Robert Tomes.

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

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from thence."

With great anxiety, and some degree
of impatience, the commander -in -chief
had waited for the recruits and supplies
which had been voted by several of the
state legislatures ; and again he
addressed a circular letter to the
governments of the New-England states,
imploring them in the most urgent man
ner to be prompt and generous in send
ing on the required aid, for without it the
enemy must triumph, and the allies be
come disappointed and disgusted. "It

August 2,




Avill be no small degree of triumph to our
enemies," added Washington, " and will
have a very pernicious influence upon our
friends in Europe, should they find such
a failure of resource, or such a want of
energy to draw it out, that our boasted
and expensive preparation end only in
idle parade."

About this time, intelligence was re
ceived from Lafayette that " thirty trans
port-ships, full of troops, most of them
red-coats, and eight or ten brigs with cav
alry on board," had arrived in Hampton
roads. A despatch was also received from
Admiral Count de Grasse, stating that he
expected to sail from St. Domingo on the
3d of August, with nearly thirty ships-of-
the-line and a considerable land-force, di
rectly for Chesapeake bay, and that his
stay must be short.

On receiving this information, Wash
ington changed his plans. The scheme
against New York was abandoned, as be
ing too perilous without the aid of the
expected French fleet and troops. Be
sides this, early in the month,
Augusts, J

feir Henry Clinton had received

a reinforcement of nearly three thousand
troops, British and Hessians. Strength
ened by this arrival, the baronet, as we
have seen, countermanded his orders for
Lord Cornwallis to send a portion of the
southern troops northward, as he deemed
his own force amply sufficient for the de
fence of New York.

It was therefore resolved by Washing
ton and Rochambeau to concur with the
plans of De Grasse, and, proceeding with
the allied armies southward, strike a blow
against the British in Virginia. Robert

Aug. !7,

Morris, the great financier, and Richard
Peters, the active secretary of war, were
at headquarters at the time. Af
ter informing them of his reso
lution, Washington turned to Peters, and
asked, " What can you do for me in aid
of this expedition ? I may want," he add
ed, "a month s pay in advance for some
of the troops." " With money, everything
without it, nothing" quickly replied Peters,
at the same time casting a significant
glance at Robert Morris. The financier
comprehended the meaning of that look,
and said, "Let me know the sum you
desire." Washington soon completed his
estimates ; and when the troops passed
through Philadelphia, not long afterward,
Morris, upon his own responsibility, bor
rowed twenty thousand dollars in specie
from Rochambeau, promising to replace it
by the first of October. With assurance
of aid, the commander-in-chief prepared
immediately for the southward march. :::
This change of purpose was, however,
carefully concealed from the enemy; and.
to keep up the idea that New York was
still his object, Washington wrote mislead
ing letters, which he intended should be
intercepted ; had ovens built, fuel collect
ed, and a large encampment marked out
for his army in New Jersey, near Amboy,
and opposite to Staten island. In the
meantime, the allied armies, having com
pleted their preparations to move to Vir
ginia, began their inarch. The
pretence of an attack upon New
York was kept up to the last moment.
Reconnoitring and pioneer parties were
sent forward to examine and clear the

* Lossintr.

luff, 19,




roads from the encampment at the Green-
burg hills toward Kingsbridge ; and when
the troops were paraded for the march,
they faced in that direction. They were,
however, much to the surprise and per
plexity of their own officers, who were in
ignorance of the chief s designs, imrnedi-

o O *

ately ordered to the right about, and pro
ceeded up the Hudson to King s ferry at
Verplanck s Point, where they crossed to
New Jersey.

The secret of Washington s design was
kept as strictly from his own army as
from the enemy. " Our destination," as
Timelier records, " has been for some time
matter of perplexing doubt and uncer
tainty. Bets have run high, on one side,
that we were to occupy the ground mark
ed out on the Jersey shore, to aid in the
siege of New York; and, on the other,
that we are stealing a march on the ene
my, and are actually destined to Virginia,
in pursuit of the army under Lord Corn-
wallis." Seven years later, Washington
wrote a letter to Noah Webster, in which,
after admitting the finesse employed to
"misguide and bewilder Sir Henry," he
added, "Nor were less pains taken to de
ceive our own army, for I had always con
ceived when the imposition does not com
pletely take place at home, it would never
sufficiently succeed abroad."

