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I have access to the original (1784) published text of this document via a limited edition Canadian reprint, as well as a copy of the 1844 American edition. I would have preferred to present the original, but the Canadian edition is not a facsimile. So this text follows the 1844 edition, which includes some silent, but apparently minor editorial additions, changes and revisions. (Including an annoying habit of modernizing spelling inconsistently. For example, "sergeant" and "serjeant" are intermixed at random. On the other hand, the inconsistant spelling of Captain Diemar/Deimar's name must be blamed on Simcoe himself.)
My standard Editor's Notes apply.
[p13] The writer of these Memoirs has been induced to print them by a variety of reasons, among which the following are included. Actions erroneously attributed to others may be restored to those who really performed them: His own memory may be renewed, and preserved in their bosoms, whose patronage and confidence he acknowledges with pride and gratitude; while, at the same time, he bears testimony to the merits of those excellent officers and soldiers whom it was his good fortune to command, during the late war in America: a war which he always considered as forced upon Great Britain, and in which he served from principle. Events, however unfortunate, can neither alter its nature nor cancel his opinion. Had he supposed it to have been unjust, he would have resigned his commission; for no true soldier and servant of his country will ever admit that a British officer can divest himself of the duties of a citizen, or in a civil contest is bound to support the cause his conscience rejects.
The command of a light corps, or, as it is termed, the service of a partisan, is generally esteemed the best mode of instruction for those who aim at higher stations; as it gives an opportunity of exemplifying professional acquisitions, fixes the habit of self-dependance for resources, and obliges to that prompt decision which in the common rotation of duty subordinate officers can seldom exhibit, yet without which none can be qualified for any trust of importance. To attain this employment was therefore an early object with the author; nor could he be diverted from his purpose by the shameful character of dishonesty, rapine, and falsehood, supposed to attend it; at least by those who formed their judgment on the conversation of such officers as had been witnesses to the campaigns in Germany. He had fairer examples to profit from; as the page of military history scarcely details more spirited exertions in this kind of service, [p14] than what distinguishingly marked the last civil commotions in England; and Massey's well known saying, "that he could not look upon the goods of any Englishman as those of an enemy," delineated the integrity of the citizen, and the honourable policy of the soldier.
His intimate connection with that most upright and zealous officer the late Admiral Graves, who commanded at Boston in the year 1775, and some services which he was pleased to entrust him with, brought him acquainted with many of the American loyalists: from them he soon learned the practicability of raising troops in the country whenever it should be opened to the King's forces; and the propriety of such a measure appeared to be self-evident. He therefore importuned Admiral Graves to ask of General Gage that he might enlist such negroes as were in Boston, and with them put himself under the direction of Sir James Wallace, who was then actively engaged at Rhode island, and to whom that colony had opposed negroes; adding to the Admiral, who seemed surprised at his request, "that he entertained no doubt he should soon exchange them for whites:" Gen. Gage, on the Admiral's application, informed him that the negroes were not sufficiently numerous to be serviceable, and that he had other employment for those who were in Boston.
When the army sailed from Halifax for Staten Island, the author was Captain of the grenadier company of the 40th regiment, and during the time of winter quarters at Brunswick, in 1776, went purposely to New-York to solicit the command of the Queen's Rangers, then vacant. The boat he was in, being driven from the place of its destination, he was exceedingly chagrined to find that he had arrived some hours too late: but he desired that Col. Cuyler, Sir William Howe's Aid-de-Camp, would mention his coming thither to him, as well as his design. On the army's embarking for the Chesapeake, be wrote to General Grant, under whom he had served, requesting his good offices in procuring him a command like that of the Queen's Rangers, if any other corps intended for similar employment should be raised in the country, to which the expedition was destined.
These circumstances are related, not only as introductory to the subsequent journal, but to show how very early his thoughts were bent on attaining the command of a corps raised in America, for the active duty of light troops.
[p15] The journal, as it is, in its own nature, not generally interesting, and guarded from any observations foreign to the subject, he by no means wishes to obtrude upon the public; but hopes it will be favourably received by those to whom he shall offer it as a testimony of respect, and with whom it may claim some indulgence, as the particular nature and event of the American war gives a degree of consequence to operations however minute: for it terminated not in the loss of some petty fortress, or trivial island,but in the divulsion of a continent from a continent; of a world from a world.
The officer who conducts a light corps properly, will in his small sphere make use of the same principles which Generals apply to the regulation of armies. He will naturally imitate the commanders under whom he serves; while the individuals of his corps (for in such a service only individuals become of importance) will manifest a spirit which probab[l]y the whole army may possess without having similar opportunities of calling it into action.
History cannot produce examples of more ardent zeal in the service of their country, than that which characterised the British officers and soldiers in America. They despised all those conveniences without which it would be thought impracticable for European armies to move. They did not tamely wait for the moment of exertion in the precise line of their duty, but boldly sought out danger and death; and no sooner was one officer lost on any hazardous service than many competitors appeared to succeed in the post of honour. It was this spirit which, among uncommon difficulties, so frequently triumphed over numbers of brave, skilful, and enterprising opponents. The British soldier who thought himself' superior, actually became so; and the ascendancy which he claimed was in many instances importantly admitted by his antagonists. Nor was this spirit, the result of principle, confined to the operations of the field: it was shown in the hour of civil persecution and rigorous imprisonment; in situations where coolness supplies the place of activity, and thought precedes execution. General Gage in a celebrated letter to Washington at the commencement of the war, had said, "that such trials would be met with the fortitude of martyrs;" and the behaviour of the loyalists amply confirmed his prophesy.
The British Generals were commonly obliged to hazard their armies without any possibility of retreat in case of misadventure: they trusted to the spirit and discipline of [p16] their troops; and the decision, with which they risked themselves, forms the most striking and singular feature of the American war. Nor was this only done when the armies were in their full force; by Sir William Howe in his campaigns, particularly in the glorious battle of the Brandywine; by Sir Henry Clinton in his celebrated march through the Jersies; by Earl Cornwallis in a latter period at Guildford, when the war was transferred to the Carolinas; and eminently by Lord Rawdon, who was
"Left to bide the disadvantage of a field
"Where nothing but the sound of Britain's name
"Did seem defensible,"
but the same spirit was infused into the smallest operations; and the light troops in their enterprises, confident in the superiority of their composition, scarcely admitted the idea of retreat, or calculated against the contingency of a repulse. An account of the Queen's Rangers, and their operations, will elucidate the preceding positions; show in such a point of view their similitude to the British army, and contain, as it were, an epitome of its history.
This Journal alleges no fact but what the author believes to be true; the frequent introduction of his own name may appear redundant, but is absolutely necessary to the perspicuity of the work. He never valued himself so highly on the actions which it was his good fortune to perform to the satisfaction of his superiors, as voluntarily to prescribe them for the boundaries of his professional ambition. Yet, as a British officer, should he live to double the number of years which he has already devoted to the service of his country, it is scarcely possible that he shall ever be appointed to so important a trust as that which he solicited, when he offered to fortify and maintain Billingsport: And as an European soldier, and an European subject, what field for honourable enterprise can ever be so wide, as that which he would have expatiated in, had he according to his own plan, joined the Indians; directed them to Collateral exertion; and associating the loyalists of the back countries zealous in the British cause, united them with the enemies of Congress; set before them the Queen's Rangers as their most necessary guides and examples; led the whole combination to incessant and adventurous action during the war; and if victorious, had remained at their head in that hour when America was declared independent by a critical and unexpected peace!
[p17] ON the 15th of October, 1777, Sir William Howe was pleased to appoint Captain Simcoe of the Grenadiers, with the Provincial rank of Major, to the command of the Queen's Rangers; the next day he joined the regiment, which was encamped with the army in the vicinity of Germantown.
On the 19th the army marched to Philadelphia, the Queen's Rangers formed the rear guard of the left column, and, in the encampment, their post was on the right of the line, in front of the village of Kensington; the army extending from the Delaware to the Schuylkill.
On the 20th the regiment was augmented with nearly an hundred men, who had been enlisted by Captain Smyth during the various marches from the landing of the army in the Chesapeake to this period.
This was a very seasonable recruit to the regiment; it had suffered materially in the action at Brandywine, and was too much reduced in numbers to be of any efficient service; but if the loss of a great number of gallant officers and soldiers had been severely felt, the impression which that action had left upon their minds was of the highest advantage [p18] to the regiment; officers and soldiers became known to each other; they had been engaged in a more serious manner, and with greater disadvantages than they were likely again to meet with in the common chance of war; and having extricated themselves most gallantly from such a situation, they felt themselves invincible. This spirit vibrated among them at the time Major Simcoe joined them; and it was obvious, that he had nothing to do but to cherish and preserve it. Sir William Howe, in consequence of their behaviour at Brandywine, had promised that all promotions should go in the regiment, and accordingly they now took place.
The Queen's Rangers2 had been originally raised in Connecticut, and the vicinity of New York, by Colonel Rogers, for the duties which their name implies, and which were detailed in his commission; at one period they mustered above four hundred men, all Americans, and all loyalists. Hardships and neglect had much reduced their numbers, when the command of them was given to Colonel French, and afterwards to Major Weymess, to whom Major Simcoe succeeded; their officers also had undergone a material change; many gentlemen of the Southern colonies who had joined Lord Dunmore, and distinguished themselves under his orders, were appointed to supersede those who were not thought competent to the commissions they had hitherto borne; to these were added some volunteers from the army, the whole consisting of young men, active, full of love of the service, emulous to distinguish themselves in it, and [p19] looking forward to obtain, through their actions, the honor of being enrolled with the British army.
The Provincial corps, now forming, were raised on the supposed influence which their officers had among their loyal countrymen, and were understood to be native American loyalists; added to an equal chance among these, a greater resource was opened to the Queen's Rangers, in the exclusive privilege of enlisting old countrymen (as Europeans were termed in America) and deserters from the rebel army; so that could the officers to whom the Commander in Chief delegated the inspection of the Provincial corps have executed their orders, the Queen's Rangers, however dangerously and incessantly employed, would never have been in want of recruits; at the same time, the original loyalists, and those of this description, who were from time to time enlisted, forming the gross of the corps, were the source from whence it derived its value and its discipline; they were men who had already been exiled for their attachment to the British government, and who now acted upon the firmest principles in its defence; on the contrary, the people they had to oppose, however characterised by the enemies of Great Britain, had never been considered by them as engaged in an honourable cause, or fighting for the freedom of their country; they estimated them not by their words, but by an intimate observance of their actions, and to civil desecration, experience had taught them to add military contempt. Such was the composition [p20] of the Queen's Rangers, and the spirit that animated it.
The junction of Captain Smyth's company augmented the regiment into eleven companies, the number of which was equalised, and the eleventh was formed of Highlanders. Several of those brave men, who had been defeated in an attempt to join the army in North Carolina, were now in the corps; to those others were added, and the command was given to Captain M'Kay; they were furnished with the Highland dress, and their national piper, and were posted on the left flank of the regiment, which consisted of eight battalions, a grenadier, and light infantry company. Upon the march from German Town to Kensington, Sir William Erskine, in directing what duties Major Simcoe should do, had told him to call upon him for dragoons whenever he wanted them; upon this, Major Simcoe took the liberty of observing, "that the clothing and habiliments of the dragoons were so different from those of the Queen's Rangers (the one being in red, and with white belts, easily seen at a distance, and the other in green, and accoutred for concealment) that he thought it would be more useful to mount a dozen soldiers of the regiment." Sir William Erskine highly approved of the idea, and sent a suitable number of horses, saddles, and swords; such men were selected for the service as the officers recommended for spirit and presence of mind; they were put under the direction of Kelly, a serjeant of distinguished gallantry. A light corps, augmented as that of the Queen's Rangers [p21] was, and employed on the duties of an outpost, had no opportunity of being instructed in the general discipline of the army, nor indeed was it very necessary: the most important duties, those of vigilance, activity, and patience of fatigue, were best learnt in the field; a few motions of the manual exercise were thought sufficient; they were carefully instructed in those of firing, but above all, attention was paid to inculcate the use of the bayonet, and a total reliance on that weapon. The divisions being fully officered, and weak in numbers, was of the greatest utility, and in many trying situations was the preservation of the corps; two files in the centre, and two on each flank, were directed to be composed of trained soldiers, without regard to their size or appearance. It was explained, that no rotation, except in ordinary duties, should take place among light troops, but that those officers would be selected for any service who appeared to be most capable of executing it: it was also enforced by example, that no service was to be measured by the numbers employed on it, but by its own importance, and that five men, in critical situations or employment, was a more honourable command than an hundred on common duties. Serjeant's guards were in a manner abolished, a circumstance to which in a great measure may be attributed, that no sentinel or guard of the Queen's Rangers was ever surprised; the vigilance of a gentleman and an officer being transcendantly superior to that of any non-commissioned officer whatsoever. An attention to the interior oeconomy of a company, indispensable [p22] as it is, by no means forms the most pleasing military duty upon service, where the officer looks up to something more essentially useful, and values himself upon its execution. A young corps raised in the midst of active service, and without the habits of discipline, which are learnt in time of peace, required the strictest attention in this point. It was observed, that regularity in messing, and cleanliness in every respect, conduced to the health of the soldier; and from the numbers that each regiment brought into the field, superior officers would in general form the best estimate of the attention of a corps to its interior oeconomy; and to enforce the performance of these duties in the strongest manner, it was declared in public orders, "that to such only when in the field, the commanding officer would entrust the duties of it, who should execute with spirit what belongs to the interior oeconomy of the regiment when in quarters." To avoid written orders as much as possible, after the morning parade, the officers attended, as the German custom is, and received verbally whatever could be so delivered to them, and they were declared answerable that every written order was read to the men on their separate parades.
Near the end of October the Queen's Rangers were directed to patrole beyond Frankfort, four miles from Philadelphia; it was the day that Colonel Donop made his unfortunate attempt on Red Bank; they advanced as far as the Red Lion, which several of the rebel officers had left a few minutes before.
[p23] The country in front of Philadelphia, where the Queen's Rangers were employed, was in general cleared ground, but intersected with many woods; the fields were fenced out with very high railing: the main road led straight from Philadelphia to Bristol Ferry on the Delaware; about five miles from Philadelphia, on this road, was Frankfort Creek which fell into the Delaware nearly at that distance, and the angle that it formed was called Point-no-Point, within which were many good houses and plantations.
Beyond the bridge over the creek, on a height, was the village of Frankfort; below the bridge it was not fordable, but it was easily passed in many places above it. The rebels frequently patrolled as far as Frankfort, and to a place called the Rocks, about a mile beyond it. Four miles farther was Pennypack Creek, over which was a bridge; three miles beyond this was the Red Lion tavern, and two miles further was Bristol, a small town opposite Burlington: this road was the nearest to the river Delaware; nearly parallel to it was the road to York, which was attended to by the light infantry, of the guards, and the army; there were many cross roads that intersected the country between these main roads, a most perfect knowledge of which was endeavored to be acquired by maps, drawn from the information of the country people, and by occular observation.
The village of Kensington was several times attacked by the rebel patrolling parties; they could come by means of the woods very near to it undiscovered; there was a road over a small creek to [p24] Point-no-Point; to defend this a house was made musket proof, and the bridge taken up; cavalry only approached to this post, for it lying, as has been mentioned, in an angle between the Delaware and the Frankfort road, infantry were liable to be cut off; on the left there was a knoll that overlooked the country; this was the post of the piquet in the daytime, but corn fields high enough to conceal the approach of an enemy reached to its basis; sentinels from hence inclined to the left and joined those of Colonel Twistleton's (now Lord Say and Sele) light infantry of the guards, so that this hill projected forward, and on that account was ordered by Sir William Erskine not to be defended if attacked in force, and it was withdrawn at night. It was usual, if the enemy approached, to quit this post till such time as the corps could get under arms, and the light infantry of the guards were informed of it; when, marching up the road, the enemy fearing to be shut up within the creek that has been mentioned, abandoned their ground and generally suffered in their retreat to the woods. At night the corps was drawn back to the houses nearer Philadelphia, and guards were placed behind breastworks, made by heaping up the fences in such points as commanded the avenues to the village; (which was laid out and enclosed in right angles;) these were themselves overlooked by others that constituted the alarm post of the different companies. Fires also were made in particular places before the piquet, to discover whatsoever should approach. Before day the whole corps was under arms, [p25] and remained so till the piquets returned to their day post, which they resumed, taking every precaution against ambuscades; the light infantry of the guards advanced their piquets at the same time, and Colonel Twistleton was an admirable pattern for attention and spirit, to all who served with him. He was constantly with the piquets, which generally found out the enemy's patroles, and interchanged shot with them: his horse was one morning wounded by a rifle shot. The mounted men of the Queen's Rangers were found very serviceable on these occasions. The woods in the front were every day diminishing, being cut down for the uses of the army, and the enemy kept at a greater distance. An attempt was made to surprize the rebel post at Frankfort; by orders from head quarters the Queen's Rangers were to march near to the bridge at Frankfort, and to lay there in ambuscade till such time as Major Gwyn, who made a circuit with a detachment of cavalry, should fall into the rear of the town. Accordingly the corps marched through bye paths, and attained its position: some dragoons at the appointed time passed the bridge from Frankfort. The light was not sufficient to enable the Rangers to discover whether they were friends or enemies, till upon their turning back and hearing a shot, the corps rushed into the town; unfortunately, either by accident or from information, the rebel post had been withdrawn. Some days after the Queen's Rangers, with thirty dragoons of the 16th, under Lieutenant Pidcock, marched at midnight to attempt the same post; after making a [p26] circuit, and nearly attaining the rear of the Jolly Post, the public house where the guard was kept, the party fell in with a patrole; this was cut off from the house; it luckily did not fire, but ran towards the wood: the detachment was carefully prevented from firing. No time was lost in the pursuit of the enemy, but the infantry crossed the fields immediately in the rear of the house, and a disposition was formed for attacking it, in case, as it well might have been, it should be defended: the cavalry made a circuit to the road in the rear, and the post was completely surprized. An officer and twenty men were taken prisoners, two or three of whom were slightly wounded in an attempt to escape; they were militia, and what is very remarkable, they had the word "Richmond" chalked in their hats; the officer said "Richmond was the countersign, and that he chalked it there that his men might not forget it." Serjeant Kelly dismounted an officer, and in pursuit of another man, left him; the officer gave his watch to another dragoon; it was however adjudged to the serjeant, as he was the person who dismounted him, spared his life, and pursued his duty. It is not improper here to observe, that formerly Major Simcoe had forbidden the soldiers to take watches, and indeed did so after this, 'till he accidentally overheard a man say it was not worth while to bring in a prisoner; he therefore made it a rule, that any one who took a prisoner, if he publicly declared he had his watch, should keep it; so that no soldier was interested to kill any man. This spirit of taking as many prisoners as possible was most [p27] earnestly attempted to be inculcated, and not without success. Soon after, as a strong patrole of cavalry, under Major Gwyn, was out, some of its men returned in great confusion, saying, "that they were attacked by a superior body, both in front and rear:" at the same time Colonel Twistleton and Major Simcoe, who were on the Knoll, occupied by the piquet of the Rangers, could perceive by the glittering of arms, a large body of foot in a wood, near which Major Gwyn was to return, they immediately took their respective piquets, about twenty men, and marched to mask the wood. The soldiers in camp were ordered to run to the Knoll, without waiting, and the officer of the piquet was directed to form them as fast as they came up, by twelves, and to forward them under the first officer or serjeant who should arrive. The whole regiment and the light infantry of the guards were soon on the march; the enemy in the wood retreated; and gaining better intelligence, Colonel Twistleton halted on the verge of it, till Major Gwyn, who had beaten back the enemy, returned. The next day it was known that Pulaski had commanded the enemy: a skirmish had happened the day before, between smaller parties, and he, supposing that a large patrole would be sent out from Philadelphia, obtained the command of a very strong one to ambuscade it; but, however able and spirited he might be, he was soon convinced that his irregulars could not withstand the promptitude and strength of the British cavalry.
Parties of the Rangers every day went to Frankfort, where the enemy no longer kept a fixed post, [p28] though they frequently sent a patrole to stop the market people. A patrolling party of the Rangers approached undiscovered so close to a rebel sentinel, posted upon the bridge, that it would have been easy to have killed him. A boy, whom he had just examined, was sent back to inform him of this, and to direct him immediately to quit his post or that he should be shot; he ran off, and the whole party, on his arrival at the guard, fled with equal precipitation; nor were there any more sentinels placed there: a matter of some consequence to the poor people of Philadelphia, as they were not prevented from getting their flour ground at Frankfort mills.
It was the object, to instil into the men, that their superiority lay in close fight, and in the use of the bayonet, in which the individual courage, and personal activity that characterise the British soldier can best display themselves. The whole corps being together on the Frankfort road, information was received that Pulaski with his cavalry was approaching; on each side of the road, for some distance, there was wood, and very high rails fenced it from the road; the march was not interrupted, and the following disposition was made to attack him. The light infantry in front were loaded, and occupied the whole space of the road; Captain Stephenson, who commanded it, was directed not to fire at one or two men, who might advance, but, either on their firing or turning back, to give notice of his approach, to follow at a brisk and steady rate, and to fire only on the main body when he came close to them. The eight battalion companies [p29] were formed about thirty feet from the light infantry, in close column by companies, their bayonets fixed, and not loaded; they were instructed not to heed the enemy's horses, but to bayonet the men. The grenadiers and Highland company were in the rear, loaded; and the directions given to Captain Armstrong were, that the grenadiers should cross the fences on the right, and the Highlanders those on the left, and secure the flanks; the men were so prepared and so chearful, that if the opportunity of rushing on Pulaski's cavalry had offered, which by the winding of the road was probable, before they could be put into career, there remains no doubt upon the minds of those who were present, but that it would have been a very honourable day for the Rangers.
