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THREE weeks after the British evacuation of Boston Washington left Cambridge for New York, where he arrived April 13, 1776. The strength of the Tories
The scene of in the city caused him no little alarm and he cor
war shifted rectly concluded that this would be the next point to the
Hudson, of British attack. Having failed in the attempt
1776 to coerce New England, the British ministry now had two courses open to them: one was to carry on a naval war entirely, blockade the coast, cut off all trade and intercourse with the outside world, and thus bring the colonies to terms; the other, which was the one adopted, was to conquer the country by military force. The leading military men in England objected to this plan from the first and considered it hopeless, but the ministry persisted in their determination to whip the colonies into obedience. The plan of campaign was to occupy New York City and the line of the Hudson River and thus cut New England off from the support of the middle and southern colonies.
The effort of the ministry to recruit an army in England did not meet with much enthusiasm and it was soon evident that foreign troops would have to be hired.
Hessian These were finally procured from half a dozen troops sent petty German princes who were in the habit of hiring out their subjects to pay their debts. Nearly 30,000 soldiers were procured from this source, 12,000 of them being furnished by the Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel. Hence the German troops were usually spoken of in America as Hes
sians. Over a third of them never returned to their native land. Some were killed, but most of those who were captured settled down quietly after the war and became American citizens.
General Howe embarked his troops at Halifax June 7, and arrived off Sandy Hook three weeks later. His brother, Plan of Lord Howe, arrived from England a few days campaign later in command of a naval force, and with terms of conciliation which he was to offer the Americans. As his flagship approached the American coast he heard the fire of guns celebrating the adoption by Congress of the Declaration of Independence. He sent a letter to “George Washington, Esq.” which the latter refused to receive because his proper title was not recognized. A few weeks later he had a conference with three commissioners appointed by Congress, John Adams, Rutledge, and Franklin, but negotiations looking to peace were now utterly futile.
In August operations against New York City were begun. The plan was for General Howe to seize New York and get control of the lower Hudson, while General Carleton was to come down from Canada, recapture Ticonderoga, and seize the line of the upper Hudson. General Howe had with him about 25,000 British and Hessian soldiers, while Washington had only 18,000 badly organized and poorly equipped men. Howe also had a strong naval force to assist him, while Washington had no means of controlling the waters about the city. The American forces were distributed in New York, on Long Island, and in the forts along the Hudson. General Putnam, with 9000 men, was intrenched on Brooklyn Heights, and as this point commanded New York City, it was selected as the first point of attack by the British.
In the battle of Long Island, August 27, 1776, the British advanced in three columns. One column attacked the American right commanded by William Alexander of New
Jersey, commonly known as Lord Stirling; another column attacked the American left commanded by General Sullivan; while about half the army commanded by
Battle of General Howe in person, and accompanied by Long Island, Clinton, Percy, and Cornwallis, made a long August 27, circuit around the American left by way of the Jamaica Road and assaulted Sullivan on the flank and rear.
After the rout of Sullivan, Stirling had a desperate fight to prevent his whole command from being captured. He himself was taken prisoner, but his command succeeded in fighting its way back to the works held by Putnam. In this struggle Smallwood's Maryland brigade did valiant service and won the honors of the day. After the battle Washington reënforced the garrison at Brooklyn Heights, expecting that it would be stormed by Howe; but as the latter seemed to be settling down to a regular siege, and as there was great danger that the British ships might at any time come up into East River and cut off his retreat, he decided to withdraw. On August 29, under Washington's personal direction the retreat to New York was successfully accomplished.
With the British army holding Brooklyn Heights and the navy in both rivers, New York could not long be held by the Americans. In fact certain military critics New York have censured Washington severely for making City ocany attempt to hold either Brooklyn or New York, but they overlook the fact that he was September conducting a political as well as a military cam- 15, 1770 paign, and that he could not afford to give up New York without a fight. On September 15 Howe crossed over from Brooklyn, landing at Kip's Bay, and threw a line across Manhattan Island about where Thirty-fourth Street now runs. Washington had already withdrawn most of his troops to Harlem Heights, but Putnam, who had been left in New York with 4000 men, barely had time to escape. On the sixteenth, the British attacked the American lines at Harlem Heights, but the attack was repulsed with the loss of 60 Americans and 300 British.
On the twelfth of October, General Howe took the greater part of his army up East River nine miles to Throg's Neck, intending to get in Washington's rear. But Washington quickly concentrated his whole army at White Plains, abandoning everything on Manhattan Island except Fort Washington. Howe was thus completely baffled, but on October 28 he stormed an outpost with the loss of 229 men, while the Americans lost only 140. This affair is sometimes spoken of as the battle of White Plains. Three days later Washington retired to North Castle, where he took up such a strong position that Howe gave up all idea of attacking him. The British occupation of New York continued until the close of the war in 1783. The Tories at last had a place of refuge and they came hither in large numbers not only from New York but from the other colonies.
Carleton, who was to advance from Canada, had not met with much success. After the defeat of the Americans at
Quebec, Arnold had conducted the retreat, conCarleton's advance testing every step of the way. In order to checked by prevent Carleton from gaining control of Lake Arnold
Champlain, he cut the timber from the forest, constructed a fleet of sixteen vessels, and took his stand at Valcour's Island. When Carleton forced him from his position after several hours of desperate fighting on October 11, Arnold retired to Crown Point, where he was overtaken before landing and another fight occurred. He managed to land his men, however, and marched through the woods to Ticonderoga. When Carleton arrived before that fortress, he thought that it was too strong to be taken and, as the season was growing late, he retired to Canada, greatly to the surprise of both friend and foe.
When Washington withdrew from Harlem Heights he
left, as we have already seen, a garrison at Fort Washington. There was also a garrison in Fort Lee, directly across the river in New Jersey. The disposition of his other forces was as follows : General Charles Lee Fort Wash
ington taken was in command at North Castle, with 7000 men; by the General Putnam was sent over to the Jersey side British,
Nov. 16, with 5000 men and stationed at Hackensack; 1776 while General Heath was stationed with 3000 at Peekskill with instructions to strongly fortify West Point.
The British navy now succeeded in passing Forts Washington and Lee, and there was no longer any use in attempting to hold them. Washington left instructions with Greene to abandon them when it should be deemed advisable, and went up the river to superintend the fortifications at West Point. Greene, however, received instructions from Congress not to abandon Fort Washington except under the direst necessity. He therefore strengthened the garrison. On November 16 Howe took the fort by storm, capturing 3000 of the best troops in the American army. Washington had returned to Fort Lee and was an eyewitness of the engagement. He immediately ordered General Lee to bring his troops over to the Jersey side, but Lee ignored the order and when Howe crossed the Hudson, Greene had to evacuate Fort Lee.
Washington now retired to Newark, urging Lee to follow with all haste. Lee's conduct at this time was outrageous, but there were many men in Congress who considered him a great military genius, and
retires Washington had to put up with him. Lee delib- across the
w Delaware, erately held aloof, hoping that the retreat would
Dec. 8, 1776 discredit Washington and that he would be appointed to succeed him. Meanwhile, through the expirations of enlistments and through desertions, Washington's army was dwindling away, and when he crossed the Delaware near Trenton on December 8, he had left only 3000 men.