CORRESPONDENCE AND MANUSCRIPTS
PUBLISHED BY HIS FAMILY.
Entered according to the act of Congress, in the year 1837,
by William A. Duer,
In the Clerk's Office of the Southern District of New-York.
Respectfully to collect and scrupulously to arrange the manuscripts of which an irreparable misfortune has rendered them depositaries, have been for the Family of General Lafayette the accomplishment of a sacred duty.
To publish those manuscripts without any commentary, and place them, unaltered, in the hands of the friends of Liberty, is a pious and solemn homage which his children now offer with confidence to his memory.
GEORGE WASHINGTON LAFAYETTE.
OF THE AMERICAN EDITOR.
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It was the desire of the late General Lafayette, that this edition of his Memoirs and Correspondence should be considered as a legacy of the American people. His representatives have accordingly pursued a course which they conceived the best adapted to give effect to his wishes, by furnishing a separate edition for this country, without any reservation for their own advantage, beyond the transfer of the copyright as an indemnity for the expense and risk of publication.
In this edition are inserted some letters which will not appear in the editions published in Paris and London. They contain details relating to the American Revolution, and render the present edition more complete, or, at least, more interesting to Americans. Although written during the first residence of General Lafayette in America—when he was little accustomed to write in the English language—the letters in question are given exactly as they came from his pen—and as well as the others in the collection written by him in that language are distinguished from those translated from the French by having the word "Original" prefixed to them.
It was intended that these letters should have been arranged among those in the body of the work; in the order of their respective dates; but as the latter have been stereotyped before the former had been transmitted to the American editor, this design was rendered impracticable. They have therefore from necessity been added in a supplemental form with the marginal notes which seemed requisite for their explanation.
Columbia College, N. Y., July, 1837.
CONTENTS OF THE FIRST VOLUME.
Notice by the Editors
FIRST VOYAGE AND FIRST CAMPAIGN IN AMERICA—1777, 1778.
Memoirs written by myself, until the year 1780
FRAGMENTS EXTRACTED FROM VARIOUS MANUSCRIPTS
A.—Departure for America in 1777
B.—First Interview between General Washington and General Lafayette
C.—On the Military commands during the Winter of 1778
D.—Retreat of Barren Hill
E.—Arrival of the French Fleet
F.—Dissensions between the French Fleet and the American Army
To the Duke d'Ayen. London, March 9, 1777
To Madame de Lafayette. On board the Victory, May 30
To Madame de Lafayette. Charlestown, June 19
To Madame de Lafayette. Petersburg, July 17
To Madame de Lafayette.—July 23
To Madame de Lafayette. Philadelphia, Sept. 12
To Madame de Lafayette.—Oct. 1
To M. de Vergennes, Minister of Foreign affairs. Whitemarsh Camp, Oct. 24
To Madame de Lafayette. Whitemarsh Camp, Oct. 29, and Nov. 6
To General Washington. Haddonfeld, Nov. 26
To the Duke d'Ayen. Camp Gulph, Pennsylvania, Dec. 16
To General Washington. Camp, Dec. 30
To General Washington. Head Quarters, Dec. 31
To General Washington. Valley Forge, Dec. 31
To Madame de Lafayette. Camp, near Valley Forge, Jan. 6, 1778
To General Washington
To Madame de Lafayette. York. Feb 3
To General Washington. Hermingtown, Feb. 9
To General Washington. Albany, Feb. 19
To General Washington.—Feb. 23
From General Washington to the Marquis de Lafayette. Head Quarters, March 10
To Baron de Steuben. Albany, March 12
Fragment of a Letter to the President of Congress. Albany, March 20
To General Washington. Albany, March 25
To Madame de Lafayette. Valley Forge Camp, in Pennsylvania, April 14
To Madame de Lafayette. Germantown, April 28
To General Washington. Valley Forge Camp, May 19
From General Washington to the Marquis de Lafayette. Camp, May 17
To the Marquis de Lafayette. (Instructions.)
To Madame de Lafayette. Valley Forge Camp, June 16
To the Marquis de Lafayette. (Instructions.)
To General Washington. Ice Town, June 26
From General Washington to the Marquis de Lafayette. Cranberry, June 26
From General Washington to the Marquis de Lafayette. White Plains, July 22
From General Washington to the Marquis de Lafayette. Head Quarters, White Plains, July 27
To General Washington. Providence, Aug. 6
From General Washington to the Marquis de Lafayette. White Plains, Aug. 10
To General Washington. Camp before Newport, Aug. 25
From General Washington to the Marquis de Lafayette. White Plains, Sept.
From General Washington to Major-General Sullivan. Head Quarters, White Plains, Sept. 1
From General Washington to Major-General Greene. Head Quarters, White Plains, Sept. 1
To General Washington. Tyverton, Sept. I
To General Washington. Camp, near Bristol, Sept. 7
To the Duke d'Ayen. Bristol, near Rhode Island, Sept. 11
To Madame de Lafayette. Bristol, near Rhode Island, Sept. 13
President Laurens to the Marquis de Lafayette. Philadelphia, Sept. 13
Marquis de Lafayette to President Laurens. Camp, Sept. 23
To General Washington. Warren, Sept. 24
From General Washington to the Marquis de Lafayette. Fredericksburg, Sept. 25
To General Washington. Camp near Warren, Sept. 24
To General Washington. Boston, Sept. 28
From General Washington to the Marquis de Lafayette. Fishkill, Oct. 4
Marquis de Lafayette to President Laurens. Philadelphia, Oct. 13
President Laurens to the Marquis de Lafayette. Philadelphia, Oct. 24
To General Washington. Philadelphia, Oct. 24
Lord Carlisle to M. de Lafayette Marquis de Lafayette
To President Laurens. Philadelphia, Oct. 26
Fragment of a Letter from the French Minister, M. Gerard, to Count de Vergennes.—October
From General Washington to the Marquis de Lafayette. Philadelphia, Dec. 29
From General Washington to General Franklin, American Minister in France. Philadelphia, Dec. 28
To General Washington. Boston, January 5, 1779
To General Washington. On board the Alliance, off Boston, January 11, 1779
SECOND VOYAGE TO AMERICA, AND CAMPAIGNS OF 1780, 1781.
HISTORICAL MEMOIRS OF 1779, 1780, and 1781.
