THESE VOLUMES of The Sponsors' Edition OF THE AUTHORIZED LIFE OF George Washington by John Marshall ISSUED IN ITS ORIGINAL FORMAT, BUT WITH THE TEXT OF THE REVISED EDITION, HAVE BEEN SPECIALLY PREPARED FOR Henry H. Kimball
COMMANDER IN CHIEF
DURING THE WAR WHICH ESTABLISHED THE INDEPENDENCE OF HIS COUNTRY,
COMPILED UNDER THE INSPECTION OF
THE HONOURABLE BUSHROD WASHINGTON,
BEQUEATHED TO HIM BY HIS DECEASED RELATIVE, AND NOW IN POSSESSION OF THE AUTHOR.
TO WHICH IS PREFIXED,
CONTAINING A COMPENDIOUS VIEW OF THE COLONIES PLANTED BY THE ENGLISH ON THE
CONTINENT OF NORTH AMERICA,
FROM THEIR SETTLEMENT TO THE COMMENCEMENT OF THAT WAR WHICH TERMINATED IN THEIR
BY JOHN MARSHALL.
THE CITIZENS' GUILD OF WASHINGTON'S BOYHOOD HOME FREDERICKSBURG, VA.
Printed in the U.S.A.
[Transcriber's Note: In the original book, some proper names are spelled inconsistently. The inconsistencies have been preserved in this e-text. For the reader's information, the first of each of the following pairs of names is the correct spelling: Wemys/Wemyss, Tarleton/Tarlton; Dundass/Dundas; M'Lane/M'Clane; Viominel/Viominil.]
Incursion into Jersey.... General Lacy surprised.... Attempt on Lafayette at Barren hill.... General Howe resigns the command of the British army.... Is succeeded by Sir H. Clinton.... He evacuates Philadelphia, and marches through the Jerseys.... A council of war which decides against attacking the British on their march.... Battle of Monmouth.... General Lee arrested.... Sentenced to be suspended for one year.... Thanks of Congress to General Washington and his army.
Count D'Estaing arrives with a French fleet.... Meditates an attack on the British fleet in New York harbour.... Relinquishes it.... Sails to Rhode Island.... Lord Howe appears off Rhode Island.... Both fleets dispersed by a storm.... General Sullivan lays siege to Newport.... D'Estaing returns.... Sails for Boston.... Sullivan expresses his dissatisfaction in general orders.... Raises the siege of Newport.... Action on Rhode Island.... The Americans retreat to the Continent.... Count D'Estaing expresses his dissatisfaction with Sullivan in a letter to congress.... General Washington labours successfully to heal these discontents.... Lord Howe resigns the command of the British fleet.... Colonel Baylor's regiment surprised.... Captain Donop defeated by Colonel Butler.... Expedition of the British against Egg Harbour.... Pulaski surprised.
Arrival of the British commissioners.... Terms of conciliation proposed.... Answer of congress to their propositions.... Attempts of Mr. Johnson to bribe some members of congress.... His private letters ordered to be published.... Manifesto of the commissioners, and counter-manifesto of congress.... Arrival of Monsieur Girard, minister plenipotentiary of France.... Hostilities of the Indians.... Irruption into the Wyoming settlement.... Battle of Wyoming.... Colonel Dennison capitulates for the inhabitants.... Distress of the settlement.... Colonel Clarke surprises St. Vincent.... Congress determines to invade Canada.... General Washington opposes the measure.... Induces congress to abandon it.
Divisions in Congress.... Letters of General Washington on the state of public affairs.... Invasion of Georgia.... General Howe defeated by Colonel Campbell.... Savannah taken.... Sunbury surrenders.... Georgia reduced.... General Lincoln takes command of the Southern army.... Major Gardener defeated by General Moultrie.... Insurrection of the Tories in South Carolina.... They are defeated by Colonel Pickens.... Ash surprised and defeated.... Moultrie retreats.... Prevost marches to Charleston.... Lincoln attacks the British at Stono Ferry unsuccessfully.... Invasion of Virginia.
Discontents in a part of the American army.... Letter from General Washington on the subject.... Colonel Van Schaick destroys an Indian settlement.... Expedition against the Indians meditated.... Fort Fayette surrendered to the British.... Invasion of Connecticut.... General Wayne storms Stony Point.... Expedition against Penobscot.... Powles Hook surprised by Major Lee.... Arrival of Admiral Arbuthnot.... Of the Count D'Estaing.... Siege of Savannah.... Unsuccessful attempt to storm that place.... Siege raised.... Victory of General Sullivan at Newtown.... Spain offers her mediation to the belligerents.... Declares war against England.... Letter from General Washington to congress respecting the annual formation of the army.... The army goes into winter quarters.
South Carolina invaded.... The British fleet passes the bar, and gets possession of the harbour of Charleston.... Opinion of General Washington on the propriety of defending that place.... Sir Henry Clinton invests the town.... Tarleton surprises an American corps at Monk's Corner.... Fort Moultrie surrendered.... Tarleton defeats Colonel White.... General Lincoln capitulates.... Buford defeated.... Arrangements for the government of South Carolina and Georgia.... Sir Henry Clinton embarks for New York.... General Gates takes command of the Southern army.... Is defeated near Camden.... Death of De Kalb.... Success of General Sumpter.... He is defeated.
Distress in the American camp.... Expedition against Staten Island.... Requisitions on the states.... New scheme of finance.... Committee of congress deputed to camp.... Resolution to make up depreciation of pay.... Mutiny in the line of Connecticut.... General Knyphausen enters Jersey.... Sir Henry Clinton returns to New York.... Skirmish at Springfield.... Exertions to strengthen the army.... Bank established in Philadelphia.... Contributions of the ladies.... Farther proceedings of the states.... Arrival of a French armament in Rhode Island.... Changes in the quartermaster's department.... Enterprise against New York abandoned.... Naval superiority of the British.
Treason and escape of Arnold.... Trial and execution of Major Andre.... Precautions for the security of West Point.... Letter of General Washington on American affairs.... Proceedings of congress respecting the army.... Major Talmadge destroys the British stores at Coram.... The army retires into winter quarters.... Irruption of Major Carleton into New York.... European transactions.
Transactions in South Carolina and Georgia.... Defeat of Ferguson.... Lord Cornwallis enters North Carolina.... Retreat out of that state.... Major Wemys defeated by Sumpter.... Tarleton repulsed.... Greene appointed to the command of the Southern army.... Arrives in camp.... Detaches Morgan over the Catawba.... Battle of the Cowpens.... Lord Cornwallis drives Greene through North Carolina into Virginia.... He retires to Hillsborough.... Greene recrosses the Dan.... Loyalists under Colonel Pyle cut to pieces.... Battle of Guilford.... Lord Cornwallis retires to Ramsay's mills.... To Wilmington.... Greene advances to Ramsay's mills.... Determines to enter South Carolina.... Lord Cornwallis resolves to march to Virginia.
Virginia invaded by Arnold.... He destroys the stores at Westham and at Richmond.... Retires to Portsmouth.... Mutiny in the Pennsylvania line.... Sir H. Clinton attempts to negotiate with the mutineers.... They compromise with the civil government.... Mutiny in the Jersey line.... Mission of Colonel Laurens to France.... Propositions to Spain.... Recommendations relative to a duty on imported and prize goods.... Reform in the Executive departments.... Confederation adopted.... Military transactions.... Lafayette detached to Virginia.... Cornwallis arrives.... Presses Lafayette.... Expedition to Charlottesville, to the Point of Fork.... Lafayette forms a junction with Wayne.... Cornwallis retires to the lower country.... General Washington's letters are intercepted.... Action near Jamestown.
Farther state of affairs in the beginning of the year 1781.... Measures of Mr. Morris, the superintendent of finances.... Designs of General Washington against New York.... Count Rochambeau marches to the North River.... Intelligence from the Count de Grasse.... Plan of operations against Lord Cornwallis.... Naval engagement.... The combined armies march for the Chesapeake.... Yorktown invested.... Surrender of Lord Cornwallis.
Incursion into Jersey.... General Lacy surprised.... Attempt on Lafayette at Barren Hill.... General Howe resigns the command of the British army.... Is succeeded by Sir H. Clinton.... He evacuates Philadelphia, and marches through the Jerseys.... A council of war which decides against attacking the British on their march.... Battle of Monmouth.... General Lee arrested.... Sentenced to be suspended for one year.... Thanks of congress to General Washington and his army.
