Robert Tomes.

Battles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) online

. (page 106 of 126)
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ivith his cavalry. It would have been bet
ter than placing my own men in the rear
to shoot down those who broke from the
ranks. When men are forced to fight,
they will sell their lives dearly ; and I

knew that the dread of Tarleton s caval
ry would give due weight to the protec
tion of my bayonets, and keep my troops
from breaking, as Buford s regiment did."
Whatever may have been the different
opinions in regard to Morgan s choice of
ground, all agreed that the disposition of
his troops was masterly. At daybreak,

finding his enemy at hand, the

J *i n 1 7

American commander formed his

men in order of battle. He advanced two
parties of picked riflemen three hun
dred in all under Colonel Cunningham
of Georgia and Major M Dowell of South
Carolina, about a hundred and fifty yards
in front of the heights. Scattered loosely
along the whole line, they had orders
to feel the enemy as they approached,
and, while keeping up a desultory but
well-aimed fire, to retire to the front line,
composed of the main body of the militia,
led by the brave partisan, Colonel Pick-
ens, who, with his force of three hundred
practised riflemen, had joined Morgan
on his march. The continental infantry
and two companies of Virginia militia,
most of whom had already served as reg
ulars, under Captains Triplett and Tait,
were stationed on the slope of the ad
vanced height, at some distance in the
rear, and composed the second line, un
der the general command of Lieutenant-
Colonel Ho\vard, whose whole force num
bered four hundred men. Lieutenant-
Colonel Washington, with his dragoons,
reinforced by a company of mounted mi
litia, armed with sabres, and commanded
by Major M Call (one hundred and twen
ty-five in all), held the reserve, and took
post on the acclivity of the second of the




two heights, which were about eighty
yards distant from each other, and formed
the main ground upon which the Ameri
can commander awaited battle. By this
disposition, the militia, in whom there was
less trust, but who were skilful marksmen,
were thrust forward in sight, to distract
the enemy, while the regular troops were
held back in concealment, ready to push
forward with their firm and well-ordered
ranks in the crisis of the engagement.

Morgan now rode along the lines, and
exhorted his men to duty. First addres
sing himself to the militia, " he extolled
the zeal and bravery so often displayed
by them, when unsupported with the bay
onet or sword ; and declared his confi
dence that they could not fail in main
taining their reputation, when supported
by chosen bodies of horse and foot, and
conducted by himself. Nor did he forget
to glance at his unvarying fortune, and
superior experience ; or to mention how
often, with his corps of riflemen, he had
brought British troops, equal to those be
fore him, to submission. He described
the deep regret he had already experi
enced in being obliged, from prudential
considerations, to retire before an enemy
always in his power; exhorted the line to
be firm and steady; to fire with good aim;
and if they would pour in but two volleys,
at killing distance, he would take upon
himself to secure victory. To the conti-
nentals he was very brief. He reminded
them of the confidence he had always re
posed in their skill and courage ; assured
them that victory was certain if they act
ed well their part ; and desired them not
to be discouraged by the sudden retreat

of the militia, that being part of his plan
and orders. Then, taking post with this
line, he waited in stern silence for the
enemy."* His troops, refreshed by the
night s repose and the morning breakfast,
were eager and in good condition for the

Tarleton, with his usual impetuosity,
finding that Morgan was prepared to give
him battle, hastened into action. His
troops, without being allowed a moment
for rest or refreshment, jaded as they
were by their long and rapid march, were
quickly formed. Hurrying his infantry
into line, with two fieldpieces in the cen
tre and a troop of dragoons on either
flank, and ordering the seventy-first regi
ment under M Arthur, and the rest of the
reserve cavalry, to hold themselves in re
serve, Tarleton in person recklessly led
on the advance column before his whole
force had completely formed.