To Count de Vergennes. Paris, February 24, 1779
From General Washington to the Marquis de Lafayette. Camp at Middlebrook, March 8
To M. de Vergennes, Paris, April 1, and April 26
To the President of Congress. St. Jean de Angeli, near Rochefort, June 12
To General Washington. St. Jean de Angeli, near Rochefort harbor, June 12
To the Count de Vergennes. Havre, July 30
To M. de Vergennes. Paris, August —
Dr. Franklin to the Marquis de Lafayette. Fassy, August 24
To Dr. Franklin. Havre, August 29
Page From General Washington to the Marquis de Lafayette. West Point, December 30
To General Washington. Havre, October 7
To M. de Vergennes. Versailles, Feb. 22, 1780
To his Excellency General Washington. At the entrance of Boston harbor, April 27
To M. de Vergennes. Waterburg, on the Boston road, from the Camp, May 6
From General Washington. Morris Town, May—
To the Count de Rochambeau. Philadelphia, May 19
To General Washington. Camp at Preakness, July 4
To MM. le Comte de Rochambeau and le Chevalier de Ternay. Camp before Dobb's Ferry, August 9
From Count de Rochambeau to M. de Lafayette. Newport, August 12
To MM. de Rochambeau and de Ternay. Camp, August 18
To M. de Rochambeau. Camp, August 18
From M. de Rochambeau. Newport, August 27
To the Chevalier de la Luzerne. Robinson House, opposite West Point, Sept. 26
To Madame de Tess. Camp, on the right side of North River, near the Island of New York, October 4
To General Washington. Light Camp, October 30
From General Washington to the Marquis de Lafayette. Head Quarters, October 30
To General Washington. Light Camp, November 13
To General Washington, Paramus, November 28
To his Excellency General Washington. Philadelphia, Dec. 5
From General Washington to the Marquis de Lafayette. New Windsor, December 14
To M. de Vergennes. New Windsor, on the North River, January 30, 1781
To Madame de Lafayette. New Windsor, on the North River, February 2
To General Washington. Elk, March 8
To General Washington. On board the Dolphin, March 9
To General Washington. Williamsburg, March 23
From General Washington to the Marquis de Lafayette. New Windsor, April 6
To General Washington. Elk, April 8
To Colonel Hamilton. Susquehannah Ferry, April 18
To General Washington. Baltimore, April 18
To General Washington. Alexandria, April 23
From General Washington to the Marquis de Lafayette New Windsor, May 4
From General Washington to Lund Washington. New Windsor, April 30
To General Washington. Camp Wilton, on James River, May 17
From General Phillips to the Marquis de Lafayette. British Camp at Osborn, April 28
From General Phillips to the Marquis de Lafayette. Camp at Osborn, April 29
To Major General Phillips. American Camp, April 30
To Major-General Phillips.—May 3
Note for Captain Emyne.—May 15
Note from General Arnold to Captain Ragedale
To General Washington. Richmond, May 24
To General Washington. Camp, June 28
Extracts of several Letters to General Washington
To Madame de Lafayette. Camp, between the branches of York River, August 24
To M. de Vergennes. Camp between the branches of York River, August 24
To M de Maurepas. Camp, between the branches of York River, August 24
To General Washington. Holt's Forge, September 1
To General Washington. Williamsburg, September 8
To General Washington. Camp before York, October 16
To M. de Maurepas. Camp near York, October 20
To M. de Vergennes. Camp near York, October 20
To Madame de Lafayette. On board La Ville de Paris, Chesapeake Bay, October 22
The Marquis de Sgur to M. de Lafayette.—Dec. 5
To General Washington. Alliance, off Boston, December 21
To General Washington. Robins' Tavern, June 26, 1778
To General Washington. Cranbarry, June —
To General Washington.—June 28
To General Washington. Cranbarry, June 29
To the Count de Vergennes. St. Jean de Angeli, June, 1779
To the Count de Vergennes. Havre, July 9
To the President of Congress. Havre, October 7
To General Washington. Peekskill, July 20, 1780
To General Washington. Danbury, July 21
To General Washington. Hartford, July 22
To General Washington. Lebanon, July 23
To General Washington. Newport, July 26
To General Washington. Newport, July 26
To General Washington. Newport, July 29
To General Washington. Newport, July 31
To General Washington. Newport, August 1
To General Washington. Elizabethtown, October 27
To General Washington. Light Camp, October 27
To General Washington. Philadelphia, December 4
To General Washington.—December 5
To General Washington. Philadelphia, December 16
To General Washington. Philadelphia, March 2, 1781
To General Washington. Head of Elk, March 7
To General Washington. Off Turkey Point, March 9
To General Washington. York, March 15
To General Washington. Elk, April 10
To General Washington. Susquehannah Ferry, April 13
To General Washington. Susquehannah Ferry, April 13
To General Washington. Susquehannah Ferry, April 14
To Major-General Greene. Hanover Court House, April 28
To General Greene. Camp on Pamunkey River, May 3
To General Washington. Camp near Bottom's Creek, May 4
To General Washington. Richmond, May 8
To General Washington. Welton, north side of James River, May 18
To Colonel Hamilton. Richmond, May 23
To General Washington. Richmond, May 24
To General Washington. Camp between Rappanannock and North Anna, June 3
To General Greene. Camp between Rappahannock and North Anna, June 3
To General Greene. Allen's Creek, June 18
To General Greene. Mr. Tyter's Plantation, June 27
To General Greene. Ambler's Plantation, July 8
To General Washington. Mrs. Ruffin's, August 29
To General Washington. Holt's Forge, September 1
To General Washington. Camp Williamsburg, September 8
To General Washington. Williamsburg, September 10
To General Washington. Camp before York, Sept. 30
To General Washington.—November 29
I.—A Summary of the Campaign of 1781, explanatory of the Map
II.—Letter from M. de Lafayette to M. de Vergennes
NOTICE BY THE EDITORS.
Under the title of Revolution of America, are comprised eight years of M. de Lafayette's life, from the commencement of 1771 until the end of 1784. His three voyages to the United States divide those eight years into three periods: 1777, 1778; 1779-1781; and 1782-1784.~
1st. Circumstantial Memoirs, written for his friends after the peace of Versailles, and which were to have extended to 1780, open this collection.
2nd. These are continued and completed by two detached relations, composed between 1800 and 1814; the first, which has no title, and might be called Notice of the American Life of General Lafayette, appears to have been written for a person intending to publish the history of the war, or of General Washington; the second is entitled, Observations on some portion of American History, by a friend of General Lafayette.
As these two relations, both written by M. de Lafayette, and which we designate under the names of Manuscript, No. 1, and manuscript, No. 2, contain a second, and occasionally a third, account of events already mentioned in the Memoirs, we have only inserted quotations from them.
3rd. A relation of the campaign in Virginia, in 1781, shall be inserted in its complete state.
4th. Extracts from the collection of the general's speeches, begun by him in 1829, will give some details of his third voyage to America (1784).
5th. With the account of each particular period that portion of the correspondence which may relate to it will be inserted. From a great number of letters, written from America, and addressed either to France or to America, or from France to America, those only have been suppressed whose repetitions or details, purely military, would render them uninteresting to the public.
6th. In the Correspondence, some letters have been inserted from General Washington, and other contemporaries, and also some historical records, of which M. de Lafayette had taken copies, or which have been extracted from various collections published in the United States.
1. M. de Lafayette (Marie-Paul-Joseph-Roch-Yves-Gilbert Motier) born at Chavaniae, in Auvergne, the 6th of September, 1757; married the 11th of April, 1774; set out for America the 26th of April, 1777. The other dates will be mentioned in proper order, with each particular event. All the notes which are not followed by the name of M. de Lafayette, may be attributed to the members of his family, sole editors of this work.
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TO THE READER.~
When, devoted from early youth to the ambition of liberty, I beheld no limit to the path that I had opened for myself, it appeared to me that I was sufficiently fulfilling my destiny, and satisfying my glory, by rushing incessantly forward, and leaving to others the care of collecting the recollections, as well as the fruits, of my labour.
After having enjoyed an uninterrupted course of good fortune for fifteen years, I presented myself, with a favourable prospect of success, before the coalition of kings, and the aristocracy of Europe: I was overthrown by the simultaneous fury of French jacobinism. My person was then given up to the vengeance of my natural enemies, and my reputation to the calumnies of those self-styled patriots who had so lately violated every sworn and national guarantee. It is well known that the regimen of my five years' imprisonment was not favourable to literary occupations, and when, on my deliverance from prison, I was advised to write an explanation of my conduct, I was disgusted with all works of the kind, by the numerous memoirs or notices by which so many persons had trespassed upon the attention of the public. Events had also spoken for us; and many accusers, and many accusations, had fallen into oblivion.
As soon as I returned to France, my friends requested me to write memoirs: I found excuses for not doing so in my reluctance to judge with severity the first jacobin chiefs who have shared since in my proscription,—the Girondins, who have died for those very principles they had opposed and persecuted in me,—the king and queen, whose lamentable fate only allows me to pride myself upon some services I have rendered them,—and the vanquished royalists, who are at present deprived of fortune, and exposed to every, arbitrary measure. I ought to add, likewise that, happy in my retreat, in the bosom of my family and occupied with agricultural pursuits, I know not how to purloin one moment from the enjoyments of my domestic life.
But my friends have renewed their request, and to comply in some degree with it, I have consented to place in order the few papers that I still possess and assemble together some relations which have been already published, and unite, by notes, the whole collection, in which my children and friends may one day find materials for a less insignificant work. As to myself, I acknowledge that my indolence in this respect is owing to the intimate conviction which I feel, that liberty will ultimately be established in the old as well as in the new world, and that then the history of our revolutions will put all things and all persons in their proper places.
1. Although this notice, written a short time after the 18th Brumaire, be anterior to a great number of events, in the midst of which General Lafayette continued his public life, we have placed it in this part of the work, as a sort of general introduction to the various materials it contains.
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FIRST CAMPAIGN IN AMERICA 1777-1778.
MEMOIRS WRITTEN BY MYSELF,~
UNTIL THE YEAR 1780.
TO MY FRIENDS.
If I were to confound, as is too often done, obstinacy with firmness, I should blush at beginning these memoirs, after having so long refused to do so, and at even increasing their apparent egotism by my style, instead of sheltering myself under cover of the third person; but I will not yield a half compliance to the request of that tender friendship which is far more valuable to me than the ephemeral success which a journal might obtain. It is sufficient for me to know that this relation, intended for a few friends only, will never extend beyond their circle: it even possesses two very great advantages over many celebrated books: these are, that the public not being concerned in this work it cannot need a preface, and that the dedication of affection cannot require an epistle.
It would be too poetical to place myself at once in another hemisphere, and too minute to dwell upon the particulars of my birth, which soon followed the death of my father at Minden; of my education in Auvergne, with tender and revered relations; of my removal, at twelve years of age to a college at Paris, where I soon lost my virtuous mother, and where the death of her father rendered me rich, although I had been born, comparatively speaking, poor; of some schoolboy successes, inspired by the love of glory and somewhat disturbed by that of liberty; of my entrance into the regiment of the black musketeers, which only interrupted my studies on review days; and finally, of my marriage, at the age of sixteen, preceded by a residence at the academy of Versailles. I have still less to say relating to my entrance into the world; to the short favour I enjoyed as constituting one member of a youthful society; to some promises to the regiment de Noailles; and to the unfavourable opinion entertained of me owing to my habitual silence when I did not think the subjects discussing worthy of being canvassed. The bad effects produced by disguised self-love and an observing disposition, were not softened by a natural simplicity of manner, which, without being improper on any great occasion, rendered it impossible for me to bend to the graces of the court, or to the charms of a supper in the capital.
