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The engagement lasted until the darkness put an end to it. Lit. tle damage was done by the British, as the works of the enemy lay so low, that many of the shot flew over; and the fortifications, being composed of palın trees mixed with earth, were well calculated to resist the impression of cannon. During the height of the attack, the batterries of the provincials were silent, so that it was concluded that they had been abandoned; but this was found to proceed from want of powder; for as soon as a supply of this article was obtained, the firing was resumed as brisk as before. During the whole of this desperate engagement, it was found iinpossible for the land forces to render any assistance to the fleet.
The enemy's works were found to be much stronger than had been imagined, and the depth of water effectually prevented them from making any attempt. In this unsuccessful attempt, the loss of the British in killed and wounded was two hundred. The Bristol and Experiment were so much damaged, it was thought they could not get over the bar: this they accomplished, however, by greai exertion of naval skill, to the surprise of the provincials, who had expected to have inade them both prizes. It was said the Americans lost considerable in this engyenent.
In the beginning of March, commodore ftopkins was despatch. ed by Congress, with five frigates to the Banama islands, where he made himself master of the ordnance and military stores; but the gunpowder which had been the principal object, was removed. On his return, he captured several vessels; but was filed in his attempt on the Glasgow frigate, which found means to escape, not withstanding the efforts of the whole squadron.
Hitherto the Americans had been generally successful, they had' now to experience misfortune, misery and disappointment; the enemy overrunning the country, and their own armies not able to face them in the field. The province of New York, being the most accessible by sea, was made the object of the main attack. The force sent against it, consisted of six ships of the line, thirty frigates, besides other armed vessels, and a vast number of transports. The fleet was commanded by lord Howe, and the land forces by his brother, general sir William Howe, who was now at Halitax. The latter, however, had set sail a considerable time before his brother arrived, and lay before New York, but without attempting to commence hostilities, until he should be joined by his brother.
The Americans had, according to custom, fortified New York, and the adjacent islands in an extraordinary manner. General Howe, notwithstanding, was suffered to land bis troops on Staten island, where he was soon joined by a number of inhabitants. About the middle of July, lord Howe arrived with the grand armament, and being one of the oommissioners appointed to receive the submission of the colonists, he published a circular letter to the several governors, who had lately been expelled fro:n their provinces desiring them to make the extent of his commission and the powers lie was invested with by parliament as public as possible.
Here, however, the congress saved him trouble, by order iny his letter and declara ion io be published in all the newspapers, “That every one might see the insidiousness of the British ministry; and, that they had nothing to trust to, besides the exertion of their own valour."
Lord Howe next sent a letter to general Washington ; but as it was directed To George Washington, Esq." the general refused to accept it, as not being in a style suited to his station. To obes viate this objection, adju ant general Patterson, was sent wit'i another letter directed * To lieorge Washington, &c. &c. &c." but though a very polite reception was given to the bearer, general Washington uiterly refused the leiter, nor could any explanation of the adjutant induce him to accept of it. The only interesting part was that relating to the powers of the commissioners, of whoin lord II owe was one.
'The adjutant told him, that these powers were very extensive; that the commissioners were deterinined to exert themselves to the utmost in order to bring about a reconciliation; and that he hoped the general would consider this visit as a step towards it. General Washington replied, that it did not appear that these powers consisted in any thing else than granting pardons; and as America had committed no offence, she asked no forgiveness; and, was only defending her unquestionable rights.
The decision being now left io the sword, no time was lost, and hostilities commenced as soon as the British troops could be col. lected. This was not done before the month of August, when they landed without opposition on Long Island, opposite to the shore of Staten island. General Putnam, with a large body of troops, lay encamped, and strongly fortified on a peninsula on the opposite shore, with a range of hills between the armies, the principal pass of which was near a place called Flat-Bush; here the centre of the British army, cosisting of Hessians, took post; the left wing under general Grant, lying near the shore; and the right consisting of the greater part of the British force, lay under lord Percy, Cuinwallis, and general Clinton. Putnan had ordered these pas. ses to be secured by larye detachments, wbich was executed isomcdiately with those that were near; but one of the most importance, that lay at a distance, was entirely neglected. Through this a large body of troops under lord Percy and Clinton, passed, and attucked the Ainericans in the rear, while they were engagi ed with the Hessians in front.
Through this piece of negligence their defeat became inevita. ble. Those who were engaged with the Hessians, first perceived their mistake, and began a retreat towards their camp; but the
passage was intercepted by the British troops, who drove them back into the woods. Here they were met by the Hessians, and thus were they many hours slaughtered between two parties, no way of escape but by forcing their way through the British troops, and thus regaining their camp. In this attempt many perished ; and the right wing, engaged with general Grant, shared the same fate. The victory was complete; and the Americans lost, on this fatal day, August the twenty-seventh, upwards of one thousand men, and two generals: several officers of distinction were made prisoners, with a number of privates. Among the slain, a regiment, consisting of young gentlemen of fortune and family in Maryland, was almost entirely cut to pieces, and of the survivors not one escaped without a wound.
The ardour of the British troops was now so great, that they could scarce be restrained from attacking the lines of the provincials; but for this, there was now no occasion, as it was certain they could not be defended; but had the ardour of the soldiers been seconded, and general Howe pursued his victory, it might have given such a blow to the Americans, and such a turn to their affairs, that they would not have been able to have regained that confidence in their own strength, which they had hitherto maintained.
