Front Matter Our Country Long Ago The Barbarous Indians The Mounds Where the Northmen Went The Northmen in America Queer Ideas Prince Henry the Navigator Youth of Columbus Columbus and the Queen "Land! Land!" Columbus and the Savages Home Again Columbus Ill-treated Death of Columbus How America Got its Name The Fountain of Youth "The Father of Waters" The French in Canada French and Spanish Quarrels The Sky City Around the World Nothing but Smoke Smith's Adventures The Jamestown Men Smith Wounded Pocahontas Visits England Hudson and the Indians The Mayflower Plymouth Rock The First Thanksgiving Snake Skin and Bullets The Beginning of Boston Stories of Two Ministers Williams and the Indians The Quakers The King-Killers King Phillip's War The Beginning of New York Penn and the Indians The Catholics in Maryland The Old Dominion Bacon's Rebellion A Journey Inland The Carolina Pirates Charter Oak Salem Witches Down the Mississippi La Salle's Adventures Indians on the Warpath Two Wars with the French Washington's Boyhood Washington's Journey Washington's First Battle Stories of Franklin Braddock's Defeat Wolfe at Quebec England and her Colonies The Stamp Tax The Anger of the Colonies The Boston Tea Party The Minutemen The Battle of Lexington Bunker Hill The Boston Boys The British leave Boston Declaration of Independence A Lady's Way of Helping Christmas Eve The Fight at Bennington Burgoyne's Surrender Winter at Valley Forge The Quaker Woman Putnam's Adventures Indian Cruelty Boone in Kentucky Famous Sea Fights The "Swamp Fox" The Poor Soldiers The Spy A Traitor's Death Two Unselfish Women Surrender of Cornwallis British Flag hauled down Washington's Farewell

Story of the Thirteen Colonies - Helene Guerber

A Lady's Way of Helping

While Washington was in New York, Putnam had charge of the troops on Long Island. Here General Howe suddenly came upon him with such a large force that Putnam was beaten and forced to retreat. Washington, who saw the battle of Long Island from a distance, is reported to have wrung his hands, and to have cried, with tears running down his cheeks: "My God! what brave fellows I must lose this day!"

At nightfall, the Americans were intrenched on Brooklyn Heights, where Howe planned to take the "nest of rebels "by siege. But, thanks to a fog which rose over the bay, Washington cleverly and noiselessly drew off these troops, and when the sun rose on the second day, Howe found that the Americans were all on the other side of the East River. Knowing that Howe would pursue him, and not wishing to expose New York city to the enemy's cannon, Washington began to retreat up the Hudson.

While part of the British army landed near the Battery, the rest, under Howe himself, crossed the East River higher up, so as to cut off the retreat of the Americans under Putnam. To prevent this, Washington stationed troops at the landing at Kips Bay (where East Thirty-fourth Street now ends), bidding them hold the British at bay long enough to enable Putnam to retreat. But the Americans fled at the first fire, although Washington tried to stop them. In his rage and despair over their cowardice, Washington is said to have flung his hat on the ground, and bitterly cried: "Are these the men with whom I am to defend America?"

Still, one man could not hold an army in check; so Washington rode northward, sending word to Putnam to hurry, and begging Mrs. Murray, a lady living on a hill near by, to use her woman's wit to detain the enemy. Mrs. Murray bade her servants prepare refreshments, and when General Howe rode past her gate, she stepped out to invite him into her house.

It was a very warm day, the house looked cool and inviting, and Howe accepted, thinking a few moments' delay would not do any harm. But the ladies proved so entertaining, and the food they set before the officers so welcome, that instead of staying only a few moments, they lingered there several hours. Finally a servant came in and whispered something to Mrs. Murray, who, rising from her seat, begged Howe to accompany her to see something which she thought might interest him.

Nathan Hale


We are told that she then led the British general to an upper window, and pointed out Putnam's army vanishing in the dim distance. The delay had enabled the Americans to escape to a point higher up, where they still held Forts Lee and Washington, on either side of the river.

While the battle of Long Island was raging, Washington, needing information, sent Nathan Hale, a Yale graduate, into the British ranks. This brave youth was betrayed by a former friend, and the British, having taken him captive, condemned him to be hanged as a spy. This was no more than the young man expected; but they cruelly refused him a Bible or a minister to prepare for death.

We are told that even his last letters to his mother and betrothed were torn to pieces before his eyes, as they dragged him off to the gallows. But as the young patriot stood there, surrounded by foes, he firmly said: "I regret only that I have but one life to lose for my country." These noble words are carved on the pedestal of his statue, which now stands in one of the principal squares of New York city.

Howe and Clinton were now both in New York, where they were warmly welcomed by a few persons who were still faithful to King George. But as they had failed to secure the American army, they soon set out to pursue Washington, who slowly retreated before them.

Washington did not try to do more than check their advance, because he knew their ships could sail up the Hudson, across which he had vainly tried to make a barrier by sinking some old ships. Step by step, therefore, Washington withdrew until he came to White Plains. There a battle was fought; but, while the Americans were defeated, the British retreated on the next day, rather than renew the fight and lose more men.

Washington had left General Nathanael Greene in charge of Fort Washington, telling him to forsake it rather than run any risk of losing his troops. But Greene thought it would be safe to remain there awhile longer. Unfortunately, however, a traitor gave General Howe the plans of the place, thus enabling him to surprise and capture Fort Washington, together with three thousand men.

These soldiers, like many other American prisoners, were sent on board a rotting ship in New York harbor, where, in the course of the Revolutionary War, more than eleven thousand men died from bad food, bad water, and bad air. These victims of British cruelty were first buried in the mud at low tide, but their remains now rest in Washington Park, Brooklyn. A memorial monument has also been erected in their honor in Trinity Church, bearing the inscription: "To those great and good men who died while imprisoned in this city, for their devotion to the cause of American Independence." This honor was well deserved, for soldiers who die of disease or in captivity are just as likely to be heroes as those who fall on the battlefield.

Washington, seeing his fort taken, now went to Hackensack, sending orders to General Charles Lee to cross the Hudson and join him in New Jersey. But instead of obeying promptly, Lee delayed so long that, as you will soon see, he hampered Washington greatly. The British, in the meantime, crossed the river, and Greene was obliged to leave Fort Lee in hot haste. Indeed, the enemy were so near that they found the soup pots still boiling on the fire, and merrily ate the dinner which was to have been served for the Americans.

Still faithful to his plan to worry and check the British, without meeting them in open battle, Washington now slowly retreated across New Jersey. We are told that he often left a place as the enemy came in; and because he thus imitated the tactics of a Roman general, you will often hear him called the "American Fabius."

Cornwallis, the British general now in charge, pursued the Americans as fast as he could, in order to force them to meet him in pitched battles. But while the armies were often close enough to hear the music of each other's bands, and there were many small skirmishes, no real battle took place.

In one of these small engagements the wads used in loading the guns gave out. The chaplain of the regiment, who hated the British because they had cruelly shot his wife and baby, rushed into a church, tore up some hymn books, and, carrying the leaves to the soldiers for wads, said: "Give 'em Watts, boys! Give 'em Watts!"