Imágenes de páginas

The Aeed of money


most service, and become inured to danger. Knowing how indispensable were such troops to lead on those which were raw and undisciplined, Washington had them paraded and invited to re-enlist. It was a difficult task to persuade them. They were haggard with fatigue, and hardship, and privation of every kind ; and their hearts yearned for home. By the persuasions of their officers, however, and a bounty of ten dollars, the greater proportion of those from the eastward were induced to remain six weeks longer.

Hard money was necessary in this emergency. How was it to be furnished? The military chest was incompetent. On the 30th, Washington wrote by express to Robert Morris, the patriot financier at Philadelphia, whom he knew to be eager that the blow should be fol

“If you could possibly collect a sum, if it were but one hundred, or one hundred and fifty pounds, it would be of service."

Morris received the letter in the evening. He was at his wit's end to raise the sum, for hard money was scarce. Fortunately a wealthy Quaker in this moment of exigency supplied “the sinews of war,” and early the next morning the money was forwarded by the express.

At this critical moment, too, Washington re

lowed up.

ceived a letter from a committee of Congress, transmitting him resolves of that body dated the 27th of December, investing him with military powers quite dictatorial. “Happy is it for this country," write the committee, "that the general of their forces can safely be intrusted with the most unlimited power, and neither personal security, liberty, or property, be in the least degree endangered thereby."*

Washington's acknowledgment of this great mark of confidence was noble and characteristic. “I find Congress have done me the honor to intrust me with powers,


military capacity, of the highest nature and almost unlimited extent. Instead of thinking myself freed from all civil obligations by this mark of their confidence, I shall constantly bear in mind that, as the sword was the last resort for the preservation of our liberties, so it ought to be the first thing laid aside when those liberties are firmly established."

* Am. Archives, 5th Series, iii., 1510.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors][merged small]

Howe Hears of the Affair at Trenton-Cornwallis Sent

Back to the Jerseys-Reconnoitering Expedition of
Reed-His Exploits-Washington in Peril at Tren-
ton-Reinforced by Troops under Cadwalader and
Mifflin-Position of his Men-Cornwallis at Trenton
-Repulsed at the Assunpink-The American Camp
Menaced-Night March of Washington--Affair at
Princeton-Death of Mercer-Rout of British Troops
-Pursued by Washington-Cornwallis at Princeton
-Bafiled and Perplexed—Washington at Morris-
town-His System of Annoyance—The Tables
Turned upon the Enemy.



ENERAL HOWE was taking his ease

in winter quarters at New York, wait-
ing for the freezing of the Delaware

to pursue his triumphant march to Philadelphia, when tidings were brought him of the surprise and capture of the Hessians at Trenton. "That three old established regiments of a people who made war their profession, should lay down their arms to a ragged and undisci

plined militia, and that with scarcely any loss on either side,” was a matter of amazement. He instantly stopped Lord Cornwallis, who was on the point of embarking for England, and sent him back in all haste to resume the command in the Jerseys.

The ice in the Delaware impeded the crossing of the American troops, and gave the British time to draw in their scattered cantonments and assemble their whole force at Princeton. While his troops were yet crossing, Washington sent out Colonel Reed to reconnoiter the position and movements of the enemy and obtain information. Six of the Philadelphia light horse, spirited young fellows, but who had never seen service, volunteered to accompany Reed. They patrolled the country to the very vicinity of Princeton, but could collect no information from the inhabitants ; who were harassed, terrified, and bewildered by the ravaging marches to and fro of friend and enemy.

Emerging from a wood almost within view of Princeton, they caught sight, from a rising ground, of two or three red-coats passing from time to time from a barn to a dwelling-house. Here must be an outpost. Keeping the barn in a line with the house so as to cover their approach, they dashed up to the latter without being discovered, and surrounded it. Twelve Cornwallis at Princeton


British dragoons were within, who, though well armed, were so panic-stricken that they surrendered without making defense. A commissary, also, was taken ; the sergeant of the dragoons alone escaped. Colonel Reed and his six cavaliers returned in triumph to headquarters. Important information was obtained from their prisoners. Lord Cornwallis had joined General Grant the day before at Princeton, with a reinforcement of chosen troops. They had now seven or eight thousand men, and were pressing wagons for a march upon Trenton.*

Cadwalader, stationed at Crosswicks, about seven miles distant, between Bordentown and Trenton, sent intelligence to the same purport, received by him from a young gentleman who had escaped from Princeton.

Word, too, was brought from other quarters, that General Howe was on the march with a thousand light troops with which he had landed at Amboy.

The situation of Washington was growing critical. The enemy were beginning to advance their large pickets towards Trenton. Everything indicated an approaching attack. The force with him was small; to retreat across the river would destroy the dawn of hope awakened

* Life of Reed, i., 282.

VOL. IV.-2

« AnteriorContinuar »