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message from Von Donop, some of Rall's subordinates, both young and old, implored him to commence intrenching without delay; but they got nothing from him except some clumsy banter. Major Von Dechow, who commanded the Knyphausen regiment, was an old officer of Frederic the Great. Though severely wounded at Fort Washington, he had dragged himself back to take a share with his comrades in the perils which he foresaw to be impending. His earnest but respectful expostulations were encountered, on the part of Colonel Rall, with a bad imitation of those epigrams that were frequent in the mouth of the great captain under whom Von Dechow had formerly served. A superior officer's satire, however pointless, does not admit of retort; and silence was imposed upon proud and gallant men by the implication that they were afraid of a parcel of cowardly rebels, whom a bayonetcharge over open ground would at once send to the right-about. Lieutenant Colonel Scheffer, of the Von Lossberg regiment, was actually worried into a fit of illness by the folly that he was compelled to witness, and by the prospect of a calamity which hourly grew more definite and inevitable.
The river in front of the Hessian position was hostile water. At the cardinal moment of the war a large portion of our naval, as well as of our military, strength had been diverted from that central and vital enterprise on which the two combined services had hitherto been engaged, and sent on a distant and subsidiary expedition to Rhode Island. The full unwisdom of that policy now became apparent. There were British schooners and gunboats lying superfluous and useless in Narragansett Bay which ought to have been employed, on very active service indeed, between the right and left banks of the Delaware. Lord Howe, with his brother's
1 “Let them come,” said Rall. “We want no trenches. We will go at them with the bayonet.” “ Colonel," answered Von Dechow, "an intrenchment costs nothing. If it does not help, it can do no harm.” And then he held his peace.
army to help him on land, might easily ere this have broken up the chevaux-de-frise which guarded the course of the stream at a point forty miles below Trenton. Much harder tasks have not seldom proved to be within the competence of the Royal navy; and, when once our smaller vessels had penetrated above the obstructions in the neighbourhood of Philadelphia, the river would have been our own. English lieutenants and senior midshipmen, - the like of Edward Pellew, and the other young fellows who had handled the sloops and bomb-ketches under fire at Valcour Island, — would very soon have sunk or taken all the craft that floated on the upper reaches of the Delaware, with decisive effect on the result of the campaign. It might indeed be objected that the current of a river only a few hundred yards wide was a dangerous cruising-ground, as long as one of the shores continued to be in the occupation of the enemy; but a practical refutation of that argument was afforded by an American sailor. If the western bank of the Delaware remained in the power of General Washington, the eastern bank was strongly held by the Royal forces. And yet Commodore Seymour, of the Continental navy, ranged freely up and down with his row-galleys and gondolas; landed wherever he chose; searched suspected houses; made prisoners of formidable Tory partisans, and expelled the German outposts from every ferry, quay, farm, and village that was situated within cannon-range of his decks. 1
Nothing British or Loyalist could slip across to Pennsylvania except by stealth, and at imminent risk of death or captivity. On the other hand parties of
1 The Loyalists of Burlington, through the mouth of their Tory mayor, entreated Colonel Von Donop to take away his troops, as otherwise the American flotilla would proceed to a bombardment of the town. Von Donop hesitated to comply with their request ; and Commodore Seymour discharged a few round-shot, which injured no one, but effectually cleared the place of the Hessians. This Mayor of Burlington was Mr. John Lawrence, the father of James Lawrence who, as Captain of the Chesapeake, was killed in her duel with the Shannon.
Americans, - thirty, seventy, and, on occasion, even four hundred strong, — boated over to New Jersey as openly as if they were a troop of graziers repairing in time of peace to a mart or a cattle-fair; attacked outlying pickets; cut off foragers; and killed dragoons who were carrying messages from one Royal commander to another. These roving bands were supplied with information, and forewarned of danger, by Jersey farmers and townsmen who already had had more than enough of their German champions and defenders. Rall's correspondence with Colonel Von Donop at Bordentown, with General Grant at New Brunswick, and with General Leslie at Princeton, -whenever he could contrive to get a letter through, - soon became a doleful record of alarms, anxieties, and misfortunes. At length, after a pair of orderlies had lost, the one his horse, and the other his life, Rall sent an officer, escorted by a hundred men and a piece of artillery, to admonish Leslie that communication between Trenton and Princeton would soon be impracticable unless the wing of a regiment was stationed at the intermediate village of Maidenhead. It was a signal evidence that the use of metaphors, often misleading in politics, may sometimes be absolutely fatal in war. Before ever the packet, bearing Sir William Howe's despatch of the twentieth of December, had got past Sandy Hook on her way to England, the brigade at Trenton, which that roseate epistle pictured as one of a strong and continuous chain of posts erected for the protection of a loyal district, was already, in fact and in truth, a beleaguered garrison abandoned to its own resources in the midst of a bitterly disaffected population.
