Robert Tomes.

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

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of light-infantry, and the Hessian yo.gcrs.
"Light-horse Harry" was at the head of
his famous legion of horse and foot, to
gether with some mountaineers and Vir
ginia militia. Tarleton came riding up
leisurely with his troop; and Lee, per
ceiving his approach, turned his force with
a rapid wheel, to get closer to the camp.
The British took this sudden movement
for a retreat, and, firing their pistols, came
on at a quick pace, and with a loud shout

At this moment, Lee brought his dra
goons to the right about, and fell with the
whole weight of his column upon the en
emy. Tarleton sounded a retreat on the
instant he discovered that the supposed
fugitives had turned upon him. Before
he could escape, however, many of his
troopers were dismounted, some of them
killed, and others made prisoners, while
their horses were thrown to the ground.
The strong, active, and high-conditioned
chargers, with the skilful horsemanship
of their Virginia riders, bred to the sad
dle, gave Lee s legion much the superior
ity in every contest with the cavalry of
Tarleton, who was forced to content him
self with any sorry animal that he could




pick up, while his troopers knew nothing
of riding but what they had learned in
the barrack-school. Not a single Ameri
can soldier or horse was injured in the

Tarleton fled with rapidity, hard pressed
by Lee, w r ho continued in pursuit until he
caught sight of the British guards coining
up, when he ordered his cavalry to retire.
The legion infantry, however, supported
by some Virginia riflemen, coming to his
rescue, Lee soon came to a stand, and,
after a sharp action with the guards (as
he found Cornwallis approaching), again
withdrew toward the main body.

In the meanwhile, Greene had drawn
up his army in three lines on a wooded
height near Guilford courthouse. The
first, composed of the North-Carolina mi
litia, under Generals Butler and Eaton,
was posted behind a rail-fence, with a long
and narrow open field in front, and woods
in the rear and on either side. At some
distance in advance of the militia, on the
road along which the enemy were expect
ed to approach, stood two six-pounders,
under Captain Singleton. Three hundred
yards behind the first line, across the road,
and under the cover of a deep wood, was
placed the second, composed of the Vir
ginia militia, under Generals Stevens and
Lawson. The third line, made up of the
four regiments of regulars, was thrown
back several hundred yards to the rear
of the second, and posted in a field on
the right of the road. The two Virginia
regiments formed the right wing, under
the command of Huger, and the two Ma
ryland the left, under Williams. Lieu
tenant-Colonel Washington with his cav

alry, Captain Kirkwood with the Dela
ware company, and Colonel Lynch with a
battalion of Virginia militia, covered the
right flank ; and Lieutenant-Colonel Lee
with his legion, together with some Vir
ginia riflemen under Colonel Campbell,
covered the left. In the rear of the whole
was stationed a small park of artillery.

As the head of the British came up the
road, Captain Singleton opened afire from
his two six-pounders in front of the Ameri
can lines, which was briskly returned by
a cannonade from the enemy s artillery.
Cornwallis came spiritedly to the attack,
rapidly forming his whole force as he ap
proached into one line. The seventy-first
British regiment,with the Hessian of Boxe,
were on the right, commanded by General
Leslie, and covered by the first battalion
of the guards, under Colonel Norton. The
left, under the command of Lieutenant-
Colonel Webster, was composed of the
twenty-third and thirty-third regiments,
and covered by General O Hara with his
grenadiers and the second battalion of the
guards. The artillery, supported by the
lightrinfantry of the guards, and i\\Q yagers
(German riflemen), moved along the road
in the centre ; and the cavalry in column,
under Tarleton, formed a corps of obser
vation and reserve behind.

As the British regulars came steadily
up, their undaunted look and confident
shouts struck terror to the hearts of the
inexperienced North Carolina militia/who,
after firing, contrary to orders, some dis
tant shots, turned and fled. The officers
strove to rally them, but all in vain, al
though not a man had been touched by
the enemy s shots! Like a torrent they



[PART n.

rushed headlong through the neighboring
woods, throwing away their arms, knap
sacks, and even canteens ! The British
advance was, however, checked awhile by
Lee s legion, which came up to the sup
port of the front.

