Lafayette as the Commander of the National Guards
The character and career of Lafayette are among the wonders of the modern era. Never, until he exhibited it, had Europe seen an actual instance of disinterested patriotism, and of love of liberty for itself, and for the happiness and progress of the race. Adventurers there has never been a lack of — but they have usually been reckless, indifferent to the rights of others, covetous of praise, and greedy of power and lucre. But Lafayette seemed the realized vision of the early poets, challenging at once the admiration of the world for his courage, and its respect for his moderation. He astonished cold calculators by his pursuit of what seemed to them a phantom; and he balked the dreamers who sympathized with him at the outset, by his calm and cool application of practical and common sense standards to all questions and enterprises.
From the day that the Jacobins obtained the ascendancy in France, Lafayette was a disappointed man — disappointed, not in regard to himself, for he was unambitious, but in his estimate of human character. He looked abroad for kindred spirits with himself, to make a revolution, and found that of such there were not enough to restrain ignorant and undiscriminating popular fury — far less were there enough to establish the model government at which he aimed.
From the time that this conviction was forced upon him, he became at once one of the movement party, and one of the conservative. Each was aware that he would fully go with neither, and each was fain to call upon him in extremity. Such calls he never left to pass unheeded; but came forward, at certain present loss, to work out a happy future for his country, and a good man’s fame for himself. He never was brilliant in his European career, simply because he never would assert his own individuality. He made no move for Lafayette — his measures were always taken for France.
Such was his character at home. Of his deeds and services in this country, we need not speak to Americans. Europe is not yet prepared to do him justice; but every day strengthen his memory in the people’s hearts, every generation farther removed from the prejudices of the past, is more ready than its predecessor to understand him; and the name of the Prisoner of Olmutz will be a household word when his enemies are forgotten.
Introductory — Franklin’s Letter to Congress — Circumstances which surrounded Lafayette — Disastrous events of the campaign of 1776 in America — Hesitation of Foreign Powers — Poverty of the United State’s Commissioners — Resolution of Lafayette — Character of his Enterprise — Resolutions of Congress — Friendship of Washington — True Value of Rank.
In the year 1777, a letter was received by the Congress of the United States from their Commissioners in France, Benjamin Franklin and Silas Deane, from which the following is an extract: “The Marquis de Lafayette, a young nobleman of great connection here, and great wealth, is gone to America in a ship of his own, accompanied by some officers of distinction, in order to serve in our armies. He is exceedingly beloved, and everybody’s good wishes attend him. We cannot but hope he may meet with such a reception as will make the country and his expedition agreeable to him. Those who censure it as imprudent in him, do, nevertheless, applaud his spirit; and we are satisfied that the civilities and respect that may be shown him will be service able to our affairs here, as pleasing, not only to his powerful relations and to the Court, but to the whole French nation. He has left a beautiful young wife, and for her sake, particularly, we hope that his bravery and ardent desire to distinguish himself will be a little restrained by the general’s prudence, so as not to permit his being hazarded much, except on some important occasion.”
Such were the circumstances of comfort, affluence and happiness, from which the enthusiastic young Frenchman turned away, to seek distinction, and to earn a name and fame which should give him a title to the possession of such advantages. He was not content to enjoy ingloriously what was his by inheritance, but desired to win a right to the favours with which he found himself surrounded. No readier opening presented itself than the struggle for independence in America. In this there was everything to tempt a chivalrous and generous mind, and everything to discourage a mere covetous adventurer. The campaign of 1776 had been most disastrous for the American cause. A series of misfortunes, bad enough in themselves, were by interested narrators made to seem even worse than they really were. The American troops which had counted on the assistance of Canada, had been compelled to abandon that country, failing there of support or sympathy. Then came the defeat on Long Island, the evacuation of New York by the Americans, the loss of Fort Washington, the flight of Congress from Philadelphia to Baltimore, and many other discouraging particulars in the state of the American army. All these things were busily enlarged upon by the enemies of America; and to discourage the idea of countenance by any European power, the worst phase of the case was industriously circulated. It was represented abroad that our army, reduced to a mere rabble, was flying before an army of thirty thousand regulars; “nor,” remarks a writer who was cognizant of the state of the army during the whole war, Dr. James Thatcher, “was this statement wide of the reality.” The sagacious politicians of France, whose policy was governed by prudence, and who, notwithstanding their enmity to England, feared to embark in a losing crusade against her, hesitated to encourage the rebellious colonies. Indeed, had the revolutionary war terminated otherwise than as it did, the consequences would have been hardly less serious to France than to the United States.
