Robert Tomes.

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

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turned to New York) of his command,
with his usual promptitude, delayed but
a few days at Petersburg, and then set out
in pursuit of the young marquis. Cros
sing James river, he entered Richmond,
which Lafayette, with his inferi
or force, was obliged to evacuate.
The earl now directed his march through

May 27

* It is said that, while on this expedition, Arnold in
quired of an American captain, whom he had taken prison
er, what the Americans would do with him, if he should
fall into their hands. The officer replied that they would
cut off his lame leg. and hury it with the honors of war,
and hang the remainder of his hody on a gibbet.

Hanover county, closely watched by his
youthful antagonist, though at a guarded
distance. While the two generals were
on the same side of James river, Cornwal
lis formed a plan for taking the young
Frenchman by surprise, but was diverted
from his intention by an American whom
Lafayette had sent into the British camp
as a spy, to obtain intelligence. Gordon
tells the story :

" The marquis was very desirous of ob
taining full intelligence concerning his
lordship; and concluded upon prevailing,
if possible, upon one Charles (generally
called Charley) Morgan, a Jersey soldier,
of whom he had entertained a favorable
opinion, to turn deserter, and go over to
the British army, in order to his execu
ting the business of a spy more effectu
ally. Charley was sent for, and agreed
to undertake the hazardous employ; but
insisted that, in case he should be discov
ered and hanged, the marquis, to secure
his reputation, should have it inserted in
the Jersey paper that he was sent upon
the service by his commander.

" Charley deserted, and, when he had
reached the royal army, was carried be
fore his lordship, who inquired into the
reason of his deserting, and received for
answer I have been, my lord, with the
American army from the beginning, and
while under General Washington was sat
isfied; but, being put under a Frenchman,
I do not like it, and have left the service.
His lordship commended and rewarded
his conduct. Charley was very diligent
of his military duty, and was not in the
least suspected, but at the same time care
fully observed all that passed. One day,




while on particular duty with his com
rades, Cornwallis, in close conversation
with some officers, called Charley to him,
and said, How long will it take the mar
quis to cross James river? Charley paused
a moment and answered, l Three hours,
my lord. His lordship exclaimed, Three
hours ! why, it will take three days.
f No, my lord, said -Charley; the marquis
has so many boats, and each boat will car
ry so many men. If your lordship will
be at the trouble of calculating, you will
find he can cross in three hours. His
lordship turned to the officers, and in the
hearing of Charley remarked/ The scheme
will not do.

" Charley concluded that this was the
moment for his returning to the marquis.
He as soon as possible plied his comrades
with grog till they were well warmed, and
then opened his masked battery. Pie com
plained of the wants that prevailed in the
British camp, commended the supplies
with which the Americans abounded, ex
pressed his inclination to return, and then
asked, What say you, will you go with
me ? They agreed. It was left with him
to manage as to the sentries. To the first
he offered, in a very friendly manner, the
taking of a draught out of his canteen.
While the fellow was drinking, Charley
secured his arms, and then proposed his
deserting with them, to which he consent
ed through necessity. The second was
served in like manner. Charley Morgan,
by his management, carried off seven de
serters with him. When he had reached
the American army, and was brought to
headquarters, the marquis, upon seeing
him, cried out, Ha ! Charley, are you got

back? Yes, and please your excellency,
and have brought seven more with me,
was the answer. When Charley had re
lated the reason of his returning, and the
observations he had made, the marquis
offered him money ; but he declined ac
cepting it, and only desired to have his
gun again. The marquis then proposed
to promote him to the rank of a corporal
or a sergeant. To this Morgan replied :
I will not have any promotion. I have
abilities for a common soldier, and have
a good character ; should I be promoted,
my abilities may not answer, and I may
lose my character. He, however, nobly
requested for his fellow-soldiers, who were
not so well supplied with shoes, stockings,
and clothing, as himself, that the marquis
would promise to do what he could to re
lieve their distresses, which he easily ob

Cornwallis strove in vain to force the
young marquis to action, who, under the
teachings and example of Washington,
had learned to repress his youthful ardor,
and was now prudently carrying out a
cautious system of tactics. Lafayette s
force, moreover, was small ; and, before
attempting any offensive operations, he
desired to unite with General Wayne, who,
sent by Washington, was now on his way
with eight hundred troops of the Penn
sylvania line, to form a junction with the
southern army. The whole force of the
marquis hardly amounted to three thou
sand men, of whom two thirds were mi

Lord Cornwallis, on the contrary, rein
forced by a detachment of troops from
New York, now led an army of four thou




sand regulars, of whom eight hundred
were cavalry, and many of them mounted
on the choicest horses from the stables
of the rich Virginia planters. Tarle ton s
troopers were never before in such fine

condition for service, and that renowned
colonel was ready to make a dash here,
there, and everywhere, against the con
tumacious " rebels," at the quick bidding
of his prompt commander.