You ask me at what period I first experienced my ardent love of liberty and glory? I recollect no time of my life anterior to my enthusiasm for anecdotes of glorious deeds, and to my projects of travelling over the world to acquire fame. At eight years of age, my heart beat when I heard of a hyena that had done some injury, and caused still more alarm, in our neighbourhood, and the hope of meeting it was the object of all my walks. When I arrived at college, nothing ever interrupted my studies, except my ardent wish of studying without restraint. I never deserved to be chastised; but, in spite of my usual gentleness, it would have been dangerous to have attempted to do so; and I recollect with pleasure that, when I was to described in rhetoric a perfect courser, I sacrificed the hope of obtaining a premium, and described the one who, on perceiving the whip, threw down his rider. Republican anecdotes always delighted me, and when my new connexions wished to obtain for me a place at court, I did not hesitate displeasing them to preserve my independence.~ I was in that frame of mind when I first learnt the troubles in America; they only became thoroughly known in Europe in 1776, and the memorable declaration of the 4th of July reached France at the close of that same year.
After having crowned herself with laurels and enriched herself with conquests; after having become mistress of all seas; and after having insulted all nations, England had turned her pride against her own colonies. North America had long been displeasing to her; she wished to add new vexations to former injuries, and to destroy the most sacred privileges. The Americans, attached to the mother country, contented themselves at first with merely uttering complaints; they only accused the ministry, and the whole nation rose up against them; they were termed insolent and rebellious, and at length declared the enemies of their country: thus did the obstinacy of the king, the violence of the ministers, and the arrogance of the English nation, oblige thirteen of their colonies to render themselves independent. Such a glorious cause had never before attracted the attention of mankind; it was the last struggle of Liberty; and had she then been vanquished, neither hope nor asylum would have remained for her. The oppressors and oppressed were to receive a powerful lesson; the great work was to be accomplished, or the rights of humanity were to fall beneath its ruin. The destiny of France and that of her rival were to be decided at the same moment; England was to lose, with the new states, an important commerce, of which she derived the sole advantage,—one quarter of her subjects, who were constantly augmenting by a rapid increase of population, and by emigration from all parts of Europe,—in a word, more than half of the most beautiful portion of the British territory. But if she retained possession of her thirteen colonies, all was ended for our West Indies, our possessions in Asia and Africa, our maritime commerce, and consequently our navy and our political existence.
(1776.) When I first learnt the subject of the quarrel, my heart espoused warmly the cause of liberty, and I thought of nothing but of adding also the aid of my banner. Some circumstances, which it would be needless to relate, had taught me to expect only obstacles in this case from my own family; I depended, therefore, solely upon myself, and I ventured to adopt for a device on my arms these words—"Cur non?" that they might equally serve as an encouragement to my-self, and as a reply to others. Silas Deane was then at Paris; but the ministers feared to receive him, and his voice was overpowered by the louder accents of Lord Stormont. He despatched privately to America some old arms, which were of little use, and some young officers, who did but little good, the whole directed by M. de Beaumarchais; and when the English ambassador spoke to our court, it denied having sent any cargoes, ordered those that were preparing to be discharged, and dismissed from our ports all American privateers. Whilst wishing to address myself in a direct manner to Mr. Deane, I became the friend of Kalb, a German in our employ, who was applying for service with the insurgents, (the expression in use at that time,) and who became my interpreter. He was the person sent by M. de Choiseul to examine the English colonies; and on his return he received some money, but never succeeded in obtaining an audience, so little did that minister in reality think of the revolution whose retrograde movements some persons have inscribed to him! When I presented to Mr. Deane my boyish face, (for I was scarcely nineteen years of age,) I spoke more of my ardour in the cause than of my experience; but I dwelt much upon the effect my departure would excite in France, and he signed our mutual agreement. The secrecy with which this negotiation and my preparations were made appears almost a miracle; family, friends, ministers; French spies and English spies, all were kept completely in the dark as to my intentions. Amongst my discreet confidants, I owe much to M. du Boismartin, secretary of the Count de Broglie, and to the Count de Broglie himself, whose affectionate heart, when all his efforts to turn me from this project had proved in vain, entered into my views with even paternal tenderness.
Preparations were making to send a vessel to America, when very bad tidings arrived from thence. New York, Long Island, White Plains, Fort Washington, and the Jerseys, had seen the American forces successively destroyed by thirty-three thousand Englishmen or Germans. Three thousand Americans alone remained in arms, and these were closely pursued by General Howe. From that moment all the credit of the insurgents vanished; to obtain a vessel for them was impossible: the envoys themselves thought it right to express to me their own discouragement, and persuade me to abandon my project. I called upon Mr. Deane, and I thanked him for his frankness.
"Until now, sir," said I, "you have only seen my ardour in your cause, and that may not prove at present wholly useless. I shall purchase a ship to carry out your officers; we must feel confidence in the future, and it is especially in the hour of danger that I wish to share your fortune."~ My project was received with approbation; but it was necessary afterwards to find money, and to purchase and arm a vessel secretly: all this was accomplished with the greatest despatch.
The period was, however, approaching, which had been long fixed for my taking a journey to England; I could not refuse to go without risking the discovery of my secret, and by consenting to take this journey I knew I could better conceal my preparations for a greater one. This last measure was also thought most expedient by MM. Franklin and Deane; for the doctor himself was then in France; and although I did not venture to go to his house, for fear of being seen, I corresponded with him through M. Carmichael, an American less generally known. I arrived in London with M. de Poix; and I first paid my respects to Bancroft, the American, and afterwards to his British Majesty. A youth of nineteen may be, perhaps, too fond of playing a trick upon the king he is going to fight with,—of dancing at the house of Lord Germaine minister for the English colonies, and at the house of Lord Rawdon, who had just returned from New York,—and of seeing at the opera that Clinton, whom he was afterwards to meet at Monmouth. But whilst I concealed my intentions, I openly avowed my sentiments; I often defended the Americans; I rejoiced at their success at Trenton; and my spirit of opposition obtained for me an invitation to breakfast with Lord Shelbourne. I refused the offers made me to visit the sea ports, the vessels fitting out against the rebels, and everything that might be construed into an abuse of confidence. At the end of three weeks, when it became necessary for me to return home, whilst refusing my uncle, the ambassador, to accompany him to court, I confided to him my strong desire to take a trip to Paris. He proposed saying that I was ill during my absence. I should not have made use of this stratagem myself, but I did not object to his doing so.
