to attack the works in front, while two others forming a battery of 23 twenty four pounders, made their way up the narrow western channel, so as to cooperate with the batteries on Province Island, and thus completely enfilade the works of Fort Mifflin. Several frigates were also drawn up against the fort on the Jersey shore, intended to flank the men of war stationed there and prevent the escape of the garrison. The morning of the 15th saw a tremendous fire opened from all these batteries upon Thayer's little garrison, who supported the shock like men who had devoted themselves to destruction-by noon, all the batteries of the fort were levelled to the ground, and the men were thus exposed without a single defence. In the course of the afternoon, Major Thayer succeeded in sending all his garrison ashore, except 40 men, whom he retained until midnight, when having succeeded in removing the greater part of his stores, he set fire to the barracks, aud escaped with his little band to Fort Mercer. He had in vain applied to Com
modore Hazlewood for assistance; that officer, whether from a justifiable prudence, or a culpable fear of danger, kept his gallies out of the reach of the enemy's shot.
In the course of the various assaults upon Fort Mifflin, upwards of 250 Americans were killed and wounded. It was an important post, and the necessity of holding it appeared so strong, that it had been determined by a council of war to relieve it at all hazards, on the very night it was necessarily abandoned. It was perhaps fortunate that the attempt was not made, as it might and in all probability would bave brought on a general engagement, for which Washington was certainly not at that time prepared. The defence made by Lieutenant Colonel Smith gained him the applause of the Commander in Chief, and the approbation of Congress, who voted bim a sword; but this gallant and high minded officer refused to accept it, because the value of the present had been cheapened by a similar offer to Commodore Hazle. wood, who, in his opinion, as well as in that of most of the army, merited rather the censure of Congress for his cowardice. Moses Porter, who has since risen to the rank of Brigadier General, and who performed such eminent services for his country in the late contest with the same power, was at that time a Sergeant in the garrison of Fort Millin-Let the knowledge of this fact stimulate our soldiers of the present day, to conduct themselves so as to deserve the applause of their officers and their country, assured that merit will sooner or later raise them to the highest hopes of their ambition.
After the repulse of Count Donop, Sir William Howe had determined to send a stronger force against VOL. II.