It is said in the letter with which this chapter commences, that Lafayette sailed in his own vessel. At so low an ebb were the credit and resources of our commissioners, and so desperate was the condition of the cause of America, that her representatives abroad could not procure a vessel in which to forward their despatches, and give the young hero a passage. Nor could they, in the face of such circumstances, encourage his adventurous purpose. The very phraseology of their letter, particularly the closing part, indicates that their duty as honest men was at war with their patriotism. In view of the youth, interesting appearance, and history of the noble volunteer, we may suspect, with much show of reason, that they accepted his services and recommended him to their countrymen with a trembling admiration, which would almost have felt a pleasant relief, if the ardent youth had permitted himself to be deterred from his enterprise by the difficulties which appalled elder men, who, with a desire as earnest as his for the freedom of America, declined to risk anything of consequence upon a cause so hopeless.
Lafayette offering his services to Franklin.
But these discouragements only fired the zeal of Lafayette. As the commissioners could not provide him with a passage, he commenced his liberal expenditures in the cause with the outfitting of his own vessel, encountering difficulties and dangers, of which we shall speak fully in the proper place. The principal purpose of this introductory chapter is, to show the young reader that Lafayette was not like the mere rapacious adventurer — the lover of war for its own sake and the plunder which if offers — the reckless soldier of fortune. Higher impulses moved him; and his is a higher reward, in the gratitude and respect of a great and free people, than any successful exhibition of mere physical courage could have won for him.
On his arrival in this country he was cordially received by Congress, and by the Commander-in-Chief, into whose military family he was at once adopted, and whose friendship for him was so marked, that he has often been called “the adopted son of Washington.” On the 31st of July, 1777, Congress passed the following resolution:
“Whereas, The Marquis de la Fayette, out of his great zeal for the cause of liberty, in which the United States, without pension or particular allowance, and is anxious to risk his life in our cause:
“Resolved, That his services be accepted, and in consideration of his zeal, illustrious family and connections, he have the rank and commission of Major-General in the army of United States.”
Such was the gratifying answer to Franklin’s letter — such the testimony of gratitude to the devotion of Lafayette. His proudest encomium is, however, the friendship of Washington. That great man was one whose approval or whose dislike was never without its meaning. Too prudent and sagacious for sudden friendships, and too just for capricious favoritism, to have been his friend is a high warrant for the respect of posterity.
In the resolution passed by Congress, we are not to fall into the error that a republican body recognised, in the accident of rank and connections, a claim to honour and preferment. But in the sacrifice of these advantages, of which we have already spoken, they saw earnest of his sincerity, and proof of that true nobility which is not conferred by patent, or transmitted by descent. The result as our attentive reader will discover, showed that neither Franklin in recommending, Congress in accepting, nor Washington in adopting Lafayette, erred in judgment. With this introduction, placing our hero’s first American act, or, if we may so designate it, his American birth, first before the reader, we will now go back to his actual birth and parentage.