After having suffered dreadfully in the channel, and being reminded, as a consolation, how very short the voyage would be, I arrived at M. de Kalb's house in Paris, concealed myself three days at Chaillot, saw a few of my friends and some Americans, and set out for Bordeaux, where I was for some time unexpectedly delayed.~ I took advantage of that delay to send to Paris, from whence the intelligence I received was by no means encouraging; but as my messenger was followed on his road by one from the government, I lost not a moment in setting sail, and the orders of my sovereign were only able to overtake me at Passage, a Spanish port, at which we stopped on our way. The letters from my own family were extremely violent, and those from the government were peremptory. I was forbidden to proceed to the American continent under the penalty of disobedience; I was enjoined to repair instantly to Marseilles, and await there further orders. A sufficient number of commentaries were not wanting upon the consequences of such an anathema, the laws of the state, and the power and displeasure of the government: but the grief of his wife, who was pregnant, and the thoughts of his family and friends, had far more effect upon M. de Lafayette.~ As his vessel could no longer be stopped, he returned to Bordeaux to enter into a justification of his own conduct; and, in a declaration to M. de Fumel, he took upon himself all the consequences of his present evasion. As the court did not deign to relax in its determination, he wrote to M. de Maurepas that that silence was a tacit consent, and his own departure took place soon after that joking despatch. After having set out on the road to Marseilles, he retraced his steps, and, disguised as a courier, he had almost escaped all danger, when, at Saint Jean de Luz, a young girl recognised him; but a sign from him silenced her, and her adroit fidelity turned away all suspicion. It was thus that M. de Lafayette rejoined his ship, the 26th of April 1777; and on that same day, after six months anxiety and labour, he set sail for the American continent.~
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(1777.) As soon as M. de Lafayette had recovered from the effects of sea sickness, he studied the language and trade he was adopting. A heavy ship, two bad cannons, and some guns, could not have escaped from the smallest privateer. In his present situation, he resolved rather to blow up the vessel than to surrender; he concerted measures to achieve this end with a brave Dutchman named Bedaulx, whose sole alternative, if taken, would have been the gibbet. The captain insisted upon stopping at the islands; but government and orders would have been found there, and he followed a direct course, less from choice than from compulsion. At forty leagues from shore, they were met by a small vessel: the captain turned pale, but the crew were attached to M. de Lafatette, and the officers were numerous: they made a show of resistance. It turned out, fortunately, to be an American ship, whom they vainly endeavoured to keep up with; but scarcely had the former lost sight of M. de Lafayette's vessel, when it fell in with two English frigates,—and this is not the only time when the elements seemed bent on opposing M. de Lafayette, as if with the intention of saving him. After having encountered for seven weeks various perils and chances, he arrived at Georgetown, in Carolina. Ascending the river in a canoe, his foot touched at length the American soil, and he swore that he would conquer or perish in that cause. Landing at midnight at Major Huger's house, he found a vessel sailing for France, which appeared only waiting for his letters. Several of the officers landed, others remained on board, and all hastened to proceed to Charleston:
This beautiful city is worthy of its inhabitants and everything there announced not only comfort but even luxury. Without knowing much of M. de Lafayette, the generals Howe,~ Moultrie, and Gulden, received him with the utmost kindness and attention. The new works were shown him, and also that battery which Moultrie afterwards defended so extremely well, and which the English appear, we must acknowledge, to have seized the only possible means of destroying. Several adventurers, the refuse of the islands, endeavoured vainly to unite themselves to M. de Lafayette, and to infuse into his mind their own feelings and prejudices. Having procured horses, he set out with six officers for Philadelphia. His vessel had arrived, but it was no longer protected by fortune, and on its return home it was lost on the bar of Charlestown To repair to the congress of the United States, M. de Lafayette rode nearly nine hundred miles on horseback; before reaching the capital of Pennsylvania, he was obliged to travel through the two Carolinas, Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware. Whilst studying the language and customs of the inhabitants, he observed also new productions of nature, and new methods of cultivation: vast forests and immense rivers combine to give to that country an appearance of youth and majesty. After a fatiguing journey of one month, he beheld at length that Philadelphia, so well known in the present day, and whose future grandeur Penn appeared to designate when he laid the first stone of its foundation.
After having accomplished his noble manoeuvres at Trenton and Princetown, General Washington had remained in his camp at Middlebrook. The English, finding themselves frustrated in their first hopes, combined to make a decisive campaign. Burgoyne was already advancing with ten thousand men, preceded by his proclamations and his savages. Ticonderoga, a famous stand of arms, was abandoned by Saint-Clair; he drew upon himself much public odium by this deed, but he saved the only corps whom the militia could rally round. Whilst the generals were busied assembling the militia, the congress recalled them, sent Gates their place, and used all possible means to support him. At that same time the great English army, of about eighteen thousand men, had sailed from New York, and the two Howes were uniting their forces for a secret enterprise; Rhode Island was occupied by a hostile corps, and General Clinton who had remained at New York, was there preparing for an expedition. To be able to withstand many various blows, General Washington, leaving Putnam on the north river, crossed over the Delaware, and encamped, with eleven thousand men, within reach of Philadelphia.
It was under these circumstances that M. de Lafayette first arrived in America; but the moment, although important to the common cause, was peculiarly unfavourable to strangers. The Americans were displeased with the pretensions, and disgusted with the conduct, of many Frenchmen; the imprudent selections they had in some cases made, the extreme boldness of some foreign adventurers, the jealousy of the army, and strong national prejudices, all contributed to confound disinterested zeal with private ambition, and talents with quackery. Supported by the promises which had been given by Mr. Deane, a numerous band of foreigners besieged the congress; their chief was a clever but very imprudent man, and although a good officer, his excessive vanity amounted almost to madness. With M. de Lafayette, Mr. Deane had sent out a fresh detachment, and every day such crowds arrived, that the congress had finally adopted the plan of not listening to any stranger. The coldness with which M. de Lafayette was received, might have been taken as a dismissal; but, without appearing disconcerted by the manner in which the deputies addressed him,~ he entreated them to return to congress, and read the following note:—
"After the sacrifices I have made, I have the right to exact two favours: one is, to serve at my own expense,—the other is, to serve at first as volunteer."
This style, to which they were so little accustomed, awakened their attention; the despatches from the envoys were read over, and, in a very flattering resolution, the rank of major-general was granted to M. de Lafayette. Amongst the various officers who accompanied him, several were strangers to him; he was interested, however, for them all, and to those whose services were not accepted an indemnity for their trouble was granted. Some months afterwards, M.——- drowned himself in the Schuylkill, and the loss of that impetuous and imprudent man was perhaps a fortunate circumstance.
The two Howes having appeared before the capes of the Delaware, General Washington came to Philadelphia, and M. de Lafayette beheld for the first time that great man. Although he was surrounded by officers and citizens, it was impossible to mistake for a moment his majestic figure and deportment; nor was he less distinguished by the noble affability of his manner. M. de Lafayette accompanied him in his examination of the fortifications. Invited by the General to establish himself in his house, he looked upon it from that moment as his own: with this perfect ease and simplicity, was formed the tie that united two friends, whose confidence and attachment were to be cemented by the strongest interests of humanity.
The American army, stationed some miles from Philadelphia, was waiting until the movements the hostile army should be decided: the General himself reviewed the troops; M. de Lafayette arrived there the same day. About eleven thousand men, ill armed, and still worse clothed, presented a strange spectacle to the eye of the young Frenchman: their clothes were parti-coloured, and many of them were almost naked; the best clad wore hunting shirts, large grey linen coats which were much used in Carolina. As to their military tactics, it will be sufficient to say that, for a regiment ranged in order of battle to move forward on the right of its line, it was necessary for the left to make a continued counter march. They were always arranged in two lines, the smallest men in the first line; no other distinction as to height was ever observed. In spite of these disadvantages, the soldiers were fine, and the officers zealous; virtue stood in place of science, and each day added both to experience and discipline. Lord Stirling, more courageous than judicious, another general, who was often intoxicated, and Greene, whose talents were only then known to his immediate friends, commanded as majors-general. General Knox, who had changed the profession of bookseller to that of artillery officer, was there also, and had himself formed other officers, and created an artillery. "We must feel embarrassed," said General Washington, on his arrival, "to exhibit ourselves before an officer who has just quitted French troops." "It is to learn, and not to teach, that I come hither," replied M. de Lafayette; and that modest tone, which was not common in Europeans, produced a very good effect.
After having menaced the Delaware, the English fleet again disappeared, and during some days the Americans amused themselves by making jokes at its expense. These jokes, however, ceased when it reappeared in the Chesapeak; and, in order to approach it more closely during the disembarkation, the patriot army crossed through the town. Their heads covered with green branches, and marching to the sound of drums and fifes, these soldiers, in spite of their state of nudity, offered an agreeable spectacle to the eyes of all the citizens. General Washington was marching at their head, and M. de Lafayette was by his side. The army stationed itself upon the heights of Wilmington, and that of the enemy landed in the Elk river, at the bottom of Chesapeak bay. The very day they landed, General Washington exposed himself to danger in the most imprudent manner; after having reconnoitred for a long time the enemy's position, he was overtaken by a storm during a very dark night, entered a farm house close to the hostile army, and, from a reluctance to change his own opinion, remained there with General Greene, M. de Lafayette, and their aide-de-camp; but when at day break he quitted the farm, he acknowledged that any one traitor might have caused his ruin. Some days later, Sullivan's division joined the army, which augmented it in all to thirteen thousand men. This Major-General Sullivan made a good beginning, but a bad ending, in an intended surprise on Staten Island.
If, by making too extensive a plan of attack, the English committed a great error, it must also be acknowledged that the Americans were not irreproachable in their manner of defence. Burgoyne, leading his army, with their heads bent upon the ground, into woods from whence he could not extricate them, dragged on, upon a single road, his numerous cannons and rich military equipages. Certain of not being attacked from behind, the Americans could dispute every step they took: this kind of warfare attracted the militia, and Gates improved each day in strength. Every tree sheltered a skilful rifleman, and the resources offered by military tactics, and the talents even of their chiefs, had become useless to the English. The corps left in New York could, it is true, laugh at the corps of Putnam, but it was too feeble to succour Burgoyne; and instead of being able to secure his triumph, its own fate was even dependent upon his. During that time, Howe was only thinking of Philadelphia, and it was at the expense of the northern expedition that he was repairing thither by an enormous circuit. But, on the other side, why were the English permitted to land so tranquilly? Why was the moment allowed to pass when their army was divided by the river Elk? Why in the south were so many false movements and so much hesitation displayed? Because the Americans had hitherto had combats but not battles; because, instead of harassing an army and disputing hollows, they were obliged to protect an open city, and manoeuvre in a plain, close to a hostile army, who, by attacking them from behind, might completely ruin them. General Washington, had he followed the advice of the people, would have enclosed his army in a city, and thus have entrusted to one hazard the fate of America; but, whilst refusing to commit such an act of folly, he was obliged to make some sacrifice, and gratify the nation by a battle. Europe even expected it; and although he had been created a dictator for six months, the General thought he ought to submit everything to the orders of congress, and to the deliberations of a council of war.