The light parties of militia soon gave
way, and ranged themselves with the first

/ / o

line, under Colonel Pickens. Tarleton
and his men pushed on with a shout, but
were met by a close and effective fire from
the militia marksmen. The British suf
fered severely, but continued to advance
with fixed bayonets, forcing the front line
back upon the second. Here the conti
nentals and the experienced Virginia mi
litia, under Colonel Howard, firmly stood
their ground, and gave the British ad
vance such a spirited reception, that their
commander was obliged to order up his
reserve. With this increase of force, the
enemy outstretched the American front,
and their cavalry threatened to turn its

* Lee.



right flank. Howard, seeing the danger,
immediately ordered his right company
to change its front. His men, however,

o / /

mistaking the order, fell back, and the
whole line followed, threatening total con
fusion. But at this moment Morgan rode
forward, and ordered them to retire to the
second height, where Colonel Washington
was ready to sustain them with the re
serve. The continentals, strengthened by
this support, and cheered by a rapid mes
sage from Washington," Give them a fire,
and I will charge them," fell back in ad
mirable order.

The British, in the meantime, seeing
this backward movement, and believing
that it was a flight, came on in a hurried
and confused pursuit. At this moment,
Colonel Howard ordered his continentals
to face about ; when they wheeled on the
instant, and poured upon the enemy a
close and murderous fire. The British
recoiled ; and Howard, seizing the favor
able opportunity, followed his advantage
with a charge of bayonets. In this crisis
of the battle, Colonel Washington encoun
tered the cavalry of Tarleton in a success-
fid charge. The militia recovered, and,
forming a new reserve, were ready to obey
the command of Morgan " to give them
but one more fire, and make the victory
secure !" The onset of Howard s conti
nentals, whose bayonets were interlocked
with those of the enemy, was irresistible.
They drove their antagonists before them,
and the day was won.

The concerted action of Morgan s whole
force at this most important moment was
the certain guaranty of victory. The en
emy were within thirty yards, tumultu-


ously shouting and advancing, when the
final fire of the Americans was given : the
survivors of the terrible discharge threw
down their weapons and fell upon their

During the heat of the action, some of
Tarleton s cavalry gained the rear and fell
upon the militia, who, after retiring, had
sought their horses, which, as was custom-
ary with them on going into battle, had
been picketed near by. Colonel Wash
ington, however, coining to the rescue,
drove off the English troopers, and joined
in the general and vigorous pursuit of the
enemy, who fled in confusion.

Tarleton strove to bring up the cavalry
left in reserve, with the hope of rallying
his whole force ; but, struck with panic,
they refused to obey his call. He him
self, with a few officers and a handful OL
brave men, struggled on with resolute
courage to the last, and were left almost
alone on the field.

The fugitive British dragoons were pur
sued by Colonel Washington for several
miles, but most of them escaped. Excited
by the prospect of capturing the formi
dable cavalry-leader whose successes had
hitherto been so uniform and so produc
tive of disaster to the Carolinas, the stal
wart Washington, who was a bold rider
and reckless of danger, had in the ea<;er-


ness of his pursuit advanced nearly thirty
yards in front of his regiment. Three
British dragoon-officers, observing him,
wheeled their horses about, and sprang
at him to cut him down. The officer on
the left had raised his sabre, and was
about striking a fatal blow, when Ser-

* Sinmis.



geant-Major Perry, who had galloped for
ward to the rescue of his colonel, with a
rapid and timely movement smote the
Englishman s sword-arm, and it fell pow
erless to his side. But the officer on the
right supplied the place of his disabled
comrade, and crossed swords with Wash
ington. The blade of the latter, being of
inferior temper, broke in the encounter,
and left him at the mercy of the foe. At
this moment, when a second blow would
have brought him to the ground, a little
henchman, or page, not fourteen years
of age, who was devoted to his master,
and carried no other weapon than a pis
tol at his saddle-bow, seasonably rode up,
and by a fortunate aim discharged its con
tents into the shoulder of the assailant,
whose arm dropped nerveless at his side.
The colonel in the meantime was engaged
in front with the third officer, who was
no less a personage than the formidable
Tarleton himself. Washington was ready
for him, and with his broken weapon skil
fully parried every sword-thrust; but his
antagonist, backing his horse a few paces,
drew a pistol, and firing, wounded him in
the knee, and brought the noble steed
which bore him to the ground.