Birth-place and Parentage of Lafayette — His early Education — Enrolment in the Mousquitaires — Character of that Corps — Its Suppression — Marriage of Lafayette — Meeting with the Duke of Gloucester — Lafayette’s Sympathy with America; how produced — Seeks the Commissioners — His exalted Motives — Candour of Messrs. Franklin and Deane — Perseverance of the Marquis — Admiration of his Conduct — Prohibition and Measures of his Government — His Embarkation — Arrival in America — Deportment and Reception
Marie Paul Joseph Roch Yves bert Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, was born at the Chateau de Chavagnac, near Brionde, in the Province of Auvergne, on the 6th of September, 1757. This Province has been from the earliest times one of the most important portions of France; its people were always celebrated for their manly valour, and the race from which our hero descended was among the most prominent and celebrated families. His father fell at the battle of Minden, during the Seven Years’ War: and it is a fact worth note, that Gen. Phillips, who commanded the battery, a shot from which killed the father, afterward held a command in the British army in this country, and was thus opposed to the son. Lafayette was early placed in the school of Louis le Grand, at Paris, and at the age of fifteen was enrolled in the Mousquitaires du Roi. This was a body of troops instituted by Louis XIII for the protection of the King’s person. They were divided into two bodies, gris and noir (grey and black), distinguished by the colour of their horses. All the members were of noble families, the corps was most magnificently equipped, and while the splendour of its trappings made it a splendid holiday escort, the rigidness of its discipline constituted it a school in which several of the most celebrated French commanders were formed. Their arms were a carbine, sword, and pistols. The friendship which Lafayette everywhere secured through life commenced thus early. He was universally beloved by his companions, and the favour of his monarch in a short time procured him the rank of a commissioned officer. But his membership of this aristocratic body did not long continue. In 1775, the King, under advice of his ministers, decreed the suppression of the corps, on account of the enormous expenses attending its support, and perhaps also in deference to the popular dislike to a body which served only the purposes of pageantry. The Mosquitaires were justly obnoxious to the people with whom, from the very nature of things, they could not always escape collision, even had young men of such aristocratic connections sought to avoid it.
In 1774, Lafayette married Anastasie, Countess of Noailles, and the union proved in every respect a most happy one, the lady being in all things worthy of the hero to whom she was united. This marriage increased the annual revenue of Lafayette to two hundred thousand francs. His rank, and illustrious family and connections, aided by his personal merits and favour with the Court, opened to him a ready path to royal preferment. But for a life of inglorious pageantry he had no taste; and early as he was exposed to the atmosphere of temptation, the boy resisted its wiles with the prudence of the sage, and declined appointments tendered to him unsolicited, which others would have made every sacrifice to win.
The circumstance which first drew Lafayette’s attention to the cause of freedom in America has been left on record by the hero himself. While stationed in the citadel of Metz, being then only eighteen years of age, he was thrown into the society of an English nobleman, the Duke of Gloucester who was at that time an exile from England on account of a marriage which he had contracted; for the blood-royal has, in this and some other particulars, absolutely less freedom than the meanest subject. Communication between the Old and the New Worlds was not then, as not, a thing of direct and almost daily occurrence. Direct intercourse with the American colonies of Great Britain by other nations was out of the question, and news, like other articles of export from any colony, had to pass principally through the mother country; subject, of course, to the particular tone and explanation which it might receive in such a course of transmission. Courts were content to learn officially what the English Court chose to communicate; not caring, or at least not seeming to desire to look behind such record as the Home Government chose to permit to go abroad.
As such sources of information were never considered very reliable, individual curiosity, in persons whose sympathies were moved, of course desired much more. Distance, the heroism of the early encounters of the Revolution, the temerity, then unprecedented, of colonies resisting their parent country, the name and character of Franklin and others, and the wit, eloquence, and perseverance, with which the great philosopher had pressed the claims of the Americans upon the attention of the people of Europe, all these causes united gave the state of affairs in the New World the air of romance, and predisposed the generous mind to listen with intense interest to any intelligence from America.
The information which Lafayette received from the Duke of Gloucester, respecting the state of the noble contest in which the Americans were engaged, fired his mind with a desire to hear farther. Leaving Metz for Paris, he became acquainted with Silas Deane, the American commissioner, and, upon his arrival, with Dr. Franklin. The appearance of the venerable Franklin in Paris created an excitement and enthusiasm, personal, philosophical, and political, such as had never before greeted any individual. What he said had the credit of an oracle, and what he did, the interest which had before attended only the movements of potentates and princes.
