WASHINGTON AND THE COWARDS
BY WASHINGTON IRVING (ADAPTED)
DURING the evacuation of New York by Washington, two
divisions of the enemy, encamped on Long Island, one British
under Sir Henry Clinton, the other Hessian under Colonel
Donop, emerged in boats from the deep wooded recesses of
Newtown Inlet, and under cover of the fire from the ships
began to land at two points between Turtle and Kip's Bays.
The breastworks were manned by patriot militia who had
recently served in Brooklyn. Disheartened by their late
defeat, they fled at the first advance of the enemy. Two
brigades of Putnam's Connecticut troops, which had been sent
that morning to support them, caught the panic, and,
regardless of the commands and entreaties of their officers,
joined in the general scamper.
At this moment Washington, who had mounted
 his horse at the first sound of the cannonade, came
galloping to the scene of confusion. Riding in among the
fugitives he endeavored to rally and restore them to order.
All in vain. At the first appearance of sixty or seventy
redcoats, they broke again without firing a shot, and fled
in headlong terror.
Losing all self-command at the sight of such dastardly
conduct, Washington dashed his hat upon the ground in a
transport of rage.
"Are these the men," exclaimed he, "with whom I am to defend
In a paroxysm of passion and despair he snapped his pistols
at some of them, threatened others with his sword, and was
so heedless of his own danger that he might have fallen into
the hands of the enemy, who were not eighty yards distant,
had not an aide-de-camp seized the bridle of his horse, and
absolutely hurried him away.
It was one of the rare moments of his life when the vehement
element of his nature was stirred up from its deep recesses.
He soon recovered his self-possession, and took measures
against the general peril.