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CHAP. VII. seys; but, apprehending the possibility of his 1776. returning suddenly, and endeavouring by a
rapid movement, to execute the original plan of getting in his rear, he observed great caution; and maintained his position about the White Plains, until he was assured by the information given by parties detached to watch the enemy, and harass him on his march, that the movement towards King's bridge was not a feint.
As on the first movement of the British army towards New York, general Washington had perceived the necessity of throwing a part of his troops into New Jersey, should the design of the enemy be as he apprehended, to change the scene of action, a council of war was immédiately called. In this council it was determined unanimously, that, should general Howe continue his march towards New York, all the troops raised on the west side of the Hudson, should cross that river, to be afterwards fol. lowed by the eastern troops, should the operations of the enemy render it necessary. For the preservation of the high lands about the North river, three thousand men were to be stationed at Peck's-Kill, and in the passes of the mountains.
In a letter to congress, communicating the present movement of the enemy, and the de. termination of the council, the general said, “ I cannot indulge the idea that general Howe, supposing him to be going to New York,
means to close the campaign, and to sit down CHAP. VIII. without attempting something more.
I think 1776. it highly probable, and almost certain, that he will make a descent with part of his troops into the Jerseys, and, as soon as I am satisfied that the
present manæuvre is real, and not a feint, I shall use all the means in my power to forward a part of our force to counteract his designs.
“ I expect the enemy will bend their force against fort Washington, and invest it imme. diately. From some advices it is an object that will attract their earliest attention."
He also addressed a letter to mr. Livingston, the
governor of New Jersey, advising him of the movement made by the enemy, and giving it as his decided opinion that general Howe would not content himself with investing fort Washington, but would incontestably invade the Jerseys. He urged him to put the militia in the best possible condition to re-enforce the continental army, and take the place of the new levies, a term designating a body of men between militia and regulars, raised under the resolution of congress to serve until the first of December, and who could not be depended on to continue with the army one day longer than the time for which they were engaged. He also pressed, very earnestly, the removal from the seacoast and the neighbourhood of New York, of all the stock and other provisions of which the enemy might avail himself.
Immediate intelligence of this movement was 1776. likewise given to general Greene, who com
manded in the Jerseys, and his attention was particularly called to fort Washington. He was also advised to increase his magazines about Princeton, and diminish those near New York, as experience had demonstrated the extreme difficulty of removing them on the advance of the enemy. Some apprehension was also entertained that Howe would attempt to cross at Dobbs' ferry, and envelop the troops about fort Lee as well as fort Washington. Of this too general Greene was advised, who thereupon drew in his parties from about Amboy, and posted a body of troops on the heights to defend the passage at Dobbs' ferry.
As the British army approached King's bridge, three of their ships of war passed up the North river, by the forts Washington and Lee, notwithstanding their fire, and notwithstanding the additional obstructions which had been placed in the channel.
On being informed of this, another letter was addressed to general Greene, in which it was stated, that this fact was so plain a proof of the inefficacy of all the obstructions thrown in the river, as to justify a change in the dispositions which had been made. “If,” proceeded the letter, “ we cannot prevent vessels from passing up, and the enemy are possessed of the surrounding country, what valuable purpose can it answer, to attempt to hold a post from
which the expected benefit cannot be derived ? CHAP. VIL I am, therefore, inclined to think it will not be 1776. prudent to hazard the men and stores at Mount Washington; but as you are on the spot, I leave it to you to give such orders respecting the evacuation of the place, as you may think most advisable; and so far revoke the orders given colonel Magaw to defend it to the last.”
He, in this letter, repeated his instructions to drive the stock, and destroy the hay, grain, and other provisions, which the inhabitants would not remove from the coast.
" The enemy,” he added, " have drawn great relief, from the forage and provisions, they have found in the country, and which our tenderness had spared. You will do well to prevent their receiving any fresh supplies, by destroying it, if it cannot be removed. Experience has shown that a contrary conduct is not of the least advantage to the poor inhabitants, from whom all their effects of every kind are taken without distinction, and without satisfaction.”
Measures were now taken to cross the North river with the troops which had been raised on its western side, and general Washington himself determined to accompany that division of the army. The eastern regiments remained on the eastern side of the North river, under the command of general Lee, who had orders to join the commander in chief, if the enemy should move the whole, or the greater part of
CHAP. VIII. their force, to the west of the Hudson. In the 1776. mean time, as it was yet thought possible that
the enemy might strike at this division of the army, he was advised to retire further into the country, and to take possession of the strong grounds behind the Croton, at Pine's bridge.
Having visited the posts about Peck's-Kill in the highlands, and made all the arrangements
in his power for their defence, an object And general always deemed of the utmost importance, Washington por this part general Washington passed the North river crosses the in the rear of the troops designed to act immeNov 13. diately in the Jerseys, and joined general
Greene at his quarters near fort Lee.
From too great a confidence in the strength of the post at fort Washington, and a hope that by still further increasing the obstructions in the North river, the original object for which that place had been fortified, might yet be obtained; from an unwillingness, too, further to discourage the army by an evacuation of posts, general Greene had not withdrawn the garrison under the discretionary orders he had received on that subject; but still indulged a hope that the post might be maintained; or, if its situation should become desperate, that means might then be found to transport the troops across the river to the Jersey shore, which was defended by fort Lee.
Fort Washington is on a very high piece of rocky ground near the North river, very diffi