Robert Tomes.

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

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saying that as it was evidently Lee s pur
pose to bring destruction on the town,
they were determined not to indulge him.
Lee, laughing at them and their reasons,
continued his work, and, after removing
the cannon, made good use of them by
planting them in the redoubts and breast
works which he erected in various places
about New York. Besides, he ferreted
out his old enemies the tories, and ad
ministered to them one of his " tremen
dous oaths," which led Congress to resolve
" That no oath by way of test be imposed
upon, exacted, or required, of any of the
inhabitants of these colonies, by any mil
itary officer." Lee s martial law was not
seldom in conflict with legislative enact
ment, and his measures were too often
laid with gunpowder not to startle the
timid counsels of the prudent. He wished
to pursue a very high-handed course with

all in opposition to the patriot cause; and.
justly suspecting that the friends of the
enemy were especially strong in New
York, he was particularly anxious to
make them feel the weight of his blow.
Governor Tryon. in consequence of his
influence upon many of the " respectable"
inhabitants of New York, was extremely
odious to Lee. " The propensity, or ra
ther rage, for paying court to this great
man," he writes, u is inconceivable. They
can not be weaned from him. We must
put wormwood on his paps, or they will
cry to suck, as they are in their second
childhood !" Lee s energetic measures,
however, were soon checked by a call to
duty elsewhere.

The tories were not confined to the
city ; in the interior of the province they
had gathered in strong force at the call
of Sir John Johnson, the son of Sir Wil
liam, renowned in the French war. Sii
John had succeeded to his father s estate
on the Mohawk, and his baronial influence
over the Highland tenants and Indian re
tainers. Fortifying Johnson hall, he was
preparing, it was believed, to set out with
his clansmen and savages along the val
ley of the Mohawk, with the view of for
cing submission to the king s authority.
General Schuyler, having kept watch of
his movements, sent word to Congress,
which, in answer, committed to him the
business of checking Sir John s proposed
enterprise. There being no troops at Al
bany, Schuyler was obliged to have re
course to thesub-committee of the county,
with whose aid he succeeded in raising
some seven hundred militia. With this
force he commenced his march, and was




gratified to find that such was the enthu
siasm in behalf of the patriot cause, that
he had not gone far before his troops were
increased by volunteers to the number of
three thousand. Even Tryon county, sup
posed to be the stronghold of the tories,
supplied him nine hundred men.

As Schuyler proceeded with this aug
mented force to Johnstown, he was met
by a deputation from the Mohawks, which
addressed him in magniloquent Indian
rhetoric, and haughtily forbade him to
advance against their "father," Sir John.
Schuyler replied that he had full proof
that many people in Johnstown and the
neighborhood thereof had for a consider
able time past made preparations to carry
into execution the wicked design of the
king s evil counsellors. " We have no ob
jection," said Schuyler in conclusion, "nay
we wish, that you and your warriors
should be present to hear what we shall
propose to Sir John and the people in
and about Johnstown, who are our ene
mies. But we beg of you to tell your
warriors that, although we have no quar
rel with them, yet if we should be under
the disagreeable necessity of fighting with
our enemies, and your warriors should
join them and fight against us, that we
will repel force by force."

The Indian chiefs had occasion, on en
tering the American camp, and casting
their wary eyes upon the large number
of soldiers, to become convinced of the
force of Schuyler s last argument, and ac
cordingly when they replied, meekly said:
" Brother Schuyler, the great man, attend !
Everything that has been said to us, broth
er, has been perfectly agreeable to us."

Schuyler now sent a letter to Sir John
Johnson, requesting a meeting with him
next day, and assuring him that he and
such persons as he might choose to at
tend him should pass safe and unmolest
ed to and from the place appointed for
the rendezvous. Sir John accordingly
met the general about sixteen miles from
Schenectady, when Schuyler s proposal
having been submitted, Johnson asked
until the following day for time to an
swer. Schuyler consented, and in the
meantime advanced his troops on the
frozen Mohawk to within four miles of
Johnstown. Sir John s response now
came, but, not being satisfactory, Schuy
ler resolved that he would march against
the Johnson stronghold, at the same time
informing the baronet that he would give

o O

him until twelve o clock at night to re
consider his answer. Sir John, true to
time, sent in precisely at that hour a sat
isfactory reply. He agreed to deliver up
all the arms and military stores in his
possession, with the exception of a few
favorite family arms which Sir John was
allowed, at his own request, to retain.
He pledged himself besides, on his parole
of honor, neither to take up arms against
America, nor to move in the county be
yond certain specified limits. His follow
ers were, of course, bound by similar ob