Leaving General Heath in command
of a sufficient guard for the posts in the
Highlands, the allied armies began their
movement across New Jersey, under the
general charge of Lincoln, the American
troops marching one day in ad
vance of the French. They pro
ceeded by different routes, and were far

Au.ff, 25.

Sept, 3,

on their way in rapid march toward the
Delaware before Sir Henry Clinton sus
pected their destination to be other than
Staten island and New York.

On the seventh day after leaving the
Hudson, the Americans crossed the Dela
ware, and entered Philadelphia, followed
on the next day by the French.

"The streets being extremely
dirty," says Timelier, " and the weather
warm and dry, we raised a dust like a
smothering snowstorm, blinding our eyes
and covering our bodies with it. This
was not a little mortifying, as the ladies
were viewing us from the open windows
of every house as we passed through this
splendid city Our line of march, inclu
ding appendages and attendants, extend
ed nearly two miles. The general officers
and their aids, in rich military uniform ;
mounted on noble steeds elegantly capari
soned, were followed by their servants
and baggage. In the rear of every bri
gade were several fieldpieces, accompa
nied by ammunition-carriages. The sol
diers marched with slow and solemn step,
regulated by the drum and fife. In the
rear followed a great number of wagons,
loaded with tents, provisions, and other
baggage, such as a few soldiers wives and
children ; though a very small number of
these are allowed to encumber us on this

The entry of the French troops was
characteristically gay and glorious. Hav
ing halted a short distance from the city,
in order to furbish up their uniforms "of
white broadcloth, faced with green" (the
colors of the old house of Bourbon), they
marched in, with a full band of music pre-



[PART n.

Sept, 4,

coding them, to the manifest admiration
of the people who crowded the streets,
and of the ladies who "appeared at the
windows in their most brilliant attire."

A grand review took place on
the following day, when " at least
twenty thousand persons, and a vast num
ber of carriages, remarkable for their light
ness and elegance, added to the lustre of
this exhibition which was still height
ened," adds the ardent Frenchman* who
describes the scene, " by the pleasantness
of the situation and the remarkable se
renity of the day."

The day "was destined for favorable
omens," continues the same warm color-
ist. " M. le chevalier de la Luzerne, who
on this occasion received his countrymen
with the dignity and generosity of the
representative of a great monarch, and
the frankness and cordiality of an indi
vidual, after the review invited all the
officers to dine with him. Hardly were
we seated at the table, when, an express
arrived. A disquieting silence immedi
ately seized every guest ; our eyes were
fixed on the chevalier de la Luzerne, ev
ery one endeavoring to guess what the
message would turn out to be. Thirty-
six ships-of-the-line, said he, commanded
by Monsieur le comte de Grasse, are ar
rived in Chesapeake bay, and three thou
sand men have landed, and opened a com
munication with the marquis de Lafay
ette. Joy and good humor immediately
resumed their place on every counte
nance." The news soon spread through
out the city, and the people hurried in
crowds to the residence of the minister

* Quoted )v Thacher.

of France, shouting, "Long live Louis
XVI. !"

The American army, however, did not
share fully in this gay enthusiasm. The
New-England troops grumbled at being
marched at such a distance to the South
while their pay was in arrears. As be
fore related, a loan of twenty thousand
dollars was obtained from Rochambeau s
military chest, on a promise of repayment
on the first of October, which gave tem
porary relief. Fortunately, at this mo
ment, Colonel John Laurens, who had
been sent to France as American agent
to solicit a loan, returned with abundant
supplies and half a million of dollars in
specie. Moreover, he brought intelligence
of a successful negotiation with France
and Holland for a large sum in addition.
The zeal and ability with which the ne
gotiation was conducted by the American
envoy deserve more than a passing allu

