Page:American History Told by Contemporaries, v2.djvu/606

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578
[1778
French Alliance

the enemy (Germans) had pushed our right wing, and advanced so far as to endanger themselves. I was ordered to take Gen. Lovell's brigade of Massachusetts militia, and aid in repulsing them . . . . I therefore moved on until the front division of the column was within ten yards of the wall, and then gave the word of command as if on parade, "Column, halt — leading division, ground your arms — step forward, comrades, and level this fence, it stands in our way — quick, quick !" The order was obeyed with precision; the fence was leveled in an instant, and we resumed our forward march without having a man hurt. From that moment the firing from the wood ceased, and we could find no enemy ; they had been already engaged with, and overmatched by other troops, before we approached, and when they saw our cool manoeuvre, they probably mistook us for veterans coming to the rescue, and prudently withdrew.

Still I hoped to be able to strike an important blow, and requested General Lovell to incline his march to the right, (by which means his movement would be screened from the view of the enemy by the form of the ground,) to move slowly and carefully, and to keep the men together in their actual order. I rode forward to reconnoitre and ascertain the position of the enemy. As I rose the crest of the hill, I saw the German troops, who had just been repulsed, in evident disorder, endeavoring to re-form their line, but fatigued, disconcerted and vacillating. I thought it a glorious moment, and hurried back to my brave column with the intention of leading it (under cover of the ground) into the rear of the enemy's flank. Judge of my vexation, when I found my men, not in slow motion and good order, as I had directed, but halted behind another strong fence, dispersed, without the shadow of order, their arms grounded, or leaning against the fence, exulting in their good conduct and success in having made the enemy run. I was cruelly disappointed ; but as the success of the blow which I had meditated depended entirely upon rapidity of movement, and much time must be wasted before we could recover our original order and be prepared to move, I gave up my projected attack, and returned to make my report to my general.

John Trumbull, Autobiography, Reminiscences and Letters [1756-1841], (New

York, etc., 1841), 51-56 passim.