The next day Schuyler pro
ceeded to Johnstown, and drew
up his men in the street, when Sir John s
Hio hlanders, some two or three hundred


in number, marched to the front of the
lines and grounded their arms. Schuy
ler then dismissed them with an exhort a

Jan, 20,



[PART n.

tion strictly to observe the terms of their
agreement, and to refrain from all acts of
hostility. The conduct of the American

general, throughout this whole transac
tion, was highly approved by Congress,
and applauded by the patriots.


Patrick Henry in the Legislature of Virginia. The Virginian Volunteers. The Culpepper Corps. The Eattlesnake
Device. Lord Dunmore s Proceedings. The Fight at Great Bridge. Lord Dunmore retires from Norfolk. The
City burned. Description of Norfolk. Plantations laid waste. North Carolina. The Manoeuvres of the Tories.
IT Donald and M Leod. Their Highland Followers. General Moore and the Patriots. MvDonald retreats. Moore
pursues. The Battle at Moore s-Creek Bridge. M Leod falls. The Enemy put to Flight. The Spirit in South
Carolina and Georgia.


" THERE is no longer any room
for hope. If we wish to be free ;
if we wish to preserve inviolate those in
estimable privileges for which we have
been so long contending ; if we mean not
basely to abandon the noble struggle in
which we have been so long engaged, and
which we have pledged ourselves never
to abandon until the glorious object of
our contest shall be obtained, w r e must
fight ! I repeat it, sir, we must fight ! An
appeal to arms and the God of hosts is
all that is left us." These were the words
uttered by Patrick Henry, in the course
of his eloquent speech in support of the
resolutions he introduced in the Virginia
legislature, recommending a levy of vol
unteer troops: the resolutions were passed
by a large majority. The appointment
of a committee of safety followed, which
at once proceeded to raise an armed force,
of which Patrick Henry was made com-
mander-in-chief. Volunteers came in read
ily, among whom was a corps of men from
the county of Culpepper, whose appear
ance gave promise of doughty service.

Dressed in green hunting-shirts, like so
many Eobin-Hood foresters, with bucks
tails in their slouched hats, and with tom
ahawks and scalping-knives bristling from
their belts, their very looks frightened
the people.* Their flag, with the device
of a coiled rattlesnake, and the motto,
" Don t tread on me !" and the inscription
on the bosom of each man s shirt, of "Lib
erty or death," taken from Henry s speech,
were no less alarming. These Culpepper
men proved themselves no less formida
ble than they looked.

Lord Dunmore, the governor of Vir
ginia, had been frightened away from
Williamsburg, the seat of government, by

* " Companies were raised in nearly every county ; among
the rest, in Culpepper, adjoining Fauquier. This troop,
which was three hundred and iifty strong, assembled near
an old oak, which is still standing ; and Colonel Thomas
Marshall was elected major. His son John was made lieu
tenant. The flag of the troop presented a coiled rattlesnake
the head for Virginia, and the twelve rattles for the other
states: the mottoes, DON T TREAD ON ME! and LIBER
TY OR DEATH ! These latter words were also painted upon
the breasts of the green hunting-shirts of the company. Tne
men were armed with rifles, tomahawks, and knives. Such
WHS the warlike guise in which the afterward famous chief
justice appeared at the head of his ardent troop." JOHN



the energetic conduct of the patriots, and
taken refuge on board of a ship-of-war.
Arming several vessels, and collecting to
gether a number of tories and negroes,
lie determined to inflict punishment up
on the " rebels." He sailed with this force
along the coast, doing all the damage in
his power, seizing here and there a patri
ot, destroying plantations, carrying off
negroes, and burning houses. Having
received a reinforcement of soldiers, he
prepared to make an attempt on Hamp
ton. His vessels, in the course of the
night, warped in close to the town, and
in the mgrning began a furious cannon
ade. A company of the Culpepper rifle
men had in the meantime reached Hamp
ton, and, being properly dispersed and
hid, commenced firing at the ships, and
with such effect, that the enemy were
forced to haul off precipitately, for no
man who ventured to show himself on
deck was secure from the deadly aim of
the Virginia marksmen.

