“…on August 29 another storm blew in. A cold, drenching rain continued through the day and into the night. Before morning, a “peculiar providential” fog set in. When daylight came and the fog began to thin, the British discovered that the Americans had vanished.
Through the night, under the cover of darkness, rain, and fog, Washington’s army had been ferried across the mile-wide East River, through powerful currents, in every conceivable kind of small boat, most of them manned by Massachusetts fishermen – some 9,000 to 10,000 troops with baggage and equipment all moving with utmost silence.
The risks involved in so difficult a withdrawal had been extreme. Much had depended on those troops that remained behind, holding the lines until the last possible moment, an assignment given to two Pennsylvania battalions under Thomas Mifflin, who was by now a major general. ‘Our situation was very dangerous,” an unnamed officer would write in the Pennsylvania Evening Post. “The retreat was conducted in the greatest secrecy, and by six o’ clock in the morning we had everything embarked.”
But the hero was Washington. “There never was a man that behaved better upon the occasion than General Washington; he was on horseback the whole night, and never left the ferry stairs ’til he had seen the whole of his troops embarked.”
from “John Adams” by David McCullough