The position at Valley Forge had been taken for the purposes of covering the country, protecting the magazines, and cutting off all supplies to Philadelphia. Although the intercourse of the inhabitants with that place could not be entirely prevented; the sufferings of the British army from the scarcity of fresh provisions and forage were considerable; and, as the spring opened, several expeditions were undertaken both to relieve their own wants, and to distress the army of the United States.
About the middle of March, Colonel Mawhood and Major Simcoe, who were detached into Jersey at the head of about twelve hundred men, landed at Salem, nearly opposite Reedy Island, and dispersed the small bodies of militia who were stationed in that part of the country.
[Sidenote: March 23.]
General Washington had given early intelligence of this expedition to Governor Livingston; and had requested that he would immediately order out the militia to join Colonel Shreve, whose regiment was detached into Jersey; but the legislature had neglected to make provision for paying them; and the governor could not bring them into the field. Colonel Shreve, on his arrival at Haddonfield, the place at which they had been directed to assemble, found less than one hundred men. Colonel Ellis, their commanding officer, remarked, in a letter to the governor, that "without some standing force, little was to be expected from the militia, who, being alone not sufficient to prevent the incursions of the enemy, each one naturally consults his own safety, by not being found in arms."
Mawhood, of course, was unrestrained; and the devastation committed by his party was wantonly distressing. Its course of destruction was preceded by a summons to Colonel Hand, the commanding officer of the militia, to lay down his arms, which was accompanied with a threat of the consequences to result from his refusal. This threat was too faithfully executed.
After completing his forage, without molestation, Mawhood returned to Philadelphia. During the continuance of this incursion, which lasted six or seven days, not more than two hundred men could be collected to reinforce Colonel Shreve, who was consequently unable to effect any thing, and did not even march to the lower parts of Jersey, which were plundered without restraint.
[Footnote 1: See note No. I. at the end of the volume.]
[Sidenote: May 1.]
Not long after this incursion into Jersey, an enterprise was undertaken against General Lacy, who, with a small number of Pennsylvania militia, seldom amounting to six hundred, and sometimes not exceeding fifty, watched the roads leading to Philadelphia on the north side of the Schuylkill, and was generally posted within twenty miles of that town.
[Sidenote: General Lacy surprised.]
This expedition was entrusted to Colonel Abercrombie and Major Simcoe, who avoided all the posts Lacy had established for his security, and threw a body of troops into his rear before he discovered their approach. After a short resistance, he escaped with the loss of a few men killed, and all his baggage. His corps were entirely dispersed, and he was soon afterwards relieved by General Potter.
To maintain the command of the water as far as was practicable, congress had ordered impediments to be sunk in many of the rivers of common use, so as to obstruct the passage up them, and had constructed frigates, and other smaller vessels, to be employed above those impediments or elsewhere, as the occasion might require. Several of them had been commenced above Philadelphia, but were not completed when the British obtained the command of the river. General Washington then became apprehensive for their safety, and repeatedly expressed his desire that they should be sunk in such a manner as to be weighed with difficulty, should any attempt be made to raise them. The persons, however, who were entrusted by congress with this business, supposed it would be equally secure to put plugs in their bottoms, which might be drawn out on the approach of danger.
Against these vessels, and some stores collected at Bordentown, an expedition was planned which ended in their total destruction. General Dickenson was in the neighbourhood, but his force was too small to interrupt the execution of the design; and General Maxwell, who had been ordered to his assistance, was retarded in his march by a heavy rain, which did not obstruct the movement of the British, who passed up the river in vessels.
[Sidenote: May 18.]
To cover the country more effectually on the north of the Schuylkill, to form an advance guard for the security of the main army, and to be in readiness to annoy the rear of the enemy, should he evacuate Philadelphia, an event believed to be in contemplation, General Washington detached the Marquis de Lafayette, with more than two thousand choice troops, to take post near the lines. As this corps formed a very valuable part of the army, the Commander-in-chief recommended in his instructions to General Lafayette the utmost attention to its safety; and, particularly, to avoid any permanent station, as a long continuance in one position would facilitate the execution of measures which might be concerted against him.
[Sidenote: Attempt on Lafayette at Barren Hill.]
The Marquis crossed the Schuylkill and took post near Barren Hill church, eight or ten miles in front of the army. Immediate notice of his arrival was given to Sir William Howe, who reconnoitred his position, and formed a plan to surprise and cut him off.
[Footnote 2: General Wilkinson, in his memoirs, says that this notice was given by a person formerly a lieutenant in Proctor's regiment of artillery, who, disgusted at being discarded from the American service, became a spy to Sir William Howe; and, the better to fulfil his new engagements, kept up his acquaintance with his former comrades, and frequently visited the camp at Valley Forge. To avoid the suspicion which would be excited by his going into Philadelphia, a rendezvous had been established on Frankford Creek, where he met a messenger from General Howe, to whom his communications were delivered. This statement is certainly correct.]
[Sidenote: May 20.]
On the night of the 19th of May, General Grant with five thousand select troops, took the road which leads up the Delaware, and consequently diverges from Barren Hill. After marching some distance, he inclined to the left, and passing White Marsh, where several roads unite, took one leading to Plymouth meeting-house, the position he was directed to occupy, something more than a mile in the rear of the Marquis, between him and Valley Forge. He reached his point of destination rather before sunrise. Here the roads fork; the one leading to the camp of Lafayette, and the other to Matron's ford over the Schuylkill.
In the course of the night, General Gray, with a strong detachment, had advanced up the Schuylkill on its south side, along the ridge road, and taken post at a ford two or three miles in front of the right flank of Lafayette, while the residue of the army encamped on Chestnut hill.
Captain M'Clane, a vigilant partisan of great merit, was posted on the lines some distance in front of Barren Hill. In the course of the night, he fell in with two British grenadiers at Three Mile Run, who informed him of the movement made by Grant, and also that a large body of Germans was getting ready to march up the Schuylkill. Immediately conjecturing the object, M'Clane detached Captain Parr, with a company of riflemen across the country to Wanderers hill, with orders to harass and retard the column advancing up the Schuylkill, and hastened in person to the camp of Lafayette. He arrived soon after daybreak, and communicated the intelligence he had received. It was, not long afterwards, confirmed by the fire of Parr on the Ridge road, and by an inhabitant who had escaped from White Marsh as the British column passed that place.
[Footnote 3: Extracts of letters from the adjutant general and the officer of the day to Captain M'Clane.
Camp Valley Forge, May 21st, 1778.
Dear Captain,—I am happy you have with your brave little party conducted with so much honour to yourself. The Marquis effected, owing to your vigilance, a glorious retreat as well as a difficult one.
Signed ALEX. SCAMMELL, Adj. Gen.
Camp Valley Forge, May 23d, 1778.
Dear Captain,—I am pleased to hear you are still doing something to distinguish yourself in the eyes of your country. I have the pleasure to inform you that your conduct with the Marquis has been very pleasing to his Excellency and the whole army.
I am your obedient servant,
CHARLES SCOTT, Brig. Gen. and officer of the day.]
[Footnote 4: The danger with which this detachment was threatened, was perceived from the camp at Valley Forge, soon after it had been communicated to Lafayette. Alarm-guns were fired to announce it to him, and the whole army was put under arms, to act as circumstances might require. It has been erroneously stated that General Washington was unapprised of this movement of the British army until its object was defeated. The author was in camp at the time, saw the Commander-in-chief, accompanied by his aids and some of the general officers ride, soon after sun-rise, to the summit of the hill on the side of which the huts were constructed, and look anxiously towards the scene of action through a glass. He witnessed too the joy with which they returned after the detachment had crossed the Schuylkill.]
Thus surrounded with danger, Lafayette took with promptitude and decision the only course which could preserve him. He instantly put his troops in motion, and passed over at Matron's ford, which was rather nearer to General Grant, than to himself, without being intercepted by that officer, or sustaining a greater loss than nine men.
General Grant, who reached the ground lately occupied by Lafayette soon after it was abandoned, followed his rear, and appeared at the ford just after the Americans had crossed it; but, finding them advantageously posted, did not choose to attack them; and the whole army returned to Philadelphia, having effected nothing.
He did not escape censure for having allowed the great advantage he had acquired, to slip through his hands unused. He might with the utmost certainty have reached Matron's ford before the Marquis, and have cut off the only retreat which remained for him. But the same skill and address were not displayed in executing this plan as in forming it.
[Footnote 5: It has been said that his troops were excessively fatigued by a march of upwards of twenty miles, and that he waited, confident that the Marquis could not escape him, for information that Gray had reached his position.]
In the statement of this affair made by General Lafayette, he represents himself to have advanced the head of a column towards Grant, as if to attack him, while the rear filed off rapidly towards the Schuylkill. This movement gained ground even for the front, which, while it advanced towards the enemy, also approached the river, and at the same time induced General Grant to halt, in order to prepare for battle.