On the 3d of November the news of the surrender of General Burgoyne's army was communicated in general orders. It was read to the Rangers on their parade; and amidst the distress that such an event must naturally occasion to Englishmen and soldiers, never did Major Simcoe feel himself more elevated, or augur better of the officers and men he had the honour to command, than when he came to the rejection of one of the proposed articles, in the following terms: "Sooner than this army will consent to ground their arms in their encampment, they will rush on the enemy, determined to take no quarter;" the whole corps thrilled with animation, and resentment against the enemy, and with sympathy for their fellow soldiers; it would have been the most favorable moment, had the enemy appeared, to have attacked them.
[p30] Major Grymes, a Virginia gentleman of loyalty, education, and fortune, who was second Major of the Queen's Rangers, at this time resigned his commission, to the great regret of Major Simcoe and of the corps, whose confidence he had won be extricating them from a very disadvantageous situation, by a decisive and bold exertion at Brandywine: he was succeeded in duties, with the rank of Captain Commandant, by Lieutenant Ross of the 35th regiment, with whose intrepidity, and zeal for the service, Major Simcoe was well acquainted.
The redoubts in front of Philadelphia being finished, the advance piquets were withdrawn and posted in them, that of the Queen's Rangers excepted; it remained without the redoubt, though it had fallen back much nearer to it: it was liable to insult, but it would have been difficult to have surprised it. The Knoll was still the outpost, and the general place to which many of the officers of the line rode, in order to laugh at the mounted men and their habiliments; but other troops of cavalry were now raising, and the utility of them, through all the ridicule of bad horses and want of appointments, became very obvious.
On General Washington's occupying the camp at Whitemarsh, Sir William Howe thought proper to move towards him, and the army marched accordingly on the 5th of December; the Queen's Rangers were ordered to flank the right of the baggage. The army encamped on Chestnut-Hill and its vicinity; and the piquet of the Rangers made fires on the road that led to it, so that the approach of any parties of [p31] the enemy could easily be seen. The army remained the next day in the same position. On the 7th, at night, Major Simcoe with the Queen's Rangers, and a party of dragoons under Captain Lord Cathcart, took up the position of some of the troops who had retired; this post was sometime afterwards quitted in great silence, and he joined the column that was marching under General Gray. The General marched all night, and on approaching the enemy's outpost, he formed his column into three divisions; the advanced guard of the centre consisted of the Hessian Yagers, who marched with their cannon up the road that led through the wood, in which the enemy's light troops were posted; the light infantry of the guards advanced upon the right, and the Queen's Rangers on the left; the enemy were outflanked on each wing, and were turned in attempting to escape by the unparalleled swiftness of the light infantry of the guards, and driven across the fire of the Yagers, and the Queen's Rangers. The loss of the rebels was computed at near an hundred, with little or none on the part of the King's troops; a mounted man of the Queen's Rangers, in the pursuit, was killed by a Yager, through mistake: he wore a helmet that had been taken from a rebel patrole a few days before. General Grey was pleased to express himself highly satisfied with the order and rapidity with which the Rangers advanced. The night was passed in a wood not for from the enemy's camp. The next day Major Simcoe patrolled in the vicinity: he left the infantry of his party at the edge of the wood, and approached [p32] a house; the owner of it, who supposed that all the British soldiers wore red, was easily imposed upon to believe him a rebel officer, and a cow-bell being, as preconcerted, rang in the wood, and an Officer galloping to Major Simcoe and telling him that the British were marauding and hunting the cattle, the man had no doubt of the matter, and instantly acquiesced in a proposal to fetch some more cavalry to seize the British; he accordingly mounted his horse and galloped off. The ambuscade was properly laid for whomsoever he should bring, when Captain Andre came with orders to retreat, the column being already in motion; the infantry were scarce sent off and the mounted men following, when about thirty of the rebel dragoons appeared in sight and on the gallop; they fired several carbine shot, to no purpose. The army returned to Philadelphia.
The disaster that happened to the mounted Ranger determined Major Simcoe to provide high caps, which might at once distinguish them both from the rebel army and their own; the mounted men were termed Huzzars, were armed with a sword, and such pistols as could be bought, or taken from the enemy; Major Simcoe's wish was to add a dagger to these arms, not only as useful in close action, but to lead the minds of the soldier to expect that decisive mode of combat. Several good horses had been taken from the rebels, so that the Huzzars were now well mounted, on hardy serviceable horses, which bore a very unusual share of fatigue. Lieutenant Wickham, an officer of quickness, and courage, was appointed to [p33] command them, and a serjeant of the 16th regiment of light dragoons attended their parade, to give them regularity in its duties.
Several men having deserted, Major Simcoe directed that the countersign should not be given to the sentinels; they were ordered to stop any persons at a distance, more than one, until the guard turned out; and in posting of sentinels, the rule was, to place them so that, if possible, they could see and not be seen, and in different posts in the night from those of the day. Near high-roads, double sentinels, without being loaded, were advanced beyond the front of the chain; these were composed of old soldiers who, with all others, were sedulously instructed to challenge very loud. The sentinels were relieved every hour. The subaltern frequently patrolled, as did the captain of the day, and the field officers: the consequence was, that the Queen's Rangers never gave a false alarm, or had a sentinel surprised, during the war. It is remarkable that a man deserted at this time who left all his necessaries, regimentals excepted: he had lately come from Europe, and, to all appearance, had enlisted merely to facilitate his joining the rebel army.
It may be here a proper place to describe the country in front of Philadelphia; and the general duties on which the Queen's Rangers were employed, during the winter.
The road on the right, and nearest the Delaware, has been already mentioned by the name of the Frankfort road: from the centre of Philadelphia, the main road led up the country, and about two miles off, at [p34] the Rising Sun, it branched into the Old York road on the right, and that of the Germantown on the left. The light infantry of the guards patrolled up the York-Town road, as that of the line did the Germantown; those that ran on the side of the Schuylkill, were in front of the Yagers, and patrolled by them. The Queen's Rangers, by their position, were at the greatest distance from Mr. Washington's camp, which was now at Valley Forge, beyond the Schuylkill, and as the course of the Delaware inclined away from the Schuylkill, the distance was considerably increased; so that no detachment from his camp could have been made without extreme hazard; from the York-Town road, therefore, on the left, and the Delaware river on the right, Major Simcoe felt no apprehensions; when he passed Frankfort creek in front he was to be guided by circumstances. The general directions he received was to secure the country, and facilitate the inhabitants bringing in their produce to market.
To prevent this intercourse, the enemy added, to the severe exertions of their civil powers, their militia. The roads, the creeks, and the general inclination of the inhabitants to the British government, and to their own profit, aided the endeavour of the Queen's Rangers. The redoubt on the right had been garrisoned by the corps till, on Major Simcoe's representation that the duty was too severe, it was given to the line: within this redoubt the corps fitted up their barracks. The 4th of January was the first day since their landing at the head of Elk, that any man could be permitted to unaccoutre.
[p35] There is not an officer in the world who is ignorant, that permitting the soldier to plunder, or maraud, must inevitably destroy him; that, in a civil war, it must alienate the large body of people who, in such a contest, are desirous of neutrality, and sour their minds into dissatisfaction: but, however obvious the necessity may be, there is nothing more difficult than for a commander in chief to prevent marauding. The numerous orders that are extant in King Charles' and the Parliament's army, prove it in those dreadful times; and the Duke of Argyle, in his description of the Dutch auxiliaries, in the year 1715, who, he says, "were mighty apt to mistake friend for foe," exemplifies the additional difficulty where foreign troops are combined with natives. No officer could possibly feel the attention that was necessary to this duty more strongly than Major Simcoe, and he thought himself warranted to declare, when a general order was given out to enforce it, "that it is with the utmost satisfaction Major Simcoe believes there would have been no necessity for the general orders of this day, had every corps of the army been as regular, in respect to their abstaining from plunder and marauding, as the Rangers. He trusts, that so truly a military behaviour will be continued; and that the officer and soldier of the corps will consider it as honourable to him as the most distinguished bravery." Major Simcoe took care to prevent the possibility of plunder, as much as lay in his power: he never halted, if he could avoid it, but in a wood; sent safeguards to every house; allowed no man, in marching, [p36] to quit his ranks; and was, in general, successful in instilling into the minds of the men, that while they protected the country, the inhabitants would give every information of the enemy's movements and ambuscades. The officers were vigilant in their attention to this duty, and the soldiers had admirable examples of discipline and good order, from the native loyalists of the corps, who were mostly non-commissioned officers. On the contrary, the rebel patroles, who came to stop the markets, were considered by the country people as robbers; and private signals were every where established, by which the smallest party of the Rangers would have been safe in the patrolling the country. The general mode that Major Simcoe adopted was, to keep perfectly secret the hour, the road, and the manner of his march; to penetrate, in one body, about ten miles into the country. This body generally marched in three divisions, one hundred yards from each other, so that it would have required a large force to have embraced the whole in an ambuscade, and either division, being upon the flank, it would have been hazardous for an enemy so inferior in every respect, but numbers, as the rebels were, to have encountered it; at ten or twelve miles the corps divided, and ambuscaded different roads; and at the appointed time returned home. There was not a bye path or ford unknown, and the Huzzars would generally patrole some miles in front of the infantry. The market people, who over-night would get into the woods, came out on the appearance of the corps, and proceeded [p37] uninterruptedly, and from market they had an escort, whenever it was presumed that the enemy was on the Philadelphia side of Frankfort to intercept them on their return into the woods. The infantry, however inclement the weather, seldom marched less than ninety miles a week; the flank companies, Highlanders, and Huzzars, frequently more: these marches were, by many people, deemed adventurous, and the destruction of the corps was frequently prophesied. The detail that has been exhibited, and experience, takes away all appearance of improper temerity; and, by these patroles, the corps was formed to that tolerance of fatigue, and marching, which excelled that of the chosen light troops of the army, as will hereafter be shown.
These matters have been dwelt upon, not only as they exhibit what is conceived to have been the drilling of the Queen's Rangers for more important services, but, as it proves that the protection of Philadelphia and the opening a way to its markets, were provided for by Sir William Howe, and that his orders were systematically and industriously obeyed.
The Huzzars, by this time, were encreased to thirty, mounted on such horses as they had taken from the enemy; and Ensign Proctor was added to them. The country in front of Philadelphia was foraged, and the Queen's Rangers formed the advance guard of the parties which made it; but it was with great reluctance that Major Simcoe saw Point-no-Point included in the general forage, as he had taken particular care to preserve it from plunder; it is impossible to protect [p38] any country from the depredations of foraging parties. The clothing of the Provincials was served by contract; the duties of the Queen's Rangers would have worn out much better; they were obliged, by the inclemency of the weather, to wear the new ones, without altering. It being determined, for the next year, to cloth the Provincials in red, Major Simcoe exerted himself to preserve the Rangers in green, and to procure for them green waistcoats: his purpose was to wear the waistcoats with their sleeves during the campaign, and to add sleeves to the shell, or outer coat, to be worn over the waistcoats in winter: green is without comparison the best color for light troops with dark accoutrements; and if put on in the spring, by autumn it nearly fades with the leaves, preserving its characteristic of being scarcely discernable at a distance.
At the end of February, General Wayne having been detached from Washington's army to collect such cattle as were in the lower Jersies, Sir William Howe sent Lieutenant-Colonel Abercrombie down the Delaware, to land and attack him, while Colonel Stirling with the 42d regiment and the Queen's Rangers, crossed that river opposite to Philadelphia, and marched to Haddonfield, to intercept him; at the same time, a detachment under Colonel Markham passed over, and took post at Cooper's ferry, to collect forage in its vicinity. Colonel Stirling reached Haddonfield early in the morning; some stragglers of Wayne's corps had just left it as he arrived there. The ground in front of the village was immediately [p39] occupied: the Queen's Rangers on the left, with their left flank to a creek which nearly extended the whole length of their front. A circumstance happened here, which, though not unusual in America and in the rebel mode of warfare, it is presumed is singular elsewhere. As Major Simcoe was on horseback, in conversation with Lieutenant Whitlock, and near the out sentinels, a rifle was fired, and the ball grazed between them; the ground they were on being higher than the opposite bank, the man who had fired was plainly seen, running off: Lieutenant Whitlock, with the sentinels, pursued him, and the guard followed in case of necessity, the piquets occupying their place; the man was turned by Mr. Whitlock, and intercepted, and taken by the sentinels. On being questioned, "how he presumed to fire in such a manner?" he answered, "that he had frequently fired at the Hessians, (who a few weeks before had been there,) and thought he might as well do so again." As he lived within half a mile of the spot, had he not been taken and the patroles pushed there the next day, they would have found him, it is probable, employed in his household matters, and stren[u]ously denying that he either possessed, or had fired a gun: he was sent prisoner to Philadelphia. Upon posting the guards, at night, they were augmented so as to have the rounds every fifteen minutes, and Major Simcoe recommended to the officer to be particularly alert, as it was reasonable to presume that Wayne, who had been surprised by General Grey, could have but two ideas: the one of being surprized himself, which the distance [p40] prevented; and the other of retaliation; which, having secured his convoy and being master of the country, there was every reason to apprehend and guard against.
Early the next morning Major Simcoe was detached to destroy such boats and stores as were upon Timber creek, and which had been conveyed thither when the naval armaments on the Delaware were burnt. As the boats appeared valuable, and some Refugees offered to carry them to Philadelphia, they were accordingly directed to fall down the creek; when fortunately one hundred and fifty barrels of tar, of which the fleet was in want, were discovered, and with this the boats were laden, and sent to Captain Hammond, who commanded the navy in the Delaware. The party returned in the evening with some few militia as prisoners, who, from their green clothing, had mistaken the Rangers for what they attempted to appear -- Wayne's rear guard. At midnight, Colonel Stirling sent for Major Simcoe, who found at his quarters one of those Refugees to whom the boats had been intrusted: he related, that during their progress down the creek, they had been attacked by the militia of the country, and that amidst the confusion he got ashore, and escaped. Major Simcoe was directed to march as early as possible, and to quell any of the militia who might be there, and to give an opportunity for the Refugees, who most probably had concealed themselves in the marshes, to escape. Before day-break Major Simcoe surrounded the house of Tew, a militia lieutenant, with the Huzzars, and in [p41] perfect secrecy and silence lay there until the arrival of the infantry: Tew was supposed to have headed some of his neighbors in arms, as it was well known there was no body of men in the country, and only a few inhabitants who could possibly be collected. Captain Saunders, with the cavalry and some infantry, was sent further down the creek, to procure information. There was nobody in Tew's house but his wife and other females; she was informed, that if her husband, as was supposed, appeared to be at the head of the party, who, contrary to common prudence and the rules of war, had fired upon the boats the preceding night, his house should be burnt, as an example to deter others; at the same time she might have assistance to remove her furniture, and to save it in an outhouse, for which purpose some Refugees, her former neighbors, offered to assist her; and preparations were accordingly making, when Captain Saunders returned with certain information, that a predatory party from the shipping at Philadelphia, imagining themselves secure from the troops being at Haddonfield, had rowed up the creek, and meeting the Refugees, they fired upon each other, but the mistake being soon discovered, they returned together to the Delaware. Tew's house, of course, remained uninjured, and the troops marched back to Haddonfield, and early the next morning made an excursion on the road to Egg-harbour, to get what cattle and rum (of which there was intelligence) might be found on it. The advanced part of the corps, and the Huzzars, marched about twenty miles from Haddonfield; a few [p42] hogsheads of rum and some cattle were procured, and some tobacco destroyed. On the return, and about two miles from Haddonfield, Major Simcoe was observing to some officers a peculiar strong ground, when, looking back, he saw a house that he had passed in flames; it was too far gone for all his endeavors to save it; he was exceedingly hurt at the circumstance, but neither threats of punishment, nor offers of reward, could induce a discovery: this was the only instance of a disorder of this nature that ever happened under his command, and he afterwards knew it was not perpetrated by any of the Queen's Rangers. At night, a man arrived at the outpost, furnished with such credentials as made it proper to believe his information: his account was, that Wayne was on his march from mount Holly, to attack the troops at Haddonfield, and that he intended to make a circuit to fall in upon the right; the man was immediately forwarded to Colonel Stirling; and Major Simcoe remarked to Captain Saunders, his confidential friend, "that probably Colonel Stirling would send for him, and, if any room should be left for consultation, his advice would be, that the whole corps should move forward and ambuscade Wayne's march on the strong ground which Major Simcoe had remarked a few hours before; that every inhabitant of the town should be secured, and the Huzzars left to take post at the direct roads; that, upon information being forwarded to Sir William Howe, Colonel Markham would probably be sent to Haddonfield, and possibly a strong corps embarked, and passed [p43] up the Delaware, above Wayne." Major Simcoe accordingly was sent for, but it was to receive directions for an immediate retreat: Colonel Stirling understanding that the force under Wayne had been so considerably augmented, that it would be imprudent to remain at Haddonfield; his business there being completed, and his intentions, otherwise, being to return the next morning; the rum was staved, and the whole detachment prepared to march immediately. In consideration of the fatigue of the Queen's Rangers, and that there was no probability of any action, Major Simcoe solicited to lead the march. In the mean time, some of the enemy fired upon the advanced posts of the Rangers, and made great noise to draw their attention that way: this was a frequent mode of the rebels; it might have been proper at the moment of attack, but anticipating it for some hours, in general it gave a knowledge of their designs, and increased a just and military contempt for this mode of conducting them. The night was uncommonly severe, and a cold sleet fell the whole way from Haddonfield to Cooper's ferry, where the troops arrived late, and the ground being occupied by barns and forage, they were necessitated to pass the coldest night that they ever felt, without fire. As dawn arrived, the weather cleared up; about three miles and a half from Cooper's ferry, and half a mile within the direct road to Haddonfield, there was some forage remaining; fifty of the 42d and Rangers, under the command of Captain Kerr, were sent as an escort to the waggons that went for it. Lieutenant Wickham, with [p44] ten Huzzars, was directed by Colonel Stirling to patrole in his front towards Haddonfield. A few miles off, Lieutenant Wickham met the enemy; he sent information to Captain Kerr, and to Colonel Stirling, and, with six Huzzars, attended their front. As the road led through thick woods, the enemy were apprehensive of ambuscades, and were intimidated by Lieutenant Wickham's frequently calling out, as to the infantry, "to halt, not to march so fast," &c. &c., so that the enemy's cavalry, though more than two hundred, did not rush on him. He gave time to Captain Kerr to retreat, then joined and returned to camp with him, ushering the enemy to the very outpost. The line was formed; the 42d regiment on the right, Colonel Markham's detachment in the centre, and the Queen's Rangers on the left. The embarkation still proceeded; the horses were now sent off, and, as the enemy did not advance, Colonel Markham's detachment followed them. It was scarce half way over the Delaware, when the piquets were attacked. The enemy were probably induced to attack earlier than they intended, by a barn having been accidentally set on fire, and which it was reasonable for them to suppose might have been done by some lurking person, after the troops in general had embarked. Upon the appearance of the enemy, the 42d regiment marched forward in line, and orders were sent to the Queen's Rangers to advance, which it did, in column, by companies; Cooper's creek secured its left flank; the artillery horses of the three pounders being embarked, the seamen, with their accustomed alacrity, offered to [p45] draw on the cannon; the artillery followed the light infantry company, and preceded the battalion. Some of the enemy appearing on the opposite bank of the Cooper creek, Captain Armstrong, with the grenadiers, was directed to march and line a dyke on this side: an advantage the enemy had not; and to keep off any stragglers who might be posted there. A heavy fire was kept up on the right, by the 42d; there was nothing opposed to the Rangers but some cavalry, watching their motions, and as Major Simcoe advanced rapidly to gain an eminence in front, which he conceived to be a strong advantageous position, they fled into the wood, an officer excepted, who, reining back his horse, and fronting the Rangers as they advanced, slowly waved with his scimetar for his attendants to retire; the light infantry being within fifty yards of him, he was called out to, "You are a brave fellow, but you must go away," to which not paying so much attention as he ought, M'Gill, afterwards quarter master, was directed to fire at him, on which he retired into the woods. A few straggling shots were fired in the front; the light infantry company was detached there, and supported by the Highlanders, who soon cleared the front; the battalion halted on the advantageous ground it had moved towards, and, at the entreaties of the sailors, a few cannon shot were fired at a party of the enemy, who were near the bridge over Cooper creek, till perceiving they were busy in destroying it, they were no longer interrupted: the firing totally ceased, and the enemy retreated. Some few of the Rangers were wounded, [p46] among whom, Serjeant M'Pherson of the grenadiers died; in every respect he was much to be lamented. The person whom M'Gill fired at, proved to be Pulaski; his horse was wounded; and had not the Huzzars been sent over the Delaware previous to the attack, he would have been taken, or killed. The embarkation took place without any interruption; and on the 2d of March the Queen's Rangers returned to their old quarters, and former duties. Colonel Stirling made the most handsome and favorable report of the behaviour of the corps, to Sir William Howe.