After having advanced as far as Wilmington, the general had detached a thousand men under Maxwell, the most ancient brigadier in the army. At the first march of the English, he was beaten by their advance guard near Christiana Bridge. During that time the army took but an indifferent station at Newport; they then removed a little south, waited two days for the enemy, and, at the moment when these were marching upon their right wing, a nocturnal council of war decided that the army was to proceed to the Brandywine. The stream bearing that name covered its front; the ford called Chad's Ford, placed nearly in the centre, was defended by batteries. It was in that scarcely examined station that, in obedience to a letter from congress, the Americans awaited the battle. The evening of the 10th of September, Howe advanced in two columns, and, by a very fine movement, the left column (about 8000 men under Lord Cornwallis, with grenadiers and guards) directed themselves towards the fords of Birmingham, three miles on our right; the other column continued its road, and at about nine o'clock in the morning it appeared on the other side of the stream. The enemy was so near the skirts of the wood that it was impossible to judge of his force some time was lost in a mutual cannonading. General Washington walked along his two lines, and was received with acclamations which seemed to promise him success. The intelligence that was received of the movements of Cornwallis was both confused and contradictory; owing to the conformity of name betwixt two roads that were of equal length and parallel to each other, the best officers were mistaken in their reports. The only musket shots that had been fired were from Maxwell, who killed several of the enemy, but was driven back upon the left of the American army, across a ford by which he had before advanced. Three thousand militia had been added to the army, but they were placed in the rear to guard some still more distant militia, and took no part themselves in the action. Such was the situation of the troops when they learnt the march of Lord Cornwallis towards the scarcely known fords of Birmingham: they then detached three divisions, forming about five thousand men, under the generals Sullivan, Stirling, and Stephen. M. de Lafayette, as volunteer, had always accompanied the general. The left wing remaining in a state of tranquillity, and the right appearing fated to receive all the heavy blows, he obtained permission to join Sullivan. At his arrival, which seemed to inspirit the troops, he found that, the enemy having crossed the ford, the corps of Sullivan had scarcely had time to form itself on a line in front of a thinly-wooded forest. A few moments after, Lord Cornwallis formed in the finest order: advancing across the plain, his first line opened a brisk fire of musketry and artillery; the Americans returned the fire, and did much injury to the enemy; but their right and left wings having given way, the generals and several officers joined the central division, in which were M. de Lafayette and Stirling, and of which eight hundred men were commanded in a most brilliant manner by Conway, an Irishman, in the service of France. By separating that division from its two wings, and advancing through an open plain, in which they lost many men, the enemy united all their fire upon the centre: the confusion became extreme; and it was whilst M. de Lafayette was rallying the troops that a ball passed through his leg;—at that moment all those remaining on the field gave way. M. de Lafayette was indebted to Gimat, his aide-de-camp, for the happiness of getting upon his horse. General Washington arrived from a distance with fresh troops; M. de Lafayette was preparing to join him, when loss of blood obliged him to stop and have his wound bandaged; he was even very near being taken. Fugitives, cannon, and baggage now crowded without order into the road leading to Chester. The general employed the remaining daylight in checking the enemy: some regiments behaved extremely well but the disorder was complete. During that time the ford of Chad was forced, the cannon taken and the Chester road became the common retreat of the whole army. In the midst of that dreadful confusion, and during the darkness of the night, it was impossible to recover; but at Chester, twelve miles from the field of battle, they met with a bridge which it was necessary to cross; M. de Lafayette occupied himself in arresting the fugitives; some degree of order was re-established; the generals and the commander-in-chief arrived; and he had leisure to have his wound dressed.
It was thus, at twenty-six miles from Philadelphia, that the fate of that town was decided, (11th September, 1777.) The inhabitants had heard every cannon that was fired there; the two parties, assembled in two distinct bands in all the squares and public places, had awaited the event in silence. The last courier at length arrived, and the friends of Liberty were thrown into consternation. The Americans had lost from 1000 to 1200 men. Howe's army was composed of about 12,000 men; their losses had been so considerable that their surgeons and those in the country, were found insufficient, and they requested the American army to supply them with some for their prisoners. If the enemy had marched to Derby, the army would have been cut up and destroyed: they lost an all-important night; and this was perhaps their greatest fault, during a war in which they committed so many errors.
M. de Lafayette, having been conveyed by water to Philadelphia, was carefully attended to by the citizens, who were all interested in his situation and extreme youth. That same evening the congress determined to quit the city: a vast number of the inhabitants deserted their own hearths—whole families, abandoning their possessions, and uncertain of the future, took refuge in the mountains. M. de Lafayette was carried to Bristol in a boat; he there saw the fugitive congress, who only assembled again on the other side of the Susquehannah; he was himself conducted to Bethlehem, a Moravian establishment, where the mild religion of the brotherhood, the community of fortune, education, and interests, amongst that large and simple family, formed a striking contrast to scenes of blood, and the convulsions occasioned by a civil war.
After the Brandywine defeat, the two armies maneouvered along the banks of the Schuylkill. General Washington still remained on a height above the enemy, and completely out of his reach; nor had they again an opportunity of cutting him off. Waine, an American brigadier, was detached to observe the English; but, being surprised during the night, near the White-Horse, by General Grey, he lost there the greatest part of his corps. At length Howe crossed the Schuylkill at Swede's Ford, and Lord Cornwallis entered Philadelphia.
In spite of the declaration of independence of the New States, everything there bore the appearance of a civil war. The names of Whig and Tory distinguished the republicans and royalists; the English army was still called the regular troops; the British sovereign was always designated by the name of the king. Provinces, towns, and families were divided by the violence of party spirit: brothers, officers in the two opposing armies, meeting by chance in their father's house, have seized their arms to fight with each other. Whilst, in the rancour of their pride, the English committed horrible acts of licence and cruelty,—whilst discipline dragged in her train those venal Germans who knew only how to kill, burn, and pillage, in the same army were seen regiments of Americans, who, trampling under foot their brethren, assisted in enslaving their wasted country. Each canton contained a still greater number whose sole object was to injure the friends of liberty, and give information to those of despotism. To these inveterate Tories must be added the number of those whom fear, private interest, or religion, rendered adverse to war. If the Presbyterians, the children of Cromwell and Fairfax, detested royalty, the Lutherans, who had sprung from it, were divided among themselves: the Quakers hated slaughter, but served willingly as guides to the royal troops. Insurrections were by no means uncommon: near the enemy's stations, farmers often shot each other; robbers were even encouraged. The republican chiefs were exposed to great dangers when they travelled through the country; it was always necessary for them to declare that they should pass the night in one house, then take possession of another, barricade themselves in it, and only sleep with their arms by their side. In the midst of these troubles, M. de Lafayette was no longer considered as a stranger; never was any adoption more complete than his own: and whilst, in the councils of war, he trembled when he considered that his voice (at twenty years of age) might decide the fate of two worlds, he was also initiated in those deliberations in which, by reassuring the Whigs, intimidating the Tories, supporting an ideal money, and redoubling their firmness in the hour of adversity, the American chiefs conducted that revolution through so many obstacles.
Confined to his bed for six weeks, M. de Lafayette suffered from his wound, but still more severely from his inactivity. The good Moravian brothers loved him, and deplored his warlike folly. Whilst listening to their sermons, he planned setting Europe and Asia in a flame. As he was no longer able to do anything but write, he wrote to the commander of la Martinique, and proposed to him to make a descent upon the English islands under American colours. He wrote also to M. de Maurepas, and offered to conduct some Americans to the Isle of France, concerting previously with individuals an attack upon the English factories.~ From the particulars which have since become known, that project in India would have succeeded; but it was rejected at Versailles, where no answers were yet vouchsafed to M. de Lafayette's letters. Bouill more ardent in temper, would have adopted the whole plan, but he could not act without permission; and these delays led to the period of the war which M. de Lafayette was so desirous of bringing on.
