Robert Tomes.

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

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time despatched two officers to Philadel
phia, to warn Congress of their approach.
The mutineers received their commander
with respect, but still insisted upon the
redress of their grievances as the condi
tion of a return to duty.

When Washington, who was then at
New Windsor, on the Hudson, heard of
the revolt, he advised General Wayne not
to employ force, for the number of the
insurgents was too great and their com
plaints too just to risk the hazard of such
a step. Besides, he was not sorry to see
the derelict Congress aroused by bayonets
to a proper sense of its duty toward the
suffering army. The commander-in-chief
had great confidence in Wayne, and rec
ommended him to get from the revolters
a statement of their grievances, which he
promised in a candid spirit to lay before
Congress and the general assembly of
Pennsylvania. Accordingly, on halting
at Princeton, the mutineers presented a
written programme of their demands to
Wayne, who immediately forwarded it to

Sir Henry Clinton received news of the
revolt of the American troops simultane
ously with Washington, and, thinking the
opportunity favorable for gaining over
the mutineers to the British cause, sent
two emissaries to Princeton to treat with

them. At the same time, mustering his
troops and ships at New York, he pre
pared to take advantage of the auspicious
result which he anticipated. The emis
saries (a British sergeant and one Ogden,
a tory of New Jersey) presented them
selves with a document, in which Sir Hen
ry promised the insurgents their arrears
of pay, including the amount of the de

J. */ O

preciation of the continental currency in
their possession, in gold, good clothing, a
free pardon for all past offences, and the
protection of the British government, if
they would lay down their arms and
march to New York, where no military
service, unless voluntary, would be re
quired of them. This proposition was re
jected by the Pennsylvania line to a man,
with scorn, and the document delivered
up to Wayne. The British emissaries,
however, were retained by the revolters
until their demands should have a hear
ing from the state.

Philadelphia was in a state of great agi
tation when the two officers despatched
by General Wayne galloped into the city
with news of the revolt. Joseph Reed,
the president of Pennsylvania, accompa
nied by some of the civil officers and a
committee of Congress, and escorted by
a mounted guard, hastened forward to
meet the disalfected troops. It was, how
ever, thought inexpedient to trust them
selves among them ; and Reed halted at
Trenton, whence he wrote to Wayne,
that, after the treatment of the marquis
Lafayette and General St. Clair, who had
been peremptorily ordered away from the
rebellious camp, whither they had gone
to interpose their good offices, he could




not venture to put himself in the power
of the excited soldiery.

This letter was read aloud by "Wayne
to the troops, and evidently with a favor
able effect. Thronging about the mes
senger who had brought it, the men anx
iously inquired if the president was un
friendly to them ; while some did not hesi
tate to express their aversion to the affair
in which they were engaged.

Finding, however, that the mutineers
had rejected the wily proffers of Sir Hen
ry Clinton, and trusting to their patriot
ism, Reed no longer hesitated to meet
them. " I have but one life to lose," he
wrote to the executive council of Penn
sylvania, " and my country has the first
claim to it." But no such sacrifice was
exacted from the patriotic president.

On approaching Princeton, Reed was
received with all the military honors : the
mutineers were drawn up in full array,
with arms presented ; and the artillery
would have fired a jubilant salute, had it
not been prevented, lest it might alarm
the country. A conference ensued, when
terms were agreed upon, by which the
revolters, having been guarantied a re
dress of their grievances, returned to duty.

The emissaries of the British command
er were now brought forward and deliv
ered up to General Wayne. "See, com
rades," exclaimed one of the leaders in the
mutiny, " Clinton takes us for traitors !
Let us show him that the American army
can furnish but Q^Q Arnold, and that Amer
ica has no truer friends than we." The
emissaries were subsequently tried, con
demned as spies, and hung. Sir Henry
thus found that the American soldiers.

however loose in discipline, were firm in
patriotism. He might have spared his
attempts at corruption, had he called to
mind the total failure of the proclamation
of Arnold, who was in every respect his
master in the art.

But the fidelity of these soldiers did
not stop with the seizure of the emissa
ries. When the reward of fifty guineas
each, which had been offered by General
Wayne for the apprehension of the British
agents, was proffered to the two sergeants
who brought them to the commander,
they refused it, saying, " Necessity wrung
from us the act of demanding justice from
Congress, but we desire no reward for do
ing our duty to our adopted country !"