The second line, composed of the Vir
ginia militia, stood their ground manful
ly. Their commander, General Stevens,
had taken the precaution to station sen
tinels behind them, with orders to shoot
down the first man that flinched. Open
ing their ranks to allow the fugitives of
the first line to make their way in their
fright to the rear, the Virginians closed
again, and presented such a firm front to
the enemy, that they were forced to bring
up a part of their reserve. The Virgin
ians were, however, finally compelled to
yield before the British bayonets and the
charge of their cavalry ; but not until the
brave General Stevens, who had hitherto
kept his men so well to their work, was
wounded in the thio;h. and while beinw;

o / o

carried off the field, ordered a retreat.
Supported by Colonel Lee s legion and
Campbell s riflemen, the spirited Virgin
ians were able to retire in good order to
the third line, where the regulars were
now prepared to bear the brunt of the

The British troops, inspirited by their
success in their attack on the front lines,
came down upon the American regulars
in the rear with great impetuosity. Colo
nel Webster, however, who led the left
wing of the enemy, was so stoutly met by
the first regiment of Marylanders on the
American right, that he was forced to fall
back beyond a ravine in his rear, and take

post on a height, until the rest of the Brit
ish line came up. The second regiment
of Marylanders, who were mostly raw re
cruits, held their ground less firmly, and
gave way before Stewart, leading on the
British guards.

The veterans of the first regiment of
Marylanders, however, who had just driv
en back Webster, came to the rescue of
their flying comrades, and began a ter
rific onslaught with fixed bayonets upon
their pursuers. The enemy, nevertheless,
fought desperately, and the issue seemed
uncertain ; when Colonel Washington, ma
king a charge with his cavalry, gave the
Americans manifestly the advantage. In
the ensuing struggle, the guards, having
lost their commander (Stewart), turned
and fled.

At this moment, Lord Cornwallis re
sorted to a desperate manoeuvre to save
the fortunes of the day. He brought up
his artillery, and opened a fire indiscrimi
nately upon friends and foes ! Brigadier
O Hara, among the bravest of the brave,
ventured to remonstrate, declaring that
it was suicidal. "True," replied his lord
ship ; " but it is a necessary evil, which
we must endure, to arrest impending de
struction." The fire was renewed, and
every ball discharged at the Americans
endangered the life of a British soldier.
Both friend and foe suffered terribly; but
Cornwallis, by this desperate expedient,
saved the day. The guards had a chance
to rally, as their pursuers were checked
by the cannonade ; and Colonel Webster,
returning in the meanwhile to the attack,
came up in time to throw his whole weight
in their favor, and thus to gain at last the




hard-earned victory. Tarleton, in com
mand of the cavalry in reserve, made a
faint show of pursuit, but Cornwallis soon
recalled his wearied troops. Greene was
enabled to draw off his force in good or
der to the bank of the Reedy fork (the
small stream which ran in the rear of
his position) ; and detached parties here
and there, under the cover of the woods,
as they retired from the field, still kept
up a skirmishing fire, by which the ene
my suffered severely.

The conflict, which lasted nearly two
hours, was one of the severest of the war.

Although the enemy remained masters
of the field, they were too much crippled
to follow up the victory. Their soldiers,
as usual, fought with great braver} 7 ; and,
as Marshall justly observes, " no battle in
the course of the war reflects more honor
on the courage of the British troops than
that of Guilford." A large part of Gen
eral Greene s force was, as we have seen,
untried militia; not one thousand of his
men had ever seen service ; and the vet
eran volunteers under Pickens had, some
days previously, been despatched to South
Carolina, where they were imperatively
demanded to meet the " black brigades"
which the British were seeking to em
body in that quarter during the absence
of the American army.

The havoc in both armies was great.
Of the British, ninety-three were killed
in the action, four hundred and thirteen
wounded, and twenty-six were missing.
Their officers, as usual, suffered greatly.
The Honorable Lieutenant-Colonel Stew
art, of tho guards, and four other officers,

were killed. Brigadier-Generals O Hara
and Howard (the latter a volunteer), Lieu
tenant-Colonels Webster and Tarleton
nine captains, four lieutenants, five en
signs, and two adjutants, one of whom was
a younger brother of the great Charles
James Fox, were among the wounded.
Webster s wound proved mortal, and Gen
eral O Hara s recovery from his injuries
was lon^ doubtful.


The loss of the Americans was more
than four hundred killed and wounded,
and eight or nine hundred missing; the
latter were principally the North-Carolina
militia, who had so disgracefully fled at
the beginning of the action.

