Page images
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

to make the city too hot for him, or make him abandon it, without running the risk of a general engage. ment in the open fields, Mud Island and Red. Bank, were left to be mortal thorns in the sides of the king's forces, where a few could do execution upon great numbers, and escape when they pleased with little injury to themselves. It will appear in the history of this campaign, that the Americans had other designs in giving up Philadelphia, than because they were not able to keep it. - It had been reported that the inhabitants of that city were determined to reduce it to alhes, rather than it should become a place of arms, and the centre of operation to British fleets and armies : but though this was proposed by some it was never agreed to. The Quakers at this time were very trcublesome to the colonists : some of their principal people were greatly attached to the royal cause, and would give no fecurity by word or writing for their behaviour. They would neither promise submission to the then governo' inent, nor engage to hold no correspondence with the king's forces. They even refused to confine themselves to their respective dwelling houses, and boldly appealing to the laws for redress and security ró their perfons, strongly reproached those who une der the pretence of afferting and protecting the liber. ties of the fubje&ts, had involved the whole continent in a civil war, and contention; and who ar the same time, in the most tyrannical manner, deprived them of their personal liberty, and of every security which they derived from the laws. It was replied, that the laws themselves, and all other considerations, must give way to public safety, in cases of great and emipent danger; that there was no new or particular


[ocr errors]

hardfhip in the prefent measure, which was justified by the practice of all states in similar circumstances that in England in its highest state of freedom, and under its happiest government, the habeas corpus law was suspended in cases of internal commotion, or the apprehension of foreign invasion, that there lule picion only was a fufficient ground for securing the persons of subjects, without regard to rank, quality, or any security they might propose to give for their peaceable behaviour, but that their situation was much more favourable, if their incorrigible obstinacy, their dangerous designs against the state, and their mortal enmity to the government, bad not precluded them from its benefits. They were not retained in person merely upon fuspicion, bowever strong and well grounded that was, and however justifiable the measures would be upon that ground only; it was immediately in their power tą return in the most unreftrained liberty to their babita. tions, only by complying with that very moderate. test of their principles, and conduct which was required, and the wing that obedience to government, and good disposition to the state, which every member of society owes to the community to which he belongs, as a return for the protection he receives. But that as they denied all allegiance to the state, they of course disclaimed its protection, and forfeited all the privileges of citizenship ; whilst by refusing every fecurity for their peaceable demeanour, they could only be considered as its most dangerous and determined enemies. As these gentlemen were un. çonquerable in their resolution not to submit to the proposed test, they were all sent to Virginia as a place. of security upon the approach of the royal army.


[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

When Lord Howe received intelligence of the suc. cess at Brandywine, and the determined progress of the army to Philadelphia, he took the most speedy and effectual meafures for conducting the fleet and transports round to the Delaware, not only to be at hand to concur in the active operations of the campaign, but to supply the army with provisions and stores, which he knew by this time would be indis. pensibly necessary. The voyage was intricate tedi. ous and dangerous, and nothing less than a skill and ability equal to that which was exerted in the conduct and managment of so great a number of ships, could have prevented the loss from being considerable.

The paffage to Philadelphia was yet impracticable, the licet drew up and anchored along the western or Pensylvania fore, from Ready-Island to Newcastle. Atter the British troops had taken possession of Philadelphia, their firft object was the erecting of batteries to command the river, both to prevent the intercourse of the American vefsels between their upper and lower posts, and to protect the city from any insult by water. The necessity and propriety of this measure became obvious as soon almost as it was determined upon. The day immediately after the arrival of the forces, the American frigate, Delaware, of 32 guns, anchored within five hundred yards of the unfinished batteries, and being seconded by ano. ther frigate, with some smaller vessels, they began and supported a very heavy cannonade for some hours, upon the batteries and the town. They did not however discover the judgment which their knowledge might have been supposed to afford them 3 for upon the falling back of the tide the Delaware


[ocr errors]

grounded, so that she could not be got off. This was soon perceived by the grenadiers, who brought their battalion field pieces to play upon her with so true an aim, and full effect, that the Delaware was obliged to strike her colours, and was boarded by an officer and a detachment of the grenadiers. General Cleveland profited by the effect of the battalion guns, by directing the whole fire of the batteries against the other vessels which were compelled to retire, with the loss of a schooner which was driven alhore.

The Americans had bestowed much labour and ex. pence to render the Delaware unnavigable; they had constructed great and numerous works to render the paffage to Philadelphia impracticable. In the profeClition of this design they had erected works and batteries, upon a flat low marshy island, or rather a bank of mud or faod, which had been raised and heaped up by the water near the junction of the Schuylkill and the Delaware, and which from its nature was called Mud Ifand. On the side opposite to New Jersey, at a place called Red Bank, they had also constructed a fort or redoubt, well planted with heavy cannon. In the deep navigable channel between and under the cover of these batteries, they had funk several ranges of frames, to which, from a fimilitude in the construction, they had given the French name of Chevaux de Frize, being composed of converse beams, firmly joined pointing in various directions, and strongly headed with iron. These were so ponderous and heavy, and funk in such a depth of water, as rendered it equally difficult for them to be weighed or cut through, and destructive to any ong ihip that should happen to strike upon


It was, however, impossible to attempt to remove these, or to open the channel till once the command of the shores : on both fides was fully obtained. About three miles farther down they had sunk orher ranges of these machines, and were conitructing other extensive works for their protection, which

though they were not yet finished, were in such for: : wardness as to be provided with artillery, and to com

inand their object. This fortification was erected on : the Jersey fide, at a place called Bellings Point. ----

These works and machines were further supported iby jeveral gallies mounting heavy connon, together with two floating batteries, a number of armed vefleis and small craft of various kinds, and some fire fhips. In fhort the Delaware feemed to teem with every defensive preparation which could render the navigation of the river impracticable to the feet, and exceedingly dangerous to all targe vessels that should attempt to approach Philadelphia.

The firit operation which was tried by the army was to dislodge the enemy from Billings Fort. This office was appointed to Colonel Stirling, who performed the service effe&tually. For the provincials retired as soon as they heard of his approach, spiked up the cannon, fet fire to the barracks, and abandoned the place. Captain Hammond of the Roebuck, with great difficulty, and some oppofition from the enemy, cut away, and weighed so much of the Chevaux de *Frize, as opened a narrow passage for the ships thro' the lower barriers. After the detachment which was sent upon this first exploit were returning from Jersev. another regiment was sent to meet them at Chester, in order to form a fufficient escort for a large convoy of provifions to the camp. Tlie army was

« PreviousContinue »