An expedition was formed under the command of the late Colonel Mawhood, consisting of the 27th and 46th regiments, the Queen's Rangers, and New Jersey Volunteers; they embarked the 12th of March, and fell down the Delaware. On the 17th, the Queen's Rangers landed, at three o'clock in the morning, about six miles from Salem, the Huzzars carrying their accoutrements and swords. Major Simcoe was directed to seize horses, to mount the cavalry, and the staff, and to join Colonel Mawhood at Salem; this was accordingly executed. Major Simcoe, making a circuit and passing over Lambstone's bridge, arrived at Salem, near which Colonel Mawhood landed. The Huzzars were tolerably well mounted, and sufficient horses procured for the other exigencies of the service: Colonel Mawhood had given the strictest charge against plundering; and Major Simcoe, in taking the horses, had assured the inhabitants that they should be returned, or paid for, if they did not appear in arms, in a very few days; and, none but officers entering [p47] the houses, they received no other injury. The Queen's Rangers' infantry were about two hundred and seventy, rank and file, and thirty cavalry; Colonel Mawhood gave directions for the forage to take place on the 18th. The town of Salem lies upon a creek of that name which falls into the Delaware nearly opposite Reedy island; the Aloes, or Alewas creek, runs almost parallel to the Salem creek, and falls into the Delaware to the southward of it; over this creek there were three bridges: Hancock's was the lower one, Quintin's that in the centre, and Thompson's the upper one; between these creeks the foraging was to commence; the neck, or peninsula, formed by them was at its greatest distance seven, and at its least four miles wide. The rebel militia was posted at Hancock's and Quintin's, the nearest bridges, which they had taken up, and defended by breast-works. Colonel Mawhood made detachments to mask these bridges; and foraged in their rear: the officer who commanded the detachment, consisting of seventy of the 17th infantry, at Quintin's bridge, sent information that the enemy were assembled in great numbers at the bridge, and indicated as if they meant to pass over whenever he should quit it, in which case his party would be in great danger. Colonel Mawhood marched with the Queen's Rangers to his assistance: he made a circuit, so as to fall in upon the road that led from Thompson's to Quintin's bridge, to deceive any patrole which he might meet on his march, and to make them believe that he directed it to Thompson's, not Quintin's bridge. Approaching the bridge, [p48] the Rangers halted in the wood, and Colonel Mawhood and Major Simcoe went to the party of the 17th, but in such a manner as to give no suspicion that they were part of a reinforcement; the ground was high, till within two hundred yards of the bridge, where it became marshy; immediately beyond the bridge, the banks were steep, and on them the enemy had thrown up breast-works; there was a public house very near the road, at the edge of its declivity into the marsh, on the Salem side. Colonel Mawhood asked Major Simcoe, "whether he thought, if he left a party in the house, the enemy would pass by it or not?" who replied, "that he thought they would be too cowardly to do it; but at any rate the attempt could do no harm, and, if he pleased, he would try." Colonel Mawhood directed Major Simcoe to do so, who accordingly profiting by the broken ground of the orchard which was behind it, and the clothing of his men, brought Captain Stephenson and his company into the house, undiscovered: the front windows were opened, and the back ones were shut, so that no thorough light could be seen; the women of the house were put in the cellar and ordered to be silent; the door was left open, and Lieutenant M'Kay stood behind it, with a bayonet, ready to seize the first person whose curiosity might prompt him to enter; the Queen's Rangers were brought into the wood near to that part where it ended in clear ground, and two companies, under Captain Saunders, were advanced to the fences at the very edge of it, where they lay flat. Colonel Mawhood [p49] then gave orders for the detachment of the 17th, who were posted near the house, to call in their sentinels and retreat up the road in full view of the enemy. This party had scarcely moved, when the enemy laid the bridge and passed it; a detachment of them went immediately across the marsh to the heights on the left, but the principal party, about two hundred, in two divisions, proceeded up the road; Captain Stephenson, as they approached the house, could hear them say, "let us go into the house," &c., but they were prevented, both by words and by action, by the officer who was at their head: he was on horseback, and spurring forward, quitted the road to go into the field, on the right, through a vacancy made by the rails being taken for fires; his party still proceeded up the road, and the first division passed the house: the officer, his sight still fixed on the red clothes of the 17th, approached close up to the fence where Captain Saunders lay; he did not immediately observe the Rangers, and, it is probable, he might not, had he not heard one of the men stifling a laugh: looking down he saw them, and galloped off; he was fired at, wounded, and taken. The division that had passed the house attempted to return: Captain Stephenson sallied, drove them across the fields, Captain Saunders pursued them; the Huzzars were let loose and afterwards the battalion, Colonel Mawhood leading them; Major Simcoe directed the 17th back to the house, with the grenadiers, and Highlanders of the Rangers, ready to force the bridge, if ordered; the enemy, for a moment, quitted it, Colonel Mawhood [p50] thought it useless to pass it. Some of the division, who passed the house, were taken prisoners, but the greater part were drowned in the Aloes creek. The officer, who was taken, proved to be a Frenchman. The Rangers had one Huzzar mortally wounded; and what was unfortunate, he was wounded by a man, whom in the eagerness of the pursuit he had passed, given quarters to, and not disarmed: the villain, or coward, was killed by another Huzzar. The corps returned to Salem.
The rebels still occupying the posts at Quintin and Hancock's bridge, and probably accumulating, Colonel Mawhood determined to attack them at the latter, where, from all reports, they were assembled to near four hundred men. He entrusted the enterprise to Major Simcoe, and went with him and a patrole opposite to the place: the Major ascended a tree and made a rough sketch of the buildings, which, by conversing with the guides, he improved into a tolerable plan of the place, and formed his mode of attack accordingly. He embarked on the 20th, at night, on board the flat boats; he was to be landed at an inlet, seven miles below Aloes creek, when the boats were immediately to be returned, and by a private road he was to reach Hancock's bridge, opposite to which, Major Mitchell was detached with the 27th regiment, to co-operate with him. Major Simcoe foresaw the difficulties, and dangers, but he kept them to himself: every thing depended upon surprise. The enemy were nearly double his numbers; and his retreat, by the absolute orders to send back the boats, was cut off; [p51] but he had just confidence in the silence, attention, and spirit of the corps. By some strange error in the naval department, when the boats arrived off Aloes creek, the tide set so strong against them that, in the opinion of the officer of the navy, they could not reach the place of their destination till mid-day. Major Simcoe determined not to return, but to land on the marshes, at the mouth of the Aloes creek; there were good guides with him: they found out a landing place, and after a march of two miles through marshes, up to the knees in mud and water, labours rendered more fatiguing by the carriage of the first wooden planks they met with, to form bridges with them over the ditches, they at length arrived at a wood upon dry land. Here the corps was formed for the attack. There was no public road which led to Hancock's bridge, but that which the Rangers were now in possession of; a bank, on which there was a footway, led from Hancock's to Quintin's bridge. Hancock's house was a large brick house; there were many store-houses round it, and some few cottages. Captain Saunders was detached to ambuscade the dyke that led to Quintin's bridge, about half a mile from the quarters, and to take up a small bridge which was upon it, as the enemy would, probably, fly that way, and if not pursued too closely, would be more easily defeated. Captain Dunlop was detached to the rear of Hancock's house; in which it was presumed the rebel officers quartered; directed to force it, occupy and barricade it, as it commanded the passage of the bridge. Different detachments [p52] were allotted to the houses supposed to be the enemy's quarters, which having mastered, they were ordered to assemble at Hancock's; a party was appropriated to relay the bridge. On approaching the place, two sentries were discovered: two men of the light infantry followed them, and, as they turned about, bayoneted them; the companies rushed in, and each, with proper guides, forced the quarters allotted to it. No resistance being made, the light infantry, who were in reserve, reached Hancock's house by the road, and forced the front door, at the same time that Captain Dunlop, by a more difficult way, entered the back door; as it was very dark, these companies had nearly attacked each other. The surprise was complete, and would have been so, had the whole of the enemy's force been present, but, fortunately for them, they had quitted it the evening before, leaving a detachment of twenty or thirty men, all of whom were killed. Some very unfortunate circumstances happened here. Among the killed was a friend of Government, then a prisoner with the rebels, old Hancock, the owner of the house, and his brother: Major Simcoe had made particular enquiry, and was informed that he did not live at home, since the rebels had occupied the bridge. The information was partly true; he was not there in the day-time, but unfortunately returned home at night: events like these are the real miseries of war. The roads which led to the country were immediately ambuscaded; and Lieutenant Whitlock was detached to surprise a patrole of seven men who had been sent [p53] down the creek: this he effected completely. On their refusal to surrender, he fired on them, only one escaped. This firing gave the first notice of the success of the enterprise to the 27th regiment; with so much silence it had hitherto been conducted. The bridge was now laid; and Major Simcoe communicated to Colonel Mitchell, that the enemy were at Quintin's bridge; that he had good guides to conduct them thither by a private road, and that the possession of Hancock's house secured a retreat. Lieutenant-Colonel Mitchell said, that his regiment was much fatigued by the cold, and that he would return to Salem as soon as the troops joined. The ambuscades were of course withdrawn, and the Queen's Rangers were forming to pass the bridge, when a rebel patrole passed where an ambuscade had been, and discovering the corps, galloped back. Lieutenant-Colonel Mitchell, finding his men in high spirits, had returned, purposing to march to Quintin's bridge: but being informed of the enemy's patrole, it was thought best to return. Colonel Mawhood, in public orders, "returned his best thanks to Major Simcoe and his corps, for their spirited and good conduct in the surprise of the rebel posts." Two days after, the Queen's Rangers patrolled to Thompson's bridge; the enemy, who had been posted there, were alarmed at the approach of a cow the night before, fired at it, wounded it, and then fled; they also abandoned Quintin's bridge, and retired to a creek, sixteen miles from Aloes creek. Major Simcoe, making a patrole with the Huzzars, took a circuit towards [p54] the rear of one of the parties sent out to protect the foragers: a party of the enemy had been watching them the whole day, and unluckily, the forage being completed, the detachment had just left its ground and was moving off; the enemy doing the like, met the patrole; were pursued, and escaped by the passage which the foragers had just left open. One only was taken, being pursued into a bog, which the Huzzars attempted in vain to cross, and were much mortified to see above a dozen of the enemy, who had passed round it in safety, within a few yards: they consisted of all the field officers and committee-men of the district. The prisoner was their adjutant. The enemy, who were assembled at Cohansey, might easily have been surprised; but Colonel Mawhood judged, that having completed his forage with such success, his business was to return, which he effected. The troops embarked without any accident, and sailed for Philadelphia. The horses were given back to the inhabitants, or paid for. On the passage, the ships waiting for the tide, Major Simcoe had an opportunity of landing at Billing's port, where Major Vandyke's corps was stationed, and examining it, they arrived at Philadelphia, March the 31st. The patroles of the Rangers were made systematically as ever, on their return; but as spring approached, the enemy's cavalry came nearer to the lines, and owed their escape, more than once, to the fleetness of their horses: one or two of them who were taken were decorated with eggs, women's shoes, &c. &c. that they had robbed the market people of, and, in that dress, were [p55] paraded through the street to prison. Several loyalists were in arms, under the command of Mr. Thomas, their Captain; and, with Hovenden's, and James's troops of Provincials, made excursions into the country; and at Newton, many miles from Philadelphia, they brought off a large quantity of clothing; whenever they made an excursion, the Queen's Rangers pushed forward to bring them off. One morning, about two o'clock, Major Simcoe, marching to support them in an attempt they were to make on Smithfield, met them about a mile from Philadelphia; they said, they had been repulsed: judging it necessary to support the advantages derived from the distance to which they made their excursions, he made enquiries into the matter, and found their accounts so various, that he determined to march to Smithfield, and accordingly took such of them with him as were not weary, for guides. His ideas were, that the party at Smithfield would probably be reinforced by another which was in its vicinity, and that he might possibly surprise them rejoicing at their success: at any rate, the recoil would add to the ascendancy necessary to be maintained in the country. The Queen's Rangers marched to Smithfield, but found no enemy there; and, it appeared, that they had also fled, having exchanged some shots with the Refugees. Mr. Washington drew his supplies of fat cattle from New England: a drove of this kind was met about thirty miles from Philadelphia, between the Delaware and Schuylkill, by a friend of Government, who passed himself upon the drivers for a rebel commissary, then [p56] billetted them at a neighbouring farm, and immediately galloped to Philadelphia, from whence a party of dragoons were sent for the cattle: the Queen's Rangers advanced forward to Chestnut hill, and the brigade of guards were posted at Germantown; the whole drove was safely conducted to Philadelphia. Major Simcoe, as was his custom, with the Huzzars, patrolled in front, and took a minute survey of the ground, at Barren-hill church, which was near proving of consequence in the event.
A very great desertion happened from Washington's army this winter, which, had it not been difficult to effect, probably, would have been universal; the Queen's Rangers were benefited by it; Captain Armstrong's company of grenadiers, in size, youth, and appearance, was inferior to no one in the army. There were many reports, that Mr. Lacy, the rebel General of the Pennsylvania militia, was collecting them, professedly to impede the country people's intercourse with the markets. Major Simcoe, besides employing his own intelligence, applied to Lieutenant-Colonel Balfour, who so successfully managed these matters, during the army's being at Philadelphia, for what he could furnish him with; and represented that it would be of the utmost consequence, to attack Lacy the moment he broke into the circle of country, which we had hitherto maintained possession of. In consequence of this conversation, he was sent for by Colonel Balfour, some time after, and informed, that Lacy's corps were to assemble at the Crooked Billett, twenty-five miles from Philadelphia, on the first of May. [p57] Major Simcoe was anxious that they should be attacked on that night; and from the maps of the country arranged the plan, which was approved of. The main road led, past the Billett, to Philadelphia from York; at less than half a mile from it, on the Philadelphia side, there was another, that led to Washington's camp, by Horsham meeting. Major Simcoe proposed, that he should march with the Rangers, and, by a circuit, get to the road in the rear of the Billett; and that a detachment should march and ambuscade themselves in a wood, (the intelligencer said there was one adapted to the purpose,) on the road which led by the Horsham meeting-house to Washington's camp; this party was to remain in ambuscade till they heard the firing of the Queen's Rangers. It was supposed, that if the surprise should not be complete, the ambuscade would render the success perfectly so, by supporting the Rangers if they were checked, and by intercepting the enemy if they attempted to retreat, which, probably, would be towards their army. Colonel Balfour proposed two hundred light infantry to go; to this Major Simcoe said, "that they would be commanded by older officers in the line, and yet of inferior local rank to himself, and that it was his wish, on that account, to avoid giving umbrage;" the result was, Lieutenant-Colonel Abercrombie was chosen, and marched with a large detachment of the light infantry, and with one of cavalry, and horses to mount part of his infantry-men, for greater expedition. Major Simcoe's march was a difficult one: he thought it necessary [p58] to make many circuits to avoid places where he suspected the enemy had posts, or patroles. He was admirably guided; and, luckily, had information, about twilight, that prevented him from committing a serious error: the armed Refugees, as Captain Thomas, their commander, informed him, were sent by Mr. Galloway, to convey in some of his furniture; they adventured out, hearing of the expedition by some means or other, and marched up the roads which the Rangers had so carefully avoided, but without meeting any interruption, or alarm; luckily, they passed a house, which Major Simcoe called at, or he would, certainly, when he overtook them, have mistaken them for rebels: they were directed to keep themselves undiscovered; and the Rangers marched on so fast as possible. Although day light appeared, Major Simcoe was under no apprehensions of discovery, and certain of Colonel Abercrombie's having met with no accident, as the parties must have been within the hearing of each other's fire. He had now arrived at the point, where he quitted the road, in order to make his last circuit to reach the Billett, profiting by the covert that the irregularities of the ground would have afforded, and was informing the officers of his plan of attack, to be guided by circumstances, (Captain Kerr's division excepted, who was to force Lacy's quarters, and barricade them for a point to rally at, in case of misadventure,) when a few shots were heard. Major Simcoe immediately exclaimed, "the dragoons have discovered us;" so it was. Colonel Abercrombie, although assisted by horses, could [p59] not arrive at his post at the appointed time, before daybreak; anxious to support Major Simcoe, he detached his cavalry, and mounted light infantry, to the place of ambuscade. The officer who commanded, patrolled to Lacy's out-post, and, being fired at by the rebel sentinels, did not retire; Lacy, of course, did, and collecting his force, began a retreat up the country: in this situation, the Rangers arrived nearly in his rear, upon his right flank; they stopped and turned some smaller parties who were escaping from the light infantry, and who were killed, but the main body retreated in a mass, without order, and by no efforts could the infantry reach them: unfortunately, the Huzzars of the Rangers were left at Philadelphia, their horses having been fatigued by a long course of duty, and a severe patrole the day before: thirty dragoons, who were with the Rangers, were sent to intercept the baggage waggons, and staid to guard them. As the enemy were marching through a wood, Major Simcoe gallopped up to the edge of it, and summoned them to surrender; they were in great consternation, but marched on; he then gave the words of command, "make ready," "present," "fire," hoping that the intervening fence and thickets between him and them might lead them to suppose he had troops with him, and that they might halt, when a few moments would have been decisive: at the word "fire" they crouched down, but still moved on, and soon got out of all reach. A few men of the Rangers were wounded, as was the horse of Wright, Major Simcoe's orderly Huzzar; and Captain M'Gill's [p60] shoe-buckle probably saved the foot of that valuable officer: the enemy had fifty or sixty killed, and taken. The troops returned to Philadelphia. The commander in chief ordered the baggage to be sold, for their benefit; it produced a dollar a man. The guides of the Queen's Rangers computed their march at fifty-eight miles; not a man was missing. This excursion, though it failed in the greater part, had its full effect, of intimidating the militia, as they never afterwards appeared, but in small parties, and like robbers.
As the spring approached, the hopes of the army were pointed to an attack on Valley Forge: the surmise gave Major Simcoe particular pleasure; he had formerly been quartered in the house that was Washington's head quarters, and had made himself minutely master of the ground about it, and particularly, of those undulations which are so material in all attacks against batteries, and from all the plans and descriptions of Valley Forge, it appeared to him probable, that an attack would commence in this point. These hopes vanished, when the news of Sir William Howe's recall reached Philadelphia,3 together with the orders for the army's abandoning that city. Mr. Washington's ignorance, however, exposed him to a check, from which his usual good fortune extricated him. He passed a corps, under the direction of the Marquis de La Fayette, over the Schuylkill; arrangements were made to cut it off; a column made a circuit for that purpose, under General Grant, the Queen's Rangers led it, and Major Simcoe was ordered to march at the rate of two miles an hour: this [p61] slow and tiresome pace was too quick to keep the column properly compacted, and he was frequently obliged to halt; nearly at day-light, a subaltern's party of dragoons were ordered to the front. Soon after a rebel patrole appeared, and while the young officer was deliberating what to do, got off; the column moved on, and arriving at three cross roads, the advance was directed to halt, there being some doubt which was the proper road. General Grant arrived, and immediately directed him to march on; the column was too late, the alarum guns were fired from Washington's camp, and Fayette had moved off from Barren-hill church, and passed the Schuylkill; the cavalry being detached in a fruitless pursuit of him, the Huzzars went with them, and Lieutenant Wickham compared a party of the rebels, whom he saw fording the Schuylkill, to the corks of a fishing seine.
As the time approached for the army's quitting Philadelphia, patroles were passed over the Delaware, from the Jersies; one of which, after a long chase, was taken by the Huzzars. The Quarter Master General being in great want of horses, Major Simcoe escorted the commissaries who were sent to procure them: he entered upon the office with great regret, as they were to be taken from people whom he had uniformly protected. The enemy had some strong parties in the country. The whole corps made a long march, in four divisions, as has been before explained; he had also a three pounder, that had been lately attached to his corps. On his return he was ambuscaded, near the Bristol side of Penny-pack bridge: [p62] the first division passed the bridge with the cannon, and immediately formed on the opposite banks, as Major Simcoe was apprehensive of some attack; its position secured the march of the successive divisions. It was afterwards known, that the enemy were in force, but were deterred from attacking by the position of the first division, and the order of march.
Sir Henry Clinton, when he took the command of the army, directed Lord Rawdon to raise a corps of Irish volunteers; and Captain Doyle, of the 55th regiment, was appointed Lieutenant-Colonel. Major Simcoe waited upon the commander in chief, and requested, that as he was Captain Doyle's senior in the army, he would be pleased to make him so in the Provincial line, adding, that if his Excellency, at any future time, should appoint a senior officer of the line, to a Provincial command, Major Simcoe, of course, could have no objection that he should have superior rank in the Provincials. Sir Henry Clinton was pleased to refer his request to Sir William Erskine, and General Paterson, the Quarter-Master and Adjutant General, who, reporting that it was just, Sir Henry Clinton appointed him to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel; and, to avoid similar inconveniences, antedated his commission to all Provincial Lieutenant-Colonels. The procuring the horses was the last service that the Queen's Rangers performed in Pennsylvania. Embarking, and passing over to Cooper's ferry, on the 17th of June, 1778, Lieutenant-Colonel Simcoe observed, in public orders, "that he doubted not but that all ranks of the regiment were sensible that the undaunted [p63] spirit which had rendered them the terror of their enemies, was not more honourable to them than that abhorrence of plunder which distinguishes the truly brave from the cowardly ruffian, and which had left a favourable impression of the Queen's Rangers on the minds of such of the inhabitants of Pennsylvania as had been in their power; he assured himself, that, as they were to pass over to the Jersies, they would, in every respect, behave as became the character the corps had acquired, and which marks the disciplined soldier. He gave orders, that the Captains and officers, commanding companies, should march in the rear of their respective divisions, till such time as more active duties required their presence elsewhere, and should be answerable that no soldier quitted his rank on any pretence, but particularly to drink: this practice having been the death of many a valuable soldier, the permission of it was highly criminal." The 18th, the Queen's Rangers, being part of General Leslie's division, marched to Haddonfield; on the 19th to Evesham; the Yagers being in front, there was a slight skirmish, in which the rebel party lost some men, and one of them being taken proved to be a British deserter, who was executed the next day. The army encamped at Mount Holly, the 20th and 21st; they marched to the Black Horse the 22d; the Queen's Rangers formed the advance. By an error of the guides, at a cross road, they were pursuing the wrong one, a rebel officer called out to them, "You are wrong, you are wrong," but the corps passing by without heeding him, and [p64] afterwards taking the nearer way across the fields into the right road, in which he was, the advanced men got within a few yards of him, undiscovered; Lieutenant-Colonel Simcoe prevented them from firing, but called to him to keep at a greater distance, which he did. The 23d, the army marched to Crosswicks, the Queen's Rangers forming the advance of the left column. Hitherto there were no interruptions on this march but from a bridge, the boards of which had been taken up, but laid within a few yards, so that they were easily replaced. Approaching Crosswicks, a body of the enemy appeared; Lieutenant-Colonel Simcoe took the flanking party, under Lieutenant Wilson, and tried to cut them off before they could pass the creek at that place. He was too late for this purpose, but in time to prevent them from executing their design of cutting down the trees which stood close to the bridge, and throwing them across it; the enemy had taken up the planks, and were posted behind a wood, on the opposite bank. Captain Stephenson's company of light infantry, were directed, by the commander in chief in person, to the same post, on the left that Lieutenant Wilson had occupied. Lieutenant-Colonel Simcoe, on his return, formed his corps behind the meeting-house, ready to pass the bridge; the dragoons arrived, and dismounted, lining the fences on the right, and Lieutenant M'Leod, of the artillery, bringing up his three pounders, and being fully exposed to the enemy, in case they had kept their position, it was determined to pass the bridge upon its rafters, which was affected without opposition. The enemy had fled [p65] from the wood, and a party on the right, which the Queen's Rangers made every effort to pursue, escaped; nor were the rest of the advanced troops more successful who followed the body which retreated on the left. Captain Stephenson, exerting himself with his usual gallantry, became an object to a person, said to be a quaker; who fired at him with a long fowling-piece, and dangerously wounded him; the escape of the commander in chief, distinguishable by his dress and activity to an enemy posted in security and intended to fire a single and well aimed shot, was very remarkable. The Queen's Rangers, and some other troops, remained posted beyond the creek; the army did not pass the bridge: there were events here worth recording. Lieutenant-Colonel Simcoe, in conversation with Captain Armstrong, happened to mention, that he was fully convinced of the truth of what an English military author had observed, that a number of firelocks were, in action, rendered useless, by being carried on the shoulders, from casual musket-balls, which could not be the case were the arms carried in the position of the advance; he added, that advanced arms, certainly, gave a compactness, and took off the appearance of wavering from a column more than any other mode of carrying them. Captain Armstrong had assented, and took occasion to exemplify it now, by advancing the arms of his grenadier company when under fire, and while he led over the rafters of the bridge.