During his residence at Bethlehem, the English entrenched themselves at Philadelphia. The two rivers which encompassed the town were united by a chain of wooden palisades and good redoubts, partly covered by an inundation. A portion of their army was encamped at Germantown, five miles in advance of those lines; these were attacked, the 4th of October, by Washington, and although his left column was retarded by an absurd precedence of divisions, and misled by a thick fog,—although the advance guard of the right, under Conway, attacked in front what it ought to have attacked in flank, the enemy was not less taken by surprise and beaten, and the general, with his victorious wing, passed through the whole extent of the enemy's encampment. All things went on well until then; but a false movement of the left column, and still more the attack of a stone house which they should have turned, gave the enemy time to rally. Howe was thinking of a retreat, but Cornwallis arrived in haste with a reinforcement. The Americans repassed through the English encampment, and the action ended by a complete defeat. Many men were lost on both sides. General Agnew, an Englishman, and General Nash, an American, were killed. The Americans had some dragoons under Pulaski, the only one of the confederated Poles who had refused to accept a pardon. He was an intrepid knight, a libertine and devotee, and a better captain than general; he insisted on being a Pole on all occasions, and M. de Lafayette, after having contributed to his reception in the army, often exerted himself to effect a reconciliation betwixt him and the other officers. Without waiting for his wound to be closed, M. de Lafayette returned to head-quarters, twenty-five miles from Philadelphia. The enemy, who had fallen back upon their lines, attacked Fort Mifflin, upon an island, and Fort Red-Bank, on the left side of the Delaware. Some chevaux de frise, protected by the forts, and some galleys, stopped the fleet, magazines, and detachments which had been sent from the Chesapeak. Amongst the skirmishes which took place betwixt small parties of soldiers, the most remarkable one was the surprise of a corps of militia at Cevoked-Billet, in which the English burnt their wounded prisoners in a barn. Such was the situation of the south, when news was received of the capitulation of Burgoyne. That general, when he quitted Canada, had made a diversion on his right; but Saint Leger had failed in an operation against Fort Schuyler; and he himself, by advancing towards Albany, appeared to have lost much time. Gates was constantly adding numerous militia to his continental troops. All the citizens being armed militia, a signal of alarm assembled them, or an order of state summoned them to march. But if that crusade were rather a voluntary one, their residence at the camp was still more dependent on their own inclination: the discipline was suitable to the formation of the corps. The continentalists, on the contrary, belonged to the thirteen states, of which each one supplied some regiments; the soldiers were either engaged for the war or for three years, which improper alternative was occasioned by republican jealousy. These regular troops had military regulations, a severe discipline, and the officers of each state vied with each other for promotion. Gates, placed in an entrenched position, in the centre of woods, on the road to Albany, and with the North river on his right, had assembled sixteen thousand men; and this invasion of the enemy, by threatening New England, had served as an instant summons to the brave militia. They had already proved their strength at Bennington, where Stark had surrounded and destroyed a detachment belonging to Burgoyne. The enemy, having arrived within three miles of Gates, and not being able to make a circuit round him without abandoning their cannon and military accoutrements, attempted twice to force him; but they had scarcely commenced their march when Arnold fell upon them with his division, and in those woods, lined with sharpshooters, it was only possible for them to reach the entrenchments. Arnold had his leg broken at the second affair; Lincoln, the other major-general, was wounded also. Four thousand men, who embarked at New York, had, it is true, ascended the Hudson. Whilst Vaughan was needlessly burning Esopus, Clinton had taken all the forts that defended the river. They were but little annoyed by Putnam, who, in the first breaking out of the troubles, had thrown aside his plough to bear to the army far more zeal than talent. But still that diversion was too weak; and by a note which a spy who had been taken swallowed, but which was recovered by an emetic, it was seen that Clinton was aware of his own weakness. Burgoyne, abandoned by the savages, regretting his best soldiers, and Frazer, his best general, reduced to five thousand men, who were in want of provisions, wished to retreat; but it was then too late: his communications were no longer open; and it was at Saratoga, some miles in the rear of his army, that he signed the celebrated convention. A brilliant troop, covered with gold, filed out with Burgoyne: they encountered Gates and his officers, all clothed in plain grey cloth. After a frugal repast, the two generals beheld the conquered army filing out; and, as a member of parliament said, "five thousand men crossed the rebel country to take up their winter quarters near Boston." Clinton then redescended to New York, and the militia returned to their domestic hearths. Gates' chief merit consisted in his skilful choice of a position; Burgoyne's misfortune was owing to the nature of the country, which was impracticable and almost a desert. If the enemies of the former criticised the terms of the convention, M. de Lafayette loudly proclaimed how glorious he thought it; but he blamed Gates afterwards for rendering himself independent of his general, and for retaining the troops which he ought to have sent him. To obtain them, it was necessary to despatch Hamilton, a young man of great talents, whose counsels had justly acquired much credit.
The forts of the Delaware had not yet yielded: that of Red-Bank, defended by four hundred men, was attacked, sword in hand, by sixteen hundred Hessians. The work having been reduced by Mauduit, a young Frenchman, the enemy engaged betwixt the old and new entrenchments. They were driven back with the loss of seven hundred men and Count Donop, their chief, whose last words were—"I die the victim of my own ambition, and the avarice of my sovereign." That fort was commanded by an old and respected colonel, Greene, who, three years after, was massacred by the English to whom he had surrendered, whilst, covering him with his own body, an old negro perished heroically by his side. Fort Mifflin, although attacked by land and water, did not defend itself less valiantly; the Augusta, an English ship of the line, had been already blown up; a frigate also perished; and Colonel Smith did not even think of surrendering: but the island being attacked from an unknown passage, the works were assaulted from the rear, and were obliged to be evacuated. Lord Cornwallis and five thousand men having fallen upon the Jerseys, it became also necessary to quit Red-Bank which the Americans blew up before leaving it: General Greene, crossing the river at Trenton opposed, with a precisely equal force, the detachment of Cornwallis.
Although M. de Lafayette's wound was not yet sufficiently closed for him to put on a boot, he accompanied Greene to Mount Holly; and detaching himself in order to reconnoitre, he found the enemy, November 25th, at Gloucester, opposite Philadelphia. The booty they had collected was crossing the river. To assure himself more fully on this point M. de Lafayette advanced upon the strip of land called Sandy Point, and for this imprudence he would have paid dearly if those who had the power of killing him had not depended too much on those who had the power of taking him prisoner. After having succeeded in somewhat appeasing the terror of his guides, he found himself, about four o'clock, two miles from the English camp, before a post of four hundred Hessians with their cannon. Having only three hundred and fifty men, most of them militia, he suddenly attacked the enemy, who gave way before him. Lord Cornwallis came up with his grenadiers; but, supposing himself to be engaged with the corps of General Greene, he allowed himself to be driven back to the neighbourhood of Gloucester, with a loss of about sixty men. Greene arrived in the night, but would not attack the enemy. Lord Cornwallis passed over the river, and the American detachment rejoined the army at its station at Whitemarsh, twelve miles from Philadelphia. It had occupied, since the last month, some excellent heights; the general's accurate glance had discerned the situation of the encampment through an almost impenetrable wood.
The slight success of Gloucester gratified the army, and especially the militia. The congress resolved, that "it would be extremely agreeable to them to see the Marquis de Lafayette at the head of a division."~ He quitted, therefore, his situation of volunteer, and succeeded Stephen in the command of the Virginians. The junction of Cornwallis having been the work of some hours, and that of Greene requiring several marches, it is difficult to imagine why Howe gave him time to arrive, and only proceeded with his army on the 5th of December to Chesnut Hill, three miles from Whitemarsh. After having felt his way with the right wing, of which he stood in some awe, he threatened to attack the extreme left; and that wing, following his own movements, stationed itself on the declivity of the heights. Some shots were exchanged betwixt the English light horsemen and the American riflemen, very skilful carabineers, who inhabit the frontiers of the savage tribes. Not being able to attack that position, and not wishing to make the circuit of it, Howe returned, on the fourth day, to Philadelphia. In spite of the northern reinforcements, the Americans were reduced to nine thousand, and the advanced season diminished their numbers rapidly. The protection of the country had cost the army dear. The 15th of December they marched toward Swedes' Ford, where Lord Cornwallis was accidentally foraging on the other side of the river. M. de Lafayette, being upon duty, was examining a position, when his escort and the enemy fired upon each other. The uncertainty being mutual, Lord Cornwallis and General Washington suspended their march; the former having retired during the night, the army crossed over the Schuylkill, and entrenched itself in the station of Valley-Forge, twenty-two miles from Philadelphia. Having skillfully erected there, in a few days, a city of wooden huts the army established itself in its melancholy winter quarters. A small corps was detached to Wilmington, and fortified itself, under the command of Brigadier-General Smallwood.