The fortunate approach of the Ameri
cans arrested the further attempts of the
Briton upon their leader. The moment
was lost, and his flight was resumed. "The
British dragoons of Tarleton," observes
Simms, "had really never fought well.
They had repeatedly hacked to pieces a
fugitive or supplicating militia; but nei
ther at Bluckstock s, where they encoun
tered Sumter,nor at Co wpens, where they
met with Washington, did they maintain

Jan. 17.

the high renown which they had hitherto
acquired rather from good fortune than
desert. The star of Tarleton waned from
this moment. His operations grew lim
ited in extent and small in importance.
His defeat on this occasion, with that of
Ferguson at King s mountain, were the
first links in a grand chain of causes which
drew down ruin on the British interest in
South Carolina."

The whole loss of the Americans at the
important engagement of Cowpens was
seventy men, of whom, strange
to say, only twelve were killed.
One hundred of the British, including ten
officers, were killed, and nearly two hun
dred wounded ; twenty-three officers and
five hundred privates were taken prison
ers. " Mark the epaulette men !" was the
significant whisper of Pickens s riflemen
to each other on the first advance of the
British column ; and the large number
killed or disabled in the action shows the
heed given to the suggestion by these

o Co /

sharpshooters, many of whom were burn
ing with a keen sense of personal injury.
Two fieldpieces, two standards, eight
hundred muskets, thirty-five baggage-
wagons., with a large amount of ammuni
tion, one hundred dragoon-horses, a trav
elling-forge, seventy negroes, and all the
music, were the spoils taken by the vic
torious Morgan, whose services on that
day were highly lauded throughout the
country. Congress presented him with
a gold medal, commemorative of his vic
tory ; to Colonel Pickens was given a
sword, to Lieutenant -Col on els Howard
and Washington each a silver medal, and
to Captain Triplett a sword.



Lord Corn wallis, in his camp on Turkey
creek, within twenty-five miles of Cow-
pens, and whither he had marched to fol
low up the presumed success of Tarleton,
now heard with dismay of the defeat of
his trusty dragoon. This failure, like that
of the capable Ferguson, seemed to be a
fatal omen to the proposed North-Caro
lina campaign. His lordship had been
sanguine of success now as then, and in
both instances the result had been equal
ly disastrous. The earl, however, spirit
edly strove to repair his past losses by
the most vigorous efforts to secure suc
cess for the future.

In order to quicken his movements
for he found that nothing could be done
in that rough country, and against his

alert enemy, without light troops his
lordship determined to sacrifice his bag
gage. Everything was destroyed except
a small supply of clothing, and a sufficient
number of wagons for the conveyance of
hospital-stores, of salt, of ammunition, and
for the accommodation of the sick and
wounded. The earl, showing the exam
ple, by first destroying his own baggage,
his officers and men cheerfully followed,
and every superfluity was given up.

Thus lightened, and being reinforced
by fifteen hundred troops from Charles
ton, under General Leslie, Cornwallis con
centrated his forces and hastened in pur
suit of the victorious Morgan, who, imme
diately after his triumph, crossed Broad
river, and pushed on to the Catawba.


General Arnold bids for Traitors. Chafing for Action. Expedition to Virginia. Debarkation of Arnold. The Fight at
Richmond. Escape of Jefferson. Huthless Devastations. Richmond burnt. Jefferson to the Rescue. Retreat of
Arnold to Portsmouth. Discontent of the American Troops. Mutiny of the Pennsylvanians. General Wayne in
terposes. March of the Mutineers. Appeal from the Enemy. Mutiny not Treason. Agitation in Philadelphia.
Reed to the Rescue. Fate of the British Emissaries. Revolt of the New-Jersey Troops. Quelled by General Howe.
The Ringleaders shot. A Sad Execution. Desperate Tampering with Patriotism. Strength of the American
Cause. The Good Results following the Mutinies.


ARNOLD, now a brigadier-general
in the British army, finding his ef
forts to justify his crime in his "address
to the inhabitants of America" as futile
as was his "proclamation" to induce the
American officers and soldiers to follow
his example of treason, burned with ma
licious spite to revenge his disappoint
ment upon his country, which he had so
basely striven to ruin. Chafing, too, at

the undisguised contempt of those to
whose corrupt service he had sold his
honor, he sought relief from the scorn of
others, and perhaps from his own remorse,
in the excitement of action.