Lafayette sought of Dr. Franklin information relative to the causes of the resistance of the colonies, their present state, and their future prospects. Upon his first arrival, Dr. Franklin encouraged the Marquis in the generous design he had formed, of participating, as a volunteer of life and of fortune, in the glorious contest for freedom. He could appreciate the filial respect which carried the son into a career in which the father fell; particularly, when to defend the right in this contest, was to array himself in arms against the nation of which France had been for centuries the enemy — to indulge the military spirit with which his education had imbued him — to remember the fall of his father — and to consecrate to the cause of freedom, a life which might else be wasted in the luxuries of a Court, and the display of mere martial pageantry.
But when the tidings of the reverses came, to which we have alluded in the first chapter, to which we have alluded in the first chapter, when the commissioners were themselves doubtful of the issue, they frankly, in conversation with the Marquis, avowed the despondency which their letter to Congress not obscurely betrays. But to their honest dissuasives the young hero replied: “Your own reasoning only shows that now is precisely the time to embrace your cause. The more people are discouraged, the greater utility will result from my departure; and if you cannot furnish me with a vessel, I will freight one at my own expense, to convey your despatches and my person to the shores of America!” How different these noble sentiments from the interested sympathy which is too common in the world, and reserves its aid until it is almost certain that the party favoured could sustain itself without!
Such a movement on the part of a young, wealthy, and highly-connected nobleman, who had within his grasp already all the ease, affluence, and position, for which ordinary minds endure danger, astonished for which ordinary minds endure danger, astonished Europe. It seemed to be a revival of the generous contempt for self, and love of glory and virtue for their own sake, which poets have oftener painted than men have seen. If Franklin appeared to the enthusiastic Frenchman one of the sages of antiquity revisiting earth, Lafayette appeared the embodiment of one of the heroes of mythological song — a hero with all the exalted virtues of fable, and none of the feelings which the grosser conceptions of antiquity admitted into the catalogue of the virtues. He was a demi-god, with the added advantages of civilization; a chevalier, indeed, “sans peur et sans reproche.”
Aside from the simple personal risk attending all war, contempt for which is the acme of ordinary courage, Lafayette exposed his entire property to confiscation by the laws of France, by his clandestine departure. He ranked himself with rebels, and came under the category of a criminal against the laws of Great Britain, and an offender against those of his own country; for his departure was formally prohibited by the French Government. If captured upon his passage, he incurred the risk of an indefinite term of imprisonment, without the hope of an exchange, and without the right to expect any intervention from his own monarch. Animated by the most exalted enthusiasm, he despised all these difficulties and dangers. He considered the cause of America “not only just, but sacred; and the affection he bore it was the more ardent, as, independently of the candour of his character, he was of that age when good appears not only good but fair, and man not only loves but is enamoured.”
The French Government not only forbade the departure of Lafayette, but despatched vessels with orders to arrest him in the West Indies, should he touch there. But he gave those seas a wide berth, and embarking in March, arrived on the coast of South Carolina on the 19th of April, 1977. He landed on North Island, in Winyau Bay, and was cordially received by Maj. Benjamin Huger; and after partaking a short time of his hospitality, repaired to Charleston. His first act was to present Gen. Moultrie with clothing, arms, and accoutrements for one hundred men, as a token of his admiration of the gallant defence which the General’s command had made against the British forces on Sullivan’s Island.
Nor was this munificence dimmed by any air of patronage, or assumption of superiority. His manners are thus described in a note of Chastelleux’s Travels: “His frankness and zeal in the cause soon secured him the universal esteem of the Americans. It is impossible to describe the affection with which he was regarded by them. His deportment was dignified without pride, his manners gentle without apathy, frank without boldness, and courteous without servility.”