While this manoeuvre was performing in the face of the detachment under Grant, a small party was thrown into the church yard, on the road towards General Gray, which also gave the appearance of an intention to attack in that quarter. By these dispositions, happily conceived, and executed with regularity, the Marquis extricated himself from the destruction which had appeared almost inevitable. In a letter to congress, General Washington termed it "a timely and handsome retreat," and certainly the compliment was merited.
It might be supposed that this young nobleman had not displayed the same degree of military talent in guarding against the approach of danger, as in extricating himself from it. But the imputation which generally attaches to an officer who permits an enemy to pass unobserved into his rear, is removed by a circumstance stated by Lafayette. The Pennsylvania militia were posted on his left flank with orders to guard the roads about White Marsh. Without his knowledge, they changed their position, and retired into the rear, leaving that important pass open to the enemy.
[Sidenote: General Howe resigns his command and returns to England; is succeeded by Sir Henry Clinton.]
This was the last enterprise attempted by Sir William Howe. He resigned the command of the army into the hands of Sir Henry Clinton, and embarked for Great Britain. About the same time, orders were received for the evacuation of Philadelphia. The part it was now evident France was about to take in the war, and the naval force which had been prepared by that power before she declared herself, rendered that city a dangerous position, and determined the administration to withdraw the army from the Delaware.
The preparations for this movement could not be made unobserved; but they indicated equally an embarkation of the whole army, or an intention to march to New York through Jersey. The last was believed by the American chief to be most probable; and he made every exertion to take advantage of the movement. His detachments were called in, and the state governments were pressed to expedite the march of their levies.
In the mean time Sir Henry Clinton hastened his preparations for the evacuation of Philadelphia; and the opinion that he intended to reach New York through Jersey, gained ground.
General Maxwell, with the Jersey brigade, was ordered over the Delaware to take post at Mount Holly, and to join Major General Dickenson, who was assembling the militia of that state for the purpose of co-operating with the continental troops, in breaking down the bridges, felling trees in the roads, and otherwise embarrassing the march of the British General.
[Sidenote: June 17.]
In this state of things intelligence was received that a great part of the British army had crossed the Delaware, and that the residue would soon follow.
The opinion of the general officers was required on the course now to be pursued. General Lee, who had been lately exchanged, and whose experience gave great weight to his opinions, was vehement against risking either a general or partial engagement. The British army was computed at ten thousand effective men, and that of the Americans amounted to between ten and eleven thousand. General Lee was decidedly of opinion that, with such an equality of force, it would be "criminal" to hazard an action. He relied much on the advantageous ground on which their late foreign connexions had placed the United States, and contended that defeat alone could now endanger their independence. To this he said the army ought not to be exposed. It would be impossible he thought to bring on a partial action, without risking its being made general, should such be the choice of the enemy, since the detachment which might engage must be supported, or be cut to pieces. A general action ought not to be fought unless the advantage was manifestly with the American army. This at present was not the case. He attributed so much to the superior discipline of the enemy as to be of opinion that the issue of the engagement would be, almost certainly, unfavourable.
General Du Portail, a French officer of considerable reputation, maintained the same opinions; and the Baron de Steuben concurred in them. The American officers seem to have been influenced by the councils of the Europeans; and, of seventeen generals, only Wayne and Cadwallader were decidedly in favour of attacking the enemy. Lafayette appeared inclined to that opinion without openly embracing it; and General Greene was inclined to hazard more than the councils of the majority would sanction. The country, he thought, must be protected; and if, in doing so, an engagement should become unavoidable, it would be necessary to fight.
[Sidenote: The British army evacuate Philadelphia and march through the Jerseys.]
On the morning of the 18th, Philadelphia was evacuated; and, by two in the afternoon, all the British troops were encamped on the Jersey shore, from Cooper's Creek to Red Bank. Although they availed themselves to a great extent of the transportation by water, yet their line of march was so lengthened and encumbered by baggage, and the weather was so intensely hot, that they were under the necessity of proceeding slowly. Indeed their movements wore the appearance of purposed delay; and were calculated to favour the opinion that Sir Henry Clinton was willing to be overtaken, and wished for a general engagement.
[Footnote 6: As the British army moved down Second street, Captain M'Lane, with a few light horse and one hundred infantry, entered the city, and cut off, and captured one Captain, one Provost Marshal, one guide to the army, and thirty privates, without losing a man.]
As his line of march, until he passed Crosswicks, led directly up the Delaware, General Washington found it necessary to make an extensive circuit, and to cross the river at Coryell's Ferry; after which he kept possession of the high grounds in Jersey, thereby retaining the choice of bringing on, or avoiding an action.
[Sidenote: June 24.]
As Sir Henry Clinton encamped at, and about, Allentown, the main body of the American army lay in Hopewell township, about five miles from Princeton, Major General Dickenson, with about one thousand militia, and Maxwell's brigade, hung on Sir Henry Clinton's left flank. General Cadwallader, with Jackson's regiment and a few militia, was in his rear; and Colonel Morgan with a regiment of six hundred men watched his right.
[Sidenote: Council of war called by General Washington; decide against attacking the enemy on the march.]
Notwithstanding the almost concurrent opinion of his general officers against risking an action, Washington appears to have been strongly inclined to that measure. He could not be persuaded that, with an army rather superior in point of numbers to his enemy, too much was hazarded by fighting him. The situation of the two armies was, therefore, once more submitted to the consideration of the general officers, who were asked whether it would be adviseable, of choice, to hazard a general action? And, if it would, whether it should be brought on by an immediate general attack, by a partial attack, or by taking such a position as must compel the enemy to become the assailants?
If the council should be of opinion that it was unadviseable to hazard an engagement, then he asked what measures could be taken with safety to the army, to annoy the enemy in his march, should he proceed through the Jerseys?
The proposition respecting a general action was decidedly negatived. But it was proposed to strengthen the corps on the left flank of the enemy with a reinforcement of fifteen hundred men, and to preserve, with the main body of the army, a relative position which would enable it to act as circumstances might require.
In pursuance of this opinion, the troops on the lines were strengthened with a detachment of fifteen hundred select men, commanded by General Scott; and the army moved forward the next day to Kingston.
[Sidenote: The opinion of the general against this decision.]
[Sidenote: June 25.]
Though the council had been almost unanimous against a general action, several officers, whose opinions were highly valued, secretly wished for something more than light skirmishing. Knowing this, General Washington, who was still in favour of an engagement, determined to take his measures on his own responsibility. As the British army moved towards Monmouth court-house, he ordered Brigadier General Wayne, with an additional detachment of one thousand select men, to join the advanced corps. As the continental troops, now constituting the front division, amounted to at least four thousand men, he deemed it proper that they should be commanded by a major general. Lee had a right to claim this tour of duty; but, as he had declared himself openly and strongly against hazarding even a partial engagement, and supposed that nothing further would be attempted than merely to reconnoitre the enemy, and restrain plundering parties, he showed no inclination to assert his claim. Unintentionally promoting the private wishes of General Washington, that the command should be given to an officer whose view of the service comported more with his own, Lee yielded this important tour of duty to Lafayette. The orders given to this general were, to proceed immediately with the detachment; and, after forming a junction with General Scott, and taking command of the troops on the lines, to gain the enemy's left flank and rear; give him every practicable annoyance; and attack by detachment, or with his whole force, as the occasion might require.
These dispositions and orders could scarcely fail to bring on an engagement. Wayne had openly supported that measure; and Lafayette, though against seeking a general action, had been in favour of a partial one. Of consequence, should any proper occasion offer, he would certainly attack with his whole force, which would as certainly produce such a state of things as would render it proper to support him with the whole army.
[Sidenote: June 26.]
Immediately after the march of this detachment, General Washington moved to Cranberry, that he might be in readiness to support his front division.
The intense heat of the weather; a heavy storm; and a temporary want of provisions, prevented the army from continuing its march that day. The advanced corps had pressed forward, and taken a position about five miles in rear of the British army, with the intention of attacking it next morning on its march. Thinking this corps too remote to be supported in case of action, General Washington ordered the Marquis to file off by his left towards Englishtown. These orders were executed early in the morning of the twenty-seventh.
[Sidenote: June 27.]
Lafayette had scarcely taken command of the advanced party, when General Lee began to regret having yielded it to him. He perceived that, in the opinion of all the general officers, great importance was attached to it, and that his reputation was in danger of being impaired by connecting his strenuous opposition to even a partial action, with his declining the command of a very strong detachment, which, it was believed, would engage the rear of the enemy. He therefore solicited earnestly for the command he had before declined.