Sir Henry Clinton soon gave Arnold
the opportunity he sought of staining his
sword with the blood of his countrymen.
The troops under General Leslie having
been diverted to South Carolina, it was



[TAUT n.

determined to send another expedition to
Virginia. A miscellaneous detachment


of seventeen hundred men, consisting of
British regulars, refugees, and German
mercenaries, was accordingly despatched
on this service. The renegade Arnold
was given the chief command, although
Sir Henry Clinton, naturally distrustful
of his new ally, took care to associate with
him Colonels Dundas and Simcoe, men of
well-tried fidelity, whom Arnold was strict
ly ordered to consult, and without whose
concurrence he was forbidden to take a
single step of importance.

The object of the expedition,
which was one of plunder and
devastation, suited well the present tem
per of the arch-traitor ; and, as he sailed
away from the harbor of New York, with
his troops on board some fifty small ves
sels, he uttered the malignant boast that
he would give the Americans a blow that
would "make the whole continent shake."
The fleet had hardly sailed, when a severe
storm arose, which scattered the ships;
and, to keep them from foundering, one
half of the cavalry-horses and several of
the large guns had to be thrown over
board. The half-wrecked vessels, with the
exception of three transports and a man-
of-war, at last gathered together off the

Dec, 30, Cape>S f tllt3 Chesapeake, and en
tered Hampton roads. The mis
sing ships did not arrive until four days

1 78 1, Wifa his usual promptitude of
action, Arnold immediately seized
upon some small boats, put nine hundred
men on board, and, like a pirate, sailed up
James river, plundering and rava^in"- as


he went, and finally landed at
Westover, the ancient seat of the
Byrd family, only twenty-five miles below
Richmond, the capital of Virginia.

Thomas Jefferson, then governor of the
state, immediately called out the militia ;
but so few obeyed the summons, that Jef
ferson was forced to give up all hope of
defending Richmond. Some of the pub
lic property was hastily removed to the
country ; and the governor and the state
officers, finding that the rapid Arnold had
already reached Four-mile creek, only
twelve miles below Richmond, speedily
followed. Jefferson fled during the nio-ht.


Early next morning, Arnold was in pos
session of the capital, where he had hoped
to catch the governor ; but he had made
his escape just in time. Thus foiled in
his effort to capture the illustrious author
of the Declaration of Independence, the
traitor sent a deputation of the citizens
of Richmond to him, with the declaration
that he would not destroy the city if the
British vessels were allowed to come up
without interruption to the docks, and
load with the tobacco. This proposition
was, however, scornfully rejected by Jef

Arnold now no longer withheld his de
vastating hand. He despatched Colonel
Simcoe, with four hundred men,
to destroy the storehouses ani
foundries at Wrotham. Arnold s coadju
tor faithfully did his bidding, and not only
destroyed the property of the state, but
also some of the public documents and
archives which had been conveyed there
for security. Simcoe returned to Rich
mond without having received the least

Jan, 6,




hinderance in his ruthless expedition, and
joined Arnold in his destruction of that
city. All the public buildings were set
on fire, as well as the tobacco-warehouses ;
and, leaving "an atmosphere that smelt
as if a million of pipes and a million of
cigars were smoking together," the rene
gade quitted the capital and encamped
at Four-mile creek.

On the following day, Arnold
descended James river to West-
over, where he had first landed. In the
meantime, Governor Jefferson returned to
the ruins of Richmond, and, by another
effort succeeded in bringing a small mili
tia-force into the field, which made an oc
casional resistance to the marauders, but
without much effect. Arnold, finding that
Baron Steuben, who was in command in
Virginia, was preparing to cut him off,
and Jefferson having offered a reward of
five thousand guineas for his capture, now
hastened to his boats and proceeded down
the stream to Portsmouth, oppo
site Norfolk, on Elizabeth river,
where, being reinforced by the arrival of
more troops from New York, he fortified
and prepared to hold the town.