Notwithstanding the success in the north, the situation of the Americans had never been more critical than at the present moment. A paper money, without out any certain foundation, and unmixed with any specie, was both counterfeited by the enemy and discredited by their partizans. They feared to establish taxes, and had still less the power of levying them. The people, who had risen against the taxation of England, were astonished at paying still heavier taxes now; and the government was without any power to enforce them. On the other side, New York and Philadelphia were overstocked with gold and various merchandizes; the threatened penalty of death could not stop a communication that was but too easy. To refuse the payment of taxes, to depreciate the paper currency, and feed the enemy, was a certain method of attaining wealth; privations and misery were only experienced by good citizens. Each proclamation of the English was supported by their seductions, their riches, and the intrigues of the Tories. Whilst a numerous garrison lived sumptuously at New York, some hundreds of men, ill-clothed and ill-fed, wandered upon the shores of the Hudson. The army of Philadelphia, freshly recruited from Europe, abundantly supplied with everything they could require, consisted of eighteen thousand men: that of Valley-Forge was successively reduced to five thousand men; and two marches on the fine Lancaster road, (on which road also was a chain of magazines,) by establishing the English in the rear of their right flank, would have rendered their position untenable; from which, however, they had no means of retiring. The unfortunate soldiers were in want of everything; they had no coats, hats, shirts, or shoes; their feet and legs froze till they became black, and it was often necessary to amputate them. From want of money, they could neither obtain provisions nor any means of transport; the colonels were often reduced to two rations, and sometimes even to one. The army frequently remained whole days without provisions, and the patient endurance of both soldiers and officers was a miracle which each moment served to renew. But the sight of their misery prevented new engagements; it was almost impossible to levy recruits; it was easy to desert into the interior of the country. The sacred liberty was not extinguished, it is true, and the majority of the citizens detested British tyranny; but the triumph of the north, and the tranquillity of the south, had lulled to sleep two-thirds of the continent. The remaining part was harassed by two armies; and, throughout this revolution, the great difficulty was, that, in order to conceal misfortunes from the enemy, it was necessary to conceal them from the nation also; that by awakening the one, information was likewise given to the other; and that fatal blows would have been struck upon the weakest points before democratic tardiness could have been roused to support them. It was from this cause that, during the whole war, the real force of the army was always kept a profound secret; even congress was not apprised of it, and the generals were often themselves deceived. General Washington never placed unlimited confidence in any person, except in M. de Lafayette; because for him alone, perhaps, confidence sprung from warm affection. As the situation grew more critical, discipline became more necessary. In the course of his nocturnal rounds, in the midst of heavy snows, de Lafayette was obliged to break some negligent officers. He adopted in every respect the American dress, habits, and food. He wished to be more simple, frugal, and austere than the Americans themselves. Brought up in the lap of luxury, he suddenly changed his whole manner of living, and his constitution bent itself to privation as well as to fatigue. He always took the liberty of freely writing his ideas to congress; or, in imitation of the prudence of the general, he gave his opinion to some members of a corps or state assembly, that, being adopted by them, it might be brought forward in the deliberations of congress.
In addition to the difficulties which lasted during the whole of the war, the winter of Valley-Forge recals others still more painful. At Yorktown, behind the Susquehannah, congress was divided into two factions, which, in spite of their distinction of south and east, did not the less occasion a separation between members of the same state. The deputies substituted their private intrigues for the wishes of the nation. Several impartial men had retired; several states had but one representative, and in some cases not even one. Party spirit was so strong, that three years afterwards congress still felt the effects of it. Any great event, however, would awaken their patriotism; and when Burgoyne declared that his treaty had been broken, means were found to stop the departure of his troops, which everything, even the few provisions for the transports, had foolishly betrayed. But all these divisions failed to produce the greatest of calamities—the loss of the only man capable of conducting the revolution.
Gates was at Yorktown, where he inspired respect by his manners, promises, and European acquirements. Amongst the deputies who united themselves to him, may be numbered the Lees, Virginians, enemies of Washington, and the two Adams. Mifflin, quarter-master-general, aided him with his talents and brilliant eloquence. They required a name to bring forward in the plot, and they selected Conway, who fancied himself the chief of a party. To praise Gates, with a certain portion of the continent and the troops, was a pretext for speaking of themselves. The people attach themselves to prosperous generals, and the commander-in-chief had been unsuccessful. His own character inspired respect and affection; but Greene, Hamilton, Knox, his best friends, were sadly defamed. The Tories fomented these dissensions. The presidency of the war-office, which had been created for Gates, restricted the power of the general. This was not the only inconvenience; a committee from congress arrived at the camp, and the attack of Philadelphia was daringly proposed. The most shrewd people did not believe that Gates was the real object of this intrigue. Though a good officer he had not the power to assert himself. He would have given place to the famous General Lee, then a prisoner of the English, whose first care would have been to have made over to them his friends and all America.
Attached to the general, and still more so to the cause, M. de Lafayette did not hesitate for a moment; and, in spite of the caresses of one party, he remained faithful to the other, whose ruin seemed then impending. He saw and corresponded frequently with the general, and often discused with him his own private situation, and the effect that various meliorations in the army might produce. Having sent for his wife to the camp, the general preserved in his deportment the noble composure which belongs to a strong and virtuous mind. "I have not sought for this place," said he to M. de Lafayette; "if I am displeasing to the nation I will retire; but until then I will oppose all intrigues."
(1778.) The 22nd of January, congress resolved that Canada should be entered, and the choice fell upon M. de Lafayette. The Generals Conway and Stark were placed under him. Hoping to intoxicate and govern so young a commander, the war-office, without consulting the commander-in- chief, wrote to him to go and await his further instructions at Albany. But after having won over by his arguments the committee which congress had sent to the camp, M. de Lafayette hastened to Yorktown, and declared there "that he required circumstantial orders, a statement of the means to be employed, the certainty of not deceiving the Canadians, an augmentation of generals, and rank for several Frenchmen, fully impressed," he added, "with the various duties and advantages they derived from their name; but the first condition he demanded was, not to be made, like Gates, independent of General Washington." At Gates' own house he braved the whole party, and threw them into confusion by making them drink the health of their general. In congress he was supported by President Laurens, and he obtained all that he demanded. His instructions from the war-office promised that 2500 men should be assembled at Albany, and a large corps of militia at Coos; that he should have two millions in paper money, some hard specie, and, all means supplied for crossing lake Champlain upon the ice, whence, after having burnt the English flotilla, he was to proceed to Montreal, and act there as circumstances might require.
Repassing then, not without some danger, the Susquehannah, which was filled with floating masses of ice, M. de Lafayette set out for Albany, and, in spite of the obstacles offered by ice and snow, rapidly traversed an extent of four hundred miles. Whilst travelling thus on horseback, he became thoroughly acquainted with the simplicity and purity of the inhabitants, their patriarchal mode of life, and their republican ideas. Devoted to their household cares, the women are happy, and afford to their husbands the calmest and truest felicity. The unmarried women alone is love spoken of, and their modesty enhances the charm of their innocent coquetry. In the chance marriages which take place in Paris, the fidelity of the wife is often repugnant to the voice of nature and of reason, one might almost say to the principles of justice. In America, a girl marries her lover, and it would be like having two lovers at the same time if she were to break that valid agreement; because both parties know equally how and in what manner they are bound to each other. In the bosom of their own families, the men occupy themselves with their private affairs, or assemble together to regulate those of the state. They talk politics over their glasses, and become animated by patriotism rather than strong liquor. Whilst the children shed tears at the name of Tory, the old men sent up prayers to Heaven that they might be permitted to see the end of that war. During his repeated and rapid journeys, M. de Lafayette, mixing with all classes of society, was not wholly useless to the good cause, to the interest of the French, and to the party of General Washington.
M. de Lafayette, on arriving at Albany, experienced some disappointments. Instead of 2500 men, there were not 1200. Stark's militia had not even received a summons. Clothes, provisions, magazines, sledges, all were insufficient for that glacial expedition. By making better preparations and appointing the general earlier, success would probably have been secured. Several Canadians began to make a movement, and from that moment they testified great interest in M. de Lafayette; but two months were requisite to collect all that was necessary, and towards the middle of March the lakes begin to thaw. M. de Lafayette, general, at twenty years of age, of a small army, charged with an important and very difficult operation, authorized by the orders of congress, animated by the expectations now felt in America, and which, he knew, would ere long be felt likewise in Europe, had many motives for becoming adventurous; but, on the other hand, his resources were slender, the time allowed him was short, the enemy was in a good position, and Lieutenant-General Carleton was preparing for him another Saratoga. Forced to take a decisive step immediately, he wrote a calm letter to congress, and with a heavy sigh abandoned the enterprise. At the same period, congress, becoming a little less confident, despatched to him some wavering counsels, which, arriving too late, only served to compromise the general and justify the government. But the prudence of M. de Lafayette was at length rewarded by the approbation of congress and of the nation; and, until the opening of the campaign, he continued to command that department.~ He found there that intrepid Arnold, who was still detained by his wound, and who since ...... ; he became intimately acquainted with Schuyler, the predecessor of Gates, in disgrace as well as Saint-Clair, but who continued useful to the cause from the superiority of his talents, his importance in that part of the country, and the confidence he enjoyed in New York, of which state he was a citizen.