The sluices had been shut, by which means the water was ponded; Lieutenant Murray plunged in, [p66] thinking it fordable, but finding it not so, he swam over, and got behind a tree before the corps passed the bridge, and was between both fires; luckily he escaped unhurt. Hitherto the march of the army pointed equally to Trenton, or Cranberry; it now, on the 24th of June, took the route to the latter, by marching to Allentown: the Queen's Rangers formed the advance of the column. The bridge at Allentown, over a small rivulet, was taken up, and Colonel Simcoe fired two or three cannon shot, which drove a small party of the enemy from thence, and he passed over without the exchange of a musket, one of which might, unnecessarily, deprive him of a valuable officer, or soldier. Passing forward, a rebel patrole from the Cranberry road, came close to the front of the Rangers, mistaking them for their own people; they retired into a wood, which, as soon as the army halted, a party scoured, but to no purpose. Lieutenant-Colonel Simcoe had a book, in which was inserted the names of every soldier in his corps, the counties in which they were born, and where they had ever lived, so that he seldom was at a loss for guides in his own corps; he had also many Refugees with him, who served as guides. The commander in chief asked him, whether he had any guides? he answered, he had none who knew any of the roads to Brunswick; that the chief of his guides was born at Monmouth. Sir Henry Clinton directed him to be sent to head quarters, as he might be useful in procuring intelligence, though not serviceable as a guide; this was done, and as soon as the army marched he came for [p67] two soldiers of the regiment, natives of Monmouth county: this was the first idea which Lieutenant-Colonel Simcoe had of the army's being intended to march elsewhere than to South Amboy. An alteration in the disposition of the army took place; it marched in one column: the Yagers made the rear; the Queen's Rangers, light infantry, and dragoons, followed in succession. The army halted at the Rising Sun; the enemy's light troops appeared in greater force in the rear. On the arrival at the camp, Lieutenant-Colonel Simcoe immediately passed a deep hollow that separated it from a high hill, with the Huzzars, in order to observe the ground in front, as was his constant custom; two men came out of the wood to Lieutenant Wickham, who was patrolling, deceived by his green clothes; he gave into the deception, passed himself upon them for a rebel partisan, and introduced Lieutenant-Colonel Simcoe to them as Colonel Lee. One of the men was very glad to see him, and told him that he had a son in his corps, and gave him the best account of the movements of the rebel army, from which, Lieutenant-Colonel Simcoe said, he had been detached two days; the other proved to be a committee-man of New Jersey; they pointed out the encampment of the British army, and were completely deceived, till, having told all they knew, and on the party returning, the committee-man having asked, "I wonder what Clinton is about?" "You shall ask him yourself," was the answer, "for we are British."
The army marched the next morning toward Monmouth, [p68] in the same order; and it now became evident, that Sir Henry Clinton intended to embark from Sandy Hook. There was some skirmishing between the Yagers and the enemy; and one time, it having the appearance of being serious, the Rangers were divided into two divisions, to march on each flank of the Yagers, who, having no bayonets, might have suffered from an intrepid enemy; but the contrary was the case, as the alarm originated from a shout that Captain Ewald, who commanded the rear guard, set up on the enemy's approach, which with other preparations, sent them away upon the full run. Upon the arrival at Monmouth, the Queen's Rangers covered head quarters; the army halted the next day, and foraged.
On the morning of the 27th, the Queen's Rangers marched, at two o'clock, and occupied the post from which the second battalion of light infantry were drawn, to march with the second division, under General Kniphausen: a great extent of ground was to be guarded, and the whole corps lay upon their arms. In the morning, about seven o'clock, orders were brought to Lieutenant-Colonel Simcoe, "to take his Huzzars and try to cut off a reconnoitring party of the enemy, (supposed to be M. Fayette,) who was upon a bald hill, and not far from his left." As the woods were thick in front, Lieutenant-Colonel Simcoe had no knowledge of the ground, no guide, no other direction, and but twenty Huzzars with him; he asked of Lord Cathcart, who brought him the order, whether he might not take some infantry with [p69] him, who, from the nature of the place, could advance nearly as expeditiously as his cavalry? to this his Lordship assenting, Lieutenant-Colonel Simcoe immediately marched with his cavalry, and the grenadier company, consisting of forty rank and file. He had not proceeded far, before he fell in with two rebel Videttes, who, galloping off, the cavalry were ordered to pursue them, as their best guides; they fled on the road down a small hill, at the bottom of which was a rivulet; on the opposite rising, the ground was open, with a high fence, the left of which reached the road, and along which, a considerable way to the right, a large corps was posted. This corps immediately fired, obliquely, upon the Huzzars, who, in their pursuit of the Videttes, went up the road, and gained their left, when Ellison, a very spirited Huzzar, leapt the fence, and others followed. Lieutenant-Colonel Simcoe, in the mean time, brought up the grenadiers, and ordered the Huzzars to retreat; the enemy gave one universal fire, and, panic struck, fled. The Baron Stuben, who was with them, lost his hat in the confusion. Lieutenant-Colonel Simcoe rode along the fence, on the side opposite to which the enemy had been, posting the grenadiers there; the enemy fired several scattering shots, one of which wounded him in the arm: for some seconds, he thought it broken, and was unable to guide his horse, which, being also struck, run away with him, luckily, to the rear; his arm soon recovering its tone, he got to the place where he had formed the Huzzars, and with fourteen of them, returned towards a house, to which the right [p70] of the enemy's line had reached. Upon his left flank he saw two small parties of the enemy; he galloped towards them, and they fled: in this confusion, seeing two men, who, probably, had been the advance of these parties, rather behind the others, he sent Serjeant Prior, and a Huzzar, to take them, but with strict orders not to pursue too close to the wood. This the serjeant executed; and, after firing their loaded muskets at the large body which had been dislodged and was now rallying, the prisoners were obliged to break them, and to walk between the Huzzars and the enemy. The business was now to retreat, and to carry off whomsoever might be wounded in the first attack. The enemy opposite seemed to increase, and a party, evidently headed by some general officer, and his suit, advancing, to reconnoitre: it suggested to Lieutenant-Colonel Simcoe, to endeavour to pass, as on a similar design; and, for this purpose, he dispatched a Huzzar to the wood in his rear, to take off his cap, and make signals, as if he was receiving directions from some persons posted in it. The party kept moving, slowly, close to the fence, and towards the road; when it go to some distance from the house, which has been mentioned, Lieutenant-Colonel Simcoe called out audibly, as if to a party posted in it, "not to fire till the main body came close," and moved on slowly parallel to the enemy, when he sent Ryan, an Huzzar, forward, to see if there were any wounded men, and whether the grenadiers remained where he had posted them, adding, "for we must carry them off or lie with them;" to [p71] which the Huzzar replied "to be sure, your honour." On his return, and reporting there was nobody there, Lieutenant-Colonel Simcoe struck obliquely from the fence, secured by a falling of the ground from danger, over the brook to the wood, where he found Captain Armstrong had, with great judgment, withdrawn his grenadiers; from thence he returned to camp, and sending his prisoners to the General, went himself to the baggage, his wound giving him excruciating pain, the day being like to prove very hot, and there not appearing the least probability of any action. Two Huzzars, and three of the infantry, were wounded in this skirmish; one of the Huzzars died at Monmouth after the action; the other, who was able to have marched, was left by the Hospital, and fell into the hands of the enemy. It is obvious that, of all descriptions of people, the Rangers were the last who should have been left as prisoners, since so many deserters from the enemy were in the corps: the soldiers had the utmost reliance upon their own officer's attention to this particular. The enemy who were defeated, consisted of that corps of Jersey militia which in General Lee's trial, is said "to have given way," by the evidence of the field officer who brought up fresh troops and cannon to support it; they were those detachments, which Sir Henry Clinton's letter says, "The Queen's Rangers fell in with among the woods, and dispersed," and who, probably, as Washington's account says, "were the Jersey militia, amounting to about seven or eight hundred men, under the command of General Dickenson." They were [p72] destined to attack the baggage, but made no other attempt that day.
The American war shows no instance of a larger body of men discomfitted by so small a number. The army saw not the combat; but every officer, every soldier, heard the heavy fire, and from that could form a judgment of the enemy's number. Lieutenant-Colonel Simcoe afterwards heard a person who was of this body call the grenadier's company, to use his own expression, "a power of Hessians." Captain Ross took the command of the corps. He was detached, with the light infantry, under Colonel Abercrombie, to turn the enemy's left; went through the whole fatigue of that hot day, and though the corps had been under arms all the preceding night, it here gave a striking and singular proof of the vast advantages of the Philadelphia marches, by not having a man missing, or any who fell out of the ranks through fatigue. Captain Ross had an opportunity of more than once showing great military judgment and intrepidity, in checking different parties of the enemy; and the Highland company in particular, distinguished itself, under the command of Captain M'Kay, in covering a three pounder of the light infantry battalion, which was impeded by a swamp. At night, when the army marched off, Captain Ross, with that silence which was remarked in Washington's account of the action, formed the rear guard. During the day, the baggage was not seriously attacked; but some very small parties ran across it, from one side of the road to the other: one of these Captain Needham, and [p73] Lieutenant Cooke of the 17th dragoons, (since Captain of the Queen's Rangers,) dispersed; the rumors of them, however, added personal solicitude to Lieutenant-Colonel Simcoe's public anxiety, and, for security, he got together the pioneers of his own and some other corps around his waggon. The uncertainty of what fate might attend his corps, and the army, gave him more uneasiness than he ever experienced; and, when the baggage halted, he passed an anxious night, till about the middle of it, when he had authentic information of the events. The army encamped at Middleton, the 29th and 30th. On the 1st of July, Lieutenant-Colonel Simcoe resumed his command, and marched, to escort Sir William Erskine to Sandy Hook. The army remained in this vicinity till the 5th, when it marched to Sandy Hook also: this peninsula had been made an island by the storms of the preceding winter; a bridge of boats was thrown across the channel, over which the army passed, the Queen's Rangers excepted, who, forming the rear guard, embarked in boats from the Jersey side, as soon as the bridge was broken up. It is remarkable, and what few other corps in the army could say, that in this march the Queen's Rangers lost no men, by desertion. They landed at New York, marched up to Morris's house, and encamped there.
Soon after, the troops returned from Philadelphia,4 it appearing probable to Lieutenant-Colonel Simcoe, that America would be quitted by the British forces, and the war carried on in the West Indies; he applied to Colonel Drummond, (then aid-du-camp,) to [p74] make the request from him to Sir Henry Clinton, that he might be permitted, with his corps, and other loyalists, to join the Indians and troops under Colonel Butler, who had just been heard of on the upper parts of the Delaware. The Commander in Chief's answer to him was, "that he much applauded his spirit, but that he would find sufficient employment for him with his army." He had digested the detail of his route; his mode of subsistence, and operations: the idea he entertained, of what such a junction might have led to, was, and is still, unbounded. Lieutenant-Colonel Simcoe was ill in New York, and did not join till the 14th, during this period, nothing material happened. On the 15th, the Queen's Rangers, and Emmerick's corps, encamped outside Kingsbridge; the three Provincial troops of Hovenden, James, and Sandford, also joined the Queen's Rangers: an Amuzette, and three artillery men, were now added to the three pounder attached to the regiment. The post was of great extent, liable to insult, and required many sentinels: it was strengthened as much as possible; and, in all matters of labor, the soldiers worked with the greatest energy, under the inspection of their officers, and were easily made to comprehend, not only the general security, but the benefit which they, individually, received from their works, by its operating to lessen their duties; of course, they were taught that the work should not be slighted. Mr. Washington's army encamping at the White Plains, the Yagers, and Queen's Rangers, had full employment. Lieutenant-Colonel Simcoe was ever averse to patroles, [p75] except, as in the case at Philadelphia, where they served to cover a well affected country, and were made systematically, and in force; or to ascertain some precise object; circumstanced as the armies now were, they appeared to him to be particularly dangerous, and totally useless. The inclinations of the Americans, though averse from tactical arrangement, had always been turned to patrolling, in their antiquated dialect, scouting: the Indians, their original enemies, and the nature of their country, had familiarized them to this species of warfare, and they were, in general, excellent marksmen. There was nothing, either in the American generals or their troops, that could warrant a belief, that they would make a serious attempt upon Kingsbridge; added to the strong works within the island, the eminences in front of it were covered with a chain of redoubts within a distance from each other, barely more than necessary to secure the flanks of a battalion; and indeed, for the purpose of protecting a weak army, they had been originally constructed; half a mile in front of these redoubts, lay the light troops, to secure them from surprise, so that it was manifest any general move of Mr. Washington's army could not take place for so small an object, as that of beating up the huts of a light corps. Washington's advance corps lay on the heights, near Tuckahoe, under the command of General Scott, to the amount of two thousand men, whose light troops occupied a line from Phillip's creek, on the north, to New Rochelle, on the East river. Small patroles frequently came to William's [p76] bridge, on the Brunx, and sometimes, General Scott came, in force, to Valentine's hill. The country between was irregular, intersected with woods, and so broken and covered with stone walls, as to be most liable to ambuscades: the inhabitants were, by no means, to be trusted, and, in general, so harrassed by their country being the seat of war, that it was not reasonable to place any confidence in them; on the other hand, the Queen's Rangers had many of the natives of the country among them, and Lieutenant-Colonel Emmerick's corps was, in a great measure, composed of them. Lieutenant-Colonel Simcoe made a few patroles, in force, merely to inform himself of the situation of the country; but he spared no pains to acquire an account of what posts the enemy occupied, at night; his determination being to attack them, whenever he saw a fit opportunity. Generals Clinton and Morgan, with a corps of fifteen hundred men, covered the forage of the country, on the side of the enemy. Colonel Wurmb, and Lieutenant-Colonel Simcoe, upon intelligence, had agreed to meet on Valentine's hill, one morning, in force, and, accordingly, Lieutenant-Colonel Simcoe, with his Huzzars, was upon the hill, waiting for him; the infantry, and Provincial cavalry, were left in the plain, under the command of Captain Ross; the light infantry and Highland companies being ambuscaded in an orchard, at the place where the roads fork to Hunt's bridge, and Valentine's hill. Colonel Wurmb, finding the enemy in force at Phillip's, did not choose to move to Valentine's hill, and sent the Yager cavalry to [p77] give the Rangers the necessary information. At the same time the enemy appeared advancing to Valentine's hill. As Lieutenant-Colonel Simcoe was quitting it, to return to his corps, Lieutenant M'Nab, of the Huzzars, who had been sent with a patrole beyond the Brunx, confirmed the intelligence which he had been furnished with the night before, that a strong body, with cannon, was approaching to Hunt's bridge, on the opposite side of the Brunx: this bridge was commanded by the heights on the side of Kingsbridge, which had been fortified by the rebels in 1776; their works were not demolished. In their rear was a wood; it had been designed to conceal the Rangers; and, while the Yagers and cavalry should have engaged with any corps who might patrole to Valentine's hill, it was thought probable, that the enemy on the opposite side of the Brunx would pass it to their assistance, when the corps in ambuscade was to rush from the wood, and, occupying the fleches, do severe and cool execution upon them, as they were on the bridge, and occupied in the deep hollow. An advanced party of the enemy, notwithstanding the circumstances which made the troops quit Valentine's hill, had already passed the Brunx; the Yager cavalry were ordered to proceed towards Kingsbridge, slowly, and in full sight of the enemy, who were on Hunt's hill. There were still hopes, by forming the ambuscade, to do some service; when, to Lieutenant-Colonel Simcoe's great surprise, the enemy's cannon were fired at the infantry, whom he expected to have been hidden from their sight, by the intervention of the [p78] woods: but, it appeared, that while Captain Ross was with the advanced companies, some officers imprudently had got upon a fence, out of curiosity, and discovered themselves to the enemy. Lieutenant-Colonel Simcoe immediately withdrew his men out of the reach of any chance shot, and made use of the low ground (the crossing of which would have led him into the ambuscade) to march his infantry under its cover, out of their sight, or the reach of their cannon; he sent orders to Captain Ross to withdraw, and again ambuscaded the cavalry, in a position to take advantage of the enemy, if any party of them should pursue him, or from Valentine's hill should endeavour to incommode his retreat. Observing the movement of the Yager cavalry, the enemy marched a party to watch their motions, on the opposite bank, while their main body formed the line. Captain Ross thought proper to wait for the party which had passed the Brunx. He permitted them to come close to him, when his fire threw them into confusion. He then retreated, making a small circuit to avoid some riflemen who had occupied the wood; the corps returned to their camp. The grand guard was constantly advanced in the day-time to a height, from whence it had a view of the passage over the Brunx, at William's bridge; at night it was withdrawn. Lieut. Colonel Simcoe being on duty at New-York for a day, Captain Ross, in visiting the piquet at night, found the sentinels so ill placed, that he ordered Sergeant Kelly and two Huzzars to patrole forwards for its security; they passed a few hundred yards only from the post, [p79] when they were surrounded by a party who lay between two stone walls, and taken; nor was Captain Ross to be blamed for ordering the patrole, but the Captain of cavalry, who had omitted a principal sentinel: this patrole made, in contradiction to Lieutenant-Colonel Simcoe's principles, was the only one that had been taken under his command: the Sergeant having been in the rebel service, forced thereto by all want of work, was thrown into prison and threatened with death; Lieutenant-Colonel Simcoe offered a Sergeant whom he had lately taken, in exchange for him; and threatning to leave to the mercy of his soldiers the first six rebels who should fall into his hands, in case of Kelly's execution, soon obtained his release. July the 18th Captain Lord Cathcart was appointed Colonel, and on the 1st of August Captain Tarleton, Lieutenant-Colonel of the Legion: Captain Hovenden and James's troops were incorporated in that corps. Captain Ross was appointed to the rank of Major of the Queen's Rangers. Lord Cathcart joined the light troops at Kingsbridge, and took the command of them. Lieutenant-Colonel Simcoe having information that three distinct patroles of thirty men each, set out early in the morning from General Scott's camp at the same time, by different roads, proposed to his Lordship to ambuscade them, on a supposition that they had orders to assist each other in case of necessity; to which his Lordship assenting, the infantry of the Queen's Rangers marched and occupied a wood two miles in front of Kingsbridge, and Lord Cathcart, with the cavalry of the Rangers, Legion, and Emmericks, lay half a [p80] mile in the rear, from whence he sent out a patrole, which passing by a road on the right of the Rangers, advanced a quarter of a mile in its front, and returned. On its return, Lord Cathcart began firing to attract the enemy's notice, a party of whom crossed the country, and came near to the Queen's Rangers, but passed no further, and, after firing into the wood, to the right of the ambuscade, marched off; this patrole had approached, as was expected, on hearing the firing, and would inevitably have been taken, but, as it afterwards appeared, a girl, from a garret window, had seen some of the soldiers on their march to the wood, and gave the enemy intelligence.
Lt. Colonel Simcoe was much affected at Lord Cathcart's having the rank of Colonel of Provincials, and made, in consequence of it, application to the Commander in Chief; Sir Henry Clinton, though he waved for the present the giving Lt. Colonel Simcoe rank of Lord Cathcart, offered to him that of Colonel, which he respectfully (but as the event has proved most unfortunately) declined: every motive that he had to solicit this rank, by Lord Cathcart's being employed on other duties, was done away, and Lt. Colonel Simcoe remained at Kingsbridge, in command of his corps, Lt. Col. Emmerick's, and the cavalry of the Legion. In Lt. Col. Tarleton, he had a colleague, full of enterprise and spirit, and anxious for every opportunity of distinguishing himself. These officers, when making observations on the country in front, had a very singular and narrow escape, as they were patroling with a few Huzzars. [p81] The Stockbridge Indians about sixty in number, excellent marksmen, had just joined Mr. Washington's army. Lt. Col. Simcoe was describing a private road to Lt. Col. Tarleton: Wright, his orderly dragoon, alighted and took down a fence of Devou's farm yard, for them to pass through; around this farm the Indians were ambuscaded; Wright had scarce mounted his horse, when these officers, for some trivial reason, altered their intentions, and, spurring their horses, soon rode out of sight, and out of reach of the Indians. In a few days after, they had certain information of the ambuscade, which they so fortunately had escaped: in all probability, they owed their lives to the Indians' expectations of surrounding and taking them prisoners. Good information was soon obtained, by Lt. Col. Simcoe, of General Scott's situation, and character; and he desired Sir William Erskine would lay before the Commander in Chief his request, that he would permit the York Volunteers to join him, for a week; that, during that time, he might attack Scott's camp: he particularly named the York Volunteers, as he wished to unite the Provincials in one enterprise; unfortunately, that regiment could not be spared, as it was ordered for embarkation. Scott soon altered his position; and the source of intelligence, relative to him, was destroyed.