To relieve the feelings of Lee, without wounding those of Lafayette, General Washington detached him with two additional brigades to Englishtown, to support the Marquis. He would, of course, have the direction of the whole front division, which would now amount to five thousand continental troops; but it was expressly stipulated, that if any enterprise had been already formed by Lafayette, it should be carried into execution, as if the commanding officer had not been changed. Lee acceded to this condition; and, with two additional brigades, joined the front division of the army, encamped at Englishtown. The rear division also moved forward, and encamped about three miles in his rear. Morgan's corps still hovered on the right flank of the British, and General Dickenson on their left.
Sir Henry Clinton occupied the high grounds about Monmouth court-house, having his right flank in the skirt of a small wood, while his left was secured by a very thick one, and a morass running towards his rear. His whole front was also covered by a wood, and for a considerable distance towards his left, by a morass.
This position seemed unassailable; and the British were within twelve miles of the high grounds about Middletown, after reaching which they would be perfectly secure.
Under these circumstances, General Washington ordered Lee to attack the British rear the moment it should move from its ground.
[Sidenote: June 28.]
About five in the morning, intelligence was received from General Dickenson that the front of the enemy was in motion. The troops were immediately put under arms, and Lee was ordered to attack the rear, "unless there should be powerful reasons to the contrary." He was at the same time informed that the rear division would be on its march to support him.
Sir Henry Clinton had observed the appearances on his flanks and rear on the twenty-seventh; and, conjecturing that the American army was in his neighbourhood, had changed the order of his march. The baggage was placed under the care of General Knyphausen, while the strength and flower of his army, entirely unincumbered, formed the rear division, under the particular command of Lord Cornwallis, who was accompanied by the Commander-in-chief.
To avoid pressing on Knyphausen, Cornwallis remained on his ground until about eight; and then, descending from the heights of Freehold into an extensive plain, took up his line of march in rear of the front division.
[Footnote 7: Letter of Sir Henry Clinton.]
General Lee had made dispositions for executing the orders given the preceding evening, and repeated in the morning; and, soon after the British rear had moved from its ground, prepared to attack it. General Dickenson had been directed to detach some of his best troops, to take such a position as to co-operate with him; and Morgan was ordered to act on the right flank.
Lee appeared on the heights of Freehold soon after Lord Cornwallis had left them; and, following the British into the plain, ordered General Wayne to attack the rear of their covering party with sufficient vigour to check it, but not to press it so closely as either to force it up to the main body, or to draw reinforcements to its aid. In the mean time, he intended to gain the front of this party by a shorter road, and, intercepting its communication with the line, to bear it off before it could be assisted.
While in the execution of this design, a gentleman in the suite of General Washington came up to gain intelligence; and Lee communicated to him his present object.
Before he reached the point of destination, there was reason to believe that the British rear was much stronger than had been conjectured. The intelligence on this subject being contradictory, and the face of the country well calculated to conceal the truth, he deemed it adviseable to ascertain the fact himself.
Sir Henry Clinton, soon after the rear division was in full march, received intelligence that an American column had appeared on his left flank. This being a corps of militia was soon dispersed, and the march was continued. When his rear guard had descended from the heights, he saw it followed by a strong corps, soon after which a cannonade was commenced upon it; and, at the same time, a respectable force showed itself on each of his flanks. Suspecting a design on his baggage, he determined to attack the troops in his rear so vigorously, as to compel a recall of those on his flanks; and, for this purpose, marched back his whole rear division. This movement was in progress as Lee advanced for the purpose of reconnoitring. He soon perceived his mistake respecting the force of the British rear, but still determined to engage on that ground, although his judgment disapproved the measure; there being a morass immediately in his rear, which would necessarily impede the reinforcements which might be advancing to his aid, and embarrass his retreat should he be finally overpowered.
This was about ten. While both armies were preparing for action, General Scott (as stated by General Lee) mistook an oblique march of an American column for a retreat; and, in the apprehension of being abandoned, left his position, and repassed the ravine in his rear.
Being himself of opinion that the ground was unfavourable, Lee did not correct the error he ascribed to Scott, but ordered the whole detachment to regain the heights. He was closely pressed, and some slight skirmishing ensued without much loss on either side.
As soon as the firing announced the commencement of the action, the rear division of the army advanced rapidly to the support of the front. As they approached the scene of action, General Washington, who had received no intelligence from Lee giving notice of his retreat, rode forward, and, to his utter astonishment and mortification, met the advanced corps retiring before the enemy, without having made a single effort to maintain its ground. The troops he first saw neither understood the motives which had governed General Lee, nor his present design; and could give no other information than that, by his orders, they had fled without fighting.
General Washington rode to the rear of the division, where he met General Lee, to whom he spoke in terms of some warmth, implying disapprobation of his conduct.
Orders were immediately given to Colonel Stewart and Lieutenant Colonel Ramsay to form their regiments for the purpose of checking the pursuit; and General Lee was directed to take proper measures with the residue of his force to stop the British column on that ground. The Commander-in-chief then rode back to arrange the rear division of the army.
[Sidenote: He attacks the enemy at Monmouth Court-house.]
These orders were executed with firmness; and, when forced from his ground, Lee brought off his troops in good order, and was directed to form in the rear of Englishtown.
This check afforded time to draw up the left wing and second line of the American army on an eminence, covered by a morass in front. Lord Stirling, who commanded the left wing, brought up a detachment of artillery under Lieutenant Colonel Carrington, and some field pieces, which played with considerable effect on a division of the British which had passed the morass, and was pressing on to the charge. These pieces, with the aid of several parties of infantry, effectually stopped the advance of the enemy.
[Sidenote: The action severe but not decisive.]
Finding themselves warmly opposed in front, the British attempted to turn the left flank of the American army, but were repulsed. They then attempted the right with as little success. General Greene had advanced a body of troops with artillery to a commanding piece of ground in his front, which not only disappointed the design of turning the right, but enfiladed the party which yet remained in front of the left wing. At this moment, General Wayne was advanced with a body of infantry to engage them in front, who kept up so hot and well directed a fire, that they soon withdrew behind the ravine, to the ground on which the action had commenced immediately after the arrival of General Washington.
[Footnote 8: General Lafayette, in a communication made to the author respecting this battle, expresses himself thus: "Never was General Washington greater in war than in this action. His presence stopped the retreat. His dispositions fixed the victory. His fine appearance on horseback, his calm courage, roused by the animation produced by the vexation of the morning, (le depit de la matinee) gave him the air best calculated to excite enthusiasm."]
The position now taken by the British army was very strong. Both flanks were secured by thick woods and morasses; and their front was accessible only through a narrow pass. The day had been intensely hot, and the troops were much fatigued. Notwithstanding these circumstances, General Washington resolved to renew the engagement. For this purpose he ordered Brigadier General Poor, with his own and the North Carolina brigade, to gain their right flank, while Woodford with his brigade should turn their left. At the same time the artillery was ordered to advance, and play on their front. These orders were obeyed with alacrity; but the impediments on the flanks of the British were so considerable that, before they could be overcome, it was nearly dark. Farther operations were therefore deferred until next morning; and the brigades which had been detached to the flanks of the British army continued on their ground through the night, and the other troops lay on the field of battle with their arms in their hands. General Washington passed the night in his cloak in the midst of his soldiers.
The British employed the early part of the night in removing their wounded; and, about midnight, marched away in such silence that their retreat was not perceived until day.
As it was certain that they must gain the high grounds about Middletown before they could be overtaken; as the face of the country afforded no prospect of opposing their embarkation; and as the battle already fought had terminated in a manner to make a general impression favourable to the American arms; it was thought proper to relinquish the pursuit, leaving a detachment to hover about the British rear, the main body of the army moved towards the Hudson.
The Commander-in-chief was highly gratified with the conduct of his troops in this action. Their behaviour, he said, after recovering from the first surprise occasioned by the unexpected retreat of the advanced corps, could not be surpassed. General Wayne was particularly mentioned; and the artillery were spoken of in terms of high praise.
The loss of the Americans in the battle of Monmouth was eight officers and sixty-one privates killed, and about one hundred and sixty wounded. Among the slain were Lieutenant Colonel Bonner of Pennsylvania, and Major Dickenson of Virginia, both of whom were much regretted. One hundred and thirty were missing; but a considerable number of these afterwards rejoined their regiments.
