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along the roads which led through Springfield and Elizabeth Town; and took up their position at New Brunswick, behind the river Raritan. At this point the remnant of those ten thousand militiamen, who during the past summer had figured in the newspapers under the title of the Flying Camp, took wing in a flock, and migrated homewards. That contemporary historian, who said that the American army had ceased to exist, did not greatly exaggerate as the case stood; and his description would have been absolutely and literally accurate if Cornwallis had been allowed to take his own course. So great, (to quote General Howe's official account,) was the confusion among Washington's troops that they must inevitably have been cut in pieces if they had not broken down a portion of Brunswick Bridge, and thereby disabled their pursuer from following them across the Raritan.2
It was a poor excuse for Howe to put forward, and most unfair to an alert and strenuous subordinate. On the first of December Lord Cornwallis marched twenty miles over exceedingly bad roads in a single day, and approached the Raritan, with a powerful force well in hand, before ever the rear guard of the enemy had passed the river. There he was overtaken by a message informing him that General Howe refused to sanction any further aggressive movements until he himself arrived at the front with reinforcements; and then a full week elapsed before the British Commander-in-Chief, accompanied by a single brigade, came into camp, and assumed the personal command of the army. Howe's tactical arrangements, whenever and wherever his troops were sent into action, had hitherto uniformly been excellent; but this month of December ruined, once and for ever, his repute as a strategist. The true policy of the campaign was to keep the Americans per
1“ History of Europe" in the Annual Register for the year 1777; chapter i.
* Letter from Sir William Howe to Lord George Germaine ; New York, December 20, 1776.
petually on the run till their army was reduced to fraga ments to take and hold their capital of Philadelphia ; and to break up their civil administration, and their military organisation, beyond any possibility of repair or resurrection. All other schemes should have been postponed to the accomplishment of that supreme object; and every available man and horse should have been launched on the chase of a decisive and overwhelming victory. The time had come for acting in the spirit of the phrase which General Sheridan used at the crisis of his battles: “Now let everything go in ! ” But this was the precise moment which Howe selected to despatch two divisions of infantry, in a fleet of seventy transports escorted by eleven men-of-war, for the purpose of subduing Rhode Island ; - and only the actual island itself, without extending their operations to the rest of the province which bore that name. It was a facile conquest; but the fruits were as insignificant as the undertaking had been ill-timed. The American shipping escaped up the bay to Providence; and several thousand Royal troops were thenceforward locked up in a sea-girt slip of land no larger than the estate of many an English Lord-Lieutenant. Their head-quarters were at Newport; and, for any effect which they produced upon the general result of the war, they might have been as usefully, and much more agreeably, billeted in the town of the same name in the Isle of Wight.
It was not till the seventh of December that Howe resumed his onward march; and Washington was already far, or far enough, away. While still at Brunswick, he had issued orders to occupy the ferries above and below Trenton ; to seize every boat on the Delaware, and its tributary streams, over the space of many miles up and down the river; and to make sure that they were in sound condition, and adequately provided with oars and punting-poles. Lord Stirling, with fourteen hundred Southern infantry, - the flower of the army, though a faded flower it was, — established himself strongly at Princeton; and, under cover of the slender force com
manded by that vigilant officer, Washington very coolly and deliberately carried through his arrangements for abandoning the Jerseys, where he could no longer stay without the certainty of utter and instant ruin. He transported over the Delaware his military stores, which, indeed, were no heavy burden ; and his sick and disabled, whom, after that long and exhausting campaign, it was not easy to distinguish from those of their comrades who were still classed as hale and effective. On the seventh and eighth of the month his fighting army crossed the river. The shipping which the Americans had at their disposal was in excess of their requirements. Washington had made a great point of securing certain barges, from thirty to forty feet in length, which were known as the Durham Boats, and which were ordinarily employed for the conveyance of heavy goods and iron ore between Philadelphia and the northern counties of New Jersey.1 So thin were his ranks that each of these vessels in some cases afforded accommodation for an entire regiment.