Washington was apprised of all that took place on the opposite side of the Delaware. The collection of secret intelligence, throughout the war, was a department which he kept in his own hands, and to which he devoted everything that he possessed of industry, acuteness, and discretion. In the utmost penury of the Philadelphian treasury, — when the paper issued by
Congress had become so discredited that a pound of sugar cost fifty shillings, and a single garment from a tailor's shop sold for a thousand dollars in currency, Washington always made a point of having by him a small supply of hard money to pay for early and accurate information about the movements and, if possible, the intentions of the enemy. He doled out that precious metal to his officers, all the continent over, in sums of twenty, and twenty-five, guineas at a time. He sent them phials of invisible ink for confidential correspondence, and directions how to use it; together with minute instructions as to the individuals who should be employed, and the assumed names by which they were severally called. The methods and doings, and even the identity, of some among his most trusted agent were known to himself, and to himself alone. Their personal risk was awful; for a detected spy, in either camp, suffered instant, certain, and shameful death, in obedience to the stern military code which all nations equally recognised. But there was a danger which American citizens feared yet worse than the gallows. It was indispensable for them, (so Washington himself expressed it,) to bear the suspicion of being thought inimical to the national cause; nor was it in their power to assert their innocence, because their future usefulness would be destroyed if once they disclosed themselves as partisans of the Revolution. These men implicitly relied upon their general's promise that, when the war was over, their true story should be made known to
1 The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography for April 1901; page 21.
? Washington to the President of Congress, August 25, 1778; and September 4, 1778. To Benjamin Tallmadge, September 24, 1779 ; and again February 5, 1780. These entries are specimens. References to the same subject in Washington's letters are far too numerous to quote. The receipts and expenditure on Secret Services are carefully entered in his accounts. During the eighteen months which followed the evacuation of Boston he disbursed under this head some hfteen hundred pounds.
3 Washington to Governor Livingston; Valley Forge, January 20,
the world, and that, if they perished in his service, he would see their memory righted.'
Of such was John Honeyman; a veteran who had been in Wolfe's body-guard at the battle of Quebec, but who had convinced himself that the interests of America were not, at the present juncture, served by Sir William Howe and Governor Tryon, and still less by Lieutenant General Von Heister and his Hessians. Honeyman, whose real sentiments were carefully concealed, passed among his country neighbours by the appellation of the Tory Traitor. He gained his livelihood as a butcher and cattle-dealer; and during the third week of December he was constantly in and around Trenton, procuring beeves from the farmers, and bringing them into the town for slaughter. When he had seen and heard enough to form a judgement, he got himself captured by some American scouts, who strapped him to a horse, and carried him to the head-quarters of their army at Newtown. There the Commander-in-Chief examined him in private for the space of half an hour, and then ordered him to be imprisoned and brought before a court-martial on the morrow; but, when morning came, Honeyman had vanished. Eighteen months
1 Lafayette gradually acquired a personal influence over the American soldiery only second to that of Washington. In September 1781 he persuaded one Morgan, a private in a New Jersey regiment, to take his life in his hands, enter Yorktown in the character of a deserter, and learn what he could concerning the situation of the garrison. Morgan consented with great reluctance. “ He told the general that he would go, on one condition ; which was that, in case any disaster should happen to him, the general should make the true state of the case known, and have the particulars published in the New Jersey gazettes, that no reproach might come upon his family and friends."
Lafayette assentel. Morgan did his errand, and returned safe, bring. ing over no fewer than seven real deserters with him. Lafayette offered him money and promotion ; but he refused both. He believed himself, (he said,) to be a good soldier. He might not make so good a sergeant ; and he preferred to remain where he would be the most useful to his country. Since, however, the general wished to oblige him, he had a favour to ask. While he was away, some one had taken his gun. He set great store by it, and would be particularly pleased to have it once again. Nearly half a century afterwards Lafayette related the story as an anecdote in every respect characteristic of the Revolutionary soldier.