Colonel John Laurens, a son of Henry
Laurens (ex-president of Congress, who
was long confined in the Tower of Lon
don), was made a prisoner on the surren
der of Charleston to the British, and re
leased on parole. He arrived in Paris in
the spring of 1781, and immediately en
tered upon the duties of his mission with
all the ardor of his nature. He soon be
came impatient of the delays which he
experienced on the part of the French
ministry. In earnestly pressing his suit
one day with Count de Vergenues, that
adroit diplomat reminded him that per
haps he had forgotten that he was not de
livering the orders of his commander-in-
chief, but addressing the minister of a




monarch who had every disposition to fa
vor his country. Laurens withdrew to
the opposite side of the room, and replied
with emphasis : " Favor, sir ! The respect
which I owe to my country will not ad
mit the term. Say that the obligation is
mutual, and I cheerfully subscribe to the
obligation. But, as the last argument I
shall offer to your excellency, the sword
which I now wear in defence of France,
as w r ell as of my own country, unless the
succor I solicit is immediately accorded,
I may be compelled within a short time to draw
against France, as a British subject ! I must
now inform your excellency that my next
memorial will be presented to his majesty
in person." This bold reply had a great
effect upon Vergennes, for the reconcilia
tion of Great Britain and the United States
was an event he most dreaded. True to
his promise, Laurens attended at the au
dience-chamber of the king the next day,
and presented his memorial in person to
his majesty. It was handed to Count Se-
gur, and on the following day Laurens
was officially informed that the required
aid should be given. That succor, as we
have seen, now came to hand at a most
important crisis, and in two short months,
by the aid of French funds, and French
soldiers arid seamen, Lord Cornwallis was
to be captured, and the death-blow given
to British power in America.*

While in Philadelphia, Washington re
ceived despatches from Lafayette, in form
ing him of the destination of Cornwallis s


flotilla seen in Hampton roads, with the
assurance that he should make every ex
ertion to prevent the earl from moving

Sept, 5,

Sept, 6,

into the interior. The French minister
had as yet received no intelligence of the
count de Grasse, and Washington in con
sequence felt much anxiety. Yet he did
not hesitate to advance. Both
armies left Philadelphia in the
morning, for the Head of Elk. Toward
evening Washington was met by a cou
rier, bringing the glad tidings that the

o O O O

French admiral with his great armament
had arrived in the Chesapeake. The mes
senger reached the chevalier de Luzerne,
at Philadelphia the same evening, as be
fore related, while his guests were at the

The commander-in-chief arrived at the
Head of Elk (the narrow, upper end of
Chesapeake bay, which is called
Elk river) in the evening, with
the intention of embarking the troops, ord
nance, and stores, at that point, and send
ing them down the bay. There was a
great lack of transports for the purpose,
and the troops were therefore brought to
a halt. While the armies were thus de
layed, Washington improved the oppor
tunity of making a flying visit to Mount
Vernon. Accordingly, attended by Ro-
chambeau, he rode to Baltimore,
where the two chiefs were greet
ed with a public address, and honored by
bonfires and illuminations in the evening.

Early the next morning, Washington
set out for Mount Vernon with a single
aid-de-camp (Colonel Humphreys), with
the determination of reaching his home
that night, for upward of six years had
passed since he had been beneath its roof
"The journey was accomplished," writes
Lossing, " and great was the joy at Mount



Yernon when the news spread over the
estate that the master had come home.
The servants flocked in from the fields
to see him, and among them came Bish
op, the venerable body-servant, who had
lived with Washington since the bloody
battle of the Monongahela, twenty-six
years before, but who was now, at the age
of almost fourscore years, too decrcpid to
follow his master to the field."

"It was a late hour," says Ir
ving, " when Washington arrived
at Mount Yernon ; where he was joined
by his suite at dinner-time on the follow-

Scpt. 9,

ing day, and by the count de Rochambeau
in the evening. General Chastellux and
his aids-de-camp arrived there on the llth,
and Mount Yernon was now crowded with
guests, who were all entertained in the
ample style of old Yirginia.ii hospitality.
On the 12th, tearing himself away once
more from the home of his heart, Wash
ington with his military associates contin
ued onward to join Lafaj^ette at Williams-
burg." On this occasion he was attend
ed by Mrs. Washington s son. John Parke
Custis, who now for the first time went
to the field, as one of the chief s aids.