Colonel Tarle ton in Full Activity. Beating up the Governor. Pouncing upon the Assembly. Bare Escape of Jefferson.
Respect for Literature. A sup of Good Wine. Destruction of Stores. Junction with Colonel Simcoe. Steuben
deluded. Lafayette reinforced. "The Boy" not easily caught. Increased respect for the Marquis. Lord Cornwal-
li-s retreats to Portsmouth. A Drawn Battle. Stratagem of Corn wall is. Impetuosity of General Wayne. Success of
his Lordship. Losses. Alarm of Sir Henry Clinton. Orders and Counter-Orders. Lafayette in Credit. Scheme of
General Greene. Its Dangers. Cornwallis in Straits. Greene before Camden. Tory Information. Camden unas
sailable. Greene strives to provoke Earl Rawdon to Battle. Lee and Marion. A Fighting-Pen.- Mayham s Tower.
The Enemy forced to capitulate. His Lordship resolved on an engagement. The Americans at Hobkirk s Hill
They are reinforced and supplied. Battle of Hobkirk s Hill. The Order of Battle. The Struggle. Gunby s Veter
ans. An Error. Victory of the British. The Pursuit checked. The Losses.


LORD CORNWALLIS found active ser

vice for the bold Colonel Tarleton.
He was detached, with one hundred and
eighty of his dragoons and seventy mount
ed infantry, to beat up Governor Jeffer
son and the members of the state assem
bly, who had removed from Richmond to
Charloltesvile, to be out of harm s way.
Tarleton and his men, with their Virginia
racehorses, made a rapid stride across the
country from the capital ; destroyed a
quantity of supplies for the American ar
my on the way ; dashed through the Ri-
vanna, a branch of James river, that wash
es the ibot of the hill on which Charlottes-
ville stands ; dispersed a militia-guard on
the opposite bank ; spurred up the hill
into the town, and suddenly pounced up
on the assembly. Seven only of the mem
bers, however, were captured, the rest hav
ing made their escape on fresh horses,

which Tarleton s cavalry, blown by their
hard day s run, could not overtake. Gov
ernor Jefferson had hardly been gone ten
minutes, when some of Tarleton s men
entered the dwelling from which he had
made his escape on a fleet horse, by a
narrow lane leading across the country
from the rear of his house at Monticello.
The books and papers of the governor
were not harmed, but the thirsty troop
ers made free with his wine. After de
stroying one thousand new firelocks, four
hundred barrels of gunpowder, a quantity
of military stores, and many hogsheads of
tobacco, Tarleton quitted Charlottesville,
and led his force down the river, to join
Colonel Simcoe, who had been detached
with five hundred infantry to destroy the
military stores at the Point of York, fifty
miles above Richmond, where the Rivan-
na and the Fluvanna join their waters.


Baron Steuben, however, was on the
alert; and when the British arrived on
one side of the stream, they found that
he had moved the stores and all his force
but a small guard to the other. Simcoe,
notwithstanding, who was as cunning as
a fox, by extending his encampment, suc
ceeded in giving the veteran Steuben the
impression that the whole British army
was before him. The baron, thus deluded,
felt compelled to fly during the following
night, and in such haste and confusion,
that he left behind him his arms and mil
itary stores. A small patrol, however, re
mained to watch the enemy; but the next
morning a detachment of Simcoe s force
crossed the river in canoes, and, dispersing
the patrol, destroyed the stores.