Although the British claimed the vic
tory, it proved a barren one, and they de
plored its results as much as if it had been
a defeat. "Another such would ruin the
British army," said Fox, in the house of
commons. Frightful was the amount of
human suffering, as the English them
selves admitted, by which they had ob
tained their triumph. The wounded were
collected as expeditiously as possible; but
as they were scattered over the great ex
tent of wild ground which composed the
field of battle, many perished before the} 7
could be reached. The army was also
destitute of tents; and there w r as not a
sufficient number of houses, in that mea-
gerly-settled country, to receive the suf
ferers. The night which followed was in
tensely dark, the rain poured down in tor
rents, and the cries of the wounded and
dying, sounding dismally from the field
of conflict throughout every hour, struck
each human heart with terror.



[PART n.


General Greene still hopeful. Retreat of a Conqueror. Colonel Lee hangs on the Rear of Lord Cornwallis. Ureene
again in Pursuit. A Precipitate Flight. Greene in South Carolina. Cornwallis at Wilmington. Another Cam
paign. The Earl goes to Virginia. Strike the Traitor. Expedition against Arnold. Lafayette on the Move.

Movements of the French Fleet. Action with the British. Disputed Victory. General Phillips in Virginia. York-
town taken. Fire and Devastation. Success of Lafayette. The British at Mount Vernon. Terms. Rebuke of
Washington. Movements of Cornwallis in Virginia. His Exultation. His Contempt of Lafayette. Charley. Les
sons of Washington. Cautious System of Tactics. Tarleton on the Alert.


GENERAL GREENE was worn in body
by the fatigues and anxieties of the
hard struggle at Guilford courthouse, but
his resolute spirit was undismayed. From
the field of battle, where fate had decided
against him, he re treated to the iron-works
on Troublesome creek. Here he tarried
two days, in order to call in his scattered
forces, and while awaiting the manoeu
vres of the British commander, to make
ready to meet or thwart him. "Lord
Cornwallis," wrote Greene, " will not give
up this country, without being soundly
beaten. I wish our force was more com
petent to the business." He added, how
ever, more cheerfully, "But I am in hopes,
by little and little, to reduce him in time."
Cornwallis was in no disposition to fol
low up his dearly-bought triumph at Guil
ford courthouse with any immediate at
tempt at another such victory. With
nearly a third of his force slain, many of
his best officers killed or wounded, and
not a single benefit gained, he resolved,
conqueror as he was, to abandon western
Carolina to the possession of the Ameri
cans, and retreat toward the seaboard.
Accordingly, three days after his success
(having first issued an exultant but inef-

Mar. 18.

fectual proclamation, in which he boasted
of victory, called upon all good citizens to
join his standard, and offered pardon to
all " rebels" who should lay down their
arms), his lordship destroyed all his bag
gage, left his hospital and seventy of his
wounded to the vanquished foe,
and set out by slow marches, as
befitted the condition of his maimed ar
my, toward Cross creek.

Greene was on the alert, and followed
the retreating march of Cornwallis, and
would have hastened to overtake and give
him battle had he not been delayed by
the want of ammunition. Lee, with his
legion, and a militia-corps of riflemen,
however, being sent in advance, hovered
about the lagging march of the British
army, which was still so prostrated by its
disastrous victory, thnt hardly an attempt
was made to drive off the pertinacious
American skirmishers.

At length, obtaining the necessary sup
plies of ammunition, Greene again moved
on in pursuit, and reached liam-
say s mills, on the Deep river, in
Chatham county, just after Cornwallis had
crossed the stream. So precipitately had
his lordship decamped, that some of his





dead lay on the ground nnburied ; and a
welcome supply of fresh beef had been
left behind, upon which the famishing pa
triot soldiers fed voraciously. Here the
American commander was stayed by the
conduct of the militia, who, worn out by
their march through a rough country,
stripped of its meager supplies by the en
emy in advance, now insisted upon their
discharge, as their term of service had ex
pired. Greene was compelled to forego
his eager desire to overtake the earl, and,
after a short repose at Ramsay s mills,
found it expedient to shift the scene of
action to the southward. Accordingly,
with only a handful of continental troops
left, he marched toward Camden,
in South Carolina, where he ex
pected the co-operation of those active
partisans Sumter, Pickens, and Marion.