Foreign Officers in the America Army — Jealousies — Magnanimity of Lafayette — Battle of Brandywine — Feint by Knyphausen — Contradictory Advices — Position of the American Troops — Defeat of the American Right Wing — Abandonment of Chadd’s Ford — Gallantry of Lafayette — Retreat of the Americans — Comparative Force of the two Armies — Loss on each Side — Reflections on the Battle.
Many of the foreign military officers who came to this country to serve in the Revolutionary War, were most exacting in their demands, both in regard to rank and pay. The friends of America in France, before Franklin arrived in that country with a true knowledge of the state of things in this, held out inducements and prospects which it was impossible could be realized; and Congress added to the difficulty by directing or requesting more commissions to be granted than there were vacancies to fill. There was a natural jealousy on the part of American officers against the foreigners who presented such extravagant claims; and this train of circumstance presented one of the great sources of difficulty over which the wisdom and moderation of Washington was finally successful. It was unquestionably true that the services of experienced soldiers were in the highest degree useful in the revolutionary army. The enthusiasm of resistance to oppression irresistible in its first uprising, is still not able to cope with military experience, and the mechanical perseverance of military tactics, in a long struggle. Thus we find that the outbreaks of an indignant people, terrible in their first manifestations against tyranny, are usually quelled by the slow-moving, but ponderous and effective blows of regular troops; and thus it would have been in this country, if the virtues of patience and endurance had not succeeded the ardour of the first resistance.
The coolness and far-seeing wisdom of the leaders in the great cause in which the colonies were embarked, provided for the difficulties which we have noted; and the army submitted, though with natural repinings in many quarters, to the laborious drilling which every day’s experience showed them, more and more, they must endure, if they would finally succeed. There were two classes of foreign officers in this country, one of which was composed of mere soldiers, seeking employment and insisting upon a full and more than a full recognition of the value of their services. The other was made up of men who felt a holy zeal in behalf of the cause of freedom, and a deep sympathy for the oppressed colonists. At the head of this, and we are fain to conclude it was the larger number, stood Lafayette. To the first of these classes and the army recognised the duty, sometimes unpalateable, of obedience; for the latter they felt love, esteem, and fervent gratitude. No man among them was more beloved than Lafayette, and none more deservedly.
His conduct was in striking contrast with that of many others. He would receive no pay, and demanded no station, but desired to enter as a volunteer. The honorary rank of major-general he had expected, and as we have already observed, it was at once conferred upon him. Under the advice and example of Washington — it must be remembered that Lafayette had not yet reached the age which we now consider the commencement of manhood — his character was fixed, and the ardent love of liberty which animated his youth, was ripened into the more stable and judicious sentiment of mature age.
The young soldier burned for an opportunity to distinguish himself, and prove by the possession of actual courage and endurance, that he was equal to the expectations of his friends. Such an occasion soon occurred in the battle of Brandywine. The British commander having in vain attempted to approach Philadelphia from the north, changed his plan, and proceeded by sea to the Chesapeake, passing up the Elk river to the head of navigation, where they disembarked. Washington posted his troops to oppose the enemy, and after various moves and countermarches, finally withdrew to the north bank of the Brandywine, determining there to await the general engagement, which the defence of Philadelphia and the interest of the cause seemed absolutely to demand.
The battle of the Brandywine took place on the 11th of September. We have not space to describe all its manoeuvres, and select that portion in which our hero was most directly engaged. Intelligence having been received that the British army was in motion upon the direct road to cross Chadd’s Ford, the Americans were immediately posted to dispute that passage. Skirmishing soon commenced; and General Knyphausen, who commanded one division of the British army, made demonstrations of an intention to force a passage at this point. But at eleven o’clock information was received by Washington, that a large column had left the main body of the British army, and proceeded up the river to cross at a higher point, while Gen. Knyphausen misled the Americans by a feint. Dispositions were made to meet this manoeuvre; and Washington had determined to cross the river and attack Knyphausen, when intelligence, deemed authentic, was received, that the division of the British army which had gone up the Brandywine, under command of Cornwallis, was returning on the same side of the river without attempting a passage.