Hoodwinking of Sir Henry Clinton. Aroused too late. Fair Promises. Arrival of Sir Samuel Hood. A British Fleet.
Arrival off the Capes of Virginia. Sight of the French Ships. Eagerness of the Count do Grasse. Admiral Graves
gives Battle. Manoeuvring. Do Grasse returns to the Chesapeake, and Graves to New York. Inversion by Sir Henry
Clinton. Expedition against New London, in Connecticut. General Arnold in Command. Fort Griswold. Colonel
Ledyurd. Spirited but Vain Resistance. Fall of the Fort. No Mercy. Massacre. Murder of Ledyard. Losses.
New London in Ashes. Last Act of Arnold. His Departure for England. Impatience of De Grasse. Magna
nimity of Lafayette. Arrival of Washington. The Villc de Paris. Meeting of the Allied Commanders. Arrival of
the Combined Troops at Williamsburg. Their Orderly March. A New and Threatening Danger. De Grasse is in
duced to remain. The Siege of Yorktown commenced.


WASHINGTON, by his skilful ma
noeuvring, had succeeded in so com
pletely hoodwinking Sir Henry Clinton,
that the combined armies, as previously
shown, had proceeded on their march as
far as the Delaware before he was per
suaded that Earl Cornwall!* at Yorktown
was their object. Sir Henry, in fact, had
been so impressed with the delusion that
an attack upon New York was intended,
that even after Washington and Rocham-
beau had crossed the Hudson into New

Jersey, he believed that this move was
only a feint to divert him from their real
purpose. When he was fairly conscious
of the truth, it was too late for him to
send the desired assistance to Cornwallis,
although at the last moment he wrote to
his lordship, declaring that he would do
his utmost for his relief.

A prospect of aid was, however, pre
sented by the arrival of Sir Samuel Hood
at New York from the West Indies, with
fourteen ships-of-the-line. Hood was now



joined by five ships then lying in the har
bor, under Admiral Graves, who, being the
senior officer, assumed the general com
mand, and bore away without
delay, with the intention of first
intercepting the count de Barras, with
the French squadron from Newport, and
then attacking Admiral de Grasse, in the
Chesapeake. As Graves sailed down the
southern coast, he first looked into the
Delaware, but, finding no enemy there,
continued his course to the capes of Vir
ginia, where he discovered the French
fleet, lying just within Lynn-Haven bay.
Count de Grasse, slipping and even cut
ting his cables, in his eagerness, came out
at once ; and when his fleet of twenty-four
ships showed itself, Graves, who had only
nineteen vessels to oppose him, and knew
that De Barras could not be far off with
the h wport squadron, became nervously
anxiov s. The English admiral, however,
gave the signal for battle, and his ships
stretched in ; but when his rear was near
ly even with the enemy s van, he made
the signal for the whole fleet to wear, by
which he got upon the same tack with
his antagonist, and to windward almost
parallel with him. The two fleets now
steered to the eastward, and, as they got
clear of the capes of Virginia, Graves bore
down upon De Grasse. At four
o clock in the afternoon, the ac
tion commenced, but did not become gen
eral, as only a few 7 of the vessels were en
gaged, and at night the fleets separated.
The French, whose advance-ships had suf
fered considerably, bore away to get in a
line with their centre. Graves kept the
weather-gage during the night; but, as

Sept, 5,

some of his ships had been severely dam
aged, he was obliged to lay to for repairs.
The Terrible, of seventy-four guns, leaked
so badly, that in a day or two after she
was abandoned and burnt. It was also
with great difficulty that the Ajax was
kept afloat, as she made water rapidly.

The two fleets remained at sea for five
days, without renewing the action, when
De Grasse again bore away for the Ches
apeake, taking two English frigates on his
return, and having the satisfaction on ar
riving at his old anchorage to find Count
de Barras safely moored there with his
Newport squadron of seven ships-of-the-
line and fourteen transports, laden with
artillery and stores. Graves looked into
the bay, and, seeing the increased strength
of his enemy, returned with his crippled
fleet to New York, for he feared the equi
noctial gales, that might be daily expect
ed, more than the guns of his powerful
adversary. In this action, the loss of the
French was two hundred and twenty men,
and that of the English three hundred
and thirty.

