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thought that their royal brother of England had already got some value for his money. But, however joyful might be the sensations excited in the lesser capitals of Western Germany by the news that Germans had defeated and captured Englishmen, pride and satisfaction were by no means universal in London. The glory acquired by Colonel Rall, (said Edmund Burke,) had no charms for him ; nor had he learned to delight at find. ing a Fort Knyphausen in the heart of the British dominions.
Except for prisoners, the loss of the Americans was small. Colonel Markham, who went carefully over the ground when the action was concluded, saw very few of their dead bodies. The British never had the intention, - and in the heat of success did not feel the smallest inclination, - to end a gallant fight with a scene of butchery. A Pennsylvanian captain, who was taken early in the affair by the Forty-second Highlanders, published a lifelike account of what happened on the sixteenth of November, and the days thereupon ensuing. It is an account which Englishmen may read with pleasure. This was the first complete and crushing victory obtained by our troops since the commencement of a war which in their view was a rebellion. Military custom had long ago established humane, and often amicable, relations between conquerors and vanquished in the vicissitudes of a struggle conducted on both sides by regular European armies; but the notion that American insurgents possessed a title to friendly treatment,
1 Valuable testimony to the authority of this narrative has recently been made public. In 1822 Colonel Cadwalader, who had been second in command under Magaw, was requested by Timothy Pickering, another veteran of the Revolution, to write down his reminiscences of Fort Washington. The old man replied that, after forty-five years, his memory was dim. “ I shall however,” he said, “avail myself of a Statement, which I made in the year 1811, at the Request of a Friend of mine, formerly a Captain in the 3rd Pennsylvania Battalion which I commanded in the War of the Revolution, who was writing a book entitled, .Memoirs of a Life chiefly passed in Pennsylvania within the last Sixty Years.'” Colonel Cadwalader's letter was printed by the Historical Society of Pennsyl. vania in July 1901.
and fraternal hospitality, was very novel, and had never been statedly and officially recognised. On this point our officers had no specific orders to guide them. Each man acted in obedience to the dictates of his individual nature; and the result proved that there was plenty of right feeling, and honourable self-control, within the British ranks. The Pennsylvanian prisoners first came into the custody of a decent looking sergeant. He protected them from a Hessian who cursed them in bad English, and himself bestowed on them a friendly admonition in very broad Scotch. “Young men,” he said, “ye never should fight against your King.” “The little bustle,” (the author writes,)“ produced by our surrender was scarcely over, when a British officer, apparently of high rank, rode up at full gallop, exclaiming : 'What! Taking prisoners! Kill every man of them.' Although by this time there was none of that appearance of ferocity in the guard which would induce much fear that they would execute this command, I took off my hat saying: 'Sir, I put myself under your protection.' His manner was instantly softened. He met my salutation with an inclination of his body; and, after a civil question or two, as if to make amends for his sanguinary mandate, he rode off towards the fort, to which he had enquired his way.”
That was the measure of British ferocity and implacability. As the captives were passed on from one set of guardians to another, they sometimes got a surly or an insolent word; and the subalterns of a smart Light Infantry regiment were moved to irrepressible mirth by the appearance and accent of an unrefined and untidy militia officer. But for the most part the prisoners met with reasonable civility, and very substantial kindness. Soldiers brought them a constant supply of drinking-water, at great trouble to themselves. Officers shared with them a small and precarious ration during that period of destitution which immediately succeeds a battle; and sent them out generous portions from the mess-tables when the tumbrels
had come up from the rear, and viands were again abundant. The gentleman to whose charge they were finally entrusted was of a singularly amiable and chivalrous character. Lieutenant Becket, (for that was his name,) was courteous himself; and his example diffused an atmosphere of courtesy around him. No one within his hearing addressed the prisoners as "rebels;” and, if he had occasion to distinguish in conversation between the belligerents, he invariably made use of the expressions "your people,” and “our people.” When the Americans were formed up on the road to New York, between two lines of British infantry:"Come, gentlemen," he said ; "we are all soldiers. To the right face! March !” and he walked the first half mile on the flank of the column with the air of a good-humoured comrade. At the end of their journey, as they drew near the city, they were encountered by a mob of disreputable women from the cantonments, who were enthusiastic and turbulent partisans of the cause which, after their fashion, they served. They crowded in upon the prisoners, calling out to know which of them was Washington, and assailing them with volleys of ribaldry; until a disgusted, - and under the circumstances, a laudably plainspoken, - British colonel came to the rescue, and put the Amazons to rout.2
Lieutenant Becket informed his prisoners that he was forcibly struck with the poor condition of their
1 “Mr. Becket applied to a gentleman on horseback, who had superintended the interment of the dead, to know whether he had met with the body of an officer in the uniform I wore, as I was anxious for the fate of a brother who was missing. With much delicacy, addressing himself to me, he replied; "No, Sir, we buried no one with linen fine enough to have been your brother.' ... An officer, wrapped up in a camlet cloak, young, and of very pleasing address, who had been talking with Becket, came to me observing that the evening was very cool, and asked if such weather was usual with us at this season of the year. He expressed his hope that I had been well treated. “As well as possible,' I replied, ' by some; and as ill by others. 'I am extremely sorry for it: ' he said ; but there are rascals in all services.'" In the British regiments there were not many such ; and those of no very deep dye.