But the incorrectness of this information was discovered about two in the afternoon, when it was ascertained that Cornwallis had crossed the Brandywine, and was advancing in great force. General Washington immediately directed the divisions commanded by Sterling, Sullivan, and Stephen, to march up the Brandywine and form to face the enemy. Wayne’s division remained at Chadd’s Ford to keep Knyphausen in check, and Greene’s division, accompanied by Gen. Washington, was posted between the two main bodies as a reserve.
The British troops under Cornwallis fell on the Americans with great impetuosity, and the Americans defended themselves for some time with such resolution that the carnage was terrific. But a great portion of the American troops were raw, and Sullivan’s division had not formed when the attack of the British commenced. In taking ground they made too large a circuit; and raw troops, attacked while in motion to a position, however courageous they may be, are easily thrown into confusion. As soon as the engagement with Cornwallis commenced, the reserve under Greene hurried forward to support their countrymen; but Gen. Greene did not reach the ground till the route was complete. He, however, did excellent service in checking the enemy, and covering the retreat of the Americans.
When Knyphausen found Cornwallis was engaged with the Americans, he made preparations to cross Chadd’s Ford in earnest. The troops under Wayne and Maxwell made a vigorous resistance, till it was perceived that the other body of the American army had given way; and then, resistance being no longer of any utility, the defence of the ford was abandoned, and the whole army retreated that night to Chester, and on the day following to Philadelphia.
The station of Lafayette in this engagement was with the portion of the army under the command of Sterling, Sullivan, and Stephen. Although some of the regiments behaved badly and broke early, others, particularly some Virginia and Pennsylvania regiments, behaved with a firmness which would have done high honour to veterans. So well did they cover the retreat of their comrades, that very little damage was sustained except in the actual engagement; and his was so large as to do great credit to the courage even of those who were deficient in discipline.
Lafayette wounded at the Battle of Brandywine.
The American troops, after breaking, were several times rallied. In this service the French officers, and Lafayette particularly, were of vast benefit. With a disregard of life which amounted almost to a fault, he exposed himself in rallying the troops, and encouraging them by his example; and notwithstanding he received a wound in the leg, he continued at his post, cheering the troops by his conduct as a soldier, and by his voice as a general, as long as resistance could be of any service. The Baron St. Ovary, Capt. de Fleury, and Count Pulaski also distinguished themselves in the engagement.
The British troops engaged in this battle could not have been much less than eighteen thousand veteran soldiers. The American force has been stated at fifteen, but on account of the badness and deficiency of arms and munitions, the effective American force was between eleven and twelve thousand men only. The loss of the Americans was three hundred killed, six hundred wounded, and between three and four hundred prisoners, most of whom were wounded. The official letter of Sir William Howe stated the British loss at rather less than one hundred killed, and four hundred wounded; a disparity no doubt to be imputed to the deficiency in the quality of the American arms.
This battle was not considered decisive by Congress, the general, or the army. It was said that the British had only gained the ground. At any rate, when the spirit remains unconquered, there is no victory in a moral, whatever there may be in a technical sense. It is remarked by Marshall, that even if contradictory intelligence had not prevented the best disposition of the troops, the action could not have terminated in favour of the Americans. Their inferiority in numbers, in discipline, and in arms, was too great to leave them a probable prospect of victory. A battle, however, was not to be avoided. The opinion of the public and of Congress demanded it. The loss of Philadelphia, without an attempt to preserve it, would have excited discontents, which, in the United States, might be productive of serious mischief; and action, though attended with defeat, provided the loss be not too great, must improve an army in which, not only the military talents, but even the courage of officers, some of them of high rank, remained to be ascertained.