When Sir Henry Clinton discovered the
real intentions of Washington, he strove
to divert him from his purpose by an at
tack upon New London, in Connecticut.
Two British regiments, a battalion of loy
alist volunteers from New Jersey, and a
detachment of Hessian riflemen (yagers),
numbering about twenty-three hundred
in all, were embarked at New York for
the service ; and the command of this ma
rauding expedition against the state which
had given him birth was intrusted to the
arch-traitor, Benedict Arnold, as being an
enterprise not only suited to his military



[PART n.

genius, but also to the malevolence of his

Arnold accordingly sailed up the river
Thames, and appeared off New London,
only fourteen miles south of Norwich, the
birthplace of the traitor. Here, dividing
his forces, he debarked one division, un
der Lieutenant-Colonel Eyre, to
Sept 6 attack Fort Griswold, on the east
side of the harbor ; and landed with the
other, under his own command, on the
west side, where stood Fort Trumbull, a
redoubt, and, three miles below, the town
of New London itself. The fort and re
doubt were abandoned, on the first ap
proach of Arnold, by the few militiamen
in them, who crossed the river to Fort
Griswold, on Groton hill. The renegade
pushed on, and quickly possessed himself
of the town, being opposed only by a scat
tered fire here and there from small par
ties of the inhabitants who were hastily
collected in defence of their homes.

Fort Griswold, which was a strongly-
built, square fortification, with all the ac
cessories of a regular work, and contained
a garrison of nearly two hundred men,
commanded by the spirited Colonel Wil
liam Ledyard, offered a resistance which
was not so easily overcome. The defend
ers were inexperienced militiamen, who
had been so hastily mustered, that many
of them were unprovided with firearms.
But, under the inspiration of their brave
leader, they fought with great resolution.
Colonel Eyre, however, led on his regu
lars and loyalists to the assault on three
sides with a determination to carry the
works at any sacrifice. His men were for
a time staggered by the persistent cour

age of the gallant little garrison. Eyre
himself was mortally wounded ; but Ma
jor Montgomery, his second in command,
continued the assault with equal resolu
tion. His men thronged into the ditch,
scrambled over the ramparts, and made
their way through the embrasures, until,
by the force of numbers, they carried the
works, though not without a heavy cost,
Montgomery was shot dead as he was en
tering one of the embrasures, and the loss
of the enemy amounted in all to forty-six
killed and one hundred and forty-three

The Americans had only about half a
dozen killed when the enemy thronged
into the fort. The assailants, exasperated
by the obstinate resistance which they had
encountered, and their heavy loss, now
showed little mercy. Major Brornfield, a
New- Jersey loyalist, who succeeded to the
command on the death of Eyre and Mont-
gomerv, on entering the fort, asked fierce-

o ^ ~

ly, " Who commands ?" Colonel Ledyard
replied, "I did, sir, but you do now," giv
ing up his sword as he spoke, which Brom-
field took, and with it ran him through
and killed him ! The Hessians and tories,
following the example of their miscreant
leader, immediately began an indiscrimi
nate massacre of the disarmed garrison,
and the slaughter which ensued increased
the American loss to eighty-five killed and
sixty wounded. Seventy only were taken
prisoners. This horrible butchery justly
excited the indignation of the republicans
throughout the land, and disgusted the
more conservative and humane portion
of the loyalists.

Arnold, on reaching New London, re-



duced the town to ashes. Several vessels
in the harbor were also burnt, while the
rest escaped up the Thames. Large sup
plies of West-India produce, together with
an immense quantity of military stores,
were consumed in the general conflagra
tion, which not only ruined most of the
inhabitants, but proved a serious loss to
the public.

In its spirit and execution, the whole
expedition was unworthy of Sir Henry
Clinton, but entirely in consonance with
the character of the traitor-knave who
conducted it. " It has been said." writes
his biographer, "that Arnold, while New
London was in flames, stood in the belfry
of a steeple, and witnessed the conflagra
tion ; thus, like Nero, delighted with the
ruin he had caused, the distresses he had
inflicted, the blood of his slaughtered coun
trymen, the anguish of the expiring pa
triot, the widow s tears, and the orphan s
cries. And what adds to the enormity
is, that he stood almost in sight of the
spot where he drew his first breath ; that
every object around was associated with
the years of his childhood and youth, arid
revived those images of the past which
kindle emotions of tenderness in all but
hearts of stone." :::

Arnold, having gratified his malignant
spirit, and committed all the evil which
lay in his power, returned with his Van
dal mercenaries to New York. It was,
fortunately, one of the closing acts of his
career in America, being the last military
service of any consequence in which he
was employed ; and it served only to ren
der still darker the shades which his foul

* Sparks.

treason had thrown over his name. He
soon went to England,* and quitted the
United States for ever, where his memory

Online LibraryRobert TomesBattles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) → online text (page 117 of 126)