Few or many, the Provincials were all safely landed in Pennsylvania. Their rear guard had hardly disembarked on the secure side of the river when their pleasing sensation of, at least, a temporary intermission from danger was enhanced by the almost simultaneous appearance on the eastern bank of a baffled and outwitted enemy. Howe's vanguard came marching bravely down in full expectation of being over the Delaware before nightfall. The citizens of Trenton were deeply impressed by the style in which a Hessian brigade entered their town, played through the streets by a band of music superior to anything that the whole of the armies commanded by Washington and Gates could produce between them. But, extraordinary to relate, the English general had been started on a campaign, in a region intersected at frequent intervals by broad and deep streams, without any of the appliances requisite for traversing an unbridged river. "How provoking it is,” (exclaimed Colonel Enoch Markham,) "that our army, when it entered
1 Washington to Colonel Hampton ; December 1, 1776.
the Jerseys, was not provided with a single pontoon! Unless the object was Philadelphia, entering the Jerseys was absurd to the last degree. If we had six flat-bottomed boats, we could cross the Delaware.” That was the view of a practised soldier; and even civilians, who had eyes in their heads, could not understand why the ingenuity of British military engineers on the spot did nothing to remedy the improvidence of the British War Office. A Loyalist gentleman, who had followed our columns up to the Delaware, and who expected, within three days' time, to have been eating his dinner in Philadelphia, where he would have found plenty of hosts willing and proud to entertain him, - discovered for himself that, at and near Trenton, there were forty-eight thousand feet of boards in store, besides a great quantity of strong wire. A well-stocked timber-yard lay directly at the back of the premises where the English headquarters had been established; and, if any additional materials were needed, the town contained a hundred wooden houses, and no less than four blacksmiths' shops. There was hardly a brigade in Washington's army that would not have furnished artificers to construct the rafts, and ferrymen and boatmen to handle them; but our soldiers were unskilled, and our commanders helpless, in front of an obstacle which they all pronounced to be insurmountable. On the morning of the ninth of December Lord Cornwallis marched thirteen miles along the Delaware, as far towards the north as Coryell's Ferry, in search of boats which had all been carefully deposited either beyond, or beneath, the water.
* Joseph Galloway's Evidence before the House of Commons; June 18, 1776. Jones's History of New York; Vol. I., chapter vi. The names of the Trenton blacksmiths are given in Mr. Stryker's Battles of Trenton and Princeton.
2“ On Sunday morning we crossed the Delaware. About eleven o'clock the enemy came marching down with all the pomp of war, in great expectation of getting boats ; but of this we took proper care by destroying every boat or shallop we could lay hands on. They made forced marches up and down the river in pursuit of boats ; but in vain. The enemy are at least twelve thousand strong, determined for Philadelphia.” Letter of an officer from Trenton; American Archives, December 1776.
Stedman, the English historian of the war, remarked that General Howe appeared to have calculated with the greatest accuracy the exact time necessary for the enemy to make his escape; and Washington himself modestly attributed the entire credit of that escape to the "infatuation ” of his opponent. The Delaware river, (he confessed,) and nothing else, had saved Philadelphia.
The Americans needed all the consolation which they could derive from the very visible disappointment of their adversary; for seldom or never has any body of troops, that still held together as an organised and obedient army, been in much worse case than theirs. They had originally been equipped in headlong haste, out of the scanty resources, or on the fast vanishing credit, of an almost empty Treasury. By the time that Fort Washington was captured, three months of active warfare had already reduced most of their regiments to an aspect of beggary. Provincial officers, who were prisoners among the British tents, were painfully struck by a comparison between the private men of the two contending forces. While their own poor fellows, (they said,) were already ragged, and the best of them clad in flimsy threadbare clothes, with worse stockings and shoes, the Royal troops were tight and comfortable in their attire; and every man among them was provided with a thick nightcap to wear when asleep or off duty. Lord Dartmouth received, from one of his most regular correspondents, a letter remarking on the policy of Congress in having closed American ports against the introduction of Yorkshire woollens. If the rebels, (so this gentleman reported,) were obliged to keep the field during the winter, they would suffer much distress, if not destruction. He himself had seen advertisements in the newspapers asking for all the blankets that could be spared from people's beds throughout the country. This, however, would afford a very scanty and precarious resource for the army, since few civilians would find their patriotism warm enough to unclothe themselves without the prospect of being able to obtain a fresh