British Occupation of Philadelphia — Battle of Germantown — Defence of Forts Mercer and Mifflin — Arrival of Reinforcements to the British — Evacuation of the Forts, and withdrawal of the Troops from New Jersey — Gallant Conduct of Lafayette — Friendship between him and Gen. Greene — Appointment of Lafayette to a Command — Sir William Howe declines to bring on an Engagement — Lafayette appointed by Congress to invade Canada — That Enterprise abandoned at his Instance — His narrow Escape from Capture — Masterly Retreat , and high Honour won by it — Amusing Incident.
After a continued struggle of more than six weeks, the British army was at last secured in the possession of Philadelphia, by opening a communication with their fleet. Indeed, from the time of the battle of Brandywine, in September, to the day that the American army went into winter-quarters at Valley Forge, nothing that could be effected without too great danger to the cause was left unattempted. The public property was all safely removed from Philadelphia before the 26th of September, when the British army took possession. During the week previous Congress had separated, and on the 27th they met again at Lancaster.
We have not space, nor is it pertinent to our subject to describe all the operations of this period. On the 4th of October occurred the battle of Germantown, judiciously planned and auspiciously commenced, but defeated by the confusion which arose from the dense fog, and other causes. The sharpness of the contest is shown by the number of killed and wounded. Upon the American side there were two hundred killed, near thrice the number wounded, and four hundred prisoners lost. The British loss was about one hundred killed, and four hundred wounded. So pleased was Congress with the manner of the attempt, and the gallantry of the conduct of the army, that their approbation of the plan of the enterprise, and of the courage with which it was conducted, was formally expressed in very decided terms; and what was better than all, as the affair was considered by no means a defeat, but a very gallant and well sustained, though unsuccessful demonstration; it both raised the character of the American forces, and rallied their courage. The capture of Burgoyne, and successful issue of the northern campaign, was another circumstance which caused new hopes: and as to the mere possession of Philadelphia, obtained as it was with such hard fighting for every inch of ground in the approach, the occupation was contested with such perseverance, by efforts to prevent communication between the British fleet and army, that Dr. Franklin’s saying, when in France he heard the news, must have occurred to many others. The Doctor said, that instead of Howe’s taking Philadelphia, it had taken him.
The defence of the fort at Red Bank, and of Fort Mifflin, and the protection of the obstructions which had been placed in the Delaware, were attended with prodigies of valour and endurance upon the part of the Americans, insomuch, as has already been remarked, that after the British had entered Philadelphia, it was more than six weeks before the position became of any service to them. The British lost four hundred men in one attack on the fort at Red Bank; and Fort Mifflin was not evacuated until it was absolutely levelled, and no longer defensible. The arrival of a reinforcement from New York, which enabled the British to make a demonstration upon the fort at Red Bank, without weakening their forces at Philadelphia, determined the American commander upon evacuating that post also.
Before the evacuation of the fort at Red Bank, which was called Fort Mercer, Gen. Greene was detached with a command from the Pennsylvania side into New Jersey, in order to protect a position which it was of such high importance to retain. His orders were conditional, depending upon the arrival of reinforcements from New York, which did not reach him; and such was the superiority of the British force, that Gen. Greene did not hazard an engagement. Greene was soon after recalled from the Jersey side by Gen. Washington, and the British troops were also recalled to Philadelphia. Greene was accompanied in this expedition by Lafayette, although his wound, received at Brandywine, was not yet healed. Although no general engagement took place, Lafayette had a new opportunity of signalizing himself. He commanded some detachments of militia, which, aided by Morgan’s famous rifles, attacked and routed a superior force of British grenadiers and Hessians. Gen. Greene, in speaking of this affair, said, “The Marquis seemed to seek for danger, and was charmed with the behaviour of his men.” A friendship commenced between Greene and Lafayette which death only severed; and when, at the close of the war, Lafayette returned to France, he took over with him the eldest son of his friend, and superintended his education. Young Greene returned to this country shortly after the breaking out of the French revolution, and gave great promise to do honour to his education; but was drowned in the Savannah soon after his arrival.