The ill example of the Pennsylvanians
was soon followed by some of the New-
Jersey troops. In the middle of

Inn OQ

the night, a portion of the line,
nearly three hundred in number, then sta
tioned at Pornpton, revolted, claiming the
same privileges which had been conceded
to the Pennsylvanians, whose success was
well calculated to encourage the same
conduct in others. Washington, howev
er, who justly feared the effect of the in
dulgent treatment of the first mutineers,
was resolved to act more summarily with
the New-Jersey troops. He accordingly
despatched General Robert Howe, at the
head of five hundred men of the Massa
chusetts line, to force the malcontents to
unconditional submission.

At dawn of day, General Howe halted
within sight of the mutinous camp at
Pompton. Here, with some anx
iety lest his men, fraternizing
with their rebellious comrades, should re-

Jau. 27.



fuse to comply, he ordered his troops to
load. Each soldier obeyed with alacrity,
when Howe harangued his troops, and de
clared to them that the mutineers were
to be brought to unconditional submis
sion. Two fieldpieces were then drawn
forward, and the men ordered to surround
the huts in which the revolters had their
winter encampment, and where they were
mostly asleep at that early hour.

The general now sent his aid-de-camp
to summon the mutineers to appear on
parade unarmed, in front of their huts,
within five minutes. The time passed,
and none showed themselves. Another
messenger was sent to repeat the order.
It was instantaneously obeyed. Every
man presented himself as he had been
ordered, unarmed and without the least
show of resistance. Three of the ring
leaders were at once singled out, and, be
ing tried by the court-martial, standing
grim and cold on the spot, covered deep
with snow, were condemned to be imme
diately shot. Twelve of the most guilty
of their comrades were selected to be the
executioners ; and, when ordered to load
their muskets, they burst into an agony
of tears, at the dreadful office to which
they had been condemned.

The first criminal was a sergeant, and
an old offender. He was led a few yards
distant, and placed on his knees. Six of
the twelve executioners fired at the first
signal, three aiming at the head and three
at the breast. Their shots were ineffect
ual ; when the other six, who had been
reserved for such an emergency, fired and
put an end to the sufferings of the vic
tim. The second culprit was killed in-


stantaneously by the first fire ; and the
third, in the moment of expected death,
was pardoned by the intercession of his

Sir Henry Clinton had, in this instance,
made another desperate effort to tamper
with the patriotism of the mutineers, but
found his last attempt no less futile than
his previous ones. Thus ended the mem
orable mutiny of 1781 in the American
army, which so greatly alarmed the fears
of the patriots and so greatly encouraged
the hopes of their enemies. The result,
however, served to prove more than ever
the strength of the cause of America, for
it exhibited the most unruly and discon
tented of her people firm and constant
in loyalty to their country

These events, moreover, aroused the
people and Congress to more vigorous
action ; and efforts hitherto unprecedent
ed were made to raise money and supply
the wants of the army. Taxes were im
posed, and cheerfully acquiesced in ; and
during the year(1781) the "Bank of North
America" was established at Philadelphia,
under the supervision of Robert Morris,
a wealthy merchant of that city, to whose
superintendence Congress had recently
intrusted the national treasury. There
can be little doubt that it was principally
owing to the financial operations of this
distinguished patriot that the American
army was not disbanded by its own act,
and that Congress was enabled to com
mence offensive operations on the open
ing of the spring campaign for this year.
He assumed the collection of taxes, and
the supply of the army with flour ; and
he likewise used his private fortune and



his personal credit, without stint, to sus
tain the government*

Efforts had previously been made to
negotiate loans of money and obtain mili
tary supplies in different parts of Europe.
Spain had loaned only fourteen thousand
dollars, when nearly half a million was
the amount asked ; and France seemed
to feel that she had done quite enough
in sending her fleets and armies to Amer
ica. Colonel John Laurens, son of the
ex-president of Congress, was, in this ex

tremity, sent, on a special commission to
France ; and, contrary to usual etiquette,
he presented his memorial in person to
the king. He succeeded in obtaining a
subsidy of six millions of livres (one mil
lion two hundred thousand dollars), with
a further sum by way of loan, and guar
anty for a Dutch loan of five millions of
guilders (two millions of dollars). This
was intimated as being the very last pe
cuniary aid that could be granted to the
United States.*


Lord Cornwallis on the Heels of Morgan. His Escape. Interposition of Providence. General Greene to the Relict.
Promptitude in Business. A Hard Gallop. Greene on the Catawba. Hope in Misery. Cornwallis crosses the River.

