CHAPTER XIV. THE WAR IN THE MIDDLE STATES AND ON THE SEA

BATTLE OF LONG ISLAND. - When Howe sailed from Boston (in March, 1776), he went to Halifax in Nova Scotia. But Washington was sure New York would be attacked, so he moved the Continental army to that city and took position on the hills back of Brooklyn on Long Island.

He was not mistaken, for to New York harbor in June came General Howe, and in July Clinton from his defeat at Charleston, and Admiral Howe [1] with troops from England. Thus reinforced, General Howe landed on Long Island in August, and drove the Americans from their outposts, back to Brooklyn. [2] Washington now expected an assault, but Howe remembered Bunker Hill and made ready to besiege the Americans, whereupon two nights after the battle Washington crossed with the army to Manhattan Island. [3]

WASHINGTON'S RETREAT. - Washington left a strong force under Putnam in the heart of New York city, and stationed his main army along Harlem Heights. Howe crossed to Manhattan and landed behind Putnam, [4] who was thus forced to leave his guns and tents, and flee to Harlem Heights, where Howe attacked Washington the next day and was repulsed.

So matters stood for nearly a month, when Howe attempted to go around the east end of Washington's line, and thus forced him to retreat to White Plains. Baffled in an attack at this place, Howe went back to New York and carried Fort Washington by storm, taking many prisoners.

Washington meantime had crossed the Hudson to New Jersey, leaving General Charles Lee with seven thousand men in New York state. He now ordered Lee to join him [5]; but Lee disobeyed, and Washington, closely pursued by the British, retreated across New Jersey.

THE VICTORY AT TRENTON, DECEMBER 26, 1776. - On the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River, Washington turned at bay, and having at last received some reënforcements, he recrossed the Delaware on Christmas night in a blinding snowstorm, marched nine miles to Trenton, surprised a body of Hessians, captured a thousand prisoners, and went back to Pennsylvania.

Washington now proposed to follow up this victory with other attacks. But a new difficulty arose, for the time of service of many of the Eastern troops would expire on January 1. These men were therefore asked to serve six weeks longer, and were offered a bounty of ten dollars a man.

ROBERT MORRIS SENDS MONEY. - Many agreed to serve, but the paymaster had no money. Washington therefore pledged his own fortune, and appealed to Robert Morris at Philadelphia. [6] "If it be possible, Sir," he wrote, "to give us assistance, do it; borrow money while it can be done, we are doing it upon our private credit." Morris responded at once, and on New Year's morning, 1777, went from house to house, roused his friends from their beds to borrow money from them, and early in the day sent fifty thousand dollars.

BATTLE OF PRINCETON, JANUARY 3, 1777. - Washington crossed again to Trenton, whereupon Lord Cornwallis hurried up with a British army, and shut in the Americans between his forces and the Delaware. But Washington slipped out, went around Cornwallis, and the next morning attacked three British regiments at Princeton and beat them. He then took possession of the hills at Morristown, where he spent the rest of the winter.

THE ATTEMPT TO CUT OFF NEW ENGLAND. - The British plan for the campaign of 1777 was to seize Lake Champlain and the Hudson River and so cut off New England from the Middle States. To carry out this plan, (1) General Burgoyne was to come down from Canada, (2) Howe was to go up the Hudson from New York and join Burgoyne at Albany, and (3) St. Leger was to go from Lake Ontario down the Mohawk to Albany. [7]

ORISKANY. - Hearing of the approach of St. Leger, General Herkimer of the New York militia gathered eight hundred men and hurried to the relief of Fort Stanwix. Near Oriskany, about six miles from the fort, he fell into an ambuscade of British and Indians, and a fierce hand-to-hand fight ensued, till the Indians fled and the British, forced to follow, left the Americans in possession of the field, too weak to pursue.

Just at this time the garrison of the fort made a sortie against part of the British army, captured their camp, and carried a quantity of supplies and their flags [8] back to the fort.

When news of Oriskany reached Schuyler, the patriot general commanding in the north, he called for a volunteer to lead a force to relieve Fort Stanwix. Arnold responded, and with twelve hundred men hurried westward, and by a clever ruse [9] forced St. Leger to raise the siege and flee to Montreal.

BENNINGTON. - Burgoyne set out in June, captured Ticonderoga, and advanced to the upper Hudson. As he came southward, the sturdy farmers of Vermont and New York began to gather on his flank, and collected at Bennington many horses and large stores of food and ammunition. As Burgoyne needed horses, he sent a force of Hessians to attack Bennington. But Stark, with his Green Mountain Boys and New Hampshire militia, met the Hessians six miles from town, surrounded them on all sides, beat them, and took seven hundred prisoners and quantities of guns and some cannon (August 16).

SARATOGA. - These defeats were serious blows to Burgoyne, around whose army the Americans had been gathering. He decided, however, to fight, crossed the Hudson, and about the middle of September attacked the Americans at Bemis Heights, and again on the same ground early in October. [10] He was beaten in both battles and on October 17 was forced to surrender at Saratoga.