The SAR Magazine

Winter 2018-2019

The SAR MAGAZINE is the official quarterly publication of the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution published quarterly.

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SPRING 2018 13 Heights, southeast of Boston, on March 3 within range of the ships in Boston Harbor, causing the British to evacuate the port on March 17 and sail to Halifax, Nova Scotia. The Continental Artillery regiment had dragged these guns through the wilderness from Fort Ticonderoga, nearly 150 miles to the northwest specifically for that purpose. Then, on June 10, Allen received a new captain's commission, signed by the Congress' president John Hancock, to serve in Col. Andrew Ward's Connecticut Regiment of the Continental Army. Congress authorized this new unit in order to expand the defensive forces in New England. At the same time, the Congress began to debate independence, and Washington completed the move and concentration of the main Continental Army of 19,000 to 28,000 troops from recently liberated Boston down to defend the vitally strategic port city of New York. During the period June 25-28, the fleet of Lt. Gen. William Howe arrived at the mouth of the Hudson River with 9,000 royal troops. By mid-August, he had massed 25,000 soldiers, 10,000 sailors and 400 ships to attack New York City. On July 4, 1776, the Congress in Philadelphia declared the independence of the United States. A month later, on Aug. 1, Capt. Allen's regiment received orders to join the main army. His regiment had just been recruited in Hartford, Windham and New Haven counties that summer with a one-year term of service. Allen's company with Ward's regiment arrived on Aug. 21 to the north of New York City, joining Brig. Gen. Thomas Mifflin's Brigade of Major Gen. William Heath's Division. Ward's command occupied a defensive position at Burdett's Landing, located just below strategic Fort Constitution (renamed Fort Lee in September) on the west bank of the Hudson River. Burdett's Ferry had been taken over by the army and served as the supply line and the only link to Fort Washington on the opposite bank. To the south, a major battle soon developed on Long Island, where on Aug. 27, British Lt. Gen. Howe launched a major attack on the exposed left flank of the Continental battle line and surprised the Americans. Washington's front collapsed, he lost the battle, and two days later, he evacuated the island at night by crossing over to Manhattan Island (New York City). Two weeks later, with the British Army and Navy poised to land a force on the island and trap a large portion of the American army, Washington evacuated the city, isolated on the southern tip of Manhattan, fell back northward along his line of communications, and concentrated his new defense line on Harlem Heights, closer to forts Lee and Washington. Meanwhile, Howe made an amphibious attack midpoint on the island at Kips Bay on Sept. 15 and routed the American defenders along the shoreline. The next day, part of Howe's force launched a probing attack north on the Harlem position, while the rest of the British Army occupied New York City to the south. The most strategically important point on the east coast, New York City, fell to the British, and the revolutionary cause suffered a serious defeat. Since mid-August, both the British Army and Navy had held the initiative and defeated Washington's forces in one engagement after another. At the same time, the Continental Army changed in organization as it melted away due to the end of enlistments, sickness, desertions and casualties. The "summer soldier and sunshine patriot" went home as the war took a serious turn toward lethality and brutality on the battlefields around New York City. Consequently, after the Battle of Harlem Heights, Washington reorganized his forces into seven divisions. On Sept. 18, Ward's Regiment with Allen's company was reassigned to Col. Paul D. Sargent's Brigade of Heath's Division. The regiment had moved to Fordham Manor on Rose Hill (today Fordham University) on Sept. 13 to help defend the strategic Kings Bridge Crossing, which connected the mainland onto Manhattan Island. In the Battle of White Plains, fought 15 miles to the northeast of King's Bridge from Oct. 28 until Nov. 10, Allen's division defended the right-center of the battle line until the army withdrew and divided into thirds to defend against all possible advances by the enemy. During this period, 16 miles southwest of White Plains, back at Fort Lee, Common Sense author Thomas Paine began writing a pamphlet entitled The American Crisis to revive the spirit for the revolutionary cause with the inspiring opening phrase, "These are the times that try men's souls." On Nov. 20, in a desperate attempt to save the army, Washington ordered the separated divisional columns to execute a rapid retreat southwest and consolidate to defend New Jersey and the American capital in Philadelphia. The best regiments in the British Army, commanded by the aggressive Lt. Gen. Charles Cornwallis, relentlessly pursued the exhausted and dwindling Continental Army columns in an attempt to destroy them and end the Revolution but without success. A month later, on Dec. 20 following a difficult march through the hills of northwestern New Jersey, Allen arrived with Ward's Regiment of Sargent's Brigade now of Maj. Gen. John Sullivan's Division at the new defense line. Washington arrayed the remnants of the main Continental Army along the west bank of the Delaware River to cover the ferry crossings toward Philadelphia; these positions were located between 7 to 12 miles east and southeast of Buckingham, Bucks County, Penn. As the decimated and demoralized American soldiers waited, cold and hungry, for the British to cross the river and finish off the Continental Army, on Dec. 23, Paine's pamphlet The American Crisis was sold throughout American encampments along the Delaware River for two pennies a copy. It proclaimed that the success of the Revolution now hung in the balance and that the moment of decision for all real Patriots had arrived. Such logic motivated many soldiers to maintain their resolve to continue the fight for independence. In fact, the period of enlistment for most of the army would end in six days, and they could then legally go home, unless they re-enlisted for another year or more. Then, as part of Washington's daring plan to stave off annihilation, Allen crossed the treacherous, ice-choked Delaware River at McConkey's Ferry, Penn., a with Sullivan's Division on the night of Dec. 25 and marched eight miles through snowstorms to launch a surprise attack on the expected 3,000-man Hessian garrison wintering at Trenton, N.J. (actually, the garrison strength was 1,383 men). After crossing the river, Sullivan's troops marched in darkness along the Bear Tavern Road with the rest of Washington's small command of only 2,400 Continentals. At the village of Birmingham, it split off to approach Trenton from the northwest along the River Road. Upon arriving at the southwestern end of the town in the early morning sunlight, this column quickly fought its way through the Hessian defenses and seized the bridge across the Assunpink Creek to block the enemy's escape route to the southeast. Sargent's Brigade then took a position on the south bank of the creek to help entrap the enemy. The success of this action during the Battle of Trenton allowed for the first significant American victory since the fall of Boston. Although Washington crossed back over the Delaware to the safety of Pennsylvania that same day, he turned around and repeated the river crossing operation again on Dec. 29-30. This next surprise movement gained another victory for the Americans at the Second Battle of Trenton and Battle of Princeton during the period of Jan. 2-3, 1777. It is probable that Allen participated in these actions with Ward's Regiment of Brig. Gen. Arthur St. Clair's Brigade of Sullivan's Division. It was Sullivan's command that launched the final attack on Nassau Hall and the enemy breastworks on the grounds of Princeton College WINTER 2018-19 19

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