Cornwallis, though among staunch loy
alists in the Highland-Scotch settlements
on Cross creek, finding that the country
was too poor to support his troops, con
tinued his march to Wilmington, at the
mouth of Cape-Fear river, where Major
Craig had been established with a small
British force, and a large supply of stores
and provisions.

The earl had no sooner arrived
at Wilmington, and refreshed his
suffering troops, than he began, with his
usual prompt energy, to make ready for
another campaign. Hearing of General
Greene s movement to South Carolina, he
would have gone to the aid of Lord Raw-
don, at Camden, to whose danger he was
fearfully alive. It was too late, however,
to succor him now. To remain at Wil
mington was useless. His lordship there

fore determined to march his small force
(now consisting of only fourteen hundred
and thirty-five men, so fatal had been the
victory at Guilford courthouse and the
subsequent retreat) through North Caro
lina to Virginia, and there form a junction
with Generals Phillips and Arnold.

Arnold s destructive foray into Virgin
ia, and his threatening attitude at Ports
mouth, caused every American eagerly
to desire to crush the traitor. To extin
guish the malevolent power which the
ability of the man rendered him so capa
ble of exercising, was not the only motive,
however. To punish the betrayer of his
country was the desire of every patriotic
heart. When, therefore, the French fleet
was released from the harbor of Newport,
in Rhode Island, by a furious storm which
scattered the English blockading squad
ron, the opportunity of striking a blow at
Arnold was gladly welcomed.

The chevalier de Ternay having died
at Newport, M. Destouches, his successor,
agreed to send a portion of his naval force
to sail up the Chesapeake and blockade
Arnold in Portsmouth, while Washington
should despatch a detachment from his
army, under the command of Lafayette,
to enclose the traitor by land. Washing
ton subsequently urged the French ad
miral to proceed with his whole fleet and
a thousand troops (the French infantry
had been placed in winter-quarters atNew-
port in November, and the cavalry, de
tached from the legion of the duke de
Lauzun, were sent to the barracks con
structed at Lebanon, in Connecticut) to
the coast of Virginia; but M. Destouches
had already sent M. de Tilly to sea with




Fob, 0,

Feb. 20.

one ship of the line and two frig
ates, and was now unable, as the
British were again off Newport, to get any
more ships out of port.

Lafayette, with twelve hundred men,
followed De Tilly, marching by land to
form a junction with the baron
Steuben, who then commanded
in Virginia. " You are to do no act what
ever with Arnold," said Washington, in his
instructions to the young marquis, " that
directly or by implication may screen him
from the punishment due to his treason
and desertion, which, if he should fall into
your hands, you will execute in the most
summary manner."

The ardent Lafayette set out with san
guine hopes of success, which were, how
ever, dashed on his march by intelligence
of the failure of M. de Tilly, who found
on his arrival off Portsmouth that the
wary Arnold had cautiously moored his
vessels out of harm s way, up Elizabeth
river. The Frenchman, in attempting to
follow him, ran one of his frigates aground


and was obliged to give up the pursuit.
He now returned to Newport, having the
good luck on the southern coast to fall in
with the Romulus, a British fifty-gun ship,
which he captured.

In the meantime, Washington,
during a personal interview at
Newport with the French commanders,
had prevailed upon them to send their
whole fleet and eleven hundred men, un
der Baron de Vionienil, to attack Arnold
at Portsmouth. Lafayette s hopes were
again in the ascendant when he heard of
the grand demonstration which was to
be made by his countrymen, and hastened

II- h (

to join and welcome them. Leaving his
troops at Annapolis, in Maryland, he sailed
down Chesapeake bay in an open boat to
Virginia. Having paid a flying visit to
Steuben at York, where the veteran was
stirring up the whole population to arms,
the young marquis pressed forward to Pe
tersburg, where he learned that a fleet
had indeed arrived in Hampton roads, but
that the British admiral Arbuthnot, and
not the chevalier Destouches, commanded
it ! Lafayette now turned back with his
troops, until, receiving orders from Wash
ington, he once more took up his march
for Virginia.

The French fleet had sailed from New
port two days after the interview

J March 8.

between the allied commanders.

The English squadron, under Arbuthnot,
followed in pursuit on the 10th, and on
the 16th the two fleets came together ofl
Cape Henry, and had a sharp but brief
action, which lasted about an hour. The
English admiral gained his purpose by
driving the French ships away, and flying
his flag in triumph in the Chesapeake ;
although M. Destouches, forced as he was
to return to Newport, claimed the glory
of the victory.