In his official letter, Sir Henry Clinton states his dead and missing at four officers, and one hundred and eighty-four privates. His wounded at sixteen officers and one hundred and fifty-four privates. This account, so far as respects the dead, can not be correct, as four officers and two hundred and forty-five privates were buried on the field by persons appointed for the purpose, who made their report to the Commander-in-chief; and some few were afterwards found, so as to increase the number to nearly three hundred. The uncommon heat of the day proved fatal to several on both sides.
As usual, when a battle has not been decisive, both parties claimed the victory. In the early part of the day, the advantage was certainly with the British; in the latter part, it may be pronounced with equal certainty to have been with the Americans. They maintained their ground, repulsed the enemy, were prevented only by the night, and by the retreat of the hostile army from renewing the action, and suffered less in killed and wounded than their adversaries.
It is true that Sir Henry Clinton effected what he states to have been his principal object,—the safety of his baggage. But when it is recollected that the American officers had decided against hazarding an action, that this advice must have trammeled the conduct, and circumscribed the views of the Commander-in-chief, he will be admitted to have effected no inconsiderable object in giving the American arms that appearance of superiority which was certainly acquired by this engagement.
Independent of the loss sustained in the action, the British army was considerably weakened in its march from Philadelphia to New York. About one hundred prisoners were made, and near one thousand soldiers, chiefly foreigners, deserted while passing through Jersey.
The conduct of Lee was generally disapproved. As however he had possessed a large share of the confidence and good opinion of the Commander-in-chief, it is probable that explanations might have been made which would have rescued him from the imputations that were cast on him, and have restored him to the esteem of the army, could his haughty temper have brooked the indignity he believed to have been offered him on the field of battle. General Washington had taken no measures in consequence of the events of that day, and would probably have come to no resolution concerning them without an amicable explanation, when he received from Lee a letter expressed in very unbecoming terms, in which he, in the tone of a superior, required reparation for the injury sustained "from the very singular expressions" said to have been used on the day of the action by the Commander-in-chief.
[Sidenote: June 30.]
[Sidenote: General Lee arrested for his behavior in this action, and afterwards to the commander-in-chief.]
This letter was answered by an assurance that, so soon as circumstances would admit of an inquiry, he should have an opportunity of justifying himself, to the army, to America, and to the world in general; or of convincing them that he had been guilty of disobedience of orders, and misbehaviour before the enemy. On his expressing a wish for a speedy investigation of his conduct, and for a court-martial rather than a court of inquiry, he was arrested.
First. For disobedience of orders in not attacking the enemy on the 28th of June, agreeably to repeated instructions.
Secondly. For misbehaviour before the enemy on the same day, in making an unnecessary, disorderly, and shameful retreat.
Thirdly. For disrespect to the Commander-in-chief in two letters.
[Sidenote: Court-martial appointed to try him. Sentenced to be suspended for one year.]
Before this correspondence had taken place, strong and specific charges of misconduct had been made against General Lee by several officers of his detachment, and particularly by Generals Wayne and Scott. In these, the transactions of the day, not being well understood, were represented in colours much more unfavourable to Lee, than facts, when properly explained, would seem to justify. These representations, most probably, induced the strong language of the second article in the charge. A court-martial, over which Lord Stirling presided, after a tedious investigation, found him guilty of all the charges exhibited against him, and sentenced him to be suspended for one year. This sentence was, afterwards, though with some hesitation, approved, almost unanimously, by congress. The court softened, in some degree, the severity of the second charge, by finding him guilty, not in its very words, but "of misbehaviour before the enemy, by making an unnecessary, and, in some few instances, a disorderly retreat."
Lee defended himself with his accustomed ability. He proved that, after the retreat had commenced, in consequence of General Scott's repassing the ravine, on the approach of the enemy, he had designed to form on the first advantageous piece of ground he could find; and that, in his own opinion, and in the opinion of some other officers, no safe and advantageous position had presented itself until he met General Washington; at which time it was his intention to fight the enemy on the very ground afterwards taken by that officer. He suggested a variety of reasons in justification of his retreat, which, if they do not absolutely establish its propriety, give it so questionable a form as to render it probable that a public examination never would have taken place, could his proud spirit have stooped to offer explanation instead of outrage, to the Commander-in-chief.
His suspension gave general satisfaction through the army. Without being masters of his conduct as a military man, they perfectly understood the insult offered to their general by his letters; and, whether rightly or not, believed his object to have been to disgrace Washington, and to obtain the supreme command for himself. So devotedly were all ranks attached to their general, that the mere suspicion of such a design, would have rendered his continuance in the army extremely difficult.
Whatever judgment may be formed on the propriety of his retreat, it is not easy to justify, either the omission to keep the Commander-in-chief continually informed of his situation and intentions, or the very rude letters written after the action was over.
[Sidenote: The thanks of congress presented to General Washington and his army for their conduct in the battle at Monmouth.]
The battle of Monmouth gave great satisfaction to congress. A resolution was passed unanimously, thanking General Washington for the activity with which he marched from the camp at Valley Forge, in pursuit of the enemy; for his distinguished exertions in forming the line of battle, and for his great good conduct in the action; and he was requested to signify the thanks of congress to the officers and men under his command, who distinguished themselves by their conduct and valour in the battle.
[Sidenote: July 5.]
After remaining a few days on the high grounds of Middletown, Sir Henry Clinton proceeded to Sandy Hook, whence his army passed over to New York.
Count D'Estaing arrives with a French fleet.... Meditates an attack on the British fleet in New York harbour.... Relinquishes it.... Sails to Rhode Island.... Lord Howe appears off Rhode Island.... Both fleets dispersed by a storm.... General Sullivan lays siege to Newport.... D'Estaing returns.... Sails for Boston.... Sullivan expresses his dissatisfaction in general orders.... Raises the siege of Newport.... Action on Rhode Island.... The Americans retreat to the Continent.... Count D'Estaing expresses his dissatisfaction with Sullivan in a letter to congress.... General Washington labours successfully to heal these discontents.... Lord Howe resigns the command of the British fleet.... Colonel Baylor's regiment surprised.... Captain Donop defeated by Colonel Butler.... Expedition of the British against Egg Harbour.... Pulaski surprised.
[Sidenote: 1778 July.]
[Sidenote: Count D'Estaing arrives on the coast of Virginia with a French fleet under his command.]
Before General Washington could reach the ground he designed to occupy, intelligence was received that a powerful French fleet, under the command of the Count D'Estaing, had appeared off Chingoteague inlet, the northern extremity of the coast of Virginia.
The Count had sailed from Toulon on the 13th of April, with twelve ships of the line and six frigates, having on board a respectable body of land forces. His destination was the Delaware; and he hoped to find the British fleet in that river, and their army in Philadelphia. An uncommon continuance of adverse winds, protracted his voyage across the Atlantic to the extraordinary length of eighty-seven days. This unusual circumstance saved the British fleet and army.
[Sidenote: He meditates an attack on the British fleet at New York, but is obliged to relinquish it.]
On reaching the capes of the Delaware, the Count announced his arrival to congress; and, having failed in accomplishing his first object, proceeded along the coast to New York, in the hope of being able to attack the British fleet in the harbour of that place.
Sir Henry Clinton was again indebted to some fortunate incidents for his safety.
The violent storms of the preceding winter had broken through the narrow isthmus by which Sandy Hook was connected with the continent, and had converted the peninsula into an island. This rendered it necessary for the army to pass from the main to the Hook on a bridge of boats, which would have been impracticable, if obstructed by a superior fleet. It was effected the very day on which D'Estaing appeared off Chingoteague inlet.
[Sidenote: July 13.]
At Paramus, in Jersey, General Washington received a letter from the president of congress, advising him of this important event, and requesting that he would concert measures with the Count for conjoint and offensive operations.
The next day he received a second letter on the same subject, enclosing two resolutions, one directing him to co-operate with the French admiral, and the other authorizing him to call on the states from New Hampshire to New Jersey inclusive, for such aids of militia as he might deem necessary for the operations of the allied arms.
He determined to proceed immediately to the White Plains, whence the army might co-operate with more facility in the execution of any attempt which might be made by the fleet, and despatched Lieutenant Colonel Laurens, one of his aids de camp, with all the information relative to the enemy, as well as to his own army, which might be useful to D'Estaing. Lieutenant Colonel Laurens was authorized to consult on future conjoint operations, and to establish conventional signals for the purpose of facilitating the communication of intelligence.
The French admiral, on arriving off the Hook, despatched Major de Choisi, a gentleman of his family, to General Washington, for the purpose of communicating fully his views and his strength. His first object was to attack New York. If this should be found impracticable, he was desirous of turning his attention to Rhode Island. To assist in coming to a result on these enterprises, General Washington despatched Lieutenant Colonel Hamilton with such farther communications as had been suggested, by inquiries made since the departure of Lieutenant Colonel Laurens.
