Queen's American Rangers
There were many reports, that Mr. Lacy, the rebel General of the Pennsylvania militia, was collecting them, professedly to impede the country people's intercourse with the markets.
Major SIMCOE, besides employing his own intelligence, applied to Lieutenant-Colonel BALFOUR, who so successfully managed these matters, during the army's being at Philadelphia, for what he could furnish him with; and represented that it would be of the utmost consequence, to attack Lacy the moment he broke into the circle of country, which we had hitherto maintained possession of.
In consequence of this conversation, he was sent for by Colonel BALFOUR, some time after, and informed, that Lacy's corps were to assemble at the Crooked Billett, twenty-five miles from Philadelphia, on the first of May.
Major SIMCOE was anxious that they should be attacked on that night; and from the maps of the country arranged the plan, which was approved of.
The main road led, past the Billett, to Philadelphia from York; at less than half a mile from it, on the Philadelphia side, there was another, that led to Washington's camp, by Horsham meeting.
Major SIMCOE proposed, that he should march with the Rangers, and, by a circuit, get to the road in the rear of the Billett; and that a detachment should march and ambuscase themselves in a wood, (the intelligencer said there was one adapted to the purpose,) on the road which led by the Horsham meeting-house to Washington's camp; this party was to remain in ambuscade till they heard the firing of the Queen's Rangers.
It was supposed, that if the surprise should not be complete, the ambuscade would render the success perfectly so, by supporting the Rangers if they were checked, and by intercepting the enemy if they attempted to retreat, which, probably, would be towards their army.
Colonel BALFOUR proposed two hundred light infantry to go; to this Major SIMCOE said, 'that they would be commanded by older officers in the line, and yet of inferior local rank to himself, and that it was his wish, on that account, to avoid giving umbrage;'
the result was, Lieutenant-Colonel ABERCROMBIE was chosen, and marched with a large detachment of the light infantry, and with one of cavalry, and horses to mount part of his infantry-men, for greater expedition.
Major SIMCOE's march was a difficult one: he thought it necessary to make many circuits to avoid places where he suspected the enemy had posts, or patroles.
He was admirably guided; and, luckily, had information, about twilight, that prevented him from committing a serious error: the armed Refugees, as Captain [William] THOMAS, their commander, informed him, were sent by Mr. [Joseph] GALLOWAY, to convey in some of his furniture;
they adventured out, hearing of the expedition by some means or other, and marched up the roads which the Rangers had so carefully avoided, but without meeting any interruption, or alarm;
luckily, they passed a house, which Major SIMCOE called at, or he would, certainly, when he overtook them, have mistaken them for rebels: they were directed to keep themselves undiscovered; and the Rangers marched on so fast as possible.
Although day light appeared, Major SIMCOE was under no apprehensions of discovery, and certain of Colonel ABERCROMBIE's having met with no accident, as the parties must have been within the hearing of each other's fire.
He had now arrived at the point, where he quitted the road, in order to make his last circuit to reach the Billett, profiting by the covert that the irregularities of the ground would have afforded, and was informing the officers of his plan of attack, to be guided by circumstances, (Captain KERR's division excepted, who was to force Lacy's quarters, and barricade them for a point to rally at, in case of misadventure,) when a few shot were heard.
Major SIMCOE immediately exclaimed, 'the dragoons have discovered us;' so it was.
Colonel ABERCROMBIE, although assisted by horses, could not arrive at his post at the appointed time, before day-break; anxious to support Major SIMCOE, he detached his cavalry, and mounted light infantry, to the place of ambuscade.
The officer who commanded, patrolled to Lacy's out-post, and, being fired at by the rebel sentinels, did not retire; Lacy, of course, did, and collecting his force, began a retreat up the country: in this situation, the Rangers arrived nearly in his rear, upon his right flank;
they stopped and turned some smaller parties who were escaping from the light infantry, and who were killed, but the main body retreated in a mass, without order, and by no efforts could the infantry reach them:
unfortunately, the Huzzars of the Rangers were left at Philadelphia, their horses having been fatigued by a long course of duty, and a severe patrole the day before: thirty dragoons, who were with the Rangers, were sent to intercept the baggage waggons, and staid to guard them.
As the enemy were marching through a wood, Major SIMCOE gallopped up to the edge of it, and summoned them to surrender; they were in great consternation, but marched on;
he then gave the words of command, 'make ready,' 'present,' 'fire,' hoping that the intervening fence and thickets between him and them might lead them to suppose he had troops with him, and that they might halt, when a few moments would have been decisive: at the word 'fire' they crouched down, but still moved on, and soon got out of all reach.
A few men of the Rangers were wounded, as was the horse of Wright, Major SIMCOE's orderly Huzzar; and Captain M'GILL's shoe-buckle probably saved the foot of that valuable officer: the enemy had fifty or sixty killed, and taken.
The troops returned to Philadelphia.
The commander in chief ordered the baggage to be sold, for their benefit; it produced a dollar a man.
The guides of the Queen's Rangers computed their march at fifty-eight miles; not a man was missing.
excursion, though it failed in the greater part, had its full effect, of
intimidating the militia, as they never afterwards appeared, but in small
parties, and like robbers.
Lt. Col. John G. Simcoe, Journal of the Operations of the Queen's Rangers, pages 56-60.
Click here for ---> Battles & Campaigns Main Page