Dunmore was terribly vexed at being
thus repulsed by a few raw militiamen,
and took his revenge by proclaiming mar
tial law, requiring all persons capable of
bearing arms to resort to his majesty s
standard, or to be looked upon as trai
tors ; and declaring all indentured ser
vants, negroes, or others (appertaining to
" rebels"), who were able and willing to
bear arms, free, upon serving with the
royal troops. Dunmore was at this time
at Norfolk, where there were a goodly
number of tories, and his proclamation
brought some hundreds of them, both
black and white, to his standard. With
this miscellaneous rabble added to his

two hundred regulars, he prepared to
meet a force of Virginian patriots who
were rapidly advancing to drive him from

His lordship s first operation was, to
take possession and remove the planks
of the Great bridge, which was the only
approach to the town ; and then, with the
utmost expedition, he began building a
redoubt on the Norfolk side. He had
not made much progress when the Vir
ginians arrived, under the command of
Captain Woodford, who took up a posi
tion at the other end of the bridge, at
cannon-shot distance from Dunmore, and
began throwing up intrenchments. The
two parties thus remained for several
days, busy at their works, without firing
a shot, when the Virginians, becoming
impatient, resolved to provoke an attack.
For this purpose they availed themselves
of a ruse. A servant belonging to one
of the Virginian officers was directed to
join Dunmore s force, as a pretended de
serter, and report that the patriots only
numbered three hundred " shirtmen" (so
the riflemen were called from their hunt
ing-dress) in all. The negro performed
his part admirably ; and the enemy, swal
lowing the bait, determined to attack the
patriots in their intrenchments.

The British regulars, under Captain
Leslie, were accordingly detailed for the
service, together with about three hun
dred " white and black slaves." The party
set out at three o clock in the morning,
in order to take the Virginians by sur
prise before dawn. Leslie, having re
placed the planks of the Great bridge,
marched his men across, with Captain For-



[PART n.

dyce, at the head of his grenadiers, lead
ing the van. The regulars, with fixed
bayonets, advanced steadily along the
causeway directly up to the American
intrenchments. The Virginian riflemen,
however, were on the alert, and, waiting
until the enemy were close to them, be
gan a murderous fire, by which Fordyce
and several of his men were at once killed.
The grenadiers held their ground with a
coolness and intrepidity that excited the
admiration of all ; and such was their dis
cipline, that they continued to advance
until not one of them escaped either death
or capture. Leslie, who was in the rear
with the main body, now ordered a re
treat, when the whole of the British force
retired to their fort under the cover of
its guns, having lost sixty-two men killed
and wounded. The Virginians did not
lose a single man, and had only one slight
ly wounded. Captain Fordyce was buried
with the honors due to his rank and gal
lantry ; and all the prisoners, with the ex
ception of the American royalists, who
were rigorously dealt with, were treated
kindly by their captors. The British
forces retired during the next night with
in Norfolk. Leslie now refused to serve
any longer on shore, until assured of a
better support from the tory inhabitants ;
and the loyalists, both white and black,
on their part declined to serve, unless
aided by a stronger reinforcement of reg
ulars. Under these discouraging circum
stances, Lord Durnnore determined to
abandon his position at Norfolk.

The Virginians entered the
city as the British withdrew, and
found that the tory inhabitants had gone

Dec, 14,


on board the English ships, with the ex
ception of the poor negroes, who had been
left to shift for themselves. Colonel Wood-
ford now resigned the command of the
provincials to Colonel Howe, who re
mained in possession of Norfolk until the
beginning of the ensuing year.

Lord Dunmore was still \vith his
ships in Hampton roads, unable to
effect anything until the arrival, on the
first of January, of the British frigate Liv
erpool. A flag of truce was then imme
diately sent into the town, with a demand
for supplies. These being positively re
fused, Dunmore determined to, bombard
and set fire to Norfolk, where the Vir
ginia riflemen, under cover of the ware
houses by Elizabeth river, were continuing
greatly to harass the ships by their sharp-
shooting. Notice having been given to
the inhabitants, that they might have an
opportunity of removing the women and
children from danger, the British vessels
began their cannonade, while parties of
sailors and marines were sent ashore to
set fire to the buildings by the water s
edge. The whole town, which was built
of wood, was soon in flames and reduced
to ashes, notwithstanding every exertion
made by Howe and his men to extinguish
the fire.