[Sidenote: July 21.]
Fearing that the water on the bar at the entrance of the harbour was not of sufficient depth to admit the passage of the largest ships of the French fleet without much difficulty and danger, General Washington had turned his attention to other objects which might be, eventually, pursued. General Sullivan, who commanded the troops in Rhode Island, was directed to prepare for an enterprise against Newport; and the Marquis de Lafayette was detached with two brigades to join him at Providence. The next day Lieutenant Colonel Hamilton returned to camp with the final determination of the Count D'Estaing to relinquish the meditated attack on the fleet in the harbour of New York, in consequence of the impracticability of passing the bar.
General Greene was immediately ordered to Rhode Island, of which state he was a native; and Lieutenant Colonel Laurens was directed to attach himself to the French admiral, and to facilitate all his views by procuring whatever might give them effect; after which he was to act with the army under Sullivan.
[Sidenote: Sails out to Rhode Island and arrives off Newport.]
The resolution being taken to proceed against Rhode Island, the fleet got under way, and, on the 25th of July, appeared off Newport, and cast anchor about five miles from that place, just without Brenton's ledge; soon after which, General Sullivan went on board the Admiral, and concerted with him a plan of operations for the allied forces. The fleet was to enter the harbour, and land the troops of his Christian Majesty on the west side of the island, a little to the north of Dyer's island. The Americans were to land at the same time on the opposite coast, under cover of the guns of a frigate.
Although the appearance of the French fleet had animated the whole country, and had produced a considerable degree of alacrity for the service; although the success of the enterprise essentially depended on maintaining a superiority at sea, which there was much reason to apprehend would soon be wrested from them; yet such are the delays inseparable from measures to bring husbandmen into the field as soldiers, that the operations against Newport were suspended for several days on this account.
[Sidenote: August 8.]
As the militia of New Hampshire and Massachusetts approached, General Sullivan joined General Greene at Tiverton, and it was agreed with the Admiral that the fleet should enter the main channel immediately, and that the descent should be made the succeeding day. The ships of war passed the British batteries and entered the harbour, without receiving or doing any considerable damage.
The militia not arriving precisely at the time they were expected, General Sullivan could not hazard the movement which had been concerted, and stated to the Count the necessity of postponing it till the next day. Meanwhile, the preparations for the descent being perceived, General Pigot drew the troops which had been stationed on the north end of the island into the lines at Newport.
[Sidenote: August 9.]
On discovering this circumstance the next morning, Sullivan determined to avail himself of it, and to take immediate possession of the works which had been abandoned. The whole army crossed the east passage, and landed on the north end of Rhode Island. This movement gave great offence to the Admiral, who resented the indelicacy supposed to have been committed by Sullivan in landing before the French, and without consulting him.
Unfortunately, some difficulties, on subjects of mere punctilio, had previously arisen. The Count D'Estaing was a land as well as sea officer; and held the high rank of lieutenant general in the service of France. Sullivan being only a major general, some misunderstanding on this delicate point had been apprehended; and General Washington had suggested to him the necessity of taking every precaution to avoid it. This, it was supposed, had been effected in their first conference, in which it was agreed that the Americans should land first, after which the French should land, to be commanded by the Count D'Estaing in person. The motives for this arrangement are not stated; but it was most probably made solely with a view to the success of the enterprise. Either his own after-reflections or the suggestions of others dissatisfied the Count with it, and he insisted that the descent should be made on both sides of the island precisely at the same instant, and that one wing of the American army should be attached to the French, and land with them. He also declined commanding in person, and wished the Marquis de Lafayette to take charge of the French troops as well as of the Americans attached to them.
It being feared that this alteration of the plan might endanger both its parts, D'Estaing was prevailed on to reduce his demand from one wing of the American army to one thousand militia. When, afterwards, General Sullivan crossed over into the island before the time to which he had himself postponed the descent, and without giving previous notice to the Count of this movement, some suspicions seem to have been excited, that the measure was taken with other views than were avowed, and no inconsiderable degree of excitement was manifested. The Count refused to answer Sullivan's letter, and charged Lieutenant Colonel Fleury, who delivered it, with being more an American than a Frenchman.
At this time a British fleet appeared, which, after sailing close into the land, and communicating with General Pigot, withdrew some distance, and came to anchor off point Judith, just without the narrow inlet leading into the harbour.
After it had been ascertained that the destination of the Count D'Estaing was America, he was followed by a squadron of twelve ships of the line under Admiral Byron, who was designed to relieve Lord Howe, that nobleman having solicited his recall. The vessels composing this squadron meeting with weather unusually bad for the season, and being separated in different storms, arrived, after lingering through a tedious passage, in various degrees of distress, on different and remote parts of the American coast. Between the departure of D'Estaing from the Hook on the 23d of July, and the 30th of that month, four ships of sixty-four and fifty guns arrived at Sandy Hook.
This addition to the British fleet, though it left Lord Howe considerably inferior to the Count D'Estaing, determined him to attempt the relief of Newport. He sailed from New York on the 6th of August; and, on the 9th, appeared in sight of the French fleet, before intelligence of his departure could be received by the Admiral.
[Sidenote: Sails to attack Lord Howe, who appears off Rhode Island.]
[Sidenote: August 10.]
At the time of his arrival the wind set directly into the harbour, so that it was impossible to get out of it; but it shifted suddenly to the north-east the next morning, and the Count determined to stand out to sea, and give battle. Previous to leaving port, he informed General Sullivan that, on his return, he would land his men as that officer should advise.
Not choosing to give the advantage of the weather-gage, Lord Howe also weighed anchor and stood out to sea. He was followed by D'Estaing; and both fleets were soon out of sight.
The militia were now arrived; and Sullivan's army amounted to ten thousand men. Some objections were made by Lafayette to his commencing operations before the return of D'Estaing. That officer advised that the army should be advanced to a position in the neighbourhood of Newport, but should not break ground until the Count should be in readiness to act in concert with them. It was extremely desirable to avoid whatever might give offence to the great ally on whose assistance so much depended; but time was deemed of such importance to an army which could not be kept long together, that this advice was overruled, and it was determined to commence the siege immediately.
[Sidenote: August 12.]
[Sidenote: General Sullivan lays siege to Newport.]
Before this determination could be executed, a furious storm blew down all the tents, rendered the arms unfit for immediate use, and greatly damaged the ammunition, of which fifty rounds had just been delivered to each man. The soldiers, having no shelter, suffered extremely; and several perished in the storm, which continued three days. On the return of fair weather the siege was commenced, and continued without any material circumstance for several days.
As no intelligence had been received from the Admiral, the situation of the American army was becoming very critical. On the evening of the 19th, their anxieties were relieved for a moment by the reappearance of the French fleet.
[Sidenote: Both fleets dispersed by a storm.]
The two Admirals, desirous the one of gaining, and the other of retaining the advantage of the wind, had employed two days in manoeuvring, without coming to action. Towards the close of the second, they were on the point of engaging, when they were separated by the violent storm which had been felt so severely on shore, and which dispersed both fleets. Some single vessels afterwards fell in with each other, but no important capture was made; and both fleets retired in a very shattered condition, the one to the harbour of New York, and the other to that of Newport.
[Sidenote: D'Estaing returns to Newport, and against the solicitations of Sullivan, sails for Boston.]
A letter was immediately despatched by D'Estaing to Sullivan, informing him that, in pursuance of orders from the King, and of the advice of all his officers, he had taken the resolution to carry the fleet to Boston. His instructions directed him to sail for Boston should his fleet meet with any disaster, or should a superior British fleet appear on the coast.
This communication threw Sullivan and his army into despair. General Greene and the Marquis de Lafayette were directed to wait on the Admiral with a letter from Sullivan remonstrating against this resolution, and to use their utmost endeavors to induce him to change it.
They represented to him the certainty of carrying the garrison if he would co-operate with them only two days, urged the impolicy of exposing the fleet at sea, in its present condition, represented the port of Boston as equally insecure with that of Newport, and added that the expedition had been undertaken on condition that the French fleet and army should co-operate with them; that confiding in this co-operation, they had brought stores into the island to a great amount, and that to abandon the enterprise in the present state of things, would be a reproach and disgrace to their arms. To be deserted at such a critical moment would have a pernicious influence on the minds of the American people, and would furnish their domestic foes, as well as the common enemy, with the means of animadverting severely on their prospects from an alliance with those who could abandon them under circumstances such as the present. They concluded with wishing that the utmost harmony and confidence might subsist between the two nations, and especially between their officers; and entreated the Admiral, if any personal indiscretions had appeared in conducting the expedition, not to permit them to prejudice the common cause.
