History of the United States of America, from the Discovery of the Continent - Vol. 5

By George Bancroft | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIV
THE CONTEST FOR THE DELAWARE RIVER. THE CONFEDERATION
SEPTEMBER–NOVEMBER 1777

THE approach to Philadelphia by water was still obstructed by a double set of chevaux-de-frise, extending across the channel of the Delaware: one, seven miles from Philadelphia, just below the mouth of the Schuylkill, and protected by Fort Mercer at Red-bank on the New Jersey shore and Fort Mifflin on Mud Island; the other, five miles still nearer the bay, and overlooked by works at Billingsport.

On the second of October a detachment was put across the Delaware from Chester; the garrison at Billingsport, spiking their guns, fled, leaving the lower line of obstructions to be removed without molestation. Faint-heartedness spread along the river; from the water-craft and even from the forts there were frequent desertions both of officers and privates. Washington must act, or despondency will prevail.

The village of Germantown formed for two miles one continuous street. At its centre it was crossed at right angles by Howe’s encampment, which extended on the right to a wood, and was guarded on its extreme left by Hessian yagers at the Schuylkill. The first battalion of light infantry and the queen’s American rangers were advanced in front of the right wing; the second battalion supported the farthest pickets of the left at Mount Airy, about two miles from the camp; and at the head of the village, in an open field near a large house, built solidly of stone and known as that of Chew, the fortieth regiment under the veteran Musgrave pitched its tents. Information reached Howe of an intended attack, but he received it with incredulity.

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