Steuben now hastened to join Lafay
ette, who was on a rapid march to meet
General Wayne. The junction
with Wayne and Steuben being
effected, in the valley of the Rappahan-
nock, the marquis was enabled to turn
and face the enemy. Lord Cornwallis
had succeeded in getting between him
and a large deposit of military stores at
Albemarle Old courthouse, at which his
lordship was now aiming. The marquis,
however, was able to steal a march upon
his antagonist by taking a cross-road, and
strongly posted himself at the place sev
eral hours before the earl made his ap
pearance. Cornwallis, finding that "the
boy" was not so easily caught, began to
entertain a greater respect for his youth
ful adversary. He now evinced his in
creased good opinion of him by declining
to accept his challenge to battle, and re
treated (while followed by Lafayette) to


June 7.

June 23,

Richmond, and subsequently down the
peninsula, across the Chickaho
miny, until he arrived at Wil-
liamsburg. Here his lordship, four days
afterward, received a despatch from Sir
Henry Clinton, with orders to take post
near the seashore, and to send a portion
of his troops to New York, as there was
great alarm felt by the British command-
er-in-chief at the discovery that Washing
ton, together with Count de Rochambeau
and the French fleet, designed a joint at
tack upon that city.

Followed so closely as he was by the
young marquis, whose force now num
bered about four thousand men, Cornwal
lis felt that he could not prudently re
main at Williamsburg, with a diminished
force, and he consequently determined
to seek the cover of Portsmouth, protect
ed by the fleet and fortifications. While
preparing to move, he sent out Colonel
Sirncoe and his rangers to destroy some
stores on the Chickahominy river, and to
drive in the cattle from the neighboring
plantations. Lafayette resolved to inter
cept them, and for that purpose detached
a skirmishing-party under the command
of Lieutenant-Colonel Butler and Major
M Pherson. A struggle ensued, in which
both parties fought spiritedly, but with
such equal results, that neither could just
ly claim the victory.

Having completed their preparations
for departure, the British now inarched

from Williamsburg to the ford

T July 4,

at old Jamestown, across James

river. Here Cornwallis cunningly made
a feint of passing over his whole army ;
while, with a great show of bustle, his



July 6,

lordship merely sent across a vanguard.
On the following day the wheel-carriages
were transported, and on the 6th the bat-
horses and baggage were all passed over.
The object of the earl was, to deceive
Lafayette, who had now followed within
nine miles, and was watching the oppor
tunity to fall upon the British rear-guard
after the main body had crossed. To
give further efficacy to the stratagem,
Tarleton instructed one of his dragoons
and a negro to pretend to be deserters,
and, throwing themselves in the way of
the American sentinels, to give out that
the main body of the British army had
passed the river.

The stratagem was successful.
General Wayne and his force of
eight hundred Pennsylvanians were de
spatched in advance, to make the first at
tack, while Lafayette held back in reserve
to sustain them. As the Americans came
up, the British pickets were ordered to
allow themselves to be driven in, in or
der to further still more the deception.
Wayne continued to push on with his
usual impetuosity, until he found himself
confronted by the whole British army !
Even now, with reckless valor, he ordered
his men to charge, and was soon engaged
in a desperate encounter with an over
whelming force. Lafayette, now discov
ering Wayne s danger, rode up and or
dered him to retire, which he did in tol
erable order, under cover of the militia,
though he was obliged to leave his can
non behind him. Night was now closing,
and the British commander did not pur
sue. The conflict, though brief, had been
bloody. The English lost five officers and

seventy-five privates. The American loss
in killed, wounded, and prisoners, amount
ed to one hundred and eighteen in all, in
cluding ten officers.

On the same evening, Cornwallis, hav
ing called in all his detachments, passed

over to Jamestown island. A few

, P , , , , T July 12.

days afterward, tie crossed James

river with his whole force, and proceeded
leisurely by land toward the seaboard.
After a march of a little over two weeks,
his lordship arrived at Portsmouth, oppo
site Norfolk, where he embarked
the portion of his troops which
Sir Henry Clinton, in his fears for New
York, had called for. Before the trans
ports had set sail, however, a counter-or
der was received, as Sir Henry found that
New York was no longer in danger, since
Washington and his French allies had
changed their plans.