Whatever impression these observations may have made on the Count, they could not change the determination he had formed.
General Greene, in his representation of this conversation, stated that the principal officers on board the fleet were the enemies of D'Estaing. He was properly a land officer, and they were dissatisfied with his appointment in the navy. Determined to thwart his measures, and to prevent, as far as could be justified, his achieving any brilliant exploit, they availed themselves of the letter of his instructions, and unanimously persevered in advising him to relinquish the enterprise, and sail for Boston. He could not venture, with such instructions, to act against their unanimous opinion; and, although personally disposed to re-enter the harbour, declined doing so, and sailed from the island.
On the return of Greene and Lafayette, Sullivan made yet another effort to retain the fleet. He addressed a second letter to the Admiral, pressing him, in any event, to leave his land forces. The bearer of this letter was also charged with a protest signed by all the general officers in Rhode Island except Lafayette, the only effect of which was to irritate D'Estaing, who proceeded, without delay, on his voyage to Boston.
[Sidenote: In consequence of the departure of the French fleet, Sullivan raises the siege of Newport.]
Thus abandoned by the fleet, Sullivan called a council of general officers, who were in favour of attempting an assault if five thousand volunteers who had seen nine months service could be obtained for the enterprise; but the departure of the fleet had so discouraged the militia, that this number could not be procured; and, in a few days, the army was reduced by desertion to little more than five thousand men. As the British were estimated at six thousand, it was determined to raise the siege, and retire to the north end of the island, there to fortify, and wait the result of another effort to induce D'Estaing to return.
[Sidenote: August 28.]
In the night of the 28th, the army retired by two roads leading to the works on the north end of the island, having its rear covered by Colonels Livingston and Laurens, who commanded light parties on each.
[Sidenote: August 29.]
Early next morning the retreat was discovered by the British, who followed in two columns, and were engaged on each road by Livingston and Laurens, who retreated slowly and kept up the action with skill and spirit until the English were brought into the neighbourhood of the main body of the Americans, drawn up in order of battle on the ground of their encampment. The British formed on Quaker Hill, a very strong piece of ground, something more than a mile in front of the American line.
[Sidenote: Action between Sullivan and the British army.]
Sullivan's rear was covered by strong works; and in his front, rather to the right, was a redoubt. In this position, the two armies cannonaded each other for some time, and a succession of skirmishes was kept up in front of both lines until about two in the afternoon, when the British advanced in force, attempted to turn the right flank, and made demonstrations of an intention to carry the redoubt in front of the right wing. General Greene, who commanded that wing, advanced to its support, and a sharp engagement was continued for about half an hour, when the British retreated to Quaker Hill. The cannonade was renewed, and kept up intermingled with slight skirmishing until night.
According to the return made by General Sullivan, his loss in killed, wounded and missing was two hundred and eleven. That of the British, as stated by General Pigot, amounted to two hundred and sixty.
[Sidenote: August 30.]
The next day, the cannonade was renewed, but neither army was inclined to attack the other. The British waited for reinforcements, and Sullivan had at length determined to retire from the island.
The Commander-in-chief had observed some movements among the British transports indicating the embarkation of troops, and had suggested to Sullivan the necessity of securing his retreat. A fleet of transports soon put to sea with a large body of troops, of which immediate notice was given to Sullivan in a letter recommending his retreat to the continent. This reinforcement, which consisted of four thousand men, commanded by Sir Henry Clinton in person, was delayed by adverse winds until the letter of General Washington was received, and the resolution to evacuate the island was taken. The whole army passed over to the continent unobserved by the enemy, and disembarked about Tiverton by two in the morning.
[Sidenote: Sullivan retreats with his army to the continent.]
Never was retreat more fortunate. Sir Henry Clinton arrived the next day; and the loss of the American army would have been inevitable.
[Sidenote: Sullivan, in one of his general orders, makes use of expressions which offend the count.]
The complete success of this expedition had been confidently anticipated throughout America; and the most brilliant results had been expected from the capture of so important a part of the British army as the garrison of Newport. The chagrin produced by disappointment was proportioned to the exaltation of their hopes. In general orders issued by Sullivan, soon after the departure of D'Estaing, he permitted some expressions to escape him which were understood to impute to the Count D'Estaing, and to the French nation, an indisposition to promote the interests of the United States. These insinuations wounded the feelings of the French officers, and added, in no small degree, to the resentments of the moment. In subsequent orders, the General sought to correct this indiscretion; and alleged that he had been misunderstood by those who supposed him to blame the Admiral, with whose orders he was unacquainted, and of whose conduct he was, consequently, unable to judge. He also stated explicitly the important aids America had received from France, aids of which he ought not to be unmindful under any disappointment; and which should prevent a too sudden censure of any movement whatever.
[Sidenote: Count D'Estaing expresses to congress his dissatisfaction with General Sullivan.]
The Count D'Estaing, on his part, addressed a letter to congress containing a statement of all the movements of his fleet subsequent to its arrival on the coast, in which his chagrin and irritation were but ill concealed.
In congress, after approving the conduct of Sullivan and his army, an indiscreet proposition was made to inquire into the causes of the failure of the expedition; but this was set aside by the previous question.
In the first moments of vexation and disappointment, General Sullivan had addressed some letters to the governor of Rhode Island, complaining bitterly of being abandoned by the fleet. These despatches were transmitted by the governor to the speaker of the assembly, and were on the point of being submitted publicly to the house, when they were fortunately arrested by General Greene, who had been introduced on the floor, and placed by the side of the chair; and to whom they were shown by the speaker.
The discontent in New England generally, and in Boston particularly, was so great as to inspire fears that the means of repairing the French ships would not be supplied. To guard against the mischief which might result from this temper, as well as for other objects, General Hancock had repaired from camp to Boston, and Lafayette had followed him on a visit to D'Estaing.
[Sidenote: General Washington labours to heal these discontents, in which he succeeds.]
The consequences to be apprehended from this unavailing manifestation of ill temper, soon induced all reflecting men to exert themselves to control it. In the commencement of its operation, General Washington, foreseeing the evils with which it was fraught, had laboured to prevent them. He addressed letters to General Sullivan, to General Heath, who commanded at Boston, and to other individuals of influence in New England, urging the necessity of correcting the intemperance of the moment, and of guarding against the interference of passion with the public interest.
Soon after the transmission of these letters, he received a resolution of congress, directing him to take every measure in his power to prevent the publication of the protest entered into by the officers of Sullivan's army. In his letter communicating this resolution, he said, "the disagreement between the army under your command and the fleet, has given me very singular uneasiness. The continent at large is concerned in our cordiality, and it should be kept up by all possible means, consistent with our honour and policy. First impressions, you know, are generally longest retained, and will serve to fix, in a great degree, our national character with the French. In our conduct towards them, we should remember that they are a people old in war, very strict in military etiquette, and apt to take fire when others scarcely seem warm. Permit me to recommend in the most particular manner, the cultivation of harmony and good agreement, and your endeavours to destroy that ill humour which may have found its way among the officers. It is of the utmost importance too, that the soldiers and the people should know nothing of this misunderstanding, or, if it has reached them, that means may be used to stop its progress, and prevent its effects." In a letter to General Greene, after expressing his fears that the seeds of dissension and distrust might be sown between the troops of the two nations, he added, "I depend much on your temper and influence, to conciliate that animosity which, I plainly perceive by a letter from the Marquis, subsists between the American and French officers in our service. This, you may be assured, will extend itself to the Count, and to the officers and men of his whole fleet, should they return to Rhode Island, unless a reconciliation shall have taken place. The Marquis speaks kindly of a letter from you to him on this subject. He will therefore take any advice from you in a friendly way; and, if he can be pacified, the other French gentlemen will, of course, be satisfied; since they look up to him as their head. The Marquis grounds his complaint on a general order of the 24th of August, and upon the universal clamour that prevailed against the French nation.
"I beg you will take every measure to keep the protest entered into by the general officers from being made public. Congress, sensible of the ill consequences that will flow from our differences being known to the world, have passed a resolve to that purpose. Upon the whole, my dear sir, you can conceive my meaning, better than I can express it, and I therefore fully depend on your exerting yourself to heal all private animosities between our principal officers and the French, and to prevent all illiberal expressions and reflections that may fall from the army at large."
[Footnote 9: Alluding, it is presumed, to the delicacy of suggesting to General Sullivan the mischief to be apprehended from any intemperate expressions.]