Norfolk at that time was a place of
great importance, having a population of
six thousand, and a thriving commerce.
It was thought to be " an odious business
for a governor to be himself a principal
actor in burning and destroying the best
town in his government," and great in
dignation was excited in consequence
throughout the province. The patriots



were able greatly to harass his lordship,
in revenge for his cruelty, by cutting off
supplies from the ships. The plantations
along the Norfolk shore were laid waste ;
and their proprietors, who were chiefly
loyalists, were forced to retire into the
interior with their stock and stores of
provisions, so that they might not have
it in their power to supply the necessi
ties of the British. Dunmore was thus
driven away from Norfolk; and, after con
tinuing his depredations upon the banks
of the southern rivers and coast and car
rying off some thousand negroes, he be
took himself with his piratical fleet to St.
Augustine, in the then Spanish province
of Florida.

In North Carolina, the patriots were
emulating the spirit of their Virginian
brethren. The British governor, Martin,
had been early forced, like Lord Dun-
more, to seek refuge on board a man-of-
war, where for the most part he had been
obliged to content himself with the proc
lamation, without the exercise, of his au
thority. Learning, however, that Sir
Henry Clinton had sailed for North Car
olina, and that an expedition was to be
sent out from Great Britain probably for
the same destination, Martin took cour
age, and began to intrigue with the Scotch
settlers in the western districts of the
province, who were known to be favora
bly disposed to the crown. Among these
were a large number of Highlanders, and
Martin selected two gentlemen among
them, who had been British officers, of
the names of M Donald and M Leod, and
gave them commissions, with authority
to raise a body of troops. These two per-


sons had not been long in the country
but their names were enough to excite
all the clannish predilections of the High
landers, who gathered as if rallying about
their chieftains among their native hills,
and enrolled themselves to the number of
sixteen hundred under the royal stand
ard, which they regarded little, except as
unfurled by a M Donald and a M Leod.

The North Carolina patriots were on
the alert; and General Moore, assembling
some eleven hundred militiamen,marched
to meet the enemy. Coining up within
seven miles of the " Regulators," as they
were called, and the Highlanders, who
were encamped in the neighborhood of
Cross creek (now Fayette ville ), which was
in the midst of those Scotch settlers who
were favorably disposed toward the king,
Moore halted in a strong position. The
enemy then advanced within four miles,
and sent in to the patriots with a flag of
truce one of the governor s manifestoes,
and a letter to their general, summoning
him to join the royal standard or be treat
ed as an enemy. Moore, in his answer,
declined the proposition for the present,
but promised a more specific reply on the
next day. M Donald, in command of the
royalist force, received accordingly, the
following morning, Moore s promised let
ter, in which the American general, as a
significant offset to the Scotchman s sum
mons, called upon him to sign the patri
otic association of the province.

While Moore was expecting a rejoin
der to his communication, he learned that
M Donald, without waiting to indite a re
ply, had crossed the river in the night,
and pushed on rapidly toward the coast.




Moore, after ordering off a detachment
LO join the approaching reinforcements of
eight hundred militia which were coming
from Newbern, under the command of
Colonel Caswell, and another party to se
cure the ford of Cross creek, marched him
self in pursuit. The Newbern militia for
tunately reached Moore s-creek bridge in
time to take possession of it, and oppose
the retreat of the royalist force.

The Americans, however, had held pos
session only a few hours, during which
time they had destroyed a portion of the
bridge, and raised a small breast
work, when the enemy came up.
M Leod, who was now in command, in
consequence of the illness of M Donald,
no sooner saw that his progress was op
posed, than he led his men at once against
the American works. They marched up
within thirty paces, when they were met
by a well-served fire from the American
breastwork. Captain M Leod fell at the
first volley, pierced with twenty bullets,

Feb. 27,

and his troops immediately took to flight.
Even McDonald s influence could not suc
ceed in rallying them ; and he, complete
ly abandoned, was forced to surrender
himself a prisoner. General Moore, com
ing up soon after, confronted the fugi
tives, and took nearly nine hundred of
them captive. The royalists lost about
seventy killed and wounded ; the patri
ots only two wounded. A good supply
of arms also fell into the possession of
the conquerors.