Of the British and Hessians about four hundred and fifty were lost in this engagement. As none of the American commanders thought it proper to risk another attack, it was resolved to abandon their camp as soon as possible. Accordingly, on the twenty ninth of August, the whole of the continental troops were ferried over from Brooklin to New York, with the utmost secrecy and silence ; so that, in the moning, the British had nothing to do but to take possession of the camp and artillery which they had abandoned.
This victory, though complete, was far from being so decisive as the conquerors imagined. Lord Howe, supposing it would be sufficient to intimidate congress into some terms, sent general Sullivan, who had been taken prisoner in the late action, to congress with a message, importing, that though he could not consis. tently treat with them as a legal assembly, yet he would be very glad to confer with any of the members in a private capacity; setting forth, at the saine time, the nature and extent of his power as commissioner. But the congress were not at all inclined to derogate from the dignity of character they had assumed. They replied, that the congress of the free and independent states of America could not, consistently, send any of its members in another capacity than that which they had publicly assumed ; but as they were extremely desirous of restoring peace to their country upon equitable conditions, they would appoint a committee of their body to wait upon him, and learn what proposals he had to make.
The committee appointed by congress was composed of Dr. Franklin, Adams, and Rutledge. They were very politely received by his lordship; but the conference proved fruitless The final answer of the deputies was, that they were extremely will. ing to enter into any treaty with Great Britain that might conduce to the good of both nations; but that they would not treat in any other character than that of Independent States. This positive declaration put an end to all hopes of reconciliation, and it was resolved to prosecute the war with the utmost vigour.
Lord Howe, after publishing a manifesto, in which he declared the refusal of congress, and that he himself was willing to confer with all well-disposed persons about the means of restoring public tranquility, set about ihe most proper methods for reducitg the city of New York. Here the provincial troops were posted, and, from a great number of batteries, kept continually annoying the British shipping. The East river, about twelve hundred yards in breadth, lay between them, which the British troops were extremely desirous of passing. At last the ships, afier an incessant cannonade of several days, silenced the batteries; a body of troops was sent up the river to a bay, about three miles distant, where the fortifications were less strong than in other places. Here, baving driven off the provincials by the cannon of the fleet, they mached directly towards the city; but the provincials, finding that they should now be attacked on all sides, abandoned the city, and retreated to the north of the island, where their principal force was collected. In their passage thither they skirmished with the British, but carefully avoided a genaral engagement; and it was observed that they did not behave with that ardeur and impetuous valour which had hitherto marked their character.
The British and American armies were now not above two miles from each other. The former lay encamped from shore to shore, for an extent of two miles, being the breadth of the island, which, though fifteen miles long, exceeds not two in any part of the breadth. The provincials, who lay directly opposite, had strengthened their camp with many fortifications; and, at the same time, were masters of all the passes and defiles betwist the two camps: thus were they enable to maintain their station against an army much more pumerous than their own, they had also strongly fortified a pass called King's Bridge, on the northern extremity of the island, whence they could secure a passage to the continent in case of any misfortunes. Here general Washington, in order to inure the provincials to actual service, and, at the same time, to annoy the enemy as much as possible, employed his troops in continual skirmishes; by which it was observed they recovered their spirits, and behaved with their usual boldness.
As the situation of the two armies was now highly inconvenient to the British generals. it was resolved to make such movements as might oblige general Washington to relinquish his strong situa. tion. A few days after New York was evacuated by the Ameri. cans, a dreadful fire broke out, said to be occasioned by the licenÀtious conduct of some of its new masters; and had it not been
for the active exertions of the sailors and soldiery, the whole town probably would have been consumed: the wind being high, and the weather remarkably dry, about a thousand houses were des. troyed.
General Howe, having left lord Percy with a sufficient force to garrison New York, embarked his army in flat bottomed boats, by which they were conveyed through the dangerous passage called Hell Gate, and landed at Frog's Point, near the town of West Chester, lying on the continent towards Connecticut. Here having received a supply of men and provisions, they moved, on the twenty-first of October, to New Rochelle, situated on the Şound which separates Long Island from the Continent.
After this, still receiving fresh reinforcements, they made such movements as threatened to distress the provincials very much, by cutting off their convoys of provisions from Connecticut, and thus force them to an engagement. This, ge eral Washington determined at all events to avoid. He therefore extended his forces into a long line, opposite to the way in which the enemy marched, keeping the Brunx, a river of considerable magnitude, between the two armies, with the north river in his rear. Here the provincials continued for some time to skirmish with the royal army, until, ai last, by some maneuvres, the British general found means to attack them on the twenty-eighth of October, 1776, advantageously at a place called the White Plains, and drove them from some of their posts.
The success on this occasion was not so complete as on the former; however, it obliged the provincials to change their ground, and retreat further up the country. General Howe pursued them for some time; but at last, finding all his endeavours to bring on a general action fruitless, he determined to give over the pursuit, and employ himself in reducing the forts which the provincials still retained in the neighbourhood of New York.
Fort Washington was the only post the Americans then held on New York island, and 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 Knyphauzen: the second, on the east by general Matthews, supported by lord Cornwallis: the third was under the direction of lieutenant colonel Sterling: and the fourth by lord Percy. The troops under Knyphauzen, when advancing to the fort, had to pass through a thick wood, which was occupied by Rawling's regiment of riflemen, and suffered very much from their well directed fire. During this attack, a body of 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 Perey carried an sa