The General also seized the first opportunity to recommence his correspondence with the Count; and his letters, without noticing the disagreement which had taken place, were calculated to soothe every angry sensation which might have been excited. A letter from the admiral stating the whole transaction, was answered by General Washington in a manner so perfectly satisfactory, that the irritation which threatened such serious mischief, appears to have entirely subsided.
Congress also, in a resolution which was made public, expressed their perfect approbation of the conduct of the Count, and directed the president to assure him, in the letter which should transmit it, that they entertained the highest sense of his zeal and attachment.
These prudent and temperate measures restored harmony to the allied armies.
[Sidenote: Lord Howe resigns command of the British fleet.]
The storm under which the French fleet had suffered so severely did considerable damage also to that of Lord Howe. The British, however, had sustained less injury than the French, and were soon in a condition to put again to sea. Having received information that the Count D'Estaing had made for Boston, Lord Howe sailed for the same port, in the hope of reaching it before him. But in this he was disappointed. On entering the bay he found the French fleet already in Nantasket Road, where such judicious dispositions had been made for its defence, that he relinquished the idea of attacking it, and returned to New York; where he resigned the command to Admiral Gambier, who was to retain it till the arrival of Admiral Byron.
Finding that General Sullivan had retreated to the continent, Sir Henry Clinton returned to New York, leaving the command of the troops on board the transports with Major General Gray, who was directed to conduct an expedition to the eastward, as far as Buzzards bay.
[Sidenote: September 5.]
Gray entered Acushnet River, where he destroyed a number of privateers with their prizes, and some merchant vessels. He also reduced part of the towns of Bedford and Fairhaven to ashes, in which some military and naval stores had been collected. The troops re-embarked the next day, before the militia could be assembled in sufficient force to oppose them, and sailed to Martha's Vineyard, where they destroyed several vessels, and some salt works, and levied a heavy contribution of live stock on the inhabitants.
While so large a detachment from the British army was depredating the coasts of New England, preparations were making in New York for some distant expedition; and many were of opinion that the French fleet was its object. To be in readiness to oppose a combined attack by sea and land on the fleet, General Gates was directed with three brigades, to proceed by easy marches as far as Danbury, in Connecticut. And Washington moved northward to Fredericksburg; while General Putnam was detached with two brigades to the neighbourhood of West Point, and General M'Dougal, with two others, to join General Gates at Danbury.
[Sidenote: September 22.]
Soon after the return of General Gray from New England, the British army moved up the North River on each side in great force. The column on the west side, commanded by Lord Cornwallis, consisting of about five thousand men, took a position with its right on the river, and its left extending to Newbridge, on the Hackensack; while the other division, which was commanded by General Knyphausen, consisting of about three thousand men, was advanced about the same distance on the east side of the Hudson. The command of the river enabled these two columns to communicate freely with each other; and, at any time, to reunite. Although General Washington conjectured that this movement was made for the purpose of foraging, yet it was possible that the passes in the Highlands might be its object; and orders were given to the detachments on the lines to hold themselves in readiness to anticipate the execution of such a design.
Colonel Baylor, with his regiment of cavalry, had crossed the Hackensack early in the morning of the 27th of September, and taken quarters at Taupaun, or Herringtown, a small village near New Taupaun, where some militia were posted. Immediate notice of his position was given to Lord Cornwallis, who formed a plan to surprise and cut off both the cavalry and militia. The party designed to act against Colonel Baylor was commanded by General Gray, and that against the militia, by Lieutenant Colonel Campbell.
[Sidenote: September 28.]
[Sidenote: Colonel Baylor's regiment surprised.]
That part of the plan which was to be executed by Campbell was defeated by delays in passing the river, during which a deserter gave notice of his approach, and the militia saved themselves by flight. But the corps commanded by General Gray, guided by some of the country people, eluded the patrols, got into the rear of the sergeant's guard which had been posted at a bridge over the Hackensack, cut it off without alarming Baylor, and completely surprised his whole regiment. The British troops rushed into a barn where the Americans slept; and, refusing to give quarter, bayoneted for a time all they saw. Of one hundred and four privates, sixty-seven were killed, wounded, and taken. The number of prisoners, amounting to about forty, is stated to have been increased by the humanity of one of Gray's captains, who, notwithstanding his orders, gave quarter to the whole of the fourth troop. Colonel Baylor and Major Clough, who were both wounded with the bayonet, the first dangerously, the last mortally, were among the prisoners.
[Sidenote: September 30.]
[Sidenote: Captain Donop, with his corps, attacked by Colonel Butler, and defeated.]
Three days after this affair, Colonel Richard Butler, with a detachment of infantry, assisted by Major Lee with a part of his cavalry, fell in with a small party of chasseurs and yagers under Captain Donop, which he instantly charged, and, without the loss of a man, killed ten on the spot, and took the officer commanding the chasseur, and eighteen of the yagers, prisoners. Only the extreme roughness of the country, which impeded the action of the cavalry, and prevented part of the infantry from coming up, enabled a man of the enemy to escape. Some interest was taken at the time in this small affair, because it seemed, in some measure, to revenge the loss of Colonel Baylor.
After completing their forage, the British army returned to New York.
[Sidenote: Expedition of the British against Egg Harbour.]
This movement had been, in part, designed to cover an expedition against Little Egg Harbour, which was completely successful; and the works and store-houses at the place, as well as the merchandise and vessels, were entirely destroyed.
[Sidenote: Pulaski surprised, and his infantry cut off.]
It has been already stated that Count Pulaski had been appointed general of the American cavalry. The dissatisfaction given by this appointment to the officers, had induced him to resign his commission; but, thirsting for military fame, and zealous in the American cause, he obtained permission to raise a legionary corps, which he officered chiefly with foreigners, and commanded in person. In this corps, one Juliet, a deserter, had been admitted as an officer. The Count had been ordered to march from Trenton towards Little Egg Harbour, and was lying eight or ten miles from the coast, when this Juliet again deserted, carrying with him intelligence of Pulaski's strength and situation. A plan was formed to surprise him, which succeeded completely so far as respected his infantry, who were put to the bayonet. The British accounts of this expedition assert that the whole corps was destroyed. Pulaski stated his loss at about forty; and averred that on coming up with his cavalry to the relief of his infantry, he repulsed the enemy. It is probable that the one account diminishes the importance of this enterprise as much as the other magnifies it.
[Sidenote: October 12.]
Admiral Byron reached New York, and took command of the fleet about the middle of September. After repairing his shattered vessels, he sailed for the port of Boston. Soon after his arrival in the bay, fortune disconcerted all his plans. A furious storm drove him out to sea, and damaged his fleet so much that he found it necessary to put into the port of Rhode Island to refit. This favourable moment was seized by the Count D'Estaing, who sailed, on the 3d of November, for the West Indies.
Thus terminated an expedition from which the most important advantages had been anticipated. A variety of accidents had defeated plans judiciously formed, which had every probability in their favour.
The Marquis de Lafayette, ambitious of fame on another theatre, was desirous of returning to France. Expecting war on the continent of Europe, he was anxious to tender his services to his king, and to his native country.
From motives of real friendship as well as of policy, General Washington was desirous of preserving the connexion of this officer with the army, and of strengthening his attachment to America. He therefore expressed to congress his wish that Lafayette, instead of resigning his commission, might have unlimited leave of absence, to return when it should be convenient to himself; and might carry with him every mark of the confidence of the government.
This policy was adopted by congress in its full extent. The partiality of America for Lafayette was well placed. Never did a foreigner, whose primary attachments to his own country remained undiminished, feel more solicitude for the welfare of another, than was unceasingly manifested by this young nobleman, for the United States.
There being no prospect of an active winter campaign in the northern or middle states, and the climate admitting of military operations elsewhere, a detachment from the British army, consisting of five thousand men commanded by Major General Grant, sailed, early in November, under a strong convoy, for the West India Islands; and, towards the end of the same month, another embarkation was made for the southern parts of the continent. This second detachment was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Campbell, who was escorted by Commodore Hyde Parker, and was destined to act against the southern states.
As a force sufficient for the defence of New York yet remained, the American army retired into winter quarters. The main body was cantoned in Connecticut, on both sides the North River, about West Point, and at Middlebrook. Light troops were stationed nearer the lines; and the cavalry were drawn into the interior to recruit the horses for the next campaign. The distribution, the protection of the country, the security of important points, and a cheap and convenient supply of provisions, were consulted.
The troops again wintered in huts; but they were accustomed to this mode of passing that inclement season. Though far from being well clothed, their condition in that respect was so much improved by supplies from France, that they disregarded the inconveniences to which they were exposed.