Lafayette, after the struggle, retired
up James river to Green springs, where
he halted to refresh his troops and await
events. In the meantime, he congratu
lated himself with the reflection that his
Virginia campaign had not been inglori
ous, as he had succeeded in inflicting upon
" his lordship the disgrace of a retreat."
lie did not fail, however, to acknowledge
that Washington s tactics, in drawing the
attention of the enemy to New York, and
thus weakening Earl Cornwallis, had been
more effective than his own military ma
noeuvres. The young marquis, neverthe
less, earned great credit for the prudence
(hardly to be expected from so ardent a
youth) with which he had conducted the
campaign. Moreover, in consideration of
the great military talents which he had



displayed during this short campaign in
Yinnnia, Kino; Louis XYI. commanded

o o

the French minister of war to express to
the marquis his approbation, and assure
him that he should he raised to the rank
of a field-marshal of France as soon as the
American war should terminate.

The whole British force in Yirginia at
this time amounted to about seven thou
sand men. In the bold and rapid march
of Cornwnllis into the state from North
Carolina, which we have detailed, a vast
amount of public and private property
was laid waste. The growing crops were
destroyed upon the ground, the barns
were burned, and all the fences and land
marks of the plantations were scattered
to the winds. It is estimated that in the
course of the several invasions of Collier,
Leslie, Arnold, Phillips, and Cornwallis,
about thirty thousand slaves were carried
off from Yirginia, and property destroyed
to the amount of fifteen millions of dol
lars ! Cornwallis suffered dwelling-houses
to be plundered of everything; and it was
well known that his lordship s table was
furnished with plate thus obtained from
private families. His march was more
frequently that of a marauder than of an
honorable general.

While these operations were in prog
ress at the South, Washington was com
pelled to remain comparatively inactive,
so far as military movements were con
cerned, because of the weakness of his
army. According to the resolves of Con
gress, there was to have been a little more
than thirty-seven thousand men under


arms at the beginning of the year 1781 ;
yet, in May, Washington s whole force in

camp, on the Hudson, amounted to only
a little more than four thousand effective
men !

At that time, clouds of danger appeared
upon the northern frontier, and among
the Six Nations; and Colonel Delancey
and other tory leaders were making fierce
forays upon American outposts in West-
chester county, New York. In one of
these, Colonel Christopher Greene, the he
roic follower of Arnold through the wil
derness of Maine, the brave soldier at Que
bec, the admirable defender of Fort Mer
cer, on the Delaware, and the humane
friend of his opponent, the dying Count
Donop, was barbarously murdered, with
several of his comrades, by a portion of
Delancey s corps. Colonel Greene was
beloved by Washington, and this coward
ly assassination aroused the chief s hot
test indignation. Greene was carried to
headquarters, and interred with military
honors ; and Washington would have de
spatched a sufficient force to chastise the
Westchester marauders, had not his atten
tion at this time been called to more im
portant concerns.*

Let us now turn our attention to the
events transpiring in the far South. Du
ring the operations of the contending ar
mies in North Carolina, the republicans
in South Carolina were everj^where gath
ering in arms. The absence of Cornwal
lis had withdrawn from the state that su
perior body by which he had held it in
subjection. Pickens, with his brigade, was
operating between Ninety-Six and Augus
ta; and Lee, with his legion, and a por
tion of the second Maryland regiment, was

* Lossintr.


[PART 11.

now advancing to co-operate with Gen
eral Marion on the San tee.

General Sumter, though not yet fully
recovered of his wounds received at Black-
stock s, had drawn his men to a head, and
had penetrated to the Congaree, which he
crossed earty in February, and appeared
before Fort Granby. Such was the vigor
with which he pressed the fort, that his
marksmen, mounted upon a temporary
structure of rails, had reduced the garri
son to the last straits, when it was relieved
by the unexpected approach of succor, un
der Lord Rawdon, who appeared on the
opposite bank of the river.

Unable to contend with the superior
force of the British, Sumter made a sud
den retreat; and, two days after, he cap
tured an escort of British regulars, going
from Charleston to Camden with stores,
in wagons, which yielded a booty equally
necessary to both parties. Thirteen of
the British were slain, and sixty-six made
prisoners. The wagons, containing a pro
fusion of provisions, clothing, arms, and
ammunition, fell into the hands of the

Proceeding with his accustomed rapidi
ty, Sumter swam the Santee river, with
three hundred men, and appeared next
before Fort Watson. From this point he
was again driven by Lord Rawdon, who
inarched to its relief. He then retired to
the swamps on Black river, where he re
mained for awhile to recruit, though not

Emerging from this retreat, the parti
san general was attacked, near Camden,
by Major Fraser, at the head of a consid
erable force of regulars and tory militia ;

but the major was defeated, after a severe
handling, in which twenty of his follow
ers were slain. After this event, Sumter
retired to the borders of North Carolina,
where he contrived to increase his force
to three small regiments of state troops.
His return, with that of the continental
army, renewed the war in South Carolina
with more regularity and vigor.