A Dangerous Ford. The British in the Dark. The American Riflemen. A Bare Escape. A Noble Charger.

Tarleton in Pursuit. A Parthian Shot. Greene in Danger. At Stcele s Tavern. Penniless and hungry. Generos
ity of a Female Patriot. Flight and Pursuit. The British brought to a Halt. The Yadkin. Greene at Guilford
Courthouse. His Tactics.


LORD CORNWALLIS, having disen
cumbered himself of his baggage,
as already related, was able to push for
ward in pursuit of General Morgan with
great rapidity. He was, however, so bent
upon coming up with his energetic ene
my, that, quickly as his whole army was
moving, he yet detached a body of light-
troops to hasten on in advance. Not a
moment was lost; and, by forced marches
night and day, the detachment succeeded
in making such rapid progress, that it was
Boon at the heels, with every prospect of
immediately overtaking, Morgan and his

The American general, too, was spar-

* Losbing.

ing no effort to escape from his formida
ble pursuers ; but, encumbered as he was
with the wounded, the prisoners, and the
captured baggage, his progress was neces
sarily slower than that of his adversary.
Nevertheless, rapid as had been the move
ments of Cornwallis, his lordship, in de
stroying his heavy baggage and making
other preparations for the pursuit, had
consumed two days, which excited the
censure of the more active Tarleton, and
gave Morgan so much the start. The lat
ter finally reached and crossed the great
Catawba river, at Gowan s ford, thirty
miles north from the boundary of South
Carolina. The British came up in hot pur-

* Sparks.




Jan. 23,

suit just two hours after he had touched
the opposite bank of the stream. It be
ing late at night, and feeling con
fident of his prey, as he had been
at Trenton more than four years before,
the earl deferred his passage until morn
ing. But during the night the river had
so swollen by a sudden and heavy rain,
that it was impassable. Morgan was safe,
and with pious enthusiasm gratefully ac
knowledged that his escape was due to a
specinl interposition of Providence.

The waters of the rivers continuing to
overflow for two days, gave Morgan an
opportunity of sending off the prisoners
toward Virginia which he had taken at
Cowpens, and mustering the North-Caro
lina militia of the neighborhood to defend
the fords of the Catawba.

General Greene, at his camp on the
Great Pedee, heard of the " glorious ac
tion" at Cowpens, and soon afterward of
the rapid movements of Lord Cornwallis.
Finding Morgan hard pushed, he deter
mined to hasten to his relief. Business
pressed in upon him at the moment of
departure, but the prompt and energetic
Greene was equal to every emergency.
Word came that a British squadron had
entered the Cape-Fear river, and landed
troops at Wilmington, in North Carolina.
Their object was doubtless to co-operate
with Earl Cornwallis, and measures were
taken to prevent it. The southern states
were to be called to duty in the crisis;
and accordingly despatches were written
and sent forward to the governors of Vir
ginia and the Carolinas, urgently entreat
ing them to furnish aid in men, money,
and provisions. Baron Steuben, who was

in Virginia, pursuing Arnold toward the
seaboard, was urged by letter to hasten
forward his recruits for the southern army.
The mountaineers, who had been led to
victory by Campbell at King s mountain,
were besought to rally again from their
homes beyond the Alleghanies to the res
cue of their country. The Virginia mili
tia were quickly put in marching trim,
and sent forward to take charge of Mor
gan s prisoners and conduct them to their
own state, whither they themselves were
about to return, as their term of service
would soon expire. Provisions were col
lected, magazines established, stores re
moved to places of safe deposite, detach
ments called in, and all the complicated
details of preparation for a campaign,
promptly but efficiently accomplished by
the resolute Greene.

