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viously, with one division of his army, crossed over into New Jersey, leaving the other, under the command of General Lee, in New York. His force, even when augmented by the garrison, consisted of but three thousand effective men, and they were destitute of tents, of blankets, and even of utensils to cook their provisions. His first station was Newark; but the enemy pursuing him, he was compelled to retreat successively to Bruns. wick, to Princeton, to Trenton, and finally to cross the Delaware into Pennsylvania; and so close was the pursuit, that the advance of the British army was often within sight.
Small as was his force when the retreat began, it diminished daily. On the last of November, many of his troops were entitled to their discharge, and not one of them could be persuaded to continue another day in service. Such he feared would be the conduct of the remainder, whose time would expire at the end of the year. In this extremity, he urged General Lee to hasten to his assistance; but that officer, having other purposes in view, delayed his march. He called on the militia of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, but none obeyed his call. The population around him were hostile or desponding, and withheld all aid from an army whose career seemed near its termination.
In this darkest hour in American history, General Howe issued a proclamation offering pardon to all who would declare their submission to royal authority. The contrast between a ragged, suffering, retreating army, and a full-clad, powerful,
exulting foe, induced many, despairing of success, to abandon the cause they had espoused, and accept of pardon. Among them were Mr. Gallaway and Mr. Allen, who had been members of the continental congress.
As the British army approached Philadelphia, congress adjourned to Baltimore, having previously invested General Washington with “full power to order and direct all things relative to the department, and to the operations of war.”
Such unlimited authority could not have been placed in hands more worthy to hold it. To the elastic energy of his mind, and his perfect self-possession in the most desperate circumstances, is America, in a great degree, indebted for her independence.
On the day that he was driven over the Delaware, the British took possession of Rhode Island. On the 13th of December, General Lee, having wandered from his army, was surprised and taken prisoner. In the experience and talents of this officer the people reposed great confidence, and they laniented his loss like that of an army. In its consequences his capture was fortunate. The command of his division devolved upon General Sullivan, who conducted it promptly to General Washington, augmenting his army to nearly seven thousand effective men.
Still so much stronger were the enemy, that they regarded the rebels, for so they delighted to call the patriots of that day, as almost subdued, and doubted not that a vigorous attempt, whenever they should be disposed to make it, would place in their power the handful of men before
them. They rioted upon the plunder of the country, and enjoyed in prospect the fruits of an assured and decisive victory.
Washington saw that this tide of ill fortune must be stemmed-must even be rolled back upon the enemy-or it would soon overwhelm his country. He resolved to hazard all that was left in one vigorous effort for victory. On the night of the 25th December, at the head of two thousand four hundred men, he crossed the Delaware at Trenton, surprised a body of Hessians stationed at that place, took nine hundred prisoners, and immediately recrossed, having lost but nine of his men.
This sudden and severe blow awakened the enemy to activity. Cornwallis, who had repaired to New York, intrusting to his inferior officers the task of finishing the war, returned with additional troops, to regain the ground that had been lost. He concentrated his forces at Princeton, and soon after, Washington having been joined by a body of Pennsylvania militia, and persuaded the New England to serve six weeks longer, again crossed the Delaware and took post at Trenton.
On the 2d of January, 1777, the greater part of the British army marched to attack the Ameri
In the evening, they encamped near Trenton, in full expectation of a battle and victory in the morning. Washington, sensible of the inferiority of his force; sensible too, that flight would be almost as fatal as a defeat, conceived another bold project, which he resolved instantly to execute.
About midnight, having renewed his fires, he silently decamped, and gaining by a circuitous route the rear of the enemy, marched towards Princeton, where he presumed Cornwallis had left a part of his troops. At sunrise the van of the American forces met unexpectedly two British regiments. A sharp action ensued; the former gave way. At this crisis, when all was at stake, the commander-in-chief led the main body to the attack. The enemy were routed, and fled. Fortunately the heroic Washington, though exposed to both fires, and but a few yards distant from either party, escaped unhurt.
Instead of pursuing them, he pressed forward to Princeton, where one regiment yet remained. Part saved themselves by a precipitate flight; about three hundred were made prisoners. The British loss in killed was upwards of one hundred; the American was less, but in the number were the brave General Mercer, and several valuable officers. Among the wounded was Lieutenant James Monroe, afterwards raised to the highest office in the gift of his fellow citizens.
In consternation, the British army immediately evacuated Trenton, and retreated to New Brunswick. The inhabitants, resuming their courage, and giving full force to their rage, which fear had smothered, took revenge for the brutalities they had suffered. The enemy were driven from all their posts in New Jersey, except Amboy and Brunswick, and the American
obtained secure winter-quarters at Morristown.
The brilliant victories at Trenton and Prince
ton, raised from the lowest depression the spirits of the American people. They regarded Washington as the saviour of his country. He became the theme of eulogy throughout Europe. And having displayed as occasions demanded, the opposite qualities of caution and impetuosity, he received the honourable and appropriate appellation of the American Fabius.
CAMPAIGN OF 1777.
The firmness manifested by congress, when disaster and defeat had almost annihilated the American army, entitles the members to the gratitude and admiration of every friend of freedom. They exhibited no symptom of terror or dismay. They voted to raise an army to take the place of that which was to be disbanded at the end of the year; and made sensible by experience, that short enlistments had been the cause of most of the misfortunes of their country, they resolved that the new levies should be enlisted to serve three years, or during the war, at the option of the individual recruits, To defray expenses, they made large emissions of paper money. And to evince their firm determination to the world, they solemnly declared that they would listen to no terms of peace which required a relinquishment of