Arnold s " proclamation" to the officers
and soldiers of the American army, which
he had issued at New York immediately
after the detection of his treason, and two
months before his marauding expedition
to Virginia, was artfully addressed at the
most opportune period for his malignant
purpose. The American soldiers were
discontented. " Poorly clothed, badly fed,
and worse paid, some of them not having
received a paper dollar for nearly twelve
months; exposed to winter s piercing cold,

Jan, 20,

to drifting snow, and chilling blasts, with
no protection but old worn-out coats, tat
tered linen overalls, and but one blanket
between three men. The officers in gen
eral, as well as myself, find it necessary
to stand for hours every day, exposed to
wind and weather, among these poor na
ked fellows, while they are working at
their huts and redoubts, often assisting
with our own hands, in order to procure
a conviction to their minds that we share,
and more than share, every vicissitude in
common with them sometimes asking


to participate in their bread and water."
Such is the relation, by their commander,
Wayne, of the sufferings of the Pennsyl
vania troops of the line, while in their
winter -quarters at Morristown. These
consisted of six regiments (about two
thousand men), who were exposed to ev
ery privation and hardship. Their mis
ery was the misery of all the troops com
posing the northern army at the close of
the year 1780 ; and such was the general
discontent, that universal mutiny seemed
not improbable. The Pennsylvania regi
ments, however, were those to show the
example. They were excellent soldiers,
and, although mostly natives of Ireland,
of undoubted fidelity to the cause of their
adopted country. But they were char
acteristically excitable, and more readily
led into sudden bursts of passionate ex
cess ; while apart from the common in
citement to re volt, there was an additional
grievance to stir their indignation. The
promises which had been often made by
Congress had been as often unfulfilled ;
and now the expression in their enlist
ment agreement, to " serve for three years,



or during the war," which was intended
for less than three years if the tuar should
sooner end, was ungenerously interpreted
to mean until the end of the tear, if it should
last longer. This interpretation was nat
urally regarded by them as chicanery, at
which they felt greatly exasperated. In
common with others, they had suffered
year after year from lack of money, cloth
ing, and sometimes food. The little conti
nental money which they had been receiv
ing was now worthless, and hitherto there
had been a continued loss upon it by de
preciation ; and the pay of both officers
and men was greatly in arrears. Still, up
to the close of 1780, these troops had ex
hibited nothing beyond the usual signs
of discontent.

The three years enlistment of most of
the Pennsylvanians expired at the begin
ning of the new year; and they
had the mortification of seeing
a bounty of about twenty-five dollars of
fered to raw recruits, while they, the vet
erans of three years, whose wages yet re
mained unsettled, were offered no more.
All these grievances combined formed a
serious cause for complaint. The officers
had already murmured some; and the
common soldiers, encouraged by their ex
ample, acted with boldness.. According
ly, on the night of the first of January,
when inflamed with the drink and excite
ment of the new-year holyday, they sud
denly broke out into open revolt.

On a signal being given, the non-com
missioned officers as well as the privates
of three regiments of the Pennsylvania
line, who considered their terms of en
listment as expired, and mmiberincr in all

thirteen hundred men, turned out under
arms, and declared that they would march
to Philadelphia, and either obtain a re
dress of their grievances from Congress
or serve no longer. The officers of the
line collected those who remained, and
with these strove to quell the mutiny, and
arrest the march of the insurgents, but a
captain was killed and three other officers
wounded in the vain attempt. The mu
tineers then forced the minority to join
them, under a threat of instant death if
they should refuse.

Their commander, General Wayne, in
terposed, and strove to appease them with
words, but the excited soldiery would not
listen to what he had to say. He then
drew his pistols, and advanced upon them
as if to fire. Presenting their bayonets
to his breast, they exclaimed : " We love
and respect you ; but, if you fire, you are
a dead man ! We are not going to the
enemy. On the contrary, if they were
now to come out, you should see us fight
under your orders with as much alacrity
as ever ; but we will no longer be amused.
We are determined on obtaining what is
our just due."

Electing temporary officers from their
own body, and giving a sergeant-major
(who was a former deserter from the Brit
ish army) the chief command, with the
title of major-general, the mutineers pro
ceeded to the magazines, and supplied
themselves with ammunition, and provis
ions for immediate use ; seized six field-
pieces, and horses from Wayne s stables
to drag them; and then set out on their
march to Princeton. General Wayne, in
order that theirnecessitiesmight notforce




them to make depreciations on private
property, sent them supplies of provis
ions, and soon after followed in company
with Colonels Butler and Stewart, whom
they highly esteemed, that he might ex
ercise the moral influence which he still
possessed in guiding their movements and
checking their excesses. He at the same

Online LibraryRobert TomesBattles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) → online text (page 106 of 126)