In his impatience to be with Morgan,
Greene did not await the marching of his
troops, but hurried on in advance, leaving
General Huger, of South Carolina, in com
mand, with orders to proceed by forced
marches to Salisbury, which was agreed
upon as the rendezvous for the whole ar
my. The general-in-chief, accompanied
only by an aid-de-camp, a guide, and a ser
geant s guard of dragoons, rode on in all
haste to join Morgan, whom he
reached at Sherrard s ford, after
a hard gallop of a hundred miles through
a rough country from his encampment op
posite Cheraw, a little below the bound
ary-line between the Carolinas.

General Greene found but seventeen
hundred men, including the militia, mus
tered under Morgan ; while Cornwallis,
now come up with his main body, was only



[PART n.

hindered by the still swollen waters from
crossing the Catawba, and bringing into
action his much more formidable force of
twenty-five hundred. The condition of
the American troops was not encoura-
o-iri"- "More than half our numbers,"

o O

wrote Greene, " are in a manner naked ;
so much so, that we can not put them on
the least kind of duty. Indeed, there is a
great number that have not a rag of clothes on
them, except a little piece of blanket, in the In
dian form, around their u aists" Yet such
was the undaunted spirit of their com
mander, that almost at the same moment
he could thus cheerfully express himself
in regard to the future : " I am not with
out hopes of ruining Lord Cornwallis, if
he persists in his mad scheme of pushing
through the country." His lordship was
pursuing a course similar to that of Bur-
goyne, in 1777; and what the action at
Bennington had been to the latter, the
battle of Cowpens was likely to prove to
the former.

The Catawba was falling fast, and the
enemy were eagerly watching for an op
portunity to cross. Greene did not pro
pose to dispute the passage, but deter
mined to retard it with a few militia, in
order to give his main body an opportu
nity of securing a safe retreat. His only
policy, with his meager and ill-conditioned
force, was to retire before his formidable
antagonist until he could form a junction
with the rest of his troops on their march
to Salisbury.

The river having now become
fordable, both armies made ar
rangements to move accordingly. The
general-in-chief ordered Morgan to march

Jan, 31,

in the evening with the main body, and
make all speed away, while he himself
remained behind to superintend the op
erations at the river. Two hundred of
the militia were distributed at the vari
ous fords ; while the rest, some three hun
dred in number, skilful riflemen, under
General Davidson, were stationed along
the banks of the stream, in order to watch
the movement of the enemy, and harass
them whenever and wherever they should

Cornwallis wisely chose the night for
making the passage ; and, in order to de
ceive the Americans, he sent a detach
ment, under Colonels Webster and Tarle-
ton, to cross without concealment at Beat-
tie s ford, as if this were the chosen route,
while he should throw his main body si
lently over at Gowan s. Hoping to find
this unfrequented ford without guard, his
van bewail to cross at one o clock in the


morning. The night was exces-

. 1 el), I,

sively (Lark and rainy. General

Davidson, however, not deceived by the
earl s manoeuvre, was on the alert, on the
opposite bank of the river, with his rifle
men hid under the cover of the woods,
ready to meet the enemy with their fatal
and unexpected fire.

The British troops found they could
not move with the ease and rapidity that
they expected. The approach to the ford
was through a woody swamp ; and the
wheels sank so deeply into the marsh,
that great delay w r as occasioned in get
ting the artillery-carriages forward. The
van of the troops, however, passed on into
the river, followed immediately by Corn
wallis in person, as it was feared that the




Btrearn might again become so swollen by
the rain which was falling as to render it
un ford able.

The Catawba at this point was about
five hundred yards in width; and the cur
rent was so rapid, and the bed of the river
so rough with loose stones, that the men
were obliged to support each other by
keeping in close ranks, lest they should
be thrown down and swept away by the
stream. The noisy turbulence of the wa
ters, and the exceeding darkness of the
night, prevented their approach from be
ing discovered until they had proceeded
nearly halfway across, when an American
sentry, having first challenged them three
times, fired.

