“Get to the rear!” stormed an officer at the pair; while, without stopping to form, the men poured in a volley at the charging British, who, halting, returned the fire, the bullets hurtling and whistling about the non-combatants in a way that made the squire forget the agonies of his gout in the danger of his position.
Ere the riflemen could reload, the Seventeenth, with fixed bayonets, were upon them, and the two American regiments, having no defensive weapon, broke and fled in every direction. A mounted officer rode forward and attempted to stay the flight of the riflemen, then fell wounded from his horse. As he came to the ground, Janice and her father found themselves once more on the other side of the conflict, as the charging British swept by them; and the girl screamed as she saw two of the soldiers rush to where the wounded man lay, and repeatedly thrust their bayonets into him, though she was ignorant that it was Washington’s old companion in arms, General Mercer.
As the riflemen fell back down the hill, Washington in person headed two regiments of Pennsylvania militia, supported by a couple of pieces of artillery from the right flank to cover the fugitives. Although conscious by now that he had no mere detachment to fight, Colonel Mawhood, with admirable coolness, ordered the recall sounded, and re-forming his regiment, led a charge against the new foe. Seeing the Seventeenth advancing at double quick, in the face of the guns, so fearlessly and steadily, the militia wavered, and were on the point of deserting the battery, when Washington spurred forward, thus placing himself between the two lines of soldiers. His splendid and reckless courage steadied the raw militia; they gave a cheer and levelled their muskets just as the Seventeenth halted and did the same. Within thirty yards of the enemy, and well in advance of his own men, Washington stood exposed to both volleys as the two lines fired, and for a moment he was lost to view in the smoke which, blown about him, united in one dense cloud. Slowly the mass lifted, revealing both general and horse unhurt, and at the sight the Pennsylvania regiments cheered once more.
The time lost by the British in halting and firing proved fatal to the capture of the guns. Hand’s riflemen, advancing, threw in a deadly, scattering fire of trained sharpshooters, while two regiments under Hitchcock came forward at a run. One moment the Seventeenth held its ground, then broke and fled toward the road, leaving behind them two brass cannon. For four miles the fugitives were pursued, and many prisoners were taken.
Musketry on the right showed the day not yet won, however, the Fifty-fifth having pressed forward upon hearing the fusillade, and but for the check it met from a New England brigade would have come to the aid of its friends. The flight of the Seventeenth enabled Washington to mass his force against the new arrival; and it was driven in upon the Fortieth, and then both fell back into the town, taking possession of the college building, with the evident hope of finding in its walls protection sufficient to make a successful stand. But when the Continental artillery was brought up and wheeled into position, at the first shot the British abandoned the stronghold and fled in disorder along the road leading to Brunswick, hotly pursued by a force which Washington joined.