Marion had been as busy in his fast
nesses as his great contemporary Sumter ;
and while General Greene and the conti
nentals gave full employment to the reg
ular British army, his little brigade had
met the loyalists in a spirit not unlike
their own. Their savage murders, wan
ton excesses, and bitter cruelties their
house-breaking and house-burning, their
blasphemies, impieties, and horrors had
put them completely out of the pale of
military civilization. "No quarter to the
torics /" became the cry of the brigade,
when going into battle ; and with this
spirit, and guided by the skill and intelli
gence of their leader, the career of the
partisans was as sleepless and rapid as
its temper was now unsparing and vin
dictive. To conquer, merely, was not to
complete the purpose for which Marion s
men fought to destroy was their object
also; and so resolute had they shown
themselves, and so active and vigilant,
that to root them out was as difficult as
it had become desirable.

A new and well-concerted attempt to
annihilate this body was now arranged be
tween Colonels Watson and Doyle. The
former was to move down from Camden,
along the Santee ; and the latter was to
cross Lynch s creek, and follow its course




on the eastern bank. They were to unite
their forces near Snow s island, which was
the favorite hiding-place of the "brigade."

Marion heard first of the approach of
Watson, and went out with all his force
to meet him. At Taucaw swamp, nearly
opposite to the month of the present San-
tee canal, he laid an ambush for his ene
my, which he placed under the command
of Colonel Ilorry. At this time, he had
but a few rounds of ammunition for each
man. His orders to Horry were, to give
two fires and retreat.

A second ambush was placed in a con
tiguous situation, which promised certain
advantages. This was a party of cavalry,
under the command of Captain Conyers.
Horry s ambuscade gave its fires with
great effect, but was compelled to retire.
Watson, having made good his passage
of the swamp, sent a detachment of cav
alry, under Major Harrison, in pursuit of
Ilorry. This party was encountered by
Conyers, who slew Harrison with his own
hand. His detachment was dispersed, af
ter suffering severe loss from the charge
of Conyers.

Marion, too feeble to assail his oppo
nent openly, continued in this way to em
barrass his progress and weaken his force,
until they had reached nearly to the low
er bridge on Black river, seven miles be
low King s tree. Here Watson made a
feint of taking the road to Georgetown.
Too weak to detach a party to the bridge,
Marion took an advantageous position on
that road.

Suddenly wheeling, Watson changed
his course, and gained possession of the
bridge on the western side. This gave

him the opening to a very important pass,
leading into the heart of Williamsburg
district and to Snow s island. The river,
on the west, runs under a high bluff; the
grounds on the east side are low, and the
stream, though generally fordable, was at
that time swollen by freshets, so as near
ly to reach the summit of the opposite
shore. This prospect seemed to appal the
British colonel. While he hesitated, the
less wary partisan led the way for his
troop, plunged in, and, safely reaching the
opposite bank, marched forward to occu
py the eastern end of the bridge. Ma
rion now detached Major James, with for
ty musketeers, and thirty riflemen, under
M Cottry, to burn the bridge.

The riflemen were posted to advan
tage, and under cover, on the river-bank.
The attempt of the musketeers to burn
the bridge drew upon them the fire of
Watson s artillery. Against this Marion
had provided, and the artillerists of the
enemy were picked off by M Cottry s ri
fles as fast as they approached to apply
their matches to the gun. The bridge
was fired and consumed in the face of
the enemy, who, baffled and harassed at
all points, turned from the pursuit of the
wary partisan, and proceeded by forced
marches to Georgetown.

But the British commander was not
suffered to leave behind him the foe whom
his pursuit had seemed only to awaken.
Marion hung upon his progress now up
on his flanks, now in front, and now in the
rear while his rifles exacted heavy toll
from the enemy at every mile in their
journey. Watson,atlast,reached George

Online LibraryRobert TomesBattles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) → online text (page 110 of 126)