The rebels had, in the day time, a guard of cavalry, near Marmaroneck, which was withdrawn at night: it was intended to cover the country, and protect some sick horses, turned into the salt marshes in the neighbourhood; Lt. Col. Simcoe determined to attempt its [p82] surprisal; General Scott's camp was not above three miles from it; and, in case of alarm, he had a shorter march to intercept the party, at Eastchester bridge, than it had to return there. The troops, consisting of the Queen's Rangers, and the cavalry of the Legion, marched at night; at Chester bridge, Captain Saunders, an officer of great address and determination, was left in ambuscade in a wood, with a detachment of the Rangers, and in the rear of the post that the enemy would, probably, occupy, if they should attempt to cut off the party in its retreat. His directions were, to remain undiscovered; to let all patroles pass; and, in case the enemy should post themselves, to wait until the party, upon its return, should be engaged in forcing the passage, and then to sally upon their rear. The troops continued their march, passing the creek, higher up, with the greatest silence; they went through fields, obliterating every trace of their passage when they crossed roads, to avoid discovery from disaffected people, or the enemy's numerous patroles. When they arrived at their appointed station. Lt. Col. Tarleton, with the cavalry, ambuscaded the road, on which the enemy's guard was to approach; Lt. Col. Simcoe occupied the centre, with the infantry, in a wood, and Major Ross was posted on the right, to intercept whomsoever Lt. Col. Tarleton should let pass. Two or three commissaries, and others, who were on a fishing party, were taken. At six o'clock, as he was previously ordered, Lt. Col. Tarleton left his post, when the party of the enemy instantly appeared in his rear: they owed [p83] their safety to mere accident. The information that both the old and new piquet of the enemy generally arrived at this post at five o'clock, was true; a horse, belonging to a serjeant, breaking loose, the officer chose to wait till it was caught, and this delayed them for a full hour. Three dragoons, who had previously advanced to a house within the ambuscade, were now taken, and about thirty or forty lame or sick horses. The troops, followed at a distance by the rebel dragoons, returned home without any accident. Scott, upon the alarm, ordered off his baggage; and Washington sent cannon, and troops, to his assistance, and put his army under arms. Captain Saunders permitted two patroles to pass, having effectually concealed his party. The prisoners said, that, two mornings before, General Gates had been there fishing.
Lt. Col. Simcoe, returning from head quarters, the 20th of August, heard a firing, in front, and being informed that Lt. Col. Emmerick had patrolled, he immediately marched to his assistance. He soon met him retreating; and Lt. Col. Emmerick being of opinion the rebels were in such force, that it would be adviseable to return, he did so. Lt. Col. Simcoe understood that Nimham, an Indian chief, and some of his tribe, were with the enemy; and by his spies, who were excellent, he was informed that they were highly elated at the retreat of Emmerick's corps, and applied it to the whole of the light troops at Kingsbridge. Lt. Col. Simcoe took measures to increase their belief; and, ordering a day's provision to be cooked, marched the next morning, the 31st of August, a small [p84] distance in front of the post, and determined to wait there the whole day, in hopes of betraying the enemy into an ambuscade: the country was most favourable to it. His idea was, as the enemy moved upon the road which is delineated in the plan as intersecting the country, to advance from his flanks; this movement would be perfectly concealed by the fall of the ground upon his right, and by the woods upon the left; and he meant to gain the heights in the rear of the enemy, attacking whomsoever should be within by his cavalry and such infantry as might be necessary. In pursuance of these intentions, Lt. Col. Emmerick, with his corps, was detached from the Queen's Rangers, and Legion; as, Lt. Col. Simcoe thought, fully instructed in the plan; however, he, most unfortunately, mistook the nearer house for one at a greater distance, the names being the same, and there he posted himself, and soon after sent from thence a patrole forward, upon the road, before Lt. Col. Simcoe could have time to stop it. This patrole had no bad effect, not meeting with any enemy: had a single man of it deserted, or been taken, the whole attempt had, probably, been abortive. Lt. Col. Simcoe, who was half way up a tree, on top of which was a drummer boy, saw a flanking party of the enemy approach. The troops had scarcely fallen into their ranks, when a smart firing was heard from the Indians, who had lined the fences of the road, and were exchanging shot with Lt. Col. Emmerick, whom they had discovered. The Queen's Rangers moved rapidly to gain the heights, and Lt. Col. Tarleton immediately [p85] advanced with the Huzzars, and the Legion cavalry: not being able to pass the fences in his front, he made a circuit to return further upon their right; which being reported to Lt. Col. Simcoe, he broke from the column of the Rangers, with the grenadier company, and, directing Major Ross to conduct the corps to the heights, advanced to the road, and arrived, without being perceived, within ten yards of the Indians. They had been intent upon the attack of Emmerick's corps, and the Legion; they now gave a yell, and fired upon the grenadier company, wounding four of them, and Lt. Col. Simcoe. They were driven from the fences; and Lt. Col. Tarleton, with the cavalry, got among them, and pursued them rapidly down Courtland's-ridge: that active officer had a narrow escape; in striking at one of the fugitives, he lost his balance and fell from his horse; luckily, the Indian had no bayonet, and his musket had been discharged. Lt. Col. Simcoe joined the battalion, and seized the heights. A Captain of the rebel light infantry, and a few of his men, were taken; but a body of them, under Major Stewart, who afterwards was distinguished at Stony Point, left the Indians, and fled. Though this ambuscade, in its greater part, failed, it was of consequence. Near forty of the Indians were killed, or desperately wounded; among others, Nimham, a chieftain, who had been in England, and his son; and it was reported to have stopt a larger number of them, who were excellent marksmen, from joining General Washington's army. The Indian doctor was taken; and he said, that when Nimham saw the grenadiers [p86] close in his rear, he called out to his people to fly, "that he himself was old, and would die there;" he wounded Lt. Col. Simcoe, and was killed by Wright, his orderly Huzzar. The Indians fought most gallantly; they pulled more than one of the cavalry from their horses; French, an active youth, bugle-horn to the Huzzars, struck at an Indian, but missed his blow; the man dragged him from his horse, and was searching for his knife to stab him, when, loosening French's hand, he luckily drew out a pocket-pistol, and shot the Indian through the head, in which situation he was found. One man of the Legion cavalry was killed, and one of them, and two of the Huzzars, wounded.
Colonel Gist, who commanded a light corps of the rebels, was posted near Babcock's house, from whence he made frequent patroles. Lt. Colonel Simcoe had determined to attack him; when, a deserter coming in, at night, who gave an accurate account of his position, the following morning was fixed upon for the attempt. General Kniphausen, who commanded at Kingsbridge, approved of the enterprize, and ordered a detachment of the Yagers to co-operate in it; Lt. Col. Emmerick undertook to lead the march, having, in his corps, people who were well acquainted with the country. The following disposition was made. Emmerick's infantry, followed by the Queen's Rangers, were to march through the meadows on the side of Valentine's hill, opposite Courtland's-ridge, and pass between the rebel sentries to Babcock's house, when they would be in the rear of Gist's encampment, [p87] which they were immediately to attack; Lieut. Col. Tarleton, with the whole of the cavalry, was to proceed to cover the right, and arrive at Valentine's hill by daylight; a detachment of Yagers, under Captain Wreden,5 were to march on Courtland's ridge, and to halt opposite to Gist's encampment; and a larger detachment of Yagers, under Major Pruschank, were, at the same time, to be ready to force Phillip's bridge, then to proceed to the bridge opposite Babcock's house, and to cut off the enemy's retreat by that road. The signal for these divisions' moving on was to be the noise of storming Gist's encampment. Lt. Col. Emmerick conducted the march in so able a manner, and the whole corps followed with so much silence, that the enemy's sentinels were passed without alarm, and this division gained the heights in the rear, and could see the whole chain of sentinels walking below them. Major Ross was detached to possess himself of Post's house, to preserve a communication with Lt. Col. Tarleton, on Valentine's hill; the remainder of the Rangers inclined to the right, towards Gist's camp, and Lt. Col. Emmerick was directed to secure the saw-mill road. Firing soon began; and it was apparent from Lt. Col. Emmerick's quarter, whom the enemy had discovered. Lt. Col. Simcoe immediately moved rapidly into the road, and directly up the steeps to the enemy's camp, as a nearer way than through the thickets; he attained it, and, to his great surprize, found that Major Pruschank had not forced Phillip's bridge, as had been intended, but had crossed and joined Captain [p88] Wreden on Courtland's-ridge, and that Colonel Gist had escaped through the passage which had been so unaccountably left open. Lt. Col. Tarleton fell in with a patrole of cavalry, and dispersed it; and the Queen's Rangers, as soon as they got possession of Gist's camp, having ambuscaded themselves, took a patrole which came forward on hearing the firing. The troops set fire to Gist's huts, and returned to their camp. Soon after, Mr. Washington quitted the White-plains; and Lt. Col. Simcoe was not a little gratified at the country people, among other reasons, attributing this measure to the continual checks which his light troops had received. The next day, he patroled so near as to be certain of the enemy having decamped. Soon after, patroling again to that spot, Lt. Col. Tarleton, who was in front, sent to inform Lt. Col. Simcoe that he understood there was a piquet of the enemy two miles off to the right of the White-plains, and desired that he would send a party to the Plains to watch that quarter, while he galloped on to the enemy's post. Lt. Col. Simcoe went himself to the White-plains, and observed and sketched the inaccessible ground which Mr. Washington had occupied, in 1776, and which hitherto had not been visited by any British officer; Lieut. Col. Tarleton, soon after, returned; he had put the enemy's piquet to flight, and taken some prisoners.
Colonel (now Sir Archibald) Campbell advanced, the latter end of September, with the 71st regiment and the light troops, to Milesquare, where, soon after, Major-General Grant, with a larger force, occupied [p89] the ground, from the Brunx, at Hunt's bridge, to the North river. The Provincial troops, consisting of the Queen's Rangers, Delancey's, Emmerick's, and Legion cavalry, under Lieut. Col. Simcoe, were on the right, beyond the Brunx, and formed a flying camp between that and Chester creek: as this corps was liable to be struck at, it seldom encamped two days and nights in the same place, and constantly occupied a strong position. Their patroles, crossing the country, together with the Yagers, who were on the left, effectually covered the camp. An ambuscade was laid by Colonel Lee, for the Yager patroles, which, in part, was successful. General Grant, wishing to retaliate upon the enemy, an attempt was made to surprize a post at Hammond's house; the Provincial troops were to make a circuit to gain its rear, and the Yagers were to approach to the front. After a very fatiguing and long march, the party gained their position, but the enemy had gone off. On the return to camp, Lieutenant Colonel Simcoe met General Grant, and requested, that, as the corps under his command was severely fatigued and incapable of exertion, he might pass the Brunx, and lie within the guards of the line. The General assented: nor was it useless, for the next day, when they returned to their former position, Major Ross made a patrol, and brought certain intelligence that a large body of the enemy's infantry, pressing horses, had approached the post, at night, within two miles, intending to attack it.
[p90] Earl Cornwallis, being foraging near the English neighborhood, in the Jerseys, it was thought easy, whilst his lordship pushed a body of militia, who were watching his motions in front, to intercept their retreat by passing a corps over the North river; for this purpose, Colonel Campbell, with the 71st and Queen's Rangers, were ordered to embark from Phillip's house; they arrived there, and waited for the boats from New-York, which did not come, or land them till three hours after the appointed time. However, the enemy had changed their position, and Colonel Campbell joined General Grey, who had just surprised Baylor's dragoons; his troops being fresh, he offered his services to penetrate further into the country, and to collect what cattle he could; which being done, the detachment recrossed the river, and returned on the evening to their several encampments. It requires great skill, and still greater attention, to adapt the movements of any embarkation in boats to the tides and shoals of rivers: this was the second expedition mentioned in this Journal, which might have failed, from the want of such knowledge, or of attention in its execution.
General Grant, being to embark for the West-Indies, was so well satisfied with the Queen's Rangers, that he told Lt. Col. Simcoe, if he could get Sir Henry Clinton's permission, he would readily take him, and his corps, among the number of chosen troops destined for that service. This kind and generous offer, could not but be highly agreeable to him, and to the officers of the Queen's Rangers, and nothing [p91] could have made them decline it, but a conviction that it would not be just in them to the many very valuable native Americans who were among their non-commissioned officers, and soldiers; Lieut. Col. Simcoe, therefore, respectfully declined this very advantageous offer, and the certainty of British rank which must have resulted from it. Major Ross went upon the expedition as Brigade-Major, and Lt. Col. Simcoe was deprived of the assistance of his valuable friend, as his country was, too soon, of the services of this gallant officer, he being unfortunately killed at St. Christopher's. Captain Armstrong was appointed Major in his room. Lieut. Col. Simcoe, Captain in the 40th, which regiment went with General Grant, was permitted to remain in the Rangers, by a very honourable distinction which the Commander in Chief was pleased to make, in public orders. The army, soon after, returned to York island; and the Rangers fell back nearer to the redoubts.
Captain Beckwith, (now Major), aid-du-camp to General Kniphausen, procured intelligence of the strength, and of the views of the enemy's advanced corps; and he informed Lieut. Col. Simcoe, that Colonel Armand lay in a situation easily to be surprized. In a few days, some deserters came in: upon their arrival, Captain Beckwith examined them, and sent them on to head quarters at New-York. Lieut. Col. Simcoe, went immediately to New York, to get the deserters, as guides; unfortunately, they had enlisted in the Legion, and been sent to Long-island, where that corps, having left Kingsbridge, was quartered. [p92] Their information was, that one sentry was posted by each house, that Armand had neither videtts nor piquets, and that his horses were unsaddled during the night, and in different stables.
Before the troops went into winter quarters, it was necessary, that sufficient boards should be procured to hut those who were to remain in the vicinity of Kingsbridge, and the light troops were of the parties who collected them. Lt. Col. Simcoe proposed to General Tryon, who commanded the British, to take down Ward's house, and the buildings in its vicinity; and that, while a covering party should halt there, he would attempt to surprise Colonel Thomas, a very active partizan of the enemy, and a post of dragoons, nearly twenty miles beyond it. General Tryon acquiesced in the proposal, and directed it to be put in execution, but seemed very doubtful, whether so wary a person as Thomas could be circumvented. Lt. Col. Simcoe marched all night, with Emmerick's and the Queen's Rangers, and surrounded Thomas's house by day-break. He never lay at home before that night, and had done so in consequence of the British troops, in general, being gone into winter quarters, and one of his own spies being deceived, and made to believe that the Queen's Rangers were to march to Long island. One shot was fired from the window, which, unfortunately, killed a man, by the side of Lt. Col. Simcoe; the house was immediately forced, and, no resistance being made, the officers shut the doors of the different rooms, to prevent the irritated soldiers from revenging their unfortunate [p93] comrade: the man, who fired was the only person killed; but Thomas, after Lt. Col. Simcoe had personally protected him and ensured his safety, jumped out of the window, and, springing over some fences would have certainly escaped, notwithstanding most of Emmerick's riflemen fired at him, had not an Huzzar leapt after him and cut at him with his sword, (which he crouched from and luckily escaped,) when he surrendered. The cavalry proceeded on to the enemy's piquet, at a mile distance. They had been alarmed by the firing, and were formed; they fired their carbines (by which Captain Ogden, of Emmerick's was wounded) and fled: they were pursued, but to no purpose. The troops returned to General Tyron, who was, in person, at Ward's house, and who was much pleased at this mischievous partizan's being taken. This march was above fifty miles.
The season had been, for some time, dreadfully inclement, and was severely felt by the troops encamped on the exposed heights of Kingsbridge; it was, therefore, with great pleasure, that Lieut. Col. Simcoe received orders to march for winter quarters to Oyster bay, in Long island, where he arrived on the 19th of November. As it was understood that this village was to be the winter cantonment of the corps, no time was lost in fortifying it; the very next day, the whole corps was employed in cutting fascines. There was a centrical hill, which totally commanded the village, and seemed well adapted for a place of arms; the outer circuit of this hill, in the most accessible places, was to be fortified by sunken fleches, [p94] joined by abatis, and would have contained the whole corps; the summit was covered by a square redoubt, and was capable of holding seventy men; platforms were erected, in each angle, for the field pieces, and the guard-house, in the centre, cased and filled with sand, was rendered musket proof, and looped so as to command the platforms, and surface of the parapet; the ordinary guard, twenty men, were sufficient for its defence. Some of the militia assisted, in working, one day, when Sir William Erskine came to Oyster bay, intentionally to remove the corps to Jericho, a quarter the Legion was to quit in order to accompany him to the east end of the island. Lt. Col. Simcoe represented to him, that in case of the enemy's passing the sound, both Oyster bay and Jericho were at too great a distance from any post to expect succor, but that the latter was equally liable to surprize as Oyster bay, that its being farther from the coast was no advantage, as the enemy, acquainted with the country, and in league with the disaffected inhabitants of it, could have full time to penetrate, undiscovered, through the woods, and, that the vicinity of Oyster bay to the sea coast would enable him to have a more watchful eye over the landing places, and to acquire a knowledge of the principles of the inhabitants in these important situations; and that provisions from New York might be received by water. Sir William Erskine was pleased to agree with Lt. Col. Simcoe; and expressed himself highly satisfied with the means that had been taken to ensure the post; and, on his representation, [p95] the corps was permitted to remain in its present cantonments. There was a small garrison at Lloyd's neck, within twelve miles of Oyster bay: a feint, in case of attack, would serve to have kept this post within its redoubts. The nearest cantonment was at Jamaica, where the British grenadiers lay; this was almost thirty miles from Oyster bay. The New-England shore was not more than twelve, and in many places but seven or eight miles over; and there were many favourable landing places within a mile or two of Oyster bay. The enemy could raise any number of men for such an expedition; General Parsons lay, with some regular troops, in the vicinity, and there were whale-boats sufficient to carry two-thousand men, who, in three hours, might attack the contonment. The situation was an anxious one, and required all the vigilance and system of discipline to prevent an active enemy from taking advantage of it. Every separate quarter was loop-holed, and surrounded with abatis in such a manner that it could not be forced. A house was moved, bodily, to the rear, near to the beach, where the Highland and Grenadier companies were quartered. A general plan of defence was calculated for the whole;6 and proper orders were given, in case of attack. Patroles were frequently made; the friendly inhabitants were on the watch, and some depredations having been committed, convalescent soldiers, of good characters, were sent to lodge in the houses of those of the vicinity who chose it; and signals were appointed to be made by the country people, in case any plunderers were out, on which, sentinels [p96] were to be placed on each barrack, and the rolls immediately called; by these, and other precautions, marauding was effectually prevented: since the conclusion of the war, Lieut. Col. Simcoe has had the satisfaction of hearing, that his precautions were not in vain, for that, more than once, an attack on Oyster bay was meditated, and laid aside.
There being little probability of the Queen's Rangers recruiting, notwithstanding the exertions of the parties on that service, while much greater bounties were given, by regiments now raising, than Government allowed the Provincials, it was, in public orders, recommended to the consideration of the officers, "whether a strict soldier-like, and honourable oeconomy, which their present situation would admit of, might not enable them, by adding to the bounties allowed by Government, to recruit their companies, and give them opportunities of acting in a wider sphere at the commencement of the next campaign, which, from every appearance, was like to be most active?" The officers subscribed liberally to the recruiting fund. The Commander in Chief intending to augment the Huzzars of the Queen's Rangers, to a troop of fifty, or more, Lt. Col. Simcoe applied, through Sir William Erskine, that Lieut. Wickham should be captain; Lieut. M'Nab lieutenant; Quarter-master Spencer, of the 16th dragoons, cornet; and Serjeant Spurry, of the same regiment, quartermaster. That regiment had been drafted, and Lt. Col. Simcoe, with his utmost solicitations, could not procure the Quarter-master, or a single dragoon from the [p97] corps. The regular and methodical mode of dressing, and feeding the horses, was the point of service that the troop wished to be instructed in, by the regular dragoons. The situation at Oyster Bay was extremely well calculated to secure the health of the soldiery; the water was excellent; there was plenty of vegetables, and oysters to join with their salt provisions, and bathing did not a little contribute, with the attention of the officers to cleanliness, to render them in high order for the field, nor were they without sufficient exercise: the garrison in New-York being in great want of forage, Oyster Bay became a central and safe deposit for it, and frequent expeditions, towards the eastern and interior parts of the island, were made to enforce the orders of the Commander in Chief in this respect; excursions were also frequently made to execute other orders, relative to the intercourse with the inhabitants of the rebel coast, and to escort messengers, &c. between Sir William Erskine, who commanded on the east end of the island, and Jamaica. Lt. Whitlock, having a perfect knowledge of the country about Norwalk, proposed to burn the whale-boats, which were harboured there, and had infested the sound, and taken several of the wood and provision vessels; he was immediately dispatched to the Commander in Chief, to lay his proposals before him. Sir Henry Clinton, at this period, did not think it advisable to put Lieut. Whitlock's plan in execution. The officers of the Queen's Rangers always understood, that whatever plans they might offer for the good of the King's service, would [p98] be patronised, and fairly represented to the Commander in Chief, by the Lieutenant-Colonel, that they might reap the fruit of their own exertions. The corps had constantly been exercised in the firing motions, and the charging with bayonets, upon their respective parades; as the season opened, they were assembled together: they were, particularly, trained to attack a supposed enemy, posted behind railing, the common position of the rebels; they were instructed not to fire, but to charge their bayonets with their muskets loaded, and, upon their arrival at the fence, each soldier to take his aim at their opponents, who were then supposed to have been driven from it; they were taught that, in the position of running, their bodies afforded a less and more uncertain mark to their antagonists, whose minds also must be perturbed by the rapidity of their approach with undischarged arms. The light infantry, and Huzzars, were put under the direction of Captain Saunders, who taught them to gallop through woods, and acting together, the light infantry learnt to run, by holding the horses' manes; the cavalry were, also, instructed, as the infantry lay flat upon the ground, to gallop through their files. The grand divisions were exercised in the manual, and firing motions, by their respective commanders, but they were forbidden to teach them to march in slow time, they were "to pay great attention to the instruction of their men in charging with their bayonets, in which case, the charge was never to be less than three hundred yards, gradually increasing in celerity from its first outset, [p99] taking great care that the grand division has its ranks perfectly close, and the pace adapted to the shortest men. The soldier is, particularly, to be taught, to keep his head well up, and erect: it is graceful, on all occasions, but absolutely necessary if an enemy dare stand the charge; when the British soldier, who fixes with his eye the attention of his opponent, and, at the same instant, pushes with his bayonet without looking down on its point, is certain of conquest." When the weather permitted, the corps was frequently exercised together, particularly in occupying ground, on the supposition of the enemy's landing to attack the post; they were shown how to make, and navigate rafts, constructed on the simplest principles, and with the slightest materials.