In South Carolina and Georgia, little
was done in the way of active hostility
as yet by the patriots, beyond the seizure
of an occasional vessel. There was, how
ever, sufficient evidence of a resolute spir
it of resistance ; and in the course of this
narrative we shall have occasion to record
abundant proofs that the southern no less
than the northern provinces were willing
and able to strike a blow for the liberties
of the country. We must now return to
Washington and his camp at Cambridge.


Everything thaws but "Old Put." An Assault on Boston proposed, but rejected by the Council of War. Arrival of
Knox from Ticonderoga, with an Abundant Supply of Ammunition, &c. The taking Possession of Dorchester
Heights proposed. Morals of the Camp protected. Bombardment of Boston. Expedition for Dorchester sets out.
The Enemy oppose, and are defeated. Great Preparations of Lord Howe. A Storm. The Attack postponed. A
New Missile invented. Howe at last acknowledges the Position of Dorchester Heights to be too formidable for him.
He prepares to evacuate Boston. A Flag of Truce. A Communication from the Selectmen of Boston. Attempt
on Nook s Hill. A Terrible Cannonade.

"THE bay is open. Everything

thaws here except Old Put. He

is still as hard as ever, crying out for

powder, powder! ye gods, give us pow

der! " wrote an officer. And Washing
ton, too, had his complaints to make on
the same score. "The weather," he writes,
" turns out exceedingly mild, insomuch




Fcb, 16.

as to promise nothing favorable from ice.
. . . And no appearance of powder." To
ward the middle of February, however,
some " freezing weather" having formed
" some pretty strong ice," which afforded
a wider and consequently less dangerous
approach to Boston, Washington was in
favor of an assault, notwithstanding the
militia were not all come in, and there
was little or no powder for a regular can
nonade or bombardment. A council of
war was accordingly summoned,
but the enterprise being thought
too dangerous, it was abandoned for the

A few days subsequently, Colonel Knox
arrived in the camp with a welcome sup
ply of cannon, mortars, and howitzers,
which that spirited officer had succeeded,
in the depth of a northern winter, in bring
ing from Crown Point and Ticonderoga.
By means of sleds, and with the utmost
labor, Knox dragged for hundreds of
miles through the drifted snows and over
the frozen lakes an armament of immense
w r eight, " a noble train of artillery," as he
called it, and safely deposited it at Cain-
bridge, where he received, as he well mer
ited, the praises of the commander-in-chief
and the applause of the whole army. Si
multaneously with this acquisition came
a supply of shells and powder, captured
from the enemy. The militia had come
in, too, in considerable force. Under these
prosperous circumstances, the council of
war was at last so far inspirited as to de
cide upon action. It was resolved that
Dorchester heights should be taken pos
session of as soon as possible, with the
view of drawing the enemy out.

" How far," wrote Washington, who had
suggested this movement, " our expecta
tions may be answered, time only can de
termine ; but I should think, if anything
w 7 ill induce them to hazard an engage
ment, it will be our attempt to fortify these
heights [Dorchester]; as, that event s ta
king place, we shall be able to command
a great part of the town and almost the
whole harbor." Great activity and ani
mation now pervaded the camp. Carts
loaded with in trenching- tools, carts with
fascines and huge bundles of hay, went
by the hundreds lumbering along the
roads, flanked by guards and followed by
detachment after detachment of working-
parties; the surgeons and surgeons mates
throughout the army were busy in pre
paring lint and bandages ; of the latter
two thousand had been ordered, although
a sanguine member of the medical depart
ment expresses the hope that " not one
quarter of the number will be required,
whatever may be the nature of the occa
sion." To add to the seriousness of the
approaching events, the soldiers were re
minded of their duty by these severely
earnest orders, which could only have
been addressed with effect to men like
those of Washington, fighting for con
science sake :

"All officers," rigidly declares the or
der, "non-commissioned officers, and sol
diers, are positively forbid playing at

Online LibraryRobert TomesBattles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) → online text (page 31 of 126)