Pennsylvanian Memoirs; chapter viii.
troops, the badness of their muskets, and the insuffi. ciency, in every respect, of their appointments; and he remarked that a gentleman serving in their army required more than an ordinary degree of fortitude to take the field under such disadvantages. But everything is a matter of comparison; and the garrison at Fort Washington bore less resemblance to a flock of indifferently armed and ill-clothed irregulars than any other equally large section of the Provincial forces. The American Commander-in-Chief acknowledged that he had lost his most carefully trained, and most expensively equipped, regiments; a considerable proportion of his artillery; and some of the very best arms he had. He witnessed the depressing scene from a high bank at Fort Lee, on the opposite side of the Hudson river," with keen self-reproach; although he knew in his heart that the fault was not all his own.
No plea of having acted under superior orders was put forward in the official report of the affair which he transmitted to the President of Congress : but a sense of personal wrong is indicated, — not angrily, and very sadly, - in a private letter to his brother. He there confessed that the hope of a successful termination to the campaign had been alive in his mind until Fort Washington fell. General Howe, (he said,) but for that unfortunate occurrence, would have had a poor tale to tell, and might have found it difficult to reconcile the people of England to the conquest of a few pitiful islands, none of which had ever been really defensible against a power whose fleet could at any moment surround, and render them unapproachable. “I solemnly protest,” (Washington exclaimed,) "that a pecuniary reward of twenty thousand pounds a year would not induce me to undergo what I do; and after all, perhaps, to lose my character; as it is impossible, under such a variety of distressing circumstances, to conduct matters agreeably to public expectation, or even to the expectation of those who employ me; as they
1 General Ileath's Memoirs; November 16, 1776.
will not make proper allowances for the difficulties their own errors have occasioned.” 1
Twenty thousand pounds a year would have made Washington just twice as rich as the then richest man in America; but such a prize would have small temptation to one who, (as he wrote in this very letter,) looked for no higher reward than to sit once more in the peaceable enjoyment of his own vine and fig tree, when the war should be over, and the country saved. That peaceful hour was now indefinitely postponed ; and there was grave reason to doubt if it ever would arrive. The loss of Fort Washington, though not in itself a catastrophe, was one of those calamities which launched the weaker party on the downward road that almost inevitably leads to ruin; and, (to make the matter more serious,) that portion of the British army which headed the advance, was commanded by a general of a higher stamp than any whom the Americans had yet encountered.
Lord Cornwallis was an English aristocrat of the finest type. Over a vast space of time, and in many lands, he served the State in war, in politics, in diplomacy, and in high administration. Whether or not he was exceptionally clever was a question which he had never in his life considered ; any more than he would have asked himself if he was brave and honest. Nor did his countrymen come to any very definite conclusion as to the pre-eminence and rarity of his abilities. It was enough for them that he was a man of immense and varied experience ; careful and industrious; modest in success and equable in adversity ; enlightened, tolerant, and humane; contemptuous of money, and indifferent to the outward badges of honour. What a consular of
1 Washington to the President of Congress ; General Greene's Quarters, November 16, 1776. To John Augustine Washington ; Hackensac, No. vember 19, 1776.
2 When, in the war against Tippoo Sahih, he took the field as Gov. ernor-General, Cornwallis found occasion to spend, from his own resources, near thirty thousand pounds in eighteen months; and yet he gave up his claim to not much less than fifty thousand pounds of prize money, which