As the sun rose on the following morning, Brereton came cantering up to headquarters. “Is his Excellency gone?” he demanded of the sentry, and received reply that Washington had ridden away toward the south ten minutes before. Leaving his horse with the man, the aide ran into the house and returned in a moment with a great hunk of corn bread and two sausages in his hand. Springing into the saddle, he set off at a rapid trot, munching voraciously as he rode.
“Steady, dear lass,” he remarked to the mare. “If you make me lose any of this cake, I’ll never forgive you, Janice.”
Fifteen minutes served to bring the officer to a group of horsemen busy with field-glasses. Riding into their midst, he saluted, and said: “The Maryland regiments are in position, your Excellency.” Then falling a little back, he looked out over the plain stretched before them. Barely had he taken in the two Continental regiments lying “at ease” half-way down the heights on which he was, and the line of their pickets on the level ground, when three companies of red-coated light infantry debouched from the woods that covered the corresponding heights to the southward. As the skirmishers fell back on their supports, the British winded their bugles triumphantly, sounding, not a military order, but the fox-hunting “stole away,”—a blare intended to show their utter contempt for the Americans.
Washington’s cheeks flushed as the derisive notes came floating up the hills, and he pressed his lips together in an attempt to hide the mortification the insult cost him. “They do not intend we shall forget yesterday,” he said.
“We’ll pay them dear for the insult yet,” cried Brereton, hotly.
“’T is a point gained that they think us beneath contempt,” muttered Grayson; “for that is half-way to beating them.”
“Colonel Reed, order three battalions of Weedon’s and Knowlton’s rangers to move along under cover of the woods, and endeavour to get in the rear of their main party,” directed the commander-in-chief after a moment’s discussion with Generals Greene and Putnam. “As you know the ground, guide them yourself.”
“Plague take his luck!” growled Brereton.
“Ha, ha!” laughed Tilghman, jeeringly. “Some of us have hands to kiss and some regiments to fight. Harkee, macaroni. The general thinks ’t would be a pity to spot those modish buskins and gloves. So much for thy dandyism.”
“Colonel Brereton,” said the general, “order the two Maryland regiments to move up in support of Knowlton.”
Brereton saluted, and, as he wheeled, touched his thumb to his nose at Tilghman. “You are dished,” he whispered. “The general dresses too well himself to misjudge a man because he tries to keep neat and a la mode.”
A quarter of an hour later, as battalions of Griffiths’ and Richards’ regiments advanced under guidance of Brereton, the sharpness of the volleys in their front showed that the fighting was begun; and in response to his order, they broke into double-quick time. Once out of the timber, it was to find the Connecticut rangers scattered in small groups wherever cover was to be had, but pouring in a hot fire at the enemy, who had been reinforced materially.