Major-General Phillips, who was among
the officers captured at Saratoga, on the
surrender of Burgoyne, having
arrived at Portsmouth with a re
inforcement of more than two thousand
men, assumed the chief command. Up
to that time, the traitor Arnold had shared
neither the honors nor the booty won by
his marauding exploits in Virginia.

The British were now in such force as
to justify an inroad into the interior of

Mar, 2(5.



April 1.

the state. After remaining several weeks
at Portsmouth, to strengthen the fortifi
cations, General Phillips accordingly em
barked some twenty-five hundred men in
small armed vessels, and, accompanied by
Arnold (who was now subordinate in com
mand), ascended James river. Williams-
burg was taken, and all the public prop
erty in it destroyed. Yorktown was also
captured, and its shipyard, together with
some armed vessels and stores, burned.
The whole country about, villages and
plantations, were laid waste. Phillips and
Arnold next advancedagainstPetersburg,
and, after a spirited but ineffectual resist
ance on the part of the militia
under the command of General
Muhlenburg, destroyed its tobacco and
public warehouses.

Dividing their forces at Petersburg,
Phillips marched to Chesterfield court
house, where he destroyed the barracks
and stores. Arnold, in the meanwhile,
went to Osbrunes, where he destroyed the
tobacco ; and thence proceeded to War
wick, where he opened a fire from the
bank of James river upon a flotilla of
American armed vessels, which caused
their crews to scuttle them and fly to the
opposite shore.

Phillips and Arnold, again joining their
forces, now marched to Manchester, a vil
lage opposite to Richmond, with the view
of crossing James river to the latter place.
They had previously driven the baron
Steuben, with his little army of a thou
sand militia, across the Appomattox. The
energetic Lafayette, however, had antici
pated the invaders, having arrived just
the night before, and was now strongly

posted in the city with two thousand reg
ulars and militia, and a company of dra
goons. Phillips thereupon gave up his
design against Richmond ; and, after de
stroying the stores and a great quantity
of tobacco at Manchester, he and Arnold
retraced their devastating steps to Ber
muda Hundred. They soon afterward
re-embarked their troops and proceeded
down the river, when Lord Cornwallis,
who was then at Wilmington, gave them
notice that he was about marching into
Virginia. The two commanders then re
turned to Petersburg, where they await
ed the arrival of his lordship from North

It was during these marauds of the
British along the rivers of Virginia, that
an English cruiser sailed up the Potomac,
burning the dwellings, laying waste the
plantations, and exacting supplies from
the inhabitants. On coming to anchor off
Mount Vernon, a party of marines was
sent ashore to make a levy (with a threat
of destruction if resisted) upon Washing
ton s estate; when Mr. Lund Washington,
who, in the general s absence, acted as his
agent, went on board the frigate with a
supply of provisions, conciliated the com
mander, and saved the property. When
General Washington heard of the trans
action, he sternly rebuked his kinsman
Lund for making terms "with a parcel of
plundering scoundrels," and declared, in
his letter to him, " It would have been a
less painful circumstance to me, to have
heard that, in consequence of your non-
compliance with their request, they had
burnt my house and laid rny plantation

m ruins.



Way 13,

In consequence of the death
of General Phillips, three days
after his arrival at Petersburg, Arnold
again succeeded to the chief command of


the enemy s forces in Virginia.*

Lord Cormvallis, although his march
was a long and labrious one from North
Carolina, succeeded in completing it al
most without opposition, and in less than
a month. His journey had been greatly
facilitated by two boats mounted on car
riages, which were carried along with the
baggage of the army. His lordship, on
marching into Petersburg, was in
a state of high exultation. His
anxiety for the safety of the royal forces
in South Carolina was relieved by the in
telligence of Lord Rawdon s successful re
sistance to General Greene; and now r that
he had succeeded in forming a junction,
he believed his army sufficiently strong
to secure him the possession of Virginia.
Of the opposition of Lafayette and his
force he spoke with contempt. " The boy
can not escape me," wrote the earl in his
despatch to the British government.

Cornwallis, relieving Arnold (who re

Online LibraryRobert TomesBattles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) → online text (page 109 of 126)