If Canada did not herself send an offensive army, all the savages were paid and protected by the English party: the Hurons and Iroquois committed their devastations on that whole frontier. Some baubles or a barrel of rum were sufficient to make them seize the tomahawk; they then rushed upon villages, burnt houses, destroyed harvests, massacred all, without regard to age or sex, and received on their return the price of each bloody scalp they could exhibit. A young American girl, whom her lover, an English, was expecting, that their marriage might take place, was killed by the very savages he had sent to escort her. Two Americans were actually eaten up by the Senecas, and a colonel of the English army was a guest at that horrible repast. "It is thus," was often said to the savages, whilst drinking with them at the councils, "it is thus we must drink the blood of rebels." M. de Lafayette, conscious that he could not protect such an immense extent of frontier, prepared quarters in every direction, and announced the speedy arrival of troops in all the counties; and this stratagem stopped the depredations of the savages, who do not usually attack those places in which they expect to find much resistance. But he kept the Albany troops close together, satisfied them a little as to payment, provisioned the forts, which had been hitherto neglected, and arrested a plot of which any particulars have never been precisely known. He found in George Clinton, governor of the state of New York, a firm and an enlightened co-operator.
Soon after, Schuyler and Duane, who were charged with the management of the affairs of the savages, appointed a general assembly at Johnson's Town, upon the Mohawk river. Recalling to them their former attachment to the French, M. de Lafayette repaired thither in a sledge to shew himself in person to those nations whom the English had endeavoured to prejudice against him. Five hundred men, women, and children, covered with various coloured paints and feathers, with their ears cut open, their noses ornamented with rings, and their half-naked bodies marked with different figures, were present at the councils. Their old men, whilst smoking, talked politics extremely well. Their object seemed to be to promote a balance of power; if the intoxication of rum, as that of ambition in Europe, had not often turned them aside from it. M. de Lafayette, adopted by them, received the name of Kayewla, which belonged formerly to one of their warriors; and under this name he is well known to all the savage tribes. Some louis which he distributed under the form of medals, and some stuffs from the state of New York, produced but little effect when compared to the presents they had received from England. A treaty was entered into, which some of them rigidly observed; and the course of the evil was at least arrested for the present. The Oneidas and Tuscaroras, the only real friends the Americans possessed, requested to have a fort; and M. de Lafayette left them M. de Gouvion, a French officer, whose talents and virtues rendered him of great value to the cause. Whenever savages were required at the army, whenever there was any dealings with these tribes, recourse was always had to the credit of M. de Lafayette, whose necklaces and words were equally respected.
On his return, he found that the form of a new oath had been established, which each civil and military officer was to take, according to his own religious belief. An acknowledgment of the independence, liberty, and sovereignty of the United States; an eternal renunciation of George III., his successors, and heirs, and every King of England; a promise to defend the said states against the said George III.; this was the purport of the oath administered by him to the whole northern department.~ At the approach of spring, M. de Lafayette was recalled to the south. The affairs of General Washington were already in a more flourishing condition. Several of the states recommended him to their deputies; and from only suspecting one of them of being unfavourable to him, the New York assembly wished to recal one of their delegates. Congress had been a little recruited, and they were thinking of recruiting the army. At Valley-Forge, M. de Lafayette found some difficulty not from the substance, but merely from the form of the oath; but that difficulty was easily obviated. A short time after, Simeon Deane arrived with the treaty of commerce between France and the United States.
By quitting France in so public a manner, M. de Lafayette had served the cause of the revolution. One portion of society was anxious for his success and the attention of the other had become, to say the least, somewhat occupied in the struggle. If a spirit of emulation made those connected with the court desirous of war, the rest of the nation supported the young rebel, and followed with interest all his movements; and it is well known that the rupture that ensued was truly a national one. Some circumstances relating to his departure having displeased the court of London, M. de Lafayette omitted nothing that could draw more closely together the nations whose union he so ardently desired. The incredible prejudices of the Americans had been, augmented by the conduct of the first Frenchmen who had joined them. These men gradually disappeared, and all those who remained were remarkable for talents, or at least for probity. They became the friends of M. de Lafayette, who sincerely sought out all the national prejudices of the Americans against his countrymen for the purpose of overcoming them. Love and respect for the name of Frenchman animated his letters and speeches, and he wished the affection that was granted to him individually to become completely national. On the other side, when writing to Europe, he denied the reports made by discontented adventurers, by good officers who were piqued at not having been employed, and by those men who, serving themselves in the army, wished to be witty or amusing by the political contrasts they described in their letters. But, without giving a circumstantial account of what private influence achieved, it is certain that enthusiasm for the cause, and esteem for its defenders, had electrified all France, and that the affair of Saratoga decided the ministerial commotion. Bills of conciliation passed in the English house of parliament, and five commissioners were sent to offer far more than have been demanded until then. No longer waiting to see how things would turn out, M. de Maurepas yielded to the public wish, and what his luminous mind had projected, the more unchanging disposition of M. de Vergennes put in execution. A treaty was generously entered into with Franklin, Deane, and Arthur Lee, and that treaty was announced with more confidence than had been for some time displayed. But the war was not sufficiently foreseen, or at least sufficient preparations were not made. The most singular fact is, that at the very period when the firm resistance of the court of France had guided the conduct of two courts, America had fallen herself into such a state of weakness, that she was on the very brink of ruin. The 2nd of May, the army made a bonfire, and M. de Lafayette, ornamented with a white scarf, proceeded to the spot, accompanied by all the French. Since the arrival of the conciliatory bills, he had never ceased writing against the commission, and against every commissioner. The advances of these men were ill-received by congress; and, foreseeing a French co-operation, the enemy began to think of quitting Philadelphia.
General Washington sent two thousand chosen men across the Schuylkill to collect intelligence. M. de Lafayette, their commander, repaired, the 18th of May, to Barren Hill, eleven miles from the two armies. On a good elevation, his right resting upon some rocks and the river, on his left some excellent stone houses and a small wood, his front sustained by five pieces of cannon, and with roads in his rear, such was the position of M. de Lafayette. An hundred dragoons whom he was expecting did not arrive in sufficient time; but he stationed six hundred militia on his left at Whitemarsh, and their general, Porter, made himself answerable for those roads. On the evening of the 19th, Howe, who had just been recalled, and Clinton, who replaced him, sent out a detachment of seven thousand men, with fourteen pieces of cannon, under General Grant. Passing behind the inundation, that corps proceeded on the road to Francfort, and, by a circuitous movement, fell into that of Whitemarsh, from which the militia had just thought proper to retire. On the morning of the 20th, M. de Lafayette was conversing with a young lady, who, on pretence of seeing her relations, to oblige him had consented to go to Philadelphia, when he was informed that the red dragoons were at Whitemarsh. It was the uniform of those he was expecting; he had placed Porter there; he had promised to pay him a visit, and intended that very evening to carry thither his detachment. But, for greater security, he examined carefully into the truth of the report; and, ascertaining that a column was marching on the left, he changed his front, and covered it with the houses, the wood, and a small churchyard. Scarcely was that movement ended, when he found himself cut off by Grant on the Swedes' Ford road in his rear. It was in the presence of the troops that he first heard the cry that he was surrounded, and he was forced to smile at the unpleasant intelligence. Several officers, whom he had despatched to Valley-Forge, declared that they had been unable to find a passage. Every moment was precious, and M. de Lafayette proceeded on the road of Matson Ford, to which the enemy was nearer than himself. General Poor commanded his advance guard; and to him he sent Gimat, his own confidential aide-de-camp. He placed himself as the rear guard, and marched on with rapidity, but without precipitation. Grant had possession of the heights, and M. de Lafayette's road lay immediately beneath them. His apparent composure deceived his adversary; and perceiving that he was reconnoitring him, he presented to him, from among the trees and behind curtains, false heads of columns. The time that Grant occupied in reconnoitring, and discovering an imaginary ambuscade, M. de Lafayette employed in regaining the foreground; at length he passed by Grant's column. He managed to impose likewise on Grey's column, which followed him; and when the third division, under Howe and Clinton, reached Barren Hill, the Americans had already passed over Matson Ford. Forming themselves on the opposite shore, they awaited the enemy, who dared not attack them. Advancing on the ground, Howe was astonished at finding only one red line: the generals quarrelled; and although the commander in chief had invited some ladies to sup with M. de Lafayette, although the admiral, (Howe's brother,) knowing him to be surrounded, had prepared a frigate for him, the whole army, (of which half had made a march of forty miles,) returned, much fatigued, without having taken a single man. It was then that fifty savages, friends of the Americans, encountered fifty English dragoons; and the cries of war on one side, and the appearance of the cavalry on the other, surprised the parties so much that they both fled, with equal speed. The alarm had been likewise great at Valley Forge; and the report of three pieces of cannon that were there fired appeared an additional mystery to Grant. The aim of the general being attained, the detachment returned to its quarters, and M. de Lafayette was well received by the general and army.~