On the 18th of April, a party of Refugees went from Oyster Bay, being furnished with arms, agreeable to an order from head quarters, to take the Generals Parsons and Silliman from the opposite shore. They did not risk the attack on General Parsons, but they brought Brigadier Silliman to Oyster Bay: he was sent, the next day, to New-York.
Lt. Col. Simcoe had been directed towards the centre of the island, to enquire into a supposed intercourse held with Connecticut; he had the Huzzars, and some infantry, with him. The weather was inclement, and the troops occupied two or three different houses: such precautions were taken as the quarters would admit of. At night, the advance sentinel, on the Lieutenant-Colonel's quarters, fired. The [p100] man was questioned; he persisted, that he challenged three or four men, with arms: though he was a steady soldier, it appeared so improbable, that any enemy could be in Long Island, that he was not credited. It was afterwards known, that a party of twenty men had been concealed there, in hopes to take some officer, for near three weeks, and that could they have surprised Lt. Col. Simcoe's quarters, it was meant to have attacked them.
On the 2d of May, the Commander in Chief was pleased to signify, in general orders, to the Provincial troops, "that his Majesty, anxious to reward their faithful services, and spirited conduct, upon several occasions, has been pleased to confer upon them the following marks of his Royal favour." The articles were then enumerated, and were all material to that service: the principal were: "That the officers of Provincial corps shall rank as juniors of the rank to which they belong, and if disabled in service, should be entitled to the same gratuity as officers of the established army; and, to distinguish the zeal of such regiments as shall be completed, his Majesty will, upon the recommendation of the Commander in Chief, make the rank of those officers permanent in America, and will allow them half-pay, upon the reduction of their regiments, in the same manner as the officers of the British reduced regiments are paid." In consequence of this order, the Queen's Rangers were recommended by the Commander in Chief, and styled, and numbered, as the first American regiment: the doubt whether they came under the [p101] letter of the description, as they were not at present actually complete, was graciously explained, by his Majesty, in their favour, as they had formerly been so; the New-York Volunteers, and the Volunteers of Ireland, were, at the same time, placed upon this establishment.
The Queen's Rangers, consisting of three hundred and sixty, rank and file, in great health and activity, left their cantonments on the 18th of May, and, by a given route, arrived at Kingsbridge, and encamped there on the 27th, and formed the advance of the right column of the army, which marched from thence, on the 29th, to a position extending from Phillip's house to East Chester heights; Sir William Erskine commanding the cavalry, and light troops, he encamped, with a division of the line, and the light troops, on the 1st of May, at Dobb's ferry. Lt. Col. Simcoe marched, on the 3d of June, to Croton bridge, where the enemy had been collecting the cattle of the country, which he seized upon; at the same time, he covered the retreat of Lt. Col. Tarleton, who had passed that bridge and beat up the quarters of a party, four miles farther: he took some prisoners, and returned to Dobb's ferry: On the 6th, Sir William Erskine fell back towards Valentine's hill; the Queen's Rangers encamping at Odle's hill: soon after they formed part of the escort which accompanied the Commander in Chief to the White-plains. On the 24th of June, the Queen's Rangers, and Legion, marched by different routes to Croton bridge; the Queen's Rangers arriving first, and being discovered, the Huzzars attacked [p102] and routed a small patrole of the enemy, taking a few prisoners: Lieutenant Whitlock, who was on a piquet while the troops halted to refresh themselves, ambuscaded a patrole, and took a Captain, and some privates. The Queen's Rangers, and Legion, marched to North-castle, and lay there that night: the enemy having several parties in the neighbourhood, before day, Captain Moncrief, of the Rangers, was detached to take post, without discovering himself, in a wood, which commanded a dangerous pass through which the troops were to march; they fell back, without molestation, on Colonel Wurmb, who had advanced to the White-plains to support them, and returned, the next day, with him to the army.
The army marched, on the 8th of July, in two columns, to Marmaroneck; the Queen's Rangers were, in front of that, on the right. On the 9th, the Commander in Chief marched with the army to Byram's bridge: on leaving this camp, to return to Marmaroneck, the next day, the Queen's Rangers formed the rear guard. Upon this march, three soldiers, straggling at a small distance from their huts, were taken by some militia; Lt. Col. Simcoe expressed, in orders, "that he is most sensibly affected at the loss of the three men, who straggled from their post during the last march. He feels himself but ill repaid for the confidence he has placed in the regiment, and his inclination to ease their duty, by never posting an unnecessary sentinel; at the same time, he trusts, that, as this has been the first instance of the kind during the time he has had the honor of commanding [p103] the Queen's Rangers, it will be the last; and that the soldiers will reflect what they must suffer by a long imprisonment, from a mean and despicable enemy, who never has, or can gain any advantage over them, but what arises from their own disobedience of orders."
Captain Saunders, patroling towards Byram bridge, pursued a party of rebels. Their leader, Colonel Thomas, escaped, by quitting his horse and running into a swamp: he had his parole when made prisoner, the year before; but he was guilty of some mal-practices on Long island, and made his escape, pretending to justify his breaking of his parole by saying, that he understood it was meant to imprison him.7
An ambuscade, for a party of the enemy's militia, and dragoons, was projected, with every appearance of success; and General Vaughan, having approved of it, had directed Lt. Col. Simcoe, and Major Delancey, to put it into execution, the next morning; but, at night, the firing at Verplank's-point was heard, and the news of the capture of Stony-point was brought to the camp. The Commander in Chief embarking for Verplank's-point, on the 19th of July, Colonel Birch was detached from General Vaughan's army, with the 17th dragoons, Queen's Rangers, and Legion, to make a display of force, and to occupy the heights on Croton river, above Pine's bridge. The troops made great fires, and every demonstration of their being in force; the heights they occupied were visible from Verplank's and Stony-point. Two of the Rangers, who knew the country, passed the Croton [p104] river, and, returning, brought information that a brigade of the enemy's militia were to encamp, in the evening, on a particular spot, within three or four miles; that provisions were prepared for them, and that there was not the smallest suspicion of the King's troops being in the neighbourhood; it appeared evident that it would be easy to surprise and destroy this corps, but Colonel Birch's orders, to his great regret, were positive not to pass the Croton. On the 20th, the troops marched back to Dobb's ferry, where the army had arrived, with whom they returned, on the 23d, to the old camp, in front of Valentine's hill: the Queen's Rangers closing the rear of the left column. Major-General Matthews commanded the troops in the new camp; and on the 30th, he directed his light troops to make, respectively, strong patroles, and at a given time, and to a prescribed point. Lt. Col. Tarleton on the right; Emmerick, and Simcoe, in the centre; and the Yagers on the left. Lt. Col. Emmerick fell in with a strong party of the enemy's cavalry, who charged his dragoons, which retreated, and drew them into an ambuscade of the infantry, upon whose firing, the enemy fled. Colonel Wurmb, and Lt. Col. Simcoe heard the firing, and pushed to cut off the retreat of the enemy, which was so very precipitate, that, after a long pursuit, only two or three of their rear fell into the hands of the Yagers.
The troops fell back to Kingsbridge: the Queen's Rangers, Emmerick's, and the Legion, occupying the same position they had done the year before. On [p105] the 5th of August, Lt. Col. Simcoe, returning, at midnight, from New-York, had not alighted from his horse, when a Refugee came in, from Westchester, and informed him, that a rebel party of dragoons had surprised several of their quarters, had taken many prisoners, and that he had escaped in the confusion. Lieut. Col. Simcoe called "to arms," and sent to the Legion, and Lt. Col. Emmerick, to join him; he marched immediately, with the cavalry of the three corps: Major Cochrane commanded that of the Legion, Lt. Col. Tarleton being in New-York. The infantry was directed to follow, with all expedition; and information was sent to Colonel Wurmb. The enemy were pursued so expeditiously, that most of the loyalists, whom they had taken, escaped; and, at New Rochelle, Lt. Col. Simcoe, with the advanced guard, overtook Colonel White, who commanded the enemy, with his rear guard; they fired their pistols at the Huzzars, who did not return a shot. The cavalry being arrived, Colonel White was so pressed, that he left his infantry, and passed a bridge: the enemy's infantry, unable to attain it, threw themselves over a stone wall, close to the left of the road. This bridge was a mile from Marmaroneck; where, it was understood, the enemy were in force. It was obvious, that there would be little probability of cutting off White's fatigued cavalry, unless the fire of the infantry could be passed; Lt. Col. Simcoe attempted to rush past it, hoping that the enemy's confusion, and their position close to the road, would, as the event justified, hurry them to give their fire obliquely; [p106] unluckily, it was fatal on the most essential point; four Huzzars, and five horses, being either killed or disabled in the front, which was checked; and, at the same time, from some unknown cause, the rear moved about, and the confusion reached to the centre. Lieut. Col. Simcoe, in this disorder, ordered Captain Diemar, who commanded an independent troop of Huzzars, which followed the Queen's Rangers, to pass the wall in pursuit of the enemy's infantry, who had fled from it; he did so; and Captain James, with his troop, and others of the Legion followed him, two or three of whom without orders, and, unsupported, passed the bridge, and were killed there. Lt. Col. Simcoe tried to get information of any collateral road, by which, without passing the bridge, he could pursue the enemy, who naturally supposing that the check might have stopped his party, would be induced to retreat at a slower rate than if they were directly pursued; but he could procure no guide, and, in the mean time, a Refugee, who had escaped, brought certain intelligence that the enemy were unsupported by any infantry but those with whom the skirmish had happened. One of the enemy was killed by their own fire, close to the fence; two, or three, by Captain Diemar, in the pursuit, others were drowned in passing the creek; and, by the enemy's gazette it appeared, "that driven into a bad position, they were compelled to fight at disadvantage, and lost twelve men." The cavalry, on Captain Diemar's return, immediately continued the pursuit to Byram bridge, beyond which it was not prudent or useful to follow: [p107] some more of the loyalists were rescued, but none of the enemy overtaken. On the return, the cavalry were divided, by troops, and scoured the woods back to Marmaroneck, but without effect; there they met with the British and Hessian light troops, with whom they returned to camp.
On the 8th of August, the light troops fell back to the redoubts: A grand guard being in advance, which reported to Lt. Col. Simcoe, as senior officer of the Provincials, the Queen's Rangers were, for the first time since they left winter quarters, permitted to take off their coats, at night, until further orders: in case of sudden alarm, they were ordered to form on their company's parade, undressed, with silence and regularity; the bayonets were never to be unfixed. The Commander in Chief was pleased to place Captain Sandford's troop of Buck's county dragoons under the command of Lieut. Col. Simcoe, till further orders; Captain Diemar's Huzzars were also added to his command; and this whole corps marched for Oyster Bay on the 13th of August: the cavalry, and cannon, by the route of Hell-gates, and the infantry by Frog's neck, where they embarked, passed over on the 15th, and joining the cavalry, arrived at Oyster Bay on the 17th.
In this interval, the officers, commanding grand divisions, were ordered to make their men perfect in the whole of the manual exercise. Serjeant M'Pherson, a corporal, and twelve men, were selected, and placed under the command of Lieutenant Shaw: they were armed with swords and rifles; and, being daily [p108] exercised in firing at objects, soon became most admirable and useful marksmen.
There was every reason to believe that the enemy meant to attack some of the posts on Long Island; that at Lloyd's neck had been the object of frequent expeditions; and Lt. Col. Simcoe's orders were to assist it, in case of necessity. On some musketry being fired in that quarter, at midnight, he galloped there with the cavalry, and cannon; the infantry followed. The alarm proved to be a false one; but Colonel Ludlow, who commanded that post, was of opinion, that this appearance of attention might prevent the attack on it, which he had certain information, was seriously intended against Long Island, a part only of the general operations meditated against New-York on the expected arrival of D'Estaing, with his fleet, from the West Indies.
On the 9th of October, it was hinted to Lieut. Col. Simcoe, to hold his corps in readiness for embarkation. On the 19th, it marched for that purpose; the cavalry to Jericho, where they were to remain under the command of Lieut. Col. Tarleton, and the infantry to Jamaica, which proceeded to Yellow-hook, and embarked on the 24th. Earl Cornwallis commanded this expedition, consisting of the 7th, 23d, 22d, 33d, 57th regiments, Rangers, and Volunteers of Ireland commanded by Lord Rawdon; it was supposed to be intended for Jamaica, at that time presumed to be threatened with an invasion from M. D'Estaing. On intelligence being received, that his designs were pointed elsewhere, the troops were re-landed; and [p109] were ordered to continue in readiness to embark at the shortest notice. The Queen's Rangers marched to Richmond, on Staten Island: they relieved a regiment which had been very sickly while there. Lieut. Col. Simcoe immediately ordered their huts to be destroyed, and encamped his corps; Signals, in case of alarm, were established on the island by General Patterson, who commanded there.
There was a general rumour of an intended attack on New-York. Lt. Col. Simcoe had information that fifty flat-boats, upon carriages, capable of holding seventy men each, were on the road from the Delaware to Washington's army, and that they had been assembled to Van Vacter's bridge, upon the Rariton. He proposed to the Commander in Chief to burn them.8 Sir Henry Clinton approved of his plan, as did Earl Cornwallis, and directed it to be put into execution. Colonel Lee, with his cavalry, had been at Monmouth: Sir Henry Clinton, upon Lieut. Col. Simcoe's application to him for intelligence of this corps, told him, that by the best information he had, Lee was gone from that part of the country. There were no other troops in the vicinity: the Jersey militia only, and those, tumultuously assembled at the moment of the execution of the enterprise, could, possibly, impede it. The coasts of Jersey had been the common receptacle of the disaffected from Staten, Long, and York island, on the British troops taking possession of them; of course, they were most virulent in their principles, and, by the custom they had of attacking, from their coverts, the British foraging [p110] parties, in 1776, and insulting their very out-posts, they had acquired a great degree of self-confidence, and activity. Lieut. Col. Simcoe's plan was, to burn the boats with as much expedition as possible; to return, with silence, to the heights beyond the town of Brunswick, before day; there to show himself, to entice all who might follow him into an ambuscade; and if he found that his remaining in the Jersies could effect any valuable purpose, the Commander in Chief proposed to reinforce him. To execute this purpose, he was to draw his cavalry from Jericho in Long Island, by easy marches, to Staten Island; Stuart, an active and gallant man, a native of New-Jersey, commanded some cavalry on that island: these were to be added to him; and he requested ten guides: three hundred infantry of the Queen's Rangers, with their artillery, were also to accompany him. Two days were lost by a misunderstanding of the General's order: the Huzzars, of the Queen's Rangers only, being sent from Jericho, without Captain Sandford's troop, which was not merely necessary in regard to numbers, but particularly wished for, as it was known that Captain Sandford, when quarter-master of the guards, had frequently been on foraging parties in the country he was to pass through. On the 25th of October, by eight o'clock at night, the detachment, which has been detailed, marched to Billop's-point, where they were to embark. That the enterprise might be effectually concealed, Lt. Col. Simcoe described a man, as a rebel spy, to be on the island, and endeavouring to escape to New-Jersey; a great reward was offered [p111] for taking him, and the militia of the island were watching all the places where it was possible for any man to go from, in order to apprehend him. The batteaux, and boats, which were appointed to be at Billop's-point, so as to pass the whole over by twelve o'clock at night, did not arrive till three o'clock in the morning. No time was lost; the infantry of the Queen's Rangers were landed: they ambuscaded every avenue to the town; the cavalry followed as fast as possible. As soon as it was formed, Lt. Colonel Simcoe called together the officers; he told them of his plan, "that he meant to burn the boats at Van Vacter's bridge, and crossing the Rariton, at Hillsborough, to return by the road to Brunswick, and, making a circuit to avoid that place as soon as he came near it, to discover himself when beyond it, on the heights where the Grenadier Redoubt stood while the British troops were cantoned there, and where the Queen's Rangers afterwards had been encamped; and to entice the militia, if possible, to follow him into an ambuscade which the infantry would lay for them at South-river bridge." Major Armstrong was instructed to re-embark, as soon as the cavalry marched, and to land on the opposite side of the Rariton, at South-Amboy: he was then, with the utmost despatch and silence, to proceed to South-river bridge, six miles from South-Amboy, where he was to ambuscade himself, without passing the bridge or taking it up. A smaller creek falls into this river on the South-Amboy side: into the peninsula formed by these streams, Lieut. Col. [p112] Simcoe hoped to allure the Jersey militia. In case of accident, Major Armstrong was desired to give credit to any messenger who should give him the parole, of "Clinton and Montrose." It was day-break before the cavalry left Amboy. The procuring of guides had been by Sir Henry Clinton entrusted to Brigadier Skinner: he either did not or could not obtain them, for but one was found who knew perfectly the crossroad he meant to take, to avoid the main road from Somerset-court house, or Hillsborough, to Brunswick. Captain Sandford formed the advance guard, the Huzzars followed, and Stuart's men were in the rear; making in the whole about eighty. A Justice Crow was soon overtaken; Lt. Col. Simcoe accosted him roughly, called him "Tory," nor seemed to believe his excuses, when in the American idiom for courtship, he said "he had only been sparking," but sent him to the rear guard, who, being Americans, easily comprehended their instructions, and kept up the justice's belief that the party was a detachment from Washington's army. Many plantations were now passed by, the inhabitants of which were up, and whom the party accosted with friendly salutations. At Quibletown, Lt. Col. Simcoe had just quitted the advance guard to speak to Lieut. Stuart, when, from a public house on the turn of the road, some people came out with knapsacks on their shoulders, bearing the appearance of a rebel guard: Captain Sandford did not see them till he had passed by, when, checking his horse to give notice, the Huzzars were reduced to a momentary halt opposite the house; perceiving the [p113] supposed guard, they threw themselves off their horses, sword in hand, and entered the house. Lt. Col. Simcoe instantly made them remount: but they were afraid to discover some thousand pounds of paper-money which had been taken from a passenger, the master of a privateer, nor could he stay to search for it. He told the man, "that he would be answerable to give him his money that night at Brunswick, where he should quarter;" exclaimed aloud to his party, "that these were not the Tories they were in search of, although they had knapsacks," and told the country people who were assembling around, "that a party of Tories had made their escape from Sullivan's army, and were trying to get into Staten Island, as Iliff (who had been defeated, near this very spot, taken, and executed) had formerly done, and that he was sent to intercept them:" the sight of Justice Crow would, probably, have aided in deceiving the inhabitants, but, unfortunately, a man personally knew Lt. Col. Simcoe, and an express was sent to Governor Levingstone, then at Brunswick, as soon as the party marched. It was now conducted by a country lad whom they fell in with, and to whom Captain Sandford, being dressed in red, and without his cloak, had been introduced as a French officer: he gave information, that the greater part of the boats had been sent on to Washington's camp, but that eighteen were at Van Vacter's bridge, and that their horses were at a farm about a mile from it: he led the party to an old camp of Washington's above Bound brook. Lt. Col. Simcoe's instructions were to [p114] burn these huts, if possible, in order to give as wide an alarm to the Jersies as he could. He found it impracticable to do so, they not being joined in ranges, nor built of very combustible materials. He proceeded without delay to Bound brook, from whence he intended to carry off Col. Moyland, but he was not at Mr. Vanhorn's: two officers who had been ill were there; their paroles were taken; and they were ordered to mark "sick quarters" over the room door they inhabited, which was done; and Mr. Vanhorn was informed, that the party was the advanced guard of the left column of the army, which was commanded by General Birch, who meant to quarter that night at his house; and that Sir H. Clinton was in full march for Morris-town, with the army. The party proceeded to Van Vacter's bridge: Lieut. Col. Simcoe found eighteen new flat-boats, upon carriages; they were full of water. He was determined effectually to destroy them. Combustibles had been applied for, and he received, in consequence, a few port-fires; every Huzzar had a hand-grenade, and several hatchets were brought with the party. The timbers of the boats were cut through; they were filled with straw and railing, and some grenades being fastened in them, they were set on fire: forty minutes were employed in this business. The country began to assemble in their rear; and as Lt. Col. Simcoe went to the Dutch-meeting, where the harness, and some stores, were reported to be, a rifle-shot was fired at him from the opposite bank of the river: this house, with a magazine of forage, was now consumed, the [p115] commissary, and his people, being made prisoners. The party proceeded to Somerset court-house, or Hillsborough. Lt. Col. Simcoe told the prisoners not to be alarmed, that he would give them their paroles before he left the Jersies; but he could not help heavily lamenting to the officers with him, the sinister events which prevented him from being at Van Vacter's bridge some hours sooner, as it would have been very feasible to have drawn off the flat-boats to the South river, instead of destroying them. He proceeded to Somerset court-house; three Loyalists, who were prisoners there, were liberated; one of them was a dreadful spectacle, he appeared to have been almost starved, and was chained to the floor; the soldiers wished, and it was permitted to burn the court-house: it was unconnected with any other building, and, by its flames, showed on which side of the Rariton he was, and would, most probably, operate to assemble the neighborhood of Brunswick at its bridge, to prevent him from returning by that road: the party proceeded towards Brunswick. Alarm guns were now heard, and some shots were fired at the rear, particularly by one person, who, as it afterwards appeared, being out a shooting, and hearing of the incursion, had sent word to Governor Levingstone, who was at Brunswick, that he would follow the party at a distance, and every now and then give a shot, that he might know which way they directed their march. Passing by some houses, Lt. Col. Simcoe told the women to inform four or five people who were pursuing the rear "that if they fired another [p116] shot, he would burn every house which he passed." A man or two were now slightly wounded. As the party approached Brunswick, Lieut. Col. Simcoe began to be anxious for the cross road, diverging from it into the Prince-town road, which he meant to pursue, and which having once arrived at, he himself knew the bye ways to the heights he wished to attain, where having frequently done duty, he was minutely acquainted with every advantage and circumstance of the ground: his guide was perfectly confident that he was not yet arrived at it; and Lt. Col. Simcoe was in earnest conversation with him, and making the necessary enquiries, when a shot, at some little distance, discovered there was a party in the front. He immediately galloped thither; and he sent back Wright, his orderly serjeant, to acquaint Captain Sandford "that the shot had not been fired at the party," when, on the right at some distance, he saw the rail fence (which was very high on both sides of the narrow road between two woods) somewhat broken down, and a man or two near it, when putting his horse on the canter, he joined the advance men of the Huzzars, determining to pass through this opening, so as to avoid every ambuscade that might be laid for him, or attack, upon more equal terms, Colonel Lee, (whom he understood to be in the neighborhood, and apprehended might be opposed to him,) or any other party; when he saw some men concealed behind logs and bushes, between him and the opening he meant to pass through, and he heard the words, "now, now," and found himself, when he [p117] recovered his senses, prisoner with the enemy, his horse being killed with five bullets, and himself stunned by the violence of his fall. His imprisonment, the circumstances which attended it, and the indelible impressions which it has made on his memory, cannot, even at this distance, be repeated without the strongest emotions: as they merely relate to personal history, they, with his correspondence with Sir H. Clinton, Governor Levingstone, Col. Lee, Gen. Washington, &c. &c. are referred to the appendix.9
Lt. Col. Simcoe had no opportunity of communicating his determination to any of his officers, they being all with their respective divisions ready for what might follow upon the signal shot of the enemy, and his resolution being one of those where thought must go hand in hand with execution, it is no wonder, therefore, that the party, who did not perceive the opening he was aiming at, followed with the accelerated pace which the front, being upon the canter, too generally brings upon the rear; they passed the ambuscade in great confusion: three horses were wounded, and the men made prisoners, two of them being also wounded. The enemy who fired were not five yards off: they consisted of thirty men, commanded by Mariner, a refugee from New York, and well known for his enterprises with whale-boats. They were posted on the very spot which Lt. Col. Simcoe had always aimed at avoiding. His guide misled him: nor was the reason of his error the least uncommon of the sinister events which attended this incursion. When the British troops quitted the camp at Hillsborough, [p118] and marched to Brunswick, among other houses which were unwarrantably burnt was the one which the guard relied upon, as marking out the private road the party was to take: he knew not of its being burnt, and that every vestige had been destroyed, so that he led them unintentionally into the ambuscade; which when the party had passed by on the full gallop, they found themselves on the high grounds beyond the barracks at Brunswick. Here they rallied; there was little doubt but Lt. Col. Simcoe was killed: the surgeon, (Mr. Kellock,) with a white handkerchief, held out as a flag of truce, at the manifest risk of his life, returned to enquire for him. The militia assembling, Captain Sandford drew up, and charged them, of course, they fled: a Captain Vorhees, of the Jersey Continental troops, was overtaken, and the Huzzar, at whom he had fired, killed him. A few prisoners were taken. Captain Sandford proceeded to the South river, the guides having recovered from the consternation. Two militia-men only were met with upon the road thither: they fired, and killed Molloy, a brave Huzzar, the advance man of the party, and were themselves instantly put to death. At South river the cavalry joined Major Armstrong; he had perfectly succeeded in arriving at his post undiscovered, and, ambuscading himself, had taken several prisoners. He marched back to South-Amboy, and re-embarked without opposition, exchanging some of the bad horses of the corps for better ones which he had taken with the prisoners. The alarm through the country was general; Wayne was detached from [p119] Washington's camp in the highlands, with the light troops, and marched fourteen miles that night, and thirty the next day; Colonel Lee, who was in Monmouth county, as it was said, fell back towards the Delaware. The Queen's Rangers returned to Richmond that evening: the cavalry had marched upwards of eighty miles, without halting or refreshment, and the infantry thirty.