The guide, hearing the whistling of the
balls, and finding that the ford was guard
ed, suddenly became alarmed and fled,
leaving the troops to find their way over
by themselves. Colonel Hale, who led
the van at the head of the grenadiers,
forbidding his men to fire till they should
land, immediately pushed on ; and, not
knowing the direction of the ford, which
crossed diagonally, he followed a straight
course, by which his men, though obliged
to flounder through much deeper water,
succeeded in crossing in safety, and land
ing at a point where they were unexpect
ed by Davidson and his militia. The Brit
ish were thus saved from meeting the fire
of the American riflemen, and its effect
was accordingly much less disastrous, al
though three of the enemy were killed
and thirty-six wounded by the first vol
ley. Colonel Hale was shot down as his
horse was springing to the bank. Lord
Cornwallis himself had a narrow escape,

for a rifle-ball wounded his horse in the
midst of the stream, although the spirited
animal bore his rider safely to the shore,
and then fell dead.

General Davidson now shifted his po
sition, in order to give his men a more
direct aim; but, in making the movement,
he was brought between the light of his
own fires and the advancing columns of
the British, who had landed in numbers.
Before he could form, the enemy pressed
forward, and, having killed or wounded
about forty of the Americans, put the re
mainder to flight. Davidson himself was
shot dead while mounting his horse to
follow his little band of riflemen.

No sooner had Cornwallis crossed the
Catawba, than he ordered Tarleton in pur
suit of the fugitives. This bold colonel of
dragoons was immediately in his saddle,
and, pushing on with full speed at the
head of his troopers, soon came upon the
traces of those whom he sought. About
a hundred of the militia, having reached
a tavern some ten miles from the river, in
cautiously tarried there to refresh them
selves. Suddenly the videttes came gal
loping in, with the cry, "Tarleton is upon
us !" The militia hurried to their horses,
and had scarcely mounted, when, surely
enough, the British dragoons were seen
hastening down the road. The American
riflemen, checking their steeds a moment,
rose in their stirrups, and, turning upon
their enemy, fired one volley from their
never-missing rifles, and then galloped ofi
at full speed. Tarleton, angered by this
Parthian shot, by which seven of his dra
goons and twenty horses had fallen, now
quickened his pace, and succeeded in com



[PART u.

ing up with some of the laggards in the
rear, who were badly mounted, and cut-
tin" 1 down about a score of them.


General Greene himself, accompanied
only by his suite of officers, was but seven
miles farther on the road, where Tarleton
could have readily captured him had he
known of his whereabouts. The Ameri- <
can commander awaited the arrival of Da
vidson and his men, but waited in vain,
until midnight, when finally, with a heavy
heart, he rode on to Salisbury.

"As Greene made his appearance at
Steele s tavern," says his biographer, who
describes the incident, " the disordered
state of his garments, the stiffness of his
limbs, the languor of His movements, the
dejection of his mood and manner, became
painfully apparent to every eye. Ap
proaching him, as he alighted from his
horse, his friend Doctor Read addressed
him with inquiries of most anxious solici
tude; to which he replied, not able to re
press his anguish, that he came alone, ex
hausted, penniless, and hungry. The re
ply did not escape the ears of the excel
lent landlady. His breakfast was soon
prepared and smoking; and he had scarce
ly finished it, when she presented herself;
closed the door of the apartment, and,
producing a small bag of specie in each
hand, she forced them upon him.

" Take them, said the noble woman;
you will need, and I can do without the

" Never did help come at a better sea
son. An acquisition so important to the
public service was not to be rejected
through scruples of mere delicacy ; and
Greene rose from the breakfast-table, no

Feb. 2.

longer penniless no longer succumbing
to the condition which had made him feel
himself so utterly alone."*

From Salisbury, Greene (having first
sent word to General Huger to hasten on
with his division of the army to Guilford
courthouse) rode forward to join Morgan,
whom he overtook in the even
ing, just as he was about crossing
the Yadkin. Lord Cornwallis was push
ing on close after him ; and an advance
detachment, under General O Hara, came
up so rapidly, that it overtook the rear of
the Americans, with whom it had a brisk
skirmish as they were crossing the river.
Greene having, by a happy foresight, se
cured all the boats and "flats," and the
rains in the meanwhile having flooded the
stream so as to render it unfordable, the
British had the provocation, as previously
at the Catawba, of beholding their enemy
passing over during the night and early
the next morning, without being able to
follow or harass them. General O Hara,
however, succeeded in capturing a few
baggage-wagons, which the Americans
were unable to take across before he ar

Earl Cornwallis, on coming up to the
western bank of the Yadkin, and finding

Online LibraryRobert TomesBattles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) → online text (page 107 of 126)