In the distribution of quarters for the remaining winter, Richmond was allotted to the Queen's Rangers. This post was in the centre of Staten island, and consisted of three bad redoubts, so constructed, at various times and in such a manner, as to be of little mutual assistance: the spaces between these redoubts had been occupied by the huts of the troops, wretchedly made of mud; these Lieut. Col. Simcoe had thrown down, and his purpose was to build ranges of log houses, which might join the redoubts, and being loop-holed, might become a very defensible curtain. Major Armstrong followed the plan, and set the regiment about its execution, in parties adapted to the different purposes of felling the timber, sawing it, and making shingles for the roofings. In the beginning of December, the regiment was ordered to embark; which order was, soon after, countermanded.
On the last day of December, Lt. Col. Simcoe returned to Staten island, from his imprisonment. He was mortified to find the expedition, under the Commander in Chief, had failed; especially as, upon his landing at Staten island, he received a letter from Major Andre, adjutant-general, saying; "If this meets [p120] you a free man, prepare your regiment for embarkation, and hasten to New York yourself." He joined his corps at Richmond; Major Armstrong had been indefatigable in getting the regiment hutted in a manner which rendered their post both comfortable and defensible: and they soon found the advantages of their very extraordinary labours. The day which Lt. Col. Simcoe passed the sound was the last on which it became navigable for a considerable time, the frost setting in with most unusual inclemency, and, by the 10th of January, the communication with New York was totally shut up by floating ice; and General Stirling was reduced to the necessity of restraining the troops to half allowance of provisions, but with every precaution to impress the inhabitants, and soldiers, with the belief that this restriction was precautionary against the possibility of the communication being closed for several weeks; and care was taken to investigate what resources of fresh provisions might be obtained from the island. The sound, which divides Staten island from the Jersies, being totally frozen over and capable of bearing cannon, information was received that several of the rebel Generals had been openly measuring the thickness of the ice, and it was universally rumored that an attack was soon to take place upon Staten island: General Stirling commanded there, and he was with the main body at the watering place, the heights of which were occupied with several redoubts; Colonel Lord Rawdon, with the volunteers of Ireland, was quartered near a redoubt at the point of the narrows; and Lt. Col. [p121] Simcoe with the Queen's Rangers, at Richmond: the whole force on the island being under one thousand eight hundred effective men.
On the 15th of January, early in the morning, the rebel detachment of near three thousand men, under the command of the person styled Lord Stirling, crossed the ice and entered Staten Island; Lord Stirling marched immediately towards the landing place, and by his position cut off General Stirling's communication with the Volunteers of Ireland and the Queen's Rangers. Lt. Col. Simcoe occupied the high grounds near Richmond with small parties of cavalry, and the infantry were sedulously employed in what might strengthen that post; there were three pieces of cannon (a nine and two six-pounders) mounted on platforms, without embrasures, in the redoubts: these were pointed at the eminences, where it was expected the enemy would first appear, and where the stones were collected in heaps, so that a round shot, if it struck among them, might have the effect of grape. If batteries, or any cannon, should be opened against Richmond, it was obvious these guns must be dismounted: they were, therefore, not intended to be exposed to such accidents, but the redoubt on the right was meant, on the first appearance of assault, to be abandoned, and its area filled with abatis which were provided, and its gate left open and exposed to the fire of the cannon of the other redoubts placed at their respective gates, of the two regimental field pieces, and of the musketry from the doors, windows, and loop-holes of the barracks. [p122] The officers' barracks, which were within the triangular area formed by those of the soldiers and the redoubts, were intended to be taken down, and the logs of which they were composed were to be heaped within a hut, and to form a traverse on a part exposed to the enemy. The rear of the works were secured by their position on the edge of the hill from any possibility of attack, and some of the huts, which ran below the surface of it, were in perfect safety from any shot whatsoever, and nearly so from shells, against the splinters of which their logs were very respectable traverses. There was a gun-boat, which was frozen up in the creek, at the foot of Richmond Hill: this gun was elevated so as to fire a single round of grape shot; some swivels also were brought into the redoubts. Spike nails, which there were a quantity for the barrack purposes, were driven through boards, ready to be concealed under the snow in places which were most accessible; all the cattle in the neighbourhood were brought into the precincts of the garrison, as were the sledges, harness and horses, and the most cheerful and determined appearance of resolution ran through the whole corps. About mid-day, many deserters came in from the rebel army; by them a perfect knowledge of the enemy's force was gained: and one of them affirmed that he overheard some of their principal officers say, "That it was not worth while to attack Richmond where they were sure of obstinate resistance, and which must fall of itself whenever the main body was taken."
Lt. Col. Simcoe was anxious to communicate with [p123] Lord Rawdon, and to obtain any intelligence, or orders, his lordship might have for him: he sent his adjutant, Lt. Ormond, with directions to get some of the militia, to convey a letter for that purpose, by the sea shore. Some scattering parties of the enemy had been that way, on which account Lieut. Ormond could get no one to venture, he therefore went himself, and putting on coloured clothes that he might not be distinguished, in case of any small parties lying in ambuscade, he got safely to the flag-staff, and returned without discovery. The rebels making no attempt in the day time upon the redoubts, where General Stirling was, led Lt. Col. Simcoe to conclude that they waited for cannon or more forces, and meant to storm them at night or the next morning; for, though no person could hold more cheaply than he thought himself authorised to do, those men on whom the enemy had conferred the office and title of Generals, it appeared totally unreasonable that having so well chosen the moment of invading the island, they had no determined point to carry, or had neglected the proper means to ensure its success. On these ideas, he desired Col. Billop, (who commanded the militia of Staten Island,) to get them to assemble to garrison Richmond; but neither entreaties, the full explanation of the advantage such a conduct would be of, nor the personal example of Col. Billop, had any effect: not a man could be prevailed upon to enter the garrison. They assembled to drink at various public houses, and to hear the news, or were busy in providing for the temporary security of their [p124] cattle and effects; and these were not disaffected persons, but men who were obnoxious to the rebel governors, many of them refugees from the Jersies, some who had every reason to expect death, if the enemy succeeded, and all the total destruction of their property. Lieut. Col. Simcoe was therefore obliged to lay aside his intentions, which were to march with his cavalry, carrying muskets, with as many infantry as he could justify the taking from Richmond, with his field pieces in sledges, together with the swivels fixed upon blocks, and to get near the enemy undiscovered, and to make as great an alarm and as much impression as possible upon their rear, whensoever they attempted to storm the British redoubts. All the roads between Richmond and the head quarters, led through narrow passes, and below the chain of hills: these, where they had been beaten only, were passable, the ground being covered with several feet of snow, so that no patroles were made during the night, which would have been useless and dangerous; and the cavalry were assembled within the redoubts: the night was remarkably cold. A person from the Jersies brought the report of the country, that Washington was expected the next day, at Elizabethtown, and that straw, &c. was sent to Staten Island. He went back again, commissioned by Lt. Col. Simcoe, to observe what stores were in Elizabethtown, and particularly to remark what air-holes were in the ice on the sound between the mouth of Richmond Creek and Elizabethtown, as it was intended, if nothing material intervened before the next [p125] night, to send Capt. Stephenson with a detachment to burn Elizabethtown, and to give an alarm in the Jersies.
The intelligence which this zealous and trustworthy loyalist brought was very probable: the making a winter campaign in America had always appeared to Lt. Col. Simcoe a matter of great facility, and by frequently ruminating upon it, he was alive to the advantages which would attend Mr. Washington in its prosecution. He would without hesitation have abandoned the post of Richmond, and joined Lord Rawdon, or Gen. Stirling, taking on himself all consequences, had it not appeared to him that the possession of Richmond would insure to Mr. Washington a safe retreat, even should the ice become impassable, and would probably inculcate on him the propriety of his seriously attempting to keep Staten Island at this very critical period, when the Commander in Chief was absent with the greatest part of the army, and the troops in New-York, under Gen. Kniphausen, were probably not in a capacity to quit it and take the field: particularly as in that case, the nominal militia whose numbers were so well displayed, as sufficient to garrison it, must for the greater part have melted away in their attendance on the army, to whose various departments they in general belonged.
Mr. Washington might without difficulty have assembled from the smaller creeks, and even from the Delaware, and Hudson's river, a multitude of boats, which, while the snow was upon the ground, might be conveyed over-land to the Staten Island Sound; and [p126] with these, added to those which attended his army, he might transport his troops or form bridges, securing all approaches to them from the water, by batteries constructed on the Jersey shore, while by other attacks and preparations, he certainly could have thrown great difficulties in the way of Gen. Kniphausen, and the British army in the three islands. Lt. Col. Simcoe, reasoning on the possibility of these events, waited to be guided by circumstances. If Gen. Stirling could hold out, and was neither overwhelmed by numbers, or reduced by famine, which was most to be dreaded, it was obvious Richmond would be safe: if matters happened otherwise, he was perfectly certain, from Lord Rawdon's character, that he should receive some directions from him, who would never remain in an untenable post, with the certainty of being made prisoner; and at all events Lieut. Col. Simcoe determined, in case Gen. Stirling should be defeated, and that he should receive no orders, he would attempt to escape; for since the rebels had shown a total defect in every private and public principle of honour, when they violated the convention with Gen. Burgoyne's army, he and the officers of the Queen's Rangers had determined in no situation to surrender, where by escaping, if it should be but a mile into the country, the corps could disband itself individually, and separately attempt to rejoin the British armies; proper inducements being held out to the soldiers, and great aid being reasonably to be expected from the loyal inhabitants, scattered throughout every colony, and in very great numbers. This, [p127] which had been his common conversation and steady resolution, in case of any unfortunate events, was now determined on by Lieut. Col. Simcoe: his ideas were to forerun all intelligence, and to attempt to surprise Col. Lee, at Burlington, and then to escape to the back countries. For this purpose, he had sledges which could carry a hundred men, and he had no doubt of soon increasing them in the Jersies, to a number sufficient to convey the whole corps; the attempt was less dangerous in itself, and less injurious, if it failed, to the community, than the certainty of being destroyed by heavy artillery, of ultimately surrendering, of mouldering in prison, and becoming lost to all future service to their king and country. There was no corps between General Washington's army, and that of Lincoln hastening into Charlestown, but Col. Lee's: when once in possession of his horses, there was little doubt in the mind of Lt. Col. Simcoe, and the officers to whom he communicated his ideas, but that he should effect his retreat into the back parts of Pennsylvania, join his friends there, probably release the Convention army, and not impossibly join the commander in chief, in Carolina. Full of these ideas, it was with great surprise and pleasure, that Lt. Col. Simcoe understood the enemy were retreating from the island. He immediately pursued them with the flank companies and Huzzars; and was overtaken by am order from General Stirling to effect the same purpose; but the enemy had passed to the Jersey shore before he could come up with them. While the troops in the enemy's front, on [p128] their arrival at the heights opposite to the British redoubts, halted for the rear to close up, they were permitted to make fires, which increased the power of the frost, and rendered them totally unable to proceed, and the severity of the night affecting the whole of them, many lost their limbs, and several their lives. There were vast mounds of snow drifted before the redoubts, which Lord Stirling gave as his reason for not attempting them; and General Kniphausen, on the first signal of Staten Island being attacked, embarked troops to support it. The enemy in the dark of the evening saw these vessels, (which, whether the passage could be effected or not, were wisely directed to be kept plying off and on,) but they did not wait to see if they could reach the island, which in fact the drifting ice prevented, but immediately determining to retreat, they affected it the next morning, losing many men by desertion, and many British soldiers, who had enlisted with them to free themselves from imprisonment, embraced the opportunity of being in a country they were acquainted with, to return to their old companions. The Queen's Rangers obtained a great many recruits; and it is very remarkable that neither that corps, or the Volunteers of Ireland had a single man who deserted from them, while there were such opportunities and apparent reasons to do it. Lt. Col. Simcoe on his return from Elizabethtown Point, where the enemy passed, had information that a party of plunderers had crossed from the Jersies to the other end of the island; he detached the Huzzars in pursuit of them, [p129] but they fled, on the Staten Island militia collecting together. The frost still continuing, there were many reports and a general expectation that the enemy would again adventure upon the island, with superior force, with sufficient provision to attempt some greater purpose; and patroles were constantly made on all the roads, by which they could possibly approach, by order of Gen. Stirling. The Queen's Rangers had formerly experienced how ready Gen. Stirling was to represent their services; and they, now in common with the other troops, had a further proof of his good inclinations, it being inserted in the general orders of the 21st of January, "Brigadier Gen. Stirling is happy to inform the troops on this island, of his Excellency Gen. Kniphausen's fullest approbation of their behaviour, and the good countenance they showed when the rebels were upon this island, which the brigadier had reported to the Commander in Chief; and his Excellency desires his thanks may be given to them," On the 25th Lieut. Col. Simcoe gave out the following order: "That he expects the order relative to officers and soldiers sleeping in their clothes be strictly complied with, such recruits excepted, whom the officers commanding companies may judge as yet unequal to the duties of the regiment; if any half-bred soldier disobeys this order, the first officer, or noncommissioned officer, who meets with him, will deliver him to the officer on guard to be put on some internal duty. The Lt. Col. has particular satisfaction in seeing the General's approbation of that good [p130] countenance which enabled him, on the late inroad of the enemy, to rest perfectly at ease, without augmenting the duty of the regiment; he knows its universal spirit, and certain from the fidelity of those on guard, that the garrison cannot be snatched away by surprise, is confident that Richmond redoubts will be too dear for the whole rebel army to purchase."
Soon after the rebel army returned to their former winter quarters, a very important enterprise suggested itself to Lt. Col. Simcoe; he understood by deserters and other intelligence, that Mr. Washington was quartered at a considerable distance from his army, or any corps of it, and nearer to New-York: by the maps of the country, and all the information he could collect, he thought that it would not be difficult to carry him off. He communicated his ideas to a gentleman, who had been persecuted by the rebels, and whose family had been the object of their cruel resentment, for his early and uniform loyalty, and by his assistance, a very minute and perfect map of the country was drawn. Some few particulars were necessary to be ascertained, which a trusty person was sent out to inquire into, but without any idea being given to him that might lead him to guess at the enterprise, which was only made known to Capt. Shaw, of the Queen's Rangers, until the 31st of January, when, preparatory to the necessary application to Generals Tryon and Kniphausen, Lt. Col. Simcoe communicated his ideas to Gen. Stirling, which, appears by his letter in the appendix,10 met with his [p131] full approbation. Lieut. Col. Simcoe's plan was to march by very secret ways, made the more so by the inclement season, and to arrive near Gen. Washington's quarters by day-break, to tie up his horses in a swamp, and to storm the quarters, and attack his guard on foot: for this purpose, his party were to carry muskets as well as swords, and he meant it to consist of eighty men, indiscriminately taken from the cavalry or infantry, with an Officer, besides those of the staff, to every six men, and he was to select those he should command. The party were to halt at two cottages in a wood, if they should arrive before the appointed time. Lt. Col. Simcoe waited for his conclusive information with great impatience, and in his conversations with Capt. Shaw always expressed his sanguine hopes, almost his certainty of success; his only apprehension being in case Mr. Washington should personally resist, by what means he could bring him off, and preserve his life; when, to his great surprise, his Huzzars were ordered to march with a convey over the ice to New-York. It should seem, the same negligence in Gen. Washington's quartering in front of his army, had attracted the notice of Capt. Beckwith, Gen. Kniphausen's Aid-du-camp, and he had formed a plan to carry off that general; for which purpose, cavalry were collected at New-York, and among others, Captain Beckwith obtained the Huzzars of the Queen's Rangers, of whom he had a good opinion, as he often accompanied Lt. Col. Simcoe in the patroles he had made from Kingsbridge. Brigadier Gen. Stirling communicated to Lt. Col. Simcoe [p132] the purpose for which his cavalry was withdrawn, as it was intended that a general movement from Staten Island should favour the enterprise. Since it did not take place on so large a scale as was at first designed, Lt. Col. Simcoe received orders "to send a party to surprise the enemy's post at Woodbridge or Rahway, and to give a general alarm:" this party was to cross the ice at one o'clock in the morning, and not to return till nine or ten. Accordingly, Lt. Col. Simcoe passed the ice with two hundred infantry, at one o'clock; Major Armstrong with some infantry, the cavalry, and cannon occupying the heights, at the Old Blazing-star, to cover their return. The snow prevented all possibility of marching, but on the beaten road: there were no posts in Woodbridge. But, as he was anxious to fulfil the spirit of his orders, and to give every assistance in his power to his friend, Capt. Beckwith's enterprise, he determined to proceed until he beat up some of the enemy's quarters, or fell in with their patroles. On the arrival at the cross roads, from Amboy to Elizabethtown, the troops were challenged, the whole body halted, and with such profound silence, added to their being in the middle of the road, and at night when the beaten path in it appeared among the snow like a dark streak, that the enemy were deceived and thought themselves mistaken, as was learnt from their conversation, which was plainly over-heard: but another patrole on horseback, falling in on the flank of the march, discovered the party; the enemy's sentinels fired, and in succession the bugle-horns, drums, and [p133] bagpipe of the Queen's Rangers sounded; an universal alarm being given and propagated, the party returned towards Woodbridge: a soldier was unfortunate enough to be killed by the chance shot of the sentinels. The enemy assembled in the rear, and appeared at eight o'clock, when the party passed Woodbridge creek: the snow was so deep that it was scarce possible to quit the road, which was of advantage to the Rangers; for the companies, alternately advancing in front of the march, occupied such orchards or trees, as were at a small distance from the road, and checked the enemy who pressed upon the rear. Upon his approach to the Sound, Lt. Col. Simcoe could hear them determine to occupy the houses at the Ferry, and to fire on the Rangers as they passed back; this they could have done with considerable effect, and without being exposed: Serjeant Wright was dispatched to gallop over the ice to Major Armstrong, and to desire him to point his cannon at the Ferry house; and Capt. Shank was detached to cross it, previous to the return of the troops, and to conceal himself behind the ridges of the ice, which the tide had heaped up, and cover the retreat of the party, which would pass the Sound in security, between the angle formed by the fire of this detachment, directly opposite, and of Major Armstrong's cannon, at a greater and more oblique distance. These arrangements being made, and the enemy approaching, the Rangers suddenly turned about and charged them upon a steady run, the rebels immediately fled, and they were pursued till they [p134] passed over a small hill, when the Rangers were ordered to go to the right about, and without altering their pace get upon the ice; they were half way over before the rebels perceived them, which as soon as they did, they occupied the houses, and some of them followed upon the ice; Capt. Shank firing upon them from his ambuscade, drove them instantly back, while the cannon shot struck the houses at the same time, and, as it was reported, killed some of them: the party returned to Richmond without further molestation. The Queen's Rangers lost only the man already mentioned; a few were wounded, but they bore no proportion to the numbers whose cloths were struck by the enemy's bullets, fired at a distance, through intervening thickets, or more probably by those who had not recollection sufficient to ram down their charges. The enemy's loss was supposed to be more considerable, as many of them were seen to fall, and the whole of the affair being between single men, the Rangers were infinitely better marksmen than the Jersey militia. Capt. Beckwith had found it impracticable to carry his attempt into execution, from an uncommon fall of rain, which encrusting the top of the snow, cut the fetlocks of his horses, and rendered it absolutely impossible for him to succeed. The Huzzars soon after returned to Staten Island. The ice floating on the 22d of February, the Sound became impassable; the soldiers were permitted to undress themselves at night, and in case of alarm they were directed to accoutre in their shirts, and to format their posts.
[p135] Lt. Col. Simcoe on his arrival at Staten Island from imprisonment, had applied to the Commander in Chief to request that he might join the army to the southward; he had also written in the strongest terms to Earl Cornwallis, soliciting his lordship to support his application. In case his wishes should not take place, he was anxious to be of what service he thought the present situation of the Queen's Rangers would admit: for this purpose he made application through the proper channel to Gen. Kniphausen, for discretionary permission to beat up the enemy's posts in the Jersies, and to have boats sufficient to transport three hundred infantry and sixty cavalry, to be manned by the Rangers, and to be left totally to his own disposal: he proposed by these means to countenance desertion, then prevalent in Washington's army, and to keep the whole coast in continual alarm: he had the most minute maps of the country and the best guides: and the Loyalists, without doubt, would have universally joined him. The first enterprise he meant to attempt was, to surprise Col. Lee, at Burlington: he intended to land at night with his cavalry in an unfrequented part of the coast, and march in three separate bodies, each of thirty rank and file, carrying firelocks, and in the minutest particular, each party to be so like to the other, that if they should be discovered by any accident, they might not be easily discriminated, particularly as the separate routs were to be nearly parallel, through bye paths, and seldom at more than two miles distance: before day break they were to meet at an appointed swamp, where they [p136] were to remain concealed till the next night, when they were to continue their march, dismount when they arrived close to Burlington, and with fixed bayonets rush into the town, and attempt to conquer Lee's corps. In the mean time the infantry were to land on the second evening, and, with as much secrecy as possible, march twenty-five miles into the country to secure the retreat. From time to time, during this enterprise, Lt. Col. Simcoe would have had the best intelligence, without the Loyalists who managed it being entrusted with the secret of his destination; they would have arrived at specified spots from different places, in expectation of meeting those who carried on a contraband traffic with Philadelphia. Lee's corps were excellently mounted and disciplined; he himself was active and enterprising, and had that weight in the Jersies, which capacity and power, with a very free use of it, could give to the possessor; the importance it would have been of to the intended system of operations, to have seized upon Col. Lee and demolished his corps, is best illustrated by remarking that, although Burlington is near seventy miles from Staten Island, he was understood to have his piquets eight or ten miles in his front for his security. Lt. Col. Simcoe's proposals were approved of by Generals Kniphausen, Stirling, and Tryon: some of the boats were sent to him, and the remainder, with the preparations detailed in the appendix,11 were in forwardness, when, on the 23d of March 1780, the infantry of the corps received orders to embark for Charlestown, which it did on the 4th of April. Capt. [p137] Wickham was left with the Huzzars in the town of Richmond, and the duty of the redoubts was taken by a party of two subaltern officers and sixty rank and file, from the 82d regiment, under his directions; this detachment was in a few days after relieved by the 22d regiment. The Hessian regiment of Ditforth, Queen's Rangers, Volunteers of Ireland, and Prince of Wales's volunteers, under the command of Col. Westerhagen, sailed on the 7th. The Queen's Rangers anchored in Stono inlet on the 18th, and passing the Ashley river, arrived at the camp before Charles Town on the 21st: they immediately marched to the quarter-house, four miles from Charles Town and covered the troops employed on the siege, by extending between the Ashley and Cooper rivers. The infantry consisted of four hundred rank and file: there was not a sick man among them, for great attention had been paid to whatever might preserve them in health; and Mr. Kellock and Macauley, the surgeons, were very capable and attentive in their duties. The soldiers were new clothed and accoutred, and the regiment had substituted light caps, neat and commodious, in the room of the miserable contract hats, which had been sent from England. To the personal congratulations of his friends, an his release from imprisonment. Lt. Col. Simcoe had great pleasure, as be expressed himself in orders, "in hearing the uniformity and appearance of the regiment universally approved: he trusts that soldier will vie with soldier and officer with officer in maintaining in their respective stations the very favourable impression [p138] which their superior officers entertain of them, that their discipline and appearance on the parade reflects credit on their soldier-like behaviour in the field." On the arrival of this reinforcement, Sir Henry Clinton augmented the detachments which he had thrown over the Cooper river, to cut off the intercourse between Charles Town and the country: and Earl Cornwallis took their command. The siege was pushed with vigor; Lt. Col. Simcoe was very apprehensive that Gen. Lincoln, under the pretext of a sally, would embark in boats, and passing up the Ashley river land beyond his post; when, a few hours' march in a country intersected by rivers and swamps, would enable him to baffle all pursuit: he therefore obtained two six pounders to be added to his field pieces, and placed to command the river; and he endeavored to procure a fire-raft, to be moored on the opposite bank, which, being set an fire, would throw a light across sufficient to direct the cannon on any boats which might attempt to pass. He had brought with him a serjeant and nine huzzars, with their accoutrements, these and his riflemen he soon mounted, and patrolled in his front between Dorchester and Goose creek; but particularly to examine the points which he thought most practicable for Gen. Lincoln to land on. He found a sloop on the shore at Goose creek, which on the 9th of May Lt. Murray, a gentleman who had been bred in the navy, was indefatigable in getting off and bringing down to the post, to assist in blocking up the passage: however, Mr. Lincoln either did not intend to escape, or thought of it too [p139] late; for all possibility of effecting such a design was effectually precluded by Earl Cornwallis's sending down from Wando inlet a waterforce, which, by Capt. Elphingstone's arrangement, effectually blocked up the river: and the place surrendered on the 12th of May. Lt. Col. Simcoe going to head quarters to congratulate the Commander in Chief, Sir H. Clinton was pleased to show him where he had intended to storm the town, had the enemy's obstinacy obliged him to that measure. The point from whence this attack was to have been made, had been privately reconnoitred by that gallant officer Capt. Hanger; and that Charles Town was not stormed must ever be imputed to that humanity which is so bright a feature in the character of the British general. The Queen's Rangers marched to Dorchester and its environs, immediately after the capitulation. The air or the water at the quarter-house, had rendered the men sickly. They advanced to Fourhole-bridge, where they remained a day or two at Caton's, (an unfortunate loyalist, whom the rebels some time after assassinated, ) from whence, by express order, they returned to Charles Town, as it was supposed, to embark on an expedition to Georgetown: they covered the head-quarters on the 30st, and embarked on the 31st for New-York.
Capt. Wickham of the Huzzars had by no means been idle while at Richmond: the post was such as might have been a temptation to an enterprising enemy; but Gen. Kniphausen, by frequent and well-concerted expeditions, had kept the rebels fully employed in their own cantonments, the Jersies. On one of [p140] these attempts, the Huzzars of the Rangers were eminently distinguished, as was detailed to Lt. Col. Simcoe by Capt. Wickham, and by him read to the Commander in Chief, who was highly satisfied with it. The report mentions, "that on the 15th of April, the cavalry on Staten Island, consisting of Cornet Tucker and twenty of the 17th regiment, light dragoons, Capt. Wickham with his troop of forty-five men, and Capt. Deimar with his huzzars, forty men, crossed at Cole's ferry, and marched to English neighbourhood, where they joined Major Du Buy, with three hundred of the regiment De Bose and fifty of Col. Robinson's corps. At New-bridge Serjeant M'Laughlin, with six of the Rangers in advance, fell in with and either killed or took the whole of a small rebel out-post. The detachment then continued their march, leaving fifty infantry for the security of the bridge. At a convenient distance from Hopper Town, Major Du Buy gave his last orders for his surprise of Col. Bailey, with three hundred rebels, posted at that place: the major was particularly attentive to a minute description of their situation. Cornet Spencer with twelve ranger huzzars, and Cornet Tucker with the like number of the 17th regiment to support him, made the advance guard; then followed Capt. Diemar with his troop: the infantry and the remainder of the cavalry closed the rear. Hopper Town is a straggling village, more than a mile long; the farthest house was Col. Bailey's quarters; the nearest, a court-house which contained an officer's piquet of twenty men, and which, if properly disposed, [p141] covered a bridge over which the troops must pass. The advance was ordered to force the bridge, and to push forward at full speed, through the town, to head quarters: this they effected after receiving an ineffectual fire from the piquet and from some of the windows: the rest of the cavalry dispersed, to pick up the fugitives and to take possession of the rebel's quarters, now abandoned. Cornet Spencer, on his arrival at his post with six men only, the rest not being able to keep up, found about five and twenty men drawn up on the road, opposite him, and divided only by a hollow way and small brook, with Hopper's house on their right, and a strong fence and swamp on their left. The officer commanding them, whom he afterwards found to be Bailey, talked to his men and asked his officers, "Shall we fire now or take possession of the house;" the latter was agreed on. The house was of stone, with three windows below and two above: at the moment of their going in, Cornet Spencer with his party augmented to ten of his own, and by two of the 17th regiment, passed the ravine, and taking possession of the angles of the house, ordered some of his men to dismount and to attempt to force one of the windows. Some servants from a small out-house, commenced a fire: Corporal Burt with three men was sent to them, who broke the door open and took nine prisoners. Cornet Spencer made several offers to parley with those who defended head quarters, but to no purpose; they kept up a continual fire: finding it impossible to break the door open, which was attempted, and a man wounded [p142] through it, or to force any of the windows, he ordered fire to be brought from the out-house, with which he set one angle of the roof, which was of wood, in flames: he again offered them quarter if they would surrender; they still refused, though the flames were greatly increased. By this time some of the speediest of the cavalry had come to his assistance: the firing ceased. Captains Deimar and Wickham, &c., who had collected a great number of prisoners, and left some few men to guard them, until the infantry should come up, now joined the advance. Col. Bailey, as he opened the door to surrender, was unfortunately shot by one of Captain Deimar's huzzars, and died three days after. Of the advance guard two men and three horses were killed, and two men and two horses wounded: and one man and one horse of the 17th regiment were also killed. In this house Col. Bailey, two captains, three subalterns, and twenty-one soldiers were taken. In the whole, twelve officers, with one hundred and eighty-two men were made prisoners. The party returned by the same route they had advanced, with little opposition and no loss. The plan of this expedition was well laid, and as well executed: Major Du Buy seemed to be master of the country through which he had to pass, and was well seconded by Capt. Deimar. Major Du Buy was pleased to honour the huzzars of the Rangers with his particular thanks and approbation. The house was well defended, and the death of the gallant Colonel Bailey was very much regretted by his opponents.
[p143] On the 21st of June the regiment landed at Staten Island, and marched to Richmond redoubts. At midnight Lt. Col. Simcoe received orders to proceed instantly to the Jersies, where General Kniphausen having thrown a bridge of boats over the Sound, near Elizabethtown Point, was encamped: the huzzars of the Rangers here joined the corps. Lieut. M'Nab had found an opportunity of distinguishing himself by the intrepidity and boldness with which he advanced into Elizabethtown, amidst the fire of the enemy who possessed it, in order to entice them to follow him into an ambuscade, which Capt. Archdale, of the 17th dragoons (who had the temporary command of the Provincial cavalry) had very skilfully laid for them; but which they were too cautious to fall into, That evening the Queen's Rangers and Yagers, under the command of Col. Wurmb, attacked the enemy's advance post, for the purpose of taking some prisoners, who might give intelligence; in which they succeeded, with the loss of a Yager, and an huzzar of the Rangers, who were killed.
On the 23d of June, M. Gen. Mathews with a division of the troops, marched before day towards Springfield: the Rangers made the advance guard. The enemy's smaller parties fell back upon a larger one, which was well posted on an eminence, covered on the right by a thicket, and on the left by an orchard: the road ran in a deep hollow between them. While the battalions of Gen. Skinner's brigade, who flanked the march, were exchanging shot with these troops, Lt. Col. Simcoe closed the companies [p144] of the Rangers, and directed them to rush down the hollow road in column without firing, and than by wheeling to the right, to ascend to the orchard and divide the enemy's parties: this was done, and Capt. Stevenson who led with the riflemen and light infantry company, obtained the ground on their flank without loss, making several prisoners: the enemy fled, and the Rangers pursued closely on the right, where the ridge continued, and which commanded the road, virtually, becoming a flanking party to the line of march. In the mean time, the enemy who had been posted on the left retreated up the road, which led through a plain, unpursued: the line for some time leaving it to follow the Queen's Rangers, who having dispersed the party they pursued, now made the utmost exertions to cut off the retreat of the other division: the circuit they had to take rendered this design ineffectual. The enemy retired over the bridge near Springfield, where they had some troops and cannon; they fired a few shot, by which two of the Rangers were killed as they slept, M. General Mathews halting till the arrival of Gen. Kniphausen, with the main body of the army; he then made a circuit with his division to pass the river higher up, on the right. The troops halted for a considerable time on a height, below which ran a little brook, and cannonaded small parties of the enemy scattered up and down in the fields and woods, which shelved at a considerable distance from the Newark hills. A very heavy fire being heard from Gen. Kniphausen's column, the troops proceeded unopposed over the [p145] brook: the enemy appeared beyond a second bridge, and possessing the heights, seemed to be drawn up in small bodies by echelon, so as to concentrate their fire upon the road. Lt. Col. Simcoe advanced towards the bridge in column, when rapidly forming the line, and extending it to the left, he passed the deep gully covered by the thickets, and by the riflemen whom Lt. Shaw had well disposed of, and out-reached the enemy's left: they immediately fell back, with too much precipitation to be overtaken by the Rangers, who were forming for that purpose, and with too much order to be adventured upon by a few men, whom Lt. Col. Simcoe had collected and brought secretly through the thickets upon their flank.12 The Rangers met with no loss; the gallant Lt. Shaw was slightly wounded. The column then marched to Springfield, which Gen. Kniphausen, on hearing the cannonade from Gen. Mathews, had forced; on their arrival there, most of the army re-crossed the river, and the Rangers received orders to follow in the rear over the bridge, where it was intended to halt for two or three hours to refresh the troops, who, it was now evident, were to return to Elizabethtown Point. Lt. Col. Simcoe thought proper to accompany the officer, who brought this order, to Gen. Kniphausen, and to represent to him that the Rangers, who lay in an orchard full of deep hollows, which secured them from the enemy's shot, were in a much more favourable position to cover the army than if they crossed the river; and it being obvious, that while this position was maintained, the enemy could not be certain [p146] whether the British army meant to return towards Staten Island or advance, they would not hazard the passing their light troops over the river on the flanks of the army in readiness to molest them in their present position and future march. Gen. Kniphausen directed Lt. Col. Simcoe to maintain his post, and some Yagers were sent to cover his left, and a battalion of Gen. Skinner's his right flank. In the mean time Gen. Greene, with the gross of his army, occupied a strong position upon the hills, near a mile and a half in front of the advanced corps: his troops and his cannon in general were in ambuscade, he detached two or three field pieces to the right flank of the British, which canonaded them for some time, but with little effect; and his militia and light troops in great numbers came as close to the front as the intervening thickets could shelter them, and kept up a constant though irregular fire from every side. Most of these shot passed over the heads of the Rangers, while some, which were fired at a greater distance, dropped with little effect in the hollows which concealed them. On their right ran a rivulet, forming small and swampy islets, covered with thickets; as under favour of this ground the enemy were gradually approaching, Lt. Col. Simcoe waded to one of them with Captain Kerr, whom with his company he left in ambuscade, with orders, if the enemy advanced, to give them one welt-directed fire, and immediately to re-cross to the regiment. Captain Kerr executed his orders judiciously, many of the enemy were seen to fall: the thicket he quitted was not again [p147] attempted by them, but it became the centre to which the principal part of their fire was directed. The troops having halted two or three hours, begun their march to Elizabethtown: the advance corps covered the retreat, and re-passed the bridge without molestation. It was a considerable time before the enemy perceived their movement, nor did they become troublesome till the Yagers, who made the rear guard, had nearly ascended the heights where the army was to divide into two columns; the one on the right was closed by the Yagers, that on the left by the Rangers. The columns marched on, and it appearing that the Yagers might be pressed, the Rangers returned to their assistance, and the enemy retired. The troops proceeded towards Elizabethtown with little interruption. The riflemen of the Queen's Rangers, now commanded by Serjeant M'Pherson, were eminently distinguished on this retreat. The enemy's militia, who followed the army, were kept by them at such a distance, that very few shot reached the battalion; and they concealed themselves so admirably that none of them were wounded, whilst they scarcely returned a shot in vain. There being at one time an appearance that the enemy meant to occupy a tongue of wood, which ran between the columns, Lt. Col. Simcoe requested of Colonel Howard, who commanded the guards, to post some divisions of them in echelon behind the various fences, so as to protect his flank, masque the wood, and in some measure to extend and to approach nearer to the right column; the Colonel assented: but as the enemy were not in [p148] sufficient numbers to advance, the army returned to their former encampment. The Rangers had two men killed, Lieut. Shaw and nine privates slightly wounded: the huzzar, Wright, had his horse wounded; but a great many soldiers had marks of the enemy's bullets in their clothes and knapsacks: the Jersey militia suffered considerably, and among others Fitz Randolph, one of their best officers, was killed. At night the troops passed over the bridge to Staten Island; the retreat being covered by two redoubts, occupied by troops of the line, who embarked, on the bridge being broken up, without molestation.
The Rangers embarked the next morning, and sailing up the North river, landed on the 25th, and proceeded to Odle's Hill, their position in front of the line. It now appeared, that the commander in chief had hurried from Charles Town, and withdrawn Gen. Kniphausen from the Jersies, on the intimation of a French armament being destined for Rhode Island, and with the hopes of attacking it to advantage, on its arrival: he had encamped the army near Kingsbridge, for the purpose of embarking them with the greater facility. Lt. Col. Simcoe was obliged to go to New-York to recover his health; and the regiment was in general very sickly. The refugees, who had taken post on the banks of the North river, in the rebel country, were attacked by Gen. Wayne, whom they gallantly repulsed: amidst the fire, Cochrane, the brave huzzar, who had been left at Monmouth, quitted the rebels with whom he had enlisted, and risking every hazard, got in to the post, and rejoined [p149] his comrades. On the 19th of July Lieut. Col. Simcoe joined his corps, and proceeded with it to Long Island, crossing the sound at Flushing. He marched to Huntingdon, where an hundred of the militia cavalry, of the island, joined him: this corps was destined to secure the communication over-land between the fleet, which lay off the eastern end of the island, and New-York. Lieut. Col. Simcoe proceeded on his route without delay; at the same time, through the adjutant general, Major Andre, he communicated his wishes, and his hopes to the Commander in Chief, that in case of any attack on Rhode Island, he would employ the Rangers in it; to which Major Andre replied, "The General assures you, that the Rangers shall be pitted against a French regiment the first time he can procure a meeting."
The Queen's Rangers remained about the Points, on the east end of the island, till the 9th of August, when they fell back to Coram, from whence they returned eastward on the 15th, being joined by the King's American regiment, which Lt. Col. Simcoe was ordered to detach to Riverhead, and he himself met the Commander in Chief, who was now on his journey by the Admiral's invitation to hold a conference with him. Sir H. Clinton sent him to the Admiral Arbuthnot, whose fleet at that time was anchored in Gardiner's Say, but which sailed from thence before the Commander in Chief could arrive. The Queen's Rangers returned to Oyster Bay on the 23d of August. This march, of near three hundred miles, had been made very fatiguing by the uncommonly hot [p150] weather, which rendered the Pine barren, through which the roads principally lay, as close and sultry in the night as in the day time. The troops had been obliged to subsist on the country; a militia dragoon who was sent express to the Adjutant General to inform him what difficulty there was in procuring provisions for the troops, and the hardship which consequently fell upon the inhabitants, was waylaid, taken and robbed, by a party from the rebel shore, at Smith Town. As this had been formerly the case, and it was obvious that no party could remain secreted unknown to the inhabitants, Lieut. Col. Simcoe obtained leave of the Commander in Chief, to raise a contribution from the inhabitants of eighty pounds currency, one half to reimburse the militia man, for what was taken from him, and the other to recompense him for the chagrin he must necessarily have been under in not being able to execute his orders: this, probably, was the only contribution levied by the King's troops during the war.
On the 25th of August, the Commander in Chief augmented the Rangers with two troops of dragoons, appointed Lt. Col. Simcoe to be Lieutenant Colonel of cavalry; and the infantry Captains, Saunders and Shank, officers of distinguished merit, to the additional troops: the corps remained at Oyster Bay and its vicinity